Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008

A year ago, who could have predicted what locally, 2008 would bring?

Sure, Kevin Aguiar becoming State Rep. was something 'I predicted' but all the rest? Who could have seen Mayor Correia garnering all sorts of good will in his first 100 days, just to throw is all away in the next 100! Who could have seen the debacle with the school budget, (and I don't care how the Mayor explains it, he cut the budget and added on expenses.) Who would have believed that by the end of the year WSAR would no longer have Mike Moran or Keri Rodrigues?

It's been a crazy year! However, for Fall River bloggers it has been a noteworthy one.

Local blogs have generated over 300 posts this year and attracted over 150,000 visits! And local bloggers haven't just waited for things to blog about. Local bloggers have often shared an opinion long before a similar opinion is offered by the local paper or radio station. Local bloggers were proactive in championing a petition drive to reverse the Mayor's decision to change the fire chief to a contract position. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the petition drive garnered over 9,000 signatures. Local blogs (particularly Fall River-tastic) were speaking out about Miller Green long before the issue was covered anywhere else.

What's in store for 2009? You can be sure that with it being an election year that even more people will stumble across local blogs and that local bloggers will be sharing their thoughts and reminding you of campaign promises not kept. I know I'm looking forward to it.

Here's wishing you the best in 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas' the night before Christmas

Twas' the night before Christmas
I was out running errands
Hoping I didn't bump into Mike Herren

The doors were all bolted
The windows shut tight
While Fall River bloggers all huddled in fright

We shared our opinions
Our speech should be free
Instead we feared a Hurricane crime spree

The city was covered in winter's first snow
Which greedy Bob Correia hoped would melt into dough$

On my way home what was I near
Is that Miller Green or McGovern Square

Councilor Pat Casey lay in her bed
Visions of a 'Veterans compromise' danced in her head

Our Schools have no money
In our city no jobs
And the council majority dare not question Mayor Bob

For the Spindle City this year has been bleak
Thank goodness 2008 only has one more week

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Fall River-tastic has posted one of the funniest things of the holiday season. I got such a kick out of it I just had to try it out myself. I hope you enjoy, and make sure to visit Fall River-tastic to check out the post there!

Merry Christmas!



Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Developing the Old Durfee Textile School

If we could change Fall River, like it was in some sort of computer game, where we could just click on buildings and roads and move them around we would make things different.

We would relocate the highways so they didn't cut off the city from the waterfront or run right through the heart of downtown. We would delete Government Center and restore the old City Hall. We would reconfigure downtown to be more of a block format instead of long strip like the Main Street from some old western. We would put the falls back in Fall River! If it were only that easy to correct the mistakes and make up for what couldn't be anticipated. But it's not.

Unfortunately, making changes in a city like Fall River isn't easy. It takes time and money. Something that we always seem to be short of. That's why it's so important to make sure that the projects we undertake or allow are carefully considered. We need to make sure that the changes we make in our city will enhance our city today but will also fit in with our goals for tomorrow.

That is why the development of 64 Durfee Street, the old Durfee Textile School is so important. It is a unique piece of property that if developed right can help anchor our downtown and tie into our waterfront. Its architecture speaks to our past and its potential to our future. The development of 64 Durfee can either be part of Fall River's renewal, or it can be a testament to a city that doesn't believe in its potential.

For years there has been talk about developing this building as a mixed use facility for the arts. The idea was that the building could house galleries, and lofts where artists could work and live. There could be shops, and restaurants, and possibly a place where people could learn to paint, or sculpt, or do pottery.

Now it looks like our city officials could be on the brink of accepting a proposal to turn the property into housing for the elderly. I spoke about this back in October. Mayor Correia has expressed an interest to get 64 Durfee back on the tax roles. Senior housing will do that, but at what expense?

The experts say that elderly housing limits long term growth. A look at the center of our city shows that the present elderly housing has done nothing to revitalize our downtown. 64 Durfee Street borders a housing project and is in an area that is suffers from a bad reputation and is said to be unsafe. Is this an area where we want to stagnate long term growth? Is this an area where the elderly would even want to live? Would this plan for elderly housing preserve the Durfee Textile School building or would it leave it to the wrecking ball?

The Durfee Textile School is located in an area that not only has great potential but one that is already changing. The Masonic Residences are literally a short walk away, as in the Abbey Grill. The Narrows, The Water Street Cafe and Smoke Stack Studios are all within walking distance.

This is the area where we have designated an Arts Overlay District. This is where we know we want change. This is an area that we know has potential. This is an area that is just crying for the right decisions to be made.

The Arts and artists have proven to be a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization. Look at what has happened in Pawtucket! Look at what has happened in Providence! The seeds are already sprouting in New Bedford! It can happen, and it is happening here in Fall River. The Arts is part of the 4th largest industry here in Fall River. The 'Creative Economy' is the 2nd fastest growing segment in Massachusetts. Why wouldn't we want to bring more of that here to our city?

The Durfee Textile School has the ability to be the cornerstone of our both our Arts Overlay District and our Arts movement. If we really want to move this city ahead we have to start by taking steps in the right direction.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Who cares about a dead veteran? It looks better now!

In the south end of Fall River there is a little triangle of land that has been dedicated to the memory of Paul K. McGovern, a city advocate and the late owner of McGovern's restaurant. The problem is that over 60 years before the same patch of land was dedicated to the memory of Corporal David L. Miller and all men of the southern part of the city who served in the armed forces during World War II.

This was first written about on Fall River-tastic and has now made its way to the pages of the Herald News. When I first read Shamrock's post my reaction was that this was in extremely poor taste and that now that attention has been called to it, the city would have to rectify the situation. After all you can't take away the honor of a dedication away from someone who served and died for his country. Right?

So, I read the Herald News article expecting to see quotes from various city officials explaining this as an oversight and offering to restore the Square to Corporal Miller. Perhaps, the city would relocate Miller's memorial to Kennedy Park or down toward the Iwo Jima statue. Certainly there would be some effort to make right of this. But no!

“people weren’t volunteering to keep it up. Actually, it’s a benefit people
can pay respects to his stone and to McGovern’s, and it will be well taken care
of.” - City Councilor Pat Casey

“The McGovern family brought out what was there and made it look really
nice,” - Spokeswoman for Mayor Correia, Ines Leite

“They made it a better place and I think it’s still called ‘Miller Square’ as far as I know… If it was Miller Square, it will always be Miller Square. I don’t think they’ve done anything disrespectful.” - former
mayor, Dan Bogan




Instead I read comments that basically say, 'yeah we dedicated it to McGovern, but it looks better now' What?!


Wasn't it the city's responsibility to maintain and upkeep Miller Green? Are we simply dedicating things so the city doesn't have to maintain them? Are we now honoring only those whose families will maintain the spot?

Is former Mayor Carlton Viveiros sweeping the sidewalks in front of 'his' school? Is the Fonseca family washing windows on Sunday? Should we dedicate a Square to Ed Lambert or Rename Plymouth Avenue Karam Boulevard in hopes that those individuals will now take on the burden of upkeep? Let's rename Government Center and call it the Anthony Cordeiro Center of Government and get him to pick up the tab on its remodel.

By all accounts the Paul K. McGovern Square looks better now. And is should, because for years the city neglected it, the way they're now neglecting the memory of Corporal David L. Miller, the man it was originally dedicated to.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fall River and the Big Yellow Taxi

Recently, I and several other bloggers were called out in a post on Mondo Lizzie Borden.

"Hey, Lefty, do
you care? Hey, HMSImpossible, do you
care? Hey, Fall River
Community
, do you care? Hey, Fall River-tastic, do you
care? Hey, Keri Rodrigues, do
you care? Hey, other Fall River bloggers, do you care? "

The topic in question is whether or not we care if Charlton Memorial Hospital tears down a few nearby buildings in order to create additional parking. What makes this a natural topic for Mondo Lizzie is that one of the dwellings was once the home of Alice Russell. It was Alice who made Lizzie famous by reporting that she saw Lizzie burn an old dress a few days after her father and step-mother were murdered. Lizzie claimed it was stained by paint but the speculation led to the indictment that made her a legend.

Now Alice didn't move to the dwelling at 18 Hillside until many years after the murders. Other than her living there the only real historical interest is just how close it is to Lizzie's French Street home, Maplecroft. Despite the short walk you can bet they didn't visit one another.

Stefani, Mondo's author, doesn't rely on the Borden link to make her case. She also speaks of the irreversible changes that Charlton is making to the neighborhood with its ever increasing expansion.

The problem is parking IS a problem at Charlton Memorial and I can't see of any way for them to increase parking other than tearing down some nearby buildings. Stefani believes they should build up and not out, but there is no way for the Hospital to do that without severely impacting parking during the construction process. The buildings in question do not have any historical value that merits preservation. The Alice Russell link is interesting but not significant and the buildings themselves are hardly a rarity in Fall River.

That said, it shouldn't be this easy for the hospital to tear down two, century old, buildings. Charlton could have addressed some of the concern here by offering the buildings to whomever would move them. It would have been a nice gesture. It wouldn't have addressed the bigger problem, which is responsible development.

Parking at the hospital has been an issue for at least 20 years, even the addition of the current parking garage didn't really eliminate the lack of parking. What makes anyone think that this will solve the problem once and for all? How long before Charlton is purchasing more property to pave?

We, the government and citizens of Fall River, should be asking Charlton is this going to solve all your parking needs? Is this going to keep folks from congesting nearby side streets because there is no available spaces in your lots? Let them come with statistics and schematics. Let them prove that this will meet the need not just for today but for the next 5, 10, 20 years. If they can't we should put pressure on them to expand up. The additional parking they are adding now would help alleviate the pains of construction. And we should also insist that our city put tools in place to better protect all our neighborhoods from irresponsible development.

We need to care about the fabric of our neighborhoods and while at times even history must give way to progress, it shouldn't be done without that progress being carefully considered against what will be lost. Consider the 'progress' made with the creation of I-195. It robbed us of our historical City Hall and buried the very waterfall this city was named for. Consider the historic Academy Building being converted to senior housing when today many in Fall River long for a venue like New Bedford's Zeiterion Theatre. In fact, Fall River's history is filled with examples of development that never attempted to fit in with the fabric of the existing community and never considered the long term impact.

When I was thinking of a title for this post the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, instantly popped into my head. Obviously, the line "put up a parking lot" stood out and many will scoff at the idea of Fall River being "paradise" But the song speaks of the regret that can follow irreversible change, and perhaps not intentionally, would seem to argue for responsible development.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hibernation

Lately I haven't felt much like blogging.

It seems that the only thing going on in Fall River is the debacle with our school department. Frankly, I'm sick of talking about it. It's not because of a lack of interest but the bickering and the finger pointing is not resolving anything. I think our local leaders are content with telling us that they don't have the money to offer the children of this city the education they deserve. Instead of finding solutions they are content to find who to blame. Maybe it is time to let the Superintendent go. I still have very little faith in our current leadership to pick a replacement. More to the point, when are our school officials going to start working on improving the quality of education in this city?

Lately I just haven't had time to blog.

I heard on the radio today that the national unemployment rate was over 6% and that is predicted to hit 8% in the next year. Well luckily I recently started a new job. The new job comes with a longer commute and of lots of new stuff to learn. It's left me with less time to even develop a view never mind share it. Of course, the holiday season is just busy for everyone.

Lately, I've just kind of been hibernating.

I was hoping that the school thing would subside and we could move on to other topics instead of repeating the same points, which obviously no one in charge cares about. It also didn't help that a recent trip out of state left me struggling to find reliable internet access.

The problem is bloggers can't hibernate. People visit blogs for new opinions, new material, new comments. It's about time I get back to work.

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fall River Observations

Marc Monroe Dion had an article in the paper the other day about how Government Center was an example of brutalism. (Insert joke here). Brutalism is an architectural style popular in the 60's and 70's that unfortunately matches what most people think of our City Hall.

I've made no secret that I have a soft spot for our much maligned City Hall. Still, has it ever looked better? Really? I'm not sure if it looked this good when it opened!

Sadly, just when the exterior of the building is looking like something we can take some pride in, it's becoming clear that the interior will continue to look worn out, run down and dingy. With the tough economic situation the city is facing I just can't see anyone supporting spending money to renovate the interior, no matter how badly it needs it. If the money is already budgeted, I say let's do it now and have the whole building done.

Despite the buildings rather infamous reputation, the origins are really rather interesting. When the original City Hall was being torn down to make way for I-195, Mayor John Arruda secured the air rights to build the new city hall above the highway. The idea was for the building to bridge the highway and unite the north and south sections of the city separated by the highway. The original plans called for the creation of not only Government Center but also a parking deck, and I believe a civic center was also discussed. In the early 70's the project was scrapped as being too expensive but a few years later Mayor Driscoll green lighted the plans again and Government Center was dedicated in 1976.

Of course, shortly after it was completed problems arose. The heating system was inadequate, windows popped out of their frames and the brickwork on the stairs crumpled. These mishaps sealed the building's reputation, but are probably more due to who did the work than to any flaw in the design.

Even with the building looking the best it has in decades there are a few troubling stories in the paper. Concrete or debris has hit two motorists on the highway below. One motorist was severely injured. Inspections to the tunnel under the building, which is not part of Government Center and is the State's responsibility to repair and maintain, show no signs of anything falling from there. This has led to the belief that someone may have thrown the debris from the plaza above. I think we need to strongly consider installing cameras around Government Center or at the very least hiring security to be on site at least until the construction work is completed.

Now, we find out that the Retirement Board is moving out of Government Center for larger digs. The interesting thing is that for years the board has never been required to pay rent. That has changed with the Correia administration. I wonder if it's because the building no longer looks post apocalyptic. Now I know the story is supposed to be about the Board moving to a building owned by Anthony Corderio and that the price per square foot is a bit high for Fall River's downtown. What I'm wondering is what should be the policy for renting space to quasi government agencies? If these agencies are supposed to serve us, the citizens, does it make sense to look for market value? It's really just robbing Peter to pay Paul. What if other agencies decide to shop around for space? Now their just spending part of their budget for space and the money is coming back to the city! I can understand charging rent to cover expenses, pay for maintenance and maybe to help cover remodeling costs. I could see charging market rates if the city needed space and was forced to rent downtown space itself. In that case charging market rates would help recoup costs. Otherwise any rent charged seems to be counter productive.

With the exterior work almost completed we finally have a City Hall we can be proud of. The question is can we proud of the leadership and decisions being made inside?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The future of the Republican party


Now that Barack Obama is the President-elect, Republicans are wondering who can lead them to victory in 2012. Who can take back the White House?


Bob Dole! Bob Dole is experienced. Bob Dole is rested, and Bob Dole is ready!


Friday, October 31, 2008

SouthCoast Photo of the Month


Here's October's SouthCoast Photo of the month!

