Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unofficial Minutes of the Salem Commission on Disabilities, April 2009

Salem Commission on Disability March 2009 2009-03-17 011

The Salem Commission on Disabilities meeting for April 2009 was held at SATV at 4 PM on April 21st, 2009.  Attending were Jack Harris, Chair,  David Tracht, David Martel, Mike Sosnowski, Council Liaison, David Moisan, Debra Lobsitz, Jean Levesque, ADA Coordinator, Charlie Reardon, Co-Chair and Andy LaPointe via teleconference.   Mike Taylor and Jean Harris did not attend.

Jack:  A quiet month—which means something always comes up.  [Shhh!—DM]

Bypass road MAAB update:  A variance was submitted for the bike path and a fine hearing was scheduled for MassHighway.  MassHighway’s attorney got in touch with the MAAB and the fine hearing is on hold.  [From the letter Jack passed around, it appears that MassHighway submitted an “Alternate Plan 1” for addressing accessibility issues on the bikepath but no details were provided.—DM]

The Witch House:   They have put in a variance request that is approved and they are set. 

David Martel:  The director of the Witch House wants us (Dave Moisan, and Dave Martel) to make a video of the non-accessible areas of the Witch House.  A narrator would explain the details and highlights.  Dave Martel would donate a DVD player.

Jean Levesque:   The House of Seven Gables did this.

Jack:  The Witch House is not a non-profit but is owned by the city.  He can talk with the Planning Dept. but this will be a long process.

Dave Martel:  They have a monitor but not a DVD.

David Moisan:  I need a second opinion from our executive director [Sal Russo, SATV].  This is not like a regular access production but it will be part of their business.  If this were the Peabody Essex Museum, they would hire commercial videographers for this.  Can’t say it’s impossible but it is not SATV’s main purpose.  SATV indeed has rented equipment for commercial use at commercial rates but it is secondary to our membership’s use.   It is not a simple project.

Jack:  This needs to be durable and changeable;  Seven Gables is an excellent example.   Dave Martel:  I know a person to talk to, when he comes back from vacation in Costa Rica.   Debra Lobsitz:  Any discussion on closed-captioning? 

David Moisan:  It can be done, the video can be sent to a post house, but it’s been expensive and SATV has never been able to do that for any production despite our fervent desires.  I am concerned that the Witch House doesn’t realize how complicated this project could be.

Debra:  Must think about captioning and audio description as well.    Jack:  Look into accommodating deaf-blind.  Doesn’t appear that a lot of thought has gone into the Witch House’s proposal.  Debra:  Most people don’t appreciate how complex this is technically;  lighting alone could make or break the video.

Andy LaPointe:  Back in 1999, when the House of Seven Gables hosted an anniversary celebration of the ADA, we had some sensitivity training and held a few meetings here.  The tour guides should have experience in dealing with people with disabilities.  Maybe Andy could meet with them?

David Martel:  Yes, the narrative tour would have to be modified.   Andy:  We should all meet with them and contribute our expertise.

Jack:  We need to approach the city and Salem Now and the Chamber and revisit the House of Seven Gables, the Witch House and other Salem attractions to make sure they are accessible and to get publicity for visitors with disabilities.  We’re on the right track.  If anyone hasn’t been there, they should go down to see the ramp.  Jean Levesque:  Any handrails?  Jack & Dave Martel:  Because of the grade and the width, no handrails were needed.

MAAB Update on “Sober House” in the Point:   Jack:   From Tom Hawkins of the MAAB:  The “Sober House” in the Point has had trouble meeting accessibility requirements.   The owner of the house promised to become compliant, but in recent weeks he was arrested and the occupants removed.  The property is very unlikely to be used for the owner’s original purpose [a sober house] again.  Tom St. Pierre [Salem building inspector] was asked about MAAB input:  If there is a new owner of the property, they would need to start again with the MAAB from scratch.   

