Archive for May, 2008

Mayor Sarno: Neighborhood Walk Saturday 5/31

Posted on Friday, May 30 2008 by Heather Brandon

Bay Street in Springfield. Photo by H Brandon

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is planning to embark on a walk in the Bay neighborhood on Saturday, May 31, starting at 11:00 am, in order to assess quality of life and public safety concerns for city residents.

The walk will visit Bergen Circle, Bay Street and Federal Street in the neighborhood. Representatives of various agencies will be present, such as the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and the city’s graffiti remediation program. “The significance of this walk,” mayoral aide Darryl Moss said in a release late today, “is that we will gather important information as a unit, and that will allow us to plan our work from the same point of origin as we move forward.”

A previous walk toured areas of Forest Park, according to the press release, and more are being scheduled in the city’s most troubled spots. The purpose is to show a presence and take a proactive approach to problems like housing code violations or criminal activity.

Mayor Sarno’s full release about the walk is below. (more…)

Hartford City Council Minutes, 5/27/08

Posted on Friday, May 30 2008 by Heather Brandon

Hartford Municipal Building. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE HARTFORD COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL
MAY 27, 2008

Communications

1. MAYOR PEREZ de Adoption of the 2008-2009 amended Budget, with accompanying resolutions and ordinances.

Passed

2. MAYOR PEREZ de Quality of Life Third Quarter Report.

Received

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Springfield City Council Minutes, 5/27/08

Posted on Friday, May 30 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield City Hall. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE SPRINGFIELD CITY COUNCIL
MAY 27, 2008

Hearings

Special Permits

1. 67 Wilbraham Road

Used Car Sales as an Accessory Use. Owner: City of Springfield. By: Patrick S. Burns, Acting City Treasurer. Petitioner: Acme Auto & Radiator Repair, Inc. By: Orlando Alban, President

Hearing held, and the special permit was granted by the following roll call vote; Yes, Nine, (9) Councilors Rooke, Mazza-Moriarty, Tosado, Ferrera, Stebbins, Walsh, Markey, Foley, Williams; No, Zero (0).

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State Rep Candidate’s Site Bears Remarkable Similarities to Others

Posted on Wednesday, May 28 2008 by Heather Brandon

State Rep. candidate Chelan BrownState Rep. Ben SwanUpdate 5/30 6:00 pm: Greg Saulmon at Local Buzz has an interview with Chelan Brown.

Update 5/30 11:45 am: The Republican‘s report on the press conference yesterday notes that Brown does not know who the tamperer may be, but that she was also not necessarily interested in filing a police report. CBS3 also has a report related to the press conference.

Update 5/29 2:45 pm: Brown held a noon press conference on the steps of Springfield City Hall to claim that her site was hacked, and mysteriously supplied with the plagiarized text by the unauthorized hacker. The Republican has an initial report by Peter Goonan. Bill Dusty questions what could possibly motivate a hacker to execute something in this fashion, including altering the domain registration info multiple times during the day.

Update 5/28 9:00 pm: Not only has the site been taken down temporarily, but it is also claiming “unauthorized tampering” as the reason.

Update 5/28 5:00 pm: The site for state representative candidate Chelan Brown has been taken down.

Earlier on 5/28: Discussion on MassLive.com’s Springfield forum today has centered on a Web site for city resident and activist Chelan Brown (pictured at left), who is promoting her candidacy for state representative. Brown is poised to run against longtime State Rep. Ben Swan (pictured at right).

Forum frequenter “NoPol” uncovered apparent plagiarism at Brown’s site, first noted because she cryptically used an image borrowed from Washington dollarzanother state representative candidate’s site in Washington state depicting a large dollar sign. This was originally pointed out by forum poster “NewJackCity,” who posted the link to the brand new site, and wondered why Brown would post an image showing Washington state when she is running in Massachusetts.

Presumably, the image was found in a search for “Washington” and “dollars,” and then was borrowed with a link back to the hosting site rather than being hosted independently. This made the image very easy to trace, and lo and behold, that much easier a discovery of some identical text on the issues.

