Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Senator Brown Supports Blunt Rubio Bill

Ken O'Brien

Senator Scott Brown is now a co-sponsor of the Blunt Rubio bill.

Tomorrow the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Blunt Rubio Bill. Senator Scott Brown supports this bill. What would the Blunt Rubio bill do? Some examples. A Christian Scientist could deny all health coverage to all of their employees. A Scientologist could deny any psychiatric care, addiction services or related medication to all of their employees. Where would it end? 

Well, on the bright side, The Church of Christ Scientist would see a dramatic influx of converts from the business community if this bill passes.

UPDATE: Blunt Rubio Amendment Defeated

Romney’s Latest Flip Flop Flip?

Ken O’Brien

While running against Rick Santorum in Michigan, Mitt Romney made the following remarks:

Then today, while campaigning in Ohio he was interviewed on the Ohio News Network and asked about the Blunt Rubio amendment now pending in Congress that would allow any employer to opt out of any form of health insurance coverage for reasons of religious conviction or personal moral belief.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Southbridge Snow and Ice Account

Ken O'Brien

Questions have arisen regarding tonight's town council agenda.

Specifically, questions have arisen about item 13:
13. Vote to approve expenditure of up to an additional $50,000 for snow and ice removal in excess of available appropriations pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 31D.

Here is the current standing of the town's snow and ice removal account:

“Take Back Our Town”

A Film by Paul Zotos & Mike Marketti

Southbridge residents James Marino and James Sottile discuss a petition to return Southbridge to a town meeting/board of selectmen form of government.

Following is the text of the petition:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Silver Bullet for Gas Prices?

There may be a way to lower gas prices almost immediately. The question is, can you live with it?

Ken O’Brien

Do you really want lower gas prices?

Just how far are you willing to let the government go to deliver them?

As I pointed out in an earlier article, the demagoguery of Republican Presidential candidates that are attempting to blame President Obama is simply irrational.

While they attempt to blame rising gas prices on the failure of the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and its delay in approving a variety of offshore drilling permits U. S. oil production has actually increased under the current President.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Local Lamestream Media

Ken O’Brien
Shortly after I started the O’Zone last year, I wrote a piece addressing my opinions on how economic factors shaped the way in which local news was reported.

Among my observations in that article were the following:

… I am going to argue that what has happened to our local press is a function of the process of “co-optation” that has resulted from the economic necessities imposed on traditional newspapers….

Friday, February 24, 2012

Southbridge Town Council Agenda For February 27

FEBRUARY 27, 2012 – 7:00 PM
1. Pledge of Allegiance

2. Roll Call

3. Consider and accept the Council Minutes of Monday, February 6, 2012 Meeting

4. Subcommittee Reports:

(a) General Government
(b) D.P.W.
(c) Education and Human Services
(d) Planning and Development
(e) Protection of Persons and Property
5. Chairwoman’s Announcements

Christian America? My Letter to the Editor

Ken O’Brien

The following letter appeared in today’s Southbridge Evening News:

To the Editor:
OK, Mr. Steeves, I hear you ranting.
 I hear you loud, but not clear.
 You have written two editorials within the last week that make loud and inflammatory statements. I am a dedicated local guy. I am trying to help the community in whatever way I can. People know me and know what kind of a citizen I am. I am also a devout Christian. I would love to address your concerns and misconceptions, but frankly I’m not wholly sure what they are.
 Please use your next editorial to explain, in better detail, what it is that you believe is the problem with this being a Christian nation — which, by the way, is exactly what our founding fathers established us to be.
 You are absolutely right that any religion that is used to coerce, manipulate and otherwise hinder freedom(s) is wrong.
 However, truth is truth. The truth must be acknowledged and adhered to, without overstepping boundaries of compassion, mercy, justice and inalienable rights. Please give me some examples, specifics, of this oppression and manipulation you vaguely refer to and I will gladly discuss them with you.
Bob Chernisky

As one who is becoming tired of the interminable injection of religion into politics at all levels, I could not resist the need to respond.

