Tag: Providence

The City of Providence still doesn’t get it regarding snow removal from sidewalks

I say this because I work in Cambridge, MA. My walk from the T-stop to the office takes me down Mass Ave. to Brookline St. and finally to my office.

Here’s what it looked like:

20150128_082306[1] 20150128_081746[1] 20150128_081735[1]Now I’ll upload pictures of what the sidewalks on main roads in Providence look like. It’s a horror show. I’m going to lean very heavily on my City Councilor to get DPW, Police etc. out there to cite owners of properties that don’t clear the walkways. And the city owned properties, those have to be cleared too.

This is the difference between Providence, RI and Cambridge, MA. The latter clears everything to pavement for the most part. The former is hit or miss, or half ass if you prefer. It’s annoying and it needs to change.

The differences between similar cities

So if you aren’t aware I’ve been working in Cambridge, MA. Cambridge and Providence have a lot of similarities. And quite a few differences. 

We’re similar in the fact we’re both college cities. Cambridge has both Harvard and M.I.T., Providence has Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College and Rhode Island School of Design aka RISD. 

Both cities have major bodies of water that cut through them. The population of Providence is larger than that of Cambridge. 

Cambridge has a rapid rail system called the Red Line that runs through it – Providence is still stuck with stinking diesel buses that pretty much serves Providence and Pawtucket and everything else is on their own. 

Now at first I thought it was the tax rates, those in Cambridge are approximately what they are in Providence. But no, while taxes may be a component they’re not the major factor. 

The major factor is this – in Providence we do everything half ass. From road paving – the street I live on connects Atwells Avenue to Broadway and then further to Westminster St. The section from Atwells to Broadway was completely stripped down to the gravel base, repaved and then re-striped. But the half that runs between Broadway and Westminster has been stripped, and primary paving done. But there are still manhole covers that stick up some way because the second layer of paving hasn’t been done yet, and it’s been this way for weeks. 

Typical half ass measure. 

Then there’s the fact that I had to bitch to my city councilor about snow on city owned overpasses of I-95. Or that the current snow removal ordinance lacked any enforcement teeth. I worked with my city councilor and the law was changed – now if you refuse to clear your sidewalks the city will fine you, refuse to pay the fine and a lien will be placed against your property. And if it’s really annoying, the city will clear the sidewalks and bill the property owner. Refusal to pay also results in a lien against the property. Those are teeth my friends but I shouldn’t have had to agitate for it. 

It even extends to stores and restaurants. There’s a place near me – I won’t mention it by name but they’re also opening a pizza place on Westminster Street, that their food is awful. Yet people beat a path to their door. It’s like because our city and state government has accepted just good enough, so too the business community. 

In essence the key difference between Providence and Cambridge is the half measure. 

In all communities in Massachusetts at the beginning of the month all the streets are cleaned. In Providence it’s a rare occurrence. In Providence we muck out the storm drains just before all the leaves fall off the trees. I’ve made a racket about that one because I’d much prefer to have clean storm drains in the winter, spring, summer and fall. Wait until the leaves are off the trees, then muck out the drains. But in Cambridge, not only do they muck out the drains, they also scrape the stickers off utility poles, re-mulch around trees and the list goes on. Their DPW actually works. 

Part of the problem in Providence is that back in the 1980’s they moved everything to contractor basis. It’s time to bring it back home. 

So there’s my rant for the holiday weekend. 

 

For everything there is a first time: A ride on Acela Express

So today I get to the Central Square Red Line station and see it’s almost 10 minutes before the next train going toward South Station. What the hell! 

Needless to say the Red line gets in at 4:07:40 – leaving me 20 seconds to get up several flights of stairs and out to the MBTA commuter that leaves at 4:08PM. 

Next train isn’t until 4:35PM. So I went over to the Amtrak kiosk in South Station, plugged my credit card in and bought a $35 business class ticket on train 2173 to D.C. which stops in Providence. 

The train reminds me very much of an airliner more than a train. 

 

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The seats are nice and wide, and they recline quite a ways. 

The Amtrak people are very nice, respectful and courteous. 

The ride itself was a lot smoother than the MBTA commuter. And the entire trip took 45 minutes, saving 25 minutes on what the commuter would take. 

I’d say it was worth the $35 bucks Boston to Providence. I may just do this every Friday, I’ll try out coach it is appointed similarly but tighter seating because that’s only $21. 

All in all I like it. Not stopping at EVERY station is nice. It goes South Station, Back Bay, Rte 128 Station and then Providence. Skips Ruggles, Hyde Park, Sharon, Mansfield, Attleboro and South Attleboro entirely. 

So if you ever get the chance to city hop on the Acela Express I highly recommend it. Very speedy and comfy way to go. 

