Monthly Archives: March, 2013

The Mayor’s Briefing: Egg Hunt Tomorrow

On Saturday morning, the Beansprout Toy Shop and Beanstalk are sponsoring an Egg Hunt for children 3-8. Come to Fred Green Field at 10 a.m. sharp to enjoy the egg hunt and children’s activities and meet the Easter Bunny! We suggest you park at the Knoll or on Tremont Street, as there are also events going on in the high school.

Here’s what else is going on around the city:

DPW
This is a red recycle week
The next metal pickup will be on Tuesday, April 9
Next week there will be curbside yard waste pickup

Events
April 4, 6:30-9 p.m., Melrose Marketplace, women’s shopping night, Memorial Hall. Sponsored by the Melrose Chamber of Commerce; a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Melrose YMCA Growing Stronger Together Campaign.
April 6, 9 a.m., CommuniTree Community Art Event, Melrose Common
April 7, Melrose Symphony Orchestra Family Concert. Pre-concert instrument “petting zoo” starts at 1:30, concert at 3. Tickets are $10 for adults, $3 for children under 18, available online or at Sweet Thoughts or Miter Biter.
April 12, 10 a.m., Kids Club, featuring Kidzfun, Memorial Hall

Library
The library will be closed on Sunday, March 31.

Meetings
April 1, 7:30 p.m., Board of Aldermen, Finance Committee, Aldermanic Chamber
April 1, 7:45 p.m., Board of Aldermen, Aldermanic Chamber
April 2, 7 p.m., Human Rights Commission, Mayor’s Conference Room
April 2, 7 p.m., Memorial Hall Board of Trustees, GAR Room, Memorial Hall
April 2, 7:30 p.m., Library Board of Trustees, Trustees Room, Melrose Public Library
April 3, 5:30 p.m., Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, Mayor’s Conference Room
April 4, 7 a.m., Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School, Budget Subcommittee, 100 Hemlock Road, Wakefield
April 10, 7:45 p.m., Board of Appeals, Aldermanic Chamber

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Solar Energy, Solar Education

Chris Ludlow commented that our solar PV installation on the roof of Melrose High School would be a great opportunity to educate our students about renewable energy.

Done!

It’s not quite the career training that Chris suggests, but our provider, Ameresco, has a Solar PV Educational Program designed to teach students about the benefits of renewable energy, the science behind the technology, and the theory used in system design, which is certainly a good starting point and will hopefully pique some students’ interest in pursuing a career in renewable energy.

The program is designed to provide teachers at all grade levels with teaching materials that include background and technical information as well as lesson plans. The materials are classified by grade level, and the units are independent so teachers can pick and choose among the topics.

The curriculum includes 15 topics that range from an introduction to renewable energy to analysis of actual data. The topics include

  • Renewable Energy
  • A History of Solar Photovoltaic Power
  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Basics
  • Electromagnetic Radiation
  • Solar Irradiance
  • The Earth’s Path
  • The Sun’s Angles
  • The Photovoltaic Effect
  • Solar Cell Types
  • Electrical Basics in PV Wiring
  • Cell Parameters and I-V Curves
  • Factors Affecting Performance
  • Inverters
  • Design Process
  • Data Analysis

For students with an interest in technology and renewable energy, this program provides a solid background as well as exposure to some of the thinking behind solar technology.

Come Join Our CommuniTree Community Art Project

CommuniTree Art Flier

I would like to invite everyone who reads this to participate in the CommuniTree Art Project on April 6 and April 27-28.

This two-part project combines caring for our community by cleaning up our parks and creating as a community by transforming trash and found objects into an art installation.

I think this is a fantastic idea, and I am doubly pleased that we are supporting it with a Messina Grant. This is a creative solution that raises awareness of a problem while simultaneously taking direct action to solve it. I look forward to seeing the CommuniTree in many venues around town, always serving as a reminder to take pride in our community and treat our public areas with respect.

The first part of the project is a community-wide park clean-up, which will take place on the morning of April 6. Community participants and pre-determined team leaders from PTOs, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and other organizations will meet at Melrose Common at 9 a.m. to get supplies and assignments, then head out to collect trash and recyclables from Melrose parks. The groups will reconvene at the Common at 11 a.m.

Local artists and members of the public are invited to transform the collected and recycled items into art objects to adorn a grove of tree sculptures at the Melrose Arts Festival at Memorial Hall on April 27 and 28. This art installation will celebrate our efforts to care for our community and inspire others to do the same. The CommuniTrees will be hosted by schools and other community locations throughout the month of May.

