Fall River follies

Since 2010, Massachusetts voters statewide have marched to the polling booth eight times for primary, general, and special elections and there have been at least 13 other special elections with accompanying primaries to fill state House and Senate seats as well as a Congressional seat, not to mention the myriad of biennial local elections.

It’s safe to say voter fatigue is playing a part in the dwindling turnout, but for sheer drama and entertainment, it’s hard to top the upcoming recall election in Fall River. By all accounts, it should be a robust turnout when voters go to the polls on December 16 to decide the fate of embattled Mayor Will Flanagan. And, depending upon a judge’s ruling later Thursday, voters in Spindle City may get another bite of the apple if he decides the recall election was merely a preliminary.

The genesis for the recall was ostensibly Flanagan’s decision to unilaterally institute an unpopular pay-as-you-throw trash program as a way for the city to deal with the state-mandated closing of its municipal landfill. But it seems every day, Flanagan is having more and more bad news dumped on him that is beginning to take its toll. 

There are the accusations the mayor has been cavorting with a local businessman with reputed Rhode Island mob ties. There’s the late night meeting in a car with a city councilor who signed the recall petition, who alleges Flanagan, a former prosecutor, brandished a gun while trying to convince him to renounce his support for the effort. There’s the mystery over who ordered the replacement of 22 windows in City Hall without a bid or a contract, work Flanagan disavowed having knowledge of but which was done by a major contributor to his campaigns. 

And now some city officials are acknowledging they have been contacted by investigators from the State Ethics Commission who are asking questions about hizzoner.

Flanagan opponents as well as those with just plain old ambition smell blood in the water. On Wednesday, 10 candidates, including Flanagan, filed nomination papers to run in the recall election. Among those are one current and one former city councilor as well as the former city administrator who has been saying he has proof Flanagan is the one who ordered the new windows. But the biggest shark circling is Flanagan’s old boss, Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter

Flanagan tried to derail the recall through several, um, innovative challenges. His lawyers charged the petition signatures were filed a day late, even though the deadline fell on Labor Day when city offices were closed. They also argued that there were 12 signatories to the original recall, one more than the law requires. 

New Bedford Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire Jr. dismissed those claims, but did give Flanagan a victory by ruling the petitioners’ challenge to keep Flanagan off the slate of candidates to succeed him if the recall wins violated his constitutional rights. But there are two more pieces that McGuire will issue a ruling on later Thursday

City election officials are planning on putting Flanagan’s name atop the ballot because state law says incumbents can be first on a list of candidates. That’s a position worth its weight in gold with a slate of 10 candidates. But recall organizers had argued that if voters recall Flanagan, he is no longer the incumbent. 

In addition, lawyers for the organizers have argued that the vote for a replacement should be considered a preliminary because state election laws say a decision for a post should be between two candidates after a primary or preliminary. 

McGuire’s ruling will add an additional layer of political intrigue. Should he rule that the recall election next month is the one and only, and if Sutter, the biggest name besides Flanagan, is victorious, that leaves the naming of his replacement as district attorney to outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick

But if McGuire rules there needs to be a runoff between the top two votegetters and Sutter emerges as the winner early next year, Governor-elect Charlie Baker, who will then be in office, has a chance to mollify party activists by appointing a Republican to the post.

The fun never stops. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                    –JACK SULLIVAN



Charlie Baker’s choice of Chelsea city manager Jay Ash as his cabinet secretary for housing and economic development is drawing praise — and raising some eyebrows.


 Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera wants to borrow $2.5 million for police and fire improvements, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

 An estimated 80 percent of Boston residents have Internet connections, but that leaves about 50,000 who don’t, according to a new survey.

 At a hearing on the sudden closure of Boston’s homeless shelter on Long Island, officials hear passionate calls for more to be done overall to help those on the streets.

 The search by 100 police officers from across the state for a missing Swampscott woman finds nothing, the Item reports.

 The attorney general’s office approves an Essex bylaw that bars marijuana dispensaries near schools, parks, and residences, which effectively places the entire town off limits, the Gloucester Times reports.


