2023 Gloucester Municipal Election – Clamsplainer

Hey all – it’s the brief return of Your Clam with our latest effort in groupthink – the biennial Clamdorsements for the Gloucester municipal elections. A couple of years ago we wrote these for Salem and Beverly too, but frankly their elections are a lot more boring right now so they’re not worth the effort. Maybe we’ll do a snarky Facebook post about them the week before. But most of us live in Gloucester, and that’s first in our bivalve hearts. Plus it’s batshit crazy here in town.


The Clam’s choice for Mayor: Incumbent Greg Verga. 

The Clam has been hard on Verga in past elections, but we give a tip of the hat to him: he’s been a steady hand during this term. He’s tackling the big issues (secondary sewer treatment plant kicked down the road for 40 years; climate changes; long-range planning with community involvement; allocating ARPA funds to improve infrastructure) and the softer, fuzzier ones (participating as much as possible in Gloucester’s 400+ anniversary events).

He hasn’t shied away from difficult issues. He’s managed to increase the City’s road budget by 500%, no mean feat. He helped get us through a severe drought accompanied by days-long wildfires. He has repeatedly said he wants Gloucester to be a place his grandchildren can enjoy well into adulthood. That also means making it as affordable as possible to live here, and he has been a man of his word as far as working toward more diverse housing stock for all including directing $1.5M of ARPA funding to that end.

And to be clear, we were big Sefatia stans during her time in office. She had a good staff, she was entertaining and generally competent, and she was basically the more fun Id of Gloucester. Despite that, we’re enjoying the lack of drama associated with Mayor Verga a lot more than we ever expected to. He doesn’t make a lot of fuss, he just does the job well.

Challenger: Mary Ellen Rose

Where do we even start? This is MER’s second or third time running for office in Gloucester. She ran for Council in 2011 but did not win. She was our Health Department director for…five months and three weeks. Yes, she has a Ph.D., but what good does that education do when she thinks “Sound of Freedom” is legitimate journalism?

Comments during her public, Zoom-recorded job interview included an anecdote about how she told a room full of Black graduate students they had no idea what it was like to be in her position as a white person with no support at home, basically saying she feels she has been overlooked for opportunities because of the color of her skin. She said that! With a straight face! Tell us you don’t understand white privilege without telling us you don’t understand white privilege, Mary Ellen. And, no, it is not our job to explain it to you. 

Perhaps out of sheer desperation, MER was hired for the Health Department director job but stayed only 5 months. She did say during the Lanesville debate she’d be happy to share her personnel file with whoever is interested. We at The Clam are wondering if she would allow the City to release the record. Sure, she says she has her personnel file on hand. If it is also the same as the one in the City of Gloucester Personnel Department, why not just make that one public? As a former City employee, she could do that. 

What we do know is, thanks to a Public Record request for MER’s City-owned cell phone records, it seems her political stance is in line with the far-right. We’ll put the screen shots on our Facebook page because, honestly, this is long enough already and we don’t want you to leave this blog post yet.

Still not sure? Here’s a fun new game we’re calling “Match the quotes below to the candidate for Mayor who said them!”*

*these things could have been said in past bids for office as well. All public statements are fair game. 

  1. “I don’t want this city to become a bedroom community of Boston or a welfare state”
  2. “You have no idea what’s it like to be a white person from an uneducated background”
  3. “Public participation is a crucial piece around the future of the former East Gloucester School site”
  4. “Beware of those who share information who do not have generational roots in Gloucester”
  5. “I believe housing is a basic human right”
  6. “It was a privilege to share a moment with 97 immigrants”

Vote Verga, yo. Bonus: good alliteration. 

