HEROES AND BOZOS OF 2018
While we normally reserve the word “hero” for our brave veterans, police officers, and firefighters, the use of the word hero in this yearly notebook feature “HEROES and BOZOS” is to denote community heroes who go above and beyond to make our lives better.
BOZO – METHUEN SCHOOL COMMITTEEMAN DJ DEEB
Talk about an ungrateful jerk. For years, The Valley Patriot has provided controversial Methuen School Committeeman DJ Deeb free space in the pages of this newspaper to share his opinions and perspective. How does he thank me? Last month, Deeb took advantage of the space we gave him in this paper to praise embattled Methuen City Councilor Steve Saba for laying off cops and – surprise – attack me, the very person who has given him a voice and defended his right of free speech. On top of that, the police salaries he talked about in that column were inaccurate and I would argue purposely misleading. There’s an old saying that you don’t crap where you eat, and it’s apparent that Deeb’s mom never taught him that. But, despite recommendations from all three of my editors to pull Deeb’s column last month, I continue to stand with Deeb’s right of free speech even though that speech was deceitful and insulting. I will continue to allow Deeb to do so in the future as well because, that’s what free speech is all about. In a free society you don’t silence people who are ignorant and insulting, you don’t sue them or censor them, you combat their ignorance and insults by using your speech to counter their speech. As such, I am continuing to publish Deeb’s column every month, while also naming DJ Deeb as this year’s BOZO OF 2018.
HERO MICHAEL GORMAN AND THE KIDS AT TMF
Michael Gorman (and Sam Salib) and his volunteer group of teenagers from Lawrence called The Movement Family have made it their mission to go out into the community and help homeless people get into detox, get transitional housing, and feed and clothe them. For the last three decades I’ve watched government bodies and nonprofit groups have meetings upon meetings to discuss how to help the homeless in Lawrence but very few of them actually do anything … except have meetings. Mike Gorman and his crew at TMF are highly deserving of the title of Heroes of 2018. If only we had more people like Mike and the crew at TMF.
BOZO – METHUEN COUNCILOR STEVE SABA
There are a lot of reasons Steve Saba has earned our BOZO of the Year award this year. For starters, his constant personal attacks against women at the city council table, his disrespectful comments about police officers, his dishonest attacks against the police chief, and proposing a measure that will result in the layoff of at least 30 police officers in Methuen at a time when crime is rising in their city.
But, Saba actually outdid all of that when he tried to blame Mayor James Jajuga for the police layoffs that are about to occur as the result of his successful proposal to cut $1.8M out of the police budget … while voting to give the school department additional money. This, even though it was the school department which overspent their budget by $4M this year and $2M last year, while the police budget was actually balanced. The real shame in all of this is that Saba has pushed me into a position to defend Jajuga (of all people) at a time when Jajuga is trying to have this newspaper shut down.
HEROES – METHUEN CITY COUNCIL – Given all that has happened in the world of corrupt Methuen politics this year, it’s hard to remember some of the more heroic actions the council took earlier in the year. For the first time in recent memory, the council actually did their jobs when passing the city budget. As painful as it was to watch, this year’s council went line-by-line through every single expenditure in the budget, discussed the need – or lack of need – for each item, and gave the public a transparent look at how the city operates. While I don’t agree with all the cuts they made, the fact that they did what no other council has done in more than a decade was quite heroic, especially since some councilors took a political hit for some of the more contentious issues they discussed.
BOZOS – METHUEN CITY COUNCIL
Despite all the good things that came from the Methuen City Council’s budget discussions and some brave votes on personnel issues, at the end of the day the council nearly threw all that good work out the window when they voted to cut $1.8M out of the police budget (after police had already taken a cut) meaning that as many as 30 cops will have to be laid off within the next few months. What’s more, they only borrowed $4M from the state to cover the $4M overspent by Judy Scannell, DJ Deeb and the rest of the Methuen School Committee. Councilor Jessica Finocchiaro warned at the time that as they move forward there may be more hidden cost overruns that they don’t know about, and as such the council should borrow a little more so they won’t run a deficit. Instead of heeding her warnings, the council only borrowed the $4M they needed to pay for school overruns and wouldn’t you know it? It wasn’t a few months later when the council learned that the receiver appointed by the state will have to be paid, will have to have expenses paid, and will have to have a budget to audit the Methuen books. SURPRISE! There’s no money in the budget for that. Finocchiaro was right. Now Methuen will be facing even more cuts to city services as they cannot go back to the state and borrow more. What’s worse, more spending measures have been unearthed by way of private contracts that have to be paid, but were never budgeted for. In their defense, this council has done far more work – and good work at that – than any previous council in the last decade. It’s just too bad they couldn’t put aside petty personal politics to finish the year as total heroes. Instead they get a split HERO/BOZO decision.
