Monthly Archives: September 2011

Triple bottom line

Last week, DPW Commissioner Bob Moylan attended A Roadmap to Sustainable Infrastructures & Green Cities Conference.

From The Dirt:

Robert Moylan, Commissioner of Public Works for Worcester, Massachusetts, emphasized the “triple bottom line” and argued that economic viability is being overlooked in favor of environmental and social benefits.  For public officials responsible for the allocation of the public’s money, “sustainability can’t be achieved if economics are ignored.” Moylan advocated incentives for good behavior, and questioned the validity of legislation that sets absolute demands for improvement at enormous expense, suggesting the public won’t always find this the best use of its money.

Snippets of Worcester

“Worcester is the Industrial Abrasives Capital of the World, and a bit of this roughness rubs off on its inhabitants.” source: the really, really wonderful A Moveable Restaurant by Gerbil News Network

“Ceramic cup: $25, Handmade earrings $7, Painted bowls $30, Vintage shoes $5, Feather earrings $4, Silver rings $12, getting a true taste of Worcester= PRICELESS.”  source: START! by Olivia Rogine

(More stART reviews here and here, as well as on my new favorite Worcester blog.)

“Just when I was getting ready to walk out of the door, I overheard one of the employees say to another employee ‘I am not going back to the vintage room.’ Oh how my ears perked up!”  source: Abby’s House by Chic City Vintage

“With the Westborough Board of Selectmen’s approval last week of railroad giant CSX’s plan to relocate operations from Boston to the western suburbs, the MBTA is on track to expand service on its chronically slow and congested Worcester-Framingham-Boston line by the end of 2012, officials said.” source: Boston Globe

Not News: You Can Wear a T-Shirt in a Polling Place

Just in case you were wondering what to wear to tomorrow’s preliminary election, the ACLU would like to remind you that you can wear a t-shirt in support of your favorite organization.

WORCESTER — In advance of the preliminary election in Worcester on Tuesday, Sept. 20–and in light of recent controversy over T-shirts worn at polls by supporters of the community organization Neighbor to Neighbor–the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts concurs with the recent ruling of the Worcester Elections Commission, which affirms the right to wear organizational T-shirts at polling places. Today the ACLU issued the following statement, attributable to staff attorney Sarah Wunsch:

“Massachusetts law provides for a zone of 150 feet around the entrance to a polling place within which no one can engage in activity aimed at influencing how a voter will vote on candidates or ballot questions that are on the ballot in that election. Wearing a T-shirt with the name of an organization is not prohibited advocacy.

“Those who tried to get the Worcester Elections Commission to prohibit the wearing of T-shirts bearing Neighbor to Neighbor’s name are not only misrepresenting the law for their own political purposes, they are trying to divert attention away from real issues about access to the polls, such as efforts to intimidate and deter people from voting. Wearing a T-shirt that supports a community organization like Neighbor to Neighbor, the Main South Alliance, or the Worcester Homeless Action Committee is not prohibited at the polls under state law, and people willing to assist with and observe the elections process should not be attacked for their commitment to our democratic system.”

To clarify, the Election Commission doesn’t have the authority to rule on this kind of item.  They consulted with both the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office and the city solicitor 9-10 months ago about t-shirt wearing, and it was as clear then as it is now that the t-shirt rule only applies to shirts advocating candidates (by name) or political parties.

One can only wonder how a former director of the Worcester ACLU Chapter would handle this.

Joe O’Brien not running for Mayor

This has, of course, been reported in the Telegram, Daily Worcesteria, and (most importantly) Facebook.

Joe Petty announced that he would be running for Mayor.

My husband’s first thoughts were: “Petty’s got my vote if he promises to open every City Council meeting with an a capella version of Free Fallin’ The City Council would have to be willing to call themselves the ‘Heartbreakers’, but that shouldn’t be a problem because they break my heart all the time.”

My response: “I guess that makes City Hall the Heartbreak Hotel…”

Some have suggested that the web-presence-less “Average” Joe Petty’s announcement will likely serve  to prevent a free-for-all of current council candidates in the Mayor’s race.  (But, then again, we’ve already got one candidate calling for another Mike to run.)