And for those of you around the U.S. who aren’t served by Acela – all I can say is lobby, lobby, lobby your elected representatives to get electric trains everywhere in the United States. 

 

 

A New Dining Experience in Providence

Not a new restaurant per se but new to me. The Red Fez. It’s in downtown Providence sort of sits right across from District Court otherwise known as he Garrahy building. When you enter there is a restaurant on the ground floor, but you can ascend the stairs and you’re immediately greeted by an elks head at the top of the stairs. The place is all done up in red too – the bar is lit up in red, it’s interesting. And there are tables and booths upstairs too. Sort of cool. 

I had the chorico/beef mix burger with cheddar and bacon. It’s all pretty much standard fare but well seasoned and cooked. We all sort of noshed on burgers, fries, mac and cheese, etc.

And one of us got way too drunk to the point of what appeared to be alcohol poisoning and me getting slightly vomited upon in the car. Oops. Luckily I can handle puke. And I had to tell the driver to stop the car – upon which the party who blew the cookies proceeded to have a rather disgusting sounding puke out on the street. 

And this morning that party was barely functional. I had suggested that a liter of water, some pain reliever and caffeine may be in order. Still too early to tell if the party will survive. 

Now to the music in the place. Some of it had a punk sound to it which I liked. Much of it was simple thrashing shit. But not nearly as abhorrent as say techno. 

Shitty roads in Providence, RI

So today I did something I haven’t done in a long time, buzzed around the city of Providence proper from Federal Hill over to Cranston, and then from Cranston back to Charles St. in Providence and then North Main St. 

I notice something. The roads throughout this part of Providence are rutted and cratered. They need desperately to be repaved. 

But then I noted something, Charles St. is smooth as glass, so too North Main. What the bloody hell? Did it not snow there or has Federal Hill been mostly neglected for many years? I’d go with the latter. Oh sure, Broadway from Olneyville to the intercept with I-95 is all repaved. But all the secondary and side streets – it’s like a fucking lunar landscape. 

Now the street I live on, it was scheduled for repaving. Over a year ago. They went so far as to spray mark all the utilities underground and to put 2×4 protective rings around the trees that border the street. And then winter got here, all sorts of snow, no repave. 

I did see where someplace in Pennsylvania they leased a half dozen pot hole filling trucks for about $300K. Thing is the trucks are highly automated – they can patch a pothole in 30 seconds versus 30 minutes for the manual method. Well worth the $300K per year if you ask me. Find the money! 

And let’s do some math – say it takes 30 seconds to fill a pothole then a minute to drive to the next. So 1.5 minutes per pothole. 8 hour day has 480 minutes, divided by 1.5 is 320 potholes filled per day. This versus 30 minutes + a minute to get to next pothole, comes out to only 15.5 potholes filled. You see where I’m going here. With the automated rig you’d fill approximately 20 times more potholes per truck. A half dozen trucks would fill 1,920 potholes in a day. Even if you only use them for a month and it’s $300K it’s worth it. 

How to track down a snow scofflaw

So I’ve been posting pictures and videos on Facebook and emailing my city councilor the same of sidewalks that haven’t been plowed on just my street. And of course my phone is acting up and I can’t upload videos to anywhere BUT Facebook. Which is REALLY fucking annoying but I digress.

First I had hit ProvPlan’s web site mapper. But the mapper showed no information for the lots in question that had unplowed sidewalks. Weird. Then I did a little experimentation on Google maps. I noted one of the lots abutted a multi unit building so I just dialed street address on Tell street down until I found that building.

Then I hit this site. All I did was plug in the address and I got the owner information. Now being the enterprising sort I do have a copy of the RI Voter Database on my computer. So I looked up the owners and found out that counter to the claims that many property owners are elderly these people are in their 50’s.

So I packaged it all up in an email and sent it to the councilor. No response thus far. But I think I nailed one of the owners. Now to find out who owns the other lot.

Never piss off we savvy folk – we will find you.

The Solution Regarding Property Taxes in Providence

So I read this article where it predicts doom and gloom because 40% of the properties in the City of Providence, Rhode Island are non-profit and therefore not subject to property tax. It includes schools, hospitals, civic organizations and churches.

Now the theory behind the whole non-profit thing is interesting. It was done to encourage those institutions to get a leg up. It was not intended for it to remain in place. This is particularly true of the hospitals and schools hereby known as meds and eds. They may still fly with non-profit but they’re making money hand over fist.

But here in Providence you have Johnson & Wales, my alma mater making threats that they’ll relocate the whole kit and kaboodle to one of the other four cities they have a campus in, and even allude to the fact that Charlotte made an offer and they refused. Thing is, the eds while for example Brown University complains that its endowment suffered from the stock market thing. Yadda yadda. You’re still making money and building all over the east side of the city.

