New Bedford resident has been waiting years for sidewalk that has led to injuries to be repaired

“This is the condition of the sidewalk on Lindsay Street between Kempton St and Middle St. I have had an order in to get this fixed since March 2019.

I have been a homeowner since 2016 paying taxes on this street. People have fallen and got hurt, numerous tires have been popped on the stone that is hanging down. I have called several times for an update on when they are coming out to resolve this issue and I keep getting told ‘It’s on the list.’

I called city hall years ago and was told nothing they could do, so I was paying the water bill and mentioned it to the clerk and he said I could put in an order to fix it. So that’s what I did and they said ‘It would be done in the spring.'”-‎Heidi LeAnne‎.




OPINION: If you’re Brian Gomes it makes perfect sense to run for mayor and city council

It’s official – long-time New Bedford at-Large City Councilor Brian Gomes has officially filed to run for at-Large city council and mayor in the same October 1 preliminary election (though he can still withdraw by 5 pm on Sep 3). He filed last Friday, the last possible day to officially file. It’s a bold, calculated move by Gomes, that will at a minimum result in interesting debates. There are now six people running for New Bedford mayor.

Running for both spots is legal and makes sense if you are Brian Gomes. Most people in New Bedford could not pull it off without paying a price politically, but Gomes finished with the most votes in the New Bedford at-Large race in 2017. You only need to finish in the top 5 in the at-Large race to get elected to office and I’m certain Gomes feels confident in achieving that.

There is little doubt to me, that someone like Gomes, Ian Abreu or Linda Morad, could run for at-Large and mayor at the same time and still get elected to the city council. Mayor is a different animal.

Most who follow politics in New Bedford would say that Gomes has little chance of beating incumbent mayor Jon Mitchell, but I don’t think his chances fall into the long-shot category. Sure, Gomes has very little campaign money ($19.96) and Mitchell has well over $200,000 in his war chest, but money isn’t everything (though it REALLY helps!). Mitchell hasn’t been in a real election since 2011 where he faced then Ward 1 councilor Linda Morad (now City Council President for 2 straight years) and State Legislature Tony Cabral. Since then he ran unopposed and went on to defeat Maria Giesta and Charlie Perry fairly easily. Gomes would make things more difficult for Mitchell.

Some will get angry at Gomes for running for two spots in this year’s ballot because a special election would cost $50,000-60,000, but I can’t blame him. It’s a low risk, high reward strategy. After losing his job at St. Luke’s hospital (he’s currently in a lawsuit against the hospital), he’s now working as a security guard and still holds his City Council position. This year’s mayoral race is for a 4-year term at $113,285 a year.

Factor in annual pay increases and you are talking about a 4-year term worth nearly a half a million dollars, quit the increase in pay for Gomes. I can’t blame him for attempting a political move that would increase his income 2-3 fold without really risking his at-Large seat. City Councilors make $23,498 a year and security guards are generally paid by the hour. Wouldn’t you want to swap out two jobs for one while earning three-times the income?

Gomes’s biggest issue will be if he somehow wins both the mayor race and gets an at-Large city council spot. He’d have to pick one and that means the at-Large seat would be open in a special election. Manny DeBrito of the New Bedford Elections Office has stated that a special election would cost the city $50,000-60,000 – not the best way to start off your 4-year mayoral term.




Steve Martins not running … Debora Coelho breathes a sigh of relief

If you are a New Bedford political junkie like me, you know that Steven Martins running for at-Large city council would have likely knocked out current at-Large Debora Coelho.

After pulling nomination papers and getting 50 signatures in 30 minutes two weeks ago, Former Ward 2 City Councilor Steven Martins decided not to file officially for New Bedford’s October 1st at-Large City Council race. Coelho’s chances of finishing in the top 5 went from not likely to more than likely. SHe can breathe a sigh of relief.

For at-Large City Council the top 5 vote-getters are elected to office. In 2017, Coelho finished at the bottom of the elected pack.

Finishing in the 5th spot makes your the “bubble” candidate – the one most likely to have been replaced if a stronger, well-known candidate had entered the race.

This year, Ian Abreu, Linda Morad, and Brian Gomes will finish significantly higher than Coelho. While Naomi Carney had a less than 100 vote advantage on Coelho in 2017, her son Sean Carney is running for Ward 4 City Council and will likely help the turn out for his mom. That makes Coelho the most vulnerable at-Large incumbent in 2019.

