Archive for April, 2008

A Summarative of My Three Favorite Jokes from Eddie Izzard’s Stripped, Whose N. American Leg of the Tour Kicked Off Tonight

1. Dinosaurs Going to Church.
2. The Tiger and the Giraffe.
3. “And Presidents just stare at them.”

BoltBus Follow-Up

From the Boston Globe:

For starters, when you arrive, you’d better remember which gate BoltBus leaves from because it isn’t listed on the station’s monitors. A Bolt spokeswoman said she was hoping station management would correct the omission quickly.

Boarding was amazingly orderly and cool. Bolt says one of its big selling points is that it guarantees you’ll get on the departing bus you bought a ticket for because the company won’t oversell seats like its competitors do. That means you don’t have to arrive at the station an hour early during popular travel periods and stampede when the bus door swings open. BoltBus asks passengers to show up at least 15 minutes early and it boards in batches based on when you bought seats, with early birds getting seated first. That’s how it worked this morning, and it was smooth. Still, some riders on today’s 7:30 a.m. bus showed up 30 minutes early and queued up at Gate 21. Creatures of habit, perhaps.

Previously: 1$ Bus Tickets.

Rooftop Comedy Festival @ The Comedy Connection

Dan Perrault is Sterling:


(Full disclosure: Dan and I have been in this for the past four years.)


Do boats usually buzz Duck Boats? Continually?

Beer Here!

Well, at least in some places. According to this article, Fenway Park has begun serving beer in the aisles in some parts of the park. Currently this is only the field and dugout boxes, but if this works, who knows what might happen. It would be nice not to have to miss 2 innings of a game just to go get a beer.

Opening Day Notes

Just a few notes from today’s opening day ceremonies at Fenway (and a quesiton).

I got quite a laugh out of the 2007 banner that covered the Green Monster flying all around when they first dropped it. It was like 2004 didn’t want to be forgotten.

I loved that the Sox had Johnny Pesky hoist the flag. It sure seems like he gets a lot of respect around the clubhouse and it really showed today.

Bill Buckner came out to throw the first pitch to a HUGE ovation at Fenway. I guess the wound is finally healed. Bill looked rather emotional himself.

It was announced that Neil Diamond will play Fenway on August 23rd. So, here is the question part. Usually the Fenway concerts happen during the All Star Break (right?), this is during the season. Do the folks over at Fenway have another concert to announce (Bon Jovi was supposed to be this year’s show) or is the Neil Diamond show going to be the only show at Fenway this summer (this would break my streak of Fenway shows, since I saw Dave and The Police and have zero interest in Diamond).

Did You Know?

Boston is one of the greener cities in the U.S. It was named the 7th greenest city by SustainLane for its 12% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, a 25-33% reduction of noise in surrounding neighborhoods and the addition of 320 acres of new parkland. This new energy initiative could really put Boston at the top of the nation’s greenest cities.


And that:

Boston is planning a unique composting center that would help with some of the city’s energy needs.

A proposed multimillion-dollar indoor urban composting facility would capture methane gas that rotting leaves give off and burn it to generate electricity for 1,500 homes, as well as to run on-site, year-round greenhouses. The city has not pinpointed a location for the indoor center, but it would be within city limits.

Photo: Bridge



Previously: Mandela Rally, Harvard, Charles, Trinity Church, BPL Courtyard, The Public Garden, Charlie’s Kitchen, The Coolidge, and the Longfellow Bridge.

The Budget: Andover

From the Townsman:

This year’s average Andover property tax bill is about $6,800. Without a Proposition 2 1/2 override and substantially higher taxes, programs could be eliminated and public employees let go, say officials.

Andover’s budget is more than $124 million. When factored together, the total cost of Andover employee salaries and health insurance is expected to cost $83.6 million this fiscal year, an increase of $14.4 million compared to the $69.2 million spent in fiscal year 2004.

The cost of insuring both active and retired town and school employees has risen $4.5 million, or 55 percent from fiscal year 2004 levels.

In addition to health insurance increases, total employee salary expenses for both the town and schools have jumped $9.9 million, a 16 percent increase over fiscal ’04 levels.

The cost has climbed both to pay for raises and because of the addition of new employees.

Public employees can receive different types of raises each year. There are annual salary increases covering cost-of-living adjustments, and workers can receive pay bumps each year for accruing work experience in town. These are known as step and longevity increases. Andover teachers advancing their degrees — such as those earning a masters degree — can also receive raises known as track increases.

“The basic salaries — including steps and tracks — and the health insurance, those particular budget numbers in the picture, those are the cost-drivers,” said Finance Committee Chairwoman Joanne Marden. “Those are the big numbers in the equation.”

Over the last several years, Marden said the town and schools have been able to cover cost increases each year because of revenue from new growth and by increasing the property tax levy by the 21/2 percent normally allowed under state law. But the new construction has slowed.

“If you have money coming in, you can afford it,” said Marden. “It’s when you don’t have the money coming in…”

Next year Andover officials will raise the tax levy to its legal limit, but are budgeting for only $1 million in new growth associated with real estate development — or roughly half of what the town has collected during previous years.

If the school department’s current request is honored it will have added the equivalent of 103 new full-time employees over the past five years. In budget discussions, school officials have said the majority of these people are required under federal and state laws.

Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said Andover’s other municipal departments have minimized salary cost increases over the last five years by not hiring additional staff. Also some veteran employees have retired — including long-time public safety workers and both the former town health and planning directors.

“What’s kept our numbers down is we haven’t had an increase in employees,” said Stapczynski. “We’ve had a number of senior people retire over the course of the last five years … There’s been some turnover in staff.”

But the addition of more school employees over the last five years isn’t the only cause for increasing salary costs, according to School Committee member Deb Silberstein. She pointed to numerous salary enhancements within municipal contracts. Each year, Town Meeting approves money to the Accumulated Benefit Account to pay retiring town workers for items such as unused sick time.

“We do not have any of those benefits on the school contracts,” said Silberstein, also a former Finance Committee member. “Some people get stipends, but we don’t have accumulated benefit, we don’t have sick-leave buy-back, we don’t have vacation leave, we don’t have overtime. These are big numbers on the municipal side and we don’t have those.”

Because officials work under significant restraints when it comes to balancing the annual operating budget with available revenues, Major said the salaries and benefits awarded to Andover employees must be considered a single package.

“There’s a finite amount of money that’s available each year,” said Major. “You’ve got to balance the health care with the pay raises for employees.”

Also from the Townsman:

After 33 years teaching English at Andover High School, town resident Kathy Zalla said she knows how important it is for a public school system to employ quality educators.

“You have to attract them with pay packages,” said Zalla, who will retire this spring. “You’ve got to have some kind of incentive, because the Lexingtons are scooping them up, and the Newtons.”

In total, Andover teachers will receive a 8.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment was awarded over the three years. All Andover teachers will receive 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment during this 2007-08 school year.

In addition, all school and town employees beginning one of their first 14 years in town receive a so-called step increase. Next fiscal year, approximately 57 percent of Andover’s teaching staff will move up a step, and receive between 2.3 and 6.8 percent more.

Also in fiscal year 2009, approximately 16 percent of Andover’s teaching staff will receive a salary-enhancing track increase, pay raises given to teachers furthering their education toward a higher-level degree.

School and town employees with 16 or more years of experience receive annual longevity salary enhancements. Teachers can receive between 1 and 3 percent extra.

No changes to teachers’ step and track benefit schedules were collectively bargained during the most recent round of negotiations, which began in January 2007 and concluded after 22 meetings between the Andover Education Association and School Committee.

The three-year pact retroactively covers from Sept. 1, 2007 up to Aug. 31, 2010.

“Virtually every (teacher) contract in the country has step and track provisions, or provisions tied to years of service,” said School Committee member Deb Silberstein, adding that the contract is “very well within statewide settlements.”

“Average settlements statewide have been nine and 10 percent,” said Silberstein.

“We know that looking ahead to 2010 that our deficit grows a lot,” said Marden. “There’s a piece of that: what’s needed for the teachers’ contract. It’s not the whole problem.”

The teacher article is worth reading in full.

Previously: Cuts loom across the state, Overrides.

Photo: Mandela Rally


The original caption:

Festivities, including music and speeches for Nelson Mandela’s first visit to Boston, Massachusetts following his release from jail in South Africa.
June 23, 1990
Boston’s Hatch Shell along the Charles River.


From the Times:

”Try as much as possible to remain in school, because education is the most powerful weapon we will need,” he told an almost worshipful crowd of about 2,000 people packed into the stuffy gymnasium at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, a predominantly black section of Boston.

In addition to his brief speech in Roxbury, Mr. Mandela had a private lunch with Senator Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy family at the Kennedy Library on the University of Massachusetts campus in the Dorchester neighborhood. He also mingled at a $5,000-a-couple formal dinner for 1,000 people and spoke during a six-hour-long concert.

The concert at the Esplanade on the banks of the Charles River included Paul Simon, whose ”Graceland” album featured South African singers. At the concert, Mr. Mandela personally thanked Senators Kennedy and John Kerry and Mayor Raymond Flynn for support of divestment.

Previously: Harvard, Charles, Trinity Church, BPL Courtyard, The Public Garden, Charlie’s Kitchen, The Coolidge, and the Longfellow Bridge.

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