Boards and Commissions — It’s Not Too Late!

I appeared on 508 last Friday to encourage people to get out there and apply for city boards and commissions.

Someone asked me what the experience of being on 508 is like.  (I’d only previously appeared on the 100th episode, which was a bit atypical, so this was a different experience.) 

I’d heard other people complain about how early they tape.  But when they told me to meet them at 8am, I thought, Gee, the morning’s almost over at that point!  (Because by that time, I’ve already had multiple children jump on me, multiple dogs and cats contribute all manner of animal hair to my pant legs, and dropped a kid off at school.)

The show goes by so quickly.  I actually think it’s worth seeing Mike and Brendan do a show just to see how Mike works the camera (it gets shoved in your face, which causes major deer-in-the-headlights from the likes of me) and how quickly Brendan can come up with all sorts of random banter.

But — again — I’m here to write about boards and commissions.

A week from now, the Citizen Advisory Council will be meeting to review board & commission vacancies next Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:30pm at City Hall, 3rd Floor.

Here’s why you should consider applying:

1) Once there are fewer openings, I will never again appear on 508 appealing for people to apply.  What that means for you is…about twenty fewer “ums” per minute on your favorite local podcast.

2) If you’re busy right now, but think you’ll be less busy in three months — now is the perfect time to apply!  By the time the process is over (referral, interview with the City Manager/HR/other people, appointment), two or three months will have passed.  So start the process now!

3) While Tina mentioned that the Worcester Arts Council is very active and involved, there are plenty of boards and commissions that were made for lazy people like you and me!  (Trust me, the whole goal of my adult life has been to do as little work as possible.)  If you are lazy but would like the cachet of being a city official, look through the profile directory and find a board that only meets on an as-needed basis. 

4) Email the City’s HR Department if you have any questions, or just to get on the mailing list for future openings.  They do not bite and they will usually get back to you right away.  Also, the Citizen Advisory Council is on Facebook; you should follow them!

5) As I said on 508, if you get onto the Cable Television Advisory Committee, you get to meet TC.  If you join Trust Funds, you get to meet Tom Zidelis.  I also do not think it will fast-track your application if you say that some crazy blogger encouraged you to apply.  On yesterday’s Left Ahead podcast, Mike said, “Five years from now, if somebody’s applying for the library board, [I hope someone] will look at those applicants and say, ‘This person’s a good blogger.  We could use a good blogger on the library board.'”  While we may get there eventually, I really don’t think we’re at that point right now.  (Though I’d love to be proved wrong!)

So get out there and apply!

(Image: 539G8912, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from halserad’s photostream of Hope Cemetery)

Camou is Rambo’s autumn color

About a dozen years ago, my husband bought and planted some “historic trees” from a company which propagates seedlings from trees that are known to have been associated with (or planted by) some well-known person from U.S. history.  These trees arrived as small seedlings, and are now taller than our home.

One of the trees planted was a Rambo apple tree propaged from one which had been originally planted by “Johnny Appleseed” (John Chapman of Leominster).  For many years this tree just grew steadily, but produced no blossoms or fruit.  In the past few years, though, we’ve been getting blossoms and a few apples.

The fruit of the Rambo starts out growing green, but as they mature, they turn into a mottled assortment of greens, browns, reds & yellows.  Here are some pictures of an apple my family and I shared last night:

It is a firm apple with a mildly tart taste (less tart than Granny Smith).  Quite delicious.

As an interesting aside, according to author David Morrell who wrote the novel “First Blood” (which inspired the film of the same name), the character John Rambo gets his name from the apple.  (You knew I had to get a Stallone reference in there somehow!)

WBUR Gloss

I don’t have time to write anything more than sketchy notes about this WBUR piece about how Worcester is finding out that it can do something besides abrasives

Basically, the message I got from this was:

  • Worcester: it’s a cheap place to live if you’d rather be in Providence!  (No mention of the fact that pushing Worcester to be a bedroom community to various other cities that will remain nameless has made housing prices unaffordable for many residents.)
  • The original Galleria was supposed to be the juggernaut to transform the local economy.  (Really?  Was this ever the case?  Why were the further promises about the Centrum, MedCity, etc., never mentioned?)
  • That John Anderson was mayor of Worcester is not notable in the least.
  • The biotech/medical industries, which I’ve heard mentioned as the future of our economy for a few years now, merit about one sentence when it comes to the city’s economy.
  • We can only find people who are associated with Hanover Insurance to do a piece about Worcester.

