1/26/2005

Say "Good things, not Bad"

I started this blog so that all people on, or interested in BI could have a place to come forth and say what they wanted about "things" on BI. So far most of the comments have been of the accusatory, and denigratory vein. With this one I'm going to change directions 180 degrees. When we were kids, my Dad, Lester (Shorty) Littlefield used to tell us all the time, " if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all" ! As anyone who knew him will tell you, he lived by that dictum. Well I can't say that I've emulated him in that respect. I have been known to rail against certain persons and use uncomplimentary terms when talking about them. With this blog , I hope to acquaint you with the real person behind the name that most of you will recognize. I am now and have always been an unabashed admirer of this person. She has been an outstanding and unreservedly great friend to all of my family virtually from the day she arrived on the Island. Her Name is Mary Jane Logan, nee Balser. Now before you go ballistic and click off, if you are not an MJ fan, push yourself to at least try to read on for a minute.You may be surprised. MJ has a warm and caring demeanor when dealing with people, especially young people. She also has a forceful and direct personality when it is called for. By her own admission, the fact that she comes from Italian stock gives her license to talk fast and loud and wave her arms around when conversing! She is not one to toot her horn and is going to be mortified when she hears of this. But I am sick and tired of listening to people who know nothing of her, other than what they see at public meetings. Demeaning, chastising, berating, and in every way possible, trying to besmirch and destroy her reputation and credibility, is the goal of a few people. By the way , at the end of this there will be a question, yes this is a test! Some previous council members were apparently terrified of her intelligence and integrity and did all they could to engineer and facilitate her departure from the office of the Finance Director. Look at what their inept decision has wrought! When MJ first came to the Island the new gym was in the works. On its completion, she and her husband Don Logan set up and ran the adult basketball league for many years, something she had done previously at various YMCA's. She rounded up money to pay for various and sundry things while Don kept the score books and ran the scoreboard. No pay by the way. The preschool in the bottom of the Harbor Church was a dismal and foreboding place to have a bunch of small kids. It lacked a lot of amenities including chairs etc. Out of their own pocket to the tune of $5K, they bought and erected a play center located there and which I assume then went to the new place. Year after year for a long time, she donated most of the food etc. for the preschool fundraiser spaghetti dinners. More than a couple of bucks! She has helped many of the young familes navigate the intricacies of the paperwork necessary to become a home owner on BI. She and Don even co signed loans for at least two separate families in order for them to own a home! She provides excellent housing for her employees and treats them as human beings which is more than we can say for some business owners here on BI. She also provides housing for young people who are not on her employee list. She wrote all the grants, filled out all the necessary town , state and federal forms , plus those from the lending institutions, went to all the required board meetings and sheparded the Ambrose Lane project from beginning to end including being the Project Manager for the job. Which I have to add was completed in a timely manner. I hope that the wording in the grants didn't offend Mr. Robert E. Smiths sensibilities to much! Over the 18 years she hs been here, she has written grants for work on the Sewer Co., Water Co.,( tanks, pipes, machinery etc.) Housing, and others to numerous and varied to count. The totals for these grants run upwards of 15-20 million dollars. She was asked by a former First Warden to help get the towns treasury books in order. She volunteered her time and paid out of her pocket, the wages for one of her employees to help with the job which was by anyones standards, an unmitigated disaster! After being appointed Town Treasurer, she worked for the next few years to get 100's of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties abated that had accumulated from years of unpaid payroll taxes both state and federal and in liens asessed against the town by the IRS, that had been incurred by the former treasurer. She brought all the town finances into one central office instead of being farmed out all over the place. The payroll for all town employees, plus the water and sewer companies. Also all the billing was done from the same place. This was done in a timely manner that precluded the town having to go out and borrow money against anticipated income to keep the town running smoothly. All the towns property tax billing and collection was located there also which contributed to upwards of a 95% collection rate. This town bond rating was one of the highest in the state. I doubt if it still is given the unbelievable mis-management that now prevails in the finance office and the town hall. So I guess this is about it for now. I thought it was time MJ was given the public KUDO'S for all she has down for this town. Remember Joseph Connolly? He used to call her the "IRON LADY" in a slightly derrogatory tone, but in the end as he came to know he,r it became a term of respect. To bad some other people can't see past the outside veneer. Now comes the promised aformentioned question, Please name for me at least (1) one other person on this Island that can even come close to equalling her deeds? Be they monentary, or deeds of compassion and helpfulness to an individual . I am sincerely ended! TTFN Everett .

