Armageddon and the Worcester City Council

By Rosalie Tirella

It’s the end of 2008 and the apocalypse is here: U.S. banks are the bunk, folks are trading their foreclosed homes for corrugated shacks, America’s car companies are being towed to the scrap heap, the arctic ice caps are melting, everyone is poor (except for the rich), George Bush is as oblivious as ever, a New England ice storm has decimated Northern Worcester, along with the Asian longhorn beetle. And, last but not least, a recent news report states that within five years, the U.S. will most likely be the target of a nuclear  or bio-terrorist attack.

So what better time to critique Worcester’s City Council?  Mayor Konnie Lukes, City Councilors Gary Rosen, Bill Eddy, Joff Smith, Phil Palmieri, Barbara Haller, Ric Rushton, Paul Clancy, Mike Germain and Kate Toomey will probably be with us when the world comes to an end. My question to all Worcesterites: Are these the folks we want to have leading the city when the sky opens up and the hand-wringing, chest-beating and self-flagellation begin?

Which means right off the bat, the entire city council, except for District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller who has lived and selflessly toiled in the inner-city for years, is going straight to hell. Barbara, along with her family, friends and pet pitbulls, will be lifted up, up and away to heaven where, we are guessing, neighborhood activism is a lot let stressful. Unfortunately, for Barb, lots of heaven’s angels will probably come from places like the PIP and Calcutta.

But I digress … . What I mean is, all these guys and gals – especially the new folks – ran campaigns touting change and vision and all that crap, but nothing transformative has really happened in Wormtown. In fact, the previous incarnation of the Worcester City Council, the one with Dennis Irish and Juan Gomez – the one former city council candidate Grace Ross would have been at home on – was more open, more progressive, more radical than this one. Remember when Dennis Irish came out for the homeless when Worcester wanted them out? Who could forget his passionate speech during a rally for the homeless? Dennis was for needle exchange way before Worcester had a needle exchange program. He once said he and his family lived next door to a methadone clinic, and the only thing objectionable about it was clients left their Styrofoam coffee cups on the lawn.

Juan Gomez was and is a Republican but a man very much his own person. At the end of his term on the Worcester City Council, people said Juan got too “radical,” what with his advocating for the Latino community and all. What a silly thing to say! To be passionate about your community – to push for their rights and protection.  Juan may have found his true voice those final months. It would have been exciting to have him back on the city council and see how he evolves – politically and as a human being. Because that’s what life is all about – challenging ourselves to be better than we were yesterday.

And then there’s Grace Ross. Grace ran for City Council but was the victim of a vicious smear campaign. So she lost despite (during the primaries) getting a ton of votes that could have landed her in the coveted sixth city council seat. But Worcester regressed, and rejected Grace for the same old same old crowd. So Grace’s passion for the working poor, affordable housing, people’s rights, inner-city neighborhoods and the environment never had a chance. She is so smart! Worcester would have shown the world it was truly a city on the move, if it could have rejected the redundant clique that has a stranglehold on things here.

So what have we got with this bunch, especially the new kids on the block City Councilors Mike Germain and Bill Eddy? Well, Germain claimed he was for the city’s parks and making them great for families. But why isn’t he trying to save our inner-city pools or at least come up with a plan to assess the situation. Barbara Haller has. A  month ago, she asked during a city council meeting for City Manager Mike O’Brien to present the council with a list of all aquatic activities throughout out all of Worcester  – the swimming pools – city- and state-run,  along with spray park, Boys’ and Girls’ Club swimming pool, the facilities at the Y’s. She said with this info in hand, the city can decide how best to serve the families of Worcester when it comes to swimming and staying cool during the summer. Where are Mike Germain’s ideas? Does he have any?

Bill Eddy  just seems like another  political operative – which he is/was. What is the point of having this guy on the city council? Where is his brave new vision? We have been watching the city council meetings and we can’t find one. He just makes snide remarks about the T & G and pontificates how Worcester is a “city of neighborhoods.”  Wow! How perceptive of Bill!
And what about second termer Joff Smith? When he was running for re-election, he was always kissing the butt of Great Brook Valley, part of his district he was afraid he was going to lose to his new Latino opponent. With Joff, during the fall election, it was Great Brook Valley this and Great Brook Valley that – nothing substantial – just a lot of pandering.  Smith would say what a “great” place Great Brook Valley was, obviously trolling for votes in a place that he didn’t mention even once (at least on the city council floor) during his entire first term. Smith’s district is pretty much the tony west side and Greendale; he has done a horrendous job of advocating for and representing the GBV public housing project at the tail end of Lincoln Street. Guess what? Now that he’s won re-election, he no longer throws the words Great Brook Valley around on the council floor. GBV will be forgotten by Smith – until the next election! (We do know that it took InCity Times and a ton of neighborhood activists TWO years to get the parks people to install a DOOR in the bathroom stall of the Great Brook Valley city swimming pool. Joff didn’t do a thing about the door that was missing from the bathroom.)

So, here’s to Armageddon! The end of the world can’t come soon enough for this version of the  Worcester City Council!

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