I Publius: Ripped from the headlines

“Alcombright Shares Vision”

Richard J. Alcombright, a banker and city councilman in North Adams, says that it is time to breathe new life into North Adams. He is doing the unthinkable, challenging Big John Barrett, “Mayor for Life” of that city. I am glad that Alcombright is running. We all have to remember that the beauty of democracy is that people have the right to choose. There will be issues. They involve budgets, education, charter schools, police, and business.

Readers of this column will remember that I am a big John Barrett fan. He is a very strong mayor, indeed, the longest serving mayor in the commonwealth. He’s won all these elections for a reason. He’s a leader, he has ideas and he has courage.

Unlike some pusillanimous elected public servants who hold a finger up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, Barrett has had the courage to take on the police department when it wandered and he stood up to them when he had to. Is he always right? Probably not, but when you take a look at his track record including his team approach with Mary Grant at the Mass College of Liberal Arts and Joe Thompson at Mass MoCA, the guy has been very successful. The beauty of Alcombright’s candidacy is that he will raise ideas. He will propose change. That is the very thing that will infuse the political process with energy. According to Alcombright, he will supply “new ideas and innovative strategies.”

Alcombright may have stepped into a mess when he said that North Adams has to get beyond Mass MoCa. Barrett has seized upon that statement because Mass MoCa is a major success, bringing tourists into the city and business to places like the Porches, run by the Fitzpatricks. I am sure that Alcombright will claim that his Mass MoCa statement has been taken out of context, but in hardball politics you have to watch what you say.

For his part, Barrett is taking the high road, welcoming Alcombright and saying that he doesn’t have time for politics now. He is, he says, too busy closing a huge budget gap and that he’ll get political later in the game. They say that politics should not be a spectator but this one looks like fun.

“Dustin Pedroia hits home run”

That’s great. One for our side. “Whose side?” you may ask. No, not the Red Sox — the little guy. Every time a guy under 5-foot-8′ does anything, I cheer. In this country it is undeniable. Studies have proven it: the big 6-footers get the girls and get elected to the United States Senate and to other top political offices. In his first year, Pedroia was Rookie of the Year. In his second year, he was the Most Valuable Player of his American League. I suspect that those of us who are vertically challenged have to try a whole lot harder than the big people.

Nelson Rockefeller was a shrimp and got to be governor, but he never got to be president. Murray the Westie was clearly the runt of his litter but he has risen to be King of All The Dogs. Short people rule.

“Marist College Poll Shows People Think Obama is Doing a Good Job”

The man is a political genius. Some of my friends to the left believe that Obama should strike with a sword of vengeance. He and those around him know that this country is a fairly conservative place to be. They know that people have to be reassured.

He travels to Iraq and tells the cheering soldiers that they are going home and that they have made it possible for the Iraqi people to take care of themselves. Obviously, he was talking more to the Iraqis than to anyone else. Here at home, he saves the banks and is trying to save the automobile companies. Is it socialism for the rich? You bet, but these institutions are fundamental to the economy of the country.

Ever so slightly, things are turning around. To use a political science word, Obama stays within the sanctioned, tried and true paradigm of American politics. Nonetheless, by being clever and making smaller, rather than revolutionary changes which might alarm the establishment, he will in fact bring about the major change he promised.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 4/11/09

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4 Comments on “I Publius: Ripped from the headlines”

  1. Greg Says:

    I know you’re a big Barrett fan, but he hasn’t had a credible challenger in over a decade. That is main reason he remains North Adams’ mayor – rather than him being a populist hero. Your north county tea leaves are not quite in focus. This race is going to get interesting.

  2. alanchartock Says:

    Thanks for checking in! I thought my column was quite clear that I have admiration for not only Mr. Barrett, but for his opponent. Alan.

  3. Brian Miksic Says:

    I don’t think Dick’s Mass MoCA comments were wrong (or taken out of context at all). We do, as a city, need to get beyond Mass MoCA. MoCA is an amazing museum and a huge part of the potential that North Adams has (My family and I would have never moved to this city if it was not here). But too often residents and local businesses are waiting, hoping that the museum will change the city: more, better businesses downtown, clean up blighted properties, more jobs for residents, etc.

    This is not the museums job at all, we need to move beyond that notion and understand, that to bring change to the city we need to do it ourselves. And to do that we need an administration that is inclusive and transparent–willing to work with all residents to bring said change.

    I have no problem, at its core, with a long-serving mayor, nor do I want change merely for the sake of change. I want a community, I want people to be part of governing the city, not just in votes, but in words, in actions, and in spirit.

  4. NAResident Says:

    I agree with both previous comments, however it is not just that there haven’t been viable candidates prior to Alcombright in the last 10 years. I’ve heard of over 200 local residents that turned down Alcombright signs for their front yard simply because they feared retaliation by the current administration. I’ve heard of the sudden appearance of building inspectors, the health dept., etc…on numerous occasions when someone has dared speak up.

    This season it’s all about Facebook. John Barrett has been lurking and recording a list of all of Alcombright’s ‘friends’. I know because he approached half a dozen friends in the same 24 hour period about their Facebook association with Alcombright’s campaign. The days of fascism in North Adams are over. Barrett is going to regret not retiring this year and I’m guessing you’ll see more people voting in North Adams than at any other time in the last 26 years. It’s time for a change!


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