By Rosalie Tirella
Driving around my city a few weeks ago, photographing all the POW! WOW! WORCESTER murals going up and all the attendant excitement, I, like everyone else in Worcester – except Worcester City Councilors Konnie Lukes and Mike Gaffney, two mural-haters and two of the most cynical politicians Woo’s ever had the misfortune of electing to public office – Can we torpedo them to Russia?), said to myself: WOW! WORCESTER IS ON THE MOVE! REALLY! THIS TIME IT’S GONNA HAPPEN! REALLY!
Yesterday, driving around downtown, I had second thoughts. My enthusiasm wavered, my hopes deflated. The ghost town-ness of our downtown had resurfaced – not so much on North Main Street by the courthouse but, in Main Middle, the part of Main Street that I and many Worcesterites most strongly associate with Worcester downtown commerce and bustle. Growing up that’s where most of the shops and restaurants and movie houses were. That is where the action was! Denholms, Woolworths, American Supply, Shacks, Marcus, the Mart (up the street a bit), the Eden, Rovezzis, Showcase Cinemas, the Paris Cinema, Sylvia’s Dress Shoppe…not to mention City Hall, lawyers’ offices, dentists’ offices and on and on.
All this amazing action in our Main Middle! – lots of it geared towards the folks in the middle(class). Not fancy restaurants – they’re great for the Boston wannabes and transplants, well heeled millenials and millenial transplants – but what about us natives? The peeps who give the city continuity, solidity? The folks who are here day in and day out? Downtown needs shops, eateries and businesses that once catered to Worcester’s secretaries, clerks, teachers and teachers aides, solid middle/lower middle class manager types and working class heroes who had solid jobs in our factories and owned the three deckers they lived in and had a car and were maybe even pinning their aspirations on a son or daughter who would be the first in the family to go to college.
A HUGE chunk of the Worcester population.
The population I am most passionate about, the people that may be reluctant to join in an urban core revival cuz they’re not 1. students or 2. part of the trendy, chi chi crowd. They’ll shop at the Auburn Mall, grab a bite to eat on Shrewsbury Street, spend their money some place else in the city, but they’re not gonna be drawn to a downtown that, for the present, caters to the elites and students … and the very poor.
MAIN MIDDLE NEEDS WORCESTER’S MIDDLE CLASS!
LET’S WORK IT FOR THE THOUSANDS OF JUST REGULAR FOLKS! Worcester has a ton of them…they are in so many of our great neighborhoods! The neighborhoods with the little capes, ranches and bungalows.
I’d love to see a Target downtown, more shops, yes, but Target too! Regular people love shopping at the big red T! It is not the devil. If located in the right downtown spot, it will draw folks into the center of our city. And … Many small businesses only employ family and a handful of close friends. Chain stores are more open…they take job applications and hire the best job seeker! These days minimum wage is 10 bucks an hour. Not great – we need $15 – but it’s a start. I support the push to have big chains pay their employees MORE $$ than minimum wage – they are multi-billion-dollar global corporations!! – they can handle $15 an hour. EASILY.
As I was saying … I felt letdown yesterday in our downtown: the lack of people doing stuff; the paucity of men, women and children window shopping, grabbing a quick bite, buying stuff made me sad. Worcester’s downtown, like most great cities downtowns, must be THE place to be on a Saturday! The mixing and the mingling of middle class and working class, well heeled and no heeled, rich and POOR should not be feared! It’s intoxicating!
City Councilor Mike Gaffney
By Rosalie Tirella
Was there ever a bigger bully than Worcester City Councilor Mike Gaffney? Was there ever a Woo politician more intent on taking a fairly progressive, compassionate Democratic city – Worcester – and turning it into … Pottersville?
And to spew his dark cloud over our children, women and needy while chanting his pro-police, law and order military, rah rah rah jingoism! A perfect fascist! And yet it’s a lie: in the city council chamber, before the city council, before all of Worcester, City Councilor Michael Gaffney denies our city the tools it needs to solve our problems – doesn’t want the City of Worcester to pony up the extra money to make our police force stronger, doesn’t want a progressive city manager to feel the love of a grateful city council and city. ..
That is until something juicy hits the papers – like cops in our schools – then the Gaffer will get up and grandstand and subject us to his slippery brand of demagoguery … MORE COPS IN OUR SCHOOLS!!! he’ll demand, even though he was against hiring more a while back. Is it because Mayor Joe Petty – a TRUE COP SUPPORTER and progressive mayor – was pushing for it? So now – without studying the cops in schools issue, without really thinking through a complex urban issue – the GAFFER, before the TV cameras and reporters shouts MORE COPS!
How cynical. And then his buddy Aiden Kearney, the brain behind the racist and classist Turtle Boy blog, will rush into support the Gaffer and dump his dumptruck-load of ugliness on us all.
So tonight Gaffney, before the Worcester City Council and the citizens of Woo, will get up and grandstand again – cuz this asshole thinks he can one day be the mayor of Worcester: HA HA HA HA!!! and believes this fight brings him a thousand votes closer to his goal.
He will take the brutal New England winter, the Nor’Easters that can cripple an entire county for days and say: WHY PUSH TO EXTEND City Manager ED AUGUSTUS’S CONTRACT NOW? LOOK AT SNOWPLOW GATE! And the Gaffer will begin the dance of the demagogues. He will shout, maybe illustrate his crooked argument with his own handmade posters – for the cameras, for his political career: LAST WINTER DURING A BIG SNOWSTORM THE PEEPS OF WOO WERE SLIPPING AND SLIDING ALL OVER THE PLACE. MY GOD! CAN WE GIVE ED OUR LOVE AND A CONTRACT EXTENSION AFTER THAT DEBACLE?!!!!##???!!!!##!!!
And on and on Gaffney will pontificate. Not for the safety of Worcester drivers and pedestrians. For the death of Ed Augustus, Joe Petty, Jim McGovern and the Democratic leaders who give our city its shape, if you will. The politicians who truly support our police union and teachers union, the politicians who’ve brought poor Worcester inner-city kids WPL book mobiles, RECREATION WORCESTER, after school programs … the guys and gals who’ve voted for living wages for laborers on city jobs … and more diversity in city departments. And a bustling down town jump-started with federal and state funds.
Mike Gaffney will have none of that.
He wants all that null and void because the Woo Democratic leaders made it happen, and Gaffney is head of the Republican Committe and wants his people in the power seats, as well as himself.
So tonight at the city council meeting he will say everything to make City Manager Ed Augustus look incompetent. He won’t have much to go on, but he’ll milk what little he has. Especially the New England weather.