While Martins is out, there are six non-incumbents vying for a spot on the City Council as an at-Large candidate; Russell Dearing, Leo Choquette Jr., Paul Chasse, Carlos Felix, Lisa White, and Michael Janson. It’s a much stronger field this year than in 2017 when only two non-incumbents ran. Let’s see who emerges from the non-incumbent to challenge the bubble candidate Debora Coelho.




Freetown State Forest defaced with racist graffiti; officials seek public’s help

“If anyone knows who might be responsible for this disgusting act or has any information, please contact the authorities! This is shameful!”-Freetown State Forest.

Considering today’s volatile, often toxic, political climate the jury is out on whether this shameful act was indeed someone of far-right political leaning or someone on the far-left creating a hoax to make their political opponents look bad.

It isn’t that the far-right or other racist groups wouldn’t do something like this – they would – it’s just that it is not their typical modus operandi and they have nothing to gain at all from it. It is neither going to recruit anyone to their cause nor scare away minorities – it’s tame, laughable, a satirical caricature of reality.

However, the far-left does have something to gain from character assassination of their opponents: to cull social favor towards their cause and make it more dangerous for the far-right to gain traction with theirs. That is not to say they are to blame for it, but it is definitely a possibility.

Unless the people are caught, we’ll never know. What we do know for now is one thing: whether the individual or individuals responsible are right or left-leaning they represent everything wrong with this country right now: Americans attacking fellow Americans over their political affiliation as if it was a religious cult or soccer team in the World Cup Finals – where anyone not in the group must be shamed, attacked, destroyed at all expense.

Time to grow up, start acting like adults, start acting like we are all Americans. What’s best for the country has nothing to do with whatever cult you are a member of.

If you have any information about who defaced the trees and benches call the Freetown Police Department at (508) 763-4017.




OPINION: “Dunbar School is a dumping ground and no one is doing anything about it.”

“Hi, New Bedford Guide,

I am writing to you today to bring awareness to a neighborhood that has become a dumping ground. I’ve lived in this neighborhood my whole life and also attended this beautiful school that is now a dumping ground and no one is doing anything about it.

Dunbar School on Dartmouth St. in the south end of New Bedford closed its doors in 2011 and it sat vacant until a private contractor (Sherwood Building Co. Inc.) purchased the property for $40,000 in 2016. – something residents were never made aware of.

They have not taken care of this property as you can see from the photos. There are multiple violation tags taped to the door and still nothing.

I figure if I can bring awareness to this issue something can be done. It only takes one person to care enough about the community and our neighborhoods to make a difference and we as a community cannot allow this disgusting mess to ruin our city.

I hope maybe if people hear about this something will be done about it

Thank You,
Anonymous”




Local woman uses public opportunity to teach lesson about diversity and inclusiveness; La mujer local usa la oportunidad pública para enseñar una lección sobre diversidad e inclusión

“As I’m waiting in line to fill a prescription at Rite-Aid on Acushnet Avenue, a worker asked all the other workers if they spoke Spanish so they could help translate for a customer on the phone.

I then overheard a female worker stating she doesn’t speak Spanish, ‘Not even close. If you want to live in America, you need to learn English, and you won’t make it in America unless you do.’

She then assisted me in ringing out my prescription and after the transaction, I informed her that my father came to America without knowing any English and that he is a VERY successful, and intelligent man. She then tried to justify her comments saying it was in regards to not being able to translate the Spanish. I told her that was no excuse for her comments and she probably shouldn’t be making those comments out loud in public.

Since I speak English and I don’t ‘look like an immigrant’ some would wonder why I would take offense. I told her ‘It doesn’t make you less of a person for not being able to speak English. Does anyone have family who doesn’t speak English in America yet has made it?’

A kind-hearted veteran female worker came out of the store to apologize on behalf of her co-worker’s discriminative comments.” -Christina Marianna Cerminara.

It is a common misconception that English is the official language of the United States when, in fact, it does not have one. Spanish is the second most common language in the country, a country where 500 languages have been spoken in our history. While Massachusetts is one state that has made English its official language it refers to legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements. English does not need not be used to the exclusion of other languages. Massachusetts is an English-Offical state, not English-only state.

_____________________________________________________________________________

“Mientras esperaba en la cola para despacher un medicamento recetado en Rite-Aid en Acushnet Avenue, un trabajador preguntó a todos los demás trabajadores si hablaban español para poder ayudar a traducir a un cliente por teléfono.

Luego escuché a una trabajadora decir que no habla español, ‘Ni siquiera cerca. Si quieres vivir en Estados Unidos, debes aprender inglés y no lo lograrás en Estados Unidos a menos que lo hagas.’

