Saturday, May 29, 2010

A seven person bike!

I put down my regular one person bike and went for a ride on a seven person bike this morning at Elm Park with some great people.

There's an all afternoon event on Russell Street in support of Ipsaci Corp.  Their goal is to raise money to train medical personnel, teachers and social workers to help women brutalized by the war in the Congo.  I picked up The Hurdles of a Young Doctor by Pierre Syvialeghana and had a nice morning ride.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I wonder how much this new playground cost at Roosevelt School? It doesn't say on the School Improvement Plan, but here's the money quote:

"We plan to reach out to our community businesses to build partnerships which will benefit our students as well as the business. Presently, many of the businesses close to Roosevelt are taking an active role in helping to raise funds to build a community playground on school property."

I'll bet it's cheaper than the Providence Street playground.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm not surprised.

There was an interesting piece on yesterday about the State Probation Office and patterns of nepotism and cronyism under the direction of Jack O'Brien.

Central Massachusetts made the article with a reference to former Worcester Courthouse Probation Officer Ashley Losapio and references to West Boylston's State Representative James J. O’Day, Charlton's State Representative Geraldo Alicea, and Clinton's State Representative Harold P. Naughton Jr.


I saw this link on Facebook today.

I'm speechless.

More Crime in Tatnuck.

A dangerous criminal was on the loose on the West Side of Worcester yesterday morning.  The comment section accompanying the article was especially entertaining.  

Worcester's reaction to black bears reminds me of this MST3K short, Catching Trouble (fast forward to the 3:40 mark for the black bear):

Friday, May 14, 2010

Worcester Public Schools and the Kansas City Royals.

The Kansas City Royals fired manager Trey Hillman after a 12-23 start to the 2010 season.  For his career, he was 152-207 as a manager for the worst team in baseball.  Hillman was the 13th Royals manager since the orgainization's last postseason appearance in 1985.  During that 25 years of futility, the Royals only had 7 seasons over .500.  There is something wrong in Kansas City, and it isn't the managers.  (Side note if you're a sports fan- take the time to read through Joe Posnanski's blog.  He's one of my favorite sports writers.)  That sort of futility shows that there are problems with the organization, its ownership, and the way Major League Baseball is structured.

So why fire the manager?  I believe it's a cosmetic move to let fans know that something is being done to solve the problem.  The Royals have been rebuilding and developing minor league talent since the mid 1990's.  In 2003, Tony Pena managed the team to a winning record, surprising the baseball world.  The next year, the Royals were the same old Royals, and the following season, Tony Pena was fired.  (Where did Tony Pena end up?  As the bench coach for the Yankees.  No wonder the Yankees haven't won a World Series Championship this millenium...wait, never mind, damnit!)

The problem in Kansas City lies in its front office.  Their ownership hasn't hired a general manager that has been able to develop good major league talent and retain it.  Due to the payroll cutting tendencies of David Glass (CEO of Walmart), the Royals have struggled since 1993 to field a winning team.  Whatever talent the Royals have developed has been traded away for less value because of the Royals' cost cutting business model.  How can this organizational incompetence be Trey Hillman's fault or any of their managers' fault?

Three years from now, David Glass will probably end up firing current manager Ned Yost.  Ownership will say that this time, the 'new' manager that will bring pride, titles and fans back to Kauffman Stadium.

Why am I writing about the Kansas City Royals?  Perhaps it's because I liked their teams in the early '80's.  Perhaps it is because I enjoy watching Zack Greinke pitch.  Perhaps it's because I'm still bitter they fired Tony Pena after 2+ seasons despite Tony winning the 2003 AL Manager of the Year with a team of nobodies.  Perhaps it is because David Glass owns the team, and I dislike Walmart.
Perhaps it is because this situation reminds me of this story.  I'm not saying the public schools are as incompetent as the Kansas City Royals.  I believe the changes at Chandler Elementary, Union Hill, and now Clark Street are cosmetic changes just like the firing of Trey Hillman and the hiring of Ned Yost in Kansas City.

Neither Mark Berthiaume or Denise Bahosh had the solutions for societal barriers to education that exist outside of Chandler Elementary or Union Hill.  I doubt that either Marie Morse or June Eressy will be able to raise test scores quicker than the previous principals within the three years they have to turn around Chandler Elementary and Union Hill.  The idea that improving education is a race and a competition ignores the reality that educating the entire populace is far more complex than new leadership or a new assessment test.  What happens in the school can be stymied by larger societal forces outside school- poverty, apathy, ignorance, unemployment, language barriers.  Education isn't a business, nor can the business model pertain to educating everyone in the public schools  (Jeff says it best here.) 

