Friday, April 28, 2006

Just a few highlights from this past week!

Senator Kerry visits Fall River
The junior senator made a brief stop both at the Iwo Jima monument and at an anti-LNG rally that took place just outside of the Weaver's Cove site.

I really can't say much about this visit. Kerry came, he commented, he left.

Kerry was instrumental in securing funds used for the Iwo Jima memorial and spoke a few fitting words to some assembled veterans and later he spoke to a few hundred people assembled at the anti-LNG rally where he again spoke a few fitting words.

It's not that I don't appreciate Senator Kerry coming down to Fall River to show his support, it's just I'm not wowed by it either.

I mean he stops in the park and says 'nice monument' and then goes over to the rally and says pretty much what everyone else has said, 'this doesn't belong in Fall River'. He did say the LNG plan would be defeated and my first reaction on hearing that was 'well, here is a man who certainly KNOWS defeat', so I felt pretty good that LNG would NEVER happen in Fall River, but then I heard he said we would win this fight, and my reaction was, well we all know what happened the last time Kerry claimed victory.

Anthony Cordeiro will no longer support mayor
Cordeiro who has been a key fundraiser for Ed Lambert stated that he had lost faith in the Mayor's vision for the city and lost confidence in ability as a leader. He also resigned from his position as President of the Fall River Office of Economic Development. Cordeiro who owns and has developed multiple properties in the city admitted that the situation with the old police station played a role in his decision.

I've touched on the police station situation in the past, basically the city put the property out for bid in a process that would award it not to the highest bidder but to the party with the best proposal. Cordeiro was awarded the bid but when some minor issues turned up with the city's process the Mayor asked for the process to be restarted. Cordeiro feels wronged and isn't going to submit a new bid.

So this boils down to the Mayor is being accused of trying to have too much control by someone who has an ax to grind. Sorry Anthony, it's not that Ed Lambert hasn't been accused of this before, but it's hard to take any of these comments considering the whole police station matter.

What's a shame is that the first time around there were only two bidders and Cordeiro, in my opinion, submitted the best, most realistic proposal. His unwillingness to submit a new bid could be a real loss for the city.

It will be interesting to see what Cordeiro break from the Mayor will mean in the next election. Will his fundraising ability be enough to put another candidate, say George Jacome, over the top?

Peralta Arrested!
After more than 2 months on the run, Angel "Shorty" Peralta was arrested in Providence Rhode Island. Peralta, you'll remember, is the idiot who shot 3 people at a local McDonald's back in February.

While I'm certainly glad these moron is off the streets, I'm discouraged that it took 2 months to find him and even MORE discouraged to realize that this one arrest hardly makes our streets safe. Since the incident in February there have been a 2 or 3 other shooting incidents including one that left a Flint neighborhood resident dead.

"What's with the picture", you ask? Well while all of this was going on I spent my days off painting, which considering how long it took me to get around to it, is almost news worthy in itself.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I'm guilty!........of N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Backyard!)

It all started innocently enough, a casual conversation with a realtor lead to the inevitable question 'do you own', to which I answered yes, and of course got the follow up question 'where'.

I mentioned the area, part of Fall River's south end near the Taunton River. He knew it well and said it was nice and then said 'you know they're trying to re-establish rail service to Newport(R.I.)?

I told him it will never happen. The tracks, which run through my neighborhood, have been unused for at least 30 years. It would cost a fortune to get them in working order AND the Sakonnet River Swing Bridge would need to be replaced and THAT would cost a fortune just by itself.
He restated that it's in the works and despite my earlier confidence I felt a bit rattled.

A quick google search came up with a few hits, a recent letter to the editor in the Providence Journal (registration required) in which a Rhode Island resident touted how rail service from Boston to Newport (going through Fall River) made sense. A forum community talked about bantered about how a Boston to Newport line was possible and echoed some of the sentiments in the projo letter. The forum also furnished a link to a Rhode Island Department of Transportation report from 2002 that promoted the feasibility of Fall River to Newport line with also sorts of facts and figures related to the expected number of passengers and the revenue that could be generated. My google search at least showed that there has been an interest and discussion.

