Friday, November 28, 2008

Santa in Salem, 2008

Santa comes down from the roof of the Hawthorne once again this year.

2008-11-28 Salem Santa 2008 Museum Place Visit.

And holds court at Museum Place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Salem Commission on Disabilities November 2008


The minutes of the November meeting of the Salem Commission on Disabilities are up on  Some highlights:

  • Sidewalks are first last and always important to us.  I already blogged about several sidewalks around downtown. The moon crater at 10 Federal is still there.  [UPDATE:   10 Federal is fixed.  Thanks to Jason for the update.]
  • The ATM at Sovereign Bank on Essex St. is not accessible to the handicapped.  It used to be accessed via a hallway to the rear of the building, which is accessible, but that hallway is now closed off.  We’ve been after this for a few months.
  • Health and Education Services is proposing a group home at 39-1/2 Mason St.  They’re looking for a variance so they don’t have to put an elevator in the building;  this would be cost-prohibitive.  The variance application is on file with the MAAB.
  • In other MAAB news, we’re still waiting to hear about MassHighway’s variance request on the Bypass Road bike path, blogged about back in June.  I wish MassHighway had taken care of this sooner.
  • The word from David Tracht, recently retired from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, is grimThe state cuts aren’t close to over, indeed they are likely just beginning.  He’s worried that the various state commissions for the disabled may get rolled into, say, the Massachusetts Rehabiliation Commission,  losing a lot of specialized knowledge in the process.  Already low vision resources have been cut.  This blogger wishes he had used such resources before that happened.

I wish a good Thanksgiving to all disabled people and their friends and relations, and may they have a quiet uneventful day with their loved ones.

Mayor, Commuters Support New Salem Depot

The Salem News follows up on yesterday’s petition drive at Salem Depot.  Mayor Driscoll expands on one detail of the project I found interesting:

The mayor has formed a committee to explore a possible public-private partnership and to try to push Salem to the head of the long line of communities hoping for more train parking.

Plans for a new station have changed slightly, the mayor said late yesterday. Officials are now looking at a smaller building that would cost less to build but still provide close to the 1,000 spaces Salem officials want. [emphasis added]  It would be built on a site that would not include city property, the mayor said.

I don’t much care about the specific number of parking spaces, indeed I don’t drive at all so I would not care, except for the great need that the courthouse already poses (for the past 20 years, not just the new facility.)

But I want to see a sheltered platform.  And food service and convenience stores as you find at North Station and Government Center.  Handicapped access that isn’t a rotting ramp.  And the end of those f---ing stairs! 

I want our train station something that’s done right, a rare government project that makes Salem better than it was before it.  A facility that commuters and visitors to our city can be proud of.

We may have budget concerns but we must not compromise on that idea.  We’ve done that too often in the past.

From the comments in the Salem News, it’s apparent that in our cynical state, we can’t or don’t dare to even see that little distance ahead.  To borrow from Deval Patrick, “Together We Can’t.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Salem Depot Gets Signatures

Salem Depot, long written and complained about in this blog, continues to get attention.  The Salem Partnership had petitioners out to get signatures in support of a new garage at Salem Depot.

Once again, the Salem News comes out to support the project:

If you read this while waiting for the train in Salem Monday morning, you likely encountered the mayor or others bearing petitions seeking support for a new waiting area and garage.

If you read this while waiting for the train, you were also likely freezing. With the wind whipping off the North River, Rep. John Keenan describes the train platform at the Salem depot as "probably the coldest place in North America."

That's a slight exaggeration, of course. But there's no question commuters deserve a more comfortable place in which to wait the arrival of the MBTA's commuter trains than the concrete slab and Plexiglas shelters which serve that purpose now.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, says it's either now or a long time from now for construction of a new parking facility and waiting area at the train station.

We’ve had the current Salem Depot for 21 years.  Early on, there was a very obvious parking shortage.  A few years after, the stairs started coming apart.  I’ve said before, I hate them.

I fully expect, if not for the courthouse project—which has already put demand on parking downtown—that we could wait another 20 years, if ever, for a new station.

I wonder if the NIMBYs will still be here at that time?

The lot’s almost full and it was just 7:30.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Broken Sidewalks Report for November 2008

Part, I meant all, of our work for the Salem Commission on Disabilities involves sidewalks.  Broken sidewalks are at very best annoying.  At worst, they can hurt.

Outside St. Peter’s Church, St. Peter’s St:

St Peters Church Sidewalk The DPW cone implies that Salem DPW knows about this one already.  Charlie Reardon brought it up at the disability meeting the day before.  [UPDATE:  This is fixed with hot-top.  Presumably it’ll be fixed permanently in the spring.]

100 feet up St. Peter St., in front of St. John’s Rectory:

 St Peter St at St John Rectory

The bump in the sidewalk perhaps caused by the tree root, has dislodged these bricks.

At the Salem District Court parking lot outside Federal St.:

Curbcut at Salem District Court Driveway.

