Second vote on new Chelmsford fire station defeated

A local resident casts her vote. SUN/David H. Brow image.

As written today by Rita Savard of the Lowell Sun:

CHELMSFORD — In the town’s only contested race, voters said a controversial building project led the charge for a shake-up on the Planning Board.

Attorney Richard McClure, who is suing the town over an alleged preservation restriction violation at 9 North Road, topped the three-way race for two open seats, pushing out Chairwoman Ann McGuigan.

McClure earned 2,392 votes, followed by Michael Raisbeck with 2,180 votes. McGuigan trailed with 1,883 votes.

“I believe the election results were clearly a referendum on the 9 North Road project, given the ouster of the chair of the Planning Board,” McClure said in an email last night. “I am very thankful for the voters and I hope to do my best in representing their interests.”

The results took some by surprise last night, including members of the Planning Board, who have been sued by McClure.

“I will still go about doing the business of Chelmsford as always,” board member George Zaharoolis said. “The Planning Board has a responsibility to uphold the bylaws. That’s what I’ll continue to do, and I hope the new members do the same.”

The 9 North Road parcel, next to the Center Fire Station, ignited the feuds that led to several ongoing legal battles.

Michael Eliopoulos, father of former longtime Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, purchased the privately owned land from Eastern Bank for $400,000 in 2009. McClure has sued the town over an alleged violation of a 1978 preservation restriction, which he said was created to retain the two-acre parcel as open space.

McClure also alleges that the land sold for such a low price because it has always been marked as “unbuildable.”

Former Selectmen John Carson, Paul Hart and Joe Shanahan, who helped author the preservation restriction more than 30 years ago, spoke before town officials last year to confirm the intent of the bylaw was to keep the land as open space.

But other town officials argue that the bylaw was not written specifically to prevent building on the parcel. An attempt to halt construction last year was rejected by a state Land Court judge.

Accusations that the land was acquired through backroom deals have spurred several lawsuits. McClure is also the attorney representing Chelmsford businessman Roland Van Liew in his suits against various town officials.

McGuigan was unable to be reached for comment.

Raisbeck, who was a Planning Board alternate, said he might have done well with voters because he positioned himself “somewhat in between the other two.”

“I was a fan of Ann’s,” he said. “I don’t really know Dick McClure that well, but I’m looking forward to getting to know him and having a productive term on the board.”

The amount of blank ballots for the race, 2,726, topped all candidates’ votes.

Looking at the results last night, Town Meeting representative Brian Latina said it is clear that “this election was about 9 North Road.”

“People were sending a message,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Read more:


Supporters of 1st Middlesex district demonstrate loyalty

In the race for the 1st Middlesex district, Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) is a familiar face with supporters from all walks of life as demonstrated two nights ago.  Donoghue made an appearance at the home of Carolyn and Bob Gregoire, who hosted a party to recognize her bid for state senate.  She is competing against new-comer Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) to get their party’s nomination.

“I support Eileen because not only does she stand up for what she believes in, but because she is very easy to connect with,” remarked Dorine Dupont.  “I’ve known Eileen for many years and I know that she’ll do good things for the state.”

A former prosecutor, Doherty voluntarily left his job in order to work full-time on his campaign.  Doherty collaborated with District Attorney Leone to advocate for legislation to strengthen the voices of concerned citizens with regard to protecting children from sexual predators.  Before that, Doherty worked with former Congressman Marty Meehan.  Doherty’s supporters call him a reliable candidate that focused on helping voters.

There are subtle nuances between the candidates’ health care policies.  Voters could probably expect Donoghue to support legislation designed to put a cap on health insurance costs.  This might mean reducing paperwork in order to decrease administrative overhead, which is one aspect of rising insurance costs.  Alternatively, Doherty seems likely to support a small business consortium so that competition can drive down prices.

So far, the candidates have scheduled three debates.  According to the campaigns, the first debate is scheduled for Monday, August 16th, which will be broadcast live on radio station 980 AM from 7 pm to 9 pm.  A second debate will be held on Tuesday, August 31st, which is sponsored by the Democratic town committees of Groton, Dunstable and Pepperell.  The Lowell Sun and the Westford League of Women Voters have agreed to hold one in Westford on Thursday, September 9th.

Former mayor Bill Martin apparently concurs with Dupont’s point of view.  “When I worked with Eileen, she proved to be capable and effective in office,” stated Martin.  “She’s been good to the City of Lowell so I know she’ll be good for the state.”

