Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rockefellers seek to change Exxon on environment

Today they'll vote at the shareholders meeting to oust the un-green Exxon CEO.

Yes it's those Rockefellers.

Sometimes large actions by well-connected people can do as much as a billion smaller ones by the little people.

Why come out now? As Neva R. Goodwin, a Tufts instructor (and the great-granddaugher of John D. Rockefeller), told Alex Beam earlier this month: "I am 63 and I've tried to live quietly, but this issue seemed to me tremendously important. ... There is real concern that Exxon could run into real trouble and may be ignoring opportunities as well as ignoring risks to its future."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Computing pioneer dies

Arthur Burks, who was 92 died. His obit is here. This isn't akin to anything in particular about Auburn. He embraced, promoted, developed and overall touted the potential of technology and computers in modern life. He made great contributions in the field, helping develop ENIAC, working with Von Neumann and creating brand new courses of study of the fledgling science back in the post WWII era.

Technology is something we need to continue to embrace as a town going forward - get our data online, utilize and enhance communications and shine light on the information and workings of the town for everyone.

Friday, May 16, 2008

State budget numbers finalized


Auburn's numbers are here.

Looks like pretty much the same as what we knew on Mar 20 for local aid.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recycling event in Worcester

No residency requirement. Pretty good for those who missed Auburn's event.

Notes: Individuals can drop off only during the public event on Saturday May 17, 2008.
Cost: There is no cost to the participants.
Limit: There are no weight limits for individual drop-offs.
Residency: There are no residency requirements.
Packaging: Please remove equipment from cardboard boxes and Styrofoam.

Materials Accepted: Computers, monitors, televisions (including big screen and wood consoles), LCD/flat panels, laptops, printers, copiers, keyboards, other computer related equipment, stereo equipment, cell and other phones, power supplies, cords, electronic games, VCRs, circuit boards, and other household electronic devices.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Vote smart

Kind of an interesting website - has the positions of all the candidates across the nation - including state levels at least for Mass.

If you don't like the big 3 Presidential candidates, you can even check out the rest here.

Here's a query for 01501 zip.

Among other things you can find evaluate our state Rep Paul Frost on various issues.

Migraines not just a pain

There's some evidence they are a risk factor for stroke and heart attack according to this story.

As someone who's suffered from them in the past (my mom had them, Eleena also gets them from time to time) it's concerning. Apparently blood vessels pulsate during the headache and they may lead to other more serious issues as they get damaged. As they put it in the article, it's likely a risk factor like smoking, obesity, cholesterol etc for heart and blood pressure problems.

At the least the headaches can be debilitating. When I had them bad I just had to sit or lay in a dark quiet room sometimes for hours until they passed. At this point I only get the "lights" portion; fortunately the pain part of it is passed for me.

There's a group on Myspace for support here.

New England Regional Headache Center is in Worcester. The link is here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Win for Marlboro - renewable energy company


With the new gateway district we have the opportunity to attract businesses like this. Auburn could position/sell itself this way and needs to do so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We're done finally

We finally got through all the items on the warrant tonight.

I was a little surprised that the new gateway district breezed through. This is more significant zoning changes than the "Villagzhe" district for Drury Sq the other night. It's certainly got the right intentions to try and attract new business to revitalize that area of town. But I wonder if the new regs might have the opposite affect. I voted for it though, I think we need to encourage this type of forward planning in zoning regs.

Anyway - got my obligatory questions answered - learned what a "trac vac" was - sucks leaves. Also why $500K from general funds was not available for highway maintenance.

Good meeting and an eventful first May series of TM for me.

Is no place sacred from cell towers

Story today about how Framingham residents are fighting a cell tower in an old New England cemetery.

Interesting that it's the archdiocese who is looking to do this - not unlike a situation on Oxford St a few years ago. St Joe's was looking to locate one right in the middle of an area which is prohibited in our zoning. Although the Telecom act of 1996 expressly enables cell tower construction over local objections in areas where wireless services are not there, there is also indication that aesthetics justify cell tower rejections.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another TM another budget discussion

We got through quite a few but not all the items. There was a lot of discussion on zoning bylaw proposal changes from MPIC.

