A couple of library mentions

1) In a few minutes, the Emily Rooney Show will be discussing whether we still need libraries.  (Or, rather, “why and how libraries might be re-imagined in the future”, but “do we still need libraries” is better for ratings.)

2) A couple of weeks ago, the Boston Globe Magazine highlighted some interesting happenings at area libraries.  Among them:

Worcester Public Library

Graphic novelists and cartoonists Andy Fish and Jamie Buckmaster introduce 13- to 18-year-olds to manga, or Japanese comics. As Fish explains, “The program is designed to help them understand how to tell stories with comics, and manga, in particular.” Participants will learn how a book is published by producing a graphic novel/comic compilation called “Manga for Teens.” Second and fourth Fridays of every month through June, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Banx Room, 3 Salem Square, Worcester, 508-799-1655, http://www.worcpublib.org

Update, 12:50pm: Best quote from one of the commenters on Emily Rooney was (and this isn’t an exact quote): “We think learning is important enough that it shouldn’t just be available to those who can afford it.”

More Meadow Lane Thoughts

I’d like to thank Brian for commenting on my blog again.  He’s in an extremely frustrating position, and I think some of the items he’s responding are not so much to what I wrote as to what’s going on in the media at large.

I think clearing sidewalks that abut your property is a civic duty in the same way that clearing a fire hydrant abutting your property is your civic duty.  The difference, from the city’s perspective, is that you will (or, rather, might) be held financially responsible if you don’t do the former; if you do the latter, you’re a nice person, but if you don’t, the city won’t hold you responsible.

I’m going to leave aside the issue of whether the residents of Meadow Lane actually abut 122 or not.  I don’t think debating that will bring any clarity to the ultimate issue of whether or not sidewalks should be cleared by the abutter.

Here’s where we were at Tuesday at 7:00pm:
If the state owned this land, the city would not make the state clear the sidewalk.

When the city thought the state owned this land, the city wasn’t going to make the state clear the sidewalk.  In fact, the city wanted folks they didn’t think owned the land to clear the sidewalk.  That’s wrong by anyone’s definition.

Now the city finds that the residents of Meadow Lane own the land.   The city still wants them to clear the sidewalk.

Here’s what I would have liked to see in response to the sidewalk ordinance situation:
The city committing that all city-abutted sidewalks would be cleared.

The city committing that all bus stops would be cleared so that folks wouldn’t have to wait in the street and/or climb over snowbanks to get to their buses.

The City Council holding hearings to listen to those with particular hardships and thoughtfully getting us to a point where all sidewalks are cleared for pedestrian access.  The City Council also holding hearings to discuss areas where space is at a premium (that is, there’s nowhere to put the snow) to see what can be done.

Here’s what we got instead:
The City Council has decided to create an exception specially tailored to Meadow Lane so that those residents — who, by the way, didn’t ask for this — don’t have to clear that sidewalk.

Either all sidewalks need to be cleared, or they don’t.  If they don’t, we need to determine which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared and why that doesn’t pose a hazard to pedestrians (and what the process for determining which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared after the initial determination).

At this point,  anyone with a sidewalk that doesn’t abut his immediate residence is going to be asking himself why he should be shoveling that sidewalk when the residents of Meadow Lane don’t have to.  That wasn’t the intention of the Meadow Lane residents, that likely wasn’t the intention of the City Council, but that’s where we’re at.

If I owned a piece of land five blocks away from me that had a sidewalk, it would be a hardship for me to shovel that sidewalk.  So — at this point — why should I?

My frustration is not with the residents of Meadow Lane.  My frustration is with a City Council (barring Paul Clancy) that isn’t willing to listen to those folks, and to others, and to think about a long-term strategy to make the city safer for pedestrians (and users of public transportation) in the winter.

WPL Friends Mid-Winter Mini Sale

Despite announcements that they were only going to have one sale a year, the WPL Friends will be holding a mini book sale on Saturday, January 29 in the first floor lobby. 

These sales tend to have a small selection, focused on fiction, but excellent prices (25 cents).

(Also, they tend to not have a large selection of kids’ books, though they often have a shelf or three.)

Not addressing the problem

You might have noticed item 11d on tonight’s City Council agenda proposing the following:

Emergency Preamble

AN ORDINANCE IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON CERTAIN SIDEWALK
SNOW REMOVAL

Whereas, The deferred operation of this ordinance would defeat its purpose, which
is to immediately provide relief from the obligation to remove snow and ice from
sidewalks on state highways abutting rear lot line of properties, therefore it is hereby
declared to be an emergency ordinance, necessary for the immediate preservation of
the public convenience.

Now, Therefore, this ordinance is declared an emergency ordinance under section
2-9 of the city charter such that it shall be passed with finality in one meeting of the
city council and shall, thereby, take effect immediately.

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Worcester, as follows:

For one hundred-twenty days from the effective date of this ordinance, the provisions
of section 23 of chapter 12 of the Revised Ordinances of the city of Worcester shall
not require any owner or occupant of any property whose rear lot line abuts any city
street or state highway to clear any sidewalk on that portion of the state highway so
long as any such property owner or occupant otherwise complies with said section 23
with respect to any other sidewalk on any city street or state highway abutting the
property on any front or side lot line.

