Your The Clam Voting Guide – 2019 Gloucester City Elections

Good day, my dudes (gender neutral).

The Clam is back with a vengeance – (ok, we’re back from a sadbender that lasted all summer while we figured out how to move this site forward for you all), and we’ve still been following things even though we weren’t writing posts. And guess what? Even without our dear leader Jim Dowd who is now mostly space dust and the property of science at large, it turns out the rest of us still have several heavy sacks full of opinions to unload on you all.

And you know, there’s an election coming up. In fact, there’s a shitload of them. In going with the ecumenical multi-city nature of Clam Nation, we’ve decided to expand our horizons for local politics over the bridge, and make Clamdorsements in a few different cities this time but starting with our beloved Gloucester. So if you’re in Beverly or Salem, stay tuned.

If you’re new to our writing or forgot (I wouldn’t blame you), our endorsements aren’t decided by one person – they’re all based on group discussion and shared writing, so there’s a lot more to these than the bylines. But I got the job of collecting it for a post. I wish I could take credit for all the jokes, though. We have people who are way too inside baseball in each town so we’re mostly working around them and just letting it rip. So with that said, here we go back on the track!

Gloucester’s got a lot of uncontested wards this year and the mayor is running unopposed, so that takes a lot of off our plate. Honestly, it’s a pretty quiet year, except for School Committee and At-Large, where there’s a lot of variation that needs to be considered. And this year, we’ve decided that 5 at-large candidates are worthy of our vote for different reasons, so picking just 4 will be difficult.

On the City Council side of things, we had some good change two years ago. We’ve got some great things going for us these days – the beautiful new West Parish school, the absolutely beautiful Biotech lab on the waterfront- but we can do so much more to make this a better city for everyone. Gloucester itself is changing, but it’s also the greater world beyond the bridge that’s changing and Gloucester’s boats are just rising with the tide. This was meant to be figurative but I guess it’s also literal. We’re going to need a new water treatment plant, at least 2 new schools, and a plan to deal with 2030. This city struggles today because of a lack of action that kicked the can down the road in the past, and we need councilors who understand how to best manage that without shying away from a hard discussion and a hard decision.

For your Councilors at Large:

Jen Holmgren

Obviously, she’s going to be our top choice. She’s a good friend of ours, but don’t hold that against her. She’s better than all of us, no lie. Jen has a seemingly endless well of empathy and compassion for everyone in this town, which isn’t surprising, since she’s a nurse. She works tirelessly for issues like affordable and working class housing, in a city where we are so far behind in providing that for our community and a vast swath of our population is indifferent to it. Jen is level-headed and truly researches a topic before rendering a reasonable decision. She’s not afraid to say “I need to look into that further and get back to you.” She’s incredibly bright and dedicated, and she’s had a great first term. She unfortunately has been targeted by a few of the really vocal anti-Espressos folks since she voted yes on that project (a shitstorm we were too busy working, having lives, and baby-raising to really address correctly but holy crap that was ridiculous), and that’s pretty unfair considering she’s working for a lot of the interests the no-vote people hold dear.

Chris DiMercurio-Sicuranza

Chris is new to electoral politics, but an old hand. He was really active in Salem when he lived there, and when he fell in love with his husband Frank and moved to Gloucester it was a total win for us. His time working in the Mayor’s office really helped him. He’s smart, a great communicator, and he’s passionate, progressive and pragmatic as can be. You’ll love him once you elect him.

And boy does he have a lot of plans. He sent us a huge list of things he’s planning on addressing: optimization around city services like app-based parking for Main Street and at beaches; Blue economy gains through Community Dev and Econ. Dev to increase support for marine based education (GMGI), research and potential new industries (like Sea Machines, autonomous sea vessels); more cross-collaboration of special events and studying traffic, merchant and tourism data with one centralized source that can help us see patterns by working together and sharing resources – also gaining revenue for all the above. Coastal resiliency, affordable housing, Gloucester 400th and DMO/Discover Gloucester are also critical, too. Getting younger people involved especially on boards on commissions but setting up better web/social media pages across all depts. to make public more aware and easier to follow.

As for schools, he also explained: definitely more in favor of the MSBA supported new school as we need the resources for social workers, special education, theater, arts, etc. all of which will be jeopardized if we put funding toward repairing older and antiquated schools. I want a true facilities manager who can be responsible with realistic budgets for the short term and long term though in any scenario as falling tiles and moldy conditions are not only unsafe, they are disgraceful conditions for our students, teachers, administrators, parents and makes top talent within schools want to leave or not take jobs here.

John McCarthy

John’s best known for being the Chief of Police, and he’s worked his whole life for the city, starting on the waterfront as a kid. Unlike some of the police issues we’ve seen across the country  he set the tone for a compassionate police force and was at the forefront of community policing before that was even a thing. He has been a strong supporter of Action, Inc for years, and he also actively participated in Gloucester s high-risk task force, a coalition of city officials and nonprofit staff members, about 50 people, that meet monthly to discuss strategies on how best to serve our most vulnerable people, including repeat offenders. He is compassionate and understanding toward people who may not immediately elicit empathy from others. And that goes a long way. And as a department head, he understands how the city budget works. In all honestly, this is incredibly important for our elected officials especially over the next few years when some big decisions need to be made. He’s an all-around family man, and we’ve never had a negative interaction with the guy. We hope he gets in, as he checks a lot of boxes for a lot of people and seems like he’ll do a great job of listening.