Luego me toma la orden y después de la transacción, le informé que mi padre vino a Estados Unidos sin saber inglés y que es un hombre MUY exitoso e inteligente. Luego trató de justificar sus comentarios diciendo que se trataba de no poder traducir el español. Le dije que eso no era excusa para sus comentarios y que probablemente no debería hacer esos comentarios en público.

Como hablo inglés y no ‘parezco un inmigrante’, algunos se preguntarán por qué me ofendería. Le dije: ‘No te hace menos persona por no poder hablar inglés. ¿Alguien tiene una familia que no hable inglés en los Estados Unidos y que aún lo haya ‘logrado’?

Una trabajadora veterana de buen corazón salió de la tienda para disculparse en nombre de los comentarios discriminatorios de su compañero de trabajo.”-Christina Marianna Cerminara.

Es un error común pensar que el inglés es el idioma oficial de los Estados Unidos cuando, de hecho, no tiene uno. El español es el segundo idioma más común en el país, un país donde se han hablado 500 idiomas en nuestra historia. Si bien Massachusetts es un estado que ha hecho del inglés su idioma oficial, se refiere a la legislación, los reglamentos, las órdenes ejecutivas, los tratados, los fallos de los tribunales federales y todos los demás pronunciamientos oficiales. No es necesario que el inglés se use para excluir otros idiomas. Massachusetts es un ‘estado oficial en inglés’, no ‘solo en inglés.’




Cut the bloated, absurd salaries of university administrators to lower student tuition, lessen their debt and pay teachers more

There’s never been a time in American history that education costs have been at the forefront of discussion by the general public. Particularly alarming is that it not only is getting increasingly harder to afford tuition – which often needs to be supplemented with loans – but for those who do manage to meet the expense, they are “rewarded” with long-term debt. Some debt is so monumental that students are paying off their loans far after they graduated and well into their new career. That means a significant portion of their income goes to this debt at a time when they are considering starting a family, owning a home, purchasing a car.

At some point in the nation’s history, perhaps in the 1980s, our education system got derailed and tuition costs were sent into the stratosphere. It was originally affordable for the vast majority of households – even in those households with one “breadwinner,” but eventually needing to apply for grants and loans became a necessary part of the process. In fact, some people wouldn’t even be able to attend college without them.

We went from a household with one breadwinner being able to afford college for their teenager leaving high school without the need for assistance through grants and loans to having a household with two breadwinners not being able to put their child through college without grants and loans.

The American dream was poisoned by turning it into a lucrative industry and that ripped the idea of going to college away from many or by having to incur huge debt to do so. The burden was placed on Jane and Joe American because of politicians and administrators who took advantage of a society who deemed it a necessity to succeed. The greed and desire to fill their pockets superseded the happiness and success of the American people.

The politicians who are supposed to serve the best interest of the citizens worked in cahoots with greedy administrators who wanted outrageous salaries. Administrators would funnel money into the accounts of politicians running for office and when those politicians were in office and had any chance to financially benefit universities through government funding or laws they paid back the ‘favor.” One hand washed the other and with their free hands, they alternated lining their pockets and repeatedly stabbed Americans in the back.

These days they play a game of manipulating the public by scaring them with tuition rate hikes and feigning ignorance or using red herrings to avoid taking the blame for these hikes. “We don’t know how to get control of the tuition rates.” “We don’t know what is causing the rate hikes.” “It’s because we don’t get enough assistance from the government that we have to raise the fees.”

Recently UMass announced that the cost of attending their schools was going up. Not just tuition fees but technology fees, student activities fees, and other fees that read like one’s cable and internet bill with all its strange, miscellaneous items.


WBUR.org photo.

This is in light of the fact that they acknowledge expecting a 0.7% enrollment increase in the coming school year across 5 campuses and UMass trustees already approved of a 2.5% tuition increase and tuition hikes have averaged 3% over the last 10 years.

UMass administrators are mystified about how to keep rising tuition rates from continuing and impacting students. They use vague, fear-inducing language like there are “clouds on the horizon in enrollment and revenue trends.” If enrollment is projected to increase next year and there have been tuition hikes for the past ten years, this “enrollment and revenue trend” the university boards are talking about is manufactured fiction, they aren’t “keeping” the books right, or are mismanaging – intentionally or unintentionally – their budget and spending.

Senate-backed language is calling for a tuition freeze this fall, which UMass said would lead to cuts affecting students. Do you think there is a problem with increasing tuition rates if the Senate has to be involved? If new students are increasing which means revenue for the school will also increase, why does it have to affect the students? Why do they have to be punished? There’s a hole in the reasoning and link of causality.

