Last night there was another mayoral debate. This time of course it was just Wong and Donnelly debating, which made for a more focused but sort of sad debate.
Sad because I feel bad for poor Tom Donnelly. He's totally out of his league. I think he realizes this too, because at one point he started rambling (honestly, he did a lot of rambling) about how some people are effective debaters with a way for words. And unfortunately for him, he's not one of them.
I feel for the guy, because I share his affliction to some degree. Debating is a pretty specialized skill, and the winner of a debate isn't necessarily the person with the best ideas. It's the person with the best technique. You could have great ideas but still be a terrible debater.
But I don't feel too bad, because that doesn't actually seem to be the case with Donnelly. The ideas just weren't there. His statements ranged from boring to condescending to downright insulting at times, but none of them really contained any compelling ideas. His one "hit" was taking a dig at how awful the local paper is (I'm assuming he meant the Sentinel & Enterprise), which garnered applause (because everyone knows the Sentinel sucks). Besides that, nada.
Yeah, Lisa Wong mopped the floor with him.
The question-askers consisted of FATV guy Bill Gates (who has a way better haircut than multibillionare Bill Gates), Save Fitchburg & Fitchburg Pride guy Jason Lefferts (who is some kind of giant, I think), and WEIM Radio guy Chuck Morse (who is that ultraconservative guy I sometimes refer to as "Dickbag").
[Interesting side note on Morse: He actually invited me to be on his show last Friday! Which was sort of nice! He's also not as big a jerk in his emails as he is on the air and told me not to take it personally if he takes issue on his show with things I say. Sweet! Anyway, I turned down the invitation.]
Some of the questions were good, some were mediocre, and some were Dickbag babbling for five minutes before presenting a false either/or choice on a more nuanced issue.
Let's talk about that last one. The question was basically Morse going on about something or other for an awfully long time then asking if the new mayor was going to raise taxes or "stand up to the public unions" (as the Telegram put it, anyway. It's not like I wrote stuff down.).
Wong dealt with it quite well, in my opinion. She recognized it as a false choice and presented the much more sensible option of actually running the city efficiently (without necessarily ruling out any other options). She pointed out a large number of little (and some big) things that can be done to save money and run city finances in a way that neither tax increases nor cutting jobs is necessary. Pretty sensible stuff.
Donnelly complained that she didn't answer the question. Then he didn't really answer it either in his rebuttal. He pointed to layoffs I guess, but everything he said was tinged with his old "I'll have other people look into it" standby.
There was also a question about crime, and what the two candidates' philosophies were in that arena.
Donnelly and Wong pretty much agreed that prevention is the best approach. Both also recognized that crime is not as big a problem as people like to make it out to be. I take no issue with either of their ideas.
Unfortunately, Donnelly went into a little ramble about how "Crime Watch" is a bad name for community involvement projects and "Neighborhood Watch" is better (agreed!), and he thought promoting a smiley-face sort of approach for the signs would be great. Seriously, he talked about smiley faces. That isn't really bad, but it is really easy to make fun of (hence the image up top).
Another question boiled down to: "Unitil are overpriced assholes. What will you do about that?"
This is one area where I thought Wong really shined and Donnelly did horribly. Wong brought up bunches of alternative energy sources and energy conservation measures. She acknowledged that we're sort of stuck with Unitil, but produced some very sensible ideas for how to deal with that situation. How well they'd work in practice I'm not sure, but at least she's got a bunch of ideas.
Donnelly, on the other hand, thinks we're all a bunch of idiots. He pointed out that the Unitil bills are for gas and electricity combined. But in neighboring towns they get separate bills!
Yeah, no shit.
Apparently he thinks we're all just unable to do simple math and so we're upset about something that doesn't really exist. Frankly, it was insulting. Besides that, his answer was pretty much "We're fucked, get used to it."
Really, that was the basic gist of the debate. There's certainly other stuff I could write about, and no doubt some of it would be hilarious. But I feel bad for Tom, so I think I'll leave it at that. The debate wasn't really anything new. Wong presented ideas for positive change, Donnelly talked about his experience a lot. Same stuff from before, really.
If you ask me, Wong basically has this race wrapped up. I expected Donnelly to come out with some new ideas for change and improvement to the city, because that's what he'll need to compete with Wong. But he didn't. It was the same old stuff that got him a whopping 22% of the vote in the primary.
Wong had the same stuff as before the primary too, but her stuff actually works. Donnelly's going to need to change course pretty seriously if he has any hope of making a comeback. Even then it's pretty unlikely, but at least he could make things a bit more interesting. As it is, it looks like Wong's going to totally run away with the election.
[Update - 6:22 PM]
Liberal agitator 1970s Abraham Lincoln has a great post up over at Hello Fitchburg that breaks down the actual cost of being stuck with Unitil's extortionate rates. Empirical data! Numbers and figures and stuff!
It quite effectively debunks Donnelly's claim that we're all a bunch of idiots and just don't understand our bills. Check it out here!
Warning: it'll probably make the next time you go to pay your bill even more depressing.