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!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tea Party Dilemma – Constitution or Debt Ceiling?

Kenneth M. O’Brien

The Tea Party ignorati are confronted with a new dilemma.

We all know that they are devoted to a strict interpretation of, and adherence to, the Constitution of the United States,

We also know that they are dead-set against any increase in the current debt ceiling. Never mind that the increase in the debt ceiling is to pay for debts already incurred.

These two virtually religious convictions are turning out to be directly contradictory.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Southbridge Election Results

Kenneth M. O’Brien

For Council It’s Marcucci, Langevin and Nikolla.

For School Committee It’s Woodruff, Dominko and O’Leary.

Southbridge Town Council

Fontaine            1,012

Langevin            1,116

Lazo                 512

Logan                628

Marcucci            1,259

Nikolla            1,025

Southbridge School Committee

Dominko           964

McLoughlin      699     

O’Leary            943

Twomey            932

Woodruff            1,048

Thanks to all who voted.

Now that the shouting is over, we expect progress and an end to stagnation.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Southbridge, MA, here we go again!

By Dennis Martinek

Vote Tuesday, June 28, 2011

8 AM to 8PM
If you need a ride to the polls, call

It has not been an easy year for Southbridge, MA.
The town has been the subject of a Tea Party group from out of town getting involved in a district race for State Representative that resulted in what many call a racist billboard being placed in the heart of town, a heavily Hispanic area of town to boot.
Southbridge has a large population that comes from Puerto Rico, and the two groups involved in "encouraging" voters to show an ID to vote (despite being illegal to ask for an ID, they didn't seem to get the fact that a) in Southbridge, outsiders are not welcome in Southbridge's political process, and b) Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and have been, since 1917.
So, like Sarah Palin before them, the Tea Party Group appears to be growing less significant every time they speak, as they target the wrong people.
Read More

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make It Trifecta Tuesday

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Vote Tuesday, June 28, 2011
8 AM to 8PM
If you need a ride to the polls, call

Fontaine, Lazo, Logan.

Those are the names to vote for in Tuesday’s Southbridge election for town council.

The reasons are crystal clear.

For over ten years two groups have dominated the Southbridge town council. The first time they called themselves the “Restore Confidence Group”. These days they call themselves the “Future Of Southbridge”.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Shrinking Pie In The Sky

Kenneth M. O’Brien

It just keeps getting better!

In his interview in the Southbridge Evening News of June 24, Town Council candidate David Langevin remarked that he “… expects it to take around five years for the industrial park to start really showing development. Such a delay, however, can be a plus because it provides time for planning and getting financing in order…”

So, the prospect is that it will likely be another five years before the vaunted industrial park project might show something. What will that be, 35 years of chasing that rainbow?

Never mind that the “industrial park access road” doesn’t go to the proposed industrial park site. It only goes as far as the landfill.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ain’t That A Crime?

Kenneth M. O’Brien

To begin by answering my own question, “I don’t know for sure.”

What I can do is provide you with the facts as I know them and allow you to formulate your own opinion. Perhaps those among you with even greater knowledge can do even more.

On April 19, 2011, The Southbridge Evening News published a front-page article titled. “Town releases top delinquents on water, sewer bills”.

In that article, the town manager was quoted as follows: “One of the things this year that has come to my attention was, ‘What can we do for a collection rate?’ said Town Manager Christopher Clark. ‘If we send out 4,200 bills to all of the customers in town and for every 100 bills, about 80 percent of them pay them on time. Four percent of people pay them within two weeks of it being due. It was brought to my attention and I was asked how efficient was it and how can we do better?’”

Now, at first glance, this would appear to be a reasonable matter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Voice

“A Concerned Citizen”
Guest Contributor

At the June 6, 2011 Town Council meeting, two current Councilors made much out of nothing.

In fact, based on an "anonymous" letter, these two Councilors have called for an investigation.

Based solely on rumor, innuendo, and slanderous lies, these two councilors thought it important enough to waste the resources of the town, apparently from our Rolls Royce fund, simply to try and help their friends in their bid to win an election.

