Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Want Your Money

About a month ago I wrote about an idea I had. I have lots of ideas, some practical, some totally off the wall, but this one was a good idea. I wanted to see picnic tables return to the Town Common. When I first fell from the sky and landed in town back in 2000, there were a few tables on the common. Those tables were oft sought after places to be around lunch time, on summer evenings, and on weekend mornings. They stayed on the common for a couple of years, and then...they were gone.

No explanation to their whereabouts since my post, but it is time to bring them back. Now, the original tables were wood. Maybe, they were just feeling their age, and required some work to get them back in shape. I have no idea, but it would be great to have them back.

Originally I wrote about having a bunch of them on the Common, but I think that four will do it for now. I have written in the past about being only a "catalyst", and leaving the footwork for those in town that care about an issue to carry it on, but after some time, and nothing being done, I feel I have to step up and get this thing done.

Now, I don't want to take the credit for having this change of persona, I was nudged a bit. I received the following email this morning:

"I saw your blog post about replacing the picnic tables, and thought this site might be helpful to you for fundraising:

I cannot personally endorse the site, but it does seem legitimate to me and doesn't have any fees.
I like the idea of wifi as well. I live on the other end of town, but if I recall correctly, I think that a panel antenna on the side of the library would likely cover most of the common and could share the existing internet connection.
Good Luck
-E. Hoyle Anderson
Sturbridge Resident

Well, I wrote back, thanked them for their suggestion, and then proceeded to check it out. After doing some research I figured, "Hey, I could do this." All it takes is to set up an account that is capable of accepting donations and then placing them in an account. Simple process. Now, comes the hard part.

I want your money.

After doing some online reading about picnic tables that would fit our common, and checking out the prices with shipping, I figured that $1600.00 would cover the cost of four PVC clad wooden tables. Now, I used the top end table to get an idea of cost, and depending on what kind of table is desired we will be able to buy more or less. I've set the goal to be raised at $1600.00, and I the end of the fund raising to be on June 1st. This would give us more than enough time to raise the money, and have the table available for the summer.

So, that's it. Let's get some tables on the Common. I figure if we all chipped in about $10.00 each we could raise the amount easily. Of course, amounts greater than $10.00 would be appreciated as well.
The little widget up at the top of the page is secure, and will take your donation and plop right into an account set up specifically for the purchase of the tables. Once the amount is raised, I will either turn the gift over to Jim Malloy, or with the Towns assistance, order them myself, and have them delivered to the site. Please pass this post on to all those you know in town that would be willing to give in some amount. Just click the little envelope at the bottom, and fill in the email addresses of your friends and relatives.

We can do this, and I'll join you at a table when the Summer Concert series begins.

Ed. Note: To make a donation please use the widget at the top of the page. It is secure, and will take donated funds and place them into an account used solely of placing picnic tables on the
Town Common. You may also give at
Please forward this page to others that may also want to give. Thank you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Our Candidates Respond

A few days ago I wrote about campaign rhetoric, signs and all that pre-election hullabaloo we are subjected to daily. I won't re-write that post here, you can click the link above to read it in its entirety, but I do want to acknowledge that two out of four candidates have responded.

So, what does this tell us? Well, a couple of things, one, is that the candidates that responded are willing to share their thoughts on a benign question, and "shoot from the hip" so to speak. No prepared statements regarding this issue, or that one. Just a response to a question that we as voters can read, and get a lot more out of than just their answer.

What do we look for in the answers beside just the answer? Well, for one look for the amount of generality, or "over speak" the candidate writes. Generalities are usually thrown into the mix when specifics about an issue are not fully known, and the person writing, or speaking adds other subjects to the original one and attempt to connect them. Just makes for a lot more words, and no real information is obtained. This is a good indicator of how that person performs in similar situations. "Over speak" is similar to generalities. It is often the bluster a politician emits when asked to answer a simple question, and they attempt to with limited knowledge, and fill in the gaps with words completely unrelated to the original question, and go off on tangents. Eventually, they bring it all back around to try to answer the question, but in only a few words. Essentially, 5 minutes of bluster, for a 30 second answer. Politicians are famous for this. Gives a sense of knowledge, and adds a bit of drama to the character. We see this all the time at White House Press conferences.

Now, remember, all I was asking for was one or two paragraphs in answer to the question, and I am not saying that either of the two responses have any "over speak", or generalities in them, that is more of a subjective observation. They are well written, however.

Read each of them once, and then go back and read them again. Keep the original question in mind. How well did each candidate address it knowing that it was already a done deal? Did they stay on target? Did they relate the issue in the question to other improvements they are supportive of? Did they touch on subjects unrelated?

Read into the answers. Remember, the person may be elected to office, and the manner in which they respond to this question is a good indicator on how they will respond to other issues once in office.

Not exactly "rocket surgery", but it can be very telling.

Thank you to both candidates for taking the time to respond. If anything, it shows a commitment to reach out to Sturbridge residents, no matter the venue.

This is a very good thing.

