I know it’s difficult to read a long liveblog (almost as much as it is to try to keep track of who’s saying what). This is a slightly biased summary of the candidate forum; Telegram coverage is here, and I hope there will be video available at some point.
There were seven questions that all candidates were given a minute to answer. No opening remarks, but each candidate was given a minute at the end to make closing remarks.
This was a tough format. There were nine at-large candidates at the event — Sargent, Zlody, and Parham did not attend — and it was tough to remember what the question was after the fourth candidate or so.
Since each candidate had to answer every question, it turned into a Rashomon-like struggle to remember what the question was.
The questions themselves were fine — I appreciated the question about transportation especially.
The room only had about 20 people when I arrived (candidates excluded) but quickly filled to overflow by the time the forum began. While there were many usual suspects (myself included) there were plenty of folks I’ve never seen at City Hall or other political events and that was great to see.
Who did well
The topic (community development) was suited for Moe Bergman and Matt Wally, both of whom I consider to be the candidates with the most knowledge/interest in this area. I thought they both did rather well.
I had been very impressed with Matt Wally when I saw him on 508, and I thought in this forum he came across as well-informed and experienced. He seemed to have a good knowledge of the housing stock in Worcester and acknowledged that some three-deckers in extremely poor repair are never going to be habitable again, and should either be redeveloped (as housing), or turned into small parks or community gardens. He seemed to want a balance between market-rate housing and affordable. Perhaps he appeals to the wonk in me, but I thought he did fabulously (and I’d be interested to see how he handles questions in other forums).
I haven’t been paying as much attention as I would like to the day-to-day life of the City Council — so perhaps this isn’t news to anyone else — but I really appreciated Moe Bergman‘s positive attitude. I liked his emphasis on walk/bike accessibility (in addition to other transportation concerns). I liked his mention of the Albany program that used Section 8 vouchers to turn renters into homeowners. He came across as giving a crap about increasing homeownership, and about making sure the city presents opportunities to future generations in the way it had done to past. He did a great job.
Juan Gomez did pretty well — and I’m no Juan Gomez fan! He’s articulate, he’s got a plan (which he mentioned a few times!) and he was able to shift the conversation on public transit away from the WRTA and towards livery, Uber, etc. He’s going to appeal to a certain voter — if you’re no fan of Ray Mariano’s A Better Life Program, or if you cringe when someone says there’s a political machine in the city, he’s probably not your guy — but he was articulate and I thought he made good points about areas of the city that do not have strong institutional partners.
Bill Coleman was engaging as always, and had a lot of intelligent comments and good ideas. Unfortunately, the forum format lent itself to a lot of “I agree with”s, but he made a good case for moving the police station to the Wyman-Gordon site and to having the city rehab vacant homes and encourage local ownership of rental properties.
Khrystian King also did well, but he used my kryptonite phrase (Worcester is a “city of neighborhoods”) and made a lot of emphasis on the need for public safety and good schools. Those are important, but I just wanted to hear a little more about specific development ideas.
As for Konnie Lukes, Kate Toomey, Joe Petty, and Mike Gaffney — is anything said at this forum, or anything I say about this forum, going to affect whether or not you vote for them?
Toomey was late due to a public works committee meeting she chaired, so I’ll give her a pass — none of her answers were inspired, I thought her comment that public transportation was better when more people used it was a bit odd (perhaps people don’t use it because it’s not so great?) but — face it — if you’re going to vote for her, it’s not because of how she answered a few questions about community development.
If you’ve listened to a City Council meeting in the past two decades, you know how Konnie Lukes would answer any of the questions in the forum. She was able to name-check Ronald Reagan and neighborhood councils in one breath, and bring up some of her other ideas (merging police and fire departments, competition in transportation). Like Toomey, if you’re going to vote for her, you’re going to vote for her.
Petty did better than I expected, though his answer to the transportation question revolved around the elderly getting to medical appointments (as opposed to King’s comment that reliable transportation can be the difference in having a home or being homeless, which was more relevant). He made much of investments in Union Hill, name-checked inspectional services every chance he got, and rattled off enough community development projects that you felt sure he’s done something in his time on the Council.
Gaffney had a “I had a choice between a root canal and this forum, and I should’ve picked the root canal” attitude. I don’t want to be too negative towards any particular candidate, but if I lived in the needle-ridden, free-lunch-taking, worst-walkable-city in America that Michael Gaffney lives in, I’d just move.