The project is being carried out by Kris Rodolico and Jen Blesso of Follow Your Art, a community art studio in Melrose dedicated to providing opportunities for personal creative expression and creative community awareness/social action, as well as Melrose Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator Jessie Schmitt and Melrose Energy Efficiency Manager Martha Grover. It is supported by a Melrose Messina Fine Arts grant as well as by the Melrose Arts Festival and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

For more information, contact marthasg@verizon.net or jschmitt@cityofmelrose.org.

Deadline Extended for Public Comment on the Woodland Road Changes

I received an e-mail from Friends of the Fells today alerting me that the comment period on the DCR’s plans to modify the historic parkways of the Fells has been extended until Tuesday, April 9. If you share our concerns, please send your comments to ken.kirwin@state.ma.us. Comments should include the project reference number: 15027.

My thoughts on the proposed changes are here.

Here is the text of the e-mail from Friends of the Fells.

Fells Development Alert UPDATE!

Two Week Extension for Comments on DCR Changes to Fells Historic Parkways

The Friends of the Fells has learned that the Department of Conservation and Recreation has requested a two week extension of the public comment deadline on its plans to modify Fells historic parkways later this year in the vicinity of the Langwood Commons redevelopment project.

The new deadline for public comments is Tuesday, April 9th.

This parkway modification plan is the subject of litigation commenced in 2009 in Superior Court. The case was sent back to the Superior Court in 2011 after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the appeal filed by a group of citizens, the Friends of Fells, and the City of Medford properly stated a claim that the collaboration between DCR and the Langwood Commons developers may be an improper plan to segment the work so the developers could avoid environmental (MEPA) review for their redevelopment project.

DCR is now attempting to circumvent the pending litigation by starting the parkway changes before the Court rules on whether a more comprehensive MEPA environmental review is required for the redevelopment project.

The plaintiffs in the litigation have filed a motion asking the Court to issue an injunction to prevent DCR from proceeding with the plan until the legal appeal is decided.

In its ENF filing DCR now acknowledges the connection between its planned Fells parkway work and additional traffic expected from the development project, but then asks the state to waive all its prior decisions which required a full public review of all potential development related impacts.

DCR parkway alteration plans include:
• removal of seventeen Fells Reservation trees
• adding traffic signals in two locations
• removing the entire length of one of the two Woodland Road southbound traffic lanes

Despite thousands of additional daily traffic trips from the development project, DCR’s ENF states that the parkway changes will not add to the roadway carrying capacity. To review details of the proposed parkway changes click here.

If this attempt to narrow MEPA environmental review is successful, DCR and the developers will have prevented the public from commenting on how the parkway work relates to impacts from the additional 4,500 daily traffic trips generated when the Langwood Commons housing and office project is completed.

In addition, DCR has not addressed concerns raised by the Massachusetts Historical Commission that the parkway alterations would adversely affect the historic character of the historic parkways. A letter sent in September 2012 by the MHC to DCR stated that the proposed parkway changes would compromise the “integrity of the design, setting, materials, and feeling of the historic parkway.”

DCR appears to want to fast track its Fells parkway alteration scheme by urging the state’s environmental secretary to allow only the minimum time for review and comment. Public opposition to closing comments beyond the orginal March 26 deadline has been successful in obtaining a two week extension. But to-date there has been no evening meeting scheduled by DCR so that the public can have the opportunity to review plans for DCR’s alterations of the parkways.

Full environmental review is required to allow sufficient time for a thorough public process and review of all impacts from the planned development project and proposed parkway changes.

Taking action:

New comment deadline, please act now! Send comments to MEPA by Tuesday, April 9.

Send email to bill.gage@state.ma.us

Address your email message to EOEEA Secretary Richard Sullivan, c/o Bill Gage and add MEPA reference #15027 to the subject line:

  • Request a full environmental review of planned Fells parkway alterations and development traffic impacts.
  • Request that DCR withdraw its parkway modification plans until Fells litigation is settled.
  • Request that the an evening public review session should be scheduled by DCR.

Thank you!

The New Senior Van Is Here!

seniorvan1

Our new senior van is up and running! The van was purchased with a $40,000 grant from the Adelaide Breed Bayrd Foundation and an additional donation from the Friends of the Aging, and we are paying $20,000 annually for the driver. This van will provide a critical service to Melrose seniors, providing rides to medical appointments, affordable shopping, and social events, and I want to thank the Bayrd Foundation for partnering with the City to make it a reality.

