Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fifty Years Later...

For those of you who think that institutional racism is dead and that only fringe lunatics espouse these beliefs, I give you this story from Maine.

David Marsters is a retired Massachusetts police officer, and a former member of the Navy and National Guard He and his wife moved to Maine upon retirement because he and his wife couldn't afford to live in Massachusetts on their pensions.

He was elected as a Town Selectman in Sabattus, Maine, and is currently running for reelection. During his last term, he proposed a town ordinance requiring all town residents to own a gun.

There are many conservatives who probably agree with his public stated beliefs, until he recently crossed the line with a bigoted attack on President Obama.

He recently posted a picture of President Obama on his Facebook page with the caption: "Shoot the N-----."

When asked to clarify his remarks, he said:
"I think it's a lot of hogwash," Marsters said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I did not threaten the president. ... I might have used the wrong words. ... I didn't say I was going to do it."

He said his post was taken out of context.

"What I really meant to say is, 'When are we going to get rid of this (expletive),'" he said. "I should have said, 'I hope the bastard dies.'"
Now they will denounce him as a fringe lunatic, who doesn't represent true conservatism.

Instead of complaining that all conservatives are demonized as racists, at some point the conservative movement in this country must ask themselves why so many of their political allies advocate violence and bigotry against minorities, and specifically, President Obama.

Then they have to work to fight that bigotry. That's the message of Dr. King, espoused in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
"In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action."
It's time to have that conversation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Burry in Worceter???

Apparently protesters on both side of the worm-food 'debate' can't spell. (Is it just me, or does he look like the guy who hands out Jesus or Hell? pamphlets and on the bridge over the Pike before Red Sox games?)

This picture by is from a MotherJones.com article on the disposition of dead criminals. Initially the caption mislabeled the city as Cambridge, not Worcester. Some jerk decided to fix their error and own up to our stupidity.

Speaking of stupidity:

Why Worceter indeed. Perhaps the seven publicly funded Worcester marketing teams currently in existence can adopt this slogan and graphic. This picture comes from aidanfromworcester.com, and his write up of the protest is pretty hilarious.

Stay tuned tomorrow at 11:30AM, when I have a press conference in front of Billy Breault's house announcing my Kickstarter Vacation Project, #SendBillyToRussiaWithTheCorpse.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How We Respond To A Crisis.

This graphic touched me the most out of any internet meme following the Marathon bombings last week. It was designed by Aaron Bouvier of Hairpin Communications, and proceeds of the sale of merchandise bearing the logo will go to the One Fund Boston.

Out of all the graphics that flooded Twitter and Facebook, why did this particular graphic touch me the most? It's a brilliant design, contrasting the sights of Boston with a simple message of love in a time of great fear. While I understand the fear and anger following the bombings in the days after the attack, the reaction of our community in the hours after the attack was truly inspiring and should sustain us in the days ahead.

Our compassion and selflessness is what really matters and makes us great when tragedy strikes: strangers helping strangers survive horrific injuries; first responders rushing into danger to save others; people selflessly donating time, money, blood, and housing to those displaced.


As the manhunt stretched out over the week, our initial reaction of solidarity and compassion began to change as information (including too much misinformation) poured out over the airwaves and on the internet. One of the most common refrains changed from Boston Strong to You Messed With the Wrong City.

While I am a big fan of Boston sports, the image of kid friendly mascots channeling their inner Boondock Saints was a little much for me. No matter how hard you try, Wally the Green Monster isn't going to look intimidating, nor should he.


Local author Dennis Lehane captured the best interpretation of 'Boston Strong/You Messed With the Wrong City':
Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon. We won’t drive to New Hampshire and stockpile weapons. When the authorities find the weak and terminally maladjusted culprit or culprits, we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives."
Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell appeared on the opposite end of the spectrum, hijacking the tragedy to interject his unrelated political agenda into an ongoing manhunt.

Speaking as a Massachusetts liberal, I spent the night inside and let the thousands of armed professionals do their jobs. I invite Nate Bell and his AR-15 to roam the streets of Boston and we'll see how the FBI, National Guard, State Police, the BPD, and Massachusetts citizens armed with a simple 911 call respond to his armed presence on our streets.


