Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Breaking Keough

In February of 1986, the Springfield political scene was in an uproar over an article that appeared in the Springfield Morning Union by political reporter John Appleton. In that article, Appleton reported that State Representative Raymond Jordan, the only black representative from Western Massachusetts, would be facing the strongest challenge to his seat since he was first elected in 1974.

That challenger was Ogulewicz’s City Council colleague Francis Keough.

Today the district containing Mason Square (at that time known as Winchester Square) is overwhelmingly populated by minorities. In 1986 the district was about 50% white and much more diverse demographically. As Jordan himself described the district in the Appleton story, “You have half with the highest income, best educated people in Springfield, and in the other half you have the second lowest incomes and education. One half is predominantly pro-life, the other, pro-choice. One half wants no neighborhood change, the other has a burning interest in change. One half is predominantly Irish Catholic, the other predominantly black and Hispanic.”

Keough believed he could bring out enough voters dissatisfied with the status quo to bump the incumbent Jordan from his seat. There was tremendous pressure on Keough not to run, with many fearing that the contest could get racially divisive. Keough himself would charge during the campaign that Springfield Newspapers publisher David Starr had personally applied pressure on him to stay out of the race. Ogulewicz knew something about Starr’s penchant for interfering in campaigns from his own first race, when Starr had asked him to endorse an opponent.

To the credit of both Keough and Jordan, the contest never became overtly racial, although it still had plenty enough fireworks to make it one of the most colorful - and dirtiest - campaigns in modern Springfield history. Part of the reason why was because of the way the contest strained normal political alliances throughout the city. Mayor Richard Neal was especially torn, because Keough was a close friend and very active in the Mayor’s own political organization. At the same time, Jordan was the key point man for Neal in the black community. Also among those in a quandary was City Councilor Morris Jones, whose closest ally on the Council was Keough, but who had ties to Jordan going back decades. In short, everyone hoped to avoid internal bloodletting in the local Democrat Machine by getting Keough to back off, but the young Councilor, buoyed in part by his strong second place finish in the 1985 elections, was determined to move on to higher office.

Mitch was able to avoid the worst of these conflict, because he wasn’t particularly close to either of the candidates. He and Keough had formed the basis for a friendship during Mitch’s first campaign, but it had not evolved much since they were elected and had been strained by the Kerry/Bartley Senate battle. More significantly, Mitch had maintained his political independence while Keough had become deeply enmeshed in the local machine. Yet, Mitch felt he knew Keough pretty well and Frankie was also a fellow colleague on the Council. In contrast, Mitch hardly knew Jordan at all. Mitch was also attracted by the fact that Keough appeared uncharacteristically in the role of the maverick in the race by defying the pleas of Starr and the machine Democrats not to run, courageously facing their fury. So while Mitch had no great enthusiasm for Keough politically, he could appreciate the risks that Keough was taking as a boatrocker, which was the main reason why Mitch ultimately allied himself with the Keough campaign.

And what a campaign! The Springfield Newspapers immediately brought forth their heavy artillery, mercilessly attacking Keough on all fronts. Under the guise of investigative journalism, Keough’s entire real estate business came under intense scrutiny (unusual from a paper that seldom told the public anything about the personal financial activities of its public officials) as they attempted to present minor discrepancies in paperwork Keough had filed at the Register of Deeds as a major scandal.

Not all of the paper's accusations, however, were as unsubstantial. Personal friends of Keough were found to have improperly acquired absentee ballots, while Keough also took a job with the clerk of courts, meaning that he was collecting a check from both the state and city payrolls. In addition, his business partner, municipal parking clerk Stephen Phillips (brother of Gerald), had received a payraise for which Keough had both asked for and voted on. Finally, the Springfield Newspapers raised questions over Keough's involvement with developer Leo Shipiro, asking in an editorial, "Why was he [Keough] invited, and why did he agree, to particiapte in a land speculation with a millionaire real estate developer who does business in the city and might again in the future? And does that speculator really need Keough's few thousand dollars to complete the deal?"

In response, Keough made some interesting charges of his own. Jordan was President of the Winchester Square Development Corporation, a semi-public organization which controlled taxpayer’s money for economic development in Winchester Square. Keough noted that there seemed to be no new businesses in the Square, except for a new laundromat, where it turned out that Jordan himself was the owner. Keough blasted the corporation as being full of Jordan’s “cronies” such as Henry Thomas, Bobbie Jones (who would later become embroiled in a scandal regarding the land taking for the Rebecca Johnson School and whom Valley Advocate writer Stephanie Kraft once called Jordan’s “bagman”) and Willie Goodman, Jordan’s legislative assistant. There was also a fuss over Jordan's legislative aide Claire O’Brien, whom Keough charged had a no-show job. Finally, Keough pointed out that Jordan also had a lousy attendance record in Boston, missing 40% of the roll call votes in the legislature in 1985.

In short, it was an ugly campaign between two well-connected candidates, both of whom had enough skeletons in their closets to make neither of them very appealing. Ironically, there was a third candidate in the race, Reuben L. Green, but he was so overshadowed by his more famous competitors that his candidacy was never able to acquire any traction. Green was also rejected by some because of never proven charges that he had been brought into the race by Keough in order to split the black vote.

The Keough campaign was at last undone by a brutal editorial that appeared in the Springfield Newspapers just before the primary. In that editorial, the paper did everything but flat out declare Keough to be a crook, alleging in a statement dripping with innuendo that “Frank Keough came to politics a poor man and in less than three years on the City Council is wealthier than most of his constituents.”

The total effect of the editorial and the paper's earlier charges was devastating. In a desperate attempt to save himself, Keough publicly attacked both Starr and Arnold Friedman, accusing them of secretly assisting the Jordan campaign and of engaging in conduct that “violates every canon of responsible journalism.” But it was too little, too late and on Election Day, Keough went down to a landslide defeat.

Mitch learned some important lessons from this campaign. He now realized through what had happened to Francis Keough that he had not misinterpreted the meaning of the attacks he himself had undergone at the hands of Starr and company. Even a loyal water carrier like Keough, when he counteracted Starr’s wishes, had found himself tarred and feathered in the newspapers. There seemed to be no loyalties or other connections that could protect you if Starr was determined to have his way. This realization made Mitch even more determined to press on with his reform agenda to open up local politics to public scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Francis Keough took away a very different lesson from his public humiliation. In a conversation with Ogulewicz following his defeat, Keough said that he would never again rebel against the status quo, and that he would follow instructions from Starr and the other power players in the future because he had learned that resistance was futile. From that day onward, Keough was a Councilor that the political establishment could always count on to do their bidding.

1986 was the City of Springfield’s 350th birthday. The year long party was put on by the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs (MOCCA). Everyone agreed that MOCCA and its energetic director Judith Matt had done an outstanding job in putting on a series of special events to commemorate the occasion. As a public official, Mitch was required to attend most of these festivities, and he was proud to represent the city and share the pride over Springfield’s achievements over the centuries. Yet, ironically it would be Mitch who would later look at MOCCA’s financial records, and what he would uncover would cause still another controversy to unfold.

Video from 1986:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Corruption in the Square

One dark, cold winter night in early 1986, ten clergymen gathered in Winchester Square (now Mason Square) for a meeting whose outcome would ultimately send shockwaves of controversy throughout the political scene in Springfield. As the ten men of the cloth met that night in the heart of Springfield's black community, they reflected on the state of the Winchester Square neighborhood which comprised the membership of their respective churches. They described a community ruined by blight, poverty, crime and non-existent economic development. Yet they knew that large sums of money, in fact millions of dollars, had been spent by the government supposedly on economic development in Winchester Square.

The clergy found themselves using terms like, "the aftermath of an atomic blast," "Berlin, 1945" and "a wasteland" to describe their neighborhood. What could have happened, they wondered, to all the millions of dollars (90 million in all since 1966) that had been poured into Winchester Square? Why was there so little to show for it? Bowing their heads in prayer, the religious leaders of the black community joined together that night to make a solemn vow - forming a covenant - that they would wage a fight, no matter how difficult, no matter where it led, to find out what had become of all the government money that had been intended for Springfield's poorest neighborhood.

Councilor Morris Jones, the only black member of the Council, was the first to make news of the existence of the Covenant known to members of the City Council. Jones approached Mitch Ogulewicz and Francis Keough and asked them to meet with the group. At that meeting, the clergy told Ogulewicz and Keough, using colorfully blunt language, that they were demanding that an audit be conducted: a line by line, dollar by dollar examination of where all of the money that had been allocated to Winchester Square from government programs had actually been spent since 1966. Ogulewicz agreed that the requests of the clergymen were reasonable, and promised he would take their proposal for a complete financial reckoning back to the other Councilors.

But then the Mayor caught wind of it, and Richard Neal immediately announced that he was adamantly opposed. He dismissed the audit as "a fishing expedition" and said that with an estimated price tag of $250,000 it was too expensive. However, some in the Covenant suggested that there were other reasons for resistance to the audit, reasons that were only discussed within insider circles.

The audit the Covenant requested would've covered some very sensitive programs in Springfield, such as Model Cities, a disastrous early economic development program that demolished poor neighborhoods even when they didn't have anything to put up in their place. The audit would also have covered the CETA program (Comprehensive Educational Training Act) a job training program that was so scandal plagued and unsuccessful that Congress eventually abolished it as unreformable. There had been rumors for years that the Springfield Model Cities and CETA programs had been riddled with corruption and waste, and it was suspected that might be the primary reason why there appeared to be such nervousness in high places over what an in-depth audit might reveal.

