GLOUCESTER GETS TINGLED IN THE BUTT

Like pretty much everyone, we here at your The Clam are busy with things like stuff, life, work, and other assorted things. So, while we ARE working on a piece focusing on a serious subject, we thought that in the mean time we’d gift you with the most ‘opposite of serious’ thing that we could possibly come up with, inspired by Dr. Chuck Tingle himself.

Enjoy, and feel free to add your own. Chuck would want all his buckaroos to be in on the fun.

**Note – some of these are illustrated, some are not, because we are supposed to be working today and not dicking around with photoshopping hunks.

 

 

  • ‘THE GREASY POLE REAMED ME IN THE BUTT WHILE SHOUTING VIVA’

  • I’M HAVING A GAY AFFAIR WITH THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF A WARD 2 RECOUNT

  • ‘NOT POUNDED IN THE BUTT BY ANYTHING BECAUSE I SPENT 40 MINUTES IN LINE AT STARBUCKS’

  • ‘MY ASS IS HAUNTED BY THE GHOST OF JOHN HAYS HAMMOND, JR.’

  • ‘GOOD HARBOR BEACH FORMED A MAN OUT OF SAND AND SENSUALLY SLAMMED ME IN THE BUTT’

The Clam Gloucester Election Candidate Rundown Deathrace 2021.

This edition of your The Clam was ghostwritten by Jim Dowd. 

We here at your The Clam have been busy doing things like working, raising children, and day drinking cheap wine. Which is ok, because we save the good stuff for night drinking.

But, we know that probably like, 11 of you (at least 6 of which are just people who hate us and can’t wait to disagree with our opinions) have been waiting with bated breath for us to give you our hotly anticipated Your The Clam Gloucester Election Candidate Rundown Deathrace 2021.

So here it is!

Note: we’re not going to cover the folks who are running unopposed, other than to shout out to Sean Nolan, who is unopposed for Ward 5 . Some of us mollusks were not too sure about Sean when he first ran, but man, did he turn out to be good.

City Council:

WARD 2

  • Tracy O’Neil: Tracy is running because she’s angry about the new elementary school. (you all know what we’re talking about, so don’t ask) She made a dramatic Facebook post saying she’d be forced to sell her house and move when the vote passed, but it seems she didn’t follow through. Way to flip-flop Tracy. Her main platform seems to be opposition to the new school without actually offering any solutions, or even showing much concern about other neighborhood issues. How will she treat ward residents who are in favor of the new school? Is she aware that Ward 2 is more than just Portuguese Hill?

Our pick is Pett, though, because he’s not running to square a personal vendetta. Instead, we believe Pett is more qualified because:

  • Barry Pett: His historical knowledge of things like the MA Department of Transportation, local businesses, and even our yearly Concerts on the Boulevard and fireworks displays have been a lifesaver for the City Council during the pandemic. Why? Because it helped with morale and because it just plain helps to have someone who understands how these things work. Barry is a tough person who takes criticism on the chin with a laugh and a dad joke. Not afraid to go toe-to-toe with colleagues on tough issues, but is a true professional in how he conducts himself. Please. Barry Pett.

 

WARD 3

  • Bob Whynott is running a write in campaign. For god’s sake, no.
  • Frank Margiotta Frankly (heh) we don’t know much about him. But, he’s not Bob Whynott, so.

 

AT LARGE

TL;DR: Our favorites are Grow, Gross, and Cannavo. 

Jason Grow: Absolute yes. Historical knowledge, has kids who recently graduated from the Gloucester School system, understands ward-level issues as a former Ward 1 Councilor. Heavily involved in worthy causes such as The Open Door and Gloucester Education Foundation. Not afraid to call a spade a spade. Understands Robert’s Rules of Order, Council Procedure, and the City Charter which holy crap do we need after these last 2 years have you even seen some of these City Council Zoom meetings someone get out the batter and the frosting. Best hair of all candidates (YES)

 

Robin Hubbard: May be in possession of time machine technology because she thinks we can reverse the vote to merge the elementary schools and rebuild or something? This stance is so incompatible with reality it doesn’t even deserve more air time.

Not to mention that her response to a small crew of sailors from China getting help in our harbor and being welcomed by the mayor was to post this picture. Not only is it insanely racist, but she apparently doesn’t know the difference between Chinese and Japanese people. Hey, they all look the same, right Robin?

holy shit, right?

When called out on it, she tried to claim that it was an ‘unrelated tribute to Sefatia’ but being that it was posted just after this in the same group, we’re calling bullshit on that.

holy ACTUAL shit, right?

 

Crazy Carl: Jesus Christ. Take a look at any of his posts and ask yourself – is this the musings of a certain former Cheeto in chief or is this a local bartender who has delusions of grandeur? Posting gossip, rumors, slander – oh my! These are a few of our least favorite things (well, for elected officials anyway). We wonder if his FB news feed would dictate his actions as a Councilor but we already know the answer is yes (he had a poll about it after all…)

 

Tony Gross: Served on the School Committee for years. Understands contract negotiation (not a prerequisite for being on City Council, but it has a hell of a lot to do with budgeting). Has advocated to the state for more money for our special needs programs. Is also an ardent Open Door supporter. Is an articulate writer. Chairman of the Waterways Board so understands that whole world. Is a licensed contractor and a retired lobsterman.

 

Peter Cannavo: This is Peter’s second At-Large bid. Since his first go, he’s proven his investment in the City by becoming an alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals and continuing to run his nonprofit Gloucester Boxing club, a charity for at-risk youths. He’s also a construction worker who’s received Union endorsement, which ticks off some important boxes for us. He was kind of cozy with the Cape Ann GOP in his last bid, but he seems to have distanced himself which is wise. We have been impressed with his distancing of fringe groups a la Orlando tribe and also like hearing about his union ties, but its clear he has been trying to offer the 30 something crowd a solid choice for a voice at the table.

 

Jeff Worthley: Will tell you everything you want to hear and then do what he wants anyway. Any rumors we hear usually start or end with this guy. Another typical politician. Just don’t.

 

Jamie O’Hara: no

 

To sum up – Gross, Cannavo, and Grow have our endorsement. Which is worth whatever you want it to be.

 

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

 

Rick Roberts Jr: Literally thinks he’s a future mayor and president as he shared to some volunteers while sign holding. He is anti-vaccine and anti-mask,  featuring prominently in the Cape Ann GOP’s anti-mask protest at City Hall a couple of months ago: prominently because he was one of like 5 people there. He is fully in bed with the Cape Ann GOP, which makes us wonder how Gloucester’s growing population of students who come from marginalized communities would be affected by any right wing policies which he may be influenced to enact. Hard pass.

Kathy Clancy the GOAT: Yes. Has been on School Committee forever, works tirelessly and overtime, and is incredibly helpful. She may have been doing this since before some of us were born. Unclear.

Laura Weissen: Strong progressive voice of reason. Not afraid to dive into thousands of pages of information to get answers. Is patient and understanding. Has kids in the school system. Focused on diversity.

Samantha Verga Watson: A medical social worker and therapist attuned to the trauma-informed model of schooling, which frankly all of us need after these past few years can we get an amen? Was a student in Gloucester schools and is also a young mom.

Melissa Texeira: On October 19, Melissa announced she is not seeking re-election. This means even if you vote for her, she will not accept. We are pretty sad about this. Melissa worked hard on the School Committee, serving for 14 years. She was instrumental behind the scenes and in the forefront working to get everyone to row together. We will miss her on SC, no doubt.

Bill Melvin: coached kids’ Little League for a long time, and his kids all graduated from GHS. Yr The Clam are not very traditionally sportsing, but this is something important to Gloucester, and we hear good things about him in general.

Keith Mineo: Keith grew up here, just moved back to Gloucester, is a young dad and has early childhood teaching experience. Keith might become the School Committee’s answer to Jamie O’Hara. Thinks the government is at fault for everything and he’s going to fix it. Probably still a better choice than Richard Roberts.

Tom Stein: Also a young dad, Tom Stein grew up in Ithaca, NY and settled here with his family. He is a professor and a college admissions consultant.

 

By the City Charter, the seventh member of the School Committee is the Mayor. 

If you need more info, here’s a YouTube link to the SC candidates’ statements

 

Our picks for SC: 

Incumbents:

Kathy Clancy, Sam Watson, Laura Wiessen

Challengers: Melvin and Stein for sure. Mineo over Roberts.

 

Clam Election Guide 2021: Mayoral Edition

Here at your still sometimes functioning The Gloucester Clam, we’re still asked for our picks for elections. And because we care, and can’t let none of you down since it makes us feel bad, here you go. We’ll have the city council/school committee picks in the coming days, but for now, here’s our take on who should be mayor.

It’s Sefatia.

If you remember 6 years ago (I barely do), we actually kind of went hard at Sefatia and we endorsed McGeary in the election after Mayor Kirk dipped out to join the Baker admin. We didn’t think she was up to it. But we get it wrong, and we evolve and learn. This is an endorsement that comes after 6 years of effort, of work, and of getting to know the person Sefatia is. 