BOZOS METHUEN SCHOOL COMMITTEE & METHUEN VOTERS
Seriously…. if you can’t count on your local school committee to do basic things like make sure your superintendent is certified and licensed to run your school system, then what the hell are they good for? After learning that (now) former Superintendent Judy Scannell was never certified and never licensed to be a superintendent, the Methuen School Committee decided to allow Scannell to retire with a full pension and never called for any public investigation into how this woman, with no certifications or license, actually became superintendent in the first place. The school committee swept everything under the rug, no public hearing, no public investigation, no transparency. Just accept her retirement and pretend the whole thing never happened. As such, the public will never learn to know that Judy Scannell was a fraud when she was hired. We will never find out who knew about it on the search committee, who knew after she was appointed and who, if anyone, used Scannell’s secret against her to get political favors from Judy Scannell while she was pretending to be the superintendent of schools for 10 years.
They also never held anyone accountable for the fact that Judy Scannell was a school principal prior to being appointed superintendent, and she wasn’t certified or licensed to be a school principal back then either. WOW! A total cover-up brought to light by brave journalists like Tim Wood at Loop Weekly and yet after it was all out in the open, nobody did a damn thing about it. Shame on the Methuen School Committee, and shame on the people of Methuen for not demanding accountability from their elected officials. To this very minute, the school committee has completely moved on and has no interest in investigating what really happened here. Maybe that’s because they know the voters of Methuen (like themselves) are totally incompetent and just don’t care. Or maybe it has to do with all those Methuen politicians having family members working in the school system.
HEROES – METHUEN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS JANA DINATALE AND JANA PESCE
When the vote came to accept superintendent Judy Scannell’s retirement both Methuen School Committee members Jana DiNatale and Jane Pesce refused to vote YES because they wanted an investigation into how this happened and a public hearing to have more transparency. They preferred Scannell be fired so the public would see in a public hearing what actually happened and who was responsible. While the rest of the committee wanted to cover everything up and move on, DiNatale and Pesce stood their ground.
HERO – NORTH ANDOVER SELECTMAN PHIL DECOLOGERO
It’s hard to find an elected official in the Merrimack Valley who is as proactive and involved in the community than North Andover Selectman Phil DeCologero. Other officials show up at a meeting every two weeks and then don’t really do anything in between. But, DeCologero helps to organize the NAMA Farmer’s Market, Fall Festival, Sheep Shearing, and several other great civic events in town. What’s more, if not for DeCologero making phone calls during Hanukkah to find out why there was no menorah lighting ceremony on the common this year, it never would have happened. DeCologero understands that being a public official means being involved in the community a little more than showing up at a meeting and pretending to be important. As my regular readers know, I have contempt for people who talk a good game but don’t actually do anything and I LOVE people who are do-ers and never take credit for the things they do. THANK YOU Phil for being a doer and not a talker like most of the other blow hard elected officials who only care about photo ops and having meetings.
HEROES CARRIE WEILAND AND ROGER FARRAH
With zero money from the City of Lawrence, zero money from state government, and zero money from the federal government, Roger Farrah and Carrie Weiland run House of Mercy on Bay State Road in Lawrence. During the day, House of Mercy allows homeless people to come in and take a shower, wash their clothes, get a free meal, a haircut, counseling services for drug addiction and mental health, and helps them get into transitional housing. Roger Farrah and Carrie Wieland spend their own money and take in very little in donations to help the homeless and they do so without getting any credit or accolades for their hard work. Roger and Carrie are truly community heroes and if you have clothing or items to donate for the homeless this is a great place to give!
BOZO – HAVERHILL MAYOR JIM FIORENTINI
He can claim all he wants that crime is down in Haverhill and that he has single handedly saved the world but Mayor Jim Fiorentini conceals police scanner calls from the public while he pretends to care about transparency. As far as we know, Haverhill is the only municipality in Massachusetts that does not broadcast their police scanner calls to the public. What do you have to hide Jimmy? Certainly you don’t want us to take your WORD that crime is down in Haverhill when the public has no way of following police radio calls themselves to see if that’s true or not. I always chuckle when an elected official like Jim Fiorentini pats themselves on the back and talks about transparency in government all the while working overtime to conceal information from the public. It’s a BOZO move that the people of Haverhill should not tolerate, but like the Methuen School Committee issue, he gets away with it because the public doesn’t demand accountability. We certainly do get the government we deserve. A big BOZO to Fiorentini and the people of Haverhill.
