Tag Archives: City Manager Mike O’Brien

Now that Ed Augustus is Worcester’s interim city manager …

By Rosalie Tirella

… I say HOORAY! !!!!!

Now that city leaders have picked a person who’s known for being a sensitive, good man … Now that we’ve traded Mike “Bloomberg” O’Brien for Ed “de Blasio” Augustus … Now that we have a city manager who is a little more keyed into kids and poverty …. Now that we have a new guy, Ed Augustus, who served on the Worcester School Committee and worked at the Children’s Defense Fund and was instumental in having Holy Cross sponsor our public library book-mobile (books and DVD s for our inner-city kids and adults) … Now that we have a city manager who HAS A HEART and is not a dictatorial workaholic manager-bot …

Why not have him null and void all fees for poor kids and families when it comes to THE ICE OVAL?????? Or, at the very least, WORK WITH LOCAL SPORTING GOOD STORES TO HAVE THEM DONATE A TON OF NEW ICE SKATES FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES TO USE ON THE OVAL FOR FREE?

That freaking municipal skating rink, financed by the people’s dough, taxes, sitting smack dab in the middle (well, sorta) on our city COMMON, has been stuck in my throat like a wayward turkey bone at Thanksgiving Day dinner! That skating rink should be FREE TO ALL. It’s on public land, it was built by public funds! Former City Manager hit a new nadir when he decided to lock poor Worcesterites off their property, when he turned poor Woo kids into charity cases by designating” special” days for them to skate on the Ice Oval. Like special school field trips.

I cannot wait until this city gives this city manager the heave ho. Ok, so he chose to bail on us …

Good people of Woo, O’Brien’s January departure is a good thing! This Thanksgiving Day let us be thankful for Ed Augustus!

While the ascension of Augustus was a tad … politically murky, he’s a most excellent choice! He has brains and a heart!

Here’s hoping his love of kids, especially those who may not be the richest babes in toyland, guides him to do the right thing with our Ice Oval.

All children and families should be able to skate on the Ice Oval. Any time they wanna have some winter fun!

Happy Thanksgiving to Woo!!!!!

The Straight Scoop on Worcester’s Community Development Corporations (CDCs)! Connect the dots!

By Barbara Haller, Main South Community Development Corporation Board member, former District 4 City Councilor, and Main South resident

There are several things going on that impact CDCs. Connecting the
dots correctly is difficult. Lots of people have lots of different
opinions. Lots of people are wrong. I believe that I can help ICT
readers understand some of the realities CDCs and the City are facing.
How I know what I know:

Over the past almost 25 years I have been involved in our Community
Development Corporations. Before being elected District 4 city
councilor I served as a board member for Worcester Common Ground and
Main South CDC. While city councilor I no longer served as a board
member but was an active advocate for the work of CDCs across the
City. Since leaving office I rejoined the Main South CDC as a board

What I know:

Dot 1: Local political climate has shifted towards more support of
business development.

Dot 2: Local political climate has shifted towards downtown

Dot 3: Demographics show Worcester is losing its middle class.

Dot 4: Local political climate strongly favors home ownership over
rental properties.

Dot 5: Federal money for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is

Dot 6: CDBG has been used for lots of things including Code
Inspections, Operation Clean City, Friendly House, Henry Lee Willis,
South Worcester Neighborhood Center, Centro Las Americas, and much
more. It has also funded CDCs for some of their work in the community.

Dot 7: There are other Federal and State funds for developing
affordable housing — HOME, NSP, Lead Abatement. CDCs and private
developers have been awarded use of these funds either by the City
directly or under the Cityâ€Ts supervision.

Dot 8: There have been some scandals associated with some of these
funds. 5 May Street (private developer) was given money without
doing the work. Hadley Building (private developer) was completed
with public money but at excessive cost. Former Ionic Ave Boys &
Girls Club (private developer) was given public money but was never
developed. Lead removal program was corrupted by bribes.

Dot 9: There have been lots of questions around costs for developing
affordable housing. Many think it is too expensive.

Dot 10: CDCs take the sites with the most problems, in the worst
conditions, using money with the most strings attached, and
revitalize neighborhoods.

Dot 11: Local political climate wants more money to go to private
developers, home ownership, more middle class neighborhoods.

Dot 12: Federal audit of CDBG for past 3 years found City mismanaged
at least $2 million and maybe as much as $5+ million. A large portion
of these dollars were given to the CDCs. The audit is critical of the
City Administration contracts and monitoring of the contracts.

Dot 13: The dollars were used for operations that the Feds say were
ineligible under the program.

Dot 14: There is no indication that there was any misuse of funds by
anyone. No double-dipping, no excessive salaries, no slush funds.

Dot 15: The City has said it will go after the CDCâ€Ts for the money.

Dot 16: Those opposed to using public tax dollars to build affordable
housing are connecting the dots to say that it is time for CDCs to go
away or at least consolidate.

Dot 17: Those who want to protect the Cityâ€Ts Administration are
connecting the dots to say that it is the CDCs who messed up.

