Tricked – Yes

Worcester’s a bit like a gal who wants to think the best of every suitor who expresses an interest.  CSX came a-courtin’ not so long ago, with lots of promises that set the city administration’s heart a-flutterin’.  Unfortunately, it’s looking like CSX is just one more ne’er-do-well cad on the road to Worcester’s economic spinsterhood.

In today’s T&G, Nick K notices that not everyone has been taken in by pretty words.  But unless voters insist that their councilors give the City Manager firm direction — including directions to NOT accept certain dodgy deals — we may as well resign ourselves to bending over whenever some new entity wants to enjoy some of our charms.  We have no equivalent of a kindly uncle trying to marry us off, only would-be pimps.

The CSX deal was unfortunately a “done deal” long before the public heard of it, because the city council lacks the intestinal fortitude to oppose most of the City Manager’s deals.  In fact, they usually rubber-stamp the deals, then pat the CM on the back.

The Council lacks any sort of coherent vision for Worcester, so, by default, the City Manager has been imposing his “vision”.  It’s unclear whether he envisions Worcester as a freight hub, but that is clearly a worry for the residents.  The only thing missing from that vision now is an access road to Worcester Airport, to get even more freight conveniently in & out of Worcester.  The sacrifice of Putnam Lane was small potatoes; wait ’til they go after Hadwen Park and Deadmeat Ave.

Once in a while the citizens have risen up and given Mike O’Brien pause — for instance, when he attempted to site the SMOC Triage Center at the former Anna Maria Nursing Home.  The anti-CSX folks weren’t as successful — they accepted some pretty promises and allowed the “done deal” to happen.  Now neighbors of the CSX Freight Wonderland in downtown & eastern Worcester, like those who made up the sign shown above, are rightly angry that none of the promises have thus far been kept.

Have we been tricked?  Yes & no.  The City Manager wanted the CSX deal to happen, and when some opposition materialized, he helped dream up a few bones to throw us, and which we’re still waiting for.  Set aside the ruin of a big swath of downtown & the loss of a street.  Shortly after this done deal, a big chunk of Franklin Street was undermined by CSX activity in the rail-yard below, limiting travel on that street to one lane.  For the past month, the focus has been on whether or not the MBTA made a promise about additional commuter rail trains (and whether or not they can commit to those trains in the face of major budget shortfalls).  Today’s T&G piece is instead all about another unfulfilled promise — spray parks and/or a pool.

In addition, the promises — real or perceived — from CSX were made to different constituencies, and the inconveniences (past, present and future) that come out of this project also affect different constituencies.  The closure of Putnam Lane was not a great impact to the city as a whole, but a rather significant one to those who need to cut between Franklin Street and Shrewsbury Street.  A spray park or pool in East Park would be a boon to many on the East Side — including those on Bell Hill who might not feel the immediate negatives of the CSX project.  Fewer commuter trains than expected might affect people across Worcester (and surrounding towns).

We’re so easily distracted by these sorts of bait & switch maneuvers — and we all tend to be stuck in our own silos — that it’s no wonder we can’t form a united front against a “vision” of Worcester that’s really anti-Worcester.

If we were “tricked”, maybe we just weren’t paying attention . . . or maybe we’re too trusting.

I’m tired of Worcester being the urban equivalent of Lady Edith Crawley.  Sure, our city is no looker, and we tend to throw ourselves at every unromantic chinless guy our older, prettier sister casts off — but that doesn’t mean we’re worthless.

When will Worcester rise up and say, “I’m tired that the only romantic moments in my life come with the married farmer I drove a tractor for and some guy with half a face who’s pretending to be my cousin!  Don’t I deserve to be happy, too?!?”

Worcester’s a nice gal who deserves a City Council who is willing to grill her suitors in the way any protective parent would.  We don’t need to be hooked up with every chancer who happens down the pike with a gleam in his eye and empty promises in his pocket — we need a good match.  And probably a better matchmaker.