That nervousness was heightened when Mitch Ogulewicz did some investigative work on his own. Mitch discovered never before released audits of the Model Cities program, documents that revealed that over two million dollars was either improperly spent or was completely missing, with no idea of what it had been spent on or by whom. The Covenant was galvanized by Ogulewicz's revelations, with Covenant member Rev. Jerome King Del Pino declaring that Mitch's discoveries were "just the tip of the iceberg in what I assert was a comedy of errors to develop the Winchester Square locality over the past 20 years."

Yet despite the growing body of evidence of fiscal mismanagement, the Neal Administration became ever more insistent that no audit should be held. In a comment that took Mitch by surprise, Neal declared in a private meeting with Mitch and some other Councilors that "Some of those people who were involved in those programs are now upstanding citizens, who should be allowed get on with their lives."

A surprised Mitch could only wonder what Neal meant by that statement. Who were these "upstanding citizens" placed in danger by the audit, and why should they be allowed to get away with past misdeeds? It seemed to Mitch that the Mayor knew more than he was willing to tell about the suspicions of the black community and the issues raised by the Covenant. Mitch thought it was also interesting that the scandal plagued CETA program had been administered during the Sullivan Administration, in which Neal himself had been an important figure.

In any case, Mayor Neal began applying pressure every way he could to defeat the proposal for the audit. Coming to his aid was Winchester Square's State Rep. Ray Jordan, who announced he would hold a special public meeting in which economic development in the Square would be discussed and all questions answered. The Covenant was unimpressed, accusing Jordan of offering to hold the forum merely as a substitute for doing the audit. They released a statement dismissing Jordan's rhetoric as "typical of his style during his 12 years in office." The Covenant turned out to have been correct in continuing to press their demands, because in the end it turned out that the tell-all public forum Jordan promised was never held.

On June 3, 1986 after weeks of intense lobbying by the Neal Administration, the struggle for the truth came to a climax when the Council voted 5-4 against funding the audit. The Covenant and most of the black community, along with other citizens concerned with good government, were outraged. The Covenant refused to concede defeat, with Rev. Del Pino declaring in the Morning Union, "We are committed to the truth of what it is we are pursuing and we will not be deterred by any of the devious methods of avoidance that were utilized by each of the Councilors who voted in opposition to this proposal."

The Neal Administration was caught off-guard by the unexpectedly intense outpouring of public anger following the defeat of the audit proposal. It was obvious that the Covenant and its supporters in the community and on the Council were not going to let the matter drop. Finally Councilor Robert Markel came forward with a compromise proposal to fund an audit covering a much shorter period of time - 1979 to 1984.

This would remove from the investigation the time periods covering the Model Cities and CETA programs about which the Neal Administration seemed so nervous, and would cost only $50,000, alleviating the concerns over costs. The Covenant was not at all satisfied by this proposal, which essentially took off the table 75% of the time period they wanted investigated, but in light of the defeat of the larger audit they decided to accept the compromise as at least better than nothing and if this shorter audit showed the necessity for further inquiry, then they could return to the Council with their original, more in-depth proposal.

The Covenant insisted that a first rate auditing firm be charged with the investigation, and the respected company of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company was chosen. At first everyone was pleased, but then some funny things started to happen.

To their shock and dismay, the Covenant discovered that the Neal Administration's Budget Director Henry Piechota had quietly changed the contract with Peat, Marwick and Mitchell so that they would perform an audit of all economic development in Springfield, with no special attention given to spending in Winchester Square. Such an audit would be so unfocused that it would be uselessly vague and reveal nothing that wasn't already in the public record. The Covenant accused the Neal Administration of secretly trying to sabotage even this greatly shortened audit. They were angry, with Rev. Del Pino condemning the Neal Administration in the harshest terms. "Mr. Mayor and Mr. Piechota," he cried out in the newspaper, "what are you trying to hide? This kind of bungling is no accident."

Mayor Neal promised to negotiate with the auditing firm to redirect their focus to Winchester Square, but the level of trust between the black community and the Neal Administration was now badly frayed. Ogulewicz found himself more and more pushed into the position of the point man for black leaders trying to monitor the audit, as he and Morris Jones were the only Councilors the black community seemed to trust. Even Jones came under increasing criticism by The Covenant for what they described as his "hesitant leadership." Some complained that they felt that Jones was more concerned with his relationship with the white power structure than he was with the concerns of the Covenant. Therefore, it was increasingly Ogulewicz whom the black community turned to as the only person who had shown the courage to stand unwaveringly by the black community from the very beginning.

So the city waited for the auditors from Peat, Marwick and Mitchell to complete their work, and they waited, and they waited. Originally the audit was supposed to be ready in only 60 days. Then 90 days. Soon over six months had passed, with no results released or even scheduled to be released. Yet it was rumored all over the city that the audit was in fact completed and that the Neal Administration was sitting on it.

Finally Ogulewicz decided that enough was enough. Calling a press conference on October 10, Ogulewicz demanded the immediate, unconditional release of the document. "This audit began in April," he said. "for $50,000 dollars we were told the audit would not take more than 60 to 90 days, and it is now six months since the audit began. All excuses for the final report not being given are not valid. Therefore I am calling for the release of the report immediately."

The Neal Administration initially refused Ogulewicz's demand, but eventually the report was finally released in December. The whole Valley looked with great anticipation for the results of this highly controversial document and found - nothing. It wasn't that the audit showed that anything was wrong. It wasn't that everything was shown to be all right. There was simply - nothing.

In the final analysis, it turned out that Peat, Marwick and Mitchell reported that they couldn't get the documents they needed from the Neal Administration or the Springfield Redevelopment Authority to have enough information to draw any conclusions about anything at all. Either the Neal people claimed the documents were lost or they turned over documents that were so sloppy and incomplete that the auditing firm simply couldn't gather enough information to make any definitive statements, except to say that the city's record keeping desperately needed to be improved. The Covenant was infuriated. "You have not yet begun to feel the wrath of The Covenant," cried the Rev. Warren Savage toward city leaders. The Rev. William Dwyer declared, "We feel that the audit shows a pattern of irresponsibility, particularly on behalf of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority."

But despite the outcry, the predictable spin doctoring soon began. Although the audit had resolved no suspicions one way or the other, Councilor Francis Keough stepped forward to declare that the audit had "lifted the cloud of suspicion" from all concerned. The Springfield Newspapers downplayed the missing documents and declared in its headline "Audit clears use of block-grant funds" although the truth was it had done no such thing. Despite repeated pleas from the Covenant not to let the matter drop, it became impossible to generate any more interest on the part of most Councilors toward any further investigation. The Covenant had been bamboozled off the stage of city politics, finally swept aside by Neal Administration rhetoric about "putting the past behind us" and "moving on." But the Neal Administration's victory over the black community was to be short lived, for no sooner was The Covenant shoved to the sidelines than another major controversy erupted in Winchester Square.

The Winchester Square clergy who made up the membership of The Covenant had been radicalized by their unsuccessful attempt to uncover what had become of the over 90 million dollars in economic development money that had supposedly been spent in the black community. The Covenant members had demanded that an audit be conducted to discover where all the money had disappeared to, but the Neal Administration, through a series of delays, deceptions and restrictions, had caused the final audit to be so vague and incomplete as to have been useless.

Many thought that their defeat would mean the end of The Covenant, but that was not the case. Having failed in their attempt to address the economic development boondoggles of the past, The Covenant then turned its attention to the economic development boondoggles of the present, in particular the $13 million dollar project to convert the former Indian Motocycle building into apartments.

The Indian Motocycle Company had ceased manufacturing activities in Winchester Square in 1953. Its two large factory buildings remained partially in use throughout the fifties and sixties through retail outlets on the ground floor, in particular the popular King's Department store. By the 1970's however, the buildings became completely abandoned and fell into ever more serious states of deterioration and disrepair. Finally, the larger of the two buildings was declared to be in such a state of structural weakness that there was a danger that it might simply topple over onto State Street, possibly resulting in injury or loss of life for any vehicle or pedestrian unlucky enough to be passing by. Therefore, in 1984 it was torn down by the city for the sake of public safety.

The smaller building, although also in tough shape, was becoming the subject of speculation for renovation as a housing project. Three prominent businessmen, Merwin Rubin, H. Joel Rahn and Jeffrey Sagalyn were trying to put together a proposal using taxpayer funds to renovate the building and redesign it for commercial use as an upscale condo complex. Not everyone, however, believed that to be the best use of the building or the site.

The members of The Covenant felt that what the poverty stricken Winchester Square community needed above all else was jobs. They wanted the building to be converted to cheap retail space where young entrepreneurs and small shops could be opened at rents that would help new businesses to blossom and to serve as an economic center for neighborhood revitalization. As for the plans to build condominiums, they asked who was going to move into these condos right smack in the middle of Springfield's ghetto? From a purely business viewpoint, the whole concept behind the Indian Motocycle project seemed laughable. Furthermore, there was already more than ample housing in the neighborhood - if anything there was too much housing stock, with much of it abandoned. It was jobs and economic opportunity that the community needed, and the Indian Motocycle Apartments would provide neither. Yet, like so often in Springfield, it was not economics and common sense that would dictate the course of action - it was politics.

Concern over the political angle is what first brought Mitch Ogulewicz into the controversy. Mitch felt it was disgraceful how the Neal Administration had mistreated the clergeymen in The Covenant during the audit controversy. It was obvious that the good old boys network had repeatedly failed the black community in Springfield, and Mitch was determined that in the future things would be different. Ogulewicz felt that both buildings should be razed in order to give the Square a fresh look and to create the widest possible range of opportunities for what the site could be used for. He agreed with The Covenant that the whole concept behind the condo complex was ridiculous. Who would want to live there? Why would any sane investor put their own money into such a sure loser? As Mitch tried to find out, he would find it hard to get answers.

