Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gang issues? Hold landlords responsible!!

A recent story in the Herald News, alas one not available online, detailed a resolution passed by the Fall River City Council designed to help combat gang activity in the city.

The "Criminal Street Gang Activity as Public Nuisance" ordinance, which was detailed in an earlier Herald News article allows the city to take legal action against landlords that allow illegal activities, such as murder, assault and battery, rape, kidnapping, larceny and violating the
controlled substance act, to take place on their properties.

Lefty's view: Making landlords more responsible about who they rent to is a good first step to improving our neighborhoods and our city. However, I have grave concern about how the word 'allow' might be interpreted and landlords being victimized for activity they might not have had any real knowledge of. It would seem that absentee landlords are much more guilty of renting to bad tenants than those who live on site. If so, perhaps non-owner occupied housing should be subject to commercial tax rates instead of residential, if for no other reason than to help keep owner occupied housing a more affordable and attractive option.

Goverment Center renovations to be completed in 2009, but is it enough?

A recent story in the Herald News reported that the ongoing repairs and renovation to Fall River's Government Center are now projected to be completed in 2009. Originally the completion date was either 2007 or 2008.

The delays are due to more extensive repairs needed than originally realized. Apparently the steel trusses that make up the overpass, and support the building over the highway, were far more corroded than anticipated.

The issues with the Government Center 'tunnel' came to light in 1999
when concrete ceiling tiles came crashing down on route 195 below. Thankfully no one was hurt but the ensuing investigation found that no one had inspected the tunnel in over 20 years! It seems for some odd reason the state felt that the city was responsible for the tunnel, while the city correctly pointed out that it didn't have the authority to shut down a highway in order to do inspections and repairs.

The city was preparing to do work to the Government Center facade and plaza before the accident, work that has had to be delayed until after the state completed repairs to the tunnel. Once those repairs are completed the city will repair and renovate the plaza and, install new handicap ramps, replace the brick pavers with colored concrete, add new trees and shrubbery and power wash the building. The city will also install an elevator in the city council chambers for public use and has enclosed the walkway between the chambers and the Government Center lobby. The entire cost of the project is estimated at 15 million, with roughly 2/3 of that the cost of repairing the tunnel.
Lefty's view: For just about a decade Fall River residents and visitors have been treated to stained and crumbling concrete, police tape, construction fencing and a Government Center that no one is proud of. The planned improvements for Government Center are much welcomed, much needed and much overdue. While some believe that we should cut our losses and relocate city government to a new location, the reality is a city hall has a projected price tag of over 30 million dollars, far exceeding the roughly 5 million the city is putting into the repairs and improvements to the existing building and remember the 10 million being spent by the state is for the overpass and has little to do with the building above it. If anything we should spend more on Government Center! While it will be nice to drive by a clean and renovated city hall the interior of Government Center is worn, dated, and in need of repair. Let's find ways now to brighten up the lobby, replace worn carpets, paint walls and gut and redo what needs to be done. Let's find the funding now, so that in 2009 Government Center continues to look good after you've walked through the door.

**As I no longer have access to the Herald News archive articles much of this is from memory, I apologize for any inaccuracies.

Former Police Station For Sale, Again!

It looks like the former Fall River police station is back on the market.

For those who may recall the city auctioned off the building not once but twice! The first time around local developer, Anthony Cordeiro won the bidding. Cordeiro has a proven track record and proposed tearing down the existing building and constructing a new office complex.

It sounded good but when some minor issues turned up concerning the bidding the process the mayor asked for the process to begin anew.

This time around a minimum bid was established based on the appraised value of the property. Anthony Cordeiro unhappy over the outcome decided not to bid again and the property was awarded to JPS Investment Group of Florida, owned by a former city native, John Pavao.

Pavao, whose winning bid of $160,000 was roughly 6 times more than the previous bid, also had grand plans for the property. His proposal was to renovate the building with office and restaurant space, but just a few months after purchasing the building he has put in back on the marked for close to $700,000!

Lefty's view: It's disappointing that in choosing to rebid the property the city missed out on having the former police station site developed by someone with a proven record and instead find our interests unprotected and at the mercy of a developer's financial interests. John Pavao stated in the paper that although the building was up for sale that most likely he would carry on with his original proposal, which we can only hope is the eventual outcome.

