Thursday, December 19, 2013

Myriad Observations from The Massachusetts Observer

The Massachusetts Observer

Posted: 18 Dec 2013 03:59 PM PST

Once again we read of a petition to revert to a town meeting form of government in Southbridge. I have written about this for at least 5 years, even before our present and departing town manager was appointed by default.

I do not believe anything is gained by going back; I also believe our current form of government is dysfunctional.

Here is what I wrote back in 2008, 2010.

Come on, Southbridge, Do the Right Thing.

This is still my view.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 05:23 PM PDT

It was 1940, and there was much tension in The United States. It was a year for a Presidential election. The main contenders were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. The country was suffering The Great Depression, and war was looming on the horizon.

Enter comedian Gracie Allen, half of the husband and wife team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Gracie announced that she would be running for President on The Surprise Party ticket.

As this excerpt for Wikipedia reports:
In 1940... Allen announced she was running for President of the United States on the Surprise Party ticket. Burns and Allen did a cross-country whistle-stop campaign tour on a private train, performing their live radio show in different cities. In one of her campaign speeches Gracie said, "I don't know much about the Lend-Lease Bill, but if we owe it we should pay it." Another typical Gracie-ism on the campaign trail went like this: "Everybody knows a woman is better than a man when it comes to introducing bills into the house." The Surprise Party mascot was the kangaroo; the motto was "It's in the bag." As part of the gag, Allen (in reality, the Burns and Allen writers) published a book, Gracie Allen for President, which included photographs from their nationwide campaign tour and the Surprise Party convention. Allen received an endorsement from Harvard University and went on to receive 42,000 votes in the general election in November 1940; only six other female United States presidential and vice-presidential candidates have received more votes in a presidential election.
I won't recount the entire story here, but readers who "Google" Gracie Allen, 1940, and Presidential Election will have plenty of information.  The country seemed to need this comic relief and embraced the stunt.

The Campaign Song

My focus here is on Gracie Allen's Campaign Song, "Vote for Gracie." Perhaps we need some of this comic relief in our time. Enjoy this Southbridge Old Time Radio presentation!

Posted: 09 Sep 2013 05:40 PM PDT

With the popularity of current television programs such as HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and movies like "The Great Gatsby" there has been an upsurge in interest in music of the Roaring Twenties.

I have always been interested in this music, so I love seeing it being appreciated once again.

Here is a video I have just placed on my Southbridge Old Time Radio You Tube Channel. Perhaps some Massachusetts Observer readers will also appreciate it.

The song is titled "You'd Be Surprised" and is sung by Mae Questel, one of the best known Betty Boop voices. It was a bit risque. But then so were the Roaring Twenties! Enjoy!

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 10:45 AM PDT

If you have done any videos for posting on YouTube, you are aware that there are companies out there that systematically and falsely claim ownership of material. There is only one reason for this. They make money off content that is not theirs.

I do not use my channel as a source for income, but many who do have also had false claims of copyright made against them. They then cannot earn any money on that particular video; the false claimant, in effect, steals it from them, pocketing that money any time the video is played.

I have had this happen, and I have either disputed the claim and won the dispute, or I have removed the video because I will not let these leeches earn their ill-gotten gains from my channel.

That is why I am using this forum instead of YouTube to post this video which had a false claim against it.

Posted: 18 Dec 2013 05:01 AM PST
No one should take joy in witnessing people behaving badly. At the same time, ignoring these activities, turning a blind eye to them, does nothing to confront the problem.

Here is a video that was recently posted on YouTube. This is taking place in Southbridge. I will not identify the street here, but I believe it is just off Main Street. There were some other videos as well.

I will let the video speak for itself without further commentary.  Your comments are welcome.

Posted: 22 Aug 2013 11:17 AM PDT

While most of my writing on this blog is about Southbridge, it is called "The Massachusetts Observer," so this entry is roughly about Massachusetts, specifically a song and the Red Sox. I am sure that as fall gets underway, there will be more than enough opportunity to write about Southbridge.

Back to the song. You all know it. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." It was written in 1908, and one of the first recordings was done on Edison Records by Edward Meeker. I have made a video of this recording and illustrated it with baseball cards from Red Sox players of the period. The lyrics are there, too!

