“White Out”

I would have prefered “White Out” to be about twice as long, and with twice as much fact-checking.

While it is true that Stacey DeBoise Luster had never run for political office when she first ran for City Council, the article would have done well to have outlined how she won the 1997 election.

In the article, Luster says that  she’s “not going to condemn the political system in Worcester,” and she acknowledges that “there are people that are in groups, people in the mix. They are the political insiders.”

Luster’s first City Council campaign wasn’t just an out-of-the-blue upset; she was successfully able to use her personal connections to reach out to those who would contribute more than $27,000 (!) to her campaign, to hire a good campaign manager, and to get her message out to voters.  In short, she was able to tap into a piece of that network, or a network, and succeed where many others had failed.

[In case you have a tough time remembering the late 1990s, read this article on Luster’s first term in office.]

I would have preferred a discussion of Shirley Wright and Ogretta McNeil’s successful candidacies for School Committee as well. 

Shirley Wright had lost in the 1989 School Committee race, but ran again in 1995 and came in third.  What happened?

“Wright was the biggest spender in the School Committee race, raising more than $22,000.  She had raised only $5,000 in her unsuccessful 1989 campaign.

“Building the organization was aided by Wright’s work in the community, [campaign manager Bari] Boyer said.  Affiliations with groups such as the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, of which she was president from 1990 to 1993, proved a great asset.”  (source:”Wright wins seat on school board”, by Clive McFarlane, T&G, 8 November 1995)

Ogretta McNeil had name recognition in the community: she was a trustee of the University of Massachusetts, she was part of the citizens committee that helped the School Committee select a new superintendent in 1993,

When McNeil ran for school committee in 1997, there was a sitting black school committee member (Wright, who was not seeking re-election).  In that year, there were “seven black and Hispanic candidates, thought to be an unprecedented number”, and two of those candidates were DeBoise Luster and McNeil.  (source:”Minority candidates’ presence grows in city”, by Winston W. Wiley, T&G, 1 July 1997)

Note that all three women had campaign managers (though McNeil’s had never before run a campaign), and that both Wright and DeBoise Luster raised over $20,000.

Also of interest: “The McNeil and DeBoise campaigns targeted mailings, for example, in which they matched voter registration lists against names of those who voted in the election two years ago – reaching voters who were most likely to go the polls on Election Day.”  (source:”Minority campaigns are ‘coming of age'”, by Clive McFarlane, T&G, 12 November 1997)

This is not to diminish the real achievements by all of these women.  There’s no shame in making friends, reaching out to voters, and learning how to run a campaign.

And it’s also not to diminish the very real concerns people of color have about full participation in our government.  We have to look no further than last December’s appointment of two new library board members.  There were plenty of folks that would have made the library board more diverse, and the City Council chose two relatively well-connected white folks.

But it is tough — period — for a non-incumbent to be elected in this city, and it’s well nigh impossible for a non-incumbent to win a Council seat without raising tens of thousands of dollars.  (See here for excellent analysis.)

Let’s acknowledge that and learn from those who have been successful in the past.

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Hope Cemetery – capital budget

Tracy had posted a link to the proposed capital budget a few weeks back (and I still don’t see it on the main city website, so that link is your best bet).

There were two items for Hope Cemetery: $50,000 for new section development (which we desperately need), and $500,000 to begin the process of installing new water service (also needed). 

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the reason the cemetery has the big blue watering buckets is that the underground plumbing is very old and has failed in many sections of the cemetery.  At peak times (around Memorial Day, for instance), the water pump truck goes all day refilling the buckets.  (And there was a time a couple of years back when the water pump truck had a broken part that was on backorder for weeks…)

I will not be able to attend tomorrow’s cemetery commission meeting., but if you have any questions or concerns, send them along and I will ask that they be discussed.

We still have some outstanding questions about the cemetery barn; I had wanted to see some more detailed reports from the architect but our June meeting was cancelled.  So — send barn questions (if you have any) along as well.

MBTA seeking input on Framingham/Worcester line schedule changes

From the MetroWest Daily News:

The MBTA is asking customers to answer the following questions:

What train departure times would increase your use of the line?

Which stations would you recommend as express stops and at what times of day?

(Peak hour express service will be at stations that experience high demand and offer pedestrian and bicycle access and sufficient car and bicycle parking.) 

What train departure times would best serve reverse and off-peak commuters?

