Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Shopping Surprise

I'm getting ready for Christmas tomorrow, which means getting my apartment clean before my dad shows up in the morning. Partly as procrastination, and partly because the weather is perfect for a walk, and partly because my apartment doesn't smell "christmassy", I took a stroll down to Home Depot to buy a wreath.

Home Depot still had a couple dozen wreaths for sale, as well as some really nice fir centerpieces. They were all still fresh (only a few needles dropped when I shook the wreath). And they were only a penny each! That's right, one cent each! I could not believe it! It was almost surreal purchasing them at the self-checkout. I spent two pennies and walked out with a nice-size wreath and a festive centerpiece for the dining table.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No More Trees at Robinwood

Developers finally noticed that the intersection of West Main Street, Park Road and Robbins Street is conveniently located at an exit ramp from I-84. New construction started last year with medical buildings (and the new hotel next to the new cancer center further up the road). West Main Street on the hillside was rebuilt over the course of the past year. This past week, many beautiful old trees in the middle of the intersection were cut down. They also cut down some of the trees in Rowland Park (which, by the way, has no connection to the former Governor's family). The cute little storefronts next to the gas station are going to be torn down and replaced by a bank. Lots of big changes.

It makes me sad to see the trees at the intersection taken down. They really were wonderful. Without them, the Robinwood area there is going to look like a concrete wasteland, sort of like the stretch of West Main Street between Willow Street and the Green, or like Grand Street between Bank and South Main Streets. I think that trees and landscaping are an important part of a city's character and can make a city seem pleasant and inviting.

I've seen photographs of Waterbury from the 1950s (and earlier). The banks of the Naugatuck River were meticulously manicured--no overgrown weeds or bushes. For the past few decades, landscaping has been abandoned. The banks of the river are completely overgrown and look terrible. If I'm riled up enough about this in the spring, I think I might try to organize a grass-roots (pun intended) movement to improve Waterbury's landscaping.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Happy Holidays

I don't know how this got started, but apparently there are people in Waterbury and across the nation who are protesting the use of "Happy Holidays." The jist of their protest is that Christmas is being destroyed by crazy liberals who have somehow pressured retailers to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays." In Waterbury, a local protester has been running radio spots urging consumers to shop only at stores with Christmas displays. According to an Associated Press article (, a Christian protester put on a Santa Claus suit and stood outside a Wal-Mart, urging shoppers to remember the meaning of Christmas.

The last time I checked, the meaning of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with shopping or Santa Claus. In fact, if I were a conservative Christian, I would prefer that the stores have signs saying "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas." In its purest and most traditional form, Christmas should not be associated with retailers, trees, reindeer or snowmen. And yet conservative religious groups have been urging retailers to include Christmas in their promotional materials.

Good Grief!

Transportation Center

Waterbury train station
It would be great if the Republican-American moved to a different building (maybe the Lilly Building on the Green). Then the brick McKim, Mead & White train station could be converted back to its original function and become Waterbury's new transportation center. It might be cheaper than new construction, and it would definitely look better than new construction.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Willow St. Intersections

Anyone who has ever tried to cross lower Willow Street, whether on foot or in car, knows what a nightmare it is. From the top of Willow Street to the bottom, there are no stop signs. Cars go flying up and down the street. There's a minimum of one accident a week at the intersection with Pine & Johnson Streets. Two or three years ago, this metal stump with a button for a walk signal was installed at the corner of Grove Street. Walk signals and traffic lights have yet to be installed.

What a waste of money! All we need are stop signs at the major intersections -- Pine & Johnson and Hillside Avenue are the two that seem to need help the most. I know there are plans at WDC to make upgrades to lower Willow, but maybe we could get some relatively inexpensive stop signs while we wait.

Ugliest Building in Waterbury?

I'm sure there are plenty of other ugly buildings, but this one gets extra points for being brand new. Vinyl siding, cheap plywood construction, small windows, depressing color and design. Oh yeah.

This is a Section 811 HUD housing project with 14 apartments. Section 811 is housing for people with disabilities. Surely they deserve better than this. Ten years from now, the building will need major renovations because it was built with such cheap, impermanent materials.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Eminent Domain

The Board of Aldermen schedule a public hearing to be held tonight at 7pm. The goal on the agenda was to solicit "public input relative to the proposed resolutions regarding acquisition of blighted properties." The meeting was rescheduled to 6pm without any public notice (as far as I can tell). There was no announcement in today's or yesterday's paper. The city's website still says the meeting was to be held at 7pm. The only reason I know it was held at 6pm is because I found copies of the agenda sitting on a shelf in the Aldermanic Chambers.
[Addendum: I had a nice email response from a board member, apologizing for the confusion. Because of the confusion, the topic will be brought up again, at 7pm on January 9.]

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Corruption Hotline

From the city's flyer:
The City of Waterbury has established a Hotline to provide a confidential and anonymous way for employees, taxpayers, vendors and others to report questionable practices or practices that will reflect poorly on the City.

Callers can remain anonymous. "Appropriate" problems to report include: abuse of authority; bribes and kickbacks; ethics violations; misuse of city property or time; illegal acts; and (my favorite) gross incompetence or inefficiency.

Vague allegations (which presumably includes complaining about the terrible condition of the streets after the snowstorm this week -- do we have only five snowplows for the whole city???) are not much help.

To report waste, abuse and fraud, call 346-2368, ext. 9090.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Public Transportation

One of my pet peeves is the lack of adequate public transportation in Waterbury. We have buses, but they don't run after 6 pm. That guarantees that anyone who lives in Waterbury and works office hours won't use the bus to get to work. That also means that anyone earning minimum wage who wants to work an extra job to makes ends meet has to work near home (or buy a car, which will eat up all the income from the second job). If you want to take evening classes while working full time during the day, you have to bum rides from friends, pay for a taxi or spend money you don't have on a car. I think there would also be fewer drunk drivers in the city if the buses ran until late at night.

Many downtown businesses close at 6 pm. I suspect they would stay open later if the buses ran later. The city is looking seriously at creating a new transportation center. I hope they also plan on providing better services to go with it. In other Connecticut cities, the buses run until midnight (or thereabouts). Waterbury should have the same.

And while I'm on the transportation subject... more trains would be great. Commuter trains would be helpful, but a late night train, even just on the weekends, would be fabulous. Right now the last train to Waterbury leaves Grand Central at 9:07 pm. So you can go to NYC for an early dinner, but forget about seeing a show. Taking the train is the best way to get to NYC; it's cheaper than driving, there are no traffic jams and you can just hang out and relax.

Alderman Ramirez

Democrat Sandra Ramirez has been appointed to the board of aldermen to replace Mike D'Occhio. I assume there must be something in the city's charter that says replacement aldermen are appointed by the mayor's office (or whoever). I had thought that the next runner-up from the election would have been appointed to the board. I'm sure she's a good choice for the job, but she didn't run in the election because she lost the primary. Of course, the mayor also lost the primary, but at least he was genuinely elected to his current post.