SouthCoast Photo of the Month

Here it is June's SouthCoast Photo of the month!

I'll be the first to admit this is hardly the best photo but it is a very fitting photo for the month of June!

This simple marker marks the final resting place of Lizzie Borden and although she and her tale is well known to the people of this area I will provide some background for those who may not be familiar with the events that took place on August 4, 1892.

Thursday, August 4, 1892, the day is stifling hot with the temperature reaching over 100 degrees before noon. Suddenly, just after 11 am, a commotion from the home of Andrew J. Borden, No. 92 Second Street! First the maid runs across the street to the home of the family physician and then a neighbor is called on for assistance and then the police are summoned. The stillness of the summer heat is broken, someone has murdered Mr. Borden! A search for Mrs. Borden finds that she too has been murdered in an upstairs bedroom. Both husband and wife have been brutally murdered by an assailant wielding a hatchet.

Andrew Borden is a wealthy man who lives a simple life in modest comfort, but well beneath his means. He is frugal, practical and a shrewed business man who is not particularly likable. The Borden's Second Street residence is a converted two-family dwelling in a rather unfashionable neighborhood who's main advantage is that it is close the Mr. Borden's business interests. The household is a tense place with little affection between the Borden children and the elder Bordens.

The resulting police investigation lead to troubling conclusions. On that fateful morning only Lizzie and Bridget the maid were in the house. Emma had been away on vacation and a visiting uncle was out visiting friends. The house was locked from the inside, had no signs of forced entry and medical examination showed that the murders had been committed hours apart, indicating that the killer had been in the house for an extended time. At the conclusion of the inquest in which Lizzie testified she was charged with both murders. She would go to trial in June of 1893 and would be found not guilty of all charges.

Lizzie and Emma would move from the Second Street to a 13 room home in the fashionable part of the city. The grand home would remain Lizzie's until her death on June 1st 1927, 80 years ago this month, which is why this is June's SouthCoast photo of the month.

Are you an avid picture taker? Do you have a shot you're particularly proud of? Perhaps just a shot that you'd like to share? Submit it here for the SouthCoast Photo of the Month! Send submissions to

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When it comes to Same-Sex Marriage, let's be Civil.

Legislators here in Massachusetts, the only state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, have struck down a proposed amendment, banning same-sex marriage, from appearing on the 2008 ballot.

While same-sex marriage has been legal here for the past three years it is still a hotly contested issue. For some, the issue is about civil rights, for others its an assault on tradition, morals, and religion. Many of those against say that would support the idea of a 'civil union' but not a marriage because by tradition a marriage is between a man and a woman and that the act of marriage is religious in origin.

Personally, I do not object to gay marriage. It does not offend me. I don't believe that it represents a breakdown in morals or the erosion of the family unit. A union formed by two consenting, caring, loving adults is, in my eyes valid, marriage or not. Same-sex marriage simply provides the same benefits, rights, and protections afforded to a 'traditional' married couple. A same-sex couple could probably achieve most of these benefits and protections on their own through the use of various legal procedures and tools but why should they have to?

Listening to talk radio I have heard the most hateful, prejudecd commentary and almost in every instance a callers objections boils down to religious beliefs. Set the religious arguments aside, we have the right of religious freedom, even if that includes no religion at all and laws that govern the people of this nation should not be implemented because of what 'God' says.

Still, if the benefits and privileges of marriage can be secured for same-sex couples by simply changing the license to read 'Civil Union' then I say let's put the debate behind us and embrace civil unions!

But, let's embrace them for everyone. If the argument against is tradition and religion, let Massachusetts be the first state to say "civil unions for everyone!"

It's perfect everyone is treated equally and same-sex partners or traditional couples who want to get married can seek the services of a religious institute.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blogging Frustration...The Herald News New Website!

The Herald News recently implemented a new website and so far I'm less than thrilled.

The website doesn't seem to have a 'Herald News' only search feature and source material predating the website seems unavailable.

For me, this means that using the Herald as a reference, or a source to link is not going to be as convenient as it once was.

It also means that links in past blog posts to the Herald are no longer going to work, for this I apologize to any reader who may be inconvenienced.