All summer long the Taunton River is dotted with sailboats. It's really something to see them riding the waves. By the time October rolls around, the sailing is reduced to just those few Indian summer days. So for this month's photo I chose a lone sailboat riding in the sunset. Bidding warm weather goodbye and to return once the winter has thawed.


_________________________________________________________
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 aviewfrombattleshipcove@google.com

Durfee Textile School - A lesson in short term thinking

The Herald News recently reported that the Redevelopment Authority is ready to accept proposals for the Bradford Durfee Textile School. The building which sits prominently on the corner of Durfee Street and Central was last used by Bristol Community College about a decade ago.

When the city acquired the building from the state there was much talk about how this would be a part in developing the arts community in Fall River. There was talk that the building could feature artists lofts and galleries and that this would be economically viable, in part, by renovating the top floor or floors as luxury condominiums.

Since taking ownership the City Council has approved an Arts Overlay District, exactly the sort of tool that would allow the idea above to become reality. It would seem that here is the opportunity for the city to spearhead its arts initiatives, so why does it feel that we're about to ignore our long term objectives for short term gains?

I could be wrong on this, who knows what proposals will be received and if done right the city will have the ability to reject any proposal that doesn't develop the property in a way that meets our goals. But, the Mayor is quoted in the article as saying:

“My position is this,” Correia said Thursday: “I have no personal interest in who gets it as long as they meet the requirements and we get the property back on the tax rolls.”

Mayor Correia has also expressed an interest in seeing Peabody Properties Inc. do something with the property noting: "They’re prominent developers."

Peabody Properties Inc. manages the Borden East and Borden West complexes, both are subsidized housing for the elderly. Is this what they are proposing for the Durfee Textile location? Is this the sort of development we need downtown?

Converting the former textile school to senior housing does nothing to revitalize downtown. Seniors are not going to reinvigorate the Main Street's nightlife. Seniors are not going to bring in new businesses or visitors to our city.

What we need to do with that building is to redevelop it for a purpose that will bring people into our city. That's the sort of development that will spur new businesses and further revitalization. If the former school were converted to artists galleries, lofts, and luxury condos there would be a benefit to nearby restaurants and shops. Perhaps the building could be used as a campus for an school of arts and design. That would bring students into the city and require a support network of stores, shops, cafes and the like.

The point is, when are we actually going to commit ourselves to the long term plans we keep talking about? The Bradford Durfee Textile School building is ideally situated to be the cornerstone of the Arts Overlay District that would passed with such fanfare. Let's not sacrifice our long term goals and the future of our community for short term gains.

Failing Grades!

The budget issues for the Fall River School Department seem never ending. After weeks of finger pointing and grandstanding it seems that the our elected leaders have just about closed the gap.

Right from the start we should have known we were in trouble. The Mayor introduced HIS plan for reducing the budget, and then various committee members introduced their plans. How come nobody seemed to be working together to come up with a plan?

So, our elected leaders seem to be close to closing the gap, but how did they do it? They picked what was most palatable from plan A, and moved on to what was most palatable from plan B. Basically, in my opinion, they looked at each plan and choose what cuts they could most easily live with. The Mayor says, this makes no sense and that it's like trying to assemble a picture using pieces from different jigsaw puzzles. I have to agree with him.

I have deep fears that a few months from now we'll be revisting this issue. I have deeper fears about the next fiscal year when there is nothing left to cut!

I've already suggested that they start from scratch and build the budget from the needed essentials out. I've also suggested that the budget just may not be enough to achieve our goals. Instead of figuring out what we need and how much it will cost, our school officials keep chipping away to meet a number that is simply what the Mayor dictates.

Okay, if we're not going to compare our costs to that of similar districts, if we're not going to zero budget, if we're not going to look for ways to increase the school budget, what should we do?

Let's start by revisiting the foreign language requirement at Durfee. This was something voted in place just a few short months ago. The idea is college bound children need to have 2 years of foreign language and that every Durfee graduate should have that. Great idea, but we can't afford it. We need to focus on efforts and money on the core subjects (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). We should reverse that vote and make cuts to foreign language. If some foreign language is dictated by law, then we provide only what is required. We should then cut foreign language at the middle school level. Again, I understand the benefit, but we need to focus on the essentials. Having a child speak Spanish is not helpful if he can't pass Science.

Next we need to cut after school sports. I KNOW that people will just hate the thought of that. However, we have about 10,000 children in our schools and the vast majority do not participate in after school sports. I understand the benefit. I understand the positive aspect this has in the lives of many of these children, but we can't afford it. Having a child play football is not as important as having him pass Math. Still I think school sports is a positive thing for students and for the school and for the community. Perhaps the community at large could step up and provide funding for school sports to continue.

We need to increase the bus routes to the 2 mile radius that I believe is required by the state. If we did that we might be able to save some money on transportation costs. We also need to make sure that children our attending the schools closest to where they live. If they're not, and it's because of parental choice, we should not be providing those students with busing.

We need to look at the music program. Much like after school sports, this is a program that I think has great value but only benefits a small portion of our student body. We should either cut the program, reduce the program, or find other funding sources.

I think we need to consider cutting the Gifted and Talented program. Again, I think this is beneficial. I think it's something we should want. But it's not something we can afford.

We need to focus our resources and our money on making sure we're providing the basic, essential education that every child is required to have. We should not be making cuts such as cutting classroom teachers, that hurt the ability to provide those crucial educational foundation that life long learning is based on.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hartley's Pork Pies



If were to make a list of things that someone visiting Fall River should visit, see, or try, Hartley's Pork Pies would have to be on that list.


It might get a little overlooked when compared to all the Portuguese food, the famous chow mein and chow mein sandwiches but Hartley's delicious little pork pies have been a Fall River tradition for over a century!


Thomas Hartley opened his first shop in the South End of Fall River back in the early 1900's. Hartley's pork pies were a familiar comfort food to the many English who worked in the mills but they quickly gained popularity with other mill workers because of their convenient size, affordable price, and because they were tasty and filling. The pies were soon peddled not only to mills but also saloons and grocery stores.


The Original Hartley's Pork Pies is located on South Main Street, here in Fall River. At one time Mr. Hartley had another location in New Bedford and his grandson opened up the shop in Somerset that still does brisk business. The Hartley family owns neither location. Allen Johnson owns the original Hartley's here in Fall River, while Donald Setter owns the location in Somerset and with partners have opened up another location in Acushnet. Both men have expanded their offerings. Now chourico pies are offered and Mr. Johnson also offers chicken, salmon and sausage. However it's the classic pork pie that Hartley's is famous for, and although there is a little contention over who has the original recipe, both men claim to, it's still the reason people keep coming back.


The pies have changed little over the years. Each individual pie looks like it was baked in half a soup can. Its golden crust is made with pure lard giving it a shortbread-like texture. Breaking through the top crust reveals a chunk of seasoned ground pork, surrounded by a sea of gravy made from the juices of the cooked meat. The story goes that Mr. Hartley was so protective of the quality and taste of his pies that he once refused to sell one to a customer upon learning that the patron intended to slather it with ketchup! Today, those who love to add a dab of ketchup needn't worry.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Questions and Answers - the update

The race for the 7th Bristol district has remained painfully quiet. A lone debate will take place hosted by the Herald News and available only on the internet. This is so disappointing.

About 2 weeks ago I emailed Representative Kevin Aguiar and challenger CJ Ferry questions provided by you the readers of this blog. Mr. Ferry responded within a short time, and after a few days sent me his responses. I never heard back from Representative Aguiar and 5 days ago sent him a second email, this to his official state rep. email address. To date I've yet to hear back from Kevin.

