Saturday, October 27, 2007

Donnelly goes negative!

A few months back, Tom Donnelly wrote a thing for the Fitchburg Voice blog.

In it, he had this bit:
Fitchburg is a great city that I enjoy living in. I choose to campaign in a positive manner, discussing the issues that Fitchburg faces, and focusing on the good things about Fitchburg. I have not and will not will use tactics of division and negativity.
Sounds pretty good!

Now go read this post over at Hello Fitchburg.

How times have changed!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Monster Truck Martini Rally!

Last evening I had the fortune of visiting Cafe DeStare on Main Street. It's quite nice! The super-talented "Scott Beddia Trio" (oddly composed of five people) was playing, the Red Sox game was on, there were sexy ladies, it was a nice place!

It's also the place that Lisa Wong praised as bringing some new life to Main St. in that fluffy Globe article about her.

Donnelly, of course, doesn't seem to care for it, and was quoted in the article as saying this:
"All this vision of wine bars is very cute, but that's not going to be the salvation of the city."

Okay, I agree, bars are not "the salvation of the city," even if they're nice like this one. Still, the rest of that article suggests that Donnelly is opposed to "wine bars" like DeStare (though actually it's a martini bar, but whatever).

So why was he (and his wife, and his very fetching daughter, and probably some sons or something, and maybe someone else associated with him) there last night?

More importantly, what the fuck is up with his giant monster truck that was illegally parked across the street from the bar? Witness the crappy cell-phone photo of it!

That's probably the best picture I could get of it. You can't make it out in the photo, but the back end (above the rear wheel) says something like "The Mad Fisherman," which is frankly quite confusing. Should I start calling Donnelly "The Mad Fisherman" now?

That's a rhetorical question. Of course I'm going to start calling him that!

A friend who saw the truck on a separate occasion (today, apparently) described it like this: "It’s like a bad campaign idea and a mid-life crisis rolled into one." That's possibly the most perfect description ever!

Here's another bad picture of the Mad Fisherman-mobile!

In this picture you can actually see the red DeStare sign across the street. Plus you can see the minivan-thing also illegally parked behind it (though it's dwarfed by Donnelly's overcompensation-mobile).

You see, the Mad Fisherman himself didn't appear to drive the bigass truck. That job must have been taken by one of his sharply-dressed followers. I'm not positive, but I suspect the minivan thing was his. Because, you know, it's like 60 feet from that spot to a giant free parking lot and that's too far for an important mayoral candidate to walk!

Anyway, Donnelly didn't really interact with anyone in the bar that he didn't already know. Which seems to be par for the course with the guy. On the other hand, neither did I!

But I'm not running for mayor.

Regardless, I look forward to Donnelly's new campaign slogan: "The Mad Fisherman will kick your ass into fiscal solvency with his bitchin' monster truck! Fuck yeah!!!"

I'd also like to thank him for making himself so easy to ridicule. Thanks Tom!

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Campaign Website Reviews!

Good news, people who like my reviews of campaign websites! I'm doing it again!

I've exhausted the mayoral candidates of course, and even though one of our mayoral contenders has scandalously changed her website, I'm not going to focus there anymore.

Rather, it's time to dig deeper into the bowels of Fitchburg politics (yes I know that's a disgusting metaphor) and look at some of the city council candidates! Fun!

Incidentally, do you know how hard it is to find a good list online of just who's running for what? The answer: pretty hard!

Lucky for me a bunch of the candidates don't have websites, so we can just ignore them. And because I'm incredibly lazy, I got all these sites from the handy list Jason has posted over at Save Fitchburg. So if anyone's missing, blame him.

Now, let's begin!

Ward Six

Why Ward 6 first? Because there's just one candidate with a website. It's incumbent and City Council President Jody Joseph!Before I relentlessly make fun of Joseph's site, let me just say it is nice to see an unopposed incumbent who actually bothered to have a website. Way to go Jody!

Oh, but wait... I don't think it was made for this election. On the front page there's a link to something called Ward Six Contest Looms which is talking about an old election. There's also this thing:Also, nowhere does it mention that he's currently the City Council President, which seems like it would belong pretty well in his accomplishments section or something.

Also, as you can see, the site is flesh-colored! Gross!

