You are browsing the archive for 2011 November.

Thanksgiving Prayer

2011/11/24 in Audio, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., History, pronoblem

William S. Burroughs Said It Best:

(I listen to this every year, you should too…)

Wichita Lineman

2011/11/14 in Art, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Masks, Music, Weather

This is dedicated to those that helped clean up Holyoke in the aftermath of the global weirding storm.

 

Occupy HCC

2011/11/13 in Activism, Art, H.U.S.H., HCC, Occupy, Politics, Press, pronoblem, pronography

OCCUPY an impromptu peoples art show

I will have two pieces in this show.  Stop by Thursday Nov 17, 5:30 – 7:30 for the reception.

Taber Gallery Holyoke Community College

 

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

2011/11/09 in Activism, At-large, Chickens, Council, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Mike Plaisance, Patti Devine

There’s a saying…

(Hot off the press, here’s Patti’s thank you / victory ad in today’s Repuke)

…don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.

Morse’s win is delightful, but this, here…  it is savory.  At the same time, there is some remorse to losing one’s nemesis.  In some ways I will miss Patti.

The Quiet Revolution

2011/11/09 in Alex Morse, Bresnahan, Casino, Charter, Council, Elections, History, Holyoke, Lies, Mayor, Patti Devine, Pluta, Politics, Purcell, Tallman

Oh, What A Night!


(this is our new mayor)

So….  it happened.  The bar has been officially been raised.  I don’t think that elections in this city could ever be the same after this.  Yes, we have two years to shake this out and really absorb what has happened…  my only hope is that now we can have more folks step forward to rid this stale environment of its collective inertia.  I also hope that never again we can rely on names, political favors and yard signs as an indication of the political climate – that we have popular engagement, emotion and true spirit driving the action.  I do believe Alex’s credo when he says: “This is not about my campaign, this is about Holyoke.”  People need to stand up and make this true and support him in this effort.  Yes, he won.  Now we have work to do.

Morse won…  Devine lost.  Lisi held on.  Tallman is a winner.  That is some serious joy to be shared.   Sure, we gained that jackass Bresnahan and still carry a ton of dead weight, but I do hope that we end with a council that will work with our new mayor.  At-large did not have that great of a shakeup because there was not the competition, but Morse’s win is a mandate…  I hope that these people see his win as affecting their political liability if they are expecting to work against Morse.  …and down the road we need to challenge McGee, Vacon and run a larger field of at-large in two years to make this possible.  I said that I wished that I could vote in Wards 1, 3 and 7.  They went my way except for Ward 3.  Purcell’s loss was the biggest disappointment here.  Of course, with the at large not being contested there is no way it could have gone my way and seen Vega, Devine, Murphy, Leahy and Bresnahan as losers (in the election, that is…  they are still losers)… so I am at least happy to see the exit of Devine.  Purcell would have been the sole progressive voice on the committee.  Sure, there are some that lean left, but he was my most politically aligned candidate.  I do hope he keeps it up and is part of the 2013′s at-large contest to eliminate more of the chaff.

Of course, I do hope that the progress we see is not “growth” and not gentrification but rather efficiency.  We are a severely divided city.  Downtown is not the desert that many view it as…  it is an asset.  We do not need “revitalization”.  We have a vibrant culture that needs to be engaged, lifted up and made our calling card.  It is all about perspective.  The Latino community and the burgeoning artist district are our diamonds in the rough.  Yeah, with the casino versus data center I will always choose the later, but I would never bet the house on some high tech computing that will possibly have military and surveillance applications.  I know that this is a campaign issue, but I would be happy with neither happening.  This election was about the people…  Holyoke has what it needs to make it happen right now without the “jobs” mantra or this versus that bad idea.

The campaigning for 2013 has already started for many, that is the sad state of affairs in our political environment but we can only hope that the Old Guard has seen the writing on the wall and that this is the beginning of a sea change for this great city.

I dedicate this song, to you, Holyoke:

(yes, I want to make love to Holyoke… every one of you)

Don’t Panic!!!

