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“Attack the lowlife abusers”
The unmitigated rightward drift of homelessness discourse in Worcester and everywhere else
Hello everyone! Happy Sunday morning. This is a post I’ve been working on all week. The scope kept expanding to the point I felt it was best to release it as a “Sunday story.” Something to take your time with. I’m proud of it! While I could have released a lesser version of it on Thursday or Friday it ended up being a very good idea to wait.
First off though, some homies have come together to host a charity event for my lovely lady at Redemption Rock on Sept. 17, 5-8:30 p.m. Here’s the Facebook event! Come say hey! I suppose I’ll plug the GoFundMe for Katie’s medical bills one last time. We set an initial goal of $10,000 and now a few weeks later we’re looking at a little more than $32,000. The security of having that sort of money going into these next few months versus not having that money is just... It is two different states of mind. Cannot stress enough how much of a morale boost it was and how much anxiety washed away because of all the people who chipped in. If you are among them, I’ll never be able to say thank you in a way that properly conveys just how much I mean it.
Aaaand like I do every single post I’m putting my hat in hand asking that you volunteer to chip in a small amout of money monthly or yearly to keep Worcester Sucks humming.
Now to the main event.
“Attack. The lowlife. Abusers.”
Painkiller is a show which dramatizes the sociopathy of a pharmaceutical company and the family which owned it. Hitting the streaming service on Aug. 10, it has since become a hit! The villain is unambiguously the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma. Each episode opens with a real life story of a real life (white) victim of Oxycontin, told by real life parents in real life suburban homes. The series relishes in smearing the Sackler name. That’s great, of course. The Sackler family are real life bad guys! But it makes no connections to the current day, really, save for ongoing court cases.
There’s one scene from that show, in the first half of Ep. 4, which I want to spend some time on. A van full of “homeless” serving as “mules” for a “dealer” flips over in the gloriously American tradition of cinematic car crashes. The deaths occur off screen.
Cut to Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler reading a newspaper in his palatial mansion. His uncle, Arthur Sackler, is shown across the room reading the same paper. Long dead at this point, he’s a figment of Richard’s imagination. The show uses the dead-uncle-in-the-room device to illustrate the internal conflict of Richard Sackler as he commits mass murder via pills. What he thinks about it versus what he thinks his dad would think about it.
Imaginary Arthur, reading from the paper, says: “‘Police chase leads to van flipping with 17 homeless who were being used as… OxyContin mules.’”
He looks over at Richard, seeing how the head of the Oxycontin company feels about that fact.
Richard: “I can read.”
I searched to see if the van flip was a real thing. No direct hit. The third result however was a document hosted on the City of Philadelphia’s government website titled “Encampment Resolution Pilot Report.” It’s a 2019 study, presumably commissioned by city officials, about how to best close the city’s Kensington Encampment. Where the van flipping scene in Painkiller may or may not be real, this report is very real, as is the homeless encampment in question. It pinging so high on my search of Painkiller dialogue is found poetry, in a way. Why would a homeless encampment report come up on a search about a show on Netflix? That’s sort of the central question of the piece. We’ll get there. First, more from that Painkiller scene.
Arthur: “‘Six dead... multiple amputations.’”
Richard: “I can read.”
Arthur: “‘Oxycontin, an opioid as strong as heroin.’”
Richard: “Yeah, I can read. I’m reading the same article you are.”
The scene cuts to a clip of found TV footage: Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia): “A Boston area nursing home was robbed at gunpoint for Oxycontin…” A search of that line doesn’t yield a direct hit either but the first result is close enough: A 2011 article in the New York Times titled “Pharmacies Besieged by Addicted Thieves.” A real thing that happened.
Abuse of Oxycontin was, at the time, a consensus point of concern. Bipartisan. Mainstream. Back in the 2010s, you could call it an “epidemic” and most would agree. The people on the TV called it that, at least. It was a “public health issue.” Police officials said “you can’t police your way out of this.” I was a reporter for a local paper back then. I dutifully repeated those sorts of quotes from local police chiefs and public health officials. It seemed important they said stuff like that. Like there was a “new approach” developing. But back to the scene.
