Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Revisiting the Rules

A year ago there were easily 8 local blogs commenting on the local happenings of Fall River. I was excited to see so many new local bloggers join our blogosphere. It's interesting to see the topics others chose to write about and to read the opinions they chose to share.
I'd seen new blogs pop up before but for the most part many just fade away after a few posts. With all these new bloggers on the scene I decided to post some observations and conclusions I had about blogging. I called them Lefty's Rules for local blogging.

Lefty's Rules of Local Blogging
1. Blogging is Hard!
2. Blog Opinion, not news. The expiration date on news is too quick!
3. Use the Bloggers Code of Conduct as a guide.
4. Write assuming that no one will click on the links.
5. Try to respond to comments.
6. When putting your work out there for others to read, realize there will be critics.
7. If you want to build a readership, you need to post with some frequency.
8. Firefox has a built in spell check.
9. Don't blog about a hot topic unless you have something to add.
10. Blog about what interests you otherwise the effort isn't worth it

It was meant to be somewhat humorous, a collection of some of the conclusions I had come to after a couple of years of blogging. One blogger didn't see it that way.

Oh boy! I ticked somebody off I do take issue with the term 'novice'....

Apparently this wasn't taken in the spirit in which I meant it! I suppose that is how I think blogging should be handled but I certainly wasn't trying to impose rules on anyone.

Gee I wish I were more active, but heck I aim for 4-5 posts a month and have put out 100 posts or more for the past 2 years! I don't get paid to do this, consider it a labor of love, or a hobby. I still have to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head. If blogging could provide me with a living I'd be posting daily! After this post I seriously considered getting vanity plates that said KOASCB! Oh it bothers me a bit when Shamrock or FRC put out a really great post or get a scoop, 'novice' envy I suppose, but otherwise I'm having no problems dealing with the friendly competition. However there was something in there about my unfounded assumption.....

SouthCoast Photo of the Month

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

This submitted photo looks like something out of a new Indiana Jones movie. I can almost hear that eerie music that usually plays as Indy discovers some mystical object.

The reality is, this isn't the lush jungles of the Amazon, or some sort of ancient ruins. This is the remains of a large ice house located on the North Watuppa.

Apparently there is a little peninsula or island that juts into the North Watuppa. The ice house was built in the 1860's during a time before refrigeration when the ice business was quite profitable. The island was also the home of Interlachen, the stately home of Spencer Borden. The city of Fall River took possession of the this land somewhere around the late 1930's to secure the city's drinking supply. The cleared the land of any structures that might become a nuisance. The ice house was spared because of its size.

Today, this part of the city's history goes mostly unknown. For the past several years hiking tours have been offered, a chance to appreciate the beauty of the North Watuppa and the fascinating history behind securing it as our drinking supply.

Monday, June 29, 2009

8% Confusion

I don't get it.

Fall River is facing a dire budget situation. State aid is being cut and the city has limited means to raise any revenue on its own.

So the city is forced to tighten its belt. You would think this would mean that our city leaders would be looking for ways to reduce spending, eliminate waste, and save money. At least you would hope right?

Instead the first thing we've heard about is "8%". In order for the city to balance the budget without laying off more city employees the Mayor says all city employees need to take an 8% pay cut. They also need to make some concessions with their health insurance. The last time Bob tried this, oh just a few months ago, only one union decided to come negotiate and most of the rest saw drastic layoffs.

This time around we can't afford to layoff more people, more police, fire, teachers, administrators, DPW workers. We can't afford to reduce services. We can't afford to have more of our citizens out of work.

So I'm glad to see one union step up to the plate and work with the Mayor. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has agreed to an 8% cut. This will provide the savings the city needs and make sure our city employees keep their jobs. The problem I have is this isn't an 8% cut in salary. Instead the 8% cut was achieved by reducing hours.

I guess whatever allows you to reach your goal, but an 8% reduction in hours is an 8% cut in productivity! To reach this 8% members of the AFSCM will work 32 hours a week instead of 35, but now they will get a paid 1/2 lunch meaning they are really only working 29 1/2 hours a week. City services are going to be impacted by the loss of almost 6 man hours a week per employee. Hey, great job by the union in negotiating a favorable deal for their members but how is this good for Fall River?

What happens if these workers now end up working overtime to make up for the lack of man hours? There goes any savings! How will this affect other negotiations? Why would other unions take a cut in wages when they can bargain for less hours and paid lunches?

Lefty's View: It's great to see the a union step up and work with the city, and it's great to see the city willing to compromise to make a deal happen. The problem is this deal cuts city services and sets a bad precedent that may make future negotiations difficult.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Budget Issues


I keep reading news articles or catching bits of city council meetings, all revolving around the FY-2010 budget. The budget situation is grim. The city has limited ability to raise revenue yet is facing reduced state aid. It's important for our local government to identify waste and reduce spending. It's important to take advantage of grants and other funding that may allow us to preserve city services. We need to work had to negotiate pay cuts and concessions in health care and other benefits with our local unions. We have to do this to both help preserve the services of our city but also to protect jobs and keep people employed.

The school committee voted for a level service budget. Basically a budget that would properly fund the same services as the current year budget. The Mayor trimmed that figure to a level funded budget, basically providing the same money, even though that will no longer pay for the same level of service.

