Thursday, October 30, 2008

Police Scanner Audio for Halloween

Line of police bikes at Salem Depo

For this year’s Halloween, I have streaming audio of my scanner radio online.  Salem PD, fire, Peabody, Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, NEMLEC, commuter rail and T police are all in the mix.

I’ve had it running for the past several years, not just during Halloween, but year round for the benefit of Salem expats and others who follow things here.  For the past year, I had everything go wrong with my web stream that could go wrong, from computer problems and software problems to radio problems.

Finally resolved.   Direct link to Salemscanner MMS stream for your media player. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Salem Depot Developments

The Salem News has an article and two editorials about Salem Depot.

Salem pushing for T garage:

SALEM — Mayor Kim Driscoll has shifted into overdrive in a campaign to build a parking garage at the commuter rail station, the busiest depot in the MBTA system.
“It’s now or never,” Driscoll said after a meeting of the Salem Partnership on Friday. The business lobby’s executive committee voted this month to make a new garage a top priority following successful efforts to help secure state funds for a new courthouse and a new waterfront pier.
The mayor has formed a committee of federal, state and local officials to explore development and funding options for the garage at the 5.7-acre site along Bridge Street.

But the T has no money, as usual:

[Joseph] Cosgrove, the MBTA official, made it clear
that his agency does not have the funds to build this or any other garage. The MBTA, he said, is “broke.” And building garages, he said, is not its top concern. It’s No. 1 priority, he said, is maintaining the rail system, tracks and cars.

So the committee is floating other ideas:

However, it appears the key piece will have to come from a private developer for a project that could include retail space and housing.“The challenge is trying to get the development community interested,” Driscoll said.

We need more condos yes! Earlier this year, there were tentative plans for food service (Dunks or McD's, for example) proposed for the new Depot.

It does need to be enclosed, as the News points out in "Salem facility should include passenger waiting area":

But city officials and business leaders are right to demand that when a new parking facility is finally constructed on the site of the existing depot off Bridge Street, it include an enclosed waiting area for passengers. As lawyer Joseph Correnti, chairman of The Salem Partnership, told an MBTA representative last week, the current station consists of “a platform on the river.”This makes for an extremely uncomfortable wait for passengers in the middle of winter when the wind is whipping off the North River."

Not to mention the other problems I have with the station, such as the Steps of Doom.

The comments thread in the News, as is often the case, is more interesting than the article itself. Most of the commenters bemoan the thought of a garage, citing safety concerns, and the magnet that a garage poses to traffic.

I don't drive, so I don't care so much for a garage as such. I just want to see something other than that scar on the river that is our present station. I want something I can be proud of when I catch a bus, and something that tells our visitors from the train what a proud, great community we are.

But realistically, there hasn't been enough parking from the day it opened in 1987, so parking it is. The traffic's already here. It's already here. I'd like to see fewer people compelled to drive because we improved our public transit, but we can't improve our transit without taking steps like this first.

One good idea--a flag stop at South Salem near Salem State College--got shot down because of parking concerns, despite the fact that this was not going to be a full station, but just a stop to service the college. Now the college shuttle bus takes up space downtown and students fill the 455 bus to bursting. Great.

Until we can respect our public transit enough to pay for it (and from the furor over Question One, we don't trust our government to do anything let alone spend money) I will be writing this again in ten years time.

(see also "Time running out for Salem, Beverly garages".)

UPDATE:  The station was on the list of matters discussed with Governor Patrick at a closed-door meeting at City Hall

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Question One

Salem Senior Dance 2008 2008-08-07 033

Most readers know there is a initiative question one on our ballot this November.  Question One, if passed, would abolish the Massachusetts income tax, putting us in the company of states like New Hampshire and Florida, which have no income tax.

Supporters of Question One want to “send a message to legislators”.  Opponents predict Armageddon.  That’s simplified but not by much.  The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation points out that of  the $32 billion dollar state budget, $12.5 billion comes from the income tax.

That’s not an small drop, nor is it “cutting the fat” as the libertarians might put it. 

This week, we got a taste of what the consequences would be like:  Governor Patrick announced his Fiscal Action Plan to close a $1.7 billion gap in the state budget.

$1.7 billion.  Not $12.5 billion.

Notably, these cuts are hitting programs for people with disablities and the elderly.  People are already screaming.  The state’s  audio service for the visually impaired, TIC Network, is getting its budget cut.

In the past week, I’ve read this and other articles on Patrick’s budget cuts and have been drawn to the comments before reading the articles themselves.   There are several tropes—commonly expressed ideas—I’ve seen in those comment threads that I just have to respond to.

On cuts to elder services:  One commenter on talked about her elderly mom and the problems arranging care for her.  The retort was:  “Well, you should be responsible for looking after your parents!”

Well, yes.  But who can do it alone?

I helped care for my mom in the last three years of her life.  It’s been over 14 years since she died.  I do not regret looking after her for even an instant.  Never did I think of running away.

But I didn’t do it alone.  Mom had an array of care workers to look after her.  She had elder services to look after ordinary things like transportation.  She had visiting nurses.  She had a homemaking service.

Caregiving is very hard work with no small amount of stress.  Even after I admit I loved my mom so much I’d do the three years with her over and over, I say also that it changed me for the worse, just from the emotional stress that all caregivers experience at one time or another.   

A caregiver is more often than not an adult daughter, maybe the youngest or oldest in her family.  Maybe she has the “least” amount of obligations to look after Mom (or Dad).  Does she give up her job to look after her?  Can she? 

This applies no less to people with disabilities and those who care for them.  A child who becomes disabled can upend a family.

What happens when no one is there for the caregiver?  Elder abuse is already worrisome.   A few years ago in Nevada, an elderly man was dropped off in the street in his chair and a pack of diapers;  his relatives were too stressed to look after him any longer.  Will we see elderly and disabled left in the streets of Salem?

Responsibility is nothing without support.  The state service agencies, however maligned, are for many the first, last and best source of support.

“Just fire the managers!”

We all love Indians and hate chiefs.  Management has a role, though;  do we want all our caseworkers to do all their own management tasks?  How about closing offices?  Would that be a good idea?  If you’re in Springfield and your caseworker has to work out of Worcester, maybe that’s not so good.

“Vote for One and send a message!  Those no-good hacks will never let it pass anyway!”

Then what’s the point?

We hate our legislators.  They are hacks.  I distrust them all, from Washington St. to Beacon Hill to the Capitol.  I have never known a government that was not ineffective or corrupt, I have never looked at a politician with anything but cynicism.  My earliest memories of being politically interested is in reading “All The President’s Men” in grammar school.

That’s all true.

So why are people saying they’ll depend on the legislature to set things right?

As someone at pointed out, taxation is equivalent to legitimacy in our government.  Ever since Proposition 2-1/2 was passed in 1980, we have not believed in our government, and we have not trusted it.

That’s the real problem.

One final meme to address:

Well, Deval will just undo the changes after Question One goes down!”

I don’t think so.  From the Globe:

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill said yesterday that the state must take dramatic steps - borrowing at a higher interest rate than usual and tapping the state's rainy day fund for $310 million - to make sure it has enough cash to make local aid payments due next week to cities and towns.

The extraordinary moves are a direct result of the troubled credit markets roiling Wall Street, and they portend more dire decisions looming for state lawmakers, Cahill said. The turmoil arises as state revenues are decreasing, making access to credit even more important.

"This is no longer a Wall Street issue, this is a Main Street issue," Cahill said. "I don't want to be constantly beating a dead horse. But it's a crisis. A full-blown crisis. We have to slow down or cut spending."

Whatever happens with Question One, this is not over.

UPDATE:  Excellent suggestions from Steven Crosby via CommonweathUnbound, but of course this isn’t as “fun” as watching people yell at each other.

UPDATE 2:  Vic DeGravio reminds us that mental health programs are already seriously affected by the cutbacks.  I know from personal experience that mental health programs have been the unwanted stepchildren of health spending in the state.  Small wonder it is going to get worse.  Another trope in the comments:  “Well, just cut the waste!”  

Sure.  Not.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Downtown Salem named A Top Ten Neighborhood: Last Gasp of Gentrification?

As has been widely reported in the News, and the Gazette, the American Planning Association has named Downtown Salem as one of its Top Ten Neighborhoods:

One of colonial America's most storied towns, downtown Salem, Massachusetts, blends 17th century history and architecture with a 21st century pace and liveliness. The neighborhood's picturesque Common, eccentric street grid, and profusion of archetypal old houses belie a humming, mixed-use district with dozens of retail stores, more than 50 restaurants, and 400 newly built residences.

Given the neighborhood's success in retaining its historic character while incorporating modern-day changes to make the area economically vibrant, compact, and sustainable, downtown Salem has been named one of 10 APA Great Neighborhoods in America for 2008.

To be fair, this is a great victory for Kim Driscoll.  Three years ago, Mrs. Driscoll was the assistant city manager in Chelsea, the once-troubled small city just north of downtown Boston.  In the 1980’s, Chelsea was in state receivership, but starting in the 90’s, the city gentrified at a fierce pace.

Driscoll had to have wanted that for her city of Salem. 

Indeed, during one mayoral debate, Driscoll bragged about the steep rise in property values in Chelsea, at the time the city was listed as the 2nd highest increase in values for a town in the Commonwealth.  Her opponent, Kevin Harvey, was less positive about this fact, saying that it was a list he didn’t want Salem to be on.

And now Kim has it.  She has the steep rise in property values in downtown.  She has, in her city, $300K condos named after Hawthorne.   Even my ward councilor is caught up in the gentrification wave with his support of the Salem Jail redevelopment.

We make our money downtown from “history”, tourists and ever elevating property values, rather than the industry and business of years past.

Salem celebrated this honor in a ceremony this past Wednesday with our state rep Keenan, state senator Berry and Congressman Tierney.

I wasn’t invited.

I’ve lived downtown for 13 years.

People at the ceremony were given T-shirts (“Downtown Salem/I Live Here!”)

I don’t have one.

I’m slighted.  Snubbed.

This Top Ten Neighborhood honor is not for the long-time citizens who have quietly worked for Salem’s benefit, but more for the up-and-coming dynamic individuals who can pull down $500K mortgages for tiny condos. 

Kim, the Council and the administration got their wish.  So too did the condo owners.

But what will happen to them in an economic collapse?  What will happen to us, when we can’t make money out of churning property values and Halloween visitors?

If your condo is foreclosed upon, will the same city officials who feted you, return your calls?

One last quote:

Other signs that downtown Salem no longer is just a draw for tourists, says former city planning director Bill Luster, who has lived downtown for several years, are the neighbors he sees when walking his dog, going to the drugstore, or doing other everyday errands. "There's definitely a neighborhood feel to downtown now," he said.

I’ve been around, Mr. Luster. 

Where were you?

More on Audible Pedestrian Signals

North and Bridge Sts 2008-10-13 021 - Copy

There are more verbal pedestrian signals in Salem.  These new signals are on North St.

Now, why again aren't these downtown at the train station, or at St. Peter St.?

If MassHighway thinks these signals are so precious and too expensive to put downtown at the bypass road, then why are they here?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

First Accident on the Bypass Road

Bypass Road 2008-10-08 003, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

The aftermath of the first accident on the bypass road, as a MedFlight helicopter leaves the scene. I didn't see the accident itself, but judging by the scanner traffic, it involved a motorcyclist and was near the bend in the road where it meets Bridge St.

Update: Salem News has the details. It was a motorcyclist with "non-life-threatening" injuries. (Then why the Medflight?) According to several commenters on the Salem News, the motorcyclist was going 80 southbound from Beverly. He hit the bend and went flying. We are supposed to be surprised?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

For Randy Moisan, 20 years on the bus are over

Salem Schools Bus (1)

I’m doing something different on this blog.  I have a foster brother who drove school buses for the city for 21 years.  He wrote a great letter to the Gazette last spring, reflecting on his years with the city.  Since the Gazette doesn’t post letters online, I want Randy to have his moment on my blog so I have “volunteered” him to guest post:

To the editor:
Where do I start? Oh yeah, how about at the beginning. On March 21, 1988 I was hired by Jim Parisian to drive the field trip/athletic bus for the city of Salem’s School Department. Little did I know at that time how long and how much I would enjoy this job. This was supposed to be a temporary job until I found a “real one.

The first week on the job started with a literal bang. The leased bus I was assigned to drive was torched overnight and damaged the rear of the high school. I couldn’t believe when I was shown what remained of the bus: The front end was completely gone and the tires were burnt so much that there were only rims left. What a way to start off a job, but I stuck with it.

I learned how to get to the sporting fields by Salem’s greatest coaches, Ken Perrone and Al Giardi, and even got lost taking Charlie Maihos’ softball team over to Lynn Classical. I started out being the driver that followed everyone to eventually being the driver everyone looked to for directions.

I drove in and out of Boston all the time and loved it. I watched the Big Dig happen all around me and only regretted coming back in September every year because so many changes happened over the summer months and I had to learn the new routes around Boston.

I really loved driving the kids of Salem and was considered the cool bus driver because I never stayed on the bus — I would join them on field trips, helping teachers chaperone or watching the games. I even got to sit on the parquet floor at the old Boston Garden with. our basketball team during a championship game. I was there when Jeff Juden was being scouted and I remember the Saugus game, watching the radar gun, seeing him throw over 90 mph. I still have the bail he signed for me after he got recruited to the Houston Astros.

There was only one school year that was really
tough on me. That was when Salem High’s class of
2000 were seniors. They were in kindergarten when
I started driving a bus and I watched them grow up,
even though I hadn’t changed a bit, or so I thought.

I loved saying “good morning” to every kid on my bus as they got on and “have a good day” when they were leaving. I even let them know they were missed when they were out sick. I still have many of the gifts given to me over the years by the children and their parents.

I will miss being seen in a store and being run up to or pointed at and hearing the kids say, “that’s my bus driver.” How many looks did I get when some of those special angels would run up to me and give me a hug to say hi in a store and I would never return it, but say “I don’t do hugs,” showing that it was the child and not me initiating it. Those were the tough parts of the job, because I knew that some of those kids really needed a hug back.

These are just some of the things I remember fondly about being a bus driver. I could go on and on about the kids I drove, but sadly all things must come to an end. For personal reasons I resigned my position on April 11, 2008 so for the first time in 20 years and 21 days, the city of Salem does not have everyone’s favorite bus driver at the wheel of a bus. I will cherish all of those years driving Salem’s children.

To the Salem School Department and all of my bus driver friends, thanks for all of the great memories. To the parents of all of the children I drove over these 20 years, I thank you, for the greatest gift: getting to drive your children.
Randy Moisan
Dunlap Street
, Salem

Ironically, the year Randy was hired, I got a temp job as a bus monitor for a week where I got to ride around in one of our special-ed vans with Jan, one of Randy’s fellow drivers.  Even though it really wasn’t my kind of work, it was an interesting job and I really enjoyed working with Jan.  Sadly, Jan succumbed to cancer shortly after my time on the bus, so I never got to tell her personally.

The past nine months have been very difficult for Randy and I as we deal with some very personal and emotional issues.  But one thing is clear from his letter:  He loved Salem.  My deep cynicism makes it impossible for me to appreciate this fact, but there it is.

This school year is different without Randy, no doubt.

Politics for People With Disabilities

Salem Jail Visit 016

[My friend, Rob Park]

With less than six weeks to the presidential election, it’s almost too late to make a decision on the race;  around this time, most people are firming up their opinions.  One always forgets about people with disabilities, some may consider them “special interests”, but the issues that face people with disabilities can, do and will affect all of us.

Poynter Online, the online journalism website, and Susan LoTiempo have “Disability Related Questions for Politicians”:

Health care. A shaky economy. Unemployment.

Those are the hot-button issues being debated during this presidential race, and as usual, the candidates take such broad stands that even the most complicated issue becomes a one-size-fits-all sound bite.

But citizens with disabilities (there are 54 million of them) would like some specifics before they cast their votes. It's not just that the devil is in the details, but that their futures may very well depend on those details.

Since our job as journalists is to ask the questions, it's also our job to get the specifics on the record. Unfortunately, it's rare that a reporter asks a disability-related question, but it's time to start.

It has been long past time.  For years, journalists had the same time-worn tropes for people with disabilities.  We were “heroic”, “poor”, “crippled”, “elderly” or “veterans”.  Put on a pedestal to be pitied.  It has taken people a long time to realize that people with disabilities are a very diverse group.  Most of us are not single-issue voters,  yet the decisions that made can even affect our ability to function and even live in our society.

The Ohio Legal Rights Service has prepared a comparison of McCain’s and Obama’s positions on various disability issues.

Disability awareness in our politicians doesn’t end, nor even start, with the Presidency.   We may contact our congressman for action for laws like the ADA, but the action is all with the state reps, state senator, mayor and councilors.  Disability politics, like other politics, is local, to borrow Tip O’Neill. 

And, of course, with my Commission.  In 2009, we have a city council and mayoral election, as Kim Driscoll runs for re-election.

It’s hard to figure out where candidates stand on disability issues.  Nobody will say they’re against people with disabilities, of course.   I and the Commission have been criticized before, but that’s not common.

I and my colleagues  have several months to figure out what Salemmites with disabilities should be looking for in our elected and appointed officials.

In the meantime, Patricia Bauer has an excellent blog on disability news (no RSS feed, though).