Thursday, May 31, 2012

Southbridge Education Association President Addresses Membership

Ken O’Brien

[The following letter went out yesterday from SEA President David Williams to his membership]

Dear Colleagues,

There are a fair number of misconceptions surrounding the actions of the SEA's leadership recently and I would like to clarify our position. Our prescribed purpose is to protect hours, wages and conditions for all of our members. Unfortunately all three have come under attack in the last few years by this administration. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Southbridge Police Union Votes “No Confidence” In Chief

The O’Zone has received confirmation from multiple sources that the Southbridge Police Association recently took a vote of “no confidence” in Southbridge Chief of Police Daniel Charette.

Indications are that the final text of the union’s statement is being reviewed prior to a formal public release.

The action will undoubtedly pose a difficult situation for town manager Christopher Clark who is the Chief’s immediate superior. Regardless of the specific grounds for the resolution, the fact is that any police department is in essence a paramilitary organization. The loss of confidence in a superior officer poses serious issues of morale as well as discipline.

More details will be forthcoming as they become available.

UPDATES: 9:15 am – 5/30: An additional preliminary report indicates what was actually termed a vote of “no faith” in the chief carried by a vote of 15 to 0.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Sum Of All Facts

Back in April, after the hoopla regarding the O'Zone's publication of the Arbitration decision in the case of Jonathan Jacobson, I conducted a poll of readers regarding whether the current principal of Southbridge High should stay or go.

At the conclusion of the article reporting the results of the poll, I wrote the following; “My prediction; I’ll end up being the villain in this black comedy.”

Yesterday I encountered an old friend (I’m talking a friend of over 40 years). We share a number of friends, many of whom are intimately involved in this affair. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Southbridge Schools Lose Another Arbitration Case

Following the report by The O’Zone regarding the arbitration decision in the case of Jonathan Jacobson, the results of another case have come to our attention.

On September 29, 2011, Timothy Bornstein, Arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association rendered a decision in AAA Case 11 390 01501 10, A Salary Schedule Grievance between the Southbridge Education Association and the Southbridge Public Schools. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Photo – ‘Toons 1.6

Welcome back aboard the Starship O’Zone.

This week’s journey from the galaxy of the black hole of civic despair into the universe of mirth and merriment is brought to you courtesy of the Southbridge Town Council and the Southbridge School Committee. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Yesterday, May 25, 2012, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to survivors of fallen military members. He remarked how one of his sons had returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Then he added that his joy was tinged with guilt that he had returned home whole, while so many others had not.

The vice president recounted the difficulty of dealing with the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident in the early seventies. He said it was it was the first time that he could understand how someone would consciously decide to commit suicide.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Truth In Advertising?

Forgive me for being somewhat of a skeptic by nature.

But, when someone makes a claim that surprises me, I am inclined to question it.

The most recent incident of this occurred today.

In the course of reading the Friday, May 25, 2012 edition of the Southbridge Evening News, I came across a promotional ad on behalf of the newspaper on its editorial page beneath the letters to the editor.

Here is that notice: 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ely Eliminated From Ohio Candidates

On May 14th The O’Zone reported that Southbridge Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely had applied for the position of superintendent of North Canton City Schools in Canton, Ohio.

On May 22nd The CantonRep reported that three finalists had been chosen for the position. Mr. Ely was not among those named for further consideration.

In a related matter The Times Union of Schenectady, NY did an article on May 1st summarizing Mr. Ely’s job hunting activities subsequent to leaving his position in that city.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Southbridge School Committee Attorney Denounces Publication of Jacobson Arbitration Report

Last night’s Southbridge school committee meeting was dominated by the appearance of Attorney Kimberly Rozak.

She was present to address two matters: the complaint filed by a citizen regarding a perceived violation of the committee’s policy on conduct and the publication of the arbitration report relating to the case of Jonathan Jacobson.

I will leave it to the citizen who filed the complaint to address Attorney Rozak’s remarks concerning that matter. She is certainly welcome to submit a statement of her views to The O’Zone. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Southbridge Tax Rate will go up 4.2%, Water Rate Up 2% Under New Budget

Southbridge Town Manager Chris Clark
Last night the Southbridge town council, by a six to two vote (councilors McDonald and Vandal against, councilor Livengood excused) approved a fiscal year 2013 budget just shy of $45 million.

