It’s a (lack of) Vision Thing

On the way home from church today, I asked my husband if he’d read Nick Kotsopoulos’ column today about Tom Hoover.  He hadn’t, so I gave him the basic gist of the column and Jeff Barnard’s comments.

My husband was never a fan of Hoover, and neither of those pieces will change his mind.  Hoover strikes my husband as the kind of guy who was coasting until retirement.  “But he wasn’t a bad city manager, he was pretty decent,” I said.

But, of course, it isn’t enough to be a decent city manager.  Not in this city.  We need someone who not only has a vision, preferably the right vision, but someone has the will to follow through on that vision and the political savvy to make sure it happens.

Tom Hoover was not a wheeler-dealer, and he wasn’t a visionary.  That is, unfortunately, what Worcester needed five years ago, and what we still need.  And are still lacking.

Former Mayor Tim Murray had a vision.  His vision was to knock down the mall.  There was no real vision beyond that, though.  And I’m not convinced there will be any more vision in Joe O’Brien’s tenure as mayor.

The current city manager’s vision is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.  Let’s move Unum into the vacuum that’s caused by the lack of an anchor for CitySquare.  Let’s forget that this will cause another vacuum four blocks away.

I asked my husband what he thought a visionary city manager would do.  “Take the whole thing by eminent domain, knock it down, parking garages and all, put in three-story buildings with shops on the first floor and housing and offices on the second and third.  Close at least part of it to foot traffic only.”  Now, my husband is a libertarian, so I wasn’t sure he really meant the whole eminent-domain thing.  But he did.  He said that government caused the problem [by having the mall built in the first place] and now government was going to need to fix it.

Now, you can agree or disagree with my husband’s vision.  But at least he sees something.

I don’t think that we have a governmental (City Council’s, City Manager’s) vision for the downtown.  The city government has taken Berkley Investments’ downtown of the city and adopted it as their own.

The city has no real vision for the downtown beyond looking to a (completely incompetent) business venture to step in and fix a mess.  The city has no idea what to do with the Auditorium beyond trying to pressure Higgins Armory into moving there, which is just another way of saying, “Come in and fix this mess.”  They have no idea what to do with the courthouse beyond hoping that someone will buy the courthouse and the Auditorium as a package deal and — you guessed it — fix the mess for them.

Perhaps when CitySquare falls through, we’ll actually get some thoughtful ideas about downtown.  Preferably ones that don’t involve ice skating rinks. But I won’t hold my breath.