January 31, 2011

Vallejo Ca. bankruptcy plan

Coming soon to a city or town near you???  


January 30, 2011


Maybe it is the snow, but today I am extremely frustrated.  You know what would make happy?  How about the City Council get answers to any of these questions this week?

  1. Pharmasphere deadline
  2. Who is paying for all the sewerage work on Main and May Street
  3. Review of the land RFP's the past five years to see if any are in compliance
  4. Mason Street parcel
  5. HUD loan for Pharmasphere- who is paying the interest on it?
If we could get answers to even just one of these questions, that would be nice.     On the development side, Cristo's on Stafford Street.   I see some work being done there.  Anyone know anything.  

    January 29, 2011

    Massport changes

    Boston Herald story... 

    Mullen on the board now and Kinton may be out.   We have a great representation from Worcester now at MassPort.  All good news for ORH.  

    January 28, 2011


    Weren't there suppose to be a January 31st deadline????   

    January 27, 2011

    Health insurance

    I have e-mailed Kathy Johnson for some info on the health insurance.  Once I get it, I will present some ideas the City of Worcester should consider.    Hopefully??? 


    Can I make a suggestion?   Second time this winter, we have lost a snow blower pin to a newspaper under the snow.   I know people want their newspapers but maybe the Telegram should hold off delivery while it is snowing?  At the very least the newspaper will be on top of the snow not buried where you can not see it?

    Tufts and Harvard merger?

    According to the Boston Herald, Tufts and Harvard are in discussions to merge.  I am not surprised to see Harvard is merging, but I was thinking now that Eric had moved on to Harvard that he would gobble up Fallon.   Never really considered Harvard and Tufts merging. 

    If that happens you will have two main players selling health insurance in Mass:
    1. Blue Cross
    2. Havard-Pilgrim-Tufts
    Then a bunch of small players
    1. Neighborhood
    2. Fallon
    3. United
    4. CIGNA (over 50 markets)
    Just do not see this good for businesses bying health insurance, although Harvard and Tufts will argue their merger will lower costs.  We need more competition, not less.  On the local front this is not good for Fallon at all, who is currently in a "struggling" phase.   Recent changes to Medicare has hurt them and now this.   Got to believe they would not mind merging with one of these two bigger players over the next 12 months. 

    January 26, 2011


    Couple items...  

    1)  building being torn down at Kelly Square--anyone know anything about that?
    2)  on Southbridge Street in Auburn, after Sword, new Rite Aid.   This 1/2 mile section has seen Polar build a huge addition, Atlas add to their warehouse, a plumbing company on Gold Street in Worcester move here, a brand new credit union (forget name) and now Rite Aid.  But the Commercial Tax Rate doe snot attract business over the line from Worcester?

    Taxing 4+ Units Commercially

    Think everyone knows where I stand on this issue.   Bottom line it is a complete waste of time, file along with the street vendor and now sidewalk ordinance.  If this ever passed, which it will not, I would simply convert a 4 family unit to 4 condos for $2,000 remain paying the residential rate, thus avoiding the commerical rate.

    What confuses me about this is that I hear everyone say that creating the dual tax rate in the first place was a big mistake, but can can not undo it now.  I agree with that 110%.   How does anyone think creating a triple rate system makes the dual tax rate situation better when we all know we should never have gotten rid of the single tax rate?     Why stop at three lets keep going lets have a 4th tax rate for people who own property in the City, but who dont reside in the City?     In fact I heard another person refer to this as rearranging seats on the Titanic.  I could not agree more. 

    There are two things the City of Worcester needs to focus on:

    1. Cutting Expenses
    2. Creating more revenues
    Cutting expenses is simple enough to understand.  Creating more revenues is ensuring things like the Gateway Cities legislation is passed, which has elements of the Philadelphia plan included.   Lets shelf this whole idea on focus on legislation,which is going to be voted on this year (GATEWAY CITIES).

    January 24, 2011

    Micro-Loan Letter to the editor

    There was a letter to the Editor from the President of Biomedical Research Models explaining how much the Micro-loan helped him and how beneficial it has been to the City of Worcester.   I agree 100% with him that the Micro-loan can be a valuable tool for Economic Development and applaud his accomplishments, but I don't think that Sutner's article said that the Micro-loan program could not produces successes like this.      

