Friday, February 29, 2008

SouthCoast Photo of the Month

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

This is my 1948 RCA "Globetrotter" portable radio, and yes it still plays! I love radios and have a small collection of them. Most of them are not antiques. The Globetrotter is an AM only radio and mine is tuned to 1480 WSAR! Today seemed like a good day to dust it off, plug it in and tune in, so I thought I'd share.
_____________________________________________________________________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, February 28, 2008

E for Excellent

Tag your it! That's the theme of this post. Papamoka from Papamoka Straight Talk recently included this blog in a 'top ten' list of Excellent blog reads.

I'm flattered. Papamoka focuses a great deal on national issues and isn't a Fall Riverite so I appreciate the compliments from someone who reads the blog simply because he enjoys it.

So, Papamoka has issued the challenge that if your on his list to name your 10 choices and so hereis my list and my request that those listed here do the same. Note, my choices are in no particular order.

Aces Full of Links - When I started blogging Aces Full of Links was one of the first area blogs that I stumbled across. It's one of the first that I linked to, and one of the first to link to me. The great thing about Aces is that it is so eclectic. Dr. Momentum blogs about everything, local issues, national, and just any subject that catches his interest. It's like the grab bag of blogs, you never know what you'll find and that's part of the fun. If you want to read some great insight on the Presidential election or hear all about his experiences with a moka pot, (with pictures!), Aces is THE blog to add to your favorites!

Fall River Community - When it comes to Fall River blogs there is this rumor that I HATE competition, mostly because I say 'I hate competition'. The truth is there is room in this city for more than one blogger and I'm glad to have Fall River Community, (FRC for short), adding his opinion in the mix. FRC constantly amazes me with the research he does and I admire his ability to find a topic that somehow has slipped under the radar. With his ability to find a great subject, provide great research and offer a well thought opinion, Fall River Community is a blog that everyone in this city should visit.

Papamoka Straight Talk - The first time I stumbled across this blog it was due to a post on progressive talk radio and I've been coming back ever since. Although I don't always agree with Papamoka's views I know what's written comes from the heart. Papamoka tends to focus on national issues and has gained the respect of several larger blogs. When I recently wrote an opinion on the Presidential election I asked Papamoka if he would post it on his blog because I KNEW it would get more attention! The post spurred numerous comments from those who found their way back to A View From Battleship Cove and was even picked up by the Washington Post. Clearly his is a blog that is well read and well thought of.

As a topic, you would think that Lizzie Borden had been well covered. After all the the Borden murders took place over a hundred years ago and the facts of the case haven't changed much in all that time. Still in Lizzie Borden circles the discussion is still fertile and there are a handful of blogs that do a great job of keeping history fresh. For those looking for more than just the retelling of that fateful August day, I urge you to check out Tattered Fabric, Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts, and Mondo Lizzie Borden.

Pandora's Tea Room - I wish I knew just how to describe this blog! Let's call it conversation for adults. The topics can range from simple observation, political, hypothetical or philosophical! Sometimes Maggie is providing insight and other times she's soliciting opinions. Either way it is never dumbed down. I say this is conversation for adults because anyone who wants to participate better come with their wits about them or otherwise go sit at the kids table.
If you want to give your brain a workout this might be the blog for you!

New England Bites - Once upon a time I thought about providing restaurant reviews of some of my favorite eateries. I'd like to think that if I had done it I would have done as good a job as New England Bites. It almost seems comical. A mother/daughter team walk into a restaurant, order, take pictures of the food, eat, and post the whole experience on the internet. The results are no laughing matter. New England Bites provides well written reviews that describe atmosphere, decor, cleanliness and of course the quality of the meal. Each review also includes a breakdown of the bill. I find myself visiting their site to see what their opinions are of places I've been and to learn about places to go.

Tips for New Bloggers - After 2 years I don't know if I consider myself new, but I do think this blog is a great resource for bloggers. When I find myself contemplating a blog change, or looking to tweak the blog in some way I use this site as guide and a resource. I've often said blogging can be hard, this site helps make it easier.

My final choice has proven to be the toughest. I narrowed it down to a blog I read infrequently but enjoy, and one that I check on often but has lately been updated infrequently. In the end I decided that I had to include Keri Rodrigues' Blog. Honestly this second blog of the WSAR radio host hasn't the energy or the following of the first, which was hijacked. Perhaps Keri's current blog suffers some because she's recently had a baby (which would be understandable), or perhaps the old readers just haven't found their way to this new one. Regardless, Keri is a news maker and a new post on her blog is a must read by the rest of us who consider ourselves Fall River savvy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Should we really close Belisle?

This coming September the Fall River School Department will open the new Slade School in the city's South End. It's one of 3 new, '650-student capacity' schools that the city will be opening in the Fall.

With the opening of the new Slade the School Department is proposing that 4 schools in this section of the city be closed: Fowler, Healy, Osborne, and the Hector L. Belisle. Certainly as we open these newer, larger schools we have to close the older schools that populate our city. However by closing these 4 schools the school department is projecting opening up the new Slade with an enrollment of 648 students, just 2 less than capacity. School Department officials say that they are unable to shift any of these students to the Doran, the only other school proposed to remain open in the South End, because it is close to capacity with an enrollment of over 400 students.

New homes and condos have been constructed in the area and the recent housing boom has replaced retirees with young couples starting or raising families. Is it only matter of a few years before we see a sizable increase in school aged children in this part of the city? Having 2 schools serve the Central and South Zone, and have both operating at near capacity seems shortsighted. You would think that there would be some sort of long term plan that would take into consideration the future need for classrooms and there was. A committee was formed to create a Master Building Oversight Plan. This committee, which issued its final report in April of 2002 recommended that with the construction of new schools that 5 existing building be renovated and expanded. Hector L. Belisle School is one of those 5 schools.

The Belisle School was built circa 1950, it is a single unit school, with a current enrollment of 111 students. It could easily house 150-170 students. Unlike many of the pre-WWI schools in the city, the Belisle has a dedicated nurses office and cafatorium (a multipurpose room that is used as a gymnasium, cafeteria, and an auditorium.) The school sits back from the street on a lot of land that is roomy enough to allow for both staff parking and outdoor activities. A future expansion to a double unit school, (2 classrooms per grade) would increase capacity to probably just under 350 students.

If Belisle were to remain open the enrollment of the new Slade would fall to just under 540 students but could fall to as low as 500 students. Let's take a closer look at this. The new Slade is listed as a 3-4 unit school. Again, a single unit has one class for each grade level, so a 4 unit has 4 classes for each grade level. The new Slade is a K-5 school, at 4 units per grade that means there would be 24 total units in the school. An enrollment of 648 students divided by 24 would result in 27 children per classroom. That is a lot of children! By keeping Belisle open classroom size drops to under 24 children per class at Slade. IF we could increase enrollment at Belisle to 132 students both Belisle and Slade would have roughly 22 children per class. If, as the experts state, classroom size is so important wouldn't this make sense?

There is of course, the argument that as a small single unit school Belisle is unable to offer to its students and staff the amenities and services of the new larger schools. Also some believe that teachers at a single unit school are at a disadvantage because they have no peer to relate to. These are certainly points worth considering. However, historically our schools that have performed best on the MCAS tests have often been these small one unit schools showing that these obstacles can be overcome.

Why close Belisle when doing so goes against the city's own long term plan and doing so leaves only 2 'near capacity' schools to serve this area of the city? The School Department cheerfully speaks of making the new schools accessible to as many children as possible but is that the only motive?

It seems money is playing a key role in deciding Belisle's fate. Plans to expand or renovate are in jeopardy because the state is no longer reimbursing those costs under the School Building Assistance Program. Also it's clear the that School Department has decided to close Belisle as a cost savings maneuver.

Keeping Belisle open means smaller classroom sizes at the new Slade school. It means having the ability to accommodate an increase in enrollment in the Central/South zone. It means meeting future needs by having a facility that can be expanded. And if the state funding to renovate or expand Belisle no longer exists we should push for our local delegation to restore such funding and not abandon our long term plans. We really need to ask ourselves, should we really close Belisle?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Citing conflicts of interest, three city councilors abstained from voting on a proposed expansion of the Arts Overlay District during last Tuesday's city council meeting. Councilor Steven Camara, who proposed the district be expanded north to Locust Street, abstained because that expansion would include several properties that he owns. Councilor Lund, who had legal counsel propose an expansion to the south that would include the former Quaker fabric site on Ferry Street, abstained because the proposal also included his property - the Borden Light Marina. Councilor Viveiros abstained because she lives in the area that Councilor Lund proposed to expand the district to.

It's troubling that two city councilors would advocate for an arts overlay district to be expanded into areas that place them in a conflict of interest and at the very least perceive to be self-serving.

Now to be fair, other than the benefit of revitalizing efforts, expansion to Locust Street seems to have little direct benefit for Councilor Camara. This expansion seems to have enough merit to at least be discussed and it has the support of that neighborhood association.

More troubling is the proposal championed by Councilor Lund. Although including the former Quaker site in the Arts Overlay District as a way to fast-track waterfront development has its merits, including the Borden Light Marina raises all sorts of concern.

In March 2006, Michael Lund proposed the construction of a 15-story building near Borden Light Marina. A special permit was needed to build a residential facility in an industrial district and a variance to have a structure within 20 feet of Almond Street and neighboring properties. Despite protests from prospective neighbors of the building, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a special permit and variance for Michael Lund’s family to build a 15-story luxury apartment building near Borden Light Marina. That decision was challenged by Save Our Neighborhoods, a committee that formed as a result of the ZBA's actions.

The aims of the Arts Overlay District ordinance include: nurturing artists, energizing the atmosphere for new shops and restaurants and reducing crime by having a business area that’s open longer and thriving better.

The question is, in light of Mr. Lund's own efforts to develop the area that he now proposes be included in the AOD, is this truly in the best interests of the city to include it in the AOD, or is it a tool to misuse softer zoning laws?

Lefty's View: Almost everyone I've talked to believes that creating an Arts Overlay District is a good idea. The goal is to create an environment of bustling arts and commerce. Artists can add culture and vibrancy to a neighborhood and can fuel an economic revitalization. However, for an AOD to really have an effect it needs to be implemented in an area where we really want to see such development. Expanding the Arts Overlay District could result in too much of a good thing. More concerning is the motives for the proposed expansion, particularly in the case of Councilor Michael Lund. What are Councilor Lund's motives? After having a proposed condo complex stalled by challenges he runs for the city council. Once on the council, his first actions are to slacken the zoning that effects this same area by having it included in an Arts Overlay District. To cast further doubt on his motives, city records indicate that he purchased his current home in April of 2007 just months before announcing his council run. Previously records for his family's companies indicated he lived in Swansea. Now I'm not trying to say that Councilor Lund's motives have been to benefit himself and his family but the perception is certainly there. As a new councilor Michael Lund should be working hard to safeguard his reputation and to prove to the people of Fall River that deserves his city council seat. So far he's blundered. I urge Councilor Lund to halt any efforts to expand the AOD. No matter how worthy the expansion may have been it is now tainted with the stigma of selfish motivation.

This post is also published on the Fall River Community blog, visit that blog to read the opinion of Fall River Community!

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Shameful Reality - Is this the key to Republican victory in 2008?

Republicans face a huge challenge to keep the White House in 2008. The President has stood firm in his convictions, despite public opinion and the consequences to his legacy. After 8 years of George W. Bush, the nation is not only ready for a new president but for a new ideology.

It seems that Senator John McCain will be the eventual Republican candidate. As a moderate Republican McCain is the probably the candidate that offers the G.O.P. the best shot at winning come November. McCain probably has the best chance of appealing to independent voters and conservative Democrats.

This is a reality of Presidential politics. In order to win a candidate needs to keep the core support of the party, while appealing to independents and the 'swing' voters of the other major party.

