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.
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.
(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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
I stand before you today grateful for the trust you have placed in me and humbled by the scale of the task before us. I’d like to express my undying gratitude, also, to my family and friends who have encouraged me every step of this journey.
Today marks a turning of the page on the old ways of doing politics in this city. It has been many years since Holyoke has stood at the threshold of such transformation; and I, as your mayor, am honored to help shape Holyoke’s future with you. The time for petty obstructions to progress is over. The time for waiting is past; the time for renewing our highest ideals and for remembering our better history is now. When I look at Holyoke today, I see what our Holyoke forebears saw when they created the Paper City of the World: a city of limitless possibility.
We have all heard those who say that Holyoke’s best days are long past. We have heard that Holyoke’s best bet is for us to just settle, and to resign ourselves to a future that is beneath our highest aspirations. For far too long, this narrative has pervaded this city and the morale of its people; too many have internalized these notions as true, as somehow inescapable realities of the Holyoke experience. As a result, many of Holyoke’s citizens have been disheartened and discouraged; too many have been overwhelmed by the frustration of seeing their best efforts and hopes for Holyoke fail to result in real, substantive progress.
Now, I understand the magnitude of the many challenges before us, and I am mindful of my own limitations to remedy them. But I also understand that the days of resignation are over. In November’s election, the citizens of Holyoke made their voices heard; and what those voices joined together to proclaim was that this election was – emphatically – about the future of the city of Holyoke. The voters rejected the gridlock and stagnation of the past. Today, we rededicate ourselves to the betterment of this community. We will not achieve every goal we desire in just one election or even one mayoral term. But I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges – boldly, fearlessly, and with the proud, fighting spirit that defines our people.
Throughout my time in this city, I have seen this spirit made manifest in the lives of ordinary citizens every day – people who often go unnoticed, but who contribute to our community in countless ways. And over the past year, as a candidate, seeing this spirit has never ceased to move me.
I saw it in the countless folks who stopped by headquarters, offering their help in myriad, small ways – people with their own busy lives who nonetheless sought to give support in whatever ways they could.
I saw it in the elderly man I met in the Flats – a man who could not speak a word of English, but who registered to vote for the first time in his life.
I saw it in the young kids – kids too young to even vote – who were enthused and impassioned about the capacity of our political process.
I saw it in a conversation I had with a woman in Elmwood Towers, in which she reminisced fondly about her days growing up in Holyoke, and who felt hopeful about the city’s future.
And I saw it in a young couple I met while door-knocking – a couple that had just moved in and that, despite the prevailing stigmas about their new hometown, were overwhelmed by the sense of community and belonging they had already begun to feel.
My experience on the campaign reaffirmed my deeply held belief that Holyoke’s greatest asset is, and has always been its people. And that Holyoke’s citizens reflect both diversity and a shared destiny, an overarching sense of common purpose. As I stand before you today, I do not shrink from the tasks before us because I know these folks and each and every one of you will be with me every step of the way.
Let us guarantee for our children the right to a sound education, one that will prepare them to compete in a 21st century economy and to contribute meaningfully to our society. I stand before you today because of the education I received in the Holyoke public schools. I am a product of Holyoke schools from pre-school through my graduation at Holyoke High. My experience taught me that it truly takes a village to raise a child. And that, had it not been for the people who took responsibility for my education, I would not be here today. It is time to restore that sense of responsibility. It is time for us to remember the common stake we have in one another, and that we must be responsible for all of Holyoke’s children, regardless of what they look like or what neighborhood they’re from. I know this is possible because I’ve lived it. And when I look at my parents here today, I know that they never would have imagined that their child would one day be their city’s mayor.
Next, let us lay the foundation for economic growth that can be sustained over the long-term and that gives our youth good reason to stay and work in Holyoke. Because, let’s be honest: what use will a good education be if our kids then find nowhere to work and contribute? Just as our predecessors saw in Holyoke everything they needed for the creation of the Paper City, I now see everything we need to become the Digital City, and for an economy based on art, innovation, and technology. The high tech computing center will be completed this year. And already, businesses are showing an interest in relocating to our community. For art and innovation, we need look no further than the talented folks already in this city, who need only be supported. Our people need a more conducive environment to create and imagine new ideas. It is time to eradicate the myth that people don’t want to work, and instead, give them good reason to work, by providing sound opportunities for the future.