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City Roundup: Budget, Bikes and Burnout

Posted on Wednesday, May 28 2008 by Heather Brandon

The Hartford City Council apparently approved the next fiscal year’s $547 million budget yesterday, according to an article in today’s Courant. The budget does not appear to be available online yet, however, and no meeting records of the City Council’s deliberations have officially been made available to the public electronically. From the piece, by Daniel Goren:

The budget still includes extra money for the school system, 30 new recruits for the police department and continued debt service payments for the construction of schools, libraries and a new public safety complex. The city still anticipates some cost savings from last year by hiring 50 new firefighters, more than offsetting that cost by a projected reduction in overtime for the department.

Also in Hartford, the Advocate has a piece in this week’s paper about reporter Adam Bulger’s experiences going car-free, and opting to bike to work. He notes the bad habit he developed of commuting to work by car on I-84 and I-91, within the city, which he gave up after totaling his car in an accident and then guiltily borrowing his girlfriend’s for a short time, which he had to stop doing. He comes to grips with his other bad habits, too. From the piece:

By the time I got to work, my face was the color of a grape. On the bright side, I found $3 lying in the sidewalk on Wethersfield Avenue in the south of Hartford. On the dark side, my ride home entailed going up a lot more hills. Also, I did something so epic in its stupidity that it boggles my mind even now—I rode the bike to buy cigarettes at a gas station. When I got back, sweaty and panting, the last thing in the world I wanted was a cigarette. Not that I didn’t smoke it eventually.

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Springfield Proposed Budget Available Online

Posted on Tuesday, May 27 2008 by Heather Brandon

The city of Springfield’s Finance Department has made available online Mayor Domenic Sarno‘s recommended budget for the next fiscal year, a figure just under $532 million. Spending proposals are currently undergoing scrutiny by the City Council. The budget is being prepared for submission to the Finance Control Board by an estimated date of June 16.

Springfield government org chart Both Mayor Sarno as well as the control board executive director, Stephen Lisauskas, issued introductory letters, dated last Thursday, to accompany the budget. One feature of the budget, found in the overview section (PDF), is an organizational chart (above) showing the structure of city government. (Click to enlarge.)

There are also mentions of an effort to work toward transparency. The chart shows “voters” as the ones in charge.

In his letter (PDF), Sarno wrote that this proposal is “a fiscally conservative budget that is balanced and based on realistic projections of expenses and revenue.” He continued, “I am most pleased that this budget averts layoffs; does not interfere in any way with basic services; strictly adheres to allowed use of reserves and respects contractual raises.”

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Accidental Sex and Drug Ed on City Tree Belts

Posted on Tuesday, May 27 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield resident Becca Kennedy emailed me recently to report a troubling trend she has noticed in her area of the city’s Forest Park neighborhood, what she called a significant increase in the amount of “sketchy roadside debris.” Kennedy and her husband, Scott Jelescheff, live in the area of White Street between Sumner and Belmont Avenues, not far from 3hree Café.

“By sketchy,” Kennedy said in her email, “I mean large numbers of freshly-used condoms and condom wrappers, uncapped syringes—which we’ve ended up kicking into the sewer drains—and drug packets (with pretty designs on them!).”

Kennedy noted that the increase in this kind of debris on the curbside seems to go along with the warmer weather, as well as coinciding with the time of year when more kids are outside playing—largely unsupervised, she added.

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Springfield Preps to Implement Pay-As-You-Throw

Posted on Wednesday, May 21 2008 by Heather Brandon

Twist-tie closure trash bagIt looks as though Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno will finally be able to make good on find a way around his pledge (for now) to eliminate the city’s controversial $90-per-year trash fee implemented last summer.

Through its Department of Public Works, the city has issued a request for proposals for imprinted pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash bags, as well as turnkey retail sales and collection management services. The deadline for bids is Tuesday, June 10.

The RFP is advertised as a component of the city’s PAYT municipal solid waste program.

Intended to encourage recycling and enable residents to pay only for what they discard, rather than a flat fee that disregards a household’s amount of waste, the program could commence as soon as August 1. The contract would be good through the rest of the fiscal year, ending on June 30, 2009, and could be renewed up to two times for one-year periods. (more…)

Springfield City Council Minutes, 5/19/08

Posted on Tuesday, May 20 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield City Hall. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE SPRINGFIELD CITY COUNCIL
MAY 19, 2008

Reports of committees

1. From City Council Veterans, Administration and Human Service Committee: Litter and Overgrowth

The City Council Veterans, Administration and Human Service Committee met on May 6, 2008 and Chairman James Ferrera, III gave a verbal and written report regarding amending Section 7.16.120. Council received the verbal and written report by a unanimous voice vote.

After debate Councilor Ferrera made a motion to further amend Section 7.16.120, which failed, for lack of a second. Councilor Ferrera made another motion to add in section T(2) line 12, the words “most severe cases” after the words “necessary request,” and was seconded by Councilor Rooke, and failed to passed on majority voice vote.

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Springfield Allies with Ten Fellow Gateway Cities

Posted on Monday, May 19 2008 by Heather Brandon

Boston's Old State HouseSpringfield was represented at an event today in Boston, at the Old State House (pictured) and hosted by MassINC, signaling a new allegiance of cities across the state.

At the gathering, also attended by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, 11 municipal representatives in Massachusetts signed a Gateway Cities Compact (see below). The agreement is said to provide a foundation to “redefine economic development” in the state with a greater emphasis on urban population centers.

Murray also announced at the event a “new initiative relative to brownfields redevelopment” for municipalities (see release below).

Fall River’s Herald News has a report today, by Grant Welker, with some further information about the compact-signing this morning and what led to it.

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Hartford City Council Minutes, 5/12/08

Posted on Monday, May 19 2008 by Heather Brandon

Hartford Municipal Building. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE HARTFORD COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL
MAY 12, 2008

Communications

1. MAYOR PEREZ, with accompanying resolution de Authorization to enter into agreement with the Hartford Parking Authority to use its parking structures as designated locations for disaster relief commodities distribution after a natural or man-made disaster.

Passed

2. MAYOR PEREZ, with accompanying resolution de Authorization for submission of list of community programs eligible for the 2008 Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit Program (NAA) and proposals to the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services.

Passed

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Springfield’s Riverfront Path Gets a Close Citizen Inspection

Posted on Wednesday, May 14 2008 by Heather Brandon

A group of Springfield citizens are taking a close look at the city’s riverfront bike path this morning, in part as a result of comments emerging from an interview with local real estate professional Evan Plotkin, published here on April 30. In the piece, Plotkin identified the bike path as a potential draw for downtown business owners who value a healthy lifestyle or alternate means of transportation. He also perceived it to be relatively underused and not well presented when he contacted the visitor’s information center located along the path.

The residents taking the tour, who live in various parts of the city, will be making multiple visits to the riverfront path starting today, taking some notes, documenting what they see with video and photos, and hopefully sharing the results of their work. (more…)

First Amendment vs. Tidy Downtown

Posted on Tuesday, May 13 2008 by Heather Brandon

Newspaper boxesIn New Haven, a proposed ordinance to regulate newspaper boxes—modeled, in part, on a law in Hartford—was the subject of discussion during a Board of Aldermen legislation committee meeting last night. One aspect of the proposal, an idea which is not in place in Hartford, is to install specially-made kiosks with slots for multiple newspaper boxes, prioritizing daily newspapers over weeklies.

The ordinance, put forward by the city’s transit chief, Mike Piscitelli, and its deputy chief administrative officer, Jennifer Pugh, establishes “reasonable and uniform guidelines” for the “placement, size, quality and durability of newsracks” in New Haven, according to an April 4 report by Paul Bass in the New Haven Independent.

Similar to Hartford’s law, the proposal calls for a $25 fee for a three-year permit for a newsrack, as well as a $12 per-location fee. Bass quoted the ordinance as citing newsracks’ contribution to litter, presenting a “hazard to the safety and welfare of pedestrians, drivers of motor vehicles and buildings, and persons performing essential utility, traffic control and emergency services.” They also block handicapped parking spaces and “interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property by the community,” according to the language of the ordinance.

Aldermen did not respond very favorably to the proposed ordinance during the meeting, according to Thomas MacMillan’s report today, also in the Independent. (more…)

Springfield City Council Minutes, 5/5/08

Posted on Monday, May 12 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield City Hall. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE SPRINGFIELD CITY COUNCIL
May 5, 2008

Reports of committees

1. From City Council Auditor Review Committee: Re. Ordinance #3: Audit Committee Amendments (report only)

The City Council Audit Review Committee met on April 30, 2008 and Chairperson Timothy Rooke gave a verbal and written report relative to amending Chapter 2.88 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Springfield, 1986, as amended and recommended, five amendments, and referred two additional amendments to the Law Department regarding subpoena power and the power to expend up to $25,000 to hire such experts as necessary. City Council received the report by a unanimous voice vote.