I’ll tell you why it will affect the students: absurd administrator salaries need to be maintained.

Of the tuition increase, UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said: “This is going to be such welcome news that we would have this tuition increase, enabling us to meet our commitment to those students and their families.” Really? Having the students and families pay more is a commitment to the students and families? I’m sure they are overjoyed they get to pay more. In my book, that’s called being willfully oblivious, or selective thinking. More like Boloney.


The families and students will welcome the great news: you’re now going to pay more for college! You’re welcome!

Education Secretary James Peyser said “UMass remains a tremendous value.” and that he wanted to make sure the university and his fellow trustees are continuing to focus on efficiency and cost-saving innovation. They can’t be too focused on cost-saving if families going into debt to make it happen, can they?

Tremendous value? Take into account room, board, and mandatory “cable and internet” miscellaneous fees and the average increase for Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses is approximately $887 bring the total to $29,058.

What a deal! What tremendous savings!

The absurd response to that is that “We will form an advisory group with the goal of working with the governor and the Legislature to keep tuition flat or below the rate of inflation next year.” Really? How much money will it cost to for an advisory board about…costs? Do they really need an advisory group to figure out that the drain is coming from the salaries?

If you want to keep the tuition rate from rising cull it from the ridiculous salaries and hand the savings to the students. There’s an idea.

The four undergraduate campuses will be increasing their technology fee from $250 to $350, and the Amherst and Boston campuses are raising their student activities fees. In addition, the Boston campus will be doing “some significant belt-tightening as it grapples with a combination of enrollment fluctuations and higher depreciation and interest costs associated with ongoing projects.” I bet the ridiculous salaries won’t be part of the belt-tightening. Punish the students instead, right?


What will you do about high tuition rates? “There will be some significant belt-tightening as we grapple with a combination of enrollment fluctuations and higher depreciation and interest costs associated with ongoing projects.” Riiiiiiiight.

The truth is that instead of paying educators decent salaries and keeping the tuition rates lower and affordable to most Americans the administrators give themselves absolutely appalling salaries. I thought school was about the teachers and students? The administrators made it about themselves.

Let’s take a look at some of these salaries.

In Boston Patch article entitled “Top 100 Highest-Paid Employees In 2018” you can see this bloated salaries. You had better be sitting down because some of them will shock you.

A whopping 95 of the top 100 highest-paid state employees were employed by the University of Massachusetts. Out of the first 50 on the list, 49 were from UMass. Sounds like a crisis right? Poor schools! They better tighten that belt! How will they make it with the increased funding, increased enrollment, increased fees? Oh, the humanity! These poor, poor administrators.

Here are some of the salaries of the administrators:

• $1,069,751.67: UMass Chancellor & Senior VP Health Sciences, Michael Collins
• $946,537: UMass Medical School Dean Paul Smith
• $946,537.247: UMass Exec Dep Chancellor Provost & Dean, Terence Flotte
• $671,268.12: UMass Exec VC Innovation & Business Development, James Glasheen
• $659,167.99: UMass President, Martin Meehan
• $640,263.06: UMass Exec Vice-Chancellor, Mark Klempner

If they took a small pay-cut, let’s say 10% and gave it back to the school and applied it to lowering tuition rates or giving the teachers a raise it would have a significant effect in those areas. Remember, 95 of the top 100 highest-paid state employees are from UMass. They have so much money they are donating it to presidential campaigns. Imagine what 10% of those salaries would be. In reality, you could cut those salaries in half and they would be living like royalty. The tens of millions of dollars could go to the teachers and students where it belongs.


“For the life of us we can’t figure out how to stop intuition rates from rising.” University Administrator who makes between $500,000-$900,000 a year, plus benefits.

Instead, the crisis as it stands is a false one based in misinformation and disinformation to distract the populace from the real crisis: that many teachers are being underpaid and all students and potential students are being driven into long-term debt primarily so these administrators can live on the proverbial high horse.

The rich irony of it all is that a large portion of teachers and students rail out about the 1%ers, the privileged and entitled, corporate gluttony and CEO salaries, et al yet all those things are at a superlative level when it comes to UMass’s administrators.

While there are other mitigating factors, that drive up tuition rates, dorm costs, and all the miscellaneous fees, the lion’s share goes to feed these salaries.

Sadly, there is little we plebeians and bourgeoisie can do against the proletariat and monarchy that is a coupled force of politician and university administrator. They hold the “spice.” To think we can wrench money from their tightly clenched, grubby hands or appeal to their altruism and ask for them to do the right thing is laughable. We’re better off playing the Powerball or Mega Millions.

