Stop Making Sense

The City Council has already approved a plan where a wife’s car could be confiscated if her husband uses it to solicit a prostitute.  They’ve requested red light cameras that would target the owner of a car, not the driver.

So it should come as no surprise that the Telegram is reporting that City Councilor Mike Germain is (once again) proposing that the police fine landlords when their tenants have an out-of-control house party.

“It makes perfect sense, I don’t care what anybody says,” says Germain.

If this is what sense looks like, then I respectfully request that Councilor Germain stop making sense.

Germain says that a similar ordinance is in effect in Narragansett, where he owns a house that he rents to URI students.  “Since the ordinance went into effect, however, he said he has had no problems because he makes it clear that his tenants or their parents will be responsible for any fine he is assessed under the ordinance.”

Why does it make sense to create another nuisance ordinance that college students can ignore?  Why make the landlord the middleman of fines when we could just fine the people who are actually responsible under existing ordinances?

I can’t decide whether Mike Germain’s primary goal is to draft another ordinance that will get the city sued, or whether the goal is to draft another ordinance that will backfire and then be found illegal by a court in three years’ time.

I have let myself be distracted by Councilor Germain’s boyish good looks, cherubic figure, and tendency to agree with me 30% of the time.

I can be distracted no longer.

I am tired that our elected officials continually propose ideas that will not work and — more importantly — either do not target the responsible individuals or lump the bad and the good into one category.

We deserve thoughtful laws that address problems (and those who cause them).  We should not be drafting nonsensical laws that do not punish those at fault when we already ignore existing ordinances that would address those problems.

WTHHLN: “Discordant Elements”

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts about What The Hell Happened Last Night.  It’s an experiment in heavily biased reportage.

The first part of last night’s City Council meeting was devoted to the proposed ballot question about changing the composition of the School Committee.

You can read the Telegram story, the Worcester Mag liveblog, and/or Tracy’s excellent notes about the School Committee member’s comments, City Council discussion, and her own remarks.  You can watch the meeting as well.  My thanks to all these sources for the quotes included in this post.

The way City Council procedure works (as far as I can tell) is that members of the public (or, rather non-City Councilors) speak first, the folks proposing the item speak next, and those opposing speak last.  Things were a bit out of order, because Councilor Lukes (opposing) spoke before Councilor Palmieri (in favor); she was in enough good humor at that point in the evening to joke that Phil wanted to come after her just so he could respond to her comments.

I think the School Committee members (who spoke first) made excellent points.

But, according the Laws of Worcester Politics, neither persuasive argument nor skilled oration will sway City Councilors who have made up their minds.

And, according to another Law of Worcester Politics, there’s nothing like a City Councilor speaking in favor of something to prove his opponents’ points.

To wit, Mayor O’Brien said that he wanted to have “discussion in the community first.”

This is, of course, why the City Council shut down proposals for open access forum during the first 30 minutes of City Council meetings, for all members of the public to be allowed to speak on any given issue, and for a question to be put on the ballot about charter change just last week.  Because nothing says “discussion in the community” like not encouraging people to participate in public meetings.

To further wit, Councilor Rushton said that North High would have been built in a quicker time frame (that is, less than 30 years) if there had been district representation.  Of course, the City Council handles capital items, and they’ve had district representation lo these 24 years.  So, blame the lack of speed in construction of the new North High on the City Council (and district representation).

Lest we leave out a district councilor,Councilor Palmieri made a similar point: that the windows at Lakeview School have chicken wire.  As Tracy notes, windows are a capital expense, and thus are in the Council’s court.  (Palmieri also had the most awkward quote of the evening — “I really do applaud the mayor having the onions to do this.”  I really have no desire to know about the Mayor’s — or any other politician’s — onions.)

Councilor Clancy said that “I think the rationale [for district seats] is you would get more people turning out for an election.”  Which is why no one showed up at a D3 candidate debate, despite there being four candidates to choose from in a highly contested race.  I would be pleasantly surprised to see high turnout at the D3 preliminary election.  District council seats have not brought the promise of more voter turnout; why would district school committee seats do anything different?

Considering the councilors in favor of the proposal did such a great job proving their opponents’ points, you’d think the opposition could just rest.

But Councilors Toomey, and especially Eddy (!) and Lukes, did an excellent job making their point.

Eddy said that this was tantamount to asking for charter review (“If you’re going to have a discussion about charter, you can’t be just a little bit pregnant”).

