Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Do You Think?

Kenneth M. O’Brien

The election is over.

The incoming Southbridge Town Council will consist of Denise Clemence, David Langevin, David Livengood, Darlene Marcucci, Laurent McDonald, Catherine Nikolla, Pamela Regis, Lawrence Spinelli and Conrad Vandel.

Who do you think should be Chairman, and why?

Who do you think should be Vice-Chairman, and why?

What should be the council’s first priority and what should they do about it?

How should the council deal with the report of the Charter Review Committee and their recommendations and why?

Speak now or forever hold your piece!

The O’Zone is giving you a voice before the back room deals are made.

 Use it!


  1. Who I think and who will become Chair and Vice-Chair are two different things. I would like to see Larry McDonald as Chair since he has the ability to conduct himself properly. He is also familiar with Robert's Rules, etc. I think that Dave Langevin might make a good Vice-Chairman. What I am really looking for is someone that can handle themselves professionally and I think Dave is a good choice for that.

    I have a feeling that Denise and Cathy are going to be Chair/Vice-Chair.

    As for the first priority of the Council would be to set goals for the Town Manager (either as a whole or through a subcommittee, I'm not sure of the process).

    Regarding the Charter Review, whether it be approved or not, at least have it discussed publically. The Charter is the document that represents the people and they have a right to have it reviewed.

  2. A chairman should always be selected on the basis of their knowledge of the rules, charter, bylaws. That, however, is rarely the case. Laurent McDonald clearly has mastered the rules but is mocked by the (now) majority for knowing them. While attending the budget meetings, I sat behind several department heads who mocked him for knowing the rules. Comments such as "Why do we even have a lawyer, if he's always spouting off rules?" And, "He missed his calling as a lawyer (snicker,, snicker) - he should quit the council." Funny how the very thing that is the main qualification of a chairperson is the same thing that's ridiculed by the opposing side.

    I think that Pam Regis might make the next best Vice Chair. I disagree with just about everything she says, but at least she maintains decorum and can articulate an argument, unlike the rest of the group. You shouldn't be a chairperson, if you've never learned respect and common decency. That eliminates about 4 others I can think of.

  3. Ken
    Truthfully it really dosnt make a differance who is chair.. Darlene would be the best but I am sure her job would make it diffcult for her to do it properly. One of the first things to do is work on the charter review report. Former Chairman Lazo sat on this way to long, he should have brought this to council a long time ago after the charter the council should work to dismanle the BOH and Liquor Board and bring people in that is going to work for the town residents and not for personel agaendas and for thier buddies. But regardless lets get on with town business and move forward.

  4. Pam would be okay, it's just that with her job she isn't always able to attend the meetings. This would put more pressure on the Chair (if she were elected Vice-Chair) or more pressure on the Vice-Chair if she were elected Chair to attend meetings.

  5. I agree with Raciel that Larry McDonald would have made it as a Lawyer. I think that Denise especially uses Robert's Rules when it is to her advantage, not necessarily for the good of the Town. Larry doesn't use the rules to suit himself, I guess that's why he isn't liked.

  6. What are your thoughts Ken?

  7. Ken, having been On the Charter Review Committee, I'm a bit teed off that since September, it's sat idle.

    I remember being rushed in to sign it, and then?


    So, although I hope that they forward it on to the legislature as is, I am no longer opposed to letting the people vote on it with our next election.

    It's waited this long, it can wait longer.

  8. You’ve asked what I think, so here goes.

    Given the political realities, I think that Darlene Marcucci would be the best choice for Chairman. She has the experience on the council and has demonstrated a good degree of restraint and moderation in dealing with highly charged issues. I may not have always agreed with her, but I usually respected her.

    While I think it beggars reality, I think that if the majority is truly interested in healing old rifts and working for the town, they would be well advised to make Butch McDonald Vice-Chair. His command of rules and protocol coupled with a penchant for thorough research would be an asset to the Chair.

    As far as the top priority, I would make it economic development. Get off the dime on expedited permitting. Hire an economic development director who knows how to deal with the corporate world at the highest levels and can package and market what assets we have. Turn the grant writing over to some low level functionary. Not only is it mostly boilerplate, the Feds are planning to cut the available funds in half next year.

    As regards the Charter review, we went through a year of open meetings that the public was invited to attend. The only real “interest” was for a couple of televised sessions that were obviously stacked by one interest group. At this point, I would advise a simple up or down vote on the whole package and let’s move on.

  9. Hi Ken.

    Thank you for allowing me to post on your new website, and congratulations on the objective way you are running it.

