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A New Direction

2015/08/07 in Bordas, Bresnahan, Elections, Franco, FrannyO, Holyoke, Mailbag, Mayor, Sexism

This is why we need feminism.

It is campaign season in Holyoke and as candidates open their mouths it becomes very apparent that one cannot swing a dead cat in this city without hitting a misogynist.

Hot on the heels of the long overdue sensitivity training that was scheduled in response to the notorious hot mics incident that exposed two seated councilors as a threat to their female counterparts we have Mike Franco stepping up to the plate with his accusation of the training being “forced and potentially iron-fisted indoctrination”, then calling “blasphemy” on Councilor Jossie Valentin’s use of the War Memorial building to host The Vagina Monologues. Is Franco is completely oblivious to the fact that some veterans do have vaginas or that there is rampant sexual abuse in the military that administration seems unwilling to address? It appears so. Has Franco actually seen a vagina in real life since becoming a “Men’s Rights Activist” a decade ago? My sources say no. Continuing in theme, now comes Kurt Bordas (a make-believe cop running against incumbent Jossie Valentin). Bordas sees this as an opportunity to make a complete fool of himself with his statement: “All I have to say in regards to this is we are looking past this and focusing on the well-being of the citizens of Ward 4 and discussing quality of life issues that we are faced with daily.” Yes, time to move past this, as sexual harassment has nothing to do with quality of life and it certainly would not be an issue of interest to anybody in Ward 4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Oh, of course he supports Franco here as Bordas is also a woman-hater. Then both Franco and Bordas bring the concept of “free speech” into the conversation. This is very odd because both of these men are veterans so they must have sworn an oath to uphold the constitution at some point.  1A states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Nowhere in this drama has anyone’s free speech been infringed and nowhere in 1A does it say you should not be held accountable for your words.  It is Mark Twain that once said: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” This is very good advice to the receiver, but it is my wish that people continue to ignore it only because it arms the rest of us sensible folks with the ability to know exactly who we should not be wasting our time on.

This certainly is not unique to Holyoke; these stories continue to be part of the Zeitgeist here in the USA: Rape culture, Gamergate, Bill Cosby, domestic violence in the NFL, male coaches as predators in women’s athletics, Columbia University mattress protest, women’s health issues being decided by male lawmakers or by corporations like Hobby Lobby instead of being made between the patient and a doctor, etc. The statistics for rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment are known to be vastly understated. One reason derives from the tradition of saying “boys will be boys,” as an excuse for inappropriate behavior by males. Young girls have been taught to keep silent and to overlook bad behavior by boys. Another is that victims frequently have the blame shifted onto them. Also it is often that the perpetrator is someone close to the victim so somewhere in there is a fear of hurting someone else, possibly the perpetrator himself – or – it is kids, friends or relatives to where the fear is spread. Of course, there is potential of retribution in many cases.  Then, when history proves that there is often zero results with the reported cases; what is the reason to come forward if it is the belief that nothing positive could come of it anyhow?  That said, it is extremely important for victims to stand up and be heard no matter the obstacles and it can take an incredible amount of bravery in order to do so – which brings us to this letter we received.

Angela Gerhard writes:

The “New Direction” for Holyoke?

My second day on the job for the O’Connell campaign had me at my first campaign meeting, where I met the marketing group, some volunteers and staff, and got insight into what the campaign was going to need from me for the job they hired me to do. Afterwards I went to dinner with Fran and two of his advisors at Max’s Tavern in Springfield in order to catch me up to speed. It gave me a chance to learn what the campaign plans and goals were, and gave me the some more of the much-desired background info I wanted into who Fran really is and what his run for mayor is all about.

It was a long but insightful evening. It was casual and a great way for me to meet “the guys”. His advisors are close friends of his he’s known for years, businessmen who Fran admires and trusts. The three of them all had a drink or two, I drank soda water. We talked about the current state of affairs in the city and we all contributed our thoughts and ideas as to what changes we’d like to see. We debated campaign strategy and talked about positioning, and whether or not it was ok to say one thing to get into office and then “pivot” once we got there, as one advisor suggested matter-of-factly. We discussed schools and we talked about the department of Economic Planning and Development. Quite a bit.

