Endorsements on Parade: What Council Holyoke Should Keep in 2017…
Holyoke faces a unique set of choices this election cycle. It is dropping two at-large council seats. The ward seats increasingly, are where the city’s minority population finds its strongest voices.
However, this transition comes at an inflection point in Holyoke politics. The mayor’s race has been, at worst, icily cordial. However, frosty respect, the bare minimum in municipal legislatures, is not enough. Our Council recommendations aspire to lift Holyoke well above that low bar.
We open with a note on campaign contributions, the latest fever to convulse the Paper City’s politics. Those now pearl-clutching do so in completely bad faith. The power of special interests is not new, hardly so in a place with big city politics like Holyoke. All city pols take contributions from interests or worse, let things go by because of familial or friendly connections.
Those shocked—shocked—about how politics works might conceal their hypocrisy better if they put forward a solution. Though not a fiscal reality for Holyoke, a public campaign financing system would be a start. Until such ideas come forward—and no, self-policing does not count—voters should see through this self-serving, Janus-faced act.
**Don’t know your ward? Click here to find out which one if yours.**
In this race in the heart of the flats, incumbent Gladys Lebron-Martinez faces challenger Juan Sanchez. Admittedly, our knowledge of this race is limited and so we must decline to endorse. However, we know Lebron-Martinez to serve her community with deliberation and concern. Sanchez appears to have a grasp of issues facing the community. We do worry about the late flurry of contribution hysteria in this race. A challenger not yet in office can speak less disingenuously than incumbents. Still, that does not impress us.
Here incumbent Nelson Roman faces challenger J’Anthony Smith in this South Holyoke-based ward hugging the Connecticut River. Roman came to the Council two years ago and has been outspoken addition to the Council. Smith appears to have the same energy to channel into office. Both maintain a progressive outlook on solving municipal issues.
Nonetheless, our recommendation goes to Roman. We have not agreed with everything he’s done. For example, with Springfield’s example as our preference, we were less than thrilled with the solution hammered out for the Community Preservation Act. But that solution also shows Roman’s desire to seek compromise. That’s not easy on this Council, loaded with extremes as it is.
Another two years for Nelson Roman as Ward 2 Councilor.
Incumbent David Bartley faces Darlene Elias in Ward 3, which spreads out bird-like from Route 5 near downtown. This race presents a conundrum. We were unimpressed with Elias’ 2015 at-large run, including the support she sought and offered from/to others running that year. This time, Elias appears to have eschewed such things and focused on her race.
Bartley, the son of a former Massachusetts House speaker, however, has worn out his welcome. Four years ago, he ran an uninspiring, unsuccessful state senate campaign. As a councilor, he seems out of step with the city’s needs. His promise for outreach rings hollow. But Bartley’s drunk-driving arrest concerns us greatly. This blog believes in second chances, even for pols, but he rear-ended two other cars. He—and those in the other vehicles—are lucky it was not worse.
Helpfully, Elias is pitching a community-oriented approach this time. Her stance on issues appears humane and appropriate for Holyoke’s challenges. Acclimation does not exist between her and us on all issues. However, we are prepared to give her our nod.
Darlene Elias for Ward 3 City Councilor.
This seat further up Route 5 and I-91 may be among the most diverse wards among the city’s upper wards. It is also open with the retirement of Council President Kevin Jourdain. Juan Anderson-Burgos, who ran against Jourdain in 2015, and James Brunault are seeking to succeed him
In a way, Anderson-Burgos and Brunault, both married, professionals and homeowners, offer a model of middle-class Holyoke. However, as the city changes, being able to step across the city’s divides will be crucial.
Anderson-Burgos, a banker, has promised to broaden outreach to the entirety of Ward 6, including its increasing Latino population. Anderson-Burgos is talking about regional collaboration and a compassionate approach to panhandling, which affects Ward 6 particularly.
Brunault has aimed his campaign on job creation and pointed to his work as a vocational counselor as a way to help people to work. All worthwhile. However, we are disturbed by his revival of Jourdain’s empty barbs about Anderson-Burgos’ voting history since 2002.
Such may have been entirely in character for Jourdain and his (in)famous bombast, but it sounds especially atonal from the soft-spoken Brunault. This attack is arbitrary. Its premise bars those with later political awakenings from fully participating, including, you know, running for office.
No, Anderson-Burgos is the superior choice. We believe he can bridge the divides within Ward 6. His biography can speak to backgrounds across Holyoke’s socioeconomic spectrum. We would add, though identity alone is not a reason to vote for a person, his addition to the Council shall up its diversity with another LGBT voice.
