When Alan Ingram, the beleaguered superintendent of the Springfield school system, announced earlier this month that he would leave the job at the end of the academic year, it was really Antonette Pepe’s kill.
Earlier this summer, Pepe, a School Committee member and candidate for mayor, had exposed some overlooked, and highly controversial, details in Ingram’s 2008 employment contract, including relocation payments and $30,000 for a “permanent residence” in the city; to the dismay of his critics, however, Ingram never bought a house in the city or, in fact, moved his family here from their home in Oklahoma. Public and political indignation over those perks—not to mention the less-than-impressive state of the city schools—created a wave of anti-Ingram sentiment, resulting, finally, in his announcement that he will leave next year, when his contract ends.
But while it was Pepe who drew attention to the contract, in the days immediately following Ingram’s resignation announcement, perhaps the harshest words came from another, less expected source: Jose Tosado, president of the City Council and, along with Pepe, a challenger to incumbent Mayor Domenic Sarno.
“Springfield taxpayers should not have to continue to pay for Mayor Sarno’s expensive mistakes through June 2012 for a lame duck superintendent,” Tosado said in a press statement issued the day of Ingram’s announcement. “Ingram is a $202,000 annual liability. He should leave immediately.”
Tosado went on to note some rather dismal statistics about the Springfield school system—high drop-out rates, low MCAS scores, 10 schools classified as “failing” by the state—making sure to pin the blame as squarely on his political rival, Sarno, as on Ingram himself. “The mayor was one of three people who negotiated the outrageous terms of a contract for a superintendent with no prior experience as a superintendent, a principal, or even as a teacher,” went on Tosado, noting that the mayor, as chair of the School Committee, this spring voted to give Ingram a $12,000 raise.
There was nothing surprising about Pepe’s forceful and persistent criticisms of Ingram’s contract; as a School Committee member and, before that, a labor union leader, she’s earned a reputation for outspokenness, for eschewing the sort of political niceties practiced by more timid politicians. But Tosado’s comments—like, indeed, many of the statements he’s made during his mayoral campaign—feel a bit more out of character.
Over his dozen years in elected office, Tosado has never been what you would call an edgy politician, a rabble-rouser or radical. While he has taken some politically unpopular positions—he supported ward representation back when most of his colleagues ran screaming from the concept, for instance—Tosado tends to be soft-spoken and amiable, and has generally avoided the sort of nasty political battles that erupt so often in city politics. But over the course of his mayoral campaign, Tosado has attempted to show voters a different side of him, one with more bite and—more important—a more forward-thinking, even revolutionary mindset than they might have seen before.
Tosado envisions a new way of doing business in the city, he said, adding, “I’d like to see real change in Springfield, by real citizens of Springfield.”
Next month, he’ll find out if the city’s voters want the change he promises to bring, at a Sept. 20 preliminary election that will narrow the field from three mayoral candidates to two.
Tosado has followed a conventional path to his mayoral campaign.
Active in local Democratic politics, he’s served as president of the Springfield School Volunteers, as a board member of the United Way, and as a member of the Latino Breakfast Club. During the 1995 election season, he worked on Mike Albano’s mayoral campaign; when Albano won, he rewarded Tosado with a spot on the city’s Police Commission. Tosado left the commission in 1999, when he was elected to the School Committee. In 2001, he ran for City Council; while he lost that year, the following year Albano appointed long-time Councilor Brian Santaniello secretary of the Elections Commission, and Tosado, as 10th-place finisher in the 2001 race for nine Council seats, was appointed to fill out Santaniello’s term. Tosado was re-elected four times since then, topping the ballot in 2007 and 2009.
Tosado’s name has been on the list of potential mayoral candidates for several years. In January of 2010, he was elected the City Council’s president—a desirable bully pulpit for aspiring mayors—and by that summer had secured the votes needed to hold on to the position in 2011, as well. In January of this year, he officially announced his candidacy for mayor.