While there is little to nothing that can be done to make college more affordable for us, we do have other choices: going to a trade school, joining the military, starting a business, getting a real estate license, even going into art, acting or writing.

The greed of university administrators hasn’t only blinded them to the teachers and students, but it has blinded them to the fact that the American landscape is changing. The American Dream that stated: “Go to college, get a job, buy a car, own a home, have 2,5 kids, and live happily ever after.” has faded, dying, maybe even dead already.

Some are swapping out the idea of joining the rat race, owning a massive home and being in debt for 30 years on top of their school debt and other myriad and sundry debts for a tiny home, tiny mobile home, container home, living off the grid, or “undoing domestication.” The American Dream is or has been redefined towards finding your own way to happiness and that is revolving around a “less is more” philosophy.

What is your quality of life if you are in perpetual debt starting at 18 years of age? Is there a point to working yourself into poor health from stress for decades? We are shortening or ruining our lives by increasing our heart attack, stroke, hypertension, suicide, and depression rates to chase the old American Dream starting right out of high school.

Americans recognized this a long time ago and are checking out of the idea. Schools currently are doing just fine as evidenced by those salaries and enrollment rates, but I suspect that the enrollment rate reflects the yearly population increase and that in the coming years it will fall. This trend is likely seen by administrators and why they manufacture and misdirect a crisis: to maintain their clientele and revenue. For them, it’s not about education for the masses, creating an incentive for educators to join the ranks, or students getting an education but like any business and corporate gluttony it’s about building and maintaining a customer base, profit margin for the “suits” to enjoy, and driving revenue.

When those things are threatened they’ll take action by appealing to their partners in crime, the politicians, and spreading misinformation and fears.

Don’t buy it. Instead, seek out the many alternatives. You don’t need a college education to succeed – that’s a lie. A college education is one of many ways Americans can succeed. More importantly with tuition rates constantly increasing, it becoming harder and harder to afford, and education is now synonymous with being in debt, it is the costliest of all the alternatives when it comes to your physical and mental health and well-being, not to mention your financial health and future.

Schools used to be about teachers and students and now wedged between them are administrators and corporate greed. They have hijacked and poisoned America’s education system which has repercussions as it reverberates through American society.

This has removed the opportunity for many Americans or forced them to seek out alternatives and that’s what you should do: seek out a better way.




It’s time to admit that America lost the “War on Drugs” and look at the successes of Iceland and Portugal

Let’s face it: the $51 billion dollars a year war on drugs has not and will never reach its own declared objective of reducing illegal drug trade in the United States. It’s as easy to get ahold of drugs as it has ever been. Even teenagers can get a large variety of drugs with ease, so let’s admit that the federal government’s war on drugs through drug prohibition, law enforcement, and even military intervention, and its methods aren’t working. They are trying to put out a bonfire by using a water pistol.

The accomplishments of the war on drugs so far? Increasing federal spending toward law enforcement and federal prisons which is now a $180-billion dollar industry and prisons are overpopulated and bloated with individuals who need help with a chemical addiction not punishment for it. Punishment doesn’t kick a habit and it is not a deterrent in any way when you are chemically addicted. Even if they wanted to kick the habit it’s hard enough, nearly insurmountable on one’s own and placing them in prison ignores that chemical process. In fact, throwing them in prison makes them more desperate and frustrated and they are in an environment that will actually make them better criminals.

They can and will get drugs in prison anyway – the very place that is supposed to “teach them a lesson” for doing drugs.

In addition, this all creates a monumental, overwhelming burden on our judicial system and judges who shouldn’t be asked to address people who are chemically addicted are asked to do exactly that. They are spread thin, have a workload that doesn’t need to be as large as it is, and could and should be spending their time on serious crimes and criminals like rapists, murderers, child molesters, et al.

It’s an archaic, outdated, simplistic way of addressing drug addiction and one that is pouring fuel on the fire. We have to ask ourselves if we really care and want to reduce drug use, addiction rates and overdoses in America? Do we really want to do that or is the objective to increase funding to the $230 billion dollars that we are already spending on law enforcement and prisons – money that is not having a serious impact?

Do we want to create better criminals? “Cure” addiction by throwing them in prison? Because that is what we are doing. Then these better criminals who are still addicted are released and go right into society. We are shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot.

Meanwhile, we are perpetually reading news headlines about people who are addicted to drugs passing out while driving or at traffic lights, leaving their children in hot cars, committing crimes like theft, larceny, breaking and entering, home invasion, convenient store and bank robberies, and others to get money to feed their addiction. Each year an estimated 60,000-70,000 Americans die from opioid overdoses. Guess how many Americans total died in the Vietnam War? 57,939. In one year, more Americans overdose than the entire Vietnam War.

