At-Large Candidate Forum 9-29 notes

At-large – all candidates here but Peter Stefan

NAACP – Educational & Environmental/Climate Justice committees are doing great work.  Always looking for members to join!!

1 min to answer each question.

Simultaneous translation provided.  LOVING THIS

Opening statements

Bergman: Worcester is a city of immigrants.  Is a first-generation American, everyone needs a friend at City Hall.  Became a lawyer to help people.  Running for re-election – best way to help a lot of people is to serve in public office.  Very few items that come to the city council that do not involve the law; having lawyer assist with this.

Coleman: has been candidate since 1979.  Worked for US Senator Ed Brooke.  Before that studied for the priesthood.  Almost 45 years dedicated to public service, taught (now retired) from UMass.  In Worcester, tries to do his best to listen to people and voice concerns to city council.  It‘s been a long run, but biggest thing he wants to see changed is on November 2 he wins.

Colorio: has served 1 term CC, 2 terms SC.  As educator at QCC, has worked with thousands of students from diverse background.  Businesswoman, understands small biz.  Provided thousands of jobs to immigrant community.  Of Albanian and Italian descent.  Lowest residential tax rate.  Wants people to be able to live and work in the city.

Creamer: product of Worcester, went to Elm Park, Nativity, etc.  Proud son of immigrants.  Left Worcester to go to DC for school.  Life struck, could not afford to finish college. Did not want to be just another statistic.  Started org with Pay Our Interns – $50 million allocated to interns.  Wanted to bring skills back to Worcester.  Served on Human Rights Commission – newer, younger perspective, Latino, gay man, would be a first.  [Well, not for Latino, right?  That part was confusing but it‘s his first time out.]

King: thanks wife and daughter [sitting in the audience] for sharing their time.  Has worked as a social worker, wants us not just to recover but to thrive post-COVID.  Brought PPEs, education to those in most need, in fighting the pandemic.  We need to be able to afford to live here.  Thinking about mental health and addiction. 

Nguyen: queer Vietnamese refugee, came here in 1991, lived in Main South, graduated from Clark.  Has been youth worker for last decade, director of projects at Southeast Asian.  Has seen ways community came together to survive in this time.  Accumulated privilege, has role to play – community-led solutions, communities should be represented at the table when decisions are made.

Petty: challenging times.  Quotes Tale of Two Cities.  Seen so many people ill from or succumb to COVID, saw struggles with communities of color, health disparities.  We came together as a city to help one another.  Allocated and raised money for most vulnerable and small businesses.  Excitement about city that transcends beyond boundaries. 

Toomey: committed to continue work she has been doing.  Ensure that city is a great city for all.  COVID has had a tremendous impact on disadvantaged and communities of color.  Good teachers, transpo, infrastructure, public safety training, addiction, homelessness.  Depth and breadth of experience that many other councilors do not have.  Understands need for tech as city grows.  Green future.  [There‘s a lot I‘m missing here; I can only imagine how the simultaneous translators are doing!]

Wally: wife and I are happy to be raising two kids here, graduated Holy Cross, grad school at Clark.  Ran Matthew 25, rehabbed houses in this neighborhood.  Additional involvement in a lot of non-profits.  Serves on a few boards.  For past 10 years, working in banks. Running at-large – issues more applicable to the city.  Better municipal broadband.  Support small businesses.  206,000 people – need to plan for the future.

Question to King: from Black Families Together: Polar Park disappointment to black and other minority businesses.  How to pressure city manager for opportunities for black businesses, etc?

King: doesn‘t stop with city manager.  Mayor has to hold all of us accountable as well.  Has worked with community folks, labor community, about this very issue.  Called on administration to fact-check spending on women, people of color owned businesses.  Involving community voice is important. 

Creamer: has talked to families across city, a lot of people feel left behind.  Polar Park was a solid investment for city, but many BIPOC were not involved.  Many Latino families feel the same.  Get out into the community and talk to them.  Build relationships.  Part of why he‘s running is because young people are not involved.

Colorio: was elected 18 months ago, so all the stuff was already set.  She can address transparency – issues on Duffy Field side.  Community was not listened to, made sure voices were heard.  Go back to transparency.

Coleman: publicity about Polar Park, we‘re going to do more to include people in – but this was a public embarrassment.  A lot of other issues with race/inclusion.  As elected official will be on toes before contracts are put out so that more businesses can be included.

Bergman: he‘s in his 50s!  He‘s proud of his maturity and experience!  Big issues overlooked: construction costs still haven‘t come in.  Small business owners – we have done very poor job having people build equity with homeownership.  Ballpark is done, whatever happened happened.  Minority homeownership is how businesses wind up in ballpark.

Wally: we have strong manager.  He was disappointed.  New compliance manager will look at these.  We need to make sure TIF policy is followed going forward (and notes this was not a TIF).

Toomey: need to educate people about process, train people.  Helped people become certified to get state contracts.  Educate business communities, 189 biz listed on minority biz list on city website.

Petty: like everyone else, was disappointed and caught off-guard.  So focused on getting community jobs.  Hiring went well, exceeded expectations, but did not meet business goals.

[Note that this blogger petitioned the city council months ago for transparency and reporting in this project and others, and there have been CRICKETS.  The current electeds have all done very little, as far as I‘m concerned.]

Nguyen: begins with listening to people.  Communities of color, small businesses, have been struggling.  It‘s been a year and a half.  Has seen this since when pandemic struck.  A lot of Asian businesses were struggling because of so-called “Chinese virus.”  Accountability and transparency need to be high priority.  Businesses shutting down.  Need hands on temp of what‘s happening on the ground.

Question to Petty, from Local 336 Carpenters Union: wage theft on projects that receive public funds.  July 2019 ordinance – fines for TIFs with wage theft.  What penalty should developers, contractors face/

Petty: have hired two compliance people to ensure no wage theft.  Should be more proactive now that we have these.  If prior history, should not be able to bid on job.

Nguyen: Completely agrees with Petty. Outrageous when wage theft on huge project.  Should not get job, pay people retroactively with damages, penalties.

King: very important issue.  When you steal from workers, you steal from families.  Need to put a stop to it.  Require to make the worker whole, there should be a requirement that we as a city pre-screen the applicants.  One thing to respond, another thing to be proactive.

Creamer: Need to ensure that this doesn‘t happen.  Work with unions, needs to be a blacklist for this. 

[I have a feeling this is a no-brainer question]

Colorio: wage theft is not acceptable under any conditions.  She employs 70 people in her family business.  People live day to day, week to week, every bit of money earned is needed.  Heavy consequences to this behavior.

Coleman: penalty should be severe, but a company can come back under a different name.  Has yet to see someone penalized. 

Bergman: penalties are 3 times $$.  System before COVID, case would linger 3 years.  Post-COVID, length is even longer.  Need to amend so cases are on a fast track and resolved quickly.  Work with state legislation to make the resolution speedy.

Wally: one of downsides in going near end is that everyone has said things.  But – he would have us work with other municipalities to better track these.  Also – have a bond for employees to get wages while waiting for court system.

Toomey: part of problem is subcontractors, tough to identify them.  Has stood on the line with Carpenters Union.  Work with delegation – supported order last week and will continue to fight against this.

Question to Coleman, from MAWOCC, City – $115 mil in stimulus and $81 mill for schools, how to advocate for childcare for black/brown children, housing, ensure utilization of funds for women of color owned businesses?

Coleman: this can get us online.  Supports free preschool education, also paying educators fair and decent wage.  Advocate for the shared amt of funds that this windfall is providing to our city. 

Bergman: focus on 39% homeownership rate in Worcester.  Of that, less than black/brown people.  Has items to set aside some funds for down payment deposits, biggest hurdle to homeownership.  Ability to build equity and send kids to college.  Need to do better job to right the balance.

Wally: black/brown families disproportionately impacted by COVID.  Need to ensure affordable daycare.  Small biz – workforce training.  37% of all small businesses owned by foreign born, work with Mass Hire, to provide training.

Toomey: daycare will enable families to be gainfully employed.  Would want to advocate funding for that, free preschool in WPS. 

Petty: childcare in ARPA meetings.  How to get people trained in childcare.  Good balance of market rate and affordable housing in the community.

[Any elected who is advocating for free preschool has also voted for the lowest possible budget for the WPS.  KEEP THAT IN MIND]

Nguyen: well-resourced communities are the ones that thrive.  Residents always talking about housing.  Support homeownership, rent stabilization.  Affordable housing needs to continue, zero fare WRTA.  Mental health is a huge thing, need more counselors in our schools.  Work with women of color outreach workers.

King; housing is a public health crisis.  How folks lift themselves up is through stability.  Having stable home, stable education.  We have to start asking for women of color owned businesses – goals within ARPA funds. Affordable housing – low-income and moderate.  Workforce and market-rate – just not there.

Creamer: many people don‘t feel like their voice matters.  4 listening sessions are a start.  Talk to neighborhoods like GBV, Lakeside, not just the ones that vote.  Are we talking to them in their languages, making sure people feel heard.  Does not think that is happening right now.

Colorio: taught soc/psych at QCC for 35 years.  People working 2 jobs and trying to get an education.  100% in support to have homeownership (Councilor Bergman‘s order.)

Question for Wally: what makes you the best candidate for this position? (From Worcester Black Clergy Alliance)

Wally: education and professional background.  Exec director of non-profit housing org, master‘s in community development.  In current role as district councilor, #1 priority is constituent services.  Small biz support, establishing a dept of transpo in Worcester.

Toomey: saved 20 teachers‘ jobs when she was on the school committee.  Understands school systems.  Has been chair of a load of CC subcommittees.  From southeast corner of the city.