He also expressed his openness to bring questions driven by the public to the ballot, saying that he would be the first to sign if “you want to have a discussion about what should be the official nut of Worcester.”  (I am all about putting a question on the ballot about who should be the official nut of Worcester.  Yes, I’m in the running!)

But it was Councilor Lukes who was by far the most pointed in her remarks and who proved most quotable.  And she used quotes (like “shining symbols of partnership”) from Mayor O’Brien’s inaugural speech and dismissed them as “good speeches.”  She took the Mayor’s ostensibly collaborative approach to task by saying, “Here we started this whole process of having voices heard and having collaboration and having partnership by doing just the opposite.”

Further Quoteable Lukes —

  • “Is this an election-year headline?  It came out of the blue.”
  • “The reason I heard for having the change was to get diversity, minority representation and to allow people an easier route to be elected in this city. Nothing about the governance of the public schools.”
  • “there has to be some deficit we’re correcting in the ways the schools function”…”So what are we correcting?”

The arguments that changes should originate in the people, involve extensive public comment before being pursued, and should stem from deficiencies in the current state of affairs did not sway fellow Councilors, and the (non-binding) question will be put to the voters in November.

Aside: Mike Germain was the fifth councilor to speak, and the first to apologize for the way the question had been handled.  Then he went for the provocative — “I for one think the City Council is too large.”  He then suggested removing some at-large and district seats.  Which would, of course, mean that he would be the first out.  So much for the self-preserving nature of politicians!

In his remarks, Councilor Clancy said that he “wouldn’t call any of the city councils I’ve served on ‘discordant or discourteous or uncooperative.’  We got many, many  good things done.”  (The title of this post is a quote from him, saying that this is what people said would happen when district councilors were introduced.)

By the end of the evening, however, Councilor Clancy probably wanted to eat his words, or at least the word “discordant.”

The contentiousness between Councilor Lukes and Mayor O’Brien had only just begun.

I’ll continue with an account of Lukes’ Secure Communities proposal later this evening.

Someone deserves an honorary Toastmasters membership

I attended some of last week’s City Council meeting, and MG had a typically awesome quote that I scribbled on the back of a library receipt (for this book, which proved highly addictive).  He said it at about the 25 minute mark, about the Downing Street closure, and, while there are quote marks around this, it might not be an exact quote:

“Something might be missing in my head … and that’s not a hard thing to do.”

Say what you will about Mike Germain, but he seems like one of the few people in this city who’d be able to fully appreciate Astérix et Obélix contre César without subtitles.

Last Night’s Council Meeting

I didn’t catch all of last night’s City Council meeting, but here were the highlights, at least from my home viewing:

1) Blind item: which elected official left the meeting and returned with a cup of tea that clearly came from an establishment across the street from City Hall?  Yes, during the meeting.

2) The liveblog unfortunately did not feature the MikeGermain moment of the evening (about two hours in): “just a quick story…which I know will drive everyone nuts.”  And then Mike committed what could be political suicide in Worcester: he admitted he once lived in Auburn.  (Also, Mike, you drive some of us nuts all the time, but in a good way.)

(The story itself was about how he lived on a road right over the border from Worcester, and it was hilly and treacherous in the winter, and would see the Worcester snow plows from his house and told his then-wife that they really needed to move to Worcester.)

He then championed DPW: “with all due respect with every person who works for the city of Worcester…, if we start cutting public works…the phone will be ringing off the hook.”

3) At one point, Commissioner Moylan was discussing signage in the city.  They spend about $45,000 on all signs (not just street signs) in a year.  FYI for those interested.

4) Sean Maher of the Local 495, who is so ubiquitous I probably see him more than I see my own mother, spoke, and every time people referred to him (or he referred to himself), my husband said, “What is that guy’s last name?  Moore?  Maher?” and then proceeded to rage against the silent r.

5) At some point, Bill Eddy remembered that he was the chair of the Youth, Parks, and Recreation Standing Committee (to be fair, he might have forgotten because they haven’t met once this year) and rose to ask about the golf course.  Oh, and the ball fields.  No comment.

Saving the drama for one’s mama

In what can only be described as the year’s biggest disappointment (yet) to Worcester pundits and bloggers, city councilor/blog mascot Mike Germain will not be running against Phil Palmieri for the D2 Councilor seat.