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Everett, MJ may be a little feisty, but all of us have a few little quirks that make each of us unique. People may think of her as an "Iron Lady" but I think she really has a soft heart and does so much for the people on the Island that is constantly skewed to make her look bad. Can anyone step into her shoes and help as many people as a whole as she has . I think NOT.

I can understand conservationists being upset because their little secret it out. There is a cause and an effect to all of the conservation of land on the island. I love all of the open space we have, I won't deny that it is great, but for every lot or piece of land that is conserved there is an effect. The effect to me is pretty clear. There is less land available. If there is less of something what little remains becomes more valuable. Unless I am missing something, that is cause and effect, something I learned in grammar school as a child.

Here's another one. If there is less and less affordable and stable yearround housing there will be fewer and fewer people to work and run the island.
Case in point this last snow. Do you think it was the people who own big houses who were out plowing the roads all night? (Kudos to them they did a great job!!) How would you have liked it they had to wait to take a Commuter boat to come over to the island for the privledge of plowing out the roads. These are the same people that will be there in the middle of the night putting out house fires or helping you in a medical emergancy.

MJ knows how important different issues are. The public shouldn't make her their personal punching bag. If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all especially if what you heard is just a continuation of the Block Island rumor mill. Get your facts right before you go slamming her and you will find you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

I have found that people have a tendency to be intimidated by strong-willed women. I have had the opportunity to talk to Mary Jane on several occasions. And Mary Jane is strong-willed. But what always comes through for me is that her heart is as much in it as her will is. She has nothing to gain from all of the work she does for the town and the people who live in it. No more than you or I do. She recognizes that without a year-round population there is no "Block Island." I have watched too many wonderful people and families leave this Island because they couldn't find a place to live. We always hear about protecting open space, it was about time someone started talking about protecting the future of Block Islands' soul.

I love Block Island because of the diverse bunch of people who have chosen to, and who work hard to, live here. I love it because of the no-nonsense attitude of the lifelong Islanders. They remind us of what is important and necessary (common sense!). I've often felt as though I am in the presence of my grandparents when talking to the true matriarchs and patriarchs of the Island. They remind me that there have been bad times and good, and not to take any of it for granted. This is the soul of the Island, this mix of old and new, conservative and liberal, pro-this and anti-that. The fact that we care.

jhnyrckt said...

I'm happy to see the spot on Mary Jane. When I arrived on BI all I heard was negatives about this woman know as MJ... and when I finally meet her I learned my first lesson for living on BI - never believe the hype. She was anything BUT what these naysayers said. In fact most never had a conversation with her... which is often the case.

I voted for her because I beleive she has has no private agenda - her agenda is for the benefit of the Island and she has a no a nonsense, get it done now, type A personality... which is what we need. It is discouraging to see a TM and select councilors try to undermine someone who has long term VISION.

When I congratulated her on her election I asked for one thing, which was asked of her long ago, fix the Town. The Town has been overbudget since the new regime, spent more money on consultants which have done what?, still haven't closed a contract with there own employees, have no vision or long term plan... Could the TM or councilors answer "where is this BI going to be in 10 years?" how bout 5? or one?

Why hasn't there been an investigation on the misdealings of the finance department? MJ was crucified the excellent job she did. God forbid if we find that the Islander, running our island now, made a mistake, and certainly don't hold anyone accountable. The Town of Middletown investigated similar misdealings and it's time BI taxpayers were given some explainations.

Right now MJ is the only person at any level of management that can get us on the right track... are the others willing to give up what they call pride and agree to move forward? Time will tell...

This should be interesting as all unfolds

Anonymous said...

.I posted a comment daqy before yesterday but it must have gotten lost. To repeat: I don't know Mary Jane Balser personally but have seen her in action at a few town council meeting -- and she is truly impressive!! Smart, knowledgeable, no hot air, goes right to the crux of the matter under discussion. Obviolusly very intelligent and a logical thinker. The town has been mismanaged for too long (what a mess!!) and I hope Mary Jane can get it all back on track again.