Month: March 2012

Burger Wars in the Providence metro area

So I’ve been a fan of Five Guys for some time. A true grill, burgers formed on the spot along with the toppings create a delicious free form burger.

But the buns are on the wimpy side. They fall apart while you’re eating the burger and can get pretty messy. The nearest Five Guys is in Warwick, RI, actually Seekonk, MA is closer. But I get down to Warwick more than Seekonk so you understand.

Then there is Luxe Burger here in the city. Their burgers appear to be press formed, and possible pre-frozen. Not so good, but you have the option of different buns and the whole wheat bun is perfect for standing up to a burger and the toppings.

So it is with that in mind that I propose Five Guys learn about the bun, and Luxe learn about the burger.

Both do a good job of putting a burger together, offering the customer a range of choices. But Luxe gets the nod here for the offering of multiple different buns.

State of the City: Something interesting about property in Providence

So a few days ago we had occasion to go over to Whole Foods. We walked since if there is one thing about Providence, it is a very walkable city.

Our route took us down Benefit Street. This is where a lot of the historic properties in the city are located, and there are some very nice homes. I figured it’s all in the million plus range.

But one thing I noticed was the number of houses for sale on that street. So when I got home (For some reason google was being a pain in the ass on my phone!) I looked up a couple of the homes for sale.

One was very nice, a big yellow colonial style. And literally, it dated to the 18th century. The price was $895,000 – monthly mortgage estimated at $6,000. So you’d need to be making about $250,000 to afford this ($250,000 after tax would net $165,000 [Based on 33% tax] or $13,750 per month) home.

But taxes – it’s about $32 per thousand of valuation right now, which means the annual tax bill would be $28,640, or $2,386.66 per month! So you go from $13,750 less $6,000 less $2,400 for tax and you’re left with $5,350 – not bad. But that tax rate is only going to continue to climb so get out while you can.

Meanwhile we have multi-million dollar properties in the city that got temporary abatements lasting 20 years. Such properties as Providence Place Mall, the Gtech property, the Westin properties. All of them got some sort of favorable tax treatment before they ever broke ground.

But city finance is in crisis. And the low hanging fruit has already been picked. It’s time to buckle down, EVERYONE has to sacrifice. And I don’t buy the Mayor Taveras’ arguments that it brought in jobs, that’s a red herring and he knows it.

Honestly, if you rescinded the tax abatements what are the property owners going to do? Tear them down? When they’re making money? Or pick them up and move them?

There is STILL a $22 million dollar deficit. If you went to the property owners, and really looked at the churches, you could close the gap. Mayor Taveras and his administration have already started the process of going down the hard road of reigning in health care costs for retirees, and they are chipping away at the cost of living adjustments too. At 6% per year, the COLA’s outpace inflation! You have fire chiefs who left making $70,000 who now collect $190,000 a year in pension.

And the Mayor has said that they are only going after the COLA’s, not the pensions. So those of you who got out before the crunch, you had it good. It won’t be so good until they city gets the opportunity to move those over 65 into Medicare, and the city will provide subsidies to purchase supplemental plans. And those retirees under 65 will be asked to shoulder 20% of the health care costs. If you’re making $100,000 a year you can afford to take the 20% hit.

In conclusion, in dire times EVERYONE has to shoulder the burden. No tax breaks, no giving away the candy store. Pay the damned tax!

Providence State of the City 2012

So this evening I attended the Providence State of the City presentation by Mayor Angel Taveras.

Also in attendance were Governor Lincoln Chafee, Senator Paul Jabour, Representative Michael Tarro, Councilwoman Sabina Matos, Councilman Bryan Principe and a few other notables.

The main gist of the presentation was that Providence is facing a $22 Million dollar deficit. They have already cut the mayors salary by 10%, the staff by 10% and have laid off close to 200 city employees.

And they are negotiating and pursuing court cases to eliminate the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees. The COLA as it stands is now 6% per year. They had one page showing a fire chief who had a last year salary of $70,000 who was now getting nearly $200,000 a year in pension.