Melissa Cox

Melissa is involved in so much of this city, and when you have a question or emergency, she’s on top of it no matter what. She excels at being totally accessible. She saved KT’s wedding 2 years ago after she spaced on PICKING UP HER ENTIRE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE from the clerk’s office. She panicked and messaged Melissa, who immediately contacted somebody on a Saturday to meet her to literally unlock City Hall and help her out. That’s the kind of thing Melissa does without blinking. She’s always had Leslie Knope vibes. However, we don’t always 100% line up with our goals for Gloucester’s future. Her priorities aren’t necessarily bad – she’s warning us we need to cover a new sewer plant first, and seemingly a school second – so we’re worried that a new school isn’t something she’s going to fight for, but she’s also a rational human being who doesn’t immediately respond with passion or emotion. She’ll take a look at an issue from all sides and make an informed decision.

EDIT: She did let us know she’s behind the consolidation and exclusion, just wasn’t 100% happy with the whole process and final choice, which is fair!

A dramatization of when someone dumps a couch on Kondelin Road

Joe Ciolino (alternate)

In the past we haven’t really pushed voting for Joe. He’s voted in ways we liked and disliked, but he hadn’t really moved us in one direction or the other. He’s always pushed downtown business because that’s what he’s personally involved in, which is great for downtown Main St, but can leave retail businesses outside of the Block Party area feeling a little overlooked. Also, he recently mentioned at the GOP meet and greet that he still hands out plastic bags at his store which is against the laws the city council itself created. So he’s either disrespectful or blowing smoke, neither of which are a good look. He’s also stated the reason we have tourists is because we still have a fishing industry, and we need to be protecting that. It’s a common sense idea that is almost low hanging fruit to pander to, because literally no one seeking office is going to say “I don’t care about the fishing industry” if they enjoy having unbroken bones. People come here for beaches, but they also come here for the Wicked Tuna boats and because George Clooney made a movie about the Crow’s Nest and they wanna see that stuff in person. But you know, you keep having your dumb bags blow into the harbor and there aren’t gonna be a ton of fish left here.

It’s 2019 and people still come here assuming this is factually correct. Taking their money is in all of our best interests.

However, we really like that one of his priorities is getting a new school built because we are very pro GET THIS DONE NOW WHILE WE HAVE FUNDING FROM THE STATE. Recently he said he thinks a 71 year old school built before cities were mandated to take all students and you couldn’t send them to institutions anymore will need replacing, which is so true but unfortunately not believed by everyone which is exhausting but that’s Gloucester for you. So maybe if you are dead set against voting for one of the above because they looked at your puppy wrong you can go this way instead.

That’s it. That’s what we have for now. There are other candidates that didn’t make the cut for a myriad of reasons, and we don’t have a strong opinion on the only contested ward to make an impassioned plea (Though we do like Joe Giacalone).

We will throw another post up shortly about the school committee race, for which we will have several other opinions.

Where the hell do we go from here?

Hey there, it’s Josh – second-funniest male regular contributor to the Clam (and third overall, also behind KT). Then again, there’ve been only three regular posters so that should say something.

Losing Jim sucks. It sucks hard. He was the North Star that we guided the site through, and even what he didn’t write himself the rest of us wrote to try and make him proud. We’ve all in Clam Nation known this week was coming, but we all hated that reality.

I’ll share what is the ideal Dowd story – from the last time I saw him out in public. Here in Salem, Deacon Giles Distillery hosts a night of boozy three-minute PowerPoint presentations as a competition about once a quarter. In mid-February, they hosted the event. Jim decided a couple of days beforehand to enter – with his topic being “the difference between being eaten by a shark and brain cancer”.

I Googled “Sharkbite” and went with this because we’re a family-friendly blog here and JESUS THE REAL PICS WERE GROSS

To sum up, shark bite victims don’t need to deal with idiots sending you “Israeli company cures sharkbite!” emails, and the screams drown out morons on shore asking if you have tried CBD oil as shark repellent. But at the same time, there are very few hopeful clinical trials on sharkbite running currently.

I fixed my car’s radiator with CBD, too.

With facts like that, he put together a brilliant and funny presentation that, needless to say, won.

Once he knew his diagnosis last summer, he (and the rest of us) knew that we were on borrowed time, and he continued to work, make jokes about being radioactive, and do what he did best – stir shit up with brilliance and passion. Personally, for me he was the bridge that connected my world of friends in Salem with awesome people down the line on Cape Ann, expanding my universe of amazing, snarky, and sweet people that I remain connected to now. I was on my way home from a business trip to Florida when Jim passed away. That evening, some of his friends gathered to host a spur-of-the-moment memorial party that may still be going on, much like the party in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that has lasted for four generations thus far. I sent hugs from my airliner that was lurching around the sky.

