Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Our Candidates Respond

A few days ago I wrote about campaign rhetoric, signs and all that pre-election hullabaloo we are subjected to daily. I won't re-write that post here, you can click the link above to read it in its entirety, but I do want to acknowledge that two out of four candidates have responded.

So, what does this tell us? Well, a couple of things, one, is that the candidates that responded are willing to share their thoughts on a benign question, and "shoot from the hip" so to speak. No prepared statements regarding this issue, or that one. Just a response to a question that we as voters can read, and get a lot more out of than just their answer.

What do we look for in the answers beside just the answer? Well, for one look for the amount of generality, or "over speak" the candidate writes. Generalities are usually thrown into the mix when specifics about an issue are not fully known, and the person writing, or speaking adds other subjects to the original one and attempt to connect them. Just makes for a lot more words, and no real information is obtained. This is a good indicator of how that person performs in similar situations. "Over speak" is similar to generalities. It is often the bluster a politician emits when asked to answer a simple question, and they attempt to with limited knowledge, and fill in the gaps with words completely unrelated to the original question, and go off on tangents. Eventually, they bring it all back around to try to answer the question, but in only a few words. Essentially, 5 minutes of bluster, for a 30 second answer. Politicians are famous for this. Gives a sense of knowledge, and adds a bit of drama to the character. We see this all the time at White House Press conferences.

Now, remember, all I was asking for was one or two paragraphs in answer to the question, and I am not saying that either of the two responses have any "over speak", or generalities in them, that is more of a subjective observation. They are well written, however.

Read each of them once, and then go back and read them again. Keep the original question in mind. How well did each candidate address it knowing that it was already a done deal? Did they stay on target? Did they relate the issue in the question to other improvements they are supportive of? Did they touch on subjects unrelated?

Read into the answers. Remember, the person may be elected to office, and the manner in which they respond to this question is a good indicator on how they will respond to other issues once in office.

Not exactly "rocket surgery", but it can be very telling.

Thank you to both candidates for taking the time to respond. If anything, it shows a commitment to reach out to Sturbridge residents, no matter the venue.

This is a very good thing.

The Question:

In the interest of public safety, where do you stand on the building of sidewalks on Route 131 from Route 20, to the Southbridge town line? Is this something that can be done with the reconstruction of the road? Considering the number of pedestrians in town, and others that may become pedestrians if there were sidewalks, why would you consider this a good idea, or a bad idea?

James Ehrhard responds:

"I have been very vocal about the importance of sidewalks for quite some time. In fact, my campaign was the first to advocate sidewalks as one of the leading quality of life upgrades Sturbridge should implement when economic conditions allow. One reason that Sturbridge is sought after as a place to live and visit is because of the opportunities to walk through its open spaces. Wells State Park, Westville and the Hines Farm property are the jewels of such recreational opportunities.

But a well-rounded town is able to have multi-faceted opportunities for exercise. Simply, you should also be able to walk with ease and peace through the town's historic areas and more densely populated residential areas. Right now, you cannot. The sidewalk upgrade of Route 131 (which currently is part of the design for the reconstruction of that road) is a foundational start of the sidewalk upgrade I want for Sturbridge. I fully support the current plan to build the sidewalk; indeed, I will vigorously protect it as a Selectman.

As always, do not hesitate to call with any questions, comments or concerns.

--James P. Ehrhard"

Ted Goodwin responds:

"Regarding the question you posted for candidates' response:

I am very much in favor of having sidewalks all along Route 131. This is a great idea for many reasons. Foremost is the issue of safety. Without proper sidewalks, pedestrians are at risk on such a busy street. Sidewalks allow residents and tourists alike to safely take advantage of our beautiful historic common and the businesses and sites up and down Main Street. A major benefit is the visual continuity and ease of movement created by a continuous sidewalk for such a long stretch. It is an important step in creating a walkable downtown, increasing foot traffic to storefronts and providing a place for people to enjoy a walk through town.

The good news is that the project to reconstruct Rt. 131 is approved and set to begin in 2010. This includes sidewalks all the way from Rt. 20 to the Big Bunny Market. I am pleased that as a Board member I was able to provide input on the project. One aspect I felt was a valued extra was to include brick sidewalks throughout our town common. This is a feature that will further unify that district and set us apart from other town commons. In order to go forward with the project, the town staff did an excellent job clearing the legal hurdles and getting all of the easements necessary to widen the road, clean up the curb cuts, and place the sidewalks. I can't wait to see the project begin and look forward to walking there with my family when it is completed.



