Open door, huh!

I sent the following email to my At-Large Councilor and current City Council Chair.
Dated 02/23/12 @ 10:05 AM
Dear Council Chair,

As you are aware, I have questioned the Council about the Consolidation Committee in the past.

The issue of the IT Department in the recent news and debated at Council has prompted me to
write and request that a Consolidation Committee, either as a standing Committee of the Council
or as an Ad Hoc Committee, as in the past they were, be created by Ordinance or Resolution, to
investigate and recommend solutions for the IT Department needs in the City of Methuen.

I recommend that members, as occurred in the past, be brought in from the Council and the School Committee to look into this.

Thank you for your consideration of this recommendation

I have never heard a word.
Not even an acknowledgement that the email was received.
I even wrote a Letter to the Editor, published in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune,along the same vein.

Municipal IT services for the long term.

As with most things in life, one can take a reactive, conservative or proactive stance on Municipal issues. I offer these thoughts to move the dialog forward.
The Conservative stance consists of leaving things to basically continue as before applying minor tweaks here and there and continuing to fund at substantially the same,however inflationary adjusted rate.

The reactive stance is to hire someone to come in and “assess” the current status. Using this pre-biased tool, one can then arbitrarily make drastic changes that have no basic plan in place but appear, in the short term to offer cost savings. The end result of knee-jerk reactions are often higher long term cost and the creation of a cycle of assess-gut reactions which do not benefit the long term functionality of a municipality.

A proactive approach is often more difficult to achieve but has substantial real long term benefits.
This could start by looking at the Municipality as a cohesive unit. In today’s muni-structure it is often that the CEO views his organization as two separate entities, the Town/City and the School. Step back and look at it from a taxpayer perspective, One does not pay separate tax bills for these entities. It is one tax bill and then the CEO splits the funds as required to support both entities. To consolidate should be the first goal.

One approach would be to create two teams. One team is tasked with creating a consolidated resource. The second team is tasked with defining the requirements of or create a business model for the IT department, as a service provider for the muni’s future.

My recommendation, with endless caveats, would be to define an IT model with and for the State. This would view the 351 cities and towns and the 391 school districts as customers. The State would become a hosting service. They would set up server farms and upload standard open source software that could be downloaded and customized by each of it’s customers as required. Each customer would pay a hosting fee to cover the cost of the servers. This plan is very similar to the business model used by hosting service companies, Go Daddy being among the most well known.

Let’s create the model and then move into the future confident that we have considered the consolidation and economy of scale of regionalizing. This may be the most economic process but is time consuming and does not make political hay in the short term. It should provide long term stability and cost savings to an always struggling populace.

It is not just the City Council.
All email addresses have been removed from the City website. All email traffic is directed to the Mayor’s office. [Guess the Open door policy is so the email has somewhere to go after piling up.]
The Mayor does not respond to email addressed to his official email address.
I have heard from no one who has written to Mayor Zanni and received a reply.

I accidentally, (yeah right), posted about email on Facebook.
A newly minted Councilor called my house and said, ” I spoke with the Mayor and he will put email addresses for Councilors back on the website that day.”
Never happened.
After a week, or so, I called the Councilor and asked if I had misunderstood.
No was the reply.
He had received an update from the Mayor that due to Hackers and SPAM, email was being “managed”.
I asked how many hack attacks and how much Spam? Dead silence.
I have been hacked once in 6 years.
I have spam filters and that has greatly reduced the incidence of spam.
Even so, I still do most of my business over the internet.

I don’t see a sense of Open government principles being promulgated in the opening months of this administration.
Just saying…

sleight of hand

Written originally 10/22/ 2009.
I listened to the Mann Orchard town hall meeting last night.

I was surrounded by my family and we all listened.
I noted some egregious mis-truths perpetrated by one candidate. Political expediency seems to breed this.

I was a member of two Water and Sewer Task forces.
These were groups organized by the Methuen City Council to review the water and sewer rate and rate setting process.
Our viewpoint was not met with overwhelming support.
That’s water under the bridge (chuckle).

I, again, heard that the Water Treatment plant capacity was increased to meet the needs of the citizens of Methuen. This statement is the crux of disagreement between the Task Force and the Administration.

The Methuen water works can now and has for the past 15 years at least been capable of producing from the Merrimack River 10 million gallons of water per day.

After about $19-$20 million worth of work, it still can only produce the same amount of water.

The cost was to upgrade the plant not increase it’s capacity.

The Plant should now have a more streamlined maintenance program and the cost of producing water should be decreasing as overhead costs for maintenance activities decline.

