I was waiting to see if anyone else was going to comment on Robert Z. Nemeth’s column this week, and it doesn’t look like it — so I’ll do a few riffs on that column.
First of all, I thought that the title (“Of progress and handcuffs”) was going to take us on a journey to some hitherto unexplored side of Nemeth, namely, the side that looks for S&M partners on the Craigslist personals. Sadly, the only handcuffs discussed were those of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Very disappointing.
Nemeth returned from his vacation (this is the point where most of us note that he wasn’t missed) with his usual Republican optimism:
One of the things one can count on in Worcester is that progress doesn’t come quickly.
Nemeth does believe, however, that progress will happen (though, one can only suppose, perhaps not in his lifetime, and perhaps not in ours, either). He continues:
So I was happy to learn several months ago — strictly off the record — that Mr. Park was on his way out, to be replaced by an eminently reputable local business entity that has done a lot for Worcester already. I had an opportunity to get confirmation of the arrangement in December — still kept under wraps because takeover negotiations with Berkeley were in progress. I believe once the details are made public, confidence will be restored in that long-delayed project.
The lack of confidence, as Paulie notes in this post, is not due just to this project. It’s due to the city not having put together any sort of cohesive plan for the downtown beyond a vague “let’s tear things down, put something else up, and see what happens.” It’s due to a neighborhood being torn down to put in a mall; it’s due to the citizenry being told that CitySquare will move forward “any day now” for the past 1000 days. We’ve been told that MedCity will save downtown; the convention center’s economic benefits were so strong that, according to then-City Manager Hoover, it was going to put Worcester on the “map nationally and maybe even internationally.” Though I wasn’t alive when it was put in, the AT&T building was probably touted as being one of the foremost examples of brutalist architecture in the country, and would make the city a world-wide communications hub.
I don’t think I’m being pessimistic if I’m skeptical of the 50 jobs CSX is supposed to bring to this city, especially since that’s the same number of (heavily subsidized, not yet materialized) jobs Pharmasphere is supposed to be bringing to the city. I don’t think I’m being pessimistic if I wonder if “clear[ing] the tracks for up to 25 daily commuter rail trips in and out of Worcester by September 2012” just means that the opportunity will be there, but that there won’t be trains, or availability at South Station, or that we won’t get more than promises, at least until the next election cycle.
Perhaps I could be more optimistic if the governmental public feedback consisted of more than some comments on Kate Toomey’s Facebook page. (As an aside, the Mayor really needs to do some tweetfeeding from his Facebook, because those of us who prefer twitter are only getting some of his news items.) I’m all for government becoming involved in social media, but if I ask Kate Toomey, “How’s this going to affect traffic patterns?” or “How much is the government going to loan/gift/etc. CSX?”, does that mean I’ll get a response — official or otherwise — from the government? Do they really want to hear any of my concerns, or do they just want to elicit some “rah-rah Worcester is a City on the Move [or whatever the slogan is this week]” responses?
I’m glad to see some individual councilors using social media, but I think we need a more coordinated, official effort if we’re serious about using social media to increase participatory government. (Please stop snickering, you in the corner!) For instance, there’s going to be an (un)conference called Gov 2.0 Camp New England — is anyone from the City of Worcester planning on attending? Has anyone started looking at the Social Media Guidance and Best Practices page from MA ITD?