I'm sorry to report that Simon Powell, a Springfield mayoral candidate who received hundreds of write-in votes in his 1999 challenge to the re-election of former Mayor Michael Albano, has died. Born in 1998, he was 84 in dog years.
How did a dog come to run for Mayor of Springfield? It's hard to recapture the context of the times in which the Simon for Mayor campaign took place. Today, it is widely recognized that Springfield's tragic decline from one of the Northeast's most respected medium-sized cities to a fiscal and political basketcase was in large part due to a corrupt Democrat Party machine that bled the city dry. However in 1999 that was not so widely understood, and political gangsters like Albano, his thug lieutenant Anthony Ardolino, the Asselin family, Frankie Keough and a host of lesser sleazoids were all at the height of their power.
In those days it could be difficult and even dangerous to oppose them. Ask the Valley Advocate about how they found themselves banned from City Hall. Ask Dan Yorke about how he lost his radio station because of pressure put on his advertisers. Ask former City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz about the time his employer received orders to pressure him how to vote. Ask Simon's human companions Bob and Karen how it felt to be publicly ridiculed as "trailer trash." Ask me how it felt to be called "a crazy radical."
Oh wait, that last smear was probably justified. Eventually we would all be fully vindicated by a wave of FBI raids, but in 1999 there was no one willing to risk the consequences of running against Albano; and with good reason, since the Springfield political machine had a well-earned reputation for being mean, vindictive and completely ruthless in dealing with their enemies. It was for that reason that the idea of running Simon came up, because it would be hard for the powers-that-be to retaliate against an animal. I mean what were they gonna do? Revoke his dog license?
The Powell's planned a big rally, which was held at their 16 Acres home about a week before the election, to kick off Simon's write-in campaign. All the local political dissidents were invited, and the event is now legendary as the most surreal political farce of modern Valley politics. However it wasn't widely covered at the time, although I wrote about the event afterward in the Baystate Objectivist as follows:
I personally attended the Simon for Mayor rally as the informal master of ceremonies, for which I arrived elegantly attired in a suit and tie I usually reserve for Halloween, as we all stood in line and proudly shook the paw of the mayoral contender.
I also spoke in Simon's behalf as he barked out his campaign promises of a return to good government, an end to corruption, the liberation of the county dog pound, repealing the leash law and imposing a tax on cats. Afterwards we all enjoyed a dog's lunch, until the rally had to disperse amidst never substantiated rumors that the candidate had run off with a bitch in heat named Monica.
Amazingly Mayor Albano did respond to our rally, declaring the next morning on Bax and O'Brien that if dogs could vote they would support him over Simon in gratitude to Albano for the planned new Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Shelter.
Despite Simon's dogged campaigning, many voters felt that a canine mayor was redundant, Springfield having already gone to the dogs years ago. Although every dog has it's day, Election Day was not to be Simon's as the dog eat dog tactics of the Albano camp successfully smeared Simon as a real son of a bitch. Yet even in defeat, Simon the Mayoral Pooch was still able to garner over 600 write-in votes. Now retired from politics, Simon resides quietly in 16 Acres with the Powells, where he is known to bark happily whenever he sees Charles V. Ryan on television.
In the darkest hours of Springfield's decline, when the forces of corruption were at their peak, local historians will long remember that it was Simon Powell who carried the banner of good government when no human standard-bearer could be found.
Neal critics takin' it to the streets.
The ruins of Cray Soda Company in Holyoke.
I like this quote in the window of a Northampton mystical shop. I think it corrects a common misconception.
You often hear people saying that they "need to find themselves." Nonsense, there is no self to find, only self-creating choices to make. As Ayn Rand once put it, "We are beings with self-made souls." So go out and start creating yourself by living your personal vision of what you've always wanted to be.
A few pumpkins on the steps in Northampton.
Multicultural pumpkins on the steps in Northampton.
Economic development Northampton style.