A Confession

I was reading this Nick K. column, which was just about the most Robert Z. Nemeth-y thing I’ve read this month, and I suddenly felt the need to make a confession to my readers.

It’s something I never thought I had to confess, because it was something I never thought was wrong.  But now I realize that I committed an act in the past decade that has put me in opposition to all the values that make this country great.

Dear reader, I fear that this will completely change your opinion of me, but I can’t hold back any longer.

I helped someone vote.

The person was my grandmother. 

The year was 2002.

I helped her vote at City Hall, before Election Day.

My grandmother, like many other non-native-English-speaking naturalized citizens, is fluent in spoken English but not in written English.  While she was well aware of the issues and the candidates, it was helpful for her to have someone to refresh her memory and to read items out for her.

I recall that the person who handed us the ballot came over at one point to yell at me because she thought I was coaching my grandmother to vote in a particular way.  (It was about this question.  Because of a previous conversation, I knew how my grandmother was going to vote, and I knew that I’d be voting exactly the opposite way when a ballot came my way.)

I’ve read a little bit (well, as much as I could stomach, which isn’t much) about the alleged voter fraud.  I don’t have an opinion on whether it happened, and I don’t have an opinion on Neighbor to Neighbor.

I don’t think it’s suspicious that Spanish speaking people might need help even though there are ballots printed in Spanish.  I assume that at least some Spanish speakers don’t have a fluency in their written language, as is the case with some English speakers. 

I don’t find it suspicious that some people can’t provide a home address or list 701 Main Street as their home address.  I assume that there are at least some people in this city who are homeless.

I think we’re dealing with a larger issue than whether N2N did anything wrong, or whether lobbying groups should have volunteers joining voters in voting booths.  It’s an issue that’s not new, and one that I’m not sure will ever go away: how can our society encourage and honor an educated electorate?  How do we make people so passionate about the ballot in their hand that having someone else fill out that piece of paper doesn’t even cross their minds?

Imagine how different things would be if those who spent all their time raising  a fuss about supposed voting improprieties after elections actually spent as much time educating voters on the issues before elections.

Crompton Park Master Plan Meeting 2, extreme deadblog

6:39pm – Rob Antonelli opens. “previously scheduled meeting”. Chief Gemme Is here for questions and comments. Once that’s done, design discussion will continue.

6:40pm – was the victim from the area?

“from the general area”

Did it happen here or was he dumped?

“councilor Haller had emailed me that there was a community meeting. It’s a very active investigation. We do not believe that it was a random act of violence.” Some relation between victim and suspect.

Investigative impact will be here; plainclothes will be out ‘til 4am. More uniformed as well.

Identified as tactical response area. All uniformed (traffic, patrol, community impact) will be making more of a presence here as well.

6 of the homicides, 1 suspicious that hasn’t been ruled a homicide, by firearms. Spike in non-fatal shootings (2004/2005 levels).

Q: Concern about whether park is still safe.

“Worcester…is a very safe city. Decrease in knife assaults.” Most of our other crime categories are trending level or slight decrease. A lot of the violence occurs at 2 or 3am. Every shooting and homicide, relationship between victim and suspect.

Haller asks if there’s anything the community can do.

“We have a lot of programs…We’re working with our partners in the clergy to …prevent retaliation.” The individuals who are shot refuse to cooperate with police. Cooperation from the community, speaking out against violence. Strategies that give young people alternatives to violence. “This whole issue of gang activity and drug activity…that’s where it’s concentrated.”

Q: Do you feel that parks are more prone to violence? Is Crompton Park worse than Green Hill Park, etc. (“If you have four people, that’s a gang. We don’t have any here…do we?”)

A: it’s not random. “We don’t see it so much in the parks.” Tends to be alcohol establishments, after-hours clubs. “I don’t believe we’ve had a shooting in this area for some time.” It’s not so much they were targeting Crompton Park as –“

Q: “each other.”

