Tag Archives: city councilor at large candidate Michael Gaffney

Worcester City Councilor District 4 Sarai Rivera’s time has come …

By Rosalie Tirella

… to be mayor of Worcester, to lead our city, to reflect our city to the world, to advocate for its people – many struggling under the sledge hammer of racism and poverty. The languages, the music, the goals of our people – a new Worcester blooming every day – Rivera can understand them in ways that our Irish pols – the guys (and gals) who’ve lead our city for decades – can’t – no matter how empathetic and smart they are.

District 4 Worcester City Councilor Sarai Rivera should be Worcester’s next mayor.

It only makes sense.

It’s her time – it’s ours.

Providence, Lowell, San Francisco, Los Angeles – all these 21st century cities have mayors who reflect their hubs’ panache … souls. They fit each other…like a glove. The people look to their mayors for leadership because they are TRUE REPRESENTATIVES of their metropolises!

Rivera is where the city of Worcester is going. Is at! All the multi-colored, multi-ethnic, multi-tongued folks, many immigrants new to rough and tumble America, lots poor, lots at the mercy of drugs and guns and our mean streets, lots entrepreneurs looking to make it happen for them and their families in America. Filled with hope!

Our people, their complex dreams, our complex neighborhoods evolving in ways that Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney denigrates, exploits … for fear and racist votes. Ultimately, Gaffney doesn’t understand the city. He’s from Webster – don’t be too hard on the arrogant rube. Mike Gaffney is a nowhere pol. He is a throw back for all those voters in Worcester who want white, Catholic, Irish – a rap on the head with a wooden ruler for the kids in our public schools who disobey their teachers. A 1950 world where a Mareen Binenda, 65 and Irish, would make the perfect Worcester school superintendent. But old prejudices die hard!  Our Worcester School Committee members – terrified of district representation, terrified of losing their votes and POWER – have given almost ready for retirement Maureen the job! How incredulous!  How old Worcester!

The powerful will fight to hold onto their entrenched power until their intestines leak out.

Power: read: influence, great jobs, money, nice neighborhoods … THE WORKS. And the quiet forgotten Worcester middle class who pay the city’s bills will vote a Gaffney out of their prejudiced resentment at a city they can no longer understand and accept. …But they too cannot escape the real Worcester. Their xenophobic eyes can only be closed for so long! They can only rant and rave on Aidan Kearney’s racist blog for so long!  Former Woo School Committee woman Mary Mullaney’s son Aidan can carry on her prejudiced past for only so long!!

The numbers are against Kearney and Gaffney.

The numbers are for Rivera.

Our public schools are already majority minority.

Walk down our streets – mostly you’ll see people of color making their way down them.

When you cross Park Ave, our city neighborhoods – from Green Island to Piedmont to Vernon Hill to South Worcester to Webster Square to Downtown to Main South – are majority minority. Our old Catholic churches are dying, crumbling down …

It’s a new Woo – and I don’t mean the artisan bread eating boutique shopping white kids who,  if they left Worcester, would be replaced by white kids that GET THE REALITY OF OUR CITY. And would work to include people of color and the poor in their farmers markets, etc. And they would buy houses here. And their white little kids would go to school with Black and brown  little kids – and it would be a good fit. We don’t need to beg and crawl to the phonies. The right cool progressive Millenials will find us. The wrong ones will buy real estate in  the suburbs and move away and send their kids to the suburban schools! It’s always been this way in Gateway Cities. It’s self-correcting city living. The beat goes on!

I’ve watched the beautiful Worcester District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera for several years now. Our relationship has not always been placid and warm. But over the past few years when our paths have crossed – at city meetings, at festivals – she’s been smart, sweet, tough, funny, warm, determined … and open. She has, through her several years on our Worcester city council, STOOD FOR RIGHT. A HUMANE WAY of solving Worcester’s new city problems. People first. Integrity first. Compassion first. Whether it be the  long suffering elephants and lions in the circuses who come to town, the small biz guy or gal, the inner city resident dealing with drug dealers, the drug addict overdosing, the young kids of color looking for a voice in city government Rivera has lead with grace, intelligence and not a little style (she wears the coolest, sexiest, prettiest, most colorful clothes!)! She is a great listener and makes her decisions, casts her votes intelligently. I’ve always been proud of her votes for people … and animals! I am proud to call her my district city councilor!

