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To search or not to search...
That is the very dumb question
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When the School Committee appointed Dr. Rachel Monárrez back in April to serve as the new superintendent of the city’s school district, it was hard to properly underscore—and perhaps harder, fully explain—the marked shift in political vision which precipitated the decision.
The committee, which experienced a near wholesale change in the previous municipal election, had engaged in a full, earnest national search for the most qualified candidate. They contracted a search firm, put together a selection committee, held public hearings on community priorities for a new superintendent, and culled a list of applicants down to four finalists. Committee members then took it upon themselves to extensively vet the finalists. Along with the customary public interviews, they visited the candidates’ home districts, where they shadowed them and interviewed colleagues. They reported their findings publicly before making the final vote. As a result of this process, the committee chose from a pool of four people who would each make entirely worthy superintendents.
The key word here, though, is “earnest.” The school committee earnestly wanted to see what sort of talent the position could attract, and they earnestly went about the process of soliciting and evaluating said talent on merit. They did what we like to call “their due diligence,” which is unfortunately quite remarkable around here. For a school committee, the job of appointing a superintendent is bar none the most important responsibility. The Worcester School Committee, for the first time in a long time, took that responsibility seriously. They did not, as they had in the past, gone through the lazy motions of a national search before handing the job to the most politically connected and powerful administrator in the district. That’s how they ended up with former Superintendent Maureen Binienda, and they weren’t going to make the same mistake. Toward the beginning of the process, School Committee member Tracy Novick stood up at a meeting and said in no uncertain terms that there was no one currently working in the school district who was qualified for the role. It was a loud and unflinching shot across the bow—we’re doing things different this time. If you think you’re next in line for the throne, you’re wrong. We’re going to get this right.
Just as a school committee’s most important job is appointing a superintendent, a city council under Worcester’s Plan E system of government is chiefly responsible for appointing a city manager. The manager is the real administrator of city government and the council is best thought of as a board of directors. While the council can set priorities, goals and expectations, it is the manager with hands on the wheel. Just as the School Committee was tasked with appointing a new superintendent, the City Council is now tasked with appointing a new city manager. But are they following the School Committee’s lead in earnestly doing their best to find the right candidate? Doesn’t look like it, I’m afraid.
No, it appears the City Council is still stuck in the quagmire of cronyism and political jockeying that the School Committee so resoundingly smashed its way out of earlier this year. We need only look to the City Council meeting Thursday to see that a majority of the council, including Mayor Joe Petty, simply do not care to take the search process seriously. They don’t really want to see what kind of talent $260,000 a year (after a generous package of perks are added) can attract, because they’ve found their guy in Acting City Manager Eric Batista. And that’s that.
To that end, Petty took his own shot across the bow this week. He signaled quite loudly that the council is not going to take the search process seriously. Where Novick said ‘we’re doing things different,’ Petty very much said ‘we’re doing things exactly the same.’ But while Novick chose the novel method of simply saying what she meant, Petty’s been a tad more cryptic—relying for the most part on the tactic of “holding” agenda items, so in vogue of late—and it’s going to take some good old fashion contextualizing to properly explain just how brazenly he’s laid his cards on the table. So we’re going to start with a moment from the most recent City Council meeting when it really became evident what Petty was up to.
On the agenda at the meeting Thursday was an order from City Councilor Khrystian King, the chairman of the municipal operations subcommittee, which has been tasked with overseeing the city manager search process, or lack thereof. The order itself is a dense and difficult read, as you can see…
But it roughly translates to “let’s hire a firm and get the search going.”
Petty announced at the beginning of the meeting that he was going to “hold” this item, meaning it would be taken up at the next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 12. King quickly stood up and said “Mr. Chairman, I intend to speak on 8a.” the number of the agenda item.
Petty’s reply was curt. “No, we’re going to hold it. We’re not speaking on it. So it’s held. It’s held. So…” he said, trailing off.
