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.

[NOTE: NO ONE HAS SAID A NEW BURNCOAT – barring a ‘maybe‘ from Petty.  WTF.  THESE ARE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS, PEOPLE.]

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.)

One thought on “At-Large Candidate Forum 9-29 notes

  1. I adore you. Thank you.

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