I hope some of you will like this bit of summer diversion. All Southbridge Old Time Radio materials are posted on You Tube. Please consider subscribing to my channel.  Thanks.

Posted: 20 Aug 2013 08:23 AM PDT

As people may be aware, I have another blog called Southbridge Old Time Radio. In addition to posting daily programs from radio's Golden Age, I also have what I refer to as "Southbridge Old Time Radio Nostalgia Songs." I enjoy finding very old songs and making videos of them. These I post on YouTube.

This is one of them to illustrate. The song is from 1916 and the recording is also. Billy Murray was one of the most prolific and in-demand soloists during the acoustic period (before microphones).

This particular song called "Here Comes the Groom" is dedicated to those guys who felt like "props" at their own weddings! It's a "fun" song! I hope you agree.

Posted: 15 Aug 2013 05:02 AM PDT
Southbridge Town Councilor Monique Manna

I would like to commend Town Councilor, Monique Manna, who has picked up the cause of working towards a policy regarding the graffiti that has marred some of the buildings in Southbridge. Good luck, and thank you!

Almost every day I walk downtown. Often my walks take me to other sections of town as well. In every section, whether it is Main Street (upper and lower), Marcy Street, Everett Street, Cross Street, Mechanic Street, Elm Street, Worcester Street, Charlton Street, Hamilton Street - in other words through many types of neighborhoods - I have met and spoken to some wonderful people. In some instances I got to practice my limited Spanish, a language I would like to master.  As tempting as some may find it, you simply can't apply a label to all the people living in a particular neighborhood.

Back to the subject of graffiti and Southbridge stores. I hope that people notice that some building owners are benefiting their tenants, themselves, and the entire town by upgrading their properties. New coats of paint and other efforts at beautification are so important. I will not identify those places, but I would like to thank these responsible, civic-minded people. Be sure to stop in to the store keepers in these places, and let them know that they are appreciated.

One last thing: When I first wrote about the graffiti, I used this picture as an example of graffiti that was sprayed on a building downtown.

Don't look for it. It has been removed by the owner.  Thank you!
Posted: 13 Aug 2013 05:22 AM PDT

Well, it only took a week, and the predictable has happened in Southbridge. The report on the Southbridge Police Department, and by logical extension our Town Government and specifically Town Manager Christopher Clark, is being attacked.

We have an idiom for this in our English language. It's called shooting the messenger. If the message is unfavorable, seek to discredit at all costs (and apparently from the article in today's Worcester Telegram and Gazette [August 13, 2013] those "costs" will involve further expenditures of taxpayers' money to do some image repair).

Last week I wrote about "cherry-picking," something the auditors warned against when considering their report. Mr. Clark apparently believes that the entire cherry tree needs to be obliterated.

Until this latest report (which reportedly cost 14 thousand dollars [and which Mr. Clark has magnanimously agreed that the town will pay for]) is considered, not one cent should be paid to audit the audit.

The tactic being employed by Mr. Clark is obvious, and the Town Council should reject it in no uncertain terms.
Posted: 06 Aug 2013 12:55 PM PDT
I imagine like many of you I heard a lot that needs to be considered in the audit of the Southbridge Police Department that was presented at the Town Council meeting on August 5, 2013.  We were admonished against "cherry-picking" the report focusing on just those things that we agree with and ignoring the rest.

For example, the auditor stated that Southbridge is a city with city challenges, a point which I have made on numerous occasions. If I focus on that one aspect of the report and ignore other things that don't fit into my own preconceived notions, then I am cherry-picking. The instruction not to cherry-pick the report is good advice.

That does not mean that we cannot have initial impressions following the presentation. First I need to state the obvious. I am not an expert at community policing or even a novice. My only qualification to give my initial reaction is one I share with every other citizen. I live in Southbridge.

It appears that the biggest problem, the overarching problem in our Police Department in this instance, and by extension the entirety of Southbridge governance, is a glaring failure to follow best practices.

Every profession has standards of practice that have been developed to insure that things are done competently and with an integrity that is beyond question or reproach.  Failure to follow these leaves a practitioner open to charges of being slip-shod at best to accusations of abuse of power at worst. Neither of these is acceptable in municipal government.

