Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potholes Fixed/Budget Problems Solved!

1995 Lada Niva picture, exterior
The other day the Herald News ran a few stories about the pothole issue in Fall River. Now I certainly didn't need to read the paper to know there's a pothole issue. I was able to figure that out just by driving around the city! In fact I think most of us have probably wondered if we needed something like the runabout above to get around town.
Well I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and we were talking about the horrible condition of the roads when my friend said to me that there is one town in Germany where you can buy a pothole! It seems the German village of Niederzimmern is selling potholes for 50 Euros apiece and using the money to repair them and mark them with the "owners" name. Now I'm sure how much it costs to fix a pothole in Fall River but if we can figure out a way to make a little profit on each repair, well there's enough potholes in this city where the profits could add up to big bucks. It could even give us a budget surplus!
But just in case this idea doesn't catch on, I'll be searching the want ads for a used army jeep.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

State of the City

To a "packed" council chamber and with mostly polite applause Mayor Flanagan delivered his State of the City speech. All such speeches are designed to put our elected leaders in the best possible light and Flanagan's was no different. His speech ambitiously sought to be passionate, unifying, optimistic, and demonstrating of our resilient character. While the speech itself was not bad, the Mayor's delivery was mostly flat and failed to live up to the theme the words were supposed to convey.
It's not the speech I would have wrote for the Mayor. It was a bit too lofty, its attempt at inspiration a little too heavy handed. Personally I would have suggested a speech that offered an honest assessment of some of the successes of the past year, some of the goals for the future and some of the challenges we face.

To be sure, there are things that I applaud. The decrease in our dropout rate while at the same time seeing an increase in our graduation rate is certainly good news. It's also no easy feat considering the school department has been able to do really no better than level fund services over the past several years. A call for parents to place a greater emphasis on education is also something that I whole heartily agree with. The effort to increase our public safety is also hard to take issue with. I think we have clearly noticed the impact that reducing our police and fire has had on our city and clearly we need to do what we can to keep these departments adequately staffed.

There are also things that I would like to applaud but can't. The Mayor's positive spin on Anderson Windows utilizing the closed Silver-Line site sounds good, and certainly it is good news that the city was able to work with Anderson to get them to reoccupy the site. However, the 200,000 square foot facility that once employed over 500 is now employing about 50. Yes, the 50 jobs are important but the Mayor's boasts could have been tempered.

Likewise his spin on the biomanufacturing-facility seems a bit too congratulatory after months of pursuing a casino while claiming we could have both but risking that we could end up with none. If nothing else the Mayor's pursuit delayed a facility that would have already broken ground and would have already been providing jobs for its construction.

The Mayor says he will be introducing a waterfront plan and emphasizes the need for bold swift action but if that's the case why have we waited a year before hearing this?

It's also great that he applauded local companies for their "green" efforts and it's a great idea for the city to move in the same direction but there was no details on what we would be doing, how we would be doing it, or how we are going to pay for it.

And honestly I even have an issue with his boasts about public safety considering so much of rehiring efforts are only possible due to stimulus money that is a short term patch for a very long term problem. There are real concerns about how we are going to foot the bill after the money runs out.

One area where I think the Mayor really could have taken some credit that he failed to mention is with the city audits. It's really good news to hear that we should be all caught up sometime in March. The issue was one this administration inherited not from the previously elected mayor but the one previous to that!

Lefty's View: Filled with rhetoric, striving to be inspirational the State of the City didn't really discuss much about the state of the city. Considering the tough times ahead, an honest assessment would have been appreciated.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Free Skippy Gaining Momentum

In the grand scheme of things, considering what is going on in the world, with the economy and problems in our city, I'm not sure why a story about a pet gets so much attention and seems to pull at the heart strings but it does. And from the moment I read about Freetown's decision to euthanize Skippy, a four year old Golden Retriever, I felt it was wrong. The town wants to destroy the dog on the assumption that he is a vicious animal. They base this on the fact that Skippy has twice attacked his owner's granddaughter. I admit that sounds damning but the child is toddler who was not properly supervised around a dog that was not accustomed to being around children. After the first incident the owner was told to have Skippy neutered and to keep him in a quarantined area, after the second attack it was revealed that wasn't done.

So the town has stepped in and the dog is to be destroyed. This despite the fact that granddaughter was only temporarily staying in the home and despite the fact that precautions were not taken that should have been. The town has been presented with multiple options that would allow for a more merciful handling of this situation. Skippy's breeder, who is in Canada, has offered to take him back. Certainly a move to Canada should leave Freetown selectmen feeling safe? But no that idea has been shot down. The Lakeville dog officer, after working with Skippy and believing he can be trained to be a good pet, offered to take him but that offer was also rejected.

But the momentum to free Skippy is growing! Just the other day I learned of a Facebook page that has been established to "Free Skippy", that page is gaining attention and has already been mentioned on WSAR and now in a story on the Herald News!

A few posts back I stated that I was a big supporter of our local animal shelters and I am. I've looked at dogs to adopt in local shelters and online and I have found many where the dog has been assessed as not being suitable for a home with children. These shelters and organizations don't line these animals up like they were at Auschwitz. They simply make sure to place the dogs in homes that where they can succeed and be good pets. I believe that is what should be done here with Skippy. An organization the Center for Animal Rescue and Education has forwarded a proposal for Skippy's release. They would foster him, neuter him, assess him, and prepare him for adoption. They would release Freetown of any responsibility and agree not to adopt him to anyone who has children or anyone living in Freetown. It's a proposal that I would urge to the Board of Selectmen to accept.

That Facebook page is urging people to tell the Freetown Board of Selectmen to reconsider their decision and rescind Skippy's death sentence. You can do that by contacting the Freetown Board of Selectmen (contact information below) or by attending today's Selectmen meeting (2/17/2011) at 5:30PM at the Freetown Elementary School Library. Also show your support to that Facebook page, comments on the Herald News, call into WSAR, and of course feel free to leave your comments here.

Lawrence N. Ashley 2011 Chairman
Jean C. Fox 2013
Lisa A. Pacheco 2012
Elsie A. Soares Administrative Assistant

3 North Main Street
Assonet, MA 02702
Phone:(508) 644-2201
Fax: (508) 644-3342

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I know it's safe...right?

For years the opponents of the Weaver's Cove facility have argued that an LNG terminal represents a safety risk to those who live in close proximity. Representatives from Hess and those in favor argue that LNG has a fantastic safety record and opponents are just using scare tactics. So I was interested to hear this news story the other day...

At least one person is missing after an explosion and the ensuing fire at a petroleum plant in Texas, the spokesman for the Enterprise Products company said Tuesday.

"We're trying to find out where some of the contractors are," Rick Rainey said.

The fire broke out after an explosion at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Enterprise Products petrochemical plant at Mont Belvieu, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Houston.

Witnesses said that the huge blaze caused several trucks parked in a nearby lot to explode, and flames more than 30 meters (almost 100 feet) high could be seen from downtown Houston.

"We store liquid natural gas at the plant, which comes up when we extract natural gas from the ground. For now, we know of no one injured. We're still trying to confirm that," Rainey said.

Several squads of company and county firefighters are on the premises working to put out the fire.

Though the operating equipment has suffered no damage, the company announced that it will shut down the gas pipeline connected to the plant.

I know someone is going to point out that this wasn't an LNG explosion at a facility, it was a natural gas explosion in a pipeline. That maybe true but the pipeline was part of the infrastructure that serves an LNG facility. Right now in Fall River there are miles of gas pipes running under the ground providing service to businesses and homes. Nobody much thinks about them until something catastrophic happens. Well what happens if the pipe that fails isn't going to a home but is going to or coming from a major storage facility that just so happens to be located in a congested neighborhood? Is it wrong to wonder if something like what happened in Texas could happen here? And if it did and there was a huge blaze with flames shooting up over 100 feet high would we just be told 'technically it's not LNG. LNG is safe..it's got a great track record...

Friday, February 04, 2011

Why do we even have flat roofs?

Yesterday during my commute to work I heard a news story that said that there have been over 70 roof collapses in Massachusetts do to all the snow. The majority of these roofs were flat roofs like the ones used on commercial and many municipal buildings. An earlier report mentioned some retail stores that were closed due to stress cracks in the walls from all the weight on the roof. Why do we even have flat roofs? I've never understood this. I remember when I was a kid in school it seemed like work was always being done to fix a leaky roof. Of course all the schools I went to had flat roofs.
I'm not an architect, roofer, or structural engineer so maybe I'm wrong here but pitched roofs just seem to make a hell of a lot more sense. Rain and melting snow can actually run off of a pitched roof. I remember the school janitor having to shovel snow off the school's flat roof.
An obviously that is big part of the problem with the collapsed roofs, with all the snowfall it's more important than ever for building owners to make sure that the icy, slushy, heavy snow is removed off the roofs. That hasn't been happening but obviously now there's a lot of renewed vigilance to see that its done. And I'm sure while workers work to clear the snow they can't wait for spring.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


A View From Battleship Cove turns 5 this today!

I'm still amazed that what started off as an 'experiment in blogging' has turned into something that is celebrating its 5th anniversary and is closing in on 500 posts.

Blogging has had its highs and lows. I've been flattered and thrilled to have those in our local media contact me and praise my efforts. I've taken deep satisfaction is posts that have generated lots of comments and buzz. I've had days where I don't even want to think about stringing together two words and days where the posts almost write themselves. It seems that whenever I start thinking about hanging this up something happens that renews my interest or someone tells me how much they appreciate what I'm doing. And that means a lot.

I decided that after 5 full years it was time for a little overhaul! The "old" look had only some tweaking over the years. Let me know when you think of the changes, and thanks for stopping by!