It was made clear that Fran’s goal is to more or less unofficially act as the Director of Planning if he reaches office. I’d heard him in earlier private conversations talk about wanting to have a highly-paid and qualified “right hand” that would take on much of what the day-to-day Mayoral duties would be. His idea is to give a part of his salary that person, because he “doesn’t need the money,” and this would free him up while someone else handles the day-to-day “minutiae” of running the city as he drums up business as the front man for Planning and Development.

As talk of specific employees in the department comes up here and there Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, a development specialist in the department, was mentioned. One of the two advisors asked who she was. Fran’s animated response:

“That Tessa, smart girl, but I can never hear half of what she’s saying because I can’t stop looking at her big tits!”

I was horrified. The guys chuckled. My reflexive response was of embarrassment, and as I put my head down, looking at my lap because I didn’t know what to say, I found myself angry that I felt that way. I consider myself a fairly outspoken person, and I think many would agree that’s a fair assessment. And here I was in the corner booth, wedged in between one man and another, unable to get up and exit the conversation and go home because we had all rode in one car down from West Springfield. I kept thinking “he doesn’t know me well enough to be saying things like that in front of me.” And we’re talking about a political campaign here, a future mayor…where was the professionalism?! It was baffling. We all know the frat-boy mentality exists and flourishes and boy’s clubs die hard, but we expect it to be hidden from view when we’re not a member of the club.

I’ve known Tessa as an acquaintance. I like her. I know she loves her job and works hard and takes pride in it. I have only heard great things about her work there, and what a benefit to the department she is. Her having to work with a man that demeans her in this way is in no circumstance remotely acceptable. Are we a city that will elect this into office? If this were any other circumstance, would a man who said this of a future employee ever be given the job? No, if only because he’d be a liability. The other day I finally reached out to Tessa about this, to let her know and ask if it were ok if I identify her when I speak out on this. I was and am sickened and saddened to know that this for her isn’t by any means an isolated incident, and that she’s been subject to continuous sexual harassment throughout her professional career. She feels defeated knowing that she’s worked so hard to establish herself in her new position over the past year, only to learn that her potential boss won’t be able to take her seriously because he can’t see beyond her anatomy.

Later on during dinner I caught a little something that Fran was saying to one of the guys while the other one is talking to me. A little of a “got her for the campaign // she’s a hell of a lot better to look at than this one,” referring to me and the other guy I was speaking with. I felt uncomfortable with the eyes on me from across the table, with the slow nodding in agreement. I wished I had caught more, but it wasn’t meant for me to hear. More disappointment and disgust.

 After more time passed during the night, I inevitably said something to the effect of “You do know that you can’t say things like that, right? It’s really f*ed up, you just can’t do it.” My comment was was met with silence from the rest.

I was filled with conflict over working for someone who is immature, sexist, impulsive, and juvenile. It was my second day on the job. Out to dinner, I was already “one of the guys” and Fran felt free to be himself, crude “sense of humor” and all. Fran O’Connell, who has a good shot at winning this campaign, will essentially be the boss of the young woman he made that awful remark about. He’ll be in a position of power over many women who, you know, have tits. With all of the controversy that this city has had to endure, is this the “New Direction” we want to work towards?

I’ll be honest and admit I’m deeply ashamed that I spent time trying to rationalize it all and convince myself that in some alternate universe this type of behavior would be dismissible. I hoped that it was isolated remark, but I have since learned from several others’ accounts that this isn’t the case. I tried to chalk it up to a crass sense of humor. I struggled with it, a lot. I was someone who actively campaigned against a city councilor who made sexist remarks about another councilor and sought to have him removed from council. As time passed I started to pair up that experience I had with Fran and his “guys” with stories people told me of their own experience of him being offensive, inappropriate, hostile, and making them feel uncomfortable, and clear pattern started to emerge. When I read a quote from an acquaintance to the advisor I worked with that described Fran as “arrogant and undiplomatic….kind of like dealing with high school mentality,” he laughed it off and said it sounded pretty accurate and that he could be all of those things at times.

So I made a conscious decision to stick with the job, for various reasons. Part of which is that I compulsively research and gather information. I can’t help it. And research, in the end, was what the campaign wanted me to do. Being on the inside, working closely with one of his advisors, I would get one of the best views possible into what we were dealing with here. It didn’t take long to see that the work I brought to the campaign was going to be routinely dismissed and that any damage I could be doing by playing a supporting role was not much to worry about. Was I dismissed because I was a woman? I don’t know. Did they keep me on-board because as I was told more than once that I was “too dangerous” to let go? I did the work requested. My stint with the campaign was brief, and I was recently let go anyhow, being told that “policy and research work will be moving to a professional organization.” I figured I had 4-6 weeks left max, and I wasn’t terribly surprised, because I found myself butting heads with the advisor I was working with and continually frustrated with the lack of input from Fran and his unwillingness to heed advice in terms of introducing his platform. And no, I’m not bitter and resentful for being let go. No, I wasn’t working for the “competition” as a mole. If anything I feel some relief knowing I’m free of all of it, even if I am out of the much needed extra income.

Maybe Fran hasn’t displayed this sort of thing in the businesses he’s owned over the years. I honestly can’t say. But I do know that his marketing team will no doubt put together a well thought-out response to this, if they address it at all. All I can do is encourage the people who are private to share their experiences in a way they’re comfortable with to every Holyoke voter they know, and for people who can muster the courage, including other city employees, to call this type of behavior when they see it, and to do so publicly. It’s beyond difficult to do this because I know there will be backlash directed at me, that there will be collateral damage and relationships I value lost, but I’m really not good at sitting silent when there’s this much at stake.

So there you have it.

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

I have three daughters that I don’t want to grow up in a world where they should only be seen and not heard.  Not putting people in power that treat women like this would be the new direction for us.

Since I first learned of Angela’s story a week ago it has been discussed among a few people and more stories have come to light.  I do hope that these folks will come forward on record.

Holyoke YMCA takes its sweet time to ensure families of a safe environment.

2014/11/16 in Absurd, HPD, Mailbag, Press, Shame, Whistleblower, YMCA, Youth

This just in.  Trigger warning, links contained herein contain graphic depictions of rape and sexual abuse.

 

November 16, 2014

Dear YMCA Members:

There is an article in the December issue of Outside magazine that mention allegations of sexual abuse; the allegations have been made by a former YMCA Vikings Swim Team member against the team’s former head coach.

To be sure, these are disturbing allegations. We take our responsibility to children and their families very seriously at the Greater Holyoke YMCA. Under the circumstances, we feel it is appropriate to affirm our commitment to keeping kids safe.

The YMCA was notified of this allegation in December 2011. We immediately placed the employee on leave and filed the required report with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Greater Holyoke YMCA terminated the coach’s employment in July 2012 as a result of these allegations.

We have a series of measures in place to protect our families. Some examples of our standards and practices include:

  • conducting criminal background checks and reference checks on all staff prior to hiring;
  • conducting criminal background checks on all volunteers;
  • requiring all staff and volunteers to complete training on recognizing and preventing abuse;
  • prohibiting staff and volunteers from being alone with a child where they cannot be observed by others;
  • restricting staff contact with children outside of YMCA programs;
  • educating parents on how to recognize and prevent abuse; and
  • reporting any allegations or suspicions of abuse to law enforcement.

At the Greater Holyoke YMCA, the safety and well-being of children in our care always has been and always will be a top priority. We remain committed to our child safety practices. Our YMCA engages over 1500 children each year, and we work hard every day to make sure they’re happy, healthy, and safe.

As always, thank you for being a part of our YMCA family. We greatly appreciate your participation and support. Please contact me if you have questions.

Sincerely,

Kathy Viens

CEO

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

Allegations. Allegations. Allegations. Allegations. Allegations.

No matter how many times you write “allegations”, I am NOT going to stop believing sexual abuse and assault survivors. There is NO doubt in my mind that Anna’s story is true. I am sickened that you did not reach out to the community when the incident happened.  Usually these types of assaults are not singular or isolated – there could be more victims out there who may have come forward if the YMCA was open and willing to even have such a conversation.  Instead you decide to take nearly THREE FULL YEARS to finally issue a statement only after local media coverage has pressured you to do so?

This was not sent to the media or published on their FB page – only sent to paying members as far as we can tell. Members can bring guests.  Children can come from two households.  Obviously, the YMCA is still trying to minimize damage here by not making a public statement.

We are sincerely disappointed and disgusted.