Loose bricks are very dangerous, particularly in the winter.   They can be dislodged by shovels or worse, “eaten” by snowblowers that can hurl them out of their chutes to hit a car or a person.  And in late November, we are on borrowed time for winter.

I’ve sent these pix to Jason Silva.  [Update.  The brickwork outside St. Peter’s Church is in the process of being fixed.]

Courthouse Moves Forward, and Gets A Pounding

Pile Driving Courthouse Site

My colleague Ken Bonacci is mentioned in the News again:  Pile-driving to start on new courthouse.  He’s understandably worried:

One resident complained that he was informed of the planned work only last Wednesday, which was after the deadline for scheduling a property survey.

"There was no reason for a last-minute notification on how this was going to impact the neighborhood," said Ken Bonacci, a resident of Lynde Street. "I'm not impressed with the way this was handled."

Bonacci said he and his wife spent the weekend "taking everything down off the wall" in the event of heavy vibrations from the construction work. He said a survey eventually was done on his condominium.

"It may sound like last minute," Keenan said, "but I think they notified (neighbors) as soon as they had a plan and were ready to get going."

That’s more notice than I got nearly six years ago.  At that time, the Parker Brothers site was redeveloped by JPI for their Jefferson project.  Construction involved pile driving;  I’m not sure how many piles were driven, but it sure sounded like a lot when they were working.

I never got a letter from them.  Of course, I would have gotten the letter from the Salem Housing Authority, whom they would have notified.  But no letter either way.

The pile driving went on for several months.

I had had a five-year old 27” TV I had expected to keep for 10-15 years.  Five years after the construction it was dead.   I’m sure the pile driving had everything to do with it.

Of course I have no recourse, the construction firm and indeed the original owners of the Jefferson are long gone.

So I’m out $20 for a CRT sticker so it can finally go on the curb.  (I had tried to find the problem and fix it, but had no success finding the source, let alone repairing it.)  The TV is arguably obsolete now due to the impending shutoff of analog TV, but it still rankles.

I hope Ken has better luck than I. 

Salem’s Transportation Needs

MBTA Buses  2008-11-01 009

The Salem News had an editorial on North Shore transit, long overdue:

Patrick's got a long list of important roads and bridges that need fixing, as well as an ambitious plan to extend commuter rail to the South Coast area. But the North Shore has some very immediate and legitimate needs of its own, and it will be up to Congressman Tierney, along with the region's municipal officials and legislative delegation, to press the case for these.

Here's a few we can think of right off the bat:

Public transportation: The region enjoys good commuter rail service with the lines running up to Rockport and Newburyport.

Tierney has long been a supporter of the extension of the MBTA's Blue Line from Wonderland in Revere to Central Square in Lynn. But it's time to finally decide whether that's a viable project or simply a pipe dream, given the property takings that would be required and the opposition of officials in Revere.


That would be a bitter blow for Lynn, and for Salem, if that dream was abandoned.  It’s well known, for example, that the Salem-Beverly bridge replacement had been wanted for fifty years before it actually happened in the late ‘90’s.

Lynn politicians have pointed out that the Blue Line to Lynn has been a dream for just as long, predating the MBTA itself.

I don’t expect the Blue Line to ever come to Salem, as many have dreamed about, but even if it came to Lynn, it would be a ripple effect that would benefit Salem.  It might, for one, improve headways on the very very busy route 455 bus, which is jam-packed for much of its service day with travel to and between downtown Salem, Central Square and the various campuses of Salem State.

Continuing from the News:

For there are alternatives if it's determined an extension of the Blue Line is simply not a realistic goal. These include the purchase of additional trains to provide more frequent service on the commuter rail lines and construction of a surface Silver Line connection to bring commuters from the Chelsea train stop over to the airline terminals and Blue Line stop at Logan Airport.

The Chelsea idea doesn’t appear much more realistic, with Silver Line buses stuck in that warren of roads between Chelsea and 1A, but the idea of extra commuter rail service has a better chance.  We lost something when the old B&M went out of business with their Budd cars, self-contained passenger railcars that were much more flexible to operate than the trainsets the MBTA is using now.

It would be great to see new RDC cars such as you find on other rail lines like Metro-North, and make the Eastern Branch more like rapid transit.  But unsurprisingly, there’s no money for that either.  Salem needs more than just a few extra trains here and there.

We need a lot more.  Including the garage.

Our view Region has major transportation needs of its own -, Salem, MA

Jail project gets extension

Salem Jail

Summer and fall came and went without the promised close on financing and start of the Jail project.  Now it’s delayed again:

SALEM — The Boston developer chosen three years ago to transform the old Salem Jail into residences, a restaurant and a jail exhibit has been given another extension by the Salem Redevelopment Authority.

The deadline for New Boston Ventures to close on the sale of the St. Peter Street site has been moved from this month to the end of February, with construction scheduled to start by the end of March.

It’s been over three years since the Salem Housing Authority sent letters to us on the projected closing of the project, and the end of parking in the small lot next to the Jail.  People still park there, and the old Jail continues to rot away.

