If we want downtown Worcester to come alive …

By Rosalie Tirella

… we need a STRONG mayor. And I ain’t talkin’ pecs and abs! I’m talkin’ City of Worcester government. We need to change Woo’s form of government from a strong city manager type  to a STRONG MAYOR type.  Under former City Manager Mike O’Brien, we were half way there! But … We have to consider the under belly of this beast!

The push for a turbocharged downtown Worcester lead to the side-lining of some of our urban neighborhoods, some folks would say to the absolute shitting on our inner-city neighborhoods and their iconic institutions. This began in earnest under Mike O’Brien. I believe it’s his true legacy. You either love him or you hate him for it. O’Brien, earning his spurs in Worcester’s parks department, started out as a Woo inner-city neighborhood booster, but as the years wore on, he grew less progressive and aligned himself with local biz folks (some slobbering, bullying, down-right mean, whacky and clueless) who lead him to believe abandoning Woo inner-city cdcs and neighborhood centers and neighborhood activists was a good thing. O’Brien turned a deaf ear to lots of good folks – really, anyone who dared to disagree with him. He was dismissive, didn’t return their phone calls, slashed their funding, didn’t meet with them … . In a nutshell: Former City Manager Mike O’Brien could be a real prick!

Like I said, this latest Woo clamoring for a strong mayor form of government is rooted in O’Brien’s my way or the high way reign. Yes. He made stuff happen. Roads got paved, downtown Woo streets were reconfigured,  the colleges paid us a few pennies and made a commitment to our downtown and public library system. But a lot of  good people got thrown under the bus, poorer neighborhoods became more downtrodden, poor people who needed services sometimes went without … and he brooked no divergent view points. He was positively dictatorial!

Maybe now that O’Brien’ s gone we can do this thing right and ELECT A STRONG MAYOR. Not get stuck with one for 10 years just because our city council is too weak and idea-bereft to pull a pushy city manager in – or set some parameters for him. Just because our city council and city economic development team can not lure big businesses to Worcester – businesses that will create hundreds of jobs for our people, just the way our mostly extinct factories did decades ago (not everyone wants to own a small biz).

Maybe a kick ass strong mayor and his or her kick ass strong mayor staff can set a real economic development agenda for Worcester, come up with some fresh ideas and not get too bogged down by our teachers union and other municipal unions.

Maybe if we choose a strong mayor form of government we can get a strong mayor in the Walsh or de Blasio mold. (O’Brien was too Bloomberg for us!)

Or maybe not!

It would all be up to the Worcester voters, WHICH WOULD MAKE THINGS AROUND HERE INTERESTING, EXCITING, AND FUN!  Which would also make things around here more democratic and sensitive to our changing demographics (more minorities who tend to vote Democratic and will want their fair share of the Worcester pie.) … But the change in Woo’s way of governing itself might also make Worcester political life more cut throat, and tough, and open to $$$$, bribes, desperation, shady characters, etc. But that’s OK! We have former lieutenant governor and Worcester mayor  Tim Murray to teach us all about crooks and crooked fund raisers and crooked political crimes that come with wanting to be elected to a cool office!

So, with a strong mayor we could end up with a guy or gal who could really make downtown happen. But we would want our strong mayor to show the love to and support inner-city neighborhoods and the immigrants, lower income people who often live here. Plus, be a moral, upright, forthright human being!

Easier said than done!