By Rosalie Tirella
In a way, we didn’t deserve him. In a way, Joseph – “Joe” – O’Brien, Worcester’s first true progressive mayor, was too darned forward-thinking for the dunderheads in this city – most of whom took to calling him “commie,” “socialist,” and other such perjoratives when O’Brien did enlightened things like advocate for immigrants in Arizona and district representation on the Worcester School Committee. etc. – ideas and proclamations that we at InCity Times CHEERED! Absolutely cheered! But the morons of Worcester – of which there are scads – couldn’t see the light that Joe O’Brien shone for all the heat they were generating. I couldn’t believe, as I read cop-ed columns, people’s/community leaders’ quotes in local papers, etc how positively cuckoo for cocoa puffs the nuts in this town would go when confronted with new, good ideas – ideas that O’Brien put out in a clear, thoughtful and sensitive way.
The bashing was something we at InCity Times thought only happened to us! Not to (basically) a Worcester insider like Joe O’Brien. I mean, he had the Irish name, Congressman’s Jim McGovern’s support, the Tim Murray impramateur tattooed on his butt, for Cripes sake – and yet – yet – the morons of Worcester went at O’Brien like the Roman gladiators went after the first Christians in the Colesseum!
But Mayor Joe O’Brien continued to bravely follow his head and his heart – put out one great idea after another. Even when people like fellow city councilor Paul Clancy – the so called “dean of the Worceser City Council – slagged him in the press. Even when the T & G treated him like some martian who had just disembarked from his shiny flying sacuer. It was heartbreaking – and yet inspiring. No matter what the powers that be said – Joe O’Brien stayed true to his ideas – ideas/plans that we have applauded on these pages, plans that have included: a Latino student task force, the banning of exotic animal acts in Worcester, the cheerleading and creation of community gardens in Worcestwer’s inner-city neighbrohoods, his total support of the MCAS-weary Goddard School staff/teachers, families and students. Also: O’Brien’s support of raising chickens in city limits (very cool!), his belief that all kids – no matter what their color or socio-ecomomic backgrounds must succeed in our Worcester Public Schools, his support for improving/repairing the buildings/grounds of Worceser’s inner-city schools, his desire to make our public schools the best in the state – so the city can continue to draw middle- and upper-middle-class families.
And the list goes on: such as O’Brien’s PURPOSELY living in Worcester’s inner-city, suporting the good work of the Main South CDC, WALKING to work so that he can get a true taste of what is going on in our city and talk with folks who may not otherwise feel comfortable accessing him in City Hall, creating longer mayor office hours so working people can meet with him in city hall to discuss their concerns. And, let’s not forget, O’Brien’s pushing the City of Worcester to hire local contractractors/companies for local city construction work and other jobs.
My list goes on and on. We have become one of O’Brien’s biggest cheerleaders! We regret the not so great past in which we defended Grace Ross to Joe’s detriment (BUT GRACE would support Joe on all his issues – we know it!)
But I digress! Everything that Mayor Joseph O’Brien proposed for this city was the right thing to do – the Catholic thing to do.
Many of O’Brien’s detractors – the morons – couldn’t wait to kick O’Brien out of the mayor’s chair this election cycle because they were afraid of the vision of the city Joe was presenting to us all – a picture, I think, that is the true snapshot of where Worcester is in the early part of the 21’st century and where it is going. Immigrants, the rising Latino population, an underclass that has not been helped enough, good, safe housing for our poor families (to stabilize our schools!), the environment … . These are all truths that will continue to bloom as the years pass, years after we all bite the Wormtown dust.
My guess? O’Brien would have won the mayoral seat again. He is too well liked and respected by lots of good people, he had the support of the unions (even though he pushed them to pay a teeny bit more on their health insurance premiums), and the business community likes what he was/is doing for them (for example, the business round table he set up).
This would be a truly sad time if O’Brien had decided to pull out of the Worcester city council all together.
We, however, are lucky. Joseph O’Brien is still running for an At Large City Council seat. We are ecstatic!
We say YES to Joe O’Brien – yes! to his vision of Worcester and his continuing the fab work he is doing for all of us – especially the Worcester of tomorrow.