Commission member in the Salem News:  David Moisan was in the news once again, featuring his volunteer service for the Boston Marathon.  Jack:  Great picture and he learned how old Dave is!  It highlights not only his work for the Commission but also for SATV and outside SATV.  Congratulations all around from the Commission.

Andy:  He’s a great ham radio operator!

Salem Common Playground:  Jack:  The Salem Common Playground is moving forward.  There was a fundraiser held and $9,000 raised out of $150,000 needed.  (They are said to have $26,000 so far.) 

David Moisan:  It was in the Gazette;  the facility would be accessible but not completely due to space issues.  The playground would be built on the footprint of the existing playground so a full ramp was not possible.  Neighbors had been concerned that the playground would block their views of the historic district but the Salem Historical Commission didn’t agree with that.

Nothing was mentioned of the design of Steve Dibble that was turned down over the winter.  Jack:  They have a design now and the Historical Commission settled on a color scheme.

David Moisan:  Do we have any contacts at all with the organizers [Parents United].  Jack:  He does have the email address of one of the organizers.  Charlie Reardon’s ophthalmologist is the husband of the chief organizer of the tot lot, Sarah Wheeler-Gaddipati.  We want to have the right information so we can be most helpful.

David Martel:  Something going on with the K of C building [on the Common]?  Dave Moisan:  Not in Salem.  The Danvers K of C building will be demolished and the K of C will lease space in it.  That was also my first thought when I read the headline in the Salem News.

Andy:  Back to the playground.  We were looking at fundraising for the playground a few years ago.  There are organizations that would donate spaghetti suppers and the like.  Is that something we want to do?  Can we ask the Moose?

Jack:  I hope this group is doing that.  Personally, I’m standing back, though I want to and am ready to help.  I haven’t gotten a lot of positive response.    The group seems to have a handle on things so I must assume they have someone on board advising them.  Fundraising is on them too.  Andy:  Why aren’t we involved?  We are the disabled community.

David Moisan:  This has been a sore point for me for a long time.  Readers of my blog know that I’m not a fan of the neighborhood associations in Salem.  I’ve said a lot of words about the Common neighborhood group.  I don’t think the Salem Common group thinks we’re important.  The Gazette article quotes Gaddipati as saying that “one parent of a special needs child requested access”, when it is an open secret that the Harrises (Jack and Donna) have two special needs girls that would benefit from the tot lot.  I think the worst of the Common Association and Parents United.  I ask Jack:  Why aren’t we talking with them?  The tot lot is not only for the Common association but for all visitors and residents in Salem.

Jack:  We’ve gone as far as we can with this.  We stuck out our hand and made our gesture of help.  I learned from the K of C deal that we can jump up and down too much.  We’ll make our contacts and see what else we can do.  Andy:  Are we giving up?  I’m willing to do more than my share.  If Peabody can do it, why can’t we?

Jack & Mike Sosnowski:  It’s not “we”.  It’s them [Parents United].   There are many competing groups in the Common, including the Salem Common Neighborhood Association, Parents United (Gaddipati’s group) and us.

Mike S:  The playground evolved into a handicapped-accessible facility because I thought that would be the best way of getting funding.  Today it’s much more difficult.  I have been trying to get it funded through CDBD because it benefits the entire city, its visitors and residents.

Jean L:  25% of students in our schools are special ed.  Can we invite Parents United to one of our meetings?  Jack:  I’ve been trying.  As Councilor Sosnowski points out, what’s the deal;  who’s involved?  We need to somehow coordinate this;  we can do it but it will take effort.

Willows Bathrooms:   Jack:   The new restrooms at the Willows are done and apparently very nice.  This was a very very old issue for the Commission.  People should take a look at the new facilities. [um, OK—DM]  

Mike S.:  Not my ward, but the parking meters at the Willows have been a success for merchants.  But what of some seniors that can’t pay for the lot?   Debra:  Could the Council do something?