In 2013, I hope I don't have to read a story about Principals Morse and Eressy being fired or replaced because they couldn't raise test scores in underfunded inner city schools quick enough to please  politicians and bureaucrats and give voters a sense that something is being done to solve the problem.

After I'm done reading about the fate of our schools, I'll flip to the Sports section and see that the Royals have a new manager....again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to explain the new Arizona law to children.


I came home from practice and read Dee's post regarding the Providence Street Playground.  I also read Nicole's cost estimates for Providence Street, and I have to congratulate Worcester's Department of Public Works and Parks for another job poorly done.

A few years back, the City decided to daylight Beaver Brook throughout the length of Beaver Brook Park.  As part of the park makeover, they refurbished and relocated three of the four baseball/softball fields and the football field.  It took quite a bit of pressure to get DPW and Parks to address issues with the park redesign (details here, 2nd story down.)  As a 'compromise', Parks eliminated plans for the 4th baseball/softball field located on the site of the former football field due to safety concerns and flooding concerns.

When I was a kid, the open space behind the Little League's "A" field was a swamp that filled up with overflow from the brook every big rainstorm.  Then it was plowed under and became the Worcester Vikings' football field, which still flooded constantly.  During the 2005 redesign, Assistant Parks Commissioner Robert Antonelli assured the league that only 'historic rainfalls' will cause flooding of the open space once the work was completed.  Currently, that field is an open space the size of a football field and has a built in irrigation system and drainage.

Two summers ago, I witnessed a July thunderstorm that filled the entire open space and the whole right field of the "A" field with a foot of water in less than a half hour.  It's not the only time I've witnessed 'historic rainfalls.'  I can think of at least six instances in the past four years where I have personally witnessed Beaver Brook overflowing into the open space and the Little League field.

The open space gets a lot of use, and today I noticed two new additions to our practice space:

We now have sinkholes, four years after the project was completed.  Both holes, which range from six inches deep to over a foot in depth, are centered around sprinkler heads.  Both holes are expanding and very soft, so perhaps I will find this when I get down the field tomorrow:
I don't hold out much hope for the condition of our $500,000 Providence Street playground four years from now, and it's not because of vandalism.  I wonder how I should report this on the DPW help page.  Pothole?  Water Meter/Lawn Irrigation?  Item on Public Way?  Items in Waterway/Brooks?  There doesn't seem to be a Shoddy Workmanship form.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gary and Clive vs. The Budget.

Gary Rosen and Clive McFarlane tackled the city budget this week, and both came up lacking.  Perhaps it's the limitations of print media- if they could link to the budget, perhaps they could point out specific cuts to the budget.  Very rarely do you find print media in Worcester specifically pointing out where our tax dollars are wasted.  Instead, you get generalizations like these:
"City officials need to take some creative, courageous and painful steps that surely will anger special interest groups and some employee unions. But cutting spending, eliminating more overlap and waste, streamlining city government, and finding new revenue sources are what’s best for Worcester’s future." -Gary Rosen
That's the best you can offer as a former City Councilor, WPS employee and School Committee member?  Give us concrete details.  Call out positions and people by name.  Do some legwork and get some sunlight and accountability to save our tax dollars.  Otherwise I'm going to have to question an article that regurgitates Research Bureau talking points (privatize everything, PILOTs, soak our unions, and lower taxes for businesses.)  I've always voted for Mr. Rosen- he was always accessible to his constituents, and for the most part, we've agreed on the major issues.  As a journalist, he leaves a bit to be desired, unless he starts to use his experience to better tell his readers about the issues facing the city.

Clive McFarlane went a few steps further in his piece, but still fell short.
"I did, and here is what I found: Too many departments top heavy with chiefs, assistant chiefs and assistant to the assistant chief and assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the chief."
 Which ones????  Point it out to us.  Please use your journalist skills and list the departments and positions.  If you don't, it feels like you're just filling out another column....much like the irrelevant golf columns.
These are two of our better journalists, and writers I respect.  I had high hopes for both columns, and came away disappointed.  I know this is a city that behaves like a small town, but good government should trump any desire to avoid calling out individuals who are getting fat at the public trough (if they exist.)
Rosalie Tirella had her say about the budget, specifically the WPS side of the ledger.  Let's just be nice and say I don't agree with her take on things.