Okay, in fairness it's not exactly flesh-colored. If my flesh looked like that I'd be concerned. It's more like the Crayola color called "flesh" than actual Caucasoid flesh. Still sort of gross.

Either way, I call foul on this website! It's old and not sufficiently updated for the current election (it does have the date right though).


Ward Four

Okay, moving on to a ward that actually has two active websites and no incumbents! Ward 4 is a hotbed of internet activity!

Let's go in alphabetical order!

Stephen Seney:
The first thing that pops out about Seney's website is that it's really incredibly ugly. I mean super-ugly. Fugly, even. It was apparently made by Kreative Dezign, who seem to suffer from color blindness in addition to dyslexia.

I used to live right near Kreative Dezign's storefront and I actually thought it was a car customization shop for quite awhile. Obviously I was mistaken, because they make websites and stuff! Seney's site would fit in pretty well at a custom car rally, though. It's like a Honda Civic with a gigantic spoiler and spinny hubcaps. Style but very little substance.

As I am wont to do, my first step was to examine his Issues page. This is what I found...
As you can see, Seney has no issues! That screenshot there is all you get, concerned voters! Incidentally, the "my site is always being updated with new information" bit seems to not be the case. This issues page hasn't changed in the few months since I first looked at it.

Well, maybe the issues are cleverly hidden elsewhere. Perhaps the terrible navigation is to blame! So I clicked on the thing that looks like a play button beneath the heading "Who is Steve Seney?" and was presented with five options to find out! Sweet!

First up was Background, where I learned little of interest. Seney likes ice cream and fishing. Also, Fitchburg is his "home by choice." I guess it's nice that nobody's forcing him to live here. So that's something.

Next we have Education. In addition to his formal education we get this awesome bit!
I also consider myself self-taught in many areas that interest me. Real estate and finance are two of these areas. Additionally, and at times more important is the education that my parents gave me. They taught me thru their example as well as by their rules.
Okay, here's my contribution to Seney's education: "Thru" is not a word! The word you're looking for is "through". I know it's longer and sort of ugly, but that's the way it goes.

Also, who isn't self-taught in areas that interest them? I'm interested in physics, self-taught even! That doesn't mean I'm going to get hired at CERN anytime soon. I'm also self-taught in how to find good internet porn. So what?

Third, "Additionally, and at times more important is the education that my parents gave me." is a terrible sentence. Fix that please.

Okay, the "Education" page sucked, what about the exciting-sounding Commitment page?


Okay, the page is summed up in this one quote: "The citizens of Fitchburg deserve results not rhetoric."

Ironically, the entire rest of the page is nothing but stupid rhetoric. Basically, take every cliched thing you've ever heard a politician say and cram it all into the same page. That's what you have here.


Alright, Vision! I love a candidate with vision! I crave a candidate with vision! Tell me about your vision, Steve!
My vision for Fitchburg as a whole is to work with the Council, the Mayors office, Department Heads, and City Employees to strengthen our city. We are all on the same team and we must act that way. Everyone must bring their best to the table for the benefit of the resident’s Fitchburg.

That's not vision, that's more rhetoric! Worse yet, it's rhetoric with bad capitalization and missing apostrophes! Fitchburg should be run like a business, blah blah blah. So it's another page of nothing but vapid rhetoric. God this is getting tiresome.

One more, please let it be good...

Experience... well here's a handy quote
Owning a business taught me several things about myself and my abilities. I am constantly pushing myself to achieve more. I have learned to set goals and achieve them.
Oh yeah, more rhetoric. To hell with this!

Conclusion: Stephen Seney's website really sucks. He doesn't say anything at all about the issues, gives no specifics about anything, and does nothing but bullshit us with the very rhetoric he derides. Bad website! Bad!

Okay, now his opponent!

Kevin Starr:

So what's the first impression here? Well, Starr clearly likes the color red. Red signs, red website. Also, the black-and-white picture of him on the top of the page looks almost identical to the color picture of him in the middle of the page, but I think is different. But I'm not sure! It's kind of creepy if he can pose the exact same way in two separate photos, but maybe that could be considered a political skill. Sort of creeps me out.

Also, while the picture of his family is nice and all, I don't know what's propping up his daughter! She appears to be levitating between them somehow! Yeah, I know he's probably holding her, but I prefer to believe she's somehow magically floating there.

