If you pay your property tax, you’re paying for this

Regarding the accident on Hamilton and Essex Streets in 2010, the WPD issued a press release:

The Essex County District Attorney has concluded their investigation into the November 28, 2010 motor vehicle accident at Hamilton Street and Puritan Avenue. The Essex County District Attorney supports the findings of the Worcester Police Department Accident Reconstruction Unit and places the fault on the female operator who entered Hamilton Street and caused the collision.

It is unfortunate for the community that the reporting on this accident by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette continually distorted, through unsubstantiated allegations, bias, and innuendo, the facts in this accident. Unlike the Telegram and Gazette, the Essex County District Attorney and the Worcester Police Department conduct thorough, factual, and unbiased investigations before making a determination of fact and submitting written reports of findings.

From the Telegram:

While investigators and prosecutors have blamed the crash on Ms. Higgins for failing to see Mr. Duffy when she pulled out onto Hamilton Street, state police Lt. Andrew S. Klane, an accident reconstruction expert, wrote in his report to prosecutors that had Officer Duffy been driving “between 30 and 43 mph, this collision could have been avoided.”

Perhaps we need to resort to “unsubstantiated allegations, bias, and innuendo” because no one checked (or obtained a warrant for) Mr. Duffy’s personal cell phone (to refute the “unsubstantiated allegation” that he called his father before calling paramedics) and because no one performed a field sobriety or breathalyzer test on him.


This is not to say that the Telegram is blameless; if the female motorist in question was a machinist, surely the newspaper wouldn’t be tweeting her profession.

But — on a similar note — the WPD has recently told us that someone charged with being a “common nightwalker” “was observed by officers actively attempting to flag down passing motor vehicles to engage in sexual activities.”

How exactly was she doing that?  Did she have a custom-made flag printed with the word “Sex” to wave at cars?  Was the moving one index finger in and out of a hole made by an “O” made by the index finger and thumb of her other hand?


I like that the WPD issues press releases.

What I don’t like is the level of invective present in many of the press releases.

The WPD have recently told us that “the Worcester Telegram and Gazette continues to distort the facts and circumstances as they pertain to the Worcester Police Department” and that “the Worcester community deserves quality policing as well as fair, honest, and unbiased reporting. Unfortunately, the community gets the former but not the latter.”

If the WPD is committed to showing us facts, then they should be posting crime stats by neighborhood. If the WPD wants to give the community good reporting, then why was the Telegram the only organization livetweeting the situation with the missing children in the Vernon Hill area?

In the case of Office Duffy, the WPD could have posted the (full) official report from the Essex DA’s office, which would have allowed residents to form an opinion outside of the T&G-WPD tit-for-tat.  Instead, we got another neener-neener press release.

We are now paying for a full-time media specialist for the WPD.

Since Katie Daly was hired into that position, the people of Worcester have received a long press release calling out a judge and not one, but two, press releases criticizing the local daily newspaper.

Why do we need to pay another person for what we’ve already been getting for years?

CWW: Free Classical Music this weekend

At Clark:

1 – Peter Sulski: Solo Bach part two
Friday, January 27, 12:00 PM-2:00 PM
John and Kay Basset Vistors Center

This is the second in a series of 12 programs over the next six concert seasons, cycling through the complete solo violoncello suites and violin partitas of Bach, performed on violin and viola.

2 – Alumni Voice Recital
Friday, January 27, 7:30 PM-9:30 PM
Traina Center for the Arts, Razzo Hall

A gala evening of song and virtuosity
Featuring four of Clark Universitys star alums who have gone on to careers as professional singers.
Darlene Ann (Patterson) Dobisch 95

Zhanna Alkhazova 02
Thaddeus Bell 98
Tara Goodhue Alcorn 07
Accompanied by Sima Kustanovich
The program will feature favorite arias, duets, and ensembles from the opera repertory, ranging from Handel and Mozart to Tchaikovsky and Verdi.

3 – Worcester Chamber Music Society Performs Bach and Telemann
Sunday, January 29, 3:00 PM-5:00 PM

Traina Center for the Arts, Razzo Hall

Tracy Kraus, flute
Rohan Gregory, violin
Joshua Gordon, cello
Ian Watson, harpsichord

At Holy Cross:

Sunday, January 29, 3:00 PM, at St. Joseph Chapel

Neil Cockburn, a prize winning young organist from Scotland, will perform as part of the Holy Cross Chapel Artists Series. Now residing in western Canada, he was awarded the Lili Boulanger Prize in Music for his outstanding work as an organist.  Cockburn is well known for his exciting and brilliant performances. He is head of Organ Studies at the Mount Royal University Conservatory in Canada.

