Tag Archives: City Manager Michael O’Brien

(Tweaked! Again! Sorry!) … Just one question for Worcester’s city council and city manager …

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There’s plenty of room on our Common for Worcester’s planned memorial to our city’s fallen African American W W II soldiers. Right here, for instance – the Franklin Street side of City Hall.        pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

… Why is Worcester’s planned memorial to our fallen African American W W II soldiers being erected at the Worcester Police Station?

Why not put the statue honoring our Black soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice right where it belongs? On the Worcester Common, along with all the other statues honoring Worcester’s fallen heroes?

There’s a slew of them on our Common –  in the middle of our soon-to-be revitalized downtown! Around and behind Worcester City Hall … they adorn the grass and trees that surround them even as we try (at least on holidays) to adorn them – lay wreaths braided with flowers or pine at their feet. We walk or drive by the stone and iron soldiers if we work in or visit the heart of our city. They make you think … put aside your work, dining, shopping obsessions for a few fleeting seconds to see something greater – a person’s life story, a city’s story, world history. The stone and iron soldiers come alive!

You can even build the new memorial to our Black WW II soldiers next to our John Power WW II monument that stands right outside our City Hall. The monument to our Black WW II heroes –  it was called the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” –  was once located in our African American Laurel-Clayton neighborhood but disappeared, along with the neighborhood!, when the interstate highway was built.  John Power is STILL with us – standing guard by Worcester City Hall (see my photo, above). So, truth be told, we will be building a new monument because we lost, destroyed, the old one! How can you “lose” a monument? What does that “loss” say about our city a few decades ago? Back then, how sacred to our city fathers were the memories of these dead African American soldiers – Black men from Laurel-Clayton, from Worcester?

Not very sacred at all.

Hell! There’s room for a tank or a couple of Jeeps to the right of the John Power statue. There John stands as the hip students walk by to get to their recently built dorms on Franklin Street …

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Soldier Power doesnt look hip at all! He looks like your average WW II grunt – ditch digger, mucking around in stinking trenches with penecillin pills, canned spam in his knap sack  –  but a KILLER too. Make no mistake! See the rifle slung over Power’s right shoulder and the long dagger in his left hand? He’s clutching the dagger ready for the fight – hand to hand combat – to the death probably. How can any city deprive a Black soldier, who fought the same fight, the honor we’ve bestowed on John Power? Power’s helmet is on askew cuz he’s in battle. He looks Irish – and a little cockey. Why can’t we humanize our dead African American soldiers this lovingly?

Why can’t Worcester’s Black community have the same thing? A touching yet tough depiction of men in war in stone?

Why stick our Black soldiers at the bottom of Bell Hill, at the Worcester police station, in the middle of a 20-way intersection, surrounded by ugly concrete (we’re talking the police station, too!) – a place where few will visit, stop to honor these men, think about them? A place where drug dealers, robbers, rapists and killers are flung?

Yes, the police station is a stone’s throw from the old Laurel-Clayton neighborhood, razed and replaced by the Plumley Village low-income public housing complex, home to many people of color – Blacks, included. Why not – I’m certain residents would be honored -put the monument there? It would be back at its real home. Placed before the entrance way to the buildings and high rise, lots of folks would stop and pay their respects.

Or is that the point? The intention (maybe subconscious) of Worcester City Leaders? To keep the monument to our fallen Black WW II Soldiers out of the public eye –  especially out of reach of the African American community?

And something else…to stop it from being a focal point, a symbol, a place for Blacks to gather, to remember, to rally, to teach … to protest. So often people come to their city or town common to express views, speech-ify … Protest! It’s been happening as long as there have been places where people chose to live together. A kind of gathering at the communal fire place! In America we’ve been doing it ever since our forefathers and mothers sailed into Plymouth Rock!

It’s happening still. All over. Especially with Black Lives Matter and, before that, Occupy Wall Street. It’s happening in Worcester. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has come down brutally hard on the BLM movement/rallies here, just as his predecessor City Manager I HATE ALL POOR RESIDENTS Mike O’Brien was hard with Occupy Wall Street protesters – refusing to meet with them, making sure they were off THEIR Worcester Common!

Would city leaders want a Black Lives Matter march to end at the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” on the Worcester Common? Would they want to see anyone give witness to pain, anger, racial discrimination in Worcester, “a city on the move”? Would they want a large crowd of folks agitating for change? In the middle of downtown?

Nope.

Is this what John Power died for?

*******

(P.S. Don’t let this happen, Bill Coleman and James Bonds!)

A few days ago we bumped into City Manager Ed Augustus …

By Rosalie Tirella

… We chatted with him. We were remorseful. We talked about exotic animals in travelling shows and the DCU Center’s circus financial analysis report.

We were so impressed with the man! Ed Augustus is an outstanding person! He is a real person, not a phony. He is a GOOD person, modest, almost quiet. Not the arrogant firebreather former city manager Mike O’Brien was. It is like sunlight versus toxic sludge.