 

CBS 3 Springfield – WSHM

Racism and Censorship in Holyoke

2014/09/27 in Absurd, Art, Gentrification, Holyoke, Mailbag, Press Release, Racism, Shame

I received this email from David Flores about his art and his experiences with racism and censorship in Holyoke.

(David Flores at work on the piece in question)

Printed in it’s entirety:

On Saturday, September 19, 2014, my mural celebrating the Puerto Rican diaspora in Holyoke, MA was scheduled for installation as part of a set of pieces created in conjunction with the Holyoke Alleyway Revitalization Project. Before the piece could go up, the owner of the building on which it was to be installed decided that it could not be displayed on her property. She said that my piece would do more harm than good to Holyoke’s Hispanic community, and that in order to display it I would have to change it to make it “more diverse.” The mural consists of an 8’ x 16’ Puerto Rican license plate with HOLYOKE written across the center. Whereas many Boricuas throughout Holyoke proudly display similar license plates that point to their hometowns on the island, my project intended to claim that Holyoke is part of Puerto Rico. Holyoke is the community with the highest percentage of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. (44.70%), yet Puerto Ricans are deeply marginalized in almost every aspect of the city. Although the building owner had approved of my design and seen the finished project well in advance of the scheduled installation, she caved to pressure from nearby business owners and others who seek to prohibit public displays of Puerto Ricanness in Holyoke. Thus, the decision to exclude my mural from this public art exhibit is emblematic of the wider suppression of Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricanness throughout Holyoke. With my mural, I hoped to contribute to efforts toward claiming public space in solidarity with Holyoke’s Puerto Rican community. However, this building owner’s decision and logic amount to the race-based exclusion of Puerto Ricanness in Holyoke at best and the censorship of Puerto Ricanness in Holyoke at worst. While the Holyoke Alleyway Revitalization Project has supported my mural, the decision to collaborate with a bigoted building owner on this project reflects the fundamental problems with this “revitalization” initiative. In fact, like other “revitalization” efforts in Puerto Rican neighborhoods and communities of color throughout the U.S., such projects end up participating in processes of gentrification despite their organizers’ best intentions.

As a Mexican artist born and raised in Chicago, I have been deeply inspired by Chicago’s Puerto Rican movement, particularly the strong Puerto Rican leadership in schools, community organizations, elected positions, and artistic initiatives. This community also taught me the value of Mexican-Puerto Rican solidarity, as expressed through joint efforts to combat educational inequality, gentrification, and (im)migrant stigmatization. This solidarity is most clearly represented in a chant that is often used in Latin@ political demonstrations in Chicago: “!Boricua y Méxicano, Luchando Mano a Mano!” This solidarity represents a form of diversity that exceeds the imagination of the building owner who prohibited my mural. I hope that this piece finds a prominent home and that it helps to celebrate Puerto Ricanness in Holyoke. I am also working with community members to combat the suppression of Puerto Ricans and make sure that this does not happen again. In addition to these efforts, I am seeking to collaborate with longstanding community residents to create site-specific public art in Holyoke through a fundraising effort I have named “!Más Color, Más Poder!” I also plan to adapt my Puerto Rican license plate project in other U.S. cities with large Puerto Rican populations. By affirming Puerto Ricanness in Holyoke, I hope to contribute toward the creation of communities that embrace and uplift marginalized populations throughout the U.S.

Bio:
David Flores is an Artist, Designer, and Community Activist who focuses on Latin@ placemaking through art and design. He has worked creatively with non-profits and community based initiatives in Chicago, IL and Holyoke, MA for over a decade. A native of the south side of Chicago, his work challenges the fears and anxieties that are associated with low-income communities of color by emphasizing their value, beauty, knowledge, and resilience.

Donald Wilcox Sues City of Holyoke and Geriatric Authority of Holyoke

2014/05/19 in Absurd, Alex Morse, GAH, Lawsuit, Mailbag, MGL, Patti Devine, Whistleblower

An anonymous email sent to me included photographs of documents outlining a lawsuit by recently terminated Donald Wilcox – former COO, CFO and executive director of the Geriatric Authority of Holyoke – against the City of Holyoke and the Geriatric Authority of Holyoke with allegations of discrimination and harassment by Patricia Devine, and that his termination was retribution against him for his whistle blowing to state agencies of ongoing impropriety at the Geriatric Authority of Holyoke.  Devine, then chairwoman of the Geriatric Authority of Holyoke board of directors resigning soon after this debacle because she “could no longer give the time and personal effort that the important position deserves”.  Well, for those that have been paying attention it does appear that she has newly found capacity because, while it is not officially announced, we are hearing folks congratulate her on her appointment to the Fire Commission.  What kind of damage can she do there?