    The point of the article was that there have been alot of problems and some questionable loans,  can you say Hooka Bar and has anyone found out anything about Augusta-Coleman Furniture??     Since the article, the City Manager has taken the appropriate steps to clean up this program.   Lets hope the Micro-loan program produces more loans to companies like Biomedical Research.

    I am confused, however, by the clarification in the newspaper on on January 16th:

    Martin Luther King Jr. Business Empowerment Center and Main South Community Development Corporation were issued in the form of grants and were not expected to be paid back. The chart stated that the loans were deferred. The business center received $50,000 in 1998 under the micro-loan program for HUD-eligible economic development activities under the Community Development Block Grant program. The CDC received $5,000 in 1994 under the same program.

    Okay, I am fine with that, but why weren't all the other loans then grants also??   All of these Micro-loans were "HUD-eligible economic development activities under the CDBG program"??      If I was any of these other applicants who owed money, I would not pay back another penny and claim the the same treatment.  What made these two Micro-loans any different from the rest of the other loans? 

    Allegiant Air

    These guys are just getting better and better every day.    Youngstown and Worcester were in similar situations five years ago.   Now check out Youngtown with Allegiant numbers in 2010, click here

    Allegiant air, up more than 10,000 from the 17,391 reported for 2009. With just the existing scheduled service and not additional flights or carriers

    Lets ask them to come back?

    January 23, 2011

    Sunday Paper

    One story today by Bronnie Kush regarding the possibility of taxing four or more units commercially, click here for the story.     I have discussed this before on the blog being a complete waste of time and effort.   Even if we were to get a Home Rules Petition approved, all anyone owning four or more units would be to convert them to condos and be taxed residentially again?  

    Can Bronnie Kush ever write a story without a quote from Bill Breault?   I like Bill, although I don't agree with him all the time, but seriously does Bronnie Kush's rolodex have three phone numbers--the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall and the Main South Public Safety Alliance.   How about a quote from the Worcester Landlord Association, a realtor asking what effect this would have on this marker or maybe a phone call to the Mayo Group asking them what they think?

    Sunday paper took me maybe 10 minutes to read?   I dont get it.   Paper needs more and better local stories not less. 

    January 22, 2011

    January 20, 2011

    Community Development Training Institute

    The Chandler NRSA has take a portion of our CDBG monies to create a plan for the Chandler Street Corridor utilizing a group of grad students from Clark calling themselves the Community Development Training Institute (CDTI).   Here is a link to a description of the work that they are doing.  

    Just recently I posted a request wondering where the results of the HUD audit are???   The ironic thing is that CDTI's  other project  happens to have be with the City of Worcester to help them  "...to develop forms and checklists to ease compliance. Over the course of the year CDTI consultants will submit a preliminary report to identify and summarize all major issues of compliance derived from five cities HUD IG reports, an interim report to provide recommendations on processes found to be weak in other IG reports, and a final report with draft forms and checklists for ease of compliance with HUD regulations.""

    It goes on to say "HUD IG audited 13 HOME programs in 2009 and the extent to which their findings differed from HUD’s guidance was alarming.""    This begs the question was Worcester one of the 13 "alarming" HOME programs audited in 2009?   If so can we see the results of this audit?

    Regis Field Hockey Team

    Got an e-mail from their coach today.  They have a group of 21 flying out of Worcester to play 10 games in Florida. 

    Converted Organics News

    Converted is the parent company of Pharmasphere.  From Inverstors.com:

    Jan 14, 2011 (SmarTrend(R) News Watch via COMTEX) -- Below are the five companies in the Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals industry with the lowest Current Ratios. Current ratio is useful to get an idea of how quickly a company can repay its short-term liabilities with its short-term assets. The higher the current ratio, the more capable the company is of paying its obligations.

    Converted Organics (COIN) ranks lowest with Current Ratio of 0.53; Potash (POT) ranks next with Current Ratio of 0.90; and Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG) ranks next lowest with Current Ratio of 1.

    Pharmasphere is starting to look more and more each day as Worcester's version of Evergreen Solar.

