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McWorcester: Does McGovern Run The City?

Thursday, December 05, 2013


“The real mayor of Worcester isn’t Joe Petty. It’s Jim McGovern.”

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.

To add to the intrigue, McGovern relocated his office to downtown Worcester in July.

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.  

Prev Next

1) City Manager's Position May Be Vacant

Michael O'Brien may leave to take a position in the private sector. O'Brien has been the proverbial glue that has held City Hall together.  O'Brien is a competent fiscal manager and keeps the peace among the City Council.
Top-level government pros are NOT likely to line up for the Worcester job. Petty will be on the hot seat to find  talent in the post-O'Brien era.
Prev Next

2) Economic Development Mixed Reviews

The recent series in the Boston Globe and the overview in GoLocal outlined the lack of success Worcester has had in creating a comprehensive economic development plan.  The results of the new construction has created some hope, but there lacks a comprehensive vision and the building seems to be developed in a vacuum.  Mayor Petty seems to be extraneous except for the ribbon cutting ceremonies. 
The biggest embarrassment was his lack of input into the casino process. Petty had no public opinion on the projects proposed in Worcester or the projects in adjacent towns.
Prev Next

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.

Prev Next

4) Telegram Closing?

Since John Henry purchased both the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram, there have been a series of indications that Henry has a strong desire to invest in the Globe and has not said a public word or even visited the Telegram. Media experts have prophesied that the Telegram could be rolled into the Globe - a Globe West edition.
This would leave New England's second largest city  without a daily newspaper. What has been deafening is Petty's lack of leadership on this issue.  Can you imagine Tom Menino or Buddy Cianci waiting for a decision to be made on Morrissey Boulevard?
Prev Next

5) Lack of Diversity in Worcester's Government 

As GoLocal previously reported, more than 40 percent of Worcester's population is a minority, but you would not know it by who gets the city jobs. Worcester has more than 1,600 full- and part-time city employees and well over 80 percent of them are white.
In almost every department, the number of white workers far outnumbers minorities; some departments are as much as 98 percent white. It is a startling disparity in a city known for its diversity. There has been no concerted public effort to change this by Petty.
Prev Next

6) Republican Governor Factor

Worcester may not be as wired to the Patrick Administration since Lt. Governor Murray resigned and returned to Worcester, but the Democratic Mayor can get his phone calls answered in the State House. 
The next Governor of the Commonwealth could be Charlie Baker. The Democrats are looking at a bruising primary between AG Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman, while Charlie Baker is looking like he may get a free ride through the GOP primary. Baker may not be so quick to be concerned about Joe Petty's phone calls.
Prev Next

7) Legacy

Every Mayor wants to leave his or her city better than they found it -- and wanst to put a mark on the history of the City. Some Mayors focus on schools and others on major developments.
Mayor Petty has yet to define his priorities and the second term is the time to unveil a game plan on why he was the man for the job.

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Iron Mike Farquhar

You've pretty much nailed the 'mother lode' of the problem Chris, - Big Jim McGovernment with his dirty fingerprints on everything.

He's the guy who two years ago stood before a videotaped debate and told the folks that 'he doesn't believe in our constitution...' WoW! Yet he has repeatedly taken the OATH to 'uphold, protect, and defend' it?

He is an elitist – a man who never had a civilian job in his life. He has no clue how regular citizens go about earning a living or planning for retirement; for him life is an endless stream of govt paychecks.

Christopher Pinto

Dem Congressman McGovern: "I Think The Constitution Is Wrong"

Jim McGovern's War on the Constitution

Mike, you missed that fact that his buddies have all been at the public feeding trough too with their no show jobs and all.

Not to mention his love of communist regimes...


Iron Mike Farquhar

He epitomizes the kind of anti-American reps and senators that Massachusetts has been sending to Washington – AND to Beacon Hill.

It's why we have more Americans UNEMPLOYED or on WELFARE now that EVER in our history.

These would-be Czars don't want to serve, they want to BE SERVED! So they've figured out how to grow convenient populations [plantations] of captive voters...

Edward Saucier

Chris Pinto is a T-party nimrod, right wing hater of liberals and democrats, and has never had a cognizant thought in his life, which automatically enrolls him into the Stupid Party aka the republican party. Kinda like AARP does to people when they turn 50 years of age. His ugly, dufus pal who runs around with a T-shirt with IRON MIKE emblazoned on it and backing every thing Pinto says is another example of the ever growing Idiocracy around us.

Does McGovern Run The City? What a moronic statement or question. If McGovern did run the City it would be in much better shape than it is now.

Iron Mike Farquhar

Well Ed, I see you're finally up for the day, and in need of medication...

Do you have anything either accurate or useful to add to the conversation? Remember a lot of grown-ups click in here...

Sandy Williamson

Ed, Great to see you're back with your usual high-minded, civil discourse.

Perhaps you can enlighten us regarding what a "T-party nimrod" is.

What, specifically do you find lacking with such people?

Is it because they believe that the basic laws of the United States should be followed? This, by the way, includes the PPACA.

Is it because they value their personal sovereignty more than the tyranny being forced on everyone from Washington, DC?

Perhaps it’s because they suggest that the Federal government is not a serious enterprise,,,that it is full of fraud, waste, and abuse?

Then again, you don’t need to leave the Commonwealth to see that every day.

Jordan Berg Powers

The constitution says that I am not a full American. It needed some improvements. I won't even get into how stupid this article is. No wonder people devoid of seriousness and relevance need conspiracy for importance.

Iron Mike Farquhar

Jordan, with tongue-in-cheek, I might suggest that upon first glance you are indeed a fuller American than most. So perhaps you'd like to explain your constitutional lament?

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