Tag Archives: Worcester elections

Worcester voters have spoken (a few of us at least!)  

More Americans must vote! This means YOU, Worcester!

By Edith Morgan
The figures are in, except for a few provisional ballots – and depending on your point of view, the news is good, at least for most incumbents. All except one on the School Committee were returned, and the May or retained his position.

I have tried to figure out what all this means: are the voters well satisfied with their representatives, are they leery of change, or do they merely vote for familiar names and faces? Do the incumbents have so much greater an advantage over new candidates or are their supporters so much more loyal and active?

There was in this election a definite uptick in the number who voted: In 2013, only 14.4 % voted, whereas this year on November 3rd, 21.34% went to the polls. Though that is a good-sized increase, that is still a pretty dismal showing – it means that just over 1 in 5 registered voters select the people who will govern us locally for the next two years.

The small turnout could not have been caused by a lack of choices, because we had enough choices to need a primary run-off. And running in District requires less money, fewer signatures, and less “shoe leather” going door to door. Yet only three of the 5 District races were contested. 

And only District 2 has a new councilor, due to the vacating of that seat by Phil Palmieri, who first decided to go for an at-large council seat, and then withdrew altogether. The other new face in the council is Khrystian King, who gained the seat let by Rick Rushton, who chose not to run again.

What conclusions do I draw from these facts: It would seem that despite the constant complaints we hear about our local government, those who bother to vote are sufficiently satisfied with things as they are, to continue to entrust the steering of our ship of local state to the same group. I have to assume that those who voted knew enough about the candidates, followed their activities, and felt they could trust them to do the job.

Of course, we are also all aware that there are a lot of people who merely complain, but do not do anything to improve things. Whether they intended it or not, the present council will have a bit more variety than the previous one: with Mr. King replacing Phil Palmieri  there, we  now have at last ONE non-white male on the council, one who works with youth, minority families, and who is not a lawyer. Mr. King also slightly lowers the average age of the council so perhaps he will introduce a newer, younger outlook to the proceedings.

The balance of male-to-female councilors is still skewed in favor of males:  of the eleven councilors, four are female: two district councilors (Candy Carlson and Sarai Rivera) are female, and of the five district councilors, two (Lukes and Toomey) are women. So, four of eleven is not too bad – depending on your point of view.

We do have a number of careers represented: as is so often in government in the U.S., there are lawyers, of course. But we also have realtors, teachers, social workers, and activists represented. So I am hopeful that their varied backgrounds will give balance and breadth to their decisions on the next council.

There are occasional murmurs about changing the Charter, as some people still feel that a strong mayor form of government would put more power in the hands of one elected official who could then more easily be held responsible. The evidence for that assumption seems rather inconclusive, as there are cities of our size with either of these forms, and they seem to succeed regardless of the form. So it has seemed to me that it is not so much the form as it is some other factors. In our case we have been very fortunate to have great cooperation between our Mayor, our city manager, and also our School committee members and our superintendents. It would appear that the very important ingredient is a spirit of cooperation, and a sense of mission where all are going in the same direction.

There were more changes on the School Committee than on the council: two of the six incumbents were not returned (Hilda Ramirez and Tracy Novick) – replaced by Donna Colorio, who had been on the Committee before, and a newcomer, Molly McCullough. I was very surprised by the loss of Tracy Novick, as I had been very impressed by her thoroughness, her energy, and her dedication to excellence in public education. What these changes portend for the very important decision that will face this school committee – the choosing of a new superintendent to succeed Dr. Boone, we will have to watch closely.

I would hope that all the members – new and old – would be strong advocates for excellence in our schools, for equity in distribution of funds so that allegedly “underperforming” schools would immediately get the financial and academic support they deserve, and for protecting our children from the evils that beset our public schools: more important than who is superintendent is the ongoing question of how best to bring out the best in each student, agree on a comprehensive curriculum that all can master, in their own time, and to return to teachers the power to decide how things must be taught, and to enable them to maintain control of their now overfilled classrooms.

We must enforce the regulations already on the books that hold parents responsible for sending their children to school ready and willing to learn, having learned to respect others’ rights. We have many support systems for those unable to do this, and should not hesitate to use them.
Worcester has so many great and innovative schools, and so many cooperative ventures, that there must be a place for every child’s individual needs, talents and interests. The school Committee spends over half of the entire city budget- and serves around 25,000 students.

As the world changes and moves, our schools have to remain flexible and innovative, always planning to meet the future. As we live longer, and many of the mind-bending, boring jobs are done by machines, we will have to deal with more time beyond work, when we can be productive.
So look to our school committee members to be imaginative and creative, to understand what our children will need to survive and thrive in the future, and to see to it that the funds are available to teachers and administrators to implement new ideas, but always to provide the foundation learnings and skills a child will need to succeed in America, not just in Worcester.
The people we have elected represent a shamefully small fraction of the total voting population. Even the 21% of voters who voted in the present group are not enough to be truly representative.

But I do hope that at least they kept in mind the good of those who did not show up, and selected representatives who will work for everyone’s good, and will truly love this city and see it move forward. And I hope that they will always remember two of my guiding ideas:

1.      “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” and
2.      “ Always keep your word soft and gentle, for someday you may have to eat them.“                                           
Above all, let’s keep our eyes on our representatives, and let them know how they are doing. Remember, no one can do you any harm until you give them the power to do so. Voting is only the beginning, not the end.

Go, Gordon Davis, go!!!!!!!!

STOP Arresting Kids at School! … and THE REAL RACE DIALOGUES

By Gordon Davis

In September 2015 there were reports of two fights between kids at North High School in Worcester. The details of the fights are sketchy, but it appears that the first fight was between two female students. That fight was broken up and the students taken to the office where while still upset they refused to comply with instructions given to them. Instead of being sent home and having them return with their parents, the two girls were arrested. Something similar happened with two male students.

When I went to high school I got into fights, but the police were never called and the disputes were handled administratively.

In both cases at North High School there were charges that nine staffers were assaulted but not injured or harmed when they tried to break up the respective fights. How the staffers were assaulted was not described in the news story. An assault is defined as a threat or an attempt to injury without actually injury. Battery is the charge for injury or harm intentionally inflicted.

It might have been better for all concerned for the students not to have been arrested at school. Arresting kids in the heat of the moment when there is no immediate clear and present danger will, more likely than not, lead to bad decisions by the staff and the police, as well as be harmful to the kids. The schools know who the kids are and where they live; there is no chance that they will flee the state. There is no need for arrests.

Should there be a need for legal actions then this should be decided after the emotions of the event have passed. The child and parent could be summoned to court. The whole concept of putting children in handcuffs and having them booked  at the police is not good pedagogy.

On September 19, 2015, a new group called Men of Color Think Tank organized what it called “Real Race Dialogues.” The Men of Color Think Tank seems to be an outgrowth of the BlackLives Matter new civil rights movement.  Its membership is multi-racial, but some people are called “white allies” instead of members.

Michael Jerry one of the organizers of the event and apparent spokes person for Men of Color Think Tank gave an inspirational introduction to the Real Race Dialogues.

Although enthusiastic, many of the things he spoke about have a history in Worcester. For example, Mr. Jerry thought the best way to get a person of color elected was to have a slate of candidates. It is generally accepted that bullet voting is the better way to get a candidate elected. It is bullet voting that is thought to allow the top vote getters to get the most votes. Mr. Jerry’s enthusiasm and seeming ability to look at new ideas will go a long way to help the organization and its goals.

At the so called Real Race dialogues there was a table at which the participants discussed education. My impression is that there was honest and creative talk about racial issues in Worcester. Our table included parents, teachers, students, and other people sincere in their desire to end racial disparities in schools.  

Several issues came to be discussed: the development of a school to job pipeline, the coordinating of organizations working with children to ensure that each child at risk has a mentor, alternative curriculum and after school programs, and the ways of reversing the false perception of North High Schools as “bad” kids.

The issue of North High School took up most of the discussion time and some concrete plans were made including changing school policies such that no kids are arrested at school. Although this no arresting kids at school policy makes good pedagogy and common sense,  expelling the  criminal justice system out of the  schools will be a difficult task as many people still fear Black and Latino and poor kids . These misguided people, some of whom are racists, want to use the power of the state to “control” the dark skin people they fear.

Black Lives Matter and Worcester Elections

By Gordon Davis

The elections in Worcester have been affected by the new civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.

Its effects are also being felt nationally. The effects are not always as obviously dramatic as incumbent Worcester City Coucilors not making the cut off of twelfth place on the Worcester ballot, but the effects are seen in new ways racism has played a direct role.  To a large extent the entire election season has been framed by racial issues not only in Worcester, but in the campaigns of Clinton, Stein, Sanders and Trump.

The race issue has been brought to the front by Black Lives Matter. There has been a wall of color blindness in past Worcester elections and other important issues, such as jobs and education. For example, many people still feel that the killing of Cristino Hernandez was not a racial issue; other people turned a color blind eye to the issues of disparate unemployment among dark skin people (people of color). Today the City of Worcester is working hard to pretend its policies of police accountability, jobs and education are not racially disparate. Just look at the fact that the City of Worcester has dissolved the Affirmative Action Committee and replaced it with a Diversity Committee which has nebulous responsibilities.

Black Lives Matter has changed most of this color blindness pretext for racially disparate policies.  When Worcester City Councilors Michael Gaffney and Gary Rosen got up on the council floor and said that they wanted an audit of Mosaic (a center in the poorest Worcester neighborhood) and that it is not an issue of racist retaliation, everyone in the City knows something different. These racists are some of the people whom Worcester City Councilor Konnie Lukes calls the “Trumps Effect” on which she is counting on to send her back to the Worcester City Council.  It has been made clear to many in the Black and Latino communities which politicians are pretending to be against racism and who is using racism to whip up the “Trump  Effect.”

Black Lives Matter has changed temporarily the way the police respond to complaints from the public. The police are more courteous and responsive for now. The police are will adapt transparency as a policy, as seen in the Worcester Police Department. The Massachusetts State Police has been named the most secretive police department in the country.  The City of Worcester’s malicious prosecution of the Black Lives Matter protesters shows that the powers-that-be are afraid of mass demonstrations and disruptions.

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme have spent a lot of time and money in the courts. These disturbances of the peace will likely happen again in the near future, as the police are likely to return to their old ways. The chant of Black Lives Matter and others of “No Justice, No Peace” has taken on new and significant meaning.

Black Lives Matter exposed City Manager Augustus for the pretender that he is. He could have negotiated with the Kelley Square protesters about real change in the City’s policies; instead he retaliated against them on the most frivolous and non-existent evidence. The City Manager then came out with a 28 point plan that is just a shell game shifting responsibilities from one department to another. Worse still the Manager initiated a laughing stock known as the Department of Justice Hearings.

Further to be said regarding the elections in Worcester: some people stepped forward to replace the old backward thinking incumbents. Black Lives Matter created the environment that allowed 11 people from the Black, Latino and Asian communities to believe they have a chance of effectuating change through Worcester City Council service. Unfortunately, many candidates did not make the required twelfth place preliminary for the at-large election or the second place finish for the district elections.

A takeaway from the Worcester preliminary election is that people of color will unlikely win elections in districts in which White people are a majority. There have been some exceptions: all women of color candidates have won at large elections.  No men of color have won any election since Charles Scott did so in the 1910s.

Based on my knowledge and belief there are only two districts where there are large enough so called minority’s voters to affect an election: The first is Sarai Rivera’s district 4 council district where she defeated Barbara Haller some years ago. The second district is Mary Keefe’s state representative district.

The effects of Black Lives Matter on society are not over and have not been fully felt.