Endorsements on Parade: Springfield City Council 2013…
It is that time of the year once again. Election Day is only two days away. Please take a moment to visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth‘s website to learn where your polling place is, but also your ward to know what races you will vote for.
A note on endorsements. We are only endorsing (or not) in races we have reported on. Noted exclusions of this policy are for Council in Agawam and Holyoke. While we certainly encourage voters to choose Corinne Wingard in Agawam and Rebecca Lisi and Mark Riffenburg in Holyoke, we have not dedicated enough resources to those races broadly enough to write a formal endorsement for those races.
Finally we have declined to endorse in a few races. Unlike in 2011 when we declined to enter a race for poor reasons, we declined this year either because of insufficient information or because neither candidate is good enough. Now here we go.
At-large City Council
1. Since coming onto the scene, Ernesto Cruz has been active in community groups and on political campaigns including a successful US Senate run. It is not his work on campaigns that make Cruz a compelling and necessary addition to the Council. He has shown himself to be a workhorse who will dive into the minutiae councilors confront and then use the body as a means to develop policy for the benefit of all of its citizens. Cruz is absolutely right that City Hall needs to go where the people are and reach out through social media and technology as his campaign has. He has long hammered the position that we need a police commission that can give both the community and rank and file patrolman a voice. Like many of his positions, it is thoughtful, nuanced and reasonable, all traits we need more of at 36 Court Street.
2. Two years ago, Justin Hurst ran a decent campaign and came in a respectable 6th place. This year he is running again with an even more polished and technologically savvy campaign worthy of the modern age. He is making the argument in raw terms about what Springfield needs to make it in the next decade or two: young people who want to put down roots here. That requires innovation to grow jobs and keep communities safe. It means putting real ideas forward and not just impossible promises or empty rhetoric that grab headlines and feign legitimacy on Springfield Public Access. Most significantly, Hurst moves past the self-adulation Springfield often does and looks to peer cities for best practices. His passion is real and a template for the next generation at City Hall.
3. A little over a year ago, Thomas Ashe suffered a setback in his political career, losing the nomination for Clerk of Courts. In retrospect, it may have been one of the best things that ever happened to him and the City of Springfield. Rather than wallow in the loss, he seemingly changed and very much for the better. First he cast off a long time association with one of the city’s seediest and felonious political figures and in doing so broke from a reputation, rightly or wrongly, of being a hack. Second, he seemed to dig into his work a lot more, producing real work and solutions for the city like on making the Fire Commissioner qualifications that make sense (and avoid appointment of an official who had already run the city afoul of civil service laws) and reforming pawnshop laws. Keep it up Mr. Ashe as we urge voters to keep you for another term.
4. Like her colleague above, Kateri Walsh has shown a surprising amount of vigor this term and more of that dedication she touts. We have disagreed with her this term and God knows the previous one. Yet she has been both firm and open to compromise on some issues like residency. It is also worth mentioning that she has seemingly put a lot of ground work into this campaign. It is hard to believe she is hurting for the $15,000 she gleans as a councilor, so she must really want this position. She certainly has a few pet projects like the Cultural District and an E-Library. Her embrace of technology is also heartening, we hope she keeps up the social media during the next term.
5. Normally Tim Rooke would probably be a step or two higher than this position. His decision to bail on the City Council debate Wednesday after telling organizers he would be there is the only reason why. It does not exclude him from reelection. To the contrary, Rooke remains indispensable on the Council. His both public and private displeasure at his own colleagues’ time-wasting is an understated jab at their ignorance and showboating. His largely candid interview this week, particularly the line about “the same people” on boards and commissions is exactly the thing we like to hear. Maybe he knows that. The record largely lives up the hype, though. Another two years for Rooke.
Why not the others? Joshua Carpenter’s campaign has been a cipher for us and therefore largely went unconsidered for us. Jeffery Donnelly’s was a bit less so, but his reputation and paranoia are just a bit too much for us. On a political level, we disagree vehemently with many of Mr. Donnelly’s positions, but frankly we cannot even reach those beliefs.
