The switcher-oo! (OR: This is why no one votes in Worcester!)

By Rosalie Tirella

Why did just 9% of registered voters in Worcester go to the polls in the recent city preliminary election? Moves like this one: After Mayor Joe O’Brien announced he would not seek re-election, Worcester At Large City Councilor Joe Petty, one of the boys in the Murray/Rushton boys club – the boys club that has been running this town for years, decided – just hours later – to run for Mayor of Worcester.

Petty made his announcement in less than 24 hours!

Just like that! Amazing! Spectacular!

I bet Petty wasn’t planning on running for mayor of New England’s second largest city, had no pressing issues he wanted to champion, had no special vision of the Worcester that he wanted to realize. He simply got a phone call from the boys club and they said: Run, Joe, run! Run for mayor! KILL KONNIE LUKES! RUN AGAINST HER SO SHE WON’T BE WORCESTER MAYOR AGAIN! (Lukes was mayor prior to O’Brien) And Petty, the good soldier, said OK. No biggie.

What a cynical move – on Petty’s part and the Boys’ Club. What a cynical way to run your politics. What a crumby way to run a city or present yourself to the voters.

This is why no one votes in Worcester! What’s the point? voters ask themselves. It’s all pre-planned, pre-ordained.

Hell, Petty is a good egg, but he has zero charisma and has never displayed any kind of leadership on any city issue – and I have been watching our city council for years. Yes, he wants Verizon’s tax loopholes closed; yes, he wants our cable contract with Charter looked at very carefully. But that is all I remember Petty getting passionate – well, not exactly passionate about – but at least leading a discussion about at city council meetings.

Other than those few times, you don’t hear a peep from Petty on Tuesday nights (when the city council meets).

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Does the city of Worcester need another gas bag/blowhard city councilor a la City Counilor Phil Palmieri, who can blather on and on and on and on before his colleagues and TV cameras, reporters? I mean, Palmeiri can actually make his eyes well up (they are filled with crocodile tears, no doubt!) as he takes a stand for or against something! An academy award for Phil! (those melodramatic Italians!!!)

Then there’s District 3 Paul Clancy who – as the “dean” of the city council – feels obliged to get up on all Tuesday nights and put things in perspective (historical, social, psychological – you name it). Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Shuddup already, Paul!

But Petty is not an egomaniac like these guys. He actually speaks when he has something to say – when he wants to make a point. He usually follows the Rushton/boys club lead but sometimes he stakes his own ground.

Still, Petty’s performance/record as city councilor doesn’t indicate a mayor in waiting – a mayor just waiting to be born. Someone who is going to WOW this town.

Why is Joe Petty running for Worcester mayor then? Because he got a phone call from the Murray boys club. The club that has made Worcester politics/governement and the City of Worcester workforce so incestuous. And the club – lead by Tim Murray and Rick Rushton screamed: DON’T LET KONNIE LUKES BECOME MAYOR! THROW YOUR HAT INTO THE RING! WE WILL HAVE ALL OUR TROOPS BEHIND YOU!

And Petty, like the good “pol-bot” he is, said OK.

Not exactly the way folks want their mayor to “arrive.”

Realty check: Worcester loses when politics are “played” this way. New ideas don’t come to the fore. New people don’t bring their new perspectives. The same characters and ideas are recyled election “cycle,” after election cycle.

So why should voters vote for a person/system that has locked them out for years? It’s true. Most Worcesterites are locked out of good paying City of Worcester jobs (they all go to the city councilors’ pals and relatives), good Worcester careers (political and municipal – it’s who you know), good Worcester real estate deals, the inside track – on anything really. Their lives don’t change in big ways. The unions get fatter, our teachers get more high maintenance and tax payers foot the bill.

Voters are fed up! That is why they aren’t voting.

If Worcesterites know they are simply going to re-annoint the person – Petty – who has been annointed by the Power Club, they say: To Hell with it. I will stay home. It is always the same old same old in this town.

Being the mayor of Worcester is a great job! It is a great, important job that needs to be mulled over for years maybe, dreamed about for years, prayed for even. Not something to just say OK to just because you got a phone call telling you to run for mayor, just to keep another person – Konnie Lukes who truly wants to be and loved being our mayor – from holding the office. The position deserves a person who is serious about the job – and also wicked excited about it!

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