Yesterday, I met with members of the Council on Aging, as well as the Friends of the Aging, Council on Aging Director Dawn Folopoulos, Board of Aldermen President Bill Forbes, and Henry Kezer of the Bayrd Foundation, to take a look at the new bus.

seniorvan2

seniorvan3

New Faces on the Veterans Services Advisory Board

Last week, I had the pleasure of reappointing the existing members of the Veterans Services Advisory Board to new terms and appointing two new members. I would like to take the opportunity to introduce them here and highlight some of the work the Board has done recently.

The current members of the board are: Chairman Bob Driscoll, Daniel O’Shea, Michael Galvin, Anthony Gilardi, Jeffery Ugino, James Kelly, Warren Leger, Michael Batchelder, James Keane, Michael Buggy, Marie Ryan, and Anne Hackett. I want to thank the Board for all they do, and especially Chairman Driscoll for his leadership.

Scott Forbes is a decorated Air Force veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who returned from overseas duty less than six months ago. He immediately sought to get involved with Veterans Services in the City of Melrose and is a great addition to the Advisory Board given his dedication and experience. He brings an additional voice to the Advisory Board that includes our recently discharged population and their inclusion in benefit delivery and event planning processes. He has also been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the Operation Thank You trip to Washington, DC, scheduled for this May.

Lisa Lord is a history teacher at Melrose High School and also volunteers her time mentoring students in the archiving of veterans’ history to include her annual Veterans in the Classroom events and cataloguing veteran participation in our annual Washington, DC, trips. In her free time, she started the Melrose Veterans Memory Project, an online museum that aims to honor our City’s veteran population by cataloguing artifacts, storing oral histories, and recording monuments and events throughout the city.

in the past year, the Melrose Veterans Services Advisory Board has been instrumental in the following:

  • Planning the proposed restoration for the City’s World War I Memorial at The Knoll;
  • Fund-raising and logistics for Operation Resolve and Operation Thank You Washington, DC, trips;
  • Planning and logistics for the Memorial Day Parade, Veterans’ Day events, and other events that honor our city’s veterans;
  • Numerous Job Fairs and activities to promote veteran employment, especially for our recently returned veterans;
  • working with Alderman Frank Wright to pass and promote the Veterans Volunteer Tax Work-Off Program, which will begin this year;
  • Assisted in the passage of local legislation offering property tax relief to soldiers deployed in support of overseas operations;
  • Fund-raising and awareness for the local veterans’ relief fund, Wounded Warrior Project, care packages for deployed soldiers, and other projects.

Solar Energy Proposal for Melrose High School

MHS Solar

If the Board of Aldermen approves a proposal put forward at the Appropriations Committee meeting next week, we will be able to start collecting solar energy on the roof of Melrose High School.

Under the proposal, Ameresco will install and maintain, at its own expense, a 301-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of Melrose High School. Melrose will purchase all the electricity generated by the system at a specified rate, starting at 8.16 cents per kilowatt-hour in the first year. Since the solar rate is lower than the utility’s rate for electricity, this will result in considerable savings for the city—a savings of $19,500 in the first year alone.

Not only will this save the city money, it will be a hedge against energy price volatility in the future, and it provides a local source of renewable energy using available roof space.

Technical assistance for the project is being provided by Cadmus, with funding of $10,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and $5,000 from Green Communities.

The full presentation that was made to the Board of Aldermen last week is below.

BOA Solar PPA Presentation_032113

Melrose Public Schools: Investing in the Future

Last Thursday, the Aldermen’s Committee on Appropriations voted unanimously to recommend passage of authorization for a $480,000 bond to fund a textbooks and curriculum materials, technology, and professional development, with a special focus on math, in the Melrose Public Schools. Here are the introductory remarks I made at the beginning of the meeting.

Thank you for allowing us to present to you this evening what the Superintendent and her leadership team have deemed to be one of the most significant educational investments to benefit student achievement and improve teaching in their educational careers.

In the State of the Schools address, Superintendent Taymore clearly articulated that changes in education and best practices have created demands on students and educators unparalleled in recent history. What she said that night resonated with me when she said “Our children’s school experience has little resemblance to our own.” It’s a combination of increasing federal and state regulations, core curriculum changes, and demands for increased rigor to ensure that our students are prepared for the new world we live in. It’s an educational practice that blends textbook learning, new technology, and independent learning.