Transportation:   Jack:  There needs to be a better transportation system around Salem, especially when the new pier come and cruise ships arrive.  Mike S:  There needs to be bus service to the college.  Dave Moisan:  The college already has a shuttle service by Cavalier from the college to Salem Depot and it is open to Salem residents.  Jack:  I’m not sure the buses are accessible.  Dave Moisan:  I had thought by federal law all buses for use in commercial service needed to be ADA compliant and had lifts.  Jack:  I’m familiar with the college’s service but we still need expanded service.

Dave Martel:  Will the bowling alley behind Canal ever be a train station?  David Moisan:  There was a proposal a few years ago [around 10 years] to make South Salem [the old alley] a flag stop on the commuter rail, servicing Salem State.  That project is not on any capital plan I’ve seen.  There was much opposition in the neighborhood due to parking issues.  It’s not on any list to do.  Don’t hold your breath.

Commission on Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 

Debra L:  I’m working on a group, the Access Workgroup, an offshoot of the state advisory board of the Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  I’m working on best practice papers that tell you how to make a venue accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.  I want to draft a letter to the municipal commissions on disabilities listing our services and resources.  I put together a packet of information explaining how to get services like CART and ASL interpreters from the Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Commission:  What is CART?

CART has a trained operator transcribing speech using a stenograph machine, much like a court reporter’s.   It is a live service.  [It’s very similar to closed captioning, except the captions are displayed on a projection screen on site—DM.] 

Jean L:  Can anyone get services?  Yes, but CART is expensive.  You need to reserve them in advance.

Andy:  Is the information packet in Braille?  Debra:  If I send the information electronically, can you Braille it?  Andy:  Not a problem.   [Debra and Andy sort out various technical details on the documents—DM] 

Debra:  I can put together as many of these packets as we need.  These folders include information that’s already on the MCDHH website.  They don’t include best practices because they haven’t been written yet.  They should be ready in about a year, and they will be published online.

Mike S:  What about computer speech recognition?  Hasn’t it improved?   Debra:  Everybody always ask this;  they have so much hope in the technologies.  Human beings are still so much better at understanding speech than anything a computer can do.   Jack:  I have voice recognition software due to my vision impairments;  it isn’t perfect.   Verizon has had problems in the northeast because of our Boston dialect.

Debra:  I get asked that question a lot;  there are a lot of ads that hype voice recognition software.  Under the best conditions, the best you can get is 85% accuracy.  This is not great.  Dave Martel:  My ex-wife is a medical transcriptionist and has to enunciate very carefully;  the system is trained for her voice.

Debra:  Some people are easier to understand than others;  the machines don’t deal well with this.  Jack:  Interpretation can be extremely expensive, especially as different communities of disabled people come out and ask for accommodations;  ASL and CART is the most expensive of all, and a serious potential expense for the city. 

Mike S.:  We had a meeting where someone needed interpretation and it was an ordeal.  Debra:  The lead time on this is at least two weeks.  If there is an ongoing situation that needs interpreters, CART or captions, you can set up a remote service which might be easier to arrange. 

Jack:  Captioning is available on TV’s but most don’t know it’s there.  [There was a discussion amongst the commissioners of various technical details about captioning.]  It’s a new frontier.

Old Business:  Commission Office:  David Moisan:  A few months ago, Ken Bonnachi wanted to come back to the Commission to do the minutes and administer the office we want to set up [at the South Harbor Garage].  I’m very concerned because Ken appeared to be the champion of this proposal and what happens now if he falls out of the picture?

Jack:  I don’t know.  I have tried to reach Ken.  His wife works at the Globe with its well-known financial troubles.  We will move on.  We will talk with Jason [the mayor’s chief of staff].

David Moisan:  If it’s a good idea, it’s worth doing with or without Ken.  But I don’t want to hear that Ken is driving the whole process and we can’t go forward.  I’m very worried about being able to get all the things we need, from scratch, to have an office. 