Jimmy Fallon Does Pearl Jam

Another incarnation from the creator of Tebowie . Eddie Fedder singing Jeremy Lin.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Did The SJC Rule?

Ken O’Brien

According to an article in today’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “The state’s highest court yesterday signed off on its earlier decision denying Sturbridge lawyer Kirstie L. Pecci’s request for a judicial review of the Board of Health’s decision to allow more solid waste into the Barefoot Road landfill.”

But, looking at the online docket report raises some questions.

Entries 21 and 22 on the report read as follows:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If You Can’t Beat’em, Bleed’em

Ken O’Brien

Last Friday I informed you of the tactics of the town and its attorney to delay and intimidate the citizen taxpayers of this town who filed suit relative to the illegal composition of the Board of Health.

Well, despite the fact that the matters at issue are purely a matter of law, they haven’t stopped at attempting to use legal maneuvers to delay a decision and make it difficult, if not impossible, for the citizens who filed this suit to continue.

A short while ago I received the following email from our attorney, Kirstie Pecci:

Barack Obama: Crooner in Chief

Last night at the White House:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Newest Republican Bag Of Gas

Ken O’Brien

The price of gasoline could hit $5 a gallon by Memorial Day.

And it’s all President Obama’s fault.

That’s the latest canard emanating from the Republican talking points broadcaster, Fox News.

 After all, they lost the initiative on the economic issue when there became a clear trend that the economy was improving. It became even more obvious when the fact emerged that the U.S. economy was outpacing European economies that had embraced the kind of austerity policies that Republicans had been advocating.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Will Citizens United Be Reconsidered?

Ken O’Brien
On January 4th I reported on a case decided by the Montana Supreme Court that was viewed by many as challenging the infamous Citizens United case.
Last Friday the U. S. Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the Montana decision.
According to the New York Times article, “The court’s action Friday does not mean the justices eventually will hear the case. Their most likely course might be simply reversing the state court ruling.”
While this is the prevailing opinion, it is one not universally shared by informed sources and insiders.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where No Fan Has Gone Before…

Ken O'Brien

Having focused heavily of late on serious matters, both local and national, I thought it might be nice to lighten the mood.
Having been a fan of Star Trek since it first graced our TV screens in the 1960’s I really enjoyed the following trilogy. Whether an old “trekker” or a newbie, I hope you too will find them as amusing as I did.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Local Education in the 21st Century

Ken O’Brien

Three articles that appeared in the local press this week got me to thinking about where education at the local level is heading.
The most recent appeared today in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and was titled “Local leaders get first tour of new Southbridge school”.
The other two articles appeared in the Southbridge Evening News. On February 17th they published an article with the headline, “DESE slams school improvement process” and on February 13th another front page article informed us that, in Charlton, “School committee discusses impact of virtual schooling”.

Friday, February 17, 2012

…And Justice For?

Ken O’Brien
Somewhat forgotten in the midst of the appalling antics of town government of late have been the developments in certain pending legal matters relating to the Southbridge landfill site assignment and the composition of the town’s Board of Health.
As regards the landfill site assignment, despite the premature crowing of devotees of the current regime, the decision initially rendered by the Massachusetts Supreme Court has been withdrawn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Update: Southbridge Town Manager Wants a New Employee

Ken O’Brien
On January 25th I posted an article titled “Breaking News: Southbridge Town Manager Wants a New Employee”.
In that piece I wrote, “I now have it confirmed by reliable sources within town hall that the town manager has come up with plans for a new position (paid for, presumably, with your tax dollars) that will also reward someone who (in my opinion) showed substantial kindness to the administration in the past.
“The proposal will be to create a part-time director (or whatever title) for the town recreation committee….
“Finally, the same sources confirm that the candidate that the town manager has in mind to recommend is Walter Bird, former Editor of the Southbridge Evening News.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Whole World Is Watching

A Valentine To The O’Zone Readers
Ken O’Brien

One of the frequently overlooked realities about the world wide web is that it is, in fact, worldwide.
Even as inconsequential a site as The O’Zone, once it is published, filters out to an audience that knows no boundaries.
With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to share with you one of the interesting set of statistics that Google provides to its bloggers.

