Worcester Panhandling Update: the New York Times and the Supreme Court

posted by Mike on December 8th, 2014

It’s coming up on 2 years since Worcester passed its latest ordinance against begging.

I didn’t see any kids fundraising for little league over the summer. There still seem to be plenty of scruffy men with signs panhandling cars. I’m hoping we will soon get a report on the overall effects of the law.

The NYT today has a good roundup of the legal situation with the ordinance. The case may end up in front of the US Supreme Court.

A city ordinance enacted last year banned “aggressive begging,” but it used an idiosyncratic definition of what counts as aggressive. It encompasses any begging — including silently asking for spare change with a cup or a sign — as long as it is within 20 feet of a bank, bus stop, pay phone, theater, outdoor cafe or anywhere people are waiting in line.

The Supreme Court has said that asking for money is speech protected by the First Amendment. But in June, the federal appeals court in Boston rejected a challenge to the 20-foot buffer zones, saying they were justified by the unease that panhandling can cause.

A week later, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that had established 35-foot buffer zones around the state’s abortion clinics, including one in Worcester. The court said the law, which banned counseling, protests and other speech near the clinics, violated the First Amendment.

There was a tension between the two decisions, and lawyers for the plaintiffs in the begging case asked the appeals court to reconsider its ruling in light of the abortion case. The appeals court turned them down.

I appreciate the paper of record validating that our law is “idiosyncratic.”

posted by Mike in The Street, Worcester | on December 8th, 2014 | Permanent link | No Comments »

508 #250: So Much Stuff

posted by Mike on October 11th, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week’s guest is Chris Robarge. We talk about our new permanent City Manager, eight stolen gargoyles, and Jodorowsky.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on October 11th, 2014 | Permanent link | 1 Comment »

508 #249: Politics and Journalism

posted by Mike on September 14th, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week’s guest is Noah Bombard of MassLive. We recap this week’s primary election, talk about the state of the Telegram & Gazette and the future of local news, and ask if there’s any non-conspiracy-theory way to understand Worcester’s City Manager search.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on September 14th, 2014 | Permanent link | No Comments »

508 #248: The Presence of Metal

posted by Mike on August 4th, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week, Mike and Brendan talk about crosswalks, internet silliness, and municipal broadband.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on August 4th, 2014 | Permanent link | 1 Comment »

508 #247: Indian Lake

posted by Mike on July 28th, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week’s guest is Jim Kersten. This week’s show was taped on a raft floating in Worcester’s Indian Lake. We talk about blue-green algae in the lake, the search for a new head librarian, the American Antiquarian Society and Wormtown Brewery winning national awards, and openings on Worcester’s municipal boards and commissions.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on July 28th, 2014 | Permanent link | 1 Comment »

How’s the T&G doing?

posted by Mike on July 25th, 2014

Last year, tycoon John Henry bought the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from the New York Times in a package deal. This year, Florida-based Halifax Media bought the T&G from him.

Documents leaked during the first sale showed T&G daily circulation at 57,000 and annual revenue at $49M, down 20% over 5 years. As a business, the T&G was fading fast.

Henry bought $70M of properties from the NYT. The T&G’s value was estimated at $7M. Surprisingly, Halifax possibly paid $19M for it. With Halifax in charge, there was a massive round of layoffs. 29 of 80 newsroom staffers left the paper, mostly layoffs with a few resignations.

It’s hard for an outsider to understand the real effect of these layoffs, and the other newsroom layoffs they’ve had in recent years. So let’s see if there’s been a change in the crudest journalistic metric, the number of Worcester stories printed each day.
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posted by Mike in Telegram and Gazette | on July 25th, 2014 | Permanent link | 7 Comments »

508 #246: Wayfinding

posted by Mike on July 21st, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week, we walk around downtown Worcester talking about the wayfinding project [pdf], the legal uses of the City Seal, and changes to the Common.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on July 21st, 2014 | Permanent link | No Comments »

508 #245: NewsBitz

posted by Mike on July 13th, 2014

508 is a show about Worcester. This week, we talk about what we need to research before discussing the T&G resale, the push for a strong mayor, state political races, panhandling, local drones, SWIP, marijuana, veg food, and maker spaces. We forgot to talk about West Tatnuck.

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posted by Mike in 508, Worcester | on July 13th, 2014 | Permanent link | 1 Comment »

Obama’s motorcade, 2009 and 2014

posted by Mike on June 11th, 2014

President Obama is in Worcester this afternoon to give a commencement speech at Worcester Technical High School.

His motorcade zoomed down Pleasant and Highland Streets on its way downtown. Lots of folks were out to watch. It was nice, like a little parade.

I was with some friends, holding a “Close Guantanamo” sign. Funnily enough, I saw this motorcade a few times in 2009 in DC just before Obama’s first inauguration, always while I was with friends holding “Close Guantanamo” signs. Everything changes, some things more slowly than others.

2009

2014

Speaking of holding signs along the route: Glorious Hippies From Amherst Showed Up To Protest Obama For Being An Anti-Weed Fascist At Worcester Tech Graduation

Also: Victor: Thoughts on Being Across the Street While My Colleagues are Covering President Obama

posted by Mike in Shut Down Guantanamo, Worcester | on June 11th, 2014 | Permanent link | No Comments »

Items: Worcester activist updates

posted by Mike on June 5th, 2014

#ResetTheNet

Today’s the anniversary of Edward Snowden’s first NSA revelations. Worcester’s own Tiffiniy Cheng and Holmes Wilson were in NYC today speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum, not long before Snowden himself took the stage via Skype.

Screenshot from 2014-06-05 09:32:12

Cheng & Wilson are co-founders of the digital civil liberties group Fight for the Future. FFTF today launched the “Reset The Net” campaign, aimed at resisting mass government surveillance by spreading more secure technology. Reset The Net participants include Reddit, Google, Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and this blog.

More on the Chris Horton arrest

Worcester Magazine has a long article about anti-forclosure activist Chris Horton getting arrested at a Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team demonstration, for blocking the entrance to a foreclosed building.

According to a police spokesperson, Horton was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, interfering with a police investigation and intimidation of a witness.

[…]

The attempt to evict the Flores family last month marked the first time [activist Grace Ross] could recall things getting out of hand during an eviction protest. She and others on the scene say the constable and movers dumped items out onto the floor that had been packed in boxes and smashed some of Flores family’s belongings. The family ended up being able to stay in the apartment Thursday night because [WAFT’s Jon] Marien says he was able to obtain a temporary stay of eviction, and at a court appearance on Friday, he says [residents] Jose and Dinora Flores were given a two-month stay.

Horton also appeared in court and was given another court date of July 23.

This might be the first time someone was arrested in Worcester as part of a political action since Occupy Worcester three years ago.

posted by Mike in Items, Worcester | on June 5th, 2014 | Permanent link | No Comments »