The federal Race to the Top as well as the ever changing MCAS and state Core Curriculum mandate us, despite decreases in federal education funding, to meet those requirements, and I believe we have an obligation as a community and municipal leaders to give teachers the tools to be successful and the materials that students need to meet the expectations placed upon them by government, by their teachers, and in their own homes.

Before I hand over the presentation to the Superintendent, I would like to acknowledge and explain a few things. First and foremost, this bond proposal is certainly not the usual proposal that I would put before you. The proposal before you is, in my opinion, the best solution to this challenge. The financial team is in support of it, and I present it on behalf of our superintendent and the educational leaders of Melrose.

I am confident in the proposal before you, and it is my hope that after the presentation, you will be convinced of the following:

1. That this is a worthy investment in educational tools that are similar to the educational tools we have bonded in the past, be it computers or smart boards or educational amenities in new facilities. This Board of Aldermen has continuously supported these bonds in the past, to give teachers the educational tools to be successful.

2. That this is the proper financial tool to use to pay for this. It provides an immediate infusion into the district without having to complete the investment in phases, similarly to how we are managing the renovation of Melrose High School or other multi-year projects. This immediate infusion of investment into our schools through direct instruments for learning will reap great returns in terms of student achievement and best teaching practices.

3. I believe that you will be convinced that this administrative team, led by Superintendent Taymore, has gone through their due diligence, as I have stated publicly at the School Committee meeting, to get it right; that they have systems in place that involve parental input, via the advisory board; and that it is an investment in tools that affect every child in the Melrose Public Schools, from kindergarten through Melrose High School. It is also an investment in a future that will involve new technology, away from textbooks, whatever form that may be, and the rights to use this material in that new technology.

4. That it would set up the School Department to be able to then build off this base of investment in the future with yearly appropriations to the operating budget. The School Department has not been able to do this for decades, despite real investment in education in the City of Melrose, in good times and in bad.

5. That it is not in our interest to require the operating budget of the Melrose Public Schools to fund this endeavor. The Superintendent has done an incredible job, working with my administrative team, to balance this budget, after witnessing historic reductions in educational funding, particularly at the federal level. As I presented at the State of the City, we are working with almost 3 million dollars less in local aid<all local aid is education aid<than we had in 2001. We are working with 1.4 million dollars less in federal stimulus money that has been withdrawn from the federal government, while the economy has not bounced back to where it needs to be. We are working with less special education circuit breaker monies from the state that help us to ensure educational equity for all. We are again, with the sequester, seeing further reduction in federal spending, and we are looking at level funding from the state again this year. Public schools have seen more reduction than any other entity in this municipality and in the state.

The City of Melrose, through sound management, has been able to withstand a great deal of this loss, but even with historic investments in public schools that this Board of Aldermen has made, year after year, losses of this magnitude are staggering. This has forced the Melrose School Committee, of which I am a member, to focus on direct services for students, predominantly in teaching and in programming. The educational leaders and School Committee have done an outstanding job to offer an array of programming and options for parents and students from course offerings to fine arts to foreign languages to an array of electives during school and after school, that we should all be proud of, during these difficult times.

This is coupled, again I must stress, with continuous demands on educators in a limited time frame during the day to deliver curriculum and expectations that are staggering and ever-changing. We need to get these teachers these tools today. And this is how we do it.

We can afford it, due to our strong bond rating. It is in line with our responsible debt planning, and fits alongside other goals that I plan on presenting for next fiscal year that I have already articulated at the State of the City, including road improvements, continued investment in the renovation of Melrose High School, and continued investment in our business districts. I think it is as sound financially as it is educationally and in the best interest of taxpayers.

Proposed Changes to Woodland Road

Last week, I met with representatives from MEPA and the DCR as well as other local officials regarding the Woodland Road Corridor Improvement Project proposed by the DCR. Below are some of our bullet points from that meeting.

MEPA is soliciting comments from the public on this project through Tuesday, March 26. If you share our concerns, please send your comments to ken.kirwin@state.ma.us. Comments should include the project reference number: 15027.