When Ogulewicz was able to track down the investors and ask them how much of their own money they intended to risk in the venture, he was startled to be told that their investment would consist solely of their own "sweat equity." In other words, the time and energy they spent working on bringing the project into existence would represent their total investment. Mitch couldn't believe what he was hearing - the investors essentially wanted access to millions of dollars of taxpayer funds for doing nothing more than donating the effort they put into acquiring the taxpayer's money. Anyone at all could be a developer under those terms! Such an arrangement was unprecedented and completely absurd from a fiscal perspective, since it really amounted to just handing the building and the millions needed to develop it over to the businessmen as a gift. The more Mitch looked into this extraordinary arrangement, the more disturbing things he discovered.

Also acting as an "investor" in the scheme was the Upper State Street Community Development Corporation. Sitting on the board of this organization (later called The Mason Square Development Corporation) was none other than Springfield Newspapers publisher David Starr, who it turned out had ties to Indian Motocycle Apartments developer H. Joel Rahn. Starr admitted to Valley Advocate reporter Stephanie Kraft that he had solicited Rahn in the past for some of Starr's pet charities. Kraft also reported that Rahn was a friend of Arnold Friedman, Starr's second in command at the newspapers, and that Friedman and Rahn had been seen dining together at area restaurants on several occasions.

Even more intriguing and disturbing was that Upper State Street Community Development Corporation (a non-profit entity) had a for-profit subsidiary called simply "Upper State Street Indian Motocycle Building." Mitch was startled to realize who was the head of the money making operation tied to the project. It turned out to be none other than State Representative Ray Jordan, who was the politician representing the Square in the legislature in Boston, which was where most of the money for the project was supposed to originate from in the form of financing from the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency.

So Mitch had uncovered this almost surreal situation where a historic building in Springfield's poorest neighborhood was being turned into condos that no one needed or were likely to buy, with investors who appeared to be putting little or no money of their own into the project, thereby leaving taxpayers to assume all the risks, while the publisher of the local newspaper, which was supposed to be a journalistic watchdog over the project, was sitting on the very board of the organization that the newspaper was supposed to oversee. Finally, the politician most responsible for the political and financial oversight of the taxpayer's investment, Ray Jordan, was himself the head of the profit taking subsidiary through which the investor's profits would flow.

On April 23, 1987, Mitch Ogulewicz held a press conference to demand that the State Ethics Commission launch a full investigation into the Indian Motocycle Apartment project and the players involved. On the same day, the members of The Covenant traveled to Boston for a private meeting with Governor Michael Dukakis, where they pleaded unsuccessfully with him to reconsider his support for the grants needed to begin the project. By this time, the black community itself had become torn over the project, with Ray Jordan putting together a group of his own supporters called The Winchester Square Coalition, which was formed to serve as a citizen counter group to the clergymen in The Covenant.

The Winchester Square Coalition held a press conference supporting the Indian Motocycle Apartments, and then released a statement accusing those who opposed the project of racism. An angry Ogulewicz immediately responded that the charge was a red herring, designed to draw attention away from the very real concerns about the project's viability and the ethical issues involved. Also accused of racism were City Councilors and project critics Vincent DiMonaco and Betty Montori, both of whom also responded angrily to the racism charges, especially Vinnie. When told by Winchester Square Coalition leader Ida Flynn that she would lie down in front of the bulldozers if necessary to save the apartment project, he bellowed, "If you lie down in front of that bulldozer, you won't be lying there long!" To which Flynn snapped back, "Nothing you would do would surprise me!"

Mitch felt concerned about the increasingly hostile tone of the debate, and regretted that the Winchester Square Coalition had introduced the race card into the discussion. Developer Merwin Rubin called for "cooler heads to prevail" before the bad feelings resulted in the whole project being scuttled. But the war of words raged on.

Mitch continued to demand an investigation, asking in the Springfield Newspapers, "How does Rep. Jordan justify his being involved with a for-profit subsidiary of his development corporation while attempting to secure taxpayer's money for his project? When I have asked about the equity provided, I have been told that the developer's equity is their time and sweat that they have put into the project. Where is the developer's money? How much of the money is from their own pocket compared to what they propose the taxpayer's to put into the project? It is time for the Ethics Commission to look into the entire situation."

Jordan responded with strong words of his own, accusing Ogulewicz of "making a feeble attempt to make issues out of non-issues" and mockingly giving Mitch the nickname "Landslide Ogulewicz" because he was "always looking for votes." Jordan also ridiculed The Covenant for going to see Dukakis, saying that they, and especially Ogulewicz, had no influence with the Governor. When Mitch announced that he would try to call the Governor to give his side of the issue, Jordan sneered in the paper, "I'm sure that Gov. Michael Dukakis will be bubbling over in anticipation of receiving Mitch Ogulewicz's phone call."

Soon Mitch received some unexpected corroboration for his criticism of the Mason Square Development Corporation. Community Development Department employee James R. D'Amour wrote Mitch a scathing memo about what he saw as gross incompetence at the organization. D'Amour wrote, "Overall the agency, with respect to accountability is very disorganized. Files are lacking information and documentation. Reports are late. Staff doesn't seem to grasp necessary systems and procedures, even after many instructional meetings . . . same questions, same mistakes again and again."

Yet ultimately no appeal to reason, no logical argument, no concerns over propriety or ethics - absolutely nothing it seemed could derail the project. Like some economic and political Frankenstein, the project had a life of its own that kept it moving forward whatever the concerns of the Covenant, the black community, Ogulewicz, DiMonaco, Montori or the taxpayers. There were just too many well-connected people exerting too much influence in high places for the simple facts about how totally unethical and ill-conceived the project was to make any difference. Shortly after the project was finally completed, it became obvious that the original prediction that people simply would not want to purchase condos in the ghetto was coming true. Almost immediately upon opening, the project went into a rapid decline, at one point attempting to survive by turning itself into a welfare motel that made income off of rents paid for by the taxpayers. But nothing could stop its downward spiral, until finally the whole condo project went crashing into bankruptcy court only a few short years after it opened. In the end, the taxpayers lost every single penny they had invested in it, exactly as The Covenant, Ogulewicz and the other critics had predicted. As for the politically connected developers, by that time they had already cashed their checks and moved on.

This video features TV coverage of the issues discussed.

Video from 1987:

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lost Land

In 1987, Edward Broska turned 75 years old and decided that it was time to retire. For his entire life he had lived and worked on the 44-acre farm his family owned in Springfield's 16 Acres neighborhood. Now he was getting too old for farmwork, and none of his kinfolk were interested in carrying on the family farm after him. So, Broska put the homestead and surrounding land up for sale. The place had the distinction of being the only working farm left in the city. Once it was sold, the last remnant of the 350 year old history of commercial agriculture in Springfield would be gone.

Springfield's Conservation Commission had been keeping their eye on the Broska Farm since 1979, when they first heard rumors that Broska's retirement might be eminent. As the last large area of undeveloped land in Springfield, the Conservation Commission was anxious to preserve the farmland and transform it to public use, perhaps as a kind of suburban version of Forest Park. The moment they heard that Broska's farm was about to go on the market, Commission Chairman Edward Friedman swung into action. First, the Commission members approached Mayor Richard Neal, who immediately gave the Commission his complete and enthusiastic support. Neal in turn contacted State Senator Martin Reilly and State Representative Paul Caron, both of whom represented the 16 Acres neighborhood, and urged them to try and get the funds from the state to acquire the land from the Broska family.

At first, Sen. Reilly imagined turning the farm into a state park, suggesting that it be called Broska State Park, but unfortunately the state showed little interest in acquiring more park land. However, a bill was moving through the legislature at that time providing funds for conservation purposes. Reilly and Caron managed to secure a promise from legislative leaders that if the city were to buy the Broska farm, then the state would be willing to reimburse them for 80% of the cost, thereby making the purchase very affordable. This legislative victory made heroes of Reilly and Caron, while Mayor Neal, the Conservation Committee, the citizens of 16 Acres and the taxpayers in general were all excited over the creation of a big, new park in Springfield.

But then things started to get weird.

Suddenly appearing on the scene was H. Joel Rahn, one of the infamous developers of the Indian Motocycle Building apartments complex, a ruinous taxpayer financed boondoggle that lost millions in a harebrained scheme to market condos in the middle of the ghetto. It was discovered that Rahn was offering Broska a generous price for his land, on which he intended to build a major housing development of nearly 50 homes. In order to block the deal, the City Council would have to take the land by eminent domain.

At first the news that Rahn was hoping to turn Springfield's new park into a housing development was greeted with outrage. The citizens of 16 Acres collected thousands of signatures to present to the Council urging the Councilors to stop the housing development by taking the land. Mayor Neal, Sen. Reilly, Rep. Caron and nearly all the City Councilors immediately denounced the Rahn development scheme and demanded the eminent domain taking. But that was before an odd and completely unexpected editorial appeared in the Springfield Newspapers.

In that editorial, readers were surprised to be informed by the paper that the farmland should not be considered undeveloped - after all, it had been used for farming! The editorial further suggested that the whole controversy was motivated by greed, although not the greed of housing developer Rahn, but of the citizens of 16 Acres, who selfishly wanted to preserve "their view" while denying those who needed housing. That everyone in the city, not just those living in 16 Acres, could use the park was not acknowledged. The editorial also informed the public that Springfield was suffering from a housing shortage, which was surprising news, since most people believed that the city was losing population due to white flight. But no, not at all said the Springfield Newspapers, in fact there was a never before known "housing crisis" with a "desperate" need for new housing developments. To the average reader, the editorial could not have made much sense. To those in the know, something underhanded was going down.

