McWorcester: Does McGovern Run The City?
Thursday, December 05, 2013
So says Chris Pinto, vice chairman of the Worcester Republican City Committee, referring to the rapid and unexpected ascent of Ed Augustus to interim city manager over the last week.
“The whole thing stinks. It’s all too cozy.”
It’s been an interesting week for Worcester and for Augustus, a former state senator and former staffer for six-term Rep. Jim McGovern. His recommendation for the position by Mayor Joe Petty, took many by surprise, as few had mentioned him as a potential candidate in the days after city manager Michael O’Brien announced his resignation last month. One week later, city council voted in virtual lockstep to approve Augustus for his new role. Most recently, Augustus served as the head of Governement Relations for The College of the Holy Cross and for a short-term was a guest MINDSETTER™ for GoLocalWorcester.com
This turn of events adds to the widespread belief is that being friends with Jim McGovern seems to pay off.
McGovern has had a reputation for lending a helping hand to former staffers find new work in public posts, long before Ed Augustus became a sudden household name in the area. Besides Augustus, a number of his top staffers have gone onto high level positions.
In some cases it hasn’t always gone so well.
In 2012, Sheila Burgess – who was once a McGovern consultant – was reassigned from her post as the director of Massachusetts Highway Safety after her driving record revealed seven accidents and four moving violations. McGovern recommended her for the $87,000 / year gig, which Gov. Deval Patrick later called “a screw-up.”
Currently, another McGovern protégée, Tim Murray was named the CEO of Worcester’s Chamber of Commerce earlier this year. Murray, who had previously campaigned for McGovern in his victorious run against Peter Blute in 1996, was initially the center of buzz as a possible replacement for O’Brien, before professing no interest in the job.
That this has all one down in “the most partisan city in the state” is no surprise to Pinto.
Despite having a different political affiliation than Pinto, Councilor Konnie Lukes would seem to agree. She is on the record as calling the move “blatantly political,” and would prove be the only naysayer in a city council that otherwise voted unanimously. Phone calls and e-mails to Mrs. Lukes for comment were not returned.
Among those who voted in favor: Joseph C. O’Brien, a former McGovern staffer.
Friends In Washington
Paul Giorgio, a longtime Democratic Party activist, isn’t so quick to see a conspiracy. “I don’t think McGovern controls anything.”
Instead, Giorgio sees the relationship between Augustus and McGovern, viewed by some as an embodiment of insider politics, as a positive. “If you want to get things done, you need a partner in Washington.
“You can’t get things done solely on the backs of Worcester tax payers. You need federal dollars. You need state dollars. $10 million to renovate City Square, most of that money isn’t coming from Worcester. It’s state money. Funding for JetBlue, that’s federal money, that’s FAA money.”
Giorgio says Augustus will bring “fresh eyes on issues and problems in Worcester. “He’s a logical choice.”
Then again, he may have been city council’s only choice.
“What talented businessman in the private sector would quit their job to make less money putting up with partisan politics?” asks Pinto. “Who would do that?”
“Whoever would, would have to kiss McGovern’s ring first.”
“I don’t know anyone else locally who was interested,” Giorgio concedes. Giorgio wrote a strong column in support of Augustus this week in his MINDSETTER™ role for GoLocalWorcester.
The People Are Voiceless
That voters in Worcester have had no choice but to watch McGovern play puppeteer with the city’s public officials sticks in the craw of Pinto, and many others. However, he laments that the electorate’s only current recourse is to “email their councilors and voice their displeasure. They can show up at meetings.
“That’s about it.”
Related Slideshow: 7 Questions Worcester Mayor Petty Will Need To Answer
The following are seven big questions facing Worcester Mayor Petty in his secon term in office.
1) City Manager's Position May Be Vacant
2) Economic Development Mixed Reviews
3) New Council
The new City Council will have its own personality, while the old council failed to debate or discuss - and too often voted in block.
A number of the council members just elected have promised to be more proactive. This could be a challenge for Petty -- or an opportunity to drive proactive change leveraging new ideas and new energy.
4) Telegram Closing?
5) Lack of Diversity in Worcester's Government
6) Republican Governor Factor
- Breaking: Congressman Jim McGovern Released from Custody
- Arthur Schaper: James McGovern(ment) Comes To Worcester
- McGovern’s Spokesman Responds to Drinking Allegations
- Breaking: Congressman Jim McGovern Arrested
- NEW: Congressman McGovern Fights for Commuter Benefits
- McGovern and Bill Bradley Rally Worcester Businesses for Warren
- Congressman McGovern Talks Democratic Unity this Election Season
- Congressman McGovern: My Time Behind Bars with George Clooney
- Jim McGovern’s War Chest: Loaded with PAC Money
- McGovern Pushes for Action at Worcester Gun Violence Forum
- Ed Augustus: Why McGovern Should Focus on Sudan
- NEW: Congressman Charges that McGovern Was Drunk
- Augustus: Why Requiring an ID to Vote is a Bad Idea
- Ed Augustus: I Guess I’m A Snob Santorum
- Ed Augustus: No Silver Bullet to Fixing High School Drop out Rates
- Ed Augustus: No Time for an Alternative to Mitt Romney
- Ed Augustus: What’s Fueling High Gas Prices
- MINDSETTER ™ Ed Augustus: Mitt Romney Corporations Aren’t People
- Paul Giorgio: Why Ed Augustus Would Be a Great City Manager