Mayor Joe Petty this summer at Main South’s National Night Out event. file photo: Ron O’Clair
Thank you, reverend clergy, Judge Bibaud, Senator Markey, Congressman Kennedy, elected officials, City Manager Augustus, Superintendent Binienda, the Worcester community, honored guests on stage and of course my wife Gayle and my children and family, for being here today.
This year’s campaign featured some of the most diverse and vibrant policy discussions and debates. I want to thank everyone who participated in this highest form of civic engagement. I want to recognize someone who is not here, the longest serving School Committee member – Brian O’Connell – who passed away a few months ago. His service to our city will always be remembered.
I also want to recognize our second ever Poet Laureate Juan Matos and the first ever Youth Poet Laureate Amina Mohammed.
Tonight is the time when we put behind us the differences that defined our campaigns and our candidacies. Politics is built on competition but governing is about consensus. Politics is about a promise, a promise of change and of betterment, but governing is about progress and it is a process.
As we stand on the edge of a new decade, I know that our city is stronger than ever. We did not get here by doing less, but doing more. Streets are safer due to the work of the Worcester police, health services are provided to those who need it, and programs are in place to help those who are hungry and homeless.
We have much to be proud of in our city. It’s not just about a new ballpark or the development in Kelley Square. These accomplishments are something to be quite proud of but don’t define us. There are other changes that are just as important: we’re creating a vibrant downtown with new housing and restaurants. The City Square development is almost finished. The South Worcester Industrial Park is filled. Flights from Worcester Airport happen every day. After languishing for decades, the old courthouse is under construction and we’re seeing the northern end of Main Street slowly coming to life.
At moments like this, when things are going well, it’s important that we focus on the building blocks of the future. Long before the idea of a ball park became a reality, we started looking at our three-decker housing stock, investing and developing more affordable housing, stabilizing our neighborhoods, and investing in our parks and school facilities. This is the work that is before us. Though it may be the large scale developments that generate news and excitement, it is the SLOW work of improving our neighborhoods, our schools and our city which moves our city forward.
This is about a generational promise to the future of our city; setting in place the building blocks of the next generation. That is why we are building new schools, why we have the highest bond rating and the largest unused tax levy in our city’s history. The work we do is a process and we move forward together.
For all the work that we do as a city it is imperative that we move forward in a data-informed manner, measuring results and adjusting policies over-time if we are not meeting our goals.
With the new Office of Urban Innovation we should begin with a data audit for our internal systems and analyze current digitalized information to create a better understanding of the state of our city. Every call to customer service, every building permit, every suspension of a student should be quantified and shown – transparency is essential.
To assist in this endeavor, I will ask the City Manager to implement a 24-hour Customer Service Center to be more responsive to residents and businesses.
We must demonstrate our work to the larger community, to researchers and to the residents of Worcester so we can provide a better understanding of the tactics and strategies that are implemented. We must be held accountable.
I hear the rising chorus of gentrification, of rising rents that come with rising home prices, and we should address them. As part of the Housing Now Initiative that we announced a month ago, we called for the formation of the Advisory Committee on Housing. We will examine housing options for all of our residents, renters, and home owners in neighborhoods.
We will examine our housing stock for patterns of neglect, foreclosures and code violations, and focus our city’s resources on those neighborhoods and properties most in need. We will work together to address issues and work with our State Legislature to develop tools and secure resources that currently do not exist.
Moving forward, we need to create a city that will embrace the challenges of the 21st century.
We will continue to review our public health policies within the community to address issues such as the opioid crisis, mental health issues, sexual education deficiencies and homelessness.
When we talk about a cleaner city and cleaner neighborhoods, a more eco-friendly city, this extends into many areas. We have seen the success our City has experienced through investments in green technologies and renewable energies. We have one of the largest municipal solar arrays of any city in Massachusetts. These investments bring successes and I want the City Manager to bring to the council a sustainability program that makes Worcester the greenest city in America. I have created a new city council subcommittee to deal with the concerns of environmental issues. For example, at the last City Council session, we banned single use plastic bags which are a good starting point for this coming decade.
Sustainability and environmental resilience relates to the way our population moves around the city and the state of the WRTA. We must better utilize the WRTA system to determine how we will encourage more public transportation use in our city and safer bike and pedestrian travel. This will help reduce our carbon footprint.
We also need to address and enforce issues like code violation and illegal dumping. We are investing in our city, our parks and our street-scapes so we must also invest in improving our trash and recycling programs to keep our neighborhoods clean. I will be asking the City Manager to reintroduce his plan to clean up our city and increase the monitoring and enforcement of illegal dumping.
As Worcester has become a cultural destination for many, we still need to do more. The city has embarked on ambitious programs to create urban art. The most notable of these is the murals created by Pow Wow.
What our city has in murals, we lack in public sculpture. Art in the Park at Elm Park is a great addition to the cityscape, but we need something more permanent such as an ART PARK and public sculptures and I’d like to see that project move forward in one of our parks or open spaces.
When we reexamine our city facilities as part of a larger community use, we need to examine how we are utilizing them at the city, state, and federal level. Even as we are building two new high schools, we need to examine other public facilities and spaces to see if they are being utilized to the highest and best levels.
Parks like Foley Stadium and Duffy Field need to be renovated and improved not just for the use of our schools but for outside organizations like the Worcester World Cup or the Worcester Rugby Club. These events build community and enrich our entire city.
For myself, I see the DPW yard in the heart of Shrewsbury Street as a key opportunity to continue the economic development in that commercial corridor in the coming years. I will be convening a committee of business and neighborhood leaders to work with the city administration to identify a new location for our Public Works offices and facilities. This will give our city a chance to modernize operations, serve our constituents and free up the Albany Street garage space and East Worcester Street DPW buildings for future development.
