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Is there an upside to the capsizing economy?

By Chris Holbein

It’s hard to find a silver lining in a recession. Stocks are plummeting, 401(k) plans are shrinking and businesses are either scaling back or folding. But there is one bright spot: Food magazines have stopped force-feeding their readers recipes featuring foie gras.

Gourmet and Bon Appétit have reportedly forsaken foie gras in favor of more budget-friendly options, and the editor in chief of Food & Wine recently announced that the magazine will no longer feature “recipes that involve loads of foie gras.” That’s a good thing. It’s just a shame that it took a tanking economy—rather than an ethical revolution or even a sense of revulsion—to make some foodies give up diseased duck livers. Continue reading Is there an upside to the capsizing economy?

Transforming urban spaces! The Regional Environmental Council’s Earth Day Cleanups!

By Virginia Marchant Schnee

Former City Councilor Steve Patton remembers when young trees and brush had overgrown Dodge Park, obscuring its meadow and making the walkways impassable. The baseball fields that existed fifty years ago, when he was young enough to play Little League, were unrecognizable. In the 100 years since Thomas Dodge donated the 13 acres of land in 1889, many improvements had been added to the park, but over time they had deteriorated.

“There was a lot of dumping going on there, with tepees and the remains of beer parties,” Patton said. “Most of the benches and the bridges in the back were broken but the remnants were still there.”
Patton helped organize the first Regional Environmental Council Earth Day cleanups in 1990, and he said that at the time, tons of heavy trash and debris plagued many sites like Dodge Park. After several years of successful Earth Day cleanups, and once volunteers had removed most of the heavy trash from these other areas, he set his sights on Dodge Park.

“How many times do you have a chance to reclaim a park that’s gone fallow?” asked Patton. “It was a great opportunity to do some good.”
With the support of the REC and the assistance of many cleanup participants, including the Indian Lake Association and Boy Scout Troop 54, Dodge Park underwent a transformation. Year by year, they opened up a little more of Dodge Park, and their work drew the attention of then- Parks Commisioner Beth Prokow.

Continue reading Transforming urban spaces! The Regional Environmental Council’s Earth Day Cleanups!

Clean up time!

By Sue Moynagh

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, the City Manager’s “Keep Worcester Clean Team,” in a joint effort with Oak Hill CDC, held a clean up of the Vernon Hill neighborhood. Numerous volunteers from area colleges, Worcester Academy and other sections of the city joined area residents in this effort. People began to gather at the Worcester Senior Center on Providence Street by 8:30 A M. and picked up bags, gloves and T- shirts. Teams were formed and sent out into the Union and Vernon Hill streets and sidewalks, collecting approximately 3, 640 pounds of trash by 11:00 A.M. It was great seeing so many people pitching in to help clean up all the trash that has accumulated over the winter and early spring! Unfortunately, some private lots remain litter- filled, but the Department of Public Works compiled a list of “nuisance properties” that will be dealt with in the near future. Continue reading Clean up time!

The US and Cuba

By Richard Schmitt

Recently President Barack Obama relaxed the previous restrictions on Cuban-Americans returning to their native land to visit their families. He also eased telephone communications between the two countries. Over the weekend, at the summit of the Organization of American States bringing together all the heads of governments in the hemisphere – except Cuba – President Obama reached out to President Chavez of Venezuela and signaled that he wanted to try for better communication with Cuba.

For more than 50 years, successive US government have been more or less hostile to Cuba. There have been some thaws before, but the embargo on Cuba has been in existence since the early 1960s. US companies have been forbidden to do business in Cuba and in periods of heightened anti-Cuban sentiment, the US also attempted to force European businesses to refrain from doing business in Cuba. Continue reading The US and Cuba

School Superintendent Loughlin’s strong leadership (with a smile)

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Interim School Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Loughlin may be considered interim by title but has shown to be an excellent leader for the Worcester Public Schools. Dr. Loughlin came on the scene after retired Superintendent James Caradonio left in September as the Worcester School Committee continued its search for a new school superintendent.

In June of 2008 Dr. Loughlin was asked by the Worcester School Committee if she was interested in being interim Superintendent as we continued with the search. Dr. Loughlin told me that at first she was shocked when she received the call but was honored that the School Committee had the confidence in her to lead the system until a decision was made to select a new superintendent. She brought the idea to her husband, Ray, and the rest of her family. All encouraged her to say “yes” and promised they would support her in every way.

The hiring of Dr. Loughlin was an outstanding choice, for not only did she have the needed qualifications and the knowledge of what works in education, but she brought with her an excellent work ethic and a desire to make a difference in the schools for whatever length of time she would be needed.

Her credentials are outstanding! She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Premed. from the University of Massachusetts, a Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts, a Mentor Fellow from Harvard University, a Biology Fellow from Boston University and a Master of Nature Science and Biomedical Instruction from WPI.

As a teacher, she has taught science, biology, chemistry, anatomy and physical science in the Worcester Public Schools, as well as Advanced Placement courses in those subjects. Continue reading School Superintendent Loughlin’s strong leadership (with a smile)

The Worcester Police Department

Back to the future or moving forward?

By Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller

Want to get the latest information on Worcester Police Department’s handling of the economic melt-down? Come to the WPD’s City-Wide Crime Watch Meeting on Wednesday, March 18th, at 6:30pm, at the WPD Training Room.