Shortly after the editorial appeared, Mitch Ogulewicz received an unusual phone call. It was from Arnold Friedman, the second in command at the Springfield Newspapers. While the editorial supporting the housing development was unsigned, it was widely believed that Friedman wrote most of the paper's political editorials. In fact, it had been Friedman with whom Mitch had spoken over lunch at The Fort several months earlier about his upcoming re-election endorsement from the paper. Now perhaps it was becoming clear what that luncheon and that endorsement was all about. Sure enough, Friedman urged Ogulewicz to vote against the eminent domain taking, something Mitch flatly refused to do. He was committed to creating the new park for the citizens of Springfield, and told Friedman so in uncertain terms.

Other Councilors, however, some of whom had been originally enthusiastic supporters of preserving the land, mysteriously began to sing a different tune. Councilor Francis Keough suddenly announced that he was now voting against the taking, giving the previously unknown housing shortage as his excuse. Robert Markel declared that the land was not a part of a previously unheard of "master plan" for open space in Springfield, and therefore the Broska farm was unsuitable for preservation. Only the always blunt spoken Vinnie DiMonaco laid out his reasons with unvarnished honesty, telling 16 Acres resident Michah Feldman (who then later told the Valley Advocate) that DiMonaco had told him that he "felt good helping David Starr in any effort he's committed to" and explaining that he would do so, because "Starr has done a lot for me and I owe Starr a lot."

Indeed, Springfield Newspapers publisher David Starr and his second in command Arnold Friedman admitted to both Stephanie Kraft and Kris Hundley of the Valley Advocate that they had personal dealings with H. Joel Rahn, the project's developer, with Starr soliciting contributions from Rahn for some of Starr's favorite causes while Friedman had been spotted around town dining with Rahn. Once again Ogulewicz pointed out that there was a clear conflict of interest. How could the paper editorialize against taking the land when the developer standing in the way of the park was someone with whom the management of the paper had both a professional and personal relationship? At the very least, there was little hope of objective coverage by the paper, since any Springfield Newspaper reporter wanting to investigate the Broska Farm controversy would have had to begin by investigating their own employer!

The fix was in, and nothing it seemed could prevent support for the park from slipping away. The Springfield Park Department, which had originally welcomed the idea of a major new addition, suddenly concluded that it lacked the funds to maintain it. Actually, the land would have been under the control of the Conservation Commission, but that inconvenient fact was ignored as newspaper headlines made it sound as if the park department was declaring the use of the land as unfeasible. One by one, Councilors began expressing reservations they never had before expressed about the land taking. Mitch could only wonder whether they too had received surprise phone calls from Arnold Friedman.

Mitch realized that there was only one person who could save the park to be built on the Broska farmland - Richard Neal. In a private meeting, Mitch urged the Mayor to use his influence to stop the defection of Councilors to the Springfield Newspaper's position, especially that of his cousin, Councilor Bill Foley. After all, it had been Neal himself who had originally set in motion the process of acquiring the state money to purchase the land. Yet Neal was resistant, telling Mitch that it was too late and that Starr and Friedman would have their way regardless of what anyone did. "It's a losing issue," Neal told him, "and I don't like to be on the side that's losing."

The night when the vote was to be taken on whether to accept the state money to acquire the land, the Councilors were startled to see Richard Neal quietly enter the Council chambers. Today it is not uncommon for mayors to appear before the Council uninvited to press their views. But in those days there was a clearly defined tradition of separation between the Council and the Mayoralty, and it was unheard of for the Mayor to violate the sanctity of the Council chambers by intruding uninvited on a Council meeting.

Yet the encounter with Mitch had with Neal in which Ogulewicz had essentially shamed the Mayor for not standing up for his own proposal, had apparently had an effect. Requesting that Council President DiMonico grant him permission to speak, the Mayor made one last futile appeal to save Broska farm. Everyone knew that Starr and Friedman already had the votes lined up to get their way and that nothing could change that. Still, in spite of all the difficulties Mitch had had with Neal in the past and would have in the future, Ogulewicz would always remember that one occasion when Neal had spoken out in defiance of Starr, saying it was one of the few times Neal had done something that Mitch could admire. Afterward, Mitch approached the Mayor in the room off of the council chambers and told him that he was glad that Neal had found the courage to do the right thing.

Despite Neal's dramatic appearance, as expected the Council still voted to refuse the grant money, thereby putting Sen. Reilly and Rep. Caron in the awkward position of having to go back to Boston to tell the legislature that Springfield was turning down the money for a new park, money which had already been handed to them on a silver platter. Meanwhile, H. Joel Rahn moved forward with his plans, as he bulldozed the woods and the farmland and raked in the profits from his housing development.

And so it was that the last farm and the last major area of open space in Springfield was lost forever.

These videos record the Broska Farm controversy as covered on local television.

Monday, July 18, 2016


1988 was a presidential election year. As a life-long political junkie, Mitch Ogulewicz always participated on some level in presidential politics, dating back to his campaign work in Hungry Hill on the candidacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. However, 1988 was a special year, and in one respect it was special for the same reason as the JFK campaign of 1960. As in that election year, the Democrats nominated a candidate from Massachusetts as their presidential standard bearer - Governor Michael S. Dukakis.

Today, the name Dukakis is one of the most reviled in Massachusetts politics. His humiliating loss to George Bush Sr. followed by the deep recession (sometimes called “The Dukakis Depression”) which quickly followed left many Massachusetts residents with a very negative final appraisal of the former Governor. But in 1988 the ultimate disgrace of Dukakis was still in the unknowable future, and locally the Dukakis campaign was the focus of great enthusiasm. That was especially true among the politically connected, who had visions of Washington patronage plums dancing in their heads.

Mitch Ogulewicz wasn’t one of them, but he did have a strong interest in the Dukakis campaign. He had worked for Dukakis in the New Hampshire primary, along with his new friend, freshman School Committee member Michael J. Albano (above). Albano was quickly making a name for himself in the political scene as someone who was very ambitious. His Longmeadow based family was already well known in political circles, with his late father being a prominent labor leader while Albano's mother was a popular behind the scenes activist in a variety of issues and organizations. Albano's Uncle Jim Grimaldi had served as a member of the Springfield City Council and for many years as a State Representative. Albano made no secret of the fact that he was interested in moving up from the School Committee to the City Council in the next election cycle. Eventually he would become Springfield's mayor, and a very controversial one at that. But in the late 80's, Mitch found Albano to be a lively and fun loving companion who knew how to have a good time. As Mitch would soon learn, keeping up with Mike Albano in party mode could be quite a challenge.

Governor Dukakis was scheduled to accept the Democratic nomination in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia. The official delegates to the convention from Springfield consisted of all of the big name office holders and political celebrities, which did not reach down to include any City Councilors or School Committee members. Yet, as the convention approached and the excitement rose Mitch and Albano decided that they would fly down to Atlanta in spite of that. They had no credentials or passes that would entitle them to attend a single convention function, but in the heady atmosphere of the moment they decided to head south anyway and at least try to enjoy the convention atmosphere.

While at Bradley airport awaiting their flight, Mitch was surprised to see Albano down three Bloody Marys in quick succession at the airport bar. While Albano was known to enjoy a drop or two on occasion, Mitch had never seen Albano drink so much so quickly. “What the hell are you doing?” Mitch asked. “We haven’t even got on the plane yet and you’ve already had three drinks!” It was then that Albano made a sheepish confession - he was terrified of flying! This surprised Mitch, in part because it clashed with the very macho attitude Albano assumed in most situations. Yet the flight went smoothly and Albano was able to contain his discomfort, although not without the help of several more drinks in-flight.

When they arrived in Atlanta, far from being dragged down by the alcohol and the flight, Albano seemed even more energized. They picked up some beer and a rental car and then headed to their hotel, a Holiday Inn far removed from the convention site. But Albano would have none of it, and told Mitch they were going to get a hotel closer to the action. Mitch didn’t see how that was possible. “Don’t worry about a thing.” Albano exclaimed. “Just take us to the Hyatt.” That was the hotel where Dukakis himself and his official entourage were staying. “They’ll never let us through the door!” Mitch protested.

“Leave it to me,” Albano confidently replied, “just drive us there.”

Ogulewicz did as he was told, but wondered whether the liquor was starting to affect Albano's judgement. It was ridiculous to think that they could even get past the doorman. Sure enough, as they reached the Hyatt and parked before the entrance, a doorman stepped forward and asked who they were. To Mitch’s amazement, Albano whipped out his wallet and flashed a badge. “Mike Albano and Mitch Ogulewicz,” he said. “Secret Service.”

Mitch was shocked and alarmed, he felt they couldn’t possibly get away with this! Yet to his amazement the doorman said, “Right this way officers,” and before he knew it they were being escorted through the door of the hotel while their car was being parked by a valet. At the desk, Albano again flashed his badge at the desk clerk. “Secret Service assigned to Governor Dukakis,” Albano said. “We’ll be needing a room for the duration of the convention.” The hotel clerk sputtered with apologetic embarrassment, “I’m terribly sorry officer, but every room in the hotel was booked solid months ago.”

