Library Board Liveblog

5:13 – reviewing the minutes from the last meeting.

Mark’s review processs will begin at the next (November) meeting.

Library closed December 24 and 31 – board will vote on later.

Two new board members in December.  Tell your friends that there will be openings!

Next month’s meeting will be at GBV branch.

5:17 – library closing on 24th and 31st — voted on. 

Question about how the holiday works.  The staff would work M-F versus working on Saturday.

This Sunday is the first open Sunday.

5:19 — Head Librarian’s report — I have a copy and will type it up in my spare time.

after school programs on Fridays for kids, Zumba for teens on Saturday mornings.

Lots of reference events as well.

e-book reader pilot program is ready to launch.  Ping from reference department will be presenting at Worcester Tech on e-readers (think this is MLTA).

Mark is going to be on the Worcester Cultural Coalition board of directors and the literacy board of directors.

Anne Hrobsky has the shelving committee up and running — check out 850,000 items and need to look at speed of getting them back on shelves.

Anne White’s Welcoming & Safe Environment committee will begin soon.

Small solar project will happen soon.

Manager will be meeting his board meeting to the Green Room in November.

Talking Book initiative — understanding with Perkins on marketing and outreach.  They’ve sent a 14-point plan.

Cafe tables in the lobby soon.

City Manager wants to meet Julie from Foundation.

Mark went to speak at Fallon and, according to Julie, they said they could have listened to him forever.

5:34 – Donna – Finance – got an email from the city treasurer about putting interest in accounts quarterly.  They also asked if (for other accounts) wanted interest into regular trust fund budget.  But are only able to vote on those annually, so it’s a moot point.

$1500 from Saxe Fund for Smithsonian; $60,000 from Green for Foundation support.

[sorry -- didn't catch all of that]

5:36 – Terry – Report of the Friends – Janet mentioned that 5 candidates were interviewed for newsletter writer and there are two finalists.  Annual booksale is November 4/5.  Internet booksales have been going very well.  Bookstore in June – $2,283.69; July – $2,930.11; August  $2,622.66; coffee sales are ranging about $12/day.  Coffee machine was broken for a little bit.

Table and chairs are being purchased for the library.  They will be out shortly.

Next Sunday is Sundae Sunday and also celebrating birth of the new facility here (9 years, 51 weeks).  Having a birthday cake made by students at Worcester Tech.  In Children’s Room they are having a balloon sculptor.  Chet Williamson will perform from 3-4pm.  At 2:30, Ben Franklin Bookstore will be recognized for their awesomeness.

$385 for those events, but does not include balloon sculptor.

[Oh, my word.  Balloon animals!]

Terry thanks Dee for the work on the program for next Sunday.

Mark mentions that Joel and Herman helped with shelving for Union Hill.  “You know how Joel works…”

5:43 – Susan and Leslie and Julie – Foundation update.  Susan introduces Leslie Fish, new foundation board president.  Feels investment the library board has made in the foundation is money well spent. 

Susan: “I will miss Bob; I tried to sell him a house on my street.  But I really think Leslie will do a wonderful job.”

Leslie – Weren’t too many empty seats at the Celebration to Authors.

discussion of various committees of the board and grant applications.

There was some legal work regarding IRS categorizations for the foundation.

Julie thanks the staff for all their help for the event.  Joel is, predictably, awesome.

Authors said they had a good time.

New Business

5:56 – Phyllis shares that the weekend of October 1 she went to Austin - attended Austin Teen Book Festival.  Sponsored by Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.  They’ve merged the Friends and Foundation there and provided brochures.  [I am more of a "Friends" person.  It's a scrappier idea.]

Bill C. – suggested that they get people around the city reading a book, take picture, post around the library.  (like this, but Worcester)

Mark will look into this again.

Jyoti – what does the city offer in terms of awareness for parents and teachers for those children who struggle to learn to read?  Anne responds that they put computer kiosks in Parents building and building for ESL, and trained the staff.  TumbleBook library and Tumble Readables are also available.  They’ve sent this info to schools, who are working hard to connect them with us.  May be hiring a school reading specialist for Union Hill and Chandler (?)

Jyoti asks because the research in the past 5-10 years on brain development…much more knowledge now that educators have.

Bill — editorial in T&G about Latino education gap.  Black Legacy and conference on school to prison pipeline.  encourages board to read about this.

Kevin Dowd – what do we do to promote literacy for citizenship?  Post info about voting and candidates?  Mark notes that they recently hosted a school committee debate here.


Urban Poultry: The Hearing

I think I’ve made it somewhat clear that I don’t really care about chickens (that is, I don’t care if they exist in the city, but birds are one of my many phobias, so I just don’t want them approaching me on the street).

However, if you care one way or the other, there will be a hearing on Tuesday, October 11 at 5pm for the Public Health subcommittee to discuss urban chickens.

(Normally, I would love to liveblog this, but it conflicts with the library board, so if you go and would like to share your notes with the readership, let me know.)

There are certain items that I’d like to see addressed in an ordinance. 

Number one among those are roosters.  Presumably roosters would not be allowed under this ordinance.  Do we have the animal control officers to address any complaints about roosters?  Where would confiscated roosters go?  Do we have the animal rescue resources in place that could help re-home roosters?

The second would be disease and care of animals.  I know the one of the benefits of chickens is that they eat ticks (which is a major plus in my book), but the downside is that they can have diseases that most of us aren’t familiar with.  Do we have the vet resources that could assist with any potential chicken issues?  Do we have a support structure (formal or informal) for folks who’d like to raise chickens?

I’m sympathetic to those who are trying to regularize chicken ownership in Worcester.  (I say “regularize” because there are folks who are currently keeping chickens legally, and others who are not able to do the same.)  They’ve first got to make it through two hurdles: Phil “Ponytail” Palmieri and Konnie “The Look” Lukes.  Councilor Haller — the third member of the Public Health Subcommittee — is very supportive of their efforts.

Good luck, folks.

Just remember — if Konnie gives you that look, you can ask her what smells so bad.  Because it ain’t your chickens.

(Image: urban chickens, a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic licensed image from fantail media’s photostream.)


Planning Board Liveblog

5:38 – Right now, the contractor (from Wendel Duchscherer) is discussing the design.  It will be where the open parking lot is now.

Note: plenty of suits here, not that many regular folk.

They’re saying they want to begin work in Spring 2012.

Unfortunately, I can’t see the diagrams, so it is what it is.  You can see more (I guess) here and here.

“Bicycle lane and pedestrian path that deadends at the site.  Upon crossing Franklin, combined facility with room for 15-20 bicycle slips and air pump.”

Large open space to north, “important feature for this project”, welcome doormat for pedestrians and facility users.

Landscaping: along Foster Street, large shade trees.  They will pick trees that are not tasty to the ALB.

Series of evergreens that provides screening near Peter Pan line.

At Southwest corner of site, generator and transformer for backup power. 

Crosswalks will feature strobe lighting system for motorists to better notice pedestrians.

Mr. Adams: comment 1: change type of pipe to reinforced concrete; 2. manhole; 3. City of Worcester detailed sheet needed.

Mr. Fontane: having reviewed this plan, have some questions.  Street tree maintenance/removal should be reviewed with Forestry.

Response: location of existing street trees do fall within areas under construction.  Will need to be removed.  Perhaps city can plant them in other locations.

Fontane: none of trees are protected, just wanted to make sure they consulted with forestry.

Fontane: trash receptacles, bicycle pavillion, air pump, etc.

5:48 – notation about snow storage, should be labeled on revised plan.

Audience members to speak.

Mark (didn’t get last name) – wants info about the lighting plan inside and outside building and handicapped parking.

Consultant: outside lighting would be Worcester teardrop (Nicole says “testicle”) lighting.  Box lighting recessed into wall inside.  Lights on pathways.  They say it will be well-lit.

No parking spaces – handicapped or otherwise.  Asking about parking for advisory board meetings.