(Image: Closed, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from Troy B. Thompson’s photostream)

Keep Worcester Clean August Meeting Minutes

Because I know there are at least two of you who are interested, they’re here.

On page 4 of the minutes:

“Jim [who is totally my new BFF, but we’ll discuss that in greater detail next week] said that God’s Acre is now blocked with boulders.  … Amanda reported that they got someone who lives on Stafford St who illegally dumped at Swan Ave.  Jen said that the maximum amount they can be fined is $200 because we don’t have the legislation renewed which would allow us to get triple our costs.  B. Fiore said Christina is looking at this to see if it passed.”  (Note: it did.)

Also of interest…They’ve gotten 200 responses to the litter survey.  Please fill it out if you haven’t already!

T.C. for Mayor

I’ve previously expressed my adoration of Tom Colletta, and even when I think he should be tougher on a guest, I always try to watch What It’s Worth

First, because I love TC’s fashion sense.  Second, he seems to have every single one of my verbal tics (every time he says, “I said to my wife”, I just think — five references to a spouse in under a minute, that’s exactly how I sound in every single conversation of my life!).  And, third, because he is so positive about the City of Worcester.

The beginning of his interview with Mike Perotto is a perfect example of TC’s ability to combine about five things he likes into one great rant:

I’m a little ticked off and you know me, I’ve got to air it out every once in a while here.

A couple of weeks ago in Worcester – everyone knows how I follow sports and I love sports – UConn girls’ baskeball team – national champs, they’re the best in the world, and they played Holy Cross girls at the DCU Center.  Now, I play in a band on weekends, I couldn’t make it, it was a Friday night and so I couldn’t go.  But there was no doubt that I was going to try to get down there to the bench.  This is the Best Girls’ Basketball Team In The World.

So the next day I went to see the score, and I noticed they killed Holy Cross, which is the level they play on.  OK, they won like 87 to 34, but I saw the attendance, it was 2,400 people.  That’s a disgrace.  … I was afraid I couldn’t get tickets.  I told my wife, “Try and get tickets.”  And then I  said I wouldn’t have enough time to get to the job and play in my band, so I said forget it.  Two Thousand Four Hundred people for the best girls’ basketball team come to Worcester.

You know I get ticked off at you people because you’re always ticked off at our politicians, “Oh, they should do this.”  There’s only so much they can do.  You bring things like this to Worcester, the Hanover, Mechanics Hall, we got the greatest art museum in the world, all these colleges, and you don’t leave your house.

 You don’t leave your house.  You complain there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing with this.

There’s only so much that people in City Hall and our reps and whatever, congressmen, can do if we don’t do something. 

So before we start the show tonight, get off your you-know-what, spend a little money – I know the economy’s bad, but you can go see the greatest women’s basketball team in the world.  They were here in Worcester a couple weeks ago, and no one went to the game. 

So don’t complain we don’t have top-level entertainment in this city.  We do, we’re just not going out, ok?

Swan Avenue Cleanup This Saturday

Just a friendly reminder that we’re having a cleanup on Swan Avenue this Saturday, September 18, from 8am to noon.   We’ll likely wrap up much earlier, thanks to a friend with a truck, and if you can only come for an hour, I would appreciate it greatly. 

Directions: go up Williamsberg Drive from Mill Street.  Take a left onto Outlook.  Park near the corner of Outlook and Swan and walk up Swan Avenue.

We’ll meet at the corner of Swan and Paris Avenues (or thereabouts; feel free to keep walking up Swan if you don’t see anyone).

Please bring a wheelbarrow if you have one.

We’re going to be cleaning the areas where the purple and red pushpins are on this map:

On a cleanup-related note:

Rarely does the subject of a column tick me off as much as this one did.

I would venture a guess that I deal with more of other people’s trash in a year than most non-garbage professionals in this city.  So on a very narrow level I’m sympathetic to Ms. Alexanian’s plight.  (That said, if the biggest problem some of us had is a park visitor dumping trash in a trash receptacle, we’d start dancing a jig.)