2011/11/08 in Activism, Anarchism, Art, Audio, Eschatology, Federal, H.U.S.H., Masks, Obama, pronosound, Weather

This is only a test…

In another unprecedented move in the US Presidency (the last one being an in the field execution of a US citizen without any due process)  tomorrow, Wed November 9th at 14:00 EST (2pm), there will be a first time nationwide test of the emergency broadcasting system (EAS) for a full 3.5 minutes conducted by FEMA and ordered by the president himself.

This, of course, has the hair of conspiracy theorists of all political stripes standing on end.  What, with his re-election almost a year away, Occupy Wall Street exposing fascist police state like actions in many large cities, fracking induced earthquakes, 2012 on the horizon, crazy solar storm activity that might cause more damage than any previous disaster, the always looming war with the remaining ‘Axis of Evil‘ duo or terror threat  and the possibility of us passing through the tail of a comet in the next few weeks there is plenty of fodder for fear here…

Well, Obama’s pre-recorded near two minute portion EAS test has been leaked to various corners of the Internet.  Here it is.  Judge for yourself:

 

 

Casinos win by betting on losers.

2011/11/07 in Activism, Alex Morse, Bresnahan, Casino, Council, Development, Economics, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Law, Lies, Lisi, Mailbag, Mall, Mayor, McGee, Murphy, Patti Devine, Pluta, Politics, Vega

How a Holyoke CASINO Will Affect You and Your Family

(and why your vote on Tuesday, November 8th matters)

A casino has been proposed for Wyckoff Country Club. Word is that a proposal for a casino in a different Holyoke neighborhood may be forthcoming soon. And outside casino developers are spending significant amounts of money to elect pro-casino candidates to influential positions.

With the Holyoke election just a few days way, you might want to consider how your vote could seriously affect your home, your family and your neighborhood.

Here are some troubling statistics on what casinos bring to their host communities:

within 5 years of the opening of a new casino:

• robberies are up 136%
• auto theft is up 78%
• larceny is up 38%
• aggravated assaults are up 91%
• burglary is up 50%
• rape is up 21%
• Incidents of prostitution, drunk driving and embezzlement also skyrocket
• all this happens despite significantly increased police staffing and increased police budgets http://uss-mass.org/crime.html

Casinos cause nearby property values to plummet by as much as 20%

Casino developers and proponents are touting “potential” property tax reductions, but you might want to do the math first. If your $200,000 home loses just 10% of its value after a casino comes to town – and assuming the City lowered your yearly taxes by $500 (which is way more than projected) – it would take 40 years for you just to break even.

If you own a business – or work for someone who does – you should be concerned:

Casinos siphon money away from locally owned businesses and into the pockets of distant owners. They bleed local businesses dry. Businesses close or move out of town, along with their owners. Neighbors lose their jobs. In Atlantic City, the number of independent restaurants dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of the city’s retail businesses had closed.

“There has been no economic development spin-off from the casino. Businesses do not come here. Tourists come mainly to gamble. Gamblers have one thing in mind: get to the casino, win or lose their money, get in their cars, and go home.”
– Mayor Wesley Johnson of Ledyard, Conn (home of Foxwoods casino in Connecticut)

Telling Statement from CEO of the American Gaming Association:

“If someone were to come along and tell me that they were going to put a casino in McLean Virginia, where I live, I would probably work very, very hard against it. What’s the old saying . . . ‘not in my backyard’. Now I may be in favor of ‘gaming’, but I just don’t want it in (my) area.” — Frank Fahrenkopf CEO of the American Gaming Association

 

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF A CASINO COMES TO HOLYOKE:

Report after report shows that casinos negatively affect their host communities. They create traffic gridlock. They increase crime by an alarming percentage. They decrease property values. They siphon money away from local businesses, causing them to close or eliminate jobs. They discourage other businesses from moving into town. They increase the transient population. The middle and upper classes move out. Low-wage casino workers move in, often living in dorm-like arrangements. They ruin neighborhoods and communities and scare potential new residents away.

This effect has been repeated in community after community that has hosted casinos, and it is well documented. You don’t have to go to a fortune teller to know that all these problems are in store for Holyoke if a casino is built here.

