Thursday, November 22, 2007


I'm thankful for the Mall
Where I buy my gifts
And also Colony liquors where your spirits get a lift
I'm thankful for the grocery stores
that Oxford doesn't have
And all the stores and restaurants
all the fast food you can grab
I'm thankful for Berlin St
which got paved so smooth last year
Now if only they'd do drainage
we'd really have something to cheer.
I'm thankful that new developments
take so long to do
so greedy builders clearing land
might have their plans fall through
I'm thankful for our high school
which looks so new and bright
Now let's work on math scores
so kids will learn things right
I'm thankful that our residents
have hope for better days
and all the folks I speak with
have ideas small and great.
Now if only we could make
the voters thankful too
and get them to participate
when they have something better to do
Then we'd improve our town tommorrow
and better than today
because our town we live in
deserves better in every way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Auburn Police, brought to you by Walmart

Interesting idea to save money - advertise on police cars. In a town like Auburn this could be worth quite a bit (considering the traffic). They're doing this in Littleton and other towns are considering it too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interesting little windmill

It blends in pretty well is around $5K and generates about 1KW.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


You might have seen the somewhat alarming report on 60 Minutes last Sunday on the rampant rise of an almost incurable bacteria called MRSA. It's also been referred to as a Staph infection with the strain being resistant to all antibiotics (except the antibiotic of last resort, which they want to avoid because then it will truly become incurable).

Here's the state website on the topic of MRSA and school athletics.

There have been cases recently also here in Massachusetts where MRSA has been reported in several schools including Wrentham, Adams, Dartmouth, Salem and Winthrop according to this article.

Here's a pamphlet from the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths on the subject of MRSA prevention for parents and educators.

The other trend we have to be concerned about is the overuse of antibiotics in treating what turns out to be viruses. This is kind of a natural expected outcome as the bacteria strains become more and more resistant over time. Some have brought up the possibility that use of antibiotics in the food chain (beef and chicken) could also be behind this trend.

Our school department and Board of Health has no position published on this topic at this time but I'd like to see this taken up by the district/town before any cases show up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Veterans Day concert at Bethel Lutheran

Come to the 10 oclock service tommorrow for an inspiring armed services number by the combined choirs. Should be a good one in honor of our veterans and those in service.

I'll be singing baritone ;)

Friday, November 9, 2007

SC and the field trip

I attended the meeting the other night because the acting superintendent requested that some of our focus group (on professional development) be there to either present or lend our support to him as he presented it to the school committee.

The main issue discussed though was a proposed field trip by the Middle school Onyx team. Several members of the team (teachers) were in attendance. The trip was to occur to Pennsylvania in June to Amish country, Hershey Park - sounded like a good time. The teachers made a good case for the educational aspects as well, touting the practical application of physics, history coming alive, english and math. They did a good job on addressing the cost issue and even did a poll of the parents on the "team" who were overwhelmingly in favor of it. Everyone applauded the teachers for their ambitious and well presented plan ... then finally and gutlessly refused to vote on it.

The problems came when a few of the mothers on the SC expressed concern over the issue of perceived "fairness" or unfairness as the case may be for the other team at the Middle School. Apparently the teachers on that team were not in favor of the trip for their students for several reasons, some personal and others because of liability (here we go again - a pet peeve of mine).

The big problem I have with shooting this down is that it appears the school committee in its infinite non-wisdom doesn't trust the teachers or principal to make their own decisions. They got hung up on what's "fair and equal" and ignored what was right. As one of the parents so aptly put as we were leaving - sometimes what's fair isn't always equal.

The other fair criticism is why are we splitting up the Middle School into two distinct teams like this? I guess that's the decision of the principal and again she probably has some good reasons for it. In life group dynamics arise in business, politics and personal life all the time. But in school there always seems to be an element of cliquishness involved. Are you a jock or a freak (in my time, probably showing my age ;). This concept seems to institutionalize it to some degree. It might work better to actually split things into smaller teams ... but maybe not too. The other question I have is (and I don't have experience so I'm asking) how much choice do the students have in their team? Some kids might not get along with or agree with the leadership style of the teachers on their team. Then again that's life. OTOH if they had choice you might end up with a competition of preference for one team or another. But that might be good too.

The good thing is schools are kind of a laboratory for experiments like this. But I think you have to be careful that the negative aspects of group dynamics don't hinder anyone's education.

I'm of the opinion that the school committee was heavy handed in this regard with a group of very well intentioned and energetic teachers. I think in the end although it's disappointing, it's only a trip and it shouldn't hinder their creativity all that much.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Mass energy bill

More incentives for energy savings, clean and renewable energy is included. It's worth watching in this age of $100/bbl oil. Speaking of which I just got a delivery the other day - $2.94 - OUCH!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Charter group online and new charter draft

In case you missed it, here's a link to the charter review committee online.

There are several discussion notes and this draft (which may be updated so check back).

Personally, I applaud their efforts and boldness to propose a town manager. I think many people in town recognize the potential benefits that a manager could provide by coordinating efforts among departments and arbitrating potential conflicts between them. I don't feel the residency requirement is necessary, although that's probably not a popular view. I think hiring a professional who takes pride in their work (and can be removed) would be enough to motivate them to do what's right for the town. Frankly sometimes an independent voice is needed to break up the logjam in town politics and infuse some new energy and ideas into what can be a very stale and stolid governmental process. Take a look at how long it took to get the Master Plan proposed (and now the implementation); it's years late and there's really no excuse.

As another example of why we need a TM in the first place - look at the recent TM article about storm water management. Some basic questions arise - who will administer the $350K+ that we appropriated? I'm not sure who gets it - the town engineer? Do they go back to the BOS? Finance committee? Storm water management involves several departments potentially including AWD, sewer, town engineer and highway. I think someone independent of those departments should guide these processes to ensure monies are used promptly and efficiently.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2007 now deadliest year for US military in Iraq

And we're only in November.

This Sunday being Veterans Day the news that we've suffered the most casualties of any year since the war began causes us to remember sacrifices of those overseas today. Here's to hoping and praying they all come home as soon as possible.

Monday, November 5, 2007

School committee meeting tonight

There's a meeting tonight of the school committee to adopt the strategic plan created in the meetings of last month.

I think I'm slated to present the professional development section, which isn't really my area of expertise. But anyway we had some good suggestions by some of the administrators and the two parents on our focus group.

It's clear to me that probably the biggest area (IMO) to be addressed is the issue of curriculum, including hiring a director (or two) for the whole school system to improve the performance.

fyi, the website wasn't really updated on the school committee calendar, although there was a link I included above.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Town meeting results

It was an interesting night, and shorter than I had thought. I'm in the midst of battling a cold but showed up anyway, hacking my way through ;).

Some major issues were deferred like the sign and landscaping by-law changes.

The library issue passed to the extent that the BOS will take it up and probably place it on the ballot for next year for an override vote. I know many folks expressed concerns that it's too much money and the town has enough problems meeting basic infrastructure needs now, how can we take on another $12M? My opinion in the end was that we should enable the towns people to speak on this. I have a problem with spending the money, but I voted to let the process proceed to the next level. I think we could benefit from a new building, if we can find the money somehow. The process has been ongoing for 7 years or so and to shoot it down without a vote of the people of the town I felt was out of line.

On the $135000 for the dam, I voted against it because as a few folks pointed out, we have only about $3000 right now. Because it was raised as an appropriation (unlike the library, which is a borrowing issue) we have to look at where we can get the money now from the existing budget. The answer is we don't have it and we'd have to make cuts and such to get the money. The other thing is basic questions were not addressed about who would administer the money, are there liability issues, will it need to go to prevailing wage bids etc. Before spending the money I think we need to address this. The dam item was postponed because of these issues - I think we should stay on this for the next meeting though.

Ms Lanciault (sp?) brought up several good points. The dam was raised as an issue for many years. Because the town wasn't proactive on fixing it, we're now behind the 8 ball. Contrast this with the planning of a new library for instance where all the ts have been crossed and is dotted along the way. It's a fair criticism though that we opt for the new sexy buildings and ignore something as boring but potentially vitally important as a dam when it comes to planning.

The aquifer overlay passed unanimously although I can't say I understand the difference between the two zones. US res is in a Zone 2 watershed.

Another item - about $350K for storm water development was passed, in light of a federal mandate and potential fines incurred if we didn't. This issue points out a basic issue though - who will administer the money - who owns the $350K? The storm water management will involve several departments, including sewer, water and highway as well as the town engineer. Once again, if we had a common DPW or at least town manager I think deciding who gets the money in which order would be more apparent. I'm not confident in the process at this point although I voted for it to avoid fines.