The key revelation came in response to a question posed by councilor Laurent McDonald. He asked what the impact of the proposed budget would be on the town’s property tax rate. Town manager Clark referred the question to chief assessor Wilfred Cournouyer. After hemming and hawing, his response is quoted in an article by Brian Lee in today’s Worcester Telegram and Gazette. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Planning Piffle

Cassandra Acly
Back in January The O’Zone addressed the vapid nonsense of the hyping of the most recently announced round of Master Planning for the town.

The article cited references to the last round of this exercise in mental masturbation financed by state grants (i.e. tax dollars) to justify the continued existence of the town’s Planning and Economic Development Department that has grown from one person 12 years ago to four now.

On Saturday Go Local Worcester ran an article titled “The Fastest Growing Communities in Central Mass”. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Peloquin Responds to “What I Want To Know” – Part II

[Amelia responded earlier to the first of nine questions I posed to candidates for town council. Here she answers the remaining eight.]

2. Would you seek to reduce the town budget? In what areas? How?

I realize that this is hard to do, because there are so many fixed costs involved in running a town.  That being said, our current setup seems like it's built to eschew any form of accountability in terms of cost containment.  The town's budget and the tax rate are set six months apart from each other, with a local election between them. Ken, I would support your proposed by-law for requiring projected tax rates during budget season. 

Sunday Photo-‘Toons 1.5

Ken O’Brien

Another week has passed with ample reasons to run for the Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil.

Being old school myself, I prefer to resort to the Reader’s Digest remedy – Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Last week we welcomed the contributions of an O’Zone reader, I. M. Townie.

This week we have a contribution from another reader who identifies herself as Cathy.

As in all cases I reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion, but without censorship based on personal opinion (I hope). If I think it’s funny and/or creative I’ll give it an airing.

That having been said, let’s have at it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - May 21, 2012

TOWN COUNCIL MEETING MACKINNON COUNCIL CHAMBERS MAY 21, 2012 — immediately following the Public Hearing


1.      Pledge of Allegiance

2.      Roll Call

3.      Consider and accept the Council Minutes of Monday, May 7, 2012 Meeting.

4.      Subcommittee Reports:
(a) General Government
     1) Joint GG & PPP Meeting Minutes 5/9/12
(b) D.P.W.
(c) Education and Human Services
(d) Planning and Development
(e) Protection of Persons and Property

Friday, May 18, 2012

Breaking News: More on Investigation of Town Council Chair’s Trash Ticket “Fix”

James Sottile

I was interviewed by a Southbridge Detective today who also requested all of the raw video of the 5/15/12 EHS subcommittee meeting, which I had in my possession. I gladly surrendered all the evidence in my possession. It is my understanding that the “trash ticket fix affair” will be investigated further by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In my opinion I believe our police department performed their duties in a professional fashion despite the unlawful interference by several politicians including the town manager. The draconian application and enforcement ($250.00 without warning) of a town by-law was a mistake by overzealous and arrogant politicians. It is ironic that an individual can get a lesser fine for possession of a small amount of marijuana. How about the fact that it takes a second (not a first) offense of the town’s sex offender by-law to get a $300 fine? Anyone who pulls a lever (so-to-speak) for the present incumbents is putting the future of our town at risk We need intelligent and mature replacements. That should start with this election cycle!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breaking News - Southbridge Council Chair’s Trash Ticket “Fixing” Being Investigated

Multiple sources have now confirmed that the statements made by town council Chairman Catherine Nickolla at Tuesday, May 15th’s meeting of the subcommittee on Education and Human  Services are being investigated.

The matter at issue is her intervention in the disposition of a ticket issued for violation of the town’s trash collection bylaw (page 104). At that meeting she stated (substantiated by this video of the meeting) that she made a call and had it taken care of.

According to these sources, local police are looking into the matter and have been offered a copy of the video of the meeting.

In addition, at least one private citizen has raised the matter with the State Ethics Commission.

The particular matter of state law that such an action may have violated is Chapter 40, Section 21D of Massachusetts General Law.

It is also reasonable to ask whether the Massachusetts “no fix” law should have broader application to non-traffic related matters.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EHS Subcommittee Violated Open Meeting Law – Council Chair “Fixed” Trash Ticket

UPDATE: The video of Tuesday, May 15th’s, EHS subcommittee meeting is available in three parts HERE.

Last night’s meeting of the Education and Human Services subcommittee lived up to expectations.

Among the revelations was the fact that the Attorney General’s office found the subcommittee to be in violation of the Open Meeting Law. The finding related to the meeting of August 2, 2011. In its report the Attorney General’s office determined that the subcommittee had failed to state there would be a discussion about Ann Beinema, even though the Chair reasonably anticipated one would occur.

The AG’s office did not find that the second complaint, that the subcommittee did not give Mrs. Beinema notice that her "reputation, conduct and character" would be discussed during an open session meeting on August 2, 2011, constituted a violation of the OML.

Peloquin Responds to “What I Want To Know” - Part I

 [Editor’s Note: In this article Amelia Peloquin responds to Question number 1, indicating she plans to respond to other questions at a later time.]

1. What is your position on the Town Council's proposed amendments to the Southbridge Home Rule Charter?

Suffice to say, as a follower of local government, I didn't like the Council's handling of the Charter Review Committee's work.  On balance, as a voter, I will not be supporting most of the ballot questions.  The fate of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter is the biggest local issue I've spent time dealing with this year.  I've written about this topic extensively, and you are welcome to read my work here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moriarty Responds To “What I Want To Know”

I commend Ken O’Brien for pushing each of the candidates for Town Council to answer his call on “Where’s the Beef?” Among Ken’s questions were some very important and strong questions, some of which I could have pandered to the O’Zone’s readers. I’m not part of any group or clique, my only allegiance in this race is to the town and its residents. As such, I’ve answered these questions honestly and fully aware that some of my answers may cause grief and heartburn among a good number of this site’s readers. I’m a pretty open-minded guy and am more than happy to discuss my positions on any of these issues and welcome any sort of useful and civil discussions on them. I’m a look before you leap kind of guy and believe all perspectives must be considered. I’m always around town and am happy to answer any and all questions, address any and all concerns, and further explain my thoughts to anyone who is interested. I thank you for your time in reading my responses — all 2,500 words or so of them (and that’s the condensed version!) 

Lazo Responds to “What I Want To Know” – Part I

Steve Lazo

I plan to answer all of Ken’s questions, but right now I want to respond to what I consider the most important one on his list.

3.      What would you do to increase employment opportunities in Southbridge?

After being off the council for a year I’ve had a chance to think about what we really need in Southbridge.

More than anything else we need jobs. And beyond that we need to create the chance for our people to start businesses that create jobs.

Where is the Plan?

Lynne Pledger and Brent Baeslack

Though our small, densely populated state generates enough waste yearly to fill 74 Fenway Parks, Massachusetts residents may not think much about the trash and recycling they set out at the curb, as long as it gets hauled “away.” They know that someone somewhere is in charge of the safe and appropriate disposition of the Commonwealth’s discards. And surely this considerable responsibility is guided by a set of policies and plans for the long term – a master plan for waste management.

Well, yes and no. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ely’s Latest Exit Effort

It  is becoming an increasingly sad soap opera.

Southbridge School Superintendent Eric Ely has now applied for a position as superintendent of North Canton City Schools in Canton, Ohio.

According to the, “At least 18 people have applied by the deadline Friday to become the next superintendent of North Canton City Schools, according to the Stark County Educational Service Center.” 

Martinek Responds to “What I Want To Know”

   1.      What is your position on the Town Council's proposed  amendments to the Southbridge Home Rule Charter?

 I served on the Charter Review Committee for a period of one year. During that time, and despite what some people thought, even though we were hand selected, we came from various backgrounds, and there were a lot of passionate discussions on the issues that resulted in our recommendations.

What I Want To Know – Questions for Southbridge Town Council Candidates

Back in April The O’Zone published an article titled “Where’s The Beef”.

Since then we have seen precious little in the way of concrete proposals from those who claim to want to run our town.

Lacking anything substantive thus far from most of the candidates, and having gotten word that a town council candidates’ debate is tentatively scheduled for June 9th, I’ve decided to put forward some questions to which I would like answers.

I’d be interested to know what other questions O’Zone readers would like to ask the candidates.

