By Rosalie Tirella
We’re talking of soon-to-depart Worcester City Councilor and former mayor Joseph O’Brien, of course.
I think I speak for all the progressives in Worcester when I say: Glad you’ll be back working for your old boss and Woo liberal lion Congressman Jim McGovern, BUT WE REALLY NEED YOU ON CITY COUNCIL. PLEASE DON’T GO!!!!!!!!!
We loved it when Joe was mayor of Worcester! He was our Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor-elect!! Joe was, like Bill, for average working families, workers, public school students, the environment, open/accessible government, freedom of speech, immigrants/the new arrivals to America, refugees . He was for expanded after school programs in our public schools. Pre-K programs for all our kids. (In Worcester if you are mayor, then you head the Worcester School Committee. ) He was for District representation for school committee. Fair wages, opening up city jobs to minorities, closing the ever widening gap between rich and poor, trying to make sure more Worcesterites get into the middle class, creating affordable housing … . Our Joe, like NYC’s Bill was for it all.
I was in heaven! And when Joe sided with Woo’s scraggly Occupy Worcester contingent, wanting them to meet with City Manager Mike O’Brien, so they could continue to occupy our city hall common, I was thrilled and wished for a STRONG MAYOR FORM OF GOVERNMENT for Worcester instead of what we’re forced to swallow these days.
As a city councilor O’Brien’s big-hearted vision, presented to the council and public with his usual intelligence and thoughtfulness, was an antidote to some city councilors who felt we couldn’t weigh in on Arizona’s undocumented worker issue cuz we were in Woo and my God, what are we communists for Christ’s sake??!!! Please! Back to pretending our municipal work force is open to minorities!
But Joe just kept jabbing away at the issues, the IMPORTANT ISSUES. Last month, he was at the carpenters union headquarters, spearheading a rally to raise the state’s minimum wage. In Green Island doing the right thing for the people government tends to forget, the working poor. Yet one out of five families is eligible for the federal government’s food stamps/ SNAP program. They are working two or three Mc jobs and they still can’t feed their families or pay all their bills.
So not like the America I want to live in. Or Joe. Or New York City’s Bill.
But here in Worcester, O’Brien was given the cold shoulder by lots of folks who made fun of his vision. They called him Lenin and Trotsy combined. City Manager Mike O’Brien didn’t return his phone calls. He was person non grata in the city manager’s eyes, and the cold shoulder treatment may have played a role in O’Brien’s decision not to run for reelection to the Worcester City Council. Seems like lots of Worcester voters think, stupidly, that this is ok.
Meanwhile, in New York, New Yorkers have gone absolutely ga ga over Bill de Blasio. He won the mayoral race in a landslide. Voters said they wanted the TALE OF TWO CITIES, courtesy of outgoing mayor Mike Bloomberg, to become IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Cuz working-class families should be able to rent or own in the fabbest city on the planet. Right now The Big Apple is the most unequal city in America, followed by Boston, #2.
New Yorkers want the immigrant experience to unfold in their city like it did in the 1930s and 1940s. They want multicultural, real, alive. Not glossy sushi eating rich folks – calling Woos Paulie Collyer! – surrounded by a ton of impoverished folks. They want affordable apartments and condos. They want increased minimum wage – all the recent protests for the increase began at NYC’s McDonald’s!!! They want universal pre k. They want an end to stop and frisk. THEY WANT JOE O’BRIEN’s world. His world view.
We do, too.