A: “Correct”

Q: gun control, gun shots.

A: If you do hear gunshots, call the police. They will investigate the scene. If we can retrieve any evidence that there was gunfire, …might be able to use for another crime.

Since ’05, we’ve had some success with keeping gun violence in check.

Hannah Q: Did the increase in police presence occur because of the body found?

A: What we do through crime analysis is look at one or two areas in the city we need to put more police officers. Right now, we’re in the Vernon Hill area, so we’ll shift resources to this area for the next week or so.

Q from one of my young friends: Will there be security guards?

A: This is a fairly secure area.

Next Green Island Crime Watch Dec. 7.

Q: Do you think lighting the park at night will help?

A: I can’t say specifically. “For your own personal property, lighting would be a deterrent.” So – lighting would be a deterrent here.

6:53pm – Antonelli thanks Councilor Haller for being here, Councilor Kate Toomey is in the back. Senator Michael Moore here, Rep. Fresolo here as well. Also, Paul Gunnerson, Parks Commissioner, here as well.

At the end of the last meeting, large amount of work to do, large number of items people wanted to see. Taken all that paperwork – break it down into two concepts based on needs of neighborhood and needs of Worcester. Hopefully for next meeting, narrow down to one presentation.

Additional meeting at this location in beginning of January.

Request at last meeting that we didn’t reach out enough. Increased mailing list from last time.

6:57 – Gene Bollinger from Weston & Sampson to present.

Lorraine Laurie: can you work with Fresolo and Moore to get a Park Grant to get new lights in the park?

6:59 – Raquel Colon from the neighborhood, member of GIRF. The new swimming pool will attract more and more people. We need a larger space to gather together (community center). Looking around the room, it’s limited for anything we can do as a neighborhood. Green Island Neighborhood Center is the only place neighbors can get together. We don’t have a community school, library, or boys/girls club. This building is usable, but we want to see larger rooms, lighting around the building. If these things happen, it won’t just be for us, but for future generations.

7:01 – Mention of WiFi.

Antonelli says he’s looking at WiFi in other facilities. As they look at connectivity in areas, they will look into adding WiFi. (Oh, this makes me so happy.) If anyone has any information on how this has been working in other communities, let Parks know.

7:03: Fresolo – Is there any plan for another covered, outdoor area when this building is not available?

Bollinger acknowledges the idea for a pavilion. You could look at modifications to this building to accommodate a pavilion or awning, or other areas in the park.

A gentleman points out two trees that need to be removed. Antonelli says that those are scheduled for removal. Discussion of further arboricultural issues.

7:06: Mariana Marascol and Michael Moonan are here again as well with Gene.

By Gene’s count, 62 people here tonight.

There are two concepts proposed tonight. Eventually, a master plan, would need to be adopted by Parks Commission and then City Council, and possibility of stages for implementation.

“A master plan is more broad brush”; comments from the previous session will be “folded into the master plan.”

7:12 – Gene gives an overview of the park, condition of amenities, general layout, pedestrian access, lighting, storm draining.

7:14 Michael begins run-through of two concepts.

A few of the things that were mentioned the most: play equipment and variety thereof, handball court, skating at tennis court, open multi-use space, amphitheater, basketball courts for adults and kids, trees, walking for health, lighting and shade shelter.

First concept: proposing to have two central paths, very generous, wide (10-12 feet wide), alleed with trees on either side. Wider central paths could allow for emergency vehicles if needed. Other 6 feet wide paths for casual strolls. Employed a loop trail inside the park, making use of city sidewalks to loop it all around. The mileage would be about half a mile.

Vehicular access: one way loop drive with add’l parking, keeping existing parking in same location. Adding 12 parking spaces by tennis court. One court shift to the left, eliminate the other.

Reconfigure ball fields to maximize the place. Having full-sized football field that does not overlap the outfield of two ball fields. The configuration of the ball fields would eliminate the baseball fields. With new baseball field at Vernon Hill, the baseball field would likely not be necessary.