Even after all that work and cost and the numerous bickering about rates, costs are increasing.
Water rates are still being discussed as inadequate to generate the revenue required.

Even after all this time, this article is still true.

New Additions

Not sure how many people take the time to look at the sidebar.
We try to keep active, relevant sites linked there.
Recently added two more in the “of Interest” category.

Take a few minutes and click through.
Read, think about and leave feedback on your thoughts.

The Institute for Local Government [ILG] states, “ILG is the research and education affiliate of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities.” Their motto is “Promoting Good Government at the Local Level.

I clicked to read:  “What Do You Think Promotes Public Service Ethics?

ILG, in its efforts to promote good government at the local level with practical, easy-to-use and impartial resources, is currently reviewing the future and focus of its Public Confidence program. Here you will find a summary of the resources ILG provides to help local officials sift through the ethical and legal issues of public service ethics. We would also like to hear from you on what promotes public service ethics.

I , also, linked to City [see, Model Ethics Code] whose goal is “making local government more ethical”. A banner on the site proclaims “This website is an international project designed to exchange best practices in government ethics programs.

Take a peek when you have a moment.

Don’t forget any of our other links. They are all there to help enlighten.

Pro and con about the links as well as our content is always appreciated.
I actually read all the comments and even the spam.
Good ideas are everywhere.

Dropped out in the 8th grade…

Well, check this out. This article was sent to me by a relative. Not sure the intent but I may drop her from my Christmas card list.
Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA.
It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS – 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie, ?play,’ and ‘run.’
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour) [Do we even know what this is??--try clicking the link.]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, sub vocals, diphthong, cognate letters, lingual?s
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’ (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy,
sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena,Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.
Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?!
No wonder they dropped out after 8th grade. They already knew more than they needed to know!
No, I don’t have the answers And I don’t think I ever did!
Have fun with this… I pass it on so we’re not the only ones who feel stupid!!!

Be sure, when you are complete with reading the questions and feel stumped, to read the Snopes Report and/or the report on Truth or Fiction website. Might ease the pain.
If you decided not to read the Snopes report, you might want to read this. A certification examination for prospective teachers, prepared by the Examiners of Teachers for the Public Schools in Zanesville, Ohio, in the late 1870s. Just as much fun and more “stuff” I have probably forgotten, if I ever knew it.

Waiver…How the heck?????

During a recent series of articles in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, information about a newly elected official in our city was disclosed.
This official stated that he has lived in the city since 2008. Residence has been in the West and then the Central and again in the West district.
The Official noted that he has a son who attends school in the West district. He had received a waiver to attend the West district school even when he lived in the Central district.
I was contacted by a concerned parent/citizen who asked, with all the emphasis on removing students who cannot prove residence, how does this official get a waiver to allow his son to attend an out of district school?

Well, the answer will surprise you.
Let’s look at the School Committee policies.
There is a policy on Assignment to schools.
This policy states:”Each school within the school system is defined by attendance boundaries set by the Committee. It is generally expected that youngsters will attend the school within the attendance district of his/her residence. However, the Committee recognizes that there are situations in which it is beneficial to both the youngster and the school system to allow a placement outside of the attendance district. The Superintendent is authorized to grant or deny written requests for individuals to attend a school outside designated attendance areas according to the following guidelines:

Some of those guidelines are:
“2. When a youngster moves to a new residence and that new residence is in a different attendance district, a request to remain at the previously assigned school will be honored subject to the availability of space in the school.

4. In all cases in which a placement outside of the attendance district of residence is granted, parents will assume the responsibility for transportation to and from school.”

So it appears that the criteria to look at is the availability of space in the school..
The policy even states each schools space.
“A school is deemed to have space available if the total enrollment of the school is at or below its design capacity and the classroom to which the youngster is assigned will not exceed twenty-five students.”

Comprehensive Grammar School ——————–Design Capacity 1200 students
Marsh Grammar School ———————————-Design Capacity 1370 students
Tenney Grammar School ——————————–Design Capacity 1370 students
Timony Grammar School ——————————-Design Capacity 1370 students

I do not know the age of this officials child or what grade the child is in. It is actually irrelevant to the discussion.
Let’s look at school enrollment for the period in question. Keep in mind that children in the Central district will attend ,usually, the Timony School.

From the Department of Education website for Massachusetts we find;

Year  Marsh Timony Tenney
2007 1397 1456 1446
2008 1370 1427 1427
2009 1366 1454 1431
2010 1342 1437 1375
2011 1328 1379 1376

So the truth is that the Tenney and Timony schools have been over capacity for the period in question and per the published policy it was well within the discretion of the Superintendent to grant the waiver and even made sense to exacerbate overcrowding.