Naturally, our local paper didn't see fit to look any further than the garbage that was spoon fed to them.

Had they chosen to do a little investigative reporting, they might have questioned:

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sleaze Factor In Southbridge Politics

Kenneth M. O’Brien

It would be nice if politics were transparent.

In reality, we all know that it is not.

But, when there is an organized effort at deceptive rumor-mongering, then it deserves to be exposed.

Regrettably, for reasons that I have addressed previously, that is unlikely to happen locally.

Anybody who has not been living under a rock in Southbridge for the last five years knows that there is a clear division that is represented on the town council.

In my experience, one of these groups has acted in a concerted manner. Increasingly, that group has also acted in a manner that, in my opinion, is both deceptive and unscrupulous.

The other group reminds me of nothing more than the famous words of Will Rogers. “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” That is not to say that members of this group are all Democrats. They are in fact split 50/50 between registered Democrats and Republicans.

Puncturing The Conservative Ideological Balloon

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Last week I published a post titled “Must See TV” that extolled the virtues of Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday morning program on CNN, GPS.

A self-announced Reagan conservative, Zakaria has taken issue with the current course of American conservatism.

In June 16th’s Time Magazine he puts forward a concise and factual indictment of the absurdity of current Conservative ideological foolishness.

Just as I believe that his Sunday morning program is must see TV, so this article, “How Today’s Conservatism Lost Touch With Reality”, is must read journalism.

Coming Tonight On The O’Zone

Kenneth M. O’Brien

From the only site that brought you the State Police Report on the leak of Southbridge Town Council Executive Session minutes;

From the only site that reported that Southbridge had the highest property tax rate among surrounding towns;

From the only site that showed how Southbridge property values were declining faster than most local communities;

From the only site that showed how unemployment in Southbridge was outstripping the averages for Worcester County.

A new report that voters will want to know and discuss before next week’s town election.

So, after 10 PM, turn to The O’Zone before you watch the local late news or The Daily Show.

Be among the first to be in the know!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Republican Ryan's Budget Plan Will Affect YOU!

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently released an analysis by Congressional District of the impact of the Ryan budget plan passed by the Republican dominated U. S. House of Representatives.

For the Second Congressional District of Massachusetts (which includes Southbridge), represented by Congressman Richard Neal, the analysis shows that it will:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Trinity Catholic Academy Students Raise Funds For Tornado Victims

Kenneth M. O’Brien


Students at Trinity Catholic Academy in Southbridge, led by 11 year olds Grace Martinek and Anabelle Szydlik, have banded together to help victims of the recent tornado.

As of June 16, they had already raised $400.

I hope that those of you who are able will donate to this cause. It will not only help those in need, it will help instill the lessons of volunteerism in our younger generation.


Donations should be sent to:
Trinity Catholic Academy

Attn: Tornado Victims Fund

11 Pine Street

Southbridge, MA 01550

View The Students' Slide Presentation
(Click on the above link)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mitt Romney – Voter Fraud?

Kenneth M. O’Brien

As I’ve written in a number of forums, the recent spate of voter ID initiatives is nothing more than a thinly veiled Republican effort at voter suppression.

We have seen the template laid out in Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Florida and numerous other states.

First, you pass a law requiring voters to produce an official ID when voting. Then you pass a law that defines what constitutes an acceptable form of ID. In so doing, you make sure that the required ID’s are those least available among traditionally Democratic voting blocs.

We have recently had a taste of the tactics that these groups employ here in Southbridge.

Of course, this whole agenda is justified under the bogeyman rubric of preventing voter fraud. This despite the fact that extensive research by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School has, after extensive study, failed to find any evidence that voter fraud exists to any meaningful degree.

The ultimate irony is that reporting in recent days has highlighted the possible fraudulent voting practices of GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

NOTICE: Town Council Candidates Forum Rescheduled

The Town Council Candidates Forum has been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 22, at 6:30 pm in the Town Council Chambers.

