Tag Archives: Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus

Go, Gordon Davis, go!

Icy road 12-30-15
CM Ed Augustus and DPW head Paul Moosey fucked up when it came to deploying snowplows this past snowstorm. Some say Moosey’s got the personality of a wet dish rag. Or slushy street.

Snow’s Limited Judgment

By Gordon Davis

Snow, rain, freezing rain, and a flash freeze came to Worcester on December 29, 2015. As of late afternoon of December 30, 2015 many of the streets in Worcester are still ice packed and unplowed.

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., has stated in his December 30, 2015 public letter, “Many of our streets are not in the condition our taxpayers have the right to expect.”

Augustus has admitted in his letter that the wrong decision “was made.” The use of the passive voice in the assignment of blame leaves open and unclear who is to blame for this mess. Most politicians are skilled at the use of the passive voice to shift blame.

The city manager in his letter also said the Worcester Department of Public Works (DPW) deployed salters and sanders well before the precipitation arrived. However, it did not call in the plows because the forecast was for “slush.” I suppose this makes some sense.

When it became clear to the DPW, the weather and street conditions would be more than just slush, the DPW called in the plows in the late afternoon of December 29, 2015. This does not seem to have been entirely accurate, as many of the main streets are still ice covered inn the late afternoon of December 30, 2015, especially the break down lanes.

I had not seen one plow truck on my street or anywhere in Worcester on December 30, 2015.  Perhaps the city manager can say what streets were plowed.

DPW Commissioner Paul Moosey said there was a limited response to the flash freezing of snow and rain. Unfortunately, his response not only did not excuse the error in judgment, but failed to address another important issue. 

The issue of pedestrians was not addressed. Because of the ice and snow, the sidewalks have to be shoveled and treated.

We pedestrians have gotten used to the failure of some property owners to shovel and treat their sidewalks.

Even the City of Worcester fails to do so on some of their properties.  When a sidewalk is unshoveled or untreated pedestrians usually can walk in the break down lanes in the streets.

But this storm we could not.

The breakdown lanes were not plowed and were as bad as the unshoveled sidewalks. Plowed streets being important for pedestrians did not seem to be a concern for Augustus or Moosey of the DPW. Neither of whom mentioned us in their public communiqués.

This lack of concern seems to fit the pattern of Worcester ignoring or marginalizing pedestrians.

There seems to be about one pedestrian death per week in Worcester.

There is a perception that the police looks first to see if the pedestrian was at fault and then looks for the fault of the driver in a pedestrian motorist accident.

It is time to have a default law assuming that the motorist who hits a pedestrian is always at fault for not yielding to a pedestrian.

Getting back to the snow and ice issues, the City Manager Augustus should review how decisions are made in terms of when to do more than a “limited” response to road conditions. Augustus should take full responsibility for any and all errors of judgment and stop using the passive voice in assigning blame.

It was shameful how Governor Charlie Baker shifted blame for last season’s MBTA failures. This season’s failures clearly are the responsibility of Governor Baker.

I hope Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus does not trap himself into this shameful practice of shifting blames. He should own up to this and other errors in judgments he has made.  

My Impromptu meeting with Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus

Augustus
Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. photo: Bill Coleman

By Gordon Davis

I met Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus for the first time Saturday, October 24, 2015. I was standing outside of the Belmont AME Zion Church in Worcester. Mr. Augustus walked by on his way to the NAACP forum on education. As most people know by now I am legally blind, with only reduced sight in one eye. For that reason I did not recognize the city manager. I said to him: “I think I know you.”

Mr. Augustus identified himself, and then to my surprise he said, “You are Gordon Davis and you write hateful things about me.”

I thought politicians have thicker skins and do not get upset about things written about them.

I responded that I never wrote any thing hateful about him.

I challenged him to cite one example of any hate speech or even anything personal about him.

Mr. Augustus said he could not at the moment think of anything hateful that I had said about him.

I said I thought he was maliciously prosecuting the four BlackLives Matter protesters.

He said the courts would decide the issue. Then he went into this monologue about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail and that protesters should go to jail. 

My wife reminded me as we stood talking to Mr. Augustus not to lose my temper. So Mr. Augustus and I started a back and forth on the issue.

Mr. Augustus said the Black Lives Matter protesters disturbed the peace at Kelley Square because the truck driver was “inching into the protester.”

I told Mr. Augustus that the truck driver’s “inching” was a form of assault.

