The mayoral primary is tomorrow, and I've lost track of the number of times I've heard people describe it as being different from past elections.
Even that douchey Jeff McMenemy at the Sentinel has a column entitled It's an historic time for Fitchburg politcally [sic]. He then goes on to say how he won't endorse a candidate but he's desperately in love with everything about Ted DeSalvatore.
Also, he thinks Lisa Wong doesn't pay enough attention to crime, which he and every other conservative idiot keep harping on as being totally horrible in Fitchburg. I've already addressed this lie repeatedly, so won't bother to right now.
He's right about one thing though: this is a pretty historic time.
Why? Let me give you my reasoning.
We have three "real" candidates for mayor, representing three very different philosophies and three very different potential futures.
On the one hand, we have oldschool moneybags Tom Donnelly. He's been here forever, he's firmly part of the establishment (but none of the town's problems are his fault!), and he seems to feel like he's entitled to be mayor based on those two "qualifications."
He's the status quo candidate. Sure, he talks about change a little bit, but I think everyone knows that his appeal doesn't lay with people looking for true change. The main block of people who vote for him are going to be doing so because he's the native boy. The one who hasn't left town in 45 years and for some reason is proud of that fact.
Yeah, that gets you some pretty good name recognition. But it doesn't get you any significant change. Will a few things change if Donnelly becomes mayor? Sure. But will the city head in a new direction? Don't count on it.
He has too many local ties, too much to lose if things really change. Even if he can overcome the massive conflict of interest that is his real estate business, his deep roots in town will make him overly cautious at every step.
Maybe he'd be a decent mayor. I don't know. But I do know that the guy hasn't demonstrated any vision. He's strictly old guard local politics. That may or may not be enough to get him elected (I suspect it'll at least get him through the primary), but it's virtually a guarantee of the status quo staying the same if he gets in.
We also have Ted DeSalvatore. New to town, only political experience is as a bombastic one-term city councilor, alienates pretty much everyone he comes into contact with. He's a walking joke.
Unlike Donnelly, DeSalvatore's shtick is all about change. Unfortunately, it's generally about change for the worse. This is a man with no political skill and not a lot of brains, but certainly a lot of passion. It's just too bad it's horribly misguided.
A "zero-tolerance" approach to crime, a bizarre reliance on the "fixing broken windows" theory of crime prevention, and a lot of other fancy ideas that aren't based on reality (and more importantly don't/won't work) is what he offers.
There's a reason that I (and many others) have spent a lot of time writing about DeSalvatore. I think most of us are totally in favor of change, but we're not in favor of making Fitchburg a worse place to live, and that's what he promises. His divisiveness, inane political stunts, and lack of any true understanding of the issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
I don't want a gentrified town, and I'm pretty sure most of the other people living here don't either. There's a reason you don't see DeSalvatore signs in the more heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, and it sure as hell isn't because they fear him. It's because he so obviously fears them.
Let's pretend for a moment that DeSalvatore does get through the primary (which I doubt) and goes on to become mayor (even more unlikely). What would we get?
Well, we'd get someone who can't get anything done. He's demonstrated no ability to work with others, has created a huge amount of hostility in town, and is a more effective clown than a political leader. For all his talk of change, we'd get someone who's so personally unstable and has such a poor grasp of the the issues that he'd be unable to make that change actually happen. He could probably screw things up worse, but as for changes that improve the town, the guy just doesn't have the ability.
On the bright side, he'd almost certainly only be mayor for one term.
Finally, we have Lisa Wong.
Now, here's your opportunity for change. Not only does Wong have a firm and nuanced grasp of the issues, she actually has vision. She's not part of the old guard in any way, but has demonstrated an ability to get things done that benefit Fitchburg. She's by far the most intelligent of any of the candidates, and her presence in the race elevates it dramatically.
Her financial background is also impeccable. For a city in such dire financial straits as Fitchburg, it would be pretty nice to have a mayor in place who actually understands economics and what needs to be done to turn things around. It's a far cry from Donnelly's "I'll appoint a committee to fix it" and Ted DeSalvatore's reliance on "common sense" to run the city finances (keep in mind Ted is an unemployed guy whose common sense led to him declare bankruptcy and whose campaign is at least $6,000 in the red).
Not that I think a Wong mayorship would be all milk and honey, but she clearly holds the most promise for taking the city in a direction that would benefit everyone living here. There would be resistance to face. The old guard doesn't like new people screwing up the status quo (why do you think Donnelly has been so snide towards Wong in the debates?). But Wong has demonstrated an ability get things done despite that. Not by "fighting", but by working together towards intelligent goals.
Yes, it's a very different election this year. Most years we have people just like Tom Donnelly. They've been around a long time, and don't have any particular vision or thirst for change. But they're keen to step into their spot in line.
This year we have just one person like Donnelly. Which would be... ummm... Donnelly. We also have the laughable DeSalvatore, who provides people like me with entertaining fodder to write about, but would be a disaster as mayor. But it's not unheard of to have a crazy person running for mayor. Ted's not what makes this race different.
The difference is that this year we actually have a candidate in the form of Lisa Wong with the promise to significantly improve the quality of life in Fitchburg. To actually move forward and see things improve. Yes, things can be very different, and this could be a very historic election. It all depends on who wins it.
Vote wisely, Fitchburg.