Even the CEO of the American Gaming Organization – the very organization charged with promoting casino development – has said he would fight against a casino that wanted to locate in his home town.

While every one of us is for creating jobs, the “jobs, jobs, jobs” argument made by developers and proponents is irrelevant to Holyoke and is deliberately misleading. Virtually every applicant who would be qualified to work in Holyoke will be just as qualified to work in Palmer.  So, if it’s not really about jobs, what is it all about? The answer is money – how much and to whom. But no amount of money can make up for the permanent damage casinos cause to their host communities. And every one of those problems happens despite significant amounts of money being paid by casinos to host communities. Money doesn’t prevent the decline!

The City of Holyoke is poised to take its first giant steps forward in decades. With the green, high-tech Computing Center (and all the forward-thinking businesses and residents it is already attracting to Holyoke); with the budding artist community and the rejuvenation they bring to older communities; with the restoration of the Victory Theater; Canal Walk and Heritage State Park. A casino will stop much of that progress dead in its tracks and will only serve to send many of those investors, entrepreneurs and new residents fleeing in another direction.

ANTI-CASINO VOTER’S GUIDE:

On Tuesday, November 8th, casting your vote for the following candidates is the best way to stop a Holyoke casino:

MAYOR: Alex Morse

CITY COUNCIL:

(Reflects those in contested races who replied indicating opposition. Note: casting less than the 8 allowed votes in the At-Large race improves your candidates’ chances of winning.)

OPPOSED:

Peter Tallman
James Leahy
Rebecca Lisi
Gordon Alexander (Ward 7)

LEANING OPPOSED (SERIOUS RESERVATIONS OR TALKING SHIT?):

Aaron Vega
Kevin Jourdain
Yasser Menwer

Presented by:

Holyoke Against Casinos

Why Socialism?

2011/11/07 in Capitalism, Development, Economics, Occupy, Politics, Socialism

Why Socialism?

(originally published in National Review May 1949)

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Vote Wednesday

2011/11/06 in Alex Morse, Elections, Facebook, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Mayor, Pluta

Actual Facebook Ad from Team Pluta:

(I kid you not)

If you need rides to the polls on Tuesday or Wednesday please call: (413) 885-0724.

Occupy Holyoke

2011/11/04 in Activism, Anarchism, Art, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Occupy, Politics, Press, pronoblem, pronography

Poster I made for a local Occupy art show…  300dpi for print quality available to those that are at OWS events.

Holyoke Mayoral Candidates on WGBY

2011/11/03 in Alex Morse, Art, Boob Tube, Casino, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Mayor, Pluta, Vimeo, WGBY

For those that missed it – Pluta and Morse on Connecting Point.

 

 Wampum points and jobs for the poor = pennies on the dollar.

 

 

The Team Pluta Storm Response

2011/11/03 in Holyoke, Pluta, Politics, Weather

…so now I’m going to have to do more campaigning than be mayor for a little while… –Elaine Pluta 9/20/2011(http://videos.masslive.com/republican/2011/09/holyoke_mayor_elaine_pluta_on.html)

 

Disasters and weather emergencies bring out the best and the worst in people. They are a test of political leadership but also an opportunity to demonstrate skills. As it happens, I’m alright with a little mild opportunism (like a trite photo-op) so long as it is also in service to community needs and does not obstruct assistance efforts or jeopardize anyone’s safety.

 

So when Tony Pluta took to Facebook Saturday night during the storm to encourage residents to call the brand-new mayor’s hotline with questions or problems, I didn’t at first see any reason to complain. But when a mutual Facebook friend asked where attention from Holyoke’s leaders had been last winter, when sidewalks were impassable for weeks and pedestrians were getting injured, I felt he raised a legitimate issue.

 

Sunday evening I checked in on Facebook again to find another mutual friend had put out a message requesting help. She was at home without phone service and needed someone to notify HG&E of a downed wire that crossed her driveway and was hanging very low over the street. When she thanked me for calling on her behalf, she indicated she’d twice posted comments to the mayor’s Facebook page reporting problems with accessing the mayor’s hotline and then with reporting the downed line after she lost phone service completely, but her comments had been deleted without further response.