“I would like to speak on that,” King replied. “I know that per the rules, it’s to the discretion of the chair. Is that right?”
“You can ask for a report if you want,” Petty said. “But we’re not speaking on it.”
King then asked City Clerk Niko Vangjeli to clarify the rules and Vangjeli said it’s at the mayor’s discretion. “If he doesn’t allow you to speak then you’re not going to be able to speak,” Vangjeli said.
King again requested to address the issue. Petty again said no, we’re holding it. We can talk about it at the next meeting, he said, but for now, “there’s no reason to—”
“Well there is,” King said, cutting him off. “This is a timely matter and we’re not meeting again until October 12. There’s been discussion about expediting this. It’s worthy of discussion, Mr. Chairman.
“I get that, but the item is held. It doesn’t matter. It’s held. The timeliness, I understand that,” Petty said.
“But you have the ability to allow me to speak,” King said.
“No. I think it’s closed. There’s no reason to speak on it,” Petty said.
King eventually got City Solicitor Mike Traynor to confirm that Petty did have the ability to allow King to speak if he wanted to. But he didn’t want to, clearly. Then King took the matter to a vote, asking for a “suspension of the rules” to talk about the city manager search process. The vote fell along lines which might look familiar. Etel Haxhiaj, Sean Rose and Sarai Rivera voted with King to allow discussion. Donna Colorio, Candy Mero-Carlson, George Russell, Kate Toomey and Petty voted against. Moe Bergman didn’t vote as far as I could tell (he was attending the meeting remotely and it gets murky sometimes) and Thu Nguyen couldn’t make the meeting because they had work and the meeting was scheduled the week prior. Regardless, the vote failed 4-5. If Bergman and Nguyen were present, it’s unlikely the margin would have changed. Nguyen would have voted in favor and Bergman against, making it a 5-6 failure (I can’t say that for certain but I pretty much can). The vote does not suggest there’s much of a will on the council to take the search process seriously. In fact it more or less proves that engaging in an earnest search process a la the School Committee is at best something that a minority of the council even wants to do.
Though it certainly didn’t go King’s way, the fact he insisted on speaking, and got both a legal ruling and a vote on the matter, left us with two key takeaways: 1. Petty actively chose not to allow King to talk about the search for a new city manager. He could have let him but he didn’t. 2. The 4-5 vote preventing King from speaking strongly suggests there are, at most, five out of 11 councilors who want to do a real national search. And more likely, really, it’s only three councilors who earnestly want a national search.
Why is that, you think?
We need only look to public comments Petty made this week for answers. On The Talk of the Commonwealth radio show Wednesday, Petty doubled down on the assertion he made several weeks ago that he wants to forgo a national search and hand Batista the full city manager contract for a term of three years. When host Hank Stolz brought up those past statements, Petty said he was “just trying to be transparent.”
“I’ve heard a lot from the community in both directions,” Petty said. “A lot of people want Eric Batista as the city manager. What the city is struggling with is… I thought this would be done by now. You know. It is what it is.”
Putting aside the obvious argument that “a lot of people want Eric” is an abysmal justification for hiring someone at any job, let alone the chief executive officer of a city, the more important statement to focus on is Petty’s allegation that the search should have already been done. He goes on to tell Stolz that the city “couldn’t find a search firm” and “only one search firm applied again.” What’s all that mean?
Way back in April, Petty initiated the process for a national search, making his current position an even sharper reversal. He authored an order to establish an ad hoc committee and contract a search firm. The order went to the municipal operations subcommittee, which King chairs, and the subcommittee worked with the relevant city offices to put out a call for search firms to apply. One firm responded to the call (technically a “request for proposals” or RFP for short). Thinking they’d get more responses if they directed city officials to reach out to firms directly and do more “targeted” advertising, they put the call out again in July and, again, they only got one response, from Gov HR USA, the firm which applied the first time. Gov HR USA is by all accounts a good fit. They specialize in municipal jobs, they’re female-led, they make a point to apply a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to the work, they have a long resume of hiring chief executives for cities, and they’ve even worked in Worcester before. In 2020, they recruited the library’s current director.
