Text and photos by Jim Coughlin
The YWCA at Salem Square was the scene of a candidates forum this past week for Worcester City Council at-Large. Our city’s Municipal election will be held on November 2. The forum was co-sponsored by the Worcester Branch of the NAACP and the YWCA. The candidates who attended were incumbent city councillors Kathleen Toomey, Mayor Joseph Petty, Krystian King and District 5 Councillor Matt Wally and challengers William S Coleman III, Thu Nguyen and Guillermo Creamer Jr. Candidate Peter Stefan was not present. He is recovering from knee surgery and was unable to participate in any of the debates. He’s also stepped away from running the Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home in Main South.
A noticeable public policy difference between the attending candidates came on the question of a proposed Civilian Review Board for the Worcester Police Department. On this issue among current councillors, Mayor Petty, Councillor Toomey and Wally are opposed to the Civilian Review Board.
Councillor King said he is in favor of it being established.
Among the city council hopefuls Thu Nguyen, Bill Coleman and Guillerlmo Creamer all came out in favor of establishing a Board. In answering the question about the Civilian Review Board, it was Bill Coleman who noted for the audience of about 25 that the candidates and incumbent councillors of color all support the panel being established, while all the white, European/North American councillors are opposed to the Board being established.
Coleman also took the Worcester Police Department to task for its poor record of “not hiring one police officer of color between 1954 and 1974.” (The city did eventually hire a police officer of color in 1974, Judith Smith-Levin, a former reporter for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette who also became the department’s first woman police officer.)
The forum was an opportunity for each candidate to put forth their best selling points to Worcester voters for the upcoming election.
Mayor Petty, who has also put his hat in the ring for another term as mayor, urged voters to vote for him twice, “one time for councillor and one time for mayor.” He said, “The city, within the past year, has experienced the best of times and the worst of times.” … He said he wanted to “build bridges for all the people of Worcester.”
Guillermo Creamer said he wants to be a representative of both the LGBT and Latino communities. “They deserve representation,” he said.
Councillor King, the first at-large Councillor of color since 1936 who works as a social worker for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families called himself, “an expert on youth and an expert on social work” and said he “is a key player for diversity” in the city.
Thu Nguyen, a former director at the Worcester Youth Center located on Chandler Street, said they are a candidate to “work for community-led solutions at the front of City Hall and the decision-making table.”
District 5 Councillor Wally, who has chosen not to seek re-election to his seat and instead seeks a promotion to at-large councillor, said he “is running for an at-large seat on the Worcester City Council because “I want to serve as a champion for issues which will ensure Worcester is a vibrant, safe affordable, diverse, walkable, financially stable city which offers access to opportunities for everyone who strives to live successful and productive lives.”
Coleman has been a community activist in Worcester on a wide range of community and public policy issues before the city council. He formerly worked as a legislative aide to the late Massachusetts United States Senator Edward W. Brooke in Washington, D.C. For many years he was a nutrition teacher in Worcester, working for the University of Massachusetts, once located at the former MLK JR BUSINESS EMPOWERMENT CENTER in Piedmont. Coleman said, “I want to be a voice for the voiceless and encourage people to be involved in their city government.”
Councillor Toomey, the Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said she supports full staffing for the police and fire departments and said there is a “lack of affordable housing units and housing for the homeless.”