Sunday, November 28, 2010

Naming Names

The Boston Globe has published a long list of government employees whom they suggest got their probation department jobs through political influence, often involving Ludlow's State Rep. Thomas Petrolati. Another name that appears again and again on the list is retiring State Senator Stephen J. Buoniconti of West Springfield. He is retiring against his will because voters refused to elect him Hampden County District Attorney earlier this month. Oh how the mighty are falling! Just weeks ago Buoniconti was a power-player with an unlimited political future - but now he has lost it all and frankly it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy!

Anyway, who were the people on the Globe's roll call of shame that are from Western Mass? Well you can look through all 250 names searching for the one's with local ties, but I've already done all the hard work for you and hereby present them right here for your perusal. The drum roll please:

Stephen Ashe
Acting Chief Probation Officer, Hampden Superior Court
Son of Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe

It's all in the family when it comes to passing out the jobs!

Alfred E. Barbalunga
Chief Probation Officer, Southern Berkshire District Court
Son of retired Pittfield District Court Judge Alfred A. Barbalunga

It was the Judge's judgment that his son was the most qualified!

Brian Clune
Probation Officer , Palmer District Court
Former aide to Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield

Voters may have shown Buoniconti the door, but not before his aide snagged a permanent payday.

Antoinetta DeAngelis
Probation officer, Holyoke District Court
Daughter of former Probation Supervisor Nicholas J. DeAngelis

Isn't it amazing how often the most qualified applicant turns out to be someone in your own family!

James J. Ferrera III
Springfield City Councilor

How nice to be able to supplement your measly Council salary with a full-time state job. Two government checks are certainly better than one!

Frank M. Glenowicz
Acting Chief Probation Officer, Franklin Superior Court
Bartender at Joe's Pizza in Northampton, a bar frequented by former Probation Deputy Commissioner William H. Burke III

It must have been a hell of a pizza he served to get a state job for a tip!

Christopher Hoffman
Acting Chief Probation Officer, Hampshire Superior Court
Bartender at Joe's Pizza in Northampton, a bar frequented by former Probation Deputy Commissioner William H. Burke III.

Hey bartender make mine a double - a state paycheck with a fat pension on the side!

Jennifer Crespo. Martins
Associate Probation Officer, Chicopee District Court
Niece of Probation Officer John Crespo. Married to Probation Officer Jason Martins

After searching far and wide for a qualified candidate, only a family member could be found.

Jason Martins
Probation Officer, Springfield District Court
Husband of Associate Probation Officer Jennifer Crespo Martins

Keeping the paychecks and the bennies all in the family!

Kevin M. McDonald
Probation officer, Eastern Hampshire District Court
Son of former Greenfield District Court Chief Probation Officer Paul McDonald

Hey Daddy, I need a job!

Maura E. McDonald
Probation officer, Springfield District Court
Daughter of former Greenfield District Court Chief Probation Officer Paul McDonald

Yes Daddy, and don't forget daughter dearest!

Sean P. McDonald
Probation officer, Hampshire Superior Court
Son of former Greenfield District Court Chief Probation Officer Paul McDonald

Yeah Pop, and don't forget loyal son number two!

Andre Pereira
Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Eastern Hampshire District Court
Former legislative aide and childhood friend of Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow.

Growing up with Petro can prove quite profitable.

Kathleen Petrolati
Regional Manager, Electronic Monitoring Program
Wife of Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow

After an exhaustive but futile search for a qualified candidate, Petro discovered the perfect applicant lying right next to him in bed!

Francine Ryan
Supervisor, Probation Services, Office of the Commissioner
Daughter of the late Hampden County District Attorney Matthew J. Ryan, Jr.

Yet another way that Matty got the last laugh on the taxpayers.

Robert P. Ryan
Chief Probation Officer, Eastern Hampshire District Court
Husband of Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati's aide, Colleen Ryan

No family member need suffer unemployment when you're in with Petro.

Elizabeth Pereira. Tudryn
Probation Officer, Springfield District Court
Niece of Andre Pereira, Assistant Chief Probation Officer in Eastern Hampshire District Court and former aide to Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati.

There may be a few I missed, so if you look at the list yourself and spot any others please let me know. In any case, one thing is for sure, once you're in with Petro the paydays never stop!

Of course it is good to be reminded that not everything politicians do is evil, for example here is State Senator Stan Rosenberg collecting for charity on Main Street in Northampton.

In the window of Broadside Books.

Yesterday morning at the Haymarket.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Amherst Thanksgiving

The students at UMass have all fled the campus to head home for Thanksgiving. The normally mobbed and chaotic Student Union lobby is like a ghost town.

All that remain are the campus pond ducks.

