By Rosalie Tirella
After I wrote yesterday’s blog, I remembered this: You would think Mayor Joseph O’Brien has scored a few points with some of his detractors. After all, he is asking the city’s public school teachers to pay 25% of their health insurance premiums. (Good!) While a friend of labor, O’Brien knows that everyone – including our unions – needs to give a little these days, and Worcesterties will balk at paying higher taxes if they feel their money is simply going to the unions’ sky rocketing benefit packages. Going to pay 80% of our teachers’ health insurance! Worcester taxpayers are especially annoyed when folks in the private sector pay as much as 50% of their health insurance premiums – and our teachers are whining about paying only 25%. Worcester biz folks and rersidents balk at paying higher taxes when they have to listen to our teachers – most of whom make at least $70,000/year and many of whom pull down a salary of around $90,000 – think they are taking the moral high ground when they refuse to accept a 5% increase in their health insurance premiums.
So, of course, the Worcester Public School teachers union is giving O’Brien a hard time.
Then there is O’Brien’s support of Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone. Worcester is a provincial place – filled with people who accept no one outside their circles of trust (family, church, political groups, ethnic enclaves). This narrowmindedness is a black mark on Worcester because civic life doesn’t run that way in places like Hartford or Springfield or Lowell. These cities’ civic lives are actually enriched by all the new and varied voices! But here, in Wormtown, newcomers like Boone, will be dragged through the mud by yappers like Gary Rosen, Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick, etc. The Goddard School MCAS test brouhaha was reason enough for Novick – who wants all of Worcester to know she is such a good Catholic – to lead a racially tinged witch hunt.
Mayor O’Brien has backed Boone with passion and grit. Kudos to him!
And finally, Mayor O’Brien has taken a bit of a shelacking from neighborhood activist and InCity Times pal Gary Vecchio. Gary (usually a very nice guy) is not behaving too sweetly these days. He will not let O’Brien forget that during campaign season O’Brien said he was for the lowest residential tax rate – Gary’s hobby horse. This past year, however, after meeting weith biz folks and carefuly considering the city’s future, O’Brien along with a majority of the Worcester City Council, voted to raise Worcesterites’ property taxes a teeny bit. Old people are exempt, really poor people are exempt. But if you are middle class, it means an increase of about 100 bucks or so for you. Some how this has put Gary Veccio over the edge – he won’t let O’Brien forget that HE WENT BACK ON HIS CAMPAIGN PROMISE. I wish Gary, who is a great guy, would lighten up and see O’Brien’s move for what it was: a desire to keep Worcester running smoothly during a nasty recession.
So, I guess, Gary and all the blue collar home owners in Worcester are now pissed at O’Brien – or that’s what Gary wants us to think.
Why not think this: O’Brien is not, as the Sunday Telegram stated in its headline, “an enigma.” Mayor Joe O’Brien is TRYING TO LEAD our city in very shaky times. He is asking ALL of us – residents, biz folks, municipal unions – to do our part to keep Worcester great.
Let’s rise to the occasion!