Halos and Horns

Horns
As the region's homeless people hunker down for another cold winter, let's remember, with a big fat set of horns, Frankie Keough, the supposed "friend of the homeless" who kicked off 2007 pleading guilty to 13 public corruption counts, including extorting from public contractors and stealing from the Springfield shelter he ran. There's low, and then there's Keough-low.

Halos
May his or her camera click forever, snapping the pearly gates, the angel choirs. The Halo of the Year, 2007 goes to the mystery photographer who risked perhaps the loss of a job, perhaps even some time in the slammer to photograph water pouring from a cooling tower that collapsed ignominiously on August 21 at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, faced with those photos, admitted that a crumbling building with water spewing from it just might be bad for public confidence in the plant and the inspection system put in place by its owner, Entergy. Now if only the NRC will use its collective head and refuse the license extension to 2032 that Entergy has requested for this plant, which was scheduled to expire in peace in 2012

Horns
Can we all agree to forget about the premature halo we bestowed on Springfield Police Commissioner Ed Flynn just a year ago? Yes, Flynn provided some welcome relief from the turmoil and drama of the Meara years—until he plunged the SPD right back into it by jilting the city just 19 months into a five-year contract to accept an offer in Milwaukee. Chief Flynn, please drop off your now-tarnished halo on your way out of town. You can take this pair of horns, and your self-serving political ambitions, with you.

Horns
A half-million sets of horns—one for each homeless veteran in the U.S.—to the Holyoke Mall for tossing out volunteers and staffers from Soldier On, a non-profit that helps vets in need, when they tried to pass out information to shoppers the day after Thanksgiving.

Horns
The worrisome signs were there from the start: the corporate-heavy resume, the embarrassing early days of Cadillac Deval. But if there remained any doubt that Deval Patrick was not the progressive savior so many voters hoped he would be, it was shattered the moment he came out with his casino proposal. A place at a crooked blackjack table in hell to the new governor for recycling this tired idea without even doing his homework first. The governor's lack of realistic information about how much of the take from gambling halls the state would get, and about their effect on local economies as shown by the experience of Atlantic City and Ledyard, Conn., is incredible for such a smart fellow. As a campaigner, Patrick seemed to be sincerely down with the grassroots he so winningly courted; by now he smells more corporate every day. And while we're at it, what about a return ticket home from Berkeley for Robert Reich?

Horns
May its trains zoom forever around the red-hot iron tracks of Hades: to the devil with Pan Am Railways, formerly Guilford Rail, which has created its own hell of pollution at its yards in East Deerfield, strewn junked ties (a fire hazard) along its rights of way and made many small towns in Massachusetts who are struggling financially wait for years to be paid the taxes Pan Am owes them. In the interests of fairness we admit that Pan Am did write Deerfield a check for $362,000 in back taxes earlier this year, but we doubt that the company would have done it if articles in the local press hadn't helped get the state Department of Environmental Management on its case.

Halos
It was a lucky day indeed for Springfield when former mayor Charlie Ryan decided to step out of retirement and run again in 2003. We're still scratching our heads over voters' decision not to let Ryan finish the remarkable job he's done of stabilizing the city, both fiscally and ethically. But we think he deserves a gold-plated halo, and the undying thanks of anyone who cares about the city, for the intelligence, class and sincerity he brought to City Hall during his too-short stay.

Halos
A halo to Dr. Andrew Schamess of Lenox Internal Medicine, who wanted to become a provider under the state's new mandatory health insurance program. Instead of walking away when he learned that signing up under the state's rules would force him to take an influx of formerly uninsured patients that would break his practice financially, Schamess—who sometimes takes patients that have to pay in cord wood—kept talking to Boston Medical Center Health Net until he got an arrangement that would let him take the new high-risk patients on terms that wouldn't shut him down. For understanding that insurance isn't worth a dime to patients if they can't find a provider who will accept it, Schamess deserves a place among the angels with Dr. Zhivago, Dr. House and Dr. Who.

Horns
He's four years gone, but the dregs of the Albano administration are still floating around Springfield. This year the city was at least temporarily spared the presence of three of Mikey's horn-worthy boys: former chief of staff Anthony Ardolino, his big brother Chester and their pal Matt Campagnari, who were all packed off to federal prison on tax fraud and conspiracy convictions. No need to rush back, gentlemen.

Horns
Every other Tuesday, month in and month out, The Enviro Show on Valley Free Radio (WXOJ-LP, 103.3 FM, 6-7 p.m.) brings you information and no-holds-barred commentary on all things earth, from Nestle's plan to buy water from publicly owned land in Montague to President Bush's latest strategy for ducking international pleas to help fight global warming. Self-described as WXOJ's "in-house tree-hugging dirt worshipers," this crew of unlikely saints uses chewy rhetoric that's not especially elegant, but look what politeness on this subject has gotten us in the past: melting glaciers, murderous hurricanes, extremes of flood and drought. Informative interviews are on the program, too.