Sefatia is brash, brusque, and compassionate. She tells it like it is, which is exactly why we like her. We also tell it like it is. We are not always popular for this. We get it. However, she is also a big softie. She has a true open door policy. Want an appointment with her? She’ll do everything she can to make sure her secretary gets you in there. And she’ll listen even while she’s talking. 

She knows how to do things in this city. She and her team have been able to maintain a AA bond rating AND did not need to lay off or furlough any City employee during the worst of the pandemic, when other cities had no choice. Sefatia runs a tight ship financially and has the wherewithal to get assistance from capable people to reach goals for the city. She has the ability to reflect and take responsibility for mistakes, and learn from them. We’ve seen it firsthand.

We’ve had our disagreements with her. Out-and-out fights, even. But at the end of the day, her heart is here. Do you have cancer? She’ll personally make meals for you. Need to schedule a vaccination? She’ll help with that – and not by doing anything less than above board, either. This woman knows the medical system and is a fierce advocate for literally everyone, from the homeless to the people with five-bedroom homes. In the end, Sefatia IS Gloucester – like we took our little city and made it a Sicilian grandma. 

Not everyone will agree with us, but you don’t have to.

So, why NOT Greg Verga? After all, he’s not an overall bad guy, we have backed him in some capacity before. However, he’s been wishy washy when in office, been out of local politics for awhile, and had to even ask on Facebook when the next municipal election was before the season was heating up. It seems like he agreed to do it not so much from a deep and long simmering desire, but because the people who hate Sefatia wanted someone well known to run against her. He’s a realtor who declined to participate in an Action Inc debate about affordable housing. This came at a time when Gloucester needs continual work on solving an issue outside of our usual community grousing on Facebook that our kids can’t afford it here.

He’s sent his proxy, Meredith Fine, to events like last week’s Gloucester Democratic City Committee debate, instead of himself. Meredith was the lawyer representing (now former) Health Department Director Karin Carroll’s complaint against the city and the Mayor and has also worked as the former editor of the Gloucester Daily Times. We think it’s pretty strange optics to have filed a prominent complaint against a mayor during the election season while also serving as a debate proxy for the person running against her (though Meredith claimed previously she does not represent him). In short: We are confused.

Honestly, the things Greg says sometimes show how completely out of touch he is with how much work Gloucester has done in his absence. He posted just this week about how he’d love to have a partnership between Essex Tech and GHS. Greg, there already is one, and City Councilor Val Gilman is the liason.

In the 2015 election, his then-campaign manager (who has, this year, told us she thinks the election was stolen and rigged against Greg) made a deal out of him being non-partisan and unenrolled and how that was better. This election season, the messaging is that he’s the only registered D on the ballot as Sefatia is unenrolled. In and of itself this wouldn’t be a big deal, but sources tell us he hasn’t been to a single GDCC meeting since he changed his party affiliation. 

He also had a weird campaign finance violation where his father, a longtime state representative who was notable for supporting a ballot measure to repeal gay marriage, gave him $5,000 for his campaign. However, it is against MA campaign finance law for any individual to donate more than $1,000 to a campaign in a calendar year. So the campaign decided it would be a loan. But an individual also can’t loan a campaign more than $1,000 in a calendar year. So they paid it back and said it was a silly mistake. Between Greg and Tony, they have 30+ years of campaign experience but cannot follow the basic tenets of campaign finance law? Nor can Greg’s team, which we are assuming has some experience? That’s not someone we want in charge of a $120 million budget and over 1000 jobs. They should have known better, it’s just absolutely baffling. 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Hopefully this has helped. 

If you skipped to the end, TL;DR: vote Sefatia. Her heart is in the right place. 

Tune in next time for (City Council / School Committee) endorsements.

Clam Election Guide: Gloucester’s Question 3

Greetings, faithful voters/troublemakers of Gloucester. We’ve come to you today to help you learn entirely too much about the Debt Exclusion vote – Question 3 in November’s election. Maybe you’ve heard about it, maybe you’ve decided 2020 was best spent consuming no media whatsoever (in which case, good choice). Only Gloucester will have this special question on the ballot. It reads:

“Shall the City of Gloucester be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two-and-one-half, so called, the amounts required to pay for bonds issued in order to provide the necessary funding for the design, site work, construction and outfitting of a new East Gloucester/Veterans Memorial Elementary School.”

We’re here to break down the true costs of this plan, the alternatives, and why we’ve decided that voting yes is unequivocally the best way forward, even if you may not find it absolutely perfect. When you cut through the rumors and the sky-is-falling melodrama, the choice is abundantly clear.

Ok, The Clam, but how the hell did we get here?