So when Petty told Stolz last week that the city “couldn’t find” a search firm, it was patently untrue. The city has had a search firm ready to go since the summer, and still does. When Petty told Stolz that “only one search firm applied again” it was technically true, but it wasn’t, as Petty implied, a justification to abandon the search process. The firm is ready to go. There’s nothing preventing the city from working with it. The city doesn’t need to get multiple bids for a search firm in order to contract one, and it’s not like the city was expecting dozens of proposals here, though Petty and others are making a concerted effort to paint that picture. The School Committee, for instance, only had two firms respond to their RFP last fall. In 1993, the last time the city council carried out a search process which might qualify as earnest, three firms applied. When Petty told Stolz he “thought this would be done by now,” it’s hard to understand what gave him that impression. As mayor, Petty also chairs the School Committee, so he was there, at least physically, for a search process which took seven months. At least. The committee contracted its search firm last November and hired Monárrez in April. Even if the council decided to contract the search firm back in July, a seven-month timeframe would give the council until next January.
At the last municipal operations subcommittee meeting, on Sept. 28, King painted a picture of a search process which was right on track. The search firm said they’d need 90 days to do their job, King said, and it’s been widely understood that a search would go to December or January. If the City Council decided to contract the search firm at its Sept. 20 or Sept. 29 meetings, which they could have easily done, they’d have candidates to review by December. Instead, the matter was held twice. On Sept. 20, it was held by Councilor Donna Colorio “so Mayor Petty can participate,” as Petty was on vacation. Then Petty got back from vacation and, at the Sept. 29 meeting, decided not to participate and instead held it himself. Now it won’t be taken up until the council’s next meeting, on Oct. 12.
While the deadline of hiring someone by January is completely arbitrary, the delays afford people who don’t really want to do a search, like Petty, an extra cudgel. They can tell the public they don’t have enough time to do a search, and the statement becomes increasingly true the longer they quietly delay contracting a search firm.
By the time King’s subcommittee met last Wednesday, Petty had already gone on the radio twice to say that he doesn’t want to do a search. At the meeting, King expressed his frustration quite clearly.
“I think these days what folks are looking for in government is that we do what we say we’re going to do. It’s necessary,” King said. “The concern that I have as chair of this committee is that what’s been going on has really undermined the credibility of the current and only candidate for city manager. It creates questions unnecessarily.”
Even if Batista is the right candidate, he said, a full search would allow that to become transparently clear. The public would have been given the opportunity to weigh in, and the city will get to see what else is out there.
“The last thing we want to do for a position that’s this important is limit our options,” he said.
It’s maddening that King had to articulate the sentiment—that it’s not a baseline operating principle for councilors but rather a point of contention. It’s doubly maddening that King’s position appears to be one shared by only a minority of the city council (a statement as true for the vote tally as it is for the board’s demographics, mind you. Every councilor of color who was in attendance voted with King to allow discussion).
All of this would be an issue if it were, instead of Batista, the second coming of our lord and savior Jesus H. Christ. Or someone created in a laboratory to be an objectively perfect city manager. Or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, even. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Batista. If you’re a councilor and not all in on an honest search for a permanent city manager, you are simply not doing your job. Petty and the rest of the councilors who appear ready to support him are simply failing to meet a basic expectation of the job of city councilor. If you’re, say, a line cook, and you get an order for a steak, and you simply refuse to throw the steak on the grill, you get fired. A bartender doesn’t get to say “no, I don’t think I’ll be making vodka sodas tonight.” Similarly, not going through with a search process should be grounds to fire any complicit councilor. Should it play out that the council really does what Petty says he wants to, and just bail on a national search, it should be met with resounding consequences at the ballot box. That’s not how it’s panned out in the past, however. Petty’s gotten away with this before. Twice.