“With no accommodations set aside for the secret service?” Albano exclaimed. “I demand to see the manager!” The nervous clerk disappeared while Mitch and Albano waited at the desk. “Have you lost your mind?” Mitch whispered. “Where did you get that badge?” Albano explained that it was given to him as a result of his job as a state parole officer. Had the doorman or the clerk bothered to look at the badge closely enough they would have seen that it had nothing to do with the secret service, but they had not done so. Soon the clerk returned with the manager in tow.

“I’m very sorry officers,” the manager pleaded, “but our facilities are completely filled. However, I do have a room available until tomorrow morning that is being held for a late arrival. Can I offer you that for now and then we can reappraise the situation in the morning?” Albano acted as though he was terribly put out by this turn of affairs, but said that he would reluctantly accept the temporary arrangement. A bellhop then led them to their room, which must have been originally reserved by someone very special, since it was a luxury suite with a fully stocked bar and a gorgeous view of downtown Atlanta.

That night Mitch and Albano made the rounds of Atlanta’s nightlife, and in the morning prepared to vacate their wonderful room. Mitch figured the jig was up, but Albano told him not to go anywhere, that he was going downstairs to talk to the manager. After several minutes, Albano returned with the bellhop and they were escorted once again to another luxurious room, this one just four floors below Dukakis himself! Once again Albano had parlayed his parole board badge into another suite. It was incredible, they had come to Atlanta at a time when people from all over the nation were congregating for the convention and fighting over hotel space, yet here were Mitch and Albano in the very same hotel as Dukakis himself, and just four floors below the private quarters the Governor and his family would use once they arrived!

Being in the same hotel as Dukakis meant that they were able to come into contact with some of the dignitaries and power players who were also staying at the Hyatt. Among them was Sen. John Kerry’s adviser Mike Whouley. Because of Mitch’s long relationship with Senator Kerry, Whouley gave Ogulewicz and Albano passes aboard one of the special buses that would take a crowd of supporters to greet the Governor at the airport when he arrived in Atlanta from Massachusetts. He also gave them passes to some of the events at the convention itself. When the time came to board the bus, Albano balked. “F*** the bus!” he said, and insisted that they take their car instead. Mitch figured that Albano must have something up his sleeve, but he was afraid to guess what.

Sure enough, when they arrived at the airport, Albano went into his secret service routine again, and it worked as well at the airport as it had at the hotel. Airport employees were only too eager to escort the two “secret servicemen” to the location where Dukakis and his wife were to arrive. It was then that Ogulewicz first realized with dismay that they had lied themselves into some serious danger. As they were being led toward the red carpet where Dukakis was to descend from the plane, two men with dark glasses and suits suddenly approached them.

They were real life officers of the secret service.

“Excuse me gentlemen," one of them asked, "may I see some identification?”

Now it appeared that they were about to be unmasked! Ogulewicz could only imagine what terrible fine or even prison term awaited those who impersonated the secret service. Mitch was speechless with anxiety, but Albano never missed a beat. “Good morning officers,” he said, showing them his badge with perfect calm. “I’m Mike Albano, a parole officer from Massachusetts and this is Mitch Ogulewicz, an elected official from Springfield Massachusetts. We’re here among the dignitaries from Massachusetts to greet Governor Dukakis.”

Mitch silently groaned as he expected the secret service to swarm over them like a SWAT team and to be dragged off to jail.

“Right this way gentlemen,” the secret serviceman commanded, and then led them to a roped off section where a few dignitaries and the press were waiting. It was beyond belief that after lying their way through up to that point, that they had escaped final disaster in the most unexpected way - by simply telling the truth!

But something was still wrong. Ogulewicz realized to his confusion that there was no one else present besides the press. Standing near Mitch was David Broder of the Washington Post. After a short while Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young arrived with his entourage, but beyond that, no one. Where were the busloads of supporters that Mike Whouley said had been arranged to arrive to create a cheering crowd for the TV cameras?

Little did Mitch and Albano know that the site of Dukakis’ arrival had been changed due to air traffic problems and that the busload of supporters had been sent to the wrong location. Soon the Governor’s flight arrived and Dukakis and his wife Kitty came down the steps of the plane. The press was there snapping pictures and yelling questions. Mayor Young greeted the candidate warmly and then, as Dukakis turned to greet his throng of admirers he encountered instead a crowd of exactly two people – Mitch Ogulewicz and Mike Albano! The Governor and his wife shook their hand, a slightly puzzled expression on their faces, and then entered their limousine. Mitch and Albano could only guess what Governor Dukakis must have thought to have found such a welcoming committee, consisting only of the Mayor of Atlanta, the press and two minor public officials from Western Mass!

Later back at the Hyatt, Mitch was surprised to run into another person from the Pioneer Valley. It was not someone he was particularly happy to meet - State Representative Ray Jordan, who was attending the convention in his role as Democrat State Committeeman. Mitch had fought some intense political battles in Springfield with Jordan over the years. One was over Jordan’s election campaign, in which Mitch had supported his opponent Frank Keough and again when Mitch unsuccessfully tried to stop the Indian Motocycle Building apartment project in which Jordan had been a major player.

Yet so far from home, and in the context of the convention, Ogulewicz approached Jordan in a friendly manner. Jordan responded in kind, and before they knew it they were laughing together as friends instead of political adversaries. Mitch confessed to Jordan that he now felt that he had made a mistake in backing Keough, especially since after his defeat Keough appeared to have sold out completely to the city’s political establishment. In the course of the night Jordan asked Mitch if he was going to attend the speech the next day to be given by Jesse Jackson. When Mitch said he was not, Jordan asked if he could have his pass to give to a friend who wanted to go. Mitch was happy to do so, thereby showing that the battles of Valley politics could indeed be put aside in the name of friendship and co-operation, at least if you were hundreds of miles away.

The next night was the most dramatic of the convention, when Dukakis himself would accept the nomination for President of the United States. Donald Dowd had warned Ogulewicz and the others to get to the convention early, since they would shut the doors to all comers, even delegates, once the convention hall reached the maximum number of persons allowed inside by the Fire Marshall. Mitch followed Dowd’s advice, and was glad he did, since it enabled him to observe one of the most moving political events he had ever witnessed.

As Dukakis took the stage to the music of Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America,” the convention exploded into bedlam, with an incredible outpouring of emotion from the Massachusetts delegation. Mitch looked over and saw Jordan aide Henry Twiggs with tears pouring down his face. One would have thought that Twiggs, in his many years with Jordan, would have seen enough to make anyone a stone cold cynic. Yet the image of Twiggs, in tears of joy over the ascension of Dukakis, would stick in Mitch’s mind as one of the defining moments of the convention.

Afterwards, there was a “Boston to Austin” reception for Dukakis and his running mate Texas Senator Lloyd Bentson, for which Mitch did have a pass. Yet somehow in all the convention hullabaloo he had lost it. Arriving without Albano, it was now Mitch’s turn to test his skills at getting past a skeptical doorman. When informed that he could not enter without a pass, Mitch said that he didn’t need one because his name could be found on the VIP list. “And your name is?” the doorman asked. To which Mitch replied, “State Representative Raymond Jordan.” He was then allowed to walk right in. He had a wonderful time partying while posing as the state representative from Winchester Square. The next morning Mitch ran into Jordan as he was preparing to leave. “By the way Ray,” Mitch said as Jordan was saying good-by, “if anyone calls you about attending the reception last night, pretend you’re white!”

With the convention over, Mitch and Albano did a little sight seeing before departing. They visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and the tomb of Rev. Martin Luther King. Albano appeared genuinely moved by the King memorial, but still had the presence of mind to say to Mitch, “Take my picture by the tomb will you? I can always use it in some future campaign!” Mitch obliged, but could only smile to himself. "That Albano," he thought, "always the political animal!" Indeed, seven years later, when Albano was running for Mayor, he remembered that photograph and asked Mitch to give it to him so that he could use it in his campaign brochure.

Campaign buttons courtesy of the Ogulewicz Collection

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Early Warnings

An unexpected political opportunity opened for Mitch Ogulewicz in 1988. The person representing the state senatorial district that Mitch lived in, Martin Reilly, suddenly announced that he would not be seeking re-election. Reilly’s retirement came after a long fall from grace, a fall critics believed had been orchestrated by the Springfield Newspapers.

Rumors were swirling in the spring of ’88 that the region’s longtime congressman, Eddie Boland, was retiring. Reilly was considered a major contender to seek Boland’s seat and was thought to be the only contender who was capable of beating Springfield Mayor Richard Neal for the Democratic nomination. However, the newspaper, generally sleepy and indifferent when it came to sniffing out conflicts of interest (including their own) as early as 1986 began attacking Reilly with stories implying that Reilly may have used his office to facilitate real estate deals and his position on the Senate banking committee to improperly acquire personal loans.

An ethics probe eventually cleared Reilly of all the newspaper’s charges of wrong-doing, but that process took many months. In the meantime, the damage done by the newspaper’s phoney scandal, combined with personal family issues, forced Reilly out of the race for re-election to his senate seat. The scandal also shattered any of Reilly’s hopes for running for Congress, thereby helping to clear the field for Neal. However, that outcome also left Neal deeply indebted to the newspaper. Soon after Reilly announced his retirement, Mitch received a phone call from his friend State Representative Ken Lemanski urging him to jump into the race for Reilly’s seat. Two others had already announced, former State Rep. Sean Cahillaine and Mitch’s Council colleague, Francis Keough. Republican activist Brian Lees also entered the fray.

