With Relish

Mayor Domenic Sarno is left in an awkward position after an article in today's Springfield Republican, questioning his role in the eviction of a well-known downtown hot dog vendor. The vendor, John Verducci III, recently received a letter from city officials ordering him to shut down his Worthington Street stand, after years of feeding the drunken club-goers who pour out of the area's bars and restaurants after last call in...

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Can This Attorney Be Saved?

Venerable, veteran blogger Tom Devine wins the just-this-moment-created Headline of the Month award for last week's post "Raipher on Trial: Should he go to Hell?" Raipher, as any self-respecting follower of Springfield politics knows, is Raipher Pellegrino, former city councilor and current star of back-of-the-phonebook legal ads, the sort of celebrity easily recognizable by one name, like Madonna, or Potsie. Among his...

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Legislature to Take Up CORI and Sentencing Bills

On Monday, July 27, the legislative Joint Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on a bill sponsored by Springfield state Rep. Ben Swan that would reform sentencing laws that result in harsh penalties for people arrested for drug crimes within a designated "school zone." The Dukakis-era law carries mandatory sentences of two to 15 years for drug convictions within 1,000 feet of a school. But as a report by Easthampton's...

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All Eyes on Hot Table

I admit that I don’t always pay much attention to the press releases that show up in my inbox plugging new business openings. But it was hard to ignore the press release announcing the opening today of Hot Table, a snazzy-looking new breakfast-lunch-and-early-dinner place in downtown Springfield, if only for the location: the former Gus & Paul’s spot on Main Street. Hot Table occupies a prime spot in Springfield, at...

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Rooke Renews Press for Library

Oh, what joy Denise Jordan, chief of staff to Mayor Domenic Sarno, must feel every time she logs on to her email and finds a message waiting from City Councilor Tim Rooke. Rooke’s messages to the mayor’s office typically have what might called a persistent quality—or nagging, or pain in the ass, depending on your perspective. Consider the email he sent to Jordan and City Solicitor Ed Pikula on Monday,...

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Political Action, with Cake

As House Democrats and President Obama slogged forward to a healthcare reform compromise today, western Mass. activists got together to celebrate the granddaddy of single-payer healthcare—Medicare—and to press U.S. Rep. Richie Neal to sign on to an effort to extend the program to all Americans, not just the elderly. The Western Mass. Single Payer Network and Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette were scheduled today to host a...

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Hot Dog Saga Goes National?

When City Councilor Tim Rooke mentioned to me a couple of days ago that John Verducci-Springfield's most famous hot dog vendor-was going to be interviewed by the "Today" show about his scuffle with City Hall, I wondered if Rooke was pulling my leg. While "Wienergate" has clearly captured imaginations across the city, would it hold the same appeal for viewers in, say, Dubuque? Apparently "Today" thinks...

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Political and Personal Fall-out from Power Outage

No doubt recognizing the power of thousands of angry, sweaty residents struck with freezers full of prematurely defrosted food, City Councilor Bud Williams has stepped forward with a call for City Hall to file a class-action lawsuit against WMECO, after a power failure last week that left, at its peak, 12,000 Springfield customers without electricity, in some case for a day and a half. The outage was caused when Mass Highway workers...

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Insert Hot Dog Pun Here

From the moment Springfield Republican reporter Stephanie Barry christened it "Wienergate," the battle between hot dog vendor John Verducci and the Sarno administration has proved irresistible to punsters and word-play aficionados across the city, with the jokes ranging from the corny to the blue (most in the latter category dependent on the phallic nature of the offending food). So let's give the last word on the...

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All Bud, All the Time

Acai berry peddlers exempted, my most devoted correspondent over the past week has been City Councilor and mayoral candidate Bud Williams, who filled up my inbox (and, lest I sound like I’m boasting, the inboxes of reporters throughout the Springfield area) with a number of campaign press releases, ranging from the reasonable to the ridiculous. Actually, let’s add an asterisk to that “reasonable.” After all,...

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Sick and Tired

Supporters of a bill that would guarantee paid sick days to Massachusetts workers will rally at Springfield’s Kenefick Park (on Plainfield Street, by the Gerena School) this Thursday. The “Family Fun Day for Paid Sick Days,” will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will include music, food and kids’ games. If successful, the bill—which would give workers a minimum of seven paid sick days a year—would...

