Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Friday, December 19, 2008
  Senator Jim Bunning is Scum
Remember the asshole Senator from Kentucky who got a suburban Detroit baseball card signing canceled after he helped scuttle the bridge-loan to GM and Chrysler?

Well, it turns out that he is truly a despicable person:
he non-profit Jim Bunning Foundation, which collects the money the former pitcher gets from autographing baseball memorabilia, has taken in more than $504,000, Senate and tax records show.

Of that, Bunning has earned $180,000 in salary for working a reported hour a week.

By contrast, the foundation has given $136,435, or about one-fourth of its income, to churches and charitable groups around Northern Kentucky. The largest sums went to local Catholic churches Bunning has attended.
I know the non-profit and charitable world from the periphery. I cannot imagine the balls it takes to pay yourself the biggest chunk of your foundation's pie.

Jim Bunning is a disgrace to Kentucky, the Senate, Major League Baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and anything else he is affiliated with.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Am I the only one who is amused by the right wingers who think that freak snow in the desert southwest is a sure sign that "global warming" is a hoax?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
  Morty to the Second City
It was announced this morning that Morton Owen Shapiro, the President of Williams College, has accepted the position of President at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
(Thanks to Rusty for this instant classic)

A joke from Iraq: The American Military is now requiring every Iraqi to remove their shoes for security reasons.
Monday, December 15, 2008
  It's Time
Tonight I had a disturbing conversation with a guy who works his butt off at two jobs to support his small family. His full-time day-job is at one North Adams' mid-size employers.

Today he had note with time-card that basically said:
As of January 1, 2009, ***** will no longer be providing employer based health insurance.
Here's the kicker - the guy's wife is expecting a child in January, just a few weeks after the plan goes "Poof!"

I can only imagine the scramble that they are going to go through to get into a state sponsored plan before the baby comes. Hopefully her pre-natal care will not be interrupted by our asinine system of paying for medical care.

I guess the employer's choice came down to cutting insurance or laying people off. I can't blame them for their decision but, jeez, how screwed up is our supposed "free-market" society that this can even happen?

One of the absolute priorities of the Obama administration must, must, must be establishing a universal health care system that is NOT employer based. The system is collapsing as we speak. Some folks are just too wedded to the current insurance industry model to notice. Maybe they need to get that little slip of paper, like the guy above, with their paycheck.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
  Unionize the Hookers
From the Times Picayune
Morgan Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers local representing General Motors workers in Shreveport, said Friday that Sen. David Vitter's role in blocking an auto bailout indicates "he's chosen to play Russian roulette" with Louisiana jobs and the national economy.

"I don't know what Sen. Vitter has against GM or the United Auto Workers or the entire domestic auto industry; whatever it is, whatever he thinks we've done, it's time for him to forgive us, just like Sen. Vitter has asked the citizens of Louisiana to forgive him, " said Johnson, president of Local 2166. Otherwise, Johnson said of Vitter, it would appear, "He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers."
Seriously. If we want to keep Republicans out of whorehouses, all that needs to happen is to get the ladies of the night to organize! (Although we'd probably have even more Spitzers.... Leave your own comic contributions in the comments section!)

Via Josh
Friday, December 12, 2008
  New Site In Town
Dr. Peter May has a blog. Who knew?

He sticks it to the medical establishment in the manner that only Peter can. Fight the Power!
  Real Hardball
From AP:
NEW YORK (Associated Press) - Jim Bunning was the toast of Detroit when he threw a no-hitter for the Tigers in 1958.

Now, after opposing a federal bailout for the auto industry, the Republican senator from Kentucky can't even get a gig signing autographs at a suburban [Detroit] sports-card show.

Bunning was to appear Sunday at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor. Fans would have paid $35 for Bunning to sign a baseball and $55 to sign a bat.

