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Big Brother in Holyoke

2014/03/21 in Alex Morse, Anarchism, Civil Rights, Eschatology, Fear, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, HPD, Police, Shame

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  The martial law lock-down and door to door searches in Boston after the Marathon bombing were just the beginning.  Massachusetts is no exception to the mission creep of the absurd “war on terror” that has resulted in a growing surveillance state and increased militarization of our law enforcement.  Now we have the Massachusetts State Police installing 80 surveillance cameras in Holyoke almost overnight without any community oversight or public meetings on the subject.

Please contact your state elected officialsthe mayor; city council; and the ACLU to address your concerns about this invasion.  And always remember:  If you see something, say something…  then smash it to pieces.

 

HUSH Voters Guide 2013

2013/11/03 in Alex Morse, Bresnahan, Casino, Elections, H.U.S.H., Lisi, Mailbag, Mayor, McGee, Walmart

“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-casino
    Leaning pro-casino (appears promising)
    Neutral
    Leaning anti-casino (serious reservations)
    Anti-casino
    Thanks 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:

Mayor:
Alex Morse

City Clerk:
Louise K. Bisson

City Treasurer:
Jon Lumbra

City Council At Large:
Rebecca Lisi
Richard Purcell
Mark Riffenburg
Mimi Panitch
Kevin Jourdain
Peter Tallman

Ward 1 City Council:
Gladys Lebron-Martinez

Ward 2 City Council:
Anthony Soto

Ward 3 City Council:
David Bartley

Ward 4 City Council:
Jossie M. Valentin

Ward 5 City Council:
Yasser Menwer

Ward 6 City Council:
Jim Chevalier

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:
Christine Alger

School Committee Ward 5:
Kellie M. Pond

School Committee Ward 6:
Joshua Garcia

School Committee Ward 7:
Erin B. Brunelle

State Senate:
David Bartley

Question 1 “Should the city of Holyoke have a resort style gaming casino?”:
No

Question 2 “Should the city of Holyoke have a needle exchange program?”:
Yes

 

 

More Folks Publishing Dirt on Jeff Stanek

2013/10/24 in Alex Morse, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Politics, Stanek

This video is not mine.  Rest assured, if it were it would have had a flaccid penis instead of the down market arrow.
Anyhow, kudos…  very nice work and +1 for the music!  

 

Also, Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight has this illuminating piece published today.

Hopefully we will see a lot more of this.  Folks need to learn about this crook carpetbagger that wants to be our mayor.

A Modest Proposal: Holyoke needs prime-rate housing for rich white entitled hipsters.

2013/10/20 in Absurd, Capitalism, Classism, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Mailbag, Poverty, Racism

HUSH welcomes this guest op-ed from Holyoke resident Charles Montgomery Burns III.

Nationwide, there is a tremendous untapped market for upper class, prime-rate housing in vibrant, walkable urban areas where one might expect to find such luxuries as artisan chocolate vendors, martini bars, dog grooming salons, fashion milliners and Asian-Mexican fusion restaurants.

So far, Holyoke has been unsuccessful at turning this market to its advantage. Instead, it has watched a valuable asset stagnate into a bleak cityscape of brown-skinned poor people, in effect prioritizing social services over a more white privately-led economy for the benefit of rich white hipsters.

I suggest that we kill and eat the poor. All of them. Rub their skins with oils and savory herbs then roast them on an open fire.  And any new poor that arrive – kill them and eat them before they can reproduce. After that their housing will become available for private interests as the poor will instead occupy our collective gullet or fear entering this city else suffer the same fate. Only then can this city thrive and private interests reign over the welfare of those that do not have and do not deserve.

Release the hounds!

 

Dan Bresnahan: The Most Interesting Man-Child in Holyoke

2013/10/04 in Bresnahan, Elections, H.U.S.H., McGee, pronography, Sexism, Shame

man-child

The most interesting man-child in Holyoke.

Please play the theme music while admiring this image:

ABC 40 WGGB coverage.

Misogyny and Loathing in Holyoke

2013/10/02 in Absurd, Audio, Boob Tube, Bresnahan, Council, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, McGee, Sexism, Shame

douchenozzles

Breezy-D and Mr McGee - Holyoke's version of Beevis and Butthead

The microphones were on before the City Council meeting began and those of us with cable TV (or DVR) were able to witness a very interesting conversation between Dan Bresnahan and Todd McGee where they made mockery of their post; used profanity; engaged in misogynistic dialog; talked disparagingly of their colleagues; made jokes about their wives and insulted some community members – all of which could be heard in the comfort of your own home via Holyoke’s public access channel 15.  Priceless.  It really goes to show what little intelligence and integrity it takes to qualify as leadership in Holyoke.  So, here it is, posted as audio and transcript:

The audio began mid conversation.  They are talking about the agenda.  Presumably, at start, they are talking about item 24.  ”Petition for a Zone Change for Whiting Farms Rd. from BG to IP”  which brought a number of residents into council chambers for public comment and in support of this item.

McGee: …unless it was for Dan, if Dan wanted to change things.

Brezzy: I wanna put a Walmart there…  (McGee laughs) and a casino.

McGee: Roll the dice baby.

Breezy: …and a strip club.

McGee: [fumbling with papers] Yay! The Directory!

Breezy: A city-wide bicycle master plan?  I like Aaron.  (the Breezy makes an aside) If you smell garlic it is me, there is no doubt about it…  I am just telling you right now.  (back on topic)  A city-wide bicycle master fucking plan? Oh my god.  What’s going on?

