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Sarno v. FCB…

Well it should seem perfectly clear to the Springfield community that this year’s mayoral election will be basically the challenger running against the Control Board. In other words, a redux of Decision 2005.

In 2005, School Committee person Thomas Ashe, attempted to unseat Mayor Charles Ryan by largely making the election about the Control Board. However, given that the establishment of the board was more raw, the issue also turned on whether Ryan simply gave up and handed the city over the state. At three years in and staring down the barrel of two more years of Board, whether the control board should have been is largely moot.

Still, a challenger can, will, and indeed is running against the board, of which the mayor is a member. Of course, the challenger is really fighting against the three state-appointed members. In any case, 2007 mayoral challenger Domenic Sarno has already launched an assault against the Board. Sarno of course forgets his actions, or rather lack thereof, as a City Councilor contributed to the necessity of the Board. No. Voting to cut the budget for phone service does not make you a hero.

Sarno, knowing in the event he wins will have to contend with the board for three quarters of his term, made nice at the 6-25-07 FCB meeting. However, by then he had already called for Phil Puccia’s dismissal. Puccia preempted the Board dignifying this demand by resigning, ostensibly to take a job in the private sector.

Arguably, besides an untrue impression by the electorate that the mayor simply doesn’t matter under the FCB, most voters had until last year yet to see any impact from the board. Sure, they grumbled about the expensive studies and Puccia’s salary, but clearly did not care that much or they would have punished our Reps in Boston in 2004 and/or 2006. While a fair number of the public employees were affected, not nearly enough live in Springfield to have any elective impact. Certainly they do not vote as one mind anyway. Enter the trash fee. Reprehensible as it is, it was a necessary evil. Yet, it still stirred the ire of Springfielders. Today and there, Sarno launched his latest stab in his quest for the city’s top job.

The Republican reported today that Sarno has launched an effort to abolish the trash fee. The article states that he claims the city has the money to function without the fee referring to the $17 million in the bank. However, the FCB officials counter that that money is from one-time revenues and cannot be relied on. Plus, there is a concerted effort by the FCB to build up the city’s rainy day fund and make downturns such as the ones which partly precipitated this crisis in 2003 less painful.

Sarno’s timing is also of note. Ire over the trash fee is present, but less vocal. Seeing that the FCB has been paying dividends with improved public works and a balanced budget, citizens are less apt to complain about the fee. This presents a problem for Sarno so he needed to act now before nobody cares anymore and just accepts the fee. The fee is really the only way he can effectively rally popular support and run against the board. All of their other decisions, whether bad or good simply do not effect enough citizens particularly the ones who reliably vote to make a difference.

The fee is bad. No question. It should be abolished. BUT NOT NOW!! Puccia is right. We cannot take from savings to do so. The city is developing plans to move to a pay as you throw system. The more you thrown out, the more you pay. This system will allow the end of the fee as those who throw out the least can pay nothing while charging those who toss more.

That’s tomorrow’s issue. The fee is not going anywhere right now and unless Sarno comes up with something better to attack, I doubt his campaign will either.