But Bunning was kicked off the schedule after he helped derail an auto-industry loan package in the Senate Thursday night.
Not that I advocate connecting commerce with personal politics, but when you're a Senator, the rules are a bit different. Serves him right.
  This is News?
When people talk about elitists, I don't think Ivy League educations. I think about the uber-privileged class:
It is impossible to quantify how many affluent parents have trimmed allowances in recent months — or how many of their offspring, in turn, have sought either formal employment or odd jobs. But interviews with dozens of teenagers, parents, educators and employers suggest that many youngsters from well-to-do families seem to have found a new work ethic as the economic crisis that has pummeled their family stock portfolios and jeopardized their parents’ jobs has also led to less spending money for Saturday night movies or binges at Abercrombie & Fitch.
Cry me a f'in river.
  Have a Happy Herbert Hoover Christmas
Historians will look back on the Great Depression of '09 and realize that the Republican desire to bust unions was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Congratulations GOP. It looks like you have succeeded an screwing the global economy for political purposes.
  Passive Agressive Gift List
From Wiki-how:
Wrap up some personal hygiene products for the person who never bathes or who breathes down your neck lasciviously even though this person knows you're taken. A bottle of deodorant and some shampoo speaks volumes for this person. Make sure to wrap it in clear cellophane.
There's plenty more where that came from.
  Credit Where Credit is Due
At Tuesday's City Council Meeting the Mayor produced his analysis of the savings and costs of having the city and school employees enter the GIC. Of course his number varied considerably from those of the unions, but hey, it's a start.

The discussion in the comments following the Transcript article raised some interesting questions that did not seem to asked by Councilors or the Media:

1) Does the city already have a claims trust fund for its self-insured Blue Cross-Blue Shield policy? If so, how much is in it, and was that subtracted from the Mayor's $1 Million dollar figure he said would be needed to settle claims under the existing policy?

2) Who is the city's consultant who prepared the mayor's analysis and is he/she independent? (This info seems very pertinent because the union's analysis by Boston Benefits has been attacked as biased.)

We are almost to the point of apples to apples comparisons.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
  I'm Still Confused About the GIC
This has been bugging me. According to a quote in The Transcript, Mayor Barrett is claiming that the North Adams Teachers Association and Mass Teachers Association is not telling its members that a raise was on the table:
"(Polinsky) needs to stop grandstanding and should start working on behalf of the union members, who are deserving of the pay raise that was offered by the School Committee," he said. "It seems she doesn't want to tell them about that."
After chatting with a couple of teachers, they say this is patently untrue. All the information from school committee negotiating table was disseminated to the rank and file.

It also gives the impression that the raise is an "either/or" choice regarding the switch to the GIC. This is puzzling because the switch to the GIC is decision that is before city hall, not the school committee. By definition the raise and GIC are not linked. The premium sharing ratio described by Mr. Hockridge below might be part of the school committee/NATA negotiations but the actual switch is up to the Mayor and the Council to allow all the city unions bargain on healthcare as a single unit.

Of course the whole picture must be taken into consideration and the Mayor is, indeed, the chair of the School Committee. But as I said in the comments below, unless my very basic math is wrong, the GIC, with the city paying 85% the premium (rather than the current 70%), still saves the city over a quarter million dollars and gives the union members a raise at the same time.

I appreciate that some folks don't trust that the GIC will be healthy in a decade, but I've seen nothing that backs that projection up. I was also told that the city claims the GIC had 17% rate hike, but with a tiny bit of research, I can find no evidence of this rate hike in the past or near future. (Does anybody know where that number came from?)

There is definitely a piece or two of the puzzle missing and I am perplexed.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
  One For the Ages
Granted there were no $3500 tight-bodied prostitutes involved, but Illinois Gov. Blagojevich's downfall is easily more breathtaking than Gov. Spitzer's.

