Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
  Impressions of the Debate
Tonight's mayoral debate was better than expected. Both candidates held their own pretty well on the facts and the crowd made it a little bit exciting with their reactions.

There was one observation that I am was in a unique place to view. Due to the fact that I came in during the introductions, I was relegated to standing room only. Instead I went to the basement where the debate was being simulcast on video with maybe a dozen people. (Side Benefit - I could yell at the screen without repercussions.)

I saw a very different debate than those in the hall. I saw close-ups of the candidates while the other responded and things that might not have been noticed from more than a few rows back in the hall.

On video - Alcombright scored much higher, in my opinion. Barrett's reactions and thinly veiled anger were very clear on the big screen. More than once while Dick spoke, the camera's showed the mayor clutching the podium while gritting his teeth and shaking his head. I will be very curious how those who watch the debate on local access cable react. It was a very stark contrast to Dick's poker face.

Shades of the Nixon/Kennedy debate in '60?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
If you want to truly understand what makes me tick, you would have to know my parents. Sadly my mom passed a couple years back, but my 78 year old father is still living life like an expedition. He recently returned from kayaking Yellowstone. Last year it was hiking through the arches of Utah and rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon from end to end.

But there is one pursuit that currently defines him more than any other. His love of all things aviation and his little World War II era Ercoupe named Pea-Shooter. It turns out the little airport in rural northern Illinois where he spends many a day is the subject of a photo essay that is displayed at the AirVenture Museum at the mecca of civilian aviation, Oshkosh, WI. In the photo above dad is recovering the wings of his plane with fabric and to the right you can see this "go-kart with wings" in all its glory.

It is at Galt Airport that my dad has been part of and helped develop a community of aviators and locals that don't sit back and watch the world spin around them. These people come together and make the most of what they have. Cruise through this rather brilliant collection and see the local cheerleaders doing a "plane wash" rather than the mere terrestrial four wheeled fund raiser. See the families and kids out playing or dropping "flour bombs" at the end of the runway. Watch the passion of life long pursuits play out in hangars and cockpits.

You get the sense that both the past and future are in good hands.
Friday, September 25, 2009
  How Screwed Up is This?
An employee of a local company comes into direct contact with potentially hazardous bodily fluids. His employer sends him to go get screened by a doctor under the employer's worker's comp policy.

The employee is one of the few Massachusetts residents who have fallen through the health insurance cracks, so he has no declared primary care physician. After calling every private physicians office in North County to try an be seen, the employee is told that no one will see him because he does not have a primary care doc in that practice - Nevermind the fact that Worker's Comp will cover the visit.

Instead, he is instructed by at least two offices that he should just go to the Emergency Room even though this is obviously not an emergency situation.

Cost of a 20 minute physician's office visit $90.

Cost of a 20 minute emergency room visit $500+.

This bothers me a lot:
My views on this city government began to change when I was appointed to the North Adams Airport Commission. It was here, as well as the many years that I served as the airport’s assistant manager, followed by the manager, that I learned the inner workings of our local government. It was here, that I was able to make an educated judgment of the job that was begin done by the mayor of North Adams.

I witnessed many wrong governing tactics during that time. I’m also one of the few people who can talk about them because I have been removed from the airport manager’s position for publicly supporting Dick Alcombright.
Damning, if true.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
  Educate Me
One of the issues being tossed about by the city council is a recommendation by former councilor Billings to examine the possibility of funding water and sewage via a separate fee based on water consumption.

There appears to be one big benefit to this proposal and that is that it seems much fairer to those in the city who are hooked up to septic systems rather than the sewer. But is that really the case if the fee is based upon water consumption rather than discharge? Or could the rates be adjusted for septic users? Would it make more sense to rebate property taxes to current septic users?

Also, would property taxes be reduced as the water fee is implemented? Or is this fee another way to create "new" revenue?

Finally, one of the councilors (I forget who) asked how this would affect the two biggest commercial consumers of water in the city - North Adams Regional Hospital and MCLA. Both of these organizations being tax exempt, would this hurt them disproportionately?

How have other city's handled the transition? If anybody knows, feel free to spout away in comments.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
  The Question is - Why?
A couple of months ago I sat through a city council meeting where Mayor Barrett excoriated those councilors and city employees who wanted the the City Council Finance Committee to review the city's self insurance premiums. The allegation had been made that the city had not paid its contractual share of the premiums, hence overcharging the employees or underfunding the insurance trust fund.

The Mayor insisted that this was a labor dispute and the process of mediation should be allowed to progress. He suggested that those who sought to resolve the issue at the city level were acting extra-legally.

The council voted 4 - 3 against reviewing the issue. Blackmer, Harpin, Marden and Cariddi took the mayor's position.

As the mediation process began, the mediator told the city that they needed to provide the documentation to prove they had, indeed, paid their share. This was several weeks ago. The deadline was this past Monday.