Lemanski’s logic for why Ogulewicz should run was compelling. With Keough and Cahillaine splitting the Irish vote, Mitch could be expected to capitalize on the strong Polish vote in Ludlow, Chicopee and Indian Orchard. Since the district was heavily Democratic, the winner of the Democratic primary was considered to have little problem beating Brian Lees in November. (Actually, Lees was the ultimate winner, thanks in part to the terrible campaign run by the eventual Democrat nominee, Frankie Keough). The race was also tempting for Mitch because such openings did not occur often as state legislators often serve for decades. Therefore, an opportunity such as this to run for a wide open seat might not come again in Mitch’s lifetime.

Yet despite all the positives, Mitch ultimately decided against it. With young children still at home, the large amount of time he would have to spend in Boston would simply be too much of a hardship on his family. Reluctantly, Mitch decided not to compete for the seat and instead to continue his work on the City Council. In retrospect, that was probably not the best choice, since little did Mitch know that his Council career was soon to come to an unplanned end, as many of the same forces that had destroyed Martin Reilly were already beginning to focus their attention on him.

Yet, Ogulewicz remained for the time being blissfully unaware of the storm to come, although in retrospect the warning signs were there. The first was an unexpected letter Mitch received from two longtime Springfield printers, John and William Santaniello. Their letter suggested that something was amiss in the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs (MOCA). The Santaniello’s had been invited by MOCA to bid on some flyers the organization was printing for a community event. MOCA was at that time a semi-independent entity that raised money to put on special events, such as the Fourth of July fireworks, the Pancake Breakfast and the Taste of Springfield.

According to the Santaniello’s, they had presented the lowest bid for the work, and yet had been passed over for a higher bid offered by an outfit called Italia Printers. The Santaniello's were furious over this perceived injustice, but when they complained about it they were told that the lowest bidder did not have to be the firm chosen, but merely someone chosen from the best three offers. Of course such an arrangement begged to be abused, since it meant that bidders could be granted contracts for political as well as financial considerations.

While there was little that Mitch could do for the Santaniello’s, he discussed the matter with fellow Councilor Vincent DiMonaco, who had already expressed concern about MOCA and who had always prided himself as a defender of the small businessperson. Together they decided to take an indepth look into the finances and management of the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs.

What their research uncovered was that MOCA owed money to small businesses all over the city and was in debt to the tune of over two hundred thousand dollars! Ogulewicz and DiMonaco demanded an explanation, while freshman Councilor Kateri Walsh called for an official audit of MOCA’s finances. In response, the Neal Administration became very defensive.

MOCA was headed by the universally praised Judith Matt, a dynamo of energy and a brilliant organizer of large-scale events. Yet by her own admission, Matt was more of a doer than an administrator, more concerned with pulling off a successful event than worrying about how to pay for it. Technically, MOCA had no budget from the city, although it often received free services from city departments and Matt herself received a tax-funded salary. But the majority of MOCA’s money came from private fundraising, which made their cash flow unreliable and thereby left many of the businesses they dealt with waiting in line for their money long after the events the services were purchased for were over. Many business people did not know about nor understand MOCA’s unique arrangement with City Hall and therefore considered themselves to be working for the city, which tarnished the city’s reputation when they didn’t get paid in a prompt manner. In other words, MOCA was causing Springfield to gain a reputation as a municipal deadbeat.

The solution suggested by some was to make MOCA an official part of the city government with its own budget, and indeed that was what was eventually done. What was strange about the matter however, was the seemingly hysterical overreacting by Mayor Neal. At a hearing held to resolve MOCA’s difficulties the Mayor lashed into Ogulewicz, denouncing him for committing “character assassination” by daring to raise questions about so noble an organization as MOCA and having the audacity to suggest it might be run better.

Vincent DiMonaco further enraged Neal when he suggested that Neal himself might be partly to blame for MOCA’s troubles by repeatedly ordering MOCA to do things without any thought of how to pay for them. Neal angrily lectured DiMonaco on the duties of a chief executive, an odd thing to do considering that DiMonaco had been in office when Richie Neal was in grade school, and probably knew first hand more about the workings of city government than anyone else in the city.

It appeared to Mitch as if Neal were wrapping himself in the flag and declaring himself immune from criticism, a position that baffled the City Council. Why was Neal taking a simple inquiry into an obviously troubled agency so personally? Indeed, Judith Matt, who presumably had the most to lose in the controversy, was actually grateful that her longstanding financial problems had finally been brought out in the open so that they could be successfully resolved. Far from feeling that she was the victim of character assassination, Matt even sent Mitch a note thanking him for helping her organization.

There were other controversies that year during which Neal showed the same inexplicable behavior. In early August Ogulewicz received a phone call from someone who was working as a lifeguard at one of the city’s pools. The lifeguard told him that rumors were rampant that all pool workers were soon to be fired and all the pools shut down for reasons that were not yet known.

Mitch placed a phone call to Park Department head Larry Dowd, who reassured Mitch that he knew of no such plans. Yet, only two weeks later the pools did in fact shut down and the all of the workers were told they were unemployed. As Mitch soon discovered, the problem was that so many people had been hired to work for the pools and parks that the money had run out prematurely. Once again there was shades of the MOCA scandal, with Neal ordering things to be done, in this case hiring pool and park workers, without having the money to pay for them.

Yet another incident arose involving the economic development group Springfield Central, which was headed by Springfield Newspaper publisher David Starr. Under a suspension of rules, Neal brought before the Council the debt due for a city beautification program which had been handled by Springfield Central. The Councilors were furious with Neal for spending the money first, and then asking the Council to cover the bills later. That left the Council with only two choices, to either cough up the cash or stiff the people who Springfield Central had hired to do the work. Vincent DiMonaco was especially mad, accusing Neal of having the legislative process “half-ass backwards” by spending the money first, then asking for authorization for the spending later. He even suggested that Neal’s behavior might be illegal, but refrained from pursuing it further.

Still yet another forewarning involved the Police Department. Totally unexpectedly Police Chief Tommy Fitzgerald came before the Council and surprised and dismayed everyone by announcing that his department was going broke. It was discovered that Neal had ordered the hiring of 50 new cops, but had never budgeted any money to pay for them.

That kind of reckless behavior was unlike Neal, who if anything had a reputation as a stickler for the finer points of governmental procedure. No one doubted that Neal knew the process, so why was he suddenly flouting the budgetary rules and then responding so sensitively to any criticism of his unorthodox behavior? Instead of acting like a management professional, in many ways Neal seemed to be mismanaging affairs in a manner worse than that of a rank amateur. The reasons that lay behind Neal’s behavior would soon become known, and in ways that would surprise and dismay the entire city.

This video shows local news coverage of many of the issues discussed in this chronicle.

Senator Martin Reilly defending himself from newspaper attacks over a real estate development.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bye Bye Boland

In February of 1988, Mitch Ogulewicz received an invitation to attend a secret meeting at the Salem Croft Inn in East Brookfield. The invitation came from Mitch’s friend State Representative Ken Lemanski (D-Chicopee). When Mitch arrived at the Inn he found himself at a gathering with Lemanski and various political operatives from throughout the Second Congressional District.

For nearly four decades, the Second District had been represented in Congress by Edward P. Boland (at left with Silvio Conte, Charles Ryan and Ted Kennedy). A New Deal Democrat in the mold of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Boland was a popular and powerful congressman who held the number two position on the House Appropriations Committee, one of the most important committees in Congress because all spending bills at some point had to pass through it. That meant not only that Boland was in a uniquely effective position to attach special funding for his district to various bills, but also enabled him to “horse-trade” with other members of congress for legislation he wanted for his district. The only significant blot on his career was his failure to use that influence successfully to save the Springfield Armory from closing in 1968.

Ogulewicz himself had an encounter with Boland that forever made a positive impression on him, even though at the time Mitch was working to remove Boland from office. In 1968 Boland faced the stiffest political challenge of his career when Mayor Charles V. Ryan ran against him in the Democratic primary. Mitch had a close political relationship with Ryan going back almost to his childhood, so on election day Mitch (who was on leave from the service) was standing in front of Armory Street School, campaigning for Ryan. Boland arrived at the polling place and began shaking hands. When he reached Mitch he noticed the Ryan button prominently displayed on his lapel. Instead of moving on, Boland stopped, shook Mitch’s hand and told him that he was glad to see a young person participating in politics even if he was not a supporter. It was the kind of unnecessary kindness and sincere interest in people that Boland was well known for, and in the cutthroat world of Springfield politics such deference to an opponent was especially unique.

Yet, in later years some critics complained that Boland had served too long. By 1988, there was grumbling in some quarters that Boland should step aside and let a new generation of Democrats take over. Many had expected Boland to retire in 1986, when his close friend and former roommate Tip O’Neil had retired. Boland probably would have, except that congressional hearings were beginning the following year on the Iran-Contra scandal, in which members of the Reagan Administration were accused of funneling money illegally to rebel groups struggling to overthrow the Marxist government of Nicaragua. Congress had restricted the amount of money that could be spent on this effort in large part due to the fear that the United States was risking becoming involved in a Vietnam type conflict. It was Edward Boland who had written the restricting legislation the Reagan Administration had violated, commonly referred to as “The Boland Amendments,” and Boland wanted another term in order to participate in the hearings.

So 1988 looked to be the year Boland was likely to step down, and political maneuvering of all sorts was going on behind the scenes. Representative Lemanski, State Senator Martin Reilly and Springfield Mayor Richard Neal were regarded as the leading contenders to be Boland’s successor, although by the time Mitch attended the secret meeting in East Brookfield, Reilly had already been eliminated by an alleged banking scandal that had been featured prominently by the Springfield Newspapers. Although eventually cleared of all the ethics charges, the process of clearing his name took a long time and in the meantime Reilly’s political career was ruined.