The Question:

In the interest of public safety, where do you stand on the building of sidewalks on Route 131 from Route 20, to the Southbridge town line? Is this something that can be done with the reconstruction of the road? Considering the number of pedestrians in town, and others that may become pedestrians if there were sidewalks, why would you consider this a good idea, or a bad idea?

James Ehrhard responds:

"I have been very vocal about the importance of sidewalks for quite some time. In fact, my campaign was the first to advocate sidewalks as one of the leading quality of life upgrades Sturbridge should implement when economic conditions allow. One reason that Sturbridge is sought after as a place to live and visit is because of the opportunities to walk through its open spaces. Wells State Park, Westville and the Hines Farm property are the jewels of such recreational opportunities.

But a well-rounded town is able to have multi-faceted opportunities for exercise. Simply, you should also be able to walk with ease and peace through the town's historic areas and more densely populated residential areas. Right now, you cannot. The sidewalk upgrade of Route 131 (which currently is part of the design for the reconstruction of that road) is a foundational start of the sidewalk upgrade I want for Sturbridge. I fully support the current plan to build the sidewalk; indeed, I will vigorously protect it as a Selectman.

As always, do not hesitate to call with any questions, comments or concerns.

--James P. Ehrhard"

Ted Goodwin responds:

"Regarding the question you posted for candidates' response:

I am very much in favor of having sidewalks all along Route 131. This is a great idea for many reasons. Foremost is the issue of safety. Without proper sidewalks, pedestrians are at risk on such a busy street. Sidewalks allow residents and tourists alike to safely take advantage of our beautiful historic common and the businesses and sites up and down Main Street. A major benefit is the visual continuity and ease of movement created by a continuous sidewalk for such a long stretch. It is an important step in creating a walkable downtown, increasing foot traffic to storefronts and providing a place for people to enjoy a walk through town.

The good news is that the project to reconstruct Rt. 131 is approved and set to begin in 2010. This includes sidewalks all the way from Rt. 20 to the Big Bunny Market. I am pleased that as a Board member I was able to provide input on the project. One aspect I felt was a valued extra was to include brick sidewalks throughout our town common. This is a feature that will further unify that district and set us apart from other town commons. In order to go forward with the project, the town staff did an excellent job clearing the legal hurdles and getting all of the easements necessary to widen the road, clean up the curb cuts, and place the sidewalks. I can't wait to see the project begin and look forward to walking there with my family when it is completed.


For A Rainy Sunday Morning

A number of years ago, while in Atlanta at a conference, it was raining very hard one night on the way back to my hotel. I had been listening to a CD of artists singing various songs not from their genre. One of those songs was "A Rainy Night in Georgia" by Conway Twitty. Twitty was singing the song made famous by Brook Benton, and did a wonderful job.

My daughter was young at the time, and she loved the song, too. So, on the rainy night, alone, and far from home, I called her from the car with that song playing in the background. I was immediately transported to her side. Strange how music can do the unimaginable.

That was one of the the best phone calls of my life. I still remember it today, on this rainy Sunday morning. I spoke to her on the phone last night, and that little girl voice is still there, and for a moment, we were sitting side by side.

Below is the original recording by Brook Benton. Enjoy.

Rainy Night In Georgia - Brook Benton

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Second Update Regarding "The Question"

This afternoon I received the second response to the question I posted to the candidates for selectman. As I mentioned in that first post, I will wait 24 hours before posting the responses in order to give the last two candidates a chance to respond, and then I will post the two responses I have, and not post any other submissions.

Fair is fair. The whole idea is to obtain an "uncanned" response without each of the candidates "looking over " their opponents shoulder.

I really believe that the answers to the question will give more insight to just how the candidates think. Speeches, and signs, and campaign literature only tell us what they want us to know. Which, is perfectly acceptable, otherwise it would not be politics.

'til tomorrow.

Question Update

As of this morning only one response has been received from one of the candidates regarding the question in the previous post.

What does this tell me? Well, enough readers have bee to the post, and forwarded it on to others, ,so I am fairly sure the candidates have received it as well. Some candidates also read the blog on their own. So why only one response? I am not really sure, but I do believe that the question asked is a mute point, and they feel why waste their time with it.

Big mistake. Huge mistake.

See, it is not the rhetoric the voters want to hear, we hear that and read that all the time. What we want is something that is off the cuff, something true to the character of the individual without their weighing their answer against others positions. It can be very telling.

What can be more telling is how the candidates responds to this particular question. It was asked with a particular purpose. Like when one takes a test, one has to consider how damaging leaving a question blank will be compared to taking a guess. In this case, leaving a question blank can be more detrimental than giving a loony answer.

Let's give it another day or two, and then see where we are.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sign, Sign Everywhere A Sign...

Ed. Note: There are currently 71 election signs posted on Route 20 between Route 131 and Route 148 for four candidates. Next time the issue of signs in front of businesses comes up in town, and the need for sameness, and limited exposure of signs in order to de-clutter the "blight" they cause, ask about election signs. What's good for the goose...

lection time. (sigh). I don't know, somehow it seems that all the hype before the vote is cast is done wrong. Oh, there are cases when it I do feel a connection with a candidate, but overall, it is the same 'ol, same 'ol.