Now, as a blogger I'm not surprised or upset by Kevin Aguiar's lack of a response. This blog isn't one of the recognized official media outlets. I don't have the universal respect of our local politicians. However, as a resident, as a voter I'm very disappointed that one of our local officials didn't have the courtesy to at least email me back and decline! Particularly because these are YOUR questions!

Kevin Aguiar has run a very quiet campaign. Perhaps he feels that re-election will come easily and he doesn't need to take the time to explain his positions to the voters. If so I'm very disappointed. Much has changed since he won the special election and I, like many Fall River residents, am concerned about the present and the future.

CJ Ferry has one hell of an uphill battle ahead of him. For his campaign debates were essential to help him get his message out. It is my understanding that his campaign made several attempts to get debates scheduled. It is also my understanding that he offered to make himself available to whatever times were good for Representative Aguiar.

Mr. Ferry has received the endorsement of former State Representative Candidate, Ray Leary. He has also received favorable mention on the Fall River Parents and Citizens for Change blog. I really wanted to have the answers from both candidates, however it seems unfair to Mr. Ferry to not publish his answers. So on Tuesday I will post Mr. Ferry's answers on www.fallriverblog.com, If and when I hear from Mr. Aguiar I will post his as well.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

School of thought

I'm more than a little amused by Mayor Correia's proposal to close the gap on a 3.5 million dollar shortage in the Fall River school budget. When news of the shortfall hit the front page of the Herald News, I told a friend that the Superintendent and the admin staff should take a 5-10% pay cut and the School Committee should return ½ their salaries. These were some thoughts I meant to blog about days ago. See what happens when you end up sitting on a post?


So the Mayor has offered a proposal along those lines - that would cut salaries and eliminate 48 positions, mostly administrative. To no surprise this has well received by the general public who feel too much money is spent in administration and not enough in the classroom. Like everyone else I have been angry and upset by the current condition of our school department. Like everyone else I don't want cuts that are going to affect the quality of our children's education. However, I am not sure if the Mayor's proposal is really the best way to go about this.


I've said this before, but we need to compare the structure of the Fall River School Department to that of similar communities. We need to figure out what services are essential and the amount of manpower needed to provide those services. It sounds great to cut the fat out of administration, but what if it isn't fat? Can you imagine if a company cut it's sales staff to save money? That would probably result is a poor sales forecast! Can you imagine if a company fired it's research and development team? It would be trying to sell an out of date product! The point is you can't just make cuts and eliminate positions without considering what the impact will be.


The Mayor, Superintendent, and School Committee need to start at square one. They need to figure out what the cost is to meet our minimal obligation. How many teachers are needed and what is their cost? How many people in food services, janitorial staff, para-professionals and their cost. This process should continue until we've figured out the cost of a bare-bones budget. This budget would include no extras, no after school programs, no after school sports, if it isn't required by law, if it wasn't essential, it wouldn't be included.


Of course people will complain about the loss of certain programs and the negative effect that will have, but I'm not saying we should stop there. At this point the big three above need to figure out what services go above and beyond the bare-bones that they are not willing to do without. Do we want after school sports? Add that in. How about the music program? Think of this a little bit like buying a new car. First you take the base cost of the car and then you add the options you want, adding and taking away based on what you can afford and what is important to you. Sometimes you end up with the car you wanted and sometimes you end up with one that isn't as nice as you wished but it's still better than basic transportation.


However, at some point the numbers get pretty inflexible. What happens if the Mayor is saying the budget has to be under 85 million but a bare-bones budget is 84 million? What happens to our extras? What happens to after school sports, arts and music? I think this is kind of where we are now, except I'm not sure anyone knows what the bare-bones cost would be or the costs of the extras, or that anyone really knows what's fat and what's bone.


So we're left with a school system in crisis, and most people are pointing the finger of blame directly at Dr. Nick Fischer. I think that's pretty unfair. To be sure, he has a lot to answer for. It seems every school committee meeting there is a new discovery of a budget shortfall, or something unexpected, or under-projected. It's gotten ridiculous! It's gotten to a point where I wonder why Dennis Sullivan has a job. Dr. Fischer may be the captain of the ship, but he has been let down by his crew! That's something he needs to answer for! Why does it seem that the department doesn't have a handle on it's own budget? If Dr. Fischer knew that this was a woefully underfunded budget he should have said so, LOUDLY. However he also needs to be ready to justify EVERY expense.


I would love to take the Fall River school budget to the superintendents of New Bedford, Brockton, and Taunton and ask if they could provide these services under this budget? I get why people are upset at Fischer, but I also think people find him aloof and arrogant and so blaming him becomes pretty easy. I'm upset with him too, but I'm furious that Mayor Correia cut the school budget and now offers up MORE cuts. (By the way, has he offered to cut his own salary?) I'm furious because I don't think the Mayor made the effort to figure out if the budget was adequate to meet projected expenses. I'm ticked off that our school committee seems willing to bicker back and forth but unwillingly to challenge the Mayor for more money. It's easy to point fingers at Dr. Fischer but did the members of the school committee have any idea if the budget they passed was adequate for the program they helped put into place?

Our school system is in crisis and so far the solution of our leadership is to keep chipping away until it fits into the budget the Mayor has deemed appropriate. The motto of the day is cut the fat and blame the Superintendent! The reality is we're cutting more than fat. We're cutting quality and services. No one is bothering to analyze where the fat is or to see if the budget was ever enough to cover expenses. The actions being taken now are going to have far reaching effects on our future. Who do we point the finger at then?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Boy, are we stupid!

The other day as I was commuting to work, following a ribbon of highway with hundreds of other cars, I thought to myself, 'boy, are we stupid.' Here I was, with people all around me driving. How much of their day was spent commuting to and from work? How much was the cost in fuel and wear and tear?

Our parents and grandparents weren't this stupid. Years ago if you worked in Fall River you lived in Fall River, or maybe in a nearby town. You didn't waste time and money commuting. You probably walked, or took a bus or a trolley. Obviously they could do this because there were jobs in Fall River, something that isn't true today, but why haven't we made more efforts to bring in new economic engines to our region?

Today we have this huge issue with trash and recycling. Years ago milk, juice, and soda all came in glass bottles that were used again and again. Our ancestors were recycling before we knew what recycling was! Things like peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, bones and skin were usually kept separate from the 'regular' trash. In some areas this might have been used as a compost, in others there were heavy lidded outdoor containers were this would be dumped into and collected. That meant there was a lot less 'regular' trash and it was a lot less likely to attract mice, skunks, or rats!

Today we're worried about the cost of heating fuel. Years ago houses were designed so unused rooms could be closed off and not heated. Houses were built to take advantage of the natural landscape, positioned so certain rooms would get the morning sun and others the afternoon light. Windows were large to let in not just the sunlight but the heat that came with it. Shutters and heavy drapes were used to keep the heat in and the cold winds out.

It seems like our older generation had an answer and use for anything! Newspapers were reused to wash windows. A single left over chicken leg would become the base of a soup to feed the whole family. Slow baking in the winter not only fed the family but helped warm the house! From our miles of highways, our houses with open floor plans and built with no thought to their environment, our 'obsession' with convenience items with disposable packaging, we seem to have moved away from such common-sense approaches. Boy, we really are stupid.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blog Traffic

Recently someone left a comment sharing their opinion as to whom or what generates the traffic that hits this site. I thought it was an interesting point, so I decided to investigate a little to see what brings people to A View From Battleship Cove.

Here’s what I found. Various Google and other web searches resulted in over 1,300 visits to the blog this month. Here are the top 25 keywords (with the number of visits they generated) that brought people to this site.

1. a view from battleship cove – 365
2. fall river blogs – 73
3. keri rodrigues blog – 68
4. view from battleship cove – 65
5. blogger referral ? - 60
6. fall river tastic – 55
7. mike lund city council – 32
8. keri rodrigues – 27
9. radio ratings wsar – 27
10. aviewfrombattleshipcove – 24
11. aviewfrombattleshipcove.com – 21
12. “a view from battleship cove” - 19
13. battleship cove – 18
14. fall river blog – 18
15. wsar – 14
16. a view from battleship – 10
17. gus suneson – 10
18. battleship cove blog – 9
19. kerri rodrigues – 9
20. fallriver blogs – 8
21. dollars for scholars fall river, ma – 7
22. views from battleship cove – 6
23. chow mein sandwich – 5
24. linda Pereira, fall river, ma – 5
25. Raquel pellerin - 5

SouthCoast Photo of the Month




Here's September's SouthCoast Photo of the month!


A beautiful September day was the setting for the second annual Arts Around the Block. Locals enjoyed listening to live music while they strolled around viewing arts and crafts, performances and more. Although the event featured a harp player, sculptors, painters and more. Here is some chalk art from nearby Kuss Middle School students (and teacher!). It just goes to show you that it doesn't have to be sophisticated to be art.

_________________________________________________________
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 aviewfrombattleshipcove@google.com

Monday, September 29, 2008

Questions and Answers

If you listen closely, you can almost hear it, the sound of people running for local office. Dave Sullivan has easily defeated Linda Pereira and will go unopposed on the November ballot. Mike Rodrigues never really faced any competition so he too, will go unchallenged come November. Things are a little different for Kevin Aguiar, he is facing a Republican challenger in CJ Ferry.

Listen closely, you can almost hear them campaigning! It’s kind of like the old saying “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If your running for election and the media doesn’t pay attention does - you get the idea.

Where do these guys stand? What are their positions? What issues do you as a voter care about? Let’s consider this an exercise in citizen journalism. Tell me what questions you would like to get the answers to. I will submit the best 5 (in my opinion) to both candidates and ask them to respond. The candidates will be asked to limit their responses to 500 words. I will then post the responses on www.fallriverblog.com.

Thanks for participating!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Citizen Journalism

"Anonymous said...
Does this blog have a source for ANYTHING other than the Herald News?
Rehash is not 'citizen journalism.'"


I have never claimed to be a 'citizen journalist', although by my understanding of the term, what I do here would certainly qualify. I consider myself an opinionist or maybe a pundit, although I don't claim to be an expert. Without a doubt I am a blogger, someone who operates a blog and writes content for it. Sometimes I am a commentor, which is someone who leaves comments on blog posts. Being a commentor does not make you a blogger, but being a blogger often makes you a commentor.

Really there is not much difference between the blogger working late in the night by the dim glow of his monitor, to that of the pamphleteer working by the dim glow of candlelight. Those early ‘citizen journalists’, such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams and many more didn't report the news as much as they offered opinion. These writers often relied on stacks of books, other pamphlets and the newspapers of the day as the sources they drew from and expanded upon. Today, a blogger may draw from the wealth of information found online, as well as what can be heard on radio, seen on TV, or observed in person.

As much as I rely on the Herald News as a source, I try very hard not to ‘rehash’ the articles that I read there. I make it a point not to blog about a topic unless I truly feel I have something to add. When the Herald wrote about the quiet election season, it's true that I wrote along the same vein, but I made my observations a month before they did. My thoughts about changing the face of the council, or whether or not Mayor Correia could be challenged are both topics that I did not pull from the Herald News. Lately there have been a lot of newspaper articles written about the documentary Pawtucket Rising but my post appeared before many, if not all of them.

Because the primary focus of A View From Battleship Cove is Fall River, the Herald News is often the cited source simply because it is the paper of record. If the Washington Post were to do a better job of covering Fall River, I would certainly use it as a source far more often. Even then the source information, at least for me, is nothing more than supporting documentation. It may be what inspired the post but more often it is simply a reputable source to backup the statements I make and allow you, the reader, to verify the facts. It also gives you the opportunity to read some background information and to arrive at a conclusion independent of my own.

With the sharing of opinions and ideas, and the exchange shared with an audience, I think bloggers have more in common with radio talk show hosts than with journalists. Either way it’s the marvel of technology that allows thousands of people to share opinions and views, pictures and observations, and yes even breaking news events without the benefit of radio towers or printing presses.

It’s an exhilarating thing to be able to sit here at my keyboard and with the click of a button share a view with as many people that may find this site. At first, this exhilaration was combined with the suspense of wondering if anyone would stumble across my words. Now, there is the deep satisfaction of knowing that my words are read and that people come back to hear my views and share their own.

It’s something to see a local blogosphere developing and to sample each new blog, each with its own focus. It’s exciting to read other peoples views, to gain from other people’s perspective. And it’s absolutely amazing to see this happening here in Fall River and to search around the internet and not find a similar movement in New Bedford, or Taunton, or Brockton.

If this is 'citizen journalism' then I hope that our local blogs and bloggers follow in the best tradition of those 'citizen journalists' from long ago. May they bring attention to those things we've lost focus of, point out both the best and the worst about our community, and continue to ask questions and make people think.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gus Suneson


"Well, God is getting an earful today." - Jim Murray on the death of Casey Stengel

I first became aware, really aware, of Gus Suneson when he served on the Fall River City Council. The idea of putting a bingo hall up on Airport Road was a popular one with our city leaders and Gus was one of the minority of City Councilors who spoke out in opposition. I thought the bingo hall was a bad idea, still do, and took notice of the fiery City Councilor who spoke out against it with the same passion that I felt inside.

Back then I wasn't aware of the local political scene as I am now, and I actually saved clippings and made a list of the councilors I would vote for during the next election. Sure enough, next election I cast a vote for Gus Suneson, but I was in the minority and despite several more attempts Gus would never serve on the council again.

Time moves on and Gus became a familiar voice I would occasionally hear ranting and raving on WSAR when he would call in to give his opinion on whatever the day's topic was. I started to view Gus as an eccentric and somewhat of a crackpot. Eventually his fiery views got him banned as a caller.

It was about a year ago that I met Gus Suneson for the first time. Gus had been doing a cable show on local access, that I had not paid a great deal of attention to, by now firmly of the opinion that I expressed above. I approached this chance meeting knowing what to expect from Gus Suneson and found out that my expectations were completely wrong. Gus was more subdued than I ever would have expected and I realized that the fieryness, the ranting and the raving, were really this mans inability to contain the deep passion he had in his beliefs. The man I met that day was a genuinly decent, and nice guy. This was someone who was cared deeply about the world he lived in and the city he called home. After meeting Gus, I focused on what he said and not the way he way he said it. While I didn't always agree I respected the views he offered.

That November I voted to return Gus to the council. I felt that we needed an independent voice who was not afraid to speak his mind. With all the complaints about our current city council, I know we need a voice like Gus'

I met Gus only a few times and the last time he looked good and said he was getting better. It was disheartening to learn that he taken a turn for the worse and I am saddened by his passing. I wish we could have given Gus that one last shot at the council and know that somewhere "God is getting an earful today."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seven of Nine



Who or what is Seven of Nine?

A. The hot babe on Star Trek Voyager.

B. The number of City Councilors who may have violated open meeting laws.

C. All of the above.

It seems like our City Council has gone amiss of the open meeting laws. The Herald News reports that 7 of our city councilors, state officials, and Mayor Correia met to discuss the controversial Watuppa Heights plan. The housing authority executive director, Tom Collins, said the meeting allowed for more city councilors to be involved than would be in the subcommitee, but the fact that the meeting is private would seem to be a clear violation of the open meeting laws.

See page 1 section II of the linked document.

Perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions but this seems pretty cut and dry to me. If I'm wrong somebody please explain it to me, because I can't figure out how this group with their combined experience, could make this mistake. I knew this wasn't the first time that our council has had issues with these pesky open meeting laws. In September of 2007 local filmmaker Jason Caminiti was prevented from taping a city council meeting in direct violation of Massachusetts open meeting laws. I had to laugh when I realized this last incidient was almost exactly a year ago!

Happy Anniversary!

Friday, September 19, 2008

School Daze

School daze, school daze
Under Correria’s rule days
No money for readin' or 'ritin' or
'rithmetic

The budget situation is
making me
sick….



Cool crisp mornings and sleepy eyed kids waiting on the corner, sure signs that another school year has started. It’s funny to think that in neighborhoods dotted throughout the city this is the first time in over a hundred years where the start of the school year didn’t bring with it frenzied mornings and noisy playgrounds. For the folks who live near and around the 12 schools recently closed, the start of the school year has brought some tranquility.

Things are different however, for the Fall River School Department which is dealing with frenzied citizens and noisy school committee meetings. Here we are not even a month into the new school year and already all hell is breaking loose. The grand opening of 3 new super-sized schools has proved to be a logistics nightmare. Just weeks before the start of school teachers still had no idea where to report and office paras are still struggling to get a handle on all the files and records that have to be taken care of. At a time where the experts say small class size and small schools are the way to go, we seem to be moving away from both! We’ve replaced neighborhood schools with structures that resemble prisons.

Every school in the city is dealing with larger classroom sizes and staff reductions. Every principal has had to make the tough decisions on what to cut, while hoping to maintain a quality of education. I don’t think the opinion of the Fall River School Department has ever been lower (and that is saying something!) and I personally have never doubted the ability of our schools to provide a quality education, until now.

Our school department is in chaos and everyone is pointing a finger at Superintendent Dr. Nick Fischer, but there is enough blame to go around.

Let's start by blaming the Lambert administration for committing us to these new schools. I think new schools are great but not when they cost more to operate than all the closed schools combined. Of course that doesn't even include the costs for transportation that we are required to provide because now kids don't live near the school they attend. What is the cost of that transportation anyway? At one meeting it fluctuated from 1-1.7 million. The other day I heard someone say over 2 million, is that right?! I could do a whole blog post on new schools alone, but let's just end this by saying we should have really but more thought into this.

Let's also blame the current mayor. This year's school budget is 8 million less than the Superintendent had requested. It's 2 million less than last year! Even if you level fund the budget, that is provide the exact same amount as last year, the school department would have less money to spend on education. There are certain costs that are going to increase, (utility costs like HEATING, come to mind!), and now you have to find places to make cuts. While the Mayor was proposing a budget reduction for the school department he also proposed for them to pay a storm water runoff fee. So he's cutting their budget AND hitting them with additional costs. On top of that some health insurance costs have been transferred to from the city budget to the school department budget. Again, he's cutting their budget and hitting them with additional costs!

Let's not hold the school committee blameless! Back in February when they voted for the school reorganization plan there were questions about the true capacity of these schools. This is the night when you're making the decision and you're on the committee and you have no idea what the capacity is? Where's the oversight there? With barely a whimper they approved the Mayor's anorexic, (it's thin and makes me want to throw up), school budget. I think the real problem with the school committee is they, as a body, would rather criticize the administration than find solutions. Recently when several federal grants were being reviewed at a school committee meeting the committee questioned if these grants could be used to bring back staff that had been laid off. The Superintendent and his team advised the committee that the federal grants did not allow for funds to be used to pay for a position that had been paid for in the previous year through district funds. The Assistant Superintendent stressed that the administration had reviewed the grants for just that purpose but it simply is not allowed. It would seem pretty straight forward, but instead the administration was blamed for being ‘reluctant’ to review the grants and not following the directives of the school committee. This was a hostile display with members of the school committee dressing down the Superintendent during a public meeting. The school committee could have made their points respectfully and with civility but instead chose to embarrass the administration team during a public forum. If there is an adversarial relationship between the school committee and the administration, the school committee has to at least take some blame for creating it.

Of course the Superintendent has to take some of the blame. I’ve heard from several people that our Superintendent is moving the district in the right direction but, to put it mildly, Nick Fischer is not a people person. Cold, aloof, arrogant are all words that have been used to describe him, and I’ve seen enough of the man to know those words certainly fit, at least some of the time. For a guy who was brought in to fix the school system the first task should be to let the people who work for you know that they are part of the solution, instead it seems many who work for the school system feel that they are treated as part of the problem. Morale is hugely important and Dr. Fischer fails to connect with his employees. There have been lots of complaints that the school department is too top heavy and that should be examined. Dr. Fischer should have to justify where he is spending our money. (The school committee should also be comparing our structure and pay scale to similar communities.) Why have we spent so much on consultants? How did we end up short funding last year’s transportation budget? Certainly Dr. Fischer should be held accountable, but so should everyone else.


Related Links
http://www.heraldnews.com/education/x853542536/School-Committee-wants-to-bring-back-laid-off-teachers

http://www.heraldnews.com/news/local_news/x256662995/School-Committee-expecting-legal-opinion-on-grant-money

http://www.heraldnews.com/education/x256657660/Fischer-supporters-turn-out-for-School-Committee-vote

http://www.heraldnews.com/education/x993966504/School-budget-short-at-least-2-6M

http://www.heraldnews.com/education/x359563254/Fall-River-schools-aim-to-do-better-with-fewer

http://www.heraldnews.com/homepage/x292016389

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who do you want representing you?

Tomorrow is the primary election for state representative. Here in Fall River a quiet, dull campaign season is winding down to a mostly uneventful election.

Mike Rodrigues is running unopposed in his 8th district race. Kevin Aguiar is facing John Rodrigues in the 7th district race. In a field of dull, uninspiring camapaigns, Rodrigues has made a truly lackluster effort. So far what I know best about John Rodrigues is that he doesn't even take his candidacy seriously. There is little doubt that it will be Kevin who will face CJ Ferry in November.

The one truly interesting race is in the 6th district race. Incumbent David Sullivan is facing a challenge from City Councilor Linda Pereira. Now personally I like Dave Sullivan. I admire the fact that Dave has taken some very unpopular stances in the past, such as when he stood alone in his opposition to tearing down Watuppa Heights. I admire the fact that Dave was willing to stand for what he believed, despite it not being popular or politically savvy. Much has been made about Dave not being in any leadership positions, but how much leadership do you really have when you are beholden to others to get those positions?

With the prediction of low voter turnout tomorrow it's crucial that if you're even thinking about voting that you get out there and do it. A low voter turnout simply allows the minority to speak for the majority. Before heading to the voting booth read everything you can about the candidates running and make the best, more informed choice you can.

I hope the following links prove informative and helpful.

Candidate Websites:


From the Herald News:










From the O Jornal:



From the Fall River Community Blog:




From Fall River-tastic

Saturday, September 13, 2008

SHAKEUP - Who could challenge in the 2009 City Council race?

The 2009 City Council race is more than a year away, but already people are calling for change. A series of 6-3 votes has firmly cemented the perception that the Mayor has 6 votes in his pocket. Of course the Mayor did nothing to discourage this by inviting the 'lockstep 6' to a fundraiser while shunning the other 3.

So while the rally cry for change is once again being heard, the reality is somewhat different. Change doesn't come easy. There were cries for change during the 2007 Council race and still not a single incumbent running for re-election was voted out.

So now we have to wonder who would be a viable candidate in 2009, and how would they get elected.

There are two names that immediately come to my mind, Eric Poulin and Mike Miozza. Both are intelligent guys, with well thought out opinions and ideas. Both have showed an ability to do the research needed to understand an issue or introduce an idea. Both have remained active in the community, Mike is still very much a part of the Hess LNG opposition and Eric was most recently part of the group that challenged the council vote on the fire chief home rule petition. Mike ran a very credible campaign that still leaves me puzzled as to why he lost. No council candidate did a better job to make himself and his platform known to the people. Eric missed advancing to the general election in his mayoral run by just a few hundred votes. I believe both now have the name recognition that makes people comfortable with voting for them.

The best thing about these two is I don’t view them as anti-Bob, although Poulin has demonstrated a strong dislike for the Mayor. I view them as independent thinkers who would vote their conscious.

Are there others who come to mind? Sure! I wouldn’t be surprised if Al Alves, Brad Kilby or Bill Whitty decided to make a run for the council. I’m not sure if they are the ‘change’ people are looking for, but they certainly would be formidable opponents. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Mark Costa or Shawn Cadime attempted a council run, again I’m not sure that constitutes change.

The ‘how’ is the tricky part. How do you re-elect those councilors who have been willing to go against the Mayor and 2 others? It’s not an easy task! Incumbents always have the advantage and those who have been there the longest usually have good support and well organized campaigns. What has to happen is a campaign needs to take place to get people to support JUST 5 council candidates. It’s not enough to get people to vote ONLY for the candidates they like best, thereby depriving the other candidates from the ability to get one of those 9 votes. No, what has to take place is a concentrated effort to ‘vote for change’. If change is represented by Councilors Hague, Pelletier and S. Camara then a ‘ticket’ of those 3 plus 2 ‘change’ candidates has to be pushed. If those candidates were Poulin and Miozza, then these 5 would have to campaign as a team. A vote for Leo would have to be a vote for the other 4. The message would have to be vote ‘5 for change’. It has to be stressed to vote for ONLY these 5 because depriving the other councilors from getting one of those 4 votes would be key. Otherwise their own base and the support of the Mayor would likely guarantee them re-election.

Lefty’s View: The city elections of 2007 proved that talk about change doesn’t equal change, and if you want change you’ve got to make it happen. Is this the way to do it? I have supported and voted for some of the ‘lockstep 6’. I could see voting for at least 1 of them again. I certainly wouldn’t vote for someone just because they were going to oppose the Mayor. But I’m convinced that if people want change THIS is the way to make it happen. Would I vote ‘5 for change’? I would certainly consider it if the 5 included candidates like Miozza and Poulin.


What additions would YOU like to see to the council?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pawtucket Rising


Fall River, Massachusetts and Pawtucket, Rhode Island share amazing similarities. To be sure there are differences, but both are cities that are made up of land that was originally part of another state. Both are cities that have a river that runs through the heart of it, and both owe their development to that river. Both have an amazing legacy in the Industrial Revolution and the textile industry. Fall River was once the biggest producer of cotton in the country, perhaps the world. The Industrial Revolution started in Pawtucket at Slater's Mill. Today both cities share a strong Portuguese heritage.

It is this shared bond that makes Pawtucket Rising so interesting. Both Fall River and Pawtucket have stumbled and struggled to find prosperity after the decline of the textile industry. Both have looked at the arts as a way to turn around their fortunes. Pawtucket Rising is a documentary, by Fall River's own Jason Caminiti, that tells the amazing story of how the arts is revitalizing Pawtucket. Caminiti is an award winning cable show host, who has highlighted the best of Fall River on The Fall River Show. Now he puts himself behind the camera and assembles a fascinating look at the ongoing changes taking place in Pawtucket, Rhode Island - told by the people making it happen.

Pawtucket Rising is both an inspiration and a sobering reality. It's an inspiration because Caminiti has created a documentary that could serve as a primer for embracing the arts as a means for revitalization. After watching Pawtucket Rising I had to wonder have our elected officials here in Fall River been paying enough attention to the changes taking place just a 1/2 hour away? It's a sobering reality because revitalization just didn't happen because Pawtucket showed some interest in the arts. No, Caminiti creates a 'connect-the-dot' format with Pawtucket Rising that shows that revitalization came because Pawtucket believed in the arts, embraced the arts, and made a commitment to arts. It's an amazing thing to have developers, government, and artists all working together, striving for the same goal. It's sobering because you have to wonder can you just make that sort of co-operation happen?

If nothing else Pawtucket Rising is a sign of hope. It shows what can happen. It shows how it happened. Here in Fall River, The Mayor, the city council, and the head of FROED, should all have to watch this. In fact anyone in Fall River who has long wondered how to make change happen, should watch Pawtucket Rising.

Jason Caminiti has managed to put together an incredibly professional documentary, in appearance, in content, and in construction. Pawtucket Rising is informative. It's interesting and engaging. The man who considers himself the talent in front of the camera tackles an amazingly ambitious project and delivers.

*****************
See the trailer here!

Pawtucket Rising can be seen at a free showing being held for Arts United Fall River at:
Arts Express Fall River
139 South Main Street
Fall River, Massachusetts 02721
Wednesday - September 10, 2008
6:00 pm



Sunday, August 31, 2008

SouthCoast Photo of the Month


Here it, the August SouthCoast Photo of the month, submitted by a blog reader.

The crown above is probably the most recognizable symbol of the Great Feast of the Hold Ghost of New England. The Great Feast may be the biggest draw in Fall River. The 4 day festival draws over 300,000 people annually to Fall River's Kennedy Park. The festival has been a Fall River tradition for over 20 years and has been referred to as the largest Azorean celebration in the world.

It's interesting that this incredible celebration attended by hundreds of thousands of people of Portuguese descent takes place in the shadows of St. Anne's Church, a magnificent shrine founded by French-Canadian immigrants. It serves as a terrific reminder that the best thing about Fall River is the richness of the many cultures that call it home.

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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 aviewfrombattleshipcove@google.com

Friday, August 29, 2008

Besides the mess at WSAR, is there anything else going on in Fall River?

"We should really move on to more important subjects. Like the presidential election!" - anonymous

I have to agree the disaster at WSAR has dominated peoples attention but what else is going on in and around Fall River?

Yes, the presidential election is important, but let's cover it briefly from a local angle. Obama wins Fall River, Obama wins Massachusetts. There that covers that. What? More observation? Obama's speech was brilliant. He said just what everyone wanted to hear and made promises he will NEVER keep, but the speech was brilliantly written and delivered with immense passion and charisma. McCain's pick for vice president will steal some thunder however. Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska is a pick that was on NOBODY'S radar, if nothing else it's a brilliant pick because of it comes as a complete surprise. It's also a great compromise pick. Palin is conservative, to reassure the far right. She is young, which helps diffuse McCain's age and at the same time gives some light on the future of the party. She's a woman and as much as I would like to think that doesn't matter, there are women out there that after seeing Hillary run feel now is the time to put a woman on the national stage. The only problems I have is she has NO name recognition and it seems like she was picked off a score card. Young, check...Conservative, check...Female, check. Gee if only she were black. Still it's a pick that should help McCain.