Personally, while I applaud the committee for drawing the line in the sand and saying we must fund our children's education, I would have drawn the line a bit higher. This year's fiscal budget is just plain horrible. Cuts were made mid-year that increased classroom sizes and reduced services. I agree with the committee that we can't afford to make anymore cuts but I personally feel we must find a way to restore some of the services cut in FY-2009. We keep talking about how important education is for the future of our city, well that means that in tough times you have to find ways to continue to fund it.

Now, the Mayor submits a budget to the city council that reduces the school budget to 82+ million and would be dependent on an 8% pay cut from the unions.

The budget has not gone over well with the council, which wants more information and a format that would allow easy comparison with the FY-09 budget. Some of these points seem valid and quite legitimate and others an exercise in head pounding. To listen to these meetings the councilors all seem to ask the same questions over and over oblivious to the fact that the councilor to their left or right just asked that very same question or made the very same point. In the meeting I just watched, one councilor wants to revisit a resolution the council voted on the night before, even though another councilor made the very same motion not more than an hour before. And this councilor failed to even second the motion, and now he wants to make the same motion! I don't want to be critical here but are they napping when not on camera? Are these meetings simply an exercise to get on camera or quoted in tomorrow's paper?

Times are tough right now. We need our elected leadership to brainstorm some solutions, make some tough choices, work together and prioritize those things most important to our city's health. That's not what I see going on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can Two Wongs Make It Right?

There is nothing like Fall River style chow mein. Its golden crunchy noodles set it apart! It's kind of funny that in a city that is so identified with Portuguese culture and food, these fried noodles are certainly one of the most notable foods from our city. It's something you can't get anywhere else! People who move out of the area have friends and family ship them care packages of noodles. Fall River seems to have an endless supply of Chinese restaurants and of course we couldn't live without having the occasional chow mein sandwich.

I can't imagine not having Fall River style chow mein.

What a shock it was to find out that the Oriental Chow Mein Company on Eight Street, the place where all these noodles are made, suffered an early morning fire that has shut down the operation.

Travel down Eight Street and you could easily pass it by. It's an unassuming building, the home of a decades old family business. The loss of the business is more than the loss of a favorite menu item or even more than the loss of a dozen or so jobs. It's the loss of something uniquely ours, something that sets us apart.

I hope the Wong family is able to quickly reopen. The city and the Fall River Office of Economic Development need to step in and offer whatever assistance they can. Not only is this a landmark, not only is it a successful small business, but I have to believe that it is an important supplier to hundreds of restaurants in our region. Such a Fall River favorite deserves our support.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Feeling Bad for Bob

I'm sure by now you've heard:

On Friday afternoon Mayor Bob Correia got into a little fender-bender at the intersection of Davol St. and Central. The police cited the Mayor for being at fault.

It seems almost everywhere I went yesterday I heard some sort of mention of this, usually followed up with the joke "I guess he needs that driver."

The Herald News comment board has run amok with readers who are having fun taking pot shots at the Mayor.

The reason I feel bad for Bob is that intersection is horrible! I hardly ever attempt to take a left there. Usually I use the right hand lane and go straight, that way I have a better view of the northbound traffic on Davol Street and more time to react. It was a minor accident that could easily have happened to anyone, yet now this is the benchmark for the Mayor's competency and fitness to lead.

It was a minor car accident!

Now the Mayor does sound like he's getting a little defensive about this. I'm not surprised, getting into a car accident and having to hear jabs about your age and mental state can't be fun. He is also being accused of changing his story which I'm not sure I believe.

A Herald News article reported that the Mayor told police he was turning left, the Mayor later said in a news interview he was going straight. The Mayor's spokesperson reported he didn't see the driver, the Mayor is quoted as saying the driving at a high rate of speed. Let's not make a conspiracy theory out of this. He didn't see the driver, Kyra Cabral, until after he pulled into the intersection and then judged that she was driving too fast. Her speed is simply his opinion, and I think most of us, being shocked at seeing a vehicle about to hit you, that you didn't see just a moment before would say something similar. In fact I was at that intersection just a few weeks ago and commented to my passenger that there should be a 4-way intersection there. It really is THAT tough to see someone coming when you're in that left lane. After all this is the 5th most dangerous intersection in Fall River. However, the Mayor incorrectly called it the 5th most dangerous in the state but it is actually the 19th. Was Bob lying or did he just misspeak? How many thousands of intersections are there in Massachusetts? Isn't 19th bad enough? Why would he feel the need to lie about it? Where would be the benefit? I chalk this one up to just a slip of the tongue. Was he taking a left or going straight? Kyra said he was turning, and the paper said that is what the Mayor told the police, the Mayor was never quoted as saying that. Couldn't the Herald News be wrong, or couldn't the officer have misspoken? Looking at the photos of the Mayor's car it doesn't look like he was in the middle of a turn. The Mayor, in an interview, says he was going straight. I don't see any reason to doubt him, nor do I see how it would make much of a difference.

Lefty's View: Mr Mayor take my advice, when asked simply reply: "It is a tough intersection and I stopped but I didn't see her coming and it's my fault." Hopefully that will get people focusing on how you're running the city vs. how you drive. If it doesn't we may have to set up a drivers test for all the candidates for Mayor.