Monday, February 26, 2007

City Council candidate offers youth, freedom from Decepticon tyranny

It was with a bit of pleasure I read this morning's news about 22-year old Shaun Cormier, who will be running for City Council this fall.

First of all, it's almost always good to bring youth into situations like this. Yes, people will automatically fault him for inexperience, but that can be overcome if he has decent enough ideas. And it sounds like he's at least on the right track:
He suggested a tax incentive for first-time homeowners, and said the city should work to attract recreation-oriented businesses such as a miniature golf course or an arcade.

He's also eyeing the empty movie theater on Main Street.

"It's been vacant for so long. We really need to explore ways to make it more lively again," Cormier said.

The theater could be a concert venue, or could be converted to a dance club, he suggested, noting that the club could have some 21-plus nights, but could also host 18-plus nights when no alcohol is served.
All pretty solid ideas, if you ask me.

That theater on Main Street is just ripe for improvement, and while there may be some issues with it (I hear the inside isn't quite fit for man nor beast in its current state), it's got potential. Personally, I'd like to see it become an art-house movie theater, but the club idea isn't terrible.

Either way, it's nice to see someone with some reasonable ideas for actually drawing people into town.

It's still quite early of course, so there's a while yet to see if he actually has viable plans or not, but in trying to find out just who Shaun Cormier is I found this page containing an interview.

The S&E article mentioned him working for Hasbro, and the interview goes into glorious detail:
There are times I do get to play with toys, but that’s only after I have repaired them, finished programming them, or built the electronics for them. Although to me, programming a toy is just like playing with a toy. I am programming the movement of the toy for the final production change.
Nice, so he's at least a fairly smart guy with some intellectual curiosity. Why he's getting into politics is beyond me. Regardless, here's the really important bit:
One of the toys I am working on is called Butterscotch. It is a life size miniature pony that moves its head and blows air out of its nostrils. I’m working on some new Spiderman toys that won’t be out until 2007, some Transformers, and some of the Playskool line.
So not only does he make Transformers (which is awesome), but he makes some sort of demonic horse creature which will surely be involved with bringing about the forthcoming apocalypse!

Based on his experience both with taming fire-breathing stallions of doom and his experience with the complex political climate of the planet Cybertron, he definitely looks like the most qualified candidate in some time.

[Update 3/1/07] A friend who worked with Cormier a few years back has indicated that Cormier's intellectual curiosity at the time he knew him was in fact rather lacking. Hopefully that situation has changed, but the jury's still out on this one until more is known.

Said friend also made fun of the mini-golf and arcade ideas, which I have to agree are pretty weak (does anybody still go to arcades anymore?), but the basic premise of increasing recreational activities I think is still sound.

Nevertheless, Transformers are still awesome!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Piles of bullshit

I don't typically aim to get into national politics here, but when the local paper is running opinion pieces that lack the slightest intellectual honesty it's time to make an exception.

Today's craptacular editorial is entitled Hypocrisy in Congress, and comes to us courtesy of either the Sentinel & Enterprise or one of the copywriters at their parent MediaNews Group. (I'm going to assume the latter, since the NH Broacaster has the exact same editorial.)

Let's start at the beginning:
Two weeks ago, congressional Democrats and Republicans extended unconditional support to Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, President Bush's new commander in Iraq.
Really? "Unconditional support" seems like an odd thing to offer, given that they'd totally be abdicating their responsibility of oversight.

In fact, nobody offered anything like unconditional support of Gen. Petraeus's strategies or anything else. What they did was to vote for his confirmation unanimously. Unanimous is not the same as unconditional. When right-wing media tool Chris Wallace made the same dubious connection, here's what Jim Webb had to say:
WEBB: When the administration puts forward a general officer to fill a billet that exists, I will take a look at his qualifications and see whether I believe he is qualified to be a commander. That doesn't mean that I have to back a political strategy that impels him into motion.

Back to the editorial:
However, those same lawmakers that praised Petraeus are now working to deny the crucial funding the general needs for his troops to get the job done.

What hypocrites!

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, and a host of Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Ted Kennedy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are working together to get approved a non-binding resolution condemning Bush's troop surge and the money required to support the mission.
Interesting leap of logic here.