When you are driving about town today count the number of election signs planted in the medians, lawns and elsewhere. some patches of ground have over a dozen signs planted. It starts with one sign for one candidate, then an opposing candidate feels it is a good spot, and they anchor a sign with their name on it in the same spot, and then another candidate. Equal time, and all is good.

But... .

Then the first candidate sees the competition is surrounding them, so out comes another sign, and it is stuck in the earth near the first one, but planted in a way to show this candidates name better, and twice as much as the others. The other candidates soon follow suit. In a short time the small patch of ground has several signs from each of candidates.

Does the number of signs one displays an indicator for the being the best candidate, or is it supposed to show the number of supporters each person running for office has?

I have no idea. Not a clue, but it is most definitely a competitive sport in these parts.

I was always under the assumption that a campaign sign was to get the name of the candidate out there along with the office they are running for. It is a simple process. A sign here, a sign there along the most traveled roadways will get the name out to the public.

In the town in which I lived for way too long before coming to Sturbridge, they had a town bylaw that prevented stationary campaign signs from cluttering up the landscape. The signs could only be mounted on something portable with wheels. This insured that the signs had to be moved, and would be removed after the election. Of course, it led to there being large 4 foot by 6 foot signs, but the number of them was far less, and they were removed immediately after the election.

Once a candidate announces their intentions to run getting their name out there is important, so campaign signs do play a role, but it goes beyond the "King of the Mountain" game with the signs. There has to be frequent debates, public speeches, direct mail to the voters, and letters to the editor announcing their positions on various issues.

Yesterday I received a letter from James Ehrhard. The letter was the same as was published in the local paper, but at the bottom of the letter was a personal, handwritten note to me asking for my vote. This is connecting with a voter. It was something that everyone received, but the added personal note made the connection. It was well done.

Now, I haven't decided on who will get my vote as of yet, but I do feel I need to acknowledge when something is said well, or an act is done with some thought. This letter was something done well.

I am still waiting for specifics from each candidate. The rhetoric is fine, and expected in a pre-election period, but I want to read the specifics of how each candidate will treat each issue facing the town today, and the ones we see heading down the road. Some have mentioned the Route 15 development, others have mentioned the Southbridge Dump, and our own Recycling Center, but I want to know how each candidate feels about all the issues, and then I want to compare them. It would be like shopping for a new flat screen TV online, pull up a list of TV's that interest you, check the box beside the ones you want to compare and then click the compare button. Each TV would be listed with all the specifications for each in a column making it very easy to find just the right TV.

We need something like that. We are all far too busy to weed through all the rhetorical letters, letters to the editor, and transcripts of debates to make the best decision. Our heads have become accustomed to comparing, and choosing based on the new online paradigm. It's just the direction the world has gone.

In the meantime, I would like to extend to each of the candidates an invitation to respond to one particular question, and have their response published here on this page. A question that is a bit out of the mainstream of topics, but one that will require an answer that is not "canned". Depending on how the candidate responds to the question, or if they respond at all, will be a good way to see just where their head is at. In the end we can compare their responses. It may not be the most scientific method, but it will rise above the signs, the canned political rhetoric, and supply their idea/thoughts/plan off the cuff.

The Question:

In the interest of public safety, where do you stand on the building of sidewalks on Route 131 from Route 20, to the Southbridge town line? Is this something that can be done with the reconstruction of the road? Considering the number of pedestrians in town, and others that may become pedestrians if there were sidewalks, why would you consider this a good idea, or a bad idea?

Send your response to

Please answer in one or two paragraphs. The responses will not be published until at least 2 of the candidates respond in order to prevent one-up-manship. After at least two responses are received there will be a waiting period of a day for the other candidates to respond (I will announce when at least two are received), after which the responses will be published, and other responses submitted will not be published. If only one response is received, then that response will be published.

Pretty simple. A benign, but important question. Something that requires some thought. The thought process alone will give a good indication how the candidate processes other issues.

OK, candidates, start writing.

If anything, this will be interesting.

Monday, March 23, 2009


A couple of months ago I went on Facebook out of curiosity. My daughter has a place there, and well, I was curious. Should have known she would have made it private for "friends" only. Oh well, snooping parents aren't exactly friends. While I was there, I of course had to sign up in order to search for others I may know on the site.

I found my brother, his wife and kids, my sister, and a couple of friends that came to mind, and then I found my father.

My father is 75 years old.

What the ...?

Seems that everyone is in need of sharing exactly what they are doing at any particular moment, and everyone else is desperate to know what everyone else is doing at the same moment.

When did we become so open? Heck, we've always been nosey, but sharing the most inane things about ourselves has become very important to millions of people. Besides Facebook, and My Space, there are other sites that offer this instantaneous gratification, Twitter is one of them. Twitter is also used by a lot of major news organizations to stay in touch with its viewers, and to receive news tips as well. Mostly text uploaded from mobile devices, Twitter informs all those that follow you exactly what you are doing at any given moment.

Wally is standing in line at the supermarket.

Wally just changed his socks.

Wally is feeding the cats..again.

Twitter doesn't publish these things without you, you have to upload the text, which brings me to my next question, who cares? Are we so starved for news that we need to know exactly what anyone else is doing at any given moment? Are we using our voyeurism to compare our lives with the lives of others?

I have no clue, but it is a phenomena though, and for the moment, it is here to stay. At last count there were 85 bajillion people on Facebook. Big numbers, lots of advertising dollars and money to be made there.

Well, that's something you won't find here, advertising. Not even subliminal advertising. Buy Shaw's Brand That would be manipulative, and that's Applebee's for Dinner Tonight! something that even with today's high tech life styles, I wouldn't ever be tempted to do. Shop Wal*Mart.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Rule Of Success: Play Well With Others And Share

I am impressed. Not so much surprised, but most definitely impressed.

Old Sturbridge Village has stepped up and is leasing an 18 room building on the site of the former Lodges at Old Sturbridge Village to the Town for temporary use for Town offices while the renovation of the Town Hall is underway. As Ann Lindblad of OSV stated, "I think it is a win-win for both the town and Old Sturbridge Village."

I think so, too.

The building, which has been empty since the closing of the Lodges a few years ago, will require little to make it inhabitable by Town workers. Some cleaning, maybe some painting, and the computer network is already being put in place.

This is a great idea. A vacant building is being used instead of trailers, or some other site, and the cost is modest compared to another option that scored high in the eyes of the Town. $60,000.00 for a years lease with an option for additional time at the same $5000.00 per month.

What is impressive is that OSV didn't try to make a killing here. The Town was stuck in a jam, and this space was available. It met the requirements that were sought by the town, and the price was right. OSV most certainly could have taken advantage of the towns predicament, but was fair.

More than fair.

A few things can come from this kind of collaboration. Continued trust, and a continued great working relationship between OSV and the Town, are but two. Town workers, selectmen, and the Town Administrator seeing a fruitful use for the property at 371 Main Street, and maybe being inspired to see something more there when their lease is finished is another.. A small taste of rental income may inspire OSV to actively plan for something more at the site as well. Call me, I have a lot of ideas. Income producing ideas. Those are the best kind. Keep in mind that fresh eyes on any project can offer ideas never considered before.

With the temporary Town Hall site now set, and a moving date seen to occur within the next month, we only have to sit back and watch the renovation at the Town Hall and Center School take place. That intersection of Route 131, Maple Street, and Old Route 15 is going to be one busy place for the foreseeable future.

As much as I like this idea, what I would like even better is a use to be found for the former Lodges site after the lease is finished. A use that would be both beneficial to OSV, and to the Town.

OSV, call me. We'll do lunch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now, To Come Up With A Name for The Place...

Last Wednesday was a great day. Mary and I headed to Boston early to attend the Fleetwood Mac Concert at the Garden. We spent some time at the Museum of Fine Arts, then grabbed a great meal at Antonio's on Cambridge Street. After dinner we walked over to the Garden, and people watched at North Station until the doors were opened at 7:00.

The concert was freakin' amazing. Every age was there, from old fans like myself, to 16 year olds with their parents. Fleetwood Mac performed flawlessly.

This morning I got to thinking. I was thinking that music does so much to bring people together, all ages, all types of people. People will seek out good music. On the Channel 5 program "Chronicle" recently they were discovering the Main Streets and Back Roads of the South western Maine. One of the segments was about a couple that formerly toured as musicians, and decided to settle down and open a small venue on their farm. They took the large barn they were using for other purposes, and converted it into a fine restaurant and venue to listen to great music. Everything from classical musicians from Boston, to big names have been attracted to this small stage in the woods of Maine. The intimacy the musicians feel with their audience is something they normally do not get.

The place is a great success.

What if Sturbridge had a place like this? Nothing on the size and scale of "Great Woods / Tweeter Center / Whatever it is Called Now", but a small venue, a few hundred seats, that offered music in an intimate setting, and maybe dinner as well?

We have the location. We have the roads to get here. We have the hotel rooms. A music venue would do wonders here.

One more reason to come to Sturbridge.

So, talk it up to your musician friends. Find some land, build a big 'ol post and beam barn large enough for 300 people, toss in a kitchen, some parking, and start hiring some musicians. Chamber Music one week, folk the next, some acoustic solo sounds from a big name, maybe a night of smooth jazz.

I know, I know...I seem to want it all, don't I?

And, why not?

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Equal Time


My name is Ephis Fleek, and I'm a farmer in these parts. I'm also announcing that I want to be a selectman.

Now, I don't know much about selecting, but I have the cable and I watch the meetings on the TV.

Seems there are somethings here in town that are always raisin' a ruckus, and it takes time away from things that need tendin' to. Well, life is simpler if you plow around the stump. Folks get their shorts in a gather if they come up against some fences. Heck, every path is gonna have a few puddles. Just move on, and get it done.

I get things done. Have to. If I didn't get things done, I'd starve, and my animals would starve, too. See, there has to be something that is gonna cost you bad if you don't think things through all the way, and get things done. A selectman has to do the same. Think things through, and then get it done. If you don't, it is gonna cost us.

A selectman has to have good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

I gotta lot of experience.