    As you know, I was the Recorder for the year-long review of the Town Charter. This review is called for by the Town Charter itself, which mandates a review of the Town Charter every five years. In accordance with the Charter, the Chairman of the Town Council appointed a five-member committee consisting of Gary Fontaine, Monique Gregoire-Lefebvre, Dennis Martinek, Larry "Butch" McDonald, and Ken O'Brien. It should be noted that in addition to these five, Southbridge resident Mrs. Evelyn Petrelli was present at (all of?) the meetings.

    The committee at its first meeting elected Butch McDonald as Chairman and Gary Fontaine as Vice Chair.

    The meetings were planned and scheduled by the Chairman to occur about every two weeks, for a year - the Charter in fact restricting this review to one year. The schedule was laid out to spend a meeting on each of the 14 sections of the Charter, as well as four(?) public hearings, and then extra meetings scheduled at the end to hammer down the details.

    The meetings were scheduled and run by the Chair, and in his absence by the Vice Chair.

    I volunteered to be the Recorder for this board about four or six weeks into the process. I had heard that the Chair was writing his own minutes, and I thought I could apply my talents to something as a volunteer in the community, instead of it just being part of my job as a town employee. For me it was a learning experience where I could be useful.

    I attended all of the meetings, except where I had a conflict with my commitment to the School Committee (around 6 or 7 times), or when I was on vacation (once). In those instances I asked the Local Access Director Paul Zotos to film the meetings for me, so that I could review them later and write the minutes from watching the CD. Paul Graciously did, except one time when he was unavailable, and I asked Jim Sottile on short notice if he would do it, and he did so graciously.

    part one..

  10. part 2.....

    So in effect I saw all of the meetings, with enough clarity to write the minutes for all but the first two (written instead by Butch) - all the minutes by the way are available for review at the Town Clerk's office.

    I would like to testify that I observed all five committee members contributing to the effort. What I mean by this is that, while none of them made it to every meeting, all of them were at most of the meetings. All of them also contributed at these meetings - no real wallflowers among the five members, if someone had something to say, they were allowed to say it and they did. They did not always agree with each other. They did not tend to gather along voting bloc lines on any consistent basis. They debated (argued?) randomly amongst each other. Also, during the debate they sometimes changed their minds.

    The debate went through each chapter of the Charter. In several instances, when the discussion was scheduled to talk about the scope of town leadership, such as the Town Manager, the Town Clerk, or the Town Treasurer, the current occupants of those roles attended the meetings and spoke freely.

    In addition, a number of other people were in attendance at any number of the meetings or the public hearings, including Councilor Regis at a number of meetings, as well as Council Chairman Lazo. I seem to remember John Pulawski at a few of them. I remember Monique Manna attending at least one. Stephanie Demartino was at a few. There were others that right now I can't remember their names. At the public hearing George Chenier spoke, as well as Mike Murray. Gus Steeves of the SEN attended many of the meetings, only once or twice as reporter, the rest as a Townie, where he wasn't shy about offering an opinion. Peter Ramirez, who was one members of the original Charter Review Commission in 2002 or 2003 also came to a meeting and offered advice.

    Town Attorney Rob Caprera and Attorney and Southbridge resident Mike Colognesi were present at the final meeting. Attorney Colognesi was one of the principal drafters of the first Town Charter effective in 2004, and he offered his reflections on how the Charter turned out versus the intent of the original drafters, some of his statements being described in the minutes.

    The meetings were advertised by the Chairman of the Committee in the local paper, on the local access channel, and other places, to try to encourage public attendance and participation.

  11. Does anyone know the protocol on the Charter if it's ammended? Does it then go back to the people? Ken wrote a great piece on what they will most likely do, especially now that they have a super-majority. Some of the changes frighten me. Do the voters get a say once it's ammended?

  12. part 3.....

    As of now the entire year's effort is as described in the minutes, and the recommended changes are outlined in the red line document, compiled by Mr. McDonald. This redline document is the primary document that outlines the recommended changes that came out of a year's worth of biweekly Committee meetings.

    This document, in the next step in the process, is to go to the Town Council for review. This presumably should have happened sooner, when it was fresher in the minds of those who had attended the meetings and partipated on the committee. It didn't, but here we are now, on the cusp of it going forward hopefully in the near future.

    Ken, I just wanted to offer this up for those in your audience who are not up to speed on the whole process.

    I believe when the new Council is seated and a Chair is elected, they will probably start thinking about scheduling a Committee of the Whole meeting to look through the recommendations.

    I hope that everyone will treat this thing soberly, and fairly. I always think it is incumbent on the Town Council to take seriously the findings and input of their sub boards, to do otherwise is to risk an ingratitude. I know that the air is politically poisoned right now, but the process had to happen, as mandated by the Charter, and I believe the Committee did an exceptional job reviewing the Town Charter. I've seen my share of meetings, and these meetings were organized (primarily because of Butch), and productive. For the most part I found the debate to be really 'above-board,' and I admit it is hard for me to define what that means. There was spirited talk at times, but nothing that anyone took umbrage to for more than a minute or so.