Rivera, in her early 40s, is happily married with a gaggle of boys. She has a few college degrees under her belt. Runs her own church, sings her own song! Loud and strong and proud!


Worcester’s unfunded liabilities

By Michael Gaffney, candidate for Worcester city councilor at large

Let’s take a quick look at what the Worcester City Council has been doing to protect its citizens from a bond rating melt down and from a city retiree crisis.  I know, it isn’t as interesting as shuffling Unuum from one side of downtown to the other or giving a TIF to move QCC across the park, but it is probably the most important issue facing the future of Worcester.

The last two budgets have failed to fund the city’s future obligations to city retirees.  The Telegram & Gazette advises the unfunded health care pension liability is $656 million; however, the Springfield Republican claims it is $765 million.  I recently heard our city manager use the $656 million figure for the unfunded health care pension liability along with a round figure of about $400 million in unfunded pension obligations.  Either way the city of Worcester has in excess of ONE BILLION dollars in unfunded liabilities.  To put that in prospective, the City of Worcester’s projected tax revenues for 2014 are $245 million.

For those that I have met that tell me that they will receive a state pension, be advised that according to Moody’s, Massachusetts ranks 9th in the country for the largest pension funding gap.  As a percentage of revenue, the unfunded pension liability is 100%.  Simply put, the liability will consume our entire budget so, to pay the pension obligations, we would need to shut down government.  Don’t forget, the retiree health care generally comes from the city.

And while we are discussing numbers, let’s keep in mind that the shortfalls in pension and unfunded health care include in the calculations rosy projections as to life expectancy as well as rate of return.  In 2009, the projected rate of return of 8.25 percent was not achieved and we had a short fall for that year of over $7 million, so our City Auditor engaged in “asset smoothing,” which is jargon for borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

For the City of Worcester, the unfunded health care estimate means a cost of about $11,597 per single family home.  The per capital income in the City of Worcester is $24,544.  We simply do not have the ability to meet our obligations without immediate action.  City Manager O’Brien has stated “These bills are coming due, and the tax dollars to meet these obligations will not be there without significant reforms at the commonwealth level…”  That means we must push forward on the Patrick administrations efforts to curb the future costs of unfunded health care obligation and we must require that each and every budget going forward make provision to pay the unfunded obligations.

We also must become intolerant to fraud and abuse.  According to a Telegram & Gazette analysis of Worcester Retirement Board data obtained under the state Public Records Law, “the City of Worcester has 38 percent of public safety retirees draw disability pensions compared to 8 percent of other city retirees.”  Our non-disabled retirees are being stripped of their future by questionable disability claims.  … we have retirees double dipping on unemployment benefits and retirement benefits.

This is a matter that involves the entire city, not just its retirees.  As The Economist points out relative to the State of Illinois, “its obligations to retired folk make it an undesirable place to do business. When companies or individuals move to the Land of Lincoln, they are immediately expected to help pay its debts.”  Further, it is but a matter of time until these massive budget obligations affect the City of Worcester’s bond rating and hence, borrowing power.  No well-run business will ever come to a city that has no plan or possibility of resolving a ONE BILLION dollar budget obligation.

I certainly hope that city councilors will not receive the usual endorsements and that the rank and file city employee start asking the hard questions about who really has their and the city’s best interests in mind.  We must not continue to allow the city council to engage us in platitudes while pandering to the very people that they knowingly, deliberately and willfully are defrauding.  As Detroit has clearly shown, there will be no bailouts for pension or health care obligations.

(In full disclosure, the council has said that any excess funds that are found this year will be dedicated to the unfunded liabilities; however, I doubt that hoping for a Christmas miracle meets generally accepted accounting principles.)