Between the Lines: Albano and Szostkiewicz

Shall we hear what the ex-mayors have to say?

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Iam intrigued, but not surprised, to see two old names in the news again: former Springfield Mayor Mike Albano, elected last fall to the Governor’s Council, charged with voting on judicial appointments; and former Holyoke Mayor Dan Szostkiewicz, candidate for mayor in Holyoke, running against incumbent Alex Morse, a young politician whose tenure has been nearly as rocky as Szostkiewicz’s was when he was but a wee lad.

Over the years, I have written thousands upon thousands of words about both Albano and Szostkiewicz, very few of them flattering. I stand by every word.

I view Albano as the epitome of a self-serving hack, charming and intelligent but recklessly grandiose and deceitful. The federal corruption probe that drove Albano from office in 2003 and put more than a dozen of his cronies in jail was only the final chapter in his story as mayor; the lasting harm he inflicted on Springfield lingers to this day. Alas, as the Albano Era is beaten ceaselessly back into the past, his tarnished legacy is not even a footnote to stories about a judge’s decision last week to stop him from testifying for the defense in the Whitey Bulger case in Boston.

As much as I tend to doubt Albano’s veracity, including his oft-asserted claim that his political woes in Springfield came as a result of a longstanding vendetta against him by the FBI, I wish Albano could have his day in court. His claim that he was pressured by FBI agents to keep innocent men in jail when he was a member of the state parole board in 1983 may be, as U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper ruled last week, irrelevant to Bulger’s trail, but the public would be well served by hearing Albano’s testimony and the subsequent cross-examination.

My criticism of Szotkiewicz from 1996 to 2000 was no kinder than my carping at Albano, but Disney Dan (a moniker hung on him because of his over-the-top enthusiasm for all things Disney) was just a kid, in way over his head. Like Holyoke’s current mayor, Szostkiewicz appeared to be a breath of fresh air at the start of his first term, but his lack of discipline showed immediately.

Now it’s Szostkiewicz calling a young mayor out for his lack of experience. Last week, he blasted Morse for flip-flopping on Walmart’s plan to build a superstore on Whiting Farms Road in Holyoke. Szostkiewicz opposes the Walmart plan, while Morse intially welcomed the plan before recently turning against it. Szostkiewicz told reporters that Morse’s lack of leadership “continues to hurt our city.” Morse had already upset supporters by wavering on plans to bring a casino to Holyoke.

I still don’t trust either Albano or Szostkiewicz, but they’re back. And I’m all ears.•



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