Ask a silly question . . .

An actual conversation from my house this evening —

Nicole: What do you suppose Guy Glodis will do once he’s no longer sheriff?

husband: He should open a diner.

(At this point, if you could have taken my picture, you could’ve put it in the dictionary to illustrate the definition of “nonplused“.)

Nicole: A diner?  What sort of diner?

husband: One that sells hamburgers.  I bet he’d make good hamburgers.

(Husband looks pensive for a moment.)

husband: I suppose it’s just a coincidence that the local Big Boy restaurants all closed up around the time Guy first ran for office.

The Meanest Post I Will Ever Write

But I feel that it’s justified because I am short.

On what planet is Joff Smith 5’10”?

I know it’s a stretch for me to say I’m 5’3″, when I’m probably 5’2″, but I don’t wear heels, so I figure it’s a wash. 

But, Joff, you look like my brother and you’re about as tall as my brother.  And there’s no way my brother is 5’10”!

Also — I hope that’s a working phone number for Joff.  I am so calling him the next time I watch Zardoz at three in the morning.

(The last is a joke.  I have young children.  I can barely roll out of bed at 6:30am, never mind think that I can be up in the middle of the night and still function.)

(And, yes, I’m just trying to figure out how many times it will take for me to mention my new favorite-movie-of-all-time-excluding-Octopussy before someone who reads this watches it and personally thanks me for introducing it to them.)

Fluorescent Bulb Drop-Off Locations

1.

I was talking with someone about how DPW only takes fluorescent bulbs on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Residential Drop-Off Center.  (Also, I predict that fifteen years from now, a sign of being an old-timer in Worcester will be calling that location “Ballard Street.”)

If you need to find a location to drop off any products with mercury (including these kinds of bulbs), I suggest using this convenient map from MassDEP

As far as I can tell, Home Depot accepts them at every location, as does Rocky’s Ace Hardware.  (I know for a fact that the latter will accept bulbs that are not purchased there, so you don’t need a receipt.)

2.

For those of you who aren’t on Twitter (trust me, that’s not an insult, that’s a compliment to your sanity), there was an exchange worth reading (as Dee mentioned before I finished this post!):

Kate Toomey thanked CSX for various gifts to the city.

4rilla indicated that CSX still had plenty of work to do regarding illegal dumping on their own property.

Kate asked for a location.

4rilla got huffy.

Ditto Kate.

4rilla then provided pictures and locations of the dumping.  (The media may even become involved.)

Illbehavior chimed in with the myth about how difficult it is to dispose of trash in the city (and that there are all manner of items that can’t be dropped off).  I actually found the comment that “I don’t think it’s Upper Burncoat doing the dumping” a bit offensive.  There’s a stereotype that poor folks are the ones who dump, which is what I assume the Burncoat comment is about.  That has not been my experience. 

In my experience, there’s a very small segment of the population who behaves towards trash in the same manner as a toddler who doesn’t want to use the potty.  They’ll go to an area where they don’t think anyone is looking and dump.  There are a few contractors who will gladly take a fee for disposing of your trash and then dump that in some woods, or along the railroad tracks.  The contractor who dumped in our woods is from Auburn.  I’ve found mail amongst bags and bags of trash that looks like a landlord cleaning out an apartment — mail that indicates that the property’s on the East Side.

It’s not difficult to dispose of things in a responsible manner, and it’s not expensive.  There are some people who would just prefer to dump. 

These people are few and far between.  The problem is that they tend to dump big items, and it feels like there are a lot of people engaging in this behavior.  In reality, it’s not that many. 

It’s one person dumping five bags.  Then an animal rips open the bags, trying to get at the food bits located therein, spreading the contents over a large area.

It’s one person dumping a mattress and box spring.  And couch and chair and coffee table.

And between those two people, it can look like a devastation area.  And if no one picks things up, more people feel they can dump, it looks even worse, on and on.

3.

I think the exchange I discussed above (see especially this, this, and this) is why Twitter isn’t really the best tool for either customer service or constituent relations.  I spoke with someone close to me who used to do constituent relations for a living, and she said that there are many cases where 140 characters just don’t cut it, and you just need to pick up the phone and have a five-minute conversation.  I think in all forms of electronic communication, it’s easy to misunderstand someone’s tone and for things to escalate to a point where they might never have gone in person or on the phone.

By the time someone’s tweeting to Kate Toomey, they’ve likely already gone the route of their district councilor multiple times, tried hunting the city website for who to contact about dumping on non-city land (easier said than done), and probably told your story to half a dozen people, all of whom haven’t helped.

To be fair, Kate is the only city councilor who actively uses Facebook and Twitter.  Just by being there, I think she gets the brunt of the complaints in the virtual arena.

Tonight, we’re going to be hearing the details — finally — of the closed-door negotiations for the City Manager’s contract.  Let’s hope some of the Council’s goals for the Manager include an increase in digital communication — back and forth — with the citizenry.  Or — at the very least — continued emphasis on keeping Worcester clean.

Library privatization

Someone had asked my thoughts on this article about library privatization.  I tend to be skeptical of anyone (in this case, Frank Pezzanite of LSSI) who describes librarians in the following way:

You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.

(I also suggest reading this Library Journal article for a bit more information/rebuttal of some of LSSI’s claims.)

To me, it sounds like many advocates of privatization (here’s one) highlight things that are already going on in our public library system: electronic catalogs, databases available outside of the library, early childhood literacy programs, ESL programs, etc.

In FY2005, the per capita expenditure for the Worcester Public Library was $23.51.  (Source: WPL FY2007-2011 Strategic Plan).  That was nearly $7 less than the state average per capita municipal library expenditure. 

The FY2011 library budget is $4,293,155.32; there are approximately 182,596 people in Worcester.  My calculator says that the per capita expenditure remains at $23.51.

If the per capita nationwide expenditure in 2007 was $38.62 (according to the report Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2008, page 99, on this site), then we’re spending about 60% of that.  (Even if you look at the local per capita — $31.94 — or the MA local per capita — $35.24 — we’re still very, very low.)

(Would you like it put another way?  In FY2005, we were roughly $7 less than the state average.  Now we’re nearly $12 less.)

Could privatization get us library services any cheaper than we’re already getting them?

I doubt it.