You Can Say No!

As Mike noted, the outreach worker began talking to panhandlers yesterday, but we haven’t yet heard about what the public education campaign would entail.

It’s unclear to me why adults need to re-learn a word that most two-year-olds say multiple times a minute, but the city of Worcester seems to have a collective block on a simple, two-letter word.

We obviously need a city-wide campaign to teach people to say no.

But why stop at just teaching people to say no to panhandlers?

There are so many other situations where people are desperate to find a word that indicates their negative feelings towards a proposition.

I’d like to humbly recommend the following slogans to go along with whatever the city comes up with:

If the server at McDonald’s asks if you’d like fries with that…you can say no!

If your wife asks if this outfit makes her look fat…you can say no!

If a kid who bullied you all through high school wants to be your Facebook friend…you can say no!

If the cashier at the supermarket asks if you’d like to donate a dollar to a charity to write your name on a shamrock…you can say no!

If your mother asks you to clean your room…you can say no!

If you’re at BJ’s and a lady in an apron asks if you’d like to try a cocktail weiner…you can say no!

No…it’s for so much more than just telling panhandlers to buzz off!

Belated CWW: Sprout Clean Sweep!

In case you didn’t already see it, our friend Cathy at Sprout Flowers is moving and, as a result, is cleaning out the contents of not one but two shops.

Tomorrow, July 29th, from 11:00 – 1:00pm, at 372 Chandler Street, she’ll be giving away a lot of stuff for FREE (and it doesn’t get cheaper than free).

(donations to the Sprout paint fund gratefully accepted, but not required)

So — go down, grab a boxful or two of stuff, and let your friends know!

Save the Palladium

I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to following the Palladium story as closely as I would like, but I think anyone with any interest in downtown Worcester and/or Faygo knows that the owners have discussed the possibility of demolishing it to put in a parking lot or garage.

That request came before the Historical Commission tonight, and has been delayed for a year:

It’s worth keeping in mind that the owners of the Palladium had thought about demolishing it to put in a parking facility eleven years ago, and in many ways the Palladium was in worse shape then than it is now (except, of course, for the tax situation).

I caught the city manager on Jordan Levy a few days ago, and the CM said that the owners of the Palladium have received offers from various people who’d like to buy the building.  The interview isn’t online, but I got the impression that the city is taking this situation seriously.

We need to save the Palladium.

I’ve listed all the reasons before, and I’ll probably keep listing them until we get it right.

I hope in the next year the owners can get some sort of resolution in their quest for an abatement.

I also hope they consider making improvements to the building.

And I certainly hope the owners of the ugly surface parking lot across the street could consider building a parking garage that would be more pleasing to the eye than the current lot.

There is always a danger in situations like this to take an easy road.

One easy road would be to demolish the building and put in a parking garage.  This would be a huge tear in the urban fabric of downtown.

Another easy road would be for the owners to get a tax abatement and not do anything to improve the venue; for the city to do nothing to encourage improvements within and without; and for all of us to end up in ten years’ time with another “Save the Palladium” movement against impending demolition/parking garage construction.

It’s easy to identify what we don’t want, but Worcester isn’t Sim City, and it’s a bit harder to execute the perfect plan when we’re talking about serious money.

But here’s hoping that a year’s demolition delay will get us a bit closer to that perfect plan.

CWW: Aldrich Astronomical Society Starfest – July 28

The Aldrich Astronomical Society, Inc. would like to welcome the public to our annual free Starfest 2012 star party to be held on the campus of Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts on Saturday, July 28, 2012 from 6 PM to 10 PM in Foundress Hall. The Aldrich Astronomical Society, Inc. and One Giant Leap will offer some amazing talks, door prizes and raffles as we celebrate the upcoming landing of the nuclear powered Curiosity rover on Mars!

Aldrich will offer engaging presentations in Zecco Theater by speakers who will talk about the future of US Human Spaceflight and the landing of Curiosity at Gale Crater on Mars. Because this presentation will likely draw many interested people, we would encourage the public to help us plan ahead by confirming that they plan to attend Starfest 2012 by logging onto the Aldrich website and letting us know you plan to attend and how many would be in your party.

Outdoor Activities:

  • Solar Observing!
  • Walks through the Solar System!
  • Mentos Geysers!
  • Bottle Rocket Launches!
  • Night Observing!

Indoor Activities:

  • Zecco Theater Speakers!
  • Mission Patch & Meteorite Displays!
  • Updates about Exoplanets!
  • Bryan McKay with his Space Memorabilia!
  • Becky Cross autographs her book about the Space Shuttle!
  • Chances for Free Door Prizes for everyone!