Here is what I said at the meeting:

  • The City of Melrose is concerned that the changes proposed by DCR for Woodland Road will completely transform the character of the Parkway and create additional traffic congestion and safety hazards.
  • The City of Melrose opposes traffic signals on the Parkway and has consistently opposed a traffic signal at the Woodland Road and Pond Street intersection. We are concerned about the traffic congestion that will be created in Melrose at the intersection of Pond Street and the Lynn Fells Parkway, which currently operates at a poor level of service.
  • The City of Melrose opposes the proposed shared use lane on the southbound side of Woodland Road, which will eliminate one lane of vehicle traffic and exacerbate the traffic congestion that currently exists on that roadway during the evening commute. With the projected increase of 4,500 vehicle trips per day anticipated for Woodland Road it and the current traffic concerns on the roadway it makes no sense to remove roadway capacity.
  • The City of Melrose is concerned for bicyclist and pedestrian safety presented by the proposed shared use lane, which is proposed within the limited confines of the project area only, and will put pedestrians and bicyclists in conflict with the vehicle traffic.
  • The City of Melrose feels that this project as proposed is large in scale and has the potential to create significant impacts and should therefore require the filing of an Environmental Impact Report. Twenty days is an insignificant amount of time to review and comment on a project of this scope. I strongly encourage MEPA to require DRC to file an EIR and provide the public with ample opportunity to comment on the widespread changes proposed to Woodland Road, which has the potential to negatively impact the historic parkway, the Middlesex Fells Reservation and residents in at least four surrounding communities.

Resources on Children and Violence in the Media

I want to thank all of you who came to our forum on children and violence in the media last night. I especially want to thank our speakers, Dr. Claire McCarthy, Lincoln School psychologist Joyce Schlenger, Hoover School principal Jenny Corduck, and Asinine Games developer Brian Dutton, for their sharing their expertise and insights. MMTV taped the forum, and we will post that video shortly. In the meantime, here are the resources and links that we handed out last night.

Media Tips for Parents
By Lincoln School Psychologist Joyce Schlenger

  • Set clear rules about media both in and outside of your home
  • Watch television/movies with your children to stimulate conversation
  • Play videogames with your children to experience the game’s content
  • Establish rules and boundaries so your child knows when and how to use the computer, television, video games and cell phones
  • Budget media time –limit amount of TV, computer, and video game time daily/weekly.
  • Monitor your child’s media usage and habits regularly (check internet history, Facebook , Twitter, Instagram)
  • Put televisions, video games, and computers in common areas (not in their bedroom)
  • Utilize parental controls for cable and internet access
  • Strongly warn children about potential serious dangers of Internet contacts and relationships while playing games
  • Talk with other parents about your family’s media rules
  • Remember that you are a role model for your children – including, shows you watch and video games you play

Parental guide to student safety using a computer
By Nate Atwater

  • Create a user account on your computer that has limited access for installing software. Students can also store their documents there without having access to parental documents like tax info, etc.
  • Apply age restriction settings in Internet browsers. This adds another layer of protection so that students do not “accidentally” go to sites they should not be visiting.
  • Locate the computer in a central location so that if there is a question or if you need to lend assistance, you can. Do not hover over them.
  • There are also use time restrictions that can be set so that students cannot use a computer at certain times.

The way to set up all of these settings vary from computer to computer due to OS version ie: XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Mac/Linux or other. Many of these settings are easily found with a search online with something like Google.

Recommended Reading

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, the New York Times bestseller by author Jane McGonigal

Web Resources

American Psychological Association
Information and resources for parents and caregivers

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Brief recap of studies of media violence and kids and suggestions for mitigating negative impacts.

The Future of Children – Princeton University/Brookings Institution
A wide variety of information on guns and gun violence.

Harvard Mental Health Letter – Harvard University
While many disagree on the causal links between media violence and violent behavior, there are things parents can do to take precautions.

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment
Recap of literature on children and media violence, talking points for parents for discussions with kids, and practical advice for working with other parents, the community and teachers.

Common Sense Media

Entertainment Software Rating Board
Official game rating website with in depth details on games and their content

Motion Picture Association of America Movie Ratings Guide

Sandra Dodd’s collection of articles and links on the benefits of video games

Minecraft
Home of a great game for kids

MassDIGI
MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, state government and industry, aimed at fostering the growth of the game industry and innovation economy in Massachusetts.

MIT’s game lab

Online safety help
Microsoft Safeaty Security Center

http://disney.go.com/guestservices/safety

Setting up parental controls/voice and text chat:

XBOX
https://support.xbox.com/en-US/billing-and-subscriptions/parental-controls/xbox-live-parental-control
https://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-live/online-privacy-and-safety/online-safety

Playstation
https://support.us.playstation.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/186/~/parental-controls-for-text,-voice,-and-video-chat

Wii
http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/ht_settings.jsp?menu=pc

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