Anyway, this is a much more simple site than Seney's. No fancy but horribly-conceived navigation here, just a few pages. Is it a case of substance triumphing over style though? Let's see!

Wait a second! I was going to put a link here to another page, but there's trickery afoot! All the links are controlled by Javascript, so no matter what you click on the page still claims it's just Sneaky! Points lost for this, because it means that when I went there with Javascript disabled none of the links worked and I saw this:... which isn't very appealing.

Why the subterfuge? Digging into the site reveals the horrible truth! It's all hosted on the domain! Yes, Joe McCarthy! Probably a Joe McCarthy who makes websites and not the Joe McCarthy who gave birth to McCarthyism (and who died in 1957), but still scary! I wonder what Mr. McCarthy thinks of Starr's red theme...

Oh well, on to the About Me page. Note that if you follow that link it's not actually the way the page looks if you just go to the website and click the link, but I couldn't freaking link to it otherwise!

It's the basic background/biography page. He went to meetings at city hall when he was five? That's child abuse!

Nothing terribly exciting there, but it does have this bit:
My focus now is working with Councilor Boisvert and others to create a World War II Honor Roll. Over 11,000 city residents answered the call of their country. The Honor Roll will list each of those brave people, including my grandfather Peter Starr. We have a long way to go to raise an estimated $200,000.This monument would eventually be placed in Riverfront Park.
I didn't know about that before, and that's actually pretty cool. So way to go!

Still, the page is a throwaway, on to the similarly crazy-linked Issues page!

Okay, the page is pretty slim. Better than Seney's, but nothing to write home about. Basically he focuses on financial stuff, which is pretty sensible at this time. He does the same "treat the city like a business" bullshit that it seems like everyone running for everything anywhere does. Man I'm tired of hearing that. The only real specific on the page is this:
I will ask our mayor to have each city department make public quarterly financial reports stating the goals and objectives of each department. This would give the residents the opportunity to see how their tax dollars are spent every three months.
Decent enough idea. Still a pretty slim page.

Okay, one page left, but it's the one that may put Starr over the top! So far things have been pretty slim, but now we get to his Blog! It actually pops up in a new window and has a bit different design, but I'm going to consider it part of the site anyway.

Starr is the first candidate whose site I've examined who has a blog, and it's a good move on his part.

It's only been active since early October, but he comes across well in his posts. Positive, articulate, etc. Good things to be! It also gives him a bit of humanity, which is something that can often be missing from candidate websites. It could use a few more posts, though.

Conclusion: This is definitely not the fanciest website in the world, and could really use some more information on the issues. It is clean and simple though, and doesn't irritate or insult you with giant flag pictures and pages of rhetoric (there is rhetoric, but it's minor). The site doesn't really do anything wrong, but it doesn't really impress either. The blog is a very nice touch.

So who wins the showdown for Ward 4 website? Easy, Starr does. Not that either website is fantastic, but Seney's was actually annoying while Starr's was just sort of plain.

(On a side note, you may be interested in this information about Seney, which is also sort of disheartening.)

Anyway, that's it for this installment of campaign website reviews. I'll be getting to the candidates for Councilor-at-Large in a bit, but we have four websites to review for them and the post would just be way too big with all that in it! I might even deal with the school committee candidates. Anything could happen!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Taxes are boring.

The onslaught of Sentinel articles about how awesome Donnelly is continues!

Today's entry is called Donnelly sets foreclosed home as backdrop for tax debate. It's really really fucking boring.

There's a dual tax rate in Fitchburg for homes and businesses, you see. And there's a shift thingy. Donnelly backs a 137 percent shift, while Wong supports a 136 percent shift! Oh my god! That's an incredibly huge difference!

To wit:
Under the 137 percent shift, the owner of a $219,934 house pays a yearly bill of $2,585. Under Wong's plan to shift 136 percent, the same resident's tax bill would increase by $5.18 a year.
Wait... five bucks???

I probably have five bucks in change in my couch! This is worth a press conference and newspaper article? Wow, what an important issue to the people in town!

Rest assured, people of Fitchburg, Tom Donnelly wants to make sure you can afford that extra pack of cigarettes!
Donnelly said even though it is a small shift, any increase on residential property taxes is difficult for residents to swallow.

"I would keep taxes low to help homeowners in these hard times," Donnelly said
Thank you Tom! My five bucks will be well-spent on booze! It's actually very easy to swallow that way.