What an incredible asshole!?! Oy.
  Finally! A Conversation with Facts!
From the comment section, School Committee Member John Hockridge gives us another perspective on the GIC debate:
First let it be clear that what I say here, I speak for myself, not the North Adams School Committee. And the school district does not have a part in this negotiation. It is a city negotiation with all employee unions.

Here are some things I know and/or have been told about the GIC issue.

· The unions have attached to the GIC implementation proposal an increase in the city’s share of the health premium coverage from 70% to 85%. As I understand it, much of the $1.5 million dollar cost savings advertised for the unions is due to this I do not believe the city would share in this advertised $1.5 million cost savings if its share would increase to 85%. I do not think you’ll see the city negotiate unless the share stays at 70/30 – especially with the impending 5-10% cut in state aid to local cities and towns next year.
· I am told (by others outside the city), but have not verified, that out-of-pocket expenses with the GIC (prescription, emergency care co-pays, etc) are considerably higher than Blue Cross Blue Shield.
· I attended the 2008 Mass Association of School Committees Conference in Hyannis last month, including an insurance workshop, presented by a highly respected superintendent of schools from the eastern part of the state who has been able to control his school employee insurance premiums to nearly no increase in the past three years (mostly through wellness initiatives). It was said in that workshop that the GIC does not have a wellness plan built into the health insurance offering. 80% of increased insurance premiums are due to insurance claims (per this presenter). It is his belief that the GIC will be a “huge white elephant” for the participating municipalities in the commonwealth 5 to 10 years down the road, with rapidly escalating costs (and he has relayed that opinion to Tim Murray, Lt. Gov).
· Boston Benefits Partners, the North Adams unions’ consultants, are directly associated with the GIC, both in consultants previously employed by the GIC and in doing consulting work for the GIC currently (this information you can get online). This does not mean their information is incorrect, but does question their motivation. I don’t know how all the insurance premium comparative costs shake out. But it would be wise for any negotiations or further discussion of the GIC to use a different consulting resource.

The first point (premium share) is likely the primary issue from the city’s standpoint. The third point (the forecasted “white elephant”) should be of most concern to all parties considering the GIC. Personally, I would rather see the focus be on a well thought-out wellness plan that encourages prolonged good health and results in greatly reducing claims – which would translate in most importantly improving the health of the individuals but also in keeping health costs much more under control. Given the health cost burden on everyone today, I would think the city and the unions efforts would be better served working together on this very important issue.
My big question is what would the cost of increasing the city's share of the premium be? Would it be a net gain or break even proposition for the city. That knowledge would settle the question for a lot of people.

As far as what the GIC will look like in the next decade, I tend to think that healthcare as a whole will look incredibly different. I am not sure that health insurance as we know it will even exist. For this reason I am hesitant to forecast costs out more than a couple of years.

Also, as far as the alleged flaws in the analysis by Boston Benefit Partners, where do the inconsistencies lie? I assume that the analysis contains an estimate as to which plans will be selected by the insured. Is there something about North Adams employees that makes them more likely to pick the expensive plans than others throughout the state?

And most of all, thank you, John! I truly appreciate your willingness to engage in this discussion.
A regular reader mentioned that no one had commented on the posts regarding the dust-up between the mayor and the unions. It's kinda' funny since those posts have driven near record traffic to this blog over the past two days.

I really don't get why people in this town are reluctant to have a public conversation about controversial topics. You either have to protest on street corners or keep your mouth shut.

That's not right.
Monday, December 08, 2008
  Insight Into the Auto Bailout

The following was recently written by a very insightful automotive analyst whom I happen to know quite well. It was posted on a private list-serve and not really meant for public consumption, so I will keep the author anonymous, although nothing he writes is privileged. His vast knowledge and the subsequent analysis simply comes from decades of studying the management of the automotive industry. The post was prompted by someone asking why Toyota is in much stronger position to weather the storm. Pay particular to the part about GM's cash flow. It's not the pay and benefits of hourly workers that got GM into this mess:
Around 1949 or so Toyota had a very bitter strike which almost resulted
in bankrupting the company. At that time the senior family member who
was running the company resigned and a younger generation of the Toyoda
family moved up to lead the company. I believe they got some loans from
Japanese banks and perhaps some assistance from the government. At that
time Toyota was one of the country's largest companies and a major
employer. The bitter strike itself was an embarrassment and no one
wanted the company to fail. At this time I believe they only sold cars
in Japan and were not a major player in car production although they had
built cars for many years. This event triggered development of "The
Toyota Way" which later evolved into the "Toyota Production System."
Perhaps the guiding principle within Toyota's business system is
respect: which is demanded between all employees and with their customers.

For many years Toyota found productive jobs for employees to old to work
at the rapid pace of the production line but too young to receive a
pension. I do not know if they still do this today, but these employees
were often assigned to maintain the grounds around the plants or used as
messengers between facilities. While Toyota was just a Japanese company
they were very profitable as the government had restrictions against
importing large volumes of cars from outside companies. As the
automotive industry became a global industry Toyota expanded. However
their first attempts were not very successful. However they focused on
their "system" to develop better, more competitive vehicle and to reduce
their manufacturing costs. That focus, started about the mid-1970s or
so, is still going strong. Today Toyota is not only world-wide in their
production facilities, they are either the number one or number two in
world sales, and is probably the most profitable of all of the
automobile companies due to the efficiencies they have developed in in
all aspects of the business. They have developed ways to lower design
costs and time. Their vehicles are more easily customized for the
requirements of overseas markets. They are They can more readily match
their production flow with their sales flow so they don't produce lots
of excess cars when sales slow. And they usually don't have to discount
their vehicles to keep their cars moving off the dealer's lot. As a
result of "The Toyota Way" they have been profitable for many years. I
assume they have money in the bank and banking relationships within
Japan that are a big help if they should need some cash.

The story of General Motors is much different. At one time General
Motors generated enough cash that they could self-finance the tooling
costs of new models. Of course these costs were much less than today's
costs. Since about the early 1980s it is my understanding that GM has
had to borrow these costs each year, which in turn increases the cost of
doing business. Additionally, GMs plants are not as efficient as
Toyota's. However, this is not all due to their labor contract. The
vehicles that GM designs and the production methods used (all based on
management decisions) are not as efficient as Toyota's processes. GM has
more employees per car because of the way the cars are designed. Why?
Here we must depart from fact to speculation. I believe that GM's high
costs are mainly due to the reward system within management, especially
the product development and engineering staffs. The best way to attract
the attention of senior management is to find a unique solution to a
problem. The system has to work but the promotions go to people who do
something new and different. Several years ago Jack Smith, then the
Chairman and CEO made much of finding out that there were more than
thirty different radiator caps used on current GM models. He was
appalled. Why did this happen? I believe it happened because no engineer
was ever promoted for using last year's radiator cap or one from an
existing model with similar requirements. And radiator caps are only the
tip of the iceberg, In the early 90s, GM tried to establish a new brand
of vehicles: Geo. The vehicle wasn't that bad but the marketing plan
just didn't work. Toyota seems to use more "on the shelf" parts in their
new products than GM uses. This allows them to reduce their product
development time and costs.