Petty: he brings people to the table and listens to what their issues are.  Make sure everyone is part of the success of the city.  South High, Doherty High, and hopefully a new Burncoat High.  NEW SUPERINTENDENT WITH A TRANSPARENT PROCESS.

Nguyen: community organizer that has been on the ground.  Not here to be a career politician, wants to have political reimagination shift.  Gov‘t holistically build systems that build people up.  Make people who are historically left out be brought in and listened to.

King: macro social worker, close to 30 years.  Providing opportunities for youth.  Father of daughters aged 4, 16, 28.  Has been able to build coalitions, build up coalitions, cofounded Black and Latinx Municipal Caucus.

Creamer: has been told to wait his turn many times.  During one of most divisive times in DC.  Paying interns now common across the country.  That needs to be brought here to Worcester.  Candidate that needs to bring people together, proud to be very different from most of the people at the table.

Colorio: grew up on Beacon Street.  One of her best moments when she ran ballot question against Common Core.  Spends time in city (she says ‘district‘) knocking on doors listening to people.  Brings a diverse background as well.

Coleman: was 22 years old when he first ran for office in Worcester.  He is 66 – will be 67 next month.  Drives around with a broom in his van because he is willing to ‘do a Tom Sawyer‘ and do neighborhood cleanups.

Bergman: I can‘t say I studied for the priesthood.  He doesn‘t like “the best” – he adds value to the Council.  We all have great resumes.  Saw the struggle of his parents, wants to make everyone (esp marginalized) lives in this city better. 

Question to Bergman from NAACP: civilian review board for police?

Bergman: controversial question.  NO – (1) being established at state level, duplicitous at local level; (2) can‘t politicize that type of board.  State board more than sufficient.

Wally: NO; (1) state review board being formed; (2) city manager will have board at Human Resources dept.  Internal Affairs is not strong enough.

Toomey: NO; (1) state review board; (2) where there are these boards, there have been issues.  Need transparency and more rigor.

Petty: passed Division of Investigations.  So – that‘s a NO.  Then there would be an appeal to the state.

Nguyen: As someone who believes in healing justice framework – YES.  People in community should have some sort of oversight: honest transparent accountable gov‘t

King: still waiting for report from administration.  Office being established in HR is not civilian review.  YES in concept, but would like more information to make an informed decision.  One thing we have heard is that we need more oversight.  What better oversight than for citizens to be participating?

Creamer: YES.  Community input core of what he‘s talking about.  Way to do this in a non-political way.  It‘s not about attacking a certain body, but about ensuring accountability.

Colorio: NO

Coleman: YES – Andrew Harris, Spencer Tatum, fought discrimination suit against hiring practices in WPD.  From 1954-1974, never hired POC for WPD.  City Manager should hold special pinning ceremony for Spencer Tatum.

Question, to Toomey, from Main South CDC: do you agree with CM‘s distribution of ARPA funds, esp for housing needs?  Adequate funding for communities of color?

Toomey: needs list of recommendations from ARPA meeting.  Not sure what number is for affordable housing is right now.  CM has had some general recommendations.

Petty: $18.2 million for housing.  Out there listening to the community.  Housing, mental health, most important issues.  Needs to be spent by 2024.  IT‘S HARD TO SPEND MONEY, PEOPLE. 

Nguyen: housing is a crisis.  With listening sessions, we need to listen and periodize needs.  Need to wait until sessions are wrapped up.

King: supports 20% to affordable trust fund, and to affordable housing needs.  At a point where we have highest rates of families living in shelters than we have ever seen.  Affordable housing trust fund with NO FUNDING MECHANISM.  This would be great way to start fund, then Community Housing …

Creamer: building back better.  We need to recover and look at next chapter of the city.  We needed to have a Spanish-speaking only session.  Community listening/input – needs to not just be amongst councilors but with directly impacted communities.

Colorio: waiting for info from listening sessions.  Then she will be able to make the best decision.

Coleman: housing major crisis in this community.  Next Tuesday filing petition to have admin contact private/public housing professionals about wait list.  Then we can look at housing crisis.

Bergman: CM‘s recommendations have not come out.  Affordable housing – recent article in T&G – it needs to be fixed. It takes years to get into affordable housing.  Surrounding towns have very little – demand will never meet supply.  Force towns to shoulder their responsibility.

Wally: supports manager‘s initial recommendation.  We will never have money to meet demand.  40% defined by HUD as low income.  How do we make sure that we have enough well-paying jobs.  Has never voted for lowest residential tax rate.  We need to encourage businesses and move people up economic ladder.

Question to Nguyen, from Worcester Common Ground: community outreach workers essential.  What will you do differently, ex: restructure Chandler Street in webinar vs open-air format to walk the areas in need of improvement?

Nguyen: a lot of people have distrust in gov‘t.  Want people to feel CC meetings are safe place for people to come to. Homeless person can‘t come to CC and then make it to the shelter, mother might take time off work and the agenda changes.  Switch to online has helped people participate more.