Fears that a lengthy recession/depression will translate into less police and more crime are reasonable. But, public safety is also one of the Council’s highest priorities and the commitment to explore all options is secure. Perhaps most importantly, our police chief remains committed to community policing and the Community Impact Division.

When we read things to the effect of “police class fired as soon as they graduate” or “traffic police may be a thing of the past” it adds to the doom and gloom cloud that seems to be following a lot of us these days. It makes us fearful that we are going back to the future – fewer police just when crime is most likely to increase. Some of us get angry, some of us get depressed. All of us get concerned.

I meet monthly with Chief Gary Gemme and he has assured me that he intends to keep the CID alive and active in our neighborhoods through this year and next, barring some dramatic budget hit beyond what we know. We lost the police recruit class for now and with vacancies not being filled, WPD is close to 50 officers short of the 382 we were budgeted for. So things are definitely serious. We had hoped to beef up traffic enforcement and the Community Impact Division. We had hoped to increase crime data access to neighborhood associations. We had hoped to start up a precinct office. All these are on hold for now. But the basic structures will remain and the public will be served. Continue reading The Worcester Police Department

Search committee, smearch committee

Jeff B. sent me a comment about my last post (see below). To this, I say: Jeff, you are tres naive! To think that an official “search committtee,” made up of “board members” (8!) and all the other bells and whistles that go along with announcements/pronouncements from the state make the Leary sinecure legit/without political strings is … plain goofy. I stand by my post. Shame on the Telegram and Gazette for not attacking the story the way the Boston TV stations did. Worcester Telegram reporters John M. and Nick K. are often nothing more than personal stenographers for the powers that be (especially where Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray is concerned). They should both get a box of melted chocolates for National Secretaries’ Day. (So should you!)

– Rosalie Tirella

Hush! Hush!

By Rosalie Tirella

Got an e-mail from a person a few days ago – he/she saw the news on TV because the Boston stations covered it. In Worcester, of course, there was a news blackout because it was about our very own former mayor – now Lieutenant Governor – Tim Murray.

Seems as though Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray has given his top assistant (and West Side buddy/confidant) Mr. Leary a cushy $100,000+ job at UMass Medical School. We guess being Timmy’s top gopher at the State House was a tad too much work for Leary. So he asked his buddy Tim to get him a great job – MAKING THE SAME SALARY!!!! – closer to home. Timmy obliges, makes some calls to UMass Medical School. UMass folks, of course, are happy to kiss Murray’s ass and give him what he wants (so they can get what they want from him down the line) – and PRESTO! Leary gets the UMass Medical School job. The Boston media were all over this story. Politicking at its crassest was the theme. Murray denied it had anying to do with political favors/favoritism. (Of course, when his boss, Governor Deval Patrick, gave a $170,000+ job to the wife of a donor, Worcester’s news radio stations and newspapers covered the issue. An example of spending the taxpayer’s dime foolishly; lack of respect for voters/residents, etc.)

Not so for Timmy. They stayed mum, which is why Worcester is such a joke to most folks in metro Boston. Worcester is famous (or infamous, if you prefer) for its parochialism. Why can’t we police are own – whether they be our cops or a former mayor who got lucky? Why can’t the media in this town do the right thing and call Murray for pulling something? (Just like Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe did a while back after Murray took thousands and thousands of dollars from a Republican businessman/fundraiser and then in turn gave him a seat on some board.)  After the Globe hammered away at him, Murray severed ties with the guy and – get this – kept all the thousands of dollars he raised for him but returned his personal check to the Murray campaign war chest. Not a bit of this made the Worcester papers, TV shows or radio shows.

You know, if we write about the crap in our own backyards, it doesn’t make us crappy. It keeps politicians like Murray honest. It keeps cops on their toes. And in the end, our local newspapers and other news organizations will win the respect of Worcester County readers, listeners and viewers of all political stripes.

Worcester’s Pit Bulls

By Rosalie Tirella

Worcester Animal Rescue League’s Dorreen LaPorte was driving in the Webster Square area last summer when she saw something that broke her heart: a young pit bull dog – younger than 1 year – was straining to pull three gray cinder blocks in the summer heat. The cinder blocks (weighing about 45 pounds each) were attached to three heavy chains and the chains were attached to the dog’s collar. Pit bulls are – believe it or not – crazy about people! They were bred to bait bulls and later used to fight dogs. Without their desire to please their masters, they could not endure the insanity of the bloody dog-fighting pit or tortured bulls. Also, a less sociable dog woud not allow himself to be extricated (by his master) from the pit, in the middle of a fight. (Hence, the relatively light weight of the turn-of-the-20th century pit bull dogs – 45ish pounds).

Combine the pit bull’s fierce loyalty, love of their master/mistress, innate intelligence, stamina and steely will and you have the scene LaPorte witnessed: a pit bull on Webster Square, who when his owner says “mush,” mushes. In 90-degree weather. All heart . LaPorte, who has been the executive director of WARL for more than 10 years, knew what the owner was doing – training his pit bull for dog fights.
“There’s a [pit bull fighting] dog ring on Southbridge Street,” LaPorte says. She has called the Worcester Animal Control Officers – and their bosses – and they have done nothing about breaking up the ring and rescuing the dogs. LaPorte believes there are “multiple” dog fighting rings in Worcester. Continue reading Worcester’s Pit Bulls