When former manager Mike O’Brien resigned back in 2013, Petty personally recruited Ed Augustus to serve as “interim” city manager (a term which doesn’t exist in the city charter). He got the council votes to make it happen, and, eventually, after a search process which one would be hard pressed to argue was very earnest, Augustus was given the job by a 10-1 vote. He didn’t even apply. He wasn’t one of the finalists. But they handed it to him anyway.
On the air with Stolz last week, Petty had a pretty interesting comment about how all that went down.
“I remember (Augustus) came out publicly and said he didn't want to be the city manager,” he said, referring to comments Augustus made while serving as the interim manager about how he wouldn’t take the job if offered. “So we actually did a search and, like I said, those people were very good people but not the right fit.”
The implication here is that they wouldn’t have done a search if Augustus had simply said he wanted the job. He said he didn’t want it, so we actually did a search. That’s why we did it. Not because it’s our job or anything like that. But as an insurance policy in case we couldn’t hang onto our preferred guy.
Back further, in 2004, when they appointed Mike O’Brien, Petty & Co. were even more brazen about it. Petty wasn’t the mayor then but he was on the ad hoc committee to select the new manager. The mayor at the time Tim Murray, in case you were worried there might be some different faces in this story from 18 years ago. In March of that year, former Councilor Phil Palmieri, who you’ll remember from my story about cronyism and petty palace intrigue last week—again, no new faces!—nominated Mike O’Brien as the acting city manager after former manager Tom Hoover announced his resignation. In April, they formed an ah hoc committee, which Petty and Palmieri were both on, to oversee a “search.” At the first meeting they asked for a list of search firms, but that would be the end of the search process. At their second meeting, that June, the ad hoc committee just up and handed O’Brien the job. And that was that.
A City Clerk report details these two hiring decisions alongside the 1993 hiring of Hoover, as was requested by the council around the time Batista was named the acting manager. Next to the lengthy list of steps taken to hire Hoover, the O’Brien and Augustus appointments appear transparently spurious. In May, 1993, the city formed an ad hoc committee and started the process of contracting a search firm. By July, they’d contracted one and also established a series of public hearings in each district. After, they came up with a set of questions for the candidates, set up meetings with department heads, and even more meetings and questions for finalists. Hoover was chosen from a pool of six finalists and offered the job that November. It was an extensive and involved public process, quite similar to the one the School Committee went through earlier this year. It was also nearly 30 years ago, and the last time the council did such a thing.
By comparison, there was hardly a process at all in the 2004 and 2014 appointments which followed it. In both cases, it generally went like this: someone politically connected nominated another politically connected person to be the “acting” or “interim” city manager, and then after a few months of the council putzing around with the idea of doing a search, the acting city manager became the city manager. There’s nothing about the current situation with Batista which suggests it’s any different this time around. We are currently in the period of putzing around.
And I think it should be pretty clear that this process—manager resigns on short notice, “acting” replacement is pulled from the local political class, replacement becomes permanent manager, serves, resigns on short notice, repeat—is one which circumvents the standard process for hiring a chief executive. And one could make the argument this is by design. Not me, of course. But one could. Given the amount of familiar faces involved in 2004, 2014, and now, in 2022—Petty, especially—there’s a strong case to be made that the appointments of O’Brien, Augustus and, inevitably I’m afraid, Batista, are part of a concerted strategy to keep the most powerful position in Worcester “in the family” as it were. And the logical conclusion of that case—the one I wouldn’t personally make but someone could—is that there really is an “inner circle” in Worcester, and it’s comprised of a web of power brokers with interests that align much more closely with hedge funds and developers than with any representative sample of Worcester’s population, and that it doesn’t so much matter who’s in what office so long as there’s enough of them holding the key positions that keep the thing propped up.