CWW: Free Fun Fridays, Week 5

Every year, the Highland Street Foundation offers free admission at different museums and cultural venues on Fridays in the summer.

This Friday is the fifth Free Fun Friday, and offers admission to the following venues:

New Repertory Theatre [NOTE: There will be two performances (2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) of Tales of Poe based on the writings of Edgar Allen Poe in the Charles Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown. This venue has a 340-seat capacity – no reservations accepted. Tickets will be distributed at the theatre, on a first-come first-serve basis, starting two hours before each performance.]
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company [NOTE: This is a nighttime performance of the political drama CORIOLANUS as park of CSC’s 17th season of Shakespeare on the Common. The performance will begin at 8:00pm at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common and has a running time of approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Note: This play may not be appropriate for all ages. Parental discretion is advised.]

“Hysterical female”

I understand the need for color and context in WPD press releases.

But some adjectives are unnecessary:


…and it’s good to know that we’re targeting johns at the same rate as we are prostitutes!

Tip to the two ladies charged with being a common nightwalker: the state has to prove that “the defendant was walking the streets at night.”

Perhaps in Bizarro Worcester, people can be arrested between 6am-10:30am for walking the streets at night.

But I’d expect a little more from Real Worcester.

CWW: Big Truck Night in Lancaster – July 25

The Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster is once again presenting Big Truck Night next Wednesday, July 25, beginning at 5:30.  I cannot recommend this enough.

(Friendly reminder — I also post free and cheap events to a shared Google Calendar.)

Details from the library website:

A GREAT FAMILY EVENT at Thayer Memorial Library!

  • PETTING ZOO with chickens, cows, goats and other animals

Also….Follow Ed THE WIZARD as he conjures some up some mystical magical mayhem at the Big Truck Night. Experience his unique style of close up magic with hands on audience participation. Be prepared to: volunteer, be mystified, and to have fun. Come hungry, there will be food on sale from Wicked Wieners.

We welcome ALL kids and visitors from communities near & far. This program is free and funded by the Friends of the Thayer Memorial Library and the George K. Progin Estate. Parking is along Main St. and in the parking lot behind Town Hall.

For more information, please contact Susan Conroy, Youth Services Librarian at 978-368-8928 x.5.


Billboards are not the solution

(Title courtesy of a Robert Z. Nemeth column of 31 July 2005, “Balance prosperity with compassion”)

I know some of you disagree with me about panhandling.

That’s okay.

Disagreement is healthy.  Informed debate is what allows us to (hopefully) come to compromises and workable solutions.

In Worcester, we don’t have much informed debate.  We usually hover between decrees from above and mobs with pitchforks.

I don’t think there’s anyone in Worcester who’s pro-poverty.

I don’t think there’s even anyone who’s pro-panhandling.

I don’t know anyone who wants to see people begging on the side of the road.  I don’t know anyone who feels comfortable at that sight.

I think this is something we all have in common.

But panhandling is not the problem.

We’re talking about panhandling because it is visible, in the same way that street-level prostitution is visible.

Visible issues like panhandling and prostitution are a symptom of larger societal problems.

We lack a will and an imagination to tackle the larger problems (drug abuse, poverty, and mental illness, among others), and instead focus our brief attention spans on what we see when we get off 290.

We’re not working on — or even talking about — the larger problems, so the visible issues will keep appearing.

How many times a year do we have a push for prostitution stings in Main South?  Has that ever stopped prostitutes or johns from coming back?

How much effort was expended seven years ago on a panhandling education campaign?  It was so ineffective that it doesn’t seem to have stuck in the mind of any councilors.

I don’t think any councilors remember that in 2007 there was a three-year plan to end homelessness.

The plan had a lot of objectives, but it’s unclear whether any of them have been accomplished (except for closing the PIP and establishing a triage center).

Objective 2.2 was “Increase Educational Efforts to Develop an Early Warning System to Target those At risk of Homelessness.”  What is more of an early warning than someone begging on a streetcorner?

Objective 4.1 was to have a 0.5 FTE position to coordinate programs for the homeless  That definitely didn’t happen.  Ditto Objective 4.2, which was to have a commission on homelessness (with 0.5 FTE, paid, from the city side, to support that).

Jordan Levy was supposed to hit up the colleges for developing housing for the homeless (Objective 5.2) and have businesses provide job opportunities (Objective 3.3.1).

There’s a lot of good stuff in here.  It’s probably not a perfect plan, but it did require people doing something besides just asking for a report from the city manager when someone on the street asks them for money.

It does not matter what “side” you are on.

We can do better than this.

But it requires that we ask for real solutions and that we demand real conversations.

Brochures are not the solution for a short attention span on the part of our elected officials.

Billboards are not the solution for a lack of follow-through.