Fiorentini Has No Team,
Doesnt Play Well With Others
Haverhill Candidate Speaks Candidly
About the Issues,
Her Opponents and Why She Should be Elected
Cerasuolo-ORorke is one of three candidates running
for mayor in Haverhill. She is facing incumbent Mayor Jim
Fiorentini and former Mayor Jim Rurak. ORorke spoke
candidly with the Valley Patriot last month about her
vision for Haverhills future, her opponents and
what it is going to take to run the city of Haverhill
effectively over the next six years.
Why are you running for mayor?
I am running to assemble a team to put
Haverhill on the map. I continuously hear that we have
potential in Haverhill and people ask; Why
arent we Lowell? Why arent we
Newburyport? I think everyone remembers those
communities before they were the Newburyport and Lowell
of today and we have to ask why did they succeed and how
can we succeed the way they did. We have the same river.
We have a lot of resources. We have 35 square miles of
land. We are both inner city and farmland. We have a
myriad of great things going on. So what is it going to
take and when are we going to capitalize on the potential
that we have?
I look back on the last 44 years and ask Are
we better off, worse off, or the same as we were 40 years
ago, or even 20 or 10 years ago? Most people say we
are the same and some say worse off. So what is it going
to take for us to succeed? I think there are a few common
First of all, one person cant do it. It will
take a concentrated, orchestrated team effort. And with
everyone playing the role that they are strongest at,
everyone wins. I use the analogy of the Patriots. If you
take Bob Kraft, Bill Belicheck, Teddy Bruschi, and Tom
Brady, and you ask who dont you want on your
team? Well, you want them all on your team!
Theyre all important. It takes more than just one
person. You need to be able to build relationships and a
consensus to get anything done successfully. Im
capable of doing that. Im capable of putting
together a solid team. I have passion, I have vision and
I think I am the best candidate for the job.
Why you? Why should the voters pick you over
mayor Jim Fiorentini, Im sure he would say he has a
He doesnt have a vision. He doesnt have
a team. Whos his team? He has no team. He
doesnt play well in the sandbox and he is not a
team builder. I am. And that is what we need.
Can you give me an example of where Jim
The Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, under my
leadership, has done a tremendous amount of work in
support of the economic development of this city. But we
were not embraced by the mayor. Team Haverhill was not
embraced by the current administration. They are a
volunteer, citizen-based asset in this community and were
willing to meet month in and month out to improve the
quality of life in this city. They have been ignored by
this administration. So those are two glaring examples
where he has not reached out to the community.
What could he have done to embrace them? What
would you have done?
I would have showed up, for one. I would have had a
dialogue with them, embrace their efforts and possibly
provide financial support. You know these are good people
trying to help and they shouldnt be shut out of the
process. And they have been.
about your other opponent, Jim Rurak? Why should the
voters choose you and not Jim Rurak?
I like Jim Rurak. I think Jim Rurak is a good an
honorable man. But he had eight years to tap the
potential of this city and move it forward. Do I feel
that we are any better off because Jim Rurak was mayor
for eight years? Im not sure we are a lot different
because Jim was mayor for eight years. So I say, if we
couldnt tap the potential in eight years of Jim
Rurak what makes anyone believe we will be better off
with another Jim Rurak Administration?
Thats why I think we need new eyes, fresh
thoughts, creative thinking outside the box, and no stone
left unturned. Everything is up for discussion. The
community needs to be embraced and encouraged to give
input. This is not Jim Fiorentinis community. This
isnt Jim Ruraks community. This isnt my
community. Its everyones community and everyone
needs to be at the table being encouraged to participate.
Thats what makes me different than both previous
administrations. I am not part of the past. I am part of
the future and I am part of the solution for
What are the quality of life issues in
Education, Education, and did I tell you
education. I dont see myself as a typical person
who runs for office. I am 54 years old. My goal is to
make a difference and give back and give the best I have
for the community. Ive been to 50 teas, knocked on
tons of doors, and what I hear in the community is that
education is their number one concern.
Yes, we have challenges in our schools, but we have
a lot of assets in our schools too. We have a fabulous
superintendent, but we need to give him the tools to do
the job and not micromanage him. I dont believe you
hire a professional, pay him $100,000 plus, and then tell
them how to do their job. Thats why you hire a
professional, because they know how to do their
I think the schools, the facilities themselves,
have had no capital projects plan and we dont have
a maintenance program for the community. The schools need
to be involved in that. I think the teachers and
administrators have been taken advantage of, not
appreciated, not encouraged, not given the tools, and
sometimes it just takes a kind word of appreciation that
you are in the trenches with them and that we are all
working as a team to educate these kids. Many teachers I
talk to say they dont feel appreciated. They get it
from both ends, they get it from the parents and they get
it from the politicians and it isnt right.
What kind of tools would you give them?
I want to start a program called the blue ribbon
panel where we find private financing and donations from
businesses and give those funds to each school to be used as the principal sees fit. I
would like to do it to the level of twenty-five thousand
dollars for each school. Just that encouragement alone,
for teachers and administrators to know that they can buy
paper and chalk and school books, takes a tremendous
amount of pressure off their shoulders. I would also have
teacher appreciation and highlight a school.
Do we have challenges? All communities have their
challenges, but we have to think differently and work
with people to make a difference in our education system.
Thats not happening now.
Would that include ads on school buses or in
the schools like weve seen out west?
It could. We have to be willing to look at everything,
but, you see, it comes down to more than just dollars and
cents. Dollars and cents are very important to the big
picture, but what is equally important is the quality of
education our kids are getting at the end of the day. One
in four kids dont make it to high school graduation
in Haverhill. We lost 121 kids dropping out last year. We
failed those 121 kids. Parents that can afford it can opt
out and some are doing that, and thats fine. But, I
would like the parents to opt out because they have two
great choices not because they feel like they have no
choice at all. But what about the kids who cant opt
out? We have an obligation to raise the standards and
educate them well.
So you Support School Choice?
"Yes, I support school choice."
What about Merit pay for teachers?
I think there is merit to merit pay, forgive the
pun, but I think its hard to compare one classroom
to another classroom. Someone who has a higher success
rate in their classroom could be because the parents in
that class are more involved. So, its hard to
measure the merit of a teacher. Im not sure how you
can control standardizing the product [education] in
order to base merit pay and measure it effectively. But,
like I said, everything is going to be on the
How about the health insurance costs in
I know we have the majority of the unions who have
opted into a single payer plan, but I would be interested
in looking at Governor Patricks municipal
What percentage do city employees pay now? I think
most are 80% (paid by the city) - 20% (paid by the
employees) and I know there was a move to go to 75% - 25%
Would you support something like that?
I would have to look at it. Under my administration
everything will be up for discussion and research. I am
going into my office the first day to open the windows,
educate the people and understand what we are dealing
with and then come up with the best solution, which I
believe always comes from Dialogue.
What about the police department and the
crime rate in Haverhill?
Haverhill has the lowest ratio of police officers
per-capita in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. We have
1.5 police officers for every 1,000 residents. When one
of our residents needs the attention of a police officer,
that leaves the other 999 residents without
So what would you do, add more cops?
Again, look at the big picture. What can we afford?
How can we better utilize the resources we have? I think
we have a terrific chief of police and he is doing an
admirable job without the resources or support he needs
and at some point, if we dont address it, it is
going to get worse. We need to be ahead of the next
crisis. Until you know what you are doing as a community
when it comes to public safety, things are not going to
get better. Does it mean we have to spend more dollars?
Maybe. But maybe we can utilize the dollars that we have
to spend and let the police do their jobs.
I know we were very successful with a grant we
helped write with Methuen. Theres an awful lot of
homeland security money, state and federal dollars
available, but we dont even have a grant-writer so
we are losing out on millions of the dollars
That was a little vague on adding more cops.
Should more cops be hired?
I do think we absolutely have to add more police
but it has to be done in a responsible manner.
Thats what Im saying. When I talk about the
big picture, this is it. You cannot save police at the
expense of fire, you cannot save police and fire at the
expense of education. We have to look at the big picture
and be realistic about what we can afford. We have to
look at it in an equitable manner. So to say we are going
to add x number of officers without knowing
how you are going to pay for it or what they are going to
be doing isnt the answer. I certainly wouldnt
second guess the chief. It goes back to what I said about
the Superintendent, I think we have hired a great chief
of police but you have to let him do his job. I certainly
wouldnt be interfering with his decisions for
public safety. We need to have a multi-year plan.