(Rebecca Lisi walks into view, she’s 9-months into pregnancy with a due date of TODAY yet she’s still hard at work)

Breezy: That’s gotta be uncomfortable.  The way she’s carrying…

McGee: She’s due today!  Today’s her due date.

Breezy: I still don’t see that glow in her face… unlike most of the pregnant women I am attracted to.  She’s just not doing it for me.  But YOUR wife on the other hand – whoa ho, oh boy…  when she was pregnant!

McGee: I’m not gonna lie to you.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Anyone want a Twizzler?

Brezzy: [unintelligible, presumably speaking to agenda] What’s going on?

McGee: That’s going to committee too.

Breezy: Did I get the wrong agenda? [Is Dan only reading the agenda now, not reviewing it prior to the meeting?]

McGee: Nah, that’s going to committee.  Speaking of which, I better get…  [unintelligible, gets up from his seat]

(not sure who does a mic check, sounds like Gordon Alexander TAP TAP TAP – blows into mic “hey Ryan” TAP “it is not on yet”)

Breezy:  Bickford?

McGee: Yeah.

Breezy: I saw him.

McGee: Look at him.  Ah… Man.  How did MassMutual hire that? What the fuck were they thinking?

Breezy: Just keep an eye on him when we do the Pledge of Allegiance.  He doesn’t fucking…  he sits down. (McGee laughs) I am telling you, he’s a fucking communist.

[audio was shut off with video feed continuing]

Good job boys.  Well done.  Way to make complete fools out of yourselves.  …and oh, FYI: Mr Bickford was hired because he is much smarter and more professional than you two, obviously.

In regards to not saying the pledge as qualification of ‘communist’ – Requiring people to say a prayer to an object is more akin to authoritarianism than is the reluctance or protest to the participating in it. What an idiot.

Download audio here.

 

Speech from today’s anti-Walmart press conference.

2013/07/25 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, CBS3, Consume, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mall, Masslive, Poverty, Walmart, Ward 5, WGBY, WWLP

Stop Walmart in Holyoke

 

The coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, was joined by Mayor Alex Morse today to speak out against the proposed Walmart Supercenter plan for Whiting Farms Road.  A capacity crowd was there at Donahue School.  The majority being labor union folks and abutters to the site plan… but concerned citizens from all wards, business owners and a number of political leaders were in attendance.  See Masslive, WWLP, CBS3   (will update with other sources as they report on this)

The speakers were:

Mayor Alex Morse

Terri Laramee of Holyoke First, the organization of the site’s neighbors

Jason Garand, Business Manager of Carpenters Local 108

James Bickford, Spokesperson for Stop Walmart in Holyoke

Sister Kathleen Popko, President of Sisters of Providence

Here is what I delivered:

#####

I’d like to thank Mayor Alex Morse for joining us here today.  (gesture)

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to imagine you all naked while I do this.  (laughter, hopefully)

I speak for the coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, a group of Holyoke area residents, business owners and organizational leaders with support from Holyoke First; Nueva Esperanza; Fluxmass; Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council; Sisters of St. Joseph; Sprawl-Busters; Holyoke Chapter of the ISO; United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice.

Proponents of the Walmart Supercenter will claim that new jobs and tax revenue for Holyoke as the primary selling points for the establishing of a store here.  This is ultimately deceiving.  While it is true that the municipal will have tax revenue added to the coffers with a Walmart; what they don’t want you to know is that there will be an incredible demand on individual tax payers.  Walmart’s success in the marketplace is mostly dependent on keeping the cost of labor lower than other large retailers.  They have the least number of employees per square foot of retail, pay low wages and maintain a large number of part time employees to avoid paying benefits.  These are jobs that keep people in poverty.  We only need to look at a recent congressional report on Walmart to see the impact down stream.  Since most Walmart employees are under-employed everyone else foots the bill for their EBT, medical and retirement.  It has been shown that the average Walmart employee costs taxpayers $6,000.00 per year…  this comes out to $900k to $1.2 million per store per year.  Again, Walmart’s success is dependent on social services taking care of their employees.  Walmart creates and perpetuates poverty.

Some criticize Walmart opposition as anti-business.  No, in fact, Walmart opposition is pro-business and pro-labor.  A new Walmart does not create new consumers.  Like I said previously, Walmart keeps labor costs extremely low.  As a result it has a competition advantage and will certainly draw customers from existing business large and small.  Their loss will force them to reduce payroll and possibly end in closure.  It will also limit new small business development in the retail sector.  Studies have shown that over time each Walmart employee ends up being a net loss of 1.4 employees in area retail labor.

Globally, Walmart is responsible for an incredible amount of sweat shop labor where human beings are considered expendable commodities like we have seen recently with its garment and textile supplier in Bangladesh.

On a national level Walmart’s negative impact is incredible.  Walmart’s expansion between 2001 and 2006 accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China.  In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours.  Walmart also battled 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost at the time of $11 billion.  The Supreme Court ruling is considered controversial here as it was shot down not on the merits of the case but rather the scale, leading to individual suits instead of the class action.  The statistics do not lie… women were grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14% of manager roles compared with the more than 80% of lower-ranking hourly supervisor jobs.  Walmart retaliates against employees that organized for better working conditions.  The egregious business and labor practices of Walmart are alarming especially since it is the largest overall employer in the entire USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.

One would think that such a large corporation with such amassed wealth and annual profits could do so much better for its employees.  We say that we can do better for Holyoke.

