City Council Candidate Forum – October 30

This is at Worcester State U / Eager Auditorium. Sponsored by League of Women Voters, YWCA, and Worcester State.

Candidates here: Bergman, Coleman, Colorio, Corrigan, Economou, Gibson, Haxhiaj, Honeycutt (D5), King, Petty, Rosen, Sarkodieh, Tiscione, Toomey, Wally (D5). I believe we are missing Colorio (from the signs at the front of the auditorium).

Format of the forum: each candidate 1 min opening remark, then series of questions from sponsoring organizations, then questions from the audience.

Opening Statementsas I have now been to a zillion of these I will hold unless I hear something interesting

Bergman: most proud – thought it would take a lot longer for people to feel proud of being from Worcester. Especially younger folks – we want you to stay in Worcester.

Coleman spoke but I think nothing new? He went to WSU and is proud of it.

Corrigan: Dressed for the holiday seasons (orange and black signs) – swears it’s for Halloween and not for Bergman! Tomorrow everyone can dress up as the scariest thing: a politician!

Colorio is now here

Economou: when he was D1 councilor, he was available with his shovel for anything. Emphasizes quality of life issues.

Gibson: works as a preacher. He works with youth, loves it. He emphasizes cultural competency.

Haxhiaj: one of her sons will turn 8 on November 5 – hopefully will be a big night for son & mom. Working families, homeless families, young people, those in public housing – city for all, city with all. Plans to take the commitment to the end.

Honeycutt: has learned a lot about how businesses run. Sees a lot of development. Specific districts should be included in downtown prosperity. Wants to make sure everyone is able to stay and participate.

King: began community work when he was in high school at Friendly House. Had friends who passed away from gun violence when he was in college, decided to become a social worker. Sees all different neighborhoods and can bring his unique perspective. Econ dev = development of everyday people.

Petty: he mentions his many achievements. Arts community has really taken off. Everyone should be included; disparities study. Affirmative action plan.

Rosen: most exciting times he’s seen in Worcester. When you read social media, you see that a lot of the naysayers are disappearing or have changed their minds. Keep Worcester clean, affordable, and safe.

Sarkodieh: HE HAS THE LONGEST NAME ON THE BALLOT. Currently a law student, currently with 7Hills RI. Came here with a dream – believes everything is possible. Wants to inspire the next generation. Wants them to see their future in me and through me.

Tiscione: has a 16-year-old daughter at Doherty. Was a firefighter for 30 years, was a member of US Army. Strongly believes in military service and service to country. Keep tax rates manageable and low – continue to do the best he can for the city.

Toomey: has been an educator, and experience in healthcare and addiction fields. Sometimes adversity hits you. Clean streets, safe community, good schools, jobs.

Wally: current D5 councilor, has had a positive first term, running for a second term. Webster Square Walgreens no longer has trash spread all over their property due to his work. Parks – Farber Field rectangular field. Pedestrian safety at schools.

Colorio: more teaching, less testing. Ballot question to get rid of Common Core. Worked in addiction field as psychotherapist. All of that brings her here. Focused on (you may have hear her ad on the radio) lowest residential taxes. SHE IS SECOND ON THE BALLOT.

Question to Coleman: tax deferments, what about bringing more private investments?

Coleman: private investment wants to see intelligent workforce – add housing stock and improve schools.

Question to Colorio: if developer like Polar Park does not enter into CBA, would you be willing to withdraw the TIF?

Colorio: to be honest, I don’t know. I’d have to look at that and do research. (More but that’s essentially it)

Question to Rosen: colleges – how to bring institutions together?

Rosen: has many good colleges/universities. Government can’t do everything. College consortium can make students a bigger part of the city. They should be going to meetings. We can do a lot, but colleges can do a lot for themselves.

Question to Corrigan: disgusted between rancor and bitterness – how will you lead in solving problems and setting example?

Corrigan: being unable/unwilling to work together does the constituents a disservice. Naturally people have different ideas – if no one is willing to compromise or come together, problem will still persist. Be good to be open to ideas and work with others.

Question to Haxhiaj: climate emergency. Where are best opportunities? Env justice, transpo, etc.

Haxhiaj: has already organized mothers in WOrcester & across the state about climate crisis. Would like to work with the climate group to improve – emissions from WRTA. Investing in public transpo should not be an afterthought. Fixing ALL gas leaks in low-income neighborhoods, new housing initiatives – lead abatement AND energy efficiency.

Question to Economou: Equal Pay Law 2018. How to ensure Worcester is an employer that is compliant?

Economou: as developers come into city, CBA could come into play. Men, women, minorities, everyone should be paid the same. [As someone familiar with this law, Nicole says it’s specifically about women and this is more something that the CM/Super need to be held accountable for.]

Question to Gibson: CBA for Polar Park. What are you going to do?

Gibson: have to do research to do something correctly.


Question to Petty: sanctuary city, solidarity with immigrant communities.

Petty: we are a welcoming city. WPD does not ask for immigration status. We follow same rules as those who call themselves sanctuary cities. He is out in immigrant community all the time.

Question to Toomey: what have you done to eliminate inequities for people of color?

Toomey: one of founders of Latino Ed, has been member of NAACP. Most important thing is to learn about other people, to understand different cultures/values, to have friends that you can get an honest answer from. Make sure that schools understand that this is important.

Question to King: residential tax rate increase. why? single tax rate? why?

King: supports lower residential tax rate – lack of affordable housing. His 26-year-old daughter cannot access affordable housing. Mindful of folks on fixed incomes. Increase to single rate – should look at PILOT and new growth first – never on back of the homeowners.

Question for Bergman: gentrification, high-end housing. What should council do to address this imbalance?

Bergman: there are options available that we have not looked at. Carriage houses as extra apartments. More than 3 unrelated people should be able to live in an apartment.

Question for Sarkodieh: limited services for the homeless. What new strategies?

Sarkodieh: attack from mental health side. People don’t sleep outside because they want to. We should expand homeless shelter, more concerned about housing that is affordable.

Question to Tiscione: residents feel needs not being addressed. How do you respond?

Tiscione: might have to start a city newspaper to get news to people who don’t have electronic means.

Question to Honeycutt: some POC-owned businesses moved away from downtown because of increased rents.

Honeycutt: ensure that all businesses have necessary resources. Many first-time owners do not feel they do. Dual tax rate is very important way to keep things affordable. Make sure people stay in the city and are involved in the city.

Question to Wally: transparency, accountability about racial demo data on minority businesses and city hiring. How to increase diversity?

Wally: any publicly funded building needs to have minority and female hires. Proud of being part of the current council that has put this forward as well as chief diversity officer.

Question to Coleman: many Woo res struggling for affordable housing.

Coleman: Modified Plan E government. City Council can make recommendations – you can have bully pulpit as a city councilor to make recommendations. Have a way for starter homes so that they can save money.

Question to Petty: Worcester Youth Center question: a lot of roads in poor neighborhoods are neglected.

Petty: willing to take a million or two of tax levy and fix roads. Each district gets about $150-200k for roads. Money is spread around and we only have a limited amount. Roads have taken a backseat to other investments (parks, schools, etc) but willing to look at it.

Question to Colorio: there’s a school committee. How do you view healthy relationship between CC and SC?

Colorio: served on SC – Education committee includes both but they need to be able to get together more often. Important for econ dev, healthy life = good schools. Continue to have this meeting, allocate some funds.

Question to Sarkodieh: what are ideas for positive spaces for youth?

Sarkodieh: wants to inspired youth to do good. (1) Youth Initiative – youth come up with ideas, more involved. (2) Into mentoring programs.

Question to Haxhiaj: Environmental protection, especially for reducing use of plastic. Questioner’s school recently started serving fruit wrapped in plastic!

Throwing more plastic at the problem (clear plastic recycling bag) does not solve the problem. Schools are not recycling properly. One of her dream projects would be a curbside compost program. This would be in line with the climate action initiative city council recently passed.

Question to Honeycutt: Beaver Brook basketball court is falling apart. Why not investing in parks?

Honeycutt: city has been doing a good job with parks lately, but there are lots of other parks that are lacking.

Question to King: safety in all Worcester communities, not just downtown, with limited resources. What is your strategy?

King: public safety is a joint venture between WPD and community. Number of community groups, but there is a lack of diversity. Human Rights Commission trying to get more involved. Mini-City Hall in Main South, WPD substations, bike patrol for WPD to engage with the public. Details at Union Station – trying to be as conservative as possible.

[A lot of these questions are from the youth]

Q to Corrigan: arts programs outside of school

Corrigan: nice to have a question from the youth to the youth of this race. Pow! Wow! Worcester murals are great – something like that is beneficial. You can’t get full funding for everything, though.

Q to Rosen: what are you doing to increase voter turnout?

Rosen: I knew I should have worn my red and white shirt tonight. He is on the streetcorners because he wants to show people he wants the job. At least they know there’s an election coming. He explains basic politics, city council, when people are stopped at Kelley Square. He blames the Telegram for not putting something in the paper the day before the election.

Q to Economou: what are we doing to support small businesses?

Economou: running on spinning downtown success into neighborhoods. More manageable tax rate, would like to see decorative lighting, benches, trash receptacles at smaller businesses. Ties to older names for neighborhoods (Brattle Stop etc)

Q to Gibson: WRTA – how to support public transpo, commuter rail to/from Worcester

Gibson: buses need to be on time. Need to increase train capacity.

Q to Toomey: community block grants. Is this grant [to construction in downtown] best use of limited funds?

Toomey: going to be able to create jobs. Downtown is a neighborhood. Lot of needs, need to balance everything.

Q to Wally: how to increase voter participation and community engagement

Wally: state/federal level – how do we provide easiest way to vote? Recommends federal/state holiday. Clerk’s office signs up 16/17 year olds to vote. Would love to see a national holiday so that people could go vote.

Q to Tiscione about bringing in private investment

Tiscione: to get private investment, need strong core (infrastructure)

Q to Bergman how to bring rich institutions (colleges) together to solve common problems.

Bergman: contest to engage colleges to compete, have celebration. Have opportunity for college kids to engage with each other downtown.

[I am sorry, that question is so boring and I am not portraying what he said right. Not his fault.]

Q to Toomey: Climate Emergency Declaration. how to reduce climate impact, env justiceplanning, dev, public transpo

Toomey: Walkability factor, one of the first people to talk about it. Every great city is one where you can walk. We have to rearrange what we do with cars. Make downtown car-free. Trolleys so people can walk more. How can you encourage econ dev if you don’t have people walking in front of stores?

Q to Gibson: Residents feel not being heard. How do you respond?

Gibson: Worcester is a diverse community. Bring people into the room to solve problems.

Q for Tiscione: Polar Park, no CBA, whatcha gonna do?

Tiscione: certainly more than a one-man job. Will take a coalition of people. Need to start doing things differently, as a city need to be more assertive especially when we are offering TIFs. Perks should come with conditions – too many companies do what they have always done.

Q for Petty: youth, how to create positive spaces

Petty: the youth’s most important time is between 3-6pm. RecWorcester in 10 schools. Athletics in schools, give them time to do arts. Youth Violence Prevention Program. Sports keep kids busy.

Q for Wally: about improving diversity.

Wally: in his professional bank work…wrote an As I See It, proposed Bank On Worcester program, majority of unbanked individuals are minorities, improving safe financial services. Has been chair of org to improve banking services for the underserved.

Q for Coleman: transparency and accountability. What process for transparency and reporting, how to increase diversity?

Coleman: a lot of diversity these days vs 20 years ago. Would ask for regular updates on hiring practices from Chief Diversity Officer – retain, support, recruit quality applicants.

Q for Economou: more gentrification. How to address imbalances?

Economou: 10,000 units of affordable housing. In past few years, 1500 units more. Any HUD $$ has affordable housing component. He has done & will continue to support those efforts.

Q for Colorio: public safety, given limited resources, across the city.

Colorio: when people looking to move to Worcester: schools, safety. Beer Garden headlines – people’s perception of safety can be two different things. Some parents felt Doherty wasn’t safe when her daughter attended. Good WPD communication needed.

Q for Rosen about homeless population.

Rosen: we have issue on our corners with panhandlers. Many homeless, some aren’t. Money is not the answer. Many of these people have mental health issues and addiction issues. Some people know about services, but we have to let folks know they don’t have to continue this way of life. The help is out there, enough folks do not know about the services. We recommends that we get a van to let people know.

Q to Corrigan about econ dev in developing outside of central business district and for POC-owned businesses.

Corrigan: Polar Park took some land through eminent domain. Consider impact on community. Important to be considerate for people who are there.

Q to Sarkodieh about tax

Sarkodieh: Worcester residents – small business exemption. Businesses come and go, residents stay, in favor of senior discount.

Q to Haxhiaj: public transpo, commuter rail

Haxhiaj: we need to work with our delegation to make sure that Worcester has electrified rail, which will help us meet climate crisis goals. Fare-Free WRTA – 39 communities have done this and ridership has increased. Equity issue for poor and elderly – they rely on it – and this will help increase walkability as well.

Q to Bergman: sanctuary city, develop policies for solidarity with immigrant communities.

Bergman: WPD policy is not to ask questions. To officially declare ourselves a sanctuary city would impact our federal funding, which would impact the poor and marginalized the most. Would not do anything further.

Q for Economou: civic engagement.

Economou: civics needs to be taught in schools again. He thinks this is a major issue. City does a good job promoting elections, but could use excise, water/sewer bills to let people know. Tours with kids at city hall is best civics lesson of all, see mock city council meeting.

Q to Honeycutt: Equal Pay Law. How to enforce?

Honeycutt: all the questions we have are contradicting everyone – we need to push businesses in the area. If you don’t comply, you don’t get to come in here. Worcester Red Sox, how much of an achievement is that? Sometimes we have to be ok with saying no.

[I’m not sure if that was about the question or not]

Q to King: roads in poorer neighborhoods are neglected.

King: does not necessarily support accessing tax levy. Need to re-prioritize – make sure equitable across all sides of the city. All parts of the city should gain. Voting rates should not impact services given to different neighborhoods.

Questions from audience

Q to Coleman about upward mobility.

Coleman: hates the term ‘minority’ – what he will do to stimulate people. USA is greatest country in the world – make sure overabundance of opportunity. Everyone should see, feel, experience the opportunities.

Q for Colorio: convo about not raising homeowner taxes – but allocating funds to underfunded areas. How do you give money to the WooSox when areas are neglected?