Much as been made of the high union contractual costs. GM has loudly
claimed the UAW health care costs amounted to $1500 per vehicle. However
they don't often remind anyone that they also have had and additional
cost averaging close to $3000 per vehicle as sales rebates to get people
to buy their vehicles for about three or four years. Why? Well, it's all
about cash flow. GM has financially overextended itself for many years.
Because of the way finances are reported, it's hard to see. But my
feeling is that the GMs automotive business has been in trouble for many
years. But the troubles were hidden as the company divested itself of
many parts they considered either non-automotive or not profitable. The
usual pattern seems to be first to starve the the orphan to be by not
upgrading facilities or not developing competitive new products. Then
they would sell the division or plant or unit and the sale price would
end up in the profit column. There is a long list of such divestitures
dating back to the end of WWII. For at least the past 10 to 15 years, GM
seems to be wholly dependent on current cash flow generated by selling
cars to dealers. If they don't ship to dealers, the cash flow stops and
GM has a very limited time before they run out of operating cash. This
is the problem they have today. This is why they have been promoting
discounts almost continuously for the past several years. They don't
have anything left to sell to raise cash and if their dealers can't sell
car's because people can't get financing or can't afford a new car, the
dealers stop ordering cars and GM has no cash flowing in to run the
company. The situation has very little to do with the union costs.
Keeping your workforce healthy is almost a necessary step in maintaining
a well trained and highly skilled workforce. I'm relatively sure the
Jobs Bank originated as a management suggestion to settle a labor
contract dispute. Most of the union people I know considered the Jobs
Bank as a very slight improvement over loosing your job but not anything
that anyone really looked forward to. What it seems to do is remove the
Jobs Bank people from a plant's payroll so that management looks like
its running a more efficient company. I know there have been discussions
about taking it out of the contract but with a growing number of plants
closing, there seems to be little chance it will go away unless the UAW
Leadership agrees to give it up as a concession during the current talks.

The real question remains -- Is GM capable of surviving or would a
government loan only extend their life? I have never been one to believe
that downsizing is the best road to success. If I had my druthers, I
would suggest splitting the company into two or three companies. It
might be hard to do, but it would rid GM of a lot of its historic
problems and give each part a better chance of long term survival
without putting anywhere from five to ten million people out of work. I
heard on one news report that someone in Washington felt that the
government should force GM and Chrysler to merge. Bad, bad, idea. GM's
biggest problem is its management. And it's 2nd problem is its size.
Good stuff you won't get anywhere else.

UPDATE: The analyst has written me to clarify a few points:
The piece was written in answer to the question, "Why is Toyota making money and GM isn't?" It did not speak to how I feel about the auto industry's request for loans to help them through some very difficult times. There is no doubt that the leadership of the American automobile industry has not made many of the changes that they should have made over the years. However, I believe they may have gotten the message that a new set of priorities are required. I am sure there is much residual anger against the companies due to many past problems within the industry. At one time the industry had a rust problem which was fixed only when the industry leaders understood the problems effect on sales. The same with the oil leak problem which used to make oil puddles on every garage floor. However, my view is the main problem is the focus of the industry, and most segments of our country's industries, on making money. And the more money you can make, the greater the company's prestige and the higher the executives salaries. The companies need to broaden their view and realize the first purpose of business in not to make money -- but to stay in business.

Those who oppose the loans often seem to want to punish the executives for their past behavior. What they seem to forget is the impacts of the companies failure without the loans: thousands or even millions of workers all over the country will loose their jobs; hundreds of suppliers will probably be forced into bankruptcy; as the supplier network weakens, foreign-owned assembly plants could be faced with problems; the massive unemployment will endanger local merchants in areas across the country as people loose their jobs; and the executives will all retire and be in the best financial position of all those affected by the failures.

There is a good chance that failure of any of the big three will push a severe recession into a full blown depression. Our last depression lasted over ten years and was only ended by the increased production needs and spending of WWII. There is no doubt that these companies need to change their approach to doing business. The more quickly they can get back on their feet, the better it will be for everyone in the country. Thus, I not only favor making the loans, I also favor leaving the current leadership in place as they are best prepared to make the necessary changes. The use of a "car czar" who would set goals, measure progress, but not run the companies sounds like a potential benefit. There are other alternatives that may prove more helpful. But, the immediate need is to assure that the companies do not fail while those alternatives are being examined.
Las Vegas should have such analysts!
  What Don't I Get About the GIC?!?
Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Sal DiMasi predicts that local aid to cities and towns is going to be slashed. One solution, making joining the Group Insurance Commission easier:
House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said state aid to local cities and towns will be cut by up to 10 percent next year, a major drop-off that will likely cause layoffs and major cutbacks in municipalities across Massachusetts.