Two compelling and thoughtful responses came out directly addressed to the surviving suspect: one from Michael Rogers, a Jesuit Deacon from Rhode Island, and the other from musician Amanda Palmer from Cambridge. Both authors struggled with the horror of the bombings and incomprehension over the youth and inexperience of the second suspect, posing questions over our shared humanity despite his alleged crimes.

Deacon Rogers writes:
"I am glad that you are going to prison, and I hope that you will have many long years there in supermax in Colorado. I hope that no one I love will ever be threatened by you again, but I can’t hate you. 

I can’t hate you because whatever you brought into Boston was enough hate for a good long while, I won’t and can’t hate anymore. 

I can’t hate you because I remember being 19, I thought many things were a good idea which weren’t. I never would have went where you were, but I was certainly not an adult at 19. 

I can’t hate you because, even though you did unspeakable things... somehow you are still my brother and your death can never be my gain.

I can’t hate you, and not just because I am a Catholic, and a Christian, and because in a couple of months I will be a priest, I am a human and I simply can’t hate you. 

Dear Dzhokhar, I still have hope for you."
Amanda Palmer's poem was haunting, powerful and at times, uncomfortable:
"you don’t know how convinced your parents were that having children would be, absolutely, without question, the correct thing to do.

you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat.

you don’t know how to get away from your fucking parents.

you don’t know how it’s possible to feel total compassion in one moment and total disconnection in the next moment.

you don’t know how things could change so incredibly fast.

you don’t know how to make something, but the instructions are on the internet.

you don’t know how to make sense of this massive parade.

you don’t know how to believe anyone anymore."

Deacon Rogers' letter was received in a far more positive manner than Amanda Palmer's. The comments on her blog post and Twitter feed make for an interesting read, as does her explanation of the poem's meaning. Perhaps the divergence of public opinion is due the medium (open letter versus poem), perhaps due to the author's image (aspiring priest versus exotic and sometimes controversial artist), but both managed to address our common humanity without the filter of tribalism or simplistic notions of good versus evil. Both are challenges to review our conscience and empathy, vital at a time when our principles are challenged by horrific events.


Sadly, some of our elected officials couldn't remember our common humanity, or even our Constitution as they paraded before cameras wishing to seem tough and implacable in the face of adversity. Just days after voting to preserve the 2nd Amendment, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina conveniently managed to ignore the rest of the Bill of Rights for an American citizen arrested for allegedly committing a crime within the United States.

Senator Graham, a lawyer and former Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force, seems to forget that Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph were all U.S. citizens and bombing suspects, and were arrested, Mirandized, and found guilty of bomb attacks within our borders.

In light of the civilian sleuths on Reddit fingering the wrong people in photographs (the thread has been removed), the false flag fools (I refuse to link to any of that garbage), the Twitter geniuses who couldn't differentiate between the Czech Republic and Chechnya, the New York Post's incompetence and refusal to recognize their mistakes, or Fox News contributors advocating genocide, let's be glad that our Constitution and laws allow for a more measured, fact based response to any crime as horrific as the Marathon bombings.

The suspect will get his day in court. Both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have the chance to provide their evidence of his guilt, culled from thousands of hours of investigation by law enforcement. The suspect will be represented by counsel if he so chooses, and that counsel can offer a rebuttal to the evidence and testimony presented against their client. A jury of his peers will render a verdict based upon testimony and evidence, and justice will be served.

If we are a great and just nation, then whatever laws and best practices we apply in our republic on a good day should be the same ones we apply on our worst day.

That is strength tempered by compassion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

As I See What???

Tuesday, April 9th featured this Telegram and Gazette opinion piece from Chris Pinto, Vice Chairman of the Worcester Republican City Committee and member of Activate Worcester. Mr. Pinto, as an avid gun owner and Republican, would like us to know that the NRA and Republican Party is the savior of African-Americans, and that the gun and liberty hating Democratic Party isn't.

Mr. Pinto claims:
"the NRA had saved many freed slaves from a certain death at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan."
Nowhere in the NRA's Brief History is there a reference to arming freed ex-slaves to defend themselves against the KKK.

The organization was founded in New York because:
"Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. The primary goal of the association would be to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis," according to a magazine editorial written by Church."

