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March 24, 2012

“Strangle Him In The Crib”

by at 11:23 am.

It was the Spring of 2011. The City Council race was starting to take shape. One particular candidate popped up out of nowhere and many in Lowell’s political “bubble” took note. That candidate was John MacDonald.

Soon, there was a buzz around MacDonald’s campaign. Which was odd, as he was even less known, at the time, than candidates that we saw in 2009, e.g. Ben Opara or Ryan Berard. I scratched my head, thinking little of MacDonald’s chances. But, his name caused sparks in the bubble and the buzz grew louder. His momentum did not escape the notice of seasoned political operatives and “players” that work the fundraising underground that functions in the nooks and crannies, just out of eyeshot. Politics, yes even local politics, is an enterprise. While your friend/relative/neighbor is glad handing the voter base, being everyone’s best pal, shit is going on to ensure they win. Sometimes the candidate themselves doesn’t even know it. And if they do, they most likely can get away with claiming they don’t.

Besides the constant question of “Who?” around John MacDonald’s name, where two facts: 1) MacDonald was backed by developer & pizza mogul, Sal Lapoli. 2) MacDonald was a registered Republican.

Note: Though not very progressive, Lowell’s Democrats rally under the party flag. They are loyal to the party, if not because of ideals, but because the party has operated as a job placement clearinghouse for its most loyal supporters and their bloodlines.

John MacDonald is a Republican. Thus, not part of the political workings within the city. Though fractured and clannish, the Democrats in Lowell are inbred to the point that there is plenty of crossover. The prosperity afforded by their stranglehold of the local cash cow, aka City Hall, is so absolute, that most prominent Republican’s sell out, so that they can get a piece of the action. Sal Lapoli, being the monetary heavyweight that he is, liberated John MacDonald from the usual trappings of Lowell politics. Nervous, the center of the bubble started to hedge it bets. Two ploys were engaged: 1) Bring MacDonald closer (So, as to get proximity to Lapoli) 2) Stop MacDonald in his tracks. Deny him a seat on the Council.

I heard message #2, loud and clear.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, as I began to cobble together arguments against MacDonald, I would check in and kibbitz with the finest “classical Liberal” I know, Cliff Krieger. In one such discussion; and I should be clear, Cliff was not on “my team” but our friendship transcends certain frivolities of politics and Cliff has stoically kept my conscience grounded, but in one discussion Cliff revealed a sentiment he had heard. While visiting City Hall, Cliff engaged in conversation with a person of opposite political persuasion. (Note: I do not know who that person was) While chatting, John MacDonald’s name came up. By this time, more was known about MacDonald and the odds of his election were looking brighter. What Cliff relayed to me, based on his chat in City Hall, was that Democrats needed to “strangle him in the crib.” Meaning, they viewed John MacDonald as a person with ambitions and means to move through the City Council to higher office, threatening the status quo, the comfy, cozy “arrangement” that the local power brokers had.

Though not so starkly articulated, the drum beat was clear to me. I set myself to aiding the task.

Regardless of whether you respect me less, or more, based on what I have disclosed above; you should come away with two notions: 1) A person outside the comfy, cozy “arrangement” is suspected to be an existential threat. 2) Surrogates are deployed to eradicate that threat.

If you haven’t guessed by now, please accept this awkward bit of news. Those around you; your friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates & acquaintances, are those surrogates. Most of them, to be fair, act out of loyalty. They parrot what they hear, not stopping to consider the depth of what they say. The impact it may have, good or bad. A good political operative is a conductor, freaking “Arthur Fiedler” of the local calliope. The various “instruments” simply play along.

Ya! Ya! Sure. Sure. …. So what? Why am I saying this? Because the calliope is playing another death dirge. And the chorus is, “Strangle him in the crib.”

For whom does the calliope toll?


(Clip is from a Dec.15, 2011 episode of City Life)

Admit it! You can feel in your gut, I’m right.
This isn’t Republican “pay back,” btw. It’s Lowell’s politcal machine. It’s bigger than party. It’s money.

PS. In my efforts to squelch MacDonald, I never lied or fabricated a thing, e.g. the sock puppets were real. I played the cards dealt me like chess pieces. Akin to what Romney is experiencing in his “Etch A Sketch” trial by fire. Not all operatives are so constrained. Murphy certainly has less scrupulous hacks arrayed against him.

Update: Rita knows that it is hard to be Mayor. “When I was the new Mayor, they gave me a chance. I think it’s only fair to give him a chance, too.” - Jan. 31st

Talk about a New York minute. So much for that “special bond.”

23 Responses to ““Strangle Him In The Crib””

  1. Jack Says:

    The embedded video has been viewed 30 times, so far. Please share your thoughts.

  2. Joe S. Says:

    “The situation is” there are people who are offended when someone is so brash that they dare test the system. Ownership of control is not easily forfeited.

