Friday, July 13, 2007

EXCERPT: Williams Prof. Steve Sheppard's research cited at Italian global population confab

This column by Neal Pierce, of the Washington Post Writer's group, quotes research by Prof. Stephen Sheppard of Williams College. You should be able to find the whole column on the web by appropriately searching.

For Release Sunday, July 15, 2007
© 2007 Washington Post Writers Group


By Neal Peirce

BELLAGIO, Italy -- Will Planet Earth be able to handle the mega-surge of people pouring into the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America?

-- SNIP ---

And humans have the power to effect huge change on our future numbers, Joel Cohen, head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University, told a Global Urban Summit, assembled by the Rockefeller Foundation here last week.

-- SNIP ---

Breakthrough research on that very point, by Stephen Sheppard and his Williams College colleagues, was presented at the Bellagio conference. Using Landsat satellite images of a sampling of 120 world cities -- one set taken around 1990, another around 2000 -- they were able to show global cities' dynamic form of growth -- how much they move to the urban periphery ("outspill"), or find space inside ("infill".)

On top of that, the Landsat readings permitted intensity light readings indicating types of land use, pixel by pixel, down to very small areas. Then the Williams team, operating with a remarkably small $775,000 budget from the World Bank and the National Science Foundation, matched its images with census-type information from each city to estimate actual population and per capita income.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fohlin pushing for parking structure to replace B&G as part of Spring Street redevelopment

Here is a summary of a telephone interview on July 4 with Williamstown Town Manager Peter H. Folin, 59, concerning a vote by the Middleborough, Mass., selectmen choosing Fohlin as their No. 1 choice to take over as town manager in that city of 20,000 in southeastern Massachusetts. Fohlin is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard until July 16 and was reached by phone at his second home there.

FOHLIN: “The chairman of the board of selectmen, Marcia Brunelle, called me yesterday and essentially told me what you just told me and I thanked her for that and she asked me to fax her a proposed contract tomorrow, on Thursday, which I will do so I would say that we are in the very, very early stages of discussions and I really don't know much more about this than you do in some respects. There is really no way to predict how it will work out.

“When I was interviewed, I described Middleborough as the hardest doable job in Massachusetts. There are lots of communities in Massachusetts that are harder than Middleborough, but they are just not doable. The communities are just basket cases. Middleborough would be a challenging job if they are successful in attracting the Wompanaug Iindians to build a casino complex and it will be equally challenging if they don't because they have had severe financial pressures in the last few years. The situation is going to be complex in either way. They have a charter and a town government structure that disburses and diffuses responsibility in every direction and makes for a certain level of disorganization. So I don't know how this is going to work out.”

Fohlin said it was not a foregone conclusion that he would either get hired or go to Middleborough. “I never work in foregone conclusions and to try to avoid getting too emotionally involved in the situation,” he said. Fohlin said he carefully crafted and communicated to the Middleborough selectmen conditions under which he would accept an offer. He said he would not disclose those conditions publicly. “I have been studying Middleborough for about three months and I think I have a clear and coherent picture about what they need to be successful and I hope that will be part of the discussion I will have with the selectmen.”

GREYLOCK NEWS: Are you ready for a change?

FOHLIN: “As I have explained to the selectmen and other people close to me, the issues that are ahead for Williamstown include building a new police station, the rebuilding of the college athletic center in the center of town and the redevelopment of the west side of Spring Street with Mark Paresky. I say that because as far as I am concerned PhoTech and Cable Mills are done. And those three projects have very long development times so even if I achieve significant involvement in all three projects, the chances of my being present at the ribbon cuttong are pretty small, because they are going to take so long to evolve.

“Whereas what's going on in Middleborough is both momentus in terms of the whole state of Massachusetts and it is happening right now, at this minute. As I one time said to a selectman, I can get in more trouble in Middleborough in a week than I can get in Williamstown in the next three years.

“On the other hand, if I stay in Williamstown, I am really looking forward to building a new police station -- which ought to have been done by previous town managers -- and I have been having some really exciting and encouraging discussions with the college about how to reconfigure the athletic complex downtown. And Mark Pareksy, who I have just met, is very exicited about reconfiguring Spring Street in a very positive and exciting way.”

Mark Paresky, who lives on Fishers Island, Fla., is the son of Crimson Travel founder and Williams College alumnus David Paresky, whose major gift allowed Williams College to build the just-opened Pareksy Student Center. The Paresky family, through trusts, now owns most of the buildings on the west side of Spring Street, while Williams College owns most of the buildings on the east side. Fohlin disclosed that Pareksy interests have just purchased the former Hopkins Furniture and Hopkins Funeral Home buildings.

