slides: Worcester City Council Candidates With The Most Money
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Welcome to the strange world of campaign financing, where a candidate who raised a bunch of cash in a previous election cycle can bank it for a future campaign. That’s what Palmieri, a six-term district councilor, has done – and quite legally so.
In 2010, Palmieri raised a total of more than $31,000. But during the 2011 council campaign, he spent a total of only about $6,400. No other council candidate entered the 2013 campaign cycle, on January 1, 2012, with anywhere near the amount of campaign funds that Palmieri had in the bank at the time.
So far, Petty has raised almost twice as much as Palmieri during the current campaign cycle. But the eight-term at-large councilor and first-time mayor had only $13,000 left to spend as of mid October. That’s when candidates were required to file their latest finance reports with the Mass. Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
While Palmieri is only a district councilor, he is definitely a hot-button guy. And the district he represents contains the most amount of economic development and business activity.
District 2 does includes a part of the relatively poor, still-struggling Main South neighborhood. But it also stretches and meanders to include the city’s med-tech zone, which contains WPI’s Gateway Park, Abbott Bioresearch Center, two UMass Memorial Health Care hospital campuses and UMass Medical School.
Both Palmieri and Petty have yet to respond to GoLocalWorcester phone and e-mail requests for interviews for this article.
‘An abortion of a Plan E system’
If you think the Bay State’s and federal government’s campaign-finance laws can be strange, consider the way Worcester elects its mayor. It’s nothing short of Byzantine.
The mayor, who has no legal power under the city’s charter, also serves as chair of the City Council. In order to do that, however, he or she must get elected as both mayor and as an at-large councilor. If they fail to do so, they would not become mayor. In that case, the mayoral candidate with the second most amount of votes would become mayor - if, that is, they were also elected as an at-large councilor.
To further complicate matters, the mayor is not directly elected by the voters to the School Committee. So if the top mayoral vote-getter does not also win an at-large Council seat, they would not be able to serve on the School Committee.
Welcome to the City of Worcester's charter. Because of the way this city has elected its mayor since the mid '80s, the current charter is no longer a Plan E form of government. Plan E calls for a city council of seven or nine members elected by the voters and a city manager appointed by the council. The council chooses one of its own as the mayor, who chairs both the council and the school committee.
In the early 1980s, Paul Morgan, of a prominent and wealthy Worcester family, chaired the city Charter Commission that concocted the current charter. Years later, his son, Philip “Flip” Morgan, didn’t mince words about the legal sausage that his dad’s Commission had produced.
"What we have now is an abortion of a Plan E system," the younger Morgan declared.
When it comes to Worcester’s mutant charter, truer words may never before have been spoken.
Steven Jones-D'Agostino is chief pilot of Best Rate of Climb: Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media and Radio Production. He also produces and hosts The Business Beat on 90.5 WICN, Jazz Plus for New England. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRDAgostino.
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