The glaring item that won't go away is the school budget of course. We beat the horse again but I don't think anyone was comfortable with enough detailed information in hand to re-appropriate the budget on the fly. I half expected SC supporters to have a ready counter-proposal because several SC members and others had good suggestions. I thought someone would step up but I guess everyone remembered last time when Dennis Natoli DID propose adding in $500K from the free cash and surplus accounts and he was shot down. When we got to raiding the pension fund I think some people got nervous like what are we doing? In the end the old vote stood.

The answer to funding for the SC might come from another override (which is a tough sell, unless we lose accreditation or something), or savings from medical insurance or ??? (more state funds, not sure). It's clear no one has the stomach to look at cutting other areas of the budget or town departments like police fire, highway etc.

The one thing I realized that I had presumed everyone had is but that few TM members did other than Eleena were all the numbers of the proposed budget in hand. I forgot she searched for and obtained the itemized budget from the committee. I probably should have brought it to show people. I think if they had released this to TM they might have had something to go on.

OTOH we didn't get the same itemized breakdown from finance which is what I brought up last time. I don't know if such a list even exists.

I think this type of detailed information might have made the difference of a few hundred thousand at least. Well it's something Eleena would have stressed - open up the process so people can understand where things are going. I know they had meetings but they should have released it to TM members somehow - at least in a powerpoint presentation or better a handout.

Anyway, we still have a balanced budget, it's still an increase, hopefully SC will spend it wisely in accordance with the strategic plan objectives while they look for other revenue sources.

Major Taylor article

Kind of an informational/educational column today in the paper about Major Taylor.

If you don't know of him, he was a champion bike rider who happened to be African American who broke ground for black riders and lived in Worcester in his later years. The city has honored him with his own street downtown and at several gatherings.

Bike riding was huge in his time (late 1800s to 1920 or so) - there was a velodrome at White City and crowds used to attend races like they do for football or baseball now. Lynn Tolman is a big advocate for him and does some great work with the Major Taylor association. I believe she's planning to create a museum in the area as well.

My grandfather George Rhodes was a competitive rider in the area at the time (grandmother used to comment he had the nicest legs in Worc County ;) who trained with the "Major" as he was referred. My grandfather led/was grand marshal for a race in his honor back in the early 70s - think it was 1972 - I remember as a kid attending the race on Chandler st.

The association has a race my grandfather, his buddy Joe Cote and Major used to do on George St in Worcester. If you don't know it - it's quite a grade and real test for a sprint - kind of an interval. They have an event coming up for those who are up for it.

I used to bike a lot myself - at 15 I did my longest ride in a single day of 125 miles from my aunt's place in S Londonderry Vt. Gotta get lighter if I want to try that race up George St. ;)

The lesson of racial tolerance and working together with people of all types was impressed in me at an early age by my grandfather's actions. Major Taylor endured a lot of racial epithets and hostility in his time but commented favorably on the treatment he enjoyed here in Worcester and I think it's a great legacy we should be proud of. He's a lesser known athlete by most who was really the Jackie Robinson of his time and sport.

Big ole gobbler

Wow - a guy bagged a 28 1/2 pound turkey in Hardwick the other day.

Interesting about the pow-wow shoot coming up too at Century's.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Strange town meeting

Kind of dysfunctional and disorganized I thought if anyone saw it. If you were there in person you felt it.

I as usual asked a difficult question (seems to be my role in life) that no one dared answer. I think the finance committee and admin expected everyone to buy into the "gee times are tough, thanks for being here, now sign here" speech. Actually it was a fair question I ask of everyone (highway whoever) SHOW ME, with respect to the proposed SC budget. I thought the lack of line item breakdown displayed an inability to deal with or suggest where to cut so I balked, it's just an instinct. Trust and verify, it's part of my nature as an engineer.

The bigger problem was the school committee's proposal and their recommendation was so far apart that I think TM felt that it was unfair to allow such a disparity without at least acknowledging it.

I for one was part of and agree with the strategic plan effort underway. As a TM member though, a 20% increase was out of line with economic times and just reality. In a sense I think if the SC wanted that much more they should try for another override. Whether it passes or not well that's another story. We obviously have to do something to improve things there's no question. And the numbers for Auburn look pretty bleak, both in terms of the trend for funding the schools over the past 5 years and the test scores and bad marks for our system.

Luckily a senior TM member moved things along and we adjourned til Monday. Funny because some of the original presenters had contingency plans in place for subsequent meetings. I don't know if they were prescient or just figured there was so much on the warrant (39 items).

Just glad to get out before midnight because I feared it would drag on til the wee hours.