Friday, April 28, 2006

Stinky Trees

According to the Republican American, the trees lining Grand Street are being replaced with ginkgo trees. The old trees were faulted for getting "too big". Maybe they've selected a variant of ginkgo I'm not familiar with. I've lived in two places that had a ginkgo tree. Both trees were enormous. Both trees had the smelliest fruit I've ever encountered. Once a year, for about a month, they smell AWFUL. Like something dead and rotting. The paper says the new trees have already been delivered, so I guess it's too late to do anything. And, like I said, maybe it's a type of ginkgo that doesn't stink and doesn't grow large.

Focusing on the Sex

Today's headline news, complete with a photo of a lithe young woman in a bikini and handcuffs, was the raid of 10 massage parlors and the arrest of 29 women who work in them. The vice squad has been working on this bust for a month (according to the Republican-American), and there has not yet been a decision on whether or not to prosecute any of the men caught having sex with their masseuses. The women are all Asian and speak little English, suggesting that they are recent immigrants. The paper reported that the women slept in the same rooms in which they worked. To me, this certainly suggests that they have extremely little control over their lives. I would have liked the reporter, Ben Conery, to have focused more on this issue. The article contains far more information about the details of paying to have a masseuse double as a prostitute. The large photo of the woman in a bikini borders on the titillating, and is extremely offensive and inconsiderate if it should turn out that the woman in question is an immigrant forced to work as a prostitute.

The men who were found in the massage parlors are "cooperating" with the police and might not be charged with any illegal activity. The Waterbury police department has a track record of not charging men who solicit prostitutes. This is a horrible double standard. If exchanging money for sex is so terrible an act that it must be illegal, surely the men are just as guilty as the women. Indeed, aren't the men more guilty? If they did not go looking for the prostitutes, then the prostitution would never occur.

Worse still, if any of these women were forced into prostitution and were, in my opinion, being held in a form of slavery, then the men who frequented the massage parlors are among the lowest of the low and deserve jail time.

Given the possibilities of this case, the newspaper should have been much more balanced in its coverage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Property Sales

On Monday there was an article in the Republican-American about properties being sold at auction by Waterbury's Office of Revenue Collection. The focus of the article was the difficulty the city has selling these properties. Some of the reasons for the difficulty include the high price of the back taxes and interest due on the properties. This is certainly a valid problem for many properties. There's not much incentive to buy a property worth $25,000 when you have to pay $75,000 in back taxes on it.

Personally, I think the main problem might be lack of information. The article in the paper mentions the difficulty that the city has in "getting the word out" about the properties for sale. Nowhere in the article is there a listing of the properties for sale this week. D'oh! A great big article about how there is a property auction this Thursday, and a complaint about how no one knows which properties are for sale, but no list of the properties. I decided to follow up by visiting the city's website to see if the properties were listed there. For a brief moment, I became optimistic -- there is a link on the Tax Collector's page to a listing for a Tax Lien Sale. The link takes you to the listing for a property sale held June 23, 2005. Good grief! Is the city so short on funds that they can't pay someone to spend five minutes uploading a document? We already have a corruption hotline; maybe it's time for an incompetence hotline....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Steakhouse Shelter

Here's a thought that's been bouncing around in the back of my head for a while now: back in January, a restaurant chain called Texas Roadhouse announced plans to build a new restaurant on Benedict Street, behind the Home Depot. St. Vincent DePaul operates a homeless shelter on Benedict Street, behind the Home Depot. The new restaurant will presumable have its back to Benedict Street, since facing towards Bank Street is more likely to pull in shoppers from the Home Depot plaza. I wonder what it will be like for the people staying in the homeless shelter to smell, every day, broiled steaks they can't afford. It seems kind of cruel. Then again, maybe Texas Roadhouse has a good sense of community and will help support the shelter. Either way, it is a strange contrast to have a restaurant serving steak next door to a shelter.