It has not been an easy year for Southbridge, MA.
The town has been the subject of a Tea Party group from out of town getting involved in a district race for State Representative that resulted in what many call a racist billboard being placed in the heart of town, a heavily Hispanic area of town to boot.
Southbridge has a large population that comes from Puerto Rico, and the two groups involved in “encouraging” voters to show an ID to vote (despite being illegal to ask for an ID, they didn’t seem to get the fact that a) in Southbridge, outsiders are not welcome in Southbridge’s political process, and b) Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and have been, since 1917.
So, like Sarah Palin before them, the Tea Party Group appears to be growing less significant every time they speak, as they target the wrong people.
Southbridge is not Arizona as far as the eye can see, yet these groups sought to bring out the inherent bigotry, racism and fear of “those people”.
In Southbridge, at least, that tactic backfired. Peter Durant may have won the election, but in Southbridge, he lost by a two-to-one margin.
To help get someone elected, based solely on fear, is neither new nor unique.
This is now a part of Southbridge’s past, but will people learn from it?
Take a look at the current election coming up this Tuesday for Town Council. Three seats are up, all incumbents.
Cathy Nikolla, Steve Lazo (Chairman), and Richard Logan are running against three contenders:
Gary Fontaine, Darlene Marcucci, and David Langevin.
Nikolla has been a fireball of controversy, referring to certain citizens of Southbridge as “pigs”, and telling people that ‘you know who I’m talking about’, being spoofed repeatedly for it by the talented Mike Marketti of the Southbridge Evening News (www.marketticartoons.com). You can even watch a video of her walking out of a meeting on Marketti’s site.
Lazo’s family has been involved in politics in Southbridge for years, and as such, is an easy target for those that don’t like him or his family.
Logan, a PhD, is probably the most intellectual member of the Town Council, and although some don’t like his patient approach, he seeks out the details to fully understand the issues at hand.
However, Southbridge being Southbridge, there are two obvious factions in the Town Council, consisting of nine-members.
One faction appears to be concerned with the people, yet have been criticized for not standing more adamantly behind their own positions.
The other one seems to be concerned with power and how they can leverage this power to bully those that they don’t like. It reminds many in town of the same tactics that President Nixon used with his enemies list.
As an example of the latter, one need only to see or hear about the whisper campaigns, by email or by word of mouth, targeting the Lazo’s and Fontaine.
When one Councilor, David Livengood, spoke at Councilors Forum two-weeks ago, he called for an investigation into “anonymous” letters regarding a sitting Councilor. In a twist of irony, last year, when it became known that a member of the Council leaked Executive Session minutes, Livengood did not call for an investigation. He was silent on the issue.
The difference is that one was based in fact, while the other was based on innuendo.
The leak investigation involved the State Police, and a copy of the report is available on the blog, The O’Zone by Ken O’Brien (http://tinyurl.com/4dpneru).
You can read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions, but it is of interest that the report was marked confidential, and no one on the Council, in either camp, has spoken about it publicly that I could find. Where’s the outrage?
What Livengood didn’t say about the email and whisper campaign was that Fontaine was accused of doing something that he didn’t do, and instead of Chairman Lazo being targeted, his family was, and continues to be, harassed by one of the factions, who seem to think that, despite proof to the contrary, the Lazo’s didn’t pay their water bill.
There is also a report on the same blog, showing a copy of the findings of the police into the Lazo family. Was this a violation of the Lazo’s Fourth Amendment Rights (illegal search and seizure)? No doubt, a lawsuit is probably not far behind, if for no other reason than to find out under what authority this “investigation” was launched, since it apparently only focused on one family that allegedly didn’t pay their taxes, not everyone that didn’t pay their taxes.
No one wins with “politics” like this, and in fact, everyone in town loses.
The question on Tuesday is whether or not Southbridge will seek to clean up their Town Council, or continue down a path that will lead to further bullying of their citizens, while raising property taxes, water and sewer rates, and seeking to reduce the free trash collection that they were promised by the town when Casella came to town.
Can receivership by the state be far off?