Necessarily connected to fixing our education system and cultivating economic development is the task of keeping our streets safe. We know that if kids have productive things to do, and meaningful opportunities, we can prevent them from seeking their livelihoods in crime. Looking at community safety requires a holistic approach, and we all know that if we foster a sense of community and reinforce the stake we all have in one another’s lives, our city will be safer. But that requires time and the laying of firm foundations. Right now, we must begin to restore the relationship between our distinguished police officers and our communities. We must bolster neighborhood watch programs, increase bike and foot patrol, and provide common folks with a voice in providing recommendations to the police department. I will work very closely with both the fire department and the police department to make sure we come up with common sense approaches to keeping our people safe. Through these steps, I hope to rebrand Holyoke’s image and to make our city an appealing place for businesses and visitors.
As we do these things – improve education, foster economic development, and ensure public safety – let our guiding light be a love for this city. Let us remember that we all want what’s best for our hometown. And that in no other city in this nation are the people more considerate, generous, and compassionate. We hold values that are not subject to the changing winds of time; they endure and continue to define us. Our resilience. Our pride. Our concern for the plight of others. The belief that when hardship befalls one of us, it affects us all; that your child’s education matters just as much as somebody else’s child’s, or as much as my niece’s and nephew’s; that public safety in our downtown matters as much to residents of Ward Seven as it does to residents of Ward One. As Holyokers, we recognize that we cannot walk alone. I know there are many whose votes I have not yet earned; and that, despite our best efforts, we will not always agree with one another. But I also know that we don’t need to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand; and that we are never stronger than when we are united.
The work begins today. And we begin our work knowing that we are part of a process that is larger than ourselves, and that will continue long after we’re gone. Before us is the opportunity to shape this city’s future for generations to come. Let us seize this moment. Let this term be remembered as the time Holyoke began to make inroads in its longstanding challenges, and paved the way for a safer, more just, and decent community to unfold – one that is worthy of its proud citizens. Lest we forget, we are Holyoke. As long as we remember that, there is no way we can fail.
The Halos and Horns edition gives Patti Devine her second (or third?) set of horns; this time for her bullying of CRUSH to censor my work.
Thanks to the Advocate for your continued support of Holyoke and your stand-up defense of free expression.
…and special thanks to Patti. What would we do without a nemesis? I am indeed somewhat sad that you lost. You were inspiration. Most of all, thank you for coining the term ‘pronography‘. That was brilliant. I hope you have a happy New Year.
For those arriving for the first time here is the back story:
(What is up with the large rings that Mike Plaisance wears? I hear he also has an impressive collection of pewter dragons.)
Everyone looked sharp last night. Both Pluta and Plaisance were sporting new hairdos. Though, it was odd to see that Pluta dyed her hair to match Morse’s color? I was told that this was this was Nelson Roman’s decision. Bad call, dude. Also, Elaine walked in wearing this leopard fur collared coat. She looked fabulous but it was slightly over the top… something that I’d expect to see worn at a five-star resort rather than the sober event that is a political debate. Morse did wear a great tie. I must admit, I lament the fall of Gaddafi for one very good reason… they have returned to the pre-1969 and post-colonization flag. I think most flags to be ugly and too busy. The Libyan flag of recent times was an amazing austere solid field of green, my favorite color… I think that everyone presented themselves very well with their answers. Both Pluta and Morse have run good campaigns with the exception of a few wrinkles on Pluta’s part with the “agenda money”, which was mostly addressed in this debate.
I have got to fault Plaisance on a few of his questions. At first I thought he was biased towards Pluta but then it became clear that he’s biased to sensationalism. First he twists words from Morse’s campaign about what Morse will bring to the office of mayor and that if he is bringing those things does that not imply that she is lacking them? A negative campaign does attack the other player, but he’s really speaking the truth here – and mostly about himself. Let’s be honest here… If you watch Pluta she’s not at all energetic. She shuffles about like zombie, uses almost no body-language and when she tries to speak with emotion she sounds all monotone like Donald Duck. As far as vision, we can all have different opinions about a casino… Pluta has been a strong supporter of Holyoke as a host city, lobbied for us in Boston and received campaign contributions from those involved. Then she praises Taco Bell? If this is part of her vision, then I must say it is indeed lacking. The idea that we must base success, jobs and tax revenue on vice and fast food is absurd. Sure, gambling should be legal, but I’d prefer back room and bar gambling to some billion dollar monument to sickness. Resources can be much better spent. The new legislation that Deval will sign into law is several steps backwards for our great state. Then, this troll hunter goes on to bring up Morse’s age. Has this not already been beaten to death and deemed a non-issue? He’s running a solid professional campaign, he’s serious and obviously he has what it takes. Could we not have asked questions about issues, ideas and leadership rather than this bullshit? Maybe if that were the case those that may have doubts about him would learn more than directly addressing the prejudice. We all know how old he is. Plaisance did take his turn with Pluta, asking her about her claim of having “the fight of her political life” and why does Morse “come out of nowhere” as a serious challenge to her position? It would have been much more useful to those witnessing the debate to get beyond the tabloid nonsense and instead to issues in Holyoke . These questions really did not cover any new ground for most of those in attendance and were a serious waste of time.
