Endorsements on Parade: The Best of the Rest 2013…
UPDATED 12:56PM: For clarity.
Below are the Springfield School Committee endorsements and our picks (or not) for Holyoke mayor and State Senate.
Notable races we have not covered include the mayoral contests in Chicopee and Westfield as well as council and school committee races in those cities and Agawam and Holyoke. We have offered informal nods of support to Corinne Wingard in Agawam and Rebecca Lisi and Mark Riffenburg in Holyoke, but because our reporting has not sufficiently touched those cities, they remain informal. As with the previous post, we again urge voters to visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website to find out which ward you live in for city elections to know who is on the ballot.
It would have been quite easy to be skeptical of Alex Morse when he came back to town in 2011 and ran for mayor. In that time, Morse has certainly had the luck of being mayor when a lot of good things were happening in Holyoke. However, there has been a real change in tone and innovation in City Hall as well. New buildings and projects are opening. The budget is balanced and Morse has shown a willingness to even cut it to keep city finances stable. Morse is solidly steering the city toward the creative economy, which the older, tired cities of Hampden County need to do in order to revive and grow again.
His opponent Jeffrey Stanek has argued that what Holyoke needs is somebody with a career in business and knows numbers. Both our investigation and Masslive’s has found that Stanek was largely a bean counter with little discretion. The character of these businesses, aside from the Yacht store and sandwich shops, is questionable, but as all these reports have shown, he was too low on the totem pole to make decisions about the companies’ practices. Stanek’s interview with Masslive was illuminating, but we would have liked to discuss this with him and we never heard back.
More to the point, Morse has the backing of the city’s Treasurer, Jon Lumbra. It is Mr. Lumbra’s office that performs many of the functions that Stanek’s skills are in. The only other complaint of any resonance that Stanek’s campaign has is about the city’s levy ceiling under Proposition 2 ½. Readers should know clearly what this is. It is the upper limit of money the city can raise based on the value of property in the city. Springfield hit its ceiling very recently driven in large part by the foreclosure crisis. It took several years after the foreclosure wave began to catch up with the ceiling. Holyoke is not at the ceiling yet and nobody can say for sure when or whether it will hit that ceiling. To us, plans to redevelop properties and raise the tax base, absent actually hitting the ceiling are the more responsible path rather than vague promises to slash budgets.
Morse is hardly perfect and we are not afraid to say so. The casino situation was a debacle, but frankly more a failure of communication than one of policy. Our forte is the politics, but we like us some policy far more and he made the right call in the end. We have no problem slapping Mayor Morse into line in the future when he goes astray. We will do so, but on balance he has been good for Holyoke and brought more people in the city into the process than at any time. We strongly urge the reelection of Alex Morse for Mayor of the city of Holyoke.
Democratic David Bartley a ward councilor in Holyoke and Republican Don Humason, Westfield’s State Rep, are vying for this seat in a special election to fill the seat formerly held by Michael Knapik. Voters deserve a real choice in the first open election for this seat in decades. There is a choice, but as some have observed it seems fundamentally about party, experience and personality. Let’s be frank, we mostly endorse Democrats because that party is in sync with our values of opportunity and equality for all. But this is not England. We do not elect parties, we elect people. We were unable to schedule interviews with the candidates to ask the tough questions of both candidates to be sure that not just their party label, but their values match those that best serve the commonwealth and the Second Hampden and Hampshire Senate district.
The best media account of their debate, provided by The Reminder, showed two candidates unable to disagree on much. We appreciate Rep. Humason’s life of public service. It is not a vice, but his voting record on the role of government undermines his legislative experience as a value to the district. Likewise, Councilor Bartley notes how his father will teach him more in a car ride to Boston than all the legislature already knows. This is not a way to endear yourself to the colleagues one needs to convince to obtain policy that properly considers Western Massachusetts. Both promise more bounty for Western Mass without any cost to taxpayers. How we do not know.
We would want to dig deeper, much deeper than these admittedly hand-picked exchanges revealed (please read the whole Reminder article for more). Hopefully we can sit down with whomever the winner is and discuss their plans. Absent that information, we cannot in good conscience use our voice to urge voters to support either. This race will start up again right after tomorrow’s vote come January and we shall go from there.
An opening note. This race has unfortunately been freighted with accusations and intrigue that were totally unnecessary and, frankly, have surprisingly little to do with the candidates. In our estimate, the field of incumbents Denise Hurst and Antonnette Pepe and challenger Dr. Calvin McFadden offers voters solid choices. Any combination could do well, but our preference is that it must include Denise Hurst. Well regarded by her counterparts in neighboring communities, Hurst has shown independence on the Committee and a willingness to work on behalf of the city’s students. Hurst has made an effort to be an active part of the state association of school committees to learn from and collaborate with others like herself from across the commonwealth. Hurst has earned herself another term.
But what of seat number two? It is painfully close. Dr. McFadden is qualified and being new to Springfield, despite some friends he has made in the campaign, lacks the same strong ties with the glad-handers and phonies of city politics. And yet Pepe is a rabble-rouser and a bulldog. She may at times be full of it (and herself), but it is borne out contempt for corruption or deceit. It is refreshing and it serves both students and residents well. It is a photo finish, but our choice is Antonette Pepe.
This Committee seat serving wards 1 & 3 features incumbent Norman Roldan and Rosa Perez. If our Ward 1 decline was based on increasing questions as we reported further, this race is the absolute opposite, a black hole of information. We have not extensively covered this election, but there is remarkably little to glean about the candidates and so we must decline to endorse for this seat.
Like District 1, this race, which covers Ward 2 & 8, has not been well covered by us or by others. However, we are a bit more familiar with the players here. Incumbent Peter Murphy is seeking reelection and faces Zaida Govan. Our choice in this seat is Govan. Long active in affairs in the area, she seems poised to mix it up on the Committee with new ideas. Murphy, while an otherwise okay person, has little to show for four years on the Committee. A political hanger-on, his time has come and gone and this changing part of the city more grounded in its future than its past. Vote Zaida Govan this Tuesday.