An Open Clampinion to the New Leadership of the GDT

It seems new leadership has come to the Gloucester Daily Times, or as we like it call it here: “The Cape Ann Cane Shaker”. We’re hard on the Times here but only because it’s been terrible. Think we’re being too harsh? Take this little example:

Back in April there was really sweet coverage of Rockport High School inducting 19 new members into the National Honor Society. This is both great and swell. Huzzah to the Rockport students inducted, nice going, all that. Oh, and by the way: There were also 39 students of Gloucester High School inducted. Why am I not linking to this story? Can you guess why? BECAUSE THERE WAS NO FUCKING STORY. This is par for the course.

The Gloucester Daily Times has become, at best, an intermittent news source on topics, educational (where we have a particular passion) and otherwise. For most of the declared snow emergency this winter it bizarrely featured not much more than artisanal pizza recipes on the front page and we had to go to the awesome Korey Curcuru in his living room for actual information about the storms, the parking bans, the DPW’s movements and other information essential to surviving the unprecedented weather events.

Let that sink in: Our paper of record was scooped during a time of crisis on a daily basis by a dude with a webcam in his living room.

I could go on. And on. And on and on and on. The reporting is spotty at best. We regularly get requests here at The Clam to go in depth on actual news stories because folks don’t know what’s happening in regard to essential issues. I am loath to have to keep reminding this, but The Clam is a satire-based snarkblog and if you know the right passwords the Internet’s leading HR Puffenstuff erotic fiction hub. We are not Journalists. It shouldn’t be up to us, for instance, to be the only only outlet that has published the reports regarding the possible uses of the Fuller School.

an amphitheater for robot gladiators? Yes, fine. Whatever. Just shut up and do it already.

an amphitheater for robot gladiators? Yes, fine. Whatever. Just shut up and do it already.

All this having been said, we’re hoping for a better GDT. A fresh start, as it were. So here are The Clam’s top suggestions for an improved Gloucester Daily Times since the opportunity seems to have arisen. Understand that there are years of pent up frustration tapping the keyboard right now, so if it seems overly harsh we’re sorry. But holy crap, do we need to even go into the 1-800 number we were supposed to call to get updates on the Mayoral race a couple of years ago rather than use, oh I don’t know, some kind of instant electronic transfer of information that might be available to 90+% of MA. Households?

  1. Your website is a crime against humanity I’m sorry, but it is. It is the spammiest, most obnoxious, hard to navigate site I go to on a regular basis. It’s crowded, you can’t tell what’s ad and what’s content, it auto-opens a second page to offer me more adcrap (which no one does anymore) and there is all this auto-generated filler from who-knows-where that clutters up the page. I know it’s a nightmare to make money from news websites these days, but this is not the way.
  2. Stop it with the Fuller/#Benghazi bullshit This is a huge peeve. There’s a notable stream in the general conversation about Gloucester which boils down to: “nominally-informed yelling to no practical end.”  The paper should not be contributing to this problem and the issue of the Fuller School is our leading nexus of same. We’ve covered it here. It’s gone way, way beyond the necessary evaluation of the management of Gloucester’s capital assets. It’s now a conspiracy theory mixed with an ancient grudge whisked into a batter of dumb and poured into the waffle iron of asshattery, served dry. The majority of us just want to know what’s next for Fuller, how can we best use it to the city’s advantage and don’t want to spend our time shoveling coal into the rage boilers. If nothing else, please read the reports by professional architects and engineers before writing any editorials. That would be a huge step forward.
  3. Every third LTE/editorial seems to be about how terrible technology is Oh man. Nothing demonstrates a “hip” and “with it” vibe to younger readers than columns and ceaseless editorials about how the so-called “smart” phones are making us all into drooling antisocial screen-zombies. There are weekly columns that sound like someone made Andy Rooney a key character in Blade Runner: “These flying cars everywhere make it so hard to fly kites and I don’t care for all these noisy replicants running around with the shooting and the yelling of ‘What is my incep date? How long do I live?’ How long till you shut up is more like it. Back in my day we didn’t have bio- soldiers and we fought wars on the Off World colonies the old fashioned way, with attack ships off of Orion…” OK, in retrospect that sounds totally awesome. But it’s lame as balls in the Gloucester Daily Times, take my word for it. Make your regular columnists stop doing this, I beg you.Slide1
  4. Math matters The current GDT has a numeric allergy. There is, for instance, a regular call from the editorial page to consolidate the elementary schools into one mega school for ‘savings.’ How much savings? What kind of outcomes should we expect? Hellooooo? Anybody in there? We see this all the time. Someone saying the schools have too many administrators. Do we? What’s the typical ratio for school districts like ours, especially ones that have outcomes we want to emulate? How are they structured? Differently? The same? It’s hard work, requires looking things up on the Internet and making calls but that is sort of the job. Even political races, which are inherently mathematical, have had no reporting of hard numbers or percentages. Microsoft Word has a table function. It would be awesome if you guys would use it.
  5. Very few people actually fish I know this seems weird to say, but the vast majority of people in Gloucester and especially on Cape Ann, do not. The industry is clearly a core issue, it’s our historical basis for being here, but sadly there are only a few hundred families that still make their living from the sea. My brother has been working on shellfish draggers for most of his working years (He’s moving to New Bedford if anybody knows a boat that needs a competent crew member, btw) and I know the life, but still: Most of the people here do not fish.
  6. Gloucester education is about more than sports Oh man, if I had to drink every time I saw a front page that featured an educational achievement by Rockport of Manchester/Essex students and an athletic one by Gloucester students…wait. I actually do that. Saturday we had a demonstration of amazing robotics, drones, 3D printers, artwork, song, drama, music and all kinds of stuff. Here is the front page of the GDT:
    So much sports...

