Worcester Public Art- Town Hall Meeting TONIGHT

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
5:30 PM-7:00 PM

Worcester Pop Up
38 Franklin Street

You’re Invited to the Public Art Town Hall Meeting!
The City of Worcester is working to encourage and promote the enrichment of the cultural landscape of our city through aesthetic improvements of public spaces,uniting artist, and community, and inspiring civic pride. Come learn about the recent public art installations as well as hear the results of our creative space survey results.

Attendance is FREE! Come share your ideas about how we can bring more Public Art to Worcester!
RSVP requested but not required. Email:

The Public Art Working Group (PAWG) is made up of artists and art lovers who are committed to supporting public art in Worcester. You can learn more about the Public Art initiative at www.Worcestermass.org/PublicArt.

Highdrant High-Five

Last week this blog reported on a very short new fire hydrant on Mill Street.  The same day that it was reported here, it was also reported to DPW via an online customer service request.

A few days later, the problem was fixed.  Here’s what the hydrant looks like now:

Whether they’re fans of this blog, were going to fix that hydrant anyway,  or are just super-responsive to residents’ service requests, I’d like to thank DPW for quickly taking care of this safety issue before repaving that sidewalk and before the snow starts falling.

(I should also note that this isn’t the first time that DPW has responded quickly when made aware of a hydrant problem.  In 2012 this blog posted photos of an extremely short hydrant on Upland Street, and that hydrant was very quickly replaced.)

For short firefighters

If you’ve travelled Worcester’s wild west at all this year, you’re undoubtedly acquainted with the seemingly endless road work going on along Mill Street to replace the water supply pipes.  One hopes they’ll be done with the work before winter sets in.

While replacing pipes, they’re also replacing hydrants — which should be a good thing, and usually is.  Except for this hydrant, in front of 534 Mill St., which has been installed with its connections only a few inches off the level of the sidewalk pavement.

MillHydrant1 MillHydrant2

Evidently the lessons from Upland Street haven’t been learned.  This hydrant, if left as is, will disappear entirely the first time we get a foot and a half of snow.

How, then, should we vote?

Someone asked me if attending many debates had changed the way I will vote this election.

After a few debates, my mind had been changed.

There was an incumbent I had not previously voted for. I was impressed by his understanding of many issues, his ability to point out what is (and — just as important — what is not) possible for an elected official to accomplish, and what is and is not legal according to current state law. I appreciated his thoughtfulness in the answers to questions.

Similarly, there was a challenger I had not been planning on liking, but I was impressed by the depth of his answers — and I was shocked with how much I agreed with him.

After a couple more debates, I found I’d crossed those candidates off my list, as well as many others (for both city council and school committee).

I wish I could say I’m a well-rounded voter who looks at candidates’ views on numerous issues, and that I decide who to vote for based on a complicated matrix.

The issue of safety, especially school safety, has taken up much of the conversation, both on the city council and school committee sides.

I came across the easiest metrics possible for whether I could vote for a candidate:
If a candidate is running for city council but really wants to run for school committee, I will not vote for that candidate.
If a candidate thinks that police officers should have a presence in elementary schools, I will not vote for that candidate.
If a candidate thinks that police officers should be teaching in high schools, that there should be a WPD version of JROTC, or that police in schools is an acceptable alternative to guidance or adjustment counselors, then I will not vote for that candidate.
If you mention metal detectors in your campaign materials, I will not vote for you.

You might have different criteria, different metrics.

Ultimately, I vote for candidates who are well-informed, thoughtful, and caring.  I don’t have to agree with a candidate on all issues, but it’s terribly important to have elected officials who are prepared, willing to learn, and — above all else — willing to stand for what is right.

I find voting terribly private, so you won’t see any endorsements on this blog, save one —

Vote for Tracy O’Connell Novick for School Committee.

I can’t think of an elected official who works harder, who does more research, or who gives more of a crap about the schools than Tracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing remarks -I will only note stuff of interest

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

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

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

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


WRRB/Chamber District Council Debate

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


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

Opening statements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kostas: needs to study through this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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