But if you’re in this inner circle and your main concern is keeping the the thing going, who better to put in the manager’s seat than someone who owes his entire politica—sorry—professional career to the last two city managers. Batista worked under Augustus for the entirety of Augustus’ eight-year tenure, but he was hired by O’Brien in 2012. Batista graduated college and got his first resume-worthy job in 2007, according to his LinkedIn. That’s five years at some other places, and then 10 years at City Hall.
On the radio, Petty put his support for Batista this way: “He’s been there for a while. He knows what’s going on. He knows the players. Knows the community. He grew up here,” Petty said.
Now if you’re a member of some sort of theoretical inner circle, it would be very important to you that the next city manager “knows the players,” i.e. the members of the inner circle, to whom he is actually beholden. It would also be important that the next city manager knew “the community” i.e. the non-profit organizations and advocacy groups and labor unions he’d have to pretend to involve in decision-making just enough that they don’t get too loud and cause problems. To someone in some sort of inner circle, “he grew up here” might translate to “he’s got a birthright to circle membership.”
If you’re just a regular person living in the city, I don’t see how it would be all that important to you that the next city manager “knows the players” or whether your city manager is “from here.” On the other hand, a manager who knows about urban design theory, homeless outreach, climate resiliency, ways that streets are made safe and walkable, density and zoning reform, or affordable housing policy? If you’re just a person who wants to live in a safe, affordable and healthy city, these are the kind of things you want your city manager thinking about.
While Petty and others have been quick to tout his bonafides, Batista has not been put in a position to substantively articulate his vision for the office, and matters of public policy don’t often come up in the business of singing his praises. A real and earnest search process which allowed for meaningful community input and a full public evaluation of the merits of various city manager candidates may very well produce some candidates who are remarkably impressive, in the way Monárrez was on education policy, on questions of city governance which actually matter to regular people. There may well be a candidate who outshines everyone, even the hometown boy. Now put yourself in the shoes of an inner circle member in that situation, and you’re looking at this new person who’s turning heads, and you might be thinking, “They don’t know the players. They don’t know the community. They’re not from here.” And you might feel a certain panic setting in. Better to avoid that risk if you’re an inner circle member. You can’t have someone new coming in who’s earned the job on merit and vision. The position is simply too important.
For what it’s worth, Batista himself released a statement on Sept. 22 in which he said “I respect the search process and am in no way trying to evade it.”
To that I say this: My ‘I am not trying to evade the search process’ shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt.
This Batista thing will be coming to a head shortly. We should be watching for the Oct. 12 agenda with interest to see how Petty will play the game of backing out of a national search. I anticipate some sort of move at the next meeting, but I’m not holding out hope it’ll be all that clever. I think the votes are there to install Batista without any sort of attempt at even faking a search, honestly, and it would be nice if they didn’t condescend to us with a sham search like they did with Augustus. At this point, I hope they do just cut to the chase and force a vote on Batista over the objection of the progressive bloc. Just do it. Let it be 8-3. Because the desired outcome—a real and above-board search—is not politically possible right now. At best, we’re getting a search which presupposes Batista as the preferential choice. The way Petty refused to let King speak last week, the way that 4-5 vote panned out, and the comments Petty made on the radio all amount to Petty’s shot across the bow that this city manager appointment will go the same exact way as the last two did. He’s saying very clearly “you cannot stop this from happening.”
Thing is? He’s absolutely right. King can’t and neither can anybody else. Petty’s getting his way and Batista is going to become the city manager. The “acting manager” strategy of circumventing a search process will have worked for a third straight time. Nothing at City Hall will fundamentally change. “The players” will be kept happy. “The community” will be tolerated about as much as it has been.
