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Election guide: the Worcester Preliminary
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Hey all! This post is not some big long treatise on the state of things. If you’re looking for that sort of Worcester Sucks production, check out my piece from Sunday: “Attack the lowlife abusers”. People have really responded to this passage in particular:
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.
Please consider a paid subscription so I can keep putting in the days of work those sorts of big long pieces take :-)
Today’s posting however is utilitarian in nature. There’s a preliminary election on Tuesday. It has the potential to be a sleepy one—the day after Labor Day is not ideal. The more people that turn out to vote, the better. Polls open Tuesday morning and close at 8 p.m. Early voting has already started, and it’s as easy as a quick trip to the library. You can do it today, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., or tomorrow, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Worcester Public Library’s main branch, 3 Salem St.
All of the five races in this year’s preliminary are regional in nature. There’s no city-wide race on the ballot until the election in November. These elections only decide which two candidates advance to the general. There are candidates who very much should advance and ones which by the grace of god will have their political careers ended on Tuesday night.
Where do you vote, and for what race exactly (if any)?
If you’re unsure if any of these races apply to you and your home address—a special concern this year as the School Committee has changed to a district format—the city’s website has a quick and easy Where Do I Vote tab. For instance I just did it and I learned I’m in “School Committee District C.”
This business of two different district maps is messy. The City Council had the opportunity to align its district system to the School Committee’s, making it way less confusing. Just one map! They did not do that. So now we’re stuck with two different district systems and two maps—numbers for the City Council districts, letters for the School Committee districts. It sucks. The council’s failure to follow through on changing its system turned a well-intended reform on the School Committee side into a quagmire. Welcome to Worcester, I guess.
This is what the School Committee district map looks like...
And this is what the City Council map looks like...
So close and yet so very, very different. While most people will have at least one race they can vote for in this preliminary, there’s a very small section of the city that apparently will not be able to vote for anything: those in the Council District 3 and School Committee District C overlap zone. It’s a very small sliver of real estate that’s more or less south of Grafton Street but east of Broad Meadow Brook. Perhaps more than anyone, it’s worth it for people in this general area to check that Where Do I Vote tab.
And for November, it’s good to remember that mayoral candidate Khrystian King tried to clean up this mess! Mayor Joe Petty, along with a majority of the Council, preserved it. Back late last year and earlier this year, King pushed for the Council to seriously consider changing its own format. An order from that time—to request the School Committee and City Council districts be parallel—is still on the tabled list of City Council agendas (21d on the most recent). It was tabled first by Candy Mero Carlson, then by Joe Petty and then by Sarai Rivera. It will likely stay on that tabled list for years.
The confusion has already produced one unfortunate result. The Chamber of Commerce skated its way into running unopposed for one of the district seats. Alex Guardiola, Worcester Sucks-famous for writing a Chamber of Commerce letter against ending the cruel practice of homeless encampment sweeps, is the only candidate running for School Committee District D. Absent some sort of write-in campaign he will have a vote on the School Committee. Great!
But now to the preliminary races in question! I’ll explain each in some detail in the subsections below. But TL;DR, here are my picks: Jenny Pacillo in D1, Rob Bilotta in D2, Katia Norford and/or Luis Ojeda in D4, Etel Haxhiaj in D5, Nelly Medina in School Committee DE.
District 1 City Council
Jenny Pacillo / Larry Shetler / David Peterson
My pick: Jenny Pacillo
This is a race between a well-meaning mother (Pacillo), a Chamber of Commerce-type guy (Peterson), and a man who once worked for Buddy Cianci (Shetler). The first choice, for me, is the well-meaning mother. Then, for wild card factor, I’d go with Buddy Cianci’s Urban Planner as my #2. My last choice is the Chamber of Commerce guy. We’ve far too many Chamber of Commerce guys and not nearly enough well-meaning mothers.
This seat is being left open by sitting D1 Councilor Sean Rose, who was fine I guess. Sort of disappointing but not a villain. No great loss but certainly better than Rick Cipro, his opponent in the last election, who wouldn’t you know it has some thoughts on the recent shooting at the Caribbean Carnival.
In Pacillo, we have someone who can be drawn to progressive causes and has the right intentions. For instance, at a candidate forum earlier this week, she brokered the idea that large-scale landlords should be taxed on their properties as commercial entities. Good idea! At the same forum, we saw in Peterson a person more inclined to be an enemy of progress. He supported returning cops to schools, spoke against inclusionary zoning and anything else that would burden outside developers, and, when asked about the unhoused, said “we always need to make sure we’re looking out for the homeowner.” So... yeah. Larry Shetler was one of the cranks who spoke out against the Lutheran Mt. Zion shelter for unhoused families earlier this year. At the forum, he also doubled down on his resistance to doing anything about the unhoused which he thinks would compromise “our beautiful neighborhoods.”
It’s also telling that, by nature of being a mom who cares and also having a personality and sense of humor, Pacillo has been the target of some ugly attacks. Among the Crank Facebook Cohort, which has a strong presence in District 1, Pacillo has become a persona non grata by way of an anonymously posted video of an appearance on the Seltzer Time podcast in which she said she would have fun as a city councilor. At the forum for some ungodly reason the moderators brought the video up, and it resulted in a man having to be ejected from the room because he couldn’t stop himself from shouting a stream of nonsense at Pacillo. If Pacillo quit the race, she would have good reason. People are absolute psychos. Especially, it seems, in District 1 and District 5. It’s a wild coincidence that the psychos are most active in these two races, and have the most antipathy for candidates who are women. What are the chances! We’ll get to D5 later. It is much the same story.
For more on the forum, I’ll direct you to Nicole Apostola’s blog. She’s been doing a great job reporting on these things.
