Going through some stuff the other day I stumbled upon a printout of an old posting from 2004. It was printed the fateful day when Springfield narrowly escaped crashing into receivership and the Control Board was established. In the aftermath of that reprieve from disaster, I posted this imaginary report card that graded all of the Valley's major political players on how they performed - or failed to - during Springfield's darkest hour. It is very educational to re-read it today:
THE BAYSTATE OBJECTIVIST
July 19, 2004
Springfield is safe, at least for the moment, from the threat of receivership. That is really all that has been accomplished through the state bailout legislation. It simply puts Springfield in the position of being able to revive itself, provided the city has the will and the wisdom to do so. In that sense the real work has only just begun. The bailout gets the city back in the game, but what matters now is how we choose to play. Before the great adventure in renewal gets underway, here's a backward glance at how our local leaders conducted themselves in Springfield's hour of peril.
Charles V. Ryan
It's almost impossible to describe the awkward political position Mayor Ryan has been in. He had to point out the unfairness of the city's financial aid totals, but without angering the politicians in Boston or his own local legislative delegation. He had to show financial frugality, but without raising a squawk from the greedhead unions. He had to deal with a whining City Council, and explain it all to a confused public through a media with a guilt-induced phobia of using the a-word (as in Albano) when discussing the causes of the crisis. Yet he somehow managed to navigate these shark-filled waters and emerge with a 52 million dollar line of credit. Can Springfield ever repay the debt of gratitude it owes to Charlie Ryan?
Grade - A-plus
Our Republican Governor has little patience for Democrats whining because they spent too much money. Yet, despite having the power to put Springfield into receivership, Mitt and his fiscal guru Eric Kriss let the city have a chance to save itself without suffering the dictatorial powers of a state imposed receivership. The citizens of Springfield will always feel gratitude to Romney for giving the city a second chance it really didn't deserve.
Grade - A
Our State Delegation
The Valley Advocate in April of 1997 did a front page story declaring that Springfield was not receiving enough state aid in comparison to what similar size cities were getting out Boston way. Springfield's legislative delegation quickly denounced the article, claiming that when you figured in school aid the city really got more than its share. Now of course they are singing a totally different tune, with everyone using updated figures of what the Advocate pointed out years ago, because that way all the blame gets placed on Boston and the local politicians can escape scot free. It's a sad and cynical spectacle, but at the end of the day at least our delegation brought home the bacon. Only one Western Mass legislator, strict fiscal conservative Shawn Kelly, voted against the final package, which he could safely do since he is retiring this year.
Being from Westfield, nothing compelled Senator Knapik to get involved in Springfield's mess, and most of his non-Springfield colleagues chose not to. Yet Knapik understood that Springfield's problems are in many ways the region's problems, and he worked as hard as anyone. Yet he is unlikely to get any votes in Westfield for his efforts. For being Springfield's friend when he didn't have to be and had little to gain, he proved himself a first class legislator.
Grade - A
I seem to recall he was one of those most loudly denouncing the Advocate article of 1997. Nevermind, sources tell me that without Lees' inside connections with the Romney Administration the bailout bill could never have passed.
Grade - A
She was Charlie's most loyal ally and passionate defender. I question her politics on a lot of things, but when it came to the bailout of Springfield then by anyone's standards, she done good.
Grade - B-plus
Although usually annoying on most issues, on the bailout bill she did a fine job.
Grade - B
He put aside his usually irresponsible fiscal attitudes to join the team to save Springfield.
Grade - B-minus
After all his years of kissing up to Albano, he dares to lecture us on fiscal matters?
Grade - C-minus
When he failed to appear in Boston at all on Springfield's behalf, he claimed to be involved in the debate by telephone. He then somewhat redeemed himself by being the only one to call publicly for Springfield's City Councilors to surrender their salaries. But when Asselin himself got nailed with indictments that included bribery and extortion, suddenly he didn't think politicians stepping aside was a good idea. Jail is too good for this hypocrite.
Grade - F
After snubbing Charlie Ryan on election night by not coming to congratulate him, then refusing to appear at his inauguration, it was hard to imagine how Senator Melconian could retire in a more classless manner. However she topped herself by using the fiscal crisis (which she had long denied existed) to take some parting shots at Charlie. She then attacked the Control Board because it was chosen on the basis of ability rather than skin color and gender. Well, at least we only have to put up with her for a few more months. Bye bitch, and thanks for nothing.