King: you need to walk the walk.  Willing/able to listen, learn, and lead.  City gov‘t oversight is the city council.  Our responsibility/duty to stand up for transparency, process, oversight of how gov‘t is managed.

Creamer: on the ground outreach is everything.  He was told not to spend time in certain neighborhoods [because they don‘t vote].  Needs to ensure we are on the ground.  You need to ask yourself when you last visited a certain neighborhood.

Colorio: community outreach, I totally support it and think it‘s great.  Traffic/Parking: she goes to each requested stop sign, etc.  two young people hit at Newton Square and at airport, put meeting together, to meet in the area and talk about issues.  Great thing to bring meetings to the community.

Coleman: for nearly 40 years, fielding phone calls, attending crimewatch groups, building up groups, for people who are intimidated by the process of petitioning city council.  Wait ‘til I get on that Council – you‘re going to be so happy.

Bergman: 20/30 years ago, 40-50% of population voted in City Council elections.  Societal disconnect – it‘s not just Worcester, it‘s everywhere.  We should take city council meetings on the road.  Now in age of virtual meetings no reason we need to stay in city hall.

Wally: we have dozens of neighborhood groups that meet on a monthly basis.  We could advertise that a bit more.  At convenient time?  Would like to see mobile City Hall services throughout city in different neighborhoods.

Toomey: having worked under Kevin White, knows how effective little City Halls can be.  Nothing more important than having a face-to-face meeting with someone about issue affecting their neighborhood. 

Petty: there a lot of people who work second shift and don‘t have access to neighborhood group meetings.  Use our schools more for the meetings.  Perhaps they can tie into afterschool programs.

Question from Worcester Interfaith: WPS BUDGET BABY

Colorio: has been on the school committee.  SC responsible for budget and policies.  We allow the SC to set their priorities.  [BUT – keep in mind the CC decides on the overall SC budget.  That was being asked as well]

Coleman: one thing we can all do, I saw our mayor at the state house advocating for more equitable funding for public education.  Make sure funding is appropriate

Bergman: limited by city charter about the say – but we do have some say.  We are giving new South, new Doherty to next generation.  East Middle, other schools that are failing.  Role very limited to money.  Every high school should have a front lawn every college/university that their students are accepted to.

Wally: we are limited by what we can put in the school budget.  One of the best things we can do is allocate new schools.  Can we work with colleges on improving schools?  Could we have partnered with Worcester State for better learning experience for Doherty?  Partnerships for better learning env?

[Note: we have Early College Worcester]

Toomey: better broadband.  We do have some programs – all of our colleges could do more.  Advocacy for what schools need.


Petty: $650 mil into schools.  We can do better on school side by listening to community members.  New super should bring energy, then get funding through state.

Nguyen: as a WPS grad, need transparent admin.  That‘s all of our duties, we should be caring about foundational development of youth.  Accountability should not be a harsh thing.  Have conversations with the community.

King: we have some charter challenges.  We do go over school budget with school admin.  Public health/safety issues; resources kids receive/don‘t receive.  Mental health, youth programming, after-school programming.  Ask the legislature for more.

Creamer: ensure that we are talking to our educators.  Has luxury of still talking with first-grade teacher.  Elm Park is down the street from Midland, and it‘s a very different school from Midland.  Our educators don‘t live in Worcester, but they serve our residents and are building the next generation.

[And no one here has said, “We need the city to spend more on the schools, and I have asked the city admin to spend more.”}

FINAL QUESTION, to Creamer, from MOAD: spoke with over 50 African-owned businesses, they didn‘t get loans bc didn‘t understand how to fill out forms.  Small non-profits with funding difficulty.  How will city help?

Creamer: community integration.  We need to go out into the community and talk with individuals.  Small biz owners across the country didn‘t know how to do this.  Provide proper resources, walk people through step-by-step.  This is beyond the loans.

Colorio: federal PPP loan or city loan – it was difficult, confusing, and you had to upload.  Got many calls from those who had difficulties.  We have to do better at helping people in community.

Coleman: would target a specific office with additional aides to help small businesses go through the process.

Bergman: question specifically about African community – but find access to get in the door in these communities, cultural or religious connections.  Whatever model city used for census program was successful and should be replicated. 

Wally: proud that small business grants went to majority of minority- and women-owned businesses.  Difference between access and equity.  Did everyone know where to go for resources?  City should provide tech resources, partner with peer-to-peer learning, Chamber of Commerce, to assist.

Toomey: she reached out to state for Ghanaian community – state minority business process. Regular support session in person or online, in different languages.  When we can grown biz community, small businesses raise everyone up.

Petty: why didn‘t people apply for these PPP loans?  Difficulty in filling out form.  How to get state or federal regulators to change the form?  City loans were better.  We missed a lot of people.  The question is – how do we get access to those people?

