Leicester marijuana redux

When we last left our heroine, she was supposed to ask Chief Hurley how many tickets were issued in total.

Luckily, Clive McFarland found that they issued 252 tickets, which puts the rate of paid/issued tickets at 51% (versus Worcester and Dudley, which each had a rate of 64%).  (I should note that he, too, compare apples to oranges, however.  Worcester issued 58 tickets not “over the same period of time”, but over an 18-month period.)

It’s unclear whether the difference in rate is negligible or not, considering all the numbers are so low, but it does give us a slightly better basis for comparison with both Worcester and the similarly sized Dudley.)

I will follow up with Chief Hurley to see how many tickets he would estimate were issued to college students.

The following part of the column is of especial interest:

Which means, according to Chief Hurley, that an individual need not be caught with a joint, or even a roach, to be cited.

If the police determine that you have just finished smoking marijuana, by detecting the smell of marijuana on your person, for example, you can be cited, according to the chief.

The SJC recently ruled that you cannot be ordered out of your car on the basis of the smell of marijuana alone.

I don’t think this applies to pedestrians (which I think is likely what Chief Hurley is discussing here), but it’s always a good idea to know your rights, folks.

CWW: Neighborhood Nature Programs

via Mass Audubon:

There are going to be a few great (and free!) programs at Worcester parks this summer for parents and children.

Neighborhood Nature at Elm Park

Wednesdays, June 29 – August 24 / 1:00-4:00 pm
Fridays, July 1 – August 26 / 10:00 am-1:00 pm

Drop in anytime for activities, crafts, stories, and nature walks.

Take a break from the playground to learn about the plants and animals that can be found in Worcester through hands-on projects and games.

Neighborhood Nature on the Water at Green Hill Park

At Green Hill Park Pond

Fridays, July 8 – August 26 / 2:00-5:00 pm

Open to families with children ages 6 and up

Description: Join the fun in our canoes and learn about the wildlife that depend upon this park. We provide canoes, paddles, personal flotation vests, and basic canoeing instruction. You provide the enthusiasm and interest! Swimming skills are required.

An adult must accompany all participants under 18 years.

Program may be cancelled due to inclement weather. Please call 508-753-6087 to check program status. When there is a line, we ask participants to limit the ride to 20 minutes.

Someone deserves an honorary Toastmasters membership

I attended some of last week’s City Council meeting, and MG had a typically awesome quote that I scribbled on the back of a library receipt (for this book, which proved highly addictive).  He said it at about the 25 minute mark, about the Downing Street closure, and, while there are quote marks around this, it might not be an exact quote:

“Something might be missing in my head … and that’s not a hard thing to do.”

Say what you will about Mike Germain, but he seems like one of the few people in this city who’d be able to fully appreciate Astérix et Obélix contre César without subtitles.

Planning for Worcester Bloggers Night at the Tornadoes – Please Vote

I know that some folks had wanted to do a night at the Worcester Tornadoes, and that July worked for at least some of you.

If this is something that you’d like to come to, please indicate (in the poll below) which dates/times on the Tornadoes homegame schedule work for you.  Whichever date gets the most responses by Friday (July 1) will be the one I coordinate with the Tornadoes.

Love Fest

Tonight’s City Council meeting will feature the yearly evaluation of the City Manager.

I do not dislike the City Manager, and I don’t think he does a horrible job.  My feelings about his job performance are complicated, but are tempered by his excellent hair.

[Seriously, folks, if Mike O'Brien left his post, the Good Hair in the upper echelons of city government would be reduced by 50%.  Ponder that for a moment!]

You may recall that while the City Manager is supposed to be evaluated in four specific categories (Finance, Economic Development, Management Efficiencies, and Delivery of Public Services), last year’s evaluations were rather free-form.

The City Manager’s self-evaluation is available for your perusal.  He lists the following categories: Fiscal Discipline and Stewardship, Economic Growth and Expansion, Neighborhood and Housing Development, Infrastructure Improvements, Delivery of Core Municipal Services, Management Efficiencies and Improvements, and Awards and Legislative Accomplishments.

(So, somewhere in there the four categories are included.  I’ve tried perusing the minutes of Municipal Operations meetings to see if the evaluation categories have changed, and I couldn’t find any notes indicating a change.  If you find it, please let me know.)

As I said, with few exceptions (Barbara Haller’s being the most notable), last year’s Council evaluations did not evaluate the City Manager by those categories (and sub-categories).  This is unfortunate for the City Manager, and it’s equally unfortunate for the citizenry.

It’s not that the City Manager’s doing a lousy job.