Warner, Reid, and Kennedy all voted to confirm Petraeus. That vote was to put him in position as commander of the Mulitnational Force in Iraq. Not for a troop escalation, nor for any of Bush's other plans. Simply for Petraeus as being qualified for the job he was nominated for. Period.

There's no hypocrisy at work here, there's oversight. That's something the conservative press has a hard time accepting, so maybe I can provide a metaphor that could help.

Let's say I run a factory and have just hired a new foreman. The board of directors has approved him as being someone who's fit for the job. We're having trouble with our production due to some machines that have broken down. The new "Diplomacy 1500 (r)" machine is sputtering terribly, for instance, and a number of men have died trying to replace its normal role (which involves welding thermite to TNT or something, you get the point).

Ignoring this, I decide the best course of action would be to hire 21,000 more employees to do the incredibly hazardous job the machine used to do. My foreman agrees with me that this would be effective. The board of directors, on the other hand, thinks we should fix the damn machine and refuses to fund the new hires. Some dolt at the local paper than accuses the board of being hypocrites for hiring the foreman even though he disagrees with them.

This isn't hypocrisy, it's oversight. It's what's keeps us from making horrifically stupid mistakes over and over again, and it's what was missing when Republicans controlled Congress.

At least there's one thing I can agree with in this editorial:
If pulling the plug on all U.S. military operations in Iraq is what Congress really wants, then lawmakers should do it
Yes, yes they should.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Doesn't play well with others.

In what will come as a surprise to no one, Ted DeSalvatore is not very popular with his peers.
Two city councilors say that Ward 4 Councilor Ted E. DeSalvatore is a divisive force on the council, and works to advance his own interests, not those of the city.

But DeSalvatore said the opposite is true: It is the other councilors who take issue with him, and who advance personal agendas.
Here, DeSalvatore is utilizing the "I know you are but what am I?" strategy of debate. Well done, Ted!
"I have grown tired of (DeSalvatore's) implications that his fellow councilors' actions are always of a political nature, while his actions and intentions are always so noble. I see things very differently," Ward 5 Councilor Stephan Hay said during Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Hay and Councilor at-large Thomas Conry both spoke Tuesday night, and disputed DeSalvatore's claims -- printed in a newspaper article last week -- that councilors made "backdoor deals" prior to choosing a new councilor Tuesday night.

"I find this insulting and untrue," Hay said. "Since this process began, I have not been asked by one councilor other than Mr. DeSalvatore to vote for a specific individual. And Councilor DeSalvatore did not ask me to vote for someone; he told me who I should vote for."

The quoted remarks "were false, contained innuendoes and pure suppositions," Conry said.
So, contrary to the "backdoor deals" innuendo previously published (by this same newspaper, natch), apparently the only person trying to rig the election of a new councilor was Ted himself.

At least Ted's honest about one thing:
DeSalvatore acknowledged that tension exists between him and other councilors.
Too bad he thinks it's because he's Sir Galahad and they're a bunch of demons out to steal his Grail (yes, that's a strained metaphor).
"There is a core group that will stand against me because they don't like the way I haven't fallen into place," he said.

Here's a little lesson in human relations, Ted. The other councilors "stand against you" because you do things like slander them to the local bootlick press, not because you're some kind of dashing maverick.

Additionally, it's just conceivable that they disagree with you because all of your ideas are profoundly stupid. Perhaps they'd like to see the town become a better place and are frustrated at having to drive over the speed bump of your ideas to get there.

While I may not be crazy about Dan Mylott as a mayor, I do like his statement.
"Things have been said about the council that are not true," Mylott said.

He added that he hopes DeSalvatore will "start to moderate those loud utterances that really don't make a lot of sense."

I believe that would be all of DeSalvatore's utterances, Mr. Mayor.

While the Sentinel's article focused rightfully on Ted being a dick, the new weekly paper Fitchburg Pride (providing a conservative weekly alternative to the conservative daily paper) focused their website's "Breaking News" for Wednesday pretty much exclusively on Mylott. Perhaps saying anything substantial about Ted's social problems makes them less proud.