    So much sports…

    There was a GDT photographer there, but the story is for some reason buried in the “News” section and third over in the slideshow up above, but even there the reference photo is not awesome robots but a mom (an awesome mom, by the way Hi Laurel!) and no clear image of Gloucester students who designed, coded and built all this tech without the reader having to go dig for it. But plain as day is Rockport’s honor roll. Way to go Rockport! You guys are awesome! What do you have for 3D printers over there? You have one of ours you borrowed? Oh…cool. Guess that didn’t make the papers.

  7.  We don’t really care about what goes on in Danvers, Beverly, Salem, Newburyport or effing Haverhill This is the last point, but if this consolidation is supposed to combine content from Salem, Beverly and Gloucester, don’t bother. A few years ago we got tons of stories from the Merrimack Valley which is like telling the hill tribespeople of Papua new Guinea about the Winnipeg public bus system. Simply, no one gives a shit.

So that’s it. Remember what Menken said about newspapers, that they are to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Good luck!

Oh God, Fuller Again? Really?

We get it Elrond. We really do.

The editorial in today’s Gloucester Daily Times (paywall to hide their shame) gives us searing insight into the inter-department payment negotiations around the lease of the St. Ann’s school as the temporary site for most West Parish kids during the build out of their new facility. It bears all the hallmarks of the GDT’s recent journalistic area of expertise, the ‘blithering nontroversy’ beat. There is nothing in this story besides the exceptionally routine squabble between two departments who each don’t want to pay 500 large and are saying the other one should. It will get worked out and indeed the editorial itself even calls for them to just split it, like a lunch check. Wow. The whole screed is essentially an excuse to put on the little cowboy hat and take a ride one of the GDT’s favorite hobbyhorses, the Fuller School. From the Editorial:

Neither school nor city officials want to hear it, but — even if renovations to the former Fuller School proved more costly — the city, by renovating Fuller into a temporary home for the West Parish students, would at least be putting money into a building the city already owns, and could use as a future temp site for students from other local schools while their buildings were rehabbed or replaced in the years to come.

Notice anything missing? What don’t you see there? Look carefully and unfocus your eyes like one of those ‘Magic Eye’ books where the unicorn comes out of the blurry dots. See it? See the actual numbers associated with this plan being advocated by the city planning wizards over at Eagle Tribune’s Finest? No? Of course you don’t because they aren’t there.

Let us clamsplain once again: Making Fuller into a temporary home for students was going to cost 14 million bucks. Fourteen. Catorce. This was the number given by trained and certified engineers and architects. You got a better number? Show me your license. That is the number.

Elon Musk will get this baby into space for that

Elon Musk will get this baby into space for that

Getting St. Ann’s up to speed is about $1.2 million and then a $4-500k lease. So we’re out for around a mill and a half. Maybe more, if the project runs long. Lets call it three. According to the calculations of the GDT dropping $14 mill is better because we somehow magically recoup those costs in the ‘years to come’. What the what? How does that work?


So, young numerologists- how many schools would we then need to rebuild at the estimated 3 million cost in order to recoup the 14 million dollar investment? If you said ‘5’ or ‘what the fuck are they kidding?’ you would be correct. This does not include operating Fuller btw, just the buildout.

FIVE for 14 Million. Even if we use it as the temp site for all 5 that that works out to 2.8 million apiece notably THE SAME FUCKING COST AS ST. ANN’S!

Sweet Gillnetting Jesus, do we have to keep doing this? It makes no sense to rehab Fuller even under that logic because we’re not guaranteed to get the money back by any stretch. If we decide to sell or give it to the YMCA, for instance, most of those costs will have been wasted because the Y does not need classrooms and kitchens and a host of other things we would have spend beaucoup dollars on. It takes a lot of cash to make a structure compliant even to temporary school standards. This is like telling a family whose car has broken down to buy a Bentley because they keep their value better than a Camry. Yeah, but not a very practical use of working capital is it?

Question for the GDT: Did you come up with this plan based on the same business logic that determined you should charge as much for your online subscription as the Wall Street Journal’s? You know, the news outfit with 2K reporters in 51 countries whereas you guys can’t even get over to the Mad Hot Ball? Honestly, people.

In the end, our best bet is to do exactly as we have done: keep the temp site flexible and to get rid of the albatross that is Fuller.

I'll drive

I’ll drive

We can put the public safety folks out there, sell or give it to the Y in trade for their downtown building, USE IT TO TEST RADIOACTIVE MUTANT LASER-EQUIPPED WOMBATS we don’t care but it’s never going to make financial sense to use it as a school again.

Additional question: when can we start drinking today?

The Fuller School. Oh God, do we really have to talk about this?


One of the many obsolete products of the ’70s

We are nowhere near drunk enough to talk about the Fuller School. Fuller is one of those things that is essentially a fractal of idiocy. It’s stupid, but then when you look at any given part that component is in and of itself equally stupid, and those stupids are made up of their own entirely dumbass components. All. The. Way. Down. Never before have I run into an issue where there were simple, fairly easy to comprehend reports about the impracticality of a particular course of action, created by certified professionals that were routinely ignored by everyone who chose to talk about it save a few key individuals. Oh lordy lord.

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 1.04.55 PM

people who know what they are talking about wrote this

History: Fuller was built in 1965 by The Archdiocese as a parochial high school. Some additions were built in the ’70s. But here’s the thing- a lot of it was built in ways that are impossible or highly diffiucult to make compliant to modern building codes, especially for a building that houses children. Among the people who said so are Dore & Whittier Architects, who are certified and licensed and bonded and probably went to college and stuff for this.

Their report, which was as clear and easy to understand as it was unread, explained in stark terms what would be required to have Fuller even serve as a temporary school while building out the new West Parish, a little tune that goes: “14 million bucks”. Yeah, spit that morning mojito out. 14 million, just for a temporary school.That’s half the cost of a new one. Getting it to be able to be a fully functioning school again, rehabbing the whole thing would cost 67 million bucks, twice per square foot what building the new Manchester Essex and Ipswich schools cost each. When you actually read the reports and find out the facts it’s obvious that using that site as an educational institution just isn’t worth it. The maths don’t lie.

Wow. Interesting. So smart, certified professionals took a look, made a call and the School Committee acted accordingly. Fine, end of story, lets move on to some other topic…wait, what? What the what? Do we hear the unmistakeable low howl of a distant wind of dumbassery coming in off the harbor? Yes we do indeed. It’s a Dumbeaster, headed our way.

