Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas with my “godchildren”

Katie Harris Says Hi

Katie Harris:  “O Hai, I can has an uncle?”

For years now, I’ve known my chairman, Jack Harris, and even lived in his building.  He adopted two special needs girls.  They insist on being my surrogate nieces whenever I visit.  Katie, the younger, paid her regards moments after I took my coat off and sat down!

Emily Harris gets a present

Emily Harris, the older sister, gets a present here.  She’s not as easy to photograph.

I much prefer a quiet Christmas with few gifts, but Jack and Donna gave me one that seems appropriate:

Huge Remote!

Note the size.  OMG.  I don’t even have a TV at the moment since I had to wait for the work in my apartment to be done before shopping.

But time with friends and family is my favorite time.  Even if they’re “surrogate” family.

 Katie Harris with a favorite toy

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowy Sidewalk Survey

Highland Ave North at Market Basket 1 corrected

Commenting on my last post, Rick asks that “they” clear the sidewalks, since he almost got killed walking the dog.

I concur.  Totally.

The problem comes when “they” are defined.  The current Salem ordnance calls for sidewalks to be cleared by the property owner.

In the photo above, Market Basket owns this sidewalk since they own and manage the supermarket and its associated parking lot that also includes Target.  The adjacent strip mall and Shaw’s are owned by someone else.

I give Market Basket credit for digging out a path, though I still had considerable trouble getting on the bus after food shopping this morning.  Last week’s news that Market Basket will work with the MBTA on a bus stop at the store is welcome, but as I had feared all year, it may likely come too late for this winter.

Across the street, the bus shelter has not been plowed:

Highland Ave South at Pep Boys corrected

There are sidewalks that are owned by the city, sidewalks owned by the state (like Salem Depot), and sidewalks owned by all sorts of private homeowners.

Our only recourse now as a city is to beg all the private property owners with public-facing sidewalks (which is nearly everyone) to clear their sidewalks out front.

Property owners, though, can’t only think of their own lots:

Unitarian Church at Ash St 2 corrected

This is the Unitarian church at Ash St., next door to my building.

Its lot has been plowed and there’s a pathway, obscured by the snowbank, from the lot up to Ash St. off the image to the left.

What’s missing?

There is a public sidewalk at Bridge St.  It is completely blocked.  I use this path to get to Salem Depot when I am running late (inevitable on a morning like this) walking through my parking lot to get to Bridge St.

I had to walk in the street for half a block until the Federal St. condos, whose sidewalks were cleared out as usual, where I could re-enter the sidewalk and head for the Washington/Bridge intersection to cross to the station as I usually do.

The contractor who cleared out the church’s lot is on the hook for this.

Now multiply this by all the properties you might cross with your dog, whether it’s Federal St., Chestnut St. or Washington Sq.

The only bright spot, if anything, is that I am regularly in contact with Jason Silva (the mayor’s chief of staff) to monitor “my” block, the St. Peter/Church/Brown St. area that covers two downtown parking lots.  That still leaves the two churches (St. Peter’s and St. John’s) and their rectories, 10 Federal, Museum Place, my building (owned by the state) and the Salem Jail.

Not easy and not fun.  Yet we go through this each and every winter, complain about it, and do the same thing next year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Big Storm, Winter 2009-2010


A lone car waits for the light at the Veteran’s Riverway.   I measured 7-1/2” outside my apartment at 8 AM this morning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Summary of Salem Commission on Disabilities, December 2009

Curb cut and tactile strip under construction at 10 Federal 

[Due to a technical problem, we lost the audio for the December meeting and cannot air it on SATV this month.   This is a summary of what was discussed at the meeting]

The Commission on Disabilities met December 15th, 2009, 4 PM at SATV.  Present: Jack Harris, Mike Taylor, Debra Lobsitz, Andy LaPointe, David Moisan, Charlie Reardon, Jean Levesque and David Tracht.