We are ignoring reality and confusing it with what we want to happen. There is also a segment of the population who just want drug addiction and addicts to go away by putting it out of sight and therefore out of mind – which makes it worse. What is needed is something that works, something outside of the box of our current paradigm, something more progressive. No, not politically progressive, but socially and culturally progressive.

A civilized, cultured society will shore up its most vulnerable aspects because that improves our neighborhoods, communities, nation, the world. We are only as good as our weakest link. We extend a helping hand to those who need it and when they improve their station, they will, in turn, extend that helping hand. It’s a win-win. It may be a seen as a platitude but Gandhi said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” People can scoff or laugh at that, but say what you want – he did an immeasurable amount of good in the world.

So what can be done to reduce addiction rates, overdoses, burdening the judicial system, creating better criminals, better society, improve our community, and the other things we mentioned? Do we have to have a pool of ideas? Create a board or committee? While we could do these things, we can be more practical and see what has worked and use that as a model.

Two places that stand out in this department are Iceland and Portugal.

Iceland

Iceland in the 2000’s had a teenage population that was responsible for an aberrant about of petty crimes, e.g. minor theft, destruction of private property, graffiti, public disturbances, reckless driving, pickpocketing, etc. Along with this came alcohol abuse, drug use, and increased depression rates. The public was at risk enough that the sentiment was that if you went “out on the town” on a weekend night you were taking a risk of being robbed, pickpockets, mugged. It was a serious enough problem that it attracted the attention of the state.

Instead of increasing funding to law enforcement agencies, making more arrests, and filling local juvenile centers with teens they though outside of the box and decided to give them another “high”…something to do. Using local school staff they asked kids who were using drugs, drinking and committing petty crimes – at the start of their criminal careers if you will – and offered them a number of alternative choices: martial arts, dancing, learning a musical instrument or singing, painting, skating, and other interests.

They built parks and recreations centers where they could play ping pong, badminton, run on an athletic track, or hop into a geothermally heated swimming pool. They offered them counseling and basic life-skills.

What happened? Kids were signed up for a minimum of three months and the vast majority ended up staying on with the program for 5-years. In a 20-year period, smoking cigarettes went from 23% to 3% percent, cannabis use went from 17% to 7%, and kids that said they had recently binged drank or had been drunk dropped from 42% to 5%. A surprising “side effect” was that kids were spending more time with their parents: the rate doubled over that period from 23% to 46%.

Crime rates in the age group dropped dramatically and people felt it was safe again to walk at night, go out alone, and “paint the town red.” Society benefited immensely by not having the “out of sight, out of mind,” arrest them all and lock ’em up, simplistic approach that America uses.

Why did it work? In some cases, it was as simple as keeping them busy because often it’s not solely drugs and alcohol at the root of petty crimes, but something as simple as boredom. In the rest of the cases, it was because they offered them something similar to what they would get from drinking alcohol, doing drugs and rushes from committing petty crimes: endorphins like serotonin.

Serotonin is “a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.” The same endorphins that major addictive drugs have – drugs like heroin, nicotine, methamphetamine, cocaine, Ecstasy, et al. In addition, low serotonin levels have an effect on anxiety, depression and social phobias.

So why bring up Iceland first? Because it illustrates the importance of being pre-emptive about drugs use and addiction and reaching the kids before they are influenced by the wrong crowd and consider experimenting. We must address drugs use as early as possible before chemical dependency can take roots.

Portugal

Portugal’s drug problem was a much broader one. It not only affected both young and old but shared needle use caused a spike in the HIV population. Because drug and alcohol use dull the sense and one is less focused protection was used less during sexual intercourse, so STD rates were climbing. As we mentioned above, with drug use comes the financial need to continue the habit so petty and major crimes were rising as well.

In the 1990s Portugal followed America’s example of funding law enforcement agencies and cracking down by arresting addicts and tossing them in jail and considered that as a way to tackle the problem. Eventually, half the population in Portugal’s prison from this crackdown were addicted. Now, they could hive mind with other addicts and criminals and learn some more tricks of the trade. It was a university that produced individuals with degrees in crimes, and when their terms were up they would be loosed on the community. Crime rates were worse than Iceland’s rates, kids were dropping out of school, unemployment rates went up with them.

This went on into the 2000’s at which time finally recognized that it had a serious problem on its hands. So, what did Portugal do to address this multi-pronged problem that was affecting all strata of society? They recognized that tossing people in jail was archaic and not working. They decided on to motivate, educate, and stimulate.