Colorio: econ dev in favor of, sometimes have to give TIFs, but she is not a proponent. Would like small biz exemption. If you want community with good workforce, need affordable housing. Need to work on creating that environment. Don’t want to be like Boston where no one can afford a house.

Q for Haxhiaj: as POC, lives on Bell Hill, never seen a candidate, why should I bother to vote?

Haxhiaj: has been door-knocking everywhere. I have translated materials to many languages. You have every right to be pissed off, you should be treated same way as people from West Side. We hired 10 girls, mostly of color, for my campaign. Look at my actions.

Q for Corrigan: do you have any ideas/experience to have people of different backgrounds come to agreements on how to move our city forward?

Corrigan: experience as a camp counselor in Germany. People from all over – people from different places have different ideas. Campers were also international. People came together.

Q for Rosen: what initiatives to retain college-age population/talent?

Rosen: we need jobs. A lot of them want to stay in Worcester. Important to retain and expand existing businesses, bring in new biz. Still competing, and attracting new businesses. PawSox looked at 18 communities – but they chose us!

Q for Economou: how can city council ensure that community receives spinoff from econ dev/ballpark?

Economou: CBA will ensure that people from the city are hired for these jobs. That’s the best way to ensure that people get those jobs first.

[Honestly, I want to know what kind of factory they’re building at Polar Park with all these jobs!]

Q for Gibson: we’re the second-largest city in New England – what initiative do you propose to promote that?

Gibson: emphasize diversity and welcoming nature. Make sure we have all represented.

Q for Petty: how quickly to get to 100% renewable energy?

Petty: the quicker the better, many solar panels. We have biggest solar farm here. Who knows if it will snow here this winter?

Q for Toomey about reducing solid waste to meet DEP guidelines

Toomey: recycling center in schools, could reuse some material creatively. Would ask that people think about what they are doing – ordering online, many cardboard boxes and plastic packaging. Ask people to consider online companies to reduce packaging. People should use their recycled bags.

Q to King: how to protect non-profits, I think this is about Oak Hill CDC

King: will support doing all we can to support CDCs. He was just made aware of this issue today. Need to meet with folks to address these issues.

Q to Bergman: how to make Worcester a favorable destination for tourism?

Bergman: has been involved in Preservation Worcester for a number of years. Some people would have laughed at this question a few years ago – no more. This is a great destination to enjoy history. We’ve got as good a history as the City of Boston – we just don’t market it.

Q for Sarkodieh: teenagers and employment.

Sarkodieh: mentors to guide for college opportunities. High schools – classes at city hall to see what is going on. Good citizens as parents.

Q to Tiscione: if I never see candidates in my neighborhood, why should I vote?

Tiscione: that’s the whole reason why you should vote. I try to get around as much as I can – it’s a big city and I can’t get everywhere. After you do a couple dozen three-deckers, it gets tiring. Vote so your voice is heard. You can’t be heard if you don’t show up.

Q to Honeycutt: not raising homeowner taxes – but variety of underfunded areas. Woo Sox vs not raising taxes

Honeycutt: downtown is vital, but running for D5. Focus on residential taxes don’t rise. Transpo needs to be more accessible to people in community. Make smaller routes to destinations. Focus is on D5 – lowest residential tax rate.

Q to Wally: what initiatives to retain college-age population/talent?

Wally: need WELL-PAYING jobs, and entertainment options that 22 year olds want. The latter has been improving.

Closing statements – you know I won’t type unless I need to.

Toomey has been involved in very sexy issues like infrastructure and sewers. That is an exact quote.

TISCIONE IS LUCKY THIRTEEN ON YOUR BALLOT. Homeless problem is growing issue and will affect every issue of our lives. Keep talking about gentrificaton – we are not doing enough for people in need. We need real answers – not put in bandaids. People come from surrounding communities because we have the services.

Haxhiaj is an exhausted single mom who has advocated for Plumley Village residents, brought 1000 people to City Hall, showed up at Polar Park to ask why there is no CBA. Her heart, mind, and all her energies are all in the right place.

Tony ALSO mentions curbside compost. I don’t think it was necessarily positive, but we’re getting there, kids!

Corrigan recommends calling DPW Customer Service for potholes. They have 30 days to fix it before the city is liable. People at DPW know him!


School Committee Forum – October 29

Telegram coverage here

This is one of my favorite forums, sponsored by a lot of community groups, including the Worcester Youth Center and Worcester NAACP, which is meets on the 4th Monday of every month at Central Branch YMCA and is always looking for new members!

Before we begin…

Someone asked me why I was late to last night’s forum.

I was spending my night at the Mustard Seed, a place many of you have heard of, some of you have visited, and which has, on occasion, been called “America’s Favorite Soup Kitchen.”

The Family Health Center of Worcester’s Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program (HOAP) is currently raising funds to open a health clinic at the Mustard Seed!!

So I have two things to ask of you:

1 – Vote your conscience on November 5

2 – Please consider donating to build this life-changing clinic and share the link with your networks!

…and now…on to the forum…

Ground rules: each candidate will have one minute for opening & closing statements.  Also have one minute to answer questions. 

Opening statements:

John Trobaugh: Moved here from Alabama more than a decade ago; he and his husband both work for medical school.  They have two sons, both in 9th grade.  Evidence-based plans for parental engagement for child, school, district.  We can’t do same thing over & over again when parents don’t feel welcome in school or engaged.  Parents should have a voice in what happens in classroom, school, school district – key stakeholders.

Tracy O’Connell Novick: main reason she is running is that her work brings her to school districts to improve practices.  She does not see this work happening in Worcester and it should be.

John Monfredo: every decision he made as a principal was what is in the best interests of children, and that has carried forward into his work on the school committee.  He has received many awards, has filed many items, etc.

Jack Foley: has been on school committee for last 20 years.  (1) Funding – things looks good right now, but we need to think strategically, hold community forums on how to spend.  (2) Look at data (grad rates, achievement rates).  (3) Restore integrity and transparency.  Cannot continue what was done with school busing, sex ed.

Laura Clancey: parent in WPS system.  Child currently at Forest Grove.  Some problems with communications.  Licensed guidance counselor.  She is an ed advocate for DYS for over 14 years.  Has been advocate for over 14 years.  Happy to be at the Youth Center because she has done much work over the years.

Chantel Bethea: she is the nosy parent who will not take “that’s the way it’s always been.”  You hold our kids to a certain standard – hold the admin, principals, students to a certain standard.  Running to show children that when something is not right, it’s time to fight.  She fights when she is upset.

Cara Berg-Powers: has a 6 yo in the schools.  Has been student and educator in the WPS.  Has worked in educational fights around funding for the past 10 years.  Saw a lot of inequity as a foster parent.  Just because she won gains for her kids does not mean the battle is over.

Q1 to John Trobaugh: Sept 2 article in T&G: superintendent opposed in-house bus service.  What is your position?  Would you want 5 year proposal?  (Q from Worcester Youth Center)

Trobaugh: interactions with Transportation Department have not been good.  Durham is not good, but issues start with Transo Dept.  One of his kids was lost – took them a week to call him back.  Yes, it will save money – but we also need to clean house.

Novick: this has been in the works since 2006.  WPS already run a substantial number of buses.  Those are the buses that come – we can’t say the same about Durham.  Durham is not keeping the district apprised of where the kids are and lies.  As a parent, has no confidence in Durham.  (She spoke a lot more but I couldn’t keep up.)

Monfredo: We need to sit down and get it right.  Running a bus company is not the business of the WPS.  The superintendent would be the first to say let’s do it if it were to save money.  This is a serious decision that needs to be made carefully.  Wants to see the facts and figures before moving forward.  Are they flat-nosed buses, which are safer?  Retirement benefits, health benefits…we cannot do it by 2020.

Foley: As Tracy said, this discussion has been going on over 10 years.  This was a flawed process – not a level playing field.  Service from Durham unacceptable, continues to be a problem.  We can do a much better problem running it ourselves.  We run a lot of other in-house services ourselves (like food service).  $2-3 million could be put back into the classroom.

Clancey: as a parent, has had numerous bus issues.  We have their contract for 2, possibly 3 years.  As SC member, will not let something be worked on for 10 years.  Won’t say ‘we’ve been trying to work on this for ten years.’

Bethea: that’s the first thing I’ve agreed with you on.  It doesn’t make sense to keep a company that has bad service.  Parents have called her when they don’t know where the kids are – bus company refuses to answer the phone.  Accountability is one thing, responsibility is another.

Berg-Powers: this is the issue that has come up the most in door-knocking and contacting voters/parents.  Some of these stories are for young children, where parents are not able to locate them for hours.  This is NOT a separate issue from whether to pay the company.

Q2 for Novick from Main South CDC: suspension rate from white and non-white students.

Novick: first, acknowledge that there IS an issue.  Having someone from DESE come – we needed state intervention for something that is a civil rights issue.  We need to clean up our act.  We need training – and look at where the ties are between students and various other things (long term absenteeism for example).

Monfredo: not a fan of suspensions.  However, the students are not disciplined based on racial profile.  There is a welcoming school policy.  A number of workshops have been held and will be held.  He lists them.

Foley: Own the data – we have to put the data out there and discuss it.  Let’s break it down by school, gender and understand what is happening.  Take a hard look at emergency removals.  What is happening and at which schools is it happening and why.  Look at schools who could be models.  Supports for teachers and professionals.  Need more trauma informed care and alternatives in school.

Clancey: We are not collecting data across the board consistently at every school.  Each school needs to document in the same way.  Implicit bias is important to be trained in.  Make sure that we are collecting the data.

Bethea: I do agree with her a little bit again – it’s weird.  Was at a city hall meeting with DESE.  Data is certified by superintendent.  You can look how you make it want to look.  How does that work?  [I am not sure what her concern is, sorry.]  She wants to see the raw data and have a third party put it together and identify the issues. 

Berg-Powers: make sure that we have quality data, and need to acknowledge that we have an issue.  Community deserves acknowledgment about what they are seeing on the ground, truth & reconciliation work is going to be a critical task of new school committee.  Many of these are deep beliefs that many have never interrogated.  Teachers need support – they deserve to support them as much as they love them.

Trobaugh: standardized reporting – that we don’t know what happened is a huge disciplinary problem.  One thing to affect change in a system – look at systems that are causing these problems.  We don’t have parental or community engagement – they could be part of the decision making process. 

Q3 to Berg-Powers from YWCA, do you support creation of diversity & equal opportunity officer?  If so, how to ensure that it addresses systemic racism and gender bias?

Berg-Powers: daughter’s principal has been hired for this role.  Some concerns about making sure that she is supported, but impressed with what she’s started.  Needs to be an office, cannot just be one positon.  Look at some of the entire community planning processes.  Also have transparency and accountability tracker on their website (Framingham or Boston – she may be talking about)

Trobaugh: thinks we need an office, but does not need to be just for personnel.  For employees and staff, but also at what’s happening with the kids.  Is there equity among different student populations?  Broader than just employment.  Should touch student performance.

Novick: believes that the position needs to be broader.  School Committee got bad legal advice – needs to involve hiring, curriculum, policies around equity – should be on the agenda all the time.  Districts have a report at every school committee meeting.  Should be a superintendent goal and we need to evaluate her on it. 

Monfredo: superintendent made a good choice.  She will look for opportunities to hire and recruit.  In addition, training will be given.  Teachers need to build on knowledge students bring to the classroom.  This can take place with good training.  Would like diversity office to work with Worcester Future Teachers Program.  Could be like the minor league where we bring students into teaching.

Foley: concerned about job description and autonomy.  Pleased with the hire.  This needs to be part of strategic goals of school committee and superintendent.  Professional development, looking at implicit bias.  We as a community – have to repair fracture.  We all need to work together to resolve the issue.

Clancey: supports the idea and the person who was hired.  Looking at recruitment and hiring policies is key.

Bethea: does not agree with it at all.  Chief Diversity Officer for the city isn’t doing anything either.  Hiring from within Worcester does not achieve anything.  She will not have leeway.  City CDO was not given the tools – current one ditto.  Doesn’t think schools CDO will do anything either.

Q4 for Bethea from Worcester Common Ground: affordable housing impacts educational outcomes.  What can SC do to improve neighborhood stability?

Bethea: involve organizations that work with families.  If SC and admin would let community inside schools and DAB, we could get a lot of things done on a cheaper scale.  We are putting the money and saying it’s most valuable…[in unimportant areas?]  Need to look at the whole child.

Berg-Powers: Schools cannot do this on our own.   We are asking schools to solve a lot of social problems that are bigger than schools.  Schools need to be part of the whole system conversation.  Band-aid programs (food pantries, clothing) – need to keep kids in safe, trusting school relationship – keep them with educators that they know and love.

Trobaugh: when you are not properly housed, affects your education.  Need to make sure that students are properly supported.  We need to have a Housing First model – we can work on that with the city.  Everyone who needs housing can have housing.  As far as schools go – school counselors/psychologists/clinicians are underutilized.

Novick: appreciates that people are acknowledging that schools can’t solve everything.  School Committees represent largest constituency that cannot vote with them.  Food pantries, washers/dryers are not enough – we need to go to the City Council and say that the policies they make are affecting students.  The priorities should be to those who already live here and who go to school here.

Monfredo: he agrees with Stacy [sic] on this.  If you just look at SC – not enough.  Need to make key decisions with social agencies.  There are lots of things to do – mentions Andy’s Attic, etc.

Foley: Clark has worked with Main South CDC on housing opportunities.  Bring together quality housing, make sure all partners brought.  It can be done with community partnerships but not by schools alone.  SC can push city for additional affordable housing.

Clancey: wraparound services are huge. 

Q5 to Berg-Powers from Worcester Coalition of Ed Equity: how should district and SC be assessed when community is displeased with inequities?  (Long question – you’ll get the point)

Berg-Powers: we really can look at what our goals/objectives are, right now the things we are talking about are not being measured.  She has committed to measures to being engaged – weekly office hours, ombudsman position, and have someone who can connect to solutions right away.

Trobaugh: relates to community/parental engagement.  Each school needs to be judged on how engaged parents are, as well as district.  Once you’re on the school committee, you’re part of the system and need to be judged as part of the system.

Novick: one of the standards of superintendent evaluation is culturally competent two-way communication.  School Committee has not made this more of a point.  This has been a real weakness in this SC.  Other school committees do self-assessments and ask for them.  Admin should not be developing policies (cell phone, dress code) without parent or student involvement.

