A letter to City Manager Mike O’Brien: What the hell were you thinking?! (or:A lobotomy for Mikey)

By Rosalie Tirella

Dear Mr. O’Brien,

You have been the City Manager of Worcester for quite some time now, after the Worcester City Council, during their now infamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre, threw former City Manager Tom Hoover to the wolves, pushed him over the cliff, flushed him down the crapper. You pick your metaphor. That is, then Mayor Tim Murray and city council allies decided Hoover was no good for Worcester (mostly because they couldn’t boss him around and probably because he was from Ohio) and forced him to resign (or they would fire him). Hoover left Worcester after more than a decade of service to Wormtown (basically living and breathing Worcester for years), landed himself another city/town manager job in another part of the country and promptly had double or triple (we can’t remember) by-pass heart surgery.

We liked Tom Hoover because he was down to earth, cared about Worcester’s older neighborhoods, had a great rapport with District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller, had an engineer’s eye for detail and worked hard. He was a Polish kid from Toledo – his dad worked in the steel mills there and was a union guy. Because Tom Hoover’s roots were blue collar and humble, he never lost touch with the gritty side of this city and people who inhabit it. You would never call Tom Hoover a yuppie. He liked regular people and liked mixing it up with them. Whether it was eating lunch with then City Councilor Juan Gomez at some Hispanic restaurant in town or sitting down to talk about Green Island with InCity Times (me!), Hoover seemed avuncular and smart.

Then he was gone. Just like that!

Enter the young and handsome Michael O’Brien – you! You were (still are) Irish (always good to be Irish in this town) and straight form the Worcester Parks Department. You were hand-picked by Tim Murray and, even though born and raised in the Springfield area, Worcester was pretty much the place where you built your career.

You seemed sincere, so we gave you a chance – even though we never understood what the hell you were talking about! We couldn’t follow you during the televised weekly City Council meetings, when you told the council/citizens of Worcester what you and your staff were up to: “Why is he speaking into the microphone like that? Is he mumbling? He’s right on top of the mic!” I’d say to myself.” Or: “He talks too fast – I can’t follow what he’s saying.” Or: “He sounds so breathy. Is it the mic?” Or: “He’s talking bureaucrat-speak. What does all that jargon mean?”

We never really got what you were doing until we read the reports. We did, however, deem you conscientious. And you were always nice to us/InCity Times.

But this shakes our faith in you, to our very cores! Raises for your innercircle/ cabinet. Raises as high as 25%! Raises to people who make over $100,000 a year. Raises to people who never break a sweat, people who take lots of vacations and go to health clubs and send their kids to the best schools. People who are, well, over-paid yuppies!

We believe in equal pay for women, Mike, but don’t try to bull-shit us. You are lining the pockets of very comfortable people when Worcester is struggling.

The city’s sidewalk repair schedule is months behind. So is the street repaving. So is the creating of city streets – people have to wait as long as FIVE YEARS for their dirt and rockstrewn private streets to be paved into public ones.

In a recent news feature you stated: “My goal is to repave every street and every sidewalk over the next four years.”

Fat chance.

The City of Worcester’s neighborhood swimming pools are in deplorable shape and DPW Commissioner Bob Moylan is chomping at the bit to shut them down.

We, unlike Hartford and Springfield (cities similar in size to Worcester and POORER), have no branch library system (just two). Springfield has several branch/neighborhood libraries; so does Hartford.

Our parks look unkempt. Three years ago volunteers had to fix most of the busted park benches at Elm Park – not to mention its foot bridges, which sported holes the size of cannon balls.

Our after school programs have been shuttered. Extended day schools have gone back to regular time. Arts and music departments in our schools have been decimated.

And can any of you remember the fantastic Summer’s World program? No. I didn’t think so.

Worcester’s leaders are calling for the city to dump, among other cityowned facilities, the fantastic Worcester Senior Center, where Worcester’s old timers – many of whom hail from Worcester’s three-decker neighborhoods and built this city- do things like eat lunch, get their blood pressure checked and toe nails clipped. Those greedy, greedy Worcester seniors! Helping to make Worcester great during World War II, surviving the Great Depression and then having the gall to have their feet checked at a free podiatry clinic! What nerve to want a place to call their own, a place where they can meet their friends, watch a movie or take an exercise class. Why don’t they stay home and be the isolated shut-ins the Worcester Research Bureau and other city leaders want them to be!

Now here you are, Mike O’Brien, raising the following salaries (some as high as 25%):

1. City Solicitor David M. Moore – goes from $121,935 to $139,940

2. Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio – from $113,761 to $134,289

3. Police chief Gary J. Gemme – from $153,053 to $164,1459

4. Director of Communications (whatever that is!) David W. Clemons – from $72,994 to $90,049

5. Chief Financial Officer Thomas F. Zidelils – from $117,557 to $131,404.

6. Deputy City Solicitor – from $101,584 to $114,844.

And the list goes on and on and on, totaling thousands and thousands of dollars. Forever!

Have you no respect for Worcester’s taxpayers, Mike O’Brien? Have you no shame?

And let’s not forget the almost doubling of city councilor and school committee member salaries. That’s $324,000 per year for city council salaries. For part-time work! And we didn’t even factor in the school committee.

Why, City Manager O’Brien, when there are so many homeless folks in Worcester, would you see your salary go from $179,176 to $182,776? Why not build more affordable housing?

The governor of Massachusetts makes $150,000. Since, when, Mr. O’Brien, are you busier than the governor?

Have you gone loopy?

If only the old Worcester State Hospital were up and running again. We’d put you in a straight jacket and stick you in a well padded booby hatch.

Right after the lobotomy was performed.