They’re looking to move retirees over 65 into Medicare, and they are asking younger retirees to shoulder 20% of the cost of health care. This of course is going to be tied up in court.

The city has gotten Johnson & Wales University to triple it’s annual payments in lieu of taxes, which is a good move.

And they are actively negotiating with the remaining schools an the hospitals.

But they aren’t touching the churches. A pity as the Roman Catholic church is sitting on a pretty pennies worth of property in the city.

And I brought up all the tax breaks and abatements given for property developments. I got some hemming and hawing about the benefits and jobs they brought. All well and good but the developments got abatements of 10 to 20 years, and since we ALL have to sacrifice perhaps we should go back and rescind those agreements. I mean really, what are the property owners going to do? Tear them down? Or pick them up and move them? These are THRIVING properties. So while they want to adopt the 25% of the tax rule that Boston uses, apply it to the property developments too.

If everyone else has to sacrifice let those who got the biggest breaks sacrifice too.

The Murder of Trayvon Martin

I’m certain all my readers have heard about the 17 year old Trayvon Martin who was gunned down and killed by George Zimmerman.

This is very disturbing to me for a number of reasons. The fact that the police department has not arrested Zimmerman astounds me. But it appears that Florida has a bizarre interpretation of Castle Doctrine aka Stand Your Ground. The Zimmerman can claim self defense is quite honestly, ludicrous. The other reason this is disturbing to me is because my SO is black and I’ve seen the obvious discrimination level at him. That someone can be killed because of the color of their skin is highly offensive to me.

It is now evident that Zimmerman ha prior contact with police, having called them over 40 times prior to having killed Martin.

And hearing the E-911 recordings, you can hear Trayvon Martin screaming for his life.

I’m happy that DOJ is investigating. In addition I can tell you how this ought to go down:

The FBI investigates and finds that indeed, a hate crime was committed and charges Zimmerman. In the course of the investigation they will find evidence that incriminates the local police department. So expect that the police chief falls on his sword, along with a state prosecutor.

And Zimmerman will be locked up in a federal penitentiary.

Food: Dinner tonight – Top Loin Steak with asparagus and creamy potatoes

I cannot stress it more, use your local butcher or meat monger.

Got two plus weeks worth of meat; beef, pork and chicken. I got enough to last nearly two weeks. Cost breaks down to $3 per pound at the local meat market, Joe’s Meat Market here on Westminster Street, in Providence, RI.

Best time to hit is mid week, in the afternoon. Otherwise be prepared for a wait. Take the time to look in the case. See what you really want.

Anyhow one of the things I got was inch thick Top Sirloin steaks. I prepared them as follows:

Before anything preheat your oven to 425F.

Cut the steaks in half. These are HUGE steaks. Then season liberally with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and a little chili powder.

Let a pan sit on the stove with 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil for two or three minutes before you put the steaks in.

Sear steaks for 2 to 3 minutes per side then transfer to sheet pan. Allow to rest for five minutes.

Into the hot oven, timing is up to you. 5 minutes gives you slightly rare, 7 gives almost medium well, the center is nice and pink. 10 minutes if you want well done, eg. no pink or red in the middle.

Turn them over at least once while in the oven to heat evenly.

Now here’s a trick. If you prepare a little ahead of time get your asparagus snap off the tough ends and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and anything else you desire. Spread out on broiler pan and place into broiler. If you want the burner to stay on, and this is with a gas oven, just leave the oven door open slightly. Does the steaks nicely too. Anyhow it only takes about 5 minutes for the asparagus to cook.

The creamy potatoes, are easy:

4 or 5 Russet potatoes, peeled and slicked thinly.
1 stick of salted butter, cut into thin slices
5 to 6 oz. heavy cream
6 to 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Paprika

Start by scattering some of the butter slices at the bottom of the pan, then layer on potatoes, season each layer with the spices, then scatter a little more butter, next layer, and repeat. Pour cream over potatoes and add the shredded cheddar cheese.

Onto a medium burner for 20 minutes. Check at about ten minutes, you may need to add a little (1/2 cup) water to thin it out.