To lighten the blow, DiMasi is planning to propose legislation to eliminate a major union-backed provision that prevents municipalities from joining the state health insurance program without union approval.

Under current law, cities and town officials must earn the backing of 70 percent of local union members before they can join the state’s Group Insurance Commission. DiMasi argues that the provision has prevented municipalities from joining the state system, whose larger size provides more cost savings through bargaining power with insurance companies.

Collectively, cities and towns could save between $436 million and $64 million in fiscal year 2013, according to an estimate by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. But so far, only 17 municipalities and 19 school districts have joined out of the nearly 500 cities and towns and regional school districts that are eligible.
The HUGE irony here is that it is the unions of North Adams that want to join the GIC, but it is the city administration that is preventing this. Most cities in the state would love to be in this position, but not North Adams. Why?

What don't I get? I can only think of a few reasons why Mayor Barrett absolutely refuses to go this route, even though the city is going to have to slash its budget, and most of those reasons are not particularly flattering.

Help me out here. What is the logic behind staying with Blue Cross? Seriously. Somebody must know.

(Learn more about the GIC by clicking here for their website.)

It's been conveyed to me that the public sticking point on the GIC is that the municipal employees wanted to keep some of the GIC savings by reducing their share of the insurance premium to a level on-par with neighboring communities (they currently pay a higher percentage than most). This splitting of the savings seems reasonable on its face. If this is accurate, I am left wondering if there is yet another underlying issue that raised the objections of the mayor.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The Boston Globe:
Five unions in North Adams will file intimidation charges against the mayor after he allegedly ousted from City Hall a union representative looking for figures on the city's health insurance plan, said Cindy Polinsky, the Massachusetts Teachers Association representative.

... The mayor told the North Adams Transcript on Tuesday that his door is open to any union employee who wants to "see the real figures." The city uses Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

"Their union leaders have told them a lot of things - a lot of things are not true," he told the Transcript.

Those statements prompted Bryant Elementary School teacher Eileen Gloster to go to City Hall on Wednesday with Polinsky, where the mayor told Polinsky to leave and threatened to call police, she said. "His way of interacting with people is disturbing," Gloster said.
This has prompted me to write the following open letter that is being sent to City Hall as well as others:

To the Honorable John Barrett, III;

This letter is express my concern as a resident and taxpayer of North Adams that the recent antagonistic developments involving the North Adams Teachers Association and yourself have now simmered beyond the boiling point. While I am still willing to keep an open mind about the facts of the matter, the recent confrontation between you and a teacher and her union representative has left me with the impression that, at the least, your conduct was less than gracious and, at the worst, a possible violation of the National Labor Relations Act. This incident only stokes the fire that the rumors of your blocking the switch of the municipal employees health insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield to the GIC, may be motivated by factors other than what is best for the residents of North Adams.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I have never given much credence to those who have willy-nilly accused you of everything from the kidnapping of the Lindberg Baby having the city pay for your personal automobile.

However, in this instance, I have met both Eileen Gloster and Cindy Polinsky. They both seem to be very reasonable and mature people who would not in any way cause a ruckus at City Hall. Hence your ejection of Polinsky from the building along with the threat of calling the police, combined with your subsequent short explanation to the Boston Globe that these two women's story "left out a lot of parts", creates gaping holes in any sort of logical explanation of the incident.

I am left wondering why you simply will not publicly release the financial information regarding the current city Blue Cross Blue Shield policy. A simple copy of the bill(s) will do.

Your constituents would surely be open to explanations why a possibly more expensive Blue Cross policy is a better "value" to employees and the city than a potentially cheaper plan through the GIC, but without the actual figures to begin a fact based comparison, this ongoing drama leaves a doubt-filled cloud over city hall.