For Ward 6 city councilor, our recommendation is Juan Anderson-Burgos.
For the at-large race, voters may choose up to 6 councilors, down from eight thanks to a charter change. Though voters need not use all six votes.
Lisi, a 10 year Council vet, gets the person-to-person aspect of politics and fully embraces the city diversity and culture. There’s more. Lisi knows policy and thrives in the details of it. Urban political systems often do not reward such studiousness, but Holyoke has. For the last five cycles, the city has been better for it.
The minutiae of land use and urban planning do not fit easily on bumper stickers, but they must be wrangled. And so she has on matters involving downtown, zoning around the Mall, and historic preservation. Transforming, restoring, reviving—pick your participle—Holyoke will not happen overnight, but it cannot happen without an appreciation for the policy.
The right person to craft that policy is Rebecca Lisi. We strongly urge another at-large term for her.
A long serving member, Tallman is a generally well-liked councilor in Holyoke. Of course, being well-liked is not a qualification, but he also brings an even keel to this boisterous body. Few old guard figures in Holyoke politics also project this demeanor.
In a recent debate, Tallman underscored the importance of public service. His behavior as a councilor shows he means it. Public office is not, to him, a contrivance to stay relevant, maintain a modicum of power, or some other earthly need.
On balance, we find no major objections to his votes. Tallman has put his support behind several common sense initiatives and backed colleagues’ efforts to condemn rising discrimination. Another at-large term for Peter Tallman.
Long tenures are not always ideal, but they can carry wisdom, too. McGiverin has served on the Council for nearly 40 years, but unlike some of his colleagues—some who have served for a lot less time—he doesn’t appear threatened by Holyoke’s changes.
In the at-large debate, he spoke about all communities in Holyoke, not just those that traditionally ruled it. He has embraced and encourage newcomers as well. As a probation officer has rightly hesitated when faced with some of the more reactionary items on the Council agenda.
These are somewhat small things, but they matter, especially given voters’ choices this year. We urge another two years at-large for Joe McGiverin.
With the Council losing two at-large seats, the challenger list is short. All eight incumbents have been joined by two challengers seeking at-large six seats. Aloisi’s grasp of policy and issues stand out.
There was understanding and a global perspective of the issues’ interconnectedness. For example, at the at-large debate Aloisi rejected the traditional one-dimensional approach to public safety. It is crime, but also how the elderly or disabled engage the city. And that feeds into economic development and so on and so on.
On this level of government, constituent services is paramount and we think Aloisi’s wonkiness will serve her well. But policy, as we have stated, matters a great deal, too. Without a bigger picture it will ultimately be all for naught. Give Deborah Aloisi a chance at-large to show what she can do.
As with Tallman, we did not endorse Leahy last time. This year is different. For better or for worse, Leahy, always a prolific user of social media, has been emphasizing that platform as a venue for outreach. Certainly, as has become common with these platform, posters contribute pablum and primal screams. But we deem his intent sincere.
Moreover, he made a key contribution during an at-large debate. He has made no formal proposal, but Leahy called for the city assist young Holyokers get drivers licenses or bus passes. Mediocre transportation is a social justice issue, the lack thereof afflicting cities like Holyoke and Springfield.
Points to James Leahy for recognizing this and another at-large term to go with it.
Is that it? Yes. We do not recommend that Holyokers use all at-large votes this year.
Were our suggestions enacted, of course, a sixth person would still be elected. We do opine against some below. Both incumbent Diosdado Lopez—appointed to fill out Jennifer Chateauneuf’s term last year—and challenger Paul Bessette left little impression. As for Michael Sullivan, his “feed the animals” remark still haunts him. We cannot endorse him, but we won’t demand his dismissal either. It is for Holyoke voters to grant him absolution or not.
Daniel Bresnahan and Howard Greaney’s we do urge voters to not reelect. Our reasons from 2015 stand for our continued opposition to Bresnahan. Throughout the debate we watched and from observations from afar, we continue to see little qualification if many platitudes. Perhaps he means well, but we would not brook that as enough in our home base down the river and would expect nothing less from Holyoke.
As for Greaney, he seemed innocuous enough in past years, but his wholly empty answers, specifically at the Chamber debate are troubling. A former teacher should have more to offer than, I’ll check in with my grandchildren, regarding implementation of the Youth Action Plan. It smacks of the worst of insider and “who-you-know” politics while lacking the human touch and humility McGiverin and Tallman have offered. Thank you, no.
We discourage voters from checking off Daniel Bresnahan and Howard Greaney’s name off on November 7.