By Gordon Davis
The public learned two things at last night’s Worcester City Council meeting:
The first is the City of Worcester may have bought a pig in a poke.
The second is Worcester City Councillors are easily intimidated by so called business investors, specifically Brady Sullivan developers of New Hampshire.
Last night the Worcester City Council approved Brady Sullivan’s purchase of the former Worcester County Courthouse, at North Main Street, green-lighting the project without:
a written contract
without a purchase and sales agreement
without a Community Benefits Agreement.
It seemed like all of the Worcester City Councillors know this is bad business practice.
Councillor Gary Rosen would not say whether he was happy or unhappy with the lack of transparency and the lack of documentation provided to the city council and to the public prior to last’s night vote. Despite his ignorance on the issue, Rosen voted to approve of the Brady Sullivan “deal.” He did say he wanted a good deal.
What does that mean?
Councillor George Russell also wanted a good deal. He at least gave a straight answer: He said he thought the way Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus excluded the Worcester City Council in the negotiations in a timely manner was not appropriate. He said information should have been provided by the City Manager before the City Manager made public the “understandings” with Brady Sullivan.
Kyhristian King, a candidate for Worcester City Councillor, showed the same caution as did Mr. Rosen. He wanted a good deal, but he would not say if he was unhappy with the transparency of the City Manager in the negotiations.
The head of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce and former Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray said he also wanted a good deal with Brady Sullivan. He wanted Worcester residents to get at least fifty percent of the jobs. However, he said because no public money was involved the City could not make obligatory legal demands on Brady Sullivan.
THERE IS PUBLIC MONEY: thr city got MILLIONS $$$$ of public funds FOR REMEDIAL WORK ON THE SITE!
Lenny Cooper, a long time activist and a member of the NAACP and the Worcester Community Labor Coalition, said the demands of the labor Coalition are fifty percent of hires by Brady Sullivan or their subcontractors be from the Worcester areas. Of that number fifteen percent should be so called minorities and seven per cent should be women.
So what is the real deal today?
There is none.
There is no written agreement that is legally enforceable on the issues of taxes, employment, mitigation of adverse changes to the neighborhood, or even a purchase and sale agreement. There is only a pig in the poke.
Especially disappointing is Worcester City Councillor Konnie Lukes who used to pride herself as a fiscal conservative and a watch dog for the public. She is also a lawyer who understands good business practice. In the matter of Brady Sullivan, Councillor Lukes endorsed the worse business practice of selling without a purchase and sale agreement. Lukes used to slam former Worcester mayors for their lack of transparency; now she is silent on that issue. She also last night brow beat the mayor and officials for being open to including the labor Coalition when other city development projects are up for consideration. It seems Lukes, 73, and with decades on the city council and school committee, is running out of gas. She is a shadow of her previous due diligence self.
For decades the City of Worcester has looked for the Holy Grail of development. It has gone through several iterations of the Worcester Commons Outlet. It has built a poorly designed Union Station that Amtrak did not want and that is losing money. There have been several changes to the plans for City Square, and it seems that this might be a money loser as well.
No one can say for sure how the old Court House project will turn out.
There are not documents to analyze.
There is only the lack of transparency of Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and the wishful thinking of the Worcester City Council.