As a student of history, Mr. Pinto should perhaps look to the actions of the NRA when African-Americans were armed.

In 1967, California Governor Ronald Reagan, with the support of the NRA, signed the Mulford Act into law, which prohibited the public display of loaded firearms. Republican State Assemblyman Don Mulford sponsored the bill due to the presence of heavily armed Black Panther Party members who were patrolling neighborhoods and observing arrests of Oakland African Americans by the Oakland Police. The heavily armed Black Panthers formed their patrols because:
"WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, All OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES.We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces."

His final claim is by far, the most tortured in its internal logic:
"For purely political reasons, Mr. Obama wants Americans to believe that the NRA and the Republicans are the only things stopping him from making our children safer, all while completely ignoring the 500 murders in Chicago last year, where it is illegal to possess a firearm."
While it is true that Chicago lead the nation in murders in 2012, and it is true that Chicago has a very strict ban on handguns, it is also true that Chicago is not an island or a walled city. Towns and states that surround Chicago supply the city with firearms procured through straw purchasers and imported guns, rendering Chicago's gun ban moot.
"More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store, Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits."

I would like to commend Mr. Pinto for recognizing his father's admiration for Harry Truman, a Democrat. If he remembers his history classes at Doherty Memorial High, he will recall that Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military. I like that spirit of bipartisanship, even when it runs counter to his claim that "They wish to control all aspects of the lives of Americans of all colors and creeds." 


Why would a member of the Republican Party write such a piece?

There has been somewhat of a dialogue within the Republican Party about outreach beyond their base following their loss in the 2012 election. Much of that dialogue has been about outreach to the Latino population and a reappraisal of their immigration platform. Other members of the Republican party, concerned that they are viewed as racists

because of their virulent

and sometimes violent opposition

to President Obama, have undertaken a quest to rewrite history in an attempt to make the Republican Party more friendly to African-Americans.


Good luck with that approach.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mixed messages.

What I find confusing, and even frustrating, are statements such as this from today's (04/02/13) T&G article regarding playing field conditions:
"Crews from the Department of Public Works and Parks will be performing much-needed maintenance to the fields over the next several days."
How is that confusing? Contrast that quote with the following quote from a January article regarding the loss of Tag Days for local little leagues:
"When the city faced difficult budget challenges 25 to 30 years ago, Mr. O’Brien said, the city essentially “walked away” from some maintenance issues at many of its fields and facilities used by local youth sports leagues because of deep cuts in the Parks Department budget."
If the the City Manager says the City has "walked away" from maintaining local ball fields, why does  the Public Works and Parks Commissioner claim that the DPW will work on little league fields before releasing permits?

There is no denying that our city parks and sports fields are currently waterlogged and unplayable. The City has a right to delay use of the fields until they are playable.

However, there are many baseball fields in the City of Worcester that are maintained exclusively by volunteers from local leagues. Most leagues are very sensible about field conditions, and won't endanger the playing surfaces or children by playing on waterlogged fields. They'll do the necessary work to fix up the fields between now and the start of the season, which is usually the second or third weekend in April.

A blanket ban on field use for leagues that are doing the City's work for free, with materials purchased by donations and league fees, isn't practical or fair. That's not how partnerships work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The T&G Comment Section: "A wretched hive of scum and villainy"

Today's (01/30/13) Telegram and Gazette article about William 'Mo' Cowen's interim appointment to the U.S. Senate featured the following comments:

These comments are the perfect example of the T&G's unmoderated boards; commenters full of ignorance, fear, racism, and not full of knowledge about grammar, capitalization, or punctuation. Filth like this is allowed to fester on these boards, unchecked, and most definitely not provided with an ounce of reality.

I wonder if any of these comments will make it to the print edition's Opinion section, where they re-print a few choice selections from the same suspects every day? I doubt it, but they will remain on the boards unless someone complains.

Speaking of doozies, a recent article (either this one or this one) about guns prompted this classy comment:

For those of you not paying attention to the lunatic fringe in this country, truthbetold is alluding to the various conspiracy theories that maintain that Newtown and Aurora were fake events manufactured by the Obama Administration to 'take away our guns.'