Mr. Augustus said the driver was provoked by the presence of the Black Lives Matter protester.

I told Mr. Augustus that provocation was not a defense for assault. 

You can not hit or threaten someone because he calls you a name. You can not claim that there is a disturbance of the peace because people hold a sign saying “BlackLives Matters.”

The issue of the lack of prosecution of the dog owners in Worcester’s Boynton Park was brought up by my wife.

She said the City of Worcester knows the name of the violators at Boynton Park and that they provoked the City of Worcester worker.

At Boynton Park, the City brought charges against a City of Worcester worker driving a truck in Boynton Park – but not against the truck driver at Kelly Square.

Mr. August said that was different, but he did not give an explanation as to how it was different.

Mr. Augustus offered three different rationales for the City of Worcester seeking charges against the Kelley Square protesters:

The first was that the City of Worcester offered the protesters a deal that amounted to extortion; don’t protest again and the City will not seek charges.

The second is the Worcester Police saying it saw a video.

The third is Mr. Augustus’ comment that protesters should go to jail like Dr. King.

My first impression of Mr. Augustus is that he is thin-skinned and he holds grudges.

He is not above using state power to get his way – even if that use of power is marginally legitimate and possible unlawful.

I think that the defense attorneys for the Bkack Lives Matter protesters at Kelley Square should call on Mr. Augustus and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme to testify under oath on November 9, 2015, to get evidence on how they formed the decision to seek charges against the protesters.

This information should be made public.

I think a jury might see the malicious prosecution by City Manger Augustus and Police Chief Gemme. Evidence of this possible malicious prosecution could be dispositive and help a jury understand the case better.

Worcester and the Department of Justice – meeting #1, May 18, 2015

By Gordon Davis

The first of several race relations discussions initiated by Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus began last night at the YWCA, Worcester. The discussions, so far, seemed poorly designed and did not reach the people who needed to be at the table.

Young men of color were conspicuously absent.

In the meeting room, which was filled to capacity, young men of color and those who interact with them could be counted on one hand.

Muhammad Ali-Salaam of the Community Relations Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) explained as best he could what the discussions were about. He had with him a team of facilitators who sat at each table.

Mr. Ali-Salaam said that the DOJ came at the request of the City Manager. The discussions on race relations were intended to vet Augustus’ plan for more diversity in Worcester government/public life and to get input from the community. Augustus said he is hopeful that these discussions would be more fruitful than the other discussions on race held previously in Worcester.

In response to a question about the DOJ investigating the Worcester Police Department for misconduct and Worcester City government for malicious prosecution, Mr. Ali-Salaam said the petition for such investigations should go to Ms. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for this district. She has a field office in Worcester.

Mr. Culin Owyang, Deputy Attorney General for Massachusetts, said he and the Attorney General hoped to have a positive impact on Worcester’s discussions on race and to give them some structure.

On the subject of Worcester District Attorney (DA) Joseph Early Jr. recusing his office from the prosecution of a Worcester police officer accused of beating a shackled prisoner and transferring the prosecution to Attorney General Maura Healy’s office, Mr. Owyang had no comment.

He said DA Early should be asked those questions. He had no comment on why DA Early did not erect a legal wall around the prosecution or appoint a special prosecutor.

Several people in attendance said the racial tension in Worcester has been centered around Black Lives Matter demonstrations and Worcester Police misconduct and alleged public safety issues at North High School.

There were few, if any protesters, from Black Lives Matter and no high school students from North High School.

Why???

The outreach could be better for the city’s upcoming discussions on public safety and education.

Two young men of color who were at the meeting expressed disappointment with the low turnout of young men of color.

Born Taylor, a young Black man, said he felt that some good could come from the discussions, but he also felt that the division of attendees by table could have been better. He thought discussions would not attain some of their goals if more young men of color did not attend.

Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera, a young Hispanic man, said he came in order to help the improvement of the city. He was especially motivated because now he had a child in the Worcester Public Schools.

Like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Encarnacion-Rivera hoped that more young men of color would attend the future discussions.

Two Worcester city councillors, Gary Rosen and Sarai Rivera, said they were there to learn more.

City Manager Augustus said we should not be held captive by the past, where similar discussions started out enthusiastically but nothing significant came about.

One white woman said there is no racial problem in Worcester. She said that there were only agitators stirring things up, causing the problems. While she was speaking, my thoughts went to the old civil rights movement where Bull Connors said something similar about happy Negroes and outside agitators.

