Burns Bridge Meeting – September 21

The latest meeting regarding the Burns Bridge will be held on Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00 at the Worcester Technical High School Conference Center.

More from the meeting announcement:

PURPOSE: The purpose of this hearing is to provide the public with the opportunity to become fully acquainted with the proposed bridge replacement alternative of Bridge No. S-14-001=W-44-018, Route 9 over Lake Quinsigamond. All views and comments made at the hearing will be reviewed and considered to the maximum extent possible.
PROPOSAL: The proposed project consists of the replacement of the Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge, Route 9 over Lake Quinsigamond. The proposed bridge structure will have three travel lanes in each direction, left and right turning lanes at each approach, bicycle-accommodating shoulders and sidewalks in each direction.

Election Commission Meeting tonight

As reported in the Telegram, there will be an Election Commission meeting tonight at 5:30pm. (Though the Telegram reports that the date of the preliminary election will be September 15, and I thought it was September 20. Clarification, please!)

I’ve read the Worcester Seven Hills Tea Party’s allegations of what happened at some polling places (and various responses) numerous times.  I’ve read this document from bottom to top quite a few times, and I still don’t have a clear sense of what happened, what needs to be done, or even what my opinion is.

I’ve tried (and failed) over the course of a few weeks to write a post about the issues that will be brought up.  What follows is a rather random collection of my thoughts.

1.

The Worcester Seven Hills Tea Party has been training poll watchers to identify what they call voter fraud. In the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s parlance, these folks are called “observers”, and there are rules that need to be followed with observers [on pp.4-5 of the link], and there are guidelines regarding challenging someone’s vote [pp. 5-6 of the link].

What concerns me most regarding the Tea Party observers’ accounts of events [pp.22-33 of the link] in the polling locations is that there are plenty of insinuations of wrongdoing (on the part of groups like Neighbor to Neighbor or poll workers) but it doesn’t seem as if any votes were challenged.  If there was the extent of problems these folks allege, why did they not challenge a particularly problematic individual voter?

If you’re going to warn folks that there might be massive election fraud, wouldn’t it behoove you to challenge the fraudulent votes that are happening all around you?

2.

As I mentioned previously, I have been and continue to be concerned that the right of a voter to bring someone into a polling booth is really at the heart of what’s being challenged.  It’s well within a voter’s rights to bring their grandchild, next-door neighbor, or even a campaign worker into the booth with them.

In the original challenge, there also seemed to be a lot of attention paid to whether someone was allowed to vote if they were disabled or homeless.  Challenges to someone’s right to vote for either reason should concern folks across the political spectrum.

3.

I’m also concerned that the Tea Party folks are portraying themselves as a non-partisan group and that N2N is a political party.  The Tea Party folks appear to have been working at least in part with the campaign manager for Marty Lamb.  This is not to say that N2N isn’t actively campaigning or assisting candidates.

But for the Seven Hills Tea Party (a group with “party” right in its name) to accuse N2N of being a political party while not acknowledging its own close relationship to the Lamb campaign is a touch disingenuous.

4.

The Worcester Tea Party [not the same as the “Seven Hills”] said that Worcester’s potential Arizona ban wasn’t the business of the Worcester City Council.  Why aren’t they out there asking why Boylston (and Southborough) residents have any business in Worcester elections?

And why didn’t the Worcester Seven Hills Tea Party step up to the plate and provide a much-needed candidate forum before this year’s preliminary election?  If they spent as much time encouraging voter engagement and education as they do prepping conservative activists to identify “voter fraud”, I would likely be more sympathetic to their cause.

5.

I don’t think this increased attention on elections is a bad thing, and I do think the Tea Partiers had good points about the need for training, and the need to move voters to the inactive list as a result of the city census.

I hope that the increased attention also encourages folks to apply to serve on the Election Commission, which currently has two openings, one of which has already been discussed in some depth in the Telegram.

Now more than ever, we need people committed to the democratic process and fairness who are willing to serve.

Abby’s House Thrift Shop Benefit Swap Today

Details:

Who: You, your friends and family, and anyone you know!

What: Swap personal usefuls/toiletries for clothing from our Thrift Shop. (Swap bag optional)

Where: Abby’s House Thrift Shop, 52 High Street Worcester, MA 01609

When: Saturday August 27, 2011,  10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.  Be sure to read the “How” for details…

How: Arrive any time after 9:30 a.m. and drop off your bag of donated items.
(Drop off and pay entry fee to receive armband)
($5 with donation bag, $10 without donation bag)

Bring a bag of personal usefuls including 5 or more of the following:
-plastic wrap/aluminum foil
-paper towels
-toilet paper
-paper napkins
-tissues
-feminine sanitary items
-shampoo/conditioner
-lotion (face, hand, or body)
-toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss
-deodorant
-soap, body wash, body scrub
-hand soap, hand sanitizers

Please be sure personal items are new, unused, and have not expired! Donated swap bags will be checked and accepted at designated drop off times only. Clothing donations will NOT count towards swap. (Please NO clothing donations this day).