If for some reason you can’t choose Jenny, Larry is a wild card who would be entertaining. While Peterson seized on the video question to condemn Pacillo (while earlier saying he wouldn’t “take himself too seriously” and is “not a politician”), Shetler’s response was wonderful: “Listen, I’m a sinner,” he said, then he changed the subject to whether or not we should have a strong mayor or the current Plan E system.
District 2 City Council
Rob Bilotta / Candy Mero-Carlson / Phil Palmieri
My pick: Rob Bilotta
This one is extremely easy. Rob Bilotta is a fantastic local activist with a long track record of doing good things, especially in the realm of accessibility issues. A wheelchair user himself, Bilotta wants a Worcester that is not so nightmarish for pedestrians. He thinks the interests of residents should be put above the interests of developers, which is perhaps the main distinction between him and the incumbent, Candy Mero-Carlson. If you’ll remember, Mero-Carlson supported hiring Eric Batista for City Manager without a search citing only one real reason: “the developers like him.”
Mero-Carlson has ruled the East Side as a petty tyrant for years. She is cruel and vindictive and prone to hissy fits. A real Lord Farquad. She’s one of four city councilors who can be relied upon to vote against progress at every opportunity. A corrosive force in Worcester politics, bolstered by a husband who uses the local AFL-CIO to keep her in office.
The third person in the race is Phil Palmieri, who is pretty much the same person as Candy Mero-Carlson, just from a different side of Shrewsbury Street. They have been engaged in a years-long war of attrition over inscrutable disagreements. The war boiled over earlier this year in a surreal spat over a transparently corrupt parking lot project.
On the campaign trail this year, Palmieri has been nothing short of hilarious, though. So we should thank him for that. First, he made huge signs that say nothing but his name. In petty fashion, he’s placed a lot of those signs right next to Mero-Carlson’s signs. Especially on Shrewsbury Street. Not only does this give the impression they’re running mates, it shows they’re playing to the same audience. With any luck, they cannibalize each other and clear a path for Bilotta.
There’s also been a hilarious bit of “opposition research” on Palmieri floating around Worcester internet, undoubtedly spread by Mero-Carlson. In 2018, Palmieri got a citation for illegal dumping when he was caught on video taking his garbage to Plumley Village. It’s Worcester’s version of Alice’s Restaurant.
Palmieri’s most recent chess move takes the cake, though. Check this out:
Incredible. Absolutely stunning. I simply need to know how this got approved! And who is doing all these very disrespectful and not at all funny photoshops.
District 4 City Council
Luis Ojeda / Katia Norford / Ted Kostas / Maureen Schwab / Maria Montano
My Pick: Katia Norford or Luis Ojeda
District 4 isn’t quite so clear as District 2. There’s no obvious choice like there is in D2’s Bilotta, but there are three very obvious bad choices. Ted Kostas, Maureen Schwab and Maria Montano are psychos, frankly.
Luis Ojeda is, I’m told, sitting District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera’s handpicked replacement. Rivera’s been good but not great. Progressive in tone but less likely to be progressive in action. Someone the mayor can rely on when push comes to shove. Ojeda would likely be much the same. Much more preferable he gets the seat than any of the three psychos, but not exactly exciting.
The Telegram has short profiles on the five candidates.
District 5 City Council
Etel Haxhiaj / Jose Rivera / Edson Montero
My pick: Etel Haxhiaj
I mean. I don’t know what to tell Worcester Sucks readers about this race I haven’t already said. It’s Etel all the way. Jose Rivera has been awful and Montero would be equally awful if anyone cared to listen. The two serious candidates in this race are Haxhiaj and Rivera. One has supporters who doxxed and defamed a child for no reason and then took no responsibility at all for any of it. The other doesn’t. One candidate knows and cares about street safety and roadwork.he other doesn’t have a clue but is still angry. One candidate cares about community engagement in the long term planning process of the city. The other thinks it’s a “gotcha” to accuse her of such. Very clear choice.
More than perhaps any other race, the District 5 race gets at what I feel is the core problem facing Worcester right now: whether or not we’re going to consider the unhoused human beings. I wrote about it at length in my essay Sunday:
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.
Please vote for Haxhiaj if you live in District 5. It’s her or we let the cranks win on this fundamental question.
District E School Committee
Nelly Medina / Kathy Roy / John Patrick Reed
My Pick: Nelly Medina
Nelly Medina has for years been a stalwart community organizer and activist and would do well in this role. Kathy Roy is one of the city’s premiere Facebook Cranks. A miserable, hateful person who should not even be allowed to sniff political influence. John Patrick Roy is... I really don’t even know to be honest. Tracy Novick has a good recent piece in her blog about this preliminary. Nicole Apostola blogged out some comments from a public forum (Roy didn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict. Was probably too busy being racist on Facebook).
That’s all folks! Happy voting! Before we move on, I’d suggest bookmarking the collection page for all Neal McNamara’s campaign reporting at the Patch. It’s been stellar.
Odds and ends
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Don’t have anything novel to say about the shooting at the Worcester Caribbean American Carnival event on Sunday. It is terrible and shouldn’t have happened and I am glad no one was killed. That really should be the only take on this story! But the Crank Community has of course been offering a different perspective. Smash the link for Richard Cipro’s take and then here’s this bit of hysteria from Elite Crank Colleen West.
That we live among these people is a constant source of shame and embarrassment for us all.
Someone should check on the swans at Institute Park!! Lets save these swans, people. And the ducks. So help me god if the Wretched Duck is in danger. The city will burn if anything happens to my precious Wretched Duck.
You may have seen City Manager Eric Batista criticize Spectrum on price increases but let’s not forget about how he balked on municipal broadband and lied about it. These two things are very related!
Ok, that’s all for today, folks. Please go vote please please please please!!