It’s that this is the one time of the year for our elected officials to evaluate him based on mutually agreed upon categories, and the one time of the year when we’d have the opportunity to prioritize and set goals.

Last year, we turned the evaluation into a love fest.

And there’s really no reason this year’s evaluation shouldn’t involve a certain amount of measured admiration for our chief executive.

But the City Manager deserves — and we deserve — something more than a random listing of accomplishments bookended by numbers 4.7 and 5.0.  There are always areas for improvement, and there are always areas we should see our elected officials leading and directing our appointed officials.

This should be one of them.

(Self-promoting Note: I published a two-part series on Weak Mayor/Strong Mayor around this time last year, in anticipation of last year’s evaluation of the City Manager.  My opinions haven’t changed, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to read about the theoretical strengths of a Strong Mayor and the paradoxical strengths of a Weak Mayor.)

Asking a blunt question

Scott Croteau’s T&G article about marijuana citations and their discontents was quite good, in a connect-the-dots kind of way.

The great thing about the article — though it’s unsaid — is that it compares Leiceister’s marijuana citations (2010 census population = 10,970) versus Dudley’s (2010 census = 11,390).  Both towns have a small college, and they’re pretty close in population size, diversity (or lack thereof), and per capita income.

Unfortunately, the article has a lot of apples and oranges.  We’re told that Leicester has 126 unpaid citations that have been issued over the last two years; we don’t know how many have been paid (or issued, for that matter).  (We do know that “100+ decriminalized tickets” were issued in 2009, according to the Leicester PD website.)

We know that Dudley has 8 unpaid from the last seven months (out of a total of 22).  If you assume that there’s been a similar rate of paid/unpaid (and I wouldn’t necessarily assume), that rate would be about 88 over a total of two years.  (Where, again, Leicester issued more than 100 in the first year alone.)

According to the article, Worcester (2010 census = 181,045) has had 58 citations from September 11, 2009 to March 3, 2011, or roughly 18 months.  Again, assuming a similar rate, that would be about 77 citations in two years’ time.

That means that Leicester likely issued more tickets in one year (2009) than a similarly sized town did over two years, and that it issued more tickets in one year than a city sixteen times its population did over the course of two years.

That, my friends, is the real story.

Here’s what would help flesh this story out:

1) We need to know how many tickets Leicester has issued over the past two years.  Worcester’s rate of tickets paid vs. issued is 64% (37 paid/58 issued).  Dudley’s is also 64% (14 paid/22 issued).  Perhaps Leicester’s rate is the same; if they’ve issued roughly 340 tickets (which seems a distinct possibility), their rate is roughly equivalent to that of Worcester or Dudley.

2) It would help if we were comparing the same periods in this article.  Comparing a seven month period to a two-year period (with incomplete data) to an 18 month period makes for difficult reading.

3) It would help to know what a good rate of return is on these types of tickets.

The larger question, of course, is why the town of Leicester assumes that ticketing for possession of marijuana can make enough of a budget difference to pay for more than half a dozen part-time officers, or why Chief Hurley feels the primary reason people like me voted for this law is that we felt it would be a new revenue stream.

I didn’t vote for this because I wanted small-town cops in someone’s business about a relatively minor offense, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that it’s unenforceable.

I knew when I voted for it that it was unenforceable.  That was the point.

I am straight edge.  I really don’t see much difference between someone using that drug and using a legal drug like alcohol.  I certainly don’t see why someone should be punished for having a small amount of marijuana when they can carry a fifth of whiskey with no consequence.

And I should clarify: I don’t think Chief Hurley’s bad.  I wish the Worcester PD had a weekly column like his.  I drive through Leicester quite a bit, and I’ve never noticed predatory speed enforcement like I have in other towns.

But I think he’s really wrong about this, and it’s really unfortunate that he’s taken the law as a fiat from the electorate to offset municipal budget cuts by targeting stoners.  And I wish someone had asked why he’s taken it that way.

Cheap Dior Alert

I know I should save this for a Cheap Worcester Wednesday, but there is this absolutely awesome Christian Dior skirtsuit at Goodwill on Park Avenue for $15.  It’s a size 8, it’s purple-and-blue-striped, and even my husband feels it’s pretty nifty.

There is no way I am ever going to be able to squeeze myself into a size 8 skirt this lifetime, but if there’s one thing in the world j’adore, it’s Dior.  So if you are a size 8 and you, too, adore Dior, do not walk but RUN to Goodwill and pick up that outfit. 

And then send me a picture so that I can drool.

(Yes, I know I should take pictures of the new design of Goodwill.  Soon, mes amis!)