Decision Times

This Tuesday brings an end to the race for the state Representative seat for 11th Hampden District, and that’s too bad. The people of the 11th would probably have been better served by having an Independent and/or a Republican thrown into the mix. But this did not come to pass. Instead, all three candidates – Benjamin Swan, Lorenzo Gaines and Chelan Brown – are Democrats, which means the November 4th election is moot. Unfortunately, that also means that the folks who live in the 11th Hampden District are actually unlikely to see much change in their neighborhoods, regardless of who wins on Tuesday. That’s because the winner will likely vote for the same legislation, same programs, and same special interests that have been served up in the District for the past few decades.

I have to say that, overall, the race for this seat has been a bit disappointing. When the challengers first announced their candidacies, sparks of controversy were flying. Chelan Brown’s non-profit group, AWAKE, was under the gun for having a registered Level 3 sex offender attend a school event. (Although perhaps the principal of that school, Kevin McCaskill – also an AWAKE member – should have taken the brunt of that heat.) Then came candidate Lorenzo Gaines’ challenge to Brown’s residency in the District. And finally, the Brown website “hacking” debacle.

But then summer came, and POOF, no more glaring headlines. Brown kept up her campaigning antics – with rallies outside Swan’s headquarters on State Street, for example – but people seemed to notice less and less as the weeks went by. The young candidate even tried to set up a debate for the three office-seekers, but nobody besides her wanted to show. (Perhaps she should have had a debate anyway. What entertainment that would have been! Brown calmly stating her platform, then turning and looking over to an empty podium, patiently awaiting her opponent’s rebuttal…)

Win or lose, Chelan Brown would be doing herself a huge favor by surrounding herself with better people. She will need them if she is ever to lift herself to higher plateaus – to separate herself from the dark cloud of mismanagement and back-door dealing that has plagued the neighborhoods of the 11th District for far too long. Unfortunately, this is probably not going to happen. Like a football star who can’t leave behind his troublesome friends – and is eventually dragged down by them, Brown’s future will be forever hitched to the questionable characters she has chosen to be loyal to.

Of the three candidates, Gaines is probably the sharpest, Swan the most politically experienced, and Brown the most entertaining.

We shall see which virtue wins out on Tuesday.


The Springfield Towing Alliance (STA) continues to deny wrong-doing in their contract non-compliance battle with the city. Appearing on Bax & O’Brien last week, Bob McCollum said that the audit report was inaccurate, and that the head of the Audit Department, Mark Ianello, simply doesn’t know enough about towing procedures to be writing up a report on it.

McCollum said that the problem lies with the very first finding in the audit report. He had said in an earlier Republican story that the tow numbers were off, and if only Ianello had come to them (the STA) and asked for records, they could have straightened out this little misunderstanding. Unfortunately for the STA, the audit report was going by records that the STA was contractually required to remit to the city. They apparently did not do this properly (per audit report findings #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6). And if there was any other service performed by the STA that would make up for any shortfalls, then perhaps they should have provided that information, as well, in order to avoid this current unpleasantness.

On the second matter brought up during the radio interview, McCollum states that it would be illegal to submit CORI/SORB checks to the city (via the Springfield Police Department). Apparently, McCollum hasn’t stopped by the State’s online FAQ regarding CORI checks and who gets to see them. Paragraph 5 of the FAQ category “one’s own CORI” reads rather clearly that the SPD can review CORI reports:

5. Who gets to see my record and how much do they get to see?

A: That depends on who the requesting party is and the degree of authorization they have to request and receive criminal history information. The general public may request and receive from this agency publicly accessible conviction information. In addition, a party may be certified as a criminal justice agency, or as an agency that is statutorily mandated to receive CORI. Furthermore, an agency or individual may be certified to receive information because it has been determined that it is in the public’s interest for them to have this information. Degrees of access to CORI are determined by the Board, and may vary from an agency receiving all criminal history information to only conviction information.

Folks can count on continued accusations and fact-deflections as this ugly episode reaches a climax in the coming days. The STA has just a few days to come into compliance with the seventeen contract issues it’s been found in violation of. The STA is unlikely to do this, but they’ll probably be slinging denials and pointing fingers defiantly ’til the bitter end.

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5 Responses to Decision Times

  1. if you read the press release on masslive then do all the math tht STA has 5 days to come up with 3/4 of a million dollars, plus there are other undisclosed amounts. There are also other requirments that they have only 5 days to comply. to me it seems like mission impossibe. But i guess thats what you get for “stealing” from the city because thats what they are essentially doing.

    spfld resident
    September 15, 2008 at 11:25 am

  2. I am always suspicious of anything Bob McCollum is involved in.

    September 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

  3. I’ve never seen a more unqualified bunch of candidates get elected and elected by the lowest turnout possible…the reason, the vast majority of the people who live in Springfield are too detached from earning a living, unorganized and marginalized by the very few who do vote and know how to make the “system” work for them.

    I’m not going to single out any specific candidate – the vast majority are third rate individuals who could never survive in the private sector; hence, the back door deals, taxes unpaid, sex offenders who pose as campaign aides, getting state taxpayer monies for colleagues (very quietly, state funds for family and friends through bogus community organizations with high sounding ideals…the good news, they can all be beat…so to those candidates who had no opposition this time, don’t get too comfortable…the good news, all of you have left a trail of tears, all of you should simply resign for the tragic legacy you have left behind in this city…there is a chance, a small one, but a chance, that most of you will be given notice soon to step aside. Stay tuned.

    September 18, 2008 at 10:24 am

  4. omg, blah blah blah blah. People talk like this all the time after an election. Well there is a city election coming up next year. The race more or less starts after November. People can run for Mayor, City Council and School Committee. Its a difficult process. You have go door to door. You have to ask people to sign a petition to put your name on a ballot. You have to articulate why you are running for public office and why you would make a good candidate do the job well.

    Its easy to say someone is dumb or to criticize them from outside the arena. But step into and feel what its like.

    The name calling is easy, but then many times, you are going to meet people that genuinely need your help. If you are experienced with government, you will know the people that you can help and those you can’t right away. If know nothing about government, you will feel the crush of disillusionment at how little you really can do.

    There is only so much one can do as a politician and until you have been there in some capacity to know the limits an office has… you don’t know.

    Joseph Fountain
    September 19, 2008 at 6:58 am

  5. It seems to me that there is reverse discrimination running rampant in Springfield. Any other business would have been booted out months ago. Did I mention that they STA should not have been given the contract in the first place as they did not meet the qualifications required. It’s no wonder people are leaving the city in droves.

    MaryAnn Alexander
    October 15, 2008 at 9:04 am