The paper named after a high-school pep rally ran the headline "Mylott stands by comments critical of DeSalvatore" and the body of the article contained this:
Mayor Dan Mylott stood behind comments that were made last night by councilors Stephan Hay and Thomas Conry, Jr. towards fellow councilor Ted DeSalvatore. Last week, DeSalvatore said he thought councilors were colluding to select a replacement for an empty City Counicl [sic] seat.

"It is causing dissention [sic] among councilors," said Mylott.

He responded to comments people have made about backroom politics among council members, saying it is not true, and that councilors are open about their opinions. DeSalvatore is considered a likely candidate for mayor, as is the three-term Mylott.

The rest of the article dealt primarily with Mylott's plan to fine delinquent "industrial wastewater users", whatever they are.

Thank god we have an alternative press in Fitchburg!

Are DeSalvatore's plans for a mayoral run in trouble? I really doubt it. This is a man who fancies himself an "outsider", surely he couldn't care less if he has the ability to behave with civility towards the people he'd have to work with as Mayor. Surely he can get more done going it totally alone, right?

Of course, some voters may recognize that it would be unwise for a mayor to constantly make an ass of himself and alienate people like the city council and the chief of police. At least I hope so.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Exploration time!

Good news, everyone! The "exuberant" Ted DeSalvatore has formed an exploratory committee to look into running for mayor!
"It's a question of making sure, that's all," DeSalvatore said Friday.

"There seems to be an incredible outpouring to have me run for mayor, from the community," he said. "The exploratory committee has the task at hand of making sure that what we're hearing is in fact the truth, and not just the figment of the imagination of a number of people."
Well, I can answer that even without a committee.

There's a subset of people in Fitchburg who think Ted DeSalvatore is the cat's pajamas. A small subset. They're the ones with the good imaginations. They're also noisy. There's another subset that thinks he's an embarrassment to the city. Also a small subset. Less noisy, but more sane. Then there's a whole lot of people out there who have no idea who he is or what he thinks. It's those people he'd have to win over to become mayor.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Every time he opens his mouth something stupid comes out, and once he's officially a mayoral candidate more people are going to start to pay attention. At that point they'll realize he'd make a much better cartoon character than he would a mayor. A well-informed voting public is not Ted's friend.
But city residents have urged him to run, saying that "crime is out of control" and "the city has absolutely lost its friendliness," the councilor said.
Well, having an unfriendly city sure is problematic. I don't really see how you can blame that on the mayor though. I'd blame the weather. And the racially divisive marches.

As for crime, it certainly is slightly higher than in neighboring Leominster. But "out of control"? We're lower than the state average overall, though we do rank higher than the state average for violent crime. Let's call it a tossup. Crime could always be lower.

Of course, a mayor generally has to work well with the Chief of Police to do anything about crime. Given DeSalvatore's extremely rocky relationship with Chief Cronin I'm not sure that places him as the best man for the job. Maybe he'll just take his vigilanteism to the next level and run around town in his Bat-Mayor costume to deal with crime personally.

In other news, Dan Mylott is also going to run for mayor again. Which is no great surprise, but hardly the stuff excitement is made of. While Mylott seems like he means well (the same can be said of DeSalvatore), he's just not proven himself to be a very effective mayor. He does have the benefit of experience and name recognition that DeSalvatore lacks (despite Ted's incessant publicity stunts), but there are also plenty of people who will vote for "anyone but Mylott" in the upcoming race.

Let's hope some more people get involved. Anyone, please.

However, one word of warning to any potential candidates named "Matthew" or "Matt". My trolls have taken time off from tossing Ted DeSalvatore's salad to warn me they won't be voting for you because they think you're me (yes, all of you). Apparently when my parents gave me the ninth most popular boy's name of 1975 they didn't count on the possibility that I would one day have a blog about local politics. Go figure.

Former city councilor Matt Straight is in particular trouble, since apparently it's hard for people who've gone off their Haldol to differentiate between us. Of course, he has bigger problems.

What this all means to you unfortunate Matts and Matthews is you potentially may lose up to three votes from people who would have voted for DeSalvatore anyway. Try not to lose any sleep over that.

On a side note: In an attempt to limit future confusion caused by my having one of the most popular names of the last century I will now be writing under the pseudonym of "The Unicow". Hopefully nobody was planning on voting for her anyway. Although she just may be the best choice we have right now.