Lemanski told those gathered in East Brookfield that he had commissioned a poll to determine his chances of being elected to Congress. The results he received showed that it was a toss-up between himself and Richard Neal and Lemanski believed that the statistics suggested that he could win. The problem was that it was impossible to openly campaign until Boland made clear his intentions. To run without an official announcement of Boland’s retirement would be perceived as rudely trying to force the Congressman’s hand, something that would alienate the Boland backers Lemanski would need to win.

Lemanski told those gathered at the Inn that he had spoken privately with Boland himself, who told him that he was uncertain of his plans. However, Boland promised him that once he had made up his mind, he would call Lemanski and give him advance warning of his intentions before alerting the media. Thus there was the need for Lemanski to keep things quiet for the time being, but Lemanski wanted supporters like Ogulewicz, who would be key players in his congressional campaign, to know the situation in advance so that they could act quickly if Boland tipped him off that he was retiring. With all participants sworn to secrecy, the meeting at the Salem Croft Inn dispersed.

And then nothing happened. Weeks passed, and then months passed, without a word from the Congressman on whether or not he would seek re-election. Talk of who would succeed him began to fade, as the deadline approached for candidates to file for the race. With no word from Boland, it began to become a universal assumption that Boland would seek one more term. Indeed, it was quickly becoming too late for any successor to raise the money and mount a campaign. Never having heard anything from Boland as promised, Lemanski simply put his own political ambitions on hold until 1990.

Then one morning, just days before the filing deadline, the telephone rang. It was Congressman Boland. He told Lemanski that he would announce his retirement to the media at a press conference to be held that afternoon on Hungry Hill.

The entire Second District was shocked, and the air was filled with unanswerable questions. Why had Boland taken so long to make his intentions known? Who could run a credible campaign with such short time remaining? For that matter, who could even get on the ballot with such short time remaining to gather signatures? The whole thing seemed baffling and completely out of character for someone like Boland to behave in such a way that left every prospective contender in such a lurch.

Then as Mitch Ogulewicz was returning from the Boland press conference that afternoon to attend a meeting at City Hall, he was startled to see on cars in the parking lot bumper stickers that read “Neal for Congress.” Boland’s official announcement had barely been made an hour earlier and yet already there were cars with Neal bumper stickers? How did Neal know enough to print them in advance? In the coming days there would be further revelations, such as the discovery that Neal had already quietly gathered a huge campaign chest and was prepared to outspend everybody. Again, people asked how could he have known to do so?

The full circumstances behind the retirement of Edward Boland will probably never be known. Some say Boland simply woke up one morning and suddenly decided to step down. Others say that powerful political forces backing Richard Neal finally forced him off of the political stage against his will. All anyone knows for certain is that when the dust cleared, Neal was the only candidate left standing. Neither Lemanski nor anyone else was in any position to run against him at that late date, and so a fringe candidate from the communist party became Neal’s only opposition.

As Neal prepared to claim the Congressional seat that had somehow seemingly landed on his lap, his departure was setting off a whole series of political intrigues and backroom dramas at City Hall. For Mitch Ogulewicz, and for all of Springfield, a period of unprecedented political upheaval was about to unfold.

These videos are from a City Council meeting held one hot night in August of 1988.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mayor Vinnie

The year 1989 began a period of unprecedented political change as the result of the departure of Mayor Richard Neal to Washington following the mysteriously abrupt retirement of Edward Boland. When Neal was sworn in by House Speaker Jim Wright, the Speaker noted with astonishment that he couldn’t recall ever seeing a wide open congressional seat go so uncontested as Boland’s had. But then Speaker Wright was unfamiliar with the insular political culture of Springfield.

Under the city charter, whenever the Mayor’s office becomes vacant the President of the City Council becomes the acting-Mayor until a new election can be held. This made the choosing of the Council President in January unusually significant, since the winner would also become the city’s new acting Mayor. Councilor Vincent DiMonaco, a thirty year veteran of city politics, announced that he wished to be elected president by the Council. At the same time he also announced his candidacy for Mayor in the special election to be held April 25th. To Mitch Ogulewicz, DiMonaco’s political plans presented a number of conflict of interest issues. For one, Mitch didn’t believe that it was proper for a candidate in the special election to serve as acting mayor, since that would give DiMonaco a special advantage. Secondly, Mitch also believed that it would be too difficult for anyone to serve simultaneously as both Mayor and Council President while also running for office.

However, Vinnie clearly had the votes to win the Council Presidency without Mitch’s support, and therefore enormous pressure was applied on Mitch to back DiMonaco in order to make his election unanimous. That pressure was increased even more so by the fact that Vinnie’s opponent in the special election, Councilor Mary Hurley, had agreed to make the conciliatory gesture of voting for DiMonaco despite the fact that she was hoping to replace him at the ballot box.

Yet Mitch felt that most of his fellow Councilors were acting in an insincere manner, since nearly all of them, like Mitch, were actually supporting Mary Hurley. Secondly, because the Council President assigns all committee chairs, Mitch felt that the DiMonaco backers were cynically covering all the angles by voting for Vinnie for acting-Mayor, and then voting for Hurley in the special election. It was exactly the kind of cynical and calculating political pragmatism that Mitch had always disliked. So although he knew it would probably cost him a committee chairmanship, he voted on principle against DiMonaco and was outvoted 8 to 1.

There was nothing personal about Mitch’s vote against Vinnie. From his first days on the Council, DiMonaco had made an effort to help guide Ogulewicz through the sometimes byzantine world of Springfield politics. Vinnie said that Mitch reminded him of himself when he was a young rebel just beginning in politics three decades earlier, with DiMonaco sometimes attempting to play the role of Mitch’s mentor. Early in his first term, Ogulewicz surprised Vinnie by invoking Council Rule #18 (which allows any Councilor to delay a vote on a financial matter) a rule that DiMonaco had not expected a freshman Councilor to know. Later Vinnie told Mitch he was impressed because over the years he had discovered that few new Councilors bothered to read the rules of Council procedures, instead relying on the City Clerk to guide their conduct. Vinnie said that it was refreshing to see a Councilor who actually did his homework.

The only problem was that DiMonaco was far more conservative in his political views than Mitch was, so it was sometimes difficult to accept Vinnie’s advice when that help took forms that would’ve required Mitch to support issues he did not agree on. Perhaps because of Vinnie’s attempts to play a mentorship role, DiMonaco took particular offense when Mitch disagreed with him, sometimes leading to some very lively and even heated exchanges between them over the years.

DiMonaco's unique ability to adjust himself to changing political circumstances was what enabled him to survive for so long in the dog eat dog world of Springfield politics. DiMonaco was somehow able to be both a respected inside player and something of a reformer at the same time. His public persona was aggressive and blunt spoken. No one ever had to ask Vinnie DiMonaco to explain himself twice. He had a way of making his views very clear, often at a tone just below a shout. Vinnie spared no one’s feelings if he felt in the right.

When Springfield Advocate reporter Al Giordano, a former associate of 60’s radical Abbie Hoffman, entered the council chambers one day dressed in what Vinnie considered to be "raggedy hippie garb" DiMonaco ordered him to leave and not return until he was respectfully dressed. When Giordano refused, DiMonaco had him bodily removed from City Hall by security.

A big bear of a man who cared nothing for public opinion, DiMonaco was a throwback to an earlier age of plain-speaking, tough talking pols who loved a good fight and who always fought to win. On one occasion DiMonaco was out walking when he was attacked by a pit bull. Not only did he manage to beat the beast into submission, but he then got his revenge against the entire breed by ordering the Council to enact legislation banning pit bulls from Springfield.

Yet Mitch felt he sometimes saw another side of DiMonaco, a softer side that cared deeply about people and who would help others in quiet, non-publicized ways. Like others of his generation such as Tommy O'Connor and Charlie Ryan, Vinnie believed that public service was a noble profession. These old-timers were capable of doing things for others without holding a press conference first and demanding that photographers and reporters be on hand to record their good deeds. Helping people was just something that you did, and in their view if you had no interest in helping others you should choose a different profession than public service. With this attitude, DiMonaco was increasingly out of step among the new breed of politicians like Richie Neal and Frankie Keough, whose every move seemed carefully calculated to advance their careers and enhance their power.

Yet, it would be inaccurate to describe DiMonaco as an outsider. He often socialized with the power players in town, and he could hold a barroom in rapt attention with his fascinating and often hilarious tales of past labor union struggles and colorful accounts of the local political figures he had known in his youth. When he retired from his position as a union boss at the Van Norman machine shop, it was none other than the Springfield Newspaper's David Starr who got Vinnie a new job with the United Way. For that reason among others, Vinnie often praised Starr, and would attempt to do him political favors. Mitch was never comfortable with DiMonaco’s relationship with David Starr, and warned Vinnie not to trust him. But DiMonaco, a grizzled veteran of many labor battles and political wars, had too much self-confidence to feel that he had to heed Mitch’s warnings.

Ogulewicz feared that he may have ruined his friendship with Vinnie by his stand alone vote against making him Council President. Mitch suspected that DiMonaco's feelings had probably been hardened further by Springfield Newspaper columnist Carol Malley, who seldom missed an opportunity to skewer Mitch in her poison-pen political column “Perspective,” and who predictably took Mitch to the woodshed over his vote against Vinnie. According to Malley, the city needed to present a united front against the uncertainties of the post-Boland era, and interpreted Mitch’s actions as divisive. Ogulewicz defended himself in a letter to the editor, which of course only kept the controversy going.