.Here are the documents in full, sorry about the quality, these are photos by a still camera, not a scanner, enjoy:

Donald_Wilcox_v_GAH.pdf

7 pages, 4.1MB

Dean Tech Principal Livin’ la Vida Loca

2014/04/14 in Absurd, Classism, Dean Tech, HPS, Mailbag, Politics

Dean high school principal Bradley Barry Bacom is seeking reimbursement for meal expenses while traveling… Meal includes alligator, oysters, and alcoholic beverages. He is not seeking reimbursement on alcohol but as a role model for 300+ students at dean should consider getting separate receipts for alcoholic beverages.  Should we be paying for this?  Or should he pay up given the large salary received while kids fund raise selling candy from a catalog to pay for activities and parents are being asked to bring in supplies like paper because it is running out?  You be the judge:

Even more here beginning page 55…  $32.00 for one 8oz steak?  WTF?  It is called “poverty pimping”.  A form of disaster capitalism.  The state brings in a private company to run the (destined to) failing school only to suck resources out of the tax coffer that could be put to better use locally.

Meanwhile Sodexo school lunch is super delish…

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

 

 

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!

 

Lyman Terrace Press Release

2012/08/01 in Alex Morse, Federal, HHA, Holyoke, Law, Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, MGL, Press Release, Ward 1

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 01-Aug-2012

Lyman Terrace Tenants File Suit Against City of Holyoke and Holyoke Housing Authority.

Holyoke, MA, 01-August-2012:  Attorney Peter Vickery on behalf of a group of Lyman Terrace residents filed a lawsuit today at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the City of Holyoke and the Holyoke Housing Authority which manages the 167 unit public housing project where the tenants reside, located in Ward 1 Holyoke near High, Lyman and Front Streets.  The expectation is that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will file an injunction in Superior Court to stop the planned demolition of Lyman Terrace.  A total of five legal claims are presented in the complaint: Violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act 42 USC § 3604; Federal Environmental Protection Regulation 40 CFR Part 7, Subpart B; Article 1 of The Massachusetts Constitution; and Massachusetts General Law 151B § 4 & 121B § 32.

Introduction to the Complaint is as follows:  The City of Holyoke and its Housing Authority have decided to seek permission to demolish Lyman Terrace, a public housing project in the downtown area.  Because most of the Lyman Terrace residents are Hispanic, the destruction of their homes – and the residents’ relocation away from Holyoke – would have a disparate impact on a protected class and would, therefore, constitute unlawful discrimination.  Complainants are asking the Commonwealth to seek and injunction from the Superior Court to stop the demolition.

Attorney Vickery comments:  ”We are asking for an injunction to stop the demolition of Lyman Terrace. This is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that the commonwealth considers an environmental Justice Community, meaning that government has to meaningfully involve the community in land-use decisions to ensure equality and equity.  Our legal basis is the anti-discrimination law, which prohibits land-use decisions that have a disparate impact on certain protected classes. We are saying that demolishing Lyman Terrace would be unlawful because it would have a disparate impact on Hispanic people. We are absolutely not accusing the mayor or anyone in city government of racism or bigotry.”

For more information please contact:

 

Latino Community Liaison
Darlene Elias

 

Tenants Association President
Sonia Gonzalez
55 East Court
Holyoke, MA 01040

 

Full text of the complaint:

Download (PDF, 131KB)

For more info about Lyman Terrace see HERE.

Link to the Lyman Terrace Facebook page see HERE.

Examples of Extreme Police Brutality Continue to Escalate.

2012/07/22 in Absurd, Brutality, Disney, Mailbag, Poverty, Shame, Video

Domestic Terrorism Committed by Public Servants

Saturday July 21st:  Details are sketchy as to what prompted the shooting but witness say that police overreacted when they approached a group of three citizens and then opened fire after they ran.  One man was killed by a police bullet.  Here a civic minded crowd assembles in protest after the shooting and the police response was over the top.  Bean bags, rubber bullets, pepper spray and event a released K-9 unit were used on a crowd of citizens where women and children.  Innocent people were severely injured and traumatized.  This situation has since escalated and into the night bottles were being thrown at police and dumpsters lit on fire.

