Penny Johnson Likely Interim Head Librarian

She’s willing to serve, and the Administration subcommittee will work out the details with her.  She likely will only be able to work for a limited time, because she’s a city retiree.

I’ll write more about the Library Board meeting after story time.

Update, March 30 — Then again, I fell asleep after story time.

So — as you read in today’s T&G, Penny Johnson will be asked to be an interim head librarian.  Because she is a retiree, she’ll likely work a reduced schedule (Tues-Thurs, or something similar) and the Board will need to interview and hire a new head librarian in a relatively quick timeline.  They will be request that the City Manager authorize Anne Hrobsky, Denise Faucher, Kevin Dowd (library board chair), and (perhaps) the interim head librarian have signature authority for anything that requires a head librarian signature until a new head librarian is installed.

Bill Coleman had asked why an internal candidate wasn’t being brought forward as an interim head librarian; Kevin Dowd said that this was considered, but that they hope that the interim period will be short.

Buffer Zones
The next time you visit, you may notice that the library has signs directing smokers away from the entrances, and that the cigarette receptacles (I have no idea what outside ashtrays are called) have been moved as well.

This is likely part of a larger move on the city regarding smoking buffer zones, and I believe an ordinance is being drafted and will be available for review in a couple of weeks.  (I think the library board has greater powers to make these kinds of changes to library property, which is why you see this change at the library but not at other city government properties.  It should also be noted that I have no opinion on this; I’m not a fan of smoking, but the smokers don’t particularly bother me.)

Youth — which, in this case, I think is a code word for “Teens”
(At this point, I should note that I have a cultural difficulty with the word “youth,” because Romanians use the word differently than almost any other group in the world — “youth” can mean anyone under 45 or so.  I thought I was exempt from being a “youth” now that I’m married with two kids — because once I had one kid, I’m not qualified to be called a “bride”, which is another one of those things that means something else to us than it does to the rest of the universe.  But my dad corrected me: “You’re not 50, you’re still a youth.”)

In this case, Bill Coleman was discussing applying for grant money to have a part-time youth activities coordinator, for 3-4 hours a day in the afternoon or evening, “to keep kids on track.” 

(So, it sounds like the teens are being loud/threatening/teens.  I actually don’t ever have any issues with them, but I’m also the kind of person who never got harassed by children selling roses in Italian cities, so perhaps that can be attributed to my personal vibe.)

Legislative Meetings (remember, the City Council is the city legislature)
Members of the library board will be meeting with City Councilors on March 30 in groups of five (to not violate the open meetings law) to show the awesomeness that is the library.  I said that part of the tour definitely needed to include the touch-screen early literacy computers in the children’s room, with which my children are totally obsessed. 

Other News
At least two members of the board will be attending the MBLC Trustee Symposium on April 10, and Kevin also noted that the MBLC will be holding a violence awareness in libraries workshop a couple of weeks later.

Government and Technology, March 23rd edition

1) Did you know that if you send an email to, you can request to get Land Use News electronic newsletter, that you’ll get agendas for the ZBA and Planning Board via email?

Agendas for geeks like me.

Yeah, that’s kind of cool.

2) I rag on the WPD’s use of social media all the time, so here’s a shout-out.  Here’s a pretty good press release on scams in the city.  (via Twitter)

3) There’s an event tomorrow night about the Commonwealth’s ongoing Gov 2.0 initiatives, including the Open Data Initiative, which I know nothing about, but there’s some stuff on that Open Data website already, so check it out.

Actual Conversation from my car

(Yes, there’s a lack of serious posting today, but I promise you all that something more deep/informative will be coming soon…)

So, yesterday, we were driving to church and my husband noticed the signs (everywhere) for a huge sale at Sargent’s Country Barn.  (Because it’s reorganizing or closing or something.  I have no idea; I’m still a bit blinded by the bright orange.)

Husband: “I’ve never been there before.”
Nicole: “Well, it’s not really your scene.”
Husband:  “What’s it like?”
Nicole:  “Well, there’s kind of faux-antique or real-antique furniture and it’s out of our price range.”  [Note: our bed was bought for $29 via eBay — we picked it up — and is currently held together with screws and some old wood.  A couple of weekends ago, in what I wish would have been a recreation of my favorite scene from The Quiet Man, it broke not once but twice.  And yet the children still look at me funny when I tell them that they are really not allowed to bounce on the bed.]
Husband:  “Oh.”
Nicole:  “I think I went there a long time ago with my mom.  It’s her kind of store.”
Husband: “So why is it called ‘Country'”?
Nicole:  “I think it’s ‘country’ as defined by the people who subscribe to Country Living. Not my kind of country.”
Husband, without missing a beat: “Which would be trailers and cars on blocks in front of the house.”  [This from a man who likes to keep a parts car in the driveway.]
Nicole:  “Well, I was going to say Western shirts and cowboy hats, but close enough.”