Critics of the Walmart opposition will state that lacking an alternative to Walmart is reason for Walmart to proceed.  HGE has stated that the sale is in the best interest of the rate payers – will we see a decrease in rates as a result?  In pennies?  Here’s a potential alternative: With the rising energy costs, the scheduled closure of Mt Tom power plant and the recent alarming reports of Pilgrim nuclear plant – which supplies 15% of the states electricity – shutting down periodically due to rising ocean temperatures.  Why not invite local solar experts Stiebel Eltron or Citizens Energy to survey the land for a potential solar farm?  This would be something that will benefit ratepayers for decades, much more than the one time sale of the property.

False promises and lack of an immediate alternative are not valid reasons for Holyoke to sell its soul for tax revenue burdened on the shoulders of poverty wage slave jobs.  We ask that city government – the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Fire Department, Planning Board, Redevelopment Committee and the Building Commissioner – oppose this plan and that HGE seek alternate uses for this parcel of land they have put up for sale.

Thank you.

#####

The Hegemony Anoints its Oligarch

2012/11/07 in Axis Mundi, Capitalism, Democrats, DNC, H.U.S.H., Obama, Occupy, Republicans, Socialism, Terror

Obama is Now a 2nd Term Wall Street Puppet.

Now that it is over, leftists / Greens / socialists / progressives want to know about several issues: Austerity, Social Security Cuts, Wealth Disparity, Mountain Top Removal Mining, Off Shore Drilling, Keystone Pipeline, Fracking, Current Energy Policy in Terms of  Recent Climate Change Disasters, Civil Liberties Violations, Whistleblower Persecution, Criminalization of Dissent, Wars Upon Wars Followed by More Wars, Cyber Attacks, Drone Strike Terrorism, Drone Activity in Violation of Sovereign Airspace, Neoliberal Education Policies, School Privatization, Starvation as a Weapon, Mortgaging of Haiti to Monsanto, Monsanto Control over the USDA, Every Increasing Military Budget, Modernization of Our Nuclear Arsenal, Guantanamo Bay, Extraordinary Rendition, Dick Waving With China, CIA Drug Trade, ATF Fast and Furious, Extrajudicial Assassination of US Citizens, Indefinite Detention, Unprecedented Deportations, Records Profit for Oil Industry and Military Industrial.  Now that Democrats have 4 more years of the President they want — we need to know: Will they finally start opposing his most odious and immoral policies, or has the Democrats embraced these Horrors as party platform?

If Democrat Voters actually disapprove of these policies, can they influence those in power?  Most likely not, voters are not those who power answers to.  The ones that influence policy are the ones that benefit from the previously listed policies.

If Democrats were smart, they would play the same game.  Get rich and BUY your vote instead of casting it.  Play the Wall Street game, invest all that you own then play the market based on the whims of the oligarchs to make a fortune.  This is the American Way™.  Today’s stock tips: Exxon, Shell, DynCorp, Goldman Sachs, General Atomics (drones), Raytheon (Tomahawk Missile) and Monsanto. Gold is still a short term buy. Might as well consider corn and grain futures for long-term, regardless of the Obama win… with China demand on grain and ethanol / feed for corn the long-term is looking good as the drought will extend to the next few years since we are beyond the carbon tipping point.

For those Capitalists that want to measure Obama in terms of prosperity, wealth and that beloved “growth” you should check out these numbers – Obama certainly did perform well for corporate and investor profits (sourced from Motley Fool):

1. Stock market performance

This is the inflation-adjusted, dividend-adjusted, performance of the S&P 500:

2. Corporate profits

A word here: Corporate profits were incredibly depressed from the financial crisis in January 2009, when President Obama entered office. That low starting point makes growth through today look massive. If, instead of January 2009, you use January 2008 profit levels as a starting base, average annual corporate profit growth under President Obama is 6.8%.

3. Real GDP per capita
This measures growth of the entire economy adjusted for the size of the population:

Another note here: World War II spending was near a peak when President Roosevelt passed away in 1945, boosting the economy and annual growth. Real GDP fell 12% between 1945 and 1947 as wartime spending tapered off.

4. Inflation

5. Unemployment rate

This is the change in the unemployment rate during presidential terms (or through September for President Obama), measured in percentage points. Unemployment is measured by a yearly average before 1955; after, it is measured on a monthly basis.

 

And so it begins…

2012/11/06 in Anarchism, Democrats, Elections, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Republicans

November 6th, 7am…

The most costly Election Day in USA history.  Today the ill-informed and media manipulated (the vast majority of participating voters) will head to the polls and vote against their best interests.  I know that the results will be unsavory across the board and we will end up with more disparity, more war, more corporate welfare, more police state and more US Imperialism no matter who wins be it Mr Douche-Bag or Mr Turd Sandwich.  For those wholly disenfranchised by the corporate hegemony it is difficult enough to live through your charade that you call an election let alone its outcome…  Let’s just get it over quick without any recounts, court cases or other fiascoes.  So please, pick your favorite (or least disliked) Wall Street puppet imperial warlord and get this bullshit over with.  Thanks.

“The only true, rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it. ” ~Mark Twain (if he were alive today he’d be on the no-fly list)

Holyoke Voters Guide from HUSH.