What if this gains momentum in Rhode Island? What if this does happen? Well, I doubt the city of Fall River would object. After all, it would seem pretty hypocritical to cry out that we need commuter rail to Boston and then deny it to Newport. On top of that on many levels this makes sense and could be an economic catalyst for Fall River.

Still, reports and forums and letters to the editor aside, the reality is Fall River to Newport rail service will come down to the almighty dollar. Fall River has been pushing and fighting for rail service to Boston for a decade now but it hasn't happened yet, despite commitments from the state and the efforts to secure federal funds the best we've gotten is a promise of 'by 2011'. This promise is one in a list of promises that have been matched by the list of broken promises and delays. A Fall River to Newport extension would require even more money from Massachusetts and Rhode Island and I'm sure some sort of Federal funds. Even if such a project could secure funding I'm sure there would be all sorts of legal battles from people who just don't want this to happen. In short, if it does happen it won't be for a long time.

Of course I hope it never happens, go ahead, accuse me of N.I.M.B.Y. I can't deny it. I don't want this in my backyard and it literally would be!

Along the Taunton River and the Mount Hope Bay is a terrific place to live. Too much of Fall River's waterline has been spoiled by industrial and commercial use. It would be a shame to see what pockets of residential areas exist ruined by an active rail line. It would be a shame if the stillness of a glorious sunset was interrupted by the sound of the train.

Abandoned Blog!!!

How did this happen?

It could be time or lack of actually. Things get busy and other priorities........

Writers block? Maybe..partly anyway.

It certainly could have to do with not wanting to just recycle stories from the local paper. They have their own website and pay people! No need for me to repeat their efforts.

One thing for sure is that it's not because of a lack of things going on. Off the top of my head, the principal at the high school is leaving, and the city is dealing with the reality of a gang problem and the LNG issue is always in the news.

Let's just chalk it up to a vacation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No Love for City Hall

Okay it's fairly usual for there to be a lack of love for City Hall but usually it's related to what goes on inside the building and not because of the building itself.

Fall River's City hall, which is actually called Government Center, is unique. Built in the mid-70's and meant to be progressive and modern the building was built on an overpass over Rt. 195. The building itself has always been somewhat controversial, from its modern styling and placement above the highway, to its problematic history.

The story actually starts in the early 60's when the previous City Hall was knocked down to make way for Rt. 195. Then-mayor John Arruda negotiated for the air rights to build the future city hall in the same location, but above the highway. For the next dozen years the city government functioned out of the old Hotel Mellen while a succession of Mayors tried to make the new Government Center a reality. By the early 70's Mayor Mitchell had given up on the idea. It was deemed too expensive and impractical. Mayor Mitchell vowed to build a new city hall on property near the proposed Government Center. However with the election of Henry Driscoll, the government Center project was back on track and in 1976 it was Mayor Driscoll who proudly showed off Fall River's new center of government.

Problems arose immediately. The heating system didn't work, windows kept popping out of their frames and came crashing down on the walkways below. Within a year repair work was being done to the steps leading up to the building and a few years later it was being done again.

Today, as we quickly approach the 30 year anniversary of Government Center the building is getting some much overdue repair work, work that has been on hold since March of 1999.

It was Wednesday, March 3, 1999 when the unthinkable happened; a three ton tile on the ceiling of the Rt. 195 'tunnel' came crashing down on the highway below. Several were hurt but luckily no one was killed. The resulting investigation found that the tunnel hadn't been inspected in the 20 plus years both the city and the state believing the responsibility was the others. The cause of the mishap; drainage issues that state committed to repairing and then allowed to wait for 7 years.

While the state has delayed, put off and neglected, the city has been stuck at a stand-still unable to repair and upgrade the building and the plaza because it needs the state to complete its work first.

Now with the drainage work underway the city stands ready to finally fix the plaza and the buildings facade. Still, it seems most people would rather just tear it down and put City Hall on solid ground, forgetting that it would cost millions to demolish the existing structure and millions more to build a new city hall somewhere else and probably just as much to rehab an existing building.

Personally? I actually like Government Center! Maybe it's because we're both products of the 70's, or just because it's what I know. Either way there is no denying that the building is longer overdue for this makeover. I look forward to seeing the results.