 Sen. Elizabeth Warren goes on Late Night with Seth Meyers and jokes that Scott Brown may be headed for Maine next. She also does some Republican bashing and highlights income inequality. Meanwhile, current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid considers her for a leadership position.

 Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Joe Biden is “awesome.”

 Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he plans to pardon his son, who was convicted of felony marijuana possession with intent to deliver.

 The Republican strategy for blocking unilateral action on immigration could end in a government shutdown.

 Bloomberg Politics takes in freshman orientation in the Capitol; incoming rep Seth Moulton tells the site, “I think there might be some couch surfing in my immediate future.”


 Despite his efforts, Charlie Baker failed to get many black or Latino votes in Boston.

 Jim Borghesani explores the curse of running for office as attorney general. It’s a common theme since Attorney General Martha Coakley’s loss in the governor’s race, and one first explored by Michael Jonas in CommonWealth’s spring issue.

 Despite the millions of dollars dumped into last week’s election, the Globe’s David Scharfenberg says the election results suggest it’s unclear what all the money bought.

 The MetroWest Daily News argues that Massachusetts needs to do something about its election calendar, including holding primaries in the spring.

 Nate Cohn of the New York Times runs the early numbers on what the 2016 presidential electorate will look like.


 A new study finds that young single women unaffiliated with any religion, generally thought of as tight with their dollars when it comes to donating, give more than twice as much to charity as their older counterparts.

 Beverly’s Cabot Theatre is reopening as a performing arts center, the Salem News reports.

 Monsanto reaches a $2.4 million settlement with US wheat farmers, Time reports.


 Harvard will dramatically grow its computer science faculty and course offerings, thanks to a major gift being announced today from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

 U.S. News & World Report looks at what a GOP majority in Congress could do to and for student loans when lawmakers take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.


 A Westminster Board of Health meeting on a proposed ban on tobacco sales is canceled abruptly after members of the audience refuse to comply with rules against clapping for speakers, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

 Joan Vennochi thinks a judge should hold off on issuing a ruling in the Partners HealthCare merger case until Charlie Baker and incoming attorney attorney Maura Healey take office and can weigh in on the matter.

 Littleton police and fire officials use nasal Narcan to save a man who stopped breathing after a heroin overdose, the Sun reports.

 Steward Health Care says it will remove more than a century’s worth of patient records to another location after it closes Quincy Medical Center at the end of the year.


 Kinder Morgan proposes an alternative path for its controversial natural gas pipeline from New York. Instead of cutting mostly across the top of northern Massachusetts, it would shift into southern New Hampshire, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

 Peter Shattuck of the Clean Energy Initiative and Jamie Howland of the Acadia Center say Massachusetts shouldn’t deal with its natural gas addiction by expanding pipeline capacity into the region.

 An “environmental justice” meeting between activists and state and federal environmental officials over the use of underwater containment cells to bury PCBs in New Bedford Harbor turned contentious after the activists became frustrated with the lack of answers they wanted to hear.

 How Secretary of State John Kerry’s lunch  with a Chinese environmental official at a location overlooking Boston Harbor led to the US-China accord on carbon emissions.


 Federal prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against former Probation commissioner John O’Brien and two deputies after they were satisfied a judge will hand down stiff prison time when he sentences the three defendants Thursday afternoon. Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis writes that the best O’Brien can hope for is Christmas in Quincy, but one local lawyer tells Gelzinis, “It’s clear [Judge William Young] is going to make him the poster boy for State House corruption in much the same way Judge Mark Wolf made an example of Sal DiMasi.”

 A top judge’s early retirement after he was demoted didn’t stop him from finessing the system to ensure a lucrative pension payout, the Globe reports.

 The Rev. Richard McCormick is found guilty of five counts of child rape, the Salem News reports.


 Boston University’s student newspaper reaches its crowdfunding goal and will continue to publish, WBUR reports. Donors to the paper’s fundraising campaign included Ernie Boch, Jr. and Bill O’Reilly.