Media campaigns on TV, Radio, and Newspaper began to create a negative attitude towards the use of drugs in the sense that it was not “cool” to do. With these campaigns came information on how to get help. A needle exchange program was started and users could not only go to a local pharmacy, hospital or specialized treatment facility to exchange dirty needles for new ones but professional could now connect with the drug user community and the user could learn safer injection practices, talk with professionals, and sign up for rehab programs. Some of the kits even included condoms to encourage safe sex, lower HIV rates and the transmission of STDs. Anyone who signed up for the rehab programs would also receive after-care and social re-integration.

When it came to legalities, possession of small amounts of drugs meant confiscation and a summons to meet a special committee of an attorney, social worker, and psychiatrist that would not toss them in prison but make a ruling on whether to fine, take away gun licenses, ban them from certain people or places, take away their license to practice law, medicine, drive a taxi, etc., or end any public assistance they received.

If the person was deemed chemically addicted they would be “sentenced” to community service or admission into a drug rehabilitation facility – whichever the committee felt was best for the individual and society in general.

So what happened? There is some difficulty translating some of Portugal’s statistics for a few reasons. Increased candor of drug users being interviewed (a candor that wasn’t there when there was a social stigma), more rigorous polling and classification as well as improvement in measurement practices that were all either lacking or poorly executed in the previous decade. So the “starting” numbers are suspect, making it difficult in some aspect, but not all, to measure the effect and progress.

What we do know is that within ten years HIV use among drug users dropped an astounding 90% and people signing up for treatment programs went up 60%, 45 percent of the country’s heroin addicts sought medical treatment, overdose deaths went from 131 in 2001 to 20 in 2008, criminal justice workloads decreased, and illicit drug use among Portuguese teenagers users declined.

This begs the question “What could Portugal learn from Iceland?” What effect could they have by incorporating Iceland’s progressive attitude of starting with teens in school, giving them recreational centers, places to have fun, and get their all-natural highs from their alternatives?

Notice in both cases, these progressive ideas apply to users, not dealers. In some cases, the dealers are also users and in other cases, they are simply taking advantage of the addiction of users in a supply and demand manner.

America

What America does right is having media campaigns educating teens. We do have plenty of places for recreation but in most cases, it costs money, something many families don’t have. Grants and funding could go to local entertainment centers, music teachers, artists, mentor programs, skating rinks, soccer rinks, etc.

Only some states have decriminalized marijuana, but no states, as far as I know, have extended decriminalization to “harder” drugs.

While America does have treatment programs and facilities, generally speaking, the judicial system is not “tied-in” and it comes down to a particular judge. The vast majority of judges are “old-school” and just do things as they have always been done and toss them in jail. What Iceland and Portugal did was at a national level, so that would need to be done here. Judges could then use Portugal’s method of having a social worker and psychiatrist involved and offer alternative penalties and, of course, admission to rehabilitation programs.

Where America does have a monumental problem with is with the penal system.

We have a multi-billion dollar industry interwoven with powerful, wealthy businessmen and politicians who have a vested interest in not only maintaining the prison population but building new ones. When you pair an outdated, archaic judicial system that hands out prison sentences to addicts instead of rehabilitating them or pro-actively dealing with teens, with the money-hungry penal complex you have a cancer on society.

An out-of-touch judicial system that bangs their gavel and sends people away is exactly what the politicians and businessmen involved in prisons want. They may not be complicit, intentional bedfellows but this dynamic duo is sacrificing a massive segment of America’s population that simply need help, a way out, an alternative.

While the judges think in an outdated way and businessmen keep building prisons, Americans are continuing to lose the war on drugs and addiction. By not helping the addicts, sending them to Prison University, society suffers. Drug addicts re-use dirty needles spiking HIV rates, commit crimes in the community to fund their habits, users take their drugs and hop into their cars and drive our streets. We put ourselves at risk more and more every day if we don’t do something different about it.

To actually stem or even reverse the opioid crisis in New Bedford and by extension America is we need reform in three areas: the judicial system, the penal system, and society. Society’s resistance to helping heal a wound in its collective, addicts, means they are not taking an active role in making change in the penal and judicial system. That will take a loud voice and lots of lobbying, action, and voting. Those two things will not budge otherwise.

Einstein was kind of a smart guy. He said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” On June 18, 1971President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one” and we are using the same approach to battling drugs that we used in 1971 – the “same kind of thinking.”

It’s not working.