 

I see no legitimate excuse for this. It would only have taken a few moments to write back, “We’re sorry you’re having difficulties, but the hotline is working.  We’ll pass your information along to HG&E for follow-up.” The only reason to delete the comments rather than deal with them responsibly is that the campaign was so paranoid about image and so motivated by narrow (and even counter-productive) self-interest that it was unable to get its priorities straight.

 

Maybe to understand why to me this felt like such a slap in the face, it would be helpful to provide some context.  Along with various neighbors, I’d spent much of Sunday clearing my block, mostly by hand. Cooperatively and safely, we got the street re-opened, the sidewalks cleared, the alley accessible for repairs, and at least one route of quick egress for every home. Damages to vehicles were documented for any future insurance claims, but no one argued about property lines or whose limbs had fallen where. I suffer chronic pain and fatigue, so I had to take frequent breaks, but I was so glad to participate in helping.  The mood was cheerful — we were genuinely happy to lighten the burdens for each other and to make the city’s work easier.

 

In between turns helping outside, I checked on friends around the region and felt very fortunate in both relative and absolute measures.  I also got caught up with the news online, and by Monday, it was overwhelmingly clear that misplaced priorities and ineffective leadership and communication weren’t an aberration for the mayor of Holyoke’s storm response.

 

Last winter, Holyoke residents at times received outdated or erroneous and conflicting information from Swift 911, the weather emergency line, and the city’s website. This time around, I got my first Swift 911 call more than 48 hours after the storm began.  And again, the city’s website and the weather emergency line weren’t kept updated in a timely way. It seems ridiculous to have added a hotline in the mayor’s office without using the authority of that office to be sure the city’s existing methods of communication were being used accurately and effectively.

 

While information on the city’s website was very sparse, the mayor did post regularly to her Facebook page.  Surely, I’m not the only resident who thinks it’s absurd that one has to have a member account on Facebook and be aware to check the mayor’s page in order to see regular online updates? It would be more appropriate to keep the city’s site updated, and then use Facebook (as well as other media) to further broadcast the information. At the least, the city’s site should have had a link for people seeking those updates.

 

Then there are the problems of content. Mayor Pluta posted to her Facebook page frequently, but what she had to say was often unclear.  At times, she or her campaign suggested residents with power or line problems should call her hotline first, and they’d call HG&E; other times they indicated residents could call HG&E directly (which makes sense to me – why make it a two step process?) and then call the mayor’s hotline (I’m not sure why that second call would be needed). One day, she wrote that anyone needing “immediate assistance” should call 911; the next day — at the request of emergency providers — she changed that recommendation to the more standard use of 911 only for “life-threatening” emergencies.

 

The leadership void and lack of a coherent message were especially apparent in regards to a question of the day throughout the region: to Halloween, or not to Halloween? On Sunday, Mayor Pluta via her Facebook page asked residents to remain in their homes for two days. On Monday, she said candy would be available to trick-or-treaters in City Hall even though the city’s website showed the City Hall celebration was already cancelled.  MassLive reported there had been no cancellations for Halloween activities in Holyoke, but a statement from the mayor on her Facebook page advised not going door-to-door this year and to use caution because of the hazards of downed lines. So which of the above was it? Perhaps Mayor Pluta would have been more comfortable assembling a citizen’s commission to moot the issue behind closed doors for a few months or years, but the residents of Holyoke would be better served by a leader who can make an intelligent decision and communicate it clearly.

 

For the record, I don’t think posting web updates (whether on Facebook or elsewhere) should be a mayor’s top priority in a weather emergency. But effective communication from city officials is vital. Also, my criticisms should in no way be construed as complaints about the city’s workers and first responders. Their efforts have been heroic, and the problem here truly is at the top.

 

Looking at the mayor’s performance, I can only conclude that the purpose of the new hotline and the frequent Facebook updates wasn’t public safety or effective communication – it was naked self-promotion stripped of real service to the community at large. This has radically & irrevocably changed my impression of her. Although I supported her 2009 campaign, I’ve always found her too listless, passive and uninspiring (which is all still true), but I had also believed she was a nice person who meant well. Unfortunately, her post-storm response is consistent with her framing of the election – she’s repeatedly said she’s in the fight for her political life; I’d prefer a mayor who wants to work for Holyoke.