Other owners of property on the west side of the street are believed to be the Goff family and a trust whose principals are likely partners in the Grinnell, Dubendorf & Smith law firm. Williams College owns the land under the end-of-street public parking lot, and a Williams alumnus, Peter S. Willmott, a former FedEx senior executive, owns an empty lot at the corner of Spring and Walden streets. Several months ago, a fire gutted the Pareksy building occupied by a coffee shop, the Purple Pub and a Subway franchise; Fohlin says “Pareksy has to do something with that building,” and has plans which include changes as well for the building housing the Zanna clothing store. His family also owns that building. “Mark is very committed to having a conversation with Williamstown,” says Fohlin.
Fohlin says the purchase by Williams College last month of the former Ivy Gardens parcel on North Hoosac Road (Route 7 north) for short-term book storage as the Sawyer Library is razed and replaced, has added new options to long-term thinking about the end of Spring Street and Water Stret. He said “one of the options which comes to mind and is very discussable,” is the idea of razing the college’s facilities complex (known as “B&G” or “buildings and grounds”) and replacing it with a parking structure.

"I am encouraging them to move B&G in the direction of the the Ivy Gardens property because I think that there's better uses for the limted amount of land that we have in our downtown,” said Fohlin. He said the college some years ago had approached him with a suggestion that it construct a book-storage facility on the 59 Water Street parcel, owned by the town, which was formerly the town’s municipal equipment garage, and which is now a gravel parking lot. Fohlin said he discouraged that use.

Fohlin says the major “alleged flaw” in Spring Street is that it has inadequate parking to make it welcoming. He said it has been his approach to try and make sure that does not become a problem for Water Street as the CableMills condominium project is completed. “We would be nuts if we recreated spring street on Water Street,” Fohlin said.

FOHLIN: “By a strict reading of the zoning bylaw, we are over 100 parking spaces short for the permitted uses on Water Street. It requires more than 100 spaces beyond those presently available. The same thing is true on Spring Street. The solution zoning bylaw came up with was to do a parking study on Sring Street, assume those parking spaces exist, and assign them to each of the parcels on Spring Street. Papa Charlies may have five virtual parking places assigned to them. That may not be the right number, but that’s the concept.”

"Now I asked Mark Paresky when we were talking about Purple Pub, etc., I said Mark, can you meet the requirement of our zoning bylaw to do this. He looked at me and said, ‘I have plenty of virtual parking places, but I have no place for my customers to put their cars.’ We have this elegant, academic solution to a real-world problem."

GREYLOCK NEWS: What specifically is your personal vision for redeveloping the Spring and Water street areas, and the former 59 Water Street town garage site, given that Williams has said it wants to upgrade its athletic facilities in that area?

FOHLIN: "At this point in my thinking, I believe that the present location of the buildings and grounds offices needs to be a parking structure and it would serve Weston Field activities, and it would be within convenient walking distances for Spring Street and Water Street. No other location, including 59 Water Street, meets that need as well. And I have told the college as far as I am concerned, 59 Water Street is in play, that we have a truly unique moment in time right now: We have a college administration, Bart Mitchell at Cable Mills, Park Paresky on the west side of Spring Street, and a town administration that is eager and willing for all those entitles to work together for the future of downtown Williamstown for the next 50 or 100 years. We're looking at an opportunity here with Bart Mitchell, Mark Paresky, and the town, to really do this right."

GREYLOCK NEWS: Let me post a hypothetical question. And I’ll make sure it is reported in that context. Let’s suppose you are offered the job in Middleborough, and you accept it, what is Williamstown going to be looking for in a new town manager to keep all this moving?

FOHLIN: "I think it needs to be someone who builds relationships. You have to be able to build relationships with the college, with Bart Mitchell, with Mark Paresky and not everyone does that particularly well. The one other thing that I think is critical -- and I have I think successfully ingrained this in my managers at town hall -- is what I call ‘Think Act Two.’ And the way I describe that is everybody knows what to do first. but that’s not really what makes the decision. You have to think abuot what comes next, about Act Two. For example, it would be easy to say we need parking, let's build a parking garage at 59 Water Street. But you have to think about what comes after that. Think Act Two is the opposite of being a master of the obvious.”

GREYLOCKNEWS: What fiscal challenges does the town face going forward, particular with the schools?

FOHLIN: “Williamstown is on very sound financial footing and we are not, as far as I'm concerned, facing the fiscal crisis that many other communities either are or claim to be. That is largely the result of managing realistic expectations within Proposition 2-1/2. And the biggest disconnect in that challenge is between labor contracts and Proposition 2-1/2. There are labor contracts in the schools that are not financially supportable long term and expectations have to get more adjusted. That means that either employees have to learn to live within the contraints of our revenue or the taxpayers have to decided that they are willing to contribute more than they have.”

“On other things, energy costs and those sorts of things -- we are pretty adaptable and innovative. We have worked with National Grid, for example, to dramatically reduce our energy costs. You do that when you are under pressure.”

