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Paul Giorgio: Augustus is Out, Put a Mayor In

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Say yes to democracy in Worcester. Let us begin the discussion today about whether the people want a mayor rather than a city manager, urges Paul Giorgio.

Question. What is the second largest city in New England? Answer: Worcester. We all know that and it is a source of pride that we rank right behind Boston. In fact, when Springfield pulled ahead of us by a couple of people, we were upset.

Question 2. What is the largest City in New England not run by a popularly elected mayor? Answer: It is again Worcester. That’s correct. Springfield has a “strong mayor” and so does Providence, Hartford, Quincy, Fall River, Manchester New Hampshire and about 50 other cities across the region.

The need for bold change

Is it time for a change. Mike O’Brien is gone and Ed Augustus doesn’t want the job. So what is a poor city to do?

I say let us take a bold step forward for democracy. Let us finally stand up to the anti-democracy forces that have been holding us back as a city for years, because it does not suit their purposes. This democracy thing is a bold new idea.

Why do some feel that there should be democracy in Cairo but not in Worcester? It is the same old people, with the same old arguments. They claim it’s about management. I think it’s about leadership. It’s about the direction we want the city to go in. It is about empowering our citizens.

We need to build a coalition today to begin the dialogue. This dialogue can’t be limited to just one segment of our community. We need business leaders, labor leaders and neighborhood leaders to start the discussion.

Strong mayor vs. city manager

What are the arguments for a strong mayor? First it is democratic. Why can’t we have an elected leader for our city? It is inclusive, by that I mean you need to involve all quarters of the city and all groups if you want to get elected. The population of Worcester is ethnically diverse, the government is not. It will streamline the decision making process. Currently, the city manager makes the decisions and the council can hide behind him. In an elected mayor form of government, there is no place to hide from bad decisions. In an elected mayor government neighborhoods have more say. The West Side of Worcester is disproportionally more involved than the rest of the city.

What are the arguments for a continuation of the city manager form of government? The first argument is that you have professional management. That is not true in Worcester’s case. We have had only one professional City Manager and that was Tom Hoover. He was a nice guy, but a bad manager. Another argument is that a city manager form of government is scandal free. Again not true. We are still dealing with corruption in the Housing Department of Worcester over the May Street Development. And there have been other small scandals, over the 60 odd years that have been swept under the rug by a compliant media.

How did we get here?

The argument to change the charter back in the fifties was that there was corruption in City Hall. This drum beat was carried out by the Telegram & Gazette and West Side business interests, who were losing control of the city. Up until then the city of Worcester was run by Republican Protestant business leaders. With the end of World War II, America was changing and urban ethnic Catholic Democrats were coming into power.

How do you keep the old boy network of WASPs in control? Create a scandal, have the newspaper cover the supposed scandal and then have a group of White Knight businessmen from Wyman Gordon, Heald Machine, Crompton Knowles, the banks and Insurance companies come to the rescue of the poor uninformed ethnics.

Moving forward

This decision has hurt Worcester and isolated it from the rest of the Commonwealth. Why is there no exit from the Mass Pike here? Because it would have connected us to the rest of the state. It would have brought different people here. People who had strange sounding names and had different religion. Maybe they were darker or foreign born.

Why does Beacon Hill treat us as second class citizens? Because we have no clout.

Plan E government and Worcester are the last vestiges of the Nativist Movement in America.

Say yes to democracy in Worcester. Let us begin the discussion today about whether the people want a mayor rather than a city manager.


Paul Giorgio is a longtime Democratic Party Activist who has worked on numerous campaigns. He was a Lead Advance Person for President Clinton & Vice President Gore. He was Deputy Director of Special Events for President Clinton’s first Inauguration. He has been elected a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions and recently served as one of President Obama’s representatives on the Platform Committee. In 2013 he was chosen as a Presidential Elector. He is the President of Pagio, Inc., publishers of Pulse Magazine, Vitality Magazine and Worcester Medicine.


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.  

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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?
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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.
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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.
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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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