My sister and I went down to the Keg Room late Thursday afternoon to go to Ben's first fundraiser of the season. I'd call it a successful event-- maybe a hundred people, a minimum of speeches, and enough food to keep people happy.
I ran into Juan Gerena, director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and we chatted for a while. I told him I thought it was a good move to cancel the Puerto Rican Festival this year. He said that if people didn't behave at this year's Puerto Rican parade, it would be the last year for the parade, also.
"We've got too much other important business to spend our time and energy on a festival right now," he said.
Juan asked how come I wasn't at Springfield's legislatively-sponsored hearing about Gov. Patrick's proposed bill for Springfield. (I was in Boston all day for my job.) The bill, which will take the form of a binding referendum on November 4th's election ballot, proposes an extension of our $52 million loan from the state to twelve years from our current five. Unfortunately, that proposal comes with three conditions, which come as close to blackmail as anything I can think of: a raise for the mayor, the establishment of a new position, a Chief Financial Officer, AND an extension of the mayor's term of office from two years to four years. I imagine most of the citizens of this city feels the same sense of disgust at this proposal that I do. Nobody likes being strong-armed.
(Another bizarre aspect of the governor's proposal, that only a few people recognize, is how very different the voter approval path for this referendum is than the one we ward rep advocates had to take. Among other things, this question is going on the ballot in an even numbered year that is usually reserved only for state and federal elections. Juan said Rep. Cheryl Rivera brought this up at the budget hearing.))
I've said I wasn't opposed to the idea of four year terms for mayor in general, but Juan pointed out something that has made me change my mind. Think, he said, of the size of the war chest a four year mayor could build up over that time period-- it would make him pretty damn unbeatable. Oops! Hadn't thought of that one. He's right.
No one seems to be very clear yet on whether this four year term measure, if passed, would automatically extend the current Mayor Sarno's term from two to four years. If it does, I'd say that's the kiss of death for the Governor's proposal.
About an hour into Ben's fundraiser, Domenic Sarno stopped in. He said a few kind words about Ben and then said he was off to a School Committee meeting. I could hardly even look at the guy. Rarely have I seen a new administration get off to such a bumbling and heavy-handed start. The trash fee, of course, is a prime though not sole example. If Sarno had brought the community in on decision-making about the trash fee, he could have won our support. Of course, a lot of people who voted for Sarno did so thinking that they were involved in making a decision about the trash fee, and that decision was to eliminate it.
Liz and I left after about an hour, my tolerance for political people in a bar having come to an end.
I will work on Ben's campaign; just give me a stack of flyers to distribute and I'll go door to door.I'd rather be a foot soldier than a general when it comes to getting a candidate elected-- even one I like.
Meanwhile, the Sarno saga has only just begun.