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June 16, 2007


Beret Bill Blames the System

Here we go again. If the so-called “Progressive” candidate doesn’t win, there must be something sinister going on. For Beret Bill and his holier-than-thou confederates, any loss at the ballot box has to be explained away as a stab in the back by corrupt pols using dirty tactics.

The evidence for this charge is scanty at best. Quietly, among themselves, on their mailing lists and websites, the “Progressives” are airing unproven allegations that seniors were told that unnamed city officials scared seniors into voting against Martinez by claiming that, if elected, he would shut down the Council on Aging. Can they produce a witness? No, but they heard it from someone who heard it from someone.

They also claim – as Beret Bill insinuates in this piece – that an army of city workers took the day off to help Connolly on pain of losing their jobs. Well there’s no doubt that there were some city workers taking personal time to help Jack Connolly. Jack Connolly has served this community for a long time and has a lot of friends. But Marty has friends in city hall, too, and I’ll bet some of them helped him out before and during election day. Did they get bounced? Did any of them lose their precious grant money? Were they intimidated? Go ahead, Bill. Show us the proof of your sweeping charges. (Of course, if you’re a “Progressive,” this stuff MUST be true because otherwise the better candidate won, and that’s just unthinkable.)

But Exhibit A on the list of terrible crimes by the allegedly shadowy forces who run city hall (that is, anyone who isn’t a card-carrying “Progressive”) is that the Connolly campaign had the nerve to put out a campaign flier that quoted some negative stuff about Marty from the Boston Globe. Oooh, those meanies. It made “Progressive” Melissa McWhinney so mad that, in this very blog, she called Bill Roche a liar. (Oh, sorry, she wrote “I wish I could say that I was at the Youth Program the night that Bill Roche claims he saw a 23 year old alleged gang member. Bill says no one other adults were there to witness this transgression. Convenient for Bill.” That’s not really saying Bill is a liar, is it?)

Now, observe closely: the “Progs” imply that anyone who doesn’t side with them 100% of the time must be corrupt – and then they’re surprised that they’re not as popular citywide as they think they should be. It can’t be because of their exclusivity, their condescension, or their smug intellectual elitism. So they charge dirty campaign tactics, and then they use innuendo and smear tactics of their own as “evidence.” Neat trick.

Even Beret Bill kind of admitted their real problem. In an earlier piece comparing Somerville to Algeria, China, Cuba and Vietnam (really), he wrote “Those who would logically play the role of the revolutionary leaders are Somerville residents who would define themselves as “progressive” . . . Yet, they have offered no policies that are persuasive of their efficacy . . . One wonders if they are listening.” (Reality check, Bill: The 60s are over, man, and nobody here wants to live in any of those workers paradises. And the Progs listen only to each other.)

The sad thing is that the Progressives say all they’re trying to do is promote better environmental policy, help legal immigrants get started, ensure affordable housing, build more parks, and work for sustainable economic development – all worthy goals. What really makes them mad is that Somerville has a mayor and a board of aldermen who are actually delivering in all those areas, and the Progs can’t take any credit.

To 'Beret Bill'

That was very well written and insightful! You could be the new voice of reason in this city. Odd how Melissa McWhinney threw her crudibility out there and lost big time and she hasn't uttered a word since. Great job.

Tried and True

I am glad to see that a heterosexual family man man won the election. The children of Somerville need role models to look up to and I don't think that that a gay gang sympathizer would be good for the city. Stop your whining Beret Boy. Go smoke another joint.

Truth Fan

I don’t have to be Ron Newman to see that the “Beret Bill” posters (poster?) fail at reading comprehension. It’s hard to see what their posts have to do with what Shelton wrote.

Maybe that’s the point—to mischaracterize a thoughtful, nonpartisan column and its writer, portray him as a cartoon character who lives in the posters’ two-dimensional world, and then rev up the knee-jerk hatred or knee-jerk support of others who share that world.