The newly elected official was, probably, just trying to maintain continuity in the child’s life and probably didn’t realize the additional benefit to the school system of his request.

The good news is that the data shows the School District has been making strides to even out the student count in our schools.

Hope this answers any questions about this issue.


So reading today’s Lawrence Eagle Tribune, I find a picture on page 3.
It is titled “Rock Show”. It is not about music videos or some new fangled theater act.
It is a photo op. Simply put.

One complaint about this photo op is that it takes place at a time when the beneficiaries of the largesse are unable to attend. Or…. Looking at the photo, maybe THEY were.

A new park was created in Downtown Methuen.

It has a long history of being funded, then the funding was “moved” to more pressing issues, then being funded again only to repeat the money moves. I have lost track of the number of times and the total amount of money sent to Methuen to clean up this site and do “something” proactive with it.

The site borders the Spicket River downtown and could be a really nice place to stop and view the River. Especially if one were tracing the Millionaire Walk.
However, the river bank was never cleaned up. It is bolstered by numerous oil tanks, ostensibly filled with concrete. A very lovely sight.

One politician who voted numerous times to accept the millions that flowed into the city, apparently was at the site for the first time and noted the old dock still precariously perched on the island in the river. The dock has been there for perhaps 80 plus years. The pol, who is between 66 and 68 had never noticed it.

I am told there were also comments about how much money was sent and how much was used for this enhancement. These questions from someone who should have those numbers on the tips of his fingers.

The article states that the money received was from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA (Pub.L. 111-5), often referred to as the “Stimulus bill”.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was an act making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes.

I guess the key is the last phrase “for other purposes.”

The primary objective for ARRA was to save and create jobs almost immediately.
Secondary objectives were to provide temporary relief programs for those most impacted by the recession and invest in infrastructure, education, health, and ‘green’ energy. The term, infrastructure, typically refers to the technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, and so forth, and can be defined as “the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.”

The Act also included many items not directly related to economic recovery such as long-term spending projects and other items specifically included by Congress (?pork?: ed note.) .

So, as you well could have guessed, how much did we spend and what “stimulus” was created?
How many jobs were saved or created with this money?

Okay, so it was an infrastructure project.
How does an unmarked park in the center of a nonfunctional city downtown support,enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.

What could the “other purposes” be?

I surely would have liked to see the City publish the costs to “build” this park.
The steps taken to “clean” the contaminated site.
Who thought it would be a good idea to move large rocks from somewhere and call them seats.
[Have you ever sat on a rock? Very cool...especially on your buttocks.]
Not very comfortable. Great place for children to play.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Big Lie Theorists.

Just to edify my readers, I will post this link.

During the past few months an election cycle has taken place in the City of Methuen.

The Firefighters Union was determined to make sure their candidate wins. So they began attacking his opponent.

They started with the premise that “Big Lie” theory works.
They told a lie. Then they embellished it and began to believe it.

The lie was that Al Dinuccio had stated he would privatize the Methuen Fire Department Ambulance Service.
I searched and never found a reference in any speech that this statement was ever made.
[ed: if you find a link that shows this statement, I will publish it and retract this statement.]

UPDATE: 12/28/2011: This site, Double Talking Al, is no longer active on-line. The link does not work. Instead they have posted the videos on You Tube.
Here is the website the Firefighters Union created. Double Talking Al.

They could not even admit to owning it so they purchased private registration.
(This listing is a Network Solutions Private Registration when viewed on Whois site)
They also run the unofficial site: Methuen Fire and the Methuen

Here is the Methuen Fire Department official site.

They forgot to add a link to one of their articles, so I add it here. It is from a debate for the Massachusetts Congressional race, discussing State wide issues, not Methuen centric.

I read the site numerous times. I see that they want me to believe that they make $1.2 Million per year. My question becomes, If they make $1.2 million, why the $800,000 in overtime? Are you trying to tell us that your actual costs are $2 million in overtime? That smacks of mismanagement, methinks.

They also forgot to mention that Private Ambulance services are REQUIRED to post financial statements each year and that Municipal Ambulance Services are exempt from that requirement because the tax payer foots the bill and it is part of the budget process.

No one, that I know of, has made any derogatory remark about the level of service or training of the members of the Methuen Fire Service.

Put Me in Charge (re-published)

Sometimes we read our mail and find a gem.
I cannot offer proof of the authorship of this article.
There is nothing on
I, therefore, offer this as is.
Read–think about–comment.

This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It’s her future she’s worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she’s being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion.