With lots more to digest, I believe that one final, and perhaps most crucial point needs to be stressed.

In his reaction to the report, even after hearing multiple examples of failure to follow best practices, Town Manager Christopher Clark made a revealing observation. He indicated that what he heard from the report was the need for better communication.

Yes, that's true. The report did indicate that. It also indicated that a great deal more is learned, not from how the communication takes place, but from the substance of the communications themselves. The report showed a disregard for best practices either through ignorance of them or perhaps through intentional avoidance of them.  Neither is acceptable and failure to recognize this aspect of the report is also cherry-picking.
Posted: 30 Jul 2013 07:08 AM PDT

Usually, I am not a fan of the anonymity of Soundoff in "The Southbridge Evening News." However, I admit that the two recent ones have been well-written and informative.  It may be the difference between true whistle blowers and those who are just cowardly. Whistle blowers need anonymity clearly.

The concern of both writers is in the selection process for principals in the Southbridge School District. It appears, at least on the surface, that little has changed in that regard.

I have already addressed the first Soundoff about the hiring of Ms. Allen for the Southbridge Middle High School Principal.

It is the last paragraph on today's Soundoff (July 30, 2013) that especially caught my attention.  The writer asks:
Also, this past week, did anyone noticed a principal position was posted in the Southbridge News? It is probably hoped that no one noticed and the qualifications seemed to be tailored for a particular individual.
My answer to that is "No, I did not notice, but I am glad you pointed that out." Here is the post to which the writer refers:

PRINCIPAL Elementary School Must have DESE Principal 1-5 Licensure. Minimum 5 years experience, as well as 5 years with Level 4 District and Accelerated Improvement Plan. Completion of NISL Program, RBT Certificate Completion, Master's Degree required. Forward resume to: Cady Joress HR Manager 25 Cole Avenue Southbridge, MA 01550. EEO 
That the qualifications seemed to be "tailored for a particular individual" as the Soundoff writer suggests seems spot on.  The specificity in this description might as well include an address where the applicant must be dwelling!

As Yogi Berra famously said, "It's déjà vu all over again."  Indeed, this has happened before with an ad for an elementary school principal in Southbridge.

As the writer pointed out Southbridge uses the School Spring site to advertise school openings. This principal's position, however, was not listed on School Spring where it could be expected to be seen by many individuals seeking such a position.  It appears, instead, that the ad only appeared in "The Southbridge News."  That has also happened before.

The questions then are obvious:

Which elementary school position is vacant?

Why was the opening not listed on School Spring?

Is this setting the scenario for the Superintendent to make a case for some sort of waiver or hardship appointment claiming that no one qualified applied?

It's happened before.  Is it happening again?
Posted: 26 Jul 2013 12:29 PM PDT

While I am not a fan of anonymous letters to the editor, the "Sound Off" in today's Southbridge Evening News (July 26, 2013) certainly raises legitimate concerns regarding the appointment of the new principal for Southbridge Middle/High School.

The press release from the Office of The Superintendent of Schools, Basan Nembirkow, states it this way:


The Southbridge School District enthusiastically announces the appointment of several new administrators at both the middle high school and central services. Following the recent retirement of Greg Leach this June, Amy Allen of Southbridge, former middle school principal and current District Director of Curriculum, has been appointed to the middle/high school principal position...

Additionally, with the transfer of Ms. Allen from the Director of Curriculum position to the 
middle high school principal position, Patricia Gardner of Wilbraham, MA, will take over as the 
Director of Teaching and Learning. Ms. Gardner has experience as a principal in Gill-Montague 
and West Springfield, as well as several years of experience as an assistant principal, director 
and classroom teacher.

The Sound Off writer compares this appointment of Ms. Allen to former Superintendent Eric Ely's appointment of former principal Tammy Perreault.  Ms. Perreault had been the Director of Mathematics. Purportedly neither Ms. Perreault nor Ms. Allen went through any type of interview process involving anyone other than the respective Superintendents of Schools.

The similarities between these two appointments rightly concern the Sound Off writer.  However, the differences should be of concern as well.

