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!) 


1.      What is your position on the Town Council's proposed amendments to the Southbridge Home Rule Charter?
For me, the majority of the proposed amendments to the Town Charter are pretty benign. There are two, however, that give me a good deal of heartburn. The first is Section 2, which states that “No qualified voter of the town shall be eligible to run for office of councilor if he or she is not in good financial standing with the town by being current in all bills from the town.” I question this proposed amendments constitutionality, but I also have concerns with the amount of detail and clarity — or lack thereof — contained in the language. The devil is in the details and I’d like to know about deadlines and the timing of “being current in all bills from the town.” Will I be prevented from taking out nomination papers if my water bill hasn’t been paid just yet? Will I be able to get the necessary signatures only to have my name pulled from the ballot? If I’m on the ballot but get some sort of bill two weeks before the election, would I have to make sure the bill is paid in the next 14 days? Does “all bills from the town” include traffic tickets or the dreaded trash tickets? If so, what if I’ve appealed the ticket and won’t have a hearing until after the election? Will that preclude me from being a legitimate candidate? Also, why is this only for Town Council and not School Committee, Town Clerk, or any other elected positions.

I understand the basic reasoning behind this proposed amendment, and having someone delinquent on bills handling the town’s budget is a scary thought, however, I oppose this amendment because, as stated above, I question its constitutionality and feel there are unanswered questions created by the amendment.

The other amendment I strongly disagree with is Section 9, which reads, in part: “Final removal of the manager shall be effected by a two-thirds vote of the entire council at an open council meeting.” While there has been a bit of a revolving door in the manager’s office the last 10-15 years (controversial firings of Mike Coughlin and Clayton Carlisle), I’m not in favor of making it more difficult for the Town Council to dismiss an individual they hire and are ultimately the bosses of. While there are some who run for office for the wrong reasons, I optimistically believe the great majority get involved for the right reasons and seriously consider their responsibilities for the town. Provided that there is due process and the manager has the opportunity to answer any complaints and/or charges levied against him, a simple majority, in my opinion, is appropriate to remove the individual that same governmental body hired.

2.      Would you seek to reduce the town budget? In what areas? How?
Ideally, yes. In reality, this is not a terribly easy thing to do. Just as is the case for each of us in our own lives, the budget tends to go up every single year as costs rise. My grocery bills go up every year, my oil bill goes up every year, the amount of money I spend at the gas station goes up seemingly weekly, and my income doesn’t necessarily meet those other rising costs. The same applies for the town and its budget. There are contractual obligations and other fixed costs that make up a great deal of the town’s budget. While I can say that I’d look to trim the town’s budget, the bigger concern for me is making sure the money that is spent is spent wisely. Personally, I don’t mind paying for things that work. When it feels like I’m opening my wallet for no good reason, that’s when I have a problem. Having watched other towns handle the budget process, I’d like to see department heads come before the full council and rationalize their budget requests. Tell the council and the public why this line item has increased this much and what it means to the townspeople.

3.      What would you do to increase employment opportunities in Southbridge?
Southbridge is an old mill town that has never really moved into the post-industrial economy. The AO is gone. Cabot Safety/Aero is gone. Hamilton Mills is long gone. Hyde’s has largely become a warehouse. Southbridge is not alone in trying to find its way as manufacturing jobs have moved south of the border or to China, leaving many locals without a chance to find a job in their own town. We often hear how beautiful downtown is, what a gem we have, how we’re so centrally located. Unfortunately, our beautiful downtown is depressed with far too many empty storefronts, that gem we have is in dire need of polishing, and while we’re one hour away from so many important New England cities, it is our neighboring towns that have the Mass Pike and major highways and routes running through them. Nobody lists 131 as a big road.

I’ve worked with a local entrepreneur who has been chomping at the bit to open up a nice restaurant and bakery in town, trying to find a location that would help suit her needs. Unfortunately, many of the spaces leave her repeating one phrase over and over again: “There’s no parking there. People will drive right by rather than walk two blocks to come in.” She’s also spoken to commercial property owners who, despite offers to commit and meet half way on infrastructure costs, are unwilling to take a risk, spend a little money and put in a little elbow grease to make some of our downtown properties more commercially viable. Instead, they settle for a church in the old video store or not caring what comes and goes on a seemingly semi-annual basis at the corner of Main and Hamilton.

I’ve spoken with a friend of mine multiple times about the lack of certain types of businesses in town and we’ve cooked up ideas on what could be done and where (things similar to Zoink’s Fun Factory), only to quickly realize we’re not personally in the financial position to make some of those ideas realities. The former American Optical complex is grossly underutilized. While retrofitting buildings as old those buildings are, there are numerous grants and programs out there designed to help with the reuse and revitalization of such buildings. We have infrastructure there with charm and history, sitting vacant or nearly vacant. Whether its turned into office space, living space, or commercial space, there is so much that could be done in the old AO complex.

I know and have spoken to a number of local business owners, and far too often they fall into the mindset that things will never get better for Southbridge and, as a result, they’ve largely stopped trying and have settled for a content business that pays the bills and leaves just a few bucks over at the end of the month. Business owners and residents alike lack confidence in our town’s ability to turn things around, and we need to work to offer that glimmer of hope that pushes people forward rather than laying back content or unwilling to put themselves forward.

Through my time as a local journalist, I’ve covered the economic progress (or lack thereof) of many different communities across our state and in northeastern Connecticut. I know about the history of the planned “Rail Trail” and how its designed to try and help provide a boost to the local and regional economies. I know about urban renewal plans in town and how they worked in other communities, including a strong revitalization of downtown Putnam.

What Southbridge needs is to build on its history (while not being a slave to it) and character, take a few chances and try to grow. A shopping mall with an anchor store or two and a movie theater is great (with a little roadwork the old AO complex could be the perfect location), but we need places downtown as well. We need parking and we need more property owners to take an active interest in their community and realize that by putting in a little effort to make the town better will ultimately pay dividends to them down the road.

I’d like to see a group of qualified and committed officials form a group (in addition to or in collaboration with the EDC) and set up meetings in other old mill towns and communities across the state and region who have managed to move into the post-industrial economy. Let’s take a field trip to Clinton, Fitchburg, Greenfield, Holyoke, Hudson, Lynn, Millbury, North Adams, Uxbridge and Winchendon. Let’s see first-hand what they’ve done, what obstacles they overcame, what worked and what didn’t. Forget just thinking outside the box, let’s get out of the box and work on fixing the local economy.

4.      Would you act to replace the current town manager? Why?
I pride myself on being clear and honest, and though I could pander to what appears to be a majority of O’Zone readers who heavily favor removing the current manager, I would have to reserve judgment on this matter. If elected, my goal is not to lead a mob with pitchforks to Town Hall, but rather to serve the town as a whole and act in its best interests. If, after giving it some time to forge a working relationship with the manager, it becomes clear that he is ineffective, at best, in the job, I would fully support removal. At the same time, I recognize the job is a difficult one with a great many eyes and pressures. My concern is not the manager’s personality, where he lives, who he socializes with. My lone concern is the manager’s performance. The job description, duties and contractual obligations should be monitored and reviewed with a subjective rubric. This is no different than grading a student’s essay: take any personal likes or dislikes of the student out of the equation, sit down with a clear rubric that grades performance not personality or politics.

5.      How would you make the town website more useful?
The town’s website is not the most user-friendly site I’ve been to, nor is it updated quite as quickly as I’d like, but this is not a high-priority issue for me. There are benefits to having a strong website — easier for new and/or out-of-town businesses to see what the town has to offer, easier for residents to gather information — I urge people to take a look at the websites of other area towns for a comparison. Personally, I think the nearby tiny town of Holland has one of the better municipal websites. A look at Charlton’s site fails to have Selectmen meeting minutes for nearly 70% of this year’s meetings, whereas our town site does a much better job of this. The Sturbridge site, in my opinion, is less user-friendly than Southbridge’s. Would I like to see the town’s website improved? Of course. The issue is balancing the needs and wants with financial constraints of paying for a web designer to stay on top of the site on a full-time basis. The school district’s website is woefully inadequate and if an individual was hired, at the right price and package, to tackle all of the town’s websites (including the school department), it could prove to be a worthwhile expenditure.

6.      What is your position on current trash and recycling regulations?
I have long opposed the infamous trash fine bylaw. This has been seen in the pages of the Southbridge Evening News and elsewhere. Visit www.moriarty2012.com and click on the “Thoughts” tab to read about 1,000 words in regards to my thoughts on this issue.

7.      What would you do to increase opportunities and activities for the town’s youth?
Of all candidates and current councilors, nobody has worked harder on increasing opportunities and activities for Southbridge’s youth. Nobody. I have coached in, and served as a Board of Director, for the Southbridge Little League for a decade or so, including spending the last five years as the league’s president. I have organized fundraising events centered around the town’s youth, including a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, softball tournaments, and, most notably, several years of a wiffle ball tournament. I have been involved with and supported a number of youth groups, walking the walk when it comes to supporting the town’s youth — the town’s future. On more than a dozen occasions, I have spoken at length with the town’s interim recreation director in regards to ideas and possibilities for programs and activities. I have met with the town’s Recreation Committee on countless occasions since it was reformed a few years ago. At a recent event, I spoke at length with the police chief about what more could be done for the town’s youth. I believe very strongly that this town has a lot of great kids that are beaten down by the incessant negativity and fatalism the town so often exudes. If this town is to have a brighter tomorrow, we need to start working on that tomorrow’s foundation — today’s youth.

8.      What, if anything, should be done with the “industrial park”?
Not to oversimplify the issue, but what should be done with the industrial park is to fill it with businesses. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Sandy Acly and the Economic Development Commission need to work hard to make the industrial park a reality. The industrial park, however, is not the be all and end all of the town’s economic development. While a focus is needed to make this park a reality, the empty storefronts of downtown are a much greater concern for me.

9.      Why are you the most qualified candidate in this race?
Ultimately it is up to the voters to determine who the most qualified candidates are, but I believe that I am the most open-minded candidate in the field. I enter without allegiances and alliances, and I enter without an agenda (hidden or blatantly obvious). I’m not in it to support a group or individual, I’m in it to make my hometown better. My family has called Southbridge home since the Civil War and I have a great respect for the town, its history, its people, and its potential. I’ve invested in this town, particularly its youth and future, and am here for the long haul.

Through my time as a newspaper reporter in town and elsewhere, I have seen how different communities handle various issues and how effective they are in doing so. I’ve spent more hours in Council Chambers and subcommittee meetings over the last 10 years than some current councilors and many of the other candidates have. I know how municipal government works, I know how the budget process and dealing with state officials works (or doesn’t work as the case may be), I know the issues that have plagued Southbridge for quite a long time. I’ve seen other old mill towns — Dudley, Putnam, Uxbridge — try to move forward. I’ve seen countless councils, selectboards, school committees and boards, and other groups, organizations and bodies try different things, including things that I’ve not seen Southbridge try that may be worth giving a shot. I have broad experiences with which I can bring a fresh perspective, a new take on the business as usual.

I have earned a reputation of being a fair person, willing to listen to both sides, thinking long and hard about the ramifications of decisions, both short-term and long-term. These are qualities and traits that I believe are both imperative and underrepresented with the council over the last few years, dare I say decade. I’m not looking to become some sort of career politician, not looking to hold a seat on the council for a pat on the back, but rather to take my record of community service to another level and work hard to make a difference, a positive difference, in Southbridge.

27 comments:

  1. Honest, thoughtful answers!

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  2. That was very informative!

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  3. You have my vote Shaun..

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  4. Scott Lazo is driving around with Peloquin stickers on his truck. He’s telling people he’s running her campaign. This is the same guy who wants Billy boy as principal of the new school. Either Peloquin has to explain this or admit that she will sell aout to anybody.
    Shaun’s the guy.

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    1. Peloquin, along with Stephanie Demartino, was all over the blogs, Facebook and the newspapers bad mouthing and falsely accusing a kind hearted clergyman here in town who was doing so much to help the tornado victims with their needs.

      I won't forget how she tarnished his reputation and hurt his ministry because of her glory hound "look at me" personaltiy.

      She won't get my vote and it's doubtful she'll get any of that church's parishoners' votes. I say go Moriarty, Lazo and Martinek.

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  5. No longer in town, but my family is. I've known Shaun for some time, he's a stand up guy and this post confirms that.

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  6. The only thing missing is specifics. No detailed plans, but a lot of politician answers. Avoiding the answers is not what I was looking for. If you haven't figured out yet that the Town Manager is ineffective, or the other councilors, you shouldn't be running. Not receiving my vote.

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    1. He may not be there yet, but he's a better bet than Spinjelly or Clamence.

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    2. Agree with you but he has to stop playing it safe and cautious. If he's not forming opinions until after being elected why is he runnin? He will have to speak about Clemence and Spinellis records. Being Mr. Nice is admirable but lacks strength and leadership and shows to us older folks his immaturity and naïveté. This is Southbridge not Montpelier.

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    3. responding to anon 7:02 I have to agree with you about Shaun you cant sit on the middle of the fence you get slivers that way! Say what you want about Mr Martenek but he speaks in what he believes in and say what you want about Mr. Lazo he is a strong person in his beliefs they both will call the incumbents out on their records as for ms peloquin dont know where she is on anything shes all over on the issues and ms. heid?. Shaun if you want my vote take a stand against the incumbent BULLIES clemence and spinelli, nice guys finish last ask Mr. Lazo.

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    4. In response to the comments regarding unformed opinions or fence-sitting, I respectfully disagree.

      There were nine questions asked, each of which was answered.

      The first question deals with proposed amendments to the charter & my answer detailed my opposition to two particular amendments, outlining why I was opposed to them.

      The second question asked about reducing the town budget. I could have easily said, "Well, of course! We need to cut the budget, stay within our means, tighten our belts!" I stated that I would like to see the budget reduced but also recognized some of the major hurdles in making significant budget reductions. I respect Dr. Logan's words as he stated something quite similar in regards to a desire to reduce the budget but an awareness of the realities of doing so.

      The third question asked about building economic development & I gave a fairly lengthy response talking about what I believe and what I have done. I referenced discussions I've had with some business owners (and potential business owners) about improving & expanding the local economy.

      The fourth question is likely the big sticking point for the questions/concerns voiced regarding me being too much of a Mr. Nice Guy. Again, I could have pandered to the O'Zone readership by grabbing a pitchfork, racing up to town hall & demanding the manager be removed. However, I took a stand in that I gave my honest thoughts on the manager, knowing they would not be particularly well received here.

      The fifth question talks about the town's website & I stated quite clearly that I didn't believe it to be a terribly big issue.

      With the sixth question, in regards to the town's trash ticket by-law, I've been vocal about my thoughts & opinions. Rather than take up additional space here, I provided readers with the link to a 1,000-word open letter detailing my opposition to the by-law as it is currently written.

      The seventh question asked about increasing opportunities for the town's youth and I detailed a portion of the things that I have done — not the things I've talked about as some sort of shallow campaign promise, but rather things I have actually gone out and done over the last decade. My track record in this area is miles above that of any other candidate.

      The eighth and penultimate question was in regards to the industrial park. My response, admittedly, was pretty short and devoid of a great amount of detail. However, my central point in the response is one I stand by: make the industrial park happen but also recognize that, in my opinion, breathing life into downtown's economy is of greater importance.