  1. A few thoughts:
    1. I cannot believe that Creamer did not respond after he expected people to respond to his LONG list of questions last year!
    2. Wally did you re-type their responses or copy/paste? I would think that the Heins family would like to see the property properly spelled from a candidate! Mr. Ehrhard refers to the "Hines" property here and on his website. Mr. Harold A. Heins deserves proper spelling.
    3. Nice job Ted!

  2. It is disappointing that the other 2 candidates did not respond. This was a good opportunity and whats interesting here is the candidate who has a blog and demanded input 3 years ago during the last selectmens race doesnt see fit to respond to this simplest of questions?

    Ehrhards response was very general. He is not as involved or knowledgable as he should be about this subject so I wonder how much he knows about other subjects. Or is he just about business as usual? Goodwin covered it very well and provided details.

    Very enlightening! Thanks for doing this.

  3. To anonymous,

    All submissions I receive are taken as they are. "Cut and paste" is the best thing one can have when writing a blog. So is spel chk.

  4. I agree that is a strange that two candidates did not respond. For one I think it is a control issue, and i don't know anything at all about the other candidate so I can't make a call with that one. It would ahve a been a good thing if she had responded. I think there are many in town that would like to know more about her. Thank you to the two that did answer the question. It does add to the picture of who you are. It was well done.

  5. “I want for Sturbridge” is something we hear from candidate Ehrhard again and again. At the town meeting when he gave his self gratifying speech, he rambled “I want” again and again. I want big boxes, I want more houses.....does he want the traffic that comes with such development, and the high taxes that categorically follows this type of growth. I’m not so sure that he’d say “I want” to higher taxes, and gridlock Route 20, maybe he just hasn’t educated himself of the consequence that come when you finally get all of the things “I want” . I’m not so sure why he left the town that had the things that he wants, and came here to preach about his needs ands wants.

  6. I have Ehrhards mailer about his candidacy. Interesting thing is he talks about "the majority" of residents, then he talks about "all" residents wanting the same things he does. Where does that information come from? He must think GBIS is the "majority" and "all" residents. Anonymous is stating the truth about Ehrhard's speeches. So he has two faces: the one hes using to get votes, and the one hell use when he gets elected and joins his other "that is not a non-strip mall" people on the board.

  7. I enjoyed reading the candidates responses. They are presented slightly different, but that is fine since they are two separate people. I think that some of the anonymous commenters are hitting way too hard, especially the last one which I believe was written by someone with nothing better to do than to stir an empty pot of soup. I am thankful that the person that made the last comment isn't running.

  8. I'm amazed. I was able to learn something new about the candidates. Thank you to the candidates for participating. I wish the other candidates had participated as well.

  9. 'stir an empty pot of soup', huh? Ehrhards letter sounds like it was written by an unprepared lawyer. Its very general and isnt informative at all. He did not cover the topic well yet he was given a blank slate with plenty of time to do the homework. He blew it. Cant be the first time and wont be the last time either.

  10. I think Ehrhard deserves some credit for responding to the question on this blog. He jumped right into a forum which is known to be supportive of Ted's candidacy. Some of the responses show why he probably should not have. Do you want him to say what YOU want, or what he believes? What, are we no better than the other blog? Attack, attack, attack.

    Let's be honest, everybody has two votes and Ehrhard is at least making an effort. Not only did I receive his letter but I also received a personal phone message from his this weekend. He and Ted balance each other.

    I do want to know what happened to Gimas? Is she giving up?

  11. I remember that Mr. Creamer’s questions were sent directly to the candidates. None of them had to search on the internet to find them. I watched the debate, everyone answered a question very similar asked by a man from the audience.


  12. Loriann, you know that Creamer checks this blog every day. He chose not to respond. He can make a fire but he cannot take the heat. I think he now knows he is going to lose.

  13. "I think Ehrhard deserves some credit for responding to the question on this blog."