Leave the Thrift Shop with a trash bag (that we supply) with any (boutique and regular!) dresses, suits, skirts, blazers, jackets, sweaters, tops, slacks, shorts, jeans, scrubs, pajamas, bathing suits, active wear, shoes, purses, bags and luggage. *Additional trash bags may be purchased for $5.00 each.

With your donation you will receive a trash bag sized bag, provided by Abby’s House Thrift Shop, and you will be able to fill it with clothing and accessories, including dresses, suits, skirts, blazers, jackets, sweaters, tops, slacks, shorts, jeans, scrubs, pajamas, bathing suits, active wear, shoes, purses, bags, and luggage. *Additional trash bags may be purchased for $5.00 each.

There will be a line to get in beginning at 9:30 a.m.  Doors open at 10 a.m.!
Drop off and admission will continue until 1:30 p.m.  First come, first served!
Rain, shine or hurricane we will be in the Thrift Shop to serve you!

Library Meeting Room Guidelines Mtg 1 Summary

Steve Foskett has an article about yesterday’s Materials Subcommittee meeting in the T&G today.

I know that some folks find the liveblog format to be difficult to follow, and there were a lot of distractions from the task at hand.

Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t always on track — there were times when folks on both sides moved away from the task at hand (that is, should we change the meeting room guidelines) and instead focused on deposition-like descriptions of events that occurred a couple of months ago.

Here’s what I think the next meeting (which should be sometime in early September) should focus on:

What (if any) are the problems with the existing guidelines?  I don’t have a problem with the guidelines as they stand.  I think adopting something similar Wakefield’s guidelines are an acceptable compromise if the alternative is no public forum at all (though — as I’ll note later — I’d like to see a legal opinion on whether this, too, would pose an unfair burden on someone’s first amendment rights).  I’d obviously prefer a public forum.

I would welcome a more philosophical discussion on whether the WPL considers meetings rooms to be part of its mission, because I think that would help guide the discussion.

How much should public input weigh in on meeting room guidelines or decisions?  I don’t mean this in a glib way.  Many libraries provide access to materials that some (or many) members of the public might find offensive.  Members of the public don’t weigh in on materials management decisions.

Ron Madnick brought up a concern about labeling a group as disruptive (or potentially disruptive).   This could provide a pre-emptive heckler’s veto; if you’re interested in reading more about the legal issues surrounding heckler’s veto and especially issues with charging speakers the cost of police protection that might result from their presence, read this.   (It seems to call into question whether we could even request that a group meet after library hours.)

I won’t pretend to have all the answers about this, but I think it is worth thinking about the tension between the library being a publicly-funded and supported institution that also sometimes (because of its mission) provides a venue (through materials or meetings) for unpopular ideas.

Does the rule prohibiting booking recurring meetings need clarification?  There was a question at the meeting about whether organizational meetings could be held at the library, and the answer is in the affirmative as long as they’re open to the public.  But I think there should be a note — whether on the application or in the guidelines — that library-sponsored (or Friends-sponsored, or Literacy Volunteers) events can be set up on a recurring basis, but that all other groups can only book one meeting at a time.

Can government do a better job of informing residents about the topics to be discussed in a meeting?  This is, perhaps, a question for both the library board and city government as a whole.

If you click on an item in the city government calendar, there’s no easy link to the agenda for that meeting.  I’ve been told that it’s not possible to put links into that format, though one wonders if one could at least paste a non-linked URL into the “More Information” column.

I think there would be ways to link to an agenda URL in the library’s own calendar system, so I’ll suggest that at the next library board meeting.

In the meantime, library board (and committee) meeting agendas are posted in the Boards and Commission section of the Agendas & Minutes page on the city website.  You can also find some agendas & minutes for a lot of groups that don’t fit into an easy mold under the Committees and Groups section.

CWW: Holden Library Book Sale

Of all the book sales in Central Mass., the one to beat is the Friends of the Gale Free Library sale in August.  Their book sales are always excellent — the prices are slightly higher than some of the cheaper sales, but are always extremely well-organized and sorted, and have the best selection.