The program will include selections from Dieterich Buxtehude, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Michael Praetorius, Jehan Titelouze, Louis Couperin, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

CWW: Holy Cross Seelos Film Series Spring 2012

The College of the Holy Cross offers free movies most Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights at the Seelos Theater.  Full listing for the spring here.

Some offerings that families with children might appreciate:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Fri., Jan. 27 and Sat., Jan. 28: Showing at 7 p.m.

Puss in Boots – Fri., Feb. 17 and Sat., Feb. 18: Showing at 7 p.m.

We Bought A Zoo – Fri., March 16 and Sat., March 17: Showing at 7 p.m.

Hugo – Fri., April 20 and Sat., April 21: Showings at 7 p.m.

Give the man a prize

The new director at the Worcester Art Museum, Matthias Waschek, recently spoke with the Worcester Business Journal, and immediately made himself an urban planning hero:

I think that in that new chapter, we should align ourselves with the strategic plan of the city of Worcester. We should have an impact on the urban fabric, thinking about our immediate environment as well.

How can you do that?

Well, I’ll give you one example. This is a dream rather than reality. When you think about our parking lot, for instance, parking lots are urban nightmares. Our parking lot is a nightmare as much as any parking lot is. But we have art. So could we not combine a sculpture park with a parking lot so people, when they come onto the parking lot, understand that they’re in an arts space? Something like that.

This is on the heels of a few pieces that are well worth reading if you’re interested in urban parking: The case for the $6 parking meter (recently published in the Boston Globe Ideas section), and Between the lines (which Tracy directed me to, under the more accurate “Parking makes people crazy” headline).

Enjoy some R&R while you can

If you’re a plumbing DIYer in central Massachusetts, you’re undoubtedly familiar with this animated neon sign:

The blue light tubes simulate dripping water.  Very cool.

As of last month, R&R Plumbing on Chandler Street has new owners, who are also changing the name of this Worcester institution.  That lovely sign’s days may be numbered.  The new owners have already changed the sign on the building:

On a recent visit there seemed to be fewer staff members around.  The inventory looked pretty much the same, but one employee noted that they’ll be phasing out American Standard fixtures and carrying Kohler instead.  The former offers a larger range of commercial fixtures with a small selection for residential use.  Kohler reverses that & has more of the residential stuff.  Supposedly the plumbers who frequent R&R/Peabody do a lot more residential work than commercial, so the new owners are hoping that the change wil be good for business.

Boston Adopt-A-Hydrant

Via New Urban Mechanics:

To adopt one of Boston’s 13,000+ public hydrants, go to http://boston.adoptahydrant.org. Once you sign in, you can choose and name – the hydrant(s) you would like to volunteer to shovel out. You will receive a confirmation email with your hydrant location(s) and shoveling tips as well as friendly reminders when snowstorms hit.

The Adopt-A-Hydrant application was developed by Erik Michaels-Ober, a Code for America fellow, who served with the City of Boston in 2011. The City is piloting the application this year. If successful, the City will explore how this application could be used to encourage adoption of other streetscape features, such as trees. The app also is available for other places to use and, to date, three cities – Chicago, Honolulu, and Buenos Aires – already have expressed an interest in adapting it for use by their residents.

Does anyone think it’s worth petitioning the City Council to see if we can adapt it for use in Worcester?

Library Fines – the Netflix Model

I hadn’t intended to write more about library fines, but I came across this article about an Australian boy whose library debt (originally AU$7 for five late books, plus AU$15 for a damaged book) was turned over to a collection agency and became a total debt of AU$46.75.  I don’t have much comment on it, but it seems the library wasn’t really following its own guidelines (that is, debts over $25 would be referred to collection agencies).  Just a tidbit to file away in the back of the head in case someone brings up collection agencies in the future.

Before the Speak Out Southbridge blog closed, there had been a post about the Charlton library fine situation,and a commenter had mentioned the Netflix model as an alternative to library fines.

The city of Hayward, California, currently has a program called Fines-Free membership that substitutes an opt-in flat fee for fines.

Those who opt in can pay $2.99 to take out three items at a time, for as long as the patron wants, with no fines.  (For those who like to have more items out at a time, one can pay $4.99 for five items or $8.99 for ten items.)

What happens if someone has a book out for an extended period of time and someone else requests it?  Users could either request it from another library à la C/W MARS, or the library would purchase another copy.  Since the money from the Fines-Free membership program goes to buy library materials, the library would have the funds to purchase another copy.

What if a patron cancels his Fines-Free membership?  “Any library items checked out at the time of cancellation will be due back to the library within 7 days for DVDs and 21 days for other items; standard overdue charges apply.”