Monfredo: school committee “in partnership” with administration.  [Doesn’t that just about sum it up]

Foley: we are assessed at the voting booth every two years, and people need to hold us accountable.  About community trust and losing it.  Lack of transparency and modesty.  One way to approach is more public forums.  We do this in Finance & Operations Committee – have convo with public about priorities.  Also needs to happen in eval of superintendent – which is also an eval of the SC

Clancey: we need to create procedures & goals for schools. Make sure we listen to everyone.  No one was listening or engaging in this.  [Slight technical difficulty]

Bethea: the relationship between district and school committee needs to be accessible.  Doesn’t need to go through six different channel.  Same people have been here for 39 years.  [BRIAN IS DEAD AND HE WAS ONLY HERE FOR 35 YEARS!]  If there are more black and brown people on the school committee, there will be more accountability.

Q6 from EAW for Clancey: what motivated you to run?

Clancey: first, being a parent.  She implemented communication and other things as a PTO president that she would like to implement at a district level.  Also, helping kids navigate through the system has motivated her.

Bethea: sex ed.   Her kids heard her say she was running at a school committee meeting and they pushed her to go for it.  You need to be able to respect other people’s values – she doesn’t agree with half the people up here but she can still be civil.

Berg-Powers: at end of 2018 school year, became foster parents unexpectedly.  They had learned that there had been several attempts at supports that had not been met and that he was going to be held back because of the lack of leadership.  Not enough to help one kid when there are other kids still there.

Trobaugh: in part because of his children.  As he has seen them go through the system, seen a lack of system to communicate with parents.  CPPAC and site councils’ recommendations fall on deaf ears.  A couple of community groups asked him if he would consider running. 

Novick: was on a panel this spring sponsored by Mass Inc.  Shift from federal accountability to local accountability.  She thought about what she was going to about it.  Site councils were intended to be a launching ground for school committees – but ours are very ineffective.  Thought she has a responsibility to do it.

Monfredo: has made difference in the lives of many children as an educator.  He lists many of the resume items you are well familiar with.  Focus on community involvement is about it takes a village.

Foley: what motivated him 20 years ago was that he had kids in the district.  Last time he thought about no longer running – but it’s been a tough 12 months, and he has concerns about how things are going, lack of transparency and process, has decided to stay and work on this to push district forward successfully.

Q7: Worcester (?) Building Trades, to Foley: how to go to preapprenticeship, etc.

Foley: concerning that Worcester Tech is an exam school and prohibits kids who are interested and would benefit from attending.  Trying to involve other students in gaining expertise.  More Ch 74 programs.  Worcester Tech was intended as an 18 hour school, wants it opened up more for vocational training.

Clancey: her husband has been a union carpenter for 20 years.  Worcester Tech is not using its best capacity.  Comprehensive high school should retain college-bound kids and kids who would benefit from voke education should have access to Worcester Tech.

Bethea: no one can get into Worcester Tech.  All schools should have some form of tech training in it.  Choices for all families.  Not all kids are college bound and all of our families need to be familiar with the resources.

Berg-Powers: Last 15 years has been running youth programs in media & creative arts.  Bridge programs in our schools.  Need to get creative.  She has $200k in student debt and two mortgages – we should not expect this of every young person.

Trobaugh: big proponent of vocational programming.  He went to voke school, became an EMT, and put himself through college.  We do have a problem in that we have many kids on waitlist – need to increase vocational programming.  Need to think about what innovation economy needs, and adapt to system we have now. 

Novick: first year she was teaching high school, it was a comprehensive that had voke component with a GPA requirement.  One of her students really wanted to be an auto mechanic.  A Ch 74 program is not a full voke program – need to take it seriously.  We used to send “those kids” to Voke – now have gone in the other direction – and need to get back in the middle and serve all.

Monfredo: we all agree.  Not everyone gets into a technical high school, we have to follow state guidelines.  We are expanding Ch 74 in all comprehensive high schools.  More needs to be added on. 

Q8 to Monfredo from Worcester Community/Labor Coalition: do you support trainings around rape culture?  What to do to make sure we move forward?

Monfredo: first makes the comment ‘rape culture?’; unclear whether he has heard the phrase before. We are trying to address as many issues as possible.  Through sex ed, need for comprehensive sex ed program.  Have children learn as much fact information as possible.  We could address that in sex ed and move forward.

Foley: we need a comprehensive, inclusive, age-appropriate sex ed at the earliest age possible.  Curriculum will deal with all the issues including consent – people should know from a very young age about consent.  Not alarmed by sex ed curriculum – students need to learn at a young age.  This information will serve them well throughout their life.

Clancey: we need comprehensive sex ed. Discussions about consent and what’s appropriate and not.  There are certain games in the sex ed curriculum proposed by WISH that she did not agree with, but plenty that she did.

Bethea: we do need something that is comprehensive.  We use that word like diversity – means anything.  We need to believe students.  Lots of talk about curriculum and policies, but need to bring people to justice for things they have done.  State Rep Jim O’Day bringing forward a good proposal – need to make sure this gets passed.  Our kids are asking for this information.

Berg-Powers: describes how she had been sexually assaulted by a neighbor at age six – the same age her daughter is now. This is an important curriculum issue.  Dedham Teachers Union contract – wanted grievance process for sex assault.  WPS needs a safe environment for everyone. 

Trobaugh: need an evidence-based program.  We don’t have something that will reduce STIs, pregnancy, and will give kids more knowledge about sex so that they delay trying it.  Missing the evidence part.  We need to teach not just about consent but about healthy relationships (including LGBT)…

Novick: we need to have rape culture discussed.  We need curriculum that does not blame victims.  Not just about health education  School Title IX coordinator should not be Safety Coordinator.  We still have a dress code where girls are blamed for distracting boys.  That is rape culture.

Q9: are you in favor of LGBTQIA subcommittee?

Trobaugh: yes, equal opportunity officer.  We need to discuss diversity at each meeting.  We need to make sure we are protecting people who have not been historically protected.

Novick: concerned about governance structures – danger in getting too many subcommittees and then it’s someone else is responsible and we do not consider this as part of everything we do.  The notion behind this – that this is something for which there should be accountability – is right and we are not currently doing this.

Monfredo: chief diversity officer could discuss it.  Need to make sure that all students’ needs are being met.

Foley: does have some structural worries because there are only so many SC members.  There are some existing committees that could take this on.  We need to work about a number of issues relative to inequity and achievement gaps.  Should be district-wide initiative and not necessarily part of a committee.  Would like it as major function for existing committee.

Clancey: agrees with Foley’s comments.  Strengthen site councils at each school.  If we use them the way they are supposed to, can be dealt with at school level.

Bethea: this needs to be in the chamber.  Someone from Shades should be sitting at that table and have a vote and it’s always there.  In the forefront, live on TV at all times.  There should be a parent at that table at all times.  Someone who represents our community at all times and not behind closed doors.

Berg-Powers: is open to this and the structure is something we can figure out. If we are not measuring something, it’s not happening.  Opportunity here to make sure we have an eye to how all the other pieces are fitting in – opportunity for every young person in our schools to become whole, healthy adults.

Q for Monfredo from Carpenters Local 336: district school committee members – in favor?

Monfredo: no, every school committee represents all districts, all neighborhoods.  If not, they shouldn’t be running.  Voters should vote for those they feel best represent.

Foley: we have talked about this – still not in favor.  Solve the problem at the ballot box.  Worries that if it’s district rep for schools, may be a battle neighborhood by neighborhood as we see city councilors now.  Opportunities for students to travel across the city to go to school – at that point, who represents them?

Clancey: has seen district councilors fighting – should not be done at SC level.   Vote for people who know school district.

Bethea: doesn’t have a full answer.  If we were to do it, then have at-large and district.  Doesn’t know how this would actually work.

Berg-Powers: No idea.  Look at how it works in other places.  Our schools do not align with our city council districts.  In D4, where she lives, people do not feel served.  Question speaks to larger issue of transparency, community engagement.

Trobaugh: if we had a mixed model similar to city council, would probably be best to go.  You have to raise A LOOOOOOOTT of money to run citywide.  This excludes a LARGE portion of our population.  A mixed model might work well.  Our school committee currently does not reflect the diversity of the community.

Novick: the school committees she sees with a district model or hybrid model ends up with one member fighting for “their” schools – unhealthy for everyone.  Relegating “those kids” to “that” committee member.  Can’t pretend that ballot box is the answer.  But RANKED CHOICE VOTING could be – because you could run a smaller campaign.  LOOK INTO IT – RANKED CHOICE VOTING.

Final Q from NAACP, to Clancey: would you be interested in providing incentives for male POC to be teachers in WPS?

Clancey: No.  Basing incentives on color of skin should not be done.  Does not think this is a practice we can get into.  May be illegal to pay someone more money based on the color of skin.

Bethea: I don’t know.  There needs to be a bigger pull – more ways to help or assist those who are trying to be teachers.  Always a disadvantage in paying for MTELs, there are still wage gaps.  We need more teachers/administrators who look like our students.  We need quality over quantity.  We need to open the door for our people who look like our population.

Berg-Powers: question is about incentives.  We need to provide incentives.  Pay is not usually an incentive for people who go into teaching.   But incentives can be cohorts to build a school community, create spaces where they can be safe in how they experience school.  Retention is particularly of concern.  How are we recruiting all teachers of color, but esp black and brown men?

Trobaugh: whoever is responsible for hiring should be responsible for numbers.  If super is evaluated based on the numbers, that will help.  Pipeline programs should be expanded.  Get support staff to become teacher, be eligible for exemption, get ed to finish the certification.  Mentoring, etc.

Novick: people work in schools because they are comfortable in schools.  Experience in K-12 makes you want to continue to spend time in schools – or not.  Things that cause problem for students make them less likely to become teachers.  Students need places to LIVE – some colleges are trying to work on that, people can’t afford to go into teaching right out of college.

Monfredo: Worcester Future Teachers – students go to Worcester State, major in education, and they will be hired in WPS.  IAs – are given free courses, can get help, will get assistance in exam, and then will become teachers.

Foley: would support incentives.  We have to compete.  But that’s not enough – we have to create a really welcoming community as well.  Do a lot more in the city to support the requirement.  We need to do hiring much earlier than late springtime.

There is a statement from Jermoh Kamara read

Closing statements – I will hold on typing.  (If I can confess something – it’s nice to just listen to candidates for a few minutes instead of desperately typing and muttering their words to myself like some sort of incantation!)

At-Large City Council Forum – October 28

Video can be watched here; Nick K coverage in the Telegram here.

(showing up late – around 7:18)

I’m here in the middle of the opening statements

Haxhiaj – Since I’m coming in the middle of the opening statements, it is perhaps not fair to start summarizing from here.  On the other hand, it’s unfair to most of the other candidates that someone as articulate, caring, and prepared as Etel is running.  I’ll hold on the opening statements (unless I hear something interesting, of course!) and wait ‘til we get to the questions.

Gary Rosen says he’s the person running who’s been alive longest.  There you go, kids.

Ralph Tiscione: there are a few fun facts I didn’t hear before about him: he has a 16-year-old daughter in WPS, his first political experience was cold-calling people to vote in favor of the Centrum, he’s a veteran.

Toomey: another fun fact: Brian O’Connell convinced her to run for school committee.  A reporter said about her that “who’s she? She’s just a mother.”

Question 1: demand for housing.  13% classified as affordable – does Worcester have sufficient?  For all candidates.

Toomey: there are three-deckers that aren’t being rented out because we have aging, afraid population.  Recently mayor/CM/CC put forward new housing support program.  Also would like to see a sweat equity program.

Tiscione: there should be more affordable housing.  As a firefighter, has been all over the place.  A lot of housing stock going unused.  More effort to keep people to retain their homes.

Sarkodieh: believes the affordable rate is not enough for a city that professes to care about residents.  Worries more about ‘housing that is affordable’ – there are folks who cannot afford $850 a month.  Would like to see programs expanded for poor families.

Rosen: We do need more – lobby senators and congressmen for more HUD funds.  Keep reasonable property tax rates for homeowners.

(I already attended a forum where there was essentially the same question so excuse me if I don’t record everything)

Petty: at Gamechanger event, introduced program for people who are redeveloping 2-4 units of housing.  Rehab funding, loans? 

King: we need to require less direct public subsidies and require private developers more.  Inclusionary zoning would require private contractors to have more affordable housing.  About tax rate and making sure we are not taxing people disproportionately.

Haxhiaj: housing is a right not a privilege.  Folks at lower brackets and those moving up should both be remembered.  We aren’t building enough affordable housing, we should have gone after community land trusts.  We cannot continue to rely on CDCs to produce affordable housing – every project needs to require aff housing.

Gibson: population is growing and who is affected.  It should be across the board.

Economou: we need housing of all types in this city.  Need to strike a balance.  [OK, conflict of interest notice: Tony E’s mother is one of my favorite people ever and my sister is vaguely related to her]

Corrigan: this is a personal issue.  He is the only candidate who still lives at home with their parents.  All three of us want me to move out at some point.  [much laughter from the audience]  After he graduated college, he struggled finding a job.  He can’t afford to move out, make a down payment.  A lot of people in his age group are experiencing the same thing.

Colorio: keep residential taxes the lowest they can be.  As Worcester has grown, gone over 10% threshold for affordable housing.  Other communities have not.  Other towns should pay us a fee.

Coleman is basically dressed to be in a Fred Astaire movie.  There were cheap prices a long time ago.  There were starter houses.  Need to work with our bankers and mortgage people to educate public on how to buy houses.

Bergman: carriage houses – why can’t Worcester do what’s done in Newton.  If older house has a carriage house, you can make it available.  Ordinance that doesn’t allow over 3 people who are unrelated live in a unit.  Maybe rethink that.  Carrot and stick for taking on more affordable housing.

Q2: Trash.  Debate on wind-blown rubbish has morphed into recycling/trash discussion.


Sarkodieh: city clear recycling program is in good taste and everyone should be encouraged by that.  High cost of trash bags.  [Quick fact check: whatever you pay for the yellow bags is half of what it costs to dispose of it!]  People dump because of that.

Petty: manager’s plan was pretty good, gave funding for inspectors and to keep drop-off site open later at night.  He is for the bigger bin [?] or the plastic bag.

Bergman: wasn’t in favor of bin to bag.  People like the bins.  We’ve got a pretty good program. 