Grade - F-minus
The fiscal crisis awakened the Council from the semi-catatonic state it has been in for years. Although they then did too little, too late, some Councilors conducted themselves better than others:
Long before any other Councilors seemed to understand the depth of the city's problems, Councilor Rooke was busy attending budget meetings and conferring with Mayor Ryan. He worked while others slept.
Grade - A-plus
Had the Councilors had a clue of what was about to go down, they would have fought like cats and dogs over the Council presidency. Instead they just handed it to Sarno as a mostly ceremonial title, which is what it usually is. Now to the shock and dismay of his colleagues, Sarno is the only member of the Council who has any authority to vote on financial matters. The rest of the Councilors have been reduced to voting on zoning issues (yawn) and some vaguely defined "advisory" role. Although a passive Albanoite for most of his career, Sarno redeemed himself by following Charlie's lead throughout the crisis. As long as he keeps doing that, he will emerge from this with his career greatly enhanced and a leading contender to become a future mayor.
Grade - A
Always a sensible voice on the Council, he wisely followed Charlie's lead.
Grade - B
Give credit where it's due - Foley was the first person to challenge Albano on financial issues, in particular the unaffordable police hires and the baseball stadium scam. On the other hand, he served as head of the Finance Committee, mindlessly approving Albano's many other forms of reckless spending. It's a wash.
Grade - C
What, one foot out the door already? She seemed too busy seeking higher office to focus on her Council duties.
Grade - D
Was he hoping that by keeping a low profile we would forget that he was an Albano stooge? Sorry, but we have forgotten nothing.
Grade - D
Clueless, as usual.
Grade - D
The dismay of Councilors Walsh and Kelly over the Control Board was in some ways understandable. I know if I had run for City Council, and if the voters were foolish enough to elect me, I don't know how happy I'd be to be shoved into an "advisory" role just six months into my two year term. However the complaints and ineffective spending cut suggestions they made couldn't have been worse timed, alarming Boston and scaring off a twenty million dollar grant. The only saving grace Walsh has is that she was not serving on the Council during the Albano years, although she was a strong Albano backer behind the scenes. Like so many others who supported Albano, she now has a lot to live down.
Grade - D-minus
This Albano puppet has essentially committed political suicide. All that remains is for the voters to take their revenge at the polls should he dare to run again.
Grade - F
Somebody tell Hoods to put this guy on a milk carton! While the largest city in his district was going down the tubes, The Congressman was totally missing, remaining silent as the Sphinx. Maybe he was hoping people would forget that Springfield's downward spiral really began in earnest under his mayoralty. It's a shame he has no opposition for re-election this year.
Grade - F
Now that the city has all but collapsed financially and is swamped with corruption scandals, it is important to remember that there were those over the years who repeatedly warned us that this day was coming. Now indeed that day of reckoning has arrived, and for the very reasons those local heroes said it would. I'm thinking of people like Doug Ariel, Peter Jurzinski, Dan Yorke, Al Giordano, Mo Turner, Eamon O' Sullivan, Kevin Noonan, Bob and Karen Powell, Stephanie Kraft, Pete Sygnatore, Tom Vannah, Mitch Ogulewicz, Bax and O'Brien, Michaelann Bewsee, Tony Gill, Sheila McElwaine and many others. There was even this nut running around shoving a publication at everybody called The Baystate Objectivist. But whatever their contributions, large or small, public or private, each worked in their own way to prevent the decline of Springfield, despite being marginalized or even ridiculed for their efforts, continuing to fight for what was right even when it was difficult, even dangerous to do so. Today these rebels stand fully and completely vindicated as the verdict of history is in: The establishment that opposed them was totally wrong, while the rebels were completely right about everything.
Grade - A-triple-plus!
Talking about sleazy politicians, can you believe the latest about Massachusetts Senator John Kerry - shown below with his political equal?
I'm no fan of Kerry's running mate in 2004, John Edwards, but I think it's disgraceful the total lack of loyalty Kerry showed in endorsing Edwards' opponent Barack Obama yesterday. But of course Al Gore showed the same lack of class when he refused to back his running mate Joe Lieberman of Connecticut when he ran for president. Voters should take note once again that these Democrats can be a backstabbing bunch!
Someone sent me what are supposedly some real life examples of passages collected by English teachers from High School essays. They sure are funny - and perhaps unintentionally a little sad:
1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
4. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
5. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
6. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
7. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
8. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
9. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
10. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
11. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
12. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
13. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
14. Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
15. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
16. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
17. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
18. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.