GREYLOCKNEWS: What do you see as the town’s biggest challenge in attracting a new town manager if you move on to Middleborough?

FOHLIN: “I think that perhaps the biggest difficulty that Williamstown would face in hiring a next town manager -- notice the hypothethetical -- is the residency requirement in the town charter. While Williamstown pays relative well, it could be difficult finding qualified candidates who could afford to buy a home in Williamstown given what has happened to real-estate prices over the years. If a guy could be town manager in Williamstown and live in north Adams, that would be simple. Having to buy a house in Williamstown and have it be attractive to a candidate could be interesting. I always felt as if I got in under the deadline.


Monday, July 02, 2007

STATMENT: Downing lists Berkshire-specific grants in budget sent to governor



Boston- Today, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield)
announces that the Senate has unanimously voted to endorse the Fiscal
Year 2008 conference budget, bringing to a close the legislative
negotiations on the Commonwealth's General Appropriations Act.

"This FY08 budget is a fiscally sound product of serious deliberation. I
applaud the Conference Committee members for performing their due
diligence by weighing each spending item with careful consideration for
the fiscal health of the entire Commonwealth," stated Downing.

This proposed spending plan will fund important programs and services
impacting the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District, including:

* $1 million for Emergency Disaster Relief to the victims of
flooding in areas declared federal disasters in October 2005, including
Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.
* $250,000 for the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation to
implement the Berkshire Blueprint and continued marketing focused on
attracting jobs to Berkshire County.
* $150,000 for the Berkshire County Drug Task Force for
programmatic expenses.
* $75,000 for the Housing Services and Mediation Program
administered by the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority.
* $150,000 for the Community Based Family Unification Counseling
Program for at-risk teens administered through the Pittsfield Boys &
Girls Club and the Gladys Allen Brigham Center.
* $100,000 for the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, for capital
improvements to its HVAC system.
* $20,000 for the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge to
complete roof repairs
* $75,000 for renovations and restoration of the Samuel Harrison
House in Pittsfield.
* $200,000 for the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington for
restoration improvements.
* $10,000 for Hoose House in Dalton for the development of
restoration plans.
* $50,000 for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket for
structural improvements to the Ted Shawn Theatre.
* $150,000 for Berkshire County Youth Development Project to fund
youth intervention services
* $200,000 for Buy Local programs to enhance buy local efforts in
western, central, northeastern, and southeastern Massachusetts, which
supports local programs such as Berkshire Grown.
* $1 million for the Adams Visitor Center.
* $200,000 for the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund.
* $100,000 for United Veterans of America to conduct veteran
outreach services in Pittsfield and $220,000 for United Veterans of
America services in Leeds.
* $200,000 for support and implementation of four Model Community
Coalitions and community-capacity building activities, which locally
will support the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the North
Quabbin Community Coalition programming and services.
* $3.5 million for Outreach Enrollment Grants for outreach,
education and enrollment initiatives relating to Massachusetts health
care reform, which will benefit local organizations including Ecu-Health
Care and Community Partners, Inc.
* $3 million increase to the Executive Office of Health and Human
Services Salary Reserve ensuring a salary increase for direct care
workers who earn less than $40,000 annually and provide care to our most
vulnerable citizens.
* $21,351,035 for Community Policing Grants to assist with
deployment of officers statewide, including language maintaining grants
that have historically been received by the police departments.
Locally, the Towns of Charlemont, Dalton, Lanesborough, and Williamstown
and the Cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will continue to receive
Community Policing funds.
* $54,690 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of
Berkshire County to fund programs that provide abused and neglected
children with a voice in court.
* $77,478 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of
Hampshire and Franklin Counties to fund programs that provide abused and
neglected children with a voice in court.
* $42,000 for the Turner House in Williamstown to fund veterans
* $28.3 million for PILOT Payments for state owned lands,
representing a $3 million increase from FY07.
* $935,028,283 in Lottery Aid for direct payments to cities and
* $220 million increase in Chapter 70 Public Education aid from
* $1,000,000 increase to the Regional School Transportation
account, raising the appropriation to $58.3 million - the highest level
of funding in recent years. This figure represents a 91% reimbursement
rate for the regional school districts.
* $5,500,000, a $2 million increase over FY07 funding level, for
Education Foundation Reserve ("pothole program"), an important safety
valve intended to provide supplemental financial assistance to cities,
towns, and school districts to address a variety of special
* $600,000 for the State Licensed Foresters Program administered
by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure that the
Commonwealth retains its "Green Certification" for state forests and
maintains responsible timber management and stewardship.

This spending proposal has now been sent to Governor Patrick's desk for
final approval. Patrick has 10 days to act on the bill. Fiscal Year
2008 began on July 1, 2007.

To view the complete text of the FY08 Budget Conference Report please

For Immediate Release
Contact: Heather Viola Quirk
July 2, 2007
Phone (617) 722-1625