Friday, May 28, 2010

Fall River Thoughts

It's in the numbers

So according to the Herald News exactly ONE person showed up for the Mayor's budget forum. I know I predicted low turnout but geesh! They should have just shut down the projector and had the guy come and join them at the table. And before somebody asks, no I didn't go. I had to work. It seems to me that Flanagan's budget is much like his predecessor's, based on a lot of assumptions. For this to all work everybody has got to agree to keeping their 8% pay cuts. It's based on the city council approving a tax increase. I love this. It's based on projected revenues from parking tickets. Basically we're betting that we can make $440,000 on new traffic meters around the court house. NOW I understand why Fiola hasn't solved the parking problem! We NEED the revenue! OK, so what if the revenue falls short, what if the unions and workers don't agree to the pay cuts, what if the council rejects the tax increase? Something tells me we have the makings of another budget fiasco on our hands, to be fair I think Flanagan is doing the best he can in very difficult circumstances.

The Great Cadime

So the budget process would seem to be a chance to see our new city administrator at work. I have to be honest I was not thrilled by the Mayor's choice here. This is something that I wanted to blog about but never got around to. Too many casino posts I guess. My problem with Cadime is simply that he has no experience in the role he has been hired to fill. The city is facing tough times, maybe the toughest and if I were doing the hiring I would want the most experienced, competent person I could find. Instead we take someone with no experience in the position, praise the qualities he brings to the table, give him a nice bump in pay over the last guy and say that the inside Fall River knowledge was the deciding factor. What? How many experienced city administrators are stocks piled in Fall River? Now 2 weeks after starting, Cadime has overseen the budget process. Really? I mean really? It takes most folks a full week just to figure out where they keep the pencils. Did he really oversee this? I'm not saying it's an outright lie, I'm saying I find it hard to believe.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

It's disappointing that the City Council voted down funding to further replace antiquated city water mains. I certainly understand the concern about borrowing money when we don't have it, but water distribution is rather a crucial city service. The city has replaced about 50 miles of water pipes already but it's clear more work needs to be done. Hopefully this is only a temporary setback.

Ya basta?

The Doran school is working on a plan that would restructure it from a k-5 school to a k-8 school. This is something that has been kicked around for a few years now. The school will also do more to reach out to and work with parents. It is also looking to become a bilingual school that would serve English speaking and Portuguese speaking students. This all sounds interesting and was even praised in a Herald News editorial. However School Committeeman Joe Martins has a question. Mr. Martins wants to know what will happen to the school's Spanish speaking students, which currently equate to 30% of the total enrollment? It's a good question! Joe further feels that it is unfair not to be considering a similar school that would combine Spanish and English. Considering all the talk about the increase in Spanish speaking people in the U.S. that seems a very good point as well. Martins was told he should hold his comments until a finished plan could be presented to full school committee. Martins pointed out that could be counterproductive. I don't get it. Why should he wait? Doesn't it make sense that after the initial proposal some questions should be asked? More importantly such input should be welcomed! Why would you wait for a finished plan and then find fault with it? Why not try to correct as many faults and answer as many questions right from the start?

It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A

When Mayor Flanagan decided to pull the 1.5 million that Bob Correia had pledged for a project at the YMCA I didn't know what to think. Flanagan's stance not to support low income housing downtown seemed like a good one, or at least it sounded good. Certainly I felt the same way when it came to the Durfee Textile building. Why should this be different? On the other hand the project seemed to have lots of support including from neighborhood groups.

The proposal would allow the YMCA to build out 42 low income units on the 3rd and 4th floors of the building. The units would be 300 square feet and include a small bathroom. Each floor would include a common room and shared kitchen. 31 of the units would be for individuals making up to 60% of the median income and 11 would be for those making up to 30% of the median income. The argument against is that is it more low income housing and housing downtown an area the city would like to see revitalized. The argument for is this is a different kind of low income housing that could serve the needs of artists and those just leaving college, amongst others. The overall proposal also includes much needed renovations and repairs for the entire building.

I still have some concerns but it's an interesting project and my concern isn't the introduction to 'low income' residents to Downtown, but the viability of renting these out to people. I think introducing some single people making up to $30k a year to Downtown might not be such a bad thing, but will they be interested in what is basically a one room studio that requires you to share a kitchen? My best estimate is that each unit has about 200 square feet of living space plus the bathroom. That's not bad. I think a quick trip to Ikea and you could outfit this pretty nicely. On top of that I certainly could see some nearby locations benefiting from some patronage.

But now that the Mayor had pulled the funding the Y's plans are in major jeopardy. Even worse, the Y was counting on the rental income to help them remain viable here in the city. So the Mayor's pulling the funds on the Y, may really be his pulling the plug on the Y. The Mayor says he is not pushing them out of the city, but certainly his decision may lead to just that.

Lefty's View: I had heard rumors that the YMCA needed this project to remain in their current building or perhaps just to remain in Fall River. Two questions immediately come to mind: 1. Is this a viable project that will benefit Fall River? Do we, as a city, want to risk losing the Y? Obviously if this is bad for Fall River we shouldn't do it, but I'm not sure it is bad. It sounds to me like this could be very much in line with some of the thinking that has been expressed for the arts overlay district. Considering the support this has gotten from other elected officials and the neighborhood association, I think the Mayor should give this another look and be more open minded to the possibilities. At the same time I wonder if there is any funding that could be allocated that wouldn't require the Mayor's approval. I'm not 100% sold on the project, but right now I'm positive that there is more upside in this proposal injecting some positive life into Downtown than an empty building would.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It’s the jobs stupid!

It's the jobs stupid! That's the reason we are willing to scrap a decade's worth of plans for a casino.

it's the jobs -   3,000-5,000 of them.

And we need jobs.

After all 18% of our residents are unemployed.

I'm not sure how many people that is,  but hopefully it's not more than 3-5000. Casinos bring good jobs. Well, maybe not good jobs.  Well, they bring UNSKILLED jobs  and that's the type we need here in Fall River!

But if we're so desperate for jobs and money, why are we not embracing every opportunity?

Let's bring in LNG!
Hell there is another thing we've been working on for about a decade but hey we're broke! And we need jobs!

And money!

And LNG would bring about 400 million dollars worth of investment, and at least a 1000 jobs at startup.

Why don't we bring in strip clubs?

Maybe we could do it the same way the state wants to do casinos. We could limit the number of licenses and then sell them off to the highest bidders! That brings in some instant revenue! And once you have a few of these babies running you have a bunch of attractive, if under-educated girls making a "decent" living

Lefty's View: Folks, it's this simple, people don't want strip clubs because they're afraid it's going to harm the character of the neighborhoods and bring in an unsavory element. People don't want LNG because they think it will have a negative impact on their safety and that it will hurt the city's ability to develop its waterfront and its future. But in the case of a casino, too few seem to even consider the potential harm and hazards. Too few seem to give it much consideration at all. It's simply the jobs stupid and if it's bad for Fall River that doesn't matter as long as it's good for you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

High Stakes

So Mayor Flannagan keeps hyping the Fall River's high unemployment rate and saying THIS is the reason we need a casino AND the BioPark. Of course now he's pushing for the park to be right next door, but in Freetown, which, as I said before, really does nothing for Fall River's image. Too make matters worse, Mayor Lang has officially gone on record (SouthCoast Today – Subscription maybe required) as saying that it's open season as far as the BioPark goes. His reasoning is, if Flanagan is willing to have it somewhere outside of Fall River but firmly in the SouthCoast, why not New Bedford? So keeping the BioPark in the "greater Fall River area" may not be quite so simple, or such a sure thing.

On top of that it looks like the Wampanoags have some problems of their own. It seems that Middleboro still feels their agreement is "valid and enforceable", and they are invoking a "dispute resolution clause" to bring the Wampanoags back to the table.

