Monthly Archives: August 2011

Worcester Elections Commission Video

Normally video isn’t taken of Elections Commission meetings.

However, a frequent reader found video of August 29’s Worcester Election Commission Hearing (from Desiree Awiszio) on Vimeo.:

Here are details on who’s speaking when:
t=0,          George Valeri (Democrat wearing red Teamsters shirt)
t=1:50,     Paul (Democrat , last name inaudible)
t=4:10,     Bill Breault (Dem , mentioned he worked on McGovern’s campaign and others)
t=6:40      State Rep John Fresolo (Dem )
t=13:40    Jeff Potter
t=14:30    Councilor Rushton
t=17:05    Tina Hood
t=19:30    N2N organizer
t=23         Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien

Jordan also posted lots of pictures to twitter.

Triumph of the City Talk

The Research Bureau is going to be sponsoring a talk by Edward Glaeser, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, who’ll be discussing his book Triumph of the City.

The talk, which is quite possibly the most 508/My 5 Senses-themed program ever sponsored by the WRRB, will be on Thursday, September 22, at 4:00 p.m.  Details here.

One can only wonder whether the irony of a talk about the superior aspects of urban life being held at what is quite possibly Worcester’s least urban college (no offense, Assumption) will come up.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Edward Glaeser
www.thedailyshow.com
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Crime Statistics Tools

Law enforcement agencies like the Worcester Police regularly report data about violent crime and property crime (collectively referred to as Part 1 Offenses) to the FBI, which compiles data from these communities and posts it to UCR.  (If you ever read a blog post in which I discuss Worcester crime statistics, I’m usually pulling the data from UCR.)

Now UCR has a convenient online data tool that allows you to compare multiple municipalities’ Part 1 offenses — and download them into easy-to-read tables.  So if you wanted to compare Worcester to Springfield, Hartford, Providence, Manchester, or other communities of similar population, you could do that with a few clicks of the mouse.

One frustration some residents have had is the dearth of information about Part 2 Offenses (which include prostitution).

To that end, I’ve come across a useful site for Massachusetts UCR data — including Part 2 Offenses.  The caveat from the site is as follows: “The public is welcome to visit with the understanding that ANY reports and statistics are preliminary, subject to change, and under no circumstances to be used as official crime or statistical report.”

Taking the caveat into account, it’s got a great search feature by town (beginning with 1980, but for Part 1 offenses only).  It’s also got information for Part 1 and Part 2 offenses by town by year or by month.

For those of you who are interested in the (unofficial) counts of prostitution/vice arrests for Worcester for the past eight years, here’s a summary of information from that website:

2003 — 190
2004 — 224
2005 — 185
2006 — 132
2007 — 214
2008 — 214
2009 — 137
2010 — 129

Downtown Crime Watch Creation

According to the city website, there will be a discussion on creating a Downtown Neighborhood Crime Watch on Tuesday, August 30, at 3:00 PM at the library.

Are you interested in helping to form a Downtown Public Safety Alliance/Neighborhood Watch? Please join City Manager Michael O’Brien and members of the Worcester Police Department to discuss how to create a formal neighborhood watch in the Downtown.

This is an opportunity for Downtown stakeholders – businesses and residents – to come together to make their community and their neighborhood safer and to change the perceptions of public safety.

If you are interested in attending, please call (508) 799-1175 to sign-up!

Thumbs up for the effort, thumbs down for the totally lousy middle-of-the-afternoon timing.

T&G cover stories on the Albion and urban blight

Bronislaus Kush has two articles in today’s Telegram about the Albion and other problem properties.

The Albion has recently gotten its lodging house license renewed by the License Commission, and has drawn the attention of numerous government officials and media outlets.

Today’s article about the Albion says that it has 70 units and that tenants pay $400-500 a month [for a single room and shared bathroom and kitchen facilities]. By my reckoning, that means that a month of full occupancy would bring in $35,000.