Both EGS and Veterans are very old schools – 1948 and 1956, respectively. The last public data we could find on how old the average public schools are is from the 1990’s, so 30 years ago – and even then only 28% of public schools were built before 1950, and obviously, that number can only have decreased further as schools are replaced at the end of their lifespan. As of 2016, the average age of a main school building was 44 years old. EGS is nearly double that age. 

Veterans and EGS are both functionally outdated by modern standards, EGS being the worst of the two. EGS has far too few classrooms and relies on old, rusting, leaky modular classrooms that will need to be replaced in short order. The space means kids are learning or taking IEP-required meetings in the hallways, which is against fire codes. The safety standards are lagging- there are no central communications and that can’t be retrofitted – in an emergency when seconds count, a teacher’s  cell phone is the only way to alert 911 or the front office. The basement has extreme moisture issues and teachers have to keep windows open nearly year round to get rid of the excess moisture.  There are no art or music rooms, the teacher has to move from classroom to classroom. 

 

Pretty sure we all saw this room in the Poseidon Adventure.

 

After the West Parish project was nearing completion, the city took a long, hard look at the projected classroom enrollment, the city’s resources, and what everything would cost to repair vs replace – and since 2014, there have been over 30 public meetings that got us to where we are now – a consolidated school that combines the two smaller schools into one medium-sized school. 

Why Are We Consolidating?

Consolidation can be a hard thing to understand when you’re used to neighborhood schools, but keep in mind, we had nearly 2 dozen small elementary schools at the turn of the last century which eventually consolidated into the 5 we have now. EGS has been a fantastic community school for 72 years, but the demographics of the area are changing, and between 2001 and 2007 the elementary school population dropped from 1865 to 1492.  The best explanation is Jonathan Pope’s letter in the GDT about consolidation.

If the city could afford it, it would take a minimum of 20 years to replace the four elementary schools; in contrast, building two schools will take 10 years. Tearing down East Gloucester Elementary School and building a new school on the same site would cost $51 million. To build a new consolidated school would cost $65 to $69 million. To build four new schools would cost approximately $204 million in today’s dollars. In contrast, the estimate for building two new schools would cost $138 million. Over the life expectancy (50 years) of the new schools, maintenance and utilities costs would be substantially less for two larger schools than for four smaller schools. The delivery of education by specialists — music, art, physical education, special education, language and math coaching, interventions and social and emotional counseling — would be far more efficient in larger schools. Larger schools with four sections per grade also provide more capacity to absorb fluctuations in enrollment, leading to more stable catchment areas, and thus a more stable school community .

It makes sense that some people are concerned that 440 students in an elementary school might be too many, I sure as hell was a bit worried. However, research shows it’s not. The top ranked K-5 public schools in greater Boston (per Niche.com) all have over 500 students per school. (2020 Best Schools in the Boston Area, (Maria Hastings Elementary (Lexington) 454 students, Bowman Elementary (Lexington) 546 students, Elmwood School (Hopkinton) 549 students, Bridge Elementary (Lexington) 541 students (based on U.S. Department of Education data). Fuller had over 500 kids, albeit in a much larger and inefficient building that was closed during the biggest economic downturn we’ve been alive for. 

The final choice after dozens of public meetings whittled the choices for where to put the school down to just a few, and finally, Veteran’s was chosen. According to the citys’ handy Q&A guide, the decision to build on the Veterans’s site was based upon the following: Preserve as much open space as possible;

  • Proximity of the respective student population;
  • Potential for more students to walk to school;
  • Building a school on a site currently being used as a school;
  • Access to utilities; and,
  • Less environmental impact;
  • In terms of Article 97 and the re-purposing of land along with a “no net loss” involving a land exchange, the Veterans’ site is the more viable option.

But Why New?  We Don’t Need That, Do We? Can’t We Fix What We Have?

Nope. You’d think, right? We’re hardy New Englanders, used to fixing what we have. We’re thrifty and not extravagant or wasteful. So the thought of tearing down schools and building new doesn’t sit right with folks, because we’re in a place with old buildings. However, in this case, it doesn’t make any sense – for many reasons, including the major costs to bring the project up to code vs modern, efficient building standards.

The single biggest reason to build a new school is because it’s the cheapest option. 

 

The new school’s $66 million price tag will be subsidized by the state to the tune of $26.9 million (thanks to the 5 years of work by the School Committee and the MSBA), the cost of a new school to Gloucester’s taxpayers will be just under $40 million.  There’s a TON of data about the numbers, and if you’re interested in committing several hours researching, start with this handy guide. But turning the decaying schools into something we can use costs far more overall than the new school. Here’s a great take by our good Clam buddy, Stephen Voltz.