Nguyen: it felt impossible – the application would be open for three days, then funds would be gone.  Impossible to gather all the documents, translate, then it would be closed.  Esp for people who are marginalized – they stop turning to these resources.  Systems aren‘t supporting them.  (They were actively working on this with business owners.)  need to do better at outreach, have lists ahead of time.  We cannot lose these businesses in the future.

King: have to be intentional, reach out to businesses.  For our grants on the city side, went well.  But more can be done.  We know who the stakeholders are, can identify in these communities.  Incumbent on us to begin process of action plan from administration.

Closing remarks – I will only type what‘s interesting.

Creamer is trying to appeal with his youthfulness to this old crowd.  I fear that this is falling on mostly deaf ears. (The whole night he’s been talking about how he’s the youngest one running, and Moe’s been talking about his experience and maturity, and then Bill Coleman felt the need to talk about how he used to be young, too.)

Petty loves the city and it‘s going in the right direction.

Toomey has been told that she is ‘pretty darn good‘ at constituent services.  Also, has gray hairs.  (Creamer is touching a nerve with some of these old folks.)

Worcester Candidate Forums – 2021

For those interested in attending candidate forums, these are the ones I am aware of. I’ll try to attend as many as I can (note that there are a couple that conflict with one another).

Cory Bisbee has a Google Sheet with information about the candidates.

School Committee race:

Wednesday, 10/6 – 6pm – Location: Centro, 11 Sycamore Street

Sunday, 10/10 – 3:15-4:15pm – Location: Church of Pentecost Worcester Central, 41 Providence Street
Organizer: MOAD (Massachusetts Organization of African Descendents)

Wednesday, 10/13 – 7pm – Location: Mechanics Hall – link
Organizers: Research Bureau, WEC, Mechanics Hall, Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Telegram & Gazette

Wednesday, 10/20 – 6pm – YWCA – link; ticket registrationOrganizers: YWCA, LEON, MAWOCC, NAACP, LWV

Contested District races:

Thursday, 10/14 (note the change in date)– 6pm – YWCA – linkticket registration

Monday, 10/25 – 7pm – Location: Mechanics Hall – link
Organizers: Research Bureau, WEC, Mechanics Hall, Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Telegram & Gazette

At-Large race:

Wednesday, 9/29 – 6pm – Location: Worcester Boys and Girls Club. 65 Boys and Girls Club Way.  (Note from organizers: Gardner Street is under construction. If you plan to join us it is recommended that you take the Main Street to Boys and Girls Club Way Rt.)
Organizers: YWCA, Black Families Together, Boys & Girls Club, Main South CDC, Carpenters Worcester Local 336, NAACP, MOAD, Worcester Youth Center, WBCA, MAWOCC, Worcester-Fitchburg Building Trades, Worcester Community-Labor Coalition, Interfaith Worcester

Wednesday, 10/6 – 7pm – Location: Mechanics Hall – link
Organizers: Research Bureau, WEC, Mechanics Hall, Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Telegram & Gazette

Sunday, 10/10 – 4:30-5:30pm – Location: Church of Pentecost Worcester Central, 41 Providence Street
Organizer: MOAD (Massachusetts Organization of African Descendents)

Wednesday, 10/13, 6pm – Location: YWCA – link; ticket registration

Mayoral race:

Wednesday, 10/27 – 7pm – Location: Mechanics Hall – link
Organizers: Research Bureau, WEC, Mechanics Hall, Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Telegram & Gazette

District 5 Council Forum – Sept 9

These are my notes from the forum tonight at the IBEW Hall. I will not pretend to be impartial. Etel Haxhiaj is hands down the best candidate in this race. You can ote for her or you can vote for Yenni. Once you read the notes, you’ll see what I mean.

Video here

Bill Shaner livetweet here

Telegram/Foskett coverage here

Forum moderators: Gary Rosen, Melissa Hanson (MassLive), Ben White (Radio Worcester)

Gary had noted that there were masks available and that people who might not want to wear them because of medical reasons or personal choice don’t need to.  One person applauded for “personal choice.”  And this is why we’ve been where we’ve been for the past eternity.

Interpretation in Spanish and English tonight.  (I think this is the first candidate forum I’ve ever experienced this!)

Electeds in the building: Matt Wally, Khrystian King, Moe Bergman

Other notables: Bill Coleman

Melissa Hanson introduces the candidates.

Yenni: throughout entire life, natural problem-solver.  As project manager in video game industry as well as small business owner.  About time we fix infrastructure in timely manner instead of just talking about it.  Follow example of other small cities similar to Worcester.  Every problem has a solution.  (Applause when she removes her mask.  These people are irritating me to no end.)  Expensive consultants have not suited us.  This will be her full-time job.  Vote for her is for tech/policies to make a mid-sized city great.