 

 

 

This only weeks after an extreme police response to people creating chalk art at an LA Arts Walk event.

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.

 

 

 

Getting Up to Supercomputing Speed in Holyoke

2012/06/17 in Development, Economics, Green, Holyoke, Mailbag, MGHPCC, Press

A Report on the Holyoke Supercomputing Center

See attached  PDF:

GETTING UP TO SUPERCOMPUTING SPEED IN HOLYOKE:
A CASE STUDY OF THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE
MASSACHUSETTS GREEN HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTING CENTER AND AN
INQUIRY INTO THE LEVEL OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IT COULD FOSTER

Response to Public Comment on Lyman Terrace

2012/03/28 in Action, Activism, Gentrification, HHA, Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, Poverty, Ward 1

Many people wrote letters and here we have the response.  

PDF linked:  Lyman-Terrace-Comment-Response

 

Clean Up High Street

2012/03/11 in Action, Activism, Community, Facebook, High Street, Holyoke, Mailbag, Trash Bash

RESCHEDULED TO 4/29/2012

Elvin Bruno Jr emailed me asking if I would promote this event, which of course I would…  I will also get in touch with the Trash Bash folks and see if we can get any supplies.  I know that the DPW did give them a crap-load of trash bags a couple years ago.  They may have some left.

See you there.

Please join us outside of City Hall at 12:45pm, on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 as we break off into large groups to cover 1 whole mile of High Street in Holyoke, from Career Point to Corner’s Delight, where High Street and Lyman Street meet as part of a community effort to make our Downtown area look great again! Cleaning supplies will be available, but we ask that everyone brings an item (or items if possible) to help make this effort possible. Useful supplies include sturdy outdoor brooms, rakes, large heavy-duty trash bags and leaf bags, work gloves/latex gloves for safety, and a fun/ready to work spirit! Thank you all for your interest and be sure to spread the word!

Link to the FB event page.

 I will also send out a friendly reminder as the date approaches.

Testimony From Lyman Terrace

2012/03/09 in Activism, Development, Economics, H.U.S.H., Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, Politics, Poverty, Ward 1

Sylvia Robello writes to HUSH:

Sylvia Robello speaks to City Council about Lyman Terrace

I’m sick of people putting down others without knowing anything about them or where they are coming from. Not everyone that lives in Lyman Terrace is uneducated or on welfare. Many of the residents there are working individuals who pay market rate rents much as they would do in any other apartment in Holyoke or elsewhere. Despite the exsisiting deplorable conditions they choose to remain living there because they like it, the area, its proximity to many conveniences that might otherwise be unavailable to them, including transportation, health care, downtown shopping etc.

I was the 1st President of the Tenants Association at Lyman Terrace and I became a teacher. I now have a BA in education, an MA in Linguistics, a teachers state certification and a myriad of other credentials that others who did not live in a housing project and were raised in a home of their own may not have. I lived there for many years and my children were all raised there. My daughter is a probation officer in Spfld, who graduated from Mount Holyoke with a BA, Springfield College with her MA and is a home owner Holyoke. One of my sons is an licensed electrician, has his DCL trucking license, is a 5 star chef and owns his own home in 16 acres. I have another son who lives in Florida who owns 2 businesses of his own. I have another son who is a Barber. These children are all products of the projects and we are all of Hispanic ethnicity. So as you can see not all people that live in projects, especially Hispanics, are on welfare and uneducated.

The Plight of the Hispanic PR in the US is not an easy or pretty. Those who migrate here from PR come here to find better job opportunities, living conditions and further their education by giving their children the opportunities they never had just like most people who come here from other countries do. Many come here giving up everything the have, own and are familiar with thinking it would be an improvement to their lives. Instead what they find is a hostile environment that does not accept them because of the color of their skin or don’t speak the language. They can’t find jobs because of these same reasons. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US. It has been so since 1898. They are Americans by birth. Yet they have never known what it is to be free and independent. They have always had to depend on another country or nation for support so they have an identity crisis. Many feel like they don’t know who they are or where they belong so they become transients moving constantly from place to place and never really establishing or settling down in any one place. Many keep moving back and forth from PR here, NY, Florida hoping to find a place where they are finally accepted and welcomed. Others yearn to go back to where they came from because although they did not have much especially a secure job, they did have acceptance. Ironically those of us who were born or raised here are not even accepted in PR. The consider us Americans or Newyoricans. So where do we belong.? It seems like nowhere.

