Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  At Long Last...
...An actual discussion of a controversial topic by the City Council:
Councilor Christopher J. Tremblay's motion to revisit the retroactive pay increases for local veterans was approved unanimously and sent to the finance committee, but not before Barrett issued a stern admonition.

"If this goes to committee, make sure you send it back with a recommendation of where you want me to take the money for it out of the budget," Barrett said.

The retroactive pay, which ranges between a few thousand dollars in benefits to $13,000, would cost the city about $80,000 in one-time payments.

"Keep in mind that the preliminary costs for the retirement board pensions is up about $97,000 for next year," Barrett said.
Tremblay would not be a lame-duck had he done this just two months earlier. This would have won him the 38 votes he needed. Oh well.

Hopefully the members of the '08-'09 council will learn the lesson that public airings of tough issues build support, not erode it. I am not suggesting arguing for argument's sake. Rather, the notion of inserting issues that have more than one *legitimate* side into the public discourse is healthy for civic life.
  Economic Development for Pownal, Stamford, Stephentown, etc....
RomneyCare is going to chase the working class right out of town and out of the state with crap like this:
NORTH ADAMS — Beginning on Jan. 1, the uninsured in Massa- chusetts won't just be losing a $219 state income tax exemption, they'll be facing penalties of $90 or more a month until they enroll in either their employer's insurance plan or one of the state's several low-cost health insurance options.
According to the state law that went into effect July 1, anyone who can afford health insurance but doesn't have it will be required to pay up to half the cost of the cheapest plan available to them until they enroll.

"If the lowest health-care insurance available to you is $150 a month, then you'll pay $75 every month you're uncovered," [Director of ECUHealth, Chip Joffe-]Halpern said.
For example, a 29-year-old woman working in the retail clothing industry would have a choice of 13 health plans, with premiums ranging from $183.92 a month for a low-end plan without prescription drug benefits to $440 a month for a plan with low co-payments, no deductibles and prescription coverage.
[emphasis mine]
Anyone want to start a pool guessing how long it takes for this whole idea of employer-based insurance with individual mandates to crumble?

What is Beacon Hill going to do when a 100,000+ residents of the Commonwealth get bills in the mail and freak out?

Will they lower the price? Will they grant "amnesty" to late joiners? Will they scrap the whole damn thing and start over? Will the state simply turn over the bills to a collection agency?

I humbly suggest that the two readers of this blog who actually have a say in the way things are handled in Boston start thinking of a "Plan B" ASAP.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
  Giving Thanks After a Rough Year
My wife has been calling the past 15 months, or so, "The Year that sucked!" And she is right. In many ways, the past year has been one of the worst of our adult lives. I've shared only a fraction of the unpleasant events that beset our family this past year on the blog. You'll have to trust me when I say that there is more, much more, that only a handful of friends of family are aware of.

But that leads to the one thing that I am truly thankful for this year. The support and help of all who have given well wishes, offered baby-sitting, cooked a meal, come by for a visit, or maybe just listened.

These gestures, large and small, have made all the difference. They have created the one thing that keeps us plugging away when things are rough, and that is hope. So on this Thanksgiving Day, let us give thanks for hope and the glimmers of joy that it brings.

May 2008 be a great year for all!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
  Fallen by the Wayside?
What ever happened to the rumored investigation of the real estate dealings of North Adams' newest slumlord?

The last I heard, several months ago, there was a request to look into the alleged inflated appraisals and refinancing of the properties. It would strike me that local and state officials would be eager to exploit the atmosphere created by the national sub-prime mortgage mess. This particular series of sales and purported subsequent equity fraud would seem to be easy pickings.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
  Tale of Two Dormant Restaurants
The former EGL/Gideon's Nightery/Joga has new owners. I wish them well, but this article in the Transcript gives no indication that they know anything about the restaurant industry. Good luck. They are going to need it.

And on the other side of the border....

A certain food and drink establishment (Hint: mix red and blue together) whose planned reincarnation was covered by The Transcript a little while back has hit a major, but not unforeseeable, snag. Without confirming the exact details, I am hesitant to say much more. (Getting sued is no fun) But an enterprising young reporter with a few hours of snooping could certainly dig out and confirm the personal foibles that have led the alleged collapse of the deal.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
  Setting Back the Cause of Healthcare for All
I smell a train wreck around the bend.

Hopefully, when Romney-care collapses, the reaction will be to end the notion of employer based health care and bring it closer to the model of Medicare.

Unfortunately, I suspect that health care reform might become a third-rail issue and be dropped from the platforms of the major candidates. It's Harry and Louise all over again if the stars don't align just right.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
  Electoral Condolences
Eric and Chris,

I look forward to voting for you in 2009. Hopefully you both will give me that option.