But where a crowd could be found was at the Amherst Community Thanksgiving put on by The Amherst Survival Center at the Lutheran Church.

I sat and ate with my young friends named Sage and Ursa. "I hate camera flashes!" said Sage.

Of course two Springfield boys will always spot each other in a crowd - Kevin Noonan is not presently on a political hunger strike.

State Representative Ellen Story was among the town dignitaries in attendance.

But the radical political activity was outside, where the Marijuana Liberation Front was engaging in a little activism in the parking lot.

Hey everybody, hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Here's some people acting weird and dancing down by the Holyoke canals.

Time Traveler by A. Mateus

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Covering Petro

Caught Flat-footed Again

Petro and friends:
Mike Albano, Tommy Finneran, Cheryl Rivera and Sal DiMasi.

The release this week of the official report based on the investigation into probation department corruption charges originally unearthed by the Boston Globe still leaves in question what will become of one of the report's most vilified figures - Ludlow State Rep. Tommy Petrolati. Alas, it is too late for voters to simply show "Petro" the door, as the election was three weeks ago and in any case Petrolati didn't have an opponent. The fact that the report was held back until after the election, when it could do no harm at the polls to Petro's political allies, has also struck some observers as all too convenient.

Not that some local pols didn't try to make the controversy an issue anyway. As seen in the video below, unsuccessful West Springfield state rep. candidate Greg Neffinger tried to raise the issue of his opponent's close ties to Petrolati, but to little avail.

Now perhaps in the wake of the release of the report State Rep. elect Finn will hold a press conference explaining what it is he meant when he described those in the Globe articles as "good people." Or maybe the local media will pressure him into making a full explanation, but don't hold your breath. When it comes to local corruption, too often our Pioneer Valley news outlets have been a day late and an article short.

Indeed, the Globe's investigatory journalism on Petro is hardly the first time that Western Mass residents have had to read Eastern Mass papers in order to discover what was happening in their own backyard. Nor can our local media claim that they had no inkling that Petro might be crooked. For example, here is a video dating back to 2008 showing a Boston Herald reporter chasing Petro through the statehouse attempting to get Petrolati to talk about his connection to a Longmeadow mobster:

Too bad our local reporters don't chase down the politicians like that. But in fairness to the Valley media, they are better than they used to be. Gone are the days when it was commonplace for the media to openly act as cheerleaders for the local crooks, while ignoring critics (such as yours truly) who were trying to point out that something was wrong.

People like Frankie Keough, Papa Ray Asselin, Gerry Phillips and all the others whose reputations were eventually ruined by criminal probes all had glowing coverage in the local media right up to the moment when they were led away in handcuffs. Happily, most of the key figures at the Springfield Newspapers who were in bed with the crooks have since moved on, and been replaced by a crop of talented young reporters who appear less inclined to ascribe to the paper's former "go along to get along" culture.

Part of the change is that the paper itself is being eclipsed by its much more vibrant website, and with fewer people reading newspapers, their editorials in general sound as irrelevant as the wailing of a dinosaur sinking into a tarpit. The local broadcast media, long just an echo-chamber of the Springfield papers, is also being revitalized by the transformation of what we have traditionally called "television" into just another section of the internet.

To their credit, in the wake of the report The Springfield Republican the other day did a nice story with original reporting that looked into the hiring through Petrolati of Sheriff Michael Ashe's son. This is exactly the sort of local journalism we need to see more of. But if they really want to impress us, let's see an editorial calling for Petro to immediately resign from the legislature. Then we'll know that times have changed.

On my way to Springfield from Hamp yesterday I had to switch buses in Holyoke. That resulted in my first visit to the newly opened bus terminal across from Veterans Park. Frankly, I think it looks a little too modern for the historic setting. I mean, couldn't they have included a few red bricks in the design to make it fit in better with its surroundings?

On the plus side, the terminal itself is the old abandoned fire department headquarters, which in recent years was in grave danger of being torn down.

Here is the view of Veteran's Park out the window of the bus terminal.

I got off the bus in Springfield's ol' Pine Point in front of the site of the former Russell's Restaurant, now just a brown spot and a puddle.

Dylan on Boston Road.

Doyle the Twig Painter.

Madonna and child in Saint Michael's.

Summer's fade and roses die....

The last leaves are falling on the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

A stoned Northampton pumpkin.

Henning Ohlenbusch of Northampton is experimenting with sounds.

Trashcan Boxhead by Henning

Monday, November 15, 2010

Never Forget

This weekend I went to the 25th anniversary memorial service for the slain Springfield police officers Michael Schiavina and Alain Beauregard.

As described in The Springfield Republican:

Beauregard, 29, and Schiavina, 28, were shot Nov. 12, 1985, during a traffic stop on Stebbins Street, off State Street in the city’s Old Hill neighborhood. Schiavina died that night, and Beauregard died three days later.