Another white woman said some in the room were unaware that the term “color blindness” in terms of race had shifted from a relatively progressive phrase to a code word for institutional racism. Although honest and a plea for discourse, such comments will make the discussions difficult for some people of color.

A black woman who said that the DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police was booed by some white people, even though the facilitators told the participants that they should be respectful of everyone’s ideas and opinions.

Instead of reducing racial tensions in Worcester, the discussions might be the source of increased racial tensions.

One person noticeably absent was Brenda Jenkins of the YMCA and the Mosaic Cultural Complex. She is an important Black leader in the City of Worcester. Several people came to me and asked me where Brenda was. They speculated that she might not have come because the populations she works with did not go.

There are also rumors that the City of Worcester is pressuring Brenda’s program – the Mosaic Cultural Complex-  by reviewing the funds the City of Worcester awards her group. Is Augustus going to pull Brenda’s funding to pressure Brenda to “shut up”? Or has that already happened? Or has Brenda, like other Black leaders in Worcester before her, people of color on the city payroll, people of color with ties to Worcester city government/jobs/funds self-censoring herself??? To save her city money?

I suppose the politics of Worcester might suddenly change, and the city will take more substantial and positive actions towards race relations.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like business as usual – or worse.

All that glitters is not golden public policy  

By Gordon Davis

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus released his report on how to make Worcester a more diverse city last week. His ideas are reasonable but late, inadequate and besides the point.

The ideas raised by Augustus (the list was published in the daily but REMOVED within 48 hours!) are mainly old ideas that have failed or old ideas that should have been implemented in Worcester decades ago.

The big idea in the report is the creation of a “Chief Diversity Officer” whose job is to make sure that different populations in Worcester know about and apply for City of Worcester jobs. This should have been an ongoing effort by the City with or without a Chief Diversity Officer. I suppose Augustus will now have a scapegoat to point to when, due to Worcester’s  institutional racism, the City’s work force does not reflect its population.

Another big idea that failed and is being reestablished is the so called Worcester Clergy/ Police Alliance. The problem with this “alliance” is that the well meaning Clergy do not have much influence beyond their own congregations. The police, the Mayor, and the Manager will get well meaning Clergy to stand behind them in photo opps, but do not expect anything substantial to come of it.

The restructuring of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee is just a reshuffling of papers. Nobody in our city government listens to them, and the good people there do not want to get on the bad side of their sponsors by being too critical.

Like other city committees, the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee serves at the pleasure of the City Manager.

The issues of police body cameras, cruiser cameras, and lock up camera should have been done years ago.

It is being done now because of the pressure of the Black (all) Lives Matter new civil rights movement.

As the manager’s report says, the use of these items are being “investigated.” What is not in the report is civilian review of the police. Neither the City Manager who is the boss of the police nor the Worcester Human Rights Commission has a mention in the reports as a means of review by the public of any alleged police misconduct.

The other items in the report regarding education, voting, youth jobs, etc are already being implemented.

There is nothing new in the report.

I am sure all of the city’s politicians, including new political candidates, will be happy with the report, as it relieves them of the responsibility to tell the truth about the lack of transparency in Worcester government.

Some of the city’s right wing politicians will be critical because they do not want to do anything about diversity and are ready to move out to Holden when the Worcester becomes too diverse.

People I like to call “misleaders” who ingratiate themselves with the politicians will be scrambling to take advantages of some of the so-called new ideas in the report. Many of them are now thinking about how they can be hired as the city’s  “Chief Diversity Officer.” Others actually like to be photographed with the leaders to show they have political “juice.”

Who’s gonna help a brother get further?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yGVANkaGiM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Hurtin’

DSCF7052

South Worcester Neighborhood Center Executive Director Ron Charette (right) and his brother at SWNIC’s 2014 Holiday celebration. More than 1,000 families went to Camp Street and were given holiday meals, new toys for children, personal care products and/or winter clothing. Ron helps Worcester folks get through tough times! (photo by Ron O’Clair)

By Rosalie Tirella

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me (cuz this is Worcester politics), but IT DOES (cuz I’m STILL an idealist): Worcester city officials and our local state legislators are gonna pretty much let the South Worcester Neighborhood Center die.

Close its Camp Street doors forever.

