I laughed to read this old Springfield Newspapers article I stumbled upon in my vaults recently. It tells about an attempt by local activists to remove controversial Springfield Mayor Michael Albano from office by a recall petition.
Interestingly, the recall did not revolve around the more obvious sins of the Albano Administration - such as its corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Instead it focused on a proposal for a government run needle exchange program. That may seem to be too small an issue in the context of Springfield's many more serious problems to generate such passion. But the needle issue was actually a symbol for those larger issues, with the Albano Administration's stubborn refusal to consider the public's wishes not to have such a program, as expressed at the polls in a referendum, being seen as symbolic of the Albano Gang's larger indifference to the public interest.
Unfortunately, needle exchange also proved to be an issue that ultimately divided the forces of reform, because many enemies of the Albano regime, who might otherwise have supported a recall, felt alienated from the needle exchange activists. The more liberal reformers supported needle exchange from a civil liberties and public health perspective, and therefore couldn't get behind the recall effort. The inability of Albano's many critics to ever find an issue or a candidate around which they could unite was a major reason why Albano served as long as he did. It wasn't until the city's finances collapsed in 2002 that Albano was finally discredited, after which reformers were successful in uniting around Charles V. Ryan's campaign against Albano's chosen heir, Senator Linda Melconian.
Originally Published November 6, 1998
article by Chris Hamel
Calling Mayor Michael J. Albano "arrogant and disrespectful," the grass-roots group Citizens Against Needle Exchange announced yesterday it will try to topple his administration by seeking a recall election.
The group, CANE, was emboldened at the polls Tuesday by the defeat of Question 5, which asked Springfield voters if a state pilot needle exchange program should be established in Springfield. The referendum was nonbinding, so it has no immediate impact on plans to open a needle exchange at the former Wesson Memorial Hospital on High Street.
Citing a health crisis in HIV and AIDS in the city, Albano was a catalyst for the program.
Karen A. and Robert S. Powell II, who are among the three founders of CANE, held a news conference at their Sixteen Acres home. They said no date has been set for the start of the campaign, which could lead to a recall vote.
"We would have preferred it didn't come to this, but our hand has been forced," Robert Powell said in a prepared statement. "We have tried every other avenue available to us, but our representatives have refused to listen."
Needle exchange was approved 5-4 by the City Council in July, after two years of wrangling. Voters shot down the referendum question 15,768, or 60.8 percent, to 10,186, or 39.2 percent.
The Powells said Albano is unwilling to talk to residents about issues and does not respect the people. They were joined at the news conference by Robert W. Brown, president of the Springfield Retired Police and Firefighters Association, who said the 700-member group will support CANE in the recall effort.
The Powells' neighbors, Leroy and Bessie Crenshaw, who are CANE participants, were also present.
Albano , who coincidentally held a fund-raiser attended by 200 last night in the South End, said he was not surprised by Tuesday's vote or CANE's recall intentions.
"This is the third time they've stated their intentions for a recall," he said.
He noted that he had welcomed the recall effort before, telling CANE to come after him, rather than assail the City Council about needle exchange, last summer. Albano said the recall effort is about mayoral politics and uniting various groups that disagree with him.
Albano said he received a death threat on his home telephone answering machine yesterday. He said the caller cited Albano 's position on needle exchange and told him to change it or he would be slain.
Albano said he reported the matter to police, who are investigating and have assigned extra patrols near his home. He said Paula C. Meara, provisional police chief, offered him advice, including a suggestion he wear a bulletproof vest. Albano said he will follow through on some of the recommendations.
Brown, a retired patrolman, and Leroy Crenshaw, a public school teacher, each have had mayoral aspirations, with Crenshaw once running and Brown considering it by taking out papers. Crenshaw's bid failed.
Karen Powell said CANE has no one in mind to replace Albano , and no one in CANE's leadership, which includes co-founder Susan Gallo, has plans to run for office.
The Powells said CANE is angered by the apparent unwillingness of Albano and the five councilors in support of needle exchange to change their positions in light of Tuesday's vote. The five councilors targeted are Brian A. Santaniello, William T. Foley Jr., Barbara L. Garde, Barbara J. Garvey and Bud L. Williams.
Karen Powell said the public school system and downtown revitalization are other areas in which Albano 's administration is lacking. She said the recall is not based solely on needle exchange, and she warned that city councilors, especially the five councilors who voted for needle exchange, are not immune from recall.
Sadly, the recall never happened, but I don't remember exactly why. I think the activist were never able to get enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot. The failure of the recall was not the end of the matter, however. The following year, in 1999, when no contender came forward to challenge Albano for re-election, the Powell's chose to run their dog Simon as a protest candidate. Amazingly, the pooch received hundreds of write-in votes.
A picture of Chancelor Robert C. Holub and Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno on a UMass bulletin board.
Amherst is in dismay as the beloved Raos Coffeeshop is closed for renovations.
The babbling brook near my house.
The Music Section