    As for the MacDonald case, do you now feel like a pawn in the game? The game that kept Sal without a key player.

  3. Jack Says:

    Joe, to play is to be used. Now, Annie Lennox, singing ‘Sweet Dreams,’ is in my head.

    I’ve often wondered why Sal needed to have his own City Councilor. Why he didn’t just buy off one or two of the incumbents? The fact he didn’t, well ‘fact’ may be a stretch, gives me a sense closest to what would be “pride.”

    Is it because we are too honest in Lowell? Or, too corrupt? Either way, there is no substitute for proven allegiance.

    In Lowell, allegiance is forged by ancestry and decades of fidelity.

    Dr. Wang sure bought his way in. So, I’m betting a modern sugar daddy can still buy a throne on the dias of ‘Club Kiss My Ring.’

    Video views is 48.

  4. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I think they’ll find Murphy a challenging opponent. The guy learned the importance of the personal handshake - a lesson demonstrated by Rita and Bud - and took it to new levels not by networking with elbow knockers, but with run of the mill voters. If he’s as driven in office as much has he demonstrated with his hard work during the campaign, they’ll have to outsmart him - they can’t out work him.

  5. C R Krieger Says:

    Dr Wang, I would think, was brought in, e.g,. the Wang Towers.  He brought jobs, and those computers—my first real office computer was a Wang.  (My home computer was an Apple.)

    As for Sal, was he buying access for helping put forward someone who wanted to make Lowell better because making all the towns and cities along the Merrimack helps us all?  I don’t know.

    I roger up to the phrase.

    And, the question is, does this suggest that local elections can never be non-partisan?  Should we dismiss that fiction?  (Personally, I think not, but if it is just a fiction, then it should go away unless it serves some real purpose.)

    Regards  —  Cliff

  6. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Cliff, I think I understand your never be non-partisan comment, so just let me point out two VERY popular Republicans who were successful on the local level. SC Tim Golden (consistantly more votes than Rita) and CC Ray Lord Jr. (I assume his Dad was also a GOPer but I don’t know that).

    Party really does not mean squat on the local level, it was not until Tim Golden tried to run for State Rep that he got his hat handed to him because of the R behind his name.
    (note: this is not the same Golden who is a Rep now)

  7. Tim Little Says:

    I don’t know; party may have “meant squat” in the past, but as the political parties are increasingly polarized, I think it’s not unlikely that some sort of “trickle down” will occur at the local level. Maybe not in the CC, but quite possibly likely on the SC….

    Perhaps I’m being cynical, but as they say, being paranoid doesn’t meant they aren’t out to get you. ;-)

  8. Tom OBrien Says:

    Jack is spot on,I am surprised that he admits he was party to John MacDonald not winning a seat.After all is said and done,Lowell suffers when good people are brought to bay because of the. R or in some places the D
    It is a sad commentary on the state of Lowell politics,but that fact will be lost because of the very reasons so well stated by Jack
    Tom OBrien

  9. Lowell Resident Says:

    Let’s not overstate it now, Joe Mendonca is a registered Republican too. I think the outsiderish Sal Lupoli money hurt him much more than his party registration. I think the fact that nobody knew who he was and that he didn’t seem remotely interested in being involved in his city until he pulled papers for a city council run was a bigger factor than his party registration.

    In Lowell, I think you need to prove yourself to the voters. John Macdonald didn’t quite do that, and I’m not sure using the “celebrity” from the council run to get your own radio show is much better. To me, becoming known in the community via radio is akin to running the council campaign on robocalls and big media buys. It’s generally not how Lowell City Councilors are elected. I prefer the person who is out there in the community for years helping out NOT looking for votes or any sort of glory who then runs after establishing himself rather than the guy who introduces himself to the city through a council run.

  10. Jack Says:

    An optional title for this diary could have been “Stranger! Danger!”

    Party affiliation was used as a catalyst for some, while MacDonald’s conspicuous absence from civic affairs was another. Multiple rationales were aligned against him, to maximize effect. We elect part time, citizen leaders. The power structure in the city is working full time and they are not amatuers.

    Let’s not forget, as we do the forensics on the corpse of the MacDonald campaign, these actions are being steered towards our Mayor. Patrick Murphy is a person who is:
    A person outside the comfy, cozy “arrangement” is suspected to be an existential threat.

  11. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I liked MacDonald when I first learned of him and saw his kick-off event, even after finding out he was differently winged. Then he pivoted on the issues and he lost me. The guy I saw during the campaign was running against the guy I saw during the kick-off.

