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June 30, 2008

Comments

Accountability

Bill:

Thanks for another interesting article. I have one note on accountability. How about a complete and open investigation when wrong-doings occur (e.g., missing money from Traffic and Parking)? No one doubts the money disappeared but the Mayor and the Acting T & P Director promise a complete investigation...but so far...nothing. At the same time, they increase the parking enforcement group from 18 to 32? That's over a 75% increase in personnel!! Is there a public forum to ask questions such as these to the Mayor? If not, then I'm afraid we are a long way from accountability, .

Bill Shelton

Accountability,

"Open" is probably the more important criterion in the "complete and open investigation" that you rightly advocate. If it isn't open, we'll never know if it's complete.

The forum in which the public is supposed to "ask questions such as these" was, in theory, this month's city budget hearings. Also in theory, improving and passing the mayor's draft budget is one of only two powers that the City Charter gives to the Board of Aldermen.

In practice, the Board only has the authority to approve or reduce the expense side of the budget. If the Board did cut a specific item or department in the budget, the Mayor could then submit one or more individual supplemental appropriations. Political pressure on the Board from a particular department’s staff and constituents can be considerable.

If, on the other hand, the Board declined to approve the entire budget, the Mayor would manage city government based on the previous year’s budget. He could then pick and choose which individual appropriations he submitted for Board approval.

So, in practice, the only forum is right here, and any other public medium.

Bill Shelton has never liked Curtatone

Bill Shelton has never like Curtatone. Make no bones about it, if he gets an opportunity to take a shot at Curtatone or his administration, he does so. This article would hold more weight with another author. Wild Bill can't accept that the city is doing well and moving forward. Bill pulls this crap every so often. Typical Bill! He's a hater!

Truth Fan

You attack Bill Shelton’s credibility without suggesting anything that he has written is untrue. I think that anyone who has consistently read his columns knows that he’s generous in spirit and anything but hateful.

I’ve been astounded that Mr. Shelton has not been MORE critical of the Curtatone administration. The reality in plain sight is so different from what the administration’s hacks and flacks keep feeding us.

Shelton’s current series is an answer to one of those phony claims made by Curtatone in a Somerville News Column. He was telling readers that they had a wonderful opportunity to participate in city government by applying to be on a “Charter Committee” that he would hand pick. The purpose of the committee is to dribble holy water on the mayor’s plan to eliminate the elected school committee, appoint one himself, and extend his term of office to four years.

Why don’t you say something about this power grab? Or offer proof that what Mr. Shelton said is false? It seems to me that you are the hater. Or at least, someone who is trying to prmote hate with lies.

Matt Goodman

Truth Fan, here's your example:

If you dig back through the Somerville News archives a bit, Mr. Sheldon stated that Everett city employees told him Gateway Center cost the city more in highway and police costs than it made in tax revenue. I challenged the math on that (because looking at the city budget that would be impossible). After lengthy back and forth (with helpful info from Mr. Sheldon), Mr. Sheldon admitted that he must be wrong (and that as a toxic cleanup site a big box mall maybe WAS the best development for that space), but defended it by saying HE hadn't claimed it: he was just repeating hearsay.

FWIW. The problem comes when he makes these comments to prove his point, when he could actually prove his point with -real- information, it makes all of his citations suspect. I haven't fact checked everything he's posted, but the few times I have he's misrepresented the data to prove his point... the example above is just one of those situations.

Bill Shelton

Mr. Goodman,

Although you begin your post by saying, "here's your example," you don't answer either of Truth Fan's questions. And your recollection of our earlier exchange is less than accurate.

I don't put anything in my column unless it is documentary evidence that anyone can check, or the source is attributed, or there are at least two corroborating sources that do not agree to attribution.

My sources on the statement that you reference came from an Everett Councilman and an Everett Alderman. (Everett is the only U.S. municipality with a bicameral legislature.)

When you challenged what I had written, I challenged them for numerical evidence. They told me that it was not aggregated in a way that I could use, and that their own information came from sources in the Everett Police Department. I think that's a little sketchy, and I'm glad that I didn't use it in my column.