Slot machine dilemma stalls other issues

The slot machine controversy seems to have caused a figurative fender bender as other key pieces of legislation are also being delayed. With four days left in the legislative session, the great casino debate still hasn’t been resolved. In the process, advocates for different bills are left biting their nails as they watch the session wind down.

The Boston Globe reported today that supporters of Stop Handgun Violence are worried that their efforts might end up in vain. The group, founded by John Rosenthal, supports a bill that could tighten handgun purchases. That piece of legislation is now in jeopardy as well because the House and the Senate are so embroiled over slot machines.

Other bills that could be jeopardized include the proposed tax holiday. Though it is possible that the measure might not be passed because of budget concerns, it seems more likely that the slot machine debacle could be to blame. The President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Jon Hurst attests to the trouble the gambling legislation is causing. Hurst stated that advocates are closely watching the casino bill because it’s, “’…having an impact on a whole lot of other activity.’”

In light of virtually endless contention, it could be argued that the controversy is proof that the gambling bill might not be as effective as described. If the bill can actually bolster the economy, then why hasn’t it passed? After all, union giant Teamsters 25 organized a major demonstration on Beacon Hill in favor of casinos. Plus, both versions of the bill received popular support in both the Senate and the House.

Race for 1st Middlesex district heats up

As the Massachusetts primary draws ever closer, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) keep turning up the heat with their campaigns. With 50 days left until September 14th, both candidates are making back-breaking efforts to speak with as many voters as possible.

Chris Doherty‘s campaign is, for lack of better words, operating energetically around the clock. Since the start of the race, Doherty has been out and around the first Middlesex District on a daily basis. According to a campaign spokeswoman, Doherty and his volunteers contact at least 100 households and hold phone banks each day. In addition, the Doherty campaign holds signs across the district and regularly meets with voters at Spinners baseball games in Lowell.

In addition, the Doherty campaign holds meet and greet events at supporters’ homes at least twice a week. Last night, advocates from Groton and Pepperell converged at the house of Groton selectwoman Anna Elliot in order to demonstrate their support. The crowd numbered in the mid-twenties, which is more intimate compared to the massive groups that gather at Doherty’s fundraisers.

Eileen Donoghue‘s campaign appears to be equally passionate. Donoghue’s campaign holds daily phone banks and frequently knocks on voters’ doors. The campaign reports that Donoghue attended the Lowell Folk Festival over the past weekend. Her volunteers contributed to what the campaign calls a “mobile visibility” as they were all decked out in t-shirts. The mobile visibility seems to have been a big hit as the campaign stated that they received a positive response.

The Donoghue campaign attends bi-weekly house parties throughout the district.  On July 20th, a group of approximately twenty-five convened at the house of Tyngsboro Selectman Rick Reault.  Donoghue parties typically number in this range, minus fundraisers and cultural events.  When asked about the turn-out, the campaign said they “felt lucky to have so many incredible volunteers willing to open their homes.”

As volunteers crank up the heat, voters face a tough choice in September as they choose which candidate gets the nomination on the 14th. Though the debates are still being scheduled, it is too early at this point to tell which candidate is going to shine more.

Voters face looming grassroots blitz this fall

Getty image

Voters can probably expect to get inundated by postcards, phone calls and personal visits as candidates launch a wave of grassroots campaigns. Since Obama was swept into office by one of the largest grassroots campaigns in recent political history, candidates everywhere are playing a massive game of monkey see, monkey do.

In the race for the 5th Congressional District, Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) has been running a successful grassroots campaign. Her campaign appears to be well-organized and looks to be supported by an impressive amount of passionate volunteers. Tsongas will have to find innovate ways to present herself as a different type of incumbent. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if her campaign focuses on her accessibility to her constituents, whom Tsongas credits as her inspiration for lightweight body armor.

Jon Golnik (R-Carlisle) and Sam Meas (R-Haverhill) are outpaced financially by Tsongas, though that doesn’t mean their supporters are any less enthusiastic. As they battle for the Republican primary, they will have to find ways to better appeal to voters. The notable differences between their economic policies are that Meas favors deeper tax cuts for small businesses and penalty-free early withdrawals on pensions. Since minorities will probably favor Meas, Golnik might have to work harder to persuade white voters.

Then there’s the competition between Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell). Both are running grassroots campaigns within the 1st Middlesex District for State Senate. Doherty has been working around the clock with his volunteers and is a frequent sight within the district. Donoghue is also making her campaign known by hitting the streets to meet voters. Her dilemma is to appear as a part of the community without making herself look like a political insider. Doherty’s challenge is to prove he understands the public’s concerns and that he can bring their vote to the Senate.

A common challenge this election year is for candidates to find positive and creative ways to make themselves stand out from the crowd. This is easier said than done when it seems like all the candidates are trying to duplicate Obama’s campaign success.

For those voters who haven’t heard from any of the mentioned campaigns, keep an eye out. Chances are one of these candidates is just around the corner looking to speak with you.

Getty image

Baker fumbles over negative ad controversy

That cities and towns are asking for funding is a point of interest that seemed to have gone unmentioned in the recent negative ads against Patrick. Over the past few days, Charlie Baker’s campaign has been releasing ads which appear to portray Patrick as someone who has selective hearing when it comes to the strained economy and reducing taxes.

Given the tough economic times, its understandable that the state is hearing more requests for funding. Today, the town of Chelmsford received a state grant for the Parker Middle School. The school will now be able to install solar panels as a part of the town’s efforts to switch to renewables.

The grant was awarded by the state in conjunction with the Green Communities Act, which was passed two years ago. The purpose of the act is to help municipalities switch to renewable energy sources. Under the act, several specific guidelines must be met in order for any city or town to receive funding. The guidelines include, but are not limited to, enacting zoning regulations that permit renewable energy buildings and implementing the Stretch Energy Code.

Though Parker is receiving $187, 224 in grant money, that figure is a part of the larger $8.1 million for which Chelmsford is currently eligible. Chelmsford was recognized as a Green Community by the Bay state in May of this year.

Baker (R-Swampscott) has a legitimate concern about the points he raises. With the cost of living increasing and the economy moving as slowly as it is, this writer agrees with the gubernatorial candidate that things should change for the better. What confuses this analyst was his campaign’s decision to broach these topics in this manner.

Negative ads appear “effective” so long as they don’t backfire on the candidate promoting them. More often than not, candidates seem to play Russian roulette because most seem to get a fair amount of whiplash afterward. Given the uncertainty midterm elections can create, any candidate seeking to monopolize on potential opportunities probably doesn’t want to be knocked out of the running.

With that in mind, why would Baker allow himself to be associated with apparently unfair ads? In doing so, Baker gives the impression that he used technical glitches to give himself a dishonest advantage. If this isn’t what Baker intended, then he’s due for damage control.

State Senate candidate gaining widespread support

Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) had a diverse crowd of supporters last night as he held a fundraiser at the Bamboo restaurant in Westford. Doherty is running for the State Senate seat in the first Middlesex District, which covers Lowell, Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsborough, and Westford. As he races to get the nomination, he faces tough opposition from well-known candidate Eileen Donoghue, who is also a Democrat from Lowell.

Doherty’s supporters include individuals from a broad age range. Nate Hurst, a recent high school grad from Westford, calls Doherty a, “very personable candidate that is easy to connect with.” Hurst repeatedly drew attention to how moved he is by Doherty’s “attention to the people he talks with and his focus on their concerns.”

Donoghue, former mayor of Lowell, has been a part of the local community for years. Before she became mayor, Donoghue was an attorney for Gallagher & Cavanaugh and served on the Lowell City Council. She was also a co-founder of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council (MVEDC), which was created in 1999. Supporters call Donoghue a passionate and energetic force for the district.

The candidates have different ideas for their economic policies. From his speech last night, Doherty seems to be contemplating ways to increase state revenue. This was demonstrated by his focus on closing loopholes and ending abuses “…within our state pension system in order to regain lost economic resources.” On the other hand, Donoghue would like to invest in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure so as to create “…local jobs,” which would increase “the economic value” of the district.

More of the nuances of their platforms will be brought to the forefront of the race when they go head to head in the upcoming debates. Doherty and Donoghue have agreed to six debates, one in each town, before the primary elections.

Geoff Hall, former member of the House of Representatives, seems to share Hurst’s sentiments. “Chris was the go-to-guy that my office relied on when I was in office. Any time that I had question, he would always get back to me,” recalls Hurst. “I know that he is the best candidate for office.”