2012/11/05 in Council, Democrats, Economics, Elections, Federal, Green Party, H.U.S.H., Hobert, Holyoke, Imperialism, Politics, Purcell, Vacon, Vega, War

Tomorrow, November 6th is Election Day

…and HUSH has provided this handy-dandy election guide:

FOR UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:

DR. JILL STEIN/ CHERI HONKALA

Dr. Jill Stein’s 2012 presidential campaign is what inspired me to finally join the Green-Rainbow Party. Here is a caring, compassionate and sincere candidate whose knowledge of the various issues and their consequences is unimpeachable and whose presence in debates past and present has shifted the parameters of political discourse in the Commonwealth during her 2002 gubernatorial run and have hopefully helped us make greater strides towards shifting the parameters of political discourse throughout the United States. This is a contest about clean, environmentally responsible, and community responsive politics and the fundamental system-wide change desperately needed to bring us there. Vote your values, not your fears. Vote for universal healthcare, not universal warfare. President Obama has engaged us in more military combat operations than any prior US President in history; supported off shore drilling, fracking, and mountain top removal mining; and has beyond doubt the most draconian and Orwellian civil rights record of any US President since I dare say World War II – while former Governor W. Mitt Romney has surrounded himself with the most frighteningly neo-conservative band of foreign policy advisors since President George W. Bush, while enunciating positions regarding the social safety net that I quite frankly find abominable.

https://www.facebook.com/drjillstein

http://www.jillstein.org/

FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR:

WRITE-IN: MARISA DIFRANCO

The so-called “centrist” stance of the would be Modern Whig Party holds very little appeal to me. The movement has adopted stances regarding the national debt that I believe would invite economic contraction, a “Constitutionalist” attitude regarding federalism and separation of powers that I believe to be dangerous and ill advised, national defense fetishism. a stance regarding affirmative action that I believe backward and ignorant of how problems of institutional racism still affect us, and a cavalier disregard for the health care rights of women. Therefore, despite rather progressive positions that Bill Cimbrelo has otherwise adopted regarding immigration and universal health care, his write-in candidacy holds little appeal for me. The campaigns of both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, have revealed foreign policy platforms still embracing a United States imperial mission and saber rattling against Iran each on the basis of misinformation; and neo-liberal education and economic policies I can in no way support.

Marisa DiFranco was the one truly progressive candidate this year seeking the US Senate seat, and yet the Democratic Party state convention in its infinite wisdom declined the voting public opportunity to debate and hear her stance on issues out of fears that she might reveal how truly far to the right the politics of Elizabeth Warren in fact are. We therefore had a Senate campaign highly detailed in terms of how the major candidates each could hurl mud at the other, but far less so dealing in the truly substantive issues that each campaign either lied about or neglected. If the Democratic Party has hopes to finally gain this Senate seat back again, they will have to nominate a genuine progressive like Marisa DiFranco to have the slightest bit of assistance from me.

FOR REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS, FIRST DISTRICT:

WRITE IN: BILL SHEIN

Bill Shein, of Alford, is the candidate whose steadfast embrace of progressive politics has impressed me the most during the Democratic Party primary contest – and although he has not apparently carried over his campaign as an independent challenger like I had hoped, I shall certainly make it a point to write him in. He refuses to find himself beholden to monied interests in Washington, opposes corporate personhood, and embraces a genuine environmentalist platform. Here’s a candidate who would have opposed vociferously the neo-liberal policy prescriptions that the Massachusetts Democratic Party leadership sadly has embraced wholeheartedly. Why vote for Richard Neal, who now runs unopposed? Please consider writing in the name of Bill Shein.

FOR SENATOR IN THE GENERAL COURT, SECOND HAMPDEN AND HAMPSHIRE

WRITE IN: RICHARD PURCELL

Richard Purcell is among the most energetic, gifted, determined and extraordinary social and economic justice activists and advocates I have ever met, and he’s the former Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor. Within this state Senate district, the Republican incumbent Michael Knapik is running unopposed, without even token Democratic and independent opposition. We can, and we must, do better. Rick Purcell would unquestionably do better. Write him in.

REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT, FIFTH HAMPDEN DISTRICT

AARON VEGA

While I may have disagreed with Aaron Vega on a number of issues and have been critical of his lack of voice in the council on some other issues where I expected him to be a leading voice of forward thinking progressive ideas and he was not; he is the best choice on the ballot to be our representative in this election.  I also believe that with what was political pressure here that might have had him more concerned with image and political capital that he’d would best serve us away from all that in Boston rather than city council.  I do believe that he’ll work for Holyoke’s best interests in this role.  On top of that his competition is absolutely absurd.  Linda Vacon is a paranoid Tea-Party / Glenn Beck 9-12 patriot that is not fit to lead in any capacity – and not because of her politics; but because she is a legitimate simpleton.  Yes, you can have an MS in Nursing (or anything) and be a complete fool.  The other candidate, Jerome Hobert, began his career in a blatant fraud.  You can find his name on the Green Party line but he is by no way a representative of Green Party values nor is he endorsed by the Green Party – in fact, the party has filed a complaint with the State Election Commision against Mr. Hobert.  More details here.

FOR COUNCILLOR, EIGHTH DISTRICT

WRITE IN: PETER VICKERY

Peter Vickery, who was by far the most very progressive Councillor the body has yet seen, has continued to champion a long laundry list of social justice issues and progressive causes – and it is my fondest heart’s desire to see him seek office again. Michael Albano, beyond doubt, is a social liberal of the sort we should certainly hope to continue holding this seat. However, his political history within Springfield as Boss of one of the most thoroughly corrupt political machines in recent memory shall never sit well with me. Michael Franco, meanwhile, has an unfortunately quite homophobic and misogynist advocacy track record marking him as by far one of the most frighteningly far right candidates ever to seek office throughout the whole of Western Massachusetts.

BALLOT QUESTION #1: “RIGHT TO REPAIR”

MY VOTE IS NO

My belief is that “Right to Repair” remains a trojan horse for chain auto parts stores to duck regulations and unfairly compete with mechanics.  I had read much on both sides of this issue and was not certain where to stand until I spoke to the folks at my favorite shop, Garvulinski Service Station here in Holyoke which was postering for the “NO” stance.  In this case, however, the ballot measure remains in many ways moot as the State Legislature has already passed into law similar such legislation.

https://www.facebook.com/saynotoSB2204

BALLOT QUESTION #2: “PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE”

MY VOTE IS NO

For what I believe to be very powerful and well reasoned arguments against the measure as written, I refer the reader to the following:

https://www.facebook.com/SecondThoughtsMA

http://www.second-thoughts.org/

BALLOT QUESTION #3: “MEDICINAL MARIJUANA”

MY VOTE IS YES

For what I believe to be very powerful and well reasoned arguments in support of the measure, I refer the reader to the following:

https://www.facebook.com/CommitteeForCompassionateMedicine

http://www.compassionforpatients.com/

NON BINDING: FUND OUR COMMUNITIES NOT WAR QUESTION:

MY VOTE IS YES

Full text of the question: “Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress and the President to: (1) prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance; (2) create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services; (3) provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and (4) redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now?”

There is no reason not to get behind these proposals.  Of the top developed / industrialized nations the USA ranks bottom in almost every indicator concerning health, welfare and happiness.  We also rank #1 for disparity in wealth.  2011 was the largest profit year in history for oil companies and the military industrial contractors and manufacturers.  This is largely do to our efforts in Imperialism & nation building and our piss poor energy policies.  We need to work towards a renewable and post scarcity energy policy.  We need to get on a new path and take the $1 trillion (and growing) annually that we spend in our war efforts and put it better use.  Send a message to our leadership that we demand that elusive “change” .

==================================

I’d like to thank Mr. Broadhurst for the lion’s share of the above text.  I’d also like to remind voters that when you go to the polls vote for that person that most represents you.  If you choose “lesser of evils” and select the candidate that you might disagree with on foreign policy issues like the murder of innocent people in the name of “security”; that despite your dislike of such policy your vote for that candidate is indeed approval for that policy to continue.  The duopoly and the illusion of choice that the RNC/DNC provides is indeed intentional.  The only people that benefit from their leadership in the executive and in congress is those that are their masters – and it is not the voting public…  it is those CEOs and shareholders that profit the most from US Imperialism and War.  The only way we can mend this nation (and, I believe, work towards survival of our species) is to end the two-party strangle-hold.  No matter who wins of the two mainstream it is a continual shift towards an imperial fascist-coroptocracy police surveillance state.  We need to take the power away via electoral politics before we see what is happening in Greece and Spain make it to our shores.  We are indeed headed in that direction and if that becomes the catalyst for change then so be it.  I just wish that the voting public would wake up before it comes to that.  We should look to Iceland for inspiration.

The War on Sesame Street

2012/10/05 in Absurd, Elections, Federal, H.U.S.H., Lies, Neoliberalism, Press, pronography

Meanwhile We Ignore The Snuffleupagus In The Room

(I added a few things and people / puppets to this image.  See if you can spot them all.)

Sometimes the Democrats surpass all understanding – not the politicians themselves, rather their supporters. Republicans, they always make a certain kind of logical sense. If to be a total asshole requires doing A, B and C, you can be pretty sure the Republicans will make it platform and proceed forth with A, B and C to the fullest. But the Dems?  They do the exact same thing as the Republicans and get away with it.  Why?  Their actions do not get resistance from their opposition because they are doing what the Republicans would want.  Republican leaders cannot make noise here as they would appear soft to their base and then lose political capital in the fear department.  However, if McCain made it to office then liberals would be in the streets protesting and their pundits would be denouncing the attacks on labor, the use of drones, extra-judicial executions of US citizens, escalation of war and the oppressive attack on 1st Amendment rights on the home-front via the NDAA and the Patriot Act.  Why then, would there be the noise if roles were reversed and Democrats were not in power?  Democrats only demonize crimes against humanity when they are not the ones committing them – if you do not talk about it then it is as if they are not happening!  So, instead we talk about Big Bird.  Bravo.  What a fucking distraction.  As much as it is so far from what should be discussed in the public sphere I gotta say it is brilliant in its powerful manipulation of the message.  Bernays would be getting an erection right about now.  Yes, to be fair it was indeed Romney that started this conversation, but the media and the party PR machines are crafting the public dialog and I am certain that Romney is as much pleased as Obama that we are not focusing on our wars, income gap, drones, oil and military industrial profits.  The controlling interests that benefit from those issues are where the real campaign dollars come from.

I do miss Mr Rogers.

(Thanks to L.H. on the lifted A, B, C inspiration / plagiarism.)

Organizing Works in Holyoke

2012/09/05 in Action, Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Community, Economics, Elections, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, pronoblem, Socialism, Ward 1

Recent Article Appears in Socialist Worker About the Fight for the Rights of the Tenants at Lyman Terrace:

 

Organizing works in Holyoke

 

 

Mayor Morse Revised Lyman Terrace Opinion

2012/08/29 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Economics, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., HHA, Lyman Terrace, Mayor, Politics, Poverty, Press Release, Ward 1

Keeping Our Community:

An Update from Mayor Morse on the Lyman Terrace debate

 

Throughout my first months as mayor, a major priority of my administration has been the redevelopment and revitalization of Holyoke’s downtown. One issue in this effort has galvanized public attention and stirred emotions like no other: the redevelopment of Lyman Terrace. Most everyone concedes that the current state of the Lyman Terrace buildings is unacceptable; its structural flaws and health risks are many and varied. Given the common ground and goals we share, the debate over how we improve these conditions has become polarized beyond what it should be.