But say you’re a person who’s not content with a fundamentally unchanged City Hall—like the dozens of employees who reamed the city via anonymous comments in a racial equity audit that quietly slid to subcommittee at the meeting last week, or the people who opted for Robyn Kennedy over Petty for state senate. If you’re one of those people, and there’s good reason to believe that there’s more and more of them every day, Petty’s success in getting his guy in the big chair will provide a crystal clear example—perhaps the best we’ve seen in years—of the real barriers between the Worcester we want and the Worcester we have.
And, as we head into the 2023 municipal election cycle, the case needs to be made that a lot of those barriers could be instantly smashed if the city’s nascent progressive movement is able to pull off a difficult but entirely doable feat: three more council seats. We’ve got three already, we just need three more. With six seats in the progressive bloc, that’s a ruling majority. Six out of 11 is all you need. If one of them is the mayor that’s even better.
Obviously, it wouldn’t come at the snap of a finger. It would require new candidates, new volunteers, new energy, and unprecedented levels of coordination and collaboration between candidates. And even then it would be a bitter slog with no promise of success. But it’s not any less impossible-seeming than Kennedy’s win over Petty in the state senate primary. The foe is not some Goliath but rather a few lawyers and real estate agents who are happy to uncritically support the status quo so long as they get to bloviate on the council floor about rodents and recycling bins.
There is a version of reality in which the Worcester City Council is engaging in an earnest search for the best city manager they can find, regardless of where that person was born or whether they know “the players” or to whom they owe the past successes of their career. That reality is three seats away. Meaningful affordable housing policy, zoning reforms, real racial equity assessment, and aggressive action on climate are all similarly three seats away. The progressive bloc’s been trying to do all of those things for the past year. Since they lack a ruling majority, they’ve predictably failed. It’s not good to show up every week and take it on the chin like that. After a while, that’d break anyone’s spirit. Better to contextualize those losses as demonstrations of what would be different in the Worcester we want, and focus efforts on assembling the people power and momentum required to get there.
City Manager Eric Batista is an inevitability. I’m like 99 percent sure of that. The political reality which led to his appointment, however, is anything but inevitable. In fact, it’s quite vulnerable. There is a very real scenario in which this time next year, we’re on the cusp of smashing that political reality to pieces. Time now to keep our eyes on the ball, I say.
Thanks for readin’! I put up all my work for free because I want as many people reading it as possible. No paywalls here. No siree. But putting up these stories for free is my full-time job and I do live off of it. Pretty wild. If it weren’t for the people who decide for themselves that my work covering this city is worth a small amount of money a month or year, then I wouldn’t have the time to produce work like the piece above. Please consider becoming one of them!
And check out the Worcester Sucks merch store if you haven’t already!
As I was assembling this post, the news broke that graduate students at Clark University had gone on strike!
More on this as it develops, but good for those students for getting organized and taking a stand. If you want to support them, peep the union’s Venmo page.
Went to a very nice wedding last weekend up in New Hampshire (Congrats, Linz and Nick!). The morning after, me and my lady decided to stop at a greasy spoon diner and sop up the hangover before making the trek back to Worcester. Picked at random from Apple Maps, we limped, bleary-eyed and head in hands, through the door of the Center Harbor Diner, a small no-frills place a short distance from Lake Winnipesaukee. On the other side of that door we encountered something quite unexpected. The diner was plastered in campaign signs, pamphlets and fundraising sheets for Don Bolduc, the MAGA-style former army general who’s challenging Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan after he knocked off a more moderate Republican in the primary. And the rows of booths were chock full of Bolduc supporters. Of all the diners in the Granite State, I pick this one. My search for corned beef hash had led me straight into some miserable heart of MAGA darkness. But we were hungry and brain-dead so we posted up at the counter. No turning back now, not when there’s eggs to be eaten. I tried to avoid looking over at the booths filled with Bolduc enthusiasts and all the concealed handguns likely there with them. Fox News was on the TV in front of us, and everyone from the busgirl to the waitress to the head cook commented in amazement at the tattoo poking up from the neck of my lady’s sweatshirt. I grabbed a pamphlet off the counter advertising Bolduc’s AMERICAN STRENGTH AGENDA and at the top of a list of priorities was naturally a strong southern border and an increase in domestic oil and gas production. Predictable and boring. Bolduc’s perhaps most famous for being one of the 124 retired generals who released an open letter under the banner Flag Officers 4 America alleging the 2020 election was rigged for Biden. I guess he’s since walked it back a bit for electability reasons but not all the way, and polling doesn’t show him having much of a chance (Hassan ahead by seven points in a recent Suffolk poll).
I looked over at one point and saw him surrounded by six or seven middle aged guys who were positively fawning. They all had their arms crossed the hyper-masculine way he did and while they were just out of earshot, it was clear they were engaged in a round of firing off talking points at each other in a smug, self-assured fashion. “And that’s the OTHER thing…” type deal. I’m sure they talked about trans groomers and cultural marxists and baby blood drinkers and other such horrors they’d never personally encountered but were nevertheless assured of the clear and present danger. There was one guy in particular who was positively beaming, like it was the most fun he’d had in weeks, and he kept opening his mouth and leaning forward to inject his own smug talking point into the rolling volley but got cut off every time. It didn’t seem to affect his mood at all. Not among the presence of someone the Don himself had once called a “strong guy.”
On the TV in front of us was a Fox News segment about border security accompanied by images of migrants and holes in fences. The woman next to us casually looked at the TV for a moment and blurted out, “the people, they just keep coming!” to no one in particular. I asked our waitress with a certain feigned naivete if this was some sort of campaign event or something. She got visibly nervous and said ,”Yeah well you know we let anyone come have an event here if they want to have an event.” “We let whoever come in you know whether we agree or disagree,” she said and she probably meant it but I have a feeling they’re not doing any drag shows at the Central Harbor Diner.
Before we left I went to the bathroom to do a diner-breakfast-after-night-out style bowel event. Just as I was sitting down on the toilet I had a panicked vision of what might happen if I had accidentally gone into the women’s room and the wrong person in that crowd saw me with my long hair walking out of it. So I double checked I was in the men’s room before committing. Normal thing to worry about here in the good ol USA. In the car I told my girlfriend about how I double checked I was in the men’s room and she said “What? Why would you… Oh. Yeah. Yeah, that was smart.”
So that was my brief and unwanted brush with national politics in the great state of New Hampshire. Just one little glimpse into one little breeding ground for the inevitable death squads of the future. I hope it never happens again.
Back on the Worcester front, however, there are a few recent stories worth digging into. Craig Semon at the Telegram published out a banger on the fact that Polar Park hasn’t put on a single concert despite city and team officials promising them and also working the shows into the math that shows the park will “pay for itself.” Turns out a significant issue is that an access tunnel in the outfield was designed to be only 12 feet tall, in an effort to match the on-field idiosyncrasies of Fenway Park. Problem is that trucks which carry staging equipment for musical acts tend to be a bit taller than 12 feet. So getting a stage onto the field requires logistical workarounds which are cost-prohibitive for a 6,000 capacity music venue. Whoops.
And then another “whoops!” from the Worcester Police Department. A civil court judge ruled that Worcester detectives had fabricated evidence, leading to a wrongful conviction and subsequent 8-year prison sentence for an innocent man. The judge ordered the city to pay the man $8 million in damages, as well as ordering small civil fines for the two detectives in question—$25,000 for one and $5,000 for the other. Friendly reminder that the police department doesn’t have to budget around settlements like this. The money comes right out of the general fund. That’s $8 million dollars that could have been spent on something worthwhile, but is instead effectively subsidizing the garish actions of Worcester cops. Meanwhile, the police department’s operating budget will not be affected even a little bit. No, some other part of city government will be made to feel that austerity somehow.
We’re going to have to dig into the Community Preservation Act business soon, but not today. I’ve gone too long already.
Til next time!