One thing is clear, and that is that the Wampanoag's track record for getting things done isn't really very good! They started the ball rolling in Middleboro back in 2007, 3 years later they've switched course and are now trying their luck here in Fall River. Considering the obstacles Fall River has to overcome before any ground breaking will take place, I don't imagine things will be much quicker here. And there is already serious doubt being expressed about a casino happening at all in Fall River.

It's also true that not everyone in Middleboro is upset to see the tribe scrap their plans. There has been a lot of belief that a casino in Middelboro would ruin the character of the town and bring too many problems. That's a topic that hasn't even really been touched here in Fall River!

This whole mess would almost be funny, IF it wasn't happening here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flanagan’s Folly

It wasn't supposed to go this way. The way it was supposed to go was the Mayor would ride in on his white horse and announce that instead of waiting 20 years for the realization of the BioPark, the Mayor would announce a deal to sell the land for an Indian Casino. The land sale would result in millions of dollars for the cash strapped city, the construction was equal 1000's of jobs and the resort would mean even more jobs and the type that would immediately put Fall River citizens back to work! Flanagan would then iron out the details to relocate the BioPark elsewhere in the city, after all UMass wants to be in Fall River, the city could have its cake and eat it too. Flanagan would be heralded as the most brilliant Mayor in Fall River history and the city would be renamed in his honor.

Somehow things haven't gone that smoothly. The meeting for the Redevelopment Authority vote turned into an hours long bitch session that had several city councilors and most of our local delegation expressing concern and reservations. UMass also expressed concerns about this change in plans and while Flanagan and Co. originally tried to downplay this, the University released their letter to the public. Suddenly the BioPark looks like a brass ring free for all with New Bedford rolling out the red carpet.

So now Will is running around telling everyone we can have both and urging everyone, especially some anxious city councilors to give this a chance. But the reality is Will has nobody to blame but himself. While Mayor Flanagan feels that a casino will be Fall River's salvation he has done nothing to include the city council, the local delegation or the people of Fall River in the developments that have been taking place. When the Mayor announced that he had signed an agreement with the Wampanoag tribe, nobody seemed to know any of the details! How much money would this mean for the city? What was the purchase price for the land? How much additional money would the city get? Instead the Mayor, who's been in office for less than 6 months, seems to feel that we should risk 10 years worth of development on the BioPark solely on his judgment. Really, I find that pretty damn arrogant. I know somebody is going to say that Will was elected to lead, elected to make decisions and while that's true the city is not his own real life Sim City to play with. You don't casually change 10 years worth of planning without bring everyone into the conversation. The Mayor says that he believes 70% of the people support this and now a poll seems to back this up, but hold on one second. Well I'm not surprised that people support this. Fall River does need the jobs and the revenue. However, when some idiot from the plumber's union says he's for casinos, he's not thinking of our long term goals and he's not thinking about any of the negative impacts. All he's thinking about is putting his members to work. That's admirable and all, but it's not how decisions should be made. I wonder when this 'poll' took place did they ask specifically if Fall River citizens were willing to risk the BioPark for a casino? Did they mention that a casino in Fall River would face several hurdles and may never become a reality? I doubt it.

Now it looks like Mayor Flanagan feels we can make this all work out if we shift the BioPark to Freetown. What?? 10 years worth of work and we're just going to give it away to Freetown? I know its right next door, but I don't think a Freetown BioPark does much to enhance OUR reputation. Well at least we'll be putting Fall River people to work. However, Speaker DeLeo was just stating that while Fall River would be in a running for a casino that's no guarantee it would get one. He also felt the decision was probably 2-3 years down the road. Such a long time frame would certainly not be of much help to Fall River. Not only would we not see any job creation during that time but with the retirement of Joan Menard, we would also be losing the one member of our local delegation who has been actively pushing for a Fall River casino.

Lefty's View: Fall River needs money and it needs jobs and that's what Mayor Flanagan is trying to deliver. Perhaps I should be applauding him, but I can't. There is so much uncertainty to his casino proposal, so many hurdles to overcome. IF the legislature reverts the 'no casino' clause, if, the casino bill passes, if Fall River gets picked as one of the locations. What happens if, one of those ifs doesn't happen? I suppose the Mayor feels that the reward is worth the gamble. I just wish he understood that most of the time when you gamble, you lose.

*The Ojornal has a really great article on all of the 'casino events', well worth a read!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Bedford: The Better Bet

Officials here in Fall River are pushing for a destination casino to be built on the 300 acre parcel that borders Freetown and was to be the home of a planned BioPark.  The casino would include three hotels, a shopping mall, a spa, convention facilities and a showroom. The proposed casino would be a one-stop shop destination and resort and provide employment for between 3,000-5,000 people.

Meanwhile, developers in New Bedford have been working on a casino proposal that would include 2 hotels, retail and conference facilities and restaurants on a mere 29 acres. It's estimated that it would add close to 10,000 new jobs.

The thing that really sets the two proposals apart though is in New Bedford the casino is being touted as an economic engine for the city and catalyst for downtown revitalization. In Fall River what is being proposed is a 300 acre complete complex with all the amenities patrons could seek. In New Bedford the complex is being purposely underbuilt to  influence casino patrons to become downtown patrons that eat at local restaurants and visit local shops and instead of building a theater it would gladly "funnel its patrons" to the Zeiterion. Casino developers are also touting the concept of a rewards program that would allow patrons to redeem frequent-player points at neighboring businesses. The New Bedford developers are also advocating for measures to help "stimulate pedestrian flow" which would have a beneficial effect on downtown shops and eateries. Finally, the New Bedford proposal would utilize a contaminated brownfields site. So not only would New Bedford get the financial impact of a casino, they would get a catalyst for downtown revitalization and be able to clean up and reclaim a contaminated piece of property.

I can't help to think that the Cannon Street Station proposal in New Bedford would benefit that city much more than the proposed plan here in Fall River. It is just a smarter plan that really seems to focus on the needs of the city. Underbuilding the facility to utilize existing city venues is a fantastic idea and responsible development. And utilizing a brownfield site makes it a win-win for everyone. Of course the irony is, while pursuing a casino Fall River may lose it's planned BioPark to New Bedford yet New Bedford would still be in the running for the casino. If the Governor, or a deciding body award casinos based on what sites will have the greater impact and best chance of success, I have to say the Cannon Street proposal is just a better bet.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Morton Middle School.

So the City Council has heard the plans for the new Joan M. Menard Middle School. Oh…hold on…that was the other mayor! So, the council heard plans for the new Morton Middle School, apparently we're not going to have some huge campaign to save the existing building, which is a good thing. I'm all for historic preservation but sometimes you have to let go and embrace something new. In Fall River that has never been a problem before and we often have taken the wrecking ball to things we SHOULD have saved but for a variety of reasons this seems like the right decision.

We're already getting some warning that some construction details won't be covered under the 80% state reimbursement. This includes the cafeteria and auditorium. This was a big uproar during the construction of the new Kuss and I'm willing to bet will somehow become a news story when the new Morton gets close to completion. If the two were combined, they would be reimbursed at the 80% rate. So, why not combine them? It's a good question and I'll bet you the big easy answer will be because all the other middle schools have separate facilities and the new Kuss got a nice new auditorium so of course the new Morton needs one too. Well personally that is a load of bull. Let's look into saving some money and at least explore what a combined facility would look like. However that said, I have been in the new auditorium at the Kuss and it is truly spectacular, if the combined facility looks second rate we should pony up the extra money and invest in something that will benefit the kids and the community. Originally there was some debate about what type of seats to put in the Kuss auditorium, with some advocating for solid plastic seats that would be long lasting, more vandal resistant. In the end the powers that be felt that nicer seats were warranted for a facility that the community may wish to utilize. I somewhat regret that decision. Durfee has a really nice auditorium, one that is superior to several other area high schools, but every time I go in there I think what a shame to see so many seats in less than pristine condition. The Durfee Auditorium could and should play host to several events but gee, we'd have to do something about those seats. OK, it's a pet peeve, but the first time I was in the new Kuss one of my first thoughts was 'how long before this looks like Durfee's.
I'm somewhat surprised to see the new school will hold 800 students. Do we really need a school that big? Right now none of the middle schools have close to that many students. The Kuss has the most, at 596 students. It's true that the elementary grades have more students enrolled than the middle schools, so maybe we're trending up. I just hope we're not building bigger than we need.
I also wonder why when we started building these schools we didn't draw up one set of plans that would work for all sights? I understand different lot sizes and stuff, but I think it would still have been plausible to come up with a footprint that would work on all lots. Maybe one set of plans for elementary schools and one set for the Kuss and Morton. Other communities have used existing plans as a way to save money. Why not us?
I have to chuckle, the council expresses some concern about the number of schools that were built that immediately had leaking roofs only to have the builders, the Mt. Vernon Group confirm that 3 schools did indeed have roof issues. Ken Pacheco countered that the city had "very good success" dealing with the Mt. Vernon Group, noting they had built 7 schools in the city. Seven schools and 4 didn't leak? That's good success, 4 out of 7? Where? In baseball?
Then of course there is the parking issue with 2 options discussed. The city could tear down the Carrol School which is about a block away or take some of the land from North Park! Is there really thought that taking land for North Park is an option? Hopefully the council is smart enough to leave the park alone. Hell the school is only a block away and that's a pretty reasonable walk, just ask Kenny Fiola!

Double or Nothing

It's supposed to be great, the potential for approximately 13,000 jobs encompassing every skill level and guaranteeing a better brighter Fall River. This is what the Mayor, Ken Fiola, Joan Menard and others are trying to sell us that Fall River can have both a resort casino AND a BioPark!

OH GOODY! This is it Fall River has finally hit the jackpot! Or has it?

Don't book your reservations for that destination-resort just yet! Before this 'shovel-ready' (Boy do I have a double meaning for that!) project can get underway the legislature will have to vote to allow a casino on the BioPark land, since the language of the land transfer back in 2002 specifically forbids it. NO PROBLEM we're told, except some of those voting are going to be interested in getting a casino in THEIR districts, so wouldn't voting against this be a great way to nip a Fall River casino in the butt? And let's not forget that a bill legalizing casinos hasn't even passed yet, and if and when it does the Governor has already suggested that potential sites would have to be vetted for suitability. If that didn't complicate things enough the folks at UMD are starting to express some displeasure at Fall River's sudden change of heart and while publically stating they want to work with Fall River, they've expressed little interest in any proposed alternatives for the BioPark. Meanwhile as Flanagan and crew try to keep UMD on the back burner long enough to make this gambling thing happen New Bedford's Mayor Lang steps in says 'hey, if Fall River doesn't want a BioPark New Bedford would be proud to step in'. Of course Kenny Fiola expressed some polite displeasure over New Bedford potentially hurting what we're trying to develop but isn't that what we're doing to New Bedford by pushing for a competing casino proposal?

Suddenly, Will, Kenny, and Joan look like circus performers trying to keep all the plates spinning on poles without having any of them fall of.

Now if all the above didn't get the plates wobbling enough for you, the word from Boston is if a casino is going to be built instead of a biopark, well then those developers should have to pay the bill for all the infrastructure work that the state was planning to do for the biopark. I can only imagine the Wampanoag's were less than thrilled with the idea of paying out the estimated 35 Million dollars. And speaking of less than thrilled, a meeting on Monday had the majority of the city delegation and a bulk of our city councilors speak out against the casino proposal. And now 4 councilors have signed a resolution in opposition to siting a casino "at the land dedicated for the creation of the SouthCoast BioPark."


Despite all the cheery talk the reality is a casino is no sure thing and pursuing it puts the BioPark (which was a sure thing) at serious risk. Despite all the assurances it's starting to look like that instead of getting both, we're going to have to pick one or the other, and if we're not careful we may get nothing at all.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ken Fiola - in his own words

With the new Downtown courthouse just about to open there is real concern about Downtown parking. While Ken Fiola from the FROED says we shouldn't panic about the parking situation, a friend of mine was quick to point out the contradiction of earlier statements from Fiola and John Almeida from the Redevelopment Authority. That friend was good enough to provide me with the video clips that make up this story, while the quotes are from the Herald News.

“Perception is becoming reality. People believe there is no parking. But you just have to take a look around. There is.”

“There is plenty of parking downtown,” said Kenneth Fiola, the city’s parking czar. “We have been keeping an eye on this for months now.

The city’s position, Fiola said, is that it is reasonable to expect people to walk a quarter mile, about two blocks, to get to court.

“I’ve been keeping an active eye on the on-street and active parking around the courthouse,” he said. “There is plenty of it.

“I know no one wants to hear this, but this will sort itself out. There is enough parking. This isn’t a severe problem.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Slipped through the cracks

Just amazing, absolutely amazing, the Fall River Office of Economic Development's contract with the city's Redevelopment Authority expired this past Sunday. I guess they call it Mother's Day for a reason.

Don't these people have any idea on how to set a reminder in MS Outlook or on their cell phone? Too high tech? How about just marking it down on a calendar or something?

Well we've got to be fair here and remember this just "slipped through the cracks". After all we have a new mayor and new board members. And we have to remember the Redevelopment Authority and the FROED are both involved in a lot of projects such as shorting downtown of parking, fouling up a downtown bus terminal, doing nothing to develop our waterfront, holding up the building of the BioPark, failing to submit an application for short sea shipping, and handing out tax breaks for any mom and pop shop that wants one.

For the love of God, how did they not know this was going to expire? C'mon, really.. I KNEW it was going to expire, you'd think the people directly involved would have a clue. It's not like this information is super secret and tough to come by. Fall River-tastic made me aware of this back in December! Should I send you the link Kenny?

So the good news is the contract has expired, the bad news is we're looking to put another one in place, short-term, until we get some bids submitted for a 3 year contract. The problem is who is going to bid? It seems we get the services of FROED for the bargain rate of $90,000 a year. That makes it tough for someone to submit a competitive bid, and tough to argue for handling all this 'in-house'. The problem with a bargain rate is you usually get what you paid for. And the reality is when you factor in monies that are earmarked for Fall River and handed over to FROED you're probably looking at 100's of thousands of dollars, not just 90k.

So the contract has expired. I think it's time we take a good hard look at the achievements and success of the FROED, because to be honest, I don't see a hell of a lot of economic development. Wasn't it Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Maybe it's time to look outside the box and come up with a different approach to economic development here in Fall River.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Fall River Casino, jackpot or bust?

I've always had concerns about casinos or other high stakes gaming in Fall River. Mostly because I figure all the promises of jobs and money really means someone else is getting all the bread and we're getting tossed the crumbs.

There is always the talk about how many jobs it will bring but it always takes some effort to find out how many are long term and how many are short term like construction. Of course those who work in construction point out that those are good jobs and needed ones too. I don't argue the need or the importance of construction work, but I'm not going to sell the soul of my community for them. As for the rest of the jobs, I think it matters more to know how many full time and part time and the pay scale for each more than to keep hearing some impressive number. But that's just me.

Then there is the talk about how much revenue goes to Connecticut from Massachusetts patrons and how we need to stop it. The problem there is I'm not convinced this is a "Field of Dreams" thing that if you "build it they will come". If you build a casino here in Fall River it will have to compete with Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Twin Rivers, Newport Jai-Alai, the proposed Racinos and the whatever other sites wind up being built in Massachusetts. Can the region support that many venues? Now all the talk I've heard is about a "destination-style casino" to me this means to be successful it has to pull in people from outside our immediate area. Which means being in direct competition with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Can a Fall River casino compete with two very established venues? If the plan is for a more modest regional gambling facility, that means pretty much sucking the cash out of the pockets of local residents. Gee that seems like a bad thing and it's probably not very sustainable.