In a previous letter, I articulated my vision for a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous downtown, with quality housing for all who seek it. Such are the principles that guide my decision-making. I understand that those principles could have been made clearer from the outset, and for that, I take full responsibility. I would like to take this opportunity to change that, and to update Holyokers on the steps my administration is taking to move forward.

It is important to note that the Holyoke Housing Authority (HHA) owns the property at Lyman Terrace; the City of Holyoke does not. And several months ago, in an effort to expedite the improvements to Lyman Terrace, the HHA informed me that they would be seeking improvement proposals from private developers. Furthermore, they informed me that they were seeking permission from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish all or part of the housing complex were such a need to arise. As part of an administrative process that would enable the HHA to access federal funds for demolition, I signed their request for an environmental assessment.

Per the request of the HHA, I have since evaluated the proposals for the property’s improvement by a few developers. As yet, I have not been satisfied by those received. The ones I have reviewed would reduce the population of the neighborhood, take significant time to even begin the improvements, and have been generally misaligned with my guiding principles for the downtown. Upon further exploration, I also became dissatisfied with the HHA’s tenant relocation plan; Lyman’s tenants need to have better protections at the local level if we wish to keep as many residents as possible in Holyoke.

The shortcomings of this process have awoken genuine concern, fear, and resentment among many in the community. Considering the longstanding neglect of Lyman Terrace at the local level, such reactions are perfectly understandable. Furthermore, equating urban renewal with urban removal has been a widely practiced strategy across our country; and, as such, skepticism of our own project is warranted. We are now tasked with avoiding these only too common pitfalls, and how we do so collectively will say a great deal about who we are as a community.

As mayor, my responsibility is first and foremost to the people of Holyoke – and I cannot allow this process to be executed carelessly. I am thus announcing the following steps to realign the renovation of Lyman Terrace with the principles I have outlined above.

As of today, I have asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to suspend the HHA’s request for a demolition review. I cannot in good conscience support any demolition of Lyman Terrace – total or partial – until our citizens have ample opportunity to have their voices heard regarding the community needs there. I will not seek approval for any action until a comprehensive plan, crafted with community input, is in place. This policy will affect lives in tangible ways, and people should have every right to reclaim the stake they have in our city’s future.

I have reached out to housing experts outside of the city for their support in assisting the HHA. As a result, I can proudly announce a partnership between the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. To the HHA’s credit, they have demonstrated good faith in following my lead moving forward; they have agreed to work closely with these organizations. Through rigorous community involvement – especially of Lyman Terrace’s residents – these organizations will assist our city and the HHA to develop a comprehensive plan for the area bordered by the first level canal, Lyman Street, Dwight Street, and High Street.

And finally, I am calling on the HHA to be more responsive to the immediate needs of Lyman Terrace’s tenants. Planning for Lyman’s future does not mean ignoring its present, and there is no reason that the basic upkeep of the property should be neglected.

It is important that we get this right. And in order to so, we must take advantage of these new partners and the resources they will provide. Coming up with a plan for this part of Center City will be a community effort. We will use our new resources to guarantee our citizens a seat at the planning table – by holding public hearings, providing interpreters, and whatever else is necessary to ensure their voices are heard.

I do not know what a renovated Lyman Terrace will look like when this process is completed; that will depend greatly on the input of residents, businesses, and property owners. What I do know is that the plan must be consistent with a long-term vision for our downtown as a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous place. The rehabilitated complex should properly connect to its surrounding amenities. Furthermore, it should include key components that the current property lacks: more green spaces, sufficient parking, and a community center.

The revitalization of our downtown depends on the energy of the people who live there and love our city, not merely the buildings that line the streets. Holyoke was built to accommodate 60,000 people. Growing our population must entail keeping people in Holyoke, not forcing them out. It is true that some tenant relocation is inevitable as we improve Lyman Terrace; but in the event of such relocation, the HHA needs to have a plan that gives as many residents as possible the option to relocate in our city. And when the improvements are completed, those residents that wish to return to the redeveloped Lyman Terrace should have priority placement to do so. These folks are the ones who have worked for years to maintain and beautify their homes, and they deserve a fair chance to reclaim the improved neighborhood.

I know our city is up to this task. We understand the stakes. Indeed, our resolution of this issue will say a great deal about who we are as a community. Working together, we can ensure not only an improved downtown, but also a more just and decent community for us all to share, and to which we all may contribute.

Sights on Greenfield

2012/07/21 in Absurd, Council, Greenfield, H.U.S.H., Homophobia, Mailbag, pronography, Quote

Meet Greenfield City Councilor Brickett Allis.

On a Facebook discussion here is what Brickett had to say about the Boy Scouts of America members recent protest where Eagle Scouts are returning their badges in response to the BSA stated anti-gay discrimination policy.