Stop caring for and helping hundreds of low-income/working-class South Worcester, Main South and Green Island families.

Within the next couple of months. 

Pathetic! Our Worcester city councilors and state legislators vote themselves raises left and right, give themselves perks galore, own nice homes, vacation homes, buy Worcester rental property at sweetheart deal rates, etc, etc, but they can’t come up with the paltry amount of $$ it takes to help a social service agency put food into the mouths of poor kids.

Or give warm winter clothes to a poor local guy or gal who needs to brave the Woo elements.

Nope! It’s to hell with you! I’ve got mine! And Worcester’s destitute get more destitute. Every day the city feels poorer, more and more like Pottersville in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Before Jimmy Stewart rubs his eyes and realizes it was all a BAD DREAM.

SWNIC IS HURTIN!  

The South Worcester Neighborhood Center goes WITHOUT HEAT THIS WINTER!

It goes without $$ to pay its Crompton Park site manager. 

But who cares?

It’s only poor people! Most of them don’t even vote! And they’re not politically “connected” in any way, shape or form! So there are no consequences for politicians who drop the ball.

Oh, well!

Hungry little kids?

Too bad!They’re only Worcester’s future!

Why should Worcester political LEADERS care if SWNIC’s summer program for kids – the one that has Holy Cross college students volunteering with low income  kids all summer long FOR FREE FOR FAMILIES – why should our city councilors give a hoot if that program ends? And working parents have one less FREE child care option?

One more latch-key kid roaming Hacker Street shouldn’t make a bit of difference!

Why should the Worcester City Council or Worcester officials care if SWNIC’s food pantry closes? Or its referral program ends? Or its bilingual staff becomes unemployed?

Their tushies are warm on their SUV’s heated cushies! In some instances, courtesy of the Worcester taxpayer!

To enter a FREEZING COLD South Worcester Neighborhood Center in the middle of winter because Worcester city councilors or our local state legislators can’t cobble together the grant money or funds from somewhere to keep SWNIC staff and volunteers warm is heart-breaking.  The elderly SWNIC volunteers who come in to the center to knit winter hats and scarves for the poor of Cambridge, Southbridge, Webster or Canterbury streets have to sit in front of little electric space heaters to do their knitting!

Why should Worcester pols care? It’s only Worcester’s old people!  Why honor or even respect our senior citizens?! They just toiled in our factories, built this city! Who gives a fig?!

This brand of thoughtlessness was on full display when then Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, heading out the door to become Massachusetts’ newly minted LG, DOUBLED the salaries of all Worcester city councilors and Worcester school committee members pretty much on the heels of cutting the Worcester School Department’s recently hired minority teacher recruitment officer.  The person was part time and made around $20,000 a year.  Murray did this knowing there would be no political consequences for him because he was leaving city politics – only to self-destruct on the state and national political stages. Money, greed and selfishness brought Timmy down when he was lieutenant governor. Tim had a false sense of security because he graduated from, got his “diploma” from the Worcester School of Good Ol’ White Irish Boys Politics.  He, like the rest of his fellow grads, hit all the right benchmarks: white, Catholic, Irish, St. John’s High School, Holy Cross college, Fordham University or Boston College, trips to Ireland, Christ the King Church, those pointless, beige cable-knit sweaters … . Too bad Tim was a moron and threw all his blessings away! Too bad he wasn’t listening to more Sinead O’Connor and less crooked fundraiser pal. (For Murray to play the naive altar boy and deny knowing anything crooked was going on was a stupid Murray lie on top of more Murray lies!)

But Tim Murray begat City Manager Mike O’Brien, and former City Manager Mike O’Brien changed over the decade he lorded over us Worcesterites. In the end, Mike O’Brien became a Republican leading a Democratic city, and too many organizations and people with clout in Worcester resisted him. He couldn’t realize his vision. So he left. O’Brien, who once said, almost teary eyed!, that Worcester was THE VERY FIBER OF HIS VERY SOUL and who was also on a not-so-secret mission to kill all affordable housing in Worcester is now living in very Republican Southboro and schlepping affordable housing for Winn Development! HA! How’s that for poetic justice?!

But I digress!

It was Mike O’Brien, as Worcester City Manager, who began freezing South Worcester Neighborhood Center’s funding a few years back. But SWNIC Executive Director Ron Charette soldiered on, running the center, helping more people than ever, running a kick ass summer program, etc. He called O’Brien’s City Hall office and asked for meetings with O’Brien every other day. To talk, discuss the center and all the people it serves. O’Brien’s office never once returned Ron’s phone calls.

Then things got tighter. New City Manager Ed Augustus was supposed to meet with Ron, then cancelled, then acquiesced – but only if he could bring his lawyer to the meeting with Ron.

Pathetic.

Does Augustus know a Worcester social service center needs heat? Does Augustus know the center will close without some money earmarked for it? Does Augustus, who makes almost $200,000 as HEAD OF WORCESTER and lives just outside BOSTON IN MILLIS, where I’m certain he supports his town’s social service center, even CARE?

Like I said: SWNIC is hurtin’. Which means more poor families in Worcester will be hurtin’. Soon.

The WPD: City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council’s tool of retaliation and harassment

By Gordon T. Davis

The harassment of the Black Lives Matter protesters by the Worcester Police and by some on the Worcester City Council is unethical and possibly illegal.

The City government is wasting Worcester taxpayers’ money and time by looking for new laws to harass the protesters. Instead, it should be having open discussions about real policing policies, including police misconduct.

The following are some issues for which the Worcester City Council should be setting policy, but is not:

prostitution in Main South

increased shootings in Worcester

increased heroin overdoses in Worcester

the need or lack of need for stationary license plate readers

the use of body cameras on Worcester  police officers.

What are the Worcester City Council’s respective policies that it wants Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus to instruct the Worcester Police Department to effectuate? Do not expect anything controversial …

At the January 13, 2015, Worcester City Council meeting Worcester City Councillor Konstantina Lukes said the Worcester Police were reduced to the tactics of harassment to drive out the people she did not like near her rental property in the Canal District.  The same seems to be taking place again with the Black Lives Matter protesters.

On January 20, 2015, Worcester Police Chief Gemme said he was looking into the actions by the Black Lives Matter protesters who stood out at Kelly Square on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. About 50 protesters, some holding signs on the sidewalk and others standing in the crosswalk, held up traffic that day for four and one half minutes. They did that to bring attention to the four and one-half hours Michael Brown lay dead in the street after being shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.

Like Councillor Lukes admitted at the Council meeting: Worcester police have been again reduced to a tool of retaliation and harassment.

The evidence that Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme is retaliating and harassing is the fact that he could not articulate any charges that could be brought against the protesters. His comments that he was looking into a “variety” of charges is evidence of the pretext. City Manager Augustus has said it was he who directed Police Chief Gemme to charge the Kelley Square protesters. He claimed they were disrupting people’s day to day lives and putting folks in danger.

The protesters who blocked I 93 near Boston two weeks ago were charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and willfully blocking an ambulance.

None of these charges apply to any of the protesters in Worcester. Worcester sidewalks and crosswalks, like any municipal walkway, are public spaces and there was not a trespassing violation.  The Worcester police did not witness any disorderly conduct. There were no arrests and therefore there could not have been any resistance of arrest. The protesters allowed an ambulance to pass without the ambulance even having to stop.

The Worcester City Council will have to create another oppressive ordinance to charge the Black Lives Matter protesters like it did when it banned panhandling or shooed the We Are The 99% protesters off the Worcester City Common.  Then Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien wanted to meet with the protesters, but they were anathema to then Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien, who kept them off public space, often used through history for the community to gather together – our Worcester Common. Once again, city officials will hide behind the straw man of “public safety.”

At the City Council meeting of January 20, 2015, Councillor Lukes and others compelled the Worcester City Manager to explain the “protocols” for demonstrations. Although the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have gone on for months, City Manager Augustus has not said much about them. Now Augustus is tamping them down.

The Worcester City Manager is supposed to be the “civilian” review board for Worcester. It is clear that Augustus is not capable of making any necessary reforms to the Worcester Police Department.

I can’t remember any time that the Worcester City Council deliberated any policy for the Worcester Police Department. As a rule it allows the Police Chief to do as he sees fit, and our city managers have just rubber-stamped police activities. It is ironic that police policy was deliberated at the January 20, 2015, City Council meeting –  when the issue was the Black Lives Matter protesters.

I was told that the City Council has requested about 40 reports from the City Manager about the activities of the Worcester Police and none have been given to the Worcester City Council. Police Chief Gemme uses as an excuse for his non-compliance the lack of police personnel to do the research.

No one really knows what is going on in the Worcester Police Department.