The shooter, Eduardo Ortiz, killed himself 17 hours after the shooting in a Plainfield Street hide-out as police moved in.

Frankly, I have never heard any insider tell me that they believed that Ortiz (known as "Crazy Eddie" on the street) committed suicide with his own gun. Instead it is always suggested that the police made an executive decision to spare the taxpayers a lengthy and expensive trial, especially since they felt that justice could never be served in a state such as Massachusetts which does not have the death penalty.

But people tell me the damnedest things, so who knows? Anyway it was a nice ceremony, featuring sirens going off all over the city at the exact moment when 25 years earlier the shots rang out. I was surprised not to see more Springfield politicians in attendance. Congressman Richard Neal, who was Mayor at the time of the tragedy, was conspicuous in his absence. Oh that's right, I forgot, the campaign is over. I personally spotted only four elected officials in attendance: Mayor Dominic Sarno, new D.A. to-be Mark Mastroianni, City Councilor James Ferrara and School Committee member Chris Collins.

At the end, some very nice keepsake brochures were passed out to the crowd:

Inside were reproductions of the badges of the fallen:

Speaking of memorials, at UMass on Veteran's Day this honor guard stood at attention outside Memorial Hall.

Elsewhere on campus there was this wall to memorialize the fall of the Berlin Wall 21 years ago.

Students were invited to take hammers and tear down the hated symbol of leftist oppression.

Plastered all over campus the same day were these posters calling for a big pro-marijuana rally.

Of course I had to check it out. When I arrived a group of protesters had already formed.

These guys were literally trying to drum up a crowd. At its peak there were about 75 people present at the rally.

The usual suspects were on hand, such as pot politician Dan Melick (far left) and libertarian leader Terry Franklin (far right) shown here conversing with a student marijuana activist.

The signs people made were both clever and funny.

Others were a little more extreme.

At one point an authoritative looking person in a suit and tie came out and complained about the obscenities on some of the signs, but did not try to confiscate them. Indeed, his displeasure only made people with "fuck" signs wave them more enthusiastically.

At least there was nothing as tasteless as this dumpster outside a UMass frathouse.

Let me leave you with a chalk portrait of the Sun I came upon on the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Party Last Time

Next year will be Springfield's 375th birthday! I sorta remember the 350th bash, when Jay Libardi and I went down to the riverfront for the big fireworks display, but my memory is hazy because we were both pretty high at the time. I do recall that at one point they played the Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City" while the fireworks were going off. Here is a video from 1986.

After spending over two million dollars on his re-election campaign, Congressman Richard Neal still was unable to win a landslide victory last week over his penniless opponent Tom Wesley, who still managed to get a solid 43% of the vote. A class act until the end, Wesley released the following statement this week:

Despite the fact that Massachusetts did not pick up a seat on Capitol Hill, there were many inroads into restoring strength on Beacon Hill. Perhaps voters were more comfortable swinging towards more two-party balance in the Statehouse than in adding to the new majority in the US House. At least for this year’s cycle. At the Congressional level, the incumbents depleted their enormous war chests to hold off challengers who were outspent by factors of 20-1. That treasure is gone and it is not coming back now that the Democrats have lost their majority.

We gave hope to 91,181 voters who have not had a choice in 14 years. Maybe our incumbent will be a little more responsive in his behaviors to his constituents. Something tells me that 2012 can be a great year for any number of seasoned challengers.

You made this possible. I was honored to carry the banner and I am humbled by the experience.

The people of our Valley owe a great debt of gratitude to Wesley (and his primary challenger Dr. Jay Fleitman) for the wonderful role they played this year in returning our Valley to a fully functioning two party democracy after 14 years of Neal's unchallenged incumbency.

A horse and wagon crossing the UMass campus.

Me, Paul Revere and his horse at Raos in downtown Amherst.

Bowie in a downtown Northampton window.

Making beautiful noise in Goshen, Massachusetts.

Showing off tattoos in Amherst.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Election

Final Thoughts

This is the quaint New England polling place where I voted on Tuesday on my way to work. It was so early that it was still sorta dark out, yet eleven people had voted before me.

It was indeed a higher than expected turnout, a development I issued a warning about some weeks ago. Many pundits predicted a Republican tsunami, but in the end it was only a wave. Yet perhaps that reduction from a tsunami to a wave was really for the best. A wave was sufficient to insure the election of the wise libertarian Rand Paul, but a tsunami would have carried in the embarrassing Christine O'Donnell. In any case the wave was sufficient to humble President Obama, in exactly the way I predicted over a year ago. That's the great thing about this blog, you get to read the news a year in advance!