  • Jason [the Mayor’s chief-of-staff] met with officials from the MBTA and Market Basket to discuss rerouting the 450 and 456 buses to go through the parking lot.  Market Basket was very supportive and is going to try to make this work.  No timetable was given, but we are optimistic something will happen soon.
  • Project Lifesaver:  Andy LaPointe has good news:  The funding for Project Lifesaver is set and officers of the Salem PD will be getting training in mid-December (21st-22nd).  The public announcement for Project Lifesaver will be given after the first of the year.
  • Congress & Derby:  As noted elsewhere, the traffic signals at Congress & Derby have been approved.
  • “Sober House”/St. Jean’s (Salem & Dow Sts.).  The owner has extended the completion date for his project to July 2010.  The 2nd floor is supposed to be single family residential, with 1st floor retail.  However, according to the city inspector, there are four (unrelated) people living there so the owner is in violation, currently.
  • 4 First St.:  A meeting has been set for Thursday, December 17th, 10 AM with Tom St. Pierre, Jack Harris and the management company at 4 First St. to try to get the access problem in the parking lot (no curbcut to the lot from the building entrance) straightened out.  This has been ongoing for some time.
  • Bypass Road (now Veteran’s Way) bikepath:  Two of four ADA-compliant access paths have been constructed;  Jack will do a site visit with Dave Knowlton to verify this and check on the other two pathways.  The Commission appreciates this and only wishes it were done during original construction, since it was more expensive to fix afterwards.
  • Highland Ave. Audible Signals and crosswalks:  Andy is going to send a registered letter to the state (cc’d to city engineer Dave Knowlton) about two concerns of his (and ours).  Several audible signals on Highland Ave., and one on Loring Ave. (Rt. 1A) @ Omega Pizza, are too soft (low volume) to be heard above traffic.  Also, sidewalk access at Highland Ave @ Ravenna Ave. was very rough and unfinished and not really a sidewalk or curb cut at all.  Andy visited the site with Tom Muxie several months back, and will revisit the area again before sending his letter.
  • The Commission has decided to cancel our January meeting, since it falls on the same day of the state’s special election for the US Senate and several commissioners will be working at the polls.  All business will be deferred to February, but the Commission will keep the public informed of any developments through the city’s web site. 
  • Tentative for February:  Meg Robertson of the State Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired will be our guest, along with Salem  police captain John Jodoin.  Main discussion will be the right turn on red law as it affects blind pedestrians.
  • Next meeting:  February 16th, 2009, 4 PM, Salem Access Television, 285 Derby St.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bypass Road: Now the Veteran’s Riverway

The bypass road at St. Peter St. gets a new name

Finally, Salem’s Last Road has a name.  Last week, the City Council voted to call it “Veteran’s Riverway”.  It’s an appropriate name at that!

Not appropriate though, is the nearly two year delay to decide on a name.  I thought it should be called the “Sosnowski Byway” because my councilor dragged his heels for a very long time before taking action on this.

It seems like a small matter when there are much more important matters facing the city, but naming a road should not take as long as it did.  If the council can’t name it in an hour of discussion in what should be an uncontroversial subject, then I have no respect for that body.

I’ve always known Mike didn’t approve of the road.  This wasn’t a problem;  I didn’t approve either.  And my friend Leo Jodoin is constantly harping on that, “It’s not a bypass road!”

I suspected Mike snubbed the mayor when she dedicated the road and he didn’t show up.  That didn’t reflect well on him. 

Neither does this matter.

At least the courthouse is already named after Mike Ruane.  When I and my colleagues on the Commission attend the opening of the new Salem Depot, I’m not expecting him to be there. 

It’s OK, Mike.  Just don’t blame the mayor.

First Snow of the Season, 2009

Snow on the trees on a Sunday morning, St. Peter's St., Salem

First snow of the season.  I’ve never seen snow on tree branches this early in the season, in the sun no less!  This after a very mild November when we broke the record for first freeze—formerly Dec. 2nd, 1975.

Sidewalks were passable since this wasn’t a big storm.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2009 Christmas Tree Lighting

Salem’s Christmas tree is back at the fountain at Museum Place this year.  The lighting was delayed a week due to bad weather—and delayed for several seconds more when the tree didn’t light up the first time.