O’Neil of WRTA says that parking at Union Station garage will be used for advisory board meetings, accessible to building.

10 toilets throughout building.  auto sensors for sinks and toilets.  doors within facility will meet ADA requirements but not require operators.

stairwells will have handrails on both sides. 

There is elevator at one end that accesses three floors.

5:55 – Phil Stone, attorney in downtown.  First he’s heard of this formal process to move WRTA hub away from city hall.

Lives in Princeton, where there’s no public transit.

Is there any recognition of the economic role the customers of the RTA play downtown.  “They are the direct means of support” of some local businesses.  When buses were not running during a strike a few years ago, business downtown was dead.

Given challenges downtown has been facing, really should discuss the economic impact.

Bus congestion is “patently untrue.”

Curb cuts on Franklin and Front for buses.  Biggest impact are cars making illegal turns.

he uses Peter Pan to/from NYC.  Rather than make a huge impact, he suggests a few alternatives — 1) five minute loop shuttle between Union Station and City Hall;  2) young people and concerns about — “in the 25 years I’ve been downtown, I’ve only witnessed one loud disruption of the peace” and it was adults.

Would like to see hard numbers on transfer between commuter rail and buses.

More space needed at Union Station for those dropping off and picking up.

6:00pm – Susan (didn’t get last name) – lives in Crown Hill.

Who rides the buses?  We’re not Cambridge or NYC — “the poor and the elderly.”  Those folks can’t walk that distance.  Likes shuttle idea.

As far as youth, that’s probably after school, adnd that’s any place you live.

If Worcester ever really gets to bicycles, will need a lot more than 20 spaces.

John Provost, Castle Street – would like to ask what the purpose of transportation is.  “You want to get from point A to point B just as quickly and conveniently as possible.”  “This project is so impressive…but I have not heard the public input of the riders and what the riders think of this and what their goals for usage … should be.”

“It reminds me of the classic tire swing cartoon from the 70s…with all due respect, it doesn’t come together to be workable.  … The project is admirable in the sense of seamlessly integrating rail, intercity bus with the local.”

“Those that don’t drive should have just as many opportunities to use their time effectively as those who drive…” There were three times as many buses twenty years ago and if there is congestion of students downtown, it’s only because they have to wait longer for their buses.

“We are planning for the future convenience of the non-motoring population.”

“You’re turning a simple bus trip into an event.”

Stephen O’Neill speaks to plan: project wasn’t done in a vacuum, worked with MassDOT, etc., and city of Worcester economic development staff.  “Front Street will not be Front Street as it is now.”

linking up with bike path that will eventually go to RI.

WRTA will be able to use the MBTA Charlie Card system (and commuter rail is moving to Charlie Card as well).  [but how many people are using the bus to get to commuter rail & vice versa?!?]

One stop shopping with ticket vending machines.  Hopes this product will be better than what they provide their customer now.

Another member of the public – Kim McCoy – other cities aren’t doing this.  They are having interconnections, but not all buses going to one place as end point or stop off.  Compare to Pittsburgh.  A lot of people ride, good service, everything downtown is free.  Buses come in from a lot of directions, city has made a priority of getting people downtown but NOT cheap parking.

More cities have a sense of total planning, not just whatever the current grant opportunities are.  “Not just what gets us the best grants in the short term.”

Chair notes that they cannot influence the philosophy of the WRTA.

And…Jo Hart!!!!

She’s been trying to get a public hearing and “expose this absurd plan.”

The City Council agreed to have a public hearing and then they didn’t have it.

The meeting last week only had 12 people.

“Land-use disaster” — “misuse of land is outrageous” — Union Station has restrooms, Peter Pan has restrooms, the whole object of intermodal is one facility.  “It’s designed so poorly it’s nonsensical” — public has to walk through “ice and snow and slop.”

“A deed done in the dark”

“I am speaking longer than you want me to because all of this has been done in the dark.”

Thinks Steve is a little enamored that CMRPC is on the second floor and he doesn’t want to be left out.

[Jo is on FIRE!]

“It’s the worst plan in the universe.”