Jack:  Ken is not driving things here;  I was the one who wanted office space.   I had discussed office space at the new senior center, and we had been promised it, possibly.  Dave Moisan:  It was speculative??  Jean L:  We were talking about 120 Washington, but the lease is expiring soon and I don’t think the city was ever serious about giving us space there.

Dave Moisan:  My concern is not the location, whereever it is, it is supplying and staffing and running the office.  We won’t be sitting on milk crates and old boxes.  Jean L:  In good weather, we should go down to our existing office [at South Harbor] and look at it.  Dave Moisan:  We own a copier that we aren’t using and can’t get rid of, ever since we decided to lease our machines.  That may be available to us.  I floated the idea of getting the machine a year ago and SATV seemed responsive to the idea.  But, that’s not the only thing we need!

Andy:  We have money from last year’s access training?  Jack:  I will talk with Jason and push this harder.  I talked with Mike also about getting funding from HP parking tickets as was discussed in previous meetings.

Andy:  I had asked Linda Elworthy [former director of the Council on Aging] about having an office at the CoA due to our natural alignments and common interests with them.  David:  Agreed completely, but it’s just too speculative for me.  I don’t take a project as a given until the construction trucks show up!

Jack:  This doesn’t appear to be an unusual situation for most municipalities;  we just need to work at it more.  I think it will happen.

Housekeeping:  Charlie will run next month’s meeting due to Jack’s medical procedure.  He will provide information about the office.  Jack will keep trying to reach Ken because he’s our preferred minute-taker.   Dave Moisan:  I want to make the meeting audio available on line temporarily until we get a permanent arrangement with the city.  This will happen sometime in late May, after SATV gets a new network server.

Meeting adjourned at 5:45.  Next meeting is May 19th, 2009, at the SATV offices at 285 Derby St. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Salem Jail Renovation—Finally!

After three years, after many delays, I was wondering if the Salem Jail project would actually happen.  Three years ago, I got a notice in my building, which uses the Jail for overflow parking, that the lot would be closed.  Obviously not, as this picture in late March shows:

We got another notice:

When I attended the last meeting of the Planning Board in March, people were optimistic that the deal would close.  Was it for real this time?

Apparently, yes!

As also reported by Globe North, New Boston Ventures has finally closed on the Salem Jail.  There will be apartments, which could be converted to condos after five years, a restaurant (one restaurant, not multiple as the Globe implies) and a museum.

I’ve posted about the Jail before, with very much mixed feelings ("Salem Jail developer switching from condos to apartments", "Salem Jail Visit" and "Salem Jail Update".)

I even filmed the inside of the Jail!

(By the way, I have asked Dave Gauthier to reschedule the full documentary I did for air on SATV.  Since it is evergreen programming for Salem, I gave SATV perpetual permission to rerun it at various times, including Halloween, and now.)

I’m expecting and fearing my future neighbors may be insecure and obsessed with historical value;  some wise-ass on the Salem News discussion boards already explained that the Jail residents would see the bypass road, apartment buildings, and my own elderly apartment complex.

Thanks.  I’m proud to have lowered property values in Salem since 1963, the Common since 1985 and downtown since 1995!

Despite that, I have no animosity towards the developers.  I’m glad the building is being preserved;  it became one of my favorite places when I filmed it last spring, despite its sad history.  We’ve seen so many promising projects die in Salem because we had to have them perfect when we could not possibly get that, that I’m glad to see one project go forward in this economy (which is not over the hump by any measure.)

I had a nice chat with the developers after the planning board meeting, and an invitation to stop by the construction trailer to get permission for pictures.  I’m planning on recording the project as it unfolds, and scheduling a site visit with the Salem Commission on Disabilities when the project progresses to completion.