    Because of this, I hope the new Council will put aside their grudges for one meeting, and in particular the new shining and pure newbies Mrs. Marcucci and Mr. Langevin and the almost newbie Mr. Spinelli will really review the document and consider soberly the recommended changes, without being distracted too much by the recent political clamor.

    I think it is the duty of the Council to do this, in order to fulfill the mandates of the Town Charter.

    Thanks Ken for allowing me to review the status of this process, and to offer an opinion.

    Good luck with the blog, and again, so far I really respect how inclusive you are, and how objective you're keeping it.

    All the best,

    Max G.

    p.s., if there is anyone out there who wants to follow along and be prepared for the meeting, just get yourself a copy of the redline changes as prepared by Butch McDonald, which show the new language interposed on the existing language, for easy comparison. This also contains an excellent overview of the process as written by the Chairman of the Committee.

    p.s.s. Butch if you're reading this I hope I did a fair description of what happened.

  13. It was Debbie Gregoire-Lefebvre not Monique Gregoire-Lefebvre.

  14. Right, sorry for the typo, and thanks for the correction.

  15. Thanks for that great review, Max. And thanks for your contributions. But I still have a question on the process, if anyone can offer. I meant that once the Charter Review recommendations are submitted to the Council for review, if THEY then further ammend, does it go to back to the people? If not, does that mean that 9 peoople (The Council) can pretty much do whatever they want to write/rewrite the Charter for the town, despite the well-thought out and thorough process that Max described?

  16. Based on some of the comments and insight I'm changing my Vice Chair selection to Ms. Marcucci. I don't agree with her on many things, but she does show independence.

  17. Raciel, it should be noted by all that both Mrs. Marcucci and Mr. Langevin had the wisdom to vote against the landfill conversion & expansion, so please don't expect either one of these experienced Councilors to serve a Clemence pawns.

    I heard that the vote to loot over a half $million from the landfill enterprise fund is going to be challenged on the 11th, and if the new Council reverses that unlawful decision, let's agree that they are off on the right foot.

  18. Max:
    Thank you for your detailed contributon to our conversation, your yeoman-like service to the Charter Review Committee, and your compliments.
    I will attempt to live up to your vote of confidence.

  19. I will never vote again in the Town of Southbridge! This form of government does not work! To put someone back in who lied under oath in court is a sin!
    Lady Democrat

  20. Don't worry Anomymous, when I called the AG to complain about the stealing of over $500,000. and how one of the Councilors laughed as they broke the law, claiming that that won't put them in jail, the AG's people already knew about it, and they were very concerned.

    Mrs. Marcucci is the senior Councilor in terms of time served, and she understands the primary issue that plagues this community. Since any of five members of the Council may be indicted for taking the landfill enterprise money unlawfully, Chairman Marcucci, with Butch McDonald as Vice Chair, would be a balanced way to prove that we no longer have a divided council

  21. On election night I became nauseated with the town's results. The only decent human being on the Council is Butch McDonald and he deserves to be Chairman. He does his homework. As to your selection for Chairman, I disagree whole heartedly with you. Mrs. Marcucci has done nothing but run up legal bills in excess of what this town could pay in her past performances and games to hurt others. Remember the song "the back stabbers" it is quite fitting. Her primary issues were to sue residents personally in this town and then cry her alligator tears. My suggestion to her would be to go to church and ask for forgiveness. How she can fool some is beyond me. Because I know the truth! Please be advised that the AG's office is looking into more than funding issues in this town.
    Lady Democrat

  22. John P. FitzgeraldJuly 2, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    What the losing side just doesn't seem to get, based on reading your anonymous comments here, is that there is no reason in the world by Butch McDonald would be appointed chair, vice-chair, or even a chaise lounge.

    You can complain all that you want about Denise Clemence. Everything you say about her is true about Butch. He is the equivalent of Clemence: boorish, bullish, overly-opinionated, full of himself, and seems to think that nobody other than himself knows a damn thing.

    Getting back to my point, the new majority, whoever they are comprised of, will move forward with a chair and vice-chair that prevents any of the old regime from being in a position of power.

    McDonald won't even get a subcommittee chair, so stop hoping.

    There are only three people in consideration: Nikolla, Clemence and Livengood, and some shape or form of these three will be the new leadership for the next year.

    So please, so your whining, opining and see the silver lining.

    A chance to start fresh.

    By the way, the stupid implications of the State Ethics Committee getting involved is laughable, as it doesn't even make sense.

    Sounds like more crackpot conspiracies from Polaski.

  23. Looks like Cathy's posing as John P. Fitzgerald. Yeah, those are her opinions, her tone, her sarcasm, and her voice. Seems to me she had too much wine.

