HUSH Voters Guide 2013
“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
ON QUESTION #2: Vote YES for NEP. There’s a strong vibration of anti-reason and anti-science in American politics. Holyoke is certainly no exception. So, I’d like to discuss the needle exchange first, because that is the most utterly confusing thing on this ballot (well, except for maybe Dan Bresnahan and Brenna McGee as candidates). I am not a doctor, though I did have aspirations to be one and was at one point seeking enrollment in a PA program on reenlistment into the US ARMY some years ago – which never happened due to a mountaineering accident. At that time I was a Microbiology and Chemistry student and in that combination of disciplines was focusing on the biochemistry of immunology – I did go on to work in healthcare both in a laboratory and in a NICU but that was a long time ago. Now, I am no expert, and I will be the first to admit that… However, from what I do know; the best way to slow down the spread of a disease is to disrupt the vector of a pathogen. It really is pretty fundamental: Spread by aerosol? Wear a mask. Spread by drinking water? Treat / filter the water. Spread by direct contact? Wash hands / use condoms. etc, etc. Dirty needles spread disease and removing dirty needles from the equation greatly limits the spread of related communicable diseases. I also believe in leaving some things up to the experts and leaving some other things up to the democratic process. The needle exchange is not something that should be “decided upon”. It simply makes sense and should be established so leave it up to health experts and not some democratic process… What does boggle my mind is folks like Linda Vacon, a registered nurse that supposedly knows and cares about healthcare, and others who claim to “be good with numbers” oppose this program or say the ills of the program outweigh any benefits. The benefit is that is saves lives. The possibility to save one life makes the program invaluable. Opposition can only come from absolute ignorance or, more likely, a desire to have “those people” die because they are less than human. It also reminds us of those tin-foil hat wearing Alex Jones fans that think that vaccines are a some sort of government conspiracy eugenics program or, equally so, that climate change is a leftist conspiracy. It is all part of the general dumbing down of America where people are more likely to be motivated by fear than they are by the truth. For those that might want to read more on the realities of NEP please see this document from Drug Policy Alliance or this link from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Also, this well done video staring my girls has a great message (while strongly appeal to emotion it is the truth) that comes from A Clean Holyoke / Tapestry Health:
ON QUESTION #1: Vote NO Casino in Holyoke. I am opposed to the Holyoke casino idea – for a number of reasons – probably #1 was the site plan right along the Metacomet and Manadnock trail and pristine Mt Tom Reservation. I am not not a fan of casinos but I am not opposed to gambling or casinos in general; however I think they are not the right fit for Western Mass and see the over-saturation of gambling in New England making this whole plan a failure. Keep the ones we have and build no more. Let Vegas be the destination that it is. …and vote out of office every legislator that made this bill into law. Then repeal the legislation before groundbreaking happens. This non-binding question seems like a waste of time by everyone involved, mostly because the timeline is moving, Springfield and Palmer are potential sites – Springfield passed the referendum with Palmer deciding on Nov 5th. For Holyoke to be a possibility the entire Gaming Commission timeline would need to be set back to zero if for some reason that Palmer failed the vote and Springfield was denied by the commission. Also, seeing that there is so much already invested I see the plan going full steam ahead in Springfield if Palmer fails because, they want that casino and with a new governor incoming and an actual bill in the works to stop the casino plan they want groundbreaking before any traction is made in repealing the law.
The question, the casino timeline and the politics here in Holyoke makes interesting the publishing of a mailer that lists an anti-casino candidate voting slate with a number of glaring omissions of would-be casino opponents. An anonymous group called Citizens For a Better Holyoke which claims to be a “factually oriented group that works together with community members from all over Holyoke” that is “dedicated to providing the public with information”. Well, I disagree. Repeated attempts to find out who meets and decides on what is communicated was met with silence. A few folks admit to being part of the group but on the literature, nothing… and the Facebook page there is no “About Us” that defines who was behind the mailer. Not responding to queries is NOT working with the community and not providing a complete list of anti-casino candidates fails to educate and only exposes either the political bias of the organization or its failure to be able to live up to its mission statement. HUSH was contacted by a few candidates that felt like the mailer misrepresented them.
Rick Purcell, previous Green Party Candidate for Lt Governor with Jill Stein and Ward 3 Holyoke candidate now running at large has maintained a solid anti-casino stance since well before CFBH formed and before legislation was passed. His omission from the list is indeed strange because his position is very well known. Rick claims he was not contacted for this mailer and that John Epstein, one of CFBH members, was hostile towards him 2 years ago. I don’t know what to say here except that I am not sure why not each and every candidate was contacted about Q1 and inclusion on the mailer. Yes, CFBH did revise a pdf to include Purcell but this is after the mailer was sent. It may actually help Purcell to be excluded because of the scrutiny over the mailer.