One thing I learned on the farm is don't corner something that is meaner than you. Comes in handy when a selectman is sittin' and watchin' over one of those downy brooks they have once in awhile. If you come down hard on 'em, you may end up gettin' nipped in the backside of your overalls someday. Remember, meanness just don't happen overnight.

I'm not the best talker, but I know what to say, and when to say it. Sometimes, silence is the best answer. That'd be something different from a selectman.

I also don't hang out with those folks that want something for nothin'. Same would be true if I was a selectman. I'm my own man. You always gotta drink upstream from the herd.

And, if I was to be the selectman, I wouldn't get a big swollen head over it all. I don't let things do that. Heck, if you think you got all this new influence, just try orderin' somebodies elses dog around.

Being a selectman can be hard, and you can run into all sorts of problems, and trouble, but the biggest troublemaker you will see is the one in the mirror every mornin'. Keep that guy under control, and the rest should go real easy.

Another thing I got goin' for me is that I don't got any thing in mind other than helpin' out my town. No other plans. No "fox in the henhouse" thing goin' on here. Just me, Ephis. You can't get more plain than that.

So, on election day, vote for me. I didn't take out papers to get my name on the ballot, but you can write me in. Another thing you can do, and wouldn't bother me much, is find one of the ones runnin' for the office, and if they think like me, and you can trust 'em, then check off their box instead of mine. Heck, won't hurt me none. Be like me being there, too, 'cept I can stay home on meeting nights and still watch "Dancin' With The Stars".

Heck, I'm honest, too.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Master Plan

A little over a year ago I wrote about the Master Plan of 1988. The gist of the article was that it was then 2008, and twenty years post plan, there was little to show for the investment made in that 1988 plan.

At the recent Special Town Meeting $75,000.00 was voted in for a new Master Plan. Every town must have a Master Plan; they don't have to do diddly with it, but they have to have one. There will be hired consultants, numerous meetings, and eventually, after an eternity, a new plan will emerge.

And, then, that's it. Done. Complete. Nothing more to do, just wait another 20 years to appropriate more money, and do it all over again.

I have an idea. Now, this may be a bit "out of the box", but what if after the plan is completed, we actually read it, and then act on the plan. That's what a plan is, a recipe for action. The way it is now, it merely an essay.

The enacting of the contents of the Master Plan will be directed by the Selectmen, and the Town Administrator. They will decide which items to to proceed with, and in what order. Keep this in mind come election day.

Another thing to keep in mind is will a plan be taken seriously by someone that desires to be elsewhere, and not here in town? This is important. If a leader continues to search for greener pastures, is their heart still in the job here at home?

This could be the deciding factor in determining if the NEW Master Plan is ever even read, never mind acted upon.

Things should be done in order. First determine if there is leadership available, and willing to take the town forward, then once that is determined, write a plan to get us there, and enable those folks to act on the plan. If one thing is out of synch, it ain't going to work well.

People can become comfortable in a position, like a fat man stuck in a Barcalounger with the remote, a bag of Cheese Doodles and a rack of Bud Lights on his lap. Only reason to move is to use the bathroom occasionally. The car won't get washed, the cellar won't get cleaned out, the lawn won't be mowed, the kids won't get to soccer practice, the wife won't be happy, and nothing in the Family Master Plan will be accomplished. No sense in giving the big guy with the orange cheese powder all over his face a new set of instructions at this point.

Time to change the guy, or tell the guy to change. Remember, things need to be addressed in order.

But wait, we need a plan to accomplish that, and we know how well those work.

On second thought, never mind.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Equal Time

In the interest of fair and equal time regarding the upcoming elections here in town, I am offering this email I received yesterday after a visit from one of the candidates for selectman. As stated previously, the publishing of a candidates views on this page does not constitute an endorsement of that candidate. It is offered here only for the benefit of our readers to gain more information, and insight into the candidates running for office.

"Wally, I just wanted to thank you for your warm hospitality today. It was great having some time to get to know you a bit better and to do so in such a comfortable setting. I absolutely love your house and like I said the wall color is very soothing.

If you have any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions please don’t hesitate. Regardless of what happens in April, we need to start “moving the ball” or we will all suffer regardless of what ideologies we cling to. One thing I’ve learned in my door to door engagements with residents these past few weeks is that they’re all concerned with the lack of progress over the years and they are concerned about our future.

Frankly, I’m concerned that we are going to continue down the path of waiting and hoping things will get better instead of actually making them better. This is the reason I decided to jump in as I believe we are running against a clock and the leadership over the past 6 years that I’ve been here just doesn’t see it.

Anyway, you heard all of that from me today so I won’t belabor it. I do appreciate your time and do sincerely hope that you and Mary will at least give fair consideration to the possibility of supporting me. In the end, you have to do what you are most comfortable with once you get behind that curtain (so to speak), but I believe that based upon what I have witnessed these past 6 years, there is no-one else running right now that has the level of energy, commitment, or drive to see this through as I do.