One of the Council’s most successful fundraisers, Tosado has raised and spent money steadily throughout this campaign. He ended 2010 with $22,000 in his campaign coffers, $8,000 of it a personal loan he made to his campaign a few days before New Year’s, as he prepared to launch his campaign. Between January and mid-August, Tosado has raised an additional $26,200. Notable contributors include attorneys Tom Rooke and Frank Fitzgerald, both of whom often represent clients seeking permits or other approvals from the City Council; state Rep. Ben Swan; Edgar Alejandro, a friend and manager with Western Mass Electric Co.; Carlos Gonzalez, head of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce; and Bill Pepin, vice president and general manager at WWLP. Tosado has also received numerous donations from organized labor, including the Bridge and Iron Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459, and the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO.
His campaign spent $35,700 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 15. The biggest chunk—$15,560—went to Darby O’Brien Advertising, a South Hadley agency. Tosado has also hired Springfield political consultant Ryan McCollum (son of former School Committee member Bob McCollum).
In a recent interview, the 57-year-old Tosado said it feels like the right time to make a move for the mayor’s office.
“Things have kind of come together for me on a personal and professional side,” he said. A social worker, he’s spent 28 years working for the Mass. Department of Mental Health, most recently as manager of the department’s Springfield office. His wife, Irma, is retired from her job as a Springfield public school teacher; their three kids are grown and out of the house.
And, Tosado added pointedly, there’s also the factor of the current office-holder, Sarno. “If there had been a mayor I was completely satisfied with as a Springfield resident, I wouldn’t do it,” Tosado said, before damning the incumbent with the faint praise often expressed by Sarno’s critics: “It’s hard not to like Domenic Sarno. He’s a pleasant enough man. But I think he leaves a lot to be desired as a manager.”
Tosado’s candidacy isn’t just timely for him personally—it could also be timely for Springfield, a city whose political demographics lag behind its overall demographics. According to the 2010 Census, 39 percent of the city’s residents are, like Tosado, Hispanic; another 22 percent are black. And the Hispanic population is growing fast: 56 percent of the kids in the city schools are Hispanic (22 percent are black, while 14.7 percent are white).
Still, while the City Council and School Committee have both become more diverse since the advent of ward representation, over the years, the mayor’s office has been occupied by white man after white man (with one white woman, Mary Hurley, breaking up the monotony in the late ’80s and early ’90s).
If he’s elected mayor, Tosado, who was born in Puerto Rico, wouldn’t just be making history in Springfield; he’d be only the second Hispanic mayor ever elected in Massachusetts. (The first—Lawrence Mayor Willy Lantigua, a native of the Dominican Republic—is proving to be a problematic person to hold that distinction: he’s the target of an ongoing FBI corruption probe, and this summer faced a potential recall election that fell apart when organizers failed to collect enough petition signatures.)
Tosado can expect to lock up Springfield’s Latino vote in the mayoral election. But even more promising for his campaign is his historical ability to win votes across the city, from the largely Latino, largely poor North End, where he grew up, to the whiter, middle-class Sixteen Acres neighborhood, where he now lives. In a city where ethnic and racial factionalism still shapes politics to an important degree, Tosado has shown the ability to appeal to a diverse voter base, which could be key on Election Day.
Of course, both Tosado and Pepe will have to overcome the power of incumbency enjoyed by the two-term Sarno, who scored a surprising victory over his predecessor, Charlie Ryan, in 2007, and handily won re-election over then-City Councilor Bud Williams in 2009. Sarno previously served eight years on the City Council, and was popular with voters; like Tosado, he was typically one of the highest vote-getters and most successful fundraisers.
But there are key differences between the two, Tosado maintains: he has 25 years of managerial experience at his DMH job, supervising employees and managing, he said, “hundreds of millions of dollars.” After years of working with a state budget, he added, he’s used to having to make spending cuts while still maintaining important services. “I’ve had to do that again and again over the years.”
Sarno, Tosado argues, lacks the acumen to oversee a municipal budget of $542 million. This summer, the City Council cut $2.7 million from the mayor’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget—a relatively minor amount, given the size of the budget, but a symbolically important vote, since, historically, councilors have been loath to exercise that power. After the vote, Tosado described the cuts as unhappy but prudent belt-tightening.