    Let me remind you that he is a candidate for selectman and it is his DUTY to answer questions from residents. Why would he NOT want to answer the question? Thats why Im disappointed the other two candidates didnt see fit to respond. This blog is not hard to find either. Word travels fast.

    "Some of the responses show why he probably should not have. Do you want him to say what YOU want, or what he believes? What, are we no better than the other blog? Attack, attack, attack."

    This is not an attack. Its my opinion that he could have done a better job. Should I only say positive things? His answer is nebulous. It has no new information. Its just a piece of fluff and makes it obvious he is not paying attention or attending meetings to know the issues and be ready to jump into action in two weeks time. He blew it.

  14. Anonymous, Ted's answer and Ehrhard's answer were not vastly different. They both were supportive of the reconstruction of 131 with sidewalks and both tied it to the ability to have a walkable town. In fact, Ehrhard provided a broader viewpoint on walkability than Ted. You can split hairs all you want. Ehrhard may want more development than Ted but they both are more than ready to take a seat on April 14th.

    Actually, Sturbridge is very lucky to have four candidates who are qualified to be on the Board. We should take pride in that.

  15. Have to agree with you. Each is a bit different, all are qualified. As voters it is up to us to decide the degree of qualifications we would like to see, coupled with who the candidate is a person. We have to ask ourselves, "Is this someone that will serve our town well? Will we go forward, or remain in limbo?" Another thing we need to think about is the candidates vision of the future in town. What do they see regarding infrastructure, recreation, preserving our past, maintaining, and expanding our services, and all the rest. Splitting hairs is fine, it is one way for us to decide things. One may split that hair one way, another may split it the other way.

  16. If all you are seeking from a candidate is a glossy answer without any details, then vote for Ehrhard. I want more. Again, I wish Creamer and Gimas would respond. Creamer has a command of many current issues in Sturbridge and either watches or attends meetings. Thats how one gets to know about sidewalks. Gimas, well, I dunno. Goodwins answer was complete which shows his experience and knowledge on this issue. If Ehrhard was paying attention, he could have provided a comparable answer. No, I disagree: we have a COUPLE good candidates.

  17. Good point regarding sending out the question to the other two candidates and I do not see a reply from the site's author.

    To Anonymous, isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume people visit your site. Maybe they don't have time, maybe they don't like your content etc.

  18. Both of the candidates who answered the question posed provided articulate responses and should be commended for taking the time to enlighten the voters.

    The question I would really like to ask Creamer & Gimas is what is the nature of their current employment? And how does their employment qualify them to run a town the size of Sturbridge with a multi-million dollar budget?

  19. If you read the comments on the “other” site Bonja mentions it is like creamer has taken it over with all the hate filled comments. Some are down right nasty. Don’t bother going there unless you want to increase your blood pressure. Too much hate is not good for yo or the Town.. I wish Gimas had responded to the question. However I read her responses in a Sturbridge publication and found her answers thoughtful and reasonable and her views would be great for the board of selectmen.

  20. Kaizen,

    Would you ask the same question of our current and past selectmen? Does being a computer programmer, Lawyer, Retiree, househusband/wife make a difference if one can articulate a position and execute on it?


    I don't think one can single out one site or another as being more "hateful". Difficult comments and questions can be painful especially if they pull at ones core beliefs/illusions. I do not support slanderous or hateful speech nor do I support people hiding behind anonymous screen names.

  21. A history FACTS taken from Tom Creamer's blog (candidate for selectmen)

    It isn't difficult comments and questions that are painful.

    -It is videos on sturbridgepolitical being clipped of those who have difficulty with speech. Is it funny to mock those who aren't physically perfect?

    -It is going to a meeting to express your opinion then have a google map of your house on Tom Creamers blog?

    -Having a photo of your property on a blog with a sickle and hammer doctored into the photo?

    -Post bloody cartoons of a judge being torn in half? Copy and paste to see for yourself.

    What would a school psychologist think if a student had that cartoon?

    -How about missing almost half of planning board meetings for 2008? Half for 2009 so far?

    -Accusing people of illegal crimes yet the police don't even consider them suspects?

    -Altercations involving aged 60+ individuals at town hall & in town.

    -Police presence at selectmen meetings?

    Why is it that all the videos, cartoons, blogs, pictures were taken down when you announced your run for selectmen Mr. Creamer?

