This is at Worcester State U / Eager Auditorium. Sponsored by League of Women Voters, YWCA, and Worcester State.
Candidates here: Bergman, Coleman, Colorio, Corrigan, Economou, Gibson, Haxhiaj, Honeycutt (D5), King, Petty, Rosen, Sarkodieh, Tiscione, Toomey, Wally (D5).
I believe we are missing Colorio (from the signs at the front of the auditorium).
Format of the forum: each candidate 1 min opening remark, then series of questions from sponsoring organizations, then questions from the audience.
Opening Statements – as I have now been to a zillion of these I will hold unless I hear something interesting
Bergman: most proud – thought it would take a lot longer for people to feel proud of being from Worcester. Especially younger folks – we want you to stay in Worcester.
Coleman spoke but I think nothing new? He went to WSU and is proud of it.
Corrigan: Dressed for the holiday seasons (orange and black signs) – swears it’s for Halloween and not for Bergman! Tomorrow everyone can dress up as the scariest thing: a politician!
Colorio is now here
Economou: when he was D1 councilor, he was available with his shovel for anything. Emphasizes quality of life issues.
Gibson: works as a preacher. He works with youth, loves it. He emphasizes cultural competency.
Haxhiaj: one of her sons will turn 8 on November 5 – hopefully will be a big night for son & mom. Working families, homeless families, young people, those in public housing – city for all, city with all. Plans to take the commitment to the end.
Honeycutt: has learned a lot about how businesses run. Sees a lot of development. Specific districts should be included in downtown prosperity. Wants to make sure everyone is able to stay and participate.
King: began community work when he was in high school at Friendly House. Had friends who passed away from gun violence when he was in college, decided to become a social worker. Sees all different neighborhoods and can bring his unique perspective. Econ dev = development of everyday people.
Petty: he mentions his many achievements. Arts community has really taken off. Everyone should be included; disparities study. Affirmative action plan.
Rosen: most exciting times he’s seen in Worcester. When you read social media, you see that a lot of the naysayers are disappearing or have changed their minds. Keep Worcester clean, affordable, and safe.
Sarkodieh: HE HAS THE LONGEST NAME ON THE BALLOT. Currently a law student, currently with 7Hills RI. Came here with a dream – believes everything is possible. Wants to inspire the next generation. Wants them to see their future in me and through me.
Tiscione: has a 16-year-old daughter at Doherty. Was a firefighter for 30 years, was a member of US Army. Strongly believes in military service and service to country. Keep tax rates manageable and low – continue to do the best he can for the city.
Toomey: has been an educator, and experience in healthcare and addiction fields. Sometimes adversity hits you. Clean streets, safe community, good schools, jobs.
Wally: current D5 councilor, has had a positive first term, running for a second term. Webster Square Walgreens no longer has trash spread all over their property due to his work. Parks – Farber Field rectangular field. Pedestrian safety at schools.
Colorio: more teaching, less testing. Ballot question to get rid of Common Core. Worked in addiction field as psychotherapist. All of that brings her here. Focused on (you may have hear her ad on the radio) lowest residential taxes. SHE IS SECOND ON THE BALLOT.
Question to Coleman: tax deferments, what about bringing more private investments?
Coleman: private investment wants to see intelligent workforce – add housing stock and improve schools.
Question to Colorio: if developer like Polar Park does not enter into CBA, would you be willing to withdraw the TIF?
Colorio: to be honest, I don’t know. I’d have to look at that and do research. (More but that’s essentially it)
Question to Rosen: colleges – how to bring institutions together?
Rosen: has many good colleges/universities. Government can’t do everything. College consortium can make students a bigger part of the city. They should be going to meetings. We can do a lot, but colleges can do a lot for themselves.
Question to Corrigan: disgusted between rancor and bitterness – how will you lead in solving problems and setting example?
Corrigan: being unable/unwilling to work together does the constituents a disservice. Naturally people have different ideas – if no one is willing to compromise or come together, problem will still persist. Be good to be open to ideas and work with others.
Question to Haxhiaj: climate emergency. Where are best opportunities? Env justice, transpo, etc.
Haxhiaj: has already organized mothers in WOrcester & across the state about climate crisis. Would like to work with the climate group to improve – emissions from WRTA. Investing in public transpo should not be an afterthought. Fixing ALL gas leaks in low-income neighborhoods, new housing initiatives – lead abatement AND energy efficiency.
Question to Economou: Equal Pay Law 2018. How to ensure Worcester is an employer that is compliant?
Economou: as developers come into city, CBA could come into play. Men, women, minorities, everyone should be paid the same. [As someone familiar with this law, Nicole says it’s specifically about women and this is more something that the CM/Super need to be held accountable for.]
Question to Gibson: CBA for Polar Park. What are you going to do?
Gibson: have to do research to do something correctly.