Kevin Jourdain cried a river over not being included in a long press release published on his FB page and Masslive / Republican Newspaper. He writes: “I actively opposed the casino at the 1995 and 2002 ballot questions. A casino proposal has only once come before the Council in my tenure and that was during the 2010-2011 term. As Chair of the Redevelopment Committee at the time, I led the charge to oppose the Wyckoff casino and stopped the two proposals on the project both for a land transfer they needed of 5 acres of city property, as well as, for the city to forgo its right of first refusal on other areas inside Wyckoff. Not talk but votes on the issue. When others were looking to rush things through, who did casino opponents turn to? Kevin Jourdain.” He is correct. I saw some of this in City Council meetings. In an email to me Kevin Jourdain said: “I got dumped because I voted on allowing the non binding question on ballot not because I am pro casino. It is not fair. I always allow those questions on fill in the blank topic. That has nothing to do with casinos.” I am somewhatin agreement here. Similarly, I almost always will sign papers for someone running for office. I may not actually vote, but everyone deserves a chance. Well, I do believe that I might take exception at some point. I might not sign papers for a total bat-shit loon Tea Party member like Linda Vacon. Similarly I might see a question like this one as a waste of time and resources. Indeed, Kevin has been anti casino and his support of the ballot question is not indicative of a pro-casino stance.
Yassir Menwer forwarded me his email from John Epstein, which is interesting because it is very elusive. Looks like a private citizen from Ward 7 contacting a Ward 5 candidate with a simple question and not representing an organization:
Hi Yasser,Dozens of people who are strongly opposed to a Holyoke casino have been coming up and asking me “who should I vote for” in the upcoming election? And naturally I want to know, myself.For the record, would you please tell me if you are in favor of, or opposed to, a casino in Holyoke.Thanks,John
Whoa. That’s good stuff.
Yassir provides a detailed response where he states that he believes that the casino is a bad idea, but if it were to happen that he would work to make it the best possible plan for the city.
In a reply:
Hello Yasser,Thanks for your thoughtful reply.Before I finalize what I’m doing, I wanted to make sure I was representing your position properly. So rather than me trying to project my own interpretation upon your response to me, I’ve decided it would be best to provide you with a choice of several categories from which you can describe how you feel.Which of the following would you say most accurately describes your position on a casino in Holyoke:Pro-casinoLeaning pro-casino (appears promising)NeutralLeaning anti-casino (serious reservations)Anti-casinoThanks for your patience!Best,John
Yassir responds “Leaning anti casino”. Granted, I like my candidates to say exactly what they believe, but like Rick claims he experienced similar here two years ago… who / what / why? I think some might have reservations being subject to such a cold calling. Instead, if there was full disclosure “we are Citizens For A Better Holyoke, an anti-casino group and we want to know your position on such and such” you might get full disclosure and less CYA.
Anyhow. CFBH needs a new ringmaster.
Mayors Race: Alex Morse. As many know, I have butted heads with Alex on a number of occasions on some key issues. He’s also landed in the right place each time. I have also had the opportunity to work with Alex on the cable advisory board, where I see a great opportunity unfolding for Holyoke with a new media center in the works and the possibility of utilization of a neglected downtown property funded by Comcast. Before the field of candidates unfolded I actually was not sure if I would have a horse in this race and when Jeff Stanek appeared I thought there might be some serious competition when Stanek started attending the anti-Walmart meetings. But as more was revealed it began to appear that Stanek was not only not my candidate but quite possible the absolute worst case scenario with his history of corruption, bad business dealings and some very interesting campaign financial support. Not to mention failure to attend two debates and absolutely horrible presentation in those where they did face off. As well, some very illuminating discussions that are borderline racial profiling like NYC’s Stop and Frisk policies… Stanek wants police checkpoints? What, is he from North Korea? The choice is very clear. Alex is moving Holyoke forward and Stanek represents quite the opposite.
The rest of the races have some interesting fresh faces and motivated people stepping up to lead the city. Mark Riffenburg, Mimi Panitch, Jim Chevalier (in a write-in sticker campaign), Rosalee Tensley Williams, Jossie Valentin and Christine Alger are new to political scene and offer a lot to our great city.
I’d like to go on at great length about all these choices and may return to edit more. But for now, here is the HUSH endorsements… and remember, anyone BUT Dan Bresnahan if you see the need to fill out more bubbles on the at-large section:
Louise K. Bisson
City Council At Large:
Ward 1 City Council:
Ward 2 City Council:
Ward 3 City Council:
Ward 4 City Council:
Jossie M. Valentin
Ward 5 City Council:
Ward 6 City Council:
Ward 7 City Council:
Gordon P. Alexander
School Committee at large:
Devin M. Sheehan
School Committee Ward 1:
Mildred I. Lefebvre
School Committee Ward 2:
Rosalee Tensley Williams
School Committee Ward 3:
Dennis W. Birks
School Committee Ward 4:
School Committee Ward 5:
Kellie M. Pond
School Committee Ward 6:
School Committee Ward 7:
Erin B. Brunelle
Question 1 “Should the city of Holyoke have a resort style gaming casino?”:
Question 2 “Should the city of Holyoke have a needle exchange program?”: