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

The budget situation is
making me

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






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