I can’t imagine O’Brien ever being so low key and decent. I was actually moved when I told Augustus I was passionate about the fight to end animal cruelty and he said: In Boston I always voted for laws to protect animals. Then he said this to me: I never hurt anyone in my life.

I believed Augustus.

I had never heard a city manager – or politician – talk like this before. Not grandstanding. Not pontificating. Not being self-righteous or mean to me. Or dismissive. Just a real fine person.

Then, practically in tears, I apologized again.

I fuck up sometimes, I said to Augustus. Maybe I fuck up a lot. And I kinda choked up.

As I turned to walk to my car, Augustus, looking fit and trim and handsome, said to me smiling: Hang in there.

I wish he had done the same thing.

Those pesky panhandlers!

By Rosalie Tirella

That’s what the Worcester City Council must have decided when it voted to treat the city’s panhandlers, folks who beg for money on our streets, the way you would treat, say, a stubborn case of cooties! Yikes! These critters are pesky, a pain in the neck and a public health scourge! Let’s just wash them out of our hair the way you would any varmint.

So our city leaders, lead by City Manager Mike O’Brien, our uber-expert when it comes to urban ills and the downtrodden, decided to make being out in our public streets exercising your freedom of speech a crime. Just the way they do in Russia when the peeps there get too full of themselves. Vladimir Putin would be proud!

So, the city has now decided to give out panhandlers little cards, with the new ordinance spelled out and a phone number to call if you need food, shelter, etc. These push cards are to be given out by our city cops, some of whom are not the friendliest or most sensitive people in Wusta.

I was talking with a pal in social services yesterday about Worcester’s panhandler problem. Let’s call my pal “Ann.” Well, Ann has been working with the city’s poor for decades and has a ton of insight. She is familiar with the struggles of so many city families. She has, over the years, seen it all, and she is half heart, half tough street smarts. While always there to help folks she also knows when she is being conned. Yup, some needy folks, especially heroin addicts, cocaine addicts, can be the biggest liars. Their addiction, so intense and powerful, makes them that way. Businesses, families, condos, etc are lost to drug addiction. Alcohol is also powerfully addictive, for some folks, some bodies, some minds.

Ann told me yesterday that by the time an alcoholic or drug addict has found himself or herself on a street corner begging for money, they have pretty much lost everything. You can’t tumble much lower.

When asked how the city’s push card campaign was gonna fly withthey majority of our city panhandlers, Ann gave me a knowing, world weary look.

Giving a person a card with a phone number ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, the city’s strategy is laughable: Drug addiction can take years to beat, with numerous stays at detox centers, numerous relapses, many moments of despair.

In short, Ann agreed with me that the city, like Boston, needs to hire homeless outreach workers, people who can actually counsel these folks, work with them over a period of weeks, months, maybe longer, if people are lucky enough to survive that long. Ann was direct when she said most addicts, hardcore junkies, alcoholics die. Drug addicts die from getting their bodies so sick or at the hands of a pusher. Drug dealers do not suffer dead beats gladly.

Ann went even further than I have, when it comes to dealing with the city’s panhandlers. She advocates sending out the outreach workers with serious resources, like the ability to get a person into a detox bed immediately, like the ability to help pay a person’s rent for a room, apartment. Beyond dropping them off at the Mustard Seed. Beyond driving them to a food pantry.

Ann told me some interesting stories yesterday, call them drug addicts I have known through the years. One story centered on a drug addict who kept getting dough from a good hearted priest, telling the padre that he needed the $50 to buy food for his family. Ann was visiting the priest when the junky was making his call. Ann knew he had a habit. What are you doing here he asked her. She said I could ask you the same question!

To cut to the chase, Ann told the priest not to give the guy money because he would only spend it on history addiction, not groceries. She went back and forth with the junky who tried to bs her but finally pulled up his long shirt sleeves to show Ann his needle tracks. It was a gesture both honest and heartbreaking.

Another drug abuser that Ann worked with: Years of the ups and downs of trying to stay off cocaine, losing his business, wife, home. Finally, he managed to beat back the demon – stayed straight for months!  He called Ann to tell her the great news … and to take her out to dinner.

To celebrate his sobriety. To thank her for staying after him all those years. Working the problem, not dismissing it. Or him.

Call for Action: Close the PIP now!

Date: Monday, October 4
Time: 11:00 am
Place: Sidewalk in front of 701 Main Street, Worcester

District 4 City Councilor Barbara G. Haller and Chairman of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety William T. Breault are holding a press conference to call attention to the unacceptable delay in closing the People in Peril (PIP) Shelter at 701 Main Street. Neighbors of the shelter are expected to attend and add their voices to a call to end the delay and close the PIP.

In 2007, the City Manager’s Task Force on Homelessness released its Three Year Plan to End Homelessness in Worcester, under the co-chairmanship of former Mayor Jordan Levy and former City Manager Jeff Mulford. The task force crafted a consensus strategy of homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing with wraparound services. The City Council’s unanimous support resulted in City Manager Michael O’Brien’s setting an administrative goal to close the PIP in 2009. Continue reading Call for Action: Close the PIP now!

Pan-handlers, all? Plus: Holy Cross and College Hill

By Cheez Wiz

A while ago, I pondered the effectiveness of government led by the forces of Mayor Joe O’Brien-Tim Murray-Jim McGovern and their biggest cheerleader, Jordan Levy. After all, how is this city going to grow when Joe’s “position papers” are basically outlines on how he is going to beg his federal and state connections for federal help? It doesn’t help matters that none of the big three has a private sector background. (Ya see, those panhandlers really do teach us things!)

The new Joe-Jordan-Jim-Tim Alliance relies on federal and state help. What they lack from the get go is a sense of ideas, creativity and business sense as a foundation for job growth. What happened to the ideas first put forth by President Obama – of the “carrot and stick” approach to building business?

What happened to increased use of No Child Left Behind? Why has that program been so watered down to suit the teachers’ unions at the expense of needy, low-income children? Continue reading Pan-handlers, all? Plus: Holy Cross and College Hill

Summer days in private pools for Worcester’s neighborhood youth

By Christina Lenis

Smiling faces awaiting summer fun radiate from behind the green nylon seats of a yellow school bus. Outside, staff members wearing light blue t-shirts with the Wheels to Water logo on the front, hold clips boards, marking off names and checking for bright blue wristbands as children continue to board.

The bus engine starts to rumble. The excitement of children on summer vacation can be heard throughout.

The chatter soon seizes as the rules of the day are read by one of five staff members. The rumbling of the engine intensifies and the bus departs.

Unfamiliar streets aligned with three deckers pass by on either side of the bus. Suddenly, the wheels hit the freshly paved parking lot, as the bus glides to the entrance of the multi-million dollar Boys and Girls Club on Main St. The chattering intensifies, as the children quickly exit the bus, happy to have arrived. Continue reading Summer days in private pools for Worcester’s neighborhood youth

Roadmap for 9 Worcester neighborhood pools (It can be done!)

By Cha Cha Connor

The Save Our Poolz Coalition recently unveiled a plan to rebuild nine neighborhood pools for Worcester at the Worcester Youth Center on Chandler Street.

The public meeting had 75 people in attendance, most of them youth and residents of Worcester’s neighborhoods, showing support for the rebuilding of the nine City pools that have all been closed for the first time this summer. Also in attendance were City Councilors Phil Palmieri, Barbara Haller, Joe Petty, Rick Rushton, Gary Rosen, Kate Toomey, Paul Clancy, Joff Smith, and Mayor KonstantinaLukes. Candidates for City Council were also in attendance, including Grace Ross, Mary Keefe, Kola Akindele, and Steven Buchalter.

Patricia Feraud of Toxic Soil Busters, and Reverend Sarai Rivera from Iglesia Cristiana de la Comunidad (Christian Community Church) reminded those in attendance that in conversations about the pools at City Hall, the people have spoken – but we haven’t been listened to. Patricia pointed out that again and again, whether in a survey of over 600 Worcester residents, in the two years worth of meetings with City Councilors, or in the six public hearings attended by over 500 residents, Worcester residents have told Council and the City Administration that we need to rebuild all of our nine municipal pools. Continue reading Roadmap for 9 Worcester neighborhood pools (It can be done!)

The PIP shelter and what it means to Worcester

By District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller

The story of the PIP Shelter is long and complex. While there have been many individuals who will testify to its success as a safety net of last resort, there are many more who will testify to its internal chaos, especially before SMOC took over control in 2005. Founded over thirty years ago to provide protection to public inebriates after the decriminalization of public drunkenness, there are few who would deny that the PIP has grown to be an enabler and magnet for anti-social behavior.

Over the past twenty years my position on the PIP moved from a call for better management, to supporting an effort to relocate it to an industrial area, to a cry for closing it. I came to realize that a 150 person warehouse for individuals experiencing homelessness for a wide variety of reasons couldn’t be fixed – regardless of who ran it or where it was located. Over time the city council, the city administration, and the community have come to join in common voice to close this shelter at 701 Main Street.

During those years of pushing for the shuttering of the PIP, the question of “where will ‘they’ go?” was part of every discussion. My answer to that question was always to explain that it is not the responsibility of the struggling neighborhood around 701 to bring solution to homelessness, but rather it is the responsibility of the whole community. I served on every task force as we searched for the best answers. All of these efforts failed to close the PIP but they each served to get us closer by educating more people to the complexity of the challenge and increasing the resolve to do better. Continue reading The PIP shelter and what it means to Worcester