If this ballot measure fails, we’ll be facing an avalanche of unavoidable costs including repairing existing buildings at a cost of $18 million per school, $36 million for both – as well as new modular buildings at many more millions. Problems that need to be addressed with the existing buildings include intermittent lack of heat in the winter, structural issues, asbestos tiles that are in poor condition, inadequate wiring including electrical conduit that has corroded, rust and rot in places, copper piping and an HVAC system that needs wholesale entire system replacing (at East Gloucester), an underground oil tank that must be removed, and groundwater infiltration – a literal creek runs through EGS. Not to mention the cost of getting things up to code, like this door that inexplicably drops down and is absolutely not ADA compliant. Surprise, hope your ankles are rubbery.

 

A full renovation of EGS would help some of the worst problems, but would decrease the amount of classroom space to meet modern codes and make the population problem worse, and that would still cost us $28.4 million. 

Are these costs we could have avoided had we done more (that is, spent more money through different tax increases) in the past to keep them in better shape? Not really. Schools wear out.  In a comprehensive study of school facilities across the U.S. the U.S. Department of Education concluded that “after 40 years, a school building begins rapid deterioration,cand after 60 years most schools are abandoned.” (How Old are America’s Public Schools. NCES 1999-048. U.S. Department of Education – National Center for Education Statistics. 1999). Gloucester passed the 40 year milestone with these schools when school buildings “begin rapid deterioration” a generation ago, and have now sailed on past the 60 year mark when most school buildings are abandoned.  Veterans is 63 years old.  East Gloucester is 72 years old.

The second reason not to go the repair and rehab route is that even after we pay $36 million to fix up our old school buildings we still won’t have enough room. Right now, teachers are teaching in hallways. After a $36 million capital maintenance only project, they’ll still be teaching in hallways in a school that is still massively overdue to be replaced, and has LESS space because of the need to bring everything to current code. And we’ll still be spending more on utilities than we would for a new, LEED, green building.

Not to mention, it’s just a beautiful thing to have for Gloucester.

So Why Are People Against This?

We’re seeing arguments to vote against it. Some is based on not fully understanding that alternatives were already researched and what their costs would be, and a lot is highly emotionally charged feelings about change or not having their particular idea chosen and therefore felt unheard. The worst arguments we’ve seen are accusing everyone from the mayor, the school and city council, the architects and the Vote Yes group of lying about the math, not being transparent or even worse – being complicit in some kickback scheme, and to be honest: that’s absolutely shameful, uncalled for and inappropriate. All the groups above have been painstakingly transparent, as accurate as possible, and if any inaccuracies are brought to light, they are fixed. That’s what they take pride in and that’s their commitment to the city and community. End of story.

But here’s the most repeated arguments we’ve seen, and why it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny:

The people weren’t heard: There were T H I R T Y meetings with public input from the beginning of this process, and boy, there was a lot of input. For instance, the Green Street abutters did a thorough job of respectfully explaining why the school would not work in that area, which contributed to the final decision to place the school at Veteran’s, where a current school already exists and would negatively impact the abutters the least. Even if making a meeting was impossible, our school committee and city councilors are available by phone or email. Everyone who had a point to make could make it several times over, and most availed themselves of that opportunity.  But make no mistake – there were many choices, and the final choice not being what you wanted doesn’t mean the process wasn’t fair or your input wasn’t heard.  Screwing over a whole generation of kids because you didn’t get your way is the ultimate Karen move. 

The project was rushed! This is year 5 of the process. The only time crunch is that if the vote doesn’t get approved, we lose out on the money. To be frank, some people weren’t paying attention to news or city council meetings, the agendas of which are required by law to be listed publicly ahead of time. 

We can’t afford it! Unfortunately, we have to. The Anti-school folks have done a pretty great job at playing sleight of hand games with the math and pretending it’s between a choice of spending nothing and spending millions on a brand new school, so they can get people who don’t want to spend money on their side. But that’s just patently NOT the whole story – we already explained above that the minimum required to keep both buildings running is $36 million. Recently, new superintendent Ben Lummis made a point that seems to have been buried in the avalanche of voices: we don’t have the money even for the upgrades necessary, and if this does not pass, we will likely need another debt exclusion just to keep those schools from closing. The average cost is about $12-15 a month for a home valued at $400-$500k – basically another Netflix or a trip to McDonalds. We can either spend it smartly, or throw it down the drain.

A bit under $40m gets us a beautiful new school for the next 50 years financed at nearly 1% interest. It’s the best financial option, hands-down. The school committee, a vast majority of the city council, and the mayor all agree on this.