Etel: in 1997, she left Albania as a result of political violence.  As mother, as proud Albanian-American, as community leader.  Has knocked on thousands of doors to include all neighborhood, solutions that will benefit all of us.  Worked as legal advocate in attorney general’s office, worked against rate hikes, natural gas leaks; fair, free, reliable, sustainable mass transit that works for us.  SCIENCE, FACTS, and DATA.  All of us should be included in all decision-making.  New leaders who will work collaboratively, protect open spaces, make communities safer, greener, and healthier.

Q: Democracy in action.  This is what makes America great.  Should all work together.  Has spent 35 years volunteering for children in various little leagues.  Longest-serving member in Cable Commission.  Only candidate that will lower property taxes.  Has a plan proposed in 2017 – through business community, neighborhood associations – to create new revenues.  Taxes are going up.  He has filed three home rule petitions.  He can turn $22 million around to save homeowner from increase in taxes.  No training period with him.

Greg S: Has lived in Worcester for 17 years.  Has 9 children, 15 grandchildren, 4 great-grands.  Served in Mass State Police and is now retired.  Focus completely on district 5.  Best city in the region.  As a retiree, he can devote 100% of his time to his community.  He has given out his personal cell phone number.  He doesn’t plan on just listening, get quicker resolution for things that have not been done in the past.  Lowest residential tax rate.  Safety in neighborhoods, parks, streets, fully funding WPD.  Speeding, potholes, cracks, on roads.

(Mayor Joe Petty arrives)

90 seconds to answer – 60 second responses – original candidate 30 seconds

Q from Hanson to Yenni: COVID pandemic has brought issues for small business owners.  How will you support, esp with your experience?

Yenni: lack of outreach in finding right people for right jobs.  A lot of people are looking at what their next career is going to be.  MassJobs, CareerCentral.  Collaboration between business.  When she had someone who wasn’t quite right for her company, she would refer to another business that might be able to hire the person.  Chamber can help with collaboration.

Etel: small businesses have suffered greatly during pandemic.  Has yet to see plan for ARPA money to support mom and pop shops, can also help low-wage workers along with small business owners.  Need capital access for them.  City has done good job for incubators – make sure that those resources are accessible to everyone.

Q: downtown core has not impacted neighborhood.  Main South has mini-City Hall.  That’s something we need in all the districts.  Need a voice that will advocate for that.

Greg: [needs question repeated] Fight for District 5 to get fair share of those funds because we have been out in the cold for a while.  Work together with entire city council.

Yenni: need to retrain, for potential employees to be aware of new positions.  People in community should have common job board.

Q from White to Etel: public transpo.  What to improve/add, how to pay for?

Etel: Fair, free, reliable, sustainable WRTA.  Has been catching a lot of steam across the country.  Needs to be part of the economic development policy. For every dollar spent, $4 comes back.  COVID related funds helped sustain suspension of fares.  Sustains local economy, all riders, makes sure that we have neighborhoods that are connected, reduce traffic, increase walkability.

Q: Spag’s isn’t giving out tomatoes any more.  [Editorial note: actually, Whole Food does…]  Towns need to pay their fair share.  Will not provide free bus fares when that is the responsibility of the state. 

Greg: took WRTA this morning, new, clean, driver was very personable.  Driver said need designated area and kiosks that are well-lit and safe for riders who need assistance getting on.  What is cost to taxpayer for the future?

Yenni: hub and spoke model without a wheel.  Aside from northeastern ones that go to the hospital – no connections in middle – WRTA needs to recalibrate and expand routes.  Rt 19 used to go up to Airport Business Park – just goes to Leicester now.  Could have a loop from airport to Rt 2.  Rt 8 could go up/down Park Ave.

Etel: fare free buses do NOT benefit only a certain segment of the population.  $3 million to have fare boxes, maintain; WRRB stated some ways that we could cobble together funds from fed, state, local business.  Public transit is a public good that benefits all neighborhoods, including district 5.

Q to Q from Rosen: 1 penny sales tax.  Sales tax could be considered a regressive tax.  Would be good policy?

Q: Didn’t come to this in a vacuum.  We don’t get our fair share back from Boston.  Opportunity that we have to keep revenue here.  Will it serve a purpose for everybody?  Yes.  Sitting on a shelf in city hall.  Also wants state to pay for state-owned buildings [in tax?], and a $10 surcharge on renting cars.

Greg: no rise in sales, property, or commercial tax for him.  He would not vote for this.  [I think this is the end of the statement.]

Yenni: correct that it is a regressive tax.  Would not vote for this.  If it were to act like VAT (not to groceries, toothpaste, personal needs), perhaps.

Etel: how does this impact those who struggle the most?  They need to spend less on transpo, affordable housing, benefits from development projects: we raise up families by taking multi-pronged approach.

Q: Groceries are not taxable.  Lowest affordable tax rate means your taxes are going up.  He will ensure that your taxes will go down.

Q for Greg from Hanson: lower speed limit?  More traffic enforcement?

Greg: people don’t read the signs to begin with.  More efficient, and MORE, traffic enforcement.