If the project dies for good, as is likely in this state, we’ll never know if there was a better developer out there.

Credit crunch hangs up revamp of jail -,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Polling Place Criticized For Lack of Access

Salem Heights Silouette

My old colleague Ken Bonacchi has a letter in the Salem News today, “Polling Place Not Disabled Friendly”.  He and I vote at the same precinct.  He doesn’t like our polling place.  Partial quote:

I live in Ward 2, Precinct 2, in Salem. My assigned polling place is Salem Heights on Pope Street.

It may have been appropriate for this purpose at one time, but that time has long since transpired. Allow me to share with you my experience at this vexing voting venue:

1.) Access: The building as currently configured is not in compliance with the ADA rules for access to persons with a disability. It may work as a building to provide housing, but it fails the test as a polling place.


Finally, I am at the doorway to the area set aside for voting. This is a small room, made smaller by the artifacts and the presence of poll workers.

2.) Accommodation: Tables to the right, tables to the left, voting booths ahead, poll workers, law enforcement and assistants on the loose; add to this mix the voters and their children, and there is barely room enough to enter, cast my vote and leave while trying to make way for those who are entering the same doorway.

How a wheelchair would have run this gauntlet is anyone's guess. I question the presence of children in the ballot area. This area should be restricted to those who are either poll workers, law enforcement or individuals who are voting. This is not the time for children to be present. [Blogger’s note—Ken’s opinion, not mine.]

The machine available for use by persons with impaired vision was not on and ready to use. I am forced to ponder the question: "Do they not expect participation from a person with a disability?" Are they trained in its use when it is time to do so? Who holds the key to initiate the machine?

The room is small, but in fairness it is probably the biggest turnout ever held there since it  became a polling place in 1996.

I do agree with Ken;  I don’t like our polling place.  But for a different reason:  It’s too far away.  It’s a long walk to the polls from my location;  this year, I just hopped the #456 to Proctor St., and got a ride on the way back.

Unlike other election years, there were no volunteer drivers to take people in my building to vote.  I assume the Obama drive in the “other Salem” (NH) sucked out all the volunteers who would have otherwise stayed in Massachusetts, and the McCain campaign had no one on the ground to speak of.  My colleague Jack Harris called for a ride on primary day six weeks ago from the Kerry campaign.  Never showed up, and it appears Kerry, like too many Massachusetts pols, takes his consituents for granted.  I wasn’t going to take that chance myself, hence the bus ride.

It’s less than a year to Salem’s municipal—and Mayoral—elections.  Obama may change our lives in DC, but the real control for Salemmites happens on Washington St.  I’d like to see change—starting with a new polling place for Ward 2 Precinct 2!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween 2008 Closing Fireworks

Salem Halloween 2008-10-31 038 resized

Another Halloween in the books!  I had videoed the multimedia closing ceremony, but sadly, my camera wasn’t up to doing it.  Here are the closing fireworks, though:

See you next Halloween!

Election Day 2008

Election Day Ward 2 Pct 2

I’m back from voting.  Turnout at my polling place was heavy;  for the first time since we had the Votemark machines for the visually impaired, I had to wait in line to use that machine.  This is good!

I met two of my colleagues at the polls, Charlie Reardon, who has been a poll worker at my precinct for five years, and my chairman Jack Harris.  I talked with them about today’s election and what it was like for people with disabilities to vote:

Get out and vote if you haven’t already done so!  If you’re visually impaired, ask to use the new Votemark machines.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More on Question One

Day After Halloween 2008-11-01 027 - Copy (640x480)

I’d thought I had all to say about Question One last week, but a few more tropes have popped up in the news.

We have Prop. 2-1/2!  Property taxes won’t go up if Question One is passed!”

Nelson Benton has expressed this one last Friday.  To which I say:  Naw, Really!?

Cities and towns will see their local aid go down the toilet.  To say nothing will happen is to assume that Kim and her colleagues on the Council will say, “Oh well, we’ll shut down the city!”  It is to assume that citizens will, say, “Yup!  We gotta go without, just like New Hampshire!” when they have to do without elder services or snow removal or the public library.

No, there’ll be override votes.  Often.  In nearly every city and town in Massachusetts.  The rage and discontent will just shift from Beacon Hill to Washington St.  The T will still be broke, if it even runs at all.  Maintenance on state roads?  Bring your own rake and shovel!

A vote for Question One is a vote against the Legislature!  Fire them all!”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t share the cynicism, what with one state senator who’s been using Maidenform Mutual recently.

But where is there the provision in the bill to abolish The Great and General Court?  To convert the State House to condominiums?  Usually, when that kind of bill is written, it’s for a Latin American caudillo, or Emperor Palpatine.

People have to learn they can’t solve all their problems with government!”

And I say in turn:  Yes.  But admit that when government needs to solve problems for you the citizen, that they cannot do it for nothing.  Question One is just asking the impossible.