Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Another Term, Double the Time...

Mayor Sarno greets Supporters in Springfield (WMassP&I)
Last night at St. Anthony's Maronite Church on Island Pond Road, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno kicked off his reelection campaign for a third term as the city's mayor.  While the mayor's incumbency had long been seen as among his strengths going into this election, the June 1st tornado that devastated parts of the city gave the mayor a boost and even sidelined, temporarily, the campaign of his first announced opponent, City Council President Jose Tosado.

It was noted during the speeches that Sarno had announced his campaign for mayor four years ago at the same event hall in the City's East Forest Park section.  The choice of venue took on a more poignant meaning set against the backdrop of the devastation of the tornado that ripped through the neighborhood meters away from the church.  Massive expanses of night sky, once obscured by a near-forest of trees, hung naked and exposed above the church and parking lot.

Inside, however, several speakers extolled Sarno's virtues to a crowd of about 300.  Among those in attendance were city council candidates Bruce Adams and Justin Hurst; former councilor Bill Foley; Ward 5 Councilor Clodo Concepcion; state reps Angelo Puppolo and Cheryle Coakley-Rivera; state senator Gale Candaras,;New England Farm Workers Council head Heriberto Flores; former school committeewoman Marjorie Hurst; Springfield College President Richard Flynn and other Springfield Illuminati.

Rep. Coakley-Rivera Speaking (WMassP&I)
Both Coakley-Rivera and Flynn thanked Sarno's wife and two daughters for sacrificing so much of their time with their husband/father to permit him to be mayor of Springfield.  Flynn also recognized the mayor's parents.  Hurst, whose daughter-in-law is on the school committee and son is running for city council, praised Sarno's administration and said her family, a political bloc in its own right, stood behind the mayor.

If Sarno is reelected he will serve a four year term after voters doubled the mayoral term in 2009.  Sarno defeated incumbent Charles Ryan in 2007 and won reelection in 2009.

Flynn, the Springfield College president, however, offered some of the most effusive praise, comparing Sarno to a past mayor, Congressman Richard Neal.  He likened Sarno's style to Neal's personal engagement and generally gregarious attitude.  Flynn also recalled Sarno's response to the tornadoes, which he noted occurred mere days after students had left for the summer.  Springfield College sustained heavy damage as the storm passed over Watershops Pond.

Tornado Damage in East Forest Park (WMassP&I)
The tornado was as much a presence in the room as the politicos that turned out for Sarno's kickoff.  Many of the speakers and Sarno himself noted how both FEMA and its Massachusetts counterpart were impressed how quickly the city had cleaned up after the storm.  However, that response remains in some dispute as reports of improperly demolished buildings and slower responses in poorer wards lingers in some corners of the city.

In his announcement speech, Sarno focused largely on crime prevention, as crime and recent homicides spiked as it often does during the summer months.  He emphasized in his speech and in a press gaggle after greeting supporters, that "Youth violence continues to be the scourge of urban areas."  On other areas, Sarno defended his fiscal stewardship of the city, which has come under fire from the City Council of late, noting that the city's bond rating has improved according to Moodys and, yes, S&P.  Union station, he highlighted in his speehc, is "finally moving forward."  He also recognized the rebuilding committee, which will present its recommendation to a consultant that will forward a formal plan to the city on rebuilding.

Sarno closed by reminding supporters not just to turn out in November, but two weeks away on September 20, the city's primary day.  Sarno faces a three-way race on that day with Tosado and Antonette Pepe, a member of the School Committee.  "No one will outwork me," Sarno assured the audience.

Rep. Puppolo in Oct'10 (WMassP&I)
Rep. Angelo Puppolo, who served with Sarno on the City Council before the former's election to the Massachusetts House, praised Sarno, "I know his work ethic," he told WMassP&I.  He described how the mayor meets regularly with the city's delegation to Beacon Hill and is able to resolve issue brought up by constituents more effectively as a result.  Puppolo also praised the mayor's response to the tornado, noting that a substantial portion of his district was hit by the tornado.  Puppolo's district, which encompasses parts of East Longmeadow and Wilbraham includes much of the East Forest Park area of the city.

In the press gaggle, Sarno offered tepid praise for School Superintendent Alan Ingram who has raised the ire of many in the city after a side deal revealed Ingram was paid thousands to purchase a home in the city.  Ingram only ever rented a home in the city and has been accused of using the funds to refinancing his old home in Oklahoma.  The mayor's apparent public defense of Ingram, including a memo from City Solicitor Ed Pikula that said Ingram could not be forced to return the money has been fodder for Pepe and Tosado on the campaign trail.  Consequently, Sarno characterized Ingram as having "Pockets of Success" and appeared somewhat eager to move on to selecting his successor.

The kickoff event has more the taste of a fundraiser rather than a political rally.  The tables were set with finger sandwiches and other refreshments while a wall of coffee dispensers stood at attention on the side of the room.  Ultimately, there appears to be little doubt that Sarno will advance onto the general election.  Indeed, although a mayoral debate is scheduled for next Monday, the harder fought battle lies between late September and November 8th.

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