And if you’re a slightly bibliomaniacal book buyer, there are often teenaged volunteers who are more than willing to carry your books to your car for you.

Just sayin’.

Dates for the book sale:

Thursday, August 25 from 10am – 2pm

Holden Days, Saturday, August 27 from 9am – 3pm (warning: parking is nearly impossible during Holden Days)

$5 Bag Sale – Thursday, September 8 from 4pm – 7pm

$5 Bag Sale – Saturday, September 10th from 10am – 2pm

$5 Bag Sale – Thursday, September 13 from 4pm – pm

TEACHER’S SALE – Thursday, September 15th from 3pm – 5pm

Library Meeting Room Guidelines Hearing Liveblog

6:03 pm – Bill, Jyoti, Donna, Kevin, Dante here from the board.  (First three on the materials committee)

small-ish turnout (Steve Foskett, Kevin Ksen, Ron Madnick, and a couple others)

Right now Donna is reading from the library’s meeting room guidelines.

Bill – “application process is simple”

Dee — sometimes she gets applications online, sometimes by phone.  “If the room is available and there’s not a library program, they can have it.  … library programs do take precedence.”  She always checks to see if there’s a commercial purpose.  Then she takes their name, their org’s name, phone number, email, what room they want, if they want a certain setup, screen needs, etc.

6:07 – Bill — how busy is the request?

Just from June last year – July this year – nearly 900 bookings.

Jyoti confirms that they do not need to be Worcester residents.  People from all over MA and sometimes out of state book rooms.

(another attendee has entered the room)

Bill — are we assigned a dept within the Police to deal with?

Dee — would have to talk to Mark about that.

Bill — we’ll either change policy, tweak policy, or make no change.

Joel says 1500-2000 people a day come in the library.

(another 2 attendees — John Trobaugh one of them — have entered the room)

6:11 — Bill asks when Joel gets involved.

Joel says the traffic is always busy.  No matter what’s going on in the meeting rooms, they enforce library rules.  Doesn’t matter about the content of the meeting.

(There seems to be a small altercation/confrontation going on outside the room.  Now they’re in.  It’s the Davises.  They are bringing signs in after being told not to.  Joel is calling the police.)

Kevin wants clarity.  Will there be a series of meetings?

Bill says if we can get everything done here, that’s great.

“Is there anything really wrong” with the existing policy — is what we’re trying to get at.

He wants folks to now address the committee with questions.

(Ah, two of the attendees are NEWPers.)

Gordon Davis wants to talk about why the Nazis shouldn’t come.

Ron Madnick is talking about the library meeting room guidelines and says that they conform to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.

“I can never recall an incident that was out of control” except for the incident in question.

However, since the meeting is open to everyone, it’s open to library personnel.  He suggests that folks call 911 if there is an incident.

He quote further from the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.  He thinks the policy has worked wonderfully.

Gordon Davis — could the policy prohibit a group because of violence, fear of violence, or pending legal action?

Bill discusses the Youtube video and how “it brought a lot of conversation from city authorities” — “there was the potential for some violence to happen.”

I discussed a bit of the Wakefield library situation.

Continuing discussion from Kevin and Ron.  You can guess their comments.

Ron’s understanding of the heckler’s veto — people have a right to speak.  If a group comes in — by their action they are stopping the group who has a right to speak from their rights.

Any damage to the room is the responsibility of the group reserving the room — “You already have that protection there.”

Bill — the last time a group’s privileges were suspended…wants Kevin to outline the comment.

Committee on Administration acting on authority given them from the whole board.   Felt that Youtube video was inciting violence.

Russell James disputes Kevin’s claim that they had not secured their room booking.

Kevin feels that meeting room policy is for all groups, should be based on the whole thing, not just one incident.

Gordon Davis — May 21st incident — before this incident, the manager at the city (?) said this group was dangerous.  He says that Russell threw a chair at him and that there’s a criminal investigation against him.  Russell is being a touch interruptive.

He says they should not be allowed because they are violent criminals, he thinks all the nazis are like that.  He (James) is a “clear and present danger” — “Racial genocide cannot be spoken, … yet we allow it even though we know it’s a danger.”

“When you’re in a concentration camp or a death camp, there is no freedom of speech.”

Kevin — let’s keep it at the level of principles and not direct this at people in the room.  “We’re not a courtroom here.” 

Russell James — apparently someone believes that meeting in a room is criminal activity.  “We never touched them, they screamed and hit us.”   “It’s this group that Gordon belongs to that caused violence.”

OK…let’s not let this degenerate, folks.

6:37 – lots more folks entering.  Not NEWPers.