Is the current mayor not doing that? Is he
not letting the chief have a say in the way crime is
being fought in the streets?
Yes. I think so. He is micro-managing the
department. If you are a micro-manager you tend to want
to micromanage everything. You dont pay people over
$100,000 to micro-manage them. Its that simple.
Thats a leader, someone who assembles the team
hires the people and then lets them do their jobs.
How about 40B? [low income housing
requirements for cities and towns]
We are between 8 ½% to 9 ½% affordable housing.
We are right in line with what the state is looking for
as far as affordable housing.
One of our columnists John Michitson wrote a
piece for us recently saying that basically, government
cannot solve problems by its very nature. That it
really takes the private sector to solve community
problems. You come from the private sector, do you agree
I am a strong believer in Deval Patricks
mindset that no one sector can solve the problem, but
collectively everyone needs to be at the table to address
these issues. Do I think government plays a role? Yes, it
plays a major role. This community is succeeding or not
succeeding collectively. Everybody is in the same boat.
We all succeed or fail together. The answer is not the
business sector, or the non-profits, or the government.
It is a collective effort.
Jim Fiorentini writes a column for us called
Moving Haverhill Forward where he talks a lot
about his business successes and the new businesses
moving to Haverhill. As the former head of the Chamber
can you give him credit for
Id love to talk about this. Im hoping
that you can get this message out because I know the
facts. When I look at the communitys tax base,
its value-based. So x amount of value
in the community is broken into two sections; the
residential and the commercial. In 1984 33% of the value
of properties were residential and 67% was commercial,
according to the assessors office. This year we are
88 % residential and 12% commercial. Now, those are
facts. Those are glaring facts! Those should be shocking
So, if hes growing the commercial base, why
doesnt it show in value? It doesnt show for
two reasons: residential is growing off the map and
commercial is not keeping pace. Now, you go to the
specific projects he (Fiorentini) talks about that are
supposedly growing the commercial base. Look at
Starbucks. It replaced a Mobile gas station which was
commercial property before. So wheres my growth?
Theres no growth, only turnover. Look at BJs.
They are mostly entry level jobs with 220 part-time jobs
and 30-full time. It replaced Victory Plastics that was
paying us $80,000 in taxes and had 50 median income jobs.
Look at Lowes and Target stores. They are replacing
Analogics who, on the books, is paying us $175,000 in
taxes. Theyre empty, but paying taxes. Estimates
yesterday show maybe an additional $250,000 in additional
taxes. So, all this economic growth we are hearing about
by the mayor may bring in under 100k in new taxes and
that brings me back to my original question: Is the
current growth under Jim Fiorentini bringing
that 12% commercial value up? No, it is not. Jim
Fiorentini is not growing the business community. He has
shut them out.
What do you want to see downtown look like?
We have 19 store fronts downtown that are empty. We have
to ask the community what they want it to look like and
how do we want to make that happen. You have to be
proactive, and figure out what we as a community want
downtown and then do what it takes to make it happen. The
way its being done now, this administration is just
sitting back and taking whatever comes along. We have to
have more involvement. I see a cultural center for kids.
I see a Gourmet-to-go, a wine bar and upscale
restaurants. Maybe we could be subsidizing some of them
at the beginning so they will flourish and contribute to
our future success.
This is part one of a three part series. Next month The
Valley Patriot will be interviewing former mayor Jim
Rurak. Mayor Fiorentinis interview will be
published in the Special Election Edition to be printed
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The September 2007
Edition of the Valley Patriot
The Valley Patriot is a Monthly
All Contents (C) 2007, Valley Patriot, Inc.
We publish 15,000 newspapers and distribute in Andover,
Methuen, Haverhill, Chelmsford, Georgetown, Groveland,
Boxford, Amesbury, Newburyport
Lawrence, Dracut, Tewksbury, Merrimack, Newburyport,
Westford, Acton, and Lowell.
Hampton & Salisbury Beach, (summers
Valley Patriot Archive
Valley Patriot Story
Valley Patriot Editorials
Prior Columns by ...
Patriot of the Month