Well, they didn’t maintain the schools twenty years ago so why would I spend money now? I don’t know what this argument even is. honestly. I have asked over and over again, but no one can come up with a concrete example of what counts as purposeful neglect. I work in risk management and with building characteristics on a daily basis, and I assure you, there are no 80 year old buildings that would survive without being taken care of. Maintenance may have been deferred due to budget restrictions, but clearly the answer isn’t “let’s never replace anything”, it’s “Let’s correctly fund it.” A major change, shifting maintenance to the DPW, means that now a ticketing system is in place to spur fixes to maintenance issues as they happen – a welcome improvement. 

Let’s not forget that in 1996, a lot of the same people who are crowing that we didn’t maintain the schools voted down a $1.5 million debt exclusion to put money into Veteran’s. Weird, right?

The Building Doesn’t Matter, the Experience Does!  Oh this one kills me becauses it’s so often said by people in an age group that had a host of brand-new schools at the time. Adequate school buildings absolutely do matter, and there’s science behind it. Not to mention, it’s pretty hard to learn when the heat goes out multiple times in a week and the inside is 40 degrees.

“Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Labs noted an increase of 50 percent to 370 percent in the incidence of respiratory illness in spaces with low ventilation rates, as are commonly found in schools, compared to spaces meeting industry-accepted standards.Breathing fresh air is not only critical for keeping students healthy but also for keeping them alert. Several studies have linked recirculating air and low ventilation rates in classrooms with lower average daily attendance and slower speed in completing tasks.7 Studies also have found that poor facilities are strongly associated with student truancy and higher rates of suspensions.8 Additional research shows that adequate lighting and good acoustics also help students remain alert and ready to learn. Research has examined the connection between daylight and students’ ability to focus, retain information, and maintain alertness.

But I Want Neighborhood Schools! This is an argument that has merit and is understandable. However, it’s important to note that more than 60% of current EGS kids live closer to Veterans than EGS and many families have to pass Veteran’s daily to get to their school. Veteran’s is truly their local school. It’s important to have a downtown school for downtown kids that make up such a large part of our elementary population. The consolidated school is still very close to East Gloucester. Keep in mind that other parts of downtown are bussed all the way to Plum Cove, and the majority of kids in the downtown core have been flung far and wide to all 5 elementary schools. “Neighborhood Schools” have been out of reach for a huge swath of the population for decades. It’s time more kids were given their own neighborhood school, and this plan does just that. 

But isn’t renovating or rehabbing cheaper? I know we already went over this, but it isn’t! On a cost per square foot basis, simply renovating EGS – which does nothing to solve the educational shortcomings of the building – comes in at a whopping $639 per square foot. In contrast, building a brand new, efficient, consolidated school  that actually meets our needs is $613 per square foot. There are a lot of reasons – ADA and current construction codes, cost of materials, etc. The EGS building envelope – it’s shell – is already rated in poor condition. It doesn’t have good bones. It has weak, brittle, osteoporosis bones. 

I don’t like the layout/bushes/traffic! This is typical of so many late to the party objections.  Neither the layout or outdoor space is on the ballot, and there were multiple meetings where the parking, play space, and layouts were adjusted. People seem to think if they don’t like the kind of bushes planned for the new building’s landscaping they can vote against the debt exclusion, get their pet peeve addressed and then have the city put up another bond measure that includes their favorite bushes, down the road. That’s not how it’s going to work. At the very best, we might have a shot at repeating this 10 year MSBA process in another 5 years, but with the increased cost of labor and materials, and with the very real possibility of higher interest rates and lowered MSBA money depending on the economy over the next 5-6 years, it’s going to cost us a LOT more. Plus, the MSBA is going to shy away from working with us in the future if they think it’s going to be a waste of time because we can’t come up with the money.

Ipswich had so many similar arguments, and their similar new consolidated school plan failed. Our friend Amanda, who is an Ipswich resident, explained what happened next and it’s exactly what you’d imagine.

Combining our two elementary schools would have provided a more equitable education environment for our kids. The plans provided beautiful open spaces, large rooms with all the technology required for kids and educators, natural light, climate control, green-design, outdoor spaces for play and learning, maker spaces. Instead, a vocal minority voted down the plans due to an outdated romantic idea of a neighborhood school in walking distance to only a minority of students and we lost out on the opportunity. They continuously said, “we can do better,” but an alternative plan has yet to be presented. Now we are stuck with outdated buildings with broken furnaces, leaking roofs, and overcrowded classrooms that can’t be retrofitted to suit the technology needs of a modern learning environment. The disparities between the two schools are felt even more sharply now in the pandemic. There’s no way forward now, no plan, no money to upgrade, and no idea how many more generations of students and educators in Ipswich will have to adapt to buildings that were never meant to last this long.