(This whole conversation is brought to you by Justified, which is one of those shows Yankees who wear shirts with snaps love to watch.  My older son saw an ad for the show and asked me what it was about.  “Um, blowing up cars and kissing girls, as far as I can tell.”)

Release of funds to Pharmasphere

via MyPublicNotices

On or about April 2, 2010 the City of Worcester will submit a request to the U. S. Dept of HUD Boston Regional Office for the release of: Section 108 Loan funds to provide a $2.5 million Section 108 Loan to PharmaSphere, LLC for the construction of a 50,000 square foot bio-processing facility at 49 Canterbury Street, Worcester, MA.

The project will use the following estimated sources of funds:
$2,500,000 Section 108 Loan
$6,700,000 equity
$4,700,000 New Markets Tax Credits Program
$2,325,000 Massachusetts Development Finance Agency bond
$100,000 micro-loan
Total project cost = $16,325,000.

Any individual, group, or agency may submit written comments on the ERR to DNHD at the above address. All comments received by April 1, 2010 will be considered by the City prior to authorizing submission of requests for release of funds.

HUD will accept objections to its release of funds and the City of Worcester certification for a period of fifteen days following the anticipated submission date or its actual receipt of the request (whichever is later) only if they are on one of the following bases: (a) the certification was not executed by the Certifying Officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; (b) the RE has omitted a step or failed to make a decision or finding required by HUD regulations at 24 CFR Part 58; (c) the grant recipient has committed funds or incurred costs not authorized by 24 CFR Part 58 before approval of a release of funds by HUD/State; or (d) another Federal agency acting pursuant to 40 CFR Part 1504 has submitted a written finding that the project is unsatisfactory from the standpoint of environmental quality.

Objections must be prepared and submitted in accordance with the required procedures (24 CFR Part 58) and shall be addressed to U.S. Department of HUD, Office of Community Planning and Development, Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. Federal Building, 10 Causeway Street-5th Floor, Boston, MA 02222. Potential objectors should contact HUD to verify the actual last day of the objection period. Michael V. O’Brien City Manager, Worcester March 17, 2010

Articles you may not have seen

Charlie Pierce wrote an article about his family’s former business, Macey Sign, in the Boston Globe Magazine this week

It was a good article, but I thought the blurb declaring that “Charles P. Pierce rediscovers the Worcester company his grandfather started with 100 years ago, finding both a city and a family business altered by the ages” was a bit dramatic for an article that was a few pages long.  One might imagine that any city and any business might change over the course of a few generations.  There were also plenty of (missed) opportunities to discuss the way the city itself has changed — Commercial Street, where the business was once based, is now home to restaurants, the DCU Center, and a mall that may or may not be knocked down in the next decade; the Loews Poli Palace Theater became my favorite spot for $2 movies before it closed and was turned into the Hanover Theatre.  But the pictures accompanying the article are pretty great.

Also, the farm where we get our milk was profiled in the Daily Leicester.  (No abuse from the vegan readership, please.)

Actual Conversations From My House

Husband: “Albert Southwick doesn’t get many comments on his columns.”
Me: “Sure he does.  He sometimes gets one or two.”
Husband: “I’m sure most of the telegram.commenters don’t even know how to respond to him.”
Me: “He raises the tenor of that website about five hundred percent every time a column appears.”


Me: “Did you know that Unum might pay almost a million bucks a year less in taxes for fifteen years if this deal goes through?”
Husband: …
Me: “And they promise 50 more jobs!  Fifty jobs is the magic number in this city!”
Husband: …
Me: “Did you know that Unum needs to sign a lease in order for them to get the $25 million from the state for the Front Street project?  And that they estimated it would take two years to complete?” [see p. 12 of this presentation for more on that]
Husband: “I said years ago that all they need to fund that project is to rent a wrecking ball and charge Worcester residents fifty bucks to hit the mall with the wrecking ball.”
Me: “Just fifty bucks?”