Filth like this makes me ashamed to be from Worcester, surrounded by these assholes. Thankfully, we have a robust First Amendment that protects the speech of these assholes, but a craven organization like the T&G that doesn't make them reveal their identities so we can mock them, shun them, and educate them.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Walking and Painting Downtown.

Right on cue, here are a few posts I found while perusing Facebook that vastly improve upon what I wrote earlier today.

Worcester is a scary place to bike and walk. I know, because I do it all the time. All future development needs to take into account a few developing trends: the rising price of gasoline, the expense of owning/insuring/parking a car in a downtown area, and the increasing use of bicycles.

While this post focuses on suburban sprawl, these lessons on pedestrian access are vital for Worcester. There are some pretty wide open and well traveled roads in Worcester that need fixing.

This post focuses more on what we need in Worcester, and says it better than I did in my last post. All the author lacks is a few details about Worcester's neighborhoods to get it right.

I especially liked the point about blank walls and surface lots breaking up pedestrian views and interactions with the areas that surround them.

From a Kansas City parking garage:
Book Stairs in Greenville, South Carolina:

From Indianapolis, where a hotel hired an artist to 'vandalize' their garage:
From Lucerne, a creative way to discourage littering:
 Designs for blank walls in Open Walls Baltimore:
A creative way to liven up sidewalks from Sao Paolo:
In Madrid, an artist named SpY created this skate ramp:
SpY's streetlight is awesome, and could even point the way to other attractions:

Imagine if the new City Square/Theatre District encouraged art like this? It certainly would brighten up the proposed pedestrian areas and our many concrete bridges that surround the area.

Downtown redevelopment.

Here's my wishlist for our future downtown, with City Square coming to life and the proposals being floated for the Theater District.

To attract anyone downtown and transform downtown Worcester into an 18 hour area, we need the following:

-Better transportation systems: Clearly marked bike lanes, longer bus hours, clean and dependable cabs, and a trolley bus system and summer pedi-cabs that link marketed areas (Theater District, Canal District, Shrewsbury Street).

-Integrated, affordable parking systems: We need clearly marked multiple parking hubs near walkable areas, and no more destruction of buildings for surface lots. Imagine if all the surface lots between Mechanics Hall, the DCU Center, and the new Courthouse weren't there, or the surface lots next to the RMV and across Madison Street on Southbridge Street. We could easily equal the capacity of all those surface lots with a parking garages similar to the one across from the Hanover Theater, and free up the rest of those areas for development. Portsmouth, NH has plenty of cheap parking on the fringes of their downtown, leaving the rest for residential needs and creating a contiguous, pleasant walking experience.

-Memorable architecture: Re-purposed existing storefronts, restored historic buildings, mixed use buildings, and open areas/greenspace/park benches for community use. Please, no more concrete bunkers or pre-fab soulless glass towers. It's too late for the new bus hub or the Cancer center, but a little imagination goes a long way: the new entrance of the Library fixed a disastrously ugly building.

-More green space: Encourage the development of micro-parks, community gardens, street island plantings, and sidewalk plantings. Green space could be multi-purpose, used as a Farmer's Market, outdoor concert venue, skate park, and food truck area. Imagine what can be done with the plaza in front of City Hall now that bus traffic is moving to Union Station!

-Recreational opportunities: The new ice rink on the Common is a fantastic idea. We also need a skate park, unless we want to officially turn the DCU triangle or the old Courthouse into what it already is. I like the idea of the hockey rinks, but I dislike the idea of building rinks on public land for the benefit of private colleges first, then (maybe!?) the public second. There are better uses for the McGrath lot, unless the WBDC is willing to pay market price for the lot. Hockey rinks could move just down the street to Southbridge Street, or over to Madison Street (assuming we don't get a boutique hotel/gaming parlor). More soccer fields, more spray parks, and we definitely need a dog park!

-Locally owned food, coffee, and spirits: If we have street level cafes, bars, sandwich shops, delis and restaurants, people will come. We need some local character and flavor.

-Food options beyond 7-11 and Honey Farms: In other words, grocery stores within walking distance of all the proposed new downtown housing. The grocery store doesn't need to be huge- two small places similar to Banana Joe's on West Boylston Street would be wonderful. A Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods over at the abandoned lots on Madison Street would be fantastic. We also have the old Farmer's Market on the corner of Main and Madison being used as office space, which is a shame.