However, that Republican wave mostly passed over New England, especially Massachusetts and Connecticut. The only exception was the State of Maine, which elected a Tea Party governor with a GOP takeover of both branches of their state legislature. Gee I guess that's what they mean by that old saying "As goes Maine, so goes the nation!"

Oh well, I'm glad that the elections are finally over, but before moving on let's have one last backward glance at what happened and how it all turned out.

Deval Patrick (48%) Charles Baker (42%) Timothy Cahill (8%)
Jill Stein (1%)

Patrick started 2010 with the lowest approval ratings of any governor in the country. Yet on Election Day it was he who had the last laugh, thanks to a dull GOP challenge from political unknown Charlie Baker, a spoiler campaign by opportunist Tim Cahill and a campaign by Jill Stein so looney left that even Massachusetts liberals found her too extreme. The downside for Deval is that now he has to govern through the major budget crisis that lies just around the corner.

Hampden County District Attorney
Mark Mastroianni (59%) Stephen Buoniconti (41%)

For decades Hampden County suffered through the rascal judicial leadership of Matty Ryan, who treated the District Attorney's office as his personal fiefdom. Then came the more competent Bill Bennett, but his tenure was marred by his stubborn blindspot to the local political corruption that was all around him. Voters wisely avoided a third tenure of folly by electing Mastroianni over the ethically challenged Steve Buoniconti, who seemed to be on friendly terms with every political crook in the Valley.

U.S. House - 1st Congressional
John Olver (60%) William Gunn (35%) Michael Engel (5%)

Bill Gunn exploded onto the Valley's political scene in the aftermath of his arrest in Washington D.C. for creating a disturbance in the halls of Congresss during the healthcare debate. But that national exposure was basically all the attention he could muster in his penniless campaign. Given the always longshot chances he had in this very liberal district, Gunn's vote totals are actually pretty good. The debates in this race also showed the incumbent Olver coming across as old and spacy, fueling speculation that this win was Olver's last hurrah. Leftist Professor Engel's embarrassing showing proves that the radical Left is dead even in the Happy Valley.

U.S. House - 2nd Congressional
Richard Neal (57%) Thomas Wesley(43%)

This race was surprisingly close considering how entrenched Neal is and the fact that his challenger was a political unknown with no money. Neal's weak showing all but guarantees that he will face a major challenge in 2012.

State Representative - 2nd Hampden
Brian Ashe (51%) Marie Angelides (49%)

Angelides shocked the Valley's political world with her upset primary win over the heavily favored Jack Villamaino, yet she narrowly failed at repeating her upset in the general election. Expect to see her resurface on the political scene.

State Representative - 3rd Hampden
Nicholas Boldyga (40%) Rosemary Sandlin (39%) Anthony Bonavita (21%)

A bitter split within the Democrat party allowed Boldyga to pull off the Valley's biggest political upset of 2010 by happily ousting the contemptible hack Sandlin. Now his task is to prove that he is not just a one term wonder.

State Representative - 6th Hampden
Michael Finn (55%) Gregory Neffinger (45%)

It is tragic to see a first-class candidate like Neffinger lose to a hack like Finn, who has disturbing ties to the Petrolati gang.

State Representative - 9th Hampden
Sean Curran (80%) Robert Underwood (20%)

Curran was lucky in the opposition he faced this year in the primary against the hapless Chris Asselin and in the general against perennial candidate Underwood. But Curran should take this opportunity over the next two years to mend fences, because there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in that district that a stronger candidate might take advantage of in 2012.

State Representative - 12th Hampden
Angelo Puppolo Jr. (65%) Joshua Carpenter (35%)

It's no surprise that the popular moderate Puppolo easily won re-election, but his spirited young challenger has established himself even in defeat as someone worth watching in the future.

State Representative - 3rd Hampshire
Ellen Story (77%)Daniel Sandell (19%) Daniel Melick (4%)

Story humbled her challengers with her landslide win, but Dan Sandell ran an interesting, issues based campaign that makes one hope to see more of him. The same is true for challenger Melick, who was considered, fairly or not, as "the pot candidate." However, Melick already won on his key issue because during the course of the campaign Story actually changed her position and agreed to support legalization. Expect Amherst's many pot activists to hold her to her word.

State Senate - 1st Hampden & Hampshire
Gale Candaras (58%) Thomas McCarthy (42%)

Citizen/businessman McCarthy did surprisingly well against Candaras, who had powerful establishment backing. Let's see a rematch in 2012!

Finally, see this funny political cartoon set in Springfield's Duggan Junior High School by clicking here.

So dat's da way da ball bounced, and now we'll have to wait and see what these dudes do once they're sworn in. In the meantime, let's turn to other compelling matters, like somebody getting jumped during a Halloween show in Northampton.