The business benefits Wong sees are similarly pretty minor...
Shifting to a 136 percent classification rate, as Wong supports, would save commercial businesses an average of $41.94 on a lot worth $332,085 and would save a $643,025 industrial lot owner $81.22.
Yay! That's like one or two printer cartridges! Go business go!

Really, I couldn't care less about all this. I wouldn't even have made this post except for this one bizarre statement in the article...
Donnelly said he is not opposed to shifting the tax rate toward a single-tax rate, but said now is not the time.

"You make changes in good times, not bad," Donnelly said.

Tom, during good times it generally makes sense to keep things going the way they are (or change them for the better). During bad times is exactly the right time to make changes!

Also, what the fuck, Sentinel?

Every couple of days Donnelly says something totally insignificant and the Sentinel slobbers all over him like a two-dollar whore. Every article begins with "Donnelly blah blah blah." Every story presents his dumbass statements as something important and relegates Wong to a rebuttal role. It's getting to be really annoying.

It's not like I ever expected the Sentinel to back Wong. Or to be anything but totally biased against her, actually. But it's just getting ridiculous.

On the bright side, nobody in town actually gives a shit what the Sentinel has to say. So there's that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Tom Donnelly, please stop making an ass of yourself.

Blah. I've been on a self- imposed news boycott for the last week or so. Resting, relaxing, actually doing work when I'm at my job, stuff like that. Ignoring the local politics and the exciting dual tax rate and stuff.

But I've been pulled back in by forces out of my control!

The forces in question are Tom Donnelly acting like a total idiot and the Sentinel continuing its trend of fellating him at every opportunity. Want to know more? Check out this oddly-capitalized article: Donnelly eyes Wong's Web site changes.

The gist is that Lisa Wong has someone other than herself doing her website now and that person has changed some stuff around. Jackass Donnelly sees this as some sort of scandal, which makes no sense at all. The Sentinel, being the world's worst newspaper, happily reports on all of it. Argh!

Here's some of the stupid article:
Mayoral candidate Thomas Donnelly is questioning changes his opponent, Lisa Wong, made to her campaign Web site recently.

Wong took down a section of her Web site titled "Accomplishments" and replaced it with a calendar tab where visitors to her site can view upcoming events.
Oh my god! A candidate actively involved in a political race made some changes to her website! (Incidentally, they were good changes! It looks much better now.)

Apparently Donnelly is desperately seeking out some validation that his stupid "Lisa Wong's slightly less awesome than you think" attacks are working, and he thinks that her website changes provide that validation. Which is so dumb it's laughable.

By the way, Donnelly doesn't have an "Accomplishments" section on his site either. He has a biography thingy that lists some jobs, but that's it. Also, Wong's biography does the same exact thing, but with more detail. You could almost say it lists her accomplishments...

Know what we really have here? A microcosm of the race itself!

Donnelly apparently hates change, because no sane person would give a fuck about this non-issue otherwise. Certainly he'd never change his site!
Donnelly's campaign manager, Joe Engwer, said the Donnelly campaign site has undergone no substantive content changes and instead the site is updated on a weekly basis for events and posting new literature about Donnelly.
Yeah, that's something to be really fucking proud of! Stagnation rules! Way to go with that message of change, Tom!

Wong on the other hand did change her site, for the usual reasons that people change websites:
Wong said she has a new campaign volunteer who has made changes to the site, Wong said the changes make the site more user friendly and are now more consistent in appearance to her other campaign materials.

"I'm very happy to have delegated that to someone who knows more about Web sites," Wong said.
Yeah, so she changed the site to improve it. Upsetting the status quo! Scandalous!

I have some totally unsolicited advice for Donnelly, presented in letter form for some reason:

Dear Tom,
Things like this make you look like an idiot. People change websites all the time. Going to the Sentinel and acting like it means something just makes you look like someone who doesn't understand the internet, and furthermore reinforces the belief that you're a cranky old guy who hates change.

You're not doing yourself any favors with the attacks on Wong. You look increasingly desperate and Wong comes out looking just fine. It's really embarrassing to watch, to be honest.

You're probably going to lose this race. Not because you're a bad guy (Though it did suck when you came to my door that one day and walked away to talk to someone you knew in the middle of me trying to talk to you. So you are sort of a dick.), but because you're just not what the city needs.

