Paul Feely's City Hall: Levasseur defiant after critics squawk over tweetsBy PAUL FEELY
June 30. 2018 8:43PM
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Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur is no stranger to controversy, and a series of recent comments on social media and local cable shows has once again riled up some in the city.
Levasseur has an answer for those calling him out on Twitter and Facebook.
"It's my opinion and I'm entitled to it," he said.
On June 20, Levasseur tweeted that FBI agent Peter Strzok "should be tried for treason and hung by a rope and no I'm not kidding. Undermining of a presidential election and trying to impeach a president by fraud by a high-ranking intelligence officer is treason."
The tweet was in response to Rep. Trey Gowdy, who criticized Strzok's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Prior to sending the tweet, Levasseur used an electronic sign outside Theo's, his Elm Street restaurant, to call out freshman Ward 8 Alderman John Cataldo for voting to override the city's tax cap, despite promises made on the campaign trail to support the cap.
The sign's message, posted by Levasseur on Facebook before a budget vote was cast, said "Ward 8 Alderman John Cataldo sells out taxpayers."
On June 18, Manchester resident Blake Tyler tweeted "Hi @NHGOP @NHGOPSenate any word or condemnation against your president that is ripping children away from their parents and locking them in cages?" Levasseur responded with a tweet saying, in part, "Why don't you grow up, you anti-American puke."
Levasseur also placed a Pee-wee Herman doll on a desk next to him while discussing another alderman, Will Stewart of Ward 2, on his weekly cable access show with Will Infantine.
In a statement to the Union Leader, Levasseur addressed those questioning through social media and news sites whether he should be in office.
"My sign at Theo's called out John Cataldo's tax cap override vote for selling out the voters in Ward 8," Levasseur wrote. "The Union Leader called him a liar. I agree with the Union Leader. I did refer to Alderman Stewart as Pee-wee Herman, but who doesn't like Pee-wee? Hardly a slight, especially since he dressed up as Pee-wee in a parade."
Levasseur went on to address his tweet about Strzok.
"The top FBI agent said he would stop Trump from becoming President," Levasseur said. "After putting Trump through this phony witch hunt, I think Strzok should be arrested, charged with treason, and if found guilty, hung. Save the electricity."
And the Blake Tyler tweet?
"I take it personally that this Maxine Waters protege demanded the NH GOP condemn Trump for 'ripping babies' from their mothers and putting them in 'cages,'" Levasseur said. "His tweet is the lowest form of politics and he should be ashamed, but as soon as he's called out, he plays the victim."
Tyler worked on Mayor Joyce Craig's campaign and is part of the Manchester Young Democrats.
Levasseur also answered those questioning his sponsorship of this column.
"I have been advertising with the UL since 1999 as a politician and various races," Levasseur said. "Twice during that time span the UL has demanded I resign as chairman of the Republican city committee and as an alderman, they have endorsed my opponents and rarely ever endorsed me. I advertise in the UL because its a good price for what I get."
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June 30 has come and gone without a new contract between the city and the Manchester Education Association, meaning the union-authorized "work to contract" effort (i.e. doing only what's in their contract and no more) is underway.
"Action is difficult and at times painful: if we stick together we have unlimited power to educate and make the changes we desire," reads a flier distributed to MEA members. "While some may say that working to the letter of the contact paints MEA in a negative light with the public, be assured that there will be continual press about what we are doing."
The flyer includes several directives related to the work effort, including:
. Box up all of your personal belongings. We will not enter our buildings after June 30th. Do not set up your classrooms/offices/work sites prior to the start of the new school year.
. Until we have a successor contract, we will enter and leave our buildings with each other starting on the first day for staff (August 31).
. We will meet in the front of each school and walk in together through the front doors.
. We will meet in the entry area at the scheduled end of our day and walk out together.
. If you have morning or afternoon duties, please be on those duty stations as scheduled. No pre-prep over the summer. Do nothing unless receiving a stipend or you're compensated in some manner. Continue to wear red every Monday. Wear your MEA pins.
. Attend Board of School Committee and Aldermanic meetings.
"It is both disappointing and curious that the MEA's leadership has chosen to punish our students, families and even its own members, with this job action," said Rich Girard, chair of the district's Special Committee on Negotiations and At-Large member of the school board. "A better course of action would be for them to return to the table rather than trying to rile people up."
Girard said it's too early to know if the action will have any impact on future talks with the union.
"I don't know, but it's very unlikely to change our approach to negotiations," Girard said. "We have released all of our proposals and call on them to release theirs. So far, we've not rejected much."
Talks are at a standstill, Girard said.
"The MEA has yet to respond to our public invitation to resume negotiations," Girard said. "So, at this time, there are no negotiations. Once again, if they want to restart negotiations, all they have to do is ask."
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at email@example.com.