Arthur: “This will not simply evaporate into the news cycle, Richard. This is real. This problem is real.”
Arthur: “‘Oxycontin mule’ is not an endearing phrase that you want attached to our product.”
Richard: “No… attacking the problem could be somewhat self harming, considering we are arguably the problem.”
Arthur, indignant: “We’re not the problem! We’re simply the supply! Attack the demand. Attack. The lowlife. Abusers.”
Richard stares over his newspaper into the middle distance of the empty room. He slowly nods his head. An aha! moment. Throughout the rest of the series, Purdue Pharma officials attack the “lowlife abusers” in myriad ways. In the show, it pretty much worked. It also worked in real life! But there’s a key difference. The show positions “attacking the abusers” as garish behavior by sociopathic elites. In real life 2023, “attacking the abusers” is a consensus position. What we watch the fictional bad guys do on Netflix is happening in City Halls across the country and it’s widely celebrated.
Back when the Sacklers were doing the mass murder, the mainstream political consensus flirted for a few years with the idea that an addiction epidemic was a public health issue—when the victims included middle class suburban whites, of course. Now, however, we’re done with that. In 2023, even our most progressive city governments can’t seem to treat “the unhoused” as real people, and “addict” is back to denoting a “less-than-human” status. No one is willing to draw the connection between the “public health crisis” of the early 2010s and the “cities under siege” narrative of the early 2020s. There’s no effort to compare the two. Entirely unrelated in the discourse, but in reality entirely the same. The legitimately horrific stories we heard in ~2011-2019 illustrating the promising-college-bound-white-kid-to-sports-related-injury-to-opioid-addiction pipeline are gone now. The stuff of fiction. In 2023, the college bound white kid has been replaced by visions of the subhuman tent dweller who lowers property values and shits on the sidewalk and makes an area “unsafe” by existing. Addiction is not a “public health issue” anymore it is a “public safety issue.” We are no longer saying we “cannot police our way out of this problem.” Cruelty is a good thing now. Somewhere along the line between 2011 and 2023 the mood shifted from sympathy to hostility.
It is totally fine at this moment in time for someone to watch Painkiller and go ‘wow the Sacklers were so evil’ then take a walk through a public park and call the cops to report someone living in a tent. A person can believe ‘the Sacklers were wrong to treat people as less than human’ and at the same time believe ‘homeless people must be removed from my sight first and foremost.’ You can’t profit off of addiction like the Sacklers. Villains! But the addicted people being somewhere I can see them? Also villains. Any effort to get such people out of desperate circumstances cannot take precedence over an effort to move them somewhere further away from me. The tent is not so bad as my seeing the tent.
Valuing profit over people is bad if it’s some company run by rich people. However, valuing profit over people is perfectly fine when it comes to something like home equity. There’s no contradiction. It’s fine. How many of the hundreds of people in Millbrea, California who turned out last week to protest the conversion of a hotel into a shelter also watched Painkiller and nodded along righteously? Quite a few, I’d imagine. How many Painkiller watchers were among the people who cheered along as the mayor of San Francisco condemned a federal court for disallowing encampment sweeps? How many Sackler haters in Cambridge relished in the news the police cleared out Central Square?
In the current moment, it’s totally fine to hold two ideas at once. One: the Sacklers are evil people who did criminal things with Oxycontin. Two: The unhoused are a stain on quality of life and need to be removed from sight. There is no contradiction between these two ideas. Where in the 2010s “regular people” were the victims of a company which turned “regular people” into “addicts,” it’s now the 2020s. “Regular people” are now the victims of the existence of those addicts. This is a fine thing to believe, and no one has to say it out loud. No one on the TV is saying it out loud.
People who believe the “addicts” should be treated as human beings, however, are quickly demonized. Easily lumped in with the overall villainy of addicts existing. It is an increasingly radical position to want to help the unhoused and an increasingly mainstream position to want to make them disappear.
No one wants to hear that homelessness is the product of a sick society. No one wants to hear that the solution lies in mending the sickness of the society. No one can imagine there’s any more money for housing and addiction services. Absolutely no one at all wants to hear that making the problem more invisible makes the problem worse. Even less people want to reckon with the uncomfortable truth that the problem is on an exponential curve. No one at all wants to reckon with how much closer they are to living in a tent than they are to living like the Sacklers. No one wants to consider how climate change and an untethered stock market are convening to rapidly change the rules that dictate being a good boy in school means you get to have a house forever. Least of all people with houses.
Seriously interrogating the cultural assumptions of the “bipartisan” mainstream as it relates to homelessness leads you down a dark path. It’s difficult to spend much time there. As with most social ills, it’s easy to blame the right wing. ‘If it weren’t for the Koch brothers…’ But homelessness is not abortion. It’s not gay marriage. There is no split along party lines. The Democratic Party is not The Good Guy. Homelessness is a product of empire—necessary for the maintenance of it, I’d argue—and is thus a bipartisan consensus. Not up for debate. No SNL skits. No Rachel Maddow segments. Homelessness is the billions shuffled to Ukraine. The “accounting errors” in the Pentagon budget. Weapons to Saudi Arabia. Yemen barely existing in the popular imagination. Drone strikes in Somalia. War with Mexico becoming a cool idea. Homelessness is outside the realm of the politics on the TV. In this way, it is one of the many boomerang effects we feel seven decades into this American empire. Solving it would be relatively cheap and easy here in the seat of said empire. But to solve it requires admitting the federal government can solve social problems. Not good! Not when the social problems are useful for the empire.
How do you maintain the largest military in world history on a volunteer basis without these problems?
The enlist-or-live-in-poverty-forever recruitment machine requires poverty forever! The last time they tried conscription it got a little dicey. Homelessness, like many social ills, exists because the fear of ending up homeless in the minds of people for whom its a real possibility is useful. It serves the goal of empire. Obscuring that fact is a bipartisan consensus, which also serves empire. It’s equally useful for empire when people in a city like Worcester or Boston or San Francisco arrive at the conclusion that it’s the unhoused people who are the root cause of homelessness. This is encouraged!
It is not at all useful to connect homelessness to empire. This is discouraged. No one on the TV could say something like that without getting fired. However a respectable Democrat can go on the TV and talk about how the unhoused are laying siege to cities. It’s fine. People agree.
This post is about Worcester I promise! All this stuff about empire and the people on the TV and what you can and can’t say is about Worcester—perhaps more than most places. A town like Newton does not feel the coercive pressure of empire like Worcester does. The army recruiters don’t go to those high schools like they go to North High. In fact it’s useful to empire that people in places like Newton or Holden never witness evidence of empire at all. People who live in those places are fine with that, on the whole. They watch Painkiller. They nod along when the Sacklers are made villains. They also fight every single affordable housing proposal that comes along with the same righteousness. Not here. Not in this community. However much they think “something should be done” about addiction and homelessness in the abstract that “something” must not happen in a place they can see it.
At the District 5 City Council debate on Wednesday, it became obvious that the race is a referendum: are the unhoused people or blight? Do we help them or make them more invisible? In Etel Haxhiaj, we see the perspective that the unhoused are people that deserve to be helped. In Jose Rivera, we see the push toward invisibility.
The Rivera Campaign’s point of origin was, arguably, the fight over the Blessed Sacrament homeless shelter. Late last year and early this year, neighborhood residents fought the shelter on the grounds it was too close to them. At one “community meeting” in December, the Patch quoted a man saying:
"Why should we have it in our community and not somewhere different?" one man said, opening up public remarks on the plan. He added that the homeless would bring in "trouble, drugs and stuff."
One of many similar complaints aired at these meetings. They all amounted to “why should I, a regular person, have to see unhoused people?” Rivera’s campaign nakedly caters to the sort of people asking these sorts of questions. In announcing his shift from At-Large to District 5 candidacy back in May, Rivera listed only a few specific reasons. The clearest of them had to do with Blessed Sacrament explicitly. Per the Telegram:
In his statement, Rivera said the handling of the temporary homeless shelter on Pleasant Street showed there needed to be a better approach to helping the homeless while keeping the concerns of residents and businesses in mind.