Colorio: opposed to changing the program.  She talks about areas of “excess trash” [I do not know what this means]

Sarkodieh says the yellow bags are not conducive to going green.

Q3: WRTA, transit to other areas, how to increase ridership and service.

Bergman: WRTA needs to go to no cost to passengers.  Need to engage colleges to use it more.  Trolley-type buses.  More cost-efficient buses.  We see buses go by that are a quarter full. Commuter rail: limited control, but can advocate at a state level.

Haxhiaj: Research Bureau showed that fare-free will increase ridership.  Also advocate for electrified commuter rail.  Invest in public transport, quickly.

Gibson: make sure that everyone in the city can move around.  Need funding from other sources.

Toomey: Smaller buses that are electric or solar-powered.  Directly identify where the jobs are.  Ask colleges to give us innovations.

Q4: deaths from opioid crisis.  Where does it rank on priority list?  What solutions?

Colorio: would prefer to invest in prevention.  Narcan, emergency room, are temporary fixes.  Peer to peer.  Active addicts need to know they are not allow.  Has sat in on drug court and thinks it is very valuable.  Goal is to get drugs off the street.

Economou: this is a state and national issue as well.  City is doing all it can.  Opiate Task Force bringing all of it together.  If we could have people in place when families need assistance…

Rosen: power of education.  We should be having the WPS have COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH EDUCATION. 

Haxhiaj: We need to acknowledge that this has hit the Latinx community hard.  When mental health and other beds are closed, it hurts everyone.  Luckily we have Mattie Castiel.  Street outreach so that people have wraparound services.  [OK FOLKS IN CASE YOU DIDN’T NOTICE IN 30 SECONDS THIS WAS THE BEST ANSWER]

Colorio: talking about how kids don’t have breakfast or lunch because of their parents struggling with addiction. 


Coleman: supports construction efforts.  This baseball park is not just for baseball, we are catching up with construction of a “bad area of the city that needed to be rebuilt”.  Cleaning up a section of the city that was long overdue.  Whatever is done, sure we will do it right.

Toomey: park designed with community in mind.  Preferential housing for neighborhood residents.  She supports the CBA.

Sarkodieh reminds us that NO CBA HAS BEEN SIGNED.  [Aside: isn’t it amazing how all elected officials support a CBA yet none made it a requirement for a large project that is mostly funded by taxpayers…!]

Economou: desolate coming to life.  Urban renewal.  New job opportunities for those who live in the neighborhood.

Coleman agrees with Tony E.  Challenge the people of Worcester – need to link to other parts of the city.  Need a new police station.

Q6: Downtown activity.  How to balance downtown & neighborhood priorities.

Petty: Lot of investment downtown but also in the neighborhoods.  DOWNTOWN IS A NEIGHBORHOOD.  One City, One Library.  Mini-City Hall in Main South (sorry didn’t quite catch that).  Rand-Whitney is staying here, Table Talk expanding, SWIP is complete.  Small business façade program.

Coleman: (1) prioritize linkage program – when something happens downtown, we need to hear from people to see what they want done next.  (2) Let’s build a new police station

Haxhiaj: loves lead abatement part of this – also would like to see energy efficiency program.  Want to pay same attention to small businesses.

King: access to transportation is important.  Do more to support transpo to/from downtown/neighborhoods.  Tax amendments for transpo and education.

Petty: quality of life is very important.  $60 million in parks.  Continue to invest in streets and sidewalks.

Q7: Taking properties from those who do not want to sell.  Midtown Mall.  When to take by eminent domain?

Corrigan: Eminent domain should not be taken lightly.  Provided for in the constitution.  He doesn’t want to say it’s by force, but they don’t have a say in the matter.  If property at a detriment to the community at large, should be taken.  Land has to come from somewhere for larger projects.

King: There is certainly a contrast between Polar Park and Midtown Mall.  Would do it for public use and public purposes. 

Economou: it absolutely a tool in our toolbox.  [ACTUALLY – in our city, it’s only a tool in the WRA’s toolbox.]  If a house in a city is not keeping up with the neighbors, we send out inspectors.

Bergman: uncomfortable with WRA’s definition of underperforming, especially when it comes to the Midtown Mall.  Hasn’t seen anyone come in or out of the AT&T building for decades.

Q8: Historic preservation.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  However, we could save Stearns Tavern.

Gibson: needs to be studied carefully.  We need to look at historical records and balance whether the building is useful.

Corrigan: this is part of our cultural identity, establish connection between past and present.  Notre Dame de Paris vs Notre Dame des Canadiens.

Colorio: loves Arts and Crafts houses.  Should put more of a focus on bringing architectural heritage to the public

Coleman: go to the third floor of WPL – many pictures of ghost buildings.  Visitor info center closer to downtown.  Do something to preserve.

Q9: Diversity not in aspects of city life.  Construction prospects, other hiring.  What else could the city do?

Haxhiaj: proud that has hiring rate of women and POC higher than Boston.  Every policy should be centered on diversity of community – housing, job creation, school funding. 

Tiscione: well on their way to meeting goals that have been set.  Still have enclaves of neighborhoods that are diverse and city needs to reflect that in its workforce.

Corrigan: people come from all over the world to America.  [I feel a Neil Diamond song coming on…]

Sarkodieh: elect me to the city council, that will increase diversity quite a bit.  Mentions grievance process.

Haxhiaj: when we talk about Midtown Mall, incubator for small, immigrant-owned or POC-owned businesses – we need to ensure equity in the making.  They should benefit from growth of downtown the way other businesses are.

Q10: plowing sucks – or does it?

Economou: People who do the work do a great job.  A couple of years ago, his kids were in a school bus accident on Chester Street.  City has problem areas and needs to get ahead of it before the snow starts falling. 

Gibson: he lived in Main South and the city needs to have someone check to make sure the job’s being done – check and balance

Tiscione: major roads are good, but narrow, hilly roads are done with smaller trucks.  Kind of adds to problem. 

Petty: have had problems with ice storms.  Incentivize contractors to show up at every single storm.

Economou: are we paying the contractors fairly?  Need better communication system.

Q11: Marijuana

King: voters have spoken, but many have concerns.  Looks at this similar to alcohol industry, and should have similar standards/parameters.  City can also get revenue from this.  When you talk about incarceration issue, way to reassess folks who have been eliminated from opportunities in education and jobs.

Colorio: right now, city and police have to monitor where establishments are located.  Cannot be anywhere near schools or parks.  Needs to be closely monitored.

Toomey: critical to have a grievance board. Odor is a concern.

Tiscione: fantastic revenue source.  It’s still a drug and needs to be monitored. 

King: all electeds and high city officials have participated in neighborhood meetings.  Not aware of any major scandals.  Keep revenues in the city of Worcester.

Q12: pedestrian-friendliness.  Deaths still a concern, bike lanes, speed limits have been ignored.

Toomey: first one to talk about walkability score on the city council floor.  Identify places where we can have more public transportation.  Pedestrian accidents – much more distracted driving.  Would like to see oversight, stings, important to educate pedestrians as well.

Rosen: With all his time on the street corners and intersections, need to paint crosswalks.  Kelley Square – you can see them, but drivers ignore them.  When he walks to “Rosen Island”, drivers try to hit him.

Petty: makes a sassy comment about how many people want to hit Gary Rosen.  WHO KNEW HE HAD IT IN HIM!  Discusses a million policies and taskforces he has implemented.

Corrigan: after Kelley Square project is done, let’s have a moment of silence for Gary’s island.  Value of having pedestrian-only places.

Toomey: more pedestrian flashing lights – except cars blow through those, too.  Likes lower speed limits as well.

Q13: tax-exempt properties.  Other cities have PILOT.  While Worcester has a few PILOTS, they are the exception and not the rule.

Tiscione: tax base in Worcester – lots of residential.  They need to be kept at lowest rate possible.  Nothing to do about non-profits legally.  As far as businesses go, should have incentives and goals.

Bergman: PILOT great but can’t be enforced.  Boards don’t want to have to pay what they don’t have to pay. 

Coleman: Colleges spend a lot of money in Worcester. 

Rosen: we need to send a statement to every non-profit with a list of property and ask for partial payment in lieu of taxes.

Q14: what process/metrics to evaluate City Manager? How would you rate him?

Gary Rosen goes back to the school committee days for Ed Augustus. His best vote EVER was for Ed A. He doesn’t walk on water, but he certainly walks pretty well on land.

Sarkodieh: gets an “A” so far. Public surveys should be used to evaluate him. Criteria: evaluation should be specific, time-bound, measurable.

King: how responsive he is to the city council – balanced with responsibility to budget of the city. The budget speaks to a lot of our values.

Gibson: will analyze the work done and evaluate how he implements projects.

Q15: Single or dual tax rate?

Bergman: will approach as what’s fair and what’s affordable. Having a roof over your head is a (slightly) higher priority than businesses, and has voted that way. Businesses are doing very well. Despite talking points about business community suffering, we aren’t seeing it.

Coleman: not at point to have single tax rate. Need to make sure that we have a fair tax rate.

Colorio: small gap between residential and business when compared to other Gateway communities.

Corrigan: battle between business and residential communities – should be that the two communities agree that taxes should be as low as possible. How is tax rate computed? Assessed value of property is part of this! Right now, values are going up – so even if rate remains the same, taxes go up.

Economou: people talk about lowest residential tax rate and how local business bringing in jobs – yes, in Grafton, not in Worcester. Business owners pass on cost to those who use business. Small business exemption is not many businesses and does not solve the problem. If we are going to change this, need a complete new growth in tax base.

Gibson: as he walks around, learns and listens on tax issue. Let people speak and we will listen to them.

Haxhiaj: does not support a single tax rate because most vulnerable homeowners can’t afford it. Any time she has opportunity to have small business save a few dollars would be a good day in her book. Adopt small business exemption.

King: talking about young folks, veterans, aging in place. Increasing residential tax rate not something city should be doing. PILOT, new growth. If we want local people to be working local jobs, they have to be able to afford to live here.

Petty – not many tools in the toolchest. No city councilor has voted the lowest residential tax rate in three years.

Rosen: always votes for a favorable tax rate for residents. Just because you own your own home does not mean you have an unlimited pot of gold to pay your bills. We could tax $18 mil more and we haven’t been raising it. This is the most important issue at the Worcester Senior Center.

Sarkodieh: lowest tax rate helps incumbents (?) – flat tax rate is not fair and is inequitable.

Tiscione – not a simple, one-size-fits-all-issue.

Toomey: as Worcester grows, need to assess affordability and inequity for residents and businesses alike. We homeowners will feel burden when there are fewer businesses. Supports small business program. Would like to see more business growth which will make things more equitable in the long-term.

We are now on to final statements…if you are watching the video, it’s 8:52pm.

Gary Rosen does note that he already spends enough time with his family and would rather continue to spend time with his city family…

District 5 City Council Forum

Telegram coverage

Video link

Kim Salmon from Fallon Health is the moderator.

Opening statements:

Johnhaynes Honneycutt: community’s making a difference, and we need more community involvement. He realized a lot of needs aren’t being met by current incumbent. Roads are horrible, potholes aren’t being filled. Fill it one time without going 4-5 times. Snow removal is not good. Dual tax rate favorable to residents. Heard Street speedbumps will be implemented – he presented the accident reports at City Council meeting.

Matt Wally: Opponent gave viewpoint that city is a horrible place. He believes the opposite. (1) Constituent services – no one better (2) Parks – two years ago, ran on platform of improving parks. This year’s budget, $600k turf field at Farber Field. Ribbon-cutting for phase 1 of Hadwen Park. (3) Pedestrian safety. Within last year, asked admin to put together interdepartmental group to put together pick up / drop off for WPS. Two weeks ago, asked for temp speedbumps, specifically Clover and Flagg.

Q1: Many residents commute, traffic is a concern, parking is a problem. How would you handle unique needs of D5 residents who want to be connected to rest of city and region?

Honeycutt asks for clarification on the question. Response: a lot of roads don’t have sidewalks and/or not conducive to parking. Lots going on in D1, need to bring it here. Administration of District 5 is not working.

Wally: chair of Traffic and Parking. They have been looking at this. Worcester State is an asset, but how to alleviate parking issues around this area. Has pushed WSU to develop plans for a parking garage on campus to take cars from neighborhoods and onto campus.

Honeycutt: asks what Wally has done in the past two years to improve traffic/parking; Wally responds handily.

Q2: shared business corridors – how to approach annual tax rate debate.

Wally: he wants to grow tax base for commercial/industrial. That will provide sustainable tax relief to homeowners. Unless we bring more in, will erode tax base further.

Honeycutt: Pretty obvious that businesses are flourishing to Worcester. With single tax rate that opponent is advocating for [um…didn’t sound like it] – a lot of people are struggling as is. Do not want to create a burden onto homeowners. We have lost businesses to “acreage” – none have left because of tax rate.

Wally quotes from Prime Metals on his company’s decision from Worcester to Sutton.

Honeycutt: ends do not justify means because that’s only one business – business address in Worcester more valuable than residential address. Investment into regional airport, ball park. Sticks with decision for dual tax rate.

Q3: New Doherty High School: impacts that extend to City Council. How to advocate?

Honeycutt: not Chandler Magnet. A lot of people feel Foley’s a good location, a lot feel current location is good. He needs to research more. Would need to know more before giving an answer.

Wally: serves on Doherty building committee. Mentions three different sites. They had requested further analysis of all three. Chandler Mag is the worst option of the three. Benefit of current site is MA School Building Authority funds. Wants to make sure decision doesn’t put city in a bind.

Q4: vacant space. what to do? what projects at top of list?

Wally: vacant commercial land: real estate owners need to be incentivized. Encourage investors out of Boston. We don’t have a lot of venture capital money so how to entice investors to come to our commercial corridors? Boston has a nonprofit that works on this and it might be a model for us.

Honeycutt: college students should be conduits for helping. Diamond Chevrolet, Big D site, shameful that they are vacant for so long. Ecofriendly. Will do the community justice as well.

Q5: town/gown relations. WSU

Honeycutt: transportation needs to be better. WRTA not conducive for residents, and doesn’t get colleges into downtown. (Not sure if he means college students or expanding services) Outlets and community involvement with the students.

Wally: WSU is a tremendous asset. Professors and students contribute to the area. Restaurants opening, interns from WSU. WSU created a neighborhood council for residents to have convos with admin to ensure town/gown relationships improve.