How about what is going on here?

Well I think the most interesting story is if the school department will renew Superintendent Fischer's contract. They need to give him an answer and time is running out. On the one hand the city's schools seem to be moving in the right direction. Despite Fischer having to deal with a tight budget and now budget cuts. The problem is, certain members of the school committee seem ready to attack Fischer at every turn. On top of that Fisher has a reputation of being rather arrogant, to the point where I think it has affected the morale of department employees. There are also concerns about whether or not the school department is too top heavy. Still, Fischer's future is very important not just to him but to us. If Fisher is moving the school system in the right direction and we get rid of him what happens to the progress we've made?

I've also been amused by the exchange of letters to the editor at the Herald News. Former council candidate Dave Proulx submitted a letter in opposition to the 'wild scenic' designation of the lower Taunton River. Mike Miozza, a former council candidate himself wrote a letter in response. This was followed up by another letter from Proulx and now another letter from Miozza. Like I said, I find it rather amusing, although I give both men credit for their passion.

The story at WSAR however, is inescapable. It's not just going to go away and for the those who have yet to find, Keri's second blog post can be found here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eddie Garcia's letter on Fall River Blog

This post has been modified and cleaned up to correct some errors and clarify some points. I apologize to Eddie Garcia for not doing a better job at proofing this before publishing.

I was a bit stunned to receive a letter from WSAR's Eddie Garcia. The subject read 'your reporting' and went on to say the characterization of his relationship with Mike Herren was incomplete. It took me a few seconds to realize that Eddie was copying me on an email to the Herald News.

The letter which I have posted in full and unedited on Fall River Blog, goes on to state that Garcia's internal memo was excerpted apparently without Garcia's permission in an article in yesterday's Herald News.

I had just posted earlier today that his 'memo' seems to add credibility to Keri Rodrigues' charges and now I was wondering if that was really the case. I took Eddie's email as an opportunity to contact him and we had a brief exchange.

Eddie said that yes, there had been issues between him and Mike Herren and he certainly was not denying that now. His letter to the Herald was in no way a reflection on Keri's filed complaint, but his complaint was an internal matter and he did not appreciate the Herald publishing that information without his permission or without even telling them they planned to excerpt it. Eddie made it clear that whatever issues he has had with Herren he has tried to resolve in a professional manner and that did not include having these issues discussed and debated in a public forum.

I have to agree that the Herald News was wrong to print Eddie Garcia's letter without first getting his permission and unfair to remove sentences that added context.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Radio Free

The situation at WSAR is just getting uglier and uglier. Keri Rodrigues is accusing former co-worker Mike Herren of harassment and station management of taking no action. Meanwhile station ownership is denying the accusations as is the Hurricane.

My first reaction was to ignore the hype and focus on the facts, to withhold opinion until more was known. However a second Herald News article is even more damning than the first. Now parts of Keri's complaints seem verified by Eric Poulin and Eddie Garcia. Now, I stumble across a new blog of Keri's that details her complaints against Herren and WSAR. The content is mind boggling and I have to think this is going to get much nastier. Mike Herren has offered to take a polygraph test if needed. I wonder if it's going to come to that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

WSAR Bombshell

Keri Rodrigues left WSAR and the Fall River area due to intimidation and harassment by a fellow WSAR co-worker reports today's Herald News.

Rodrigues has stated that abusive incidents with Mike Herren date back to November of 2005. Herren refutes accusations and has offered to take a lie detector test.

There are two sides to every story and it will be interesting to see how the Karams respond to this.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bob-servations

The other day I caught just a few minutes of the Barry Richard's show. Barry was asking if people would vote for Mayor Correia when he comes up for re-election here in Fall River. I didn't listen long enough to hear the consensus, but it made me wonder, could Bob be beat in 2009? I think the simple answer is no. Because of some recent unpopular actions Bob may appear vulnerable but I don't think there is a candidate out there who could mount a successful challenge. Certainly, if we have a repeat of 2007 with multiple candidates running, no single candidate will be able to build the support needed to unseat Mayor Correia.

Still, it's entertaining to think about who a likely challenger would be or who could possibly beat Bob. Let's look at a few prominent candidates.

Representative David Sullivan
It's only natural to think of a possible rematch between Bob Correia and Dave Sullivan. Still, Sullivan is unlikely to win any such rematch and I think it would be inadvisable to try. Bob now has the benefit of being the incumbent, usually always an advantage. Sullivan is not a strong enough public speaker or effective enough in debates to really hurt Bob. Also another run for mayor could erode his support for his state rep seat. I think Sullivan would be wise to sit this one out.

Eric Poulin
I think it was tough not to be impressed by Eric Poulin in his bid for mayor. Eric is likable, smart, and has experience in the Mayor's office. He offered up a detailed campaign platform and demonstrated his abilities to understand Fall River issues and research and formulate actions during the few campaign forums before the primary. Could Eric make a challenge of it, if he was the only candidate facing Bob? I think Eric would do very well against Bob in a series of debates but Poulin's problem would be trying to get the financial backing and experienced campaign support to mount a serious campaign. If Poulin does decide to run for office in 2009 I think the city council is where he would have the best success.

Ed Lambert
After 12 years as Fall River's mayor Ed Lambert decided to ride into the sunset. The problem is the new sheriff in town is blaming Ol' Ed for all the troubles around Dodge. With his ego bruised and his legacy tarnished, could Lambert be convinced to try to reclaim his old turf? Certainly, Lambert's popularity has suffered some. His political organization now had 'property of Bob' written all over. Still, I have to think if Lambert decided to make a run of it, his core supporters would return. He could probably assemble much of his old campaign machine and no local politician is a better campaigner, a more gifted speaker, or more effective debater. If anyone could beat Bob Correia my money would be on Lambert, that said I don't think beating Bob would be enough incentive for Lambert to run again. Would it?

Bottom line look for token opposition for Bob in 2009. My hunch is he wins easily and steps down in 2011. If that happens I imagine that Councilor Cathy Ann Viveros will make a run, as well as Councilor Joe Camara and State Representative Kevin Aguiar.

Some challengers that the Mayor has been facing are members of the '6-3 Council'. Isn't it something that it's the same 6 councilors who always agree with him and the same 3 who disagree? Personally I think the '3 amigos' (Steve Camara, Ray Hague and Leo Pelletier) have done a better job of explaining their no votes then the 'lockstep 6' has even attempted for their support. Still, I'm sure Mayor Correia respects the views of Steve Camara, Hague and Pelletier. I'm sure he understands the need to keep a good working relationship with these 3 councilors even if they haven't supported him in the early goings. Right? Well, the Herald News reports that these 3 councilors were not invited to a recent fundraiser for the Mayor. The other six were all given invitations. The Mayor justified this by saying it was an event for his supporters and that he never invited every Rep to functions he held while in that office. But, the office of mayor is a lot different. He is the head of the city and must work with all 9 councilors. Instead his actions seem designed to alienate and make clear that he does not need their support.

Mayor Correia should be working to build relationships with all 9 councilors. While there is little chance that the Mayor himself will be seriously challenged for re-election, those opposed to him will realize this and likely focus their efforts on challenging his 'council majority'.