Worcester City Council, save our inner-city neighborhoods! Say “YES!” to a $15/hr LIVING WAGE!

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Poverty, Endicott Street.  pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

WORCESTER CITY COUNCILORS, PLEASE SUPPORT COUNCILOR Khrystian KING’S RESOLUTION Tuesday night (May 9) and VOTE YES to SUPPORT a STATE-WIDE MINIMUM WAGE of $15/hour!

By doing so, you will save Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods/urban core.

If we continue on this road, if you do not show your support and VOTE YES to pay the working poor more than peanuts, Worcester will go the way of NYC and Boston: a city where the VERY RICH and VERY POOR live –  but no “in-betweeners” because they are priced out of the city. The upper middle class and wealthy will go to their special schools, restaurants, venues in the city; the other class – really the underclass – will live in Section 8/govt subsidized housing and have its own world, sometimes just several blocks away. We see this happening in Worcester now – our urban core these days is not the urban core in which I grew up. The American dream no longer takes hold in places like lower Vernon Hill, Union Hill, Green Island. Our economy does not support it! Instead, we have Section 8 meccas filled not with the working stiffs and stiffettes of yesteryear (like my late mom) toiling their way on/up the economic ladder, raising their kids in a no-bull-shit manner, making them go to school because education was valued as one of the sure ways out of poverty. Instead, these days, our inner-city neighborhoods are brimming with people whose lives are played out somewhere far from the American Dream, a landscape filled with guns, drugs, anger, depression, morbidly obese women, scrawny kids (1 in 4 kids goes to bed hungry in Worcester). They are not part of a world that creates aware, healthy, educated, aspiring Americans.

These once amazing old neighborhoods … where the original owners have died and their kids, detached suburban dwellers who want no part of the inner-city scene, sell their inheritances for top dollar to absentee landlords and developers who buy the buildings and make them Section 8 so they can make steady, good money, courtesy of the federal govt. These new landlords do very little or nothing for their properties; they couldn’t care less about the situation – even the law breakers and drug dealers they often rent to. As long as they get their Section 8 checks – a lot of $$ – every month –  like clockwork – from Uncle Sam.

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Section 8 housing – Endicott Street

Their tenants? Well, the working poor are priced out of these places! If you work full-time at minimum wage, you can’t afford these apts! Instead, the places are rented to people who have a Section 8 voucher for LIFE. This guarantees the absentee landlord (or slumlord) top rental dollar for LIFE. The tenants add nothing to the economic or cultural or educational fabric of Worcester. They usually bring drugs, violence, ignorance and zero respect for teachers, police, the rules of society into their new abodes. It’s the world of the under class – an entire swath of our population that cannot function in civil society. They are, for the most part, unemployed folks who game the WELFARE system with a kind of insolence that stems from knowing they’ll never be called out and the gravy train just goes on and on. It’s not a lot of $$ but just enough to keep you afloat and in housing. Then you can abuse the system to get extra $$/perks. Folks have no desire to get off welfare and become self sufficient BECAUSE BEING ON WELFARE IS JUST AS OR MORE LUCRATIVE THAN WORKING A 40 HOUR MINIMUM WAGE JOB! For lots of folks, it’s a better deal!

Which is why we need to raise the state minimum wage to $15/hour.

WE NEED TO WIDEN THE $$$ GAP BETWEEN the working poor and the scammers. We need to make WORKING 40 HOURS A WEEK AT AN ACAP AUTO OR CVS worth more $$$ than sitting on your ass in your Section 8 apartment becoming depressed or agoraphobic or morbidly obese or a pot head or a junky – all the while collecting the welfare package: free or low low rent, free utilities, free food, free health care.

This federally subsidized package – which should be a  temporary leg up and not a permanent hand out/way of life – should not be worth as much money as a PAY CHECK. From a 40 hour a week job – or from 2 or 3 part-time jobs.

WORKING FOR A LIVING – no matter what you do – should mean YOU CAN PAY FOR YOUR LIFE. Not a fancy one, but a stable, basic, healthy one – with a few perks thrown in, like a vacation at the shore, a jalopy that you drive around town to work etc – or to the Cineplex or the Olive Garden on a Saturday night. Certainly digs you can afford!