Yenni: multiple accidents in the district that involve kids being put in the hospital recently.  Reduce speed limit by 5 mph has many benefits.  At 25 mph, you can really tell if someone is speeding.  Traffic enforcement = getting grants from state to do speed enforcement.  Get more $$ from state.

Etel: 2 mothers at West Tatnuck meeting spoke about how their kids are affected by speeding.  Slow streets are safer; supports 25 mph.  Traffic enforcement – one box solution.  City of Boston wants automatic enforcement of red light cameras and speed cameras – reduces reliance on police officers.

Q: At West Tatnuck meeting, nothing has been done.  It was four weeks ago, and the state has done nothing.  (This is 122 from Atlas on)  We don’t have enough police officers. 

Greg: sign is only as good as the person who stands behind the sign.  Compliance needs to be enforced.

Q from White for Yenni: Worcester Renaissance.  How can everyone benefit?

Yenni: lack of funds allocated to our areas.  Webster Square has a lot of businesses that need buildings torn down.  Need to implement business districts.  Amazing success.  Get buildings reused and updated.  Tatnuck is having a lot of benefit and regrowth.  Do more to help with water problems – storm drains.  Neighbors have had a swimmable portion of water in their backyard.

Etel: Renaissance belongs to all of us, in all districts.  Would love to see city spend ARPA $$ to support businesses.  Every developer that comes to Worcester needs to benefit D5.  Why aren’t we talking to Sam Adams (owner of former Big D lot) the way that we are offering incentives to Mt Carmel?

Q: mentions that Gary and Matt Wally brought the Big D lot to the forefront.  A lot of complaining about student housing.

Greg: safe neighborhoods.  Fix under the street, and then fix the street.  [Literally, this is what he said.  I tend to summarize but he is literally giving 5 second answers.]

Yenni: focus that city manager has given has not been adequate.  Advocacy at state level – we need appropriate amount of funds actually coming to us.

Question for Etel from Gary: police reform.  What reform measures, if any, would you like to see city adopt?

Etel: fully supports CM’s executive orders.  Looks forward to having WPD that is accountable, transparent.  Police reform at state level will come to Worcester.  Looks forward to having WPD be accountable to the people.

Q: adequately fund – increase to 450 police officers. 

[Wayne Griffin tries to interrupt.  Screw off, Wayne]

Greg: fully funded, fully staffed.  He has experience at this.  Based on experience, you need a team effort.  Those problems don’t exist here like they do in Minneapolis.

Yenni: wants to pursue which Defund measures work for us.  Death in 1991 was very similar – heard about it at neighborhood watch meeting.  We may need to re-plan, doesn’t think cameras will do anything.  Mental health education for police dept. 

Etel: what makes our streets safe is having adequate housing for people, provide supportive services for chronically homeless people, feed people, provide support for those struggling with addiction, etc.  No one in this room says that we should have no police.  (There was more, it was very good.)

Question for Q about Doherty being on time, on budget (sorry, missed it)

Q: need to be involved more.  Proper oversight.

Greg: if the school is needed, allocate resources and get the job done.

Yenni: chronic issue of things not getting done on time and on budget.  Projects should be kept on top of more.  Future projects: ensure incentives for construction companies to get things done on time and on budget.  Equity issues need to be addressed going forward.

Etel: our neighbors need to be kept abreast.  They feel decisions get made without input, they are the last to know things.  Let parents/teachers/kids know, include everyone in process.

Q: penny sales tax (out of state sales tax).  They also need a practice field.

Question for Greg from White about tax – changing multi-family to commercial.

Greg: doesn’t support raising taxes on everything.  He can’t give an intelligent answer because he’s not up on it and needs to study.

Yenni: owner of a three-family.  Does not feel a three-family is a commercial property when you own one.  Differentiation between those who own multiple properties vs an owner-occupied.  During pandemic, one of neighbors had tenant with trouble paying rent.  Would put burden on owner-occupied.

Etel: small-scale landlords had trouble during pandemic.  Small-scale landlords are not the problem.  Look at commercial properties (more than 5 building properties) could bring extra revenue.  Landlords and renters – we need to create pathway to homeownership and look at racial disparities that have prevented people of color from paths to prosperity (not her words, sorry, she’s too good and I can’t type that fast)

Q: this is another thing on the mayor’s task force.  Will stand up for homeowners and renters.

Greg: agrees with Q

Question from Gary to all candidates, 1 minute: dismal turnout for D5 prelim election expected.  Why don’t voters see importance of prelim/municipal elections?

Yenni: switch to ranked choice voting [boos from crowd] – we would have one election.  This person is my #1 choice, this person would be OK.  For municipal race, can drop age to 16.  [crowd is incredulous – Yenni asks to be able to speak – GOOD FOR HER – these people are philistines, no offense to Philistines]  – mock voting in every single high school for every single election.  Teach people what the city council does for them.

