By Gordon Davis
The City of Worcester has a long history of using police power to violate the constitutional rights of its residents and interfere in what are civil matters.
The City of Worcester ordinance regarding panhandling was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The pursuit of criminal charges against BlackLives Matter protesters by Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus was declared not to be a criminal matter by the Worcester Court.
The City of Worcester has also asked the Massachusetts Attorney General to investigate fraud charges against a predominantly Black-run community center, the Mosaic group, when the City’s own audit found no fraud.
Once again the Worcester City Council will decide on whether it will seek police force in what is clearly a civil matter.
At last night’s city council meeting City Councilor Moe Bergman petitioned the Council for an exception to State statutes. He wants landlords to have the ability to evict tenants in Worcester apartments who are charged with illegal possession of weapons.
Of course, anyone who has an illegal weapon is a cause of concern, and the police should be involved.
However, the issue is that of eviction – a wholly civil matter.
There are civil remedies other than increasing the police power of the City of Worcester: The best remedy is to have a clause in the lease that the lease can be terminated when there is a conviction of illegal weapon possession.
Even this might not be needed if the conviction results in incarceration. In any event, the lease will at some time expire and it does not have to be renewed.
For tenants at will the landlord can evict a tenant with a 30 day notice.
The landlord or business manager should have the common sense to screen a potential lessee BEFORE the lease is signed. This is standard business practice.
Mr. Bergman’s ordinance will probably be ruled unconstitutional if it reaches the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. It punishes people who have not been found guilty of any crime and presumed innocent. The other items in the so called Public Nuisance Ordinances of the State of Massachusetts and City of Worcester could also then be reviewed as well.
It seems to me that the petition will fail at the state level. No other city in the Commonwealth has such an ordinance, and the usual way to establish such use of police force would be through the State Legislature.
Reportedly, some elements of Mr. Bergman’s petition, as drafted by “Use-the-Police-First” City Manager Augustus, are downright silly. It includes a clause giving the District Attorney of Worcester County permission to evict tenants. As we all know, eviction is a civil matter and outside of the germane of the District Attorney.
This petition is especially bad, as it shows the influence that bad or incompetent landlords have on the making of laws. It also shows the propensity of the City government to use police force unnecessarily.