Because I DID NOT USE IT IN MY COLUMN. I your recall is accurate, you will remember that it was in a discussion thread on this website that I mentioned that I had heard this.

When you first challenged me, I reported what I have reported above. I said then, as well, that I considered us to be having a conversation in which I referenced something that I had heard. I would not have stated this as fact in my column unless I had performed further due diligence.

You dismissed this, suggesting that my error in even considering this distinction was a result of my advanced years, whereas youthful sages such as yourself knew better.

So, to return to the question that Truth Fan asked, what in this column is false?

And while we're at it, do you think that replacing the elected School Committee with one appointed by the mayor, and extending his term to four years, is a good thing? Do you think that appointing a hand picked committee to say that this is a good thing is the way to go about charter change?

City Hall Nose

Bill, how many times can this Administration balance the budget by selling idle property? The Powder House School is on the block and word around is that it will be sold soon to balance this years budget.

The Hosmans building is probably not going to the aution block due to the antisipation of the Green Line Extension. that might be sold to the highest bidder to balance the FY 09 budget.

Should governemnt depend on real property to balance their budget? Is this good government in progress?

Accountability

Matt:

Interesting post. Point taken. However, I'm still waiting for an explanation from the adminstration of this "doing well and moving forward" community about the missing $$$$. Do they know the truth but don't want it to be public or do they refuse to ask the questions? I don't believe that there are any "factual" questions here...the money from traffic and parking is definitely MISSING. Any thoughts, Matt?

Imux

Wow... I actually agree with Bill here. I've always thought it strange that the huge increase in the number of "parking enforcement officers" (meter maids) was strange for a city that is shorthanded in firefighters/police. It's pretty obvious that the increase in fines and tickets is just another "tax" the city levies on us. A hamfisted tax at that. As if our property taxes/water bills are not enough $$$ for them to piss away.

Somerstat/Resistat is nice, but any fool can make any stat lie. The city is proficient at fudging the numbers.

Bill, bravo. First article I've read of yours where I agree 100%. Did your moonbat tinfoil hat fly off or something? I like the change.

Diogenenes

If Somerstat and Resistat have anything to do with the guy with the annoying voice, named Tom Champion, who keep waking me up to tell me useless things, then I say we should abolish them.

Tricky

You dare insult Tom Champion's sonorous, dulcet tones? May you be condemned to wander for eternity hearing Eddie Andelman talking to "Butch from the Cape".

Matt Goodman

Bill!

Do you remember which of your columns our discussion was in? I did some searching but didn't have any luck. I certainly don't remember it the way you do, but since I can't find it...

thenoseknows

bill, i pray at night that you run for public office so you can fully understand how little respect people have for you and your opinions. its so easy for you to take shots at people from a base of nowhere...........and like i asked a few months ago..will you fix that dump you call a home ....its the eyesore of the neighborhood.

Bill Shelton

Matt,

It wasn't in one of my columns. It was in a thread following another story. My memory of which story is less than perfect. But I believe that Solh Zendeh had initiated a discussion of peak oil following the particular article. That led to a conversation about regional large-format retail uses.

By the way, an interesting fact is that the Gateway Mall developer had previously gotten site control of the railroad-owned property east of Lechmere. He wanted to build a Gateway-like big-box mall. Neighbors objected. The city of Cambridge made clear that they would not approve such a development, saving him a good deal of planning money and carrying costs.

Cambridge is not a strong-mayor form of government. If he had wanted to elect his own mayor, as the Assembly Square developers did with Joe Curtatone, he would have been unable to.

Instead, the City of Cambridge approved North Point on the old railroad site. When it is eventually built out, the five acres that are in Somerville will generate more net tax revenue for Somerville than the 41 acres comprising the Assembly Square Market Place and IKEA, while producing a small fraction of their traffic.

Hey Nose,

I'm assuming that you result to personal insult because you have nothing to offer that disproves anything that I've written here.