And the hospitals – dear god the hospitals. Just near me there’s Roger Williams, VA and then the big complex with RI Hospital, Women and Infants, Hasbro Childrens. And need I mention RI Hospital is also a Level 1 trauma center. Ok, all well and good.

And the churches – there’s a church every couple of blocks.

The article in the link above also mentions that this problem isn’t just one we’re seeing here in Providence.

 

Now I’ll offer my solution. Stop with the Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT. Stop with mayors always going begging to the  meds and eds. Instead why not tax them on the property regardless if it’s used for educational purposes or medical or church or not. Do it at a reduced rate. Right now the maximum rate is $36.75 per thousand. Why not start with the schools, charge them half that or $18.38. For medical let’s say $10 per thousand, and I’ll be graceful and say the churches pay $5. Just doing that would raise a whole lot of money.

Sunday Event: Your Best Chili WestSide, BRING IT! SHARE IT!

So the area I live in is properly Federal Hill but borders upon the West End of the city. So I’m sort of active with the groups on Facebook. About  a week or so ago I saw an event post for the above, “Your Best Chili WestSide, BRING IT! SHARE IT!”.

Being a foodie I thought: Sure, I can participate. There wasn’t an absolute requirement that you bring something but I thought about it and realized, a great complement to chili are the little shortbread cheddar biscuits I bake. The benefit is that they’re quick to make – two batches took an hour or so, with maybe a half hour for cooling. Chili on the other hand starts at an hour and a half and goes upward from there if you’re doing it right.

The event ran from 3PM to 7PM at the WBNA facility on Westminster Street in Providence. It was originally scheduled to be in someones home but they backed out about a week before the event. I have to say, WBNA was probably the best place for it. What does WBNA stand for, it looks like a radio station call sign but it actually means West Broadway Neighborhood Association. That’s one thing about Providence, we have a bunch of spaces that can be had for zero cost or low cost to rent out for an small gathering just in this area alone. To name three, there’s WBNA, Bell Street Chapel, and AS220 all within a short distance from here.

The entries were and I’ll list em’ as I rank em’. Yes, I tried all of them.

1) Pork Chili by Caitlin Jamison – This one was a favorite. Who knew Chili made with pork could be so delicious.

2) Steak and Pork Chili by Mike Ritz – A more savory chili with notes of coffee and chocolate, actually they were ingredients.

3) An Homage to Billy’s Chili by Charles Pinning – A bean and tomato based recipe. Excelent

4) A Vegetarian Chili by Caitlin Jamison – No meat but the spice mixture on this was right on.

5) Quahog Chili by Chris Sanford – A bit heavy on the tomato aspect.

6) A Boca Vegan Chili by Anja Josuweit – Good chili, but the lack of certain spices left it a little flat.

7) Meat and Scotch Bonnet Chili by Alec K. Redfearn – Some things should never be combined. This is one of them. The only thing I can say about this one is “People actually like that?”

I brought 27 biscuits, none were left at the end of the event.

 

 

Uncovering racism in the oddest of places

Perhaps not so odd in that it was a Facebook discussion thread that got it started. It all started over favorite New York System locations. I had only been aware of the two here in Providence, the one on Smith Hill, the other in Olneyville which is actually closer to me.

Well this friend said yes there are now NYS’s in North Providence and in Cranston, RI. But then he went on to say he doesn’t like either the Smith St. or Olneyville locations. He said, and I quote “…it reminded him of Compton in Los Angeles”.

So I prodded and he spouted all the shit I’ve heard from people about my home city being dangerous. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination or I should say, the areas of concern in this fairly small city are misplaced. He replied it was because of the gang activity, etc. Now I can tell you I’ve been ALL OVER the city of Providence and I’ve never had ANY trouble. None whatsoever. This friend then went on to say his favorite areas are Blackstone and Thayer St.

So I had to break his mistaken notion. But knowing that gang activity is code word for brown people, well, that just took the cake. I posted the breakdown of the police districts within the city and then the statistics from those districts. Every week each district is REQUIRED to publish it’s stats. It only took a REALLY simple Google search to find the data.

And I told him traditionally the east side of the city which includes Blackstone and Thayer Street has the worst property crime rates (vandalism, stolen property) as well as assaults, robbery, etc.

So my message is this – you can try to hide it but your racism, no matter how deep gets exposed when you make idiotic statements about the alleged criminal activity in the city.

So the MetroPCS issue automagically fixed itself

The other phone started working so I figured I’d try mine. It worked! Now I don’t know if this was a result of:

a) MetroPCS doing maintenance (Hint guys – you don’t do maintenance during prime time!)

b) MetroPCS took my complaint and fixed the issue

or and highly likely

c) The fact I filed yet another FCC complaint against them.

or it could be a combination of a, b and c!