These are reports on where the visitors to our sites are coming from geographically.


The Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities (QVCAH) is seeking artists to participate in the 2nd Annual QVCAH ART WALL.

Southbridge Democrats Elect Delegates to 2012 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention

Delegates to June Convention in Springfield will select candidates for U.S. Senate nomination
On February 11, 2012, Democrats in Southbridge held a caucus to elect delegates to the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s 2012 endorsing convention in Springfield this June.
The caucus, organized by the Southbridge Democratic Town Committee, elected Monika Agnello, Edward Alicea, Gary Fontaine, Maria Fontaine, John Jovan Jr., Linda Jowett, Demetri Kasperson, Paula Kenda, Scott Lazo, Dr. Richard Logan, Dawn Piche and Justin Ryan to represent Democrats in Southbridge at the annual convention. In addition, Committee Chairman Laurent R. McDonald will serve as an ex officio delegate and Javier Melendez will attend as an add-on delegate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Still Tear Up

I Still Tear Up
Ken O’Brien
There have been many tributes to Whitney Houston in the last few days.
However, the one moment in time that I will never forget that was, to me, the distillation of her talent and a profound love of country seems to have received short shrift from the media.
Therefore, I offer my moment from Whitney Houston’s life that I will never forget. It has never been approached, let alone equaled.

Put Up Or Shut Up!

Ken O’Brien
Okay, the results are in.
O’Zone readers had the chance to nominate those people that they would like to see run for Southbridge town council.
Then you had 56 hours to cast your vote for those you would most like to see run.
The results were decisively in favor of three candidates, Dennis Martinek, Gary Fontaine and Shaun Moriarty.
But democracy is not a spectator sport.  As the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
Now that you’ve expressed your desire to see these people run for town council it is up to you to help make it happen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Southbridge Needs Change!

Ken O’Brien
The absolute first priority of any community is the welfare of its citizens.
The ruling majority on the Southbridge town council is answerable to a higher authority – and you can rest assured that it is not the same authority featured in the famous advertisement for Kosher hot dogs.
That higher authority is the economic interest of those who would plunder our town by making it the largest garbage dump in the state, an inflated town bureaucracy that serves to re-elect councilors that take care of their interests, and a council majority attempting to insulate their coopted town manager from removal by changing the charter instituted mandate that a majority of those elected by the people have a voice.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Poll Results Are In

Martinek, Fontaine and Moriarty Favored
Ken O’Brien
131 of you participated in our preference poll for candidates for Southbridge Town Council. That’s about 10% of the turnout in the last town election. While not a representative sample of the overall Southbridge electorate, it nevertheless is indicative of a strong base of support for the candidates who finished among the top three by a wide margin over the remaining nine prospects suggested by O’Zone readers.
Dennis Martinek gained the most votes with 66, followed closely by Gary Fontaine with 62 and Shaun Moriarty with 59.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stop The Unfunded Mandates

Bob Cirba, Guest Contributor

I am curious.
When did we become so jaded that we no longer care about how the system we live within does business?  On Monday the 13th we have the annual Wringing of the Hands where the State reps (Gobi and Durant accompanied by Senator Stephen Brewer) give the State of the State address and tell us (for the fourth year in a row) just how badly we are doing.
Now for my money we could mail this bad boy in since it will once again be the same litany of excuses that we have grown accustomed to and been sedated by.  How did we get here and more to the point, when did this become the standard that we live by?  Take the recent article on the 11.3 million that we spend to bus homeless kids.  Now, I am all about making this an easier transition on these kids since they do NOT choose to be homeless.  Having said that, once again the Feds in their ever knowing wisdom and reach expect the towns and by extension the school district to pick up the tab on all of this.  I have no problem helping these folks out but the Mckinney-Vento program expects the towns to pick up the tab on all of this with zero Fed or State reimbursement.
So where does all of this leave us?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Moriarty Announces Candidacy for Southbridge Town Council

SOUTHBRIDGE — Building on his record of community service and desire to move his hometown forward, Shaun Moriarty announced today his candidacy for Town Council.
“I put myself forward not to oppose any candidate, group, or particular issue, but to bring a fresh, new perspective, without biases, agendas, or allegiances,” stated Moriarty. “I put myself forward because this town has struggled for too long and because I have witnessed and felt, first-hand, what the people of this town can do

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nominations Are Closed – It’s Time To Vote

Ken O’Brien
I am both pleased and surprised by the number of you who took the time to suggest names of those you would like to run for Southbridge town council.
I know, however, that the number of you who submitted suggestions is only a small fraction of those who read the article and the comments.
From those comments I have compiled a list of 12 names that were suggested. They are (in alphabetical order by last name):

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who Should Run?

