Because I haven’t written about crime lately

Let’s recap crime in the city over the past few weeks:

1. The chief of police gives a long response regarding a stupid Research Bureau report that no one will pay attention to.  But he cannot comment on any open investigations.

2.  When murders occur in people’s houses at night, the response is foot patrols during the day.

3.  We just had a vice squad sweep of Main South that netted four women and two men.  Because obviously women are the problem.

4.  Since May 15, I count 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) stabbings.  Which tells me that the knife ordinance has been really effective!

I used the UCR tools to create a spreadsheet of Worcester crime statistics from 1997-2010.  (Note that 2010 is the last full year reported to UCR.)

According to the Telegram, “the number of uniformed positions in the Worcester Police Department is down 11 percent since the late 1990s, with 64 fewer positions since 1998, a decline of 11 percent.”

When I look at UCR, Worcester also declined in violent crime by 11 percent between 1998 to 2010.  Property crime was down nearly 24 percent between 1998 and 2010.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story, and they can be unreliable.

And I don’t really have a lot of patience for wholesale police-bashing or “WORCESTER IS A CRIME-RIDDEN HELLHOLE” Telegram.comments.

But our decision-makers would do well to move away from the typical knee-jerk responses when it comes to police staffing levels or responses to multiple homicides in the same vicinity.

Front Street unveiling

Like ants at a picnic, local media were all over today’s “unveiling” of the Front Street hole-in-the-mall.  Whether you’re old enough to remember a time when there was no Galleria mall, or so young that you never remember a time when that mall wasn’t there, the CitySquare project offers some hope . . . if not a return to the bustle of the ’50s & ’60s, at least a return to sane traffic flow.

The speeches & glad-handing of today’s event will be covered extensively elsewhere, so I’ll just give you a glimpse of some of the characters in attendance; see how many you can spot:

Not shown: Konnie Lukes sneaking under the yellow tape about a half hour into the speeches.

Notably absent: Judith Light

Strange presence: unconfirmed sighting of the ghost of Frannie McGrath on the open second story of the mall to the left, slurping an Orange Julius, rattling chains and moaning “Brutalist, Brutalist!“.

Premature presence: Front Street signs (with hearts & serifs) at Washington Sq. and Foster St.:

CWW: Memorial Day book sales

There are two great book sales on Memorial Day, so — before or after you spend some time paying tribute to loved ones — check these out:

1.  Boylston Public Library book sale (across from the Common, where there is usually a lot of entertainment for kids) from 9am-2pm; the prices are usually decent and the selection is quite good.

2. Not too far away from the Boylston Library book sale is the First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Northborough Memorial Day Fair, which usually has a great book (and plant) sale from 10am-3pm.  Great prices and selection.

Memorial Day Events in Worcester

The following events will be held to commemorate Memorial Day:

Sunday, May 27, 2012
Water Ceremony
2:00 p.m. at Elm Park
Registration – 1:15 p.m. at the corner of Elm and Russell Streets
Sponsored by The Worcester Veterans’ Council, City Manager Michael O’Brien and the Veterans’ Service Department

Monday, May 28, 2012
125th Memorial Day Observance
Remembrance Ceremony
9:00 a.m. at Hope Cemetery
Guest Speaker – Major Stephen L. Godin, Senior Naval Science Instructor, Naval JROTC Unit, North High School
Sponsored by The Worcester Veterans’ Council, City Manager Michael O’Brien and the Veterans’ Service Department

Monday, May 28, 2012
Wreath Laying Ceremony
11:00 a.m. – Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Green Hill Park
Sponsored by the Perpetual Care Committee


And…for a different kind of memorialization:

Monday, May 28, 2012
10:00 am
Turtle Boy statue, intersection of Franklin and Front Streets, Worcester MA

Your rain bucket is costing the city money!

Item 5c on tonight’s City Council agenda is a memo from Commissioner Moylan clarifying his comments about lawn watering.  From the memo:

The alleged link between lawn watering and streamflow is one that has been played up by river advocates for the past two decades. They view lawn watering as a wasteful abuse of water resources that is employed during a time of year when streamflow is lowest. Unfortunately for ratepayers, it is not just environmental zealots that share this view. …

Worcester receives significant revenue from water used by customers for lawn irrigation. The typical difference in water use between the winter months and summer months is about 3 million gallons per day (MGD). Of this, it is estimated that 75% goes toward lawn watering by customers. In a typical summer at current water rates this usage produces $1.2 million in revenue for the water enterprise. Through regulatory limits on lawn watering even a modest 20% decrease in water used for irrigation would translate into lost revenue of some $240,000.