[WHY CAN’T PEOPLE BE PREPARED FOR THE OBVIOUS QUESTIONS?]
Question to Petty: sanctuary city, solidarity with immigrant communities.
Petty: we are a welcoming city. WPD does not ask for immigration status. We follow same rules as those who call themselves sanctuary cities. He is out in immigrant community all the time.
Question to Toomey: what have you done to eliminate inequities for people of color?
Toomey: one of founders of Latino Ed, has been member of NAACP. Most important thing is to learn about other people, to understand different cultures/values, to have friends that you can get an honest answer from. Make sure that schools understand that this is important.
Question to King: residential tax rate increase. why? single tax rate? why?
King: supports lower residential tax rate – lack of affordable housing. His 26-year-old daughter cannot access affordable housing. Mindful of folks on fixed incomes. Increase to single rate – should look at PILOT and new growth first – never on back of the homeowners.
Question for Bergman: gentrification, high-end housing. What should council do to address this imbalance?
Bergman: there are options available that we have not looked at. Carriage houses as extra apartments. More than 3 unrelated people should be able to live in an apartment.
Question for Sarkodieh: limited services for the homeless. What new strategies?
Sarkodieh: attack from mental health side. People don’t sleep outside because they want to. We should expand homeless shelter, more concerned about housing that is affordable.
Question to Tiscione: residents feel needs not being addressed. How do you respond?
Tiscione: might have to start a city newspaper to get news to people who don’t have electronic means.
Question to Honeycutt: some POC-owned businesses moved away from downtown because of increased rents.
Honeycutt: ensure that all businesses have necessary resources. Many first-time owners do not feel they do. Dual tax rate is very important way to keep things affordable. Make sure people stay in the city and are involved in the city.
Question to Wally: transparency, accountability about racial demo data on minority businesses and city hiring. How to increase diversity?
Wally: any publicly funded building needs to have minority and female hires. Proud of being part of the current council that has put this forward as well as chief diversity officer.
Question to Coleman: many Woo res struggling for affordable housing.
Coleman: Modified Plan E government. City Council can make recommendations – you can have bully pulpit as a city councilor to make recommendations. Have a way for starter homes so that they can save money.
Question to Petty: Worcester Youth Center question: a lot of roads in poor neighborhoods are neglected.
Petty: willing to take a million or two of tax levy and fix roads. Each district gets about $150-200k for roads. Money is spread around and we only have a limited amount. Roads have taken a backseat to other investments (parks, schools, etc) but willing to look at it.
Question to Colorio: there’s a school committee. How do you view healthy relationship between CC and SC?
Colorio: served on SC – Education committee includes both but they need to be able to get together more often. Important for econ dev, healthy life = good schools. Continue to have this meeting, allocate some funds.
Question to Sarkodieh: what are ideas for positive spaces for youth?
Sarkodieh: wants to inspired youth to do good. (1) Youth Initiative – youth come up with ideas, more involved. (2) Into mentoring programs.
Question to Haxhiaj: Environmental protection, especially for reducing use of plastic. Questioner’s school recently started serving fruit wrapped in plastic!
Throwing more plastic at the problem (clear plastic recycling bag) does not solve the problem. Schools are not recycling properly. One of her dream projects would be a curbside compost program. This would be in line with the climate action initiative city council recently passed.
Question to Honeycutt: Beaver Brook basketball court is falling apart. Why not investing in parks?
Honeycutt: city has been doing a good job with parks lately, but there are lots of other parks that are lacking.
Question to King: safety in all Worcester communities, not just downtown, with limited resources. What is your strategy?
King: public safety is a joint venture between WPD and community. Number of community groups, but there is a lack of diversity. Human Rights Commission trying to get more involved. Mini-City Hall in Main South, WPD substations, bike patrol for WPD to engage with the public. Details at Union Station – trying to be as conservative as possible.
[A lot of these questions are from the youth]
Q to Corrigan: arts programs outside of school
Corrigan: nice to have a question from the youth to the youth of this race. Pow! Wow! Worcester murals are great – something like that is beneficial. You can’t get full funding for everything, though.
Q to Rosen: what are you doing to increase voter turnout?
Rosen: I knew I should have worn my red and white shirt tonight. He is on the streetcorners because he wants to show people he wants the job. At least they know there’s an election coming. He explains basic politics, city council, when people are stopped at Kelley Square. He blames the Telegram for not putting something in the paper the day before the election.
Q to Economou: what are we doing to support small businesses?
Economou: running on spinning downtown success into neighborhoods. More manageable tax rate, would like to see decorative lighting, benches, trash receptacles at smaller businesses. Ties to older names for neighborhoods (Brattle Stop etc)
Q to Gibson: WRTA – how to support public transpo, commuter rail to/from Worcester
Gibson: buses need to be on time. Need to increase train capacity.
Q to Toomey: community block grants. Is this grant [to construction in downtown] best use of limited funds?
Toomey: going to be able to create jobs. Downtown is a neighborhood. Lot of needs, need to balance everything.
Q to Wally: how to increase voter participation and community engagement
Wally: state/federal level – how do we provide easiest way to vote? Recommends federal/state holiday. Clerk’s office signs up 16/17 year olds to vote. Would love to see a national holiday so that people could go vote.
Q to Tiscione about bringing in private investment
Tiscione: to get private investment, need strong core (infrastructure)
Q to Bergman how to bring rich institutions (colleges) together to solve common problems.
Bergman: contest to engage colleges to compete, have celebration. Have opportunity for college kids to engage with each other downtown.
[I am sorry, that question is so boring and I am not portraying what he said right. Not his fault.]
Q to Toomey: Climate Emergency Declaration. how to reduce climate impact, env justice – planning, dev, public transpo
Toomey: Walkability factor, one of the first people to talk about it. Every great city is one where you can walk. We have to rearrange what we do with cars. Make downtown car-free. Trolleys so people can walk more. How can you encourage econ dev if you don’t have people walking in front of stores?
Q to Gibson: Residents feel not being heard. How do you respond?
Gibson: Worcester is a diverse community. Bring people into the room to solve problems.
Q for Tiscione: Polar Park, no CBA, whatcha gonna do?
Tiscione: certainly more than a one-man job. Will take a coalition of people. Need to start doing things differently, as a city need to be more assertive especially when we are offering TIFs. Perks should come with conditions – too many companies do what they have always done.
Q for Petty: youth, how to create positive spaces
Petty: the youth’s most important time is between 3-6pm. RecWorcester in 10 schools. Athletics in schools, give them time to do arts. Youth Violence Prevention Program. Sports keep kids busy.
Q for Wally: about improving diversity.
Wally: in his professional bank work…wrote an As I See It, proposed Bank On Worcester program, majority of unbanked individuals are minorities, improving safe financial services. Has been chair of org to improve banking services for the underserved.
Q for Coleman: transparency and accountability. What process for transparency and reporting, how to increase diversity?
Coleman: a lot of diversity these days vs 20 years ago. Would ask for regular updates on hiring practices from Chief Diversity Officer – retain, support, recruit quality applicants.
Q for Economou: more gentrification. How to address imbalances?
Economou: 10,000 units of affordable housing. In past few years, 1500 units more. Any HUD $$ has affordable housing component. He has done & will continue to support those efforts.
Q for Colorio: public safety, given limited resources, across the city.
Colorio: when people looking to move to Worcester: schools, safety. Beer Garden headlines – people’s perception of safety can be two different things. Some parents felt Doherty wasn’t safe when her daughter attended. Good WPD communication needed.
Q for Rosen about homeless population.
Rosen: we have issue on our corners with panhandlers. Many homeless, some aren’t. Money is not the answer. Many of these people have mental health issues and addiction issues. Some people know about services, but we have to let folks know they don’t have to continue this way of life. The help is out there, enough folks do not know about the services. We recommends that we get a van to let people know.
Q to Corrigan about econ dev in developing outside of central business district and for POC-owned businesses.
Corrigan: Polar Park took some land through eminent domain. Consider impact on community. Important to be considerate for people who are there.
Q to Sarkodieh about tax
Sarkodieh: Worcester residents – small business exemption. Businesses come and go, residents stay, in favor of senior discount.
Q to Haxhiaj: public transpo, commuter rail
Haxhiaj: we need to work with our delegation to make sure that Worcester has electrified rail, which will help us meet climate crisis goals. Fare-Free WRTA – 39 communities have done this and ridership has increased. Equity issue for poor and elderly – they rely on it – and this will help increase walkability as well.
Q to Bergman: sanctuary city, develop policies for solidarity with immigrant communities.
Bergman: WPD policy is not to ask questions. To officially declare ourselves a sanctuary city would impact our federal funding, which would impact the poor and marginalized the most. Would not do anything further.
Q for Economou: civic engagement.
Economou: civics needs to be taught in schools again. He thinks this is a major issue. City does a good job promoting elections, but could use excise, water/sewer bills to let people know. Tours with kids at city hall is best civics lesson of all, see mock city council meeting.
Q to Honeycutt: Equal Pay Law. How to enforce?
Honeycutt: all the questions we have are contradicting everyone – we need to push businesses in the area. If you don’t comply, you don’t get to come in here. Worcester Red Sox, how much of an achievement is that? Sometimes we have to be ok with saying no.
[I’m not sure if that was about the question or not]
Q to King: roads in poorer neighborhoods are neglected.
King: does not necessarily support accessing tax levy. Need to re-prioritize – make sure equitable across all sides of the city. All parts of the city should gain. Voting rates should not impact services given to different neighborhoods.