Respectfully yours,
Greg Roach
131 Marion Ave
North Adams, MA
Something is amiss here. I don't know what it is, but before the legal disputes start costing the taxpayers of this city serious money, I sincerely hope that the mayor puts this to rest by explaining, in detail, exactly what the city pays for and gets in its current health insurance policy.

Pretty simple.
Friday, December 05, 2008
  What Ali Said
Click on the video. Go read Ali's story. Do something different this year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008
  10 Quick Ideas for North Adams
Random ideas for the Nabobs to whinny about:

1) When Carbone Ford abandons the dealership on Rte 2 to move to Bennington, move the remains of Fort Massachusetts (a.k.a. Fort Price Chopper) from the rear of the grocery store parking lot and build it into a joint attraction combining the fort with a northern Welcome Center for the Mt. Greylock Reservation. By piggy-backing both of these projects, we would get more bang for our buck as well as revive a sadly neglected part of our history.

2) Push for the adoption of Governor Patrick's Education Readiness program. North Adams would benefit greatly by creating a statewide master contract for teachers. Currently our teachers are among the lowest paid in the county and state. Promising teachers are often poached away by neighboring districts during tight budget times. Equalizing pay (adjust by regional cost of living) alleviate this as well as take the nasty local politics that have poisoned the relations between city hall and the North Adams Teachers Association.

3) Also in the Readiness Project is huge emphasis on science and technology. Finding ways for our local schools to collaborate with MCLA as it opens and staffs its new science building will be a huge boost to students and the image of the schools. Also, there is talk of trying to leverage MCLA's new programs and turn the area into a sci-tech business mini-hub. Nothing would be better.

4) Speaking of MCLA, create some sort of enterprise zone on Ashland St. to try and attract more student oriented businesses. I've never seen a campus with as little commerce nearby. There has to be a way to facilitate the parting of students from their parent's money more effectively.

5) My favorite idea is a revision of the one I proposed in the Transcript four years back - Take a 100 foot wide strip of land crossing the Steeples Plaza parking lot, stretching between St. Johns and the Police Station. (That lot is never near full anyways. The landlord will love to sell it or have it taken) Tear up the asphalt and create a City Green, with a large gazebo style stage for concerts or rallies, an area where artists and farmers can peddle their wares, where someone can take a cup of coffee and a newspaper and sit (yes, that mean benches. Oooh scary!), etc.... Downtown needs someplace for events that doesn't require closing off the street for a festival.

6) Create local tax incentives to fix up dilapidated properties and return homes that have been split into multiple apartments back into owner occupied homes.

7) Reevaluate just how much public housing a city the size of North Adams should have.

8) Enact Eric Buddington's proposal to put all city ordinances and zoning info online. It's almost 2009, dontcha' know.

9) Use the mercury spill at Conte as the final straw to enact John Hockridge's proposal to go to the K-8 model. While its facade is stunning, the building itself is awful. It would be "a terrible shame" if that mercury spill made the building unfit for occupancy. (snarkiness aside, Hockridge's plan is a good first step towards the major overhaul that our schools need)

10) Go to the Improv Open Mike Comedy Show at The Alley tomorrow night. It really is very funny. The city needs more laughs dammit!
  Holiday Inn
The cat is out of the bag and I probably couldn't have kept it a secret any longer anyways. The Holiday Inn has retained the Chef and Owner of Isabella's Restaurant, Drew Nicastro to run their food operation for the time being.

Rumor has it that the corporate masters of Holiday Inn had given the local operation a very firm deadline to get the restaurant back up and running or the franchise would be in jeopardy. That would have been a very very bad thing. Look for the doors to open before the New Year.

Drew will do a nice job. I'll be curious to see what he does with the dinner menu.
  Shrimp AND Sodomy?!?! Damn. That's Harsh!
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die
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

iBerkshires' Online Event Calendar

Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

Congressional Budget Office data

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