Bill Shelton

City Hall Nose,

(Not to be confused with the Nose that Smells.) Selling off valuable assets to pay one-time operating costs is what financial analysts call, "eating your arm." It is the grim reality behind City Government's our-bond-ratings-are-just-fine idiotic fiscal grin.

I wrote a column awhile back supporting Bob Trane's proposal to renovate the Powder House School as a community center. His proposal and my column got a lot of positive response, but I haven't heard much about it lately.

Jerry

Joe Curatone is fake like alot of other politians out there and he is out for himself not the community. It would be nice to see somebody we all respect to run against him. Joe Curatone is a poser and he should really get back into the community and what the community needs not what his office needs. How many assistants does he really need? Come on.....

Property and Taxes

"The Powder House School is on the block and word around is that it will be sold soon to balance this years budget."
I won't even address the absurd idea of balancing the budget by selling off property - a trick that was begun by Dot Gay. But the word around town is that the Powderhouse will be sold to the French School now occupying space at Immaculate Conception Church in Cambridge. Wow, we'll lose a valuable piece of property, and FUTURE TAX DOLLARS also!!!!
Smart move, guys!

resisaturated

Bill really has his finger on the pulse here. Curtains Joe has a genius for spinning webs of falsehoods and for colluding with the worst and dimmest of the BoA, greedy developers, and slimy hackers, who he puts at the helm of most departments.
However, many of the city staff are excellent and smart and have integrity. How they manage to work in this Curtains Joe cultcha astonishes me. Their good work gives Curtains Joe a ladder, but he continues to stand it in mud.
Curtains exhumes, "Somerville is home to a wealth of diverse, creative and dynamic residents and tapping into the ideas and suggestions of those residents is key to the success of the Charter Advisory Committee..." If Curtains had respect for residents, he'd hire locally.

William Hurst

Another fine article put forth by Bill Shelton, but it is an article which again is inaccurate. How dare you comment on Curtatone, the board of aldermen or any other past leader without placing the blame where it truly belongs. It is this President, his administration and the Republican Party which has brought us to "Secrecy, autocracy, and lack of accountability" in the city of Somerville.

thenoseknows

sorry for the delay in getting back to you bill i was painting and repairing my house...hint,hint.....nice comeback billy boy,you accuse me of personally insulting you, then you insult me back....the nose that smells? all noses smell...eyes see,ears hear and noses smell..two cockroaches are walking in bills kitchen,one say to the other one did you hear blah, blah, blah..the other cockroach says ya i did hear that..lets tell bill ok lets...so they tell bill and he says hey it must be true if both of you hear it,,,i'll put that into print

anastasia

The idea that Somerville is somehow different now (i.e.: not corrupt), is, in a word, laughable. Long term Somervillians of which there still are many, know the difference. Mayors were always available for neighborhood meetings of consequence, Curtatone simply isn’t. He shows up at meetings only when his conflicted interests ($) won’t prove to be a problem for him at some point in the future. He’s the new breed who tells you how much he’s improved the city without anything of substance to show for it. He’s attracted to the new breed ($), and it’s almost always at the expense of long-term residents. The old timers know where his bread is buttered as we still have our ears on the street, the new breed are just standing around waiting to feed from the crumbs that fall of the table. After all it costs a lot of money to live in Davis Square, hang in Harvard Square and fill your closet with Birkenstocks!

Bill Shelton

That's deep, Nose. I continue to wait for you to demonstrate how anything that I've written in this series is false.

JPM

Bill is very well informed on these issues. Good article! (and I do not agree with Bill on everything!)

Somerville n00b

I agree with JPM and all the other posters who praised Mr. Shelton. Although I have not verified any of the assumptions, his article is logical and balanced.