    Many don't like hiding behind anonymous names either but for the reasons above, there is NO way I feel safe demonstrating my free speech rights. Sad? Yes - due to a cyber bully on the loose.

    He may think it is free speech but he should be ashamed at his behavior. Maybe under free speech you can harass, intimidate, and ridicule individuals and it is "legal", but that is NO characteristic of a Sturbridge Selectmen Mr. Creamer!

  22. Anonymous,

    I'm sorry you are in this really bad place in your mind. In the end the essence of all that you are saying is right, but someone has to break the vicious circle. You call him the devil, he calls you the devil... in the end who is right? I, myself, have been the focus of such derision, will you stand up and defend me?

    I sign my name because it always makes me pause when those all too human emotions come flowing out. Maybe you should think about that when you post as you might think twice about what you (or your acquaintances) write.

    Now can we move on to talk about real issues or should we as a town stay locked in a thousand year war like the middle east?

  23. Jeff, I have read your comments on different subject's the last couple years, and your most recent one's here truly show who you are. I used to think you were level-headed. Now I know you're every bit as much a political zealot as those you support. I'm surprised you can show your face around town with all the ass-kissing you do. Also, you're judgmental, have a dismissive, holier than thou attitude. You treat commenters here just as shabby as Creamer does. Sit down and shut up for once.

  24. Holy cow Jeff Bonja, you pause before you post your messages, I can't even imagine what your first drafts sound like!

    You clean up a bit for this blog, but the things you have written on the Telegram Comment section and the "other" blog seem to point to the idea that you have a lot of anger within you. You deliver insults without any trouble at all. You write as though you are a big time celebrity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush, and people will care about your spin.

    You should try harder to enjoy life, you have a lovely family and a nice home, but your bitterness is going to take years off of your life.

    I truly don’t mean to insult you, rather just delivering some constructive criticism in hopes that you might give a longer pause to your blogging. Life will be better for you if you so do.

  25. Anonymous(s) or maybe your are one person with multiple personalities. Sorry but can't tell-

    Political zealot...are you kidding me? I have been to one Republican meeting and that was when I was invited to speak as a candidate, I was a member of the Dem Committee but stepped away when I saw that the current group was nothing more than a bunch of anti-republicans. Political zealot, no... someone tired of good old boy politics yes. I am proud to be an independent voter and thinker! Oh, by the way I have also only been to one GBIS meeting and again it was when I was invited to speak as a candidate.

    Quite honestly I turn off the extreme pundits on both the left and the right as they do no good except to incite anger and fear. Sad as it may seem I bounce between CNBC and Fox Business depending on who is talking too much about nothing.

    In so far as my history of posts, I believe I have been consistent in being above the belt and fair when commenting on an issue. When comments have been directed at me I have reserved the right to defend myself. My comments may be sharp and may hurt ones delicate sensibilities but, to be honest, that is not my concern here.

    I have no issue showing my face around town because I do not hide behind screen names and I believe in what I say and do. Have I done things wrong, yup as we all have as we are human. I somehow doubt that you will have the courage to look me in the eye the next time we meet and introduce yourself as the "anonymous" poster.

    Anonymous # 2, your arrogance is amazing and your opinions of my family and family life mean nothing to me. The fact that you would stoop so low as to have that enter a discussion is just an example of how small minded a person you are.

    Oh and there is no hope of me sitting down and shutting up. I would not be so arrogant as to tell you to do the same as that is what America is all about. Deal with it!

  26. This seems to be turning into a long overdue intervention to Jeff Bonja.

    Mr. Bonja, you could take a page out of Creamer’s book, and begin to post anonymously to tout all the good that you do and how courageous you are, and what a breath of fresh air your honesty is, you know the drill!

    Or you could take a step back and take your kids for walk, share a bottle of wine with your wife, plant a garden, do something positive that will enrich your life.

  27. I haven't had to do this in over a year, but I have shut down the comments for this particular post. Commenting has gone way off track, and has nothing to do with the subject of the post anymore. I will post a new article, and then allow anyone to down and dirty if they choose. However, in this particular posting, I will only allow real names. Commenting anonymously is fine for everyday subjects, but when we are slamming each other, for whatever reason, you have got to step up, and show yourself.