Copy / Pasted exactly as it appeared:

“you know what I would say to this! I resent that base on your opinion you woudl ellude to the fact that if we don’t send them back we are somehow homophobic. thats a bunch of shit this makes me pretty mad.   look im not a homophobe, but i am a realist, you put gay men in a group of other boys/men there is a higher liklihood that it could lead to any number of things some of which may not be appropriate…….exactly the same point as you put a group of heterosexual men in a room with women and they tend to do things that may or may not be appropriate. the issue is that scouting is not teaching boys its wrong to be gay, they are taking the same stance the millitary did don’t ask dont tell and i know you wont agree but i think its the right stance. secondly scouts is based in part on being reverent to god, and like it or not that god was the christian god the one that that all you libbies out there cant stand. and based on that god and that religion homosexuallity is not okay. do i give a shit about what someone is??? NO!!! but that goes across the board i dont care if you are fucking a horse just shut up about it and there will be no problem. if no one talked we would all be equal. but unfortunately everyone wants to make a “point” about thier sexuality. and the underlying message of this picture is to say that the only “good scouts” are the ones that send back their awards. well good for them feel free to feel better about yourself, i personally dont care how these morons sending them back feel. I just hope that they get enough back that they can send them back out free of charge to the new eagle scouts. this whole fiasco I find disgusting!”

Link to a full resolution screenshot from Facebook.

Fucking brilliant!  Only a cartoon character could say it better.

 

 

 

Demolition Delay (Or Not) in Holyoke: Shame, Shame, Shame, Shame on You

2012/07/05 in Alex Morse, Council, H.U.S.H., History, Holyoke, Lisi, Mayor, Vega

123 Newton Street demolition

 

 

On May 2, the Holyoke Historical Commission voted unanimously to impose demolition delay for 123 Newton Street. The property is privately owned but abandoned, and the City planned to use HUD CDBG monies to tear it down.  This was not an emergency demolition for public safety but a routine demolition application which therefore rightly came before the HHC for review. In the discussion leading up to their vote, Commissioners said they were glad they had a new tool to recommend for preservation efforts – quicker acquisition and auction of abandoned properties by the City.

 

On May 16, the City Solicitor issued a legal opinion on Holyoke’s demolition delay ordinance, an opinion which contradicts both the text of the ordinance itself (and even explicitly acknowledges that it does so!) and twelve years of precedents.  It claims that because the HHC had known of the possibility of demolition longer than six months ago, it could no longer impose a delay, even though the very trigger for a delay – notice of a demolition application provided via the Building Department – hadn’t come before the HHC until just before their May meeting. This new interpretation totally subverts the purpose and power of a delay ordinance and sets a terrible precedent for other historic buildings in the city. Guess which other properties have been mentioned to the HHC as possible candidates for demolition longer than six months ago, but for which the HHC hasn’t yet seen a demo application? That would include Mater Dolorosa’s steeple, Lyman Terrace in its entirety, 399 Appleton (a brick Victorian which the YMCA hopes to raze to make a parking lot), and others. If the HHC tries to impose a delay on any of those properties now or at any time in the future, their owners now have new grounds (grounds which didn’t exist at all before) to sue the city to lift the delay or to recover any losses experienced because of a delay. Any owner of a Holyoke property greater than fifty years old would be smart to send the HHC a letter indicating the mere possibility of a partial or full demolition some day; as long as any work would commence at least six months from the date of the letter, the HHC would be powerless to do anything about it. In the City Council’s lengthy questioning which led to the solicitor’s confirmation, I don’t remember anyone asking about basic reading comprehension or understanding the significance of precedent, but unfortunately those councilors who expressed reservations about confirming an attorney who believed and behaved as though she didn’t have to play by the rules  and could put loyalty above doing the right thing (hiring a friend for a city job without ever posting the position) are now vindicated: apparently the attitude and behavior weren’t a one-off after all. Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross, shame on you.

 

Armed with this ridiculous opinion — which was obtained at Mayor Morse’s request and presumably his direction — the mayor ordered demolition of the building without delay, and so it began. In taking his oath of office, Morse swore to uphold the ordinances of the City of Holyoke; in this case, he has not done so. On that inauguration day and since, the mayor has called for unity, but he should be reminded that it is not sycophants, friends or allies who keep a politician honest. It would have been better to have asked for integrity over unity. If demolishing that building were truly so important to him, the mayor could have attended (or sent a representative to attend) the HHC’s meeting to make the argument for demolition over preservation in a public meeting in accordance with Open Meeting law. (For the record, no one outside the HHC showed up to support or oppose demolition or delay for the two properties addressed May 2.) I understand the mayor is young and inexperienced, and there’s a learning curve to be expected, but it’s certainly feeling like it isn’t too soon for this Morse voter to hope he’s a one-off.  Alex Morse, shame on you.

 

On June 28, the City Council Ordinance Committee took up a proposal from Councilor and Committee Chair Rebecca Lisi to update the demolition delay ordinance “to bring it in line with current city practices.” How about instead insisting the City’s practices get and stay in line with its ordinances?! There is room to improve the ordinance, but before getting to that, allow a moment’s digression to explain why the Committee took up the matter between 10 and 11 pm, by which time all councilors not on the Committee, all media representatives, and almost all members of the public had left.

 

Mayor Morse had called an emergency meeting of the full City Council during the previously scheduled time for the Ordinance Committee meeting in order to secure funding for the new arts position. I think the arts position is a good idea, and it’s exceedingly rare that I agree with Linda Vacon about anything (we’re about as far apart on the political spectrum as we can get and still both be Americans who value democracy), but she is sometimes the only voice of common sense in the room, and that night offered one of those moments: “Mr. Mayor, this is not an emergency.”

