Walking the Walk

As of this moment — snow notwithstanding — two of a possible five Municipal Operations Committee meetings have been scheduled:

Thursday, February 20, 6:00pm
Worcester Senior Center, 128 Providence Street

Wednesday, February 26, 6:00 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church Hall, 90 Holden Street

I will direct the readership to Dianne Williamson’s column today, “Worcester City Council: Land of let’s pretend“, as that summarizes everything I feel about this “process”.

Since Mike O’Brien announced he would be leaving the post of city manager three months ago, the only movement we’ve had in finding a new city manager has been hiring some dude who spoke at a library event and scheduling a couple of meetings.

I’m all for public participation.

It’s certain members of the City Council who have demonstrated, time and time again, that they do not care for public participation.

If they cared about public participation, the name “Ed Augustus” would not have been sprung on a nearly empty chamber with no warning.

If they cared about public participation, we would not have had to fight for a forum at the beginning of Council meetings to give folks the chance to speak for a scant two minutes to their elected officials.

If they cared about public participation, they would have a clear plan in place outlining what they will do with public input and when they will actively start looking for a city manager.

Councilor Palmieri said at a recent City Council meeting that he would have hoped the city would have sent an “email blast out to everyone.”

Cities with seven hills weren’t built in a day.  And neither is real community engagement.

If we had had a City Council that honestly wanted to have a real conversation with the community before this, then perhaps we could have had listening sessions for citizens to attend, and an online forum for constructive conversation, and come together to talk about the big issues.

But that’s not how our political system works.

We instead treat our elected officials as glorified DPW Customer Service reps, and vote for our favorites.

We have City Council Standing Committees devoted to stop signs, speed limits, and sidewalk repairs.  Rather than letting professionals be professionals, we have meetings to discuss who gets their street paved, and perpetuate the myth that you need to know someone in high places to get anything done.

This is why nothing can get done: the leaders have created a system whereby they only pay attention to the trees and never see the forest.

When we have meetings about real issues, like slots parlors, citizens suddenly find that they are interrupted by their elected officials, or else are ignored by them.

Either you want to hear from us or you don’t.  And by your previous actions, I’m guessing you don’t.

The three people who immediately rose to acclaim Ed Augustus as the anointed one are those who were part of the gang who got rid of Tom Hoover in 2004: Joe Petty, Rick Rushton, and Phil Palmieri.

I don’t recall being asked for my input on that personnel decision, or any of those three councilors holding that item so that the public could have input.

This is a Council that has had the same criteria for evaluating the city manager for years (though they don’t seem to be able to remember what that criteria is).  They already know what they want.  They have asked for it and seem to have gotten it.

Don’t ask if you’re not honestly interested in having a continuing conversation with citizens.

Don’t ask if you’re just going to treat us as idiots the next time we testify in front of you at a City Council meeting.

And, for goodness sake, don’t ask if the only purpose is a delaying tactic so that the whole city can love the one we’re with for an extended 3-5 year contract.

Because there’s really no excuse for not starting the RFP process for an executive search firm now, while we’re listening, so that they’re ready to go by the time we’re finished listening.