      The ninth and final question was a broad and generic question as to why I'm the most qualified candidate. I offered my thoughts and opinions there, which likely helped lead to the idea that I'm just too much of a nice guy. I make no apologies for being a good guy, someone honest and respectful.

      Lastly, while I disagree with some of the assertions made, the only comment I take any offense to is that being a nice guy somehow equals immaturity. I believe quite the opposite. Being one who throws temper tantrums and demands their way or the highway is what shows immaturity to me. Being a nice person who is respectful of others, is optimistic but a realist, willing to work with anyone, willing to put the greater good ahead of themselves ... these are the signs of maturity in my personal mindset & upbringing.

      If anyone, as a voter, is looking for someone who will go to each Council meeting as a saber rattler, I'm not the guy you want to vote for; you can instead endorse those who are prone to outbursts every other Monday night. If you want a rational and reasonable individual who will vote their conscience regardless of what other councilors, the manager or just about anyone else thinks, or if you're looking for someone who is willing to work with others and be respectful, then I'm your guy.

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    5. Speaking for myself, I respect and admire your candor and willingness to confront criticism head-on.

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    6. By his answers to these questions and this response, Shaun shows he has good judgment and temperment. These are skills the Council is sorely lacking. That is why I am voting for him.

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  7. The question is will you stand up to those outbursts against councilors and citizens alike or will you have to get to "know" those councilors first, like the manager, b4 doing anything? 3 yrs of watching him and NO opinion? No one believes that. Standind up for yourself is not saber rattling. What Clemence and Nikolla and Regis do is. You either stand for something or you'll fall for anything. You can't go into this playing mr innocent. Playing it safe isn't good!

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    1. I wish there were little like buttons under comments. I like this comment.

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    2. At no point have I ever stated that I have no opinion on the town manager's performance, merely that I am willing to try and work with the manager. From what I've read here on this site, it would seem the general consensus here is that there is a 7-2 voting block on the current council. That would be 77% of the council leaning one way with two lone councilors leaning the other way. The charter states the manager can be removed by a simple majority of the council, which, if you subscribe to the belief that its a firm 7-2 block, means he has to cater to the seven who are keeping him in his office. There are some town officials/employees who have told me the manager has made comments akin to "they only need five" to fire him. If you watch the meetings and listen to what he often says, it is often passing off his actions as what the council ordered him to do. The trash by-law enforcement is something to which he said was something the council instructed him to do, and if you look at the votes, he's technically correct there. If he was to do otherwise, it'd be insubordination and would lead the 77% to act to dismiss him.

      There are absolutely things the manager has said or done that I disagree with, however, I could say that about anybody I know. In the event that the at least perceived 7-2 gap is closed in this June election, I think you will see a markedly different town manager.

      Ultimately, I am willing to try and work with the manager and the council, whatever its makeup may be, to move the town forward rather than spinning our wheels in mud. There are better uses of tax-payer money than the legal costs and ultimately paying the manager to go away at this point and time. If elected and it becomes clear that, regardless of any potential change to the council's makeup, the manager is a detriment, I would be the first to cast a vote for dismissal.

      I will not run on a platform to fire someone. If that's the guy you want, call up Mitt Romney, I hear he enjoys firing people. I enjoy working to make the town better. And for that, I will not apologize, I will not pander, I will not change my belief in order to play a game of political Full Card Monte.

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    3. If it were Town Manager Carlisle, and you were coming in knowing all that you know it's naive to think you wouldn't or shouldn't do something. You have encouraged me to call Mitt Romney. I will not vote for someone with no backbone. Sorry but the manager has been a failure and anyone that can see knows it!

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  8. If you think the Town Manager is doing a a good job, the question is: why? If you think he's doing a bad job, the question is: why? If you're not sure of the job he's doing, the question is: why are you running?

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    1. Again, if one reads my comments objectively, they'll be able to see that at no point have I stated that I have no opinion on the manager or that I don't know what kind of job he is doing. Also, in regards to the last part of your question, if any candidate is running solely based on the issue of the town manager's job performance, I would question why they are actually running. As a councilor, your job is not just to babysit and watch over the town manager. There are many other tasks and duties the job entails.