This year the Democratic party has the instant appeal of a historic candidacy. If Senator Clinton is the nominee then America will have the chance to elect the first woman president. If Senator Obama is the nominee America will have the chance to elect the first African American president. There are Democrats who are offended at the notion that a win in November would come in part because of people simply voting for history. Despite this, the fact is there are people who will support a candidate of historic precedent. The are women who will vote for the first woman and African Americans who will vote for the first African American president. The fact that Clinton and Obama are both formidable candidates only makes supporting them easier.

In the face of this, in order to win in November the Republicans need to offer up a candidate who will appeal to those voters not inclined to vote for Clinton or Obama. They need to offer up someone moderate enough to appeal to Democrats and independent voters but there is a shameful reality. If the Republicans do win in the 2008 it will not only be because the candidate appealed to independents and conservative Democrats it will be because of what the candidate was not. Just as there are voters who will vote for the historic precedent of the Democratic ticket there will be voters who will vote for the Republican because it means not voting for a woman or an African American.

It's sad to think that there is an element of our society who can't or won't see past skin color or gender. It's tragic that this element will now lend its support to the Republican party and have their prejudices misrepresented as conservative values.

With a moderate candidate as the Republican nominee here is the opportunity for the party to reposition toward the center and to reconnect with the American people. Here is the chance for the Republican party to once again champion progressive ideals.

However, it is a shameful reality that a Republican victory would come in part due the prejudices of the American voter.

Cross posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Election Observations

Election day has past and here in Massachusetts Hillary Clinton & Mitt Romney are the big winners. Locally here in the 7th Bristol district, Kevin Aguiar gets the Democratic nod to face Ray Leary in the March special election for State Representative.

Some thoughts and observations - the local election

Early on I really, really thought Leo Pelletier would win, but Leo not participating in the forum just highlighted a lackluster campaign. Leo is popular amongst Fall River voters but so is Kevin and now voters couldn't vote for both. Kevin ran a pretty aggressive campaign considering the time constraints. I'm not surprised that Aguiar won yesterday.

I am surprised that Tony Sousa finished 4th and failed to break a thousand votes. With his experience in Boston, with his education I feel he was worthy of serious consideration more so than some of the other candidates.

Winning yesterday almost certainly guarantees a win for Aguiar come March, but will he be challenged in the primary in the Fall?

Some thoughts and observations - Super Tuesday

Despite the Kennedy seal of approval and the endorsement of Governor Patrick, Barrack Obama did not win in Massachusetts. With all that 'endorsement power' against her I think Hillary Clinton's win here is remarkable. I don't want to read too much into this, but I wonder if Hillary can win here in the face of all that if it's a sign that she will emerge as the Democratic candidate.

On the Republican side, former Governor Mitt Romney emerged as the victor. In my opinion Romney HAD to win Massachusetts because losing his 'home' state would have really signaled the end of his campaign. However, despite Romney's win, John McCain got 41% of the vote. To me that's a clear sign that Romney isn't as popular in his here in Massachusetts as his win might indicate. I also think that Mitt Romney owes a big thank you to Obama and Clinton. IF the Democratic pick was all sewed up and the Massachusetts primary was more or less symbolic I think you might have seen independent and Democratic voters switch sides for a day just to vote against Romney. Mitt Romney talks about all the great things he did in Massachusetts, but I think he's one of the few who believe it. Despite his win here, I think it's pretty clear that Mitt isn't going to be the Republican nominee.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Anniversary - Two Years of blogging!

Today is the the 2 year anniversary of this blog!

It's an amazing thing. When I started blogging it was with the prompting of a friend who suggested I give it a try. It was the chance to share an opinion and maybe even have someone read it.

After 2 full years of blogging I've shared lots of opinions and had lots of you comment and share yours too. I have had readers email me and instant message to compliment me on the blog and tell me how much they enjoy reading it. In the past year there have been over 100 posts and over 8,500 visits. It's all a long way from when I joked about my 6 loyal readers!

Now, as I begin year 3 I hope you will continue to find the blog something of interest and continue to stop by. As always I welcome your comments, your opinions, and your input.

Thanks for reading,