It was a clear message: where his opponent supported the homeless shelter, he was going to side with the “concerns of the residents.” Helping the unhoused versus making sure they can’t be seen.
Given the majority of active voters in Worcester live in the sort of neighborhoods that are more similar to Newton and Holden than the poorer neighborhoods in this city—the ones where people are renters mostly and coincidentally (?) do not vote—there were some moments in the D5 debate that were deeply worrying. To get there, we have to first talk about Boston for a second.
On Wednesday, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that her administration will introduce an ordinance which would ban homeless encampments at “Mass and Cass,” a small area in Boston that has become a sort of physical avatar for the gaping hole in our state’s social safety net.
Per Tori Bedford at WGBH:
The ordinance will include an increased police presence and “enhanced enforcement” to block tents and encampments “not just in the Mass. and Cass area, but around the city,” Ojikotu said in an interview with GBH News. “These tents and encampments actually shield criminal behavior and victimization.”
The city has enlisted mobile outreach teams to connect with people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder in the area, Ojikotu said. Ahead of the clearing, the city has added individuals to its case management system and reached out to shelter providers with requests to hold space and increase capacity.
“A lot of people there are living with substance use disorder and they have nowhere else to go,” (Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Dr. Bisola Ojikotu) said.
The ordinance will include an increased police presence and “enhanced enforcement” to block tents and encampments “not just in the Mass. and Cass area, but around the city,” Ojikotu said in an interview with GBH News. “These tents and encampments actually shield criminal behavior and victimization.”
I’m no expert in Boston municipal politics or the history of the Mass and Cass encampments, but it is plainly obvious this is an administration buckling to reactionary pressure and giving into the philosophy that the unhoused are blight before they are human beings.
This Boston news is in line with a national rightward drift on unhoused issues, deftly illustrated in a recent piece in The Nation by Ned Resnikoff. As he writes:
Disgust with unhoused people is at least as old as the modern American homelessness crisis, which emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as housing prices climbed and cities buckled under the long-term consequences of urban renewal. But the right’s recent efforts to capitalize on people’s revulsion of their unhoused neighbors are novel in their scope and intensity.
The recent uptick in encampment bans and sweeps has been accompanied by a retreat from real solutions to homelessness. The main policy target of the far right’s campaign has been Housing First, a strategy that prioritizes moving unhoused people into subsidized permanent housing, along with social services as needed.
The opportunity to fearmonger is ripe, and District 5 challenger Jose Rivera has relished in it. His opponent Etel Haxhiaj is one of the few people in this city who earnestly try to help unhoused people. It is so tragically rare to see a Worcester city councilor approach the subject from the framework the unhoused are equally valuable human beings to those with housing. There is a real concern she will be punished for treating the unhoused with basic human dignity. The fearmongering could really work here. It needs to be called out for what it is and we need to provide an alternate framework which makes the scapegoating and dehumanization obvious. But your average middle class homeowner is so deeply primed to get reactionary once in the arena of property value. The niceties of liberalism quickly disappear when they rub up against home equity.
Let me articulate this as clearly as I can: In this city it is a battle to convince “regular people” that “the homeless” are real human beings. The gut reaction is to treat them as less than. A threat. A blight.
Rivera is trying very hard to do that sort of fearmongering, using both the pariah status of the unhoused and Haxhiaj’s audacity to treat them like real human beings. At the forum on Wednesday, it was obviously a major focus. He led with it, really, as part of his opening statement:
I have laid out a platform of safe streets and sidewalks, public safety, encouraging business growth, and finding real solutions for homelessness to name a few ... I have opposed a temporary moratorium on homeless encampment sweeps because I don't believe the answer to helping one group of people is to eliminate another and exasperate (sic) the problem.
