Monday, January 4, 2016

First Issue Of Southbridge Newsletter Online

On the cover it is listed as Volume 1, Issue 1.

 In its four pages are a number of articles expounding the virtues of the community. Also included are some exhortations to the readers of the publication to participate in the activities of the town, to support local businesses and to talk up the benefits of living in Southbridge.

Among the featured pieces are an article about groundbreaking for the new administration building and hangar at Southbridge airport, Southbridge’s participation in the “Goods For Guns” program, the town’s receipt of a $30,000 community compact grant and an educational forum on alcohol and substance abuse.

We look forward to seeing how frequently the newsletter will be issued and hope that it will contain increasingly substantive information about the town, its government and local events.


  1. The newsletter also mentioned how Councilor Clemence and her committee did a wonderful job putting upbthe beautiful decorations and such.

    What would we do without Denise Clemence and her hard working cheerful team of volunteer elves?

  2. Well I think it's a good idea and hopefully it continues and giving a pat on the back when somebody does something good no matter who it is is also a good thing...this world needs more of it

    1. George:
      It’s all well and good to give kudos to those who make efforts to improve the town and contribute to community spirit.
      However, the real focus should be on defining Southbridge’s problems and devising strategies and tactics to address them.
      In this regard we are, and have been, sorely lacking.
      Our schools are on the verge of entering state receivership. Our unemployment rate is the fifth or sixth highest in the state. The landfill has done serious environmental harm while the revenue from it is about to disappear. Home values have plummeted to the point where many mortgage holders are still under water. Our socio-economic makeup is one demanding increasing services while our ability to pay for such is declining.
      In the face of this the five to four majority that at least made an effort to hold the line on budget expansion last year has been reduced to a four to three minority with the resignation of Councilor Moriarty and the likely extended absence of Councilor Vecchia.
      So yes, let’s talk up the good. But let’s not do it at the expense of deluding ourselves into continuing to ignore reality.

    2. Mr. O'Brien,

      I have been an occasional 'lurker' on your blog, and over the past few days have read a substantial number of previous posts.

      In your above comment, you correctly identify that the town needs to identify problems and strategies to address the problems.

      However your blog largely does not follow your own advice. I read many complaints about problems (and people), but creative and productive recommendations are scant.

      I note from an online profile, you are a Harvard graduate with a degree in political science, served in the Massachusetts Legislature, and I recall you were a member of town council for a brief time shortly after we moved here.

      As a reader, I would be quite interested in an article or a series of articles in which you numerate the problems and put forth solutions. In my observation of life, it is quite easy to find people who criticize and find fault. But it is rare to find a person who is willing to articulate a positive vision for the future.

      We are the town. The Town Council is not. What do we want to see take place?

      I hope in the future, your blog will focus more on providing this much needed balance.

    3. Dear Mr. Chase:
      I appreciate your comments, but I must differ with your conclusions.
      When on the Council I attempted to get them to rescind the Casella contract to no avail.
      When the issue of an access road arose I got the intervening Charlton residents to sign off on an agreement to allow a right of way to route 20 over their property rather than the monstrosity we now have. In return they (all 4 of them) merely asked that Southbridge link them into our water supply. The then Chairman refused to even let the proposal be considered.
      I served on the first Charter review committee which suggested a number of changes. I expect that you should be familiar with how those proposals were scuttled.
      I have repeatedly proposed that Southbridge adopt a strong mayor rather than town manager form of government for reasons outlined in the articles I have written on the subject. I have also prepared a detailed amendment to the Town Charter to provide for such a change.
      I have proposed that the budget process be attached to the tax setting process by means of a town bylaw.
      I have proposed that the Town Manager and department heads have their compensation tied to measurable performance goals.
      I have proposed that the town establish small business incubators accompanied by a micro-loan program to encourage home grown small businesses.
      While I originally opposed the Casella contract, I recently favored the expansion of the landfill on the basis that the environmental damage had already been done while the financial benefits have been squandered.
      I suppose that if I devoted more time to it I could come up with additional recommendations I have made, but hopefully this list will suffice

    4. Mr. O'Brien,

      Thanks for that list. Please note that my comment comes as a reader of your blog, not on your tenure on the council. I truly mean it as constructive feedback, and thus my willingness to put my "John Hancock" on my comments, and not hide behind anonymity.

      I think that we need a forum for people to generate ideas, discuss them fairly, and take charge of our own future. What I have noticed in about 10 years of living here is a very dour mindset. 25 years ago I lived in a 'rust belt' area in which the steel mills had closed a decade before and had left the town in very rough shape. The attitude here is very similar. Much woe about lost greatness, longing for the 'good old days', and blaming the problems on various groups of people, and engaging in character assassination of those who were trying to lead.

      What is needed is a forum which encourages creative solutions to clearly stated problems. Based on the counter on your site I think your blog has the potential to be such a forum for idea generation.

      If someone died and left Ken O'Brien in charge as benevolent dictator, what would he do to improve performance in school?

    5. Dear Mr. Chase:
      I appreciate your thoughts as well as the use of your real name.
      I have always left the door open for people to come forward with ideas and proposals.
      Regrettably, there have been very few takers.
      As regards suggestions for the schools, I am aware of my limitations. Educational policy is not my strong suit and I have, for the most part, sought to report the facts surrounding school matters. While I am capable of recognizing what is not working, the complexity of state law and so forth are outside my area of expertise. I do feel, however, that our school problems are reflective of deeper issues in the community.
      Thanks again for your input. Feel free to contribute any additional thoughts and ideas you might have.

    6. I will work on formulating some ideas

    7. Mr. O'Brien, I'm working on a submission. Is there an email address and or phone where I can contact you?

    8. You can reach me at

    9. Huh. I have a Juno account. We are probably the last two in America

  3. Likely extended absence of Councilor Vecchia?

    Is he ferling poorly?

    1. He was hospitalized last week. My latest info is that diagnosis and prognosis still uncertain.

    2. Well,those of us that pray should keep Dear Old Apple in our prayers, and those that do not pray ought to visualize him up on that dais with grayer hair and more wrinkles.


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