I went to Walker Pond Road and McGilpin Road and was very impressed with the number of folks who welcomed me into their homes and engaged me in frank discussion. One indicated his surprise that I would go to a location where some are not enamored with me. My response was simple; an elected official represents everyone, not a selected group, and as such has a responsibility to engage everyone – critics and supporters. One may advocate from one end of the political spectrum or the other, but one must govern from the middle.

Anyway, you need not feel obligated to respond, but please know that I truly appreciated your very genuine hospitality today.


Thomas R. Creamer
359 Leadmine Road
Fiskdale, MA 01518

Cell: 774-696-0903
Fax: 615-634-0903"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hamant Brook Information Day -- April 11, 2009

Forwarded From:

"If you care to attend and see for yourself.....

Tom C"

Dear PLAC Members and Friends

At this time I am recommending that we focus on Saturday April 11, 2009
starting at 9:00 AM and running until 12 noon as the day we (PLAC) hold an
information day for the DFW, ConCom, FinCom and the public to walk and view
the old Camp Robinson Crusoe (CRC) land. During this time everyone can view
the land as is with ponds and dams and what it may look like should the
Hamant Brook Restoration project move forward.

I would ask that each of you spent some time looking at the Pros/Cons of Dams
Vs Brook or the opposite and send them to me so that I can compile some list.
Please provide any recommendation you may have for what should be available
such as publicity, water, site walk, handicap access, parking, etc.

Thank you in advance for your support and cooperation.


Richard LaFranchise, PLAC Chairman
Cell: 774.230.1127 Fax: 508.347.7544

A Great Message From Reed Hillman

Hey Everyone,

Daughter Amber and her Tantasqua classmate Brian Hrybyk are running the
Boston Marathon next month to raise money for Children's Hospital, New England's
premier institution for pediatric care and research. She has committed to
raising over $3000 and is halfway there! (I hope Rosie Ruiz is coaching her on
Marathon tactics!!)

Below is a link to her fund raising page and please feel free to forward it
to anyone interested in supporting this cause:


Amber and Brian are also going to be holding events at Pizzeria Uno’s on
Friday, March 13th and Sunday, March 22 in Sturbridge. Basically, all you
have to do, if you are interested, is go to Uno’s in Sturbridge and present this
coupon I have attached and they will donate 20% of your bill to Children’s
Hospital. Therese and I will be there and if you are planning on going out
that night for drinks, food, or appetizers, I would encourage you to head to Uno
’s. Bring anyone you want and bring your appetite. The more you eat the
more Children’s Hospital gets!!!! And it works on takeouts, too!

Thank you all and please contact me if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

508 347 7233

If you would rather write a check please make checks payable to:
Children's Hospital Boston

And send to:
Amber Hillman
49 Bushnell Rd.
Sturbridge, Ma 01566

Click here for March 13 coupon at Uno's

Click here for March 22 coupon at Uno's

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Police Blotter

The United States Chess Federation is conducting the Eastern Class Championship at the Host Hotel this weekend. (see link listed above.)

The Host Hotel has been host to other Chess organizations in the past, most recently over the Christmas Holidays in 2008. It was during this time that an incident was investigated by local police.

It seems two competitors were engaged in a shouting match in the lobby of the hotel. Each was declaring how great they were as a chess player. The scene was broken up, and the guests returned to their rooms.

The following day, this entry was noted in the police log:

December 25, 2008 10:23 PM Investigated complaints of noise at hotel.
Found chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just Have To Get This Off My Chest

It's my weekend to work. Every third weekend, once a month, I trek into Boston and give my 24 hours to "the man". Actually, to the kids.

This is far, far different than when I first started out in this field of nursing. Back then, it was every other weekend, 40 hours a week, and my schedule required that I work seven days on, two off, three on , two off and repeat ad infinitum.

In a word, it sucked.

Nowadays, things are very different, but I still see that some hospitals still have an "every other weekend" obligation, and only 8 hour shifts. Those working conditions are "so 1980's".

Hospitals still complain that attracting nurses, and keeping them on board is an issue.

Well, duh.

Nurses today are looking for working conditions to fit their lifestyle, not a lifestyle to fit their working conditions, and they do find it. The places they choose not to work at then continue to suffer the perpetual short staffing. Where I work we are staffed well. Oh, there may be an empty spot here and there, but overall staffing is very good.

We commit to three twelve hour shifts each week, and that is considered Full Time. All the benefits on those 36 hours are Full time benefits, and we have four days off each week. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Yes, twelve hour shifts can be tiring at times, depending on whats happening, but the flexibility the schedule gives is great. If one would like to pick up an extra day now and again to pay for vacation, tuition, or that new car, it is easy to do, and the hospital doesn't have to hire a slew of per diem staff.

Compensation is always a main concern for those of us in nursing. Historically, the further west you worked in Massachusetts, the less you would earn. It is the same today even though the cost of living 60 miles west of Boston is now the same as it is in Metro West. When I left Boston a few years ago after moving to Sturbridge, I took a job out Springfield way. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Not only are they two decades behind the times in their basic nursing care, but the compensation was 35-40% less than I was making in Boston.

So, today I am writing this to all those nursing managers, and hospital human resource folks out there. If you want to fix a staffing problem, learn to be flexible. Compensation is important, but flexibility is by far something that will secure more candidates for those open positions. It is time for the hospitals to enter the 1990's. Twelve hour shifts enable facilities to hire less nurses, pay for less benefits, and deal with a lesser turn over. These are all key pieces to the recruit and retain strategy.

Unfortunately, I don't see things changing for most of those hospitals that are still hanging onto old ideas like working every other weekend. I haven't done that in fourteen years. Of course, not working weekends would be ideal, but for the position I am in, and enjoy, it is a small sacrifice to pay.

Currently, government, and health care are the only two areas that are not seeing massive layoffs, but that may change soon. Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston has a $20 million dollar short fall at the moment, and layoffs are on the table. Other hospitals are close to having to make a similar decision as well. We laid off a few in January.

If a hospital can cut its costs with simple changes in policies, it should do it now. Today. Otherwise, those in the community that rely on that hospital being there, just down the street, may be very disappointed in the next couple of years as the smaller, community hospitals fade away. The number of small hospitals that have closed their doors for good in Massachusetts in the last 20 years is staggering.

So, there you have it, a bit of health care consulting free of charge. If you were a client, I would charge a lot more.

Never ignore good free advise. If you do, then maybe you should have your head examined, that is if you can find a place that is still open, and has the staff to do it.

Announcement of Candidacy

Editors Note--The following is an Announcement of Candidacy from a Sturbridge resident. No endorsement is made of any candidate that chooses to announce their plans for candidacy on these pages. This is posted as a public service. This does not rule out that the editor may endorse a particular candidate(s) at some later date.

March 6, 2009

Announcement of Candidacy

It is with great pleasure that I announce my candidacy for re-election to the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen. I am proud of my record of accomplishment for the last three years but also recognize that a great deal of work remains to be done.

There are a number of projects that I would like to pursue to their completion – the new Burgess elementary school, the renovation of town hall and Center School, the expansion of the waste water treatment plant, the development of new ball fields and playgrounds, the further development of infrastructure for ecotourism, and streamlining the processing for attracting new businesses in town as well as supporting the existing ones.

I care about the quality of life, the continued excellence of local public education, and keeping down the cost of living and of doing business in Sturbridge. It is crucial, though, especially in these difficult economic times, that we continue to invest in the support services that will allow us to grow.

After the last Special Town Meeting, I was approached with requests from all parts of our community that I run again in order to continue to offer a balanced perspective and be a voice for citizen concerns that were not reflected by the other candidates. And while the pressures of having small children and maintaining a career are many, Lindsay and I realize that it is also very important for all of us to contribute to our community.

It has been a privilege to serve on the Board of Selectmen, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all people I’ve worked with. I hope that the voters of Sturbridge will continue to entrust me with the responsibility of helping guide the town in these challenging times.

Ted Goodwin

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Puzzlement

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.

The leopard cannot change its spots

We cannot change our basic nature. This saying is adapted from
words in the biblical Book of Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian
change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.,
Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

I've always been fascinated by sayings, proverbs, and colloquialisms. No idea why, but where they came from, and what led to their becoming a time tested saying is interesting.

For the most part, these generic sayings can mean most anything the user wants at the time, but there is some specific truths in each of them. The saying I've posted above is one of them. It is in the family of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, but I've found that one to be untrue. Old dogs are just wiser, and don't really let on that they've mastered some new trick like opening the cupboard where the Milkbones are kept. Why spoil a good thing? Wisdom is something that comes to old dogs.

So, if one reads into the saying about a leopard not being able to change its spots, what exactly does it mean? Are we all destined to be whatever we are now with no chance of ever changing, or are we basically just a person that chooses which way to be at any particular time? That would be better. If one chooses how they perform, or behave, they do have the power to change their spots.

I'm trying to be idealistic here, with some realism thrown in for good measure.

So, this leopard thing got me to thinking, what if I was to witness a "leopard" actually changing his spots?

Whoa. That would be so cool, but then I remember that animals in the wild will adapt their appearance to their environment. The chameleon is a great example. Birds change their coloring from summer to winter in order to blend in with the leafless surroundings. The Yellow Finch is an example of this as they change from brilliant yellow to a light brown in the fall. Most animals change their "spots" for survival, to blend in with the environment in order not to be someones next meal. Other animals change their appearance for the opposite reason, they are looking for that next meal, and need to blend in in order to get it.

It's a conundrum.

This whole "leopard" thing had me thinking about politicians. Seems that President Obama is taking some heat for being the "Change King of Washington", but the new spending bill he pushed through the Congress is laden with "pork". Strange. He said there wouldn't be any earmarks. Then I figured he signed it because the greater good the bill would do far outweighed the lesser good those earmarks would do, so in order to get what he needed, he compromised.

Same ol', same ol'. I was disappointed, but heck, this is a crisis.

Another saying that is can be closely linked to the leopard one is the one about a "wolf in sheeps clothing". Well, sheep don't where clothes, at least not here in Massachusetts, we're far too liberal for that, but what the saying is actually referring to is one that purposely, and temporarily disguises themselves in order to obtain a certain objective in a particular population.

In other words, hide who they really are, blend in, and snatch one of those fooled for a meal. This is a temporary change. A change of convenience. A purposeful deceit.

So, here I am on a Friday morning, the weeks coming to an end, and I wake up with this philosophical puzzlement. Great way to finish out the week. I'd rather be thinking about which color socks to wear.

It is something to think about though, changing ones spots, or blending in for the moment.

We may find out sooner than we know. In the meantime, I have to get some socks on.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A True Team

Last year, my wife, Mary, invited me to a Special Olympics basketball practice out in Worcester. It was a week or so before the Special Olympics Winter Games. I had been invited before, but the events always seemed to come on the weekends that I was working. Last year I was free to go, and I am so glad I did.

My step-daughter, Jen, has been a member of the Worcester Area Special Olympics for some time. She and her mom have been involved in basketball in the winter, and softball in the summer. I knew little about the games, just a little history of the Special Olympics themselves. Back in 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver set up a summer camp for kids and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home in Maryland. In 1968 the First International Summer Games were held in Chicago, and 1971 the Massachusetts Special Olympics was founded. The games have grown ever since. In 2003, 7000 athletes from 150 countries participated in 21 different sports.

I attended the Winter Games last year at Clark University in Worcester, and this past weekend I attended the games again on Sunday. It was an event that I will always remember.

This past Friday evening The Winter Games 2009 started at the home of one of the other participating families with an opening ceremony, and great night together for the kids and their families. The following day, on Saturday, the team, the Cougars, played two games against other Massachusetts teams. That night they celebrated the Olympics at Mechanics Hall in Worcester with a dance, and a chance to mingle with others at Olympic Town. Mary and Jen came back to Sturbridge after the games, rested up, grabbed a bite, and then headed out again for the dance. That nigh they slept fast, because the following morning we all had to be at Clark by 8:00 AM.

Both games for the Cougars were in the morning, followed by lunch for the athletes.

When we arrived at Clark University we grabbed some bleacher seats in front of one of the four courts being used for the games that day. I have to admit, I was blown away. First of all, my expectations were shattered last year when I attended my first games. This year, with my expectations in a different place, I went to support Jen, and her team, and to watch some great basketball, and, as I said, I was blown away.

Every kid on the team plays. There is a coach for each team, and about four "partners" on each team as well. The "partners"s are kids about high school age, or a little older, that play on the team, and help the coach out in practices. One of them plays at all times, and they are there to make sure that everyone plays. There is no special treatment, or favoritism. Everyone on the team is treated exactly the same, and has the same opportunities as the next player.

The partners don't really have to actually enforce this, though. The players all know it. There are no prima dona's, no "stars", only players having fun. The ball is passed to others that have a better shot, and everyone revels in a persons success at scoring, but it is immediately back into the game. No showboating on this team, or any other team I watched during the games.

Everyone is equal. Everyone is given a chance to play, and all the players respect each other immensely.

Far cry from the high school basketball I watched as a kid.

There are winners and losers at each event, but no one dwells on loosing a game or two, or even winning a few. They enjoy more the art of the game, the camaraderie, and the competition itself more than the final score.

Another lesson handed to me by the athletes.

Yesterday, after the games, and while the athletes were having lunch, one of the partners, Nikkie, announced to the room, that she had something for each of the players. As she spoke she began to break down and cry. She explained that this was probably her last year with the team since she was going to college in the fall and didn't know if she could continue on with the Special Olympics while in school. Her tears were genuine, heartfelt, and within a few seconds the players rose from the chairs and went over to her and hugged her in a long thank you embrace.

No ones eyes were dry, Nikkie's, the players, the families, and mine didn't escape. She gave each of the players a card with a note inside to each one of them. As she looked for each face to match the name of the card, she continued to talk, her voice cracking, the tears falling, and being stopped along the way by hugs from everyone.

The Special Olympics does a so much for these kids, and adults, but it the things that aren't readily obvious to the rest that are the most remarkable. The players mutual respect for one another that transcends their abilities, the acceptance that one may have keener aim, but another may have more patience, and other may have a steadier hand. Each skill that they may posses is realized by all and comes together to make a team. This attitude comes from the example set by other team members, the coaches, and the partners.

This is truly team play. I've heard of a team being truly for themselves as a team, and not for individuals on the team, but until last year I had never seen it in action. It was if it was all second nature, an unconscious behavior of the athletes. Something that was just the way it was, and should be. The right way.

This is something I should have experienced many years ago, and learned, but it took a team in Worcester to expose this middle aged man to the number one fundamental of athletics: playing as a team.

I can't wait for next years games, but most of all, I can't wait to see those kids again. They are a "shot in the arm", and I seem to need a dose of what they have to give every year about this time.

The Cougars

Top Row: Nikkie, John, Jeremy, Kevin, Jack, Ed, Jack
Middle Row: Lindsy, Liz, Melinda, Jenelle
Third Row: Jen, Tracy, Brian, Adriana

Happy 105th Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is the 105th birthday of Massachusetts's own, Dr. Seuss.

For a fun time on a snowy Monday, click here.