    January 19, 2011

    Micro-loan Addendum

    Alot of comments (from Jahn) have focused on the unpaid balances of these loans.   For the record, I got no problem with these people who have unpaid balances.   Let me explain.   Say I had a VISA card with a 20,000 balance and VISA forgot all about me and the 20,000 balance just sat there without accumulating at interest.  Would I call them?  No--I would wait for the to call me.

    My problem is with the administration of these loans and that they were not actively trying to collect the monies due or enforce any of the terms of the loan.  This is not the borrower's fault?   All the more reason why this had to be transferred to the Treasurer's office, who will do a good job administering these loans.

    Again these micro-loans are only a small portion of the 4-5 million dollars per year that are administed on this side of Front Street.    Open that checkbook to see who is getting these monies. 

    January 18, 2011

    City Council

    Pharmasphere?  Think they will come up tonight.  I say lets give them a micro-loan so they hire someone to clear their walks. 


    Late Bills

    Story in the paper about how two City Councilors and the City Manager were behind on some bills.   Personally I got no trouble with that and in fact I am behind on a couple water bills too.      If nothing else it proves the efficiency of the Treasurer's Office and all the more reason why Executive Office of Neighborhood Services (EONS) should not be administering things like the Mico-Loan program.

    In the past I have dealt with EONS.  Trying to merely put together a simple Income and Expense Statement for the Chandler NRSA was actually impossible to do.  Jahn, let me say that again it was impossible to get done.    In fact we needed the help of the Treasuer's office and the CFO to step in and finally get it done.  

    Where is the HUD audit anyhow?  How much you want to be that it says EONS needs to have better control of cash disbursements and better reporting?

    January 17, 2011

    Worcester Business Journal

    Has a good story on the possibility of taxing larger apartment buildings commercially.   Click here. 

    After reading it, it seems like the chances of this happening are remote, which I had thought especially since we would need to file a Home Rules petition.    Chamber quote:   “Nobody is committed that this is the right thing to do,” he said. “...We’re committed to looking into it.”

    The mere fact that the City of Worcester is even looking into this sends the wrong message out to people, that we want to invest in Worcester, to come to Worcester!!


    I can't listen to the radio or watch TV.   Can't believe it but next week I will be rooting for the Steelers.   You can got through the whole game and say what if, but the fake punt??
    Even if it worked, I would not have liked the call.   The risk, going down 14-3, versus the reward being up 10-7 or down 10-6, was not worth it.    Go in at half down 7 to 3 and you get the ball to start the 2nd half. 

    Even the on side kick.  I know it almost worked but kick-off with 1:50 left use your last two time outs and hopefully you stop the Jets 3 and out.   Brady would have gotten the ball back with about a minute left with 60 yards to go?    I would take my chances on stopping the Jets in three downs versus recovering an on side kick.  Key here was you had two time outs left.

    Got to give the Jets credit.    There is always next year.

    January 15, 2011

    Micro-loan Changes

    In light of Sutner story last Sunday the City Manager announces changes to the Micro-loan program.   Mainly the billing/servicing etc is being switched over to the Treasurer who will actually bill people and enforce the terms of the loan if someone falls behind.   Kudos to the City Mgr and Shaun Sutner. 

    As I was quoted in the story:

    “This is a great move by the city manager to give control of the money to a department that has the proper cash management expertise and systems in place,” said Mr. Randell, a past president of the Chandler Street Business Association.

    “Why stop there? ‘Micro-loans’ are only a small portion of the $4 million to $5 million in federal housing and community development grants and loans the city distributes each year. Let’s get that checkbook online.”

    January 13, 2011

    Illinois tax increase

    Is this a preview of what is to come to Massachusetts? 

    Illinois lawmakers approved a 66 percent increase in the state’s income tax. Once Gov. Quinn signs the measure into law, state income taxes will increase to 5 percent from 3 percent.

    A 2-percentage point tax increase in Illinois will essentially cancel out any benefits from the Obama reduction in payroll tax for employees. Last December, Obama signed a measure to reduce the payroll tax rate to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent, or 2 percentage points, scheduled to last one year.

    The corporate tax rate also increased to 7 percent from 4.8 percent.