(answer key: 1 – MER, 2 – MER, 3 – Verga, 4 – MER, 5 – Verga, 6 – Verga)




Tony Gross 

Jason Grow 


Jeff Worthley



Val Gilman (Current Ward 4 Councilor and City Council President)

Chris Dimercurio-Sicuranza (but he’s finally going with the shorter name on the ballot)


The Clam endorses the following candidates for Councilor-at-Large: 

Val Gilman 

Tony Gross 

Jason Grow

Chris Sicuranza 

First of all, we’re huge fans of both Jason and Chris. Jason Grow is admittedly a good friend to a lot of the Core Clams. We love his practical approach to government. Chris was the person who did a lot to help keep the Sefatia administration on track, and he’s a government pro. Val and Tony are both longtime Gloucester leaders. Val is stepping out of her Ward 4 role and going for At-Large this term, which would be her 4th on City Council. Gloucester City Council has finally been able to resume hybrid meetings as of September. Val has repeatedly expressed her desire to follow Council rules of procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. We’ve seen what happens when Council meetings go off the rails. As the Council President, Val is charged with reining in her rowdier colleagues and members of the public, many of whom do not care to learn how Open Meeting Law or City Council agendas actually work. We want representation with experience running meetings, please and thank you. This hearkens back to when Jim Destino was the Council President and streamlined the agendas so not every meeting went past 11pm.

Tony also goes by Robert’s Rules and all that other stuff, and he is intimately familiar with the struggles of everyday Gloucester citizens here. He’s an OG, as the youths sometimes say. 

Jamie O’Hara has admitted to spending the majority of his last term in Florida. Or maybe in West Virginia? This he told a CBS Boston reporter, sounding almost bemused. 

What the hell, dude? Is this a joke to you? You are supposed to be representing Gloucester, not Pensacola. We don’t care how many American flags you use for your Zoom background photo. You are out for yourself and you are making a mockery of our government. 

Hybrid meetings do have their flaws.

For real, tho 


Jeff Worthley: The Clam is once again not endorsing Jeff Worthley. We are too tired to even bother saying why. Like, if Jeff was our boyfriend, we’d be muting his notifications because gurl, he just does not stop with the DM’s. We already told him we have work tomorrow.


Besides that, Jeff is a blatantly opportunistic politician. One of many examples: How much control does he have over Gloucester Public Schools Paraprofessional salaries? None. Zero. That’s up to the School Committee. Yet he has somehow managed to convince swaths of locals that some of his competitors aren’t in favor of a living wage (laughably untrue). What happens if he’s re-elected and the paraprofessionals are still in the midst of mediation with the School Committee? We somehow don’t think they’ll lay the blame at Jeff’s feet despite the ownership he’s taken of the situation. 

Two Alaskan mayors on each end of the standard deviation? Yep. We couldn’t believe it, either.

On a scale of political opportunism from Stubbs, 20-year Mayor of Talkeetna, AK (least) to Sarah Palin, Tina Fey impersonator (most), the Clam finds Councilor Worthley somewhere between Springfield Mayor Joe Quimby and Schitt’s Creek Mayor Roland Schitt.



Incumbent: Scott Memhard. Scott has been a steadfast and calm listener during his time as the Ward 1 Councilor, even as he was undergoing major heart surgery during the COVID pandemic. We haven’t always agreed with his votes, but it is obvious his colleagues respect him, and that instills confidence in us. Scott picks up the Clamdorsement for Ward 1. 


Challenger: Mary-Ann Albert Boucher, known in some circles as Queen MAAB. Vocal NIMBY. Says she educates herself by listening and participating in meetings, yet somehow still believes she understands traffic studies better than people who do them for a living. 


WARD 2 (open seat):

Dylan Benson

Dan Epstein


Both of these men are professional, well-educated, and invested in their neighborhoods. Dylan and Dan have both earned the Clamdorsement, we believe either would serve the Ward well. Lucky you, Ward 2!


Just before publication, we received word that NEITHER of the Ward 2 candidates received an official invitation to participate in the 10/25 Chamber of Commerce debate. They both heard about it that morning, and apparently not through official channels. Rather than scramble to get ready for it at the last minute, both teams talked to each other and issued a joint statement. Good for them. We are even more impressed. 

We wish more campaigns operated this way. Really.



Marjorie Grace: Liberal and can’t stand Trump, which we Clammunists appreciate, but another vocal NIMBY. Also hates tourists, yet relishes being a tourist elsewhere. Yr The Clam is, itself, not too fond of tourism. It’s a reality of our economy, though, and we want our many friends who rely on tourism for income to be able to stay put. 

Joe Orlando (no, not that one, and not that one, either.) This Joe Orlando was on the Council in the ‘80’s. Unlike Marjorie, Joe answered the recent Housing4All municipal candidate survey and seems to have a good grasp of the housing crisis here. That’s good enough for us. Joe gets the Clamdorsement for Ward 3. 