Bud Williams has been on the Council for a long, long time, his two year interlude notwithstanding and we are at a loss to see how the promises of this campaign are any different or worthy or greater credulity than the previous ones. He touts a five-point plan, which begs the question, why after twenty years in city government is he just now proposing to bring the fight to Beacon Hill? Williams is one of the city’s great political performers, but it is not clear he has ever leveraged that for anything other than a remarkable ability to appear in almost every public announcement in the city.
In a recent press release, candidate Justin Hurst called out Jimmy Ferrera for only just getting out ahead on issues like residency or even the casino when it served his political purpose. Anybody who reads this blog knows that Ferrera has long been viewed by us as the weakest at-large councilor, prime for being picked off. It is our understanding Ferrera also reads this blog so we assume he knows this as well, and his actions stink of this fear and are about getting press and not about cogent policy. There are more things to be said about Ferrera. We have said many of them and we will say more, but however feel-good or seemingly righteous Ferrera’s proposals are, they are in fact catnip. The make people jump and cheer, but in fact they have no hope of passage and only serve to distract the city’s most vulnerable from actual solutions. Not only does nothing happen, but leaders in those communities can escape scrutiny because of Ferrera’s political distractions.
Sadly this race, among the election’s most contentious is one in which we will decline to endorse. As much as we have learned as we have covered this race, it is incredible how many more questions seemed to arise over time. This election pits incumbent Zaida Luna against Jose Claudio. Although neither has said this, it feels like the campaign seems to be a question of whether Claudio is a pawn of a power hungry empire that wants to take over the ward or if Luna is as effective as the 1939 session of the League of Nations. Neither caricature seems close to the truth, but breaking down the facts and digging into New North or tracking down Luna’s record beyond just her roll call votes takes time. Time we have simply run out of. Without answers, it is not in the interest of our readers to make a call one way or the other.
This race pits incumbent Melvin Edwards against business owner Salvatore Circosta. This contest has been a welcome exploration and measurement of the work of a tenure and a region of the city that, like Ward 1, is one of the city’s neediest. Circosta brings a great deal of energy to the race and certainly a different perspective. However, our choice in this race is Melvin Edwards for reelection. Both sides tried at least initially to avoid a head to head campaign, if unintentionally, but it did seemed to be a battle over territory. We feel Edwards is better equipped to handle and understand the needs of this ward. He knows and he has lived through the problems and neglect his neighbors have experienced. Whatever focus on his base is reasonably due to the tornado. We would urge Edwards to stand up and speak a little more. A humble man at heart, he often prefaces his statements with a claims he speaks too much. Our experience has been he is usually on point when he rises during a Council meeting. Let’s see more of that when Edwards is reelected.
This ward deserves better than our decline to endorse. Councilor Clodo Concepcion is facing Michael Belanger an owner of an auto shop and in this race, we simply do not find either candidate is acceptable. We are not passing judgment on either as we did in last year’s decline for governor’s council. Belanger seems like a decent man and business owner, but we feel his campaign has not produced an adequate antidote to Concepcion’s. We admit we did not reach out to him and we take responsibility for that. Concepcion repeatedly ignored our requests for interviews even to get a grasp on his ward. He avoids the press often and then says people will judge him on his record. And what record is that? We actually would have liked to ask him so the voters who do not go 16 Acres Civic Association meetings could make their own judgments. Despite his less than stellar voting record, anecdotal praise for his neighborhood work urged us to get the whole story. He would not help us tell that story, he is not getting any help from us this year.
Déjà vu all over again in Ward 8. This time we spent the resources to actually get to know the candidates this year and one verdict is clear. Neither of them is as awful as each others’ partisans insist. Incumbent John Lysak’s views and policies may not be easy to pigeonhole, but they are not a tool of an extreme agenda. Likewise, Orlando Ramos, an aide to Senator Jim Welch, may be a bit low-key, but he is not a puppet. Still our choice is John Lysak. We are comfortable with his dedication to his constituents and more importantly his pugnacious defense of their interests. To be clear, Ramos could be a fine councilor. He has shown himself to be honest and competent on the License Commission, but we would rather he stay there for now. Ward 8 needs a fighter and Ramos showed some reluctance to take on the mayor directly. This is not about Domenic Sarno. This would be true even if the mayor were Jesus Christ. We still see a bright future for Ramos, but this time around we must give it to Lysak for another go around.