In other words, this ordinance would be adopted to that the folks on Meadow Lane would not have to shovel along 122.

The problem with Meadow Lane was not that the city is making elderly folks shovel their walks.  If those folks had a district councilor who worked hard, he could have contacted one of the organizations on the city’s list and gotten them snow shoveling services.

The problem is not an ordinance that makes people clear sidewalks.  People should clear sidewalks that abut their property.

The problem is that the city feels that the City-with-a-capital-c and the Commonwealth are exempt from said ordinance.

The problem is that when the city thought that the state was the abutter, they were in no way inclined to make the state shovel the walk.

The problem is that when Bill takes pictures of the Pharmasphere sidewalks, that the city should be clearing those walks, as the city still owns that land.

Councilors Eddy, O’Brien, Petty, Rushton, Palmieri, Germain, Lukes, Smith, and Haller — that is, those who are sponsoring this piece of legislation — are rewarding a few folks who have vocally opposed doing their civic duty, and by their silence on the larger inequity are also rewarding the city, which is equally committed to not shoveling something that no one will hold them accountable for.

This ordinance is, unfortunately, a knee-jerk reaction instead of a thoughtful investigation into what aspects of the ordinance are not working and which ones are.  But one can’t expect too much more in an election year.

James Street Bridge Liveblog

5:40 – I’m a little late – Moseley of MassDOT is speaking right now on Bailey Bridge feasibility – could be installed on the easterly side of the bridge, but would need to acquire right-of-way from Eddy’s Flooring America.  (On the westerly side, even more right-of-way issues.)

Temporary structure alone = $700,000 and add an additional 2 months to the 16 month timespan

5.42 – Rushton: did we look at installing the bailey bridge where the other footings down the street area?

Moseley: That would require even more road installation, etc.

Borbone — the state wants to start this on April 1, regardless of the option taken.  Close the bridge on June 1.  If they can do that, then from that point forward, either four months or 16 months.  In either case, they’ll try to get as much done during the summer as possible, because that’s when traffic is at its lowest.

[Fewer people here (10ish?) than there were last time.]

5:45 – Moseley says that 4 months is very feasible, steel is ready to be ordered.

Councilor Smith – possibility that it would be done even quicker?

Moseley – possible, but “I wouldn’t bank on it.”  By keeping one lane open, there are structural issues, so they might need to close the whole bridge once they begin looking at it more.

5:47 – Lukes – what happens between April and June?

Moseley – prep work for temporary walkways and signal equipment.  Once June goes, final barriers would go up.  Traffic would still be going on the bridge from April – June.

5:48 – Cheryl Olsen (sp?) – lives on Genesse Street and owns Gatto’s Florist, would like to say she doesn’t want the bridge closed at all.

Smith — Not really an option to not close because of the safety issues.

No other public comments.

(Also, Bill Eddy is not here.)

Konnie asked about preference for 1 way/16 month vs. closure/4 month.  Asks the audience again.

1 person raises the hand for the first option, 2 for the second option.

5:50 – Borbone reiterates that June/July/August is the slowest time for traffic.

Smith – final call for comment before they take a vote.

Four month construction will come up for a vote first.

Rushton – felt that the first meeting had a very good discussion, “this will impact” the businesses, “but we have to balance the issues here.”  “You could be spending the highway monies on more meaningful projects” than a $700k bailey bridge.

Rushton — “the four month closing will affect these businesses, no bones about it.”  He feels the 16 months will permanently affect the businesses because people will “re-wire” their driving habits.  He brings up the Newton Square construction and how that’s made people “drive in a different way.”  “You get up in the morning, and start taking that left instead of that right.”  He feels the four-month closure will impact the residents and businesses less, and discusses the public safety issue of unsafe bridges.

5:55 – Lukes — “Even if we did nothing, that bridge presents a hazard to the public.”  “I don’t think there was an intersection without construction” in the city.  She thinks that there should be large signs posted about the project, when it begins and when it ends, because there are so many projects in the city, many of which folks (including herself) have no idea what’s going on.

Smith thinks the signage would be good.  Moseley says electronic message boards will be up, and they will look into other signage.

5:57 – Smith thinks the shorter option makes more sense.  His recommendation is full closure for four month option.

All are in favor of four month option.  Will be brought up before City Council tomorrow for full Council to take a vote.

And we’re done!

Fore!

The Fore River Bridge in Weymouth/Quincy is in the planning stages to join the accelerated bridge program.  (And these pictures were taken before there was any snow on the ground.)

Another bridge that will likely be in the accelerated bridge program is the James Street Bridge.  The City Council Standing Committee on Traffic and Parking will be meeting tonight at 5:30 pm to further discuss those plans, and I’ll be there to liveblog the meeting.  (At least, I think that’s what they’re discussing — I don’t see an agenda up on the city website.)