“Phil and I are friends,” Mr. Germain said. “We both sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. There’s no question that some things were said that night that got us rather emotional. If I had waited a day or two, I probably would have had a different take on things and not said some of the things I said or even taken out papers (for District 2). I’m running for an at-large seat and that’s that.”

Phil’s response? 

“It happens.” 

(Which could pretty much be the motto of Phil’s terms on the city council.)

My response, in multiple parts:

1) Just when I’d finally gotten Asia out of my head, MG puts it back in.

2) People keep talking about how the Council is so divisive.  Isn’t it nice when you see a case of folks who put aside their differences for the greater good?  (Or, rather, so that they can have a slightly easier re-election campaign?)

3) The D2 race was going to keep me in posts all through the fall.  A debate would have kept me in Germainisms for a month.  Now what am I going to write about?

4)  I think the smoking man was behind this.

5) Thank goodness MG is still running for at-large, because the city as a whole would be diminished without comments like this:

Mike Gemaine can run, but he can’t hide. He would lose even if he ran for dog catcher.

(I just want to note that as I put Pandora on to write this post, the MG theme song came on.  Coincidence?  I think not.)

MikeGermain on What It’s Worth

It’s like someone answered a prayer I didn’t even make: Mike Germain was on the 200th episode of What It’s Worth.

I’ve previously talked about how much I love What It’s Worth, and I think we all know how I feel about MG.

Unfortunately, this was not the best interview TC has ever done, because we’ve heard the “I think Worcester’s inferiority complex comes out of the late 70s” speech about fifty times before, and because Mike Germain, whose forte is the small, self-deprecating quip, doesn’t work quite as well in the long-ish form of the 30 minute interview.

Here’s the best of MG and TC:

Mike Germain: “I’m Irish with a French name.  Everybody knows I’m Irish.  Look at the baked potatoes in my face.” [from the 8.55 mark]
Mike Germain, talking about Worcester – “It’s a small Kansas City” [from the 20:55 mark]
Tom Colletta, also talking about Worcester: “It’s not that bad here, but it costs to park” [from the 23.15 mark]
I love the Proust Questionnaire portion of What It’s Worth, and MG was at his MikeGermainiest at that part of the interview.  Seriously, tell me if any of these was really a surprise to you:
Favorite TV show: Gilligan’s Island
Favorite actor: Pacino [because, on WiW, you can only name “De Niro” or “Pacino” in this category]
Favorite actress: Tina Louise [though, to be fair, it seemed he was stumped]
Favorite sport: hockey [Did you need to ask?!?]
So, the interview is probably only necessary for the Mike Germain completist. 

Germain in for D2

In what is possibly the best news of my life (or at least my day), Mike Germain will be running for District 2 City Councilor.  He kicked off the campaign with the following:

“There is no question in my mind that the City Council and city of Worcester will be better off without Phil Palmieri.”  [in today’s Telegram]

Let’s hope that we have some more choice Germain quotes in the next couple of weeks, because the Germain haiku challenge is ON!

That’s right, the contest is to create a haiku using (or inspired by) Mike Germain quotes.  The best haiku will win the grand prize, which will likely be a book I pick up out of the free bin at the library.

For example:

If Mike Germain was
The man on the grassy knoll
I will eat my hat.

I’ve had more vices
than anyone
— regrets, I’ve
had more than a few.

This is going to be the best Council race ever.

Germainism Of The Decade

Unfortunately, my devotion to covering public works meetings meant that I missed last night’s Mike Germain quote of the decade.

Yes, I pretty much dub every other quote of his is “The Quote Of The Decade.”  However, this really is it.  Before holding the tobacco control amendment under personal privilege, MG began to say the following before being cut off by the Mayor —

I’ve had more vices than anyone …

I know the mayor had to cut him off because once you hold something under personal privilege, you can’t say anything more.  (Though there was at least one report requested after the personal privilege hold.  Don’t ask me to explain that.  I think there was some politeness/let’s-not-drag-this-out-past-the-next-meeting stuff going on.) 

But I think at least one person watching at home was hoping for Germain to follow that sentence up by bursting into an impromptu Queen sing-along — “Mistakes, I’ve made a few…”

MG will not be at the next city council meeting, which prompted a commenter called mary to say the following on Daily Worcesteria:

What does Germain possibly have that is more important than being at the City Council meeting?

I’m sure Dave Goldberg could say it better than I could, but what could Germain have that isn’t more important than being at the City Council meeting?  Maybe he’s washing his hair that night!