Guess what. The city did not provide the documents before the deadline and hence, mediation failed. The complaint now goes legal and will cost the city several thousands more dollars regardless of the outcome. As a taxpayer, I am not pleased.

So I am left asking, why? Why did the city miss the deadline after the mayor stood before council and demanded that the mediation process proceed?

Was there incompetence?

Did a dog eat somebody's homework?

Or does somebody benefit by dragging the process out? (November 3rd possibly?)

Frankly I don't like any of the answers that come to mind. I have my suspicions as to why the Mayor would want to keep any public findings out of the public eye for a while.

But I've got to say, with not very much hindsight, those councilors who voted against the motion to review the insurance trust fund blew it. They picked political sides rather than doing what is best for the city, or they got played by the mayor. Which is worse?
  Correct me if I am wrong
I thought The Transcript had a policy of not covering political events? What changed? I know Glenn was out for personal reasons. Did somebody else make the call?
Monday, September 14, 2009
  Teaching Moment
I'm not sure if he's more interested in learning about politics, supporting his father or just playing with the staple gun, but he's a darn hard worker.
  Somehow I Know This is True
From an interesting piece in the NYT's Mag:
By analyzing the Framingham data, Christakis and Fowler say, they have for the first time found some solid basis for a potentially powerful theory in epidemiology: that good behaviors — like quitting smoking or staying slender or being happy — pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses. The Framingham participants, the data suggested, influenced one another’s health just by socializing. And the same was true of bad behaviors — clusters of friends appeared to “infect” each other with obesity, unhappiness and smoking. Staying healthy isn’t just a matter of your genes and your diet, it seems. Good health is also a product, in part, of your sheer proximity to other healthy people.
It would be interesting to see how this plays against other demographics.
  One of These Things is Not Like the Other
I don't understand why people have to lie about the size of their rallies. Glenn Beck's little tea party was a respectable 50,000, or so. Not huge, considering that the right wing media machine had been pimping it for free for months, but respectable.

I think that statistics guru Nate Silver put it best:
[Matt Kibbe, President of the lead organizing group, Freedomworks] did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long.
That's a pretty good metaphor for the fringe right.
  Non-Profits as an Economic Engine
When Governor Patrick held his creative economy roundtable at Mass MoCA last month, one of the more interesting lines of discussion came from Kevin Sprague who brought up the often overlooked reality that most economic policy planning ignores, and even penalizes, non-profits. In a region like the Berkshires, that can be very short sighted. The current health care debate evidently is a good case in point:
“We had our nonprofit lobbying day on Capitol Hill in July, and our members spoke to their elected officials about this issue,” said Tim Delaney, chief executive of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. “We heard a constant refrain: ‘Gee, we never thought about nonprofits as employers before.’ ”
With a tax credit, for profit businesses will be able to reduce the cost of employee health care. Why should non-profits be forced to pay full freight? It kinda' defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.

Saturday, September 12, 2009
The transcript file transfer software definitely needs some tweaking. Our automated world backfires again.

Courtesy of my old friend Tony White.
Friday, September 11, 2009
  8 years on.....
So many lessons.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Does Andy Card really believe that his image is rehabilitated enough to make a viable run for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat?

This is the man who is one of two or three people in the Bush White House most personally responsible for lying us into the Iraq War. Remember this quote?
''From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.''
If you recall that was about how to make the case to attack Iraq. Card sold his soul in the fall of 2002 and the bargain did not work out well for him or the hundreds of thousands of other killed and maimed as a result of his successful marketing campaign.

Short of Meehan entering the race, get ready to start saying Senator Coakley.
Monday, September 07, 2009
  Doin' What I Can
Like Canada and the UK, there have been many lies and distortions about Massachusetts' health care and insurance laws. While I think it could be done better, I also think that we got some major stuff right (Thanks Dan & Ben!).

Josh Marshall was kind enough to print my thoughts for his readers.
TPM Reader GR reports in on the situation in Massachusetts and their mandate-based quasi-universal plan ...
Shameless self promotion.

If this happens, I will vacation in Nova Scotia in the next few years. I've done the overnight car ferry between Germany and England a couple of times and the floating hotel concept is an affordable and truly pleasant way to get around. $300 for a family of three to avoid 13 hours of driving plus costs.... no brainer in my book.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
  Pre "Urban Renewal"
The area now occupied by Steeples Plaza. Sigh.

I love this map site. A few years back I purchased the black white print of the 1881 North Adams map from the Historical Society. I wonder if I can get a local printer to do a large, full color version.

[Link fixed]
Saturday, September 05, 2009
  Mayor Barrett's Site
John Barrett finally has gone public with his web site. Better late than never. I get the sense that the Barrett campaign is in "catch up" mode right now.

Also, a large mailing landed today with a nice four color flier featuring the Mayor, although it is basically the same as the web site.

Time to get moving my own campaign.
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.

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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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