Also, since Thanksgiving at Centerfold’s remains one of my more popular posts, I wanted to share the epilogue to that story:

So, we checked out the Buick wagon (my husband only buys Buick Century wagons from model year 1989-1996) and it was lovely.  He went during the day to ask how much they were going to sell it for (because my husband doesn’t pay more than $1200 for a car) and the owner of the lot said that it was his mother-in-law’s and wasn’t really for sale but he’d try to convince her to sell it.

He was never able to convince her to sell it, and my husband still talks about that car.  And I’ve tried to watch far fewer Lifetime movies than I used to.


(I share these with you to show that most of the good ideas and funny anecdotes on this blog are actually stolen from the man I married.)


Updated, 2:02pm — Not three seconds after I posted, my husband sent me an email telling me to use “fewer” instead of “less.”  He’s told me before that if he’d realized I didn’t know the difference between “less” and “fewer”, that would have been as large an impediment to our marriage as his mortal hatred of Daryl Hall.

Also, he said that station wagon “was the one that got away.”  He even put a frowny face in the email.  Seriously, folks.

What I Learned from Blogs This Week

Administrative Stuff
I’ll be putting up a few items on the Virtual Assignment Desk for next week.  If you register at the WorcesterActivist site, you can update this as well. 

If you don’t have a blog but want to report on something, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Also, please feel free to send in nominations for “What I Learned from Blogs This Week.”  I tend to collect news-ish items during the week, but please let me know if I’ve missed anything of note.

Contests & Other Publicity
The Worcester Cultural Commission is going through a name change (Worcester Arts Council), and is looking for a new logo.   They are also starting plans for Art in the Park 2010; if you’re interested in attending weekly meetings, contact them.  (Also, a call for sculptures.)

Union Music 100th anniversary – March 23.

Edgar Allan Poe/Big Read festivities.

Learn more about composting at BMB.

Best of Worcester, Best of Mass.

Shameless Begging
As some of you know, the Regional Environmental Council is holding the 21st annual Earth Day Cleanups on May 1st, and for the third year in a row, I’ll be site coordinator for the Swan Avenue/God’s Acre site.  I took a walk around last night and got really depressed because some areas are a lot worse than they were at the same time last year.  (Note to those who dump: please place your couches by the road, not twenty feet into the woods and/or off a ledge!)

So, if you like reading this blog and you have a few spare hours on the morning of Saturday, May 1, please consider helping us.  You will feel great cleaning up some woods, and you can hear my husband tell you about the history of the area, including a detailed discussion of Millerite theology.  (Or Irish grammar, though I think complete silence will win the most votes!)

You can email me if you’d like more information on the cleanup.

What I Learned This Week
John Binienda is sponsoring legislation to prevent cyber squatting on politicians’ names.

Tracy on national standards, Ch..70, TLSS Subcommittee Meeting (including school reorganization, summer reading,  and recess), RTTT Round 2dates for reorganization meetings, art awards; School Committee (12, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Sean discusses the city’s use of SeeClickFix.  Also, flower shops of dubious open-ness.

Bill on Chevalier Furniture, RZN, HOME funds (and more).

Jeff on toxicity, why you should never have the T&G pay you a compliment, Putnam Lane, and the Big Flush.

Lance opens the floodgates, reminds us of the speed of rodents, and speculates on whether it could be Patrick’s Day.

Jeremy liveblogged the Council Meeting and discussed whether Casello can pull an Augustus.

Dee on Wal-Mart signage, Blue Cross Blue Shield chief’s departure, and Dress for Success.

Compost and yard waste, redundancy, art shows, acceleration, UPCS RTTT, CSX resistance, census and more census, stock tips of dubious provenance, dams.

City. Traffic. Squared.

Activity on Chandler Street and the need for belts.

MassMoments had nice posts on Whitney, Goddard and Appleseed.

Social Media and the City
DPW on street closings, water main break and opening hydrants.  Rock on, mes amis!

Telegram.comment of the Week
We had a letter about how elderly drivers are not a problem.

need testing commented that:

We definatly should have testing. I know of a man that has a hard time working the tv remote-seeing. He also takes a left turn from the middle lane and when someone comes behind him and beeps the horn-he yells-cuz he dont have the wits he used to-I mention it-and he is silent. He will never give up his license. There are about 5-6 dings on his car from backing into other cars-rails ect..he drives away–so-sr’s need testing and until they take his license away he wont stop-nor believe he has a problem

And the only thing I could think is how exactly taking a left turn from the middle lane makes him different from any other Worcester driver…

So, how’s War and Peace coming?
I’ve officially switched to the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, which is much easier to read than my other copy.  I’m at about page 50 there.  At this rate, I’ll be done by the end of the year.  Yay!