 Listen, there’s a lot of negativity we see out there, but we have to make sure Gloucester stays somewhere businesses and residents want to remain. We need young families to thrive and stay viable into the future so our economy doesn’t lose its middle class, and we need to be attractive to businesses looking to relocate in the area, or the town becomes nothing but AirBNBs and low skill/low wage jobs to support that industry. We have great assets like Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, but the decaying, 70+ year old schools aren’t able to give kids the technology and skills advantage they need to have successful careers in STEM fields. We have a perfect opportunity to borrow at an extremely low interest rate to keep everyone’s taxes as low as humanly possible. A new, beautiful school will be an asset to our community, not a liability like we have now. 

This vote is a simple YES we build the school, or NO we don’t. If we don’t, we all end up paying for it down the line – and I don’t just mean financially. 

Deathiversary.

[ed: this was written for us by Jim’s wife, Bo]

 

Hi Friends, 

We are coming up on the first anniversary of Jim’s death. It is confusing times for all of us amidst a pandemic, one display after another of horrifying social injustice, and the ongoing assault on our democracy.

Yet ordinary things are happening too, birds are singing, the breeze is blowing, a full moon will rise in the sky tomorrow.

 

Please help me in remembering James Frederick Dowd and how he could hold all of it with wisdom, humor and action.

 

SHORT VERSION:

 

June 5th, 2019. Jim Died.

It’s almost June 5th again.

We want to honor and celebrate Jim. 

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim 

[We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]

 

MEDIUM VERSION:

This is what the kids and I will do:

 

Friday, June 5, sunset is at 8:17 PM EST

 

At 8:30 PM, Rebecca, Treely, and I are going to have a brief private ritual near water 

We will light luminaria around 8:40 pm

We’ll raise a glass (or more likely a water bottle) to the one and only Jim Dowd

Then our friend will play The Decemberists’ Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe

Then we will spin some fire (think giant sparkler) as a symbolic act of untethering.

Then we will walk home .

 

I wish we could all be together in one place, warming each other in story and song.

But as we cannot gather in large groups here in Massachusetts, 

we’ll each do our part wherever we are. 

Here’s how to honor Jim’s deathiversary.

 

Take these three elements:

 

Find yourself a place that is meaningful. 

It could be on a beach, near a beach, by a water feature, standing over a cactus in a pot, or in front of your kitchen sink. Put the plug in and run the water.

Bring some fire into your life. Carefully.

A candle, a fire-pit, the damn weed you were trying to give to Jim to smoke (or perhaps you’ve got a newer stash), even the lighter you held in the air at that Grateful Dead show.

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim [*We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge  in the early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]

Listen to Sons and Daughters 

 

That’s it.

Beautiful or ironic as you choose.

IMPORTANT: If you live on Cape Ann

 

If you discover other Jim Dowd rememberers (Dowdists?), do a special social distance wave (or a fist-bump across the ethers) and go find a spot – with them in heart – but definitely physically away from them in a show of loving, scientific caring. 

ESPECIALLY since Rebecca just wrote THIS opinion piece.

 

EITHER WAY

 

Tune in for the toast by 8:45ish pm EST.   *check back! 

Or make one of your own and post it on Jim’s FB page

You can provide your own version of Sons and Daughters

Or listen to ours.

 

Hey Bo, I get what you all are doing but what if I can’t get to an idyllic mountain stream?

 

Yep. I hear you. 

My mom, who lives in a community that does not allow flame, has this very same challenge.

Her plan is to boil a pot of water on the stove and yell “DIRIGIBLE” as she fist pumps the air. 

Well, actually she’s found a lovely virtual image of a fire by a beach, but feel free to do the boiling water scenario.

 

VERY VERY LONG RAMBLING REFLECTION WITH BACKSTORY AND POTENTIAL THINGS TO DO IN THE FUTURE

June 5th 2020 will be one trip around the sun since James Frederick Dowd took his last breath.

Crazy, right?!

 

Someone suggested I call this day Jim’s “Angelversary”.  I can tell you if Jim made a list of the top 10 things not to call the anniversary of his death. Angelversary would be at least number two.

I’m pretty sure the Edward Gorey angel had a thick yiddish accent, nu?

 

In Judaism we have a word for the anniversary of a death, it’s a yahrzeit, it’s yiddish and it translates to something like “year-time”. 

Because  year + time. 

Which is really the same as anniversary which comes from annual + return.