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The management is spending nearly a third of what comes in — $10,000 — on police details for the problem hours of 9pm-1am. They’ve got cleaning crews coming in every day.

We learned in last month’s Worcester Mag article that the company recently spent $40,000 on updating the fire alarm system. They spend at least $10,000 a year on property tax as well.

One wonders how long any owners (who bought the building last year for $605,000) could afford to keep up that kind of maintenance, on both the security and cleanliness fronts. Would there ever be a time when they would not have to spend nearly a third of their income on security of one sort or another? Have the issues with drug dealers living inside the building been addressed?

It should concern all of us that the city allowed so many code issues to continue to go on at the same time that we were announcing that we’d conquered homelessness. I hope that we continue to push for better conditions at the Albion, but that we also make sure that the owners’ efforts are ones that they can continue. It’s unclear to me how long they’ll be able to afford this kind of attention to a problem property.

Recent, controversial Worcester City Council votes

The Worcester City Council usually votes unanimously—any controversial stuff is sent to subcommittees, where it’s either turned into something broadly acceptable or buried.

Here’s a list of the positions current City Councilors took on controversial votes. Some of the spaces are blank, either because that City Councilor wasn’t serving when the vote was taken, or was absent.

(If you notice an error or misstatement, add a comment and I’ll note and fix them.)

  1. City Council reaffirmed its commitment to religious freedom. September 20, 2005. This resolution was a response to then-Governor Romney’s suggestion that mosques be wiretapped. Only then-Councilor Juan Gomez voted against it, saying it had nothing to do with running the city.
  2. Raise pay to $34,0000 for the Mayor and $29,000 for other Councilors. December 19, 2006. This was an 84% pay raise, as the salary had not increased since 1987! Various Councilors refused to take the raise in following years.
  3. Additional regulation on hawkers/peddlers and street vendors. August 8, 2008. After a couple restaurants complained that hot dog vendors were taking their business (!), the City Council added various new restrictions on street vendors.
  4. Write letters of complaint or divest from Arizona because of their new immigration law. May 11th, 2010. These motions were a mess of parliamentary procedure. The “votes” noted in the chart above are those who sponsored the failed measures. Those opposing the condemnation said it was because it had nothing to do with running the city. Arizona changed the wording of their bill after this item was proposed but before the vote.
  5. Additional regulations on pit bulls and similar dogs. September 7, 2010. This ordinance was widely criticized by animal lovers, including the MSPCA. There were many amendments added to this after the main vote.
  6. Traffic surveillance cameras. August 9, 2011. These cameras would detect and photograph people running red lights; after the evidence was reviewed by police, the motorist would be sent a ticket. These would require a change in state law; the Council voted to request that change.

Zardoz on Highland Street

IMG_20110813_115204

Whoever put up a bunch of Zardoz stickers on Highland St (inspired by the graphic in Happiness Pony?), you made my day.

IMG_20110813_115158 IMG_20110813_115351

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Fun with MACRIS

Have you ever watched a Historical Commission meeting and seen a developer or owner silently mouth the words “Curse you, MACRIS!”

Me neither, but I know they’re thinking it!

MACRIS stands for Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System.

And it’s got a lot of information online in a searchable database.

With pictures!

They’ve also got scans of the original form used to apply for historical significance, so you can find out that what is now Brite Cleaners in Webster Square used to be White Cleaners:

From 1959, when it was built, until 1968, this building was occupied by White Cleaners, a dry cleaner which still has several stores in Worcester and surrounding towns. Since then it has been operated as Brite Cleaners.

White Cleaners was founded in 1913 by Michael White, who according to one account, “started with only a few dollars in his pocket.” White, born in Armenia, came to the United States in 1912.

This house, on Holden Street:

Known locally as the Merrifield House, 158 Holden Street is among Worcester’s oldest buildings and is an excellent example of eighteenth century vernacular architecture.

In short, the MACRIS database makes for enjoyable reading and viewing for the history geeks among us.