I was a Boston Marathon volunteer

[Photo by Paul Keleher]

Last week, I was a Boston Marathon volunteer, and I was in the Salem News!   (“They Also Serve:  Local volunteers help keep Boston Marathon running”)

I’m a ham radio operator (N1KGH) and have been for 18 years.  Amateur radio has a long tradition of public service, assisting emergency officials when regular communications are unavailable.  Ham radio is usually mentioned when there’s news of a tornado hitting a community, and radio operators work in shelters and emergency operations centers to get people and supplies moving.

Salem once had amateur radio involvement through our former Civil Defense director, John Smedile, but that faded away when he retired just before I got my license.  I’m not currently involved with any emergency planning in Salem.

However, I am a trained severe-weather spotter.  And I do volunteer for two big events in the Boston area.  One of these is the Marathon. 

I work in the finish area.  My job, broadly, is to assist the medical team, communicating with others to get supplies and assistance.   Many times, I have “shadowed” race officials, helping them get in contact with other officials to get supplies they need, or to provide updates on conditions.  (“Don’t send any more runners to Med Tent B, it’s full!”)  There are fifty hams on the finish team, working with hundreds of volunteers and medical staff in the area.

This is my radio:

And these are my Marathon credentials:

This year, I spent time in our backup medical tent on St. James St at Park Plaza.  (The center of finish line activity is the huge medical tent that takes up a whole block in front of the BPL.)   The ham that was there had radio problems, so I offered to relieve him.  From then on, I provided updates of our status (“We’ve had 8 beds free for the past half hour.”)  Our tent served over 300 runners this day (out of a 50-bed tent;  the main tent has 200.)

In past years, I’ve been able to watch the runners;  this year, and most years (I’ve done this since 2002) I’m just too busy.  Every year I want to bring my camera, but don’t, because photos in the medical tents are a Bad Idea and I spend almost all my time there.  I did wave to the women’s wheelchair winner this year, Wakako Tsuchida, as she passed through the main tent.

The ARRL, our amateur radio association, also reported on the Marathon.

I had one question from the News reporter that didn’t make the paper:  Why do we use ham radios?  Why not walkie-talkies or cell phones?

The BAA did once have Verizon phones for its race officials, up to a few years ago.  That got expensive.  At one time, early in the history of cell phones, some carriers did provide phones and service to charity events but that never became widespread.

The other reason is range and reliability.  The blister-packed GMRS radios you find at Wal-Mart don’t work so great in Copley Square on Marathon Day.   You will never see more radios and cellphones in use in that four-block area anywhere in Boston but on Patriot’s Day.  Combine that with the numerous transmitters on the Prudential (including Channel 68) and you need a good radio even on a regular day.

Ham radio works at least as well as professional equipment, and with much less infrastructure (we were dispatched out of a trailer next to the medical tent.)  More importantly, we have a relationship with the BAA that lets us take this burden out of their hands.

As I write this, I am (and should be) long-rested from my very long day (up at 5 AM to catch the first train to Boston, back at 7 PM) at the Marathon.

But in a week, I’m working again, for the Walk for Hunger:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pedestrians and the new Senior Center

As reported a while ago by both the Salem News and the Gazette, the City Council has approved the Boston & Bridge St. location for the new senior center.

It’s a familiar place:  I lived in this neighborhood, on nearby Varney St, for 9 years from 1973 to 1982, and spent most of that time walking, to the old Crosby’s on Essex St., to downtown Salem, downtown Peabody or to the North Shore Shopping Center via the old Michaud bus (now the 465). 

I knew this neighborhood well.  Except for the empty lot of the former Sylvania, and the Walgreens that replaced Ideal Finishing, the intersection in the photo hasn’t changed a bit.

And that’s the real problem in the neighborhood.

Bridge St., and the one-way Proctor St. directly opposite it, effectively splits Boston St. in two.  There are no pedestrian signals, and only faded crosswalks between the side of Boston St. east of Bridge, and the west end of Boston St. past Dunkin Donuts.

There are only two places in the area to cross Boston St. itself:  Pope St., which you can just see in the photo above at the triple-decker (the old Witches’ Brew), and at Proctor & Grove St.:

Except for having modern (1990’s) pedestrian signals, this too is as it was when I lived here.

There is bus service still:

And a bus stop at the future senior center:

Some seniors think there’s nothing there for them in this neighborhood and it’s dangerous, so why should the center be here?

But, the AOH is here, familiar to many seniors:

And the Moose on Grove St., deep in the heart of Blubber Hollow:

I do know why Boston St. has been the way it is for years:

The Bypass Road.

The road was originally going to proceed parallel to Bridge St. past the B&M yard (now Salem Depot) and go down Harmony Grove Road.

My dear friend Leo Jodoin put his hopes on that, as did many in the neighborhood, including the Gallows Hill Neighborhood Association.

As long as the bypass road was to go down that way, the thinking went at the time, all the traffic will go off Boston St. (as it has gone off Bridge St. with the new road.)  As if by magic, pedestrian traffic never has to be considered!  (Back in the day, the state highway department never thought of pedestrians, either.)

Except for new pedestrian signals at Grove & Pope Sts., the signals at Boston and Bridge St. are virtually unchanged from the late-seventies, the last time signals were put in at that intersection.

If the bypass road is going in, why bother improving the intersection?

But of course it didn’t go in.  Leo intones on his show at every opportunity, “It’s NOT a bypass road!”

But that won’t change things.

He can say that on his show ad infinitum.  It’s his show.

I can’t.  Salem can’t.  Pining over the bypass road will not help the pedestrians on Boston St.  When the senior center comes in, this area will have to change.  It would have had to change anyway;  Sylvania is gone and Flynntan has long been a ruin. 

This is the last major intersection in Salem that’s unimproved.  That there haven’t been plans to redesign it is nothing short of negligence.

I wish Leo would want it changed;  it’s his neighborhood.  But there’s still hope.

A few months ago, I talked with Jerry Ryan about the pedestrian problems on Highland Ave.  He was very willing and able to get involved with the redesign that MassHighway is doing on that street.

Jerry, I know you lost the debate on the senior center.  I know I disagreed with you on that.  And I know I’m not your constituent.  But I know you read my blog.

I will ask you to please do what you can to see that Boston St. is improved for traffic and pedestrian access.  When the senior center and associated development comes in, there will be more pedestrian traffic. 

Help us get talking pedestrian signals like there are on North St.

Last of all, don’t take Boston St. for granted.  Toward the end of my stay in that neighborhood, I saw it go downhill when the factories closed and Flynntan burned.  Over the years we’ve taken that for granted.  The neighborhood looks terrible, but that’s the way it always looks, the way it always is, so don’t change it, goes the feeling.

Don’t do that.

Boston St. needs rebuilding.  It needs restitching at Boston and Bridge.  Your neighborhood, the city and I are counting on it.

Update:  The Salem News praises Bridge St. redevelopment but doesn’t mention Boston St.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Proposed MBTA cuts and Salem

The Globe has published the list of cuts the MBTA is considering.  They’re devastating.  Here are the cuts that affect Salem:

- Reduce weekday evening bus service by 50 percent after 8 PM.
- Reduce weekend bus service by 50 percent
- Eliminate service at Quincy and Lynn bus garages after 9 PM. weekdays and all day on weekends
- Eliminate highest net cost per passenger bus routes
- Moderate "surgical" cuts to bus service
- Eliminate routes due to network redundancy
- Reduce THE RIDE service area

Operations and Service Development

- Eliminate Suburban Bus Program subsidy
- Eliminate Commuter Boat Program subsidy
- Reduce THE RIDE service area to within 0.75 miles of fixed route in 29 communities

Commuter Rail

- Eliminate weekday commuter rail service after 7 PM.
- Eliminate all Saturday and Sunday commuter rail service