What weekend schedules would be most beneficial?

Responses should be emailed to worcesterline2013@mbta.com by Sept. 18

External candidates need not apply

Remember when the City of Worcester used to do nationwide searches?

It seemed like the city’s soundtrack in those days of yore (or, at least, 1996) was Lisa Stansfield belting “Been around the world and I, I, I, I can’t find my baby…oh, wait, he’s been in the office down the hall this whole time!”

So it was pleasant to find that the city administration will save us countless dollars — not to mention meetings’ worth of nail-biting suspense — by appointing Paul Moosey as the commissioner of DPW&P when Bob Moylan retires.

Who can forget those tense four months in 2004 when we thought the city might actually shell out dollars for a quarter-page ad in a trade journal when the perfect — nay, the only — candidate for city manager was already right here?

Thank goodness we didn’t have to go through the stress that comes with rounds of interviewing candidates with experience managing cities, or the disappointment that comes with saying goodbye to eminently qualified candidates who are missing the most important qualification of them all…membership in the club.

You see, Worcester is so different from every other municipality that it is nearly impossible to function here unless you have at least twenty years of experience in Worcester.

Imagine having to explain to an outsider that a sewer line that regularly overflows into a lake isn’t — as they would suspect — a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.  In Worcester, it’s honored with the awe that most reserve for Old Faithful.

That same outsider might think that when Mayor Petty talks about “residency requirements” [$], he would like those who work for the city to live in the city.  Indeed, non-Worcesterites lack the sophistication to decipher a statement like: “It bothers me that people don’t live here. We should make some changes.”

If you read that and felt it meant that (1) the Mayor is bothered that people don’t live here, and (2) we should make some changes, you are obviously not from Worcester.

What that really meant is that (1) it’s an election year, (2) the mayor has decided that this is his issue, and (3) he will talk about this issue without doing anything about a non-Worcester-resident seeking a promotion.

It also means that he will mention it next year around June as if it had never been thought of before, with a similar level of righteous indignation, sparking debate online and on the radio, and ignoring the rest of us who have actually done the research and determined that it just doesn’t make any sense [1, 2, 3].

I bear no ill will towards Mr. Moosey.

On the contrary, he’s inheriting a formidable challenge.  When Bob Moylan retires, not only is Worcester losing half the good hair in city government, but someone who left a huge mark — in both policy and sartorial standards — as well.

Here are some of the issues I’d like to see a new DPW&P commissioner take on:

Build on the success of our recycling program.  Twenty years ago, Worcester’s pay-as-you-throw program was revolutionary.  The latest potential innovation has been Commissioner Moylan’s proposal that people put their recycling in clear plastic bags.  While that might help our recycling rate in single percentage points, we need to look at other ways to reduce the amount of waste we burn at Wheelabrator.  I’d like the new commissioner to look into a pilot curbside compost program and encourage a compost-to-electricity facility in Worcester.

Poop flows downhill.  Our complaints about the EPA would be slightly more logical if we didn’t continually have sewage overflows into Lake Quinsigamond.  Rather than continuing fights we will not win, we need to talk realistically with the EPA about what we can do in making the Blackstone River fishable and swimable.

Poop also flows underground.  We’re approaching major crises in our aging water/sewer system.  I don’t think Worcester’s alone; there are a lot of other communities experiencing the same problem.  But we can only go so many years with the occasional mention in hushed tones about miles of sewer lines and millions of dollars in costs.  It’s going to take vision and leadership to replace the infrastructure we all rely on.

Traffic engineering.  Front Street is atrocious.  There are numerous streets that could do with a lead green signal for left turns.  There are crosswalks all around the city that need a paint job.  Lake Avenue North has had “temporary” lights for years with no end in sight.  We’ve still got miles of private roads.  I don’t envy anyone that workload.

Aquatics.  The city seems disinclined to make capital investments in pools, despite the wishes of numerous residents.  I hate to bring up the Big P, but Providence has four pools and eleven spray parks.  The minute we stop pining for things that can’t be changed (the presence of a river) and focus on true quality-of-life issues, we’ll no longer have an inferiority complex vis–à–vis our neighbor to the south.

Readers, what else do you hope for in a new DPW commissioner? 

And please share what’s more traumatic: confessing that you agreed with Juan Gomez at least twice in 2004, or trying to emulate Lisa Stansfield’s spit curls in 1989: