BREAKING: City Council to do what they wanted to eight months ago

In a move that should surprise no one, the mayor is going to ask the City Council to extend Ed Augustus’s contract.

Konnie Lukes will, of course, hold this [$], because, while announcing agenda items via Jordan Levy and Facebook is certainly cutting-edge, it doesn’t pass the Open Meeting Law smell test.

Of course, the citizens of Worcester have just one question on their collective mind –

What’s his favorite song?

Throws Like A Girl

I wanted to expand on two items from my previous post.

One is that we are being presented with a two different options:

1) Vote on one of the three finalists for city manager

2) Dump the three finalists for city manager and keep Ed Augustus for a longer term, or for life, or until we have a strong mayor

There is, of course, a third option.  It’s one that was available to us when Mike O’Brien resigned, and it’s still available.

We have an assistant city manager. Her name is Kathy Johnson. If we’re unhappy with our choices and need to re-do the search, she can be appointed as interim city manager. If Ed Augustus has to leave, she can be appointed as interim city manager.

If you recall, the reason Ed Augustus needed to be hired as city manager — not interim city manager — is that the city’s charter only allows current city employees to be appointed as an interim city manager.

We had someone who was eminently qualified to run things until a suitable candidate was found.

But rather than temporarily hand her the reins, the City Council chose to find someone from the outside and hire him to a short term.
.
Yes, at the very beginning, there was a woman who has run the city in the past, and may yet need to run it in the future, and she wasn’t even considered. There were no city manager finalists who were women, either. Perhaps there was a lack of qualified female candidates. But why would a woman want to apply for a job when it’s obvious the Council looked elsewhere when there was a woman who could do the job standing right in front of them?

There was also a comment on FB that I may have impugned Mr. Augustus’ integrity.

On the contrary, I seem to be one of the few people in the city who believed him when he said he would not be a candidate for a permanent city manager position.

Those who are close to him, and myriad “community leaders” seem to be the ones implying that Mr. Augustus is a man who would go back on his word.

Machinations of Worcester’s “Machine”

For those (like myself) who weren’t able to attend the city manager candidate interviews, the video (1, 2, 3) is on the city website, and there was coverage from MassLive, Wo Mag, and Steve Foskett’s incredible livetweets.   There are also columns this morning from Nick K.[$] and Dianne W [$].

I was going to spend this weekend watching the video and taking notes … but why bother when there’s just going to be another plea from the people who really run the city [$] to keep Ed Augustus on as city manager.

In the latest letter [$], we’re told that the “search [for a new city manager] has been completed” and now the City Council needs to beg — for the 5,367th time — for Ed Augustus to stay.  [I recommend you read the letter and wonder, like I do, if that's the Mike O'Brien signing onto the letter.]

What really happened was that Oscar Rodriguez was not the ogre they were hoping for.  Instead, he was an engaged, intelligent, charming leader.

So the machine could no longer rely on Plan A: hire David Moore as city manager, have him serve out 3-4 years whilst the strong mayor movement gains momentum, and then have him step down once the new government is ushered in.

On to Plan B (otherwise known as the original Plan A): keep Ed Augustus for 3-4 years whilst the strong mayor movement gains momentum, and then have him step down (or become chief of staff) once the new government is ushered in.

I bear no ill will towards Mr. Augustus; he seems to care enough about Worcester (though not enough to live here).  He also inspires hyperbole previously seen only from the fans of Arthur T. Demoulas, but I can’t completely fault him that.

The mayor and the municipal operations committee have done their darndest to undermine the city manager search process.  Between having “listening sessions” that bordered on abuse, hiring a search firm whose claim to fame is the worst job posting in history, passing over Dana Levenson, and alternating between a strong mayor movement and a Draft Ed movement, there has never been a point when these guys have actually, seriously, looked for a real candidate for city manager.

And now they and a group of “community leaders” are doing everything in their power to ensure that no qualified candidate would ever apply to be Worcester’s city manager.

I never again want to hear Joe Petty talk about how city employees need to live in the city when this City Council hired a city manager who does not live in the city.

I never again want to hear any city councilor talk about how to retain young professionals in this city.  No college graduate wants to stay in a provincial place in which the only people who are allowed to succeed are those in Tim Murray’s inner circle and when some of the most important public meetings of the year are scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon.

Worcester has some real challenges facing it: a serious pension liability, an ancient sewer and water infrastructure, a downtown that’s half-built and half-Krock-owned, three high schools in desperate need of a rebuild, and a city councilor who thinks that someone’s favorite song is a deciding factor in a city manager candidate, to name but a few.

But Worcester has some amazing assets, the greatest of which is the people of our city.  Worcester residents are diverse, artistic, friendly, and smart.

And we deserve better than a mayor who wants the City Council to have “an honest conversation” on Tuesday at 5:30 pm about whether or not to abandon a halfhearted city manager search.

By all means, have an “honest conversation.”

Let’s talk, honestly, about why Rick Rushton — who previously gave Konnie Lukes a hard time about holding an unscheduled vote to appoint Ed Augustus as city manager — felt it was perfectly ok to hold a vote for city manager so that he could get his beauty rest.

Let’s talk, honestly, about why no “outsider” would ever be allowed to be city manager.

Let’s talk, honestly, about who is actually running the show.

 

Open Meeting Law and Executive Session; Executive Search Firms and Public Records Law

Tom Caywood has an article up about a request made, and denied, for rankings of all the city manager candidates.  While I’m not a lawyer, I’d like to clarify some things about Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law.

Open Meeting Law and Executive Session

Since I’ve spent lots of time reading the law and decisions from the AG’s office — and since I’ve attended one more Open Meeting Law training than many of your elected officials — I’d like to direct my readers to what OML actually says about executive session meetings.

From the AG’s website:

Executive Session Meeting Records

Public bodies are not required to disclose the minutes, notes or other materials used in an executive session where the disclosure of these records may defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session. Once disclosure would no longer defeat the purposes of the executive session, minutes and other records from that executive session must be disclosed unless they are within an exemption to the Public Records Law, G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26, or the attorney-client privilege applies. The public body is also required to periodically review the executive session minutes to determine whether continued non-disclosure is warranted, and such determination must be included in the minutes of the body’s next meeting. A public body must respond to a request to inspect or copy executive session minutes within 10 days of request and promptly release the records if they are subject to disclosure. If the body has not performed a review to determine whether they are subject to disclosure, it must do so prior to its next meeting or within 30 days, whichever is sooner.

It’s not clear whether the individuals who requested records from the City Clerk’s Office, Edward Landau and Lillian Corti, specifically asked for the Municipal Operations subcommittee meeting minutes. But they are entitled to those minutes and they should ask for them if they have not already.

What about letters?

If City Councilors corresponded with Randi Frank — or anyone else — regarding city manager candidates — or, really, anything — then a resident can request those letters or emails as well, and should get a better response than what Dr. Landau and Ms. Corti received.

If a city councilor sends me a letter in their role as a city councilor, and someone requests a copy, the response should never be, “Well, you’ll need to ask Miss Apostola.”  It’s official correspondence and, with a few exceptions, is public record.

But it’s an executive search firm!

Much as it depresses me to say it, Randi Frank was performing a governmental function, and she constitutes a body “receiving public funds or benefits.”  So if she met individually with councilors and wrote down what they had to say about individual candidates, or ranked them, then that, too, could be subject to public records law.

From the RCFP Open Government Guide:

Nevertheless, when a governmental body outsources the provision of certain governmental services to private third parties, “[a]ll records created in fulfillment of the obligations of the contract are government records,” and such records must be made available to the public even when they are in the hands of the third-party vendor. SPR Bulletin No. 3-93, “Requirement to Manage Records Created Under Government Contracts (Dec. 23, 1993). … Therefore they fall within the scope of the Public Records Law, regardless of where they are created and stored. Just as such records, when kept in government offices, are “routinely accessible to citizens,” the Supervisor of Public Records has advised that the same standard applies when “such records are created and stored in contractors’ offices.” Id. “This change in location does not abrogate the government’s obligation to ensure public accountability and public access to those government records,” the Supervisor has stated. Id. (Relying on this principle the Supervisor in 2009 required the Town of Watertown to provide names, addresses, and amounts owed by town’s top 10 parking scofflaws.) Government entities entering into contracts for third-party services must include provisions – at least as broad as those contained in the Public Records Law — “describing the creation, security, accessibility, disposition, and custody” of those records, and no such records may be destroyed without authorization.

The response Dr. Landau and Ms. Corti received was one usually reserved for people who ask the Worcester Police Department for public records.

“Ask Randi Frank” is not the appropriate response to their request.

City Manager Meet-and-Greet and Interviews

Tonight at City Hall from 5-7pm, in the Levi Lincoln chamber, there will be a meet-and-greet for the three candidates for City Manager.

Tomorrow, beginning at 3:30pm, the three candidates will be interviewed
and, perhaps, the City Council will vote on them.

I’m going to try to go to the meet-and-greet but I’m not sure about tomorrow’s interviews.

If you can attend either and want to share notes or thoughts, please do.

In the words of Mike Germain – Please Vote

I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t change my party designation to vote in primaries, so I won’t be voting today.

But you should totally vote if you’re a registered Democrat, Republican, or unenrolled!

I attended the D17 state rep debate and I was not wowed by any candidate. Mike Germain was charming as always, but he’s about as hungry for this state rep seat as he was for City Councilor, a position in which he missed far too many meetings. Doug Belanger was polished — some might say too polished — but obviously knowledgable and passionate. Moses Dixon was well-spoken and experienced — but not my ideal candidate. (I have yet to meet my ideal candidate.)

I don’t have an opinion on races outside my district, but both my husband (who has never lived on the that side of the city) and my aunt (who lives in Maine and has never lived in Worcester) received emails from Josh Perro. If $100,000 buys you lists of people who aren’t able to vote for you, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re anti-casino, many candidates for governor have said that they would overturn the people’s wishes if a majority of voters voted yes on Question 3. Please keep that in mind if it’s an issue that’s important to you.

And — come what may — one thing is guaranteed at the end of today’s primaries.

Phil Palmieri will still represent one part of this city.

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.