 

Back to the issue of demolition delay….the Ordinance Committee used the opportunity of ordinance review to assign blame in all the wrong places and to fail to ask for accountability where it was due. Councilor Vega demanded in a most hostile tone to know why the HHC had voted for a delay on 123 Newton Street’s demolition when other historically valuable properties had previously been allowed to progress to demolition without delay. If he’s arguing that the building had no value warranting preservation, he could have attended the HHC’s May meeting to argue that case. And if his intent wasn’t to blame the HHC for doing their job correctly (as they did with 123 Newton Street) but instead to ask why they hadn’t been more aggressive in the past, he’s had two and a half years on Council to address that issue. But he might remember that the City’s streamlined acquisition and auction process is only newly available as an alternative to demolition.  So instead of directing hostility towards the party that is in compliance, why not demand to know why the interpretation of the ordinance has been changed and why city planners aren’t helping the HHC explore preservation alternatives? Of course, asking those questions would require confronting the mayor, who recently endorsed Vega’s campaign for state representative. So I guess that’s never going to happen. Shame on you, Aaron Vega.

 

Continuing the theme of misdirected blame, Councilor Alexander faulted the HHC for not working on a preservation plan sooner. But the language of the ordinance is very clear: the preservation planning period begins with the imposition of a demolition delay, which can only be triggered after receipt of notice from the Building Commissioner that a demolition permit has been applied for. Rather than blaming the HHC for complying with the ordinance, blame the ordinance’s authors (ahem…that would be the City Council), and blame city planners for working always and only towards demolition plans (where the HHC could only be stepping in as a hostile party under the terms of the ordinance) but never towards preservation plans (where the HHC’s input could have been sought sooner in the process). In regards to 399 Appleton, Alexander charged the HHC with an obligation to assist the YMCA with finding alternative solutions for its parking needs. Nonsense! Besides being an entirely specious issue (there’s always plenty of on-street parking available nearby), finding solutions to businesses’ parking needs is the task of the planning department, with its multiple, full-time, paid professionals and interns, not the part-time volunteers of the HHC. Again, addressing the issues correctly would require confronting paid, full-time professionals and everybody’s BFF’s: the YMCA management, the new head of Planning, and the mayor. But apparently it’s easier just to beat up on volunteers and ask them to work both harder and outside their purview.  Shame on you, Gordon Alexander.

 

I will give credit, however, to Alexander for two things: first, for describing the City Solicitor’s legal opinion on the demolition delay ordinance as “not worth the paper it’s printed on,” and second, for defending the timeline for imposing a delay (when demolition is sought is exactly when a delay would be needed!) even while suggesting the preservation planning process should begin sooner.  The ordinance should be improved with mechanisms for an earlier preservation planning period and clearer timelines for steps. Also, the language for exemption for properties identified by a now-defunct committee should simply be eliminated — already, emergency demolitions for public safety are exempt, and that is the only exemption truly needed. Council should use this review as an opportunity to strengthen the ordinance and the autonomy of the HHC, not to water it down to make destroying the city’s architectural heritage and built capital easier for Holyoke’s paid officials.

 

Earlier in the evening, the Committee took up the structure and by-laws of the HHC and its relationship to Wistariahurst Museum. Alicia Zoeller (of the Office of Community Development) made a worthy suggestion for getting the HHC professional assistance for their work. Unfortunately, no councilors and no one else present had the integrity or temerity to mention the elephant in the room, to ask the question whose answer is critical for determining any changes to the HHC structure and for assuring future compliance with the letter and spirit of a demolition delay ordinance and historical preservation efforts: can seven part-time volunteers, who all serve at the appointment of a mayor, be an effective check against the power of that mayor and the mayor’s administration? Particularly when the culture of government in this city has been and remains strongly tilted towards demolition and against preservation?

 

I’ve used up my four “shames” (though I’m sure it would be easy enough to find four more), but there’s also still the matter of a councilor (I believe it was either Vega or Alexander, but I honestly don’t remember which) grilling the HHC about structural integrity, a concern that is entirely the responsibility of the full-time, paid, professional Building Commissioner, who can seek an assessment from the City Engineer (also a full-time paid professional), and not the responsibility whatsoever of the volunteers who comprise the HHC, whose duties are solely related to historic assessment and preservation planning. Was it simply too uncomfortable to direct that question to the BC (who was sitting silently in the same room before the Committee), given that the BC is husband to the Committee’s Chair and an appointee of the current mayor? Just so I’m clear, I believe the BC did his job correctly — he provided notice of the demolition application to the HHC and did not order an emergency demolition for a structure where it wasn’t warranted — but if councilors believe otherwise or have questions about those decisions, they should be asking them of the BC, not the HHC.

 

Mayor Morse has been very effective at developing a cult of personality, and that can have some benefits (it’s yielded Holyoke some positive media attention, for example), but it also carries significant risks. If knee-jerk opposition (opposition without considering the merits of an issue) is wrong, and I believe it is, knee-jerk support is at least as wrong and probably more dangerous. Unfortunately, the councilors elected in the interests of progress and change continue to demonstrate they value political loyalty and unity over accountability, patronage and Leichtigkeit-des-Cocktails-trinken-zusammen over the checks and balances essential to democracy. They and Rodriguez-Ross wreck their own reputations by behaving indefensibly as they try to provide cover to the mayor for this mess. In place of another shame, I’ll say a pox on all your houses – may a wrecking ball soon visit, may you receive a certificate to relocate out of Holyoke, and may your wealthier new neighbors exert a positive moral influence on you (as if!), a moral influence that’s obviously sorely needed (unfortunately, too true).

 

Meet the New Holyoke, same as the Old Holyoke. And in some cases, worse.