By Rosalie Tirella
I spent the first 19 years of my life in Green Island. My mother grew up in Green Island – a great gal in a great Polish neighborhood – and spent 65 years there! I know/knew the neighborhood like the back of my hand and I love it like no other Worcester ‘hood. Jim Lukes, City Councilor Konnie Lukes’ hubby, grew up in the area, too. His dad had a diner on Millbury Street and the family still owns property in Green Island. District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller represents the neighborhood. And none us – not a person! – can make our way into Allen Fletcher’s secret “Canal District” (the yuppie monikor for Green Island) Taskforce meetings.
That’s right! Since Fletcher bought the old Ash Street school off Green Street several years ago, he has decided that he will remake the district in his own bony-ass image – or to his, and his supporters’, liking. Anyone with a different point of view, anyone with any sort of question, even folks with longstanding ties to the Green Island neighborhood like me or Jim Lukes, are not invited to play in Fletcher’s reinder games. We don’t even know when and where the meetings are!! (somewhere in Green Island, I’m guessing!) Continue reading The Canal District’s secret meetings
By Richard Schmitt
There are many desperate people in our world. Some act out their desperation. They shoot and kill perfect strangers, they invade a former workplace and kill one-time colleagues. Husbands kill their wives and children and then themselves. Men kill former girl friends. Abused wives kill their husbands. Other direct their desperate violence against themselves and cut their arms or numb their unhappiness with pills, or alcohol, or drugs, or commit suicide.
Explanations of this flood of desperation are endless. There are those who blame it on the decay of family values, or on people turning their backs on God. Others blame rampant materialism. Others again blame our restless movement back and forth across the country that destroys established communities.
A recent, particularly pathetic story raises other questions about desperation and what we might be able to do about it. Continue reading Wide-spread Desperation! What can we do?
By Debbie Leahy
The new year is here, but a whole new life lies ahead for the 140 elephants who are kept in zoos and circuses throughout India. The country’s Central Zoo Authority (CZA) recently announced that it will no longer allow elephants—India’s most prominent national symbol—to be imprisoned in zoos and circuses. The CZA made its decision in response to the mental and physical suffering that captive elephants endure. Elephants already in captivity will be transferred to elephant camps—located near protected areas, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries—that are run by the country’s Forest Department.
The U.S. should follow India’s compassionate lead.
Miserable and unhealthy conditions for captive elephants aren’t unique to India. Elephants in U.S. circuses spend most of their lives in chains or confined to cramped transport vehicles. In many U.S. zoos, elephants live in pens that provide a mere fraction of the space that they want and need. Those in northern states, where long, bitterly cold winters are common, spend the majority of their time indoors. Instead of walking for miles every day as they would on the savannahs and in the jungles where they belong, they are relegated to worlds that are measured in square feet. Continue reading New year, new life for captive elephants?
By Rosalie Tirella
It was disappointing to watch Worcester’s new mayor, the exceedingly hoarse Joe O’Brien, at last week’s city council meeting. “Zero gravitas” I told myself, as I watched the guy attempt to run (never mind lead) his first Worcester City Council meeting last Tuesday eve. He was nice enough – but not serious enough. He gave folks their turn to talk – but didn’t do much talking about anything important. He should have. He seemed to have nothing more to offer than a goofy smile when City Councilor Konnie Lukes’ suggested Worcester cap its affordable housing. (By the way, she was much more mayoral than O’Brien. She spoke with confidence. She was articulate. She grabbed that mic and held it – with authority!)
I love Konnie Lukes, but I disagree with Konnie Lukes. Totally. Strongly. Passionately. Shame on O’Brien for not coming to the rescue of the inner-city or inner-city families or inner-city kids (who he wants to make sure get the best urban education in the country). First he lives in Main South and sees the effects of poverty daily. Second: He should know a kid can’t get a first-rate education, if your family is on the run from slumlords or stressed to the MAX paying high bills or scrimping on food or clothing to pay Worcester’s $800 rents. Ya want smart kids, Joe? Then give them safe, clean apartments run by parents/guardians who dodn’t feel the wolf is at the door. ALWAYS! Continue reading Mayor Joe O’Brien: First impressions (on his first city council meeting)
By Cheez Wiz
A while ago, I pondered the effectiveness of government led by the forces of Mayor Joe O’Brien-Tim Murray-Jim McGovern and their biggest cheerleader, Jordan Levy. After all, how is this city going to grow when Joe’s “position papers” are basically outlines on how he is going to beg his federal and state connections for federal help? It doesn’t help matters that none of the big three has a private sector background. (Ya see, those panhandlers really do teach us things!)
The new Joe-Jordan-Jim-Tim Alliance relies on federal and state help. What they lack from the get go is a sense of ideas, creativity and business sense as a foundation for job growth. What happened to the ideas first put forth by President Obama – of the “carrot and stick” approach to building business?
What happened to increased use of No Child Left Behind? Why has that program been so watered down to suit the teachers’ unions at the expense of needy, low-income children? Continue reading Pan-handlers, all? Plus: Holy Cross and College Hill
By Richard Schmitt
With Congress in session again the pressure is on to complete the health care overhaul bill. As we come into the home stretch, the lobbyists will be out in full force once more. Here is what some of the largest lobbyists spent before Christmas 2009: the big drug manufacturers – $6.2 million dollars; the American Medical Association – $4 million; different insurance companies spent $1 or $2 million each. The total is unclear, but it apparently set a record for health care lobbying. Some estimates speak of lobbyists spending $1.4 million per day. Just think of how much health care that sort of money could buy.
The outcome is predictable: there are some winners and some losers. On the whole, the people who spend money lobbying are the winners and the rest of us who don’t have money to lobby are bound to be the losers. Private insurance companies will continue to make money off all of us; the big pharmaceutical companies will continue to get bigger and fatter; the poor, the working people, and the middle class will continue to pay too much for often not adequate care. Continue reading Interest group politics, justice and democracy
By Rosalie Tirella
With all the pols and papers in town congratulating themselves on how well Worcester is feeding its poor, I did not think I would see this telling little sight:
Today, in the early afternoon, at the Family Health Center on Queen Street, there’s a young Latino woman. She is bundled up against the cold in a short jacket. She is wearing sneakers. She comes up to the secretary in the doctors’ suite and says this: I was told I could apply for Food Stamps here.
She was told this by the un-sympathetic secretary: No, you can’t do that here any more. We lost the grant that pays the person to take your application. You have to go to the Department of Transitional Assistance now.
FUCKING PATHETIC! You want something to work on Mayor Joe O’Brien? Here it is! Project #1.
Here we are in the middle of Piedmont, with poor people just trying to stay abreast of heating bills, rent, etc, and Family Health Center which is, on the whole, responsible for the health of Worcester’s poor, can’t help a poor person put food on the table for herself (and I’m guessing) her kids. FHC can’t help a poor person stay healthy. Continue reading Depressing sight! Shame on FHC Executive Director Frances Anthes!
By Richard Schmitt
A few weeks ago 192 nations met in Copenhagen, Denmark for a world climate summit. The task: to come to some international agreements for all nations to reduce their CO2 emissions. Failure to do so will raise the temperature around the globe, melt the ice caps at either poles, cause serious droughts over large areas which will bring with them famines due to food shortages. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is a health hazard producing more children and adults suffering from asthma. The world is facing a series of major problems. Something needs to be done.
It is clear what that is: we need to reduce the amount of a number of gases—CO2 is only one of them–released into the atmosphere. This needs to be done by regulating emissions of factories, refineries, automobiles, airplanes, as well as land fills, stockyards and chicken hatcheries. We need to produce less of these noxious gases by reducing the activities that produce them. That is clear, very simple, but obviously very difficult to do. Continue reading The free-market way to save the planet?
By Rosalie Tirella
After reading all the pieces on Joe O’Brien’s inauguration day festivities (I wasn’t invited to the ball and InCity Times was emailed no public announcement about it to post in the paper so our readers could attend – unlike two years ago, when Konnie Lukes became mayor and I got ALL the info and a beautiful invitation to boot), I ask: Will things really change in Worcester with Joe at the helm? Will O’Brien really be any different from a pol who rewards his pals and punishes anyone who doesn’t agree with him? More important: Will things really change/improve in the Worcester Public Schools now that Mayor O’Brien says he wants to make the WPS system the best urban school system in America?
Actions speak louder than words, my momma always told me. This is what I have to go on so far: Continue reading Will things really change with Mayor Joe O’Brien at the helm? (he also heads our school committee)
By Ingrid E. Newkirk
Last week, I addressed a “green” conference on economic sustainability in Mumbai, India. The talk, other than the argument about whether we could survive in a room without air conditioning, was mostly about how much shucking and jiving the U.S. had done in Copenhagen, all in an effort not to commit to anything terribly serious regarding changes that nations must make to combat climate change. The Indians felt pretty good about their nation’s commitments, particularly to cut emissions and to fund energy projects such as those using biofuel from plants. Activists returning from Denmark, with precious little to show from the conference except truncheon bruises, were united in the idea that if people want to make change happen, we have to do it ourselves and pass on what we know to others.
It shouldn’t be news anymore that the most important thing that we can do for the planet is not to use less holiday gift wrap — it is to go vegan. That’s because it is impossible to be a meat-eating, milk-drinking environmentalist. Meat and milk are not “green,” which makes it all the more shocking that our government Continue reading Saving the planet one meal at a time