Dot 18: Those who want to protect the CDCs are connecting the dots to
say it is the City Administration who messed up; CDCs did as they
were contracted to do. If the City wrote contracts that scoped work
that was not covered by federal CDBG funds then it is the City who
erred, not the CDCs.

I firmly believe that the CDCs are vital to our City’s success. I
believe that the CDCs did nothing wrong and that CDBG funding was
used to fight neighborhood blight.

I also believe that the City Administration is not interested in
partnering with the CDCs anymore. I believe that the City Council
supports the City Administration’s plan to shift more resources to
other parts of the city and to and reduce affordable housing
development by CDCs. I believe this is a mistake for lots of reasons.

You can connect your own dots, but the way I see it inner-city
neighborhood revitalization is in for a serious slowdown.

A mortgage mediation program for Worcester

By Michael Gaffney, candidate for Worcester City Councilor at Large

Mortgage mediation is a process whereby during the foreclosure process, a representative from the bank meets with the homeowner relative to a mortgage workout. Getting two parties to sit down in a neutral environment to discuss the issues often yields positive results. A property lost to foreclosure lowers surrounding property values and seriously disrupts neighborhoods.

On August 19, 2013, per the Telegram and Gazette, the administration of the City of Worcester reported that it would not back an ordinance to establish a mediation program on property entering into foreclosure.
The reasons given for not implementing such a program were costs, logistics and legality:

As to costs, there are far too many volunteer organization as well as services operating under a block grant that provide free services to our courts and other programs. There are also numerous low cost providers. Cost is simply not a viable argument.
Logistically, the City of Worcester already requires a $5,000.00 bond for potential costs upon the filing of a foreclosure; therefore, someone is already assigned to review the bond and a tracking mechanism is already in place. The time involved in a referral to a mediation program is nominal.

As to the alleged legal issue, in the August 19, 2013 edition of the Telegram and Gazette, the City Solicitor claims that the Springfield ordinance is pending appeal which is mostly accurate. On July 2, 2012, U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor dismissed the lawsuit filed by the banks against Springfield’s mediation ordinance stating “the modest effort made by the city to soften the crisis through the promulgation of the two ordinances violates no Constitutional provision or state statute.” An appeal was filed by the banks. On or about March 14, 2013, the banks offered to drop the appeal if the City of Springfield would drop the bond requirement. The cause of the appeal was not with the mediation ordinance; rather, the cause of the appeal is the posting of the bond.

Here, the City of Worcester has implemented the bond requirement but not the mediation ordinance. Take note, the City of Springfield’s bond requirement is $10,000.00 which appears more penal than remedial. The banks were willing to allow the mediation ordinance. It seems obvious that the Springfield City Council is more concerned about the bond money than solving the problem for the homeowners, unlike the City of Worcester.

Our City Council rose to the occasion last night to advise the administration that they will push forward and should. In response, the administration offered to come to the table and look at all options. Unfortunately, this means further delay in the enactment of any ordinance, but the parties appear willing to further the process. Hopefully action will be taken sooner rather than later.

Waiting for Jet Blue (Boo hoo!) is Worcester’s “Waiting for Guffman,” …

By Rosalie Tirella

… one of my favorite Christopher Guest movies. The guy who brought us “Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show” goes all out in this flick about a bunch of small town rubes and hacks who think they are heading to Broadway based on their “fantastic,” musical – a horrible mish mash of a play you’d see at your local junior high on parents’ night! The town’s mayor, leaders and shakers all pitch in to WOW the producer they think is coming from New York City to see their play and ultimately bring them all to the Big White Way!

Worcester is “Waiting for Guffman” when it comes to Jet Blue and the Worcester Regional Airport.  The dancing! The singing! The groveling! The hoping beyond hope! The self-debasement and delusion! Jet Blue’s reps probably leave the city after every one of their meetings with local officials and biz leaders/beggars thinking: WHAT LOSERS! What hilarious, desperate losers! Giving us songs and dances and City Manager Mike O’Brien “gifting” us with the city’s  hockey team’s (THE SHARKS) sweat shirt.

The shuffle, shuffle, kick, ball, kick of Worcesterites making complete asses of themselves. It’s beyond kissing up. It’s pathetic … .

This would all be depressing, if it weren’t kinda funny.

Click on links below to watch two clips from the movie. Have fun! Match up our city leaders to the movie’s characters! Better yet, watch the movie tonight! You’ll laugh! … (you’ll cry) You’ll see Wusta!





Two songs for Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien


As far as getting all the panhandlers off the streets of Worcester and into programs for substance abuse, etc, click on link below:



Regarding your cold, cold attitude about panhandlers;  inner-city families looking for safe, affordable housing; Worcester’s most vulnerable citizens;  poor people who want to skate on your Ice Oval, click on link below:


Shame on you!

Rosalie Tirella, strong-mayor supporter


Wouldn’t you love …

By Rosalie Tirella

… a strong mayor for Worcester? Someone like Boston’s Tom Menino? Someone who could really build up a city but do it with heart? Have a kind of moral compass? Articulate a vision of the city, a vision that is inclusive, compassionate, fair-minded?