Skateboarding park with just vertical elements in one corner.

At former playground area, one big lawn.

Existing baseball court, allow amphitheater seating on the hill. Two handball courts. Junior basketball on other side of handball.

Make other side of the hill formal amphitheater with a pavilion, centered on the street. Play area on flat corner. This would come up along the path. “Natural play corridor” – connect the open lawn play area to more formal structured play area.

(Ooohs from the children in the crowd as they see some proposed details)

Entrance at each corner with connecting crosswalks.

Saint Mary’s has already had talks with Parks – perhaps use the basketball court at Vernon Hill as their home field. (Currently, they use Crompton.)

Gene – In both proposals, we want this to be a beautiful place. It’s a nice park, but it could be all that much nicer. Now is the time to start planning for the next generation of trees. Also, separating vehicles from pedestrians. “We don’t want it to be simple for a vehicle to get into any of those corridors.” Drives into the park would have a textured setting to feel different from regular roads.

7:29 – Antonelli – we will be using wood guard rail to secure entire perimeter of the park. For vehicular access and barrier for youth to get out into the roadway. Make sure that entire circumference doesn’t allow vehicle to gain access into the park.

Up on Endicott Street, proposing to eliminate some of the parking. The parking isn’t being used by park patrons. In order to make park more functional, take away some parking on Quinsig Avenue side.

7:35 – Parking drama. That’s where the ballplayers park.

Antonelli argues that there’s plenty of parking. Those spots are nearly filled right now, and there’s no ball being played. Additionally, adding parking in the park might solve some of this.

Michael notes that it allows the loop path to remain in the park, and that it allows the football field to be bigger.

7:38 – Can you do something for people who have a dog?

Antonelli – we looked at that opportunity. If you want a facility where the dog can be off-leash, that’s much bigger than what we have to work with.

Paulette — The tennis court would still be used for the ice rink, it would be level. Same concept design at East Park. Can we have manufactured skate edge forms as part of the process? Yes, we can look at that.

Can Pernet still be involved in managing the ice rink installation? Yes, parks help for the first time, then Pernet and the neighborhood after that.

Haller asks why they put the formal play area where they did. Antonelli responds that it’s in close proximity to the pool. Pool area will be lit and we’ll be able to parlay that into PD monitoring it on a regular basis.

Also, steering the younger (2-5 year-olds) away from the basketball and handball courts. More staff available near the pools as well.

Both concepts had restrooms near the community center. Either restrooms are (1) supported by parks with limited support or (2) an organization maintains, cleans, etc. Antonelli finds that bathrooms draw vandalism. (Also, the pools have restrooms in the summer when the pools are open.)

Best oblique comment about what can go on in bathrooms besides, well, going to the bathroom: “After a certain time, it could turn into anything but a bathroom.”

A lady reports that kids are getting in over the fence and climbing up the lifeguard ladder.

Question about whether there could be a canteen area. Antonelli emphasizes that there’s a commitment level that needs to be there (from the community) for that to happen.

(Yes, this is an all-bathrooms-and-parking meeting. I believe it wouldn’t be Worcester if we didn’t spend at least half an hour on either topic.)

7:51 – (No, we’re still not on the second proposal yet.)

About whether Rochelle should be paid, Antonelli says, “I come down here and smile every once in a while, and she says that’s enough.” Tell me about it!

Concept 2. Thank goodness!

Two central access pathways, but they put the parking roughly where the two tennis courts are now. Parking to west side of building. This allows us to open the pool entrance side, and that side of the pool to be a pedestrian zone. Connection with pool and play area, central spine not interrupted by vehicles. (I like that!)

Proposed paved area in a corner for skate park-type stuff in the summer, and then in the winter, it would become the skating rink. No tennis court.

A touch of a changed configuration for the two softball and full football field. Still very nice look.