    Pharmasphere Sidewalks

    Don't know about the rest of you, I am beat today.    Picture above of the sidewalks around Pharmasphere. 

    Affordable Housing Article

    Interesting story in the Boston Globe. 

    "What’s helped is that over the past two years Massachusetts received more than $170 million in federal stimulus money for affordable housing and has also provided additional resources to help finance projects and leverage private investment. "

    January 12, 2011

    Evergreen Closing Massachusetts Plant

    Evergreen's 2008 move to Devens was fueled by some $58 million in state grants and financial incentives, a plan that was contingent on Evergreen maintaining certain employment levels for years thereafter.

    Full story

    January 11, 2011

    Diane Williamson

    Jahn, I disagree with you on this one.  I think the shooting of the Congresswoman and the killing of, what is it?, 6 other people deserve all the attention that it is getting.    To that point, let me give out a big KUDOS to Diane Williamson and her story today.

    Upon hearing of the shooting I had no idea if the Congresswoman was a Democratic or a Republican, but what difference did that make.  Actually I think it was yesterday when I was on Facebook and I saw a comment on of Kate Toomey's entries (not from Kate obviously but one of her friends) blaming the whole incident on Sarah Paulin.  Are you kiddin me? 

    Read Diane W today--great column.

    City Council tonight

    Wish list

    • Micro-bust story
    • Pharmasphere deadline
    • Pharamsphere HUD loan, are we paying interest on that loan? 
    • May-Main sewer work--who is paying
    • Mason-Winfield project

    January 10, 2011

    11 AM Moment of Silence

    President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at 11 a.m. EST this morning will lead a moment of silence to honor the victims of the shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, Saturday as Congressional business pauses after the tragedy that killed six people and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

    January 09, 2011

    Micro bust

    Telegram today--good story by Sutner.    I knew about these micro-loans but never realized that they are, more or less, unsecured credit lines.    These are even better, since if you don't pay there are no ramifications??  Instead the city relies on "negotiations and persuasion to attempt to get recipients to make payments."

    Like any credit card company then why doesn't the City take people to court who have not paid their loans?   Better yet how does someone get their loan deferred?  Maybe the City should add terms like you can not get a permit or any other type of license from the City of Worcester if you are behind on your micro-loan.

    I do agree, however, with the one part "micro-loans, which are required to be paid, make up only a small portion of the 4 million to 5 million in federal housing and community development grants and loans the city distributes each year."    Lets hope Shaun does many follow-up story in these monies.  

    Hooka hot spot got $30,000????   Seriously the City of Worcester invested $30,000 into the Hooka hot spot--you can not make this stuff up.     Better yet Augusta-Coleman Furniture??  I have never heard of them and tried a search and can find no record.   Anyone out there ever heard of Augusta-Coleman furniture. 

    The micro-loan can be a good program, but the city needs to put some teeth into the repayments so that the loans and repaid and the monies can be lent out again.  How about reporting late payers to credit agencies/taking them to court or no permits/licenses, if you are not current.  Right now the micro-loan program looks more like  a micro-grant then anything else.

    January 08, 2011

    Pharmasphere again

    Sorry, but here I go again......       In January, 2008, Pharmasphere was awarded the bid for $1 because they had all their financing in place and would break ground that Spring.  From Telegram article dated January 3, 2008. 

    PharmaSphere was one of two companies to submit proposals to the city for the Canterbury Street parcel, and it won the chance to redevelop the land because it proposed to move forward quickly and create jobs for workers with a range of skills and educational degrees, said Timothy J. McGourthy, Worcester director of economic development. PharmaSphere also demonstrates the promise of the park, Mr. McGourthy said......
    Construction could begin in late March, according to Mr. Hamlin. PharmaSphere could move in next year

    Nine months later, they sign an LDA with the City of Worcester saying they need 2 years to get everything in order.    My point is that when Spring of 2008 dawned and Pharmasphere started saying that they were not going to be breaking ground and that they needed 2 more years in the LDA--the City of Worcester should have said no right then and rebid the property.

    It will be interesting to see how this goes this month.  