Best regards,

P.S. The next beer is on me.

P.P.S. Congrats to the winners.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
  Very Cool!
WILLIAMSTOWN - Cable sports giant ESPN will produce its live "College Football GameDay" telecast from Williams College's Weston Field on Saturday, college officials confirmed Tuesday morning.

The national telecast usually originates from the site of the week's biggest major college football game. Venues this season have included State College, Pa., for Ohio State versus Penn State, Eugene, Ore., for Arizona State versus Oregon and Baton Rouge, La., for Florida versus Louisiana State.

This week it's Williams versus arch-rival Amherst in Williamstown - the first time the show is being produced at the site of a Division III college football game.
I'll be there. There's nothing like a good Division III game!!
Monday, November 05, 2007
Last night there were a string of break-ins at commercial properties in Williamstown. Details later.....

UPDATE: The Transcript has the details here. And yes, my employer was one of the stores victimized. Friggin' crackheads looking for cash..... grrrr.
  Not Much Has Changed in 12 Years
A little piece of North Adams Election history just for fun:


In the past several weeks, I have been criticized on your editorial page by letter writers who have single me out by name or have grouped me with one or more city councilors who, according to the general tenor of comments, have, by criticizing individuals who have appeared before the City Council, in some way " suppressed democracy" in North Adams. Perhaps I should now respond.

First, a lesson in civics. Democracy, contrary to the notions of Eric Rudd and former Councilor Vincent Melito, is not the right of someone to appear before the City Council., advance some hare-brained scheme and then pout because no one leapt from their chair in a swoon to kiss the speaker's fanny in awe and admiration. Democracy is the result of the democratic process when the eligible electorate have made their selection of the individuals that they want to represent them. As of this writing , Mr,Melito , the North Adams electorate has deliberately, and I might add, intelligently, not elected you to represent them since 1987 - your public profession of "representing" the "people" on various issues, most lately, obituary fees, notwithstanding.

And, Mr. Rudd, who didn't have the guts to run for public office, apparently believes there's nothing wrong with feet of clay as long as he can sculpt something with the clay. Somehow, his dalliance with a run for mayor, has led Mr. Rudd to believe that his ideas and proposals have greater merit than those who are charged with the responsibility of, and , who will be held accountable for, making decisions on behalf of the people who elected them.

I might refresh Mr. Melito's memory about his commitment to "democracy" when as a council president in 1989 he maliciously refused to appoint myself and fellow councilors, AlMarden and Louis Sinclitico, to any council committee or liaison assignments. this action by Mr. Melito in essence denied the people, who had elected the three of us, to effective representation on the council. So much for Mr. Melito's pretense in defending "democracy" and the "people's will."

Gary Hillard, in a recent letter chastised me for "belittling" a candidate (Mr. Melito) for council, "before the election even gets started." Yo! Gary! The election doesn't start until the polls open on Tuesday, Nov. 7. I bet you meant "campaign."Maybe if you spent less time waddling your welfare butt up and down Curran Highway and got a job, you could not only pay taxes like most hard-working folk do but you could also afford to buy a dictionary which might explain the difference between and election and a campaign for election.

In another recent letter, Dr. Peter May defended Mr. Rudd's idea for textured sidewalks in the downtown, and, by doing so, took the council to task for not adhering to Mr. Rudd's suggestions. Dr. May apparently picked a leaf from one of the newly set concrete squares and noticed a fossil-like imprint of the leaf. Dr. May apparently instantly "knew" what Mr. Rudd had meant. The telepathic relationship between Dr. May and Mr. Rudd is mind-boggling. Because Mr. Rudd, never, before the council meeting, at the council meeting, or even after the council meeting in his lengthy whine-litter to The Transcript, publicly let anyone know what he meant by "textured" sidewalk. Dr. May joins the whiners in blasting some councilors (obviously, I was one) for mocking Mr. Rudd. Well, Dr. May, he deserved to be mocked, as did his ideas.

One of my great fears is that the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will encourage an influx of artistic city types, like Mr. Rudd, who see North Adams as fertile territory to "put one over on the local yokels." Artists have egos even larger than politicians. No one can fully fathom the depths of their creative genius. Or at least so their delusion runs. The mayor and City Council have a responsibility to the taxpayers of North Adams and those others who fund the grants we receive, such as the outside-funded downtown street and sidewalk project. Money for arty-craftsy decoration and embellishments- however creative or aesthetic - were not included.

Consider the man hours, and thus the added expense, if the concept of putting leaf imprints in the concrete had been instituted. Of course, visitors might not see the leaf patterns as aesthetic touches. They might thing the contractor did a lousy job and failed to remove the fallen leaves before the concrete dried. and I can see the some of the guys onPetricca's crew: "Chauncy! Watch it. You've got too many leaves in that quadrant, the symmetrical symbiosis of axilary [sic] aesthetics is inconsistent." " Shut the ---- up, Floyd, or I'll make pattern of your face." Really!