The least you can do is lose with dignity.
Best wishes,
The Unicow

ps I look forward to reading your accomplishments on your site, if you get some.

Also, here's something for the Sentinel:

Dear Sentinel,
Enough with the Donnelly/Sentinel circle jerks already!

The Unicow

There, that should fix things!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Is there big news today? Maybe, I dunno. I haven't really looked.

But there is something about today that's of no importance to anyone but me! One year ago today was the day that I got drunk and created Progressive Fitchburg! Happy birthday, blog!

A lot has changed since then, of course. Deval Patrick became governor, the Democrats took Congress, and we actually have some compelling local candidates running for office!

One of the nicest things to have seen over the last year is how many good local blogs have sprung up in that time. It used to pretty much be Save Fitchburg or nothing, but now there's a bunch of stuff worth reading (listed over to the right, go read them!). Whether you agree with any of them or not, it's great to have a variety of voices out there.

To celebrate my year anniversary I'm going to share some statistics about PF readers with you. This data has really only been collected since about last November, but I didn't exactly get a ton of readers back then anyway. Also I'm a bit of a nerd, so if this information is only interesting to me then feel free to ignore it.

Your operating system:
  1. Windows - 86% (89% XP, 6% Windows 2000, 3% Vista)
  2. Macintosh - 12%
  3. Linux - 2% (but much of that is probably me)
Your web browser of choice:
  1. Internet Explorer - 65%
  2. Firefox - 28%
  3. Safari - 6%
  4. Everybody else (Opera, Mozilla, etc) - < 1%
That's pretty dry stuff!

Here's a more interesting bit. What searches have led people to Progressive Fitchburg? The big ones are obvious, but they get more fun the deeper down you get! For some of them, I have no idea how they found me, and even less idea why they clicked the link.

Here are some of my favorites...
  • ron dionne home page fitchburg (139 hits): Looks like Dionne really should have made himself a damn website!
  • fitchburg lisa wong water (12 hits): Refreshing!
  • fitchburg pussy (5 hits): Which I assume led to disappointment...
  • god is killing me! (2 hits): Me too!
  • "gay jesus" (1 hit): Probably also led to disappointment...
  • "respect sanitation workers" (1 hit): I do!
  • 6 asian guys in fitchburg (1 hit): I suspect there are more than that.
  • can you tell me the laws that regulate convicted child molesters? (1 hit): Not unless you stop talking to Google like it's a person.
  • draconian liquor (1 hit): If this isn't already a brand of liquor, it should be!
  • fucking in fitchburg (1 hit): Sex tourism?
  • how do i stop my eyes from getting worse (1 hit): Stop masturbating.
  • how to make large foam cowboy hat (1 hit): Why would you want to?
  • "paul weyrich frankly, goes up as the voter population goes down" (1 hit): What the hell?
  • she works for unicow, boston, ma (1 hit): Whoever searched for that, please tell me who "she" is!
  • tired of white people on tv (1 hit): Me too!
  • who in fitchburg wants to fuck (1 hit): This is a recurring theme...
What a zany bunch of searchers you internet-folks are! I can only wonder what horrors another year may bring.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I guess we know who the Sentinel's going to endorse!

I think that Tom Donnelly and the Sentinel & Enterprise newspaper are in an abusive relationship.

During the last debate, Donnelly attacked the paper as being one of the big problems the city faces, what with its negativity and all. That was before he decided he liked negativity, of course.

You'd think the local paper would respond by being a little cold to him. Maybe saying "Hey Tom, we don't have to take this kind of shitty treatment from you!" and then trying to make him look bad or something. But you'd be wrong!

Instead what we get is this sloppy blowjob of an article on how he loves change. There was also another one recently about the stupid boring financial stuff. It's like the Sentinel is trying to win his love!

Which I guess is common in an abusive relationship, but is still a bit sad. Don't you know he's just going to hurt you again, Sentinel? Get out while you can!

The clincher came today, in the deceptively named and super-long-titled Donnelly draws support from majority of city's public officials as candidate for mayor.

That's a pretty dramatic statement! Also, it makes one question why the city's current "public officials" are so out of sync with the rest of the city. I wonder if that's why there's an anti-incumbent feeling in the air.

