Initiative – Final At-Large Council Debate – Liveblog 10-28

Candidates scheduled to be here: Bergman, Coleman, Gaffney, Gomez, King, Lukes, Parham, Petty, Sargent, Toomey, Wally, Zlody

This is limited to five questions, each candidate gets 1 min per question

Q1: When discussing policing and public safety, what is said can be more important than what is happening.  Perception vs reality in policing and public safety.

Zlody: When we talk about an issue, inflammatory rhetoric draws away.  Find solutions, don’t fan flames.  Second largest city in NE, address issues with violence, drugs, community policing, community building.  One very horrible incident at North High was focused and inflamed, look at things as a whole & organically

Wally: Misperception that things are a lot worse.  True that gun violence has increased, but media sensationalism can make situation worse.  Has experience as student at HC and Clark.  Because HC separated by a gate, student body felt Worcester a lot worse than it was.  Clark as more of an urban campus – students felt better at Worcester.

Toomey: Perception becomes some people’s reality.  There are issues that happen and incidents of violence that make people concerned/fearful.  Business communities thinks things not safe for their employees.  Good to get facts out (chief’s report in the summer).

Sargent: It depends on what neighborhood you live in.  Personal question.  Ask yourself that question.  When we are talking about the perception, we’re talking about the past.  Key to crime prevention is in prevention.  Getting to community members before they get in trouble.

Petty: We did have a tough summer, but we do have a safe city.  Spoke with chief and manager about putting together plan, plan is together, it’s  been pretty quiet because they stuck with the plan.   You can see a difference right now.  Community issue, police are part of the solution.

Parham: Perception that Worcester is unsafe is real to those who feel it.  People need to be served justice, that is what the police are there for.  When you read headlines, feed into the hype.  Hold each other accountable for creating the headlines.  Worcester needs to be more proactive.

Lukes: Worcester is changing.  Has never seen people shooting up in city hall, union station, library, overdosing, before, using the buildings as informal shelters.  Clive described problem near Green Hill Park, neighbors unable to solve issue with various shelters in their ‘hood.  Despite anti-police rhetoric, we have professional and involved police force that works hard.

King: a lot said about public safety.  Discusses his interactions with teens and adults.  Perception is our reality.  Police have been out there on bikes, enhanced operations.  We are beginning to address these issues, some are systemic.  Starts with focusing on youth and interventions.

Gomez: Statistics don’t lie.  Been a significant spike in crime.  City leaders were slow to respond to this until some of the neighbors were screaming about the need for attention.  We should be more proactive.

Gaffney: What a grossly misleading question.  Scroll through WPD’s official page: armed robbery, home invasion, suspect breaking into vehicles, last week we had break-ins.  Idea that if we talk about what is happening that people won’t want to come to this city.  Worcester is not a safe city.  Not enough money to police and children.  Absolutely horrible question.

Coleman: Like to do research while listening to other candidates.  1 in 104 chance of being in a crime.  11th in country for safe city — with 100 being safest.  What are root causes of issues?  What are we not doing?  School-to-prison pipeline — overall we are a city who is safe.

Bergman: Glass half empty or full?  Hopes everyone checks statistics.  Gang violence is a concern.  WPD and city admin are addressing; time will tell.  If there’s a home invasion, we need to let people know if it was a random act or not.  Was Circuit Ave gang-related?

Q2: Strong community/police relations — what can you do as a councilor to improve this?

Wally: Role of councilor is to be an advocate for community policing model.  First, by putting charge to city manager for funding for recruits; second, for CM to hold chief accountable.  Touch on fact that there is police presence in high schools.  He is in favor of this.

Toomey: one of our police officers works with Oak Hill CDC for creating safe environment for kids on Halloween.  Supporting efforts of officers, programs of gang squad, that help support our youth, she can support all of that.

Sargent: WPS teacher, comes from family heavily involved in WPD.  Doesn’t think city councilors can do anything about this.  Police already have the strong community ties, great community leaders who work with police.  Happening on a daily basis.

Petty: We’ve come a long way.  Remembers chief presenting community policing model.  Bike and foot patrols, community meetings.  Clergy/Police Academy.

Parham: When people feel as though they are not heard, begin to feel apathy.  Conversation about public safety issues.  When it comes to difficult situations, need to stay at the table and stick there until we get to a solution.  Gang issues, hard for us to comprehend that we can work with some of these gang members, or ex-offenders.  Look at evidence-based programs like Cure Violence.

Lukes: Look internally at police department.  Merge police and fire, police commissioner for both.  Morale is very low in WPD.  Police wear many hats.  Not supportive of anti-police rhetoric.  Supported police with resolution, also want a review board for balance.

King: Trust and accountability is what it’s about.  When people come to table with concerns, recognize them.  Find process for everyone to work together.

Gomez: Strong supporter of WPD.  Got endorsement because they like what I say.  Supports Police Academy explorer corps, youngest brother was a member of that.  Supports community policing, but that means we need additional police officers.

Gaffney: carrying on that: we do need more police.  Hard to do neighborhood policing if we are insufficiently staffed.  If you don’t have interaction with neighborhood, lose trust.  Agrees with Juan that there should be an incentive to live here.

Coleman: 350+ police officers.  26 are women.  Hierarchy has been set.  Not likely that a minority will reach those channels in the next decade.  We need more police officers, 50-75 more, more women needed.  Of the 26 women, half could retire at any given time. Recruit policewomen.  508-799-8606 is the non-emergency line.

Bergman: same with any relationship: have to get to know one another better.  At elementary level, field trips to police station, having them speak to classes.  Equestrian police force would be good for outreach.  More ministers and police need to be involved, more involvement in neighborhood watches.

Zlody: ok with students meeting with police, not necessarily with police as full-time presence in schools.  Basketball league with at-risk kids.  Stop the school-to-prison pipeline.  By meeting with police, can learn how to avoid confrontational situations.

Q3: Body cameras – do you support for all on-duty WPD officers?

Toomey: on surface, great idea.  Contractual issue.  Some officers would welcome.  Storage: are they on 24 hrs a day, where do we store the video?

Sargent: conversation btw affected police officers and community.  Thinks it is common sense, it will happen, and supports it.  To address diversity, we have stellar ROTC programs, resource officers in schools, would love to see a school-to-police-dept program.

Petty: this year, cameras in cell rooms, wagons, etc.  Body cameras in the process of being tested.  Problem will be storage costs, which are very expensive.

Parham: body cam way to protect both police and public.  Wouldn’t the storage be a way to create jobs?

[Note: I didn’t hear anyone complain about storage costs when the WPD was rolling out its Big Brother camera program]

Lukes: thinks tecnology is inevitable and public safety has to use it.  Unfortunately more of an adversarial relationship between police + public and litigious culture.  Asks for a body cam for City Council meetings.

King: goes to trust/transparency.  However, we have to be aware that this goes through collective bargaining.  When/if body cameras are on.