I don’t dislike Pluta. I just don’t think the results match her claims. I’ve witnessed much poor communication and bad ideas come from her in a brief two years. I do feel some sort of pity for her, I feel that she wants to do good for the city, but honestly, she does not have what it takes and the whole casino issue is a major flaw. I also think that she did not run an honest campaign at times. Those several different letters that went out concerning “agenda” and “out of town money” were downright sleazy fear-mongering. Sure… if I was watching this campaign from afar and I was not connected to the city or its politics I might actually donate to someone like Alex because it is downright inspiring. Speaking of good ideas and the digital age I do stuff like this all the time with organizations like Kickstarter, Kiva and various activist groups – I give more money out of town and out of the country than I do locally. Good ideas and progress are just that… so it really is no matter where they are happening… but of course, when hits home like we see here it is really wonderful.
I consider this election over. Morse is going to win. I had my doubts at first but there really is no way that the majority of Holyoke is that dim that they would agree that things are on the right path or that Elaine has proven herself thus far. It really has been a long time. We need some real leadership now. (and responsible media in the form of a daily newspaper)
Audio from the October 20th City Council Candidate Forum held at Dean Tech High School.
The event was sparsely attended and was lacking H.U.S.H.’s favorite candidate Patti Devine. Rumor has it that she was afraid to show up because I was recording the event and planned on editing her statements into a musical remix. Rosado and Murphy’s main-squeeze McGee also had better things to do, but McGee was later seen in the audience during the At-Large portion of the forum. Rosado and McGee had placards with their name and empty seats. The same should have been done for Devine, not sure why she gets special treatment here.
The format was a little odd with a different setup for the Ward versus the At-Large candidates. The Ward candidates were able to ask the opponent a question and then have rebuttal where the At-Large were fielded questions, some repeated, asked by representatives of The Republican and El Pueblo Latino. As a result the At-Large forum did seem to cover a lot more ground. The issues of the night were casinos, attracting business with our tax rate and the charter question.
I do need to gripe about the audio… next time rent some mics so that each person has one, put foam wind-screens on them and before the event explain to the candidates that they need to not touch their lips to the mic when speaking. 6″-8″ away and a normal speaking voice should be used.
If there was one clear winner here it is Gordon Alexander. Sure, many of these folks might not have public speaking as their forte and might be nervous up there… and certainly Jourdain, Tallman and McGiverin presented themselves very well, but of the newcomers it was Alexander that stood out. I did speak to him after saying that I wished I lived in Ward 7 so I could vote for him. Menwer was also a pleasant surprise. I probably will be voting for him (and finding out who is his dentist). If there was one person that looked like they did not belong there it was Brenna Murphy. She appeared as if she was extremely bored. Maybe lemon-faced is simply her normal demeanor but she does lack the charisma that sells candidates in the media – maybe she should have taken Devine’s cue and pulled a no-show… I doubt that she won any votes with her performance.
There was a good deal of intentional and unintentional humor. Tallman did declare that “we should not sell Holyoke short, so vote for the tall man”. Yes, I will be voting for him and he is indeed tall. Though, I do wish he’d invest in some pants that fit him as it was his bare shins exposed by his high-waters that kept distracting my attention. Bresnahan went on a wonderful tangent about internal organs and sexual intercourse. I am glad I have all that recorded, his dialog will be uploaded into my sampler this weekend. Murphy stated that she went to college “because her parents told her to”… obviously, she’s running for office for that very same reason. Purcell claimed that some of the folks on stage were criminals. He’s correct, but it was just funny to hear it said. Vega was vague when asked about the charter question and wasted his time explaining to the audience that he did not want to tell people how to vote on the issue – thanks, we know how we are voting on the issue – we wanted to know where you stood. Leahy expressed his love for some of the people in Holyoke, not all of them. Fletcher claimed that the only crime to speak of at casinos is children and pets locked in cars at the parking lots?!? Good stuff!
Rob & Leidy Deza are a couple that took the decision to return back to Holyoke, and not just to live in this city but also to be active members of the community in efforts to change society by creating a possitive influence that is genuine and real. They are doing so via their efforts in organizing what has been called the Unrestrained Youth Group.
Today the [UYG] has reached a number of 32 active youth who meet at 7pm every Friday in different homes thoughtout the Holyoke community to discuss strong issues of interest to all the youth and they themselves decide on the topic of each week.
You might know Rob Deza from his photography work in Holyoke. His wife Leidy is a UMass graduate in Neuroscience who works at Baystate Hospital.
If you are a teen or know someone that might be interested in [UYG] please contact Rob and Leidy Deza.