Not to worry though, the article isn't really about a majority of the city's public officials. At least not in the way that any reasonably competent third-grader would understand it. Allow me to quote!
A majority of city councilors support Thomas Donnelly in the race for mayor against Lisa Wong, according to interviews with each of the councilors.

Six of the 11 members of the City Council, including the candidate himself, support Donnelly, while four are uncommitted and only one said he supports Wong instead of Donnelly.

That's totally fucking meaningless.

First, let's not be idiots here. Donnelly doesn't get to count as a Donnelly supporter! We'll just disregard him, which leaves 5 supporters out of 11 members of the City Council. Which is not a majority of the City Council. Even if we knock it down to 10 members because we disqualified Donnelly himself it's not a majority. It's half.

Also, there are quite a lot more "public officials" in the city than the 11 people on the city council! The mayor and the school committee come to mind instantly. So what the hell, Sentinel? Are you so desperate to win back your man that you're willing to ignore basic facts? (The answer to that is "No, the Sentinel has always been willing to ignore basic facts!")

But just looking at the City Council, one has to wonder what the deal is. Take ten people (because to include Donnelly would be incredibly stupid); five support Donnelly, one supports Wong, and the remaining 4 mysteriously won't say who they support.

Well, I think we can safely say that Ted DeSalvatore probably doesn't support either, and that neither candidate wants his support. So really we have three who are keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Why would someone do that? Are they really so wishy-washy that they don't care? Everyone interviewed basically said they'd be fine with either candidate, so maybe. Or, you know, maybe the ones who won't pick a side just don't want to embarrass the guy they have to work with on the City Council itself. Just a thought.

I mean, you'd think it would be pretty easy to say they support Donnelly if they really did, right? Saying you support Wong could lead to some pretty dirty looks during the City Council meetings though. Plus Donnelly might not pick up the tab when you stop in at the bar for a few drinks after the meeting! (That's not to say Tom buys votes with beer, just that I've often seen a segment of the Council hanging out together after meetings.)

So our fence-sitters are probably one of a few things:
  • Really undecided: could be, but I honestly have trouble understanding how anyone can be undecided.
  • Wong supporters who don't want to tick off Donnelly: aforementioned dirty looks and beer bills.
  • Donnelly supporters who don't want to tick off Wong: because she's probably going to be mayor and all that.
  • Weenies who don't want to piss off anyone: because they're weenies.
But you know what? I don't care at all!

Seriously, who the fuck would care? It's 11 people in a town of 40,000. Eleven people who are at the very least complicit in getting the city into the crappy state it's currently in. These are not people who I trust for advice on who can make things better!

Also, they're people who spend time around Donnelly at City Council meetings, and are presumably at least on civil terms with him in most cases. I bet if you take a group of eleven people that spend time around Wong you're probably going to find that at least half of them support her for mayor too!

So what's the lesson from all this? Aside from "you shouldn't read the Sentinel" there really isn't any! It's a totally meaningless dyscalculaic article about nothing of any importance to anybody!

But here's what I imagine they were thinking/saying while preparing the article:

Reporter guy: "Hey, did you hear that Donnelly is all about changing the status quo now? Well, other elected officials who helped him to actually create the status quo sort of tepidly support him!"
Editor guy: "Stop the presses! Maybe he'll like us again if we run with this story!"

Seriously Sentinel, stop trying so hard. It just makes you look desperate, and he'll just hurt you again!

ps Also there was an article in a real newspaper about the race! See here for the Boston Globe's take on the financial non-story.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The most boring controvery ever!

Local political junkies are abuzz! I think.


Because of this article in the Telegram. It's entitled "Donnelly targets Wong’s stands." That's actually not a very accurate headline, but whatever.

Here's the gist:
E. Thomas Donnelly, mayoral candidate and city councilor, yesterday criticized his opponent, Lisa A. Wong, for her past leadership of the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority.

“She is not the wonder woman she claims to be,” he said last night.

According to Mr. Donnelly, financial statements and audit reports from the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority since 2004 show an over-reliance on grants to pay operational expenses of the approximately $3.2 million nonprofit agency. Ms. Wong was head of the FRA from 2004 to 2006.

Mr. Donnelly also pointed to a $145,397 deficit reported by the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development for 2006. Ms. Wong was head of that agency from 2006 to 2007. Mr. Donnelly also said Ms. Wong’s claim to have managed a $75 million budget is exaggerated, because both agencies had a combined budget of $4 million.
Well okay... that's really dull.