Gomez: Ask the police dept.  If they want to do it, why not?  Some other things that would make a greater impact are help WPD establish ongoing conversations with young people, WPD explorer corps, settle lawsuits with minority police officers, take steps to diversify police dept.

Gaffney: not much of a price tag you can put on accountability.  Doesn’t know how much rapport you can have if someone has a camera in your face.  He favors it.  Work through money/contract issues.  Cameras in a lot of police stations can convict you as well, help everyone.

Coleman: in late 70s, had police auxiliary.  Hell, he wants school teachers to wear body cams!  You can buy dashcams at Wal-Mart for $30.  He would like to wear one when he is campaigning.

Bergman: cost of body cameras is $1,000 a person.  If Bill can buy them at Wal-Mart for $30 a pop, he doesn’t have to run for Council, he can just be a middleman.

Zlody: we have seen how body cams help civilians and police.  How do we protect privacy while we are recording?

Wally: from small sample of police officers, in favor of looking.  From small sample of community organizations, in favor.  When public benefit is so great, budget concerns can be overridden.

Q4: As a city councilor, what do you look at as your role in making schools safe?

Sargent: in schools every day.  Having a responsible role model in schools only helps kids.  More responsible role models help.  Need police in schools, including elementary school level [Nicole: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

Petty: City Council can provide resources to schools.  Seven police officers in schools, helps build up relationship when you can deal with police officer on a non-enforcement issue.

Parham: believes that everyone who engages with youth could benefit from a de-escalation class.  Many kids have issues at home.  City Council should be strong advocate for education funding to help break cycle of poverty.  City Council office hours should be held at schools.  [huh?]

Lukes: best way to keep kids off streets is longer school days and years.  Schools are becoming surrogate parents. This country as a whole does not recognize importance of children and parents.  FutureShock reference: everything starts at family level, if that doesn’t work, schools take it over.

King: after school programs need to be focused on.  Colleges and universities should be partners in this.  Police in schools are not the answer.  Allow social workers and adjustment counselors.  Those needs are not being met — these folks are trained to deal with crises, de-escalate confrontations.


Gaffney: no one understands the difference between the City Council and School Committee.  If people are frustrated, they are frustrated.  Mentions lost of Ch 70 funding.

Coleman: alum of high schools frustrated by rhetoric.  Bring in more teachers, more support staff, wraparound services.  Each parent needs to tell their child they love them.

Bergman: role of Council is at budget season/hearings.  Are schools as safe as they can be?  We can do better.  Springfield spends almost 10 times as much money on safety for the same # of kids.

Zlody: How much of this is fanning flames for election process?  She has a group of friends that happen to be teachers.  Flashes, but not consistent.  Can we fund programs that give resources to schools to address?  We do not need to increase funding of school-to-prison pipeline.  We need more social workers, not police officers, in schools.

Wally: Councilor needs to work with state delegation for funding, work with great non-profits for after-school programs.  He has received a lot of feedback for why he’s not running for School Committee, although we do not have oversight, should be champion of Worcester Public Schools.

Toomey: School Safety Liaison does a very good job.  Administration should work with him.  Guidance counselors overworked.  City Councilor has right to ask what’s going on, and advocate to Mayor, who serves on City Council.  Cameras are not in some schools.

Q5: Community Dialogs on Race are concluded.   How do we move forward?

Petty: still thinks it was a good idea, brought community together.  A lot of good things came out of it, some of things done are create Chief Diversity Officer, reinstitute Clergy/Police Alliance, put young people to work.

Parham: wants to see the report and what came out of that series of meetings.  Good that we have these meetings, but if we don’t continue we will not be able to move forward.

Lukes: Agrees with Parham.  Does not know what the results were.  This was never brought before Council to state what we wanted to see happen.  She went to every session and is still up in the air as to what was accomplished.  Not seeing a big change in women/minorities from 30 years ago.

King: First, we elect a city council representative of city demographics.  We’ve seen a lot of gotcha politics in the Council.  It’s not pro/anti Police, we need police, we need to validate people’s experiences and not belittled.

Gomez: First person to be waiting for that report.  Sure it will show up after the election.  Attainable, measurable objectives.  Settle the lawsuits.  Diversify police dept.. take specific actions.

Gaffney: has heard since September that report is 75% complete.  Agrees with Linda and Konnie.  We do a lot of talking.  Those measures were put before Council in April, one thing that helped – reachout from CAC.

Coleman: went to every single hearing.  City is comfortable with its separateness.  Our own communities don’t vote.  To ask for other communities to vote to make the Council more diverse, is a challenge.

Bergman: Whenever the report comes, it will not solve economic disparity and opportunities.  Come next week, if you’re a Council that doesn’t recognize that, won’t be working to solve the problem.

Zlody: anytime there is a dialog between those who don’t normally talk, we benefit.  A few groups got together as a result of the meetings.  Looking forward to see what the report says.

Wally: difficult conversations are useful.  He attended two of the sessions.  Worcester needs opportunities for folks to speak informally as well.  Agrees with councilor Bergman — help folks rise socially and economically – educational, job, home ownership opportunities.

Toomey: need to continue to talk to one another.  Looking forward to seeing the report.

Sargent: discussion is good, didn’t need DOJ to come here.  City Council should set example for the whole city.  Discussions that get thing done, Golden Rule, celebrate our diversity.  Ask the kids about race relations, kids in schools get along so well.

Closing remarks -I will only note stuff of interest

Coleman: People say to me “Hey you’ve been out there for a while…I started as a young man, now I’m a senior citizen.”  Has stayed at it since 1977.  He’s here.  Ask your friends to give him a vote.

Gaffney: Doesn’t know if anyone has listened to WTAG lately.  [Why, no, I haven’t!]  All the ads are about schools and safety.

Gomez: With me, you get more action and less politics.

Lukes: mentions newcomers who do not want her to be re-elected.  [Many laughs]


WRRB/Chamber District Council Debate

D3 Councilor George Russell and at-large candidate Khrystian King are here as well; unclear why we couldn’t just have Russell and Rosen debate one another in addition to the competitive races.


There are many attendees; I’d guess at least a third are Rivera supporters.

Opening statements:

Tony Economou: been a great four years, we have been able to accomplish many things.  $2 mil in park improvements within the district, new Nelson Place underway, returns phone calls and emails.

Cindy Nguyen: one of her top priorities is civic engagement.  She is a lifelong resident of Worcester, grew up on Piedmont Street, attended WPS and Holy Cross, lives in Indian Hill area for last 11 years.  Spends time volunteering, career path is to help community.  Need to involve “you guys”, push you guys, involve you guys.

Candy Mero-Carlson: committed to community, volunteering at United Way, neighborhood crime watch.  Committed to getting job done.