      The town manager is a convenient figure-head to go after, but it is not the town manager that votes on the budget or decides on splitting tax rates and what they'll be. The town council has a great amount of power and one needs only to look at the votes to figure out that is where change is most needed; not just this year but in general.

      We have councilors who have voted to institute punitive fines and we have councilors who have spent tax-payer money on one thing when it could have been better spent in other areas. While I understand that many believe the council is a rubber stamp for the town manager, I think that would be quite indicative of the need for change on the council. If elected, one campaign promise I can make and uphold is that I would not be a rubber stamp for this or any other town manager. Along those same lines, I would also not be a rubber stamp for any faction or group on the council itself. I would take each issue on its merits, weigh the pros and cons, look at the potential short and long term consequences, ask questions and vote my conscience.

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  9. please don't compare the "kind hearted clergyman" in the same sentence as the phrase "doing so much to help the tornado victims with their needs". this topic has been beaten like a dead horse and is a very touchy subject with us victims. all he did was cause more drama and then caused us all more heartbreak by closing down our donation warehouse without notice, just after a full truck of supplies arrived that was organized at CVS on route 20 for a full weekend. it was just a couple weeks after the tornado and most of us were still without power and food, ice, soap etc. all things we were all showing up at the warehouse to get (which was donated to us). HE locked the doors and emptied the warehouse, distributing all the donations to area towns food pantries that hadn't even been effected by the tornado!!!!! then when we called him out on it, he cried to the media that he was "trying to help others too". myself and several neighbors simply asked for an apology, and are STILL waiting for one. if he is a "kind hearted clergyman" then why can't he simply say "i'm sorry". he really hurt us all and like you....we won't forget that he kicked us in the gut while we were already down.

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    1. Just an editorial note: Mr. Butler is not referring to Shaun Moriarty here!

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    2. and since you brought it up....i didn't know ameila or stephanie before the tornado, but i can honestly say, and i know many of my neighbors will agree with me, amelia and stephanie did a ton for all of us and we greatly appreciate it. both of them did fund raisers, hand delivered donated goods to our homes along with gift cards for walmart and food stores, and both offered help to all of us in any way they could....heck amelia even loaned my family her personal lawn mower so we could cut some of the grass in the areas that we were trying to cut trees, because our lawn mower was bend in half during the tornado. say what you want about these two ladies (because you threw the names out there) but they both went above and beyond for fellow residents in a time of need and we won't forget that

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    3. correct shawn......somehow my reply didn't attach itself under the comment i was referring to near the top and i apologize if there's any confusion.

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  10. I am a survivor too and can honestly say that what we went through first with the town and still going through then with the food werhouse was awful. I have a lot of respect for Mr Lazo who was there with us. But the father wasn't a good manager of the place and in the end was the cause of it going sour. Amelia never spoke badly of him. I personally saw her trying to help the father run the place better but he was an absent "landlordf". The only one that seems to think that is Mr Martinek from his past mean things he's said about her.

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    1. You need to do your research, Amelia did speak very badly of Fr. Peter Preble when she didn't get her way. I will agree with Dennis on that. She appears nice, but watch out. The next thing you know there will be a knife in your back.

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  11. vote of no confidence for shaun!May 30, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Shaun after being at the general government meeting tonite I have to say im disappointed in your statement in favor of Mr. Gorgio, This town just got rid of those high priced sharks this guy is a senior partner in kopelmen and paige he doesnt work cheap!This hiring stems from a conversation that happened at the mma this year when lenny kopelmen and gorgio said they would like to come back into town in talking to clark and nikolla she said that could happen ,this is a foot back in the door wake up Shaun your inexperience is showing big time!you were singing cumbuya with the big spenders tonite glad you have the money to throw away.JUST SAY NO TO SPENDING its that simple shaun I dont trust your judgement anymore lost my vote

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