Now where to build this? Well it turns out that BioPark would fit the bill. Of course building a casino there would require some arm twisting to amend the agreement and heck may even thwart the plans we already have to develop the BioPark. Now this could be a real problem. From what I understand a casino could be up and running much more quickly than the realization of the BioPark but now we go back to the question of how many jobs and what kind of jobs. Let me put out some figures offered in the Herald News:

“I don’t want to turn them away if we can provide 2,000 jobs for people,” Menard, a Fall River Democrat, said of the casino resort prospects.

He (Flanagan) said there’s potential for 3,000 to 5,000 casino jobs in a range of sectors like construction, food and beverages, entertainment, security and professional fields.

Build-out of the park would bring 8,000 biomanufacturing and biotechnology jobs that would include a 1.5 million-square-foot campus, 10 multilevel office buildings and a parking garage, plans showed.

The first thing I find interesting is the gap between Menard's figure of 2,000 and the Mayor's figure of 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. Why such a difference? Maybe Joan is quoting a figure of long-term jobs while the Mayor is certainly including short-term construction jobs. (see his quote above) On the other hand the 8,000 jobs for the BioPark would seem to be the jobs after the park was fully operational. In other words 8,000 jobs not including the additional jobs for construction and possibly not including support jobs such as security, maintenance, janitorial, etc. Gee that's a big difference, even if it takes us longer to realize. No matter how you look at it the BioPark is going to bring a lot more jobs to our area. Even if it was only HALF as successful as the projected numbers it would bring 4,000 long term jobs PLUS construction jobs and POSSIBLY support jobs. Which is STILL more than what is being projected for the Casino.

We better be really careful before we shoot ourselves in the foot by grabbing on to what looks like a quick way to get some jobs and cash.

Then you have the problem that many believe Casinos bring about more social ills, basically exploiting those who can least afford it. There are some studies that show higher suicide rates and a question about the impact on crime. While it's true that many such venues have brought in a handsome amount of revenue, the question is at what cost?

We should not be running to embrace a Casino in Fall River. We should be approaching this cautiously, making sure that it's a good fit for our community and can fit in with our long term plans. If it doesn't fit with the BioPark we should look to put in somewhere else, and if it doesn't fit with our city, it should GO somewhere else. Let's hope the enthusiasm of our elected officials doesn't cloud their judgment.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Downtown Courthouse - Guilty of bad planning

The new Downtown courthouse is scheduled to open up this summer. The building is striking, although I'm not sure if I'd call it modern. It has this 1960's futuristic look to me. However from the rear the building it is cold and dreary, which is more than disappointing considering that side faces the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. Why wasn't more consideration given to how this design and this building would fit into the community?

Such considerations don’t seem to have entered into the decision to build the new courthouse Downtown. The senior citizens who live nearby have expressed concern about the 'element' the new courthouse will bring and the impact on their safety. Businesses located near the current courthouse have expressed concern about the potential impact on their business. And of course the lack of parking has always been a concern.

It seems that any of these concerns were brushed aside by those few in power who decided that downtown was THE perfect location for the new courthouse.

Now it is here and we'll find out for sure how it impacts, safety and business. Let's hope our leaders were right in their thinking. However we’re still faced with a problem that the city has long put off, a lack of parking.

How can we still have no parking solution in place? In a recent Herald News article Ken Fiola says it will all work out. How? You either have enough parking or you don't. If there is enough parking, then sure after some growing pains it will sort itself out. What if we don't? How tough is it going to be to come up with a solution after the fact?

A letter to the editor published in the Herald brings up a good short-term solution. The city could locate an available lot and provide a shuttle service back and forth. What about long-term? I still think a possible solution would be to build a parking garage or high-rise with parking on the lower levels, at the location of the current district courthouse at 45 Rock Street. We could also look into building such a structure at the location of the old police station, which would give us a reasonable eminent domain claim for the property.

Back in the mid-70’s South Main Place was built with the idea that it would revitalize downtown. Three decades later it was torn down to make way for this new courthouse, which is supposed to help, revitalize downtown! In both cases I wonder if they’re guilty of bad planning.