Ken O'Brien

One of my regular readers, dismayed at the current paucity of "quality candidates", suggested that I run a survey among the rest of you loyal visitors.

Whom would you like to see as a candidate for Southbridge town council in this year's election?

I can tell you from personal experience that, often, all it takes to get someone to throw their hat into the ring is the knowledge that others think highly enough of them to encourage them to take the leap.

Industrial Development Finance Authority: The Next “Smart Cart”?

Ken O’Brien
Remember last year’s debate over the Smart Cart program?
First it was dead, then it was alive again, and finally there was reason to believe that it would be revivified at a later date.
It appears that a similar pattern may be shaping up in relation to the Industrial Development Finance Authority.
At February 6th’s town council meeting the only item of business on the agenda was the third reading of the bylaw that, in its previous incarnation, would have created an Economic Development Commission and an Industrial Development Finance Authority. Last night, however, the vote was to create only the Economic Development Commission. The bylaw was amended to remove the IDFA.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Southbridge Town Council Meeting: February 6, 2012

Council chair Nikolla took great pride in announcing that tonight's meeting lasted only 34 minutes. Here is a video of tonight's meeting, focusing on the verbal lovefest among the chair, the vice chair and the town manager.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Romney vs. Economic Reality

Ken O’Brien
Willard Mitt Romney said yesterday, “If people think the economy is going in the right direction they should vote for President Obama.”
Well, for the vast number of Americans the direction of the economy has more to do with employment (i.e. jobs) than with any other single factor.
Despite all the rhetoric and sniping from Republicans, there is no doubt that our current state of affairs occurred on their watch during the Bush Administration. In the lead up to the earlier quote, Romney said, “President Obama did not cause our economic problems, but his policies made them worse.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bylaw Returns Without Industrial Development Financing Authority

Ken O’Brien
The Agenda for February 6th’s Town Council Meeting is now available on the town website.
In keeping with a recent pattern, there is very little real business. In fact, there is only one item that constitutes town business.
“9. Vote to amend the By-law to adopt an Economic Development Commission under Chapter 3, Appointed Officers, Section 3.223 deleting the previously proposed Section 3.224, Industrial Development Finance Authority.”

The Synthetic Apprentice

Ken O’Brien
Yesterday in Las Vegas billionaire narcissist Donald Trump announced the kickoff of the new season of his pseudo-reality program The Apprentice.

This year’s edition will follow up on the theme concept introduced last year. You may recall 2011’s “Celebrity Apprentice” that featured such luminaries as Meatloaf and Gary Busey.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Former State Rep Arraigned on DUI

Ken O’Brien

Former state representative Mark Carron was arraigned this morning in Worcester Court on charges of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. If found guilty this would be his fourth such conviction.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One More Time, Southbridge, Bend Over

Ken O’Brien
According to some of those present, last night’s meeting of the General Government subcommittee reviewed a proposal to add another employee to the town manager’s office.
The responsibility of this person would be to review resumes of applicants for town positions. In essence, they would act as a “personnel officer”, thus sparing our town manager of one more task that has been traditionally performed by this office. (How much more do we have to pay him to do the job for which he was hired?)
According to those commenting, the salary range under discussion was $50,000 per year plus benefits.

Southbridge Property Tax Rates 2000 - 2012

Ken O'Brien

Some people have asked to see what property tax rates in Southbridge have looked like over time.
The following chart shows property tax rates since Fiscal Year 2000 in dollars per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The data is once again derived from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue - Division of Local Services.