Worcester Public Library Board Opening

There is an opening on the Worcester Public Library board for Tracey Leger-Hornby’s old seat (term expires in December 2015).

If you’d like to serve on the WPL board but do not want to make a commitment for the full six years, this is your chance!

If you’re interested in applying, the city clerk will need to receive your letter of intent and resume to by Friday, September 12 at noon.

For more information about the process, please read this flyer.

If you have any questions about the process, send Jim an email.

(As I’ve said before, I will not be applying as I would need to step down from my position on the WPL Friends Board, and I would also like to serve out my term on the Hope Cemetery Commission.)

Also — friendly reminder that there are plenty of openings on other boards as well!

D17 State Rep Debate Liveblog

80-100 people? At 6:06pm

I’ll try to clean up my notes when the debate is done.  The opening and closing statements I will not blog, and I’ll link to the video when it’s up.

The format of the debate/forum was to have questions asked of each of the candidates by the three panelists (Stolz, Rosen, Bird) and then have the candidates ask each other questions.  There was also the opportunity for the first person answering a question to rebut or add an additional comment.

Note that I am not providing exact quotes and there are times when I didn’t type so I missed a few points but not, I think, anything that matters.

Gary Rosen – “Don’t forget, the bar is open throughout the debate” “The ladies room is right outside this door”

Excellent handout from the NAACP on your rights as a voter

Mike Germain – “I now live with my mother…I know that’s kind of sad at 48 years old”

First Panel Question: Hank Stolz: about economic development

Doug Belanger: Influx of businesses needed – had business for 20 years, when he owned Paxton Supermarket, there was a program to incentivize hiring the unemployed. On state taxes. In 1980s – reduction of 50% of salary on first six months.

Training programs for those who do not go to college. Need more training for those who don’t go to college.

Mike Germain: have children graduating from Worcester Tech commit to unions. Looks at Leicester – the business sector is a bunch of mom and pop shops. Need to create an industrial area to bring in major corporations/big employers for Leicester citizens.

Moses Dixon: concern, particularly in Leicester, about bringing in new businesses. CoW has adopted Ch 43b – expedited business process. Thinks Town of Leicester should adopt that moving forward. If elected, will request to be on Community Development & Small Business.

Kate Campanale: my legislative priorities surround economic development. Incentives that we know will work: Philly Plan; HDIP plan in Worcester. Locks in value of the property – property owner will invest in property, HDIP allows for tax increase to spread over a number of years. Would like to see this on a corporate level.

Doug Belanger – rebuttal: Town of Leicester town meeting has rejected a number of development proposals.   Would have a problem with the state telling Worcester or Leicester what to do.

Second Panel Question from Walter Bird: Spate of violent drug deaths in Worcester and around the state. Heroin and opiate abuse increasing. #1 concern is lack of services.

Mike Germain: If people don’t have solid family base, etc., will revert to negative things around them in the community. No easy answer to this. “Add five more cops” doesn’t answer this. His answer is more jobs – economic development – people will have fewer economic and social issues.

Moses Dixon: availability of services. Oftentimes someone who is struggling goes to a service provider and there’s no bed or other services available. Ensure that there is funding available for service providers for those who need it.

Kate Campanale: Get people into longterm treatment –eventually get people into their own housing. This program got approval from Statehouse but was not funded. She spoke with area reps to make sure this was funded.

Doug Belanger: Folks coming out of correctional institution need employment and incentives. Also emphasizes a firmness.

Moses Dixon: someone can be educated, have housing, and still have an addiction. Need preventive services. Doesn’t know where education and housing come from in this question.

Doug – courage of convictions, not just having programs available, have to then say how you are going to pay for the program.

Third Panel Question from Gary Rosen about representing the district in Boston

Moses Dixon: working at the Statehouse, you get a better sense of what you need to do. He will not compromise trust of the district to go with leadership. Will vote how the district wants to vote. Will be able to advocate effectively because he knows what’s going on.

Kate Campanale: not one of the good old boys or go along to get along types. Part of new generation of leadership that is dedicated to the community. Misconception that Republicans can’t get everything done – exactly the opposite. Delegation in Worcester is all Democrats. Money is going to Boston and not coming back.

Doug Belanger: Doesn’t agree that if you’re getting along with the speaker is a bad thing. You have to work with the leadership regardless of the party to get bills heard. He knows the process. You don’t have to sell out to get something done – you do need to be principled – turning 64 this month, not looking for a job, looking to do the job.

Mike Germain: I can’t agree with Doug more. You have to work with the leadership. Everyone talks about how you’re going to fight City Hall or the Statehouse – but you won’t get anything if you’re the one out there bucking the system. I’m going down there to develop relationships that will reap rewards for those in the district.

Moses Dixon: nothing wrong with working with the leadership, but you have to take the interest of the district residents into consideration.

Kate Campanale: Look at problems with corruption, those are caused by experienced Democrats. Being a Republican, doesn’t have to sell her soul to the Speaker. Gives her ability to serve district better.

Doug Belanger: if light goes on and it’s money for the 17th Worcester District, he’ll be voting yes. To get through committee, needs powers that be to do that. Fight for your principles, work with other side to appeal to better angels.

 

Fourth Panel Question, Hank Stolz – is there still fat to be trimmed from the bone or are EBT abuse, etc., just things to get talk radio, etc., riled up?

Kate Campanale: biggest issue is local aid. People are worried about their wallets. Cities and towns are working and pinching in the same manner. Prioritize spending – bring more money back there, not always vote with Boston.

Doug Belanger: it is pretty much an easy standard bearer to say they will cut waste, fraud, and abuse, etc., but no one has identified big areas. If you identify how you will fund the bill at the time it’s passed, should eliminate some of these problems.

Mike Germain: had a standout in Webster Square, a guy came up to him and wanted to give them 50 cents on the dollar for his EBT card. That is waste, fraud, and abuse, but we can’t attack that whole system because of that one individual. Need to do a better job monitoring that.

Moses Dixon: in state government, there’s always room to find inadequacies. In re EBT issue, the legislature took a step to improve it – require IDs on the EBT card. It’s a small minority of people who abuse the system compared to the vast majority who depend on these services.   But any fraud and abuse are important.

Mike Germain fighting in support of unions.

Kate Campanale: $1 billion for the Boston Convention Center, while kids are sharing books, governor spending millions on renovating his offices, etc. If the state was looking to cut costs, it could find something better than cutting public safety and education.

Fifth Panel Question from Walter Bird about Market Basket – should governor have been involved?

Doug Belanger: hopefully can bring cooler heads to prevail. This is about workers standing up for their rights. Has been involved in a number of these sorts of situations – if an officeholder can bring a peaceful solution, that’s great.

Mike Germain: Ditto

Moses Dixon: Ditto

Kate Campanale: classic overreaching of the government. Thinks it will be a case study for years to come when there is mutual respect between managers and employees.

(Sorry, really boring; my whole household has been way too involved in the MB thing and I’ve read way too many frustrating Shirley Leung columns to hear the Worcester 17th District candidates’ take on this )

 

Sixth Panel Question from Gary Rosen: should Commonwealth welcome and provide driver’s licenses and services to those who have entered country illegally?

Mike Germain: “I have to go first, I can’t even copy these guys.” Need to have a path to citizenship. These folks aren’t going home tomorrow. There’s no agency that can wrap people up and send them home.

Moses Dixon: public safety issue. If I’m driving a car, who’s going to foot the bill if I get in an accident? Better to have folks insured and paying taxes.

Kate Campanale: No, not for illegal immigrants

Doug Belanger: there’s a balance – devil is in the details of legislation. Republican controlled Congress in Washington keeps talking but doing nothing about this. We are a compassionate people; have to weigh specifics of a proposal.

 

First question from candidates:
Moses Dixon: question about how other candidates would represent the diverse groups within the district.

Doug Belanger has been representing over 3,000 people at St. V’s and other hospitals for 25 years (?) from all walks of life.

Mike Germain has represented almost 200,000 people as a City Councilor without any hesitation. Was beat up over Phoenix AZ resolution. Representative of the entire community.

Kate Campanale – has been going door-to-door for the past few months.

Moses: has been doing what he has always done.

 

Kate Campanale would like Mike Germain to walk through keeping the PIP Shelter out of the community.

Mike Germain: tried to create a coalition.   Got people to say they didn’t want it.

[Sorry, I can't go on. I do not agree with Mr. Germain nor anyone else who decided that the so-called "PIP" should have gone back to 701 Main Street.]

Doug Belanger – local laws cannot supersede certain state laws about where sex offenders, etc., can live.

Kate Campanale thinks Belanger is grandstanding and the proposed legislation is unenforceable.

 

Doug Belanger’s question – follow up – starting with Moses Dixon – under current state law, there are companies that put sex offenders in houses with no input from the community.

Moses Dixon being handed something (a petition for a piece of legislation, I think) from Doug Belanger – “no thank you”. If you have a “my way or the highway” attitude, you will get nothing done. Wants to ensure a fair and open process for everyone.

Kate Campanale: wants to make sure legislation is legal and enforceable.

Doug Belanger: if you don’t start the process, there will be no legislation. This is about saving families and neighborhoods. If you don’t start, there will be no finish.

 

Mike Germain, to Doug: about situation on “Oak Street” in Leicester.

Doug Belanger: There’s no Oak Street in Leicester, but there’s a Brickyard Road. We met with neighbors, then developers/those who run facility, got them to work with neighborhood about not placing certain folks who were making the neighbors nervous. Let’s find something the neighbors can work with.

 

(Sorry, can’t keep track of this debate format – and the gentleman next to me is too charming – missed a question or two.)

Kate Campanale, question to Moses: asks him to describe the process of writing and filing legislation

Moses Dixon: you have to draft it, get sponsors, it goes through committee, and ultimately goes to the floor. Ultimately you have to get a lot of support.

Doug Belanger: talks a bit about figuring out how to get support and give support from/to those.

 

Doug Belanger, question: has addressed unintended consequences of having 10 days of elections, which means 13 days of voting at the local polling place. Wants to know if folks would support changing “crazy” law to make absentee voting = early voting.

Mike Germain: has been asked this question before, but would need more specifics before committing. Not for same day voter registration. Doug’s proposal sounds more reasonable than 10 day advanced voting.

Moses Dixon: is for democracy and for people’s right to vote. Absentee ballot is different than early voting, it’s for those who cannot physically be here on voting day. We have time to look at ways this will not be a burden on communities.

Kate Campanale: would vote against early voting. Questions the legality.

 

Mike Germain, last question: gun control.   Today is gun control adequate? What would you change or not change?

Doug Belanger: he supports the second amendment.   There are enough laws on the books that need enforcement now. Not enough funding for background checks/screening process. If you don’t have courage of convictions and fund things, nothing will change.

Moses Dixon: grew up in a family of hunters and responsible gun owners. Supports Gov Patrick’s proposal to join a larger registry.

Kate Campanale: strong supporter of 2nd amendment. Legislators are passing laws that do nothing to stop illegal guns and getting guns out of the hands of criminals.

Mike Germain: repeats what Doug Belanger said.

D-17 State Rep Candidate Forum on Thursday

FYI for folks who live in District 17; I will be at this forum and will take notes & post them to the blog…

A Get to Know the D-17 Candidates Forum for the State Representative seat will be held this Thursday, August 28 at 6:00 PM at the Worcester Lodge of Elks, 233 Mill St., Worcester, MA.

District 17 is made up of all of Leicester, all five precincts of Worcester’s Ward 7 and Ward 8, Precincts 2,3,4. For this seat, three Democrats (Doug Belanger, Moses Dixon and Mike Germain) are vying for the right to meet Republican candidate, Kate Campanale, in the November election. All four candidates will participate in the forum.

Asking questions of the candidates will be Walter Bird, Senior Writer for Worcester Magazine (the forum’s main sponsor), Hank Stolz, WCRN radio personality and host of The Hank Stolz Experience on Charter TV3, and Gary Rosen, District 5 Worcester City Councilor and host of Rosen’s Roundtable on WCCA TV13.

Besides fielding questions from the panel, the candidates will be allowed to ask probing questions of each other.

During the forum, a cash bar will be operated by the Elks Lodge to help support its community service and scholarship programs.

Tonight: Movie on the Common and Pop Up

Today & Saturday at the Worcester Pop Up Project –
Think Tank’s Explorations in Art and Science
38 Franklin St., Worcester
Thursday, 8/21, 12:00-2:30pm and 3:00-5:00pm
Saturday, 8/23, 12:00-2:30pm and 3:00-5:00pm
Come join us for art and science activities at the Worcester Pop Up Project in downtown Worcester. Activities will highlight classes, Plants to Prints and Engineering Design with art printing and scribble bots. First come, first serve, with free supplies and materials while they last.

 

Tonight on the Common — Finding Nemo!

Kickin’ It for Sophia’s Sunshine FUNd – August 9

I would really appreciate folks sharing this!

Our friend Eric Kuczarski (of Movies on the Common fame) and his family will be holding a kickball tournament in honor of their daughter (and sister) Sophia on Saturday, August 9, beginning at 9am.

Here are more details:
Sophia Kuczarski had a spirit as bright as the sun, and lost her fierce battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the young age of 4.

In her honor, the Sophia’s Sunshine FUNd provides Worcester County families support while facing the challenges of having a seriously ill child.

Kickin’ It for Sophia’s Sunshine FUNd will be a great day of Kickball, fun, food, and great memories – all for a great cause! So grab your family, friends, and neighbors to join us for an awesome event!