In response, Sarno called the cuts irresponsible and warned that they would cause unnecessary pain to city residents. He also smacked councilors for leaving in the budget a pay raise for themselves, from $13,050 to $14,500. Councilors protested that they hadn’t requested the raise; it had, in fact, been part of Sarno’s proposed budget, and was meant to restore a pay cut they’d taken a few years earlier, during the city’s bleakest fiscal days. Nonetheless, it’s surprising that none of the councilors foresaw the political hornet’s nest they were kicking over by approving a pay hike for themselves, at a time when city employees were facing wage freezes and unpaid furloughs. (In retrospect, should the councilors have also cut their own pay raises? “Frankly, probably,” Tosado said.)
Tosado called Sarno’s response to the Council’s cuts an “overreaction.”
“It was stretching things a bit to play to the public,” he said of the mayor’s warnings that the Council’s decision would have “impacts that the public will see and feel.”
If he’s elected, Tosado said, one of his first orders of business will be to order a complete, independent audit of the city’s finances. While, in theory, city councilors should have access to all city financial information, “there’s ways of keeping you misinformed,” he said. When councilors ask for the information, he said, too often they get thick piles of papers that do little to illuminate; as the city’s new executive officer, he’d want to start with a clear, neutral picture of the city’s finances.
Tosado is also critical of Sarno’s ability to move the city forward. The mayor’s office needs a strong manager who can make difficult decisions quickly; “I don’t think the mayor’s good at being decisive,” he said. Tosado said he’s heard complaints, from both the public and private sector, about the difficulty in getting decisions from the mayor’s office—for instance, companies looking for city incentives to help them expand. (He won’t name names, he said, “because the corporations would get upset.”)
“The mayor doesn’t seem to get the big picture of these decisions,” Tosado charged. “Beyond that, I think the mayor ought to have at least a higher level of integrity.” Tosado was referring, specifically, to an issue that has dogged the incumbent through much of his tenure: during his 2007 campaign against Ryan, Sarno vowed to eliminate the controversial trash fee put in place the previous year by the state-imposed Finance Control Board, with the support of Ryan. After his election, Sarno changed his mind, saying that he’d come to see that the city did, in fact, need the revenue generated by the fee.
“It’s an example of making a commitment you can’t live up to, or not doing your homework,” Tosado said of Sarno’s flip-flop.
Tosado, too, has changed his position on the trash fee, although in a more politically popular direction: as Council president in 2006, he sat on the Control Board at the time, and voted to institute the fee. Last fall—not incidentally, just a couple of months before he announced his mayoral campaign—Tosado said he now believes the fee isn’t necessary, given the city’s improved financial health.
Tosado describes himself as “a fairly progressive kind of guy.” He points to his years of support for ward representation, which voters approved starting with the 2009 election. Supporters argued the change would make the Council more diverse, would make it easier for candidates to get elected without lots of money and name recognition, and would make councilors more accountable to voters, at least in the wards. While the addition of ward seats has, disappointingly, failed to create a new wave of electoral interest—voter turnout in 2009 was an embarrassing 25 percent, and this year, only one of the ward incumbents is even facing a challenger—it has resulted in a more ethnically diverse Council.
“I think it’s working fine,” Tosado said of ward representation. Critics had argued that the change would make councilors unduly focused on “pothole politics,” he said. “That hasn’t happened.” He thinks the fact that ward councilors don’t need to worry about winning votes across the entire city gives them a certain degree of flexibility, and a willingness to take risks, such as making cuts to the mayor’s budget. With that freedom, “you can really make some difficult decisions for the best,” he said.
As mayor, Tosado says, he’d move the city away from the conventional ways of doing things, which too often have failed. He’s critical, for example, of economic development efforts that attempt to lure large businesses to the city. City Hall hosts big events where they make a pitch to developers from outside the area—”then [the developers] get on the train and leave town, and we never see them again,” he said. Meanwhile, real estate vacancies increase, and big redevelopment projects—the building at 31 Elm St., in the heart of downtown; the old York Street jail site—remain stalled.
