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.