I, for one, really like what Shelton is laying out in this series. He’s talking about the historical process that created Somerville’s current political culture, rather than blaming individual politicians or crudely-drawn polarized groups in the way that the mouth-breathing Beret-Bill posters do. And as always, he presents his evidence, unlike the mouth breathers. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

HL Menken

Yeah, I think that Truth Fan has it right. If the Beret Billers wanted to elevate their posts from the kind of stuff that appears on middle school restroom stalls to a worthwhile conversation, they might answer any of these questions:

Was anything in the column about the Board of Aldermen of 20 years ago inaccurate? What?

Do you believe that today’s Board is passing the level of legislation, having the same level of debate, or challenging the mayor in the way that they did in the past? If so, what are the debates, ordinances, and challenges? If not, how would you explain this change?

Has Shelton written anything that personally attacked Connolly or Roche? IN past past columns didn't he appreciate Bill Roche’s honesty and independence?

Do you disagree that many “extended families, neighborhoods, churches, unions, fraternal organizations, youth sports and civic organizations” from our past have gone away? If so, do you think this has happened without affecting Somerville’s political life?

Do you disagree that in Somerville politics is about relationships? If you do, then what are they about?

Do you have a simplistic term that would characterize yourself in the same way that you use the term “Progressive” to characterize others? What is it? What does it mean?

What exactly are the Mayor and Aldermen “delivering?”

If you were ever proven wrong about anything, could you acknowledge it?

Loving Mom

Jack Connolly as a role model? My goodness, don't you have higher expectations for your kids? In what way would you want them to be like Mr. Connolly?


Jack Connolly as a role model IS very funny! I wonder how the conversation might go:
"Mom, I want to grow up to be in insurance sales and overcharge people for their policies because they think they'll get a favor out of me in the long run due to my influential position on the Board of Aldermen. And, I want to control each restaurant and bar in the city through my chairmanship of Licenses and Permits. Oh, and they'll have to buy a policy from me, too."
"Yes, son, those are noble goals."


I must admit that I usualy let the lame personal attacks just slide by but the unwarrented personal attacks on Jack Connolly are a new low. Jack Connolly has raised his children in Somerville, built a successful small business and kept it in the city, been elected for 22 years by his neighbors in Ward 6 and now elected by the voters citywide. He has been active in Somerville all his adult life and continues to put himself out front as an elected official.

Disagree with his political views, take issue with his last campaign as some have (I don't) but I for one believe Jack Connolly is an honorable, decent man. If children in Somerville need a role model they could do no better than Jack Connolly.

So Loving Mom and Somerville boy, If this is the best you can offer as commentary then this blog is in a sad state of affairs.

Bill Shelton

I'm not sure why postings regarding my column have become commentary on personalities. Or why anyone should imagine that I am "insinuating" anything or "making sweeping charges."

Instead, I'm trying to get away from the us-versus-them charictures and personal attacks, which I believe only breed more of the same. I believe that a lot of people in Somerville are struggling to stay in Somerville right now. But in the next few years, Somerville is going to face greater challenges than it has in my memory.

If we don't realize that what we all share is more important than our differences, if we don't figure out how to work together to protect the values that we do share, then I sincerely believe that we can expect a future that most folks who post at this site would prefer not to live through.

I don't believe that there are any evil people in Somerville political life. Maybe I'm wrong.

I imgaine that I'm trying to describe how historical forces stronger than any individual or local group have created our present situation. I imagine that this might encourage us to view ourselves as sitting on the same side of the table and searching for creative solutions to solve our problems, rather than using them as opportunities to gain advantage. Maybe I'm wrong about this too. Or maybe I'm not very good at it.

If someone has evidence that I've missed, or a different understanding of how we got here, then I would like to hear it. As I said, we're on the same side of the table.

HL Menken

No, I think that you have made your point effectively, and the news in this paper seems only to confirm it. Most encumbents are going unchallenged. The mayor has hundreds of thousands dollars in campaign funds from out of towners, and the two declared challengers have peanuts.

I say "the mayor" instead of "Joe Curtatone," because I accept your point that this is about a culture and a system, and not about "good" or "bad" politicians. So I'm hoping that you'll end this series with some suggestions about what can be done to make this Democratic city democratic.


To paraphrase another well known local politician, "THROW THE BUMS OUT!"

Thank you Tip.

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