 

Pluta has publicly complained about the hardships of serving as mayor while running for reelection.  But that is the definition of what all incumbent candidates do, and it is almost always a huge advantage, not a handicap. Effective mayor-candidates capitalize on incumbency rather than treating the duties of office as an expendable burden, secondary to their desire for political gain. Great leaders win continued and new support through their records, and Pluta’s announcement yesterday that she’s cancelling further campaign activity looks to me like she’s making excuses for a poor showing at both roles.

 

I can only hope the citizens of Holyoke step in to ease the mayor’s burdens on November 8. And I can only feel very fortunate — in both relative and absolute measures — that we have in Alex Morse a candidate ready to fill the vacuums of leadership, transparency, communication and accountability in our mayor’s office. It’s time to make change happen, Holyoke.

 

 

Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus

2011/11/02 in Council, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, McGee, Murphy, Politics, Press

Holyoke’s Power Duo

(Pictured here are Brenna Murphy and Todd McGee after they successfully reclaim Mt Tom from Easthampton)

Holyoke Charter

2011/11/01 in Bresnahan, Charter, Council, Elections, H.U.S.H., History, Holyoke, Politics, pronography

 Industria Et Copia

(Elizur Holyoke and the Founding Fathers of Holyoke create our beloved charter)

H.U.S.H. is opposed to the Charter Change due to its broad reach and numerous undesirable changes.  I can agree with only one measure in the proposed charter and that is a 4-year term for mayor.  This could happen without the charter proposal being passed.

Read the charter for yourself HERE. (if someone could send me a translated Spanish version in PDF please do)

There exists a Facebook Page called Holyoke Charter Change NO that lays out these reasons to opposition:

VOTE NO on the Proposed Charter Change:

Holyoke cannot afford this risky proposal!

Dear Fellow Voter:

There is going to be a referendum question on this year’s ballot  that proposes to change our City Charter and it has lots of fine print you are not being told about. This risky proposal would:

Weaken Voter Power:

  • Voters will no longer elect the City Clerk or City Treasurer
  • Voters will no longer elect a majority of their City Councilors
  • Only vote for the Mayor every 4 years not every 2 years which could be problematic especially if you get someone who is not doing a good job.

Eliminate Checks and Balances:

  • We already have a very strong Mayor: we should not consolidate nearly all power in one person!
  • Proposes to weaken the City Council and make the Mayor even more powerful
  • Mayor would appoint the Assessors, Tax Collector, Auditor and Treasurer instead of the City Council therefore eliminating the independence of their financial oversight roles.
  • Abolishes most city commissions including the Public Works and Fire Commissions and gives those powers to the Mayor. Also makes the Mayor a member of most remaining commissions.
  • Allows the Mayor to abolish or create any city department without the Council having the opportunity to amend the proposal.
  • Terms of office of city department heads are eliminated and they would serve at pleasure of the Mayor.
  • Recommends eliminating non-political civil service independence for city employees
  • Allows the Mayor to appoint a majority of the future commissions who will review our city charter and our city ordinances.

Make Expensive Changes we cannot afford in these tough economic times:

  • Gives the Mayor a 14% pay raise from $85,000 to $97,000 per year.
  • Creates a New Chief Financial Officer position appointed by the Mayor that would likely cost over $100,000 per year.
  • The proposed new charter is a risky exploration into a new form of government which no one fully knows for sure how it would work and could be the source of expensive future litigation.

Make other foolish changes:

  • The War Memorial Commission would no longer be made up exclusively of veterans.
  • Makes it harder for citizens to run for office and get on the ballot.
  • Eliminates Residency Requirements for city department heads.

Instead of making some simple common sense changes the voters could easily understand, the Charter Commission scrapped our entire charter for a new 53 page confusing and harmful form of government. Their proposal is so complex and confusing that it reads more like mortgage then a referendum. Holyoke’s voters deserve better!

Please Vote NO on the Proposed Charter Change and protect our city!