Seems that Donnelly is basically saying two things:
  1. Wong was good at getting grants, which is for some reason a bad thing.
  2. Wong exaggerated about her experience with big budgets.

Wong's response went like so:
Ms. Wong said that while she was head of the FRA she knew that a tenant who had been storing steel at Putnam Place, which the agency owns, was planning to relocate in 2006. She said in anticipation of the decrease in rent, she applied for and received a $1 million grant.


In addition to successful grant applications, Ms. Wong said, the FRA had a surplus of $1.2 million in 2006, despite the decreased rent and increased tax bills and utilities. She said the agency renegotiated leases and stopped contracting out for marketing services.
Then about the budget shortfall at the Women's Institute:
“The agency was without an executive director for about a year. When I came in May, there was not enough time to pull the annual fundraiser together,” Ms. Wong said. “Money had already been lost. Lots of things were not being attended to. I responded quickly. There is a benefit to having experience in this field. It’s not a one-to-one, but it relates to how I would run the city of Fitchburg.”
And moving on, about the $75 million thing:
She said that although the agencies she directed had combined budgets of $4.7 million, the projects she managed had budgets that added up to about $75 million.
Okay, am I alone in not particularly seeing a problem here? Those seem like pretty decent responses.

Maybe I'm missing something. I've never claimed to be a financial genius, but these seem like things that actually make Wong look pretty good and Donnelly look like he's either desperately digging for dirt or is just focusing on numbers and ignoring context. Which is sort of the same thing.

I mean, seriously who cares that she used grants to cover the expenses at Putnam Place? Is that like something that shouldn't be done? It clearly worked in this situation, and Wong isn't saying that the city has to run on grants. Actually, she says this:
Ms. Wong responded by saying that she never claimed that a city could run on grants. She said she went after grants, project revenue, and loans to finance the FRA. The competitive grants had to be backed by matching funds and a viable project proposal, she said.
... which seems pretty reasonable to me.

So to be honest, I can't be bothered to give a shit about this particular non-issue.

Except for a couple things. First, there was this blog post by Donnelly from August 28th that said:
I choose to campaign in a positive manner, discussing the issues that Fitchburg faces, and focusing on the good things about Fitchburg. I have not and will not will use tactics of division and negativity.
What happened, Tom? Up until now, the race has been positive. But this is pretty clearly negative campaigning. Did positivity lose its appeal after Wong ran away with the primary or what?

I've said before that the only thing that can turn the race around for Donnelly is some major bombshell. But seriously, out of context financial reports? That's not a bombshell. Hell, I'm someone who follows the race quite closely and even I can't be bothered to care. Financial reports aren't a bombshell unless Wong was secretly a war profiteer or something.

Jason at Save Fitchburg noticed a similar reaction among his readers:
Based on early comments here, reaction is along party (or candidate) lines. Wong supporters think it's another example of Donnelly being an old-school bully. Donnelly supporters think it's about time Wong got hers for not exactly being honest about her work experience.
In other words, people who already support Donnelly will use this as more justification for supporting Donnelly. People who already support Wong will use it as more justification for supporting Wong. I expect that people who haven't picked a side yet will say "Financial reports? Boring!" and just ignore it.

Which sort of suggests it's not going to change things one bit. Which makes it even more boring!

It does indicate that Donnelly is getting desperate, though. Besides the negative campaigning, he hasn't changed his message one bit. I don't know why, maybe he just doesn't have anything else to run on.

That message is really his biggest problem. He still hammers on "experience" in the article, and the dull financial stuff is an attempt to make Wong appear inexperienced in handling budgets (though it sort of fails to do that). Going on and on about his experience hasn't worked thus far, and I sort of doubt it's going to start working now.

It is a bit disheartening to see things turn negative in the Donnelly camp though. Hopefully Wong won't fall into the same pattern. She's avoided negativity pretty well to this point.

Also, you know what would be great? If newspapers would actually analyze the data they're given and just tell us who the fuck is right! This is a pretty simple thing with facts and figures that can be examined, but we still get a dumb "he-said, she-said" story. Are there no fact-checkers working at newspapers anymore?

Anyway, get upset if you want. I find the whole thing totally dull.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Debates are not that awesome!

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.