One of my goals since I started public office was to invest in the Worcester school system, infrastructure, and public education of our children. Much of the future of our city’s successes begins in the classroom. Currently, we are in the process of building two new high schools and I expect that they will come in on-time and under-budget just as Nelson Place Elementary School did. This is not a process where we can stand still. With forty-four school facilities we must always be investing and looking towards the future needs of our children, our city and our economy as a whole. Going forward I will continue to advocate for a new Burncoat High School and Worcester East Middle School in the coming years.
As we start this new term, I am particularly proud of the part Worcester played in getting the new Student Opportunity Act passed and signed into law. As the Worcester School Committee begins work on next year’s budget, the additional funding planned by the Act will allow us to do more to meet the needs of all of Worcester’s students. This additional funding will be instrumental in addressing all our students’ diverse backgrounds and educate the whole child.
Whatever their needs are, whatever language they speak at home, whatever race or ethnicity or gender or identity our students are, they are OUR students. As the mayor of the city and the chair of the Worcester School Committee, I commit to the Worcester Public Schools being fair and equitable in supporting every one of our students. It is critical that the spending of new funding reflect all the needs of our students, our schools, and our community.
I call upon the elected officials, School administrators, Community Leaders and Worcester residents to work together to set strategic goals, and provide clear metrics for our schools. As chair of the Worcester School Committee, I will be working with our state association to organize a retreat with the School Committee to identify strategies and approaches for handling the continuous changing social economic environment of the urban cities and public education. I will also be appointing a School Committee task force to assist in the review of the School Committee rules and agenda format. Prior to the Worcester Public Schools’ administration proposing a budget this spring, the Finance and Operations subcommittee will hold multiple budget hearings across the city to ensure that all of Worcester’s voices are heard. We will incorporate tools and resources to closely track and monitor progress and use of these funds to ensure positive and effective outcomes in our educational process.
Another important part of education is health awareness. In this term we will enact a comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education curriculum. I will also propose that we use the additional funding to create additional health educators in the Worcester public schools.
In closing, I have stood on this stage every two years since 1998 and sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and to serve the people of Worcester. Just as in 1998 the work before us is great and it remains an honor to serve.
I am proud to be the Mayor of the City of Worcester and I would be remiss, if I did not mention those who make my job easier and our city better. These are the fine men and women who work for our city. Our city workers have experienced great highs and great sorrow this year. From the DPW workers who saved a child’s life, Peter Lamoureaux and Daniel Patenaude are here tonight, to Fire Lieutenant Jason Menard who lost his life.
Fire Chief Michael Lavoie is here tonight. He has persevered and has shown great leadership. RECOGNIZE CHIEF LAVOIE. I also want to recognize the countless unnamed police officers who keep us safe, the DPW workers who keep our city clean and the teachers and principals in the schools who educate our children and the city employees.
We honor and thank you, though your talents many sometime go unrecognized. We need to study the City’s human capital, focus on retaining talented staff and review our work culture and benefits so we do not lose you to our private counterparts.
Though our city has changed, I still feel the same way I did the first time I took the oath of office: a lucky kid from Worcester.
I am still that same kid from Webster Square, the fry cook from Big Boy’s restaurant, your kid’s little league coach, your city councilor, your mayor, and most importantly the husband to an amazing woman and the father to three beautiful children.
I am still ready to do the work of the people that I have been honored to do for twenty-two years and I am humbled to have you stand this council and school committee, and with me.
– Joe Petty
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ATTEND WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL meetings (every Tues, City Hall, 7 p.m.)- ALL PUBLIC MEETINGS – AT Worcester CITY HALL, Main Street, downtown Worcester. And to peacefully protest – express your ideals, hopes and more – before City Hall. The people’s building! ICT file photo
GET ON THE BUS FOR REAL, GARY!
WRTA buses: expensive to ride for working poor/special needs folks, and the buses come ’round once an hour! Often late – as much as 40 minutes! pic: Rose T.
It is ironic: the Worcester city councilor who called the WRTA BUS SERVICE obsolete, intimating the city should put the kibosh on the whole thing – GARY ROSEN (a guy who hasn’t ridden city buses for more than half a century) has ASKED AND RECEIVED THIS City Council SUBCOMMITTEE wish: CHAIRING City of Woo Public Transportation Services subcommittee:
Sensing the political winds have shifted, Gary has not only embraced WRTA buses but wants to make them free for all riders.
Why HAVE THE FATE OF OUR WORKING POOR, IMMIGRANTS AND SPECIAL NEEDS PEOPLE wrapped up in Gary Rosen’s desperate ploy to stay current – and not get his butt voted off the Worcester City Council next election cycle?
Gary has decided to ANNOUNCE TO THE WORLD AT TONIGHT’S Worc city council meeting THAT HE ALONE CAN SAVE US…that he will hold and chair public hearings on free WRTA bus rides for all and making the WRTA work for its riders!
Like we – or the city council – disagree. But, hey, it got Gary some mentions in the press – FREE PUBLICITY, which is something the 70-something Woo pol thrives on.
Gary promised, when he “retired” from City Council years ago, that he would not run for public office ever again – and do media, TV shows etc instead. New ventures. CC Gary Rosen said once out, he would stay out – that there should be NO REVOLVING DOOR between punditry and being in public office. Well, here it is, years later AND GARY ROSEN DOES BOTH!
Don’t screw up the WRTA bus public hearings for your fat ego, Gary. And list dates and times of hearings at THE HUB, CITY HALL BUS SHELTER AND OTHER BUS SHELTERS. The old fashioned way. On flyers. TAPE THE ANNOUNCEMENT FLYERS to walls where WRTA riders are! The bus stops. And meet and talk with the people!
– pic/text: Rosalie Tirella