BOZO – STATE REP. ANDY VARGAS
I was hoping to be able to put Haverhill State Rep. Andy Vargas on the hero list this year after chatting with him on election night about the lack of transparency on the police scanner issue. I had him pegged as a civil libertarian who cared about transparency in government, but since our conversation the first week of November, Vargas has done nothing about Jim Fiorentini concealing police calls from the public. Let’s get something straight, police officers are public officials. They do their business in public because their business is OUR business. If State Rep. Vargas really believes all the negative things his party says about cops being racist and that cops need civilian oversight, then why is it that he is not on the forefront of an effort to stop Fiorentini from concealing regular radio police calls from the public? Last year Vargas got a big BOZO for warning the public (which inevitably includes drug dealers and gang members) of an impending ICE raid in Haverhill. Maybe he will find religion in 2019 and actually do something about this kind of secrecy in government and earn his way onto the hero list. But as of right now Andy stands firm on the BOZO list.
BOZOS DEMOCRATS IN 3rd DISTRICT
With the retirement of 3rd District Congressman Niki Tsongas the democrats in the 3rd district had a chance to walk the walk like the voters of Boston did this year when they threw out rich, white liberal Mike Capuano and elected a black female in Ayanna Pressley. Among the candidates to replace Tsongas were a gay man married to another man, a transgendered former marine, a millennial Latina from Lawrence, a rich white woman and a rich white man from Andover. If the democrats in the 3rd district (which includes Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen and Haverhill) really believed in affirmative action and minority representation then why were the top two vote getters rich, white people? In the end, the rich white woman Laurie Trahan beat the rich white guy from Andover Dan Koh in the primary. While I don’t agree with proportional representation or electing someone based on race or sexual preference, I have to give a BIG BOZO to the democrats in the third district who pretend they do, until it comes to their own congressman.
BOZO – SID HARRIS of METHUEN
Poor Sid. Desperate to be relevant with a pathetic need to be part of the IN crowd of Methuen politics, Sid Harris has become one of the biggest BOZOSs in the valley. After coming in last in his bid for city council last year, Sid has become a puppet for political insiders who use him to do their bidding while they hide behind anonymity. We used to call people like that “useful idiots” when I was growing up, but this year I will just settle for BOZO SID.
HERO – CARINA PAPPALARDO
It’s not an easy task to run the Daybreak Homeless Shelter in Lawrence with no help from the city, no help from the federal government, and only pennies coming in from the state. But, somehow Carina Pappalardo from the Lawrence Psychological Center (which oversees Daybreak) manages to get it done. Throughout the year, Pappalardo holds private fundraisers to help keep the homeless shelter operational. A homeless shelter that fills 55 beds every night, in a city with more than 250 homeless people out on the streets. She needs a new building, the city doesn’t care. The state and federal government also do not care. So, Carina is doing everything she can to try and get a new facility with no help from our local, state, and federal elected officials. The very same officials by the way, who campaign on the backs of the poor as democrats who care about the downtrodden. Thank you Carina Pappalardo for being a community HERO with almost no help from the blowhards who run for office.
BOZOS – CNN “REPORTERS”
To be a CNN loyal viewer who believes that they “report” the “news” you first have to be able to completely forget everything else they just reported a few minutes earlier. In one CNN segment they call Donald Trump a right wing “Nazi” and then hold panel discussions with liberal guests who take turns painting Trump as a hater who wants to exterminate Jews. But, wait… in segment number two Donald Trump is “reported” as a left wing communist spy for Russia, complete with panel discussions on how Trump is a secret operative for Vladimir Putin. But, wait … in segment #3 CNN wants you to know that there was another school shooting and the only way to stop these shootings is for you to turn in all your guns to … Donald Trump. That’s right kids, Trump is an evil left wing communist, while also being a right wing Nazi and by the way … give that Commie/Nazi all your guns and everyone will be safer. The fake reporters at CNN have to be the biggest BOZOS in the country … that is… right next to the idiots who watch CNN believing that what they are watching is actually “news”.
BOZOS – OPPONENTS OF MARIJUANA FACILITY IN N. ANDOVER
This year North Andover voters turned down the cash cow proposal of a marijuana facility on Rt. 125. It would have been one thing if the debate at town meeting was an honest open discussion about the pros and cons of a marijuana facility in town. Instead it turned into a dishonest and deceptive propaganda campaign, complete with a doctor showing brain scans of kids who had smoked marijuana, a mail campaign objecting to the evils of smoking marijuana and a social media campaign that purposely confused voters into thinking this was a referendum on pot legalization, when in fact pot had already been legalized at that point. In the end the voters at town meeting made an emotional decision and were swayed by the opponents of the facility.
HEROES – EUNICE ZEIGLER AND THE METHUEN DAY COMMITTEE
Methuen City Councilor Eunice Zeigler came up with a great idea to hold a Methuen Day celebration for kids and their families in Methuen this year. She and fellow Councilors Finocchiaro, Hamilton, and the rest of the Methuen Day committee did a great job organizing this first ever event. Because of their hard work and dedication Methuen had a great festival everyone could be proud of. That is, despite the fact that two supporters of Steve Saba tried to make the event very political. SEE BELOW
BOZOS – DUNK TANK PROTESTERS
While Councilors Zeigler, Finocchiaro, and Hamilton were working with the Methuen Day committee to organize a great event for Methuen families, at least two troublemakers tried to politicize the event over comments I made about Steve Saba’s vote to cut police officers. They interfered with the planning of the event by threatening organizers with a public boycott because that evil Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan was going to be in the dunk tank for charity. Yeah … my words are soooooooo powerful that these two clowns wanted to shut down the Methuen Day event over comments I made on my TV show – not about Methuen Day – but about Councilor Saba’s vote to cut cops.
When that didn’t work, they threatened to picket the event if the evil Tom Duggan was allowed to participate. After all, evil Duggan said mean things about their political puppet master – Councilor Saba. How could they possibly let the families of Methuen enjoy a political-free day in the community with such treachery going on? In the end, the two troublemakers boycotted Methuen Day even though the person they were supposedly defending – Councilor Saba – was seen enjoying Methuen Day with his family.
That’s right, Steve Saba himself didn’t boycott the event. You can’t make it up. As a side note, I am flattered that some people think I’m so important that it would consume so much of their time and energy. What makes them BOZOS most of all though, is that these two made life difficult for the good people who were trying to organize Methuen Day and do something positive for the community. I hope they learned their lesson. But, in case they didn’t I will spell it out. You are not as important and influential as you think you are, and the relationships that I have built in this community over the last 5 decades are a little stronger than the one or two years you two have been on the scene … BOZOS.
BOZOS – COLUMBIA GAS – Seriously, I don’t think I need to explain why.
HERO – GEOFF DIEHL
Even though he knew that Lawrence was going to vote against him 9-1, (as they do against all Republicans) U.S. Senate Candidate Goeff Diehl spent an inordinate amount of time helping victims of the Columbia Gas disaster. While fires were still raging, Diehl took off his campaign buttons and started handing out water and supplies to those evacuating. In the days that followed, Diehl came back to Lawrence several times, giving out space heaters, portable showers, food and water. His opponent Elizabeth Warren whisked into the city for a quick photo op and then disappeared until three months later when she returned for anther photo op. THANK YOU Geoff Diehl for putting the people of Lawrence above your campaign even though the people of Lawrence preferred to vote for the woman who did nothing for them.
HEROES METHUEN EXCHANGE – The good people of the Methuen Exchange get very little credit for the good deeds they do. The Methuen Exchange helps the kids at the St. Anne’s Home by taking them to ball games, miniature golf, gives scholarships to local students, gives awards to police officers, firefighters and veterans, gives away turkey dinners to needy families at Thanksgiving, gives away toys to needy children at Christmas and throughout the year do countless good deeds for people in the community.
HERO MARC LAPLANT – Like Eunice Zeigler in Methuen and Phil DeCologero in North Andover, Marc LaPlant in Lawrence is a doer. He has spent countless hours honoring WWI veterans in Lawrence and always seems to be about honoring others. Marc and I may not agree on local political issues but Marc has his heart in the right place and he walks the walk. During the Columbia Gas disaster and its aftermath, Marc and his wife Sue were the driving force of helping people in the Colonial Heights neighborhood. While I wish he moved things along a little faster, he also helped our friend C. Bryan Thomas get a concession stand for the South Lawrence East Little league. ◊