Yes, contrary to rational belief, folks who water their lawns in August are not wasting water — they’re making an invaluable contribution to the local water system’s budget!

People who don’t water their lawns aren’t conserving natural resources — they’re costing the city revenue dollars!

I’d like to make the following suggestions to maximize revenue potential:

  • Ensure that automatic sprinklers are pointed to sidewalks for maximum inefficiency
  • Install high-flow leaky toilets in all new housing projects
  • Anyone with a brown lawn at the height of the summer should be fined $100 for not watering
  • Impose a special fee for anyone who composts in their backyard — if you’re not paying the trash bag fee, you’re freeloading off the rest of us!
  • The city should stop selling rain barrels — why let the competition get a leg up?

Any other suggestions for how to bring in revenue while showing those urban-mythmakers that water conservation is for sissies?




Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

From a memo from City Solicitor David Moore in item 13a on tonight’s City Council agenda (“Transmitting Informational Communication Relative to Liveries”):

I have researched this question and am of the opinion that the law allows the city of Worcester, by ordinance adopted by the city council, to enact a limit on the number of licenses issued permitting livery service vehicles to operate in the city provided that the number chosen by the council reasonably advances concerns over the public safety and convenience of travelers and transportation service levels in the community.

The city has been trying to address the issue of livery cars, or “gypsy cabs“, or medallions that are only available to a lucky few, or however you want to categorize this situation, for years.

The medallion system, as it exists now, is a state-sanctioned monopoly where only a few companies are able to legitimately run cab businesses.

This proposal could set up a similar monopoly (or oligarchy) for livery services.

What happens ten or twenty years from now when an independent claims that s/he cannot buy a livery license or a taxi medallion because all the allowed licenses are taken by just a few companies?

We’ve never had a discussion of what Worcesterites want in car service.

We can assume that folks want appropriately insured vehicles, cars that charge you an agreed-upon fee or use a reliable meter, and reliable drivers.

If we knew what people wanted, and why they use a livery over a taxi (or vice versa), then we could decide the best way to construct a fair system for everyone.

Some of it can be legislated, some of it will rely on the market.

But the yearly cycle where we only allow a few companies to own taxi medallions while we wring our hands about those who operate outside that system cannot be solved by setting up a parallel system of inequity.

Retrofitting further restrictions on a system that is not working will not magically make a fair system.  It will only postpone a much-needed overhaul of the existing system.

Tittle-Tattle . . . or Spot the Overdot

An observant person might notice that this street name sign lacks a tittle:

(a tittle is the dot we usually see on lowercase “i” and “j”)

A thorough person might walk around to the other side of the sign & notice something else amiss:

There are three possibilities for what happened here:

1.  The same person(s) who continue to steal this street sign decided to be playful with the dots.

2.  The cunning linguists of the DPW sign shop are experimenting with the diacritic known as the overdot — maybe they know something about the pronunciation of Richardson that the rest of us don’t.  But it’s a bit off-centered over the “o”, so maybe it’s one-half of a diaeresis.

3.  The missing tittle from the other side was probably left behind on the release paper [used with vinyl adhesive plotter-cut lettering] & transferred erroneously when the second side was affixed.

But I welcome other suggestions!

A trip down (and up) memory lane

Today is the first the anniversary of the closing of Putnam Lane, so I thought you might enjoy one last round-trip excursion along the doomed street as it would have appeared had you been tied to the hood of my car last May:

I’d like to dedicate this video to the late Jeff Barnard, who, like me, wasn’t especially enamored of Putnam Lane, but who harbored a very healthy skepticism about what the deal with CSX would mean for Worcester (though he was ultimately supportive of it and much more positive than I was).

For a different sort of trip down memory lane, here are some links to some of Jeff’s posts about CSX’s rail yard expansion in Worcester:

CSX Expansion in Worcester

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Continued

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 3

CSX and Lower Grafton Street

CSX and Putnam Lane

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 4

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 5

Quote of the Day

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 6

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 7

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 8

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 9

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 10

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 11

Is it Really Over

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 12

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 13

Curtis Apartments Putnam Lane

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 14

CSX Expansion in Worcester, Part 15

Reading through some of those reminds me that Jeff’s voice in this community has still not been replaced.  When I post random photos on this blog from around central Massachusetts, I think of Jeff & include the “Wormtown Fleet” logo as below, but my contribution to the Worcester dialogue pales compared to Jeff’s.