    Abandoned Car Ordinance

    Did not tealize until the first storm that a car had been abandoned on the corner.  I called DPW, forgot number, was told to:
    1. get description of car
    2. license plate number
    3. call back
    I did, the person who answered was great and within a day there was a big green tag that the car was to be towed.  Sure enough the car was taken away yesterday.  KUDOS to the DPW!!!  

    January 07, 2011

    Clarification Pharmasphere


    The City of Worcester took out a loan on behalf of Pharmasphere in the amount of 2,500,000 to help them with their project.   I was under the impression, Telegram article,  that the City got the loan last July.   I am not sure on this and that is what I would like to have answered.   If in fact the City of Worcester did get the monies last summer, who is paying the interest?  Considering the loan is 2,500,000 the interest is alot!!


    Stands for Request for Proposal.   Typically it occurs when the City of Worcester wants to put something out to bid.   They will issue an RFP which specifies all the terms; for example, minimum bid, deadline, etc.   the purchasing agent for the City of Worcester (great job by him) has all sorts of RFP's on his bid page.


    Stands for Land Disposition Agreement.  You respond to a RFP for a piece of land and you are deemed the winner.  Since land is typically more complicated then an RFP for 1,000 pencils, the two parties get together and sign an LDA that lays out all the terms and what is expected with deadlines.   

    Pharmasphere won the RFP in January of 2008.  Around or therabouts September of 2008, the City of Worcester and Pharmaspher signed an LDA that gave them basically two years (September of 2010) to get all their financing in place and to take title to the property.  Myself I thought two years was an inordinate amount of time, but that has passed.   

    The deadline specified in the LDA has passed and nwo we have given them now till the end of January, 2011, three years after the initial RFP.    The City of Worcester has gone way beyond where they should have for Pharmasphere.inclusing the possibility of paying interest on a 2.5 million dollar loan.  

    January 06, 2011

    Womag Pharmasphere Part 2

    I think it is great that WoMag covered this.    Let me ask you a question why does everyone interview the Executive Director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center.  Maybe because of the South Worcester Industrial Task Force?

    I have participated on the task force and it has not power at all.   They meet every once in a while to get updates, but has absolutely no say in anything.  In fact when an RFP was put out, the task force had no input whatsoever in reviewing the bids. 

    In this city, when a reporter is oding a story they are programmed to go to the same people over and over and over again.  I personally would have loved to weigh in on this and  are the two questions that I would have asked the reporter to ask the City of Worcester Economic Development Office:
    1. Why haven't we already put together a new RFP, when the LDA expired this past September?
    2. Who is paying the interest on the 2,500,000 HUD loan that the City of Worcester took out on behlaf of Pharmasphere?

    Pharmasphere makes WoMag

    Click here.

    Baffling quote from Ron Charetter, Executive Director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center.  

    “What we all learned here is that when we get more companies interested, there needs to be more assurances put forward by the city with better and stronger time tables and restrictions,” Charette points out.

    Huh??? More assurance put forward by the city???  The City took out a 2.5 million    HUD loan and allowed the bidder to tie up this property for three years without putting up any money or paying any real estate taxes.  

    What we learned here is that you need to follow the terms of the actual RFP and not allow an LDA (Land Disposition Agreement) be executed that gives a winning bidder 2 years to geth their act together without having to put up one dime.   

    Above Photo

    Found it cleaning up out my desk.   Picture of my and three of my room-mates in 198g outside the mods at Boston College after playing basketcall.   25th re-union this spring. 


    This from the Boston Story link below

    There are nearly a third more jets housed at Hanscom than just three years ago, and the air field is approaching capacity. “We have a waiting list of aircraft that want to come into Hanscom,’’ said Thomas Kinton, executive director of Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Hanscom.

    Send them to ORH!!!!

    January 05, 2011

    Linear Air

    Great press

    On another note, I hate to agree with Jahn but I am disppointed and surprised that MassPort has not been any to bring any more commercial service to Worcester since the take over?   Still confident, however, this will happen.  

    Dave Z

    Jahn help me but didn't Dave Z bet that the demo at City Square would beging by January 1st???? 

    Quincy Downtown Redevelopment Plan

    Must read .

    Very interesting financing.