Actually, I'm just surprised that Mr. Rudd or Dr. May didn't carry this hare-brained proposal one step further and suggest, in order to truly integrate the arts and the interests of the downtown merchant, that each merchant "adopt" a section of sidewalk outside their establishment and have imprints of their products put in the concrete. For example, outside the Pizza House we could have imprints of pepperoni and anchovies; theMoulton family could have eyeglass imprints in the sidewalk outside the Spectacle Shoppe. How about paint brushes and sandpaper in front of Aldo's; nickles. dimes and quarters outside North AdamsHoosac Savings and across the street at Bank of Boston. Hell, further down in the sidewalk in front of Brooks Pharmacy you could have aspirin and condom imprints. Wow! Ain't the imagination wonderful?

And speaking of textured sidewalks - actually we already have them. They're called "cracks" and that's what we're trying to fix.

Mr. Rudd is the proto-typical artist/art promoter that we should expect the MASS MoCA. Remember the pile of scrap metal bales and the old car with the attached PVC pipe that Mr. Rudd exhibited outside the Beaver Mill last summer? That is "art?" Mr. Rudd is the type that would put a pile of dog poop on the sidewalk on the corner of Main and Marshall Street - attach a plaque on the wall of the adjacent building which reads "Poodle's Paradise - artist unknown." The scary thing is if you could get car load of New Yorkers to stop at that corner, they would undoubtedly " ooh" and "aah" about the texture, the contours, and the overall affect. Surely, one would say, "What a shame the artist is unknown. I'd really like to commission a similar piece for my coffee table back home."

The colored sidewalk idea of Mr. Rudd is equally ludicrous. Perhaps not in added costs or man hours to do, but in public safety. typically artists put form (aesthetics) before function 9use) and this is a typical case. Colored sidewalk squares are dangerous to anyone with depth perception problems - and, the elderly often fit this category. The shift from one color to another as one walks from one concrete square to another gives the illusion of shadow which in turn implies the presence of varied heights. It would have the effect of camouflaging the real surface. Any World War II vet who crossed the Atlantic or Pacific by ship knows that camouflaging on warships and transports was designed to throw off the accuracy of enemy submarines torpedoes. Different colored sidewalk squares would be pretty, no doubt, but totally unfit - at least for many of our citizens - for use.

Textured sidewalks, by the same token, hold ice and snow longer and often make it more difficult to shovel down to the grade. When it comes to making a choice I will always choose the health and safety of the public over these so-called creative and imaginative ideas that Mr. Rudd has advance and Mr.Melito, Mr. Hillard and Dr. May have gone Ga Ga over.

I have been a veteran of both appointed and elected office, dating back to 1972. I have taught public administration as well as urban policy and planning courses for over 20 years. During that time I have warmly received many new ideas - but they were good ideas, not non- functional ones. Maybe Mr. Rudd should restrict himself to erecting junk piles outside the Beaver Mill; Dr. May should restrict himself to popping spinal chords [sic]; Mr. Hillard should restrict himself to finding a job; and Mr.Melito, well, maybe he should help Mr. Hillard - now there's an imaginative and creative idea.

Clark H. Billings
206 Corinth St.
North Adams
Thursday, November 01, 2007
  Time to Take Cheap Shots
Just last August The Transcript editorial page told us that the lack of challengers to the city council and Mayor was a sign of the voters' contentment. Those of us who actively watch local politics said it was apathy.

Last night's city council beauty pageant, with no calls whatsoever from residents, appears to have brought our hometown paper's editor over to the apathy interpretation as well.

But that is where my agreement with the paper's current editorial end:

If Glenn feels so strongly about national issues invading local politics, why on earth didn't he write a similar editorial after the Mayor was recently interviewed on Channel 9 during Sen. Kerry's visit? It was a brief but very pointed commentary on federal budgets and foreign policy - not on Lowe's or Mass MoCA or schools - It was about the war.

Maybe I am in a minority who thinks that local governments should selectively opine (sometimes loudly) on national issues in order to create platforms for residents to join larger movements, but criticizing a council candidate simply because he wants to occasionally engage issues that don't end at the city limits is, in itself, naive - Especially when the current council doesn't do much of anything aside from add the constitutionally required legislative legal window dressing to North Adams' charter and the body-politic. Name more than three issues the current council has taken up *on their own* in the past two years. Do you get my point?

This editorial cemented my vote for all three council challengers simply because....

As of right now I can only think of four incumbents who are worth keeping. The rest aren't bad (with the exception of one who *really* needs to go.) They just aren't very good, either.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

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Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

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