Welfare scammers should see that being a part of the legitimate American economy – on any level, even at Wal-Mart pushing a broom – IS VALUED by our society.

It gives folks pride and hope and spending money, which they WILL spend, boosting the economy, boosting neighborhood biz. Worth WAY MORE THAN SITTING ON YOUR ASS IN YOUR SECTION 8 APARTMENT SMOKING WEED, the way my downstairs neighbor does. Or renting a room out to a boarder and getting cash under the table and using your Section 8 apartment as a kind of business/rooming house – the way my downstairs neighbor does! Or bringing in your girlfriend, who collects welfare $$ because she had your baby and you do not marry her so she can move all her free govt benefits$$ into your apartment so you can afford to buy a shiny silver Acura! The one you zip around in with such absurd pomposity. I am describing the violent little tenant-turd at 48 1/2 Ward St. I guess that’s what babies are for!!

The madness must stop!

The cheating is almost universal in the urban core. The ingenious ways folks have of gaming the system here boggles the mind! And its done with TOTAL INSOLENCE. People feel it is OK to pull this crap – cheat the American taxpayers who are the ones SUBSIDIZING their lifestyle, if you wanna call acute dysfunction a “lifestyle.”

This is why Donald Trump was elected president. Lower middle class and working class resentment.

Enough is enough!

Time to support WORKING PEOPLE. In our hoods they used to and still do bring: a work ethic, stability, respect for property, respect for the rule of law, respect for teachers and public education, respect for all public servants. I grew up in a minimum-wage household years ago on Lafayette Street, in Green Island. I know first hand how tough it is to PLAY BY THE RULES and keep a family afloat on minimum wage. But my single working mom did it. She paid our bills by working for minimum wage at the dry cleaners down the street: 40 hours regular time, 20 hours under the table. Accounting for the cost of living/housing back then, minimum wage was worth about $10/hour in the 1970s. Still, my mom, my two kid sisters, “Bapy” and I lived hard lives: We never owned a car – or even a clothes dryer; vacations were the stuff of dreams (though we kids did have a lot of fun in the hood and cousins’ houses!); we – or at least I – wore a knit hat to bed during winter because our tenement was drafty and always cold in Jan and Feb, and we had to keep our gas bill down. Our only source of heat: the gas “log” in the kitchen stove. Meals were basic but healthful, Polish peasant food: lots of cabbage, potatoes, beets, onions and the cheapest cuts of beef – the meat more as a side dish or even a garnish. Looking back, my mom was feeding us well but, if you were a fussy eater, you might not like what was on the Mrs. Tirella menu. I was not a fussy eater – I was a little Hoover vacuum cleaner who sucked up all the food Ma put on my plate. My sisters were picky – and pretty skinny because of it.

Below: One of Rose’s kid sisters, goofin’ on their 3rd floor back porch, in Green Island. Many moons ago!

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But we survived. It was rough and tumble, but we had good shoes, good to nice clothing, went to the movies, bought records and portable record players… I grew up adoring my amazing mother, valuing work, family and God, enjoying healthy competition, getting up with a bounce in the morning to go to Lamartine Street School to study hard and get those all-A report cards for Ma – a lady who admired resourcefulness, competence and drive because she had it all in spades.

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Ma” (left), sharing a laugh with her fave sister (and Rose’s fave Auntie) in the Lafayette Street flat.

Councilor King’s Worcester City Council colleagues – Konnie Lukes, Michael Gaffney, Gary Rosen, Moe Bergman and Tony Economu – should support his resolution just like Worcester City Councilors Candy Mero-Carlson, Kate Toomey, Sarai Rivera, (mayor) Jos Petty and George Russell have. We need more Mrs. Tirella’s. But we need to pay them a living wage because, without these urban stalwarts, our inner-city neighborhoods will never wholly rebound.

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Where it all began: In “The Block,” on Bigelow Street, in Green Island. Rose’s fave Auntie💛 (again), with the beloved “Bapy.”💗💗💗