The impact:

  • Salem would be unreachable on nights and weekends via commuter rail.  This would cripple Haunted Happenings—we depend on the train as the main means of transportation for revelers.  It would be impossible to hold events at night if people couldn’t get to Salem at all via public transportation.
  • Salem commuters would be trapped by their cars;  as many people have pointed out, they’d have to drive into Boston if there were even the chance they would have to work late.
  • Salem bus passengers will not be able to get anywhere on the weekends if service from Lynn Garage is stopped on weekends or early evenings  (If your domestics need to shop for themselves, I guess that’s a shame.)
  • The surgical service cuts the T is considering would probably include the 451 and 465, both of which have had trouble getting ridership
  • The shuttle service that serves Peabody’s Centennial Park—an employment center—from Salem Depot is in danger.
  • Lastly, RIDE service for people with disabilities is in considerable danger of reductions.

Driscoll and Keenan need to stand up and take this as a serious threat to Salem, which has paid into the MBTA system for decades.  John, don’t wait for your masters to tell you what to do:  Pass the reforms you’ve talked about with me (over and over again) and keep this from happening.

Update:  The North Shore Alliance for Economic Development says the cuts would be devastating not only to Salem but the whole North Shore.

Update:  This story made Globe North this week (5/3), and Boston business leaders criticize the cuts.

Street Sign Fail

Street Sign Fail, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Boston & Essex St: FAIL

Furey’s Double Standard on Public Housing

No Smoking Morency Manor (800x600)

As reported in the Salem News a few weeks ago, my councilor at large Tom Furey wants to ban smoking in public housing units.  Smoking is already prohibited in the common areas of public housing complexes such as my own at Morency Manor, but individual tenants may light up in their own units.

This isn’t about smoking to me.  I don’t smoke.  Too many of my friends and colleagues do and it bothers me, however, I’ve almost never complained (except in my house or my server room.)

Two reasons why this is not a good idea:  One, public housing is run by the state;  it’s not clear what the city can do to regulate it.  Carol MacGown, my landlord, is not optimistic:

The state agency that funds the city's public housing doesn't think the proposal is even legal, said Salem Housing Authority Executive Director Carol MacGown.

"Their feeling is that if you wanted to have a policy for all residential housing, that would be a good place to start," MacGown said. "Why would they start with the poor people? It's mean-spirited, and invoking that would have a desperate impact on handicapped people and all residents."

I’m not even sure the city could have a policy like that for residential housing.  Every so often, I get a mail from the SHA offices pleading with me, and all other residents, to please, please not use candles.  It’s happened from time to time that some tenant lights a candle too close to the curtains or forgets it’s lit and there is a fire.

From the language of the letters I get the SHA cannot really ban candles or lighters or matches.  They will plead as hard as they might for us not to use them but they can’t ban them.

(I don’t have candles in the house.  I’m a city boy with no coordination for lighting matches.  I’d much rather have 10 flashlights around the house than any candle.)

The other reason, one that has hardened into a chip on my shoulder, is the idea that poor people are more immoral than the rest of us;  its converse is the well-known idea “Money is the report card of Life” that a lot of Salem politicians seem to subscribe to.

In West Virginia, for example, officials want to tie Medicaid and food stamps to drug testing.

A good number of people in public housing, though, have mental illnesses and they have often self-medicated with illegal drugs and cigarettes. 

Throw them out of public housing and they won’t magically vanish;  they’ll be on our streets.  These aren’t the hard-core homeless, but the ones who got help and did the right things to help themselves.

It’ll be a disaster.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Furey was listening to Howie Carr.

But I know Tom, he’s a liberal (no insult, I’m one too) and a long time Ted K. fan.

I’m aware that smoking is a hard public health problem, but trampling on someone’s dignity just because they have the “wrong” habit and live in the wrong place is not good.

Welfare baiting is not what I expect from you, Tom.