We don’t seem to get that with our City Manager Mike O’Brien. Lately, what with the CDCs, panhandlers, homeless folks, ice oval issues, it feels like we are living in some sort of mini-Russia, with O’Brien our Vladimir Putin. Only with way better hair.

I do not want to live in a city where good men like Steve Patton are demonized after years of public service and driven out of town. As if he were some kind of criminal.

I do not want to see panhandlers dragged off the streets by cops just because some upper middle class diner doesn’t like the way they looked at her.

I do not want to drive by our city hall to find NO ICE SKATERS ON THE ICE OVAL because the city manager is charging a $25 deposit to rent a pair of skates (plus admission fee!) and that the poorer folks who are usually around the common, with kids we may add, cannot afford the winter fun.

We want a strong mayor who makes policy but also speaks to our better selves, our inner angels.

I want a person who can say the things I want to hear. That Worcester cares about all its people. That the downtown common is for everyone to enjoy, and skate on. That the drug addicted and the homeless will not be packed off somewhere, such as the nearest police holding cell. That we have too many poor families and not enough safe, affordable apartments for them. That we will respect the people who live here. That we will not build walls. Only bridges.

O’Brien is a guy who cannot seem to say the grand, inspiring things that people want to, and need to, hear. Yes! Sometimes Worcesterites simply need to hear compassionate words from leaders, reassuring words. Sometimes we need to see our city leader handing out blankets to the homeless, a la Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

We need less tough talk in these difficult times, more pats on the back, a touch of the hand. Backed up, of course, by humane, inspired urban policy.

Free the Ice Oval!

Yes this is our skating rink! Pretty cool looking

By Rosalie Tirella

We’re hoping Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien’s Thanksgiving vacation has squeezed the Scrooge out of him/softened him around the edges some. We’re hoping when the Ice Oval opens to the public, it will open as a FREE SPACE (it is on our COMMON, after all!). We are hoping it will be a free, community space where the public, especially low-income families/homeless kids (and Wusta has plenty of  ’em!), can exercise and have fun without spending dough.

City Manager, you shut down the city’s (free) neighborhood swimming pools two years ago. The city has only two branch libraries, after most of them were shuttered and sold off years ago. Our main public library is closed to the public most Mondays and Sundays. Our public schools have no school libraries (the way each school building did when I attended the WPSchools). Our public schools’ arts and music programs have been decimated.

City kids and families have taken the hit long enough!

Now is the time to do the right thing! Open the ICE OVAL to all city kids and families!!!


Surrealistic Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

I haven’t listened to Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” since my college days at UMass/Amherst. Took a listen to the CD yesterday while driving around Worcester, working on InCity Times. A pal let me borrow the CD and I thought: what the heck.

Then their song, “Today,” came on and I was … SLAYED.  Absolutely fucking slayed! It is that gorgeous! “A love song” doesn’t begin to describe it. (click on the link below pics to have a listen)

Why didn’t I devour this song in college, the way I did yesterday, driving around downtown Wusta in my jalopy? Probably too hooked on their “Somebody to Love” tune (click on the second link below). “Somebody to Love” is made for youngness!


But “Today” hit my middle-aged soul so hard! Sent me reeling! Made me SEE my city differently! Made me see – and this sounds weird – Wusta’s panhandler problem from a totally different angle. The human angle. The LOVE angle.


While driving around downtown listening to “Today” for the 40th time, I drove by a homeless kid and that young man became wrapped in the melody and lyrics of “Today” and the kid was so beautiful looking, so pure looking … . He reminded me of my youth, of Amherst … I began to cry, “tears running down my dress.”

The way he looked. The way he protected his lanky body from the cold – he was only wearing a sweatshirt over his tee shirt. I swooned to the way he felt … The way he most likely felt alone. He was alone against this Jefferson Airplane song about all-consuming, life-transforming LOVE. A single soul … one of Worcester’s panhandlers …  hiding in an alley way, sitting on his lean haunches, against a wall, carving out a nook for himself – against bricks and cement.


I was not on drugs. I was not even caffeine-ated, but I was totally high on this Jefferson Airplane song and this kid. This beautiful kid’s aloneness – where would he sleep tonight? I asked myself. so cold. he is only wearing a sweat shirt over his tee shirt. tall and … scrawny. yet the curly long black hair framed his face and he looked like an angel … .

The music of the sixties and seventies was made for me.

I drove home and ran to the computer and ditched the column I wrote for this issue of InCity Times (which comes out tomorrow) and tried to write about “Today,”  the homeless kid, my youth, love, love, love … hoping that the City of Worcester would get the message.

I failed.

(This post is another crack at it.)

What am I trying to say here? That this kid was beautiful but utterly adrift and vulnerable. A soul. A soul alone in Wusta’s universe. Panhandling for money won’t begin to undo the degradation that he has most likely already experienced and will continue to experience. So many runaway kids have been molested by relatives at home. That is why they run away… . So many of these youngsters find themselves on the streets looking for a place to stay warm and paying for it with their bodies.

It is the holidays. So (of course!) the City of Worcester has to roll out a punitive affordable housing policy and a brutal panhandling policy. City Manager Mike O’Brien and some city councilors need to listen to “TODAY.”



Somebody to Love: