Worcester County Sherriff Audit

Just in case you were looking for the full report referenced by this breaking news article, you can find the full report here.

Briefly glancing at the report, something that you wouldn’t read in the brief T&G update or the press release is that there are some employee vacation balances that still haven’t been brought into the Commonwealth’s HR/payroll system, ten years after converting the system from the old one (KRONOS, exclusive to the Sheriff’s office) to the new one (HR/CMS, which is for the Commonwealth as a whole).  The liability for those vacation balances is nearly $500,000.

Worcester International Marketplace

Kate Toomey had posted a concept she’d been thinking about (called World Marketplace at Worcester or Worcester International Marketplace) on Facebook, and was soliciting opinions on the idea.

Before I share my thoughts, which will likely sound like criticism, to Kate Toomey’s idea, let me say that I appreciate that Kate Toomey is out there, trying to communicate with people online, soliciting opinions online.  Any real criticism I have is really directed at the executive branch of the city government, which is not doing the same.  In other words, Kate Toomey is not the problem.  (Yes, I am in the middle of reading Wiki Government, and when I finish, I’ll write a review with some recommendations on how the city could better use the web to engage citizens.)


On the Spag’s Mentality
I would also like to admit that I’m turned off by the phrase “perhaps we could avoid the SPAGS aspect.”  I know that there are a lot of people who look at the “Spag’s mentality” as a negative thing.  I do not.  The Spag’s mentality – which is, as far as I’m concerned, an offshoot of Yankee thriftiness – is what enables me to live my life.  I cannot afford to buy a new car.  If I were trying to buy a house in Worcester now, the only property I would be able to afford is a one-bedroom condo with major water damage.  I don’t thrift shop because it’s fun (even though it is); I thrift shop because I need to clothe myself and my family and I cannot afford the jeans prices at TJ Maxx, never mind any upscale boutiques.  I rely on the library because I cannot afford to buy new books every month.

I suspect that there are a lot of people like me in this city.  We don’t take the little things (like the price of parking or the increasing cost of city trash bags) seriously because we’re penny-pinchers who have nothing better to do with our time.  We take them seriously because those little things add up, and because those little things can make a big dent in our monthly budgets.

Of course there are people in this city who can afford all sorts of wonderful things, and I’m not resentful of that.  We could get into a whole discussion about people who think more about the increasing cost of trash bags than whether a dual tax rate is discouraging businesses from being in the city, and thus causing an increase in other taxes, like trash bags; but that’s a topic for another day and another blogger.

Union Station?
From what I can see of the visuals, it seems like the intention would be for this Marketplace to be housed in Union Station.  Here’s where the Spag’s mentality comes in: why would people pay $2 an hour to shop at Union Station when they wouldn’t spend $1 for three hours to shop at the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets?

Also, if it’s supposed to be at Union Station, where exactly would the Marketplace be?  If it’s going to be on the main floor, would that impact the restaurant being able to cater functions?  (Though I’m not a fan of the functions-in-a-train-station aspect to Union Station; as a commuter, I walked through way too many proms and fancy dinners.)

Who’s the target audience?
When I was reading about this, I was a bit confused about who this Marketplace is supposed to appeal to, because it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to appeal to people who actually make up the multicultural society this is supposed to be celebrating.  On my daily commute, I pass by quite a few small stores that would appeal to people from Africa, which are owned by people of African origin, who have a knowledge of what fellow Africans want to buy.  (And occasionally appeal to me as well; I passed by one store and was pleasantly surprised to find the Italian equivalent of Axe Body Spray, except it makes you irresistible to women instead of smelling like a thirteen-year-old boy.)

Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but this seems like something that would appeal to white folk with money to burn.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess it depends on whether we want a real cultural happening, or if we want someplace to buy knickknacks from around the world. 

Will people actually patronize it?
I thought this comment of Kate’s was especially interesting: “I remember at the Mall at Chestnut hill there was a wonderful store that sold Judaica and all sorts of products made in Israel…it isn’t there any more, and I thought there was some great stuff that I would buy.”

So, there was a store that no longer exists, where you thought you would buy stuff, but likely didn’t buy anything, and that’s the inspiration for this? 

I know that this is a concept that doesn’t really exist anywhere else in quite this format, but perhaps we should talk about the business plans for stores that are still in business or, at the very least, you actually bought something from. 

How can we solicit opinions from people who actually have know-how?
If we’re looking for opinions, and if Union Station is a proposed site, how can we engage citizens who have the proper know-how (retail experience, design experience, people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, etc.) and get the administration to take those people seriously?  And I think the latter is more of the question than the former.