Hobos of the 21st Century Depression

I was very glad to see the City Council beginning to tackle the “serious issue” of panhandling.

Since we ended homelessness two years ago, there is obviously no reason why anyone should be out begging for money on the side of the road.

Councilor Lukes calls our attention to the “increasing number of able-bodied people in their 20s” out panhandling.  I, too, have noticed them out there, often with large, menacing black boots and shirts emblazoned with a mysterious “WFD” logo.  Shameful!

I often ask myself why those folks can’t just get a job.  But the younger ones I see will never get a job as long as they dress in baseball uniforms with their hats out.  Get those kids to a career counselor forthwith!  Dress for success, youngsters!

I would like to recommend that the following be incorporated into any plan the City Council puts together:

  • For the convenience of panhandlers, the city should install coat racks at certain intersections to prevent them from leaving their belongings on war memorials.  Everyone knows veterans never panhandle.
  • Panhandlers should never ask for money more than once a year.  Obviously, panhandling should not be undertaken out of desperation but out of a one-time need.
  • Contrary to what Mike Germain wants, we should only have a resolution to forget our previous resolutions and create even more resolutions.

As part of the educational materials the city puts together, we should include a preprinted card with the numbers of payday loan outfits to give to panhandlers, along with a complimentary book of Wegmans coupons.  Maybe the van that drops them all off at intersections throughout the city can carpool them to Northboro for evening grocery shopping.

I think we can all agree with Councilor Eddy that the “groups we all care about” should be unaffected by any restrictions the Council sees fit to impose on panhandling.  Indeed, we should “make sure we draw our distinction while crafting this policy.”

It is imperative that we make sure that the undeserving are not allowed to ask for money on the side of the road.

Highlights from May’s Keep Worcester Clean Meeting

Obviously, I live for these meeting minutes, and so do you.

Here are the highlights from the May meeting:

page 5:
“PD – Stan said they arrested 2 kids on Harding St for spray painting cars. They are also monitoring for aggressive pan-handling. Rob said that someone is removing sewer grates at Green Hill Park.”
[emphasis added]

“Illegal Dumping – B. Fiore said DEP showed them how to use the surveillance equipment. Jim said we have 4 new cameras that are being used around the city.”

page 4:
Downtown The Commissioner said he’s seen pit bulls on the common and knows dogs aren’t allowed in that area. The downtown assoc wants to put No Dogs Allowed signs up but we’re not sure if that would do any good if it’s not enforced. Stan said PD doesn’t have a dedicated foot beat officer downtown, but if there’s a problem or issue they’d need to be deployed. Joyce and Rob are working on a pamphlet that spells out the rules and regs for dog owners but it hasn’t been finalized. The Commissioner asked if the Animal Control Officer could dedicate a week or even 1 day per month. Amanda said that the city ordinance states that dogs are now [sic; I suspect this should be “not”] allowed downtown even though dogs are allowed at 50 Franklin St. Rob said that the completed dog brochure will be mailed to all registered dog owners and No Dogs Allowed replacement signs are going up at every entrance to the common.”

Commuter Rail Surcharges and Ticketing

I recently noted that the ticketing machines in Union Station had gone unrepaired for some time; these were repaired (finally) late last week.

I also had a question from a reader about the new (for July 1) onboard surcharge, and whether you would be charged $3.00 or $6.00 for purchasing a round-trip ticket on the train.

I asked MBCR customer service to confirm.  If you are purchasing a round-trip ticket onboard, your fare would be increased by one $3.00 charge only.

Burns Bridge Groundbreaking

Ground was broken on the Burns Bridge project today, according to the Commonwealth Connections: Transportation blog (which I recommend following).

The Burns Bridge website has a high-level timeline of the project:

  • Summer 2012: continuing design work, removal of the south sidewalk, Verizon trunk telephone line splicing, and mobilization of marine operations.
  • Fall 2012: beginning of heavy in-water work including driving piles, building piers and abutments for the new eastbound barrel.
  • Spring 2013: arrival of steel for the eastbound barrel and start of steel erection. Roadwork construction starts.
  • Summer 2013: steel work on the eastbound barrel. Roadway construction on Lake Avenue and Belmont Street including sidewalks and retaining walls.
  • Fall 2013: deck construction on the eastbound barrel and moving of all traffic to the new span.
  • Winter 2013: demolition of the existing Burns Bridge. New fiber optic cables shifted from the old span to the new bridge.
  • Spring 2014: beginning of heavy in-water work including driving piles, building piers and abutments for the new westbound barrel.
  • Fall 2014: arrival of steel for the westbound barrel and start of steel erection.
  • Spring 2015: deck construction for the westbound barrel.
  • Summer 2015: eastbound and westbound lanes will be fully open to traffic.

One thing I’ve noticed during the Belmont Street repaving is that some of the cuts that used to exist at certain intersections between Plantation Street and Lake Avenue (for instance, at the intersection of Frank Street) are now permanently closed.

I recall a letter to the editor a couple of years back about how the temporary closure of those intersections cut off folks who live along those side streets.  As someone who tends to be a through commuter along Belmont Street, closing off those intersections has made my commute quicker, but I don’t recall whether permanently closing those intersections was ever discussed in a city meeting.

Does anyone remember whether this was discussed (and I just missed it)?

June Boards and Commissions Vacancies

The next selection meeting for city boards & commissions will be this Wednesday, June 27 in City Hall Room 401.

The list of vacancies can be found on the City website.

There are still some openings.  Some highlights:

  • There are three openings on the Citizen Advisory Council, which is the board that interviews candidates for openings.  If you’d like to encourage people to serve on boards and commissions, and you live in Districts 2 or 5, this is a great board to join.
  • There are openings on some of what I would consider to be the most influential of the city’s boards.  If you live in District 1 or 4, there are openings on the Zoning Board of Appeals.  If you live in D3, there’s (still) an opening on the Planning Board.  If you live in D4, there is an opening on the Community Development Advisory Committee.  There is an opening — for someone in any district — on the Worcester Arts Council and the Historical Commission.  There are two openings on the Conservation Commission, which are open to residents of Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5.
  • There are still openings on lots of the lesser-known boards that could always use people with passion; some examples: Cable Television Advisory Committee, Elder Affairs Commission, and Commission on Disability.

If you’d like to see how the process works, watch Worcester Boards and Commissions 101.

Please consider applying for the boards that look most interesting…and get the word out to those you know.

Libby in WoMag

There is a nice long article about the Library Express, or Libby (or, as I like to call it, “the bookmobile”).

The schedule for Libby can be found on its subpage on the library website.

For further reading, I recommend “A Field Guide to Mobile Libraries” from the Fine Books blog.

And — speaking of fine — I would be remiss in pointing out that the main library lost the most adorable member of its staff when Marc Lindberg joined the bookmobile.

(The most adorable person ever associated with the Worcester Public Library remains, of course, Dr. John Green.  Lindberg comes in a close second.)