Etel: our residents feel disconnected.  Whether we’re talking about Duffy, Lakeside, Doherty – residents feel they do not come first.  Early voting increases turnout.  We turned down 16 year old voting.  Our campaign has reached voters in different language.  Everyone deserves a seat at the city council.

Q: Ranked choice: solution in search of problem.  absolutely against 16 year old voting.  He points to Steve Foskett, who he says is not doing his job (Steve is standing in for all the media).

Greg: reach out to young people via the social media.

Q to all from Hanson: vote with conscience or vote with the majority of the district?

Etel: both.  Councilors need to have conscience, ask tough questions.  D5 is not in isolation – we have a responsibility to have people who care about everyone, include everyone in community planning, etc

Q: you can’t have a straw poll every time something comes up. 

Greg: he agrees with Q.  Here to represent what people have had on their minds.  He’s not going to vote his conscience.

Yenni: combination needed.  Go out into community and get information proactively.  If seeing mixed results, need to go with conscience.  If you see something detrimental to community, vote against it.

Candidates can ask questions of another candidate.  Untimed.  [ULTIMATE GARY FANTASY]

Greg to Etel on subsidized housing in district. 

Etel: by day she works in the housing world.  Lakeside faces quite a bit of issues.  There can never be enough housing for people of all income levels.  The city is becoming inaccessible, unaffordable for many people.  Wants a path to homeownership for all, black/brown people should be able to get a mortgage.  People should be able to buy or rent a home and be free from debt.

Q: a lot of housing is more affordable.  Market-rate.  There has to be an equilibrium there.  But we have to open up the doors.

Yenni: She agrees with Etel almost entirely.  Encourage changes to zoning to allow multi-family and mixed-use.  We need more housing in the city.  A lot of single-family homes and a lot of empty lots. 

The next question is for Q.

He asks Etel about increasing WPD numbers.  Increase to 425?

Etel: More police will not bring safety – police should focus on violent crime.  People struggling with complex issues that are not helped by police.  Why should we expect police officers to do everything?  Make our officers’ job easier by not expanding their role.

Yenni: when people think about crime, they immediately think police.  Improve lighting, adding tree coverage and places where kids need to play.  Cutting down foliage so that police can quickly see homeless folks.  Need to understand why people turn to crime – address cause not symptom.

Greg: strongly supports increasing the numbers because of number of people in city.  In 2013, Boston Marathon bombing.  He was there when “we captured those people.”  He received a commendation for that. 

Question goes to Etel.

Etel to Greg: the next city councilor will need to work in coalitions with community members, city manager, other councilors.  I have worked with various coalitions.  What is your experience working in coalitions, either in pandemic or before?

Greg: during pandemic, was retired and focused on spat between children.  Has worked with many different police, sheriff’s depts, corrections, prisoners.  He can work with anyone.

Q: has been volunteering since he’s been 18.  When you work together, great things can be accomplished.  He has been attending neighborhood group meetings for a long time.  Coalition or not, working together.

Yenni: lack of willingness for those at two opposite ends of spectrum to get together.  Her family is complete Trump fans, she can still meet with them and discuss things rationally.  Being able to sit down at a table with those who disagree with them is an important quality – everyone up here has that quality.

Yenni’s question: wants to see us use technology in an appropriate way.  Community engagement/understanding.  What to do to increase transparency?  (Directed at Q)

Q: Asks what information in particular.  Yenni responds with Hillside Beach.  Planning Board sends you a note if you’re an abutter.  With virtual meetings, we are expanding those who attend.  Need to open door to those who can get in.  Virtual meetings are way forward.

Yenni: that is passive, can you explain more on the outreach?

Q: well, that’s the answer.  [Yes, isn’t it!]

Etel: city has ARPA sessions that are not accessible by public transpo, at dinner time, not livestreamed, etc.  Provide childcare, make sure everyone has access to information.  People are not engaged because they feel that city is not paying attention to their needs.

Greg: media is a tool that should be used.  Would have satellite meetings in wards/districts.  Send them out mailing in their language.

Final statements – I will only type things of note.

Greg is the only candidate that is retired and has a lot of time on his hands.  Will vote for lowest residential tax rate.  Also lowest business tax rate.

Q: top-down from city administration.  We need to set pace and agenda.  Bubble up from the district councilor.  He’s a moderate centrist.  That’s what the time needs.

Etel: We have run a positive, grassroots campaign, including commonsense solutions that seek to benefit everyone.  Rumors about her family.  She is a registered Democrat, not a communist.  Climate change is real.  Her grandfather was a liberator from nazis and fascism in Albania.  Serving others is the highest good.  She has worked hard with humility and persistence because serving others is her purpose.  Compassion, inclusive solutions. 

Yenni: Running for city council – solutions that make the most sense financially and socially.  Tech/automation will change city and country as a whole.  We can save money, increase efficiency.  This will be her primary job – this job will go to someone who has time required to run second-largest city in New England.  You can book a 1-on-1 meeting with her at her website.  Open office hours next Monday.