    At the heart of the master agreement is a financing mechanism that will require revenue from the new private development to pay for $227 million in public infrastructure costs.Koch says this is a wholesale reversal of traditional urban redevelopment by requiring the private investment to come first.

    The mechanism, called the "purchase model," largely eliminates the public risk often associated with redevelopment projects. It works this way:  The City will purchase the public infrastructure - including parking garages -- from Street-Works only when new buildings are occupied and producing enough revenue to cover the City's debt costs.

    January 04, 2011

    Chamber of Commerce

    Think a press release clarifing their position on the commercial taxation of "much larger" apartment buildings would be in order...

    Let me ask you a question.   Lets say you own a condo in a "much larger" building and rent it out, should it be taxed residentially or commercially?

    Commerce Bank

    I know there were some comments to this effect, but I just want to confirm Commerce to go in to the location of the old Friendly's on Lincoln Street.  

    January 03, 2011

    Worcester Police Department

    I always hear people complain about the WPD.   You know the usual "where are the cops", etc.

    Without getting into too many details, there have been alot of issues on Canterbury Street.  Two in particular, one concerning me two weeks back and another tonight .   They have been invaluable. There are alot more adjectives that I could come up with, but I can not express them enough here.

    For anyone out there reading this, our video system has been invaluable.  It does not just apply to businesses, but to home-owners.   For an investment of $3,000 (and I don't sell these systems) six years ao, the return that I have gotten are immeasurable.  

    I would like to give a big THANKS to the WPD!!!!  


    The fact their State tax credits were revoked--did it ever make the Worcester Telegram???    Deadline at the end of the month,although LDA expried September 1st of last year. 

    What do you think will happen at the end of this month? 

    40 B Editorial in the Boston Globe

    Thought this was good

    Those who tried to have 40B repealed acknowledge the need for some form of affordable housing program, but the present one is corrupt; the proposition’s defeat is not a reason to allow bad 40B projects.

    In looking at how McMorrow describes the situation, it appears that the facts of a particular 40B development are irrelevant. One of the most important details here is that the Cambridge folks are “environmentalists, joined by members of the left-leaning Cambridge City Council.’’

    Perhaps scarier still is that “state environmental officials have dismissed concerns about potential impacts on nearby wetlands and wildlife, since nearly half the project site will become permanent conservation space.’’   So it is OK to destroy part of a wetland despite the fact that wetlands are protected and can’t be conveniently broken up without deleterious impact?

    McMorrow goes on to summarize the big picture: “Overly restrictive zoning, high land values, and construction costs are combining to price working families out of much of eastern Massachusetts.’’Given that this law has been in existence for 41 years and hasn’t apparently worked yet, how will it suddenly, miraculously help to make Massachusetts affordable? And, does this quote mean that he and the real estate community do not think a 40B-type law is needed in western Massachusetts?

    Finally, can anyone with awareness of today’s economic reality seriously say that lack of nearby affordable housing is the most important drag on the economy (as opposed to the existence of jobs)?

    Carol Levin


    January 02, 2011


    My last post was the 3,000th. post on this blog  

    Sleeping Chamber

    Can you clarify "much more then 4", exactly how many units of residential housing does the Worcester Chamber of Commerce thing that it should take to be classified as Commercial?  


    This from Worcersteria.   I do not recall anything from the Chamber annual editorial in the Telegram about "much more then four units"?    Translation--alot of current dues paying members must have called and complained about this so now they are running away from this idea.  Can anyone find out how many units that the Chamber has in mind?

    Some heads turned, however, when the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce issued a letter supporting this idea – but the group’s business resource manager, Michael Lanava, clarified that they’re looking at this for buildings with much more than four units.

    January 01, 2011

    May Street

    Think the original cost was something like 16 million for approximately 50 units or about 320,000 per unit.   Now lets just say for round numbers the sewer costs on Main and May Street run another million so that brings the cost up to 17 million or 340,000 per unit.     As Jahn aslways likes to say lets add in the cost like providing a public school education to the children in these 49 units?   

    The City of Worcester needs to stop providing grant money or helping developers get grant monies to build these developments.  People will say that it is "free" money, but in the end there are huge hidden costs.    The only time we should support any of these developments is if they have no more then 10% low to mod income.