Asking a blunt question

Scott Croteau’s T&G article about marijuana citations and their discontents was quite good, in a connect-the-dots kind of way.

The great thing about the article — though it’s unsaid — is that it compares Leiceister’s marijuana citations (2010 census population = 10,970) versus Dudley’s (2010 census = 11,390).  Both towns have a small college, and they’re pretty close in population size, diversity (or lack thereof), and per capita income.

Unfortunately, the article has a lot of apples and oranges.  We’re told that Leicester has 126 unpaid citations that have been issued over the last two years; we don’t know how many have been paid (or issued, for that matter).  (We do know that “100+ decriminalized tickets” were issued in 2009, according to the Leicester PD website.)

We know that Dudley has 8 unpaid from the last seven months (out of a total of 22).  If you assume that there’s been a similar rate of paid/unpaid (and I wouldn’t necessarily assume), that rate would be about 88 over a total of two years.  (Where, again, Leicester issued more than 100 in the first year alone.)

According to the article, Worcester (2010 census = 181,045) has had 58 citations from September 11, 2009 to March 3, 2011, or roughly 18 months.  Again, assuming a similar rate, that would be about 77 citations in two years’ time.

That means that Leicester likely issued more tickets in one year (2009) than a similarly sized town did over two years, and that it issued more tickets in one year than a city sixteen times its population did over the course of two years.

That, my friends, is the real story.

Here’s what would help flesh this story out:

1) We need to know how many tickets Leicester has issued over the past two years.  Worcester’s rate of tickets paid vs. issued is 64% (37 paid/58 issued).  Dudley’s is also 64% (14 paid/22 issued).  Perhaps Leicester’s rate is the same; if they’ve issued roughly 340 tickets (which seems a distinct possibility), their rate is roughly equivalent to that of Worcester or Dudley.

2) It would help if we were comparing the same periods in this article.  Comparing a seven month period to a two-year period (with incomplete data) to an 18 month period makes for difficult reading.

3) It would help to know what a good rate of return is on these types of tickets.

The larger question, of course, is why the town of Leicester assumes that ticketing for possession of marijuana can make enough of a budget difference to pay for more than half a dozen part-time officers, or why Chief Hurley feels the primary reason people like me voted for this law is that we felt it would be a new revenue stream.

I didn’t vote for this because I wanted small-town cops in someone’s business about a relatively minor offense, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that it’s unenforceable.

I knew when I voted for it that it was unenforceable.  That was the point.

I am straight edge.  I really don’t see much difference between someone using that drug and using a legal drug like alcohol.  I certainly don’t see why someone should be punished for having a small amount of marijuana when they can carry a fifth of whiskey with no consequence.

And I should clarify: I don’t think Chief Hurley’s bad.  I wish the Worcester PD had a weekly column like his.  I drive through Leicester quite a bit, and I’ve never noticed predatory speed enforcement like I have in other towns.

But I think he’s really wrong about this, and it’s really unfortunate that he’s taken the law as a fiat from the electorate to offset municipal budget cuts by targeting stoners.  And I wish someone had asked why he’s taken it that way.

Cheap Dior Alert

I know I should save this for a Cheap Worcester Wednesday, but there is this absolutely awesome Christian Dior skirtsuit at Goodwill on Park Avenue for $15.  It’s a size 8, it’s purple-and-blue-striped, and even my husband feels it’s pretty nifty.

There is no way I am ever going to be able to squeeze myself into a size 8 skirt this lifetime, but if there’s one thing in the world j’adore, it’s Dior.  So if you are a size 8 and you, too, adore Dior, do not walk but RUN to Goodwill and pick up that outfit. 

And then send me a picture so that I can drool.

(Yes, I know I should take pictures of the new design of Goodwill.  Soon, mes amis!)

Matrix or Vortex, you be the judge

I’m in a big funk about this city.

It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even get excited about a Scott Wolfe letter to the editor.  If your biggest complaint about the City of Worcester is that it’s populated by Irish Catholics who charge you $10 to park downtown, I Will Teach You To Park For Cheap Or Free Downtown.  As long as you’re willing to walk a few blocks.

In more “shticks that grow tiresome” news, there’s a letter to the editor about pools not being open.

I often say it, but it’s always true: Worcester is like the Matrix.  There are about 1,000 real people in this city and everyone else is a scowling, perpetually grumpy, be-sunglassed dude in a suit continually gumming up the works to perpetuate their own negative view of the city.

This is how we have letter to the editor that says the following:

It’s June and it’s getting hot and still neither of the two pools that are safe enough to use is open. The pool at Crompton Park is locked down, barren and full of leaves. The Webster Square pool is empty save a little dirty rain water collecting.

At this point, I’m not sure whether it’s the city not doing enough publicity about (a) which pools they maintain and which the state maintains, (b) when the Crompton Park pool and Greenwood spray park are opening (July 1), or (c) details about what the Wheels to Water program does…or whether folks are just willfully not paying any sort of attention to anything that happens in this city. 

The Webster Square/Bennett Field/Veterans Memorial pool is owned & operated by the state, and it was open this weekend.  (The tip that it was going to open this weekend was that the purple mushroom/psychedelic shower in the pool was operating earlier in the week.  One has to take the oracles one is handed.)

In fact, the letter-writer said the following:

That means no kids have been able to jump into a pool since the summer of 2007.

While this may be true of city-owned pools, this is not true of state-owned pools.  The Webster Square/etc. pool was open last summer.  It’s unclear whether the letter-writer is even aware that the Shine Pool exists.

While I agree with some of the other points of the letter-writer (that is, that the city has not been clearly communicating about the schedule for the other pools, that private entities have been picking up the slack left by the city government, etc.), this letter absolutely crosses the line dividing opinion from mis-information.

Of course people have the right to send letters to the editor.  This gentleman has a right to his option.

But we seem to have an epidemic of folks — including this letter-writer — who are living in some time vortex from three years ago.  How many phone calls will various elected officials get about pools that are already open or which will be open in a few days’ time?  How many people will get riled up about a program that is providing a bit of a summer camp experience for kids who might not otherwise afford it?

The Telegram continues to publish letters that have little basis in fact.  I’m not talking about letters that could make sense (or not) depending on one’s point of view; I’m talking about letters that are written by people with more of a passion for making complaints than looking at the calendar on their fridge to see what year it is.

There are pools.  There should be more pools.  The city should do a better job of communicating with residents.  None of that is in question.

There are enough outlets for perpetuating myths, hallucinations, and outright lies in this city without the Telegram Letters page.  At the very least, there should have been an editor’s note to correct the obvious mistakes.