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Calling All Library Supporters

Monday evening is the big moment for Mason Square residents who've been waiting for six years to get a full library branch restored to their neighborhood. That's when the City Council will vote on a proposal to take by eminent domain 765 State St., which had been the community's library until 2003, when the Springfield Library & Museums Association sold it to the Springfield Urban League in a secretive deal. But...

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Continuing Kennedy's Work

A previously scheduled prayer vigil for immigration reform has shifted focus a bit to also honor a champion of that cause: Sen. Ted Kennedy. The vigil—to be held this evening from 6 to 7 p.m. at the federal building at 300 State St. in Springfield— was planned to call for the end of unfair treatment of immigrants, and to call for changes in U.S. immigration law. “Although we are a nation of immigrants, recent...

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Unions Weigh in on September Elections

The Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council released over the weekend its endorsements for Springfield’s upcoming preliminary elections. Those elections, on Sept. 15, will winnow down the field of candidates for five of the eight newly created ward seats on the City Council, and for two of the four newly created district seats on the School Committee. The winners will go on to the Nov. 3 general election, when city voters will...

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Tom & Ted's (& Mitch's & Matty's) Excellent Adventures

Like political junkies around the Commonwealth, blogger Tom Devine marked the death of Teddy Kennedy with some reminiscing about the senator—albeit with a trademark Devinian twist. Devine recounts his sort-of up-close-and-personal encounter with Kennedy at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, which he described as a can’t-miss political event, regardless of one’s philosophical leanings. (“[D]espite the...

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Moms Take Legislators' Temperature

Members of Pioneer Valley MomsRising hit the Statehouse today to call on legislators to throw their support behind a bill that would guarantee Massachusetts workers a minimum of seven paid sick days a year—a measure that’s all the more vital as we gear up for what threatens to be a brutal flu season. Springfield state Reps. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera and Ben Swan are among the bill’s sponsors. MomsRising is delivering to...

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Williams Takes Shot at Sarno and Hits the Poor

Springfield City Councilor and mayoral candidate Bud Williams has seized on one of the most contentious issues to hit the city in recent months: plans to redevelop the former Longhill Gardens apartments into low-income housing. In point of fact, William has launched a broader attack on all new low-income housing. Earlier this week, he issued a statement calling for a moratorium on low-income housing projects, relying on an argument...

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Get Thee to Your Preliminary

Tuesday’s a big day for the first wave of ward representative candidates for Springfield’s City Council and School Committee—well, at least for some of them. Preliminaries are held for seats if there are more than twice the number of candidates than there are open seats—for instance, more than two candidates running for the mayor’s seat (this year, there aren’t) or more than 10 running for the five...

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The Voters Speak (at least a few of them)

Turn-out for Tuesday's preliminary election was disappointing, even by Springfield standards: Fewer than 10 percent of voters turned out to cast their votes in an election to narrow down a number of candidates for several City Council and School Committee seats to just two, for the Nov. 3 general election. But not everyone ended that day disappointed. Among the big winners: Tim Allen, who cleaned up in the race for the Ward 7...

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GOP Smacks Springfield Reps

Earlier this week, as the state House of Representatives geared up to vote on a bill to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary successor to fill Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat (they passed the bill late yesterday), the state GOP launched a last-minute assault on the Democrats, with a press report questioning the wisdom of the controlling party’s members—and reminding legislators that the Republicans are...

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Rooke Calls Out Sarno and Patrick Over Fed Building

The City Council is keeping the pressure on the Sarno administration over the controversial decision to move the School Department to the old federal courthouse building on Main Street, rather then send out a request for bids to let other potential landlords compete for the lease. Last night, the Council voted, 7-to-2, to issue a request for proposals for a new home for the School Department, which is due to leave its current home on...

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Election News

The Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council has released its latest round of endorsements for this year’s election season, although the group has yet to announce a pick in the biggest race, that for Springfield’s mayor. The labor council’s newest endorsements for the Springfield City Council are incumbents Jimmy Ferrera and Jose Tosado, both of whom are running for at-large seats. (In an earlier round of endorsements,...

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City Focuses on Homeless Families

On the eve of Springfield’s “Project Homeless Connect,” Mayor Domenic Sarno announced today that two local agencies that serve the homeless population have been awarded $1.7 million in federal grants: the housing-assistance agency HAP, Inc., and Catholic Charities. The money comes from federal economic stimulus funds. According to a release from the mayor’s office, more than 250 Springfield families are living...

