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Local Lawyer Makes Play For Worcester City Council Seat

Friday, March 08, 2013

 

Worcester attorney Michael Gaffney has thrown his hat in the ring for this year's municipal election, making a play for one of the City Council's six at-large seats.

The 41-year-old lawyer said the city's eroding tax base, shrinking middle class and undermanned police force were a few of the concerns that led to his decision to run for an at-large seat.

"I find it disturbing that the City Council seems to constantly be reacting to events rather than controlling them," he said.

Gaffney said that attracting professionals back to the Commonwealth's second-largest city, putting more police officers on the street and increasing oversight by elected officials on the city's operations are three major issues that Worcester faces, and that he hopes to tackle if elected.

Change in thinking needed

Now a divorce, personal injury and bankruptcy attorney with a law office on Linden Street in Worcester, Gaffney grew up in a single parent home in Webster. He attended Bay Path Vocational High School and put himself through college at Worcester State while working overnights at Cranston Print Works in Webster, where he was a union member. He went on to earn a Master's from Assumption College and a law degree from New England School of Law. Gaffney also enlisted in the Army National Guard, where he attained the rank of Captain.

One big asset Gaffney hopes to bring to City Hall is a change in thinking.

"The City Council seems to do the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result," he said referring to the big, blockbuster development projects the City has pursued that failed to deliver the big results and revitalization they supposedly promised.

Gaffney pointed to the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets, which succeeded the Worcester Center Galleria and have now been demolished to make way for the reopening of Front Street, CitySquare and the Theatre District, as a prime example.

"We just went full-circle on these things and every time I turn around there's a new project that's going to save Worcester and it never happens," he said.

"At some point, you've got to have better solutions than these."

Gaffney lauded the abilities of City Manager Michael O'Brien, and said the public exam school that Mayor Joseph Petty proposed investigating for Worcester is a great idea. However, the lack of provisions to protect against the disruption to the City's tax revenues caused by UMass Medical School's purchase of property at the Biotech Park and the news that the Hilton Garden Inn owes the city roughly $700,000 for parking after a report found that the City's garages were losing money were two examples Gaffney cited in making his case for greater involvement and oversight on the part of the Council.

Growing the ranks of the Worcester Police Department is also a top priority for the Council hopeful.

"No development will succeed downtown until people feel it is safe," he said.

Candidates over party allegiances

While this year's City Council race will be Gaffney's first campaign as a candidate, he is the campaign finacne manager for Jen Caissie (R-Oxford), who holds the 7th District seat on the Governor's Council, and campaign finance manager for Justin Brooks, Republican candidate for state Rep. in Worcester's 4th District in 2012, and has been involved with a number of other campaigns as well.

Although he has worked with Republican campaigns in the past, Gaffney himself is unenrolled, and he will be running as an unenrolled candidate this fall.

According to filings with the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), he made a $125 contribution to the conservative Activate Worcester County Political Action Committee last April, which raised some eyebrows, but Gaffney said he and his wife attended the group's initial event, where Caissie was speaking and Gaffney had the chance to meet former Republican Senator Scott Brown, and he made a donation. He has not made any donations to Activate Worcester since that time, and he is not a member of the group.

"I've been supportive of people who I believe are trying to make a difference," Gaffney said, as opposed to party-based allegiances.

Gaffney's full contribution records with the OCPF tell a more nuanced tale, with donations to Democrats, such as Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Worcester County Register of Probate Stephen Abraham and Worcester At-Large Councilor Frederick Rushton, in addition to Caissie on the Republican side.

Gaffney's campaign kick-off event is scheduled for next Thursday, March 14, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at O'Connor's Restaurant on West Boylston St. in Worcester.

 

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