 

Still I have been caught up in the idea of using this word that doesn’t feel right.

I mean it should be fine. Anniversary. We have come back around to the time of year and there’s nothing in it that says “the annual return to a happy day”  but since mostly in my life it’s been used for joyous occasions,  saying “the Anniversary of Jim’s death” feels a bit like bait and switch. 

Anniversary = happy, festive, celebratory

Death = Dead, no life, kaput. 

I feel tricked. 

So since Jim loved smushing two words to make one better word and “Angelversary” has been nixed, I will henceforth call this day JIm’s deathiversary. My feeling? It’s better to know up front.

 

So why am I caring so much about what this day is called?

I don’t know

Way back in Pre Pandemic times, Clam Nation had been planning a big memorial celebration for Jim’s first deathiversary. We were going to call it Jimapalooza.

A live Band, Video of Jim shooting Sir Patrick Stewart. Delicious beer. Powerpoints. (what’s a memorial celebration without a few well curated slides?!) But the emergence of a novel zoonotic disease made it seem like a batty idea to bring a few hundred of Jim’s loved ones together in a room.  Even if it was a very big room.

 

As restrictions and Covid-19 cases piled up I lost track of pretty much everything except how many rolls of TP were left.

How many toilet paper angels does it take to change a light bulb?

 

About three weeks ago it occurred to me Jim’s deathiversary was going to arrive and I did not have a plan.

Sidenote: It’s a weird thing to lose your spouse and get a pandemic.

 

Then some very fine people started gently asking how I was, if I had any ideas.

I didn’t. Then I did.

 

Symbolism, things burning up, letting go, 

Ooooh,

I got the idea that the fire should be in the form of 100s of flaming flying lanterns leaving the earth individually but altogether. Those who could meet on Cape Ann would but Jim’s people everywhere around the world could also light and send off (ecologically safe, of course) flaming lanterns into the moonlit sky. I started thinking maybe we could have someone play Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe.

We could livestream it from Flatrocks up in Lanesville

Or a beach. 

At sunset.

 

PROBLEM ONE: Flaming flying lanterns, even the ecologically safe ones, aren’t really all that good for the environment or the fishies and even if they were, if you’ve ever spent time on the coast you know that the breeze during the day pretty much always blows people’s umbrellas AWAY from the water and into the dunes and, according to our fire marshall, rooftops. 

 

So not that. 

I think it would have been fine but since my friend looked up the city codes and lighting those lanterns is illegal and we aren’t supposed to be on the beach at night or gather in groups of more than ten, I said fine. No Flaming Floating Lanterns. 

 

Then life got busy for the living. 

The kids had things that required my help. The house had issues. The dog got diagnosed with a possible brain tumor.

Seriously. Let’s just wait to discuss that another day

 

A week passed. Clamnation came to the rescue again.

Well what if we all lit luminaries instead. They stay on the ground.

 

Yessss, Perfect.

This is a solid alternative

Everyone can easily make a luminary!

All ya need is a paper lunch bag and some sand and a tea light and we’ll all meet on the beach and…

That’s when someone pointed out

 

PROBLEM TWO: 

And by someone I mean everyone in the virtual room. 

“Um Bo, We can’t gather in groups over ten”

 

FUCK.

The idea of this day passing without some kind of connected honoring/celebration/global rant felt fucking awful. 

So much for my wish to be with all of you.
I would have sulked a bit more but Thisbee having just been diagnosed with vestibular disequilibrium syndrome and her massive wobbliness made it seem like a bad time for me to get off balance. But hell if watching your dog veer to the left and then overcorrect doesn’t remind you of watching your beloved husband try to walk from the living room straight into a wall.

 

So yet another new plan was made and now we have:

TAH-DAH!

An OYO deathiversary celebration. Just in time for FRIDAY, JUNE 5th.

(notice the excellent depiction of social distancing)

 

 

OYO is On Your Own.

This is a favorite Outward Bound tradition that Jim and I carried forward. 

It means dinner won’t be served, you have to go to the fridge and look for whatever is available.

Be resourceful.

Clean up after yourself.

In this case I think you’ll find

FIRE, WATER and SONS AND DAUGHTERS 

And I know you won’t leave a trace if you go to some special place.

 

(rhyming was incidental, not intentional, but hey.)

 

So here we are.

We’ve made this circle round the sun without Jim and the only thing you really need to do to honor him is to be your best self.

 

But if you want to create some fire, near some water, 

By land, by sea, by dirigible

We’ll gladly leave our tracks untraceable 

Maybe not near you. 

But with you.

 

————————–

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top or Thisbee when she tries to do anything with forward motion.