  24. John P. Fitzgerald? Can you please mention just ONE conspiracy that I have ever brought before the Council? Just one please?

    There are a few malcontents that have enjoyed interpreting what I have consistently been saying for four years-for example, that I am for closing the landfill. The facts are that the pro-landfill characters plan is to use up the landfill within the decade- the purpose of those of us against the landfill conversion is to ensure the landfill last another 40 years by not using it all up in an imprudent manner.

    It is true that I have asked that we ban the importation of contaminated soil, such as soil with unacceptable levels of lead and mercury or other contaminates.

    Another fact for the uninformed. Despite the outrageous story in the local paper that claimed the landfill flair was shut down by somebody, on the night of that flare failure, I was at a Wedding at the time of THAT failure. There have been DOZENS of flare failures, but no wild conspiracy theories by the operator or the Police about how those failures occurred.

  25. The government established by the people has failed Southbridge.
    Lady Democrat

  26. The government managed by the town manager's and their obedient attorneys is dysfunctional and recent actions verify that it is also illegal due to the landfill enterprise fund heist.

    The town manager, the former Chairman of the BoH, and the health department director have prevented the Board of Health from fining Casella the $Millions that they should be fined for their various violations.

    If the town can't oversee Casella and also go by the law regarding how our money is spent, it is time for the State to come in and take control of this mess!

  27. John P. FitzgeraldJuly 4, 2011 at 6:58 AM

    Mr. Pulawski, every trip to the podium is another adventure--into the Twilight Zone. This one got paid off by Casella, no, that one did. The town cares more about money than the health of its citizens.

    Your caricature is turning into reality.

    Whoever thinks the state cares enough to get involved is all talk.Please. Even our elected state officials stay out of our business, but since Anonymous said it, I'll wait.

    Still waiting. Still waiting.

  28. John P. FitzgeraldJuly 4, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    As a footnote, perhaps Councilor McDonald, Esquire, could help the state with its investigation? Lots of laws to be interpreted, and a big opportunity to show people how boring Bob's (Robert's) Rules really are. Maybe he and Clemence could have a debate so we can see who is smarter and more knowledgeable? I predict neither one will win, since, like Michael and Janet Jackson, they're one and the same person.

  29. Never once has Pulowski stated that anyone was paid off, and on a number of occasions I have witnessed him discouraging such talk at meetings.

    And it is obvious that the Town is more concerned about helping Casella than it is in protecting our health.

    Care more about money? What money? We made as much with the old Wood Recycling contract , maybe more then! Ha, Pulowski is right. We aren't getting the promised money, we still have the liability, and the Recyclebank and free trash pickup turned out to be a joke.

  30. Ken,

    It certainly is different being on the other side!

    I have to say, it's intersting to watch, see and hear all of the comments here.

    Some are productive, some are interesting, and some are just...well, a little out there.

    If you asked me how long I've been done with my blogging, I couldn't even tell you. One month? Two?

    Watching through a different set of eyes and listening through a different set of ears, well...I feel less attached to the political beat, however, for me, that's a good thing.

    All I can say to everyone that visits this site, since I know Ken well, is that he is open to all views, and has managed this site well.

    It's not easy when people get personal (believe me, I know!), but this site can really be a place for people to share ideas and thoughts, and not get into the personal.

    That was my one regret in hindsight.

    So anyway, keep up the good job!


  31. Dennis:
    Thanks for your comment.

    However, I am truly saddened by the pathetic response to the questions that I posed.

    Counting yours, there were thirty comments.

    Only two offered a suggestion as to what the Council should do. One of those comments was mine in response to an inquiry.

    Virtually all the others were an exercise in venal, small-minded criticism of others or myself.

    If this is not indicative of the problem that exists, then I have no idea what is.

    As I’ve said before, quoting George Bernard Shaw, “Democracy is a system of government that guarantees that people get what they deserve.”

    Or, to indulge in another quote, this time from Walt Kelly – the author of the comic strip POGO, “We have met the enemy, and they is us!”

  32. I hear you.

    Well, as for who should be Chairman and vice, it's out of our hands, so whoever it is, I just hope we can make some progress.

    First order of business?

    Vote on the Charter Reviews recommendations, just to bring it to closure.

    Then, work towards ending the win/lose atmosphere we've had for too long.

    Compromise when possible, it's not about one side winning and the other side losing.

    Let's focus on the town winning.

    My thoughts.

  33. It doesn't matter who's chairman or not, provided the work of the town gets done.

    Focus on:

    1. Charter recommendations.
    2. Mission of this council.
    3. Site assignment, no matter how uncomfortable, clearly explaining how the people are benefiting from this deal, and what that is in dollars and cents.
    4. Plan to stop raising taxes.
    5. How to force budget cuts by ten percent.


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