At the Council meeting where DiMonaco would announce his choices for the committee chairmanships, Mitch fully expected to be snubbed. Yet to his surprise, DiMonaco conferred upon him without comment the chairmanship of the Administration and Internal Affairs Committee. When Mitch later tried to express his gratitude, Vinnie gruffly muttered “Forget about it.” DiMonaco never asked Mitch for a favor in return for that chairmanship and never brought up their disagreement again.

So Vincent DiMonaco, tough-nosed former labor leader, now executive of a local charity, legendary political figure of over three decades and sworn enemy of all pit bulls, was duly sworn in as the acting-Mayor of Springfield in January of 1989. His tenure in office would be as stormy as it was short, beginning with a series of unpleasant surprises as DiMonaco, the Council and the citizens of Springfield began the painful process of coming to terms with the financial wreckage that would soon be discovered in the wake of the departure of Richard Neal.

Here is a City Council meeting from early in 1989.

Two videos about zoning changes from 1989.

Mayor Richard Neal gives his farewell address to the city as he departs for congress.

Vincent DiMonaco's Inaugural Address.

The crowd cheers their new Mayor.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Where's the Money?

The mayoralty of Vincent DiMonaco began in January of 1989, a year that would prove momentous in both DiMonaco’s life and that of Mitch Ogulewicz. Vinnie was now exercising authority in two roles, both as mayor and as City Council President, an unprecedented level of power to be held by anyone in the modern history of Springfield. As the City Council gathered for its first meeting of the year, acting-Mayor DiMonaco led the Council members and spectators in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. When they got to the part about “one nation under God,” Councilor Francis Keough instead sarcastically said, “one nation under Vincent DiMonaco . . ." only he didn’t realize that his microphone was turned on, causing the council chamber (and no doubt the public watching on television) to break out laughing. Unfortunately, laughing at the wit of Frank Keough was one of the few moments of levity the Council would have that year.

It had been obvious for most of the previous year that the city’s finances were in disarray. Some of the problems had to do with factors that Springfield had little control over. As early as May of 1988, Ogulewicz had warned in a Union-News article that, “My greatest fear is that a year from now, whoever is mayor is going to be faced with a fiscal crisis.” He couldn’t have been more right.

The so-called “Massachusetts Economic Miracle” that had propelled Governor Michael Dukakis to the Democratic Presidential Nomination began unraveling even before Dukakis was defeated. The result was a sudden tightening of the purse strings in Boston, leading to significant cutbacks in the local aid which had previously been rising steadily throughout the 80’s and upon which the city had become increasingly dependent.

Also throughout the 80’s, there had been a tight struggle to comply with the tax limiting measure Proposition 2 ½. Passed by Massachusetts’s voters in 1980 as a check on the rapid expansion of municipal government spending in the 1970’s, Prop. 2 ½ limited tax increases from going up by more that two and one-half percent in any one year. After the free-spending 70’s, Springfield was hard pressed to learn to live within a strict budget, although much of the pain was alleviated by the generous increases in state aid.

Most of the credit for Springfield’s financial survival in the face of these challenges was due to former Mayor Ted Dimauro. Despite inheriting a $6 million dollar deficit from his predecessor William Sullivan, through strict fiscal discipline Dimauro was able to wipe out Sullivan's debts and go on to accumulate a surplus of nearly seven million dollars. When Dimauro left office, he passed all that surplus cash on to his successor, Richard Neal. The cruel reality facing the city in 1989 was that somehow every penny of that surplus was found to have vanished after Richard Neal left for congress.

Since Neal had been mayor during a period when Massachusetts had enjoyed such unprecedented economic success that our governor was nominated for the presidency because of it, there simply was no explaining how Neal could have blown the city’s entire surplus during such a time of economic plenty. Unsuccessful attempts were made by the City Council to get an overview of the city’s finances from Neal before he left for Washington, with Councilor Mary Hurley stating in the newspaper, “We have to sit down with the mayor and ask, “What’s up Doc?” Yet Neal departed for Washington without any such meeting being held.

Details of the fiscal mismanagement of the Neal Administration began coming to light almost immediately after Neal left. Fifty new police officers had been hired by Neal, which he had heavily touted as evidence of his commitment to fighting crime. Now it was discovered that he had never budgeted the money to pay their salaries, putting the City Council in the awkward position of considering firing police officers who hadn’t even been on the beat for one year. In the end Police Chief Tommy Fitzgerald was forced to lay most of them off, despite the fact that the city had paid the cost of training them and some had been on the force for as little as four months. In a major embarrassment, officials from Tampa, Florida came up and hired many of them, cashing in on the law enforcement personnel Springfield taxpayers had paid to train but now couldn’t afford to keep. In quick succession other, even more serious problems came to light, so much so that even a die-hard Neal defender like Springfield Newspaper columnist Carol Malley was forced to express dismay:

“City officials have been reeling following a series of surprise announcements of shortages in this year’s budget,” Malley wrote, “and it is unclear how they are going to be made up.” With considerable understatement, Malley conceded that “Neal’s biggest weakness as mayor was probably his inattention to fiscal matters, particularly over the past couple of years.” Such an admission stunned much of the public, who had been told nothing throughout the 80’s (especially not by the Springfield Newspapers) except that Neal’s mayoralty had been an absolute model of effective government. Malley then went on to list the fiscal disasters discovered in Neal’s aftermath.

“City councilors are trying to find out why the health insurance account was underfunded when, according to the personnel director and a health care consultant, the auditor was told a year ago that more money was needed . . . . They are also trying to find out why 50 new police jobs were created and filled, but not funded.”

Attempts were made to get Budget Director/Auditor Henry Piechota to explain the fiscal situation, but the hearings that were held produced nothing but contradictory information, with Piechota alternately claiming that all was well or that all was headed toward disaster. It seemed impossible to determine the true status of the city’s finances.

“What is particularly irking to city councilors,” Malley wrote, “ is that each new shortfall announcement comes to light after assurances that there are no more surprises coming.” Even more infuriating, Piechota kept finding new money where none was thought to exist. “On the other side of the picture,” Malley explained, “Piechota appears to have come up with what councilors are calling “hidden pockets” of money, which they were not told existed when they asked for reports on the fiscal budget. One of the hidden pockets was a “reserve from prior year funds” which none of the councilors had ever heard of before.”

This news of hidden money in mysterious accounts caused an outcry from both the public and the City Council for an indepth inquiry into just what had been going on in the last days of the Neal Administration. But Piechota seemed to be either unable or unwilling to provide the answers.

The rapidly unfolding fiscal crisis was taking place against the backdrop of the campaign to determine whether Vinnie DiMonaco would continue as mayor or be replaced by his challenger Councilor Mary Hurley in a special election. The entire political establishment was behind Hurley, with the exception of only a few prominent persons (such as former Mayor Dimauro) who were backing Vinnie. One of his most colorful backers was Mary Ladeux, a little old lady on Union Street whose home had been in danger of being taken for condominiums. Vinnie successfully lead the fight to preserve her home in which she had lived all her life with the help of Mitch and Kateri Walsh.

Yet despite the fact that all the big power players were behind Hurley, in reality the terms “insider” and “outsider” didn’t really apply in the race, since in the face of the severity of the fiscal crisis, everybody was stuck in the same sinking boat. Indeed, Vinnie and Hurley managed to work together with a surprisingly low degree of political animosity, united by the knowledge that whichever one of them would win the full mayoralty, they would face an overwhelming fiscal challenge.

Vinnie brought both skills and liabilities to the mayor's office. He had a depth of knowledge and experience to share from his decades in public service, and in some respects he was one of the most qualified persons to ever occupy the mayor’s office. Even many of Vinnie’s critics felt that the chance to be acting mayor was a well-deserved culmination of a remarkable career. However, in temperament and personal style DiMonaco was not well equipped to deal with a crisis of the magnitude the city was facing. His manner with Piechota was blunt and often sounded accusatory, creating an atmosphere of defensiveness that made Piechota even less forthcoming.

DiMonaco even went so far as to begin blaming Neal openly for the financial difficulties, which so angered Neal that he threatened to abandon his official neutrality in the mayoral race. Vinnie came to feel that he was badly served by former Neal aide Kevin Kennedy (later Neal’s congressional aide), who seemed more concerned with protecting the congressman’s reputation than he was in fixing the fiscal crisis. DiMonaco would later tell Ogulewicz that he believed that keeping Kevin Kennedy on after Neal left was the worst mistake he had made as mayor, because instead of getting advice that was good for Springfield, he was given advice that was good for Richard Neal.

In any case, in contrast to Vinnie’s outbursts and aggressiveness, Mary Hurley seemed very professional and above the fray. She had Mitch to thank for some of that. Whenever she had a question or comment that she knew would look political or provoke Vinnie, she would ask Mitch to raise the issue instead, thereby getting her point across while not appearing overtly political. Vinnie was too politically sophisticated not to see through their ruse, however, and would growl at Mitch, “We know whose water you’re carrying,” and once even said openly, “Councilor Hurley should have the guts to get up and speak for herself.” Yet the city was looking for a calm voice amidst all the confusion, and with Mitch’s help Hurley was able to project the competent professional image that the electorate was searching for in order to find its way out of the fiscal disaster.

So it was no big surprise on Election Day, April 25th, when Mary Hurley was elected mayor by a landslide margin in the special election. Even Vinnie seemed to take his defeat in stride. He still had his position as Council President, and frankly it was hard to envy Hurley the terribly difficult task that awaited her. What no one knew was that the worst was yet to come.

Here is a video that includes Frankie Keough cracking up the Council with his wit.

This video includes footage relevant to the issues discussed in this chronicle.

These videos deal with issues that were of concern to the Council at the end of 1988.