This was in the Waco Tribune Herald, Waco , TX.
It was published November 18, 2010 in Letters to the Editor, “Fixing Social Security; Put me in charge of welfare, Medicare and housing grants” If you subscribe there was a followup letter, January 09, 2011 in Letters to the Editor, “Put us all in charge, our moral landscape, No COLA but free rides offered?” (comment: Put us all in charge … The idea that the proposals outlined in my Nov. 18 letter [“Put me in charge”] were “punitive” — to quote the Jan. 1 Tribune editorial “Our choices for top story of 2010” — proves that the Tribune is still playing an Austin tune …)

Put me in charge . . .

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and document all tattoos and piercings. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, smoke or get tats and piercings, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks?

You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good..”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary.
If you want our money, accept our rules..
Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE!

Yes that is correct.

For you to vote would be a conflict of interest.
You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check.
If you want to vote, then get a job.

Now, if you have the guts – PASS IT ON… Stand up my friends, Aloha

Open Door or Open Government?

During the current political season, there has been much discussion about open government.
That is a good thing, especially since a good understanding of open government and the underlying principles should set the tone for our city (editorial opinion).

One thing I have noticed is that when the question of open government has come up, one candidate has consistently wanted to state that he is in favor of an open door policy.

This has left me curious if this candidate understands open government or is just trying to be politically correct in order to garner votes.

An open-door policy (re: business/corporate) is a policy where a manager, CEO, president or supervisor leaves their office door “open” in order to encourage communication with the all employees of that company. As the term implies, employees are encouraged to stop by whenever they feel the need to speak. Such a practice is viewed as a morale booster by letting employees feel as if they’re able to openly speak with their boss about numerous issues face-to-face, rather than by other means, such as e-mail or voice mail.
The idea is that having the door(s) open will make for a more comfortable and social work environment.
The actual implementation of an open-door policy for the purpose of addressing grievances or complaints should be handled very carefully. According to most experts, it is always the preferred method to immediately solve the problem of the employee. Human Resources should be immediately called and the issue should be resolved there and then. This sends out a great signal to all the employees that their voice is being heard.

From the above discussion it should be clear that an open door policy is not about open government. It shows that this candidate is interested in maintaining the status quo. His focus is on making sure that the existing municipal workforce is aware that his intention is to keep things the same and you, the employee, can always talk with him. This assumption is, of course, premised on the fact that the employee must support the candidate… duh!

Since some of the surrounding rhetoric (mostly by the same candidate and his other incumbent council member) has been about privitization and lay-offs, this gives him the ability to imply he is for maintaining the current processes.

Open Government is about giving the electorate the information they need to make informed choices.
If the answer to questions about open government are deflected to pander to the municipal employee vote, do you feel confident that this candidate will have your best interest at heart if elected.

I don’t.

?Secure? Community

According to a report in the Boston Herald on Tuesday, September 27th, Deval Patrick, our Governor, is quoted as saying,”We already send all the fingerprints we gather to the federal government. ” If this is true, and I have no reason to dispute that, my question becomes if the State of Massachusetts already sends all fingerprints to the FBI, why aren’t the FBI and INS computeres linked and synced?

Wouldn’t a program like that make sense. Why are these two Federal agencies not linked? How many computer systems does the country have, or need to manage fingerprint data?

They already work together on some aspects of cooperation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today (06/22/2009)announced that, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it has met all milestones set forth in a joint business plan announced April 2, 2008, resulting in the elimination of the FBI National Name Check Program (NNCP) backlog.
They have been working on it for some aspects of background checks.

The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS, is a national fingerprint and criminal history system that responds to requests 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help our local, state, and federal partners solve and prevent crime and catch criminals and terrorists. IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent search capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses.

The FBI established the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division to serve as the focal point and central repository for criminal justice information services within the FBI. The CJIS Advisory Policy Board is a Shared Management Concept Process.The CJIS Division assumed management responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.

IDENT is a program, begun 10 years ago, that had an original purpose of identifying immigration violators and hard-core criminals. You can check the status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration by reading Report No. I-2002-003 dated December 7, 2001.

It would appear that the Homeland Security Office is still working out the departmental integration process for a number of agencies under it’s cloak. The FBI and INS seem to be two of those with integration issues.
Looks like a good Organizational Chart would help this behemoth to move in the correct direction.

Just seems strange, and worthless, to have fingerprints, collected by the officer on the street, having to be sent twice, once to the national fingerprint and criminal history system and ,also, to an agency within the same umbrella group, the INS.

Read more about this in the following article.Illegal Immigration Fingerprint Program, Secure Communities, Has Advocates Up In Arms