City Manager Mike O’Brien may be a competent manager, but his people skills are sorely lacking — at times it could be said that he elevates leadership tone-deafness to an art form. This time his secretiveness and his my-way-or-the-highway approach to manangement has crossed paths with the angry feline of Valley Falls. If anyone wonders where the ferocity of the anti-SMOC movement on the western edge of Worcester is coming from, one need only look back about 7 years or so to a period when certain powers-that-be in city and state government were plotting prospective routes for an access road to Worcester Airport. They quickly settled on a route that would have involved a massive land-grab in Hadwen Park, as well as eminent domain takings all along Grandview Avenue — a one-way street that connects Main Street to Stafford Street. A local wag who shall remain nameless christened Grandview “Deadmeat Ave.” around that time, as it was looking like the project might be steamrolled through over resident’s opposition.
Then came ROAR (Residents Opposing the Access Road), an anti-access road citizen’s group which raised enough of a ruckus that the project was shelved — at least for a while. But the poor residents of Grandview may be forgiven for feeling like a Sword of Damocles still hangs over their narrow byway, because few doubt that the master planners of state & local government would still like to bring that access road through so that cargo haulers can more easily get to the airport.
What’s all that got to do with the anti-SMOC vitriol?
Assume for a moment, as many people do, that most homeless people also abuse alcohol. Whether there’s truth to that is of no immediate relevance. If you were the imbibing sort, and if you were to find your homeless self temporarily housed at 1398 Main Street, where’s the closest place to get your fix of intoxicating hooch? Stafford Liquors at the corner of Stafford & James, near the bridge. An easy stagger straight down Grandview from the new SMOC Triage Center.
For those who (understandably) make that packy-run assumption, then once again Grandview Ave. = Deadmeat Ave. Mike O’Brien has blithely put the Grandview Tiger back in the crosshairs, and he’s about to hear his target ROAR.
I have to assume that Mike O’Brien (or “City Dictator”, as the late Jeff Barnard called him) is either oblivious to the lingering ire left by the last attempt to steamroll Deadmeat Ave., or else he failed to appreciate how long memories of attempted “injustice” can be. These folks want to be part of the process early on, like they were when Mass DOT was planning how to handle the closure of the James St. Bridge. Too late for that now, unfortunately, so the Dictator needs to start mending some fences and acting like a diplomat instead of an autocrat.
My advice to the City Manager tonight (& tomorrow) is to be as forthright/conciliatory as possible — and that’s going to be a huge challenge for Mike O’Brien. Make sure that all of the neighbors’ concerns are dealt with. And promise not to drop another controversial project on Deadmeat Ave. without consulting them.
Good luck, “C.D.” I don’t envy you having the tiger by the tail.