By Rosalie Tirella
Worcester Mayor Joe Petty at a Main South community event. CECELIA file photo.
Worcester Mayor Joe Petty has decided (on a whim? because he’s got nothing better to do? because he doesn’t have a life?) to run for state senator, “filling” retiring senator Harley Chandler’s seat. She’s 80+ years old. At 60, Petty’s a young senior – as am I. Truth be told at the ripe old age of 60, I just wanna write, read, bird watch, bake bread, get another dog, decoupage … But our very good, very modest, very senior citizen of a mayor has been bitten by the Ambitious Bug and decided to reach for the stars…the State House!!
A few in Worcester feel this is a bad idea. To wit: Joe’s political signage (VOTE JOE PETTY STATE SENATE) have been torn down, ripped up. All over the city and the West Side. Even the PETTY FOR SENATE mini-billboards, 8′ x 4′ monstrosities.
Petty’s campaign peeps have whined to the press. Vandalism! Destruction of property! Cheaters!
We say this is petty. Destroying a political opponent’s campaign signs is typical political season silliness, mean spiritedness, yes, unusual, no. Petty, who’s been Worcester mayor since 2012 and, before that, Worcester city councilor at large forever, knows this fact of campaign life.
On another level, we say the magnitude of the destruction may signal something more, may be a sign of the times … Maybe, just maybe, Worcester is trying to tell our good mayor: Joe! You’re a nice, modest, fair minded guy, but please do NOT run for Chandler’s seat! Don’t go to Boston! Stay away from the State House! We need someone new. Young. Female. Buy a hammock, set it up in your backyard and … retire from politics. You’ve been a fine public servant for decades. You’ve done good things for many people, especially your friends and family!, but a different voice is needed. Give it a rest – give someone else a chance to lead, to be in the spotlight, to collect a pretty good paycheck!
Let’s be real: Joe Petty has never been especially articulate. He’s never been especially inspiring or charismatic. He’s never really had much of a vision. But he was smart enough to give the Worcester visionaries creative space and support, the Woo egomaniacs the mic, the diverse Worcester a chance … That’s why we liked him and voted for him. Joe did the right things at the right time.
But his political platform planks for his state senator run: more affordable housing, more environmental justice feels, well, typically politically savvy. As mayor of Worcester Joe’s failed at the affordable housing thing…we have a true HOUSING CRISIS IN THE CITY AND IN WORCESTER COUNTY. Homelessness, old people displaced from the apartments and houses they’ve rented for years, sky rocketing rents – most apartments in Worcester at the $2,000 mark, up from $1,500 last summer – make this a problem too big for Joe’s small lens. THIS IS A CRISIS JOE PETTY ISN’T UP TO. THIS CRISIS CALLS FOR EXTREME CREATIVITY. Joe Petty is not that creative a guy. Converting CSX BOX CARS to rental homes? Rent control? Tiny houses built by our Worcester Technical High School students under the leadership of our local building trade union heads? Looking at safe spaces for the homeless who live in their cars? Establishing City of Worcester homeless camps with outhouses, community kitchens, places to legitimately camp, staffed by City of Worcester social workers and maybe a Worcester cop or two? More housing vouchers? BIG HOUSING COMPLEXES designated for low-income seniors … rental units for growing families as the Canal District/gentrification is not family friendly. The CD rental units are meant for young couples, singles or empty nesters… All of this has been out of Joe’s mental grasp.
We’re grasping… Do you think Joe Petty can advocate for any of these big, very major, outside-the-box housing solutions?
Neither do I.
Diversity. … Massachusetts is pretty racially segregated. If our Worcester Public Schools teaching staff is still lilly white and the City of Worcester had to be sued by a group of Black and brown WPS parents and community leaders to change the way we elect the Worcester School Committee, do you think Joe Petty has the mental tools – or the guts – to make our state, Massachusetts, less racist?
I doubt it. Take a look inside Mayor Petty’s office in City Hall – the Irish aunties rule the roost. God help you if you ask them to email you an attachment!
So we say: Retire from politics, Joe. You’ve done a lot of good for a lot of people. You’re a nice man, a loyal and loving husband, dad and friend. But “to every season turn, turn, turn … .”
A young man shoots for the stars, an older man looks up and sees their infinite beauty.
So, Joe, read all of Shakespeare’s plays in your new hammock in your yard. Bird watch from that hammock. Write a political memoir and hand deliver it to the Worcester Historical Museum. Visit every national park in America! Sip a glass of wine on the Seine! Run a marathon. Run a church bake sale. It’s ok to be … free.