Kid’s Games Details:

The kid’s Kickball games will be played from 12-2pm with lots of other fun activites happening throughout the day. Teams for kickball can be formed with no restrictions other than the maximum limit of 15 participants, but it is encouraged to create co-ed teams if possible. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

18+ Kickball Tournament Details:

The adult tournament will utilize a double elimination format that will begin at 9am and break for lunch from 12-1:30pm. All tournament games will played according to the WAKA tournament rules that can be found here: Kickball Rules. Basically, you will need a minimum of 4 men and 4 women to constitute a team, with a maximum of 11 players on the field at any time, and everyone in the lineup kicks regardless of playing the field. If you have any questions, there are many FAQs online if you do a quick search, but please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Whither the Need for Speed?

In Worcester, the spectre of the strong mayor appears every couple of years.

Whenever an issue bubbles up and residents aren’t pleased with the way the city manager handled it, whenever another municipality succeeds, our collective insecurity kicks in, and our inadequacies — real or imagined — give new life to the dream that will never die.

That dream is, of course, different things to different people, but it always takes the shape of a strong mayor.

To some, a strong mayor means increased accountability to the electorate, a louder voice to our legislators on the state and federal level, or a faster track to economic development.

To others, it’s simply a way to further consolidate power within a very small elite.

I don’t want to minimize the feelings of those who think strong mayor is right for Worcester, or who want a further conversation.  For many years, I felt that the lack of a strong mayor is what was holding Worcester back from achieving everything it could.

And I always welcome further community conversations.

But — being Worcester — there is a tendency to go from 0 to 60 in any community discussion.

We can’t have a discussion about whether we want a slots parlor — we jump straight to mitigation!  While we’re having hearings about a city manager, we’d prefer comments in one of two categories: that the current incumbent is perfect, or that a strong mayor would be even better.

If I had my druthers, we’d have many community meetings that would follow the following path:

  • Identify the main issues residents have with city government.  This could be a lack of diversity, a lack of public engagement, a feeling of not having a voice — and lots of other things I’ve never even thought of.
  • Identify what’s currently working in city government. There’s got to be something right, and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Can the problems be rectified within the existing system? Would the administration or elected officials be willing to focus on the major concerns that come out of the meetings?  If not, would a different slate of candidates bring about the changes needed?
  • Finally — if the problems can’t be rectified within the existing system, discuss better systems to accomplish goals.

This would be a journey of months — if not years — and would require a lot more community engagement than we’ve seen in some time.

You can’t get to a solution without first identifying the problem(s).

For too long ,we have looked at the strong mayor as a one-size-fits-all solution to whatever aspect of Worcester’s government we’re dissatisfied with.

And the powers that be are eating it up.

If we actually had a long discussion about what’s wrong with this city, at some point we’d talk about who is actually running things — or, to the point, who wants to be running things.

Folks like Gerry D’Amico, and Mike Angelini, and Kevin O’Sullivan, and Tim Murray — and the associated wannabes like Dennis Irish and Phil Palmieri — don’t actually want people to have a real conversation.

They would like to harness our general dissatisfaction into first derailing any possibility we might have at attracting a decent city manager, and then getting their candidate elected as strong mayor.

I don’t want to disparage the work of the Worcester Community-Labor Coalition.  I’m really impressed with the turnout at tonight’s City Council meeting.

But I disagree with asking the City Council to conduct any kind of hearings about changing the form of government.

They have shown that they have no interest in listening when residents say what they want in a city manager, and have proved utterly incompetent at getting a decent job posting written.

I have no confidence the City Council could have a satisfactory community discussion about what color flowers should be planted outside City Hall, never mind changing our form of government.

I have no confidence that those who continue to run things behind the scenes will just step back and let the people have their way.  They are only interested in having enough voter turnout to get the charter changed.  Then it would serve their interests to have things return to the status quo of 11% voter turnout.

If this conversation will go forward — and all indications are that it will — it would behoove us to instead have the meetings led by a relatively unconnected group of citizens, preferably non-politicians.  Since we know from the WCLC’s polling that residents are equally split between a city manager and a strong mayor form of government, an impartial name like “Worcester Government Reform Commission” would leave room for any number of possible conclusions the committee would come to, without unnecessarily narrowing the conversation.

There are a lot of thoughtful, intelligent people in this city, from all walks of life, who have different experiences of city government, and who have different ideas on how to improve it.  For too long we have allowed a tiny clique to stunt conversation and to drive their own agenda.  It would be a shame if we allowed that to happen again.