Unlike Ms. Perreault, who had no experience as a principal, Ms. Allen has had that experience and in our district. The MCAS scores were abysmal during her tenure as principal, and the former Mary E. Wells Junior High School remained stuck as a Level 3 school with little cause for optimism for the future.

What does Superintendent Nembirkow see as a reason to appoint Ms. Allen once again to a principalship? He may have good reasons, but they are certainly lost on the general public.

Why wasn't Ms. Allen appointed as an interim principal with the understanding that her performance in the position would determine a permanent appointment?

How is the salary determined for someone who steps down from an important position in Central Administration overseeing all curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the entire Southbridge School District to principal of just one school?  Is the salary unchanged? Does it rise or fall?

It appears that the appointment of Ms. Gardner to the District position of Director of Teaching and Learning is a step up for her.  Is the appointment of Ms. Allen to principal a step down?

Was Ms. Allen considered for Director of Teaching and Learning?  One would assume that if she were performing satisfactorily in her current position, this would be the logical transition.

Again, there may be many good and educationally sound reasons for the choices being made by the Superintendent, but just as they are with the Sound Off writer, they are lost on me without some further explanation.
Posted: 25 Jul 2013 07:02 AM PDT

Well, here we go again. In today's Worcester T&G we learn that Southbridge is on the list for possible closure of our Registry of Motor Vehicles. We fought this fight before. The following is from this blog only 4 years ago almost to the day (July 17, 2009). Included is a video regarding the location selected at that time for the new RMV on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Note to Commonwealth: We fought it before and we can (and will if necessary) do it again.  Don't mess with Southbridge!


This is a message to the government in Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from your territorial possessions West of Interstate 495. We haven't communicated in quite a while, so perhaps your loyal servant can fill you in on some of the latest news.

As you know, we on the frontier have been laboring to become officially a part of this great Commonwealth. We have several promising settlements here in the Central Territories. Several of these settlements have been named by the inhabitants with the fervent wish that they may be one day incorporated by the Commonwealth.

We've been making great progress in transportation out here in the territories. Some of our post roads have been improved, and roads connect virtually all of our various settlements.

While we revere the role played by our faithful beasts in helping us to clear the land and in providing us means of transport, nearly all have now adopted the horseless carriage as a primary means of conveyance. This change has helped greatly with access to the outposts where we may lay up supplies and conduct business affairs, not the least of which is paying tribute to the Commonwealth. We know that Boston and vicinities require a great deal of money, not only to maintain the government, but also to fund the amenities that are befitting the Commonwealth.

It has come to our attention that the Commonwealth plans to close one of our few outposts. This particular location is where we pay tribute to the Commonwealth for the privilege of operating our horseless carriages, or as the Commonwealth designates them, motor vehicles. You have determined that the Southbridge facility should cease operating. While we in the territories would not want to question the wisdom of our Commonwealth officials, we feel compelled to inform them that this decision will have a deleterious effect on your territory settlements.

The Southbridge Registry of Motor Vehicles outpost is the closest full-service facility for several of our settlements.

Specific Settlements and their Populations Served by the Southbridge RMV:

17,214 Southbridge
3,348 Brimfield
1,641 Wales
2,285 Warren
3,051 Brookfield
11,263 Charlton
10,792 Dudley
2,097 East Brookfield
2,254 Fiskdale
2,405 Holland
8,257 Monson
913 New Braintree
11,366 Oxford
5,583 Sturbridge
15,659 Webster
5,617 West Brookfield
1,087 West Warren

104,932 total population of settlements served by Southbridge RMV in the Commonwealth's Territories.

Many of us in the territories combine business transactions with each journey. The routes to Southbridge, for example, afford us the opportunity to stop at other outposts along the way to purchase needed supplies. We are a frugal people.

Finally, we send greetings to all living in the Commonwealth proper. We wish you continued prosperity and pray that our leaders will be merciful. Please reconsider the closing of our Southbridge Outpost.

Your Servant,

Brent S. Abrahamson

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 07:07 AM PDT

In today's Southbridge Evening News (Wednesday, July 24, 2013) a Letter to the Editor titled "Save Notre Dame" by Southbridge resident Mary Puracchio appears. It is thorough and informative and appeals to the community to donate funds for needed repairs to insure that all will be accomplished and paid for by the time Southbridge celebrates its bicentennial in 2016. While that is certainly a worthy goal, some questions need to be asked.

First, let me reprint here something I wrote on December 19, 2008:

I read with interest of the upcoming anniversary of Notre Dame Parish in Southbridge. In 2009 the Church will celebrate its 140th year serving part of the Roman Catholic population in the town. 

Everyone in Southbridge knows where Notre Dame is located. For the benefit of non-Southbridgians it is the large white church at the top of Main Street Hill. It is built on the property formerly owned by the Marcy family. William Learned Marcy, future Governor of the state of New York, United States Secretary of War, and United States Secretary of State was born there. 

Notre Dame Parish was established to serve the spiritual needs of an ever-growing French-Canadian population who came to work in the many mills dotting the Quinebaug River in Southbridge. The current edifice was completed in 1916. It has been a source of great pride to the town. 

In our time, we are seeing a lot of churches being closed by the Worcester Diocese. The article stated that this stately old building is referred to some in the Diocese hierarchy as a "white elephant." To me such a dispassionate remark can only be uttered by those who have no connection with the life of the community and the church. 

Now back to the present and some questions to ask. 

Have minds been changed by those who considered Notre Dame Church a "white elephant" back in 2008? There is a rumor that they have not. Some believe that the plan is to close Notre Dame Church, and, to sweeten the deal with parishioners, Masses will resume on a regular basis at St. Hedwig's, St. Mary's, and Sacred Heart.

Before committing finances to the restoration of Notre Dame Church, it is imperative to get a public comment from the decision-makers of the Diocese stating that they are not planning to close Notre Dame Church. They owe this assurance not only to the congregants but also to the entire town of Southbridge.
Posted: 18 Jul 2013 01:17 PM PDT

Last time I wrote about the jitney bus and how this could be a plausible enterprise for some Southbridge entrepreneur.  Perhaps its time has come again.

Jitney buses were all the rage in The United States in 1914-1915; they were done in by the deep pockets of transportation companies, both private and public.

Jeremy Rosenberg describes jitneys as "cousins of taxicabs and descendants of stagecoaches" that were popular here in the 19-teens. Why did jitneys become so popular so suddenly, only to stall and sputter into Americana museums, Historic Filipinotown pride and joy and NSFW Hamptons tunes?...In great part, because jitneys were out-lobbied -- then and to this day -- by large transportation authorities or companies.  Link.

I have prepared a video of a song that was released in 1915 titled Gasoline Gus and His Jitney Bus.  It is available here and on You Tube.  There was a great deal of fun toward the jitney bus, and as you will see in the video, a number of songs were released at the time.

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 10:35 AM PDT

I was taking my daily walk to the Southbridge Post Office when I spotted him standing at the corner of Elm and Main. I thought about ducking behind Southbridge Savings Bank to avoid him.

Now, don't get me wrong. Kenny Tellya is a nice guy and an old friend, but if you're in a hurry, Kenny Tellya is not the person you want to stop and chat with.  Once he gets started, he barely takes a breath.

Just at that moment he turned to face me, and that was that. Well, I really wasn't in that much of a hurry anyway.

Kenny Tellya: Hey, Brent! Hi. How are you?

Me: Fine. (I knew this would be my last word for a while).

Kenny: Brent, you see how busy Main Street is today?  Well, it's like that quite a bit. And look at all these people walking. You know why they're walking? They got no choice. And that's a business opportunity. If only I was younger, I'd go for it.  What this town needs is a jitney bus company.

Me: A what? What's that?

Kenny: It's an old word, Brent. It used to be slang for a nickel because that's what people paid to ride 'em.  Now, I ain't saying we can bring back the nickel ride, but I am saying that the time is ripe to bring back the jitney bus.  See, you set up this company, and each driver owns his own jitney, a small bus that seats under 15 people or so. Then drivers make up their own schedules, their own routes. Anywhere. Anytime. And people can wave them down.  If a driver wants to offer a pick-up service, he can just put his contact information right on his bus. Trips to the stores. The swimming pool. School functions. Concerts on the Common. Special nights at local clubs. Let the jitney bus be your designated ride! Private enterprise, Brent, meeting a public need. Ain't that the American way? And it's not as if the jitney is all in the past.  Atlantic City and other places been doing this for years. And they're big in some of the Spanish-speaking countries. In some places they're called guaguas.