What about items borrowed from another library in the area’s C/W MARS-like system?  Those would still have due dates and fines associated with them.

There’s an interesting interview with the then-acting library director from a couple years ago when the program was being implemented.  The program — as far as I can tell — has not had a lot of takers.

I wonder if this kind of fee-based program would be more popular if it were combined with the other appealing aspect of Netflix: mailing items to users (as is done in Topeka, which also has a lot of drop boxes for books throughout the city).  In Orange County, items can be delivered via courier service, but need to be mailed (at a cost to the or returned to a library branch).

While combining a fee-based system similar to Netflix (along with the ability to have items mailed to you — and mail them back at no additional cost) is appealing, it’s worth remembering that companies like BookSwim already do a Netflix-for-books.  You’d pay about $30 a month to have five books out at a time.

I don’t think libraries need to reinvent this model.  If someone wants to spend $25 bucks a month for the privilege of keeping books out as long as they like, he can easily get his fix with an already-established company.

I think the future of libraries is not in providing a service similar to Netflix, but in providing services and materials that no one else can offer, in service of all residents. 

(I also think library patrons would be better served if they purchased inexpensive e-readers and encouraged the libraryto expand its digital holdings, which would eliminate worries about books checked out too long and overdue fees.  But I’m a Luddite!)

Wayfinding West Hartford

I was in West Hartford a few weeks ago, and came across what could be the winner of a Worst Street Signage of All Time award.

This is how the signage looks when you’re parked right next to it:

While that doesn’t look too bad, it took me an extra five minutes to get to my destination because I couldn’t read the names on any of the streets, even though I was driving quite slowly (20-25 mph). They are the perfect storm of dark letters on a light background, too-small font, and letters too close to one another.

You can see them in action if you scroll down the neighborhood association’s photo gallery to pictures of the signs being installed.

Tip: if you can barely read the name of a street in a picture taken 15 feet away from a sign, the sign is worse than the worst Worcester street sign ever.  I can only imagine what they look like in the middle of a snowy winter.

Earth Day Cleanups 2012

The Regional Environmental Council will once again be coordinating Earth Day Cleanups.

Here are the details for this year, from the REC website:

Plans for the 23rd Annual REC Earth Day Cleanups on Saturday April 21st are already underway.  We are very excited to be reconnecting with the many dedicated volunteers who have made the REC Earth Day Cleanups possible for the last 22nd years, and to welcome new volunteers who  decide to give their time and energy for the first time.  Last year, REC was able to count 36 tons of trash removed from 65 cleanups across the City because 65 volunteers took the initiative to coordinate the effort at each location.  This year we look forward to continuing our effort at the 65 sites, and adding a few that are new in 2012.

If you are interested in continuing your involvement as a site coordinator, or becoming one for the first time in 2012, please fill out:  Site Coordinator App 2012

As longtime readers know, this will be my fifth (!) year coordinating the God’s Acre/Swan Avenue site for Earth Day cleanups.  The past four cleanups have helped remove over 30 tons of garbage along Swan Avenue and in God’s Acre (and the surrounding area).

We are now at the maintenance stage for this site, so this year we will be picking up trash that may have been dumped along Swan Avenue since last October.

We’re only anticipating that the work will take 2-3 hours this year because the God’s Acre trail is mostly clear of trash.  (You can see the kind of work we did at last year’s Earth Day Cleanup here — I expect this year will be similar in volume and content.)

What’s been done since last year’s Earth Day Cleanup

If you’ve been to God’s Acre in the past, you may remember that there were three cars that had been dumped off a hill.

Due to the hard work of Greater Worcester Land Trust volunteers (and others), those cars have been removed.  The GWLT has also been hard at work blazing trails to both Logan Field and Goddard Memorial Drive.

Those of you who came to National Trails Day at God’s Acre last June may remember that the part of the trail closer to Logan Field also had some dumping, mostly of the metal and glass variety.  We have removed most of that (and will remove the rest in the spring).

Consider Becoming a Site Coordinator

While I’m always looking for volunteers who are willing to help with our cleanups, I’d also like to encourage folks to consider becoming a site coordinator.  Take a look at the location map from last year; if there’s a location you feel needs cleaning up and you don’t see it listed, there’s a good chance that we need you to take that on this year.

Two years ago, I wrote a short guide to beginning cleanups in your neighborhood, and I’ve listed some additional tips here and here.  If this sounds like something you’d like to do, call or email the REC.  If you have questions about how the process works, comment on this post or send me an email.

As always, I appreciate the work of the REC, the city, and others in organizing these cleanups, and the enormous effort volunteers put into cleaning up the site and blazing trails.