Reconfigure courts to align with Endicott. Full-sized basketball, handball courts, larger green area on Harding Street edge. Open lawn areas between the two. Still do a pavilion/amphitheater. Larger more open entrance in the corner.

Antonelli – in any plan, netting to address stray balls.

A gentleman notes that there are injuries for pitchers, third basemen and shortstops because of the sun. Thinks extra trees in that area to block the sun.

Antonelli notes that in the beginning, the trees would be smaller. The gentlemen thinks eventually they’ll help. He also suggests someone put in a billboard, which would also block the sun (much laughter).

He also says that the condition of the field and the grading and drainage contribute to injuries as well.

They’re going to do a full property survey (topography, etc.), so whichever design we select, drainage, etc., will be included.

Antonelli: “No matter what you do, it’s still in a floodplain.” At Beaver Brook, the whole area floods. We raised the fields up, so the first thing to drain is the fields. The collectors then take it back to the brook. The difference with this is the rest of the facility is wide open (not fencing like at Beaver Brook.

If this field is redone, can the two leagues that use it still use it? Short answer: yes. (Somewhat longer discussion of the turf at Beaver Brook.)

8:07: We have now reached the third part of the Worcester triumvirate: sewer lines on Quinsigamond Avenue. Discussion of where the pump station is located.

In Concept 2, a lady notes that people would not be able to use the hill to watch basketball games.

8:10 – The only reason people don’t play tennis is because there’s no net there.

Sue Moynagh – Sometimes you just want to connect with green space. She would like minimal development of the hill and keep it look it natural. [The hill is originally filler, right?]

Antonelli – Except for one side, the hill would be relatively undeveloped.

Discussion of stand installation. At the softball fields, yes. Football field – bring the chair in a bag on the outer edge.

Rochelle – there are four or five kids participating in the tennis program. The tennis court is not being used. Not the net, this is a basketball area, not a tennis court area.

A lady likes the new play area in Concept 1. Likes the second concept better because there are no cars whatever near the play area. Also, picnic areas, trash cans, and recycling.

8:16 – Antonelli – when we were discussing the concepts, all about maximizing the space. Regarding recycling – right now, as a function of his operations, [equipment-wise] not set up for recycling component. Talking with vendors & others. Two containers, side by side, recycling (with a different top) and trash. In the future, have a truck that has a separator. In the short term, more than willing to put two bins out, and if the neighborhood can assist with recycling. Casella, on regular trash route, could pick up the recycling.

That meets with approval from the crowd.

Chris from summer basketball league – regarding basketball courts, the hill thing has a lot of history. The younger kids don’t have the opportunity to play, likes two full courts. Sometimes it gets loud. If we can have it so that it’s father away from residents’ homes and closer to the businesses (Concept 1), that would be preferable.

Antonelli says that the hoops will remain at 10 feet, regulation.

Chris – trash receptacles. Hard to keep court area clean. They trash the trash cans. We need more, but they also vandalize them.

Antonelli – trash is one of the places we have the biggest issues city-wide. One is household trash. He says they have started going after people. Two, there’s so much of it – there’s one guy in Parks to pick up trash in 60 facilities.

More discussion of trash and leagues.

A gentleman proposes moving the flagpole to the top of the hill and lighting.

A young lady worries that when she slides she’ll hit a tree. Antonelli tells her they’ll leave space for her to slide without trees.

Another child discusses traffic issues on basketball courts between younger and older kids.

8:35: More trash. I’m getting punch drunk at this point, and everyone knows how much I love talking trash.

8:38: The battery is running low. I don’t know how much more of the trash blame game this little laptop can take.


Preference for parking and play area in Concept 2, Fields in Concept 1, court area in Concept 1.

Try to incorporate second basketball court in Concept 1.

(There was some additional discussion of the field placement. I think the bottom line is that the sun is going to blind certain players, and we need a billboard.)