Frank Margiotta (current Ward 3 Councilor): even-handed and well-thought-out responses during meetings. Responsive to constituents. Does his research. Does not play favorites. Frank handily picks up the Clamdorsement.


Mary-Pat Da Rosa: Cape Ann GOP favorite. Don’t do it, Ward 4. 



Unopposed Incumbent: Sean Nolan. Yr The Clam is a big Sean Nolan stan. We’re thrilled he is willing to put up with all this nonsense for another term.

We’ll cover the School Committee race in a couple of days – but that’ll just be a Facebook post.


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.








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”


“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”

On Housing – thoughts from the Clam’s token politician on the eve of the Fuller vote

Affordable housing.


Those two words seem to scare, anger, and confuse most people. Dunno why, though. It’s something every community needs, and precious few have enough of it. Affordable housing also isn’t really so much a specific government program (because lord knows we’re living in an era where, ever since one of our Grand Old political parties picked up a prion disease and started to see their brain dissolve into pudding, convincing themselves that Governmenting Is Bad) as it is a development goal to make sure that communities can have people of all sorts living there. The people who eat in restaurants AND the people who work there. The supermarket shoppers AND the supermarket workers. The Gym members and the gym workers.


Everyone needs to live reasonably close to their jobs. The people who sell you your coffee, deliver your newspaper, mow your yard, and help you live your upper middle class lifestyle don’t come from another dimension through a wormhole each day, returning to their tenement universe at night. Nope. They live in your town. If they get priced out of living there they’ll leave. And then the businesses you depend on won’t have employees. There’s more people who need affordable housing, too. People juggling school and work. Single parents. People in entry-level jobs.

She doesn’t live in a pod. She lives in an apartment. And you tip her badly, you cheap bastard.

People in government, too. I don’t know about Gloucester, but do you have any idea what a veteran parking enforcement agent (meter maid) makes? In Salem, after nearly 20 years, ours make about $44k. That’s also what an entry-level firefighter makes here. Make it to Lieutenant? We pay you $67k.


A new police patrolman isn’t paid as badly – they make about $54k. But that still doesn’t go too far in a world where rents for a 3-bedroom apartment go for between $1500 (one single listing on Realtor.com when I searched Gloucester today) and $2500 per month.


Your friendly local GOP will tell you that affordable apartments are all set aside for “illegals” or “them”, or “welfare queens”.

Saint Ronald The Spender, after fighting the Welfare War

Affordable housing is for you. And a community that lacks it starts to die, from the inside out.


There’s a fiction out there that 30% of your gross income should be the guideline for what you pay in housing costs. So let’s look at that number, shall we?


Assume, for a moment, that you’re a firefighter that’s moved up a couple of grades. And you make $60k per year. Pretty good coin, right? So that means you should be able to afford $20k per year in rent or in mortgage+property taxes. That equals about $1660 per month in housing expenses.

You know, these guys? All the feels.

First of all, looking at that Gloucester market (and I don’t know what you pay your firefighters, but it’s not going to be a lot more than Salem – if at all), when I ran the listing tonight there was ONE apartment rental of 3 or more bedrooms at that price. One. Now I’m sure there’s apartments that are on the market by word of mouth, or on Craigslist, or other channels. I’m not pretending that a single web search untapped an entire real estate market for me.


But that’s pretty slim pickings, however you look at it. Now assume the taxes paid on that salary (around $15k or so), and you’re looking at, after everything, perhaps $25k per year for that firefighter. Out of that he’s going to have to pay for a car, food, gas, clothing, and a whole life. If he’s married and has a child, that’s going to help pay for childraising as well. Sure, his wife probably works too – and out of those combined salaries you now have (probably) 2 cars, childcare, and a zillion other increased costs.


And there are people out there looking at this financial statement and saying “I WISH I HAD IT THIS GOOD!!!”


Think about that.


Buying a house? That’s even tougher. For a personal example, my wife and I earned, between us, about $100k back in 1993. We bought a single-family house in Salem that spring for $185k.


One Hundred Eighty-Five. Thousand. Dollars.

And it looked like this. Really.