We have to ask ourself, what is more important: battling an inanimate object – drugs – or the animate one – humans? Drugs don’t do themselves and its a fallacy to think that it is solved simply by removing the inanimate one from the planet. We’ll never get to that point. There will always be drugs and dealers as long as there is a demand.

Our “war” needs to be on humans: on the dealers which come with numerous connections and on the user in a manner that reaches them when they are young as Iceland did, decriminalizes small amounts and educates beginning users, provides treatment for addicts, alternative sentencing, and other “outside the box” methods.

After all, addiction has reached every single stratum of American society from the

poorest and homeless to the richest doctor, politician or lawyer. The users we are demonizing are our literally our friends, brethren, parents, co-workers, neighbor. There are very few people who can say “I don’t know anyone who is addicted or has done drugs.”

These people are not demons, they are humans and we need a human touch and approach if we are to lower crime, lower HIV, and improve society. When we recognize the reality that we are all in this together, we can then join forces and minds and find a way out together.




Father and son concerned about trash due to water park in the south end of New Bedford

If you live in the south end of New Bedford, have you seen an increase of trash in the area of the floating waterpark?

“The news didn’t get the whole story. My dad likes the idea of the water park for the kids. He has 5 grandchildren that live in the neighborhood. He just wants them to have things in place to hold people accountable.” – Adam DeMedeiros




Six creative ideas to deal with potholes

To say that Massachusetts roads have potholes is akin to saying “Water is wet.” It is a part of everyday life in the Commonwealth and we have all mastered the art of adeptly maneuvering around them … or having a tire blown, axle snapped, or alignment ruined.

We complain about them as much as we complain about the weather in all seasons. We notify officials and often the pothole is filled in on Massachusetts time, but often it is ignored. Massachusetts time is different than time in other states. It highlights the mountain of red tape that bogs down every process from small to large in Massachusetts. Throw in that our politicians and officials are mostly feckless and ineffective, you are likely to see a particular pothole left as is for weeks, even months and in some cases, even longer.

While that is all a bit of hyperbole and creative license, there are so many potholes in the state there will never be a point that the city or state will have filled them in. They are like the proverbial whack-a-mole.

Having said that, there are some potholes that I have learned to dodge because they have been there for well over a year in spite of reporting it.

In cases like that, people throughout the country have learned to let go of their annoyance with potholes and waiting for officials to do something about them and alternatively decided to inject a bit of humor.

Here are 5 ways that people who have gotten fed up with potholes have done exactly that and by doing so got the city and/or state to take note and fix it almost immediately. Some of these are “do and walk away” there are ones whereby you don’t want to create a distraction for a driver so you simply take a quick photo and then either send it to the city or make it public on social media and hope it goes viral.


1. Go fishing

Some potholes are so large that they have turned into a small pond and they’ve been there for so long that surely life began to settle in. Can’t get to a pond, lake or ocean to do some fishing? Set up a chair and cast a line in hopes of catching the “big one”: an official’s attention. Snap a shot and send to local news outlets and post on social media and maybe something will get done about it!


2. Lego scene

We all have Legos kicking around the house somewhere. Create a scene from your favorite movie using one of the many kinds of Legos, perhaps Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, etc.


3. Embarassing officials with a Penis

While a bit crude, this is one that would definitely get the city or states attention. Relax prudes and Puritans, it’s not actually a penis, it’s just a drawing. Officials will definitely get multiple calls and emails about this one.


4. Garden or flower bed

If the pothole is off to the side of the road, here is one that you could actually do and leave. Brighten up the ugly road canker with a something bright and cheery like. Be sure to visit it daily and give it a little water/ Maybe chat with it since they seem to like that.


5. Celebrate its birthday

Know a pothole that has been ignored for a long time? Celebrate its birthday with some cake, maybe have some friends join you and you can sing “Happy Birthday to you!” and put it on Facebook live.


5. Put a marijuana plant in it

This is one that takes the term “pothole” literally. While marijuana was legalized in the state some 2 years ago, it seems that New Bedford officials are like the aforementioned ones who need multiple inspections, permits, endless talking and pondering, and creating a mountain of red tape before they follow the will of the people. While no one would leave a pot plant in a pothole, it makes for a great photo op. The officials don’t need to know you didn’t actually leave it there.

Other ideas include a miniature tennis court, taking a bath in one, using CGI to make creative, often hilarious scenes, put some plaster in it and treating it like a handprint like stars do on Hollywood Boulevard, and too many others to mention.

Enjoy seeing creative ways of addressing potholes? One photographer used some models and in some cases CGI to bring attention to potholes. You can see his work here.

Have a good idea or something to share? Send us your essays, photos or videos at info@newbedfordguide.com.

Translate »