Jennithan Cortes: born and raised on East Side of Worcester, 47-year-old father of four, first generation of Colombian immigrants, passionate about Worcester.  Proud to be born and raised on the East Side.  Will challenge status quo for all the right reasons.  Think about where our future lies, D2 is a testimonial to what Worcester can be (three-deckers, single family, Canal District, businesses, parks).  Support him by hiring him on November 3.

Sarai Rivera: lived in Worcester since the age of 4.  District 4 is home.  She is not the voice of the people, the people have their own voices and she helps people get heard.

Jackie Kostas: married, daughter, works at Walmart for 17 years.  Promises to work for community with integrity and respect.

Q1: Under state law, at least 10% are affordable to those of limited means.  Worcester exceeds; other surrounding do not.  Do we have enough, what to do

Kostas: we need to support private developers, make three deckers easier to rent.

Rivera: when we look at threshold, according to National Low Income Household Coalition, it would take someone making $24/hr to afford (housing in Worcester, I think).  Not affordable to those who are out there working every day.  If city needs more, take consideration of what city needs.

Cortes: city of Worcester has a lot of opportunity to fulfill affordable housing needs.  Many D2 properties abandoned and underused.  Buy Worcester Now, other things city can do to support econ dev for those who have modest means.

Mero-Carlson: believes in 2012 study said there was sufficient affordable housing.  We have also learned that surrounding towns fall short.  Work on that to have surrounding towns have more affordable housing.  Need to look at this again as 2012 was a few years ago.

Nguyen: economic development, social issues — encourage people to be self-sufficient.  First positive namecheck of Ray Mariano of the night.  Agrees with Candy on having other towns step up (not her words).

Economou: we do have enough affordable housing.  We need to look at where we are as opposed to where other towns are.  Ask state to look at this as a regional issue.

Q2: For District 1: Non-profit orgs are exempt from local property taxes.  You (Economou) support PILOT.  Larger non-profits less reliant on public services, how would you make this happen?

Economou: Other communities do payment for services.  If fire or police come, pay for the visit.

Nguyen: not sure about PILOT.  Could create animosity, willing to do research.  From her personal experience, Holy Cross gave her a $200k scholarship.  What are other ways to collaborate with these organizations?

Economou: Quite frankly, as a taxpayer, we pay taxes and receive services for our tax dollars.  Many people take time out of their day and money out of pocket in addition to tax dollars — why not ask non-profits for the same?

Nguyen: taxpayer as well, but this is a complicated issue.  Doesn’t understand volunteering part.  Can find a way to get them to pay for other things, not just property taxes.

Economou: sewer and water (which Nguyen mentioned) just not enough.  Need to consider fee for service.

Q3: District 1: to Nguyen:you have said most fundamental issue for local government is communication.  How would you enhance?

Nguyen: we do have a website and social media presence, but we need more.  A full-time IT person.  WPD have mobile app.  Civic engagement is how we can foster ideas.

Economou: has found that people will get involved when they need to get involved.  He walked neighborhood in the beginning of his first term for an issue on Brook Street.  100 people at first meeting, after a month, 5 people.  WE do ok on notifying people about meetings.  If people have a need, they will show up.  Doing a good job with how things are being handled.

Nguyen: Not saying we can do a good job, but we can do more.  Dates/rooms wrong on listing for her local meeting, if people experience that, they will not show up.

Economou: people come to meetings because they choose to.  He can’t make them.  He knows there has not been a wrong date for any public meetings.  No problems with way meetings are posted on the city website.

Nguyen: one last point about communication: a lot of people have concerns.  If you’re responsive as councilor, that is not enough.  Staff needs training on communication.

Q4: To All Candidates: should city increase funding for schools?  (There’s more, but that’s essentially it)

Rivera: Augustus administration has been trying to meet economic needs of the schools.  Connection between schools and econ dev.  When businesses looking to relocate, they look at schools.

Cortes: One of most important services we can provide all residents.  vital that we do focus on education.  Look at administration costs.  [Ah, that old bugbear!]  Look at PILOT, collaborate with local colleges more than we do now, move forward with econ dev.

Mero-Carlson: if we don’t produce best students, we don’t move forward with econ dev.  Supports the manager’s efforts.

Nguyen: we do need to evaluate spending — how to have stable revenue in the city as a whole.  Everything is interconnected.  School environment, parks dept.

Economou: over last two years, with Dr Boone and CM Augustus, have been able to close gap with health care effiiciencies, state needs to look at CH 70 funding formula.  Needs to be looked at.

Kostas: kids need supplies to succeed.  Supports programs that provide schools with good funds kids. and solid schools for kids.

Q5: Is your District safe? And other safety-related questions.

Cortes: we need to maintain certain programs: summer impact should be done year-round.  Standard approach on year-round basis.  WPD needs to be properly and adequately funded/staffed, build

Mero-Carlson: Worcester’s neighborhoods comparatively safe (to other comparable cities).  Growing gangs and drug culture need to be looked at.  New resources and manpower for WPD, community policing.

Nguyen: lot of hype with safety.  Need to work on it because of perception.  Would like to praise WPD for officers on bikes.  A lot of safety concerns about gang members getting younger.  Find ways to collaborate with WPD on mentorship program.

Economou: Absolutely City is safe.  Neighbors getting more involved, vigilant, working with WPD.  WPD can’t do it all, incumbent on us to be part of the solution.

Kostas: when they break into our homes, where do they go to sell stuff?  Collaboration with secondhand stores, drug drop off should be expanded.

Rivera: City is safe, we have challenges of any urban community.  Food patrols, community engagement with police, youth violence prevention.  This is our city, do we let it get infested in crime, or continue to work with community and make it greater?

Q6: D2 question – site of only urban renewal plan, new urban renewal plan for Theater District.  Do you think eminent domain is appropriate?

Mero-Carlson: supports plan.  Eminent domain: unless absolutely necessary, does not support it.

Cortes: supports urban renewal plan.  Sensitive to eminent domain, need to be respectful and responsible, but also need to move forward in Canal District.

Mero-Carlson: thinks we will end up in court if we take any properties by eminent domain.

Cortes: we need to have big picture of what we want to accomplish, connect dots, stay true to the course.  Disconnected plan with the city — we see some Taj Mahal areas and some areas that are left behind.

Q7: D2 question – to Cortes: has called for aggressive approach to attract small and medium sized businesses.

Cortes: was manager of a family-owned business, now at Workforce Central.  Understands challenges.  Small and medium sized businesses are key to city’s success.

Mero-Carlson: need to do more for those businesses.

Cortes: need a councilor that will go out and market.  Governor is engaged in workforce development.  Iron is hot, city can take advantage of all this employer engagement.

Mero-Carlson: small businesses; we need to do more for them.  Great opportunity to do more for them.

[Not a lot of solid answers here.  Kind of like going to your average city council meeting.  They’re qualified!]

Q8: to all candidates: city has limited tools to support private economic investment.  Do you support TIFs, etc.?

Mero-Carlson: supports incentives for businesses coming to city.  Need to make sure that they follow through on requirements we ask for.

Nguyen: a long-term projection of what tax incentive entails.  With dual tax rate, hot topic.  Hard to be competitive when surrounding cities/towns have a single rate.

Economou: TIFs should be used as needed, doesn’t necessarily agree with them but it’s a tool in the toolbox.  Without econ dev, more burden on homeowners.  Can make ask.

Kostas: [hard to hear her]  tax on inventory is negative.

Rivera: we sing song during election season about creating jobs.  When we are in office, we have to put it into action.  Because of TIFs, started in struggling economy, now in an upswing.  Give and take.  We take tax dollars and want to invest in our people and our community.

Cortes: tool. but have to be careful.  Responsible oversight with clear measurements (of success).  There are also state programs, city does not need to bear brunt of cost with business negotiation.  Not taking full advantage of what is out there.

Q9: about neighborhood relations with non-profits and Dover Amendment.

Nguyen: need to provide clear guidelines for neighbors to have a voice in discussions.

Economou: we cannot open a business in most neighborhoods.  Should have to go through some sort of zoning approval, but this is a state issue not a local issue.  Change needs to take place at the state level.

Kostas: [again, having tough time hearing].  We have to support small business, incentivize them to provide jobs.  [Not sure if s he’s answering the question]

Rivera: community conversation — voices need to be heard.  Often fall into us-against-them; don’t fall into NIMBY mentality, organizations dealing with issues in our community.  Namechecks Laurie Ross — first reference to a moderator of the night.  Need to look at all the facts before making a decision.

Cortes: recently, state rep Keefe — meeting at Genesis Club, invited social services agencies and other organizations.  To bring about unity in the community.  We must work together as neighbors, be transparent in efforts.  This sort of leadership is what is needed.

Mero-Carlson: several folks have moved into D2 with no communication to neighbors.  To Economou’s point, needs to be process for them to go through.

Q10: D4: many urban ills can be linked to drugs — opiate addiction, in some cases introduced to it by doctor.

Rivera: because it was not addressed at time it needed to be addressed, it has festered.  Now grown widespread as an epidemic.  Opiate Task Force, goes into hot spots, everyone has narcan, drop box at police station, communicating with doctors about not prescribing opiates.

Kostas: all concerned about opiates, targets children.  Kids need to be occupied to stay off drugs.  [again, hard to hear]  Programs to fight and combat drug dealers, promote drop box for prescription drugs.  Need more agents to walk around neighborhoods.

Rivera: Look at evidence-based models that actually work.  DARE does not work [perhaps that is what Kostas was mentioning].  Quality of Life task force, partners like AIDS Project Worcester.  At neighborhood meetings, if anyone has medications, can give it to police officer there.  Hopeful plan of action right now.

Kostas: program Face-to-Face is in schools — walking around the city she found a car with guys exchanging pouches.  They are targeting children and schools.

Rivera: Drug issue has been going on for a long time.  Great to open up recovery high school, continue on other programs based on evidence-based research.

Q11: D4 – Kostas has identified OPEB and other liabilities.  Would take at least 1/6 of city’s annual budget to pay in 30 years.

Kostas: city needs to live within its means just like the rest of us.  City needs to put money on the side.

Rivera: has been analyzed every two years by an outside entity.  Three things to look at: funding, reducing costs, achieving legislative reforms.  We continue to try to reduce costs and fund liability every year.  Can’t do it without help with state legislators.

Kostas: needs to study through this.

[more answers, tough to hear Kostas because she’s not using a mic]

Q12: last question, for everyone: about dual tax rate.

Economou: you can go over the bridge and pay $10/14 per thousand.  Once we increase commercial tax base, can lower taxes for everyone.  Does not see the dual tax rate ending completely in his life time.

Kostas: need to apply breaks on district to help support small business.

Rivera: each year this topic takes different consideration.  We try to find somewhere in the middle, trying to close gaps between the tax rates.  Foreclosures: properties, residents running risk of foreclosure because of high property taxes.

Cortes: both the residential and commercial tax rates are higher than surrounding towns.  Tax rates has been our go-to financial resource.

Mero-Carlson: does not see us going to a single tax rate, not something residents can afford.

Nguyen: question is immensely complicated.  Perhaps in HER lifetime we might see a single tax rate [laughs from the audience]  Tax rates tough to address, encourage people to buy properties.


Initiative – October 14 At-Large Council debate notes

Candidates scheduled to be here: Bergman, Coleman, Gomez, King, Lukes, Petty, Sargent, Toomey, Wally

Not here: Gaffney, Parham, Zlody

(Just so folks know – the previous debates had gone in ascending alphabetical order; this one will go in descending order by last name)

Once again, Juan Gomez wins the “chapeau of the evening” category of the debate.

(You can thank Tom Quinn of WoMag for this liveblog, as he helped me get the WiFi password.  I don’t see anyone from the Telegram here.  Lukes is the only scheduled candidate not here yet.)

Tonight’s topic: Civic Engagement and Accessible Government

Next Wednesday – School Committee forum at MCPHS.  In two Wednesdays – last CC forum from the Initiative.


Format change: six questions.  Each question 1 minute, 1 minute for closing statement.  Descending alphabetical order.

Q1: As a way to increase citizen participation, would you change the City Council rules so that all Council meetings be held after 5pm?  What other ways can we increase public engagement?

Wally: in order for community to realize potential, needs full participation of residents.  Concern about “require” — would rather “ensure that most” meet after 5pm — there are those who work after 5pm.  1) Make sure that those who want to attend meetings are comfortable speaking, 2) open forum for those who want to approach

Toomey: would commit to having a discussion about that.  Any committee she chairs meets after 5pm.  Public meetings for the public.  Other ways to increase engagement — ask people if they want to send in questions.

Sargent: Time isn’t problem, citizens aren’t being engaged.  Livestream on the internet Students are not learning about how city government works.  Livestream meetings, accept questions from Twitter, don’t need to be in the room to engage.

Petty: has been around 18 years (to Lukes’ comment: “Not as long as you.”)  Generally, he likes to see meeting after 5pm.  In January, CM will ensure every board and commission and subcommittee meeting is televised.  When there’s an issue that affects people, they show up, and he allows people to speak and does not shut them off.

Lukes: Rule is that meetings should occur after 5; some has deviated.  Post notice on city’s website, we allow email access to city councilors, and you can call any of us up.  All are accessible.  We do have Jo Hart — “our most notorious member of the city” who has held the city to account.

King: supports having meetings after 5pm. We need to increase bus service, help people get to meetings.  Why not have mobile city hall, with office hours in the neighborhoods?

Gomez: would vote to require that all public meetings are held after 5pm.  Would encourage administration to put CC and subcom meetings on the internet.  Three minutes is not enough time to speak — anyone should be able to speak when the item comes up, not just at the beginning of the meeting.  Subcommittees to meet outside city hall, around the city.

Coleman: Rules Committee DOESN’T MEET.  George Russell is a great guy, but he only had one meeting this summer.  There are items for the committees that are more than 500 days old.

Bergman: he’s learned not to be an expert in everything; lack of participation is not just at local level but state and federal. Never been a problem to give people more time to speak – problem is that it’s the same people talking, not new voices. Engage conference calls for the physically disabled, WRTA free on those nights. Translation services.

Q2: In the last three weeks, Code Dept has collected over 40 tons of illegally dumped waste. Many low-income neighborhoods blame pay-as-you-throw.

Toomey: congratulates code department. Education is a critical component, hold landlords accountable. Can landlords have trash services as part of the rent? We are not even paying for trash to be removed with the yellow bag fee. [This is true, much appreciated that she said that.] Emphasizes education issue.

Sargent: We’re putting committee meetings on the TV? This appears to be news to him. The Council needs a new voice. As far as trash goes, we need people to care about their neighborhoods. People from outside those neighborhoods go and dump. Do neighborhoods on the outskirts of town have dumping? They do not. [Actually, they do. Come on down!]

Petty: there are people from outside the city who come in and dump at donation bins. Ward St, etc. If trash bags are affecting cleanliness, can take a look, but doesn’t think that’s the case. Cameras will catch people.

Lukes: Ideal solution would be trash pickup for free, but then everyone from surrounding communities would take advantage. She had suggested a swap shop [kind of like what happens at transfer stations].

King: Go to the people who are being affected. Doesn’t have response from folks about challenges. Accessibility – having to make appointments with limited hours.

Gomez: more education efforts are needed. 15-20 years ago with PAYT, spend money to educate community, hold neighbors, landlords, and organizations responsible. Improve accessibility at Clark and Ballard St drop-off sites.

Coleman: Did I hear the expression a “spade a spade”? [Sargent had used this, I preferred not to mention it because I do not like that phrase, but I appreciate Coleman’s calling him out.] He has done numerous cleanups, people don’t like the yellow bags, once every quarter they should have a “take anything” day.

Bergman: some questions with what law allows for 4+ unit housing; would like to see them required to have dumpsters. Negotiate with yellow bag company for free bag for lower-income residents. Fines, second time license suspension, third time car impoundment.

[Since I know more about this than most people here, I will say that it is nearly impossible to convict someone on dumping!]

Wally: Code dept deserves a lot of accolades, REC and other partners. He owns a three-decker, saw a tremendous amount of dumping. Doesn’t think it’s because of the trash bag cost, he saw trash dumped when tenants moved out [YES! This is what I see as well!]. Should be pointed out that residents might not be dumpers, it’s outsiders and some contractor dumping. [Yes, this is what I see as well.]

Q3: Is city more responsive to those from certain neighborhoods? (Sorry, it was longer, but that’s the gist.)

Sargent: Schools are not the problem, they’re the solution. Ask students how they can engage. We need more translators, in all different departments of the city.

Petty: we try to be fair to every district. Districts are represented well. Civilian academy about police, clergy/police group,

Lukes: Most city councilors spend time going to crime watch and neighborhood meetings. Main South more crucial/immediate needs than her neighborhood. When the district councilors bring those items before us, we react. Part of this needs to be grassroots, mentions Webster Sq block party. Internet services –

King: We can do better at strengthening neighborhood associations. Ideas about how to tie folks to projects in neighborhoods, youth-friendly. Folks need to know tangibly what city hall does; kids need to know civics and how it impacts them.

Gomez: lots of folks feel government not responsive; elect people who are responsive and reflect the community. We don’t need translators. We need people employed by city hall who reflect population supposed to serve. He gets dozens of phone calls from people who feel that he’s the only one who can fix the problem [as if he is still an elected official]

Coleman: never been elected to office, but people have called him for thirty years. (Gomez: “This is true.”) Coleman talks about filling in people’s potholes. If you vote, you count. Salisbury St crimewatch is packed; St Peter’s Church – 50 people vote out of 1800 eligible voters.

Bergman: very leery to make this an answer – low income neighborhoods made up of people from many different colors; power in numbers, vote. District city councilors work well. Why not have district councilors at school level?

Wally: certain depts have better reputation than others (Code, DPW, the 929-1300 number works well). Stop bemoaning what we don’t have and start looking at what we do. There are 21 openings on boards. One of biggest disappointments in campaigning is apathy.

Toomey: Echoes the “world is run by people who show up” comment. As elected officials, need to get out of comfort zone. Elected officials go to all sort of meetings. When people know you are listening, it makes a difference.

Q4: Please identify number 1 barrier towards civic engagement and how you will specifically address this as a city councilor in the next term.

Petty: People need to feel they are part of the city of Worcester. People think there is a barrier between city hall and the community. Conversations with race made a big difference. Mentions early voting next year that might be a possibility.

Lukes: tried several strategies and techniques. Boards and commissions issue an issue 30 years ago, still have problems getting women on boards now. Neighborhood councils – proportional representation would allow you to rank candidates. Promotes fairness and diversity.

King: civic engagement must be part of lives. As elected folks, depends on who votes. Elected to represent every corner, if neighborhoods feel ignored, they will not engage. Also thinks that with youth intervention, need to go to middle schools how parks funded, teachers paid, this is how it affects you.

Gomez: agrees with Petty that people feel disengaged. Three lawsuits from minority police officers who have not been promoted. Goes through the stats. If you want to make an effort, establish goals to achieve real outcomes. Go far beyond talking and act. There are a lot of good people in this city. Get out of comfort zone and do what’s right.

Coleman: Talks about the form of government before current plan: strong mayor with that huge council and alderman. That’s four years down the road. Filed petition for WRTA to provide free bus transportation to polling places.

Bergman: #1 barrier is economic disparity. When you don’t own house, you don’t need to worry about residential/commercial tax rates, etc. Give people more opportunity to own homes. If you don’t have skin in the game, you’re not going to show up.

Wally: civic engagement doesn’t always mean government engagement. An individual can become engaged. (Bill C. is passing out cough drops and completely derailing this.) Someone can get involved in non-profit boards: organizations like REC, Nativity School, etc., are always looking for board members.

Toomey: #1 barrier is time. So many people who are working 2, 3, jobs. When she was on the school committee, she spoke with parents who were trying to keep heads above water and did not have any time to meet with teachers. Help direct once people have time.

Sargent: if you don’t teach the kids about it, they won’t know about it. In the future, we will be using the internet to vote. [Um, I am not a fan. Keep paper ballots.] He endorses voting by device. Would like to see an ROTC-like program for fire and police in the schools.

Q5: City Council had foresight to adopt Fair CORI practice ordinance a year before the state. What can we as city to continue to adopt fair practices in hiring?

Lukes: we do need to protect those under jurisdiction. We have had publicity about children in foster homes, under DCF care, etc. We cannot afford to ignore danger signals, but also can’t afford to treat people unfairly.

King: In our country, we have a system that disproportionately impacts communities of color in judicial system à CORI. Encourage small and medium businesses to hire challenged applicants. Remember that once someone has paid dues, they have rehabilitated themselves. At what point to they stop paying and be allowed to practice civic duty?

Gomez: Lead by example. Law says that you interview, review candidate’s background, references, etc. Then check CORI. Make sure that that is being done at every level.

Coleman: asks folks to keep passing around the lozenges. Everyone deserves a break, but before all this happened, he asked for this a long time ago. We need to keep an open-door policy.

Bergman: those folks who have money who have crimes, have records sealed, and don’t have to worry about CORI. You should automatically have records sealed if you are entitled to it – shouldn’t make a difference if you have the money or not. That’s what we can continue to do.

Wally: does not know too much about ordinance passed by City Hall. We have fair labor laws, those individuals who are looking for a job should be able to apply, find jobs– use partners like Community Legal Aid to raise awareness in community.

Toomey: need to work with HR departments to make sure they are aware. Education is critical.

Sargent: key is education, getting folks in the room with those who can help them find jobs. Prevention is key. Economic opportunities are important. Trying to put band-aid on the situation.

Petty: City has made great moves in diversity in hiring. HR Dept going into neighborhoods on a quarterly basis. Mentions the youth who were hired this past summer for internships.

Q6 (last question): If City Hall were working for everyone, what specific measurable indicators would we see? How would you describe a city hall that works for everyone?

King: Frontline social worker for the state. You are given the public trust, important that we are transparent and inform neighborhoods. City Hall that works for everyone moves in positive direction for neighborhoods. Accessibility, accountability, transparency.

Gomez: reflective of people it’s supposed to serve. Mentions discrimination lawsuits again. Instead of city settling lawsuits, they appeals. If we’re going to be committed, have someone who looks like community in economic coordinating council. Make sure ordinance that requires equal accessibility to all for employment and promotions.

Coleman: “Elect me.” Has been doing this city council dance since 1979. Brings people to the council and explains how things work. Petitions don’t go anywhere, two years go by before you hear something. “Just elect me – trust me”

Bergman: you would see contentment, demand on housing, classrooms bulging at seams, increase in voting. [Note that he actually answers the q] Day-to-day operations of city hall should make everyone feel as if they are being treated fairly.

Wally: might consider city hall working for him differently than Jo Hart. Accessible, where everyone feels voice is being heard. Decrease in vacancies on boards, increase in voting.

Toomey: increase in business development, world marketplace. Measurable indicators: greater communication with electeds, more voting, more volunteering. Would like to see five-year plan.

Sargent: when we are talking about city hall, talking about people working in it. Need people there to work for people on outside. More transparency, transportation, outreach to citizens, vibrant common.

Petty: Investing in parks, economic development, dependable public works department. See things changing, population up, there are more kids in schools.

Lukes: two questions, each could stand by itself. Would like to see more people running for city council. More people applying for boards and commissions and participating in meetings. Day-to-day operations: crowdsourcing (she filed that), vendor checks online (she filed that), would like to see health department reports online.

Audience walking out, but there is time for closing statements!  We’ll see if that happens.

(I will only report if there’s something new and exciting)

Coleman: “October 20th is my birthday…and I turn the big something”.  he encourages you to serve on the library board!

Gomez: “At times, I may seem angry […] and loud…but that’s the Latino in me.”  Thank goodness he mentions his plan.  READ IT!

Lukes: When I first started running, she touted herself as young and enthusiastic…now she’s experienced and seasoned!  (She said it better than I typed it.)  “I’m right above Bill Coleman [on the ballot]  — for what it’s worth.”



WRRB/Chamber City Council Debate Notes

WoMag Liveblog is here.

Sorry, got here a touch late

Moderators: Kevin O’Sullivan, Kola Akindele, Ellen Dunlap

Opening statement

Bergman: born in 1963 to penniless immigrants who came here in 1949.  Great city had great opportunities.  Worcester’s about real people.  Looks at opportunities he & his parents have, wants his children to have same opportunities.

Coleman = William S. Coleman III.  Came to Worcester in 1973 to become a priest at Holy Cross.  (You already know the story of his life — do I need to repeat it?)  Has run for office since 1979.

Gaffney: As Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  [Personally, Nicole prefers “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”]  Ideals are important, have to be willing to suffer slings and arrows.  No room for cheerleaders standing on the sidelines.

Gomez: 30 years of service to country, state, community.  Came here in 1974 with his mother and siblings.  Left and came back in 1980.  By time he was 16, had moved 16 times.  He chose Worcester because Worcester chose him.  Effective elected official, proven executive experience.  Only candidate with a comprehensive economic plan — read it!

King: First generation American, family came here from Bermuda.  Siblings & he were taught to serve.  Participated in a program sponsored by Prospect House as a high school students.  Has two master’s degrees.  Need community voice to round out the Council.

Lukes: Like everyone else here, I’m applying for a job.  Served on City Council, School Committee, 3 years as mayor.  She, too, is the child of immigrants.  Next few years for city will be shaky, defined by new residents and technology.  Gov’t has to be able to adapt and get city ready.  Quotes from her statement on deciding to run.  “History will be kind to me…because I’m going to write it.”  – Winston Churchill  Hopes everyone here will have opportunity to write it.

Parham: has been in city for 18 years.  Not just coming from a feel-good perspective.  A lot of issues city is facing, but city is representation of what rest of the country looks like.  When she came here, she didn’t understand the system.  Got education, moved herself forward from homelessness.  We need to get representation of CC that looks like representation of the city.  (Crowd claps, murmurs of approval)

Petty: outlines great progress of the city.  None of this will be new if you have read any other liveblogs.

Sargent: Raised in city, WPS, SPM, Worcester State.  Represents a young, motivated generation.  (I hate to note this, but he was a bit stilted and probably should have prepped a bit more.)

Toomey: “I’m Kate Toomey and I’m one of you.”  Kids went to WPS.  (From the audience, Siri says, “Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.”)  First woman chair of Public Works subcom, need to support neighborhood development.

Wally: eminently qualified, you know the routine.  Sorry, been to too many debates.

Zlody: “My name is Christina Zlody, but you can call me Tina.”  Would like to thank the Tims, and Mechanics Hall, for putting on this event.  We need to stop being like Sisyphus.  Push the ball up the top of the hill, push it over the other edge.  stART on the Street has given her experience with parks, DPW, etc.  Main thing she has come to understand is that Worcester needs to say Yes more, to small businesses, to entrepreneurship, to having college students stay here.

There are eleven different questions.  Each person will get one question, then four responders, rebuttal of 30 seconds to original person.

Q1: some argue that city admin focuses too much on downtown to detriment of neighborhoods.  Balance between downtown and neighborhoods.

King: Worcester is a city of neighborhood, that’s what we’re known for.  [A PART OF ME HAS JUST DIED.  AGAIN.]  Target tax incentives for neighborhoods, businesses that hire disadvantages employees.  Believes we can develop economy from inside out.

Bergman: Downtown important, doesn’t think there’s a magic formula.  Thinks home/business combo zoning was probably a mistake in zoning laws (in terms of business tenants downtown).  Rising tide carries all ships.

Toomey: Worcester is a cacophony of different things.   Link transpo from downtown to different neighborhoods.  We need to bring residents downtown.  Support business districts in the neighborhoods.  City full of neighborhoods — it’s who we are.

Sargent: Don’t focus on neighborhoods and not downtown — healthy neighborhoods & healthy downtown.  When we say Worcester is a city of neighborhoods, we’re talking about the people who make up the neighborhoods.  [I cannot type that phrase again, don’t make me!]

Gaffney: haven’t focused that much on downtown, have focused on large projects — trickle down theory isn’t working.  [Mike, I know you said that just for me so I could stop focusing on “city of neighborhoods”!]  Philly Plan, people.

King: brief rebuttal.

Q2: Bond ratings.  Currently, city’s bonds are highly rated, but not at highest prime level. $630mil in debt.  How can we improve bond ratings, etc.?

Petty: we have good bond ratings, and will continue to do so.  We have a five-point plan that outlines spending.  Need to increase tax revenues.  Has tax policy committee to look at increasing tax revenues.

Parham: when we look at safety of neighborhoods, transportation, schools, that will affect bond ratings.  Need to get people jobs.  That will begin to affect bond rating.

Gomez: key contributors to debt is unfunded pension liability.  Gives Gaffney credit, he (Gomez) has been talking about this for ten years.  HE HAS A PLAN, READ IT.

Wally: OPEB is the biggest factor for bond ratings, put money toward it on a yearly basis at budget time.

Lukes: OPEB — frankly, she doesn’t think we’ll ever pay it. When Hoover was here, he kept budget before tax levy so we have $10 mil to reach before we get to 2 1/2 limit.  Real developers do not find this an issue, want healthy, vibrant city.

Petty: thinks the council has been (fiscally) conservative in his time on the Council.

Q3: Council – oversight of manager and admin.  They provide comment after the fact, but provide no objectives/goals.  How to hold accountable?

Lukes: No way you can assess effectiveness of CM after 1-2 years.  How does civilization progress when you only have two year CC terms?  We do have goals, and city manager submits those accomplishments every year.  Most torturous ordeal every year is evaluation of CM, make it less combative and intense.  Some communities don’t do this in public, or do it written.  [Nicole would like to note that the whole thing could just be done as a written/public process.  And, no, they don’t have clear objectives.  And they didn’t evaluate the CM last year.]

Zlody: She is evaluated at her job every year.  Standards need to reflect growing/changing goals of city.  Are we attracting small business?

Bergman: Feels once a year is not enough, quarterly, privately, with annual evaluation would make sense.  He has 11 bosses, system isn’t perfect, best one we have.

Coleman: CM has held elective office.  He listens to the pulse of the community.  Private with public input.

Gaffney: has knocked on 6,000 doors.  It’s an insider thing, but no voters actually care about it.  Nothing in rules or charter concerning matrix of manager.  [Note that this should really be decided on by the Rules Committee – N.]  Has conversations with manager on monthly basis as do other councilors.

Lukes: 11 people on city council have direct communications with CM.  To make this an inflexible matrix that’s impossible for everyone to agree on will not be conducive to real problem-solving.

Q4: Concerns schools have not been adequately funded.  Would you support more $$ for schools, how to balance needs?

Toomey: agrees, schools need more funding.  Been working hard to do that, this yar especially.  Doors, windows, building new schools, they have the bricks and mortar thing down [no mention of MSBA], grants that are federally-funded, maybe help through governor.  What about PILOT?  Non-profits may be able to assist.

Gaffney: lost $2.7 million because of school choice.  When parents take kids out of schools, problem.  $1 million in bus audit, look at administrative costs, why does WPS have a spokesperson, put $$ in the classrooms.

Parham: when you invest in ed system, way of moving people out of poverty and moving them forward.

King: “As a front-line social worker”, the most important thing you can do is give at-risk youth opportunities to be successful.  Sent CM letter to provide afterschool programming in conjunction with colleges.

Sargent: need to use $$ in better ways.  We’re used to crappy buildings, need more teachers, more stuff to help the kids, need colleges to step up.  Advocating for this from day one.

Toomey: need community school model back, more teachers, and functional buildings.

Q5: Ellen Dunlap mentions Juan Gomez’s economic plan, appears to have actually read it.  WRA has been working with city for urban renewal plan for theater district.  Do you support urban renewal/eminent domain in this and for cases of blight/absentee landlords?

Gomez: “Hitting me where I like.”  [I think that was a bit personal, no?]  Need to replicate without the city.  I am not sure where he’s going, but he is very excited.  Work with property owners, eminent domain has been used very successfully and believes we would have to use it.

Petty: doesn’t look at eminent domain as a failure, another tool in the toolbox.  He has to be honest, very nervous about eminent domain, but he’s not afraid to use it.  CSX has the power of eminent domain as well.

Zlody: loved watching urban renewal downtown, eminent domain makes her very uncomfortable, absolute last resort.  Would need standards.

Wally: supports urban renewal plan.  [Note that I cringe every time I need to type “urban renewal]

King: Urban revitalization is great, eminent domain last resort.  Be creative with negotiation with land/property owners.

Gomez: just like Kilby/Gardner, could be very successful.

Q6: over the last few years, tension between admin and CC regarding certain tax incentives.  Secure certain outcomes related to benefits/employment.  what is appropriate place for CC in these?

Coleman: CC votes on TIFs, really important that Council stay above the law [first Steven Seagal reference of the night?].  Linkage program with econ development, with mall, etc., that blew $60 mil away and we saw little benefit.

Gomez: he asked with CitySquare about local jobs for local people.  Today it is not legal.  City admin could negotiate in good faith, worked very well in MedCity.

Lukes: would like to pick up with what Juan said, needs to be in the public.  One TIF was negotiated behind the scenes, in an elected official’s office, lack of credibility.  We have to compete with other cities.  What are we going to get for tax incentive?  We have to get jobs and accountability.

Sargent: believes tax incentives bring development to the city.  There will be enough work for everyone for a TIF.  Doesn’t believe in telling developers who should/n’t be working on a project.

Zlody: believes in tax incentives, Worcester should look at local, small businesses.  Not just Osgood Bradley, but Futon Company.  Should negotiate with orgs to give as many jobs to local people as possible.  Can we leverage job training?

Coleman: we need to create an “overabundance of job opportunities”

Q7: You advocated for home rule petition that would negate Dover Amendment.

Bergman: as attorney, ask was whether we would run afoul of fair housing.  If you open a business in a residential neighborhood, you change dynamic of neighborhood, neighbors should have a say in changes to their neighborhood.  Cambridge did this 30 years ago.

Wally: too many instances where non-profit chooses a site, doesn’t inform neighbors.  Motion was made so that conversation occurs.  Issues can be solved up front.

Gaffney: this comes up when he door-knocks.  A lot of people concerned about non-profits and services they provide.  Dover Amendment originally applied to educational institutions, Bergman was just asking for information.   Concern is if this pushes non-profits into neighborhoods like Main South.

Coleman: when you hear people talk about this, are we trying to keep some neighborhoods exclusive?  When Prospect House and Henry Lee Willis bought properties, made some uncomfortable.

Petty: issue has been coming up since he’s been on the Council.

Bergman: twice he’s heard the premise that it’s an illegal law, not opinion of solicitor, Cambridge amendment has stood the test of time.  Simply suggesting it’s available, have the conversation.  If a business moves in next door and you live in a residential neighborhood, you should have input.

Q8: About community engagement.

Parham: as a city councilor, she can be bridge between city hall and the community.  We keep talking immigrants, engage with individuals.  Does naturalization program right in this hall.  Obligation as citizen that you become involved in civic life.

King: If neighborhoods are ignored, they will not engage.  Demographics continue to change, we need to teach kids in history class as part of curriculum about government.  Start at middle school.  CC needs to show sensitivity to neighborhoods and residents.

Sargent: The schools are not the problem, they are the solution.  Register kids to vote before they graduate.  [Would not have helped Nicole, who was 17 at graduation]  Use high school students to go into communities to sign people to vote, to tell people today’s the day to vote.  “If a kid’s sleeping in my class,” you would blame me, not the student.

Toomey: Incredibly important to get out of box and go places you wouldn’t normally go to.  Mentions her use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, reach out to new residents.

Petty: diversity plan 75% complete, 15 high school students at polling locations, pamphlets in tax bill, mayor’s city academy in October, going into community is the most important thing.

Parham: good that we continue to get out.  When she got here, when you try to voice opinion, Council does not hear your voice.  When you feel that way, you will disengage from the civic process.

Q9: You have spent career focused on creative economy.  How to use arts, culture, creative community to solve social problems, drive econ dev?

Zlody: One of the primary ways is that arts bring everyone together.  You don’t need to speak Latin to watch someone do Latin dancing.  stART creates a community and synergy, people come under one umbrella.  Creates level of peace and community.  Small innovative organizations can be brought in to broaden tax base.

Coleman: arts have rebuilt many communities in New York.  We should continue to foster arts.

Wally: engage youth, many need emotional outlet.  Creative economy, economic development like in Providence.  Introduce makerspace, artists lofts in older industrial buildings.

Gomez: at Centro, employees have created an art therapy program to help 12 young people use arts to express themselves.  Work to replicate with music and other themes.  Government does not have a major role except to encourage it.  Will not have a creative economy if you keep electing the same people.  Current incumbents don’t think that way.

Toomey: former certified art therapist and art teacher.  Knows how cathartic it is for people.  Mentions Womens’ Industrial Union in Boston, do some more of that.

Zlody: Incubator model is correctly important, 97 Webster Street, Think Tank, Technocopia need to be supported.

Q10: Non-profits are exempt from local property taxes under state law.  You think they should contribute through PILOT.  How would you make that happen?  How would you assess a fair payment system?

Gaffney: we have hospitals, schools, a lot of non-taxable properties.  Surrounding communities disparage us, but their kids go to college in Worcester, they use Worcester hospitals, etc.  Gary Rosen mentioned student tax [actually, I thought this was Mike Germain?] and that brought colleges to the table in other places.  Some of the colleges can certainly contribute more.

Lukes: all new mayors are invited to seminars across country.  She was bemoaning this at one place, one mayor said he’d give his right arm to have that many colleges.  Need to see the value of these institutions.  We have been very effective with maintaining ties and asking non-profits to contribute to their needs.

Parham: Attended Clark, loves it dearly, but thinks it could do more.  About community development.  Hard decisions we must make, must go to colleges.

Bergman: 65% of us pay 100% of the taxes.  Adversarial relationship, no one thinks that non-profits don’t do wonderful things.   Mentions Boston’s system [remind me to link to a recent Globe article about it].  Be positive — my wife might not have married me if I asked “You don’t want to marry me, do you?” rather than “You want to marry me, don’t you?”

Gomez: they employ 10s of thousands of people.  Doesn’t agree with asking for PILOT.  Colleges are great pool for our future city residents.

Gaffney: starts talking law school stuff with Bergman.  Incentivize with parks, etc.

Q10: you have worked on affordable housing, much housing in Worcester is affordable.  Does Worcester have sufficient affordable housing, other questions I missed.

Wally: Worcester isn’t meeting housing needs, statistics show concentration of poverty does not help.  Surrounding towns should increase affordable housing, work with state to make sure it’s distributed equally.  Affordable market rents same as regular rents.  Individuals attracted to affordable housing because of quality of housing.  Private landlords need to put capital in housing.

Toomey: Winn Development’s Voke School, would like to see more opportunities there (like that?).  With market-rate housing, people come with disposable income, will create jobs.  Workforce housing, need to have affordable place to live.

Petty: look at different forms of homeownership, Union Hill police squad, inspectional services, etc.

Zlody: we have reached 10%, regional and statewide issue.  State needs to ensure that cities are not doing their share (versus the ‘burbs).

Coleman: affordable housing for who?  When he goes door-to-door, there are people into foreclosure, don’t have insurance, or money to repair, work with unions to improve properties.

Wally: Regional approach to issue that we want to make sure isn’t concentrated in Worcester.

Q11 (last question): You have spoken of issues of gang activity, safety.  What can city do re gangs, illegal drugs?  Should WPD wear body cameras?

Sargent: Yes, WPD should wear body cams, they want to wear them, community wants them to wear them.  Children need to be occupied from 3-6pm.  Need to have school activities, art, music, sports, colleges need to step up with tutoring.  DAs office said 800-1000 kids that identify with gangs; 200 hardcore gang members.  Give them activities so that they can choose another path.

Lukes: Public safety one of the foremost issue of the campaign.  Only one set of employees can threaten someone’s liberty, wants review board.  We are repeating same mistake where different agencies don’t affect one another.  Also, need more [drug] treatment.

King: we do a good job of community policing in the summertime.  Gang unit does a good job, need to do more.  Summer jobs and opportunities.  Fill void for afterschool programming in the community.

Parham: Body cams — good for police and citizens.  Need to give kids something to do in the “idle” hours.  We need to come up with structure for kids.

Bergman: jobs, after school activity, body cams appropriate and well-needed.  More science, more best practices.

Sargent: schools are not the problem, they are the solution.  Need meetings with related organizations.  “Everyone relax, we’re going to be fine.”