Helping the unhoused is a detriment to the housed in his imagination. The cruelty simply must continue! A few weeks ago, Rivera put out a press release illustrating this penchant for this reckless fearmongering:
“With a temporary moratorium on sweeps in place, Rivera said, homeless camps could be erected anywhere in Worcester, including District 5 at such popular family and youth spots as Hadwen Park, Beaver Brook Park, and Logan Field, along sidewalks, or on private property such as Webster Square Plaza.”
Later in the forum, a question about homelessness made the scapegoating even more clear. One of the moderators asked “what role the City Council plays” in a worsening homelessness crisis. Rivera said:
“I do not think that the moratorium for homeless encampment sweeps is the answer, you know, I think, for me I think it's a little inhumane to let people sleep in a tent outside. I think we can find a better solution to offer them with wraparound services, because a lot of our homeless, you know, suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues, and I think we can find better solutions to help them.”
Haxhiaj responded, deftly pointing to Rivera’s bizarre use of “inhumane.”
“What I think is inhumane is that we don't have permanent supportive housing, we don't have temporary bridges to housing... What I think that we need to do and I want to clarify some misinformation that's been out there, I have never called for a growth, distribution, or any increase of homeless encampments. That is a lie. What I have called for is comprehensive solutions that begin and end with housing. Currently, we don't have either.”
The reason camps exist is because we do not have housing. Period. It’s that simple. Rivera is trying to paint a picture of an opponent who wants people to live outside. Really, his opponent is trying to get people into housing, and rightfully acknowledges that encampment sweeps run counter to that goal. Rivera, like almost everyone in this city, refuses to engage with that idea. In this willful ignorance, they take the bait of a very concerted national effort to get people to feel that way. As described in the piece in The Nation I quoted from earlier, homelessness and earnestly helping the unhoused are cudgels used by the right to blast “progressives,” especially in cities.
If any one person deserves credit for sensing the opportunity, it would have to be Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Though now best known for his crusades against “wokeness,” Rufo came to prominence as a pundit in Seattle, where he wrote a series of essays arguing that homelessness should be addressed through more aggressive policing, not more social services and housing subsidies. As he put it euphemistically in a 2021 Heritage Foundation report, homelessness is “a human problem, not a housing problem.”
I quickly skimmed that Heritage Foundation report. It’s a lot of drivel. But it hammers hard on the addiction and mental health struggles contributing to homelessness, not so much in an effort to fix it but in an effort to say this is a thing that cannot be fixed. More from The Nation:
Why did Rufo and those who followed adopt homelessness as their pet issue? Partly because it was there: Widespread, visible homelessness in places like New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco was politically salient to the locals. And the right could plausibly argue that homelessness was especially prevalent in liberal cities because of progressive governance, not in spite of it.
To a tee this is what Rivera is trying to do! Homeless encampment sweeps are attractive because they make the problem disappear from sight—for a short time in a specific place—and for someone like Rufo or Rivera that’s enough. The cruelty of it is fine. The cruelty may indeed be the point.
More than anything, Rivera’s made the District 5 election a referendum on two different views of the unhoused: blight or people. Do we make them even more invisible or do we try to solve the problem? Is it “I don’t want to see tents” or “we should have more homes”? I am anxiously awaiting the outcome. If you live in District 5 please vote on Sept. 5 and Nov. 7. against the fearmongering. It’s so ugly and in this country it is so effective.
But this is not a Rivera problem, not a D5 problem, not a Worcester problem! In this as in all things city politics is simply a microcosm. A Petri dish. Making sure Rivera’s not elected is a good thing. An election outcome which shows that helping the unhoused is more popular than criminalizing it is a good thing. But it’s not going to change much. Rivera is useful as a symbol of the rightward drift because of how garish and ham-fisted he is about it. But he’s not unique. His thoughts are in line with the city manager’s, most of the city council’s, the police department’s, the public health department’s... etc etc.
This mentality is so pervasive we’re starting to see it in some unlikely places. Among people we might loosely call “progressives.” People who earnestly want what’s best for their communities. It’s not just The Cranks who think this way, unfortunately. Yesterday, local organizers held an event at Castle Park in Main South which was innocuous in the activities described—volunteer work and a community cook out and a clean up—but peculiar in the way it was advertised. The event was called “Reclaiming the Castle.”
Reclaiming from what? The park is not being privatized or demolished. The park is just a park. This is not “Cop City” in Atlanta. The event was organized to “reclaim” the park from the unhoused. It wasn’t subtle. Such a word as “reclaim” connotes a villain. The villain was unhoused people. The became abundantly clear in a 30 minute video posted to Facebook promoting the event. It opens with an “ambassador” yelling at people in the park. “Why are you in my park?” he says. Not your park. My park.
SOS Worcester, a group which does harm reduction work with the unhoused, attended the event. They handed out Narcan and leaflets with useful information. Their presence was somewhat contentious, I was told. Afterwards, the group released a statement I found quite poignant:
“In building solidarity, we think it is important to separate and clearly identify those ideas that come from the oppressor and are harmful from those ideas that reflect the needs and interests of the oppressed. For example, the purpose of today’s event, according to its main organizer, is to “reclaim” Oread Castle Park from being “taken over by addicts.” We think this is a bad idea—an idea that increases the harm experienced by people already marginalized to the edges of society. ... We can understand why someone would be upset about not being able to use this park, but turning that into open hostility against people who use drugs and/or are homeless instead of trying to work out a solution that works for everyone only reveals their prejudice and bigotry. No amount of sugar-coating with nice-sounding labels can hide this fact from scrutiny.”
Back to the idea which opened this post: the villains of the Netflix TV show Painkiller are such because they operated with a lack of regard for the people they were harming so long as it made them money. But it is a villainy which uncomfortably mirrors an idea like “reclaiming” a park from “addicts.” In the two, there’s a similar lack of regard. The Sacklers saw profit extraction, the Park Reclaimers saw blight. Neither saw human beings.
SOS Worcester tied the issue of addicts/unhoused people in city parks to the long historical roots of opioid abuse:
“Ever since Beyer (the aspirin company) mass-produced diacetyl morphine, named it “heroin,” and marketed it around the world 1898, powerful and well-respected companies and government agencies have shared in the spoils of the ever-growing catalog of commodities based on opium. Therefore, even if communities embrace harm reduction tactics on a daily basis, it is important to address the opiate epidemic and the housing crisis in a way that reflects an understanding of their root cause. Simply imploring the government to arrest or displace people by force will only make matters worse, more expensive to address, and more deadly.”
That’s the rub, really. That “root cause.” Seeing this as one small product of empire. Seeing neighbors who use drugs and do not have homes as neighbors. Victims of a problem as opposed to the problem themselves. As fellow human beings.
Empire greatly encourages the opposite way of thinking. Villains like the Sacklers, themselves beneficiaries and drivers of empire, benefit greatly from “regular people” assuming this same mantle of villainry. What more could the oppressor want than a populace complicit in oppression? The impulse to treat the unhoused or the “addict” as somehow less than human is one of the great problems of our time and it is so widely held in Worcester as in most places and it’s hard to imagine a future in which that problem does not get worse.
More than anything, I’d love to see a Worcester where that sort of thinking isn’t tolerated. We are not close. The results of the D5 preliminary will show whether we’re getting closer or further away.
A reading series on cruelty in Worcester
I’d consider the above piece the fifth in a line of substantive essays on homelessness in Worcester detailing the pervasive cruelty in this city. As I said last time I put this list together, it could be a short book at this point (and maybe it should be?). Here are the other four:
“The quote says a plan”
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this but I do have to address it. At the forum this week, Rivera attacked Haxhiaj as having a “plan to eradicate single family zoning in District 5.” (We should be so lucky, IMO). It was an obvious lie and it was presented in bad faith as a “gotcha.” And he said Worcester Sucks is where he found this gotcha. Here’s a transcription of the moment:
Rivera: I just have a question for Etel. Did you speak to any of the D5 residents in your plan to eradicate single family zoning in District 5?
Haxhiaj: I thought we were sticking to facts this evening, but apparently, we're not. First of all, I haven't eradicated anything.
Rivera: Your plan. I said “your plan.”
Haxhiaj: I literally have no plan. I have talked about the fact that we are in a housing crisis and that we need to look at rezoning our city. Multifamily zoning is important. Being able to have housing, as you mentioned, for seniors and others is important. To be able to bring something like that to Council, there needs to be some really big processes, one of which is engaging the Planning Board. I do want to mention that the Worcester Now|Next program and plan, which has included a lot of you who have participated has mentioned that the city of Worcester has very restrictive zoning practices, including single family zoning. We're not at that place yet where we have even come up with a plan. When that comes, I will speak to residents, I will ask them how they feel about expanding the ability for us to have housing, but that time hasn't come yet, so there is no plan, so please do not spread misinformation.
Rivera: Well, I'm just going by the quote she made on one of the Council meetings and the funny thing, one of her colleagues, well, not colleagues but, someone - a blogger that she's friends with mentioned it in his blog how she snuck that in about abolishing single family zoning in District 5, so I'm just going based on her quote, I'm not saying, the quote says a plan, I didn't say she's working on it diligently. It just says that's in the plan. It's in the future. That's all I'm going by.
Haxhiaj: If you're talking about Red Metro, which is a, ah...
Rivera: No Metro.
Haxhiaj: ...which is a frenetic blog that has been attacking me relentlessly, there is no plan, again. We follow public process. If there is a plan to change and reform our zoning laws, that requires extensive public process. There is no plan to change the zoning laws at this point in time.
Rivera: Well, that's good to hear. But I think that it wasn't Metro, I think the blog is from Worcester Sucks? It's called Worcester Sucks...
I went back and looked up the source of this wild claim that Haxhiaj has a “plan to eradicate single family zoning.” Turns out he was pulling it from this one from last May. This passage in particular:
Now we just have to figure out how to advance this dynamic toward something that would really start making a dent in the problem, like abolishing single family zoning. Haxhiaj did sneak the idea into her remarks last week. And while the pitchforks would come out if someone were to propose it now, you could have said the same about inclusionary zoning five years ago.
It’s like Rivera—or whoever fed him this line—read “pitchforks” and pulled out their pitchfork. It is so stupid.
All Haxhiaj said is abolishing single family zoning is something that might be worth considering in the future. That’s it! Rivera presented this as her having a “plan” to do so, and as such assumed she has the god emperor-like powers needed to single-handedly enact zoning reform in Massachusetts
This bad faith fearmongering backfired big time! But it didn’t stop his campaign team from doubling down on it. On Friday they released a very weird and stupid statement explaining the attack. Read it if you want. Cartoon campaigning. Very confused and unintelligible. At the end of the day it only serves as an advertisement for the idea of zoning reform and also for my newsletter. Thanks for that!
Odds and ends
Long one today so I’ll keep this short. Please consider a paid subscription if you haven’t!
Thanks to Wootown Woman for the transcription help. She has a full transcript of the D5 debate over on her site.
Election season is in full swing. There’s a dizzying amount of forums coming up. Nicole Apostola has a running list over on her blog, which is a great read.
The annual Worcester Caribbean Carnival takes place today! One of my all time favorite things about Worcester. The parade starts at 1:30 p.m. outside City Hall and ends at Institute Park where there will be performances and vendors and such until 6:30 p.m. For more on the Carribean Festival might I direct you to this piece I wrote about it last year. One of my favorites.
Last Sunday, Katie spoke about her career as a tattoo artist at the Poet’s Cauldrom event in the White Room. It was great! It was both our first times at the Poet’s Cauldron but certainly won’t be the last. A very nice event.
While everything else was happening this week there was a protest of Bishop McManus’ psycho war on gender. Local LGBT organizer and podcaster and sharp dresser Josh Croke has some great pics up from that demonstration.
Think I’ll leave it there for today. Got some exciting pieces in the works! Stay tuned. And please please please go vote Sept. 5 and Nov. 7!