Today, it’s worth almost $600k on the open market. That’s a rough tripling in value. Did our salaries triple? Nope. Simply put, if we were in the market for a home today, we couldn’t easily buy our own home that we already have. Real estate prices have not followed the same inflationary curve that most consumer goods follow. If they did, our home would have a value around maybe $300k. High, but within reach. Instead, the $300k home needs a lot of work, may lack things like off-street parking, and is probably in a worse neighborhood. As crazy as rental prices are, home ownership is even tougher. Mortgages are relatively cheap nowadays, but a $320k mortgage will cost you (before taxes and, if you need it, PMI) about $1700 per month if you have amazing credit. Add your property taxes (mine are about $7200 per year – another $600 per month – so a home assessed for less might be half that, or $300 per month) and there’s $2000 per month or $24k per year to stay on the housing treadmill. Not including all the things you have to pay for when you’re a homeowner (repairs and the like).


It’s like a Red Queen scenario. You have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place.


So part of the dilemma for Gloucester, Salem, and all sorts of other communities is how to serve these people. We need housing for our workforces. Only in a supply-side fever dream do we actually want a world where there’s a whole subservient underclass who can be shipped in and out of town daily.

Affordable housing, amirite?

Years ago, Massachusetts realized this. And they created the “40(b)” zoning law. To over-simplify horribly, it says this: communities should have at least 10% of their housing stock in the “affordable” category (and I won’t get into the exact way it’s measured – you can look it up). At last measurement, Salem was at about 14%, and Gloucester below 10%. What 40b does is give cities an incentive to place and approve projects with an affordable component – if that number is below 10%, a developer can buy a property, designate a certain portion of the project to be “affordable” by deed, and then bypass all sorts of local approvals and zoning restrictions that would otherwise apply.


In Salem, we’re above 10%. Our redevelopment is mostly concentrated around our old brownfields at this point, because we’ve filled just about all the rest of this city. And our boards have full powers over most of it.


You guys aren’t. The Fuller School is out there. So are a whole bunch of other open spaces in town. Just saying. Building market-rate housing will help affordability some, by increasing supply. But to really make a difference, you need to build the real deal. As a community, you can get serious about solving this yourselves, or you can try to raise up the bridges. But only one of Gloucester’s bridges is a drawbridge. The other one is fixed-span – and even though it’s under construction all the time, you can’t close it. So other people are likely to solve it for you. There’s money to be made in housing, after all.

Where the hell is our Clam?

“Hey, who turned out the lights? Anyone here? Knock knock…”

So, you may be wondering where Your Faithful Clam has gone. Truth is, we’re all pretty much still here but Real Life has gotten in the way of our trademark mix of snark, righteous indignation, and beautiful uses of pop culture references. So for the moment, they’ve left me – junior editor and Actual Elected Official Josh – with the keys.

Where are they right now? Well, Jim is in the middle of a massive client project that his small marketing company is managing. I saw him once, furtively wandering into a pho joint in Beverly (because Gloucester needs a good Vietnamese restaurant too, amirite). He looked haunted, as if he was on the verge of being a mammoth success and earning enough cheddar on this job to buy a brand new Subaru with ALL THE THINGS. He’s also kinda burned out from the damned Democratic primaries and is joining me on Team Cthulhu now.

KT moved (twice) and took on a new full-time job in the insurance biz. She now lives close enough to Official Clam Dirndl Wearer and Beer Goddess Brooke Welty that they’re quickly going from good friends to “it’s really maybe a little creepy at this point”. She’s working through post-divorce life and has an awesome boyfriend. She’s sick of the primaries too.

As for the rest of the Clamtributors? Adam headed off to Greenland in the hopes of experiencing an actual winter before climate change turns New England into Morocco. Len went to work for me in real life and had his creativity stifled. Anna is moving up to one of the identical cake decorating war shows, seeing what spunk and attitude can do to make a MB sheet cake spectacular. Jeremy was unable to be elected President in Massachusetts and has resumed warping the minds of America’s youth. And Steven has begun a retail business to see if every product can be sold with a 17% markup. Because we really like that arbitrary number here at The Clam, and it works so well for taxes.

Me? I’m just busy trying to keep the lights on here for the moment. We do have some terrific content coming up in the coming weeks, just not as fast as we’d all like to. Greatness takes time, y’all.