The move was necessitated by the scheduling of a special regional meeting for tornado victims.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Activist Group Starting Up in Southbridge! -- You're invited

Raciel Fernandez
Guest Contributor

There is an information vacuum in Southbridge that has perpetuated the discontent, apathy, complacency, or just plain ignorance in the town’s citizenry.  In order to fill this vacuum, a new activist group is forming from the ground up.     The goals of the group are to be an organized entity to give a voice to the issues that aren’t discussed, or are portrayed from only one side’s point of view – usually, those in power.  We will offer another perspective and present facts to a broader audience.  We will hold our elected and appointed officials’ feet to the fire and not treat them with kid gloves as our local news outlets routinely do.      We will demand that critical issues that impact the town and its neighbors negatively are addressed out in the open.  After all, open and honest dialog is at the heart of a democracy.

“An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.”  Thomas Jefferson

“An informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.”  George Washington

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

UPDATE: The Southbridge Ballot SNAFU

Kenneth M. O’Brien

$1,543 – One Thousand, Five Hundred, Forty-Three Dollars.

That’s what it will cost taxpayers to print corrected ballots for the June 28 Town Election.

The issue was first reported in a prior post on this site (Breaking News: The Latest Snafu At The Southbridge Town Clerk's Office.) To date neither the Southbridge Evening News nor the Worcester Telegram & Gazette has reported the matter.

The estimated cost was provided by the office of Southbridge’s Finance Director.

It does not include the cost of mailing new absentee ballots.

Response to inquiries to other town officials have detailed the plan for correcting this latest black eye on the management of this town office – once the hallmark of integrity in the cesspool of Southbridge politics.

New ballots are being printed that will be distributed at polling places on June 28.

In that regard, no issue should arise (we hope).

As regards absentee ballots, new ballots will be mailed to those who have so requested. They will be of a different color and will contain a notice regarding the prior error and the need to submit a new ballot.

Absentee ballots received in the interim will be, I am told, “trashed”.

Any further developments will be available here at The O’Zone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Alienator – Resurrection

Kenneth M. O’Brien

After being tossed by MSNBC following their acquisition by Comcast, Keith Olbermann is returning to TV.
Next Monday, June 20, Olbermann’s show “Countdown” will premiere on Current TV at 8pm Eastern Time.

For viewers of Dish Network, it will appear on Channel 196.

Viewers of other networks will have to check their server’s listings.

Liberals can rejoice!

Their Sean Hannity has returned.

Must See TV

Kenneth M. O’Brien

I’ve always been fond of a quote from Adlai Stevenson that goes, “Eggheads of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your yokes.” (Extra credit for those who can explain the irony).

No doubt about it, I’ve always been a nerd, geek, wonk – take your pick.

But I like to think that I’ve always had an open mind.

While I’m known as one of, perhaps, three Liberals living in Southbridge, I’ve always welcomed informed points of view that varied from my own.

I remember that way back in high school one of my favorite TV programs was Firing Line, moderated by William F. Buckley, Jr.

It is a wonderful example of what is missing from conventional television programs that purport to provide serious political analysis.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Will Weinergate Cost Summer Jobs?

Kenneth M. O’Brien

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

So observed Shakespeare.

The logical corollary is that a skunk by any other name would smell as foul.

In the all-pervasive world of commerce, THE BRAND is everything.

And the name IS the brand.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Let Your Voice Be Heard?"

By Dennis

Guest Contributor

One thing that politicians don't seem to realize is when they become a caricature of themselves.

In Southbridge, Councilor Clemence is a prime example of that ignorance.

The self-proclaimed know-it all (Robert's Rules), who's one of us, what with her helicopter, her Forrest Gump like way of getting into any photo-op to further her political ambitions (see Brown, Scott), fails to recognize her arrogance and ignorance when it comes to the issues.

Not the brightest bulb in the pack (and she's only up against the likes of Nikkola, Regis, Detective Livengood, and Spinelli), she thinks more of herself than the people in town.  She's quite the legend in her own mind.