Jo is now shusshed because she was treading too far away from the point of the Planning Board.

She likes the Wyman Gordon site better.

I want to be Jo Hart when I get old.

board member — feels these are good concerns, but board does not have authority to make these decisions.  Who has authority to address the concerns?

Answer: Policy decisions are made by WRTA and its board of advisors.

Another board member — what is required here for parking?

Response — facility per zoning does not require parking

Third board member — bus exit questions.  Is there an assumption of signage for turns from/to Front Street (right turn only).  [Response: this can be added]

member – has there been any thought about path to downtown?

O’Neill — will work much better with opening of Front Street.

second member — will every bus transfer through here?

O’Neill — yes, pretty much every bus

chair — where is bike path right-of-way?

consultant — shared use pathway once it crosses Franklin

three building floors — WRTA third, PVSI on second, PVSI partly on first, public partly on first.   There would be space on the first floor for the public to wait.

third board member asks about architectural elements.

O’Neill — wanted to consider that because this is an innovation district, wanted architectural design that fits into the district, to extent that they can capture some of the elements in Union Station, they will do that.  One of the features will be a coffee and warm waiting area for folks waiting.

Two towers reflective of Union Station, brickwork reflective of it.

Jo wants to clarify something about the building.

Customer service facility could be at City Hall or Mid-Town Mall, shouldn’t be at Union Station.  Feels this would create congestion of “manic proportions.”

aaand…it passes.

Now off to the next event…

Guest Post: Proposed WRTA Hub at Union Station

by John Provost of the Artichoke Food Coop

What if some arbitrary decision were made to close a road that cut 5-10 minutes off your commute each way, every day? … without any input from those who use it.

The reason given might be excessive noise or congestion.

Suppose there is also no way to shorten the delay by improving any alternate route.

Your routine – commuting, getting things done, living your life – would be permanently impaired!

As a driver, you would be up-in-arms!


WRTA wants to move the transfer point for local buses away from City Hall and downtown … to a pavilion near the Peter Pan / Greyhound annex to Union Station.

You may have bused when you were younger? You might need them when you’re older. Perhaps you use them now.

The ease of non-drivers’ getting around and conducting their business in this city – could soon be downgraded! A livability factor for a whole class of people; students, disabled, elderly and working poor – is at stake! Let’s not set more hurdles of inconvenience for those whose mobility is already compromised and limited.

Integration of local buses with inter-city train & bus may appear logical at first glance but would come at a high cost of inconvenience for local, day-to-day bus commuters; people who have long been conditioned and resigned to expecting little more than indifference to THEIR concerns:

1) The proposed transfer point is not central to downtown so those wanting to do errands en-route would need to walk three to five blocks to/from downtown to avoid yet another transfer. The extra time walking to and from would frustrate effective use of layover time. IMHO it would discourage more than encourage use of public transportation.

2) The most likely routing [hasn't even been discussed] would have buses from the east and south turn first into the transfer facility before going downtown – or terminating, forcing riders to either transfer or walk downtown from / to the station for service from / to an eastside or southward local route. The spokesman admitted that would probably be the case (that buses from the east would turn into the station first before going downtown.

Union Station is NOT a destination for most local, day-to-day riders.

Yet City Councilors back this moving of the transfer point away from downtown. From a March T&G article:

But over the years, city councilors have encouraged the WRTA to move its transfer center elsewhere, particularly to Union Station, because of concern about the number of teenagers who congregate in front of City Hall throughout the day as they wait for buses.

Teenagers, like everyone else, have to commute. They can’t drive so they comprise a larger share of riders. As there are fewer busses they have to wait longer so it seems as if there are more of them. A June T&G article ranked Worcester 80th in the 100 biggest cities for having longer-than average bus waiting times and poorer access to service.

The March article extolled the virtues of seamless, direct connection with commuter rail and inter-city bus “while easing traffic congestion associated with the bus transfer station on Main Street.” [What congestion? There are fewer buses than 20 years ago.]

