Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lukes: “I’m not going to be part of this nonsense”

No, she’s not resigning.

Worcester City Councilors Lukes and Palpatine were unhappy last night that the Council voted to prohibit the City Clerk and Assistant City Clerk from performing marriages (as might happen if you get married at City Hall, and for which they charge a fee), and in exchange give them pay raises.

Mrs. Lukes interrupted the roll-call vote that took the items off the table and laid into her fellow councilors, saying it reflected a lack of leadership. She got up and left the room as the council passed the two items, which prohibits Mr. Rushford and Ms. Ledoux from collecting fees for marriages they perform in City Hall or any other city property during regular business hours, but bumps

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Mr. Rushford’s pay by about $10,000 annually, and Ms. Ledoux’s by about $3,500 annually.

Mrs. Lukes refused to cast a vote; Mr. Palmieri voted against the two items. District 3 Councilor George Russell and District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera recused themselves. [They are a JP and minister, respectively, so they perform marriages and there’s a possible conflict of interest.]

“I’m not going to be part of this nonsense,” Mrs. Lukes said. “It’s shameful. This vote is shameful, you ought to take this vote back right now.”

Womag has a detailed explanation with followup:

“They were more afraid of offending the clerk than they were of offending the taxpayers,” she said about the vote (Palmieri expressed a similar sentiment last night). “I’m still shocked by it.”

Lukes’ comments on the way the vote went down didn’t mince words either, saying that normally, even when a vote has a clear majority the council would still “go through the motions” of a public discussion.

“It showed contempt for the public and was an exercise in arrogance.”

She also predicts that the vote hasn’t ended the saga completely. While the pay raises have been finalized there are other issues looming. Both Palmieri and Lukes are expecting further reports from the city asking about implementing benchmarks so that weddings continue at City Hall at the same clip as they had prior to yesterday.

On a completely unrelated note, today, February 29, is the anniversary of Worcester’s being chartered as a city. Technically, our 40th birthday.

Breault: Worcester really needs to crack down on K2

Item on tonight’s

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Worcester City Council agenda:

7x. William Breault on behalf of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety request City Council request the City Manager enforce the existing ban on the distribution of certain herbs coated with synthetic chemicals most times sold under the names of “K2, Spice, Genie or Zohai” that mimic marijuana or THC derivative high at convenience stores or gas stations.

Much more in the T&G.

GoLocalWorcester: Days 3-9

In an effort to understand what kind of role the new website GoLocalWorcester is playing in the effort to report “hard news” in Worcester, here’s a rundown of what they posted in the last 6 days.

My RSS reader caught 77 posts from February 17-23. (I don’t see anything for Sunday Feb 19.) 34 of these seem to have something to do with Worcester.

Neither the writing, reporting, or aggregation at GoLocalWorcester stands out. For an online publication, updates are infrequent. The handful of “hard news” articles are superficial. There’s nothing that makes me want to return to this site.

GLW goes after the Firehouse

Well, this is one way to get some clicks:

An old firehouse in Worcester has turned into an overcrowded single-family home, prompting questions about whether state rooming house laws are being violated.

While Opperman wouldn’t say just how many people are currently living at the property located at 126 Eastern Avenue, he did give a GoLocalWorcester reporter a tour of the house, where a chore board in the kitchen has the names of 12 people with designated daily duties in the house.

There was sort of a thread on the “Worcester, Massachusetts” Facebook page about this, but the critical comments are now gone. (At least to me, could be a permissions thing I guess.)

Sorry Chief Gemme, but transparency and public records law apply to the internets too

I penned this open letter to Chief Gemme and the community after finding that the Worcester Police Department (WPD) removed from the WPD Facebook page an earlier letter I wrote raising concerns about Worcester shifting away from Community Policing towards Predictive Policing . Community members have also now documented that other posts and comments raising issues or making critical comments have also been removed.

February 17th, 2012

Dear Chief Gemme,

Yesterday I publicly shared my concerns with you regarding the Worcester Police Department’s (WPD) training on Predictive Policing and the inherent conflict, danger and disruptive nature of pursuing such a new course while also attempting to implement Community Policing.

This is a crucial conversation for our community as we struggle to effectively prioritize limited policing resources and funding, and so I had directed my elected officials and local media to also read and respond.

Unfortunately, the letter Iposted to the Worcester Police Department’s Facebook page has been either blocked, hidden or deleted which raises immediate concerns vis a vis transparency, constituent communication with elected officials and data retention. I have since been told that communications from other Worcester residents have also been removed. Why is the Worcester Police Department opposed to people asking questions and raising issues? Is that not the definition of Social Media?

Please do not dismiss this as a Myspace food fight, you had seemed to understand the new primacy of digital communication. With the launch of the WPD’s foray into social media you wrote, “Social media is not only the future, but the present. Communicating directly with the public and providing current information through innovative platforms is critical to maintaining trust. “

While exasperated teens and dueling friends are free to simply delete unwanted comments and criticisms posted to their Facebook pages you are not. As you have been frequently reminded, the Worcester Police Department is no different than most public bodies in the Commonwealth and as such is bound to adhere to Massachusetts Public Records law and data retention guidelines.

I ask that you immediately restore my letter to you and Worcester City Councilors to the WPD Facebook page, that other posts made by community residents be immediately restored as well, and that the community be reassured that future disregard for open community discourse, transparency and public records management will not reoccur.

Thank you,
Kevin Ksen

GoLocalWorcester, day two review

Today was the second day for the new local new site GoLocalWorcester. (Or, as I like to call it, Go Local Worcester.)

Later in the day yesterday they posted a little video wrapup of the day’s stories on their homepage. Production is rough—background noise waxes and wanes, and for some clips the audio is only in one channel. It’s a bare-bones player with no embedding or full-screen capabilities.

Their website is still unviewable on mobile devices. I don’t mean hard to use—I mean mobile users get a big green “G”, a line about the current weather, and no news or articles at all.

Today, 16 stories were posted in the morning, and one story later in the day.

Several of the stories have a regional angle but are not really about the city. I count four about Worcester:

So far, there is not a lot on this site I could not find somewhere else. Not much in the way of Worcester aggregation or point-of-view either. I’ll be sure to post something about it next week unless something noteworthy pops up before then.

What is going on with that idea of a biweekly Worcester progressive print newspaper?

Cara writes:

I know some people have been wondering what happened to that idea of
starting a community newspaper. The good news is, it still exists and
it’s getting bigger. We’ve been having some committee meetings to has
out business structure and editorial process and we’re going to be
meeting this week to update and make some big decisions to move us
towards a first issue!

If you’re on Facebook you can see the details here: [Link]

Also you can join the group here: [Link]

There you will find some important new information like the call for
editors, and soon we’ll be posting a call for submissions. The train
is picking up steam, so get on!

Chief remains quiet, NPR pissy on Truong coerced confession case

WBUR’s David Boeri has some followup on the case of a Worcester teen who confessed to killing her baby, then was set free when the judge found the confession was coerced.

Among other things, Boeri covers Chief Gemme’s recent, ellipses-filled social media feuds, and the chief’s unwillingness to sit down for an interview. I’m left wondering what questions Boeri wants answered—presumably some clarification on what is OK and not OK in interrogations, but I’m just guessing.

Not a lot new here for people who’ve been following this, though I did enjoy this quote from City Councilor Rushton:

“When you use the words like ‘cognitive bias,’ you’re indicating that you believe that a judge has a mental disorder,” Rushton said, “really puts a chilling effect, I believe, and it shows a lack of professionalism.”

I do not think cognitive bias means what he thinks it means.