Breaking News: The Latest Snafu At The Southbridge Town Clerk's Office

Kenneth M. O'Brien

The next Southbridge town election is scheduled for June 28.

As a result, absentee ballots have been mailed out to those who have requested them.

Presumably, this means that official ballots for use at polling places have also been printed or are in the process of being printed (though this has yet to be confirmed).

Therefore, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the ballots that have been issued have a serious error.

In the race for Southbridge School Committee there are four candidates. They are incumbents Tanja Dominko, Thomas E. O'Leary and Patricia Woodruff along with newcomer Tammy M. Twomey.

Of these four candidates, three are supposed to be elected to fill vacancies that will exist on the Committee.

However, the ballots that have gone out, and submitted to the Office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State, contain the following instruction regarding the School Committee race:

Vote for no more than two.

That line should read, Vote for no more than three!

The possible consequences?

Having to incur the costs of reprinting all these ballots;
Having to re-mail all of the absentee ballots;
Having to deal with absentee ballots submitted prior to any corrections;
The potential for having the School Committee election judged invalid if the fourth position differs from the third by a number less than the number of erroneous ballots submitted.

We'll be waiting to see how this issue evolves and how it is dealt with.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Economic Recovery Plan For America

Kenneth M. O’Brien

More than fifteen million Americans are suffering the dire consequences of unemployment.

In the midst of this crisis, we are held hostage to a battle of political ideologies.

The political right repeatedly tells us that we must reduce our budget deficit. Their mantra is that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

The political left repeatedly tells us that the Republicans caused this problem by profligate tax cuts and spending during the Bush Administration.

To some extent both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who Owns Your Government?

Free Market Economy in Government

Kenneth M. O’Brien

There are 435 members of the
U. S. House of Representatives.

There are 100 U.S. Senators.

The base salary of either member of Congress is $174,000 per year. There are stipends that depend on chairmanships and leadership positions.

But let’s deal with the base of the rank and file.

The average population of a Congressional district is about 647,000. That means that, on average each congressman is beholden to the taxpayers in their district for about 27 cents of their salary per year.

On the Senate side we have state populations that vary widely. In fact, Wyoming has two Senators like every other state, but only one congressman.

As a result, the tax contribution by the public to senatorial salaries ranges from about 35 cents per Senator in Wyoming to about ½ cent per Senator in California.

There’s an old saying that “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

Just Plain Dumb

Kenneth M. O’Brien
(With apologies to my more
highbrow readers)

Republicans are relishing the fact that Representative Weiner was less than frank.

He is now playing ketchup with the wurst of his hot-dogging failing to pass mustard.

While on the tube staking out his decision to remain in orifice, Weiner denied he had jeopardized his roll as a congressman.

He implied that a lot of his problems would be ignored if he was a Hebrew national.

He then announced he was heading home to Coney Island to have lunch at Nathan’s.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Utility I Hoped For…

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Back in 1973, while a State Legislator, I proposed that the State of Massachusetts fund the development of what I termed “A Statewide Information Utility.”

In 1976-77 I expanded the idea to “A National Information Utility” as part of an application for a White House Fellowship. Having reached the Regional Finalist stage, I was interviewed by a panel of judges. Among them was the late Ella Grasso, then Governor of Connecticut. Her damning critique at the time was. “You don’t really believe that people will read books and magazines on a TV screen, do you?”

Over the years I have seen the concept expand, leading to the Internet we have today.

My deepest regret, however, was that it never truly developed into the universal, free, educational medium that I had envisioned.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Judging Our Town Government – Part II

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Back in 2000 the Southbridge Economic Development Department consisted of one person. Today it has four employees.

How well has this Town Department served our community?

Well, given the 300% increase in their employment, it would seem logical to judge that increase against their effectiveness in improving employment for the town’s residents.

Now, we all know that employment, or conversely, unemployment, does not take place in a vacuum.

It has to be measured against some objective yardstick.

In this case, it would seem reasonable to compare unemployment in Southbridge against the rest of Worcester County.