Yes this is just the tip of the Iceberg. So unless you have walked in our shoes please don’t make assumptions about who or what we are. We are lot more than a lot of others who have had it all and still haven’t gotten anywhere. We have nothing and still we continue to strive to be better, to find a better way so that our children don’t have to go through all the struggles we had had to encounter. When I still had not finished my education I still managed to move forward and help all those I could in the community, helping to establish housing corporations, educating the low income sector regardless of their ethnicity, black, white or Hispanic, helping the homeless, registering people to vote, and improving my community in every way I could. So again, I implore you don’t make assumptions or take about people when you in fact have not been there and don’t know where they are coming from, where they have been or where they are going. Especially when you yourself have done nothing to help your fellow man. I’m tired of it.

Valencia Miller 25 West Ct

Press Release from Occupy HCC

2012/03/08 in Activism, Deval Patrick, Education, Holyoke Community College, Mailbag, Occupy, Press

HUSH was contacted by Cheryl O’Connell of Occupy HCC with this press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Cheryl O’Connell
Email: occupyhcc@gmail.com

SUMMARY OF EVENTS FOR HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MARCH 6 STUDENT WALKOUT TO PROTEST GOVERNOR’S PLAN TO CONSOLIDATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARDS

Tuesday afternoon, March 6, around one hundred fifty students and allies walked out of Holyoke Community College to voice their concern with Governor Deval Patrick’s community college consolidation proposal. A student played music as protesters met at the plaza outside the Student Lounge. Energy was high, students were excited to have a venue where their voices would be heard.

As the crowd grew student Lance Matos stood and spoke about the Governor’s proposal and how the student body felt this will affect Holyoke Community College. He spoke of the concerns that a budget based on quantifiable data and the standardization of community college curriculum would lead to schools that teach to tests rather than focus on quality education. Students who have gone through the public education system in Massachusetts have experienced how the MCAS created an environment of teaching to tests. Many students at the walkout communicated that they felt they were short-changed in their K-12 education due to the MCAS and worry that standardization of higher education curriculum would lead to this type of teaching environment. Matos pointed out that while Patrick is distancing himself from “The Case for Community Colleges,” a report by The Boston Foundation that focuses on how to best help the workforce through higher education, his language and timing is far too suspect to credit the proposal being unrelated to the report. Matos reminded students that one day of action will not be enough to defend higher education. He encouraged them to continue being active. Later in the day students were asked to join other representatives from Holyoke Community College on Thursday, March 8 to travel to Boston for Student Advocacy Day where student will be able to voice their concerns to state politicians.

Following Matos’ speech he opened the floor to other students to speak about their experiences at HCC and voice their concerns in relation to the Governor’s proposal. Dozens of students took turns sharing how Holyoke Community College has benefited them and given them opportunities they never even realized were available to them. The concern that narrowing the focus of community colleges to mainly workforce development would lead to the neglect of other educational opportunities was repeated by many of the speakers.

The event ended with students chanting “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” During the event students circulated a petition they plan on submitting to Governor Patrick stating that they take a stand against his proposal and that they demand student voices be a part of any change in the way that higher education is run. Over 250 signatures were collected during the event and students plan to continue collecting signatures for the next few weeks, both in person and online. Students encourage all community members to sign it, saying this affects all of our communities, not just community college students. The organization Massachusetts Jobs with Justice is hosting the students’ petition online. It can be found at here.

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

Name: Cheryl
Email: occupyhcc@gmail.com
Subject: student walk-out at hcc
Questions/Comments: Hey,
I’ve been following your blog and was wondering if you would be interested
in the press release about yesterday’s student walk-out at HCC. If so, drop
an email to us at Occupy HCC and I can send you a copy with some photos.
Thanks, great job covering the news in Holyoke!

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