Horns
What a coincidence—we used to have a governor named Mitt Romney. Of course, our Mitt bears less and less resemblance with each passing day to the fellow who's now running for president, whose positions on everything from immigration and gun control to gay and reproductive rights have taken dramatic reversals. Horns—with a strap to keep them from falling off his flip-flopping head—and a free "Multiple Choice Mitt" T-shirt from Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts for our old pal.

Halos
Cheers to the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (http://www.commercialexploitation.org) for its kick-ass work to keep marketers' grubby, cynical paws off kids. This year, that included organizing against Bus Radio, the commercial station designed to be played on school buses; pressuring Scholastic Books to stop selling products featuring the creepily sexualized Bratz dolls; and drawing attention to the bs claims that "educational" DVDs for babies have any positive effects on kids.

Halos
We've been fans of blogger Tom Devine (http://tommydevine.blogspot.com) since back in the days when he stapled together copies of his self-published Baystate Objectivist and dropped them at hot spots around Springfield. This year, though, has been an especially rewarding year for Devine's readers; in addition to his always fun political coverage, he's offered up such engaging pieces as "I'm Queer, But I'm Not a Fag," in which he compares the self-parodying images of gays in the mainstream media (think "Queer Eye") to 20th-century black performers who embraced racist stereotypes to endear themselves to white audiences. ("Instead of blackface, it's pinkface," he wrote.) And don't miss Devine's riveting series from last summer about discovering his long-lost brother, or his frank explanation of why he dropped from view for a good chunk of this fall, titled " My brief but disastrous career as a crackhead."

Halos
Water's running up the spout, cats and dogs are snuggling up to each other, and the Valley Advocate is giving a halo to Springfield City Councilor Tim Rooke. It's not that we agree with Rooke on many policy issues—we don't, notably, on his opposition to needle exchange and ward representation. But we can't help but appreciate Rooke's emergence as one of the few councilors who actually seems to take his job seriously, who does his homework, especially on fiscal matters, and who is willing to take unpopular positions.

Horns
Although the Board of Trustees of the Academy of Music has entered into a new partnership with WGBY in hopes of eliminating the Academy's debt, the trustees should still be whipped with a wet noodle for allowing that debt to keep growing and for letting the internal workings of the organization fall into disarray while they stood by and said nothing. That is, until the day they announced to a shocked public that they were going to stop showing nightly films. Shame, shame, trustees.

Halos
A long-overdue halo to the coalition of activists (including Arise for Social Justice, Oiste and numerous dedicated individuals) who, after years of hard work to bring ward representation to Springfield city government, scored a resounding victory when the question passed by a three-to-one margin on Election Day.

Horns
A horn to Russell Biomass, developers of a proposed wood-burning energy plant that will suck over 800,000 gallons of water a day from the Westfield River—one of the state's cleanest, most scenic rivers and a legendary fishing stream—to cool the plant in a time when the longterm outlook is for hotter weather and sustained shortages of water.

Halos
Halos all around to the new but already influential activist group MomsRising, which sprang into action when news broke that women giving birth at Cooley Dickinson Hospital would no longer have the option to have a midwife attend their births after the sole CDH-affiliated medical practice that had birth-midwives decided to drop them. After working with MomsRising and other concerned locals, Cooley decided to start its own midwifery program.

Horns
A horn to Worcester Assistant District Attorney Sandra Hautanen, who stuck to a questionable DNA test as grounds for insisting that Ben Laguer's 1984 conviction for rape should stand while diverting the attention of the state Supreme Judicial Court from a potentially extenuating fact: that the commonwealth had kept a key piece of evidence in LaGuer's trial out of court. The evidence was the phone cord that was used to tie the victim up and was discovered afterward by the state police. There were four fingerprints on it, fingerprints that were not LaGuer's. Other leads in the case remain uninvestigated as well, yet the Worcester D.A.'s office has shown no interest in information that might exculpate LaGuer.

Halos
Halos to Paul Cameron, Cities for Climate Protection program director in Brattleboro, and Susan Berry, coordinator of the Upper Valley Rideshare program in Vermont and New Hampshire, for pushing walking, biking, car sharing, peripheral parking and other earth-friendly modes of transportation in the northern reaches of the Connecticut River region. Cameron, Berry and other program organizers north of the Massachusetts borders have gotten businesses to donate raffle prizes and other premiums that make this effort fun for commuters as well as good for the climate.

Halos
If you see something flying overhead, it's Santa on his way to Greenfield to bestow the Advocate's Do Good in Your Own Hometown award to Bob Rottenberg, John Waite, Steve Alves and other members of the Mercantile committee, who are planning to bring Greenfield a community-owned store. Somewhere outside the hullabaloo about whether Big Boxes deserve halos or horns, there's history, which tells us that a chain store may open in Greenfield and do a good business, but, like the late lamented Greenfield Ames, close because of problems at the top of the chain. The Mercantile will stock good, cheap jeans and flannel shirts, keep the money in town and maybe even pay local investors a dividend someday, say its proponents. Sounds like the American dream to us.

Halos
Sparkling halos fresh from the U.S. mint to state treasurer Tim Cahill and Sen. Richard Tisei of Boston, who brought some sanity into the ugly fight over increased pension benefits for former Senate president Billy Bulger and his greedy ilk who demanded pensions that factored in housing and other perks. (State rep Marie Parente's argument that the value of her parking space should be figured into her pension shows why we'll be happy to see the back of her: "Don't I sound like a piker when that Japanese pitcher [Daisuke Matsuza] gets $50 million and I get $55,000?" Parente whined.) Cahill put forward new rules that would base pensions on salary alone; Tisei went even farther, offering a bill that figured the average public pension in the state at $23,000 and capped pensions at four times that amount ($92,000).

Halos
Restaurateur Claudio Guerra (owner of Spoleto, Spoleto Express, the Del Raye and Mama Iguana's) put his money where his mouth was. During the grand opening of his newest venture, Mama Iguana's, a Mexican restaurant on Main Street across from the Academy of Music, Guerra held an evening-length benefit for the nonprofit organization that runs the 800-seat theater, in "recognition of the relationship between restaurants and the arts in drawing visitors and revenue to the city," according to the Academy. Guerra donated $5,480 in total to the Academy of Music to help the organization eliminate its debt.

Horns
Even before taking his seat on Northampton's City Council, Bob Reckman has shown that, rather than being the only shot of new blood to the Council, he's just as crusty and connected as the rest. On the radio one week he's championing the importance of public input to the Pulaski Park redevelopment, and the next week he's orchestrating backroom maneuvers with sitting Council members to eliminate protections that assure the public their government is using best practices. How do you spell hypocrite?

Halos
Museums10 is a collaboration between 10 area museums and galleries, including the Amherst College Museum of Natural History, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Hampshire College Art Gallery, the UMass-Amherst University Gallery and Historic Deerfield. This year the organization sponsored its second major event, A Celebration of the Art of the Book, a five-month book fest featuring artwork by luminaries such as Rosamond Purcell, talks by notable authors like Francisco Goldman and Bruce Watson, and lectures and panel discussions about the future of the book, blogs and more with scholars like Professor Robert Darnton, an expert on the history of book publishing, and Corey Flintoff from National Public Radio. Museums10 deserves multiple halos for enriching the Valley for months at a time by bringing artists, authors, scholars and others to the area to share their work.

Halos
Fear Nuttin Band has long been one of the Valley's most exciting bands, and now with Bodog Battle of the Bands success and a major-label deal, the rest of the world gets to find out how good they are, too.

Halos
Primate Fiasco. It's so great to watch this fabulously fun Dixieland pop extravaganza play on the street in Northampton (with hula-hooper in tow) that you can't find parking anymore. Why do they have to be so entertaining?

Halos
The only thing better than Easthampton's Flywheel DIY performance space is a bigger and better Flywheel. Kudos to the gang for thinking big and moving to the old Easthampton Town Hall, where they hope to be back in business soon.

Halos
For a long time, Scott "Ogre" Lee has been a key player in Springfield's wildly successful metal scene. Finn MacCool's, his club in Westfield, seems to have an uncertain future, but regardless of how things work out there, his unflagging, persistent efforts deserve praise from music lovers Valley-wide.

Horns
In a forum held this summer on the proposed Hilton Garden Inn for Northampton's downtown, city planner Wayne Feiden was forced to remind a room packed with concerned local citizens that he, in fact, worked for them. The audience was confused on this point because for most of the forum he'd been stressing the importance of being fair to the developer who had been spending time and money on the project—long before the public knew anything about it. Defending his procedure for finding a hotel developer, he pointed out it was the same one he had used for redeveloping Hospital Hill. And there wasn't a hint of irony in his voice when he said it.

Halos
It used to be that Hilltown Music shows required a haul out to Shelburne Falls for most fans, but Gayle Olson's concert series has expanded to Brattleboro and Northampton as well, bringing interesting artists from all over the world to the Valley.

Horns
Northampton voters passed the Community Preservation Act, permitting the state to tax them more so the revenue could go toward historic preservation, open space preservation, and community housing. While Jack Hornor's a passionate affordable housing advocate, in his first year overseeing the committee, Northampton's lost far more history than it's preserved. Hornor justified the destruction of Northampton State Hospital's historic Old Main building by saying that it was a public health hazard, and sooner or later someone might have gotten hurt. Seems to us old buildings have far more to fear from him than we do from the buildings

Halos
The A.P.E. Gallery, long a resident of the upper, little-known reaches of Thornes Market in Northampton, is bringing it to the street, taking over a large Main Street building. Northampton may be an artsy town, but further victories in the ongoing battle to make the world safe for art are always welcome, even there.

Halos
They scrubbed. They tore down. They remodeled. Jamie Berger, Emily Brewster, Christopher Janke and Mark Wisnewski re-established The Rendezvous in Turners Falls with a lot of elbow grease and spit shine. The establishment opened as the Rendezvous shortly after Prohibition was repealed in the '30s and remained open until a few short years ago. The four new owners have infused new life as well as new décor into the joint, offering weekly board game nights, dance parties, tasty food, musical performances, knitting circles and, of course, tons of booze.

 

Author: Valley Advocate Editorial

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