And the projects that do move forward, Tosado added, aren’t always moving forward the smartest way—like the recent decision to sell the old School Department headquarters at 195 State St., which were left vacant when the department moved to the former federal building at Main Street. A City Hall committee opted to sell 195 State to CSM North, a New Haven developer, for $1. While Tosado is enthusiastic about the developers’ plan to turn the building into market-rate housing, “I’m not sure we’re getting the best deal here,” he said.
Only two bids had been submitted for the project. CSM North’s was selected in part because the other bid would have relied on public grants and tax breaks. The $1 price tag, the Sarno administration maintains, is justified by the major investment the developers will make in the handsome but rundown building, and the larger economic benefits the project will reap for the area.
But Tosado, for one, isn’t so sure. “We’d been told we’d get millions” for the building, he said; rather than settle for the CSM bid, he suggested, the city should have tried more aggressively, and effectively, to market the property. “I think that’s part of the problem with the administration—low expectations,” he charged. With so many projects going nowhere, he said, “people are kind of hyper-sensitive,” and too eager to take any offer that does come their way.
Tosado also couldn’t resist referring to the controversy surrounding the School Department’s move from State Street to Main Street in the first place. That decision was made without seeking competitive bids for other new locations for the department—a move, say critics (most vociferously, City Councilor Tim Rooke, as well as Pepe), that cost taxpayers dearly. Tosado offered that mess as another example of Sarno’s failings. “The mayor campaigned on transparency. There has been no transparency,” he said.
“This administration is fraught with problems,” Tosado added. “I think the average person pays for that.”
So what would a Tosado administration look like?
In the area of economic development, Tosado envisions the city doing more to support small, locally owned businesses already in the city, rather than spending too much of its energy chasing the elusive, out-of-town big fish. While big companies are important to have in the mix, he said, small business owners are crucial to the city’s success. “They live here; their employees live here,” he said.
The city’s future, Tosado’s campaign says, lies in “the green economy, the creative economy, and the knowledge sector”—growing areas that create jobs for both high- and low-skilled workers. Tosado speaks enthusiastically about attracting artists and other creative workers to the city with its relatively low rents, beautiful old buildings and many vacancies. That would, in turn, draw young professionals to downtown, making it more vibrant and safer, he said.
And he’d like to see Springfield offer incentives to draw middle-class people to live in the downtown area, like the “Teachers Village” project in Newark, N.J., a development marketed to educators in the hopes of reviving the neighborhood. (Earlier this year, Tosado traveled to Newark to meet with Mayor Cory Booker to discuss urban strategies. He also took a “road trip” to Puerto Rico, where he met with elected officials about possible collaborative programs with Springfield.)
“We do that for corporations—why not people?” Tosado said of the incentives.
Springfield’s pressing economic development needs were made all the more urgent by the June 1 tornado that damaged so many businesses and homes around the city. “We have an opportunity now for rebuilding in Springfield, but I think we need to be careful how we do that,” Tosado said.
At the top of his list: more market-rate housing. And fewer social-service and government aid programs.
That last item might take some of Tosado’s base off guard, particularly those who expect him, as potentially the city’s first mayor of color, to be the strongest advocate for programs that serve the city’s largely minority poor population. Tosado acknowledged the surface contradiction, given his work as a social worker, and he takes care to point out that he’s not calling for cuts to services for the needy, or for driving the poor out of the city.
Nonetheless, he said, “we’re saturated with social services agencies,” which not only serve Springfield residents, but also draw people from neighboring communities that don’t offer the same programs.
“We have the capacity to serve the people who are Springfield people. & We can’t continue the proliferation of agencies that serve the poor,” Tosado said.
“We can’t continue to be the poor capital.”
There’s another unwelcome distinction the city must shed: the violence capital.
In May, an online magazine called Business Insider named Springfield the 12th most-dangerous city in the U.S., based on FBI data from 2010. The validity of the ranking was quickly disputed by many in the city—among them, Sarno—although the damage was already done.
“Is the city becoming too dangerous?” a Channel 22 news report asked earlier this summer, on the heels of a weekend that saw three shootings and one murder. “Too dangerous” for whom, or what? The report didn’t specify, although the implications were clear: too dangerous for people to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. Too dangerous for business owners to invest in the city, for out-of-towners to feel comfortable visiting, for residents to stick around if they have the means to move elsewhere.
Public safety has always been considered one of Sarno’s strongest issues, reaching back to his time on the City Council. Tosado, however, is clearly making a move to take that issue away from the incumbent, suggesting that Sarno talks tough but doesn’t have a plan to match the rhetoric. (He scoffs at Sarno’s earlier campaign vow to add “50 new boots” to the city’s streets: “That’s not a strategy—that’s a campaign slogan.”)
Tosado points to his own connections to law enforcement: he served on the Police Commission, one of his brothers is a Springfield police officer, and one of his sisters, now retired, was the SPD’s first female Puerto Rican cop. He also understands, quite personally, the effects of violent crime: in 1980, Tosado’s father was murdered during a robbery at a North End store owned by the family.
The SPD, Tosado said, needs to be less reactive and more proactive, using the latest technology and crime data to most effectively deploy its officers, and studying programs in other cities for models that are already working. His campaign calls for a department “gun squad” that would focus on the distribution network for illegal guns in the city (based on a program in place in Baltimore), and a special “gun court” (also based on models in other cities) that “would move gun related offenses swiftly through the legal process, allowing for gun-toting criminals to be found guilty more quickly and off the streets.” The gun squad would be funded by a policy—this one taken from New York City—that would allow the city to seize and sell vehicles found to have illegal guns in them.
Another major change Tosado would make in the SPD: replacing Commissioner William Fitchet, a department veteran who’s held the job since 2008. Fitchet’s contract expires in 2013, and, if elected mayor, Tosado said he wouldn’t renew it. “I think the job’s gotten beyond him at this point,” Tosado said.
Early July was an especially violent period in the city, with three murders over the course of a week: two teens and a 38-year-old man, all shot to death. In an interview with the Springfield Republican, Sgt. John Delaney, an SPD spokesman, called two of the murders gun-related, and described the victims as active gang members.
“The pattern is gang members shooting other gang members,” Delaney told the newspaper. “Citizens who are not in a gang or do not deal drugs do not have anything to worry about,” he added.
Delaney’s comments sparked some controversy in the city. To Tosado, they were part of a larger pattern in the administration, of trying to downplay Springfield’s crime problem. “You have to be honest with the public: yes, we do have a problem,” he said.
Moreover, he charged, the comments suggest that the lives of those murder victims were “throw-away,” or that their families deserve no sympathy. “The philosophy itself I find offensive,” Tosado said. “It really minimizes the human experience.” Regardless of the murdered men’s behavior, “this is still a human life.” And, he added, the city has seen its share of recent murder victims whom no one has accused of criminal behavior, from Conor Reynolds, the Cathedral High student murdered at a party last year, to Sheldon Innocent, a 24-year-old man caught in the crossfire during a shooting at a State Street barber shop in April.
City cops, Tosado said, tell him that they don’t feel supported by their higher-ups to be more aggressive in their policing—for instance, by making “threshold stops,” like stopping a car for a broken tail light and then running the driver’s license. Or, “You see a group of kids and something doesn’t seem kosher, so you ask a few questions,” he said.
“I think there’s a high level of sensitivity to accusations of racism, which gets in the way of the ability to do their job,” he explained.
That’s another statement that some might not expect to hear from the man who could be Springfield’s first mayor of color, given the unhappy history of cases of officers accused of abusing black and Latino residents. (Whether he risks alienating potential voters is another matter: those communities typically have low voter-turnout rates, and voters who favor Tosado specifically because he’s Puerto Rican might not be turned off enough by that one stand to abandon him. Rather, a tough-on-crime stance probably serves Tosado’s campaign well, given the anxieties that run throughout the city.)
Tosado clarified that he’s not condoning officers’ overstepping their bounds. “I’m not talking about violating anyone’s civil rights,” he said.
But neither is he backing away from his calls for tougher policing. “We have a crisis right now,” Tosado said. “It’s time to be more aggressive and proactive.”