I’m not looking for empty and vague generalities. I want specific, actionable proposals that will go before the council.

I will gladly publish replies from ANY candidate who chooses to respond.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Photo-'Toons 1.4

This week's venture into the re-interpretation of reality to reveal underlying truth (hopefully with a chuckle thrown in) welcomes a new participant.

Frequent O'Zone commenter I. M. Townie has donated a couple of  Photo-'Toons of his own. I welcome his contributions, and I hope that O'Zone readers will enjoy them.

It's been a busy week in local and national politics, and there was much more grist for the humor mill. Regrettably, time only allows so much in the world of satire manufacturing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tuesday’s Southbridge EHS Subcommittee Agenda – It’s a Doozy

Rarely does the general public get a preview of what goes on in town council subcommittees.

While those in power complain that nobody shows up at these meetings, one has to ask “Why”.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, unless you are among the privileged few that are advised in advance to be there, you don’t know when they are happening or what will be discussed. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rachel Maddow Debunks Attacks on Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Ancestry

A week ago The O’Zone put forward an article titled “More Right Wing Filth”.                            

In the interim the Scott Brown campaign has focused increasingly on attacking Warren for references she has made in the past to her Native-American ancestry. In the meantime he has blithely gone about supporting the Republican agenda, most recently voting against efforts to prevent a doubling in interest rates on Federal student loans.

Last night, in her incomparable way, Rachel Maddow deflated this nonsensical focus by the Brown campaign and their right-wing talking head sycophants. Here’s the video from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Exploiting The Victims

Dan Butler, who has gained prominence as a voice of Southbridge tornado victims, posted the following on the Southbridge Tornado Relief FaceBook page on May 8.

UPDATE on the "Rebuild Western Mass" rebate crooks: about 3 weeks before the 1 year anniversary of the tornado and we have STILL yet to see a dime from this ripoff program and they just continue to give us excuse after excuse. today i got a phone call from them, and the guy told me that he received a call from Peter Durant's office claiming that we had issues with the program....

2nd Annual May Day Festival at QVCAH

The Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities (QVCAH) QVCAH celebrates their 2nd annual May Day Festival on the front lawn of the Arts Center at 111 Main Street in Southbridge, MA. Live music by Riverbend with roving Fiddlers. May Pole dance caller Bill Fischer will lead two May Pole Dances. The first May Pole dance at 1 pm. Deb Malouin talks about raising Monarch Butterflies and discusses the various pollinators of our region at 1:30 pm. Badger Meets the Fairies puppet show performed by Galapagos Puppet Theater at 2 pm. May Queen Pageant for girls ages 3-7 at 3:30 pm. Green Man mask making and flower tiara weaving throughout the day's festivities. Traditional Food, Wine & Beer Garden. Come celebrate the Spirit of Springtime at an event that's fun for the whole family . The Terra 25 recycled art exhibit will be open in the galleries throughout the day. Entrance to the festivities is free and open to the public. Refreshment will be available to purchase.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Damage Control

On Thursday the Southbridge Town Hall house organ (the Southbridge Evening News) will carry an article titled, “Southbridge refunds 118 trash fines”.

In the article it is reported:

If you got ticketed for a first-time trash violation, you might have already received good news in the mail.
According to Health Director James Morin, 118 such residents will get refunds of their fines and/or letters this week informing them they don’t have to pay if they haven’t yet had hearings. That does not apply to 30 or so multiple-ticket recipients, who are still on the hook for the second or later fines.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking News: Lazo, Martinek File Papers For Town Council

Update: May 10, 1 pm - Both Steve Lazo and Dennis Martinek have had a sufficient number of signatures validated to appear on the June election ballot.

Former town councilor and town council chair Steve Lazo and Southbridge resident Dennis Martinek today filed papers before the deadline to be on the ballot as candidates for Southbridge town councilors in the June election.

We must await notification that a sufficient number of their signatures have been validated for them to qualify.

If that bar is met then we can say, in typical Southbridge fashion, the race is on!

UPDATE: Incumbent councilor David Livengood fails to return papers.

Bravo Butch!

Monday's Southbridge Town Council meeting was a combination of laughable incompetence, amusing non-sequiturs and sinister despotism.