The entire dinner can be prepared in 20 to 30 minutes. And yes, I know, a little high on the fats. But on a per serving basis it’s very little, the worst of it is the potatoes.

An early spring

It has been an interesting winter, if you could call it that. It started getting warmer in late February which is unusual to say the least. But the really cool thing is the fauna, particularly the aquatic that have been popping up.

This is fauna I’ve never seen in Providence before.

For example, seals!

Geese:

This guy seemed to be walking funny, probably wounded. Hope he made out ok.

I also note but haven’t photographed the numerous ducks in the river too.

I can remember when the Providence, Woonasquatucket and Moshasuck rivers were covered over, polluted and never a thought to them. I live on a hill and the Woonasquatucket runs in a semi loop around it.

It’s nice that the rivers have come back, that they are cleaner and that they are a source of enjoyment.

But I want strong, and I mean strong environmental law. Our air, water and land should be preserve, be clean and able to be enjoyed by all.

The Season Finale of The Walking Dead

Ok, some observations:

1) The onslaught of the zomies. I don’t buy it. They’re outside any major city so you’re telling me all these zombies just appeared out of nowhere? Granted, it appears that MOST of the population are zombies so maybe that’s it.

2) Up until the last episode you had TWO cops in the group and one geek. Yet they didn’t all carry radios? Maye it’s just me but wouldn’t they realize the value of radios? Hell, I’m never without mine.

3) I’m REALLY curious who that is toward the end leading zombies on chains. Interesting.

The Proposal to Raise Meal Taxes in Rhode Island

Right now the tax on meals or prepared food in the state of Rhode Island is 8% of the total.

But there are moves to push that rate to 10%.

We were over at Luxe Burger and they have placards on every table asking we contact the Speaker of the House and Senate President including contact information. Plus there is a link to the Voter Information Center at the Secretary of State’s office.

Here’s my take on it though. It’s only a 2 point increase. Lets say that your ill is $145.83, the tax at 8% is $11.66, where if you jumped to 10% it’d e $14.58, or a difference of $2.92, and the cool part when the tax is 10% is you can just shit the decimal by one place to the left to get the tax amount.

Really I can’t see any reason not to raise it to 10%. But there is always that overreach by the state. Instead of increasing the tax, why not stop giving away the candy store? One thing our legislators are good for is giving money and tax breaks to companies that really don’t need it. Stop that bullshit and you wouldn’t have to juice a little more out of we the tax payer.

I love AMC

First off their themed movie weekends are great. The Godfather, Die Hard, you name it they play all of it. Granted, with commercial interruptions but who cares. Classic movies.

And then there are the regular programs, my particular favorite is the Walking Dead. I should mention, in the entire monster meme, my favorites are the zombies. I loved all the Of The Dead movies, like Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, even Sean of the Dead. So is it any wonder I’d like Walking Dead?

The funniest thing – Walking Dead kind of tells you why they are zombies, how the reptilian brain takes over. But the funniest thing to me is that the zombies exhibit the ability to run like the devil. You’ll see them chugging along for fresh meat.

But one thing about zombie movies always bothered me. Once everyone is a zombie, what the hell do they eat?

Voter Apathy (Or potential voter apathy)

So I note that Marriage Equality RI is going to be at Gay Bingo this evening. Unfortunately I’m unable to attend.

And on the MERI Blog they note that the RI Secretary of State’s office will be there to talk about Voter ID.

This is great. However I might want to tell the folks at MERI a little tale.

A vast number of their supporters are NOT registered to vote. I can recall when I did some work with MERI a couple years ago we ran the supporter list against the RI voter database and we were shocked that around 27% had valid registrations, a full 73% were not registered to vote in the state of Rhode Island.

And I’ve noticed this when I’ve been at DC401, less than HALF of us were registered to vote. Some of the folks were students but if you spend six or more months domiciled in the state, you can register to vote. In fact the system in place, the Central Voter Registration Database, allows you to register 30 days before an election.

As to ID, you can simply visit that Secretary of State’s office at 148 West River st, Providence, RI 02904.

Yes it is a little bit of a hassle but do it. The more of us that vote, the better the chance of effecting real change.