By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — Of all the barbs traded yesterday at Mayor Stephen Zanni’s annual political roast — and there were many — the mayor’s lack of computer skills proved to be a popular theme.
That’s to be expected when the master of ceremonies also works in the municipal Information Technology department, which Zanni repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to privatize during his first term as mayor.
“It’s strange that Zanni would try to outsource the IT department considering that he knows nothing about computers,” said emcee John Molori. “Giving Steve Zanni a computer is like giving Stevie Wonder an Etch A Sketch! He thinks a hard drive is taking I-93 North on Friday afternoon.”
Molori roasted Zanni in front of a full house yesterday at the Sons of Italy on Merrimack Street. One of three IT employees at City Hall, Molori did give the Zanni administration credit for using social media.
“Or — given Steve’s electric personality — antisocial media,” said Molori. “And he’s Italian, so he does have a page on Shut Uppa Your Face-book.”
This is Zanni’s second consecutive Columbus Day weekend roast. He is seeking re-election and will face City Councilor-at-large Jennifer Kannan in the Nov. 5 municipal election.
Zanni told the crowd that all proceeds from yesterday’s event will be donated to the American Cancer Society in honor of breast cancer awareness month.
In past years, former Mayor William Manzi hosted an annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon. Zanni joked yesterday that he switched the tradition to recognize Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus, in part, because slow-simmering marinara sauce is much more pleasant than the smell of boiling cabbage.
In an attempt to rally the Irish in the crowd, state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, jokingly dismissed Zanni’s roast as “St. Patrick’s Hijack Day.” But Campbell, who at previous roasts has broken into song, did not escape criticism.
“Just because you look like Justin Bieber doesn’t mean you should sing,” said Zanni.
Other elected officials in the audience included state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives and state Rep. Diana DiZoglio. While Molori spared them, long-time Methuen pols Jack Cronin and James Jajuga did not get a pass.
Both Cronin and Jajuga are up for election to the City Council. Calling them out by name, Molori referenced the revolving-door of city politics, where incumbents are term-limited out of office only to return a few years later.
“It’s like a wax museum of (expletive) politicians,” said Molori. “Are you kidding me? Can we rotate it every millennium or so?”
Zanni was the main subject of ridicule. After reminding the crowd that Zanni beat mayoral challenger Al DiNuccio by only 34 votes in 2011, Molori parodied Frank Sinatra’s song “That’s Life” with a version of his own titled, “That’s Steve.”
“That’s Steve — that’s what all the people say,” said Molori. “You took office in January. We hated you by May. Your ego’s huge, but why? I just don’t know. You barely beat that lunatic, Al DiNuccio.”
Another verse in the song cited Zanni’s failed bids at IT privatization.
“That’s Steve — the Italian Lantigua. He told the IT department, ‘Hey, we don’t really need ya.’ But Stevie, you must always remember, you could be outsourced yourself, come this November.”