Onward!

What will become of the Clam and this website? I don’t think we can answer that right now. But we will. There are still things we are outraged by, things we want to celebrate, and stupidity to highlight. Regardless of what we do here on these pages, Clam Nation persists – because Clam Nation was founded from Jim Dowd’s vision, but it’s really all of you.

Okay, we found a stonecutter.

Okay, we did it. Turns out Friend of the Clam Stephen Voltz is not just a renowned scientist, he’s also a freelance digital stonecutter. So with our modern tools (did you know weed is legal in Massachusetts now?), a party of intrepid Clamunauts went into the woods of wild Dogtown to update the Babson Boulders for modern times.

We think that his work was well worth it. The maps will be hopefully updated soon, though without Historic Register status and funding it may be a little while. Enjoy the search until then.

Babson Boulders for a new era

We’ve noticed here at the Clam a great deal of discussion about Dogtown in recent months. We think that Dogtown belongs on the Historic Register, and that will help keep it protected from development while also making it somewhat more accessible as a part of our history.

But we realized that the Babson Boulders, one of the noteworthy features of the site, seem a tad dated for today’s world. So we consulted with the Clam braintrust in our super secret Underground Lair, and came up with a few ideas that can be placed as soon as we find a stonecutter who will work cheap and can chisel in Comic Sans. But until then, we’ll share them with you.

“Get Consent”

“Vivaaaaaaaa”

“Back up your data”

“If this is the high tide line, you’re screwed”

“Vaccinate your kids”

“Carry in/Carry out”

“Take off every zig”

“Han shot first”

“I went to that old parochial school on the Rotary; what happened with that?”

“Fight the Power”

“Never vote Republican”

“Delete your browser history”

“Suck It, Ravenswood”

“Fluoridate Public Water”

”Check Snopes”

Your Helpful 2018 Ballot Question Clamsplainer: Question 3

TLDR: Vote YES because we are not monsters

In 2016, after much drama, the MA Legislature passed a law giving the same basic protections to transgender individuals that are provided to most other groups. It’s a really short law (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S2407/) and it basically says that if you’re a place that has segregated facilities based on sex, that people who have the appropriate gender identity can use them. Like, humans can use bathrooms and stuff. This is not hard.

That’s it. So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you’re a transgender female (born male, but perhaps at a midway point in the transition). Let’s also say, inelegantly, but we’re trying to be as clear AF here, you still have your junk. You can still pee standing up.

This law allows said transgender person to go and use a women’s bathroom, where they can then go sit in a stall like the rest of the ladies would. Or in the case of the opposite, a person born female who is transitioning genders, they could go into a men’s bathroom (where they would also likely use a stall).

I oversimplify, of course, because we are the Clam, and we like to break things down this basically, and often we’ve had a couple of beers when we’re writing these things. Gender is, we now know, far more fluid that this simple example, and trans people are on a continuum. It’s about far, far more than where your junk is.

Well, there’s a certain ultra conservative minority out there who thinks that being transgender is an abomination unto the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something. And they are seizing on the natural fear and squickishness most of us feel about bodily issues and sexuality to raise FUD on this. They call it “the bathroom bill” to minimalize it, and they try and raise the specter of hairy, bearded, clearly male people wearing dresses so they can hang out in women’s bathrooms and commit unspeakable violations.

Image result for worst website in the world

You can go through the actual Bible to see how wrong these people are or, you know, take your cues from their website design skills. Heck, it may not even be up at any given time.

I’m a politician, so I’m not going to say what I want to about that premise, but it’s total B*$%&@#(!!. Period. Men are not going to use this to make criminal behavior legal. It’s also not going to affect very many people at all – but those it affects gain a massively positive benefit. It basically legalizes them in public.

On a personal side, I know a number of people who are transgender. On both sides. You wouldn’t know it looking at most of them. Heck, you probably wouldn’t know it about any of them unless they told you. One of my friends was born female and began to transition a couple of years ago. He now looks more badass than I do, and has a better beard. I may be a bit jealous. His wife is someone he met and married when he was physically female, and she is a wonderful person who has stood with her wife (and now husband) throughout – because sexual orientation may be one thing, but plumbing is just plumbing. Love is bigger than that.

This message of tolerance brought to you by the good people at Love Plumbing & HVAC, LLC

So in other words, I’m proudly voting “yes” on Question 3 in order to preserve the protections that a small class of people in this Commonwealth need in order for them to safely survive in our increasingly crazy-ass society. If you are so heartless as to want people who look like women but don’t yet have 100% of the plumbing (or, conversely, people who look like badass men but need to pee sitting down – and forcing them into the ladies’ room) hooked up to have to use a men’s bathroom, well, first of all you’re not someone I want to know. Secondly, take a good look in the mirror. And then vote “yes”. Because the only way this ballot question could be clearer is if there was a checkbox for “Duh”.