  12. Lowell Resident Says:

    I agree with you Jack, but at the same time, I don’t know if you saw my post over at Gerry’s place, but I really feel Patrick Murphy is speaking to a different audience than the “bubble.” These are people who don’t want to be formally grouped ala the Move Lowell Forward idea of years gone by. But they are people who care about this city, some grew up here, some came here and fell in love with the place. They vote. They don’t care one bit what the guys on City Life have to say. Maybe instead of being afraid of Patrick Murphy, they should be afraid of the voters. There is an energy and excitement in this city that the new mayor is helping cultivate. The old bitter cynics are hopefully going to have to deal with an alternate view from now on.

  13. Joe S. Says:

    Change is in the air, and it is refreshing!

  14. joe from Lowell Says:

    LR, it must have been a heck of a wakeup call when Alan Kazanjian lost. He had the entire power structure behind him, and it didn’t work.

  15. Robert Forrant Says:

    LR, I agree. Who gets to dictate the narrative has a lot of authority over the political conversation and it appears that a quite different story is starting to be told, one that acknowledges and respects Lowell’s history but is not held prisoner to it in thinking about where the city is heading.

  16. Jack Says:

    @LR If you wish for a seismic shift, we better cause more groundswell. What was the 2011 voter turnout? 9,946, iirc.

    As turnout depresses, municipal unions and parochial interest only become more prominent.

  17. joe from Lowell Says:

    Who gets to dictate the narrative has a lot of authority over the political conversation and it appears that a quite different story is starting to be told

    There have been shifts in the makeup of the people who run Lowell - WASP business elites giving way to Irish and French and Greek, for instance - but what is going on now is different. Ever since Lowell was founded by a corporation’s board of directors, and institutions like municipal government and St. Anne’s Church established to maintain an order with them on top, there has been a group of people, aware of who they were and what they were doing, who ran Lowell from behind the scenes.

    Political change meant a change in the makeup of that group. What has been happening for the past five or so years is something different.

  18. Bel-biv-d-vere Says:

    This might be slightly off-topic, but did anyone happen to catch the Mayor’s Aide at the CC meeting tonight? I thought he did a great job in articulating the “mission” of the Mayor’s Office as Mayor Murphy sees it. How can anyone quibble about defined office hours, off office-hours and more importantly the explicit invitation to participate in our local government? That combined with the school’s presentation on bringing on our new residents in to participate in our school system and really our society as new Americans brought a tear to my eye and made me very proud of the community I live in.

  19. Robert Forrant Says:

    I agree Joe. Historically this is similar to what happened in the couple of decades before the Civil War when supposedly docile ‘mill girls’ told a remarkably different story about life and work in the mills than the one Kirk Boot and his compatriots were selling. At the same time their slowly came to the fore an Irish Catholic story to challenge the Protestant status quo, and an anti-slavery narrative that challenged the Founding Fathers failure to take decisive steps to end slavery. Now, I think, the various new immigrant waves, the arrival into the city of a vital, growing artisits’ community, and of a host of young business owners, and UML grads sticking around, is generating a new and different story. Where it goes,who knows.

  20. Lowell Resident Says:

    Jack, your point about the low turnout is valid, but at the same time, it could be to my point as well. If all it takes is Patrick Murphy individually exciting a dedicated group of active citizens, than that smallish voice could have huge influence as well. I know how elections usually work. Seniors and Belvidere turn out. Ideally you have higher turnout to make change. But with a very low turnout, Vesna Nuon arguably became the first city council candidate elected by the Cambodian-American population in the city (as we all know Rithy was elected by the more traditional voting demographics.) He won neighborhoods like the Lower Highlands and the Acre where even Van Pech finished in the top 3 in certain precincts even though he finished towards the bottom overall. Obviously Vesna still needed support from the traditional voting neighborhoods too but when you beat Rita Mercier in a neighborhood, regardless of the voter totals, it means something.

    So lower turnout does mean that a smaller group can have a bigger say. And we should hope for higher turnout, because a more active citizenry is a better citizenry. But if there is a new army of Murphy voters, there’s no reason to think that group can’t have a strong influence. I’m just saying Mayor Murphy has a better chance of inspiring that new generation than a Mayor Broderick. I’m not going to go too far and call him a potential transformational figure, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

  21. Jack Says:

    Lurkers?

    The embedded videos, above:
    Mayor Murphy’s “Ambitions.” 95 Views

    City Life: “.. give him a chance, too.” 51 Views

    Note: I account for about 3 views for each of these.

  22. Jack Says:

    Except, LR, I think the boost Murphy got in 2011 came from Union voters. He led the pushback on the CM’s efforts to implement “Plan Design.” They are part and parcel of the Strong City Voter base.

    Though, to concede your point, 100-200 energized voters make one hell of a splash for a candidate, when the margins are so tight.

  23. Jack Says:

    The embedded videos, above:
    Mayor Murphy’s “Ambitions.” 108 Views

    City Life: “.. give him a chance, too.” 60 Views

    It’s good that folks read this blog, but it would be better if they would talk back. However, if your opinion is poorly formed and hard to support, it’s best that you don’t.

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