In a video on his campaign website, an emotional-sounding Tosado talks about the need to address the “root causes” of crime: “If you have a good job, if you have a good education, you’re probably not going to be out there stealing my TV. You’re probably not going to be out there dealing drugs. You’re probably not going to be out there shooting anybody.”
Tosado attended Springfield public schools, from kindergarten through his graduation from the High School of Commerce (an alma mater he shares with Sarno). “I got a very good education there,” said Tosado, who went on to Westfield State, then got a master’s in social work from UConn.
Tosado’s own kids went to Catholic schools, in part because of the family’s faith, and in part because “I wanted to make sure they got the best education possible and [were] safe.” The state of Springfield’s schools these days “saddens me,” he said.
The problem isn’t a lack of money, he argued. “We’re such a well-funded educational system. The money is there.” The School Department’s budget of $330 million accounts for more than 60 percent of the city’s total spending. The bulk of that—$275 million—comes from Chapter 70 state education funding; Springfield gets more education aid from the state than any other municipality, even Boston.
“It’s not a money issue. It’s a leadership issue,” Tosado said.
Ingram’s decision not to seek a new contract means that, starting in the fall of 2012, the city schools will have a new leader. (The superintendent has shown no inclination to take up Tosado’s suggestion that he hit the road now.) But Tosado, obviously, wants to see change in another important position: chair of the School Committee, a position held ex officio by the mayor. He criticized the current holder of that seat for failing to hold Ingram accountable, pointing, for instance, to Sarno’s vote to raise the superintendent’s salary back in May, through a mix of cost-of-living and performance-based increases. (The School Committee approved the raise by a 5-to-1 vote, with Pepe casting the sole dissenting vote.)
The city, Tosado noted, has 10 “chronically underperforming” schools, according to the state. In the 2009-2010 school year, the city’s drop-out rate was 10.5 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 2.9 percent. This spring, the School Committee approved spending $800,000 to hire a Boston consulting firm to try to save Commerce, after state education officials rejected a state-funded “turnaround” plan for the school submitted by the city.
And yet, Tosado said, Sarno felt Ingram deserved to have his $190,000 salary raised to $202,000? “It’s Domenic economics,” he said.
Tosado proposes an ambitious remodeling o f the city’s school system, taking as its inspiration New York’s celebrated Harlem Children’s Zone. The non-profit HCZ takes a holistic, “cradle to college” approach to education, running three charter schools as well as a pre-school program, healthcare facilities, after-school programs and parenting courses, among other community-based supports. HCZ boasts impressive results, including high standardized test scores, student retention and graduation rates.
Those successes haven’t come cheaply; the HCZ’s annual budget tops $40 million, for a program that focuses on a relatively small section of New York City. While that can’t be fully replicated in Springfield, Tosado said, there’s plenty the city can borrow from the model, by engaging the city’s businesses and community and human service organizations. He calls for an extended school day and a longer school year, mentoring programs to help keep kids on track, health centers in the schools, and counseling programs that focus not just on children’s academic progress, but also their social and physical well-being. His years as a social work manager would put him in a good position to coordinate the various agencies that would need to be involved, he added.
“It can happen,” Tosado said. “No one’s taken the leadership to do that.”
So is Tosado the candidate who offers the dynamic, progressive leadership necessary to move Springfield in a new direction?
Aron Goldman thinks so. He’s the executive director of the Springfield Institute, a self-described “think tank with a twist” that works to bring change to the city—in education, public safety, public health, the economy—through community organizing and the adoption of ideas that are working in other cities. “We want to direct our hope towards those ideas [that] will transform the Springfield region, encourage new perspectives, and challenge residents to expect more than incremental improvements,” the Institute says of its mission.
Goldman describes himself as impatient with what too often passes for “progress” in city government. “I’ve always been very antsy and very reluctant to stick around for too long without making big changes,” he said. “To me, that would implicate [the Institute] in the status quo and the way in which Springfield has been locked into decline and decay. I really felt strongly about not being part of that. We’ve got to be bold and make a difference, or get out.”