There are plenty of people in similar situations who want to clean up their park or neighborhood and who don’t consider graffiti a form of civil disobedience.  For those people, I’ve previously offered tips on organizing cleanups.  Here are some more:

1. Find a mentor.
Chances are there is someone in this city who knows who to call or how to approach a situation.  I have had plenty of help from the folks at the REC (for cleanups) and Colin (for “here’s who you need to call” advice).  In the cases of parks, perhaps it’s better to contact Park Spirit, members of the Parks Commission, or Bill Eddy (head of Youth, Parks, and Recreation subcommittee of the City Council).  (Please, no snickering at the last suggestion.)  Whatever you do, try to find someone who can help you navigate the system.

2. Look at yourself as the city’s partner.
I started doing cleanups with the “The city should be doing this/caring/paying attention” attitude.  And that angry attitude is understandable, but it just won’t get you very far unless you channel that anger into something productive.  I have found that complaining alone gets you nowhere.

I decided to stop looking at the city as my enemy in this situation, and start looking at the city as my partner in making this area a better place. 

Don’t just ask what the city can do for you.  Offer what you can do, and see how far they can meet you.  For this cleanup, we’re providing the volunteer hours to pick up and move trash to two central sites; the city is willing to pick up the trash during the week.  Sometimes you have to put in time (and make some phone calls) to get something done. 

3.  Develop long-term goals.
I have a ten-year plan for God’s Acre, and I’m in the middle of the third year of that plan.  Some of my earlier goals were to clean up the wooded part of Paris Avenue (done in year two) and get a barrier at the cart path to God’s Acre (done a month ago).  

My goals for the next two years are to get another area (a dirt drive that is a favorite spot for dumping) blocked off, clean the area along Goddard Memorial Drive, and continue to work with the GWLT to do trail improvements. 

For an area like Elm Park, you might have goals like: these five trees need to be replaced in the next three years; all benches need to have the wooden slats redone; the swings need to be replaced.  Focus on one of those goals as your first task until it gets done, and then move onto one of the next goals.  (You also have to accept that there are things that will always need to be done: trash is going to be a constant.  There’s just no way around that.)

4. Develop some mantras.
As those closest to me know, I pretty much live my life by AA platitudes.  (There’s nothing that calms me down more than my husband saying something like, “Let go and let God.”)  The one that works for me in the context of cleanups is something Colin said to me: “Just remember that if you were not picking this up, it would still be here.”  Those words continue to be a great comfort to me.

On my good days, I try to live by the AA-ish mantra “attitude of gratitude,” which I consider the secret to life.  This has really helped me shift my view from “why can’t they be doing more” to a more collaborative, gracious approach.  I can’t change what has happened in the past, and I can’t do everything, but I do try to be open and grateful to those who can help in any way they can.  (Again, this is on my good days.  On my bad days, I’m just plain grumpy.)

It is so easy to get upset when you work on a piece of property and see your work continually undermined.  Just put some Daft Punk in your iPod and start singing “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” to yourself.  You can do it, but you have to look at cleaning up as a continual battle.

5. Appeal to your elected officials.
I actually find this to be the least effective approach, but I do think it’s worth asking the following questions:
a) Why is it that Youth, Parks, and Recreation has only met one time this year? 
b) We’ve been told that Crompton Park will be getting improvements next year through money from CSX.  Are there other issues (like the Green Hill park playground chain ladder or the Elm Park benches) that also need to be fixed/replaced?  Why aren’t we as a community being asked which repairs are to be prioritized?

At the very least, you can start petitioning the Council for answers to these questions (or, simply, to ask for bench repairs in Elm Park) .

CWW: Salvation Army Gift Certificates

A Cheap Worcester Wednesday warning: if you or anyone you know is in possession of Salvation Army thrift store gift certificates, you need to use them soon because they’re going to be putting in new cash registers that won’t be able to accept them.

(You might wonder what kind of person owns Salvation Army thrift store gift certificates.  Why, me!  And what kind of person buys them?  My mother-in-law, who knows where I shop.)