Cosmo

Bill clearly has a vendetta for the best mayor in the country. Mayor Joe has rescued Somerville from bankruptcy, cleaned the streets of violent vermin and has encouraged business growth. He is the best. Shame on you Bill. You have never liked our fine mayor because

thenoseknows

bill, this is part of my problem with you. you ask me to prove that anything you have written in your series is false. that implies that EVERYTHING you have written is true.you have this opinion of yourself that you are far more intelligent than everyone or anyone. i'll give you this,you are a very very well informed gentleman.the thing is if you think it or research it then blog it you are correct. my family has lived in this city since the late teens.we have always been involved on some level with politics. we had a business in this city for over 50 years.we have lived for three generation through the good and the lots of bad. this is the good or the very good right now. everetts budget has gone from 100 million in 2005 to 132 million this year. citys are talking about over ride budgets.politicians have gone to jail, have been caught smoking crack,have been caught in sex scandals. we have a mayor who has instituted many new programs to the citizens benfit,has settled both the police and teachers contracts, who has helped secure funding for the green line. who is reorganizing the police department,which was way overdue.has just hired 7 new police officers.the dpw has new, more energy efficient vehicle. the streets are clean, the snow is plowed and removed.the tax increases have been minimal compared to ANY city. very few people are perfect,besides yourself,that is.be happy buddy, these are the good times. enjoy them.perfect will never happen but this is close enought for me.

Cosmo

The problem with Bill is he is not happy to have an patriotic American who also happens to be of Italian heritage at the helm. He has never liked the Mayor - it is abundantly clear. Is the Mayor perfect? Of course not but he has done a terrific job.

Fool on the Hill

Cosmo,

Rescued the city from bankruptcy? It seems to me that the only improvement in the city’s fiscal condition is improved spin about it. That, and manipulation, like removing Bill White from the finance committee because he was drawing too much attention to the city’s real fiscal condition. But if you have any proof at all that the city’s finances are improved, let’s hear it. And let’s hear what Joe Curtatone had to do with it. Would you please explain as well why 1. Bill is unpatriotic, 2. he dislikes Italian Americans, and 3. he has never liked the mayor? And please explain how you know these things to be true.

Nose,

It sounds that there is a lot for you to be justly proud about you family. And it’s clear that you care a lot about his mayor. But I don’t understand what that has to do with your inability to point out any false statement that Bill has made in these articles. And yeah, if there’s nothing false, then it’s all true. Also, would you please explain why, based on his writing over the years, you believe that Bill thinks he’s “more intelligent than everyone or anyone?”

Bill Shelton

There is a relatively objective way to gauge the city's fiscal health. How much must the city rely on the Commonwealth for municipal welfare payments because it can't pay its own way?

Per square mile, Somerville is the 3rd largest recipient of local-aid handouts, out of 351 cities and towns. When state budget makers sneeze, Somerville catches pneumonia. That's the reality behind the happy talk.

Frank

This article is right on the money, it's the perfect encapsulation of my experience (and our entire group) regarding the Mayor's Office and the Planning Board as a whole! In trying to defend an entire neighborhood from an unscrupulous developer in Davis Square we've uncovered more dirt than even longtime residents of the city could believe! The City of Somerville is a much better place as a result William C. Shelton's hard work to uncover the truth, take it from someone up to his knees in lies and corruption.

Jerry

Great story, keep up the wonderful work.....

mike

Can someone tell me when the money from Traffic and Parking went missing? Was it ever reported to the police? Has there ever been an investigation into it?

Reality

Here's the thing when it comes to balancing municipal/state/federal budgets. They REFUSE TO CUT! They simply look for new and more creative ways to fund all of their programs, relatives, etc. They need to react the way a business or a family does when money is short....you cut out expenses (and no, I don't mean meals for the blind, or housing for the mentally ill). I'm talking about truly cutting the massive amounts of waste in all public budgets. No politician has the nerve to do it, not even the good ones. They are only looking toward the next election and how much longer they have to go until they are vested for their retirement. Have you heard any politicians discuss cutting their own bloated salary? I think not, and you won't.

Tired of Somerville Progessives! Vote Blank is Better!

Would you work for free? Didn't think so! So why should the polititions?

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