Tosado, he maintains, has the capacity to make big changes, which is why Goldman is serving as chief strategist to his campaign. (Goldman notes that his support is personal, and not on behalf of the Springfield Institute; while Tosado’s platform rings compatible with the Institute’s agenda in many ways, the non-profit group doesn’t endorse candidates. And while Goldman wants to see Tosado elected Springfield’s mayor, he won’t have the pleasure of voting for him—he lives in Hampshire County.)
Goldman first met with Tosado at the urging of mutual friends, among them, Ernesto Cruz, Tosado’s campaign manager, who works in financial services at MassMutual. Initially, Goldman said, he was hesitant to get involved with any campaign, given the closed-door, insiders-only nature of Springfield politics. (“He said, ‘If you’re like other politicians, I don’t want to talk to you,’ Tosado recalled of their first meeting.)
“I was a little bit reluctant about whether he was the real deal, and whether something was really possible here,” Goldman explained. He was also reluctant because of various rumors he’d heard about the candidate, including that Tosado was part of the inner circle of former Mayor Mike Albano, he of the corruption-plagued administration, and that Tosado’s election would open the door for Albano and his crew to once again take control of City Hall.
Tosado himself says he “got pegged as one of Albano’s boys” unfairly, early in his political career. He got to know Albano, he said, when the then-city councilor was running for mayor in 1995. Tosado’s friend, Richard Mundo, at the time director of Agawam’s Council on Aging, brought him along to volunteer on Albano’s campaign. Tosado and Mundo worked the North End vote, which Albano won.
“You know how it is—after the election [Albano] asked, ‘What do you want?'” Tosado said. Tosado didn’t want a City Hall job—he was already employed at DMH—but when the new mayor offered him a spot on the Police Commission, he was happy to take it, given his family connections to the SPD, he said.
But, Tosado said, he was never part of Albano’s social circle—a rogues gallery that included Gerry Phillips, Albano’s best friend and another Police Commission appointee, who went on to spend time in federal prison for fraud committed during his time running the Mass. Career Development Institute, and Anthony Ardolino, Albano’s chief of staff, and his brother, Chester, a former city cop, both of whom also ended up going to federal prison, for tax fraud.
“Frankly, Mike likes to hang out with young white kids,” Tosado said. “I didn’t fit that profile. I was 40 years old; I was married with kids.”
According to Tosado, the relationship was strained in 2001, when his old friend, then-state Rep. Paul Caron, ran an aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Albano. While he stayed out of it, Tosado said, “Mike thought that I was helping Paul out in the campaign, so things went sour.”
Tosado describes his relationship with Albano these days as “friendly.” The former mayor, who now works as a “political consultant,” has made one campaign contribution to Tosado in the last five years, a $125 donation in 2009.
Goldman said he pressed Tosado about his relationship with Albano in their first meeting. “I pushed Jose really hard on this,” he said. “He gave me all the confidence I needed to know that that was just mudslinging, and creative character trashing.”
That matter settled in his mind, Goldman then turned to his most pressing question: “The only way I would get near a campaign is if you are ready to be big and bold,” he told Tosado. Goldman isn’t just interested in beating Domenic Sarno, he said: “I want a whole new frame of reference,” a new way of running the city that looks outside its geographical, and psychic, boundaries and adopts ideas that are working in other places. Tosado, he said, has been open to that, as his campaign platform shows. “He is really excited about what he sees. He’s very curious about best practices in other cities.”
Tosado, Goldman added, is “a modern guy, a modern executive. … I think he has, among other things, the basic intellectual capacity to handle stuff in the way the incumbent doesn’t have.”
The candidate said he was eager to engage a young, energetic group in his campaign. “I didn’t want to keep going back to the same old people everyone’s talked to,” Tosado said. “They’re staid, to me.”
Springfield has suffered under a “gatekeeper mentality,” with a relatively small group of insiders wielding way too much power, Tosado continued. “What needs to be different is some of the players,” he said. Asked if he cared to name names, Tosado laughed, offering instead, “The same ilk of people with the same ideas—that’s why the city is declining.”