Honeycutt: how many people knew about the org WSU created? (I am the only one who raised my hand)

Wally asks how many people live within a quarter mile of WSU. Many people raise their hands; I know at least one of them lives about as far away from WSU as I do … so there you go!

Q6: airport increased usage. New access road? How to improve and make sure fits well in D5?

Wally: prior administration deserves a lot of credit for reassigning to Massport. Recreational travel opportunities should increase, but businesses can also benefit. Access road – we are at 250,000 – don’t need it (yet) – but thoroughway between 290 and airport is sufficient to make the trip.

Honeycutt: why not talk about WRTA or local transit systems.

Q7: cell service can be spotty. Making sure everyone can connect to each other and the internet. What to promote tech-wise?

Honeycutt: his aunt’s house is horrible with cell service. Need to work with organizations to make sure feasibility of tech is good, also encourage in WPS. We can’t run away or hide from it.

Wally: has pushed admin to work on 5G ordinance. This will allow for increase in availability. Info expertise can make a smart city work for all. Has been asking CM to use data/tech to roll out/ support city services. New dept to create smart city culture to make residents/businesses have more efficient services.

Honeycutt: did you vote that Worcester is in a climate change?

Wally: yes

Honeycutt: 5G is very dangerous for the environment. SO we can’t talk about both of our mouths.

Note: this is what the NY Times website says. and what Scientific American says.

Wally: we need to be innovators. China has 5G more than you can ever dream of.

Q8: Green space

Wally: has had tremendous success in working on park opportunities. Hadwen, Farber Field. City has partnership with Seven Hills – park space in public building (Stearns Tavern) to help those with disabilities earn money.

Honeycutt: people need to use parks. Connect young people to parks. We lack that ability in D5. Many people don’t use the parks the way they should.

Wally: Honeycutt should visit Coes Park on weekend or morning because it is packed.

Honeycutt: Stearns Tavern doesn’t help with tax base for residents or businesses.

He keeps referring to Wally as the “administrator of district 5” and I just can’t.

Q9: sidewalks and pedestrian safety.

Honeycutt: need to implement sidewalks. Not a lot of sidewalks in the city. Need speed traps and speed bumps.

Wally: one of his very first orders was to put sidewalks around schools. Three weeks ago, neighborhood meeting on Flagg Street to look at how to develop sidewalks. Has a planning degree from Clark, is trained in planning, and knows how important it is for pedestrians to use sidewalks.

Honeycutt: how have your efforts been on Heard Street and Clover Street?

Wally: temp speed bumps

Honeycutt: BECAUSE OF ME AND THE RESIDENTS. Over past two years, why did you ignore?

Q10: D5 most expensive area to buy a home. What is responsibility to increase affordable housing?

Wally has extensive experience in affordable housing. He hears concerns about equity in homes, and this is important if people want to sell home.

Honeycutt: Wally’s proposal for single tax rate means that rents will go up for three deckers. How does that work?

Wally: until we grow business/industrial, burden will still be on residents. There’s a sad back and forth. Wally is trying to explain that this would be over time, Honeycutt responds that you would kill people slowly instead of shoot them right away.

Closing statements

Honeycutt says that city administration is actively trying to price people out of the city because gentrification.

Wally: as candidate you can underestimate voters. When you go negative, it shows you’re not a strong candidate, do not have expertise, and don’t have a platform. His opponent has gone negative, he stays positive.


City Council Candidate Forum – October 23

Hosted by Shades by Worcester Pride – I believe there is video on Facebook; if someone finds the link please leave a comment

Telegram coverage from Steve Foskett; also, there was Telegram coverage of Ballots and Beers (which I was not able to attend)

Introduction from Brianna Brewer. A lot of LGBT people feel they have not been heard; foster a relationship with those who will make important people in our lives.

Gary Hunter introduces a moment of silence for Brian O’Connell

Shades is a subcommittee of Worcester Pride – enhance lives of queer and trans people of color in Worcester County

1 – QT POC = Queer and Trans People of Color

2 – 4.5% of MA = LGBT, 370k people, 24% of that is POC (89,000)

3 – lack of services (Boston or Springfield are sometimes the only places to receive certain services); greater risk of violence; interactions with police; often most overlooked and disregarded group

Dr Johnathan Flowers is moderator for the evening, will begin with brief introduction from candidates

Moe Bergman: was born to immigrant parents in community where religion makes me a minority. Learned early on what it was like to be an underdog. Good to be in a position to help people – so he became an attorney. Way to wholesale help people is to be an elected official.

Bill Coleman: proud to live in a country and city where people can live their lives. Has most recently worked on ceramic mural of Seal of City of Worcester.

Tony Economou: his mother came here from Greece, father from here. Worcester has always been ‘his city’ – first thing he’ll say to anyone whatever your situation or issue is, you can call, email or text him. He doesn’t judge people except by their heart. If way to help you or anyone…

Jesse Gibson: has been serving in Coalition Against Hate and Bias. Coaching soccer team. [I am sorry, I am sitting two seats away from Councilor King’s daughter and her cuteness is distracting]

Etel Haxhiaj: came here from Albania at age 19. Lived undocumented in Greece for two years, has been living in Worcester for 18 years. Hasn’t been sitting on her hands – has been advocating for every issue you can imagine. Believes that Worcester needs a truly strong, progressive voice that has proved herself by showing up whenever possible.

Johnhanes Honeycutt: wants to serve constituents – dual tax rates that is affordable to residents. Has reached out many LGBTQ orgs – many issues in their communities are shared with others. Affordability, etc., human issue.

Khrystian King: a lot of good things going on in the city: econ dev, business opportunities, investment in parks – great time to govern. But additional measures – how we will treat one another, respect and dignity. From his own family members, understands intersectionality between race and sexuality.

Joe Petty: want to keep momentum going. (feels like he’s ripping Moe Bergman off there, no?) Make everyone in city part of the success. Three priorities: (1) quality of life issues (streets/sidewalks/safety/parks); (2) opportunities at ball park; (3) I missed the third one

Gary Rosen: If you don’t hear what you want to hear from me in this forum, I’m willing to be educated.

Owura Sarkodieh: I HAVE THE LONGEST NAME ON THE BALLOT AND YOU CAN’T PRONOUNCE IT! trying to learn about the system. Proud to be the minority in this race, proud that he has a unique story to tell, has a special accent and wants LGBT community to be proud too.

Ralph Tiscione: as firefighter, we don’t choose who we go help, we help everybody – and that’s how I live my life. Want to continue that legacy. Inclusiveness is very important – sees everyone as an asset to the city. Wants to help city be the best it can be.

Kate Toomey: we need to bring in business so that people can support families. Founding member of Latino Ed Institute

(Missing from this forum, in no particular order: Donna Colorio, Evan Corrigan, Matt Wally)

Q1: what are structural barriers preventing people from participating in city gov’t and what are you going to do?

Toomey: 1 – people feel they aren’t going to be heard; 2 – name and voting. Need system to eliminate questions at polling place. If we don’t get word out that people need to come out and vote, we will have problem

Tiscione: disappointed in low voter turnout. On one hand, no reason why everyone shouldn’t show up to vote. Any obstacles that are there will not go away if you don’t.

Sarkodieh: identification as Toomey said. More aggressive registration. Same-day voter registration.

[Weird that everyone is only focusing on voting so far]

Rosen: need to publicize that the election is November 5. THE TELEGRAM NEEDS TO HAVE A HEADLINE ON NOVEMBER 4 ANNOUNCING THIS, OK, STEVE FOSKETT? GET IT ON THERE. City Council and School Committee are probably more important than state and certainly national elections.

Petty: Our job is to make people get out and vote. Early voting. ID / name / gender don’t match. [When was the last time these people voted? YOU DON’T NEED AN ID TO VOTE.]

King: in midst of shift – very diverse panel. We need to participate in more spaces like this, we as elected officials must engage to make folks understand what goes on in municipal government.

Honeycutt: lack of community involvement, voter oppression, are among reasons why people don’t go out and vote. Reach out to residents in city and make them understand what’s going on in the world.

Haxhiaj: a lot of marginalized people do not see themselves represented in city council and government. That needs to change. We need to invite folks to the table before decisions are made – not after. Senator Chandler’s bill about lowering the voting age was not passed – a lot of young people could be more involved, but need to lower barriers.

Gibson: people need to participate. People here on the stage from different parts of Africa – but people do not see that in City Hall. Need to do outreach.

Economou: if there’s one election you’re involved in that makes a difference, it’s a municipal election. Tony will meet with people and keep an open mind and get people out to vote. Everyone on this panel is passionate and we need to include each other in the decision making process.

(Matt Wally just got here)

Coleman: people shut down before Council. Went before CC on two issues: early voting and asked CC to support – 6/5 turned it down; trash bag referendum – 6/5 shot down. People feel no one is listening – so why participate?

Bergman: none of us know. One of the dangers is assuming you know an answer when you don’t. Three-year term makes sense – 50% of the time you would have other races involved and more participation.

Q2: 13.4% of housing units meet Ch40b affordability. How to remain affordable for QT POC in light of recent projects including renovations?

Bergman: biggest issue is that residential taxes are affordable. When landlord pays more taxes, the rent goes up. Foreclosed properties sold to absentee landlords. Also, surrounding communities need to step it up. Keep taxes relatively reasonable.

Coleman: We need term limits for government. We need to build more housing. Affordable = $13-1800 a month. This is untenable. Housing being bought up by those who live outside the city.

Economou: in three terms, he voted for affordable housing whenever it was brought to the City Council. Will continue to vote in favor of that. Agrees with Bergman – this is a burden that should be shared with the ‘burbs.

Gibson: need more houses and price control. People from outside come and invest and jack up the rent (not his words). Without price control, people will not have a place to live.

Haxhiaj: Devastating that two people so far consider affordable housing a burden. Housing is a right not a privilege for people who live here. LGBTQ youth face homelessness higher than others. She has been working with Community Labor Coalition so that Green Island residents do not get displaced and gentrification does not come to Worcester. SHE IS ON FIRE AND I CANNOT KEEP UP. Working families put their head on their pillow and don’t know if they can pay rent for the next month.

Honeycutt: Focus on affordable taxes.

King: also about livable wages, local jobs so that people can remain here. City has obligation to mitigate gentrification. We are an elected body in Worcester and can ask private sector to do more – inclusionary zoning and increase affordable stock.

Petty: The City of Boston is so expensive – have you seen the prices lately? We need more affordable housing and that will drive the prices down. Three-decker plan will be announced on Friday. Revolving fund to borrow against and improve properties.

Rosen: City has leverage with developers. We give them TIFs and tax breaks, we can encourage them to provide units of affordable housing. US Senators should lobby for more HUD funding. Promote rent-subsidized programs. Waiting list for WHA is very long.

Sarkodieh: will fight for housing that is affordable. As CC, would advocate for $15/hr min wage and make developers set aside housing for low-income Worcester residents.

Tiscione: 13.4% housing seems really low. Lots of homeless people. 2500 kids in schools that are homeless. More proactive in helping all the residents of the city. He’s been to places where people live in mud huts. We are fortunate to be here and have resources. We need to make the changes.

Toomey: has, of course, filed an order about rent-to-own. Elderly people are afraid to rent or do upkeep. In Oakland, group that was able to purchase a building that was being put up for sale.

Wally: was exec director of a CDC, worked for Matthew 25. More funding for CDCs. Supply and demand will assist with affordable housing. We know that we have units that are not on the rental rolls. Once we improve the stock, these will come on the market. Well-paying jobs, skills training.

Q3: School Committee annual budget. How to help with programming, counseling, etc. for…

Wally: schools doing a good job with clubs. Promote and expect budgets for clubs within the schools. How can we work with SC partners to increase state funding and allocate to students of different sexual identities…

Toomey: not enough school counselors. Higher suicide rate. Equitable allocation – have conversation – every need needs to be met, every student needs to be heard and helped.

Tiscione: “I don’t know how to make the School Committee do anything.” Need teacher / mentors. Not a lot of info. Mostly kids talking to kids.

Sarkodieh: quota system for more queer/transgender teachers in schools. Encourage more POC to get into teaching.

Rosen: City Council provides the $$ but the School Committee allocates the money. [THANK YOU GARY – note that Tiscione had no idea about this] Dialog between CC and SC is almost nonexistent. We should be doing more than what we are doing.

(People are like clapping for the weirdest things here. Don’t clap for people who have been around long enough to make changes about the things they’re complaining about)

Petty: budget is done every May and June – start advocating now, people.

King: Frontline social worker for the last 20 years. In various school systems. We do have a platform. Has been able to work on middle school sports, more school adjustment counselors.


Honeycutt: will work with SC to accommodate population of students. Teacher professional learning and better curriculum. Encouraging partnerships with LGBTQ support groups and others.

Haxhiaj: a lot of trans/queer youth, do not feel affirmed/validated/seen. CC can’t legally tell SC what to do – but we do have a huge platform. As a parent, I have a big voice to make sure that BI POC youth are seen and valued. All teachers need to have anti-bias and implicit bias training. We need to have less police in schools and more guidance counselors.

(much applause)

Gibson: starts with accountability. CC can hold the SC accountable. His wife is white, he’s black, his kids come home with issues that he can’t answer.

Economou: surprised that CC Ed Committee did not communicate with SC committee – used to meet almost every month after his efforts. Just under 60% of municipal budget goes to schools. Best looked at with both groups looking together.

[Man, what is my first rule of people running for City Council? They really want to be on the School Committee.]

Coleman: MTA got $270mil added through Fund our Future. Call up state reps/senators. Public ed underfunded for years.

Bergman: have people employed who are sensitive to those needs. Affirmative action plan. Does not include employment opportunities (sorry, I may have misunderstood that?) Like many, super excited at the prospect of cutting the school budget to stick it to the school committee.

Q4: violence against trans folks (sorry, sort of missed it)

Bergman: many of these crimes are unseen/in the dark. Preventive measures are good. Work with WPD to make sure there are persons who attend to this community.

Coleman: I think we know what the needs are, we just need to act on them. Worcester is welcoming city, but we can do more with people who feel challenged.

Economou: would like to see everyone in city government trained to recognize issues and work towards solving them.

Gibson: cultural awareness are most important in our communities. Diversity education needs to be done more.

Haxhiaj: trans women of color are dying at higher rate and that’s a problem. Because of stigma/violence, often forced into underground economy. Do not prosecute sex workers. LGBTQ liaison with the DA’s office. (might have misunderstood that)

Honeycutt: community involvement, watch out for each other. Neighborhood watch programs need to have more participants. MA is one of major states open to LGBTQ community.

