Hot in the city. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Stupid is as stupid does. The list of music and movie titles, quotes and clichés about last night’s meeting of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen could go on for a long time.
Residents of the city’s South End brought the heat last night as speaker after speaker opposed a proposed change to the zoning ordinance, requested by politically connected developer Will Socha, that would allow up to two hundred high density multi-unit apartments to be built on South Mammoth Road. Current zoning would allow about two dozen single family homes on the twenty six acres of land on three parcels that are on the East side of the road.
Neighbors, including those whose business is residential development, raised several quality of life issues, including traffic, safety, noise and schools. They also pointed out the rural, suburban character of the area, arguing the project would urbanize the neighborhood, destroying its current condition. Their arguments were nicely framed by Ward Eight aldermanic candidate Ed Sapienza who drove home what many believe to be the salient question, and that is: What is the compelling reason for the proposed zoning change? Sapienza said he didn’t fault the developer for trying to make a buck, but he said that’s no reason to change the zoning, echoing what others who’ve built in that area said about how they did it in compliance with the zoning.
Despite the onslaught of opposition, residents of the area will likely have to redouble their efforts as the only person who spoke in favor of the proposed zoning change, former District Eighteen State Senator Tom DeBlois, elicited applause from Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw and looks of relief on the faces of several aldermen that at least someone in the neighborhood supported it We’ll discuss.
Ward Seven Resident Lisa Gravel lambasted the board on a number of fronts, including what she called it’s reckless spending on union employee contracts, complaining that city employees enjoy salaries and benefits that those who pay taxes to pay for it all don’t get, singling out the addition of Fast Day to the police unions’ contracts, despite the state’s repeal of holiday more than two decades ago.
Gravel singled out Ward Four Alderman Christopher Herbert for wanting to put old people out of their homes if they couldn’t afford the ever increasing taxes and criticized Ward Eight Alderman Tom Katsiantonis for voting to raise property taxes while failing to pay his business taxes.
She reserved her most blistering attack for aldermen Ron Ludwig of Ward Two and Normand Gamache of Ward Eleven for disregarding the charter’s explicit conflict of interest provisions, which she read aloud to the board, to vote on contracts that benefited their family members. She also faulted the board for failing to hold them to account, as required by the charter, and said she’d be filing another official complaint with the city this Friday in attempt to hold Ludwig and Gamache responsible for their willing violation of the charter. She invited those interested in signing her letter to call her at 6 6 8 0 5 0 1 or meet her on City Hall Plaza tomorrow as she’ll be there to collect signatures. She’ll be our guest tomorrow morning in the six o’clock hour.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Also from Manchester City Hall last night, a bid by former Ward Ten Alderman Bill Cashin to have the Board of Mayor and Aldermen refer Mayor Ted Gatsas to the Conduct Board backfired. After asking Gatsas whether or not he’d met with any Russians during the time Cashin alleged Gatsas engineered the cover up of a rape at West High School, Alderman at-Large Joe Kelley Levasseur wondered whether or not Cashin, who served thirty two years as an alderman, was becoming senile, calling the charges both serious and baseless as they contained no evidence.
Levasseur, an attorney, who has been a frequent, and, at times, vociferous critic of Gatsas, warned the board, for Cashin’s sake, against the referral arguing the charges were slanderous, even against a public figure, and said if Gatsas wanted to take Cashin to court, he’d represent him on a contingency fee basis. He also criticized Cashin for not being at the meeting to present any evidence of his charges during public participation, arguing it was a political stunt in an election year that would allow opponents of the mayor, whom Cashin supports, to spend the rest of the campaign sending out fliers saying he’s “under investigation.”
Ward Four Alderman Christopher Herbert , who ran against Gatsas for mayor in two thousand eleven, said he was uncomfortable voting to refer the matter given the allegations weren’t corroborated by any evidence. He said it sounded like a “fishing exercise.”
Several other aldermen spoke out either defending the mayor and his character, criticizing Cashin or both. Only at-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil and Ward Ten Alderman Bill Barry, who mis-made and seconded the original motion to discuss the letter, thinking they’d made a motion to refer Gatsas to the Conduct Board, spoke in favor of Cashin’s request. Both complained about the mayor’s failure to notify them, the school board, the parents and the public. Their comments got a lot of pushback from members of the board who defended Gatsas.
Levasseur moved the letter be received and filed; multiple aldermen seconded it, including Ward Seven’s Bill Shea and Ward Eight’s Tom Katsiantonis. The motion passed on a roll call vote with Levasseur, Shea, Katsiantonis, Ward Nine’s Barbara Shaw, Ward Twelve’s Keith Hirschmann, Ward Three’s Patrick Long, Herbert and Ward Five’s Tony Sapienza in favor. Only O’Neil and Ward One’s Kevin Cavanaugh were opposed. Barry and Ward Two’s Ron Ludwig abstained. Ward Elevens’ Normand Gamache was absent and the Ward Six seat is vacant.
Gatsas said nothing during the discussion.
Two quick notes from last night’s meeting. Voters will have a chance to weigh in on whether or not the city will have a new flag as three proposed designs will be pictured on the ballot alongside the current flag featuring the official City Seal and the aldermen, at the request of Police Chief Nick Willard are eyeballing an ordinance banning smoking in city parks. Willard said drug users smoking spice are creating problems.
Candidate filings picked up a bit as the filing period nears its end this Friday. Among yesterday’s filers were:
- Incumbent at-Large School Committee Member Nancy Tessier.
- In Ward One, Jeff Nyhan of West Haven Drive filed for alderman.
- In Ward Six, Elizabeth Ann Moreau of Brookfield Drive filed for alderman.
- In Ward Seven, Brenda Noiseux of Taylor Street filed for alderman, creating a primary in that race, and
- In Ward Eleven, Andre Rosa filed for alderman, making that a four person race.
Also, yesterday, Ward Six resident, and our former Web Savvy Guy, Jon DiPietro announced he will file for school board today. DiPietro said the district needs to stop kicking the can down the road, hold administrators accountable and make the tough decisions, rather than spread fear, uncertainty and doubt to influence policy.
“stop experimenting on our kids. Too many decisions are made based on theory and conjecture without solid evidence that they will work. Educators and bureaucrats will always have another year to get it right but your child only gets one chance at first grade. I’m going to insist on proof before and accountability after.”
Oh, and don’t go to Crystal Lake until further notice. It was closed yesterday due to e-Coli contamination.