Thursday, October 22, 2009

Question of the Day

If the DOT can no longer afford to widen, straighten and otherwise improve the small yet annoyingly dangerous stretch of I-84 between Austin Road and Hamilton Avenue, then why are they moving forward with a project to widen the much larger and significantly higher quality stretch from Waterbury to Danbury? While I'm making an effort to comprehend the motivations of the DOT, why are they holding a public hearing about the Waterbury to Danbury project at 2 p.m. on a weekday, guaranteeing that anyone who works won't able to attend?

Monday, October 19, 2009

City Grants Writer

The city is finally hiring a grantwriter. This is a job that a lot of people have been hoping would be created for several years now. There are so many ways in which Waterbury's quality of life could be improved if only we had someone going after the many available grants. A good grantwriter could bring in millions for the city.

In order to better spread the word so that we can land the best possible candidate, I'm posting the links to the job description and application form here. Please spread the word!

More Grammar Problems

Jarjura's campaign ads aren't the only ones suffering from grammatical errors that drive me batty. Theriault, the Independent party candidate for mayor, has been running ads featuring a pair of slogans: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and Taxes, Taxes, Taxes. While the fine print explains that he's in favor of more jobs and less tax, conventional grammar rules interpret the pairing of the slogans very differently, that he is demanding jobs and taxes.

Theriault's background is in education, which makes me cringe even more. Isn't it possible to have political slogans with good grammar? Then again, this is the same party that sent out a campaign promotion with Independent spelled incorrectly.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Google vs. Reality

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Google's search engine had changed and no longer seemed quite as good as it used to be. Today, while looking up the business hours for Banfield Pet Hospital, I was surprised to see some major problems with Google Maps.

How does Google control its map-making? More specifically, who the heck decided that the Home Depot/PetSmart/Sports Authority shopping complex is really the Pathmark Shopping Center?

The last time I checked, what Google claims is the West Dover Street Playground is at best described as a parking lot, while the Rolling Mill Playground (where are they getting these names?) is an empty lot next to the First Light power generator.

Moving north up the map, I learned that Google thinks Rose Hill, or perhaps the land just below it, is called Center Square, which is actually what the Green used to be called. Then again, Google Maps seems undecided about what to call the Green, since it has it labeled twice (once with a cute little pine tree).

And then there's Naugatuck Valley Community College. Granted, it has been through numerous name changes, but I'm pretty sure it's been called Naugatuck Valley since before Google existed. And what's the Westwood Shopping Center? Isn't that really the former Scovill headquarters?

 Finally, here's Google Maps' opinion of the actual location of Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College (which also no longer exists, "Technical" was dropped from the name a few years ago).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grammar Problems

Two years ago, and again this year, I have been struck by and giggled at the gross grammatical error on the Jarjura campaign signs. The phrase is: Jarjura - Still the "right" choice.

Now, I understand why right is in quotation marks. It's intended as a reference to Jarjura having once been a write-in candidate. However, it looks ridiculous to anyone who knows grammar.

When a single word is placed inside quotation marks, the quotation marks imply irony or reservation. Specifically, when placed inside quotation marks, the implication is that the opposite is true, that Jarjura is not the right choice.

I was a little dismayed to see the grammar mistake reappear this year. It's a minor error, but in a city with struggling schools, it's very embarrassing to see our incumbent mayor make such an error.

The Jarjura ad which ran in today's Rep-Am got rid of the error by switching the slogan to Now the Best Choice, but instead put quotation marks around Proven Record, implying that he doesn't have a proven record, and added the grammatically foolish statement And Mayor Jarjura and his Democrat Team DID NOT RAISE YOUR TAXES IN 2010. Of course they didn't. 2010 hasn't happened yet, therefore that statement is impossible (and confusing for future historians!). Presumably the statement was intended to refer to the city's most recent budget, but that is not specified.

As with all grammatical issues, most people probably don't care, while those of us that do are driven crazy by it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Taking Requests!

The holiday season is fast approaching, and I promised myself that I would do a few holiday-themed paintings this year which would also be available as greeting cards.

With that said, do you have any suggestions of your favorite Waterbury winter scenes (or memories--how did the city celebrate holidays back in the 1950s?) that you would like to see as a greeting card? I have several that I am already planning to do, but I think it would be interesting to see what you, my fellow Waterbury fans, would like to see.

If you are not familiar with my art, you can see some examples at my online gallery or at Goldsmith's on Bank Street.