King: it’s nothing new, but if it’s new, because people haven’t been paying attention. Appreciate that this group has brought us together to talk about this. Sponsored resolution to support Yes on 3. Employment discrimination leads to a lot of other discrimination and problems. Needs the community to push as well.

Petty: LGBTQ liaison with WPD. We do have human rights director at city hall to help people understand rights and protections.

Rosen: Invite new electeds back after the election. Let us learn. [Um, Gary, why don’t you invite them to City Hall?]

Sarkodieh: has not been the first group targeted in this country. Trans women violence cuts across every race, religion, ethnicity. Enforce anti-hate crime laws. MA Transgender Laws will be enforced when he’s in office.

Tiscione: laws for elderly people so there are also laws for others. Kids aren’t born with prejudice. That stuff is learned. The only way to counter is through communities and schools.

Toomey: reduce stigma. Ask companies to educate their employees. We need to respect each other as human beings. Alcohol and drugs are critical component here.

Wally: violence against anyone in our community is bad, but against group who has never has respect, esp. unacceptable. We need to promote orgs like Pastor Judy Hanlon – promote and help folks like that. Public awareness campaigns are undervalued – benefit of community having public awareness campaign is important.


Audience Questions

Q: how can CC best work with queer community to strengthen city’s access for queer youth?

Wally: work through Youth Subcommittee, now chaired by Gary Rosen, to help understand needs.

Toomey: what are specific concerns, what have we not even begun to consider? Communication.

Tiscione: Communication is a bit part of it. Larger involvement between city council and youth pride program. He isn’t familiar with all the issues that everyone is facing. Need to hear what all the problems are. Kids can feel more isolated.

Sarkodieh: before you can work together, need to listen to one another. Need to talk together. Should be mechanism for them to talk.

Rosen: for last 6 years, has been chair of Youth, Parks, and Rec committee. Will write a couple of orders about queer youth and issues they face. Future meeting/hearing soon. Rose/King/Rosen will be there, but we need all of you to come there as well.

Petty: We have a chief diversity officer. Maybe have a youth advisory group? Youth are pretty smart and you can learn a lot talking to them.

King: we have been making steps forward. He, mayor, and a bunch of folks have been at the pride parades. Support legislation to make sure that folks are not discriminated against for employment. We are your elected officials, but once you engage with us, we become your elected representatives – hold us accountable.

Honeycutt: Council should seek out the community. He knows he could learn a lot more.

Haxhiaj: props to Worcester Queer Coalition – looking forward to partnering with them and following their lead. Once you’re a youth worker, you’re always a youth worker. Young queer people need to have safe spaces. Dreams about participatory budget process – community can come forward and tell us how to best serve them.

Gibson: need to work – empower someone from within group who can speak to the City Council.

Economou: we’re all still learning. If kids aren’t feeling comfortable, they aren’t going to speak. If they don’t feel comfortable enough to speak, we are failing them and the community. A subcom like Youth, Parks, is best place to have these conversations.

Coleman has been running since 1979. He originally proposed Youth subcom. He will file a petition for a separate subcom for LGBTQIA (and a lot of other stuff, sorry, this is long) and also another one for 16/17 year olds to vote.

Bergman: would like to welcome queer community to mock city council meetings.

Q: WPD and arrests of those based on immigration status / sanctuary city

Bergman: dealt with issue several years ago – heard from people on both sides. WPD will not arrest people – but not an official sanctuary city. Best of both worlds as we protect people and aren’t in trouble with the fed gov’t

Coleman: quotes from Emma Lazarus from memory. We need to be more memorable and charitable and we should put sanctuary city on our stationery.

Economou: there isn’t a bigger melting pot city in the county. We should not call ourselves sanctuary city but everyone is welcome.

Gibson: if you want to stand up for somebody, you stand up for themselves right away. We need to stand up for our brothers and sisters.

Haxhiaj; part of group SURJ that had thousand people come to city hall because of a request from a city councilor. Current president is hostile to immigrants, undocumented, esp trans. Sanctuary city is not an indictment of our police department – strong statement in the face of hostilities.

Honeycutt: we should embrace and shout it from the highest rooftop.

King: you are what you do. He has stood up for the rights of folks to be treated fairly. Knows the fear that kids have when they don’t want to go to school because they worry they won’t see parents again. We have a lot of work to do. Will make sure we continue to be sanctified in the city.

Petty: Ensured that people feel safe and welcomed here. President tries to divide us at every turn. Our police do not ask immigration status. Proud that we took refugees in the city.

Rosen: although not designated, obviously a sanctuary for many people. WPD welcomes people from all countries, backgrounds, experiences. We don’t have many of the problems that other cities have because we protect and welcome people.

Sarkodieh: about putting human touch in what we do. People come here when they have been persecuted. Who would want to go through that? Immigrants work very hard and are very law-abiding.

Tiscione: bottom line – we have a president who works off fear and intimidation. We need to stand up and say we are a sanctuary for everybody.

Toomey: we’re not just a city, we’re a city of the world. If you don’t think you’re welcome in this city, I don’t know where you’d be welcome.

Wally: Immigrants built this city. 37% of small businesses in city are immigrant-owned. WPD does not ask for immigration status. Need to work to legally support DREAMers.

Q: Expansion of diversity and inclusion office?

Bergman: we need diversity officers who are LGBTQ folks (sorry kids, it’s 8:50 and Nicole’s running out of steam – he’s speaking better than I’m recording). If there are issues that are not being addressed, expense worth taking.

Coleman: if you walk through city hall, different than 8 years ago. Yes, he supports it.

Economou: ridic that it’s not expanded now. Supports 100%

Gibson: the city has tried hard, supports this. Diversity and inclusion seminar that was put on was great.

Haxhiaj: yes, issues intersect in employment, housing – these should be embedded in every policy considered.

Honeycutt: agrees with expansion. Only way we can solidify and answer questions.

King: speaks to representative gov’t – not just elected officials, but committees. Manager interested in this as well. We hope for more productivity and accomplishments we can point to. It’s a more diverse council than ever before – looking forward to working to move things forward.

Petty: yes, let’s expand – they should get on all the boards if possible. Jayna Turchek is doing a great job.

Rosen: The answer yes will be unanimous. Just make sure that you remind new SC and CC of their answers in the spring.

Sarkodieh: would like to see data on how current office is doing. Expansion should be targeted and very strategic. More ed about needs of the community.

Tiscione: maybe a more community-based committee that can give ideas and help direct them. More people at city hall is not always a good thing.

Toomey: Yes. The world is run by those who show up.

Wally: Yes. 20 years ago we would never have seen this.

November 18 – Trans Day of Remembrance at YWCA

November 21 – another event, sorry, I missed that.

And that’s a wrap!

School Committee Candidate Forum – October 22

Before I get into my forum notes…

I was sitting in the front row of this forum (because it makes it easier for me to hear and see candidates, though my head is usually buried in my keyboard). Because I was sitting up front, I didn’t notice the guest of honor, Maureen Binienda, until the forum was over.

In these notes, you’ll see that the last question asked was whether or not candidates would renew Ms Binienda’s contract. Considering the School Committee has extended her contract three years, it’s sort of a moot point — but a very important criteria for many voters.

I had wondered why certain candidates vociferously supported the superintendent – even more than they usually do – but after the forum was over, I wondered no more.

I try, as much as I possibly can, to accurately portray answers given in these forums. While I’m certainly sarcastic and have to conflate ideas, and very rarely give exact quotes, I’m interested in hearing what candidates have to say (otherwise this would be a really long couple of hours).

It is plainly obvious that many existing members of the School Committee feel that they work for the superintendent. Her coming to multiple candidate forums — because she also attended the WSU forum before the preliminary election — essentially acts as an intimidation tactic. (One that, sadly, doesn’t need to be used as most existing School Committee members, save Jack and Dante, will never hold her to account.)

Ms Binienda, stop coming to the candidate forums. Spend your time listening to students, figuring out why the heck we have so many kids being removed from school for non-violent, non-drug-related reasons, or any of a number of pressing issues that should be on your to-do list. It’s tacky, and we’ve noticed.

OK — on to the forum!

This is the Research Bureau/Chamber of Commerce/Telegram and Gazette/Mechanics Hall School Committee Forum.

Telegram coverage here; (note that the first picture clearly shows I was having a great hair day)

Video available on Facebook

Moment of silence for Brian O’Connell


Luis Pedraja from QCC

Eddie Dumphy from CPPAC (I am sorry if I spelled that incorrectly!)

Jennifer Davis Carey

Opening Statements from Candidates

Cara Lisa Berg Powers – proud product of WPS, grew up in Worcester, parent in WPS, educator for 15 years.  Parent in WPS – started two years ago when became foster parents.  Child was not getting adequate services due to family trauma.  He transferred to Chandler Magnet where he thrived.  Disparities within district in what services a child can receive.  Wants to make sure more kids have access to those opportunities, bring more voices to the table.

Chantel Bethea – mother of 4, very involved parent throughout the city.  Reason running – a parent needs to be on the school committee, need parents that look like demographic, all that and then some.  Having a disagreement does not mean that you don’t respect what they do – show your kids what it’s like to be an adult.  Has only been here 11 years.  Things she has come across wants to give to other parents.  What she learns, gives to others – not about the person, it’s about the family.

Dianna Biancheria – over 25,000, over 4500 employees, and residents depend on schools.  Has advocated for voke ed, including at comprehensive high schools, encompass STEM and STEAM.  Advocates for safe schools.  Continues to ask tough questions about funding.  Seeking re-election to continue dedication and collaboration.  Has seen impact of effective programs.  SHE IS NUMBER FIVE ON THE BALLOT.

Laura Clancey – born and raised, one daughter in WPS, other still at home.  Volunteered over 7 years at Nelson Place, 4 years as PTO president; saw disconnect between families and school district.  Works for DYS for students in juvenile justice system.  She will bring parents’ perspective, can have difficult conversations – will make sure she does what is best for students and staff. 

Jack Foley – has served on SC for twenty years.  His three kids attended WPS.  High-quality educational opportunities for all students and all families.  (1) Funding – need to have community discussions and think about how to spend new $$ strategically (2) Trends  (3) Need to restore transparency – discipline, graduation rates, what will we do to address shortfalls.  Bring community together to help all.  (4) Transpo vote sucks from a service and financial perspective [OK, he said it better but that’s what he was saying!]

Jermoh Kamara – moment of silence for student who died at Belmont Community School.  100 Males to College program, serves underserved male students so that they can have WSU college mentors who look like them.  Program has seen great success – will soon be implemented with HS/college girls.  If this program can accomplish this, imagine what having her (Jermoh) on the SC will bring. 

Mariah Martinez – running as voice for youth and community.  We need curriculum that includes sex ed, current events, communication skills, and financial literacy.  Need diversity in age and culture.  Change in curriculum, suspension rates, and more community engagement.

Molly McCullough – lifelong Worcester resident, founded Planting the Seed Foundation.  She does have two stepchildren who attend public schools outside of city, and understands how important communication is.  Has made every attempt to be responsive to parents and students.  Wants to move strategic plan forward, more opportunities for advanced, special ed, and voke students. 

John Monfredo – He retired from being a principal and ran for SC, everything was based on the best needs of children.  Education has been and will be greatest equalizer and anti-poverty tool.  All his life has been strong activist for education.  Has been filing agenda items that have been effective in schools.  He has won many awards and is involved in many organizations.  Two top priorities: reducing chronic absenteeism and addressing achievement gap.

Tracy O’Connell Novick – Works for MASC, has two kids in WPS, one recent graduate.  Breakdown in her experience as parent and what she sees going on around the state.  In Worcester, living in a state of denial when it comes to equity.  SC is failing on all four of the jobs they have right now.  Parents need to be at the table.  Absolutely imperative that WPS is able to do self-governance.  We will see vast increase in state level- House keeps asking if we can actually do it.

John Trobaugh – moved to Worcester a decade ago.  Grad degree in art, MFA with emphasis in education, two kids in WPS.  Lack of parental and community engagement.  A lot of parents do not have time.  Would like to see Worcester have more parity among the schools.  Evidence-based family engagement plan needs to be implemented.  We can increase graduation and attendance rates – but also buy-in.

Q1: SEX ED BABY.  What must sex ed contain and exclude for you to approve?

Berg-Powers – like handful of colleagues, endorsed by Planned Parenthood.  To her, what is critical is consent.  She is college professor – info that kids receive before they get to me is important.  Not abstinence based, include LGBT

Bethea – no one saw the actual curriculum being proposed.  Our kids need to be educated age-appropriately. Parents, students, and teachers need to see it.

Biancheria – Mayor Petty mentioned in inaugural address need for sex ed.  He proposed it, removed it, he is within his rights to do this.  They’re waiting for DESE.  She is going through bullet points at the moment and I’m not sure what is important.

Clancey – knows firsthand that students need comprehensive sex ed – high rate of teen pregnancy and STIs.  Students have misinformation that they are getting from the internet.  Contraception, healthy body image, consent, STI prevention.  Needs to be reviewed at roundtable.

Foley – community discussion needed.  WISH Committee made recommendation of Making Proud Choices.  Students need more time to learn this.  Data supports students needing complete sex ed curriculum. 

Kamara – she has a background in public health.  Teaches at Clark.  Looks at curriculum proposed – mentions many of the other things others have (sorry, not to disparage her – it’s really a problem of addressing this to all candidate.  This q isn’t needed for EVERY SINGLE CANDIDATE to answer. We know what the incumbents wanted or didn’t want, and all other challengers are basically for something better than nothing!)

Martinez – Google should not be students’ sex ed teacher. 

McCullough – fully in support of comprehensive sex ed.  Right teachers need to be teaching the classes so that students feel comfortable asking questions.

Monfredo – wants a curriculum where parents won’t walk out of.  Grade 9 and 10 should be in elective 10-week course.  Safety, STIs, pregnancy, and requesting rights.

Novick – state will issue standards, but will not issue curriculum.  Districts have had comprehensive sex ed FOR DECADES PEOPLE.  Sex ed needs to start early.  “Age appropriate” can be used to avoid conversation until last possible moment.  (She said a lot of great things about the previous process violating the law but I couldn’t get to it.)

Trobaugh – on Planned Parenthood board. Erosion of trust with students and teachers because of lack of decision on this.  Supports evidence-based education, would exclude anything not evidence-based, including abstinence.

Q2: last year there was strategic plan.  What would you prioritize and how would you engage community

Berg-Powers: diversity and equity.  hopefully smaller class sizes can help us bring in more diverse teaching staff.  Strategic planning is where are we going, where are we now, how do we get there.  Adjust priorities accordingly.

Martinez: give students leadership role in strategic plan.

Clancey – welcoming place for educators, students, outside agencies.

Kamara – STEAM/STEM, diversity

Berg-Powers – restore community trust and accountability.  At Chandler Magnet, top 3% of parent engagement – make sure that we are looking at evidence-based models to bring community together.

Q3 – current state budget formula underfunds by $90million.  How to increase public school budget?

Biancheria – budget book in April.  Has 24 years of finance experience.  Many discussions about lawyers highlighting deficiency in funding.  Super and CFO have traveled throughout the state to advocate.  Foundation budget can change.  How lucky are we!

McCullough – continue to get more from the city side.  58% of city budget goes to the schools.  Need additional funds/reimbursements from the state.

Berg-Powers – will be at the statehouse tomorrow with MTA colleagues from around the state to finish the job.  Wear Red for Ed tomorrow.  City contribution is growth in dollars, but not above minimum contribution, will work to change that.

Monfredo – Student Opportunity Act.  One more change for state to get it right.  We need to support foundation budget through the act.  Call your reps!

Biancheria – under Perkins Funding, expansion of voke ed, safety grants, increased funding for middle school supports.  Look to partners, not just budget.  Discussion needs to be through the administration.

Q4 – student discipline policies.  How would you rate current rates?  How to decrease suspensions and make more equitable?

Foley: numbers are concerning.  Worcester is an outlier for emergency removals and for non-violent, non-drug offenses.  We need to own the data, engage community, and then dig deeper, see where we are doing well and where we need to make changes.  How to find alternatives to emergency removals. 

Kamara – interested in helping teachers/students in declining discipline rates.  Reiterate providing training for teachers and supporting students.

Biancheria – we need to review and implement (what?) sorry this answer is not really making sense.  You need to look at the students and take it one issue at a time.

Bethea – see raw data, educate teachers that kids are not a threat.  Training on how to see students as students and not a color.  Work with students/parents on same training.

Foley: if we have new funding from state, we can do more training on trauma informed care.  Meditation in school to get away from challenges.  Also, difficult for teachers with huge class sizes.

Q5 – Unreliable bus service.  But SC extended the bus contract.  What is your position?

Martinez – the vote was wrong.  Bring it in, save millions of dollars, more accountability

Monfredo – two separate issues.  Both parties needs to sit down and get it right.  (Sounds like he wants parents to get together with the bus company…um?)  WPS should not be in the bus business.

Foley – whole process was flawed.  Have been planning for self-operation for nine years.  We run several programs in the schools that are non-academic (like food service) and do it well.

Novick – I’m among the parents who complained.  If you’re getting bad service, you don’t re-up with the same company for more money.  We’ve been having the same problems since 2016.

Q6 – Schools with worse academic outcomes than others.  How to fix (essentially is the question)

McCullough – teachers need resources to improve students’ outcomes.  Variety of students with different situations.  Instructional leadership very critical.  When there is a teacher, use existing mentor system. 

Bethea – schools with best test scores need to teach those who aren’t.  (This is confusing to me)  Nelson Place could be teaching other schools at the same time.

Martinez – additional staff with one-on-one teaching.  More focus on handling situations and following action plan.

Trobaugh – we rely far too heavily on standardized tests.  How well is school doing engaging parents, community – versus spending half the year doing standardized testing.  More instructional time.

McCullough – focus on testing is extremely heavy.  Focus on what can improve quality of experience during school time.

Q7 – additional opportunities for high achievers

Kamara – as a student who loved education, benefitted from AP courses and teachers who were engaging.  Project-based learning for all students.  Need public schools to prepare for college (not her words, but sort of the idea).  Have partnerships so that kids can have high-achieving opportunities.

Novick – a lot of traditional measurements of high achievement – like tracking by MCAS scores – skews in racial and economic ways.  770 teachers short.

McCullough – quantity AND quality of education.  Are seeing improvements in results/test scores.  Would like to focus on academies.  [NICOLE ON SOAPBOX – WHICH ARE COMPLETELY BASED ON MCAS SCORES – INHERENTLY INEQUITABLE – OFF SOAPBOX]

Clancey – responds but I was on my soapbox.  Something about the strategic plan.

Kamara – hands-on resources are needed.

Q8 – for all candidates.  Doherty High School is talk of the town.  What is your preferred location?

Berg-Powers – neighbor of Doherty School and her daughter will likely go there.  Chandler Magnet parent, which is one of preferred sites.  Minimize any additional land taking – use existing site.

Bethea – agrees with Cara.  Look at where we currently are and make it more self-sufficient.  More walkable city.  Keep school where it is and more cohesive for everyone living there.

Biancheria – had forums but still further discussion needed.  What is ed plan for that school?  What are we going to do in that school?  How to expand robotics and engineering?  A lot of talking about the voke programs and whatever.

Clancey – likes current site but limited infringement on Newton Hill.

Foley – I think we should put the school in Holden.  [MANY LAUGHS]  Concerned about the cost and ground stability of Foley Stadium and athletics impact.  Chandler Magnet does not seem tenable.  Existing site seems best.  Academic component is critical.

Kamara – rely on testimonies from families.  Need to keep in same site.  Sadness if Chandler Magnet were used for new site.  South High has done a good job of involving students.

Martinez – agrees most with current location.  Chandler Mag should be off the table.

McCullough – ditto on everything.  Taking one school to build another is not great.  [We are getting to the point where we should perhaps start from the other side of the table for these one question for all moments…]  Safe and efficient drop off and pick up.

Monfredo – three groups have come forward to oppose a site (not sure which site or which groups).  Will there be room for an athletic field?  [There’s not one now…so…]  There is no answer here…

Novick – South High wasn’t the talk of the city.   We are a city of 180,000 people – we’re not going to build a Shrewsbury High School.  Why do we need so many parking spots?  Did we need that much space that was added?  Long history of taking park land for schools – and we don’t have a facilities master plan, and that’s part of why there is no space for the school and we are only focused on reconstituting Doherty as is versus a larger evaluation of ed needs.  [As always, she spoke better and faster than I can type]

Trobaugh – a lot of community anger because of the lack of effective communication.  NO TRANSLATORS at any of the public meetings and that should be a given.

Q9 – diverse student body, but not adequately reflected in how students are taught, including employment decisions.

Monfredo – could we do more with additional resources?  Yes.  Expanding ELL services, students with disabilities.  Clothing stores, food pantries, social/emotional learning for students.  More outreach to parents and have them as part of process.  More afterschool and summer school opportunities.

Trobaugh – when we think about improving education – parents reflect diversity.  Without parents as key stakeholders, will not reflect diversity.

Kamara – strategic plan says to 17% diverse teaching staff by 2021.  We need to make diversity by race but also languages spoken. 

Berg-Powers – all teachers need to get prof dev they deserve. 

Monfredo – parents are first and most influential teacher. Welcoming committee at school helps meet need of all students.

Q10 – preschool programs key to students’ long-term success.  How to expand?

Bethea – Head Start needs to be expanded.  More funding.  More parents want it – but no transpo, and Head Start needs so many paying families.  This needs to be changed at the state level.  Gets students and parents involved in schools.

Clancey – investing in this – return on investment for taxpayers, every dollar spent on early childhood ed can save $4-13 in the long run

Monfredo – as principal, every student in preschool could read on grade level by grade 3

Biancheria – when we look at leg delegation, this is a major discussion that we need to have.  Need new committee to look at this and it’s on our list of priorities. 

Bethea – not about prevention, it’s about parents having equitable resources.  This is first stepping stone into what school system is, gets kids to understand what school is.

Q11 – Technology increasingly important.  What are issues you think need focus?

Novick – We have inadequately funded this.  Many students required to use their own cell phones, but ban students from having them into class.  Most of our families do not have technology at home that is required for their education.  Kids should not have to pay to do their homework.

Berg-Powers: changing tech has been her whole life.  What are core values about this?

Bethea – likes that we want to use tech, but access is definitely an issue.  A lot of kids do not have access to the internet when they leave school.  Not everyone has it and we need to give equal access to everyone.

Foley – clearly students have cell phones and access to the internet – parents/teachers need to come up with policy.  With new $ coming in, hopefully can provide more tech to our students.

Novick – need to teach students on appropriate use of technology – we teach them everything else in school but somehow miss on this.

Q12 – national convo on school safety.  How do you rate current level and what will you do to keep students and staff safe?

Trobaugh – change through parents and community.  We don’t need police officers inside school buildings.  If you have good clinicians used effectively, you can make schools safer, increase attendance and grad rates.

Biancheria – her initial work was on school safety.  Doorbells, walkie-talkies, how we monitor school sites.

Novick – our schools are safe.  If we are approaching school safety by removing kids with non-violent, non-drug “offenses” at the rate we are, we’ve got a problem.  Need to treat kids with respect (not the wording she used)

Martinez – went too quick for me

Trobaugh – disproportionate discipline rates need to be looked at as a systems issue – look at schools that have lower discipline rates and address the issues that are arising.  Children of color are disproportionately disciplined.

Q13 – How can we get rich white residents to send their kids to public schools?  (Essentially the question – it was about getting people to go to urban schools)

Clancey – we have things to work on in the city, but need to change the dialog.  Use asset-based language.  Get good things out in the media, spotlight students, better communication to parents.

Foley – good opportunity to highlight diversity and benefits of diversity.  Make sure money goes to programs (like challenging, co-curriculum, etc.)

Trobaugh – business value students who come from diverse areas; work with local biz / innovation/tech economy for additional voke opportunities.

McCullough – misconception that private school will be a more rigorous experience.  Acknowledge what we are doing right, and opportunities for students in the WPS and how it makes them successful.

Clancey – she wouldn’t put her kid in the school system if it weren’t great.  Get that message out to others.

Q14 – question for all candidates.  Administration accountability.  Do you have confidence in the superintendent?

Berg-Powers: one of first priorities of new SC is to repair confidence from the community.  Has experience in this.  Need to have a lot of difficult convos as entire city.  One of biggest challenges is that the students share their experiences and be told that they were not experiencing that.  She can be a supportive leader in this.

Bethea – we use words like ‘diversity’ – in order to keep black and brown parents here, we need to use the parents who live.  WPS uses this word to gain funding.  People are not being held accountable – she will see what the super does over the next three years that would warrant her contract being renewed.

Biancheria – she is PROUD to have voted for Binienda and would do it again.  She has 40+ years in the system, she builds support through her network.  She works with the mayor, CM, and partner, and she brings opportunities to our schools.  It also appears that the voke school is completely Maureen too.

Clancey – complete confidence in Maureen Binienda.  She is always willing to give students a second and third chance.  She looks forward to reviewing her progress on the 14 points.

Foley – from initial vote 4 years ago to vote this springtime, his voting history speaks for itself – integrity of system, lack of transparency, etc. say it all.  THAT’S A NO, FOLKS!

Kamara – need to hold everyone accountable.  Because she was my principal, perhaps I couldn’t speak/sway her, that is incorrect.  As a super and principal, she has the qualities to provide opportunities and help students.  On the other hand, we need a super that can listen and be engaged and come to community’s level and ask how can I be of service to you.

Martinez – she was HER PRINCIPAL TOO.  [What is it in the South bubblers?]   When children stand up for what they believe in, you should listen to them.

McCullough – their job to support admin, but also to speak up.  Need to hold super accountable, and will be doing so going forward.

Monfredo – SHE RECEIVED AN OUTSTANDING EVAL FROM EVERYONE.  The community speaks about her passion for education, she’s an innovator, thinks carefully before making a decision…honesty, integrity, good listener, skillful communicator.  Not afraid to deal with difficult problems in district.

Novick – most important decision SC makes is hiring superintendent.  You are hiring a central administrator with over 4,000 employees and 25,000 students.  The majority of SC blew off their job.  Things have gotten so terrible in the WPS that the rep from DESE got a standing ovation for giving us our own data.  That’s why I’m running.

Trobaugh – has heard she was an excellent principal.  But he’s seen a lack of transparency.  We do not evaluate her performance appropriately.

Closing statements – I did not record

Mayoral Candidate Forum – Oct 3

Friendly reminder that there are still lots of candidate forums left this election season – I think I’ve posted them all here but please let me know if I missed any!

And now on with the show…these are the notes I took from the Research Bureau/Chamber of Commerce/T&G mayoral candidate forum.

The video is here; I welcome any corrections to my notes based on watching/listening to the video.

(not typing the introductory remarks from the hosts as I’m getting here a little late)

Maybe 50-60 people here in attendance?


Carolyn Stempler, chair of GWCF, owns a business (Carolyn & June Designs)

David Nordman, Executive Editor of T&G

Stephanie Ramey, Executive Director of Discover Central Mass

Begin with two-minute opening statement

Colorio: taking abilities and skills from serving on school committee to run; small business owner with family, educator at QCC, raised three children in the city.  Great place to live and work.  Understands challenges of running a small business.  Three priorities: lowest residential tax rate; will support Binienda; safety in our city.  Wants to represent hardworking families and citizens.  Will not let you down, will be your voice.

Sarkodieh: has the longest name on the ballot so you can’t miss him.  Careful analysis of facts: things are not as they seem.  Tale of two cities.  Not everyone is on the “rising boat.”  Need for public safety and city services.  Issues with some ethnic groups. He is currently a substitute teacher in WPS.  Worcester gave him hope and he wants to give that back to the city.  Education is the biggest issue.  So much potential in city, but not because of the current government.

Coleman: He’s been at this for a long time.  First ran in 1979.  A few years before that, he worked in DC for Ed Brooke.  He has been consistent over the years, has been community activist, retired educator, grantwriter, currently project developer.  Would like to see more development, wants new police station (which was antiquated even at the time it was built).

Petty: city is changing, people are moving in, businesses growing.  New rates of homeownership.  We are becoming a real city.  New biomed manufacturing, Red Sox, let’s continue to work to make Worcester better for all.  Have invested $60mil in parks over the last five years, new Nelson Place, new South High, new Doherty in the works, maybe even a new Burncoat.

Questions: each candidate 1 minute time limit, with everyone else having 30 secs, with 30 sec rebuttal.

Q1: Separation: issues that involve both City Council and School Committee.  How would you enhance communication/coordination?

Colorio: SC had worked with CC on a joint committee.  Would like to expand that a little more and meet together more often.  A lot of issues between city and schools that they can work together on.  Consolidation of areas where there is overlap (I think she means like HR and facilities, but don’t want to put words in her mouth)

Petty: SC and CC work well together.  Flu vaccination. 

Sarkodieh: transparency within both systems.  Major part of mayor – oversee activities of SC. 

Coleman: you learn a lot from being in classroom, from interacting with parents.  Would make sure that we met more often.

Colorio: add a few thoughts: because city does a lot for schools, and funding is there, needs to be a clear and concise communication between them. 

Q2: Neighborhoods vs Downtown.  Prioritization of projects.  How would you balance?

Sarkodieh: Polar Park is a good deal for the city of Worcester.  Would balance this with something for residents of Worcester.  Worries about gentrification – people are being pushed out by the city that they helped to build.  Price of rent is going up too high.  Will make sure all are heard.

Colorio: you have to have a balance – vibrant downtown and vibrant neighborhoods.  Hears continually that residential taxes are going to go up and can’t afford any more taxes.  We can’t tax people out of the city.  We are not a wealthy city – median household income of $45,000

Coleman: during 1980s, whenever something happened downtown, something was supposed to happen in the neighborhoods.  Need to do more that we have transpo system that responds to needs of city

Petty: we have invested in both.  Sidewalks and safety in Union Hill and Green Island.  Parks, playgrounds, schools.  SWIP.

Sarkodieh: he has heard from his constituents about traffic issues and panhandlers.

Q3: Sex Education.  What if anything would you differently to advocate for right sex ed curriculum?

Coleman: if you talk to young child that has cancer, very clear on diagnosis.  We need an age-appropriate total health ed program that includes general sex ed.

[The lights have completely extinguished…much laughter.  All we need is mood music, says Stempler]

Coleman, continued: sex, sex lifestyles, awareness, health – matter-of-fact type program.  Do not hold anything back, but needs to be age-appropriate.

Sarkodieh: as a concerned parent, age-appropriate sex ed.  Parents should have say one way or the other.  Need to be sensitive to different cultures. 

Petty: We will have a sex ed curriculum by next fall.  Will be progressive and age appropriate, need to see what state guidelines are in December.  Makes people uncomfortable, but need to protect kids.

Colorio: missing point.  Teachers and parents know what’s best for kids.  Hears we are going to have sex ed, but need to involve parents.  Parents were objecting – parents participation and teacher input prior to decision being made.

Coleman: parents should be involved, but we have 172 parents under age 18 in the city.  Need to give them a preview.

Q4: Blue Space.  Closures at Indian Lake, cleanup at Coes Pond.  How to maximize natural resources?

[Note from Nicole: since Coes is man-made, is it really a natural resource?]

Petty: we hired a person about blue space procedures.  We have beautiful lakes.  We need to dredge them, but it’s millions of dollars, have started the process and will continue the process.

Coleman: he has run many neighborhood cleanups.  Comprehensive swim education [I think this is what he’s saying]

Colorio: has visited a lot of homes and some are located on lakes.  You don’t think of Worcester as having waterfront property.  Lot of rec going on in these areas.  Have police patrol the lakes to make them a safe environment.

Sarkodieh: concerned about price tax.  Encourage youth and other groups to clean up.

Petty: mentions Blackstone and proactive administration

[I am extremely disappointed that no one has explicitly talked about the need for greater swim education.]

Q5: Strategic Plan for Schools. 

Sarkodieh: advocate for more parental involvement.  More funding for schools.  A lot of programs are seriously underfunded.  His kids are at a charter school.  They need funding for a whole lot of stuff. 

Petty: Couple of things to prioritize: address suspension issues and ed issues from Latino community; invest in technology.

Coleman: continue with three words: Fund Our Future.  We were able to secure $270mil more statewide, CoW got $22mil.  Continue to fight for appropriate funds.

Colorio: Original member of strategic committee.  Worked hard to include all groups and all ideas.  Goal would be to look at plan, see what we have accomplished so far and what we need to accomplish.

Sarkodieh: committee to make sure that we have more parental involvement.  One of predictors of child’s success is parental involvement. 

Q6: many Worcester residents commute to Boston.  Commuter rail.  How would you continue to enhance efforts?

Coleman: thanks Tim Murray for his efforts.  More trains, more times.  We need to look at comprehensive efforts to move people around the state.  People moving west and will be coming to Worcester. 

Colorio: process of increasing rails in Worcester.  Lt Gov Polito trying to make this smoother.  Getting back and having time at night is important.

Sarkodieh: Great to have inner-city transport improved.

Petty: Collab with the state very important.  North/South Connector, East/West Connector.

Coleman: need to look at transpo around the city and encourage businesses that are on the fence to leave Boston to come to Worcester.

Q7: Foundation Budget.  Underfunded by more than $90mil.  How would you use office of mayor to increase state funding?

Petty: has been coordinating with mayors of Brockton and New Bedford on this.  We haven’t been outrageous, but we got extra in this budget.  Today the Senate is looking at putting more in Ch 70 funding.  If this dies, we will file a complaint.

Sarkodieh: underfunding affects everything.  Bring strong argument as to why we need those funds.  This affects my kids, lead a school rally to downtown Boston.  Make the state notice us.

Colorio: no one understood what the funding formula was.  Only in past few years that school committee members became aware [UM TRACY O’CONNELL NOVICK ANYONE?!?]

Coleman: Fund Our Future campaign.  Mayor did an excellent job to lobby on behalf of cities and towns.  Senate was talking about Promise Act.  Our constitution promises us the right to a public education.

Petty: charter school reimbursement not a proper rate.  He is talking about a bunch of things but man this guy mumbles and I am getting too old to understand half of what he says.

Q8: Is Worcester a safe city?  How would you improve safety?

Colorio: supports our police, they understand problems and how to fix.  Drugs on the street is a whole other subject.  Prevent drugs from coming into the city.  Root of problem is in some of our addiction issues.

Coleman: We do have a safe city.  We need to move ahead on building a new police station.  Support neighborhood groups, have more community policing.

Petty: we are a safe city.  Result of hard work, we have invested in police classes, neighborhood response team, youth violence prevention program, RecWorcester

Sarkodieh: we do have a safe city.  Wants a representative police force.  Trust between police and residents

Colorio: strengthen our community neighborhood groups.  Needs to be more engagement.

Q9: Children.  Success set early, many Worcester youth entering school without preschool experience.  How to ensure children and families have their needs met?

Coleman: need preschool education.  We need to have an active mayor with a better salary that can go to public hearings all over the country, including Washington, to advocate for this.  Preschool in the city of Worcester should be free and available to everyone.

Petty: mayor’s office is a [bully] pulpit.  The earlier the children, the better off they will be.

Sarkodieh: will advocate for free preschool because it is very important.  Some of his kids went to Head Start and it was awesome.

Colorio: her daughter went to preschool in the city.  She didn’t understand how to get her daughter there.  Not a lot of communication about what preschools are available.

[This was a really weird response.  No one has talked about the need for full-day preschool or for supports for children after it – preschool is NOT an indicator of future success without reinforcement in elementary school…]

Q10: Worcester airport.  [I don’t write the question because who the heck responds to the actual questions at these forums]

Petty: good communication with Massport.  [This is seriously so boring I can’t even]  As mayor you need to encourage people to go to the airport and remind people that Worcester has an airport.

Colorio: communicate/publicize more. 

Coleman: national press that hasn’t been really complimentary because of all the cancellations.

Sarkodieh: we have to sell ourselves.  Not a lot of direct flights.  We need to work on that.

Petty: will advocate for increased investment.

[Amazes me how much people will advocate for fiscal austerity or the lowest tax rate but somehow think we have a budget to advertise for Massport’s property – but I’m getting cynical in my old age]

Q11: Worcester’s diversity.  How would you foster, esp school and workforce?

Colorio: City has done a great job in this.  When she first started to teach at QCC, our staff was not that diverse.  Now more diverse.  We try to achieve by showing that we are open to diversity.

Sarkodieh: It should start in city hall.  Right now, recommend that voters vote for [a more diverse candidate group]

Petty: has done a lot on the city side in the past 4 years, chief diversity officer.  We have a long way to go.  New construction requirement for women and communities of color.

Coleman reminds us that he started running for office when Nicole was an infant.  People used to complain about him going door-to-door.  Has bushwacked for other candidates.  You can’t change people’s hearts

Colorio: all have good suggestions – everyone here really wants to work towards that.

Q12: WRTA.  How important in your vision?  How would you increase ridership and service?

Sarkodieh: we need to increase bus lines for students and our entire population.  His kids have never been on the bus before.  Everyone needs to be involved.  It’s not just for ‘poor people’

Coleman: WRTA – that’s a piece of work for you.  Bring buses back to City Hall.  Don’t put pressure on drivers to get back to the Hub.  After 4pm let the buses be free, then on weekends, and then review Research Bureau’s suggestions for free bus transpo.

Colorio: People are using Uber and Lyft.  Maybe smaller buses or different routes, esp incorporating technology

Petty: pilot program to get people to use Uber and Lyft (goodness knows what he’s talking about)

[Every time someone mentions that Uber can be used instead of the WRTA – which is not necessarily what Colorio or Petty are saying – that tells me that people are not aware of issues with accessibility and these ‘rideshare’ companies)

Q13: Impacts of building new school.  How to manage siting of new schools?

Petty: This is the process we’re going to right now.  Doherty is a tough one, limited in property that’s right there.  What is neighborhood and traffic impact.  Look at other sites and consider process.  $300 million school, will be state of the art.  It will be one of the best schools in the country when it’s done.

Colorio: the feasibility studies were a good idea.  Everyone has an opinion.  Believes that neighborhood, parents, should be involved. 

Coleman: we need to think out of the box.  Building two buildings, one for juniors/seniors, one for freshmen/sophomores. 

Sarkodieh: put it in an economically depressed area.

Petty: This has been an open process.  We’re going to site it appropriately.  Number one project going on in the city of Worcester.

Q14: Student discipline.  How would you score WPS and decrease suspensions?

Colorio: superintendent is wonderful and has done great work.  When there is a cultural component here [not sure if this a dog whistle for ‘racism that we don’t want to acknowledge’] get complicated.

Sarkodieh: as a POC, hears a lot of complaints.  Would give SC a “C” on this.  We have to understand the culture that we deal with.

Petty: have made great strides this year.  Look at kids and get them to have in-school suspensions.

Coleman: expression: nothing is new under the sun.  We are catching up with suspension issue now, but nothing new.  Open convo with parents, bring parents into classroom to see how kids act.

Colorio: when people move to Worcester, they want to know ‘how are the schools?’ and then ‘how safe are the schools?’

Q15: Negative perceptions.  How would you market the city?

Sarkodieh: Worcester getting increasingly diverse.  We need to do a lot of work with hiring and to make sure that city hall gets diverse.

Coleman: Agrees with Colorio – schools sell property and houses.  Quality of education.  He does not have a negative thing to say about Worcester.  Needs to find potential and start marketing.

Petty: disagrees – perception has changed within the city.  With the ballpark, many people are coming.  Psychological boom. 

[Sorry, this is boring and I am no longer typing anything]

Q16: how to ensure stable housing supply?

Coleman: foreclosure rate is high and challenging, needs to be reduced.  Back tax resolution.  If you lose your home, and have back taxes, you have nothing.  Mentions microhouses.

Petty: have invested $17mil in workforce housing.  Most of projects have affordable housing component.  City has plan for funding for people rehabbing housing.

Sarkodieh: not just ‘affordable housing’ but HOUSING THAT IS AFFORDABLE.  Rents are rising, but median household income remains the same.

[I missed some of this due to a PC malfunction)

Q17: busing in schools

Colorio: supports an outside audit of the school bus situation.  No parent should be out waiting an hour in the cold for a bus, issues with buses getting up icy hills.

Petty: Busing service has been atrocious, but he supports the vote he took because there was no one else.

Coleman: icy roads are a decision about whether to open schools or not.  What about WRTA?

Sarkodieh: need a serious conversation about this.

Colorio: voucher system where students could take the “regular buses” to school.

Q18: Tax Classification and dual tax rate.  Are you in favor of current system or single rate?

Sarkodieh: in favor of dual system. 

Colorio: not in favor of closing the gap.  We are in a gateway city.  We have a lot of nonprofits, we have to supply a lot of services to nonprofits. 

[Sorry, the answers here have been bad.  The other candidates should thank me for not recording their answers]

Q19: process and metrics for evaluating the current city manager.  How would you rate Augustus?

Coleman falls over himself fawning over Ed Augustus.  He does a great job.  Would continue same way of evaluating CM.  Would increase his team and increase the mayor’s team.

Sarkodieh: CM has done a tremendous job.  Would wish the next CM should be thoroughly evaluated.  He has some big shoes to fill.

Colorio: evaluation in place, if he accomplishes goals then he can be assessed appropriately.

Petty: continues with the Stepford-like worship of Ed Augustus.  Don’t make me type any more.

Coleman: after Ed A decides to retire, when he hire HER we will have a new evaluation system based on her needs.

Q20: regarding the superintendent.  Mayor leads SC as well as CC.  Do you have confidence and would you vote to renew her contract?

Petty: she’s got school system running pretty well.  He did vote to renew her contract.  She’s put “tremendous” programs into place.  Everyone’s not perfect.  “She has a good heart and she’s a good person” – that’s an exact quote

Coleman: knowing her as an educator, administrator, principal, and now super – “She does a great job” – lack of clear communication between her and the students.  Firmly supports her.  He would support her for another two years.

Colorio: she was on the SC that interviewed and hired her.  She believes she has knowledge and leadership skills.  “I am a big fan.”

Sarkodieh: supports her as well.  But should not discount people who complain.  She needs to explain her policies to concerned parents. 

Petty: Communication seems to be an issue.  He loves that Maureen is strongly opinionated.  Needs someone to communicate all the good things that are happening and still address concerns of community of color.

(That’s the last question)

Closing statements; I’ll type sparingly:

Interestingly, Colorio says she will follow the law.  That’s reassuring.

Sarkodieh wants us to focus more on education.  He wants to be the first mayor with an accent.

Coleman wants people to get out the vote.  You should take an absentee ballot if you live across the street from a polling place but your actual polling place is 4-5 blocks away.  You should just vote for him.

Petty wants you to embrace change and not stifle it.