The real problem, as I see it, is that the city experiences a marked decrease in self-deprecating one-liners every time Mike Germain doesn’t attend a City Council meeting.

I really don’t have an opinion on the is-he-or-isn’t-he-in-the-pocket-of-Big-Tobacco non-issue, because — unless there’s some massive subterfuge going on — you can just check out his campaign filings online.

Goodness knows why I like Mike Germain.  He’s like a less intelligent, really lazy version of Danny Blue.  Without the British accent.  Or, one hopes, the grifting.

But any man who can consistently give us quotes like “I always have something to offer” will always be a favorite of this blog.

It’s Time for a New Category

We’ve long needed a category devoted to the wit & wisdom of Mike Germain, and now we’ll put those quotes in the Germainisms category.

I missed last week’s (3/15) Council meeting, which brought us the excellent “An idea has just intrigued me for the first time tonight…”

The previous week, there was also the excellent “You don’t see it. It’s not sexy…but it got done.”

In honor of National Poetry Month in April, I’m going to sponsor a contest for the best haiku composed entirely of Mike Germain quotes.  I haven’t decided what the prize is…though something tells me I’ll be the only contestant!  Details will follow in April.

MG, I wish I knew how to quit you

In order for this post to contain something worth reading, I would like to note that the Telegram now has a one-stop shop for all comments, which I found a bit distracting yesterday but which I think will ultimately prove addictive.  It lists the comments on the top of the page, and then has some statistical information (comments most agreed/disagreed, top commenters, etc.) at the bottom of the page.

Now, on to the meat of the post.  Shaun Sutner wrote a whole article about applause today, which included the following:

One current city councilor, Michael J. Germain, said school officials should be more forthcoming about what happened at Goddard.

“I’m totally disappointed in the way it’s been handled,” Mr. Germain said. “We need to be as transparent as possible.”

Now, a reader might quite reasonably ask why, of all the city councilors in this town, Mike Germain was quoted in this article.  Was he the only one who’d return Sutner’s phone call?  Perhaps no one else would speak on the record?  Luck of the draw?

No, people.  It’s been at least a week since I’ve seen a good Germain quote (“It sounds crazy, I have a tough time talking about this without laughing at myself” was the last pretty good all-purpose Germain quote) and Sutner knew he had to hook me up. 

Thank you, Shaun.

It just so happens that I agree with MG on this particular issue, but at this point it really doesn’t matter whether he does or says anything that I agree with.

I’ve been listening to a great book (that is, the reader, Rick Adamson, is so good I can’t tell whether it’s him or the book or both), A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein [highly recommended if you liked We Need to Talk About Kevin], and there’s a passage that really reminds me of Mike Germain:

Sure, I’d had plenty of opportunities to fall out of love with my son: he’d dropped out of school, he’d run away a few times, he or some of his friends had stolen two of Elaine’s opal brooches for reasons that he never quite made clear.  His senior year in high school, he got busted at a high school kegger with five ecstasy tablets on his person, and another time loitering by the town elementary school in the vicinity of two known marijuana dealers, Dan Herkel and Shmuley Gold, whom I remembered carpooling home from Hebrew school ten years earlier.  Drug-free school zone, kids!  Pay attention to the signs!  Dan and Shmuley both got probation, but my lawyer brother, Phil, did some maneuvering for us, and Alec got released with a (skin-tingling) slap on the wrist.  He went to Hampshire scared straight.

And then, three semesters later, he dropped out.

Yet is it too ludicrous to say that of all the people in my life – mother, father, brother, even my wife – is it too ludicrous to admit that Alec is my one and only?  Others have been better to me, and others have tried harder, but there’s nobody I’ve ever loved more.

The last paragraph pretty much sums up how I feel about Mike Germain politically.  There are definitely people I agree with more often than I do with MG.  There are most assuredly folks who actually do things for me (or even respond to my phone calls and emails).  There are people with far better sartortial sense (looking right at you, Phil Palmieri) and an exhaustive knowledge of Robert’s Rules (Paul Clancy).

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t vote for MG because of the Meadow Lane thing, I couldn’t believe his rah-rah review of the city manager, I couldn’t stand that his committee filed a lot of really interesting elections ideas.  You name it, he’s done it.  But there’s no politician in this city I dig in the way I do Mike Germain.

The only thing that would make me adore MG more than I already do would be if he decided to fundraise for the next City Council race via a zazzle store full of t-shirts with various MG quotes.  “I’m still confused“, anyone?