[Pseudo-legal, tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: making a suggestion does not obligate you to purchase a painting or greeting cards; making a suggestion I appear to follow up on, assuming I actually have time to this, does not entitle you to any share of the proceeds, especially since there is very little chance that there will be a profit, but maybe I can give you a personally signed copy.]

Get in the holiday spirit, think of some favorite Waterbury holiday scenes or memories, and post a comment sharing your thoughts!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Walsh Forum

I was kind of glad to see that the Rep-Am didn't report on Saturday's forum at Walsh School until today, but only because I was feeling bad about not having had time to blog about it yet!

I was surprised that there was almost no one in the audience. The only notice I had seen about the event was in the paper the day before, but the write-up made it sound like an important event for anyone who cares about the WOW neighborhood (where I live). However, as the school's principal, Erik Brown, pointed out, most people were probably planning on listening to it through WATR. After all, going to a 4-hour program that starts at 9 a.m. on a Saturday can't possibly be easy for most parents.

The forum was absolutely wonderful. I thought maybe there should have been an opportunity for public speaking from neighborhood residents, but, then again, there weren't that many of us and there was an opportunity to speak to most of the panelists after the program was over. (One panelist, Joan Hartley, never showed up or sent a substitute; a second panelist, Mayor Jarjura, joined the group more than an hour and a half late, spent a few moments shaking hands, spoke twice and left after an hour.)

The first hour might have been the best part, a discussion about the impact of poverty on Waterbury's students. It was a discussion that everyone should listen to, especially if they have never struggled with poverty.

Dr. Edward Joyner and Principal Brown spoke very well about specific students they have worked with whose poor behavior in school was directly connected to troubled home lives and very well about general difficulties.

Based on what I heard Saturday, and on a piece by Michael Puffer in today's paper, it seems that there is an unfortunate debate in the Waterbury schools about how to deal with student discipline issues. I suspect there are two competing philosophies of how a school should function. With the first philosophy, all students are treated exactly the same and are all expected to behave exactly the same. In this philosophy, the function of the school is largely limited to book learning and passing mastery tests.

The second philosophy recognizes that not all students are the same, that some students, when they are outside school, face challenges and difficulties that are overwhelming, that the only positive adult contact they might have is in the school, and that their school is the only place where they have a chance to learn how to rise above the difficulties of their lives.

If a student is homeless, do you suspend him when he acts out in school? If a teenage girl is stuck living in a house with heroin users, do you suspend her when she acts out in school? If the behavior merits suspension, then use an in-school suspension. Don't force them to stay home for a week. It will only make things worse.

While nearly all of the four hours was very inspirational, the last 20 or 30 minutes was frustrating, even infuriating. The discussion topic raised pertained to the terrible condition of the neighborhood and the impact that has on the ability of students to do well in school. If I'm remembering correctly, Larry Butler spoke early in the discussion about the responsibility of city and state officials to help solve the problems of blighted, abandoned buildings, crumbling sidewalks, litter, and so on. But the conversation quickly went downhill when some panelists insisted that the responsibility lies with the residents, that the burden of responsibility lies entirely with the people who live in the neighborhood and that if only we took pride in our neighborhood, everything would be fine. I almost stood up and demanded that they walk out onto the streets and say that to the many people who have spent the past 20 years struggling to make this neighborhood better, the people who are outside picking up litter every day, the people who were promised new sidewalks but have never seen them, the people who have complained about the problems and received no assistance, the people who call the police when there is a disturbance and don't see a response for 20 minutes (long after the culprits have disappeared), the children who have been hit by cars while crossing the road, the homeowners who have seen their taxes double and triple in the past eight years without seeing any increase or improvement in city services.

To every single panelist who placed the blame on the neighborhood residents, shame on you. What are we supposed to do about the crumbling sidewalks? What are we supposed to do about the abandoned, blighted buildings? What are we supposed to do about the speeding cars?

I have, in the past, notified the blight patrol about excessive litter at certain properties. The owners cleaned up the mess, passed their repeat inspection, and a week later all the litter was back. I didn't contact blight patrol again. I didn't see any point to it.

Last summer, I reprimanded a group of kids who were trying to demolish my neighbor's fence. Their response was to gesture toward all the abandoned buildings and say "who cares?" It was clear in their minds that this neighborhood is a disaster zone, that it will never get better, and that no one cares about it or them.

I've said this before and I will keep saying it until something happens: if the city could afford to borrow $2 million to buy Drubner's property, then it can afford to invest $2 million in the WOW neighborhood.