You see, almost no one read this report. And no one summarized it. And no one posted it in an easy-to-find place. It was like the report on building the new bypass over Arthur Dent’s house in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- it was apparently in a locked filing cabinet in a disused basement washroom with a sign on the door reading ‘Beware of the Leopard’.  We had to request it from our ward councilor once word of it’s existence began to spread. I think we found out about it from spraying lemon juice on the back of a Leonardo Da Vinci, if we remember correctly.

The GDT, apparently having switched to a more toxic form of ink and not using proper fume protections, kept reporting that it would be simple to house students there than rent a space for something like $500 large. They kept saying that using our existing ‘asset’ of Fuller would make sense and that we would recoup the costs because we’d invested in a building we owned rather than leasing a space for the West Parish rebuild. This is fresh off the heels of their ongoing fantasy of closing the neighborhood schools and consolidating them at Fuller, saving mondo dollars.

How many mondo of these dollars? Did they ever produce a number or a spreadsheet or a scrawled gravy-stained napkin that projected these savings? Did they ever run an analysis? No, that would require the actual work of the journalism and we know that the GDT doesn’t really go for that anymore. These days its just about bloviating on topics but not actually doing any fact checking that one can just easily google, like we did.

We found that as far as consolidation goes, for all that work it would be far more expensive to move the kids to a single site, wouldn’t meet the educational goals of the city and you don’t save that much because the real cost is in the teachers and educational staff, not in the cost of the buildings themselves. It’s not a lot more expensive to run 5 schools than one big one. Seriously. Look it up. And as a temporary site, would we get the 14 million back? Probably not, because we’d have to get the site to educational code, and if we then decided to do something else with it, that would be a huge waste of money that we wouldn’t recoup. This is not hard to figure out. Also, we hired a consultant to do this. Just read the fucking report.

But despite this, local politicians and political aspirants seemed to be magnetically drawn to visit Fuller and ritualistically humiliate themselves there with their lack of knowledge. They’d look around and go, “Jeez, it looks fine in here, shucks and stuff,” and then claim that it was ‘negligent’ and ‘criminal’ that the building had been let go. People kept calling it an ‘asset’ and talked about how great the school was during the fucking Carter Administration. Is this how we do multi-million dollar asset evaluations? Were there any architects or engineers involved in these site visits? Am I really going to do these posts for free and not ask people to cover my alcohol bills? Oh man. Better just go to a metaphor here so I don’t try and gouge my own eyes out in despair.

Metaphor: it’s like this: Your neighbor is in some financial trouble. Maybe sort of he’s been accused of some not great things and his assets are being seized. It’s messy. So he has to get rid of this unused shed on this parcel that abuts your property and he just gives it to you. “Take the shed,” he says so you do. And you use the shed. But it’s not a well built shed. It won’t fit a car or a boat, it doesn’t meet modern building codes, and it’s going to cost more to fix than it’s worth so over time you sort of stop using it and let it go. You’re having your own financial troubles, particularly back in 2008 when the economy crashed. So you don’t replace the roof on the shed and try and keep your own house maintained instead. Your useful house, the one you and your 2,000 kids live in.

A few years later you’ve make it through the crash and you’re figuring out what to do next, do you listen to a lot of assholes going, “why didn’t you maintain that shed! The roof leaks now! That shed was hella awesome back in the 70’s, I used to get high in there listen to Jethro Tull on BCN with my cousins! YOU MONSTER!!!”? No, you do not listen to those assholes, you remind them that the construction of the shed precluded you from doing much with it. It became a liability and you treated it as such. You offer to show them the spreadsheet you…

“But the Tull, Mark Parenteau!”

Shut up, idiots.The best thing for Fuller today would be to bulldoze it and build something useful there. Maybe get the fire and police stations out of downtown into a modern facility. Maybe the Y. It’s a central location, a lot of land, that part is great. But as a school, it’s over.

Just like Tull.

Here are the reports. God have mercy on your soul:

Dore & Whittier reviews Fuller as a place to house W. Parish Students during construction of new school in the gripping Preliminary Evaluation of Alternatives

And the Fuller Site Reuse Study, also a page turner