Me: (I could see that my old friend Kenny Tellya was starting to dream again. No doubt he was visualizing those jitneys or guaguas now).

Kenny:  If only I were younger, Brent. (sigh) But, hey, maybe you could write about this in your blog. Maybe some young entrepreneur in Southbridge will run with it.  What do you think?

Me: Well, Kenny, I don't know, but it's worth a try. I'll do it, old friend. I gotta get moving.

Kenny: Hey, Brent, good talkin' to you. Ain't Southbridge great? I love it here!

And so we shook hands and moved on. Kenny can talk your ear off, that's for sure, and sometimes he gripes about our town; but no one loves Southbridge more than my old friend Kenny Tellya.

I did a little research about the jitney after talking to Kenny Tellya.  He just may have something as this article titled Free the Jitney shows.
Posted: 13 Jul 2013 10:27 AM PDT

There's not much information in the police report, but on Friday July 12, 2013, the Southbridge Evening News had this:

TUESDAY, JULY 9 SOUTHBRIDGE – 4:25 p.m. —Vandalism at library.

That is in reference, of course, to Jacob Edwards Library in downtown Southbridge. Now, I know people will accurately say that vandalism occurs in many public libraries. True as that is, our concern as citizens of Southbridge is with our own library.

Our History
The first public library was established in the Town of Southbridge by public vote in 1870.  In 1872, Holmes Ammidown, Esq. established and leased space on Main Street for the use of the town library.  Through the generous bequest of Jacob Edwards, a new facility was erected on the current location of the Library in 1914.  Having long outgrown its original building, a major addition was added to the library in 1966; this wing included the current Reading Room, Director's Office, and the Holmes Ammidown History Room.  A major expansion and renovation was completed in 2000, thus increasing the library facility to its current size of 33,000 sq. ft.

Jacob Edwards Library is one of Southbridge's biggest assets. Its history shows a long and admirable level of support as is made clear on the library website.

While I have not directly witnessed any act of vandalism personally, I have seen its aftermath.  I have also seen unacceptable behavior on the part of some younger patrons who are chronologically old enough to be classified as "young adult" and so are permitted free access to the adult section of the library. Unfortunately chronological age does not always reflect maturity, and it is too often those who lack the maturity and self-discipline who are prone to be destructive.

So what can be done about it?  Perhaps it's time for a Library Watch Group not unlike a neighborhood watch.  If responsible adults began appearing in the library in great numbers, I believe that would significantly cut down on the misbehavior and the vandalism.

Responsible young adults who use the library for legitimate purposes would welcome this. Those who are prone to act up and destroy things are less appreciative of an adult presence. They would not want to hang around.

I believe that it is time for the responsible citizens of Southbridge to flock to our beautiful Main Street in droves. Go downtown and walk. Take Main Street back.  It can be done if we do it together.
Posted: 04 Jul 2013 02:31 PM PDT

Recently I made the point that Southbridge, despite some insistence otherwise, is a city. Though some people participating in the recent community discussions said they like the small town feeling of Southbridge, I believe that view comes more from nostalgia than reality.

In one of his latest superbly written and thought-provoking columns, titled Tag-You're It (see page 10) Southbridge Evening News reporter Mark Ashton wrote about the recent spate of graffiti plaguing Southbridge. He pointed out some of the new markings on Hamilton Street. There are others as well such as on Goddard Street, Chapin Street, and in some of the alleys between buildings. They are found in the Globe section of town and the Flat. I'm sure they are found in other areas as well.

Mr. Ashton's column issues a challenge to the young people of Southbridge to take the lead in helping to eradicate this graffiti, but that may be unrealistic. Something, however, needs to be done, and, despite the hopelessness expressed by some in Mr. Ashton's column, some communities are doing something about this destructive practice.

These communities realize that allowing this graffiti to remain is destructive. It sends a powerfully negative message to any from the outside.  Who, for example, would want to "make Southbridge home" if it is also home to the taggers and perhaps the gangs that some of this graffiti symbolizes? And make no mistake. Some of these markings are gang-related, often used for recruitment or to proclaim ownership of a territory. They are not always the prankish scribblings some believe they are.