Blogger Coffee – December 8

In honor of the late Jeff Barnard, we (Worcester bloggers and friends) will be gathering on his birthday for talk of blogging and Worcester, which I hope will degenerate into arguments about which street most deserves a bump installation crew and which city councilor will be last to shovel his sidewalk this winter.

Here are the details:
time: Wednesday, December 8 at 5:30pm (but feel free to show up later; that’s just when I’ll show up)
location: Panera Bread, 120 Gold Star Boulevard

As a reminder…You do not need to be a blogger to attend.  You do not need to be a regular commenter (or even reader) to attend.  You are more than welcome to come for as long or as short a time as makes you comfortable.


Some of us will also be attending the gathering this Thursday at the Grafton Inn.

While I don’t think (and don’t feel) that it’s something to “look forward to”, I do look forward to meeting people to whom Jeff meant so much, and learning more about someone who means a lot to us.

Jeff Barnard for Hometown Hero

WoMag is looking for nominations for Hometown Hero:

Do you know a Hometown Hero in Worcester who deserves recognition for a year of selfless service to our city? If so, we want to know about him/her for an upcoming story. Tell us who you think deserves the spotlight for all that they do for our community by emailing editor@worcestermag.com

Yes, they will accept nominations for Jeff.  Yes, you should email Doreen right now and nominate him.

“Violent crime on rise”

Behind the paywall here.

I don’t have time to write something terribly coherent, except to say that it would be nice if we had the statistics at our disposal that the police seem to have. 

Via the FBI, here are the violent crime and property crime statistics for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.  (Click to make it bigger.  Sorry, no stats for 2010.) 

It seems that property crime remained pretty steady from 2004-2009, that rape had gone down quite a bit, but that aggravated assault went up.  It’s unclear whether we’ll suddenly have a crime spree to bring the number of homicides up to 2004’s high of 11.

As a reminder, there will be a second hearing on the Master Plan for Crompton Park tonight at 6:30pm in the Crompton Park Community Building.  Safety isn’t the primary goal of this hearing, but it will undoubtedly be brought up.


The last time I saw Jeff was about a month and a half ago.  We hung out for a couple of hours and had one of those wonderful, free-wheeling conversations with which anyone who was blessed enough to know Jeff is well-familiar.  We talked about city politics (duh), why people vote for Konnie Lukes, why people vote for Phil Palmieri, what Worcester was like in the seventies, his ambivalence towards his English heritage (which I like to think inspired this post), cats, and how awesome Mike Benedetti is.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely because of Jeff Barnard.  And that’s not just because he’s one of the inspirations for my writing this blog.  It’s because he really made it his mission to support and inspire other bloggers.  Jeff had more of a readership than any of us, and he used the power of that audience to support the rest of us, whether it be the Worcester blogroll, or the frequent references and links to other bloggers in his posts.  When I began writing, I felt a bit shy emailing him to ask to include me on the blogroll.  I needn’t have felt that way — Jeff was the kind of writer who was always open to questions and suggestions, and the kind of person who knew how to build a virtual community with real affection and admiration.

To borrow from the words of Tomás Ó Criomhthain:

Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.
His like will not be seen again.

(As a further tribute, I composed this post in the most Jeff-worthy internet browser available on the Mac, iCab.)

Pig bus

I have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying a meal at Carl’s Oxford Diner, but I will . . . because this bus keeps reminding me:

It’s certainly eye catching, and my children can spot it a mile away.

I love the pink paint job and the faux nose & ears, but there’s one other vehicle I’d rather have a ride in.

Hand-painted signs

They’re a bit rare these days, but every now & then you’ll see an older sign in Worcester that was hand-painted (instead of the more “modern” approach of having adhesive shapes/letters affixed).  Here are a few I’ve seen recently:

Got any favorite hand-painted signs in your neighborhood?  Send along a photo or let us know where to find it, and we’ll add them here.

(This post is dedicated to Michael B., a former Worcesterite who now lives in Seattle, and to Len.)