Jo Hart is here too.

She will speak next.

Multiple video being taken.

Bill C. – “We’re looking at the public safety of this community.”

Jo Hart — Upset about a lot of things, especially the way the paper handled it.  She had a meeting here once, wanted to have it on a regular basis, and it was not allowed.  But the book group has their meetings arranged a year — and it’s library sponsored, so it’s excluded from the “not on a regular basis” rule.

Russell — any group can come and define another group as a problem.  “We’re not nazis — we’re a white rights group. … He and his group don’t like that, call us nazis and shut us down.”  He would recommend that we continue the current policy.

Jo agrees with that.  Thinks the media incited what happened and didn’t make it clear who was holding the weapon.

Kevin – NEWP did not have a meeting here, and they didn’t proceed because of the threats of violence in the video.  They put up another, second video threatening violence.  Need to aggregate information from outside and see the pattern and the structure to catch that.

6:45 — John Trobaugh — reason he’s here is that the policy of allowing freedom of speech is a good one, however what is your policy of tracking groups and tracking problems?

Bill — no current tracking of groups

Kevin — meeting room privileges were suspended for one particular day, no evidence group is violent beyond that particular day.   No ongoing claim against any particular group.  In this meeting, big-picture view of policy.  We’re not going to write a policy based on one group or one day.

Bill reads again from the mission statement of the WPL.

“We want to protect the public interest while protecting…this gem.”

Aretha — multi-generational uses this library.  If they have a concern about a group that is violent, “nobody should be preaching violence to anyone.”

Tracy, Aretha’s sister — she facilitates a program for teens here.  Anyone is allowed to come in, brings people in and celebrates a specific culture.  Now she’s saying pedophiles are going to meet at the library.

John Provost — appreciates the board’s openness for having this hearing, and appreciates the library’s and ALA’s openness in free interchange of ideas.  He “abhors censorship of any kind.”  There’s also (in addition to the heckler’s veto) books in the library that might be offensive.  Every copy of Mein Kampf is repeatedly purchased and “lost”/”missing”.  That’s a form of book veto power.  Systematic self-appointed censors, and Christian groups do it as well.

He is denied the opportunity to look at these firsthand sources because of these censors.

He’s viewed this groups videos and the July 16th promo was antagonistic, agrees with the board’s decision on that specific meeting.

Ron — knows board will not consider this.  Tracking is impossible and unreasonable.  Where would they draw the line — and if you draw the line in the wrong place, you could get sued.  Somewhat concerned about the word “incite” and about all these police cruisers.

“I refuse to live in a world of fear. … got to be careful with the rhetoric.”

SING IT RON!

6:57 – Bill says we’ll end at 7pm, will hold another hearing.

Gordon – inconsistency in board policy.  Were told that they could not have organizational meetings at the library.  Now he understands that a group from Manchester wants to have organizational meetings.  Suggests that the rooms should be reserved by those who live or work in Worcester.  The people of Worcester paid for this building.  [Um, not really.]

Jo – in favor of inclusion and not exclusion.

Gwen — opposed to any group that pushes racism.  [I’m opposed to any group that pushes censorship, so call us even.]  Wants to put it on record that we stand for multi-racial unity.

Russell — if you try to say that some group is saying something, groups don’t speak, individuals do.  He believes this library gets federal funding, then you can’t restrict to Worcester residents.

Kevin likes no fees, open meetings, etc.  He’s heard the word “censorship” — he supports Russell using this room as an individual, not his group.  The board has seen fliers that threaten violence, these are things that the group does.  He supports access to individuals and not to groups that threaten violence.

Unnamed lady says you should have to be a resident to be able to sponsor an event.

Ron hates to disagree with his friend Gordon.  You’re part of the regional library system.  Not all the books are from Worcester.  Should not be limited to residents of Worcester.  NAACP had an organizational meeting, he’s seen nothing wrong with that, as long as they’re open to anyone who wishes to attend.

I think we’re wrapping this up [for today].

Kevin would like something before full board before September meeting.  Subcommittee meeting early in September so that it can be brought to the board, discussed, and sent to city solicitor.  It will be in early September — announced later.

Battery’s running low.  Will update as needed later.

CWW: Free Fun Friday at Ecotarium and OSV

This Friday is the last of the Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Fridays.

There will be free admission at both the Ecotarium and Old Sturbridge Village.  (And if you can’t make it on Friday to OSV, there’s a pretty great Groupon deal for adult admission.)

(Image: Old Sturbridge Village, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licensed photograph from Matthias Rosenkranz’ photostream.)