-Food trucks and street vendors. Look at the recent success of the lunchtime summer concerts on the Common and the new ice oval. Part of that success has been due to the presence of actual food vendors, and things to do and see. Imagine if Movies on the Common had some food trucks also!

-More afternoon/evening/weekend destinations: We already have the Hanover Theater, Mechanics Hall, and the Library. Imagine if we also had a bookstore, more art galleries, a small movie theater (bring back the Bijou!) and the proposed black box theater?

-More festivals downtown: Look at the success of stART on the Street, the Latin Festival, and begrudgingly, the Summer Nationals. More people downtown means more attention, and less negativity. The ice rink and Movies on the Common have been successful, despite our innate cynicism. Let's keep expanding!

-Aggressive enforcement of city ordinances: We have too many decaying buildings and abandoned lots. At the very least, we should transform abandoned lots into local gardens (remember Mayor O'Brien's proposal?). We have far too many deadbeat property owners in this city willing to sit on decaying lots and buildings in the hope that something better will come their way, and until then, it's a write off. Nothing better will come our way unless we improve what we have.

-Realistic market pricing for housing and businesses: The city and local realtors need to be a bit more practical in creating incentives for small businesses to flourish downtown. It seems as if local realtors are happy with the churn and burn route to occupancy, which leads to empty storefronts that were once home to the kind of businesses that don't bring in visitors. The city could help by easing the permitting/inspection system, which is difficult to navigate. Perhaps the proposed business incubators at Gateway Park and the T&G building could help. Remember the redevelopment of the Berwick Building and the prices they wanted? How full is that building now?

-Develop what we have in place on Major Taylor Boulevard, Chandler Street and Pleasant Street extending out from Main Street. That area has some wonderful buildings, and great potential to easily redevelop areas that has been underutilized. Take a look at what happened in Green Island. That could happen there!

-Lastly, we need to respect ourselves. Far too often it seems as if we try so hard to attract the right sort of investors, and end up with the wrong sort after too many promises, TIFs, and deals from the city. We are the second largest city in New England, and have a lot to build upon here in Worcester. We are going in the right direction, but development shouldn't come at the cost of what we already have, and more importantly, cost us more than we get back. No more giveaways of public land, no more sweetheart deals without enforcement mechanisms, and no privatization of services. Also, no more coddling of the property speculators who have allowed Worcester to deteriorate over the past 40 years. Responsible ownership creates a beautiful city.

I spent Columbus Day weekend in Troy, NY, a city about one third of the size of Worcester, but very similar in history. Both cities are former mill towns with plenty of old housing/brick factories, both are county seats, and both have a sizable college population. We even used to have National League baseball teams back in the 1880's. The one main difference is the presence of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River right next to Troy's downtown, an advantage we don't have. Yet downtown Troy, despite its image, despite its crime, has a downtown area that was walkable, mixed use, and interesting. It wasn't perfect, but there were plenty of places that had exactly what we need in Worcester, if we can build upon what we have.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two Way Street Time Warp!!!

Nick Kotsopoulos' City Hall Notebook for 01/21/13 mentions that:
"City Manager Michael V. O'Brien is recommending that Harding Street be made two-way, from Winter Street north to Temple Street."
That section of Harding Street is already two way, and has been since the new sidewalks were installed in July. Need some evidence? Here's a real estate listing where you can clearly see the two way street in front of 85 Harding Street (picture is taken from the parking lot of the former Smokestack BBQ, facing east).

The item made it to the City Council agenda for 01/22/13. What happens if they don't approve the ordinance? Will we have to repaint the street? Was this change made without the City's knowledge by MassDOT and now we have to approve it?

I found out about this change was by complete (and nerve wracking) surprise. I was bicycling down Temple Street towards Green Street, and as I came to the stop sign, I looked right towards what used to be the only source of oncoming traffic. Suddenly, a car passed me from my left, and I yelled at the driver for going the wrong way down a one way street. To my surprise, it was no longer one way. I asked the few people I know in our city government, and no one had an answer for the sudden change in plans. Now I have an incomplete answer.