Sunday, March 30, 2008

Congratulations for an old friend

Kudos and congratulations are in order for one of my lifelong friends, John Maclean, for being selected (from quite a list btw) as a candidate for the Auburn police.

He's been quite accomplished in his 10 years at the DOC and is very deserving of selection. We're lucky to have guys like him as policemen. I know he's been waiting quite a while for this opportunity to come up.

He's also a nice guy too!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth hour tonight at 8

Turn off your lights for an hour tonight to join a statement about global warming and energy awareness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Greener is more Godlike according to Il Pape

According to the Vatican. I think I'm starting to like this Pope more and more.

Pollution is sinful according to the Pontiff.

In olden days, the deadly sins included lust, gluttony and greed. Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list. Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer."In the Vatican's latest update on how God's law is being violated in today's world, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the "new sins."
He cited "violations of the basic rights of human nature" through genetic manipulation, drugs that "weaken the mind and cloud intelligence," and the imbalance between the rich and the poor.

I think it's a natural extension of the idea of "stewardship". How about the sin of gluttony (of oil, of consumption etc etc). See the subprime mess too. This is a growing phenomenon and one that is welcome in my book.

More from the article

Vatican officials, however, stressed that Girotti's comments broke no new ground on what constitutes sin.

On the environment, both Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II frequently expressed concern about the fate of the Earth. During Benedict's papacy, Vatican engineers have developed plans for some Holy See buildings to use solar energy, including photovoltaic cells on the roof of the auditorium for pilgrims' audiences with the pontiff.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pug screen cleaner

Saw this and had to share it - since from what I heard there are folks in town who love the pug dogs!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Charter draft is out

I guess they're putting in for something on the May warrant, although they may change that and withdraw it if it's not ready.

The big change is having a town manager, a professional who need not be a resident (rather than limit the pool of eligible persons). The town manager would be the head of the day to day running of the town government, with complete budgetary authority, and authority to hire/fire department heads. Although as many have mentioned, firing would still not be that easy.

I think it's a very positive step by the committee and I will review it carefully as I consider my vote in town meeting. It looks pretty good so far to me! Accountability day to day would be greatly improved in my opinion. The number of elected positions would be decreased, hopefully reducing the number of little kingdoms among town departments. The promise is that the efficiency and effectiveness of our town government would be improved.

The school department is still treated separately from the rest of the town.

The draft is here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Home prices

According to this Auburn is steady at $249K. But if you look at the number of sales, they are off 26%. There seems to be a lot of for sale signs out there lately. This data is according to the Warren Group.

City or town2006 sales 2007 sales % change '06-072006 median price ($)2007 median price ($)% change 06-07


Meanwhile prices in Oxford are down 3%, Millbury steady, Paxton up %16 and Holden up 2%.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Auburn holdup

Scary stuff at the One Stop the other day. The gun jammed twice - probably saving the cashier's life twice.

They'll catch the guys, the APD is pretty good that way ... more vagrant bandits just passing through our little town on the crossroads again. This is why we need help with budgets, maybe regional or state help. Someone has to acknowledge the price we pay for all those roads.

Makes you want to go out and take a gun course. I'd recommend that to anyone interested in self-protection. Security cameras are a wonderful thing too.

Bernanke bailouts continue

Last week it was $200B in treasuries to prop up the depressed and teetering mortgage securities market.

Yesterday it was a $30B credit line to enable the Bear Stearns bailout. They're essentially guaranteeing loans for private companies. Should things go south, guess who insures them? (you and me that would be).

I'm really curious what the final cost of all these bailouts will be. On a side note they cut rates again. Nice try but I think the time to do that was last year so they've been playing catch-up. Last year, as Jim Cramer so aptly put it "THEY KNOW NOTHING!!!" when they were so afraid of inflation. Before the millions of people who lost homes, got foreclosed and went bankrupt.

Sorry but Bernanke doesn't impress me much with his wisdom or financial acumen. Then again the fedgov enabled a lot of this with their "home ownership"/'merican dream programs which allowed ridiculous speculation in mortgages the past several years. But the Fed is culpable too, first with their over-reactive low rates in the early 2000s and lately with Bernanke's stubborn inflation watch while real estate and credit markets crumble.

btw - what would really lower rates is an overhaul of FHA rules with the result that banks will reduce the huge rate gap between Tbills and 10 year bond by providing stability in mortgage securities. They're workin on it at least.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Great press for Auburn (again!)

That was sarcasm.

Check out the front page of and the story on the news last night. Yet another in a long line of stories about crime in our little town.

The citizens police academy opened my eyes (sometimes I wished not) to the growing crime problem, thanks in part to our convenient location. As you know we're at the crossroads of many interstates and convenient to Hartford, Boston, Springfield, Providence, even on the way from New York City.

Our location, in addition to all the transient/temporary resident population thanks to the proliferation of motels has led to a crime wave exacerbated by the internet. From underage parties, to drinking, drugs and prostitution, even sexual predators setting up meetings, any kind of vice you can imagine happens in these motels semi-regularly.

It's one of those unintended consequences of having a thriving business population - that increased crime can lead to increased taxes for residents.

One stat that jumped out to me which kind of drives everything - we have a business hours population in town of 75000+. So we get the problems, infrastructure and service needs of a city that has to be supported by a residential population of a mid-sized town of only 16000.

So maybe having that dual tax rate isn't so bad after all - makes up for the additional police, fire and highway services required by all that activity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shine a little light on government

Transparency is a basic principle that enables democracy to function. When you don't have information available to the public, the government can't serve the needs of the public.

Along that line of thought I got this from a friend of mine the other day - it's sunshine week next week! This is a movement dedicated to freedom of information in government and encourage citizen journalists.

Sounds like a great idea to leverage the growing online communities and groups of concerned citizens to shed some light on the process of governing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drugs and hormones in the drinking water

Interesting and somewhat disturbing story about water supplies being contaminated with hormones and drugs.

This to go along with the perchlorate contamination found in Auburn water recently. The source of that chemical is from explosives like those used in blasting (or fireworks!).

There was this somewhat wacky story last year about how "our young boys are being feminized by hormones and chemicals in the water supply" like somehow there was a feminist conspiracy against mankind or something.

One apparent negative effect is on spawning fish. Which I can believe since they mate in what used to be pure water which now has ever so slightly (they think slightly) elevated levels of estrogen hormones, probably from birth control pills.

One thing is sure - we have a lot of water supplies in town and given the town's history we can do a lot better at protecting our resource. I mean, they filled in Silver Lake to build the mall, not to mention the houses that are built near or in wetland areas every year.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

CEOs of subprime banks: "We deserve our money"

I guess it follows the old "deny deny" and if that doesn't work just be arrogant and lie lie.

Countrywide CEO among others with plenty of gaul, audacity, temerity use your favorite adjectives to justify huge (100s of millions) in compensation despite the near depression in real estate and credit.

Story here.

It used to be you could look up to great leaders in business and society as having integrity. Apparently that's all out the window since the 80s and it's grab what you can. How many jobs would this have saved not only if they didn't screw things up but if they had a reasonable wage? I think it's high time there were limits on the high end (ie a "maximum wage" just like the minimum one).

O'Neal lost the confidence of investors and directors after delivering a $2.24 billion third-quarter loss last year. Merrill has said O'Neal's stock awards were granted before 2007, and he didn't get a bonus last year or severance.

Citigroup, the largest US bank by assets, "worked hard to align management's interests with the interests of shareholders," Prince said. Prince, 58, who left Citigroup in November, came under pressure after the bank reported $6.5 billion in write-downs and losses in the third quarter.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Debt meltdown widening

If you've been following the crises in mortgages, foreclosures and the like you might have also noticed there have been recent foreclosures on Oxford St in the paper - two in a week in fact.

Now two other areas are being hit - student loans and auto loan defaults.

For investors they could probably pick up some deals (if you have the cash available). I did this back in the early 90s on some property in NH. Here's a list of homes in foreclosure around the state - some good deals and others probably heading even lower.

A good time for buyers (well better than it was a year ago), maybe not so much for developers and sellers though.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Can libraries be saved from the internet

Story here.

Architects and a changing view of the library as a modern urban hangout ... fodder from the librarian plans for Auburn and the $13M plan.

I think the more interesting question is what happens to reference librarians. Their skill is still what's needed to drive search for the right information.

Go green for Lent

Not a bad idea actually - this woman gave up carbon. Doing your penance for the environment. More and more people are realizing the connection between environment and faith.

Story here.

"For me, it's that connection between protecting nature and faith," said Scott, who is one of about a dozen parishioners at Amherst's Grace Episcopal Church who are following a Lenten carbon "diet" until Easter and, hopefully, beyond. Across New England, a small but growing number of Christians are pledging to reduce energy usage as part of the 40 days of sacrifice and charitable deeds leading up to Easter. These Lenten environmentalists say they have come to realize they are morally bound to help protect God's creation from the threat of human-made global warming, and Lent's season of reflection is an ideal time to start making changes.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Historical overview of Auburn

There's a lot of older history here in this book a friend of mine found using google. It starts around page 240.

I think it was written around 1870 and is titled HIstory of Worcester County. Interesting reading about some of the founders of Auburn including Drury, Eddy, Capt Crowl who supposedly reared a family of giants and way back to Sagamore John and the Nipmucks.

The plentiful water and rich soil were mentioned as strengths of the town from way back - vital resources we need to respect and guard to this day. There's quite a patriotic history from the beginning as well as history with the mills and farms. The incorporation of the town met with resistance according to the document from Worcester for one, as we were considered part of the city at that time. Samuel Eddy went to the Cambridge Convention to assist in framing the Bill of Rights and Constitution in 1779.

Kind of funny that at the first town meeting they appropriated funds for highway repair. Somethings never seem to change!

Anyway, for any history buffs or people wondering just how the town got its start it's an interesting read.