So what can Southbridge do? Our Southbridge Town Council and Police Department can do a great deal both reactively and proactively to lead citizens in responding to this problem. There are a number of resources, but let me give just 2.

In general the website for Community Oriented Police Services (COPS), a division of the United States Department of Justice has lots of helpful information.  A specific publication relative to leading a community response to graffiti is available at this link.

This article about Saugus, Massachusetts, and their new graffiti bylaw can be instructive.

Ridding Southbridge of such blight will take a community-wide commitment, but it can be done.
Posted: 30 Jun 2013 07:17 AM PDT
Southbridge Councilor Shaun Moriarty

On his Facebook page, Southbridge Councilor Shaun Moriarty poses the following question:

As we wait for the new Town Council to take over on July 15, what would you like to see happen in the next year?

That's an excellent question, and Councilor Moriarty is to be commended not only for asking it, but also for his public presence and availability on the internet.

While there are certainly many things we hope to accomplish in Southbridge, focusing on a few things may better assure us that they get done. So, here are my suggestions.

1. Drop the insistence that Southbridge be called a town. Because of our form of government, the state considers Southbridge a city. For some reason, Southbridge insists that it be called a town, and special legislation is filed to that end.  To the State we are known as "The City of Southbridge also known as the Town of Southbridge." Clearly Southbridge now resembles a city more than it does a town, and clearly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pays greater attention to its cities in terms of assistance. No part of our current Southbridge Governmental structure needs to be changed to adopt this suggestion. Perhaps minds need to be changed. Let those who insist on the status quo justify it.

2. Promote senior housing and higher-end housing in the downtown area. The people who can walk to the downtown and who have money to spend will determine the types of shops and services that will succeed in our beautiful downtown. Currently we have this backwards. Vigorously pursue landlords who are slumlords. Make them pay or get out of the way.

3. Increase public transportation not only out of town and back, but also within the town. WRTA needs to step up to the plate.

4. Question the almost permanent presence of The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance in Southbridge. Yes, we know the age-old argument is that the offices are located where there is the greatest need. Of course, if the office is always located in Southbridge, it will always be the place with the greatest need.  Now, before I get accused of any kind of prejudice, let me say that with the emergence of affordable public transportation, no one needs to leave Southbridge just because they are getting assistance.  The increased mobility allows other towns e.g. Sturbridge, Charlton, Dudley, or Webster to join in rotation for hosting the Transition Office.

If the State makes the same old arguments, ask what benefits the City of Southbridge may expect in return for hosting the office.

Good luck to all Councilors, and congratulations both to those who were successful in the last election and all others who ran for office.
Posted: 29 Jun 2013 04:07 AM PDT

As a blogger, I have received my share of anonymous letters in the mail. "Sincerely, Anonymous." Those are two words that I find incongruous.

People do like to let you know what they think. I guess I am one of them. Hence this blog. However, you don't have to guess my identity. You may disagree with what I have to say. Plenty of people seem to. Differences of opinion can lead to discussion and new understanding. That's a good thing.

Anonymous letters have been delivered to me with Biblical tracts, presumably to save my soul. Or perhaps to let me know where they believe my eternal address will be in the hereafter if I don't change my opinion on things.

I have also received a number of articles carefully cut out from right-wing publications, the anonymous sender's attempt to educate me to the real truth, not the crazy stuff I seem to believe.

And so it was that on Wednesday I received 2 letters from Anonymous about the Southbridge election.  And, yes, I do mean Wednesday, the day after the election! A recent change in my mailing address caused them to be delayed. I opened them to find a warning about two candidates running for Town Council. I was advised in strong terms not to vote for them. They were the most horrible people on the face of the earth it seems.

Well, Anonymous letter writer, I'm afraid you wasted your time and postage on me. You apparently don't realize the level of credence I give to anonymous letters of this sort. In a word: none.

As a responsible citizen I tore those anonymous letters up and placed them in a nearby recycle bin.  Perhaps they have a future as bathroom tissue. Or perhaps that's what they were in a former life. If so, they certainly retained their former characteristics. Charming. Or is that Charmin?

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