Then again, it would seem to me that if the primary goal was to prevent Councilor Lukes from being mayor again, splitting the vote might be just the ticket.

Worcester Pride Parade

If you’ve heard about the 21st Century Worcester Pride Parade and want to participate (but don’t have anyone to go with), the ACLU would like to welcome you to participate with them.  Details:

Saturday, September 17 | 10:15am | Worcester

March with the ACLU at Worcester Pride — 1st Worcester Parade in a Decade

Everyone is welcome to march with the ACLU in support of equality.

All ACLU marchers will receive a free T-shirt, hat and fun giveaways for the crowd.

To reserve a T-Shirt in your size PLEASE RSVP to

If you want to help volunteer at the ACLU table after the Parade — whether you marched or not — email

Meet at Corner of Humboldt and Salisbury Streets, Downtown Worcester — 10:15 am

Look for the ACLU Banner!

Worcester Civics Academy

Registration is now open for the fall 2011 Worcester Civics Academy. The email from Mayor O’Brien’s office describes it as:

The purpose of the Worcester Civic Academy is to build the capacity of community leaders to more effectively engage their government institutions. The 6 session academy will provide an audience of approximately 25 civic leaders with a unique opportunity to learn about our municipal and state legislatures as well as our city departments, school and court systems. Civic leaders will have the opportunity to meet with school, court and government officials to hear their insider perspective on how these systems work and how community members can best access and utilize them. Participants will also be able to ask questions and engage these officials and representatives in discussion.

You can find the application here. There are six sessions in all, Monday nights from 5:30 to 7:30, with the first session October 3rd and the final session on November 21st, breaking for Columbus Day and Halloween.

Note from me: I was on the panel on local government, and I’d say this is a great way to get clear how things work (and how they don’t!). For anyone interested in local government (from any perspective) who has the time, I’d recommend it.

Asking Cleverbot the 508 candidate questions

There’s one question that’s been occupying the minds of voters across the city this year.

That question is, of course: If Cleverbot were a candidate for city council, what would it say?

To find out, I asked it some of the 508 candidate questions.  Here are the results:

Q: What’s your position on school privatization?
A: I don’t have a certain position.

Q: What is local government’s role in regulating the day-to-day lives of citizens?
A: That’s between you and your ‘mistress’.

Q: What is your position on neighborhood councils?
A: To be honest I have not heard of Ubisoft. Will you explain what they do as a service please?

Q: Where should the city draw the line in taking responsibility for development?
A: Russia.

Q: Where should the city draw the line when selling off existing assets?
A: On the internet.

Q: How should the city of Worcester be making its money?
A: You should tie brinks to the body and let it sink.

Q: What is the correct tax rate for Worcester homeowners?
A: I’m not sure.. Just something not quite as random.

Q: What’s your personal vision for the city of Worcester?
A: Apparently wittier than yours.

Q: City departments, particularly the police department, have information that can help the public make good decisions about running the city. That information is hard to access, some would say impossible. What would you do to change that?
A: Have you ever read the Alchemist? It would do you some good. You seem a bit pessimistic.

Q: How much can you bench press?
A: My bench can press one at a time.

Q: Who’s your favorite character on The Wire?
A: I don’t know what that is.

Upcoming City Council meeting: johns, crosswalks, public access forums, and other motions

Some highlights from the upcoming Worcester City Council agenda:

  • 15f: Many city councilors request that a non-binding question about changing the school committee from at-large to a mix of at-large and district be placed on November’s ballot.
  • 19b – 19h: Various citizen and councilor requests to make public access forums at city council meetings, change the number of terms a councilor can serve on a subcommittee, and restricting city council meetings to within the city limits are all going to the (circular) file.
  • 6a: The mayor requests the “City Manager report to City Council concerning the legal authority that college police officers have in patrolling non campus areas of the city and in questioning non-students as part of off campus patrols.”
  • 12.14 A: The James Street Bridge project appears to be proceeding on schedule.

Also: various items about the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District, a crosswalk on Olean Street, petitioning the legislature for permission to impound johns’ cars, and a million other items.

Not-quite-blind items