The incompetence was the repeated emergence of failures to proof read official town documents rife with typographical errors.

The agenda contained at least three. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Wish I Could Draw: Solo Exhibition by Phillip Browne

The Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities (QVCAH) is proud to present the opening reception of I Wish I Could Draw by Connecticut artist, Phillip Browne. This multimedia exhibition will be on view through June 17th, 2012 at the Art Center, 111 Main Street, Southbridge, MA. QVCAH invites the public to attend the reception on Thursday, May 17th from 6-9 pm. The exhibition and reception are free to attend. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

$1/3 of a Million for What?

I was sitting at home today semi-enjoying watching Baltimore against Boston at Fenway.

In the middle of the game I got a call from a friend of mine who knows far more about computer technology than I.

He asked me what was going on with one of the items on Monday night’s town council agenda.

Naturally I asked him which item.

He said item number ten, which reads as follows: 

Sunday Photo ‘Toons: The Next Generation

Well, it’s Sunday again.

Once again I’ve taken up the challenge of trying to provide a little levity regarding the dire madness in which we are immersed. Heaven knows, the pressure is becoming intense.

I hope you won’t find the effort too disheartening.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - May 7, 2012

MAY 7, 2012 – Immediately following the Planning & Development Subcommittee Meeting

Friday, May 4, 2012

Southbridge Consultant and EDC Member Cite Greenfield and Northampton as Models - Both Have Mayors

Today’s Southbridge Evening News features a front page article titled “‘Compelling story’ needed for downtown development”.

Ted Carman of Concord Square Development, recently hired with state grant funds to do strategic financial planning necessary to make the town’s long-term downtown redevelopment effort possible, told the new Economic Development Commission:

…he saw the same thing in Greenfield, where several landlords made no effort to maintain property and some sat vacant for many years. Over the last five [years] or so, though, the city has used a variety of funding sources and sometimes eminent domain to renovate and re-tenant five major buildings, with four more still somewhere in the “ridiculously complicated” funding process, he said. 

More Right Wing Filth

Elizabeth Warren
I take pride in my Irish heritage. Many of my friends and acquaintances similarly take pride in their ethnic backgrounds, be it French-Canadian, Italian, Albanian, Hispanic etc.

Apparently, however, the right wing specialists in the politics of personal destruction find this offensive in some cases. Those cases apply when one’s heritage falls in a category officially recognized as a “minority”.

Barack Obama is castigated by many of these delusional haters as an obvious beneficiary of affirmative action whose current status is little more than the result of “reverse discrimination”. 

Now these fabulists have skulked out from under their mossy rocks to use the same tactics against Massachusetts Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


UPDATE: May 4, 3:30 AM – China Announces Chen Guangcheng Can Apply To Study Abroad (NY Times). Offered fellowship at American university: can be accompanied by wife and children (BBC News, U.S. Dept. of State).

Mitt Romney proved today that he is not qualified to be President. In fact, he proved that he is not qualified to be a Presidential candidate for a major party.

In a totally indefensible effort to score political gains he interjected himself into an extremely delicate international matter.

That is the issue of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was jailed and beaten for his work against the government's coercive family planning policies.

Romney plainly admitted, as the video below shows, that the actual facts of the situation were not known. Nevertheless, he could not refrain from using this opportunity to launch a premature and potentially damaging attack. In essence, he may be throwing Mr. Chen under the bus for his own venal ambitions. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Clerical Censorship

I like to think of Fr. Peter Preble as a respected colleague.

As such, we should be able to disagree on certain points without rancor.

However, there appears to be one area where this is not possible.

That is the area of whether the Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services are engaging in an assault on religious freedom through the Affordable Care Act.

Today he published a lengthy screed on his blog titled Courage in Leadership repeating all the same old attacks. I responded with the following comment. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caption Contest Results

After three days of entries and two days of voting your verdict is in. The winner of the Billy Bishop Airport Picture Caption Contest is none other than that well-known O’Zone contributor Anonymous 4/27/12 11:36 PM.

We all know Anon as a person of indeterminate sex with a finely honed sense of humor. Their character is unquestionable because we have no idea who to question. Of course Anon’s political views are transparent, bordering on the invisible.

Thus, without further ado, The O’Zone is proud to present this award to Anonymous 4/27/12 11:36 PM