By Rosalie Tirella
Why is it that we have a plethora of yahoos on the Worcester City Council? First there is City Councilor at Large Frederick “Ric” Rushton, whose trials and tribulations I chronicle in “Dope-o-rama” – ’cause he’s so dopey. Whether Rushton’s talking about the “vortex” in his brain or browbeating his council mates with a half-baked version of some historical event, Rushton never seems to get anything right.
Then there’s City Councilor Joff Smith, who, when recently complaining about the Asian Long-Horned Beetle in sentences cobbled together with thumb tacks and dangling participles galore, took his moron-ness to an even higher level: During a recent city council meeting Smith said that some of his conversations with officials reminded him of “episodes of Scooby Doo.” Scooby Doo?!
For the uninitiated, Scooby Doo was a 1960s Saturday morning cartoon – the star of which was a goofy Great Dane named Scooby Doo. Scooby had all these silly adventures with four 20-something kids (they’re Joff’s age) – one of whom always yelled: “Scooby Doo, where are YOU?!”
Joff Smith, where are you? Or better yet, where is your brain?
Hiding under some rock, I imagine.
Now I don’t expect the oratory prowess of an Abe Lincoln – or even a Barack Obama. But Scooby Doo? And Joff Smith was taking himself so seriously! He was actually trying to make a point with his analogy. I’m certain there were lots of City Council viewers who thought: Gee. This Joff Smith kid is kinda dopey. Maybe not as dopey as Ric Rushton – but right up – or down! – there.
If only Joff were a Joffina. Then she would be slammed. Sort of like Mayor Konnie Lukes, who along with District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller, has a higher IQ than all the rest of the council members combined. But because she is smart and articulate – and gives the dopes a run for their money – they pounce on her every chance they get. (because they are jealous)
Take this week’s City Council meeting. If anything, you saw how smart Haller and Lukes are. But of course, the press in this town is tilted towards the boy-clique that run Worcester and just go along for the ride. The reporters never question a thing. The T & G and Blow Mag – they never ever tell you what really happens at City Council meetings.
Like how Councilor Barbara Haller was actually dismayed that the annual review of City Manager Mike O’Brien will be conducted differently this year. How she got up and spoke eloquently about the subject for 20 minutes or so. How persuasive and logical and methodical she was. How she – unlike Rushton and the other wanna-bes – could actually make a great Mayor or … Congresswoman.
But I digress. Less than 24 hours before their city council meeting, Dope-o-rama Ric Rushton and his dopey crew, during a city council subcommittee headed by Rushton, unanimously recommeded that the old way of “grading” O’Brien be dumped. Instead of having each city councilor “grade” O’Brien on a scale of 1 – 5 for various abilities/job duties (i.e. economic development, community outreach, communication with the city council, the budget, neighborhoods) with the numbers adding up to one final numerical grade (accompanied by an essay on O’Brien’s year), O’Brien’s job evaluation would now be summarized in a page or two of prose. By each councilor. Then each city councilor would give the City Manager one numerical grade – 1 being darned awful, 5 being darned excellent. During this week’s council meeting Rushton called the old system “subsets and GARBAGE.”
Well, Haller was miffed. And like I said, she got up and spoke the way Joff Smith could only DREAM of speaking. Haller, who by the way, always gives the city manager the HIGHEST overall score (using the system that Rushton wants to junk!), said grading O’Brien is one of the city council’s most important jobs. She said having the various categories forces her to THINK about O’Brien’s performance in each specific area. The categories help her see O’Brien’s weakness and stregths – and they help O’Brien see where he is strong and where he is weak. They give her a true, well rounded picture of O’Brien’s job performance over the past year.
Haller (a retired engineer who graduated from WPI) also said that most job reviews of professionals are not one-page affairs. That the method used by the City Council is actually pretty typical for professionals. (I might add that O’Brien makes over $170,000 a year. If a person is going to run a city AND bring down that kind of paycheck – not counting his perks like a city-leased SUV with free gas – then he/she HAD DAMN WELL BETTER BE PUT through her/his paces during annual evaluation time.
But, of course, the boys on the city council, most of whom are insurance salesman and the like, didn’t see it Haller’s complex and intelligent way. They – part of Worcester’s good ol’ boy network – like to rubberstamp things! They think transparent government is for sissies – not for Worcesterites!
City Councilor Mike Germaine got up and opined that last year, the daily newspaper made a big thing out of publishing the numerical grades councilors gave O’Brien, and he, Germaine, while giving O”Brien a strong overall score, was singled out by the newspapers for giving O’Brien a very low score in one category. Gemaine didn’t want that to happen this year! (Heavens no!) And, if I may add, Rushton was in the same boat – giving O’Brien some of his crappiest scores.
Last year Rushton was singled out for doing just that. Rushton and Germaine seem to be telling the voters they don’t want to be singled out this year. They don’t want to have to explain their scores – or even think too hard. They like O’Brien and, what the hell, want to keep the party going.
What is Wormtown coming to?! Gary Rosen, Kate Toomey, Joff Smith, and of course, blow-hard of blow-hards – District 3 City Councilor Paul Clancy – all agreed with Rushton!
Clancy bloviated until I had to go to the refrigerator and grab myself a glass of orange juice. Even though I was watching the meeting from the comfort of a living room – and not City Hall – I could still feel all that HOT AIR Clancy was blowing all over Worcester!
And so when Konne Lukes, got up to speak, Clancy tried to shut her up – and bring up his old charge: she is seeing some kind of conspiracy in Rushton’s move.
Not at all, Paul. And Lukes (a lawyer) rose to the occasion – grabbing that microphone and giving Clancy an earful – an articulate, intelligent earful, I might add. Clancy could never match her brain power, which is probably why he doesn’t get her and Haller’s point of view.
Lukes said to change the grading system a few hours before everyone gets set to grade the city manager – to do it without any kind of discussion on the council floor – was “unprofessional.” To get complacent about Worcester’s top dog is foolish – even if he is doing a good job.
It’s not O’Brien. No one is gunning for him.
Lukes and Haller were trying to get people to think, to be professional … to treat this city and its residents with the respect they deserve.