Received

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Hartford City Council Minutes, 4/28/08

Posted on Monday, May 12 2008 by Heather Brandon

Hartford Municipal Building. Photo by H BrandonMEETING OF THE HARTFORD COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL
APRIL 28, 2008

Action taken

BUDGET FOR 2008-2009

1. MAYOR PEREZ de Mayor’s Budget Message, Recommended General Fund Budget and Capital Improvement Program; Ordinance de Appropriations for General Fund; Ordinance de Tax Levy on List on October 2007; and Ordinance concerning appropriations in the Capital Improvement Funds.

A public hearing has been assigned in accordance with Provision of the Municipal Code for Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at 6:00 P.M. at the Bulkeley High School Auditorium. A copy of the recommended budget is on file in the town clerk’s office.

Referred to the Operations, Management and Budget Committee

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Legal Opinion Traces City’s Efforts to Establish New Election Patterns; Asserts New Elections Needed for School Committee Members

Posted on Wednesday, May 7 2008 by Heather Brandon

In a blog post early this week, Springfield resident Michaelann Bewsee reported that the City Council’s Civil Rights and Race Relations Committee had a meeting planned for 4:30 pm today to revisit the topic of how to implement ward representation in the next municipal election in 2009.

Recently, City Councilor Jose Tosado requested that the city solicitor, Ed Pikula, compose a legal opinion on how to handle the School Committee election in particular, and to what extent new ward representation will affect it. The opinion, Bewsee said, would be discussed at today’s meeting, with Pikula there to present it. (more…)

Planning Staff, Citizens Explain Changes to City Zoning Ordinance

Posted on Wednesday, May 7 2008 by Heather Brandon

In an inaugural, 16-minute Urban Compass video (below), exclusive footage features staff of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, alongside four members of the zoning ordinance revision citizen advisory committee, discussing the nuances of the result of two years’ work leading to the proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance.

Last night, at a public meeting at the city’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the draft revision was unveiled, and a 45-day public comment period began. Officials hope to present a final document to the mayor and city council toward the end of the summer. For more about the details in the document, which can be accessed here, read my post drawing out a few highlights.

Springfield’s Zoning Ordinance Revision: A Preview

Posted on Tuesday, May 6 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield zoning map. Photo by H BrandonAt a press briefing late yesterday afternoon, four staff members of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development were available, along with four members of the city’s 13-member citizen advisory committee that has worked for two years on a zoning ordinance update.

City staff had prepared large signs on easels to illustrate the timeline leading to the zoning amendments, bullet points showing the six major categories of changes involved, a list of all the committee members, and reasons why the zoning changes are so desperately needed. But at the start of the briefing, I was the only media member present in a room of several chairs awaiting occupants.

The city’s Chief Development Officer David Panagore, who is comfortable before a crowd, and likes to use humor to break tension, cracked a joke about how troubling it can be to see so many more people offering a presentation than there are people to hear it. He continued the joke by suggesting I simply ask what I don’t already know about the zoning changes rather than have them go on with a presentation. I demurred, actually having hoped to be at the back of a crowded room, with local media thrilled to learn the latest details about how Springfield is on track to make long-lasting and meaningful improvements to its urban fabric.

Topics like zoning simply don’t tend to attract as much attention as, say, the latest shooting. All the same, this was a chance to learn in a quiet, small setting some details about this major project just before its public unveiling later today at 5:30 pm at the Hall of Fame. It is likely that reporters or editors are choosing to wait until the public meeting to try to cover details, what with slimmed-down staff numbers these days. (more…)

Springfield to Hold Public Interviews for Schools Superintendent Candidates

Posted on Friday, May 2 2008 by Heather Brandon

From left, Gabrieli, Sarno, and Williams. Photo by H BrandonFinance Control Board Chairman Christopher Gabrieli and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (pictured, from left, with City Council President Bud Williams at far right) released the names today of the four candidates for schools superintendent, selected by search consultant James Huge.

The candidates are Matthew Malone of Boston, currently superintendent of Swampscott Public Schools; Ret. Air Force General Joseph Redden of Marietta, Georgia, currently the program manager of Leadership Development for the Stupski Foundation in Mill Valley, California; Alan Ingram of Oklahoma, currently the chief accountability officer for the Oklahoma City Public Schools; and Basan Nembirkow of South Deerfield, currently superintendent of Brockton Public Schools (although he announced plans to retire soon). (more…)

Springfield Zoning Ordinance Revision Ready to Debut

Posted on Friday, May 2 2008 by Heather Brandon

Sample result of zoning modernizationSpringfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development will host a public unveiling of its zoning ordinance revision project on Tuesday, May 6, 5:30 pm at the Basketball Hall of Fame in the South End. The ordinance has not been revised in well over 30 years.

Chris Kluchman of Eaton PlanningTwo years ago, the process was initiated at an April 25, 2006 public meeting at the same location, led by Chris Kluchman (pictured) of Lexingon-based Eaton Planning. A PowerPoint slide show presented at that time is still available (PPT) on the city’s Web site.

In the ensuing period of time, a Citizen Advisory Committee has been holding regular meetings to hash out aspects of the zoning ordinance revision. The committee is composed of neighborhood council representatives, members of the business community, and members of the city’s Planning Board.

Following the public unveiling of the long-awaited results of this work, the city will open the plans to public comment for 45 days.

Lt. Gov. Murray Visits Springfield Today

Posted on Thursday, May 1 2008 by Heather Brandon

Springfield's annual outdoor pancake breakfastMassachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim MurrayMassachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray is in Springfield today making several appearances. The first was a 10:00 am keynote address at the Basketball Hall of Fame‘s MVP Program, followed by a visit to an 11:00 am press conference in City Hall’s Room 220 announcing this year’s enormous outdoor downtown pancake breakfast (pictured), slated this year for Saturday, May 17, brought to you by Spirit of Springfield and the Springfield Business Improvement District. Each year there is an honorary chairman; perhaps Murray is the pick this time around?

Springfield Renaissance SchoolAfter that, Murray is scheduled to appear at the grade six through 12 Springfield Renaissance School at 1:00 pm, receiving a tour and meeting with students. At 2:30 pm, he is expected at a ribbon-cutting at 860 Boston Road, where a new WIC Center is opening at the existing Caring Health Center.

This evening, at 6:30 pm, Murray plans to head north to address the Hampshire County Bar Association at the Garden House at Look Park, in Northampton’s Florence section.

Jim Polito On the Air in Worcester

Posted on Thursday, May 1 2008 by Heather Brandon

Jim PolitoJim Polito (pictured), a former investigative reporter for Springfield’s WGGB abc40, was fired under controversial circumstances late last year, following Business West publisher John Gormally’s purchase of the station. A taste of the controversy can be sampled not just in Mo Turner’s report in the Valley Advocate, but also the nearly 150 comments following the article. In the time since the firing, Gormally launched a Fox News affiliate and brought back Kathy Tobin as news anchor at abc40, a change from her news director position.

Tom Devine can now moonlight as an abc40 reporterAfter spending a while attending to health issues and union matters, having meal excursions with Pioneer Valley bloggers Bill Dusty and Tom Devine (pictured with Polito’s old sign), and getting knee surgery, Polito has taken up a 5:00 to 9:00 am news show gig at Worcester radio station WTAG AM 580. He has his own blog now as well, where he promises not to carry on too much, and prefers criticism to praise:

I apologize in advance if some of the entries turn into an exercise in self indulgence. Please, feel free to let me know when you like something, or more importantly, if you don’t like it or disagree. I have learned that criticism is better than praise in both one’s personal and professional life.

Polito had a great appearance on Springfield’s Rock 102 in January, where he dished on his firing, but the audio archive was removed from the station’s Web site the very same day it was posted, most likely for legal reasons. Dusty later reported that at the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year, a group of Springfield police, including Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, led a cheer to bring back Polito in front of an abc40 crew including anchor Dave Madsen. No dice, but Worcester is fortunate to have him. Thanks to Bill Randell for the tip.