Questions from audience
Q to Coleman about upward mobility.
Coleman: hates the term ‘minority’ – what he will do to stimulate people. USA is greatest country in the world – make sure overabundance of opportunity. Everyone should see, feel, experience the opportunities.
Q for Colorio: convo about not raising homeowner taxes – but allocating funds to underfunded areas. How do you give money to the WooSox when areas are neglected?
Colorio: econ dev in favor of, sometimes have to give TIFs, but she is not a proponent. Would like small biz exemption. If you want community with good workforce, need affordable housing. Need to work on creating that environment. Don’t want to be like Boston where no one can afford a house.
Q for Haxhiaj: as POC, lives on Bell Hill, never seen a candidate, why should I bother to vote?
Haxhiaj: has been door-knocking everywhere. I have translated materials to many languages. You have every right to be pissed off, you should be treated same way as people from West Side. We hired 10 girls, mostly of color, for my campaign. Look at my actions.
Q for Corrigan: do you have any ideas/experience to have people of different backgrounds come to agreements on how to move our city forward?
Corrigan: experience as a camp counselor in Germany. People from all over – people from different places have different ideas. Campers were also international. People came together.
Q for Rosen: what initiatives to retain college-age population/talent?
Rosen: we need jobs. A lot of them want to stay in Worcester. Important to retain and expand existing businesses, bring in new biz. Still competing, and attracting new businesses. PawSox looked at 18 communities – but they chose us!
Q for Economou: how can city council ensure that community receives spinoff from econ dev/ballpark?
Economou: CBA will ensure that people from the city are hired for these jobs. That’s the best way to ensure that people get those jobs first.
[Honestly, I want to know what kind of factory they’re building at Polar Park with all these jobs!]
Q for Gibson: we’re the second-largest city in New England – what initiative do you propose to promote that?
Gibson: emphasize diversity and welcoming nature. Make sure we have all represented.
Q for Petty: how quickly to get to 100% renewable energy?
Petty: the quicker the better, many solar panels. We have biggest solar farm here. Who knows if it will snow here this winter?
Q for Toomey about reducing solid waste to meet DEP guidelines
Toomey: recycling center in schools, could reuse some material creatively. Would ask that people think about what they are doing – ordering online, many cardboard boxes and plastic packaging. Ask people to consider online companies to reduce packaging. People should use their recycled bags.
Q to King: how to protect non-profits, I think this is about Oak Hill CDC
King: will support doing all we can to support CDCs. He was just made aware of this issue today. Need to meet with folks to address these issues.
Q to Bergman: how to make Worcester a favorable destination for tourism?
Bergman: has been involved in Preservation Worcester for a number of years. Some people would have laughed at this question a few years ago – no more. This is a great destination to enjoy history. We’ve got as good a history as the City of Boston – we just don’t market it.
Q for Sarkodieh: teenagers and employment.
Sarkodieh: mentors to guide for college opportunities. High schools – classes at city hall to see what is going on. Good citizens as parents.
Q to Tiscione: if I never see candidates in my neighborhood, why should I vote?
Tiscione: that’s the whole reason why you should vote. I try to get around as much as I can – it’s a big city and I can’t get everywhere. After you do a couple dozen three-deckers, it gets tiring. Vote so your voice is heard. You can’t be heard if you don’t show up.
Q to Honeycutt: not raising homeowner taxes – but variety of underfunded areas. Woo Sox vs not raising taxes
Honeycutt: downtown is vital, but running for D5. Focus on residential taxes don’t rise. Transpo needs to be more accessible to people in community. Make smaller routes to destinations. Focus is on D5 – lowest residential tax rate.
Q to Wally: what initiatives to retain college-age population/talent?
Wally: need WELL-PAYING jobs, and entertainment options that 22 year olds want. The latter has been improving.
Closing statements – you know I won’t type unless I need to.
Toomey has been involved in very sexy issues like infrastructure and sewers. That is an exact quote.
TISCIONE IS LUCKY THIRTEEN ON YOUR BALLOT. Homeless problem is growing issue and will affect every issue of our lives. Keep talking about gentrificaton – we are not doing enough for people in need. We need real answers – not put in bandaids. People come from surrounding communities because we have the services.
Haxhiaj is an exhausted single mom who has advocated for Plumley Village residents, brought 1000 people to City Hall, showed up at Polar Park to ask why there is no CBA. Her heart, mind, and all her energies are all in the right place.
Tony ALSO mentions curbside compost. I don’t think it was necessarily positive, but we’re getting there, kids!
Corrigan recommends calling DPW Customer Service for potholes. They have 30 days to fix it before the city is liable. People at DPW know him!
BILL COLEMAN IS GIVING OUT T-SHIRTS, PEOPLE!