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“Project Homeless Connect” by the Numbers

Mayor Domenic Sarno’s office yesterday released some stats from “Project Homeless Connect,” held Tuesday at the MassMutual Center, where homeless people were invited to meet with representatives from various service agencies and to partake of free services offered by local businesses. According to the mayor’s office, about 1,000 homeless people came to the event, which was staffed by 600 volunteers and 80...

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Rooke Ratchets Up Federal Building Fight

“I am at a level of frustration that I have never experienced before in all the years that I have been allowed to serve on the City Council,” Tim Rooke wrote in a recent email to a group of reporters who cover Springfield. That’s saying a lot. Rooke was first elected to the City Council in 1995, and has served through three mayoral administrations. Rooke wasn’t much of a water-roiler during the Albano years,...

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Bring Your Voice (and Your Kids) to the Statehouse

Local families are invited to join Pioneer Valley MomsRising on a trip to the Statehouse this Wed., Oct. 7, to call for a new law that would guarantee paid sick days to Massachusetts workers. Supporters of the bill plan to show up in force that day for a 10:30 hearing on the bill held by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The committee’s House chair is state Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (D-Springfield), who...

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City History Museum Set to Open

Tomorrow is the official public grand opening of the new Museum of Springfield History at the Quadrangle (members get a sneak preview at 5:30 tonight). The new museum, in the former Verizon building, across the street from the Quadrangle visitor center, will be heavy on the history of transportation manufacturing in the city, which was once the site of a number of successful car and motorcycle makers, including Rolls Royce and Indian...

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Labor Council Sticks With Sarno

The Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council announced this weekend its endorsement of incumbent Domenic Sarno over Bud Williams in next month’s mayoral contest. The labor council—made up of 58 affiliate groups in Hampden County, as well as a few Hampshire County towns—had backed Sarno in his 2007 race against then-Mayor Charlie Ryan (so did the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council). Since then, Sarno has tussled with...

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A Look at Springfield's Job Loss

Robert Forrant, a former worker at American Bosch and now a history professor at UMass-Lowell, will be at the Museum of Springfield History tomorrow evening to discuss his new book, Metal Fatigue: American Bosch and the Demise of Metalworking in the Connecticut River Valley. The book, published earlier this year by Baywood Publishing, ties together Forrant’s experiences as a worker and union leader at the Bosch plant with the...

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More Questions About 1550 Main

Last Friday’s press conference announcing that MassDevelopment has finalized its purchase of the former federal courthouse at 1550 Main St. was, presumably, an effort to inject some positive momentum into City Hall’s plan to move the School Department headquarters into the building. Mayor Domenic Sarno, who describes the move as a way to bring more people to the Main Street area and keep an important downtown property from...

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Walsh Campaign Revs Up

With Election Day just two weeks away, the campaign to get mayoral aide Tom Walsh elected to the City Council as a write-in candidate is heating up. Neighbors of Walsh launched the effort last month, shortly before the Sept. 15 preliminary. Over the summer, Walsh had considered running for the Council’s Ward 6 seat, but in the end opted not to, saying he would instead focus on his work as Mayor Domenic Sarno’s...

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Forest Park Hears from (Most of) its Candidates

The Forest Park Civic Association has released questionnaires it sent to the four candidates for the City Council’s Wards 3 and 6 seats, each of which will represent parts of that neighborhood. The results are on the association’s website (which, by the way, is a treasure trove of links, reports and announcements about city matters). The candidates for the Ward 3 seat are Melvin Edwards, a retired employee of the state...

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Mr. and Ms. Moneybags Come to Springfield

Health New England is due for a dubious honor tomorrow: Billionaires for Wealthcare plans to stop by the insurance company’s Springfield office to deliver a thank-you card for “its participation in the vital work of American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). “Their lobby in Washington helps to keep American health care the most profitable health care system in the world,” the Billionaires said in a release...

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Four More Years?

A couple of days ago, I got a letter from city activist Karen Powell (co-founder of the Citizens Action Network, or CANE) that she was hoping to submit as a letter to the editor. Unfortunately, the letter came just a bit too late for publication in this week's Advocate (the last one to come out before the Nov. 3 election), because Powell was writing about an important electoral issue that's gotten very little public attention:...

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'Tis the Season

With just a couple of days until Tuesday’s election, it’s time for the local media to endorse candidates, and this year there’s a lot of work to do: In addition to a mayor’s race, Springfield voters will also choose five at-large city councilors, and eight ward representatives. The Big Endorsement—even in these days of shrinking page counts and shrinking readership—will, of course, come from the...

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