Fostering Commuter rail access via WRTA bus could potentially remove hundreds of second vehicles from the road as well as free up parking for others. [Though many need to pick up children, spouses and do errands en route so how many would actually give up their car?] Visitors to Worcester could get any WRTA bus from the station. These would be two most compelling reasons to originate local busing from Union Station.

But should seamless intermodal integration be done at the expense of convenience for day-to-day local bus commuters?

WRTA could not supply a number or ratio of local riders connecting to rail or inter-city bus when asked at a Worcester Library meeting on 9/22. I asked WRTA’s spokesman at that meeting if anyone had asked riders if they thought changing the transfer point to the edge of downtown was a good idea. He could not answer in the affirmative.

WRTA plans to break ground on this new hub in November – with 60% of the project planning already completed. There will be discussion at WRTA’s Advisory Board Meeting tomorrow morning according to their Facebook page but where & when was there a public hearing in Worcester about the matter before Thursday, 9/22?

The proposed hub is on the agenda for the City Planning Board Meeting at 5:30 in the Levi Lincoln Room. 3rd floor, City Hall.

Rise Up and be heard!

CWW: Sheep to Shawl – Llama to Pajama on Saturday

The extremely awesome (and free!) Sheep to Shawl – Llama to Pajama event will be held on Saturday, October 8 from noon-4pm (rain or shine) at Green Hill Farm.

Highly recommended: the live sheep (or llama; I’ve got conflicting information) shearing at 2pm.

Seriously, my kids were disappointed last year when they found there was just one llama — and not a flock — waiting to be shorn.

More information here.

(Image: llamas, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licensed photo from ECohen’s photostream.)

Two Candidates Whose Time Has Come

I’ve tried to shy away from political endorsements on the blog, but in the face of increasing voter apathy, I think it’s time to release a Kraken or two.

To that end, I would like to propose two candidates for the office of Mayor.

Please note that I would only recommend voting for one of these candidates. I think you can guess which one I’d pick.

Candidate 1: Frankenlouie

With Paul Clancy’s impending retirement, the City Council is desperately in need of an elder statesman.

And who better to fit into that role than a 70-year-old [in cat years], two-faced [insert politician joke here] cat?

The real question is not whether a feline is eligible to be elected to the Council, nor whether the feline in question even lives in Worcester.

It’s really whether someone named “Frankenlouie” could actually win an election.  At minimum, you need an Irish last name.

So — I’d recommend Frankenlouie do a quick name change to Janus O’Rourke.  Add a few stars to some campaign signage (including the all-important star-as-an-apostrophe usage) and you’ve got a winner!

Added incentive: the video broadcast of every City Council meeting would need to contain the words “Caution: This Program Contains Material That Could Be Disturbing To Some Viewers” before the beginning of the program and before every commercial break.

Of course, that disclaimer should appear before every City Council meeting, but a two-faced cat would give us the necessary excuse.

(And, yes, you read that right — commercial breaks.  If we had a two-faced cat for Mayor, people would be beating down the door, and we’d have enough folks willing to watch that we could charge admission.)

Candidate 2:  The Research Bureau

The most curious part of the Worcester election cycle has got to be the Research Bureau’s questions for candidates.  Yes, the Research Bureau asks candidates questions…and then answers them for us! 

So let’s just cut out the middleman.  If the Research Bureau is already answering questions for candidates, and seems to be driving much of the worst parts of public policy, why not just elect it Mayor?

Where else can you get a candidate so out of touch with reality it can say the following without a little smiley face at the end:

“Worcester Airport lacks many features typically associated with a major commercial air service provider, such as more runways, longer runways, and a covered parking garage.”

AND PLANES!  Let’s not forget the one feature that actually attracts customers!

Where else could you find a candidate so boldly anti-union that it could easily attract at least 33% of telegram.commenters?

Where else could you find a candidate who recommends a program like Teach for America (saying, among other things, that it “emphasizes diversity in race … in its recruitment policies”) without noting that 80% of TfA teachers leave after just three years, and that 65% of its teachers are white?

Where else but Worcester?