Safety begins in our schools. When teachers, students, and vice principals are physically attacked on multiple occasions and the School Committee along with the Mayor as the Chair thereof refused to take action, I demanded that the police be placed in our high schools. The next day, an unplanned emergency meeting was held and the police were placed in our high schools.
While the School Committee and Mayor continued to chant "the schools are safe" after a high school student brought a hand gun to school with the stated intention of shooting a police officer, I along with others, called for further safety protocols.
Safety extends to our homes and neighborhoods. When the 2016 budget was announced, it was claimed to represent the concerns of council and the residents of Worcester by increasing safety. However, out of the $22.6 million increase in spending, it included slightly more that $154,000.00 in increased spending on police and safety.
It is time for us to make safety a priority and it begins with supporting our police, teachers, students, and residents.
I introduced the following item at council:
Request that the City Manager consider not raising property taxes on residents and businesses with the next budget. However, if the manager's budget includes a tax increase, it be prescribed that each and every dollar of the increased tax revenue be used to fund the City's pension and OPEB liabilities to protect the City's financial standing and fulfill the City's obligations. Alternatively, that the increased revenue be used to fund a police and fire class with the remainder used to fund the City's pension and OPEB liabilities.
In furtherance of this item, a report is requested outlining the property tax percentage increase in each budget for the past 20 years, specifically identifying any year where property taxes were not increased.
It received a visceral reaction, with councilors calling the idea of not raising taxes - holding the line as is - as "Candy Land", "Oz", and "foolish." The usual threats of mass layoffs were thrown in for good measure as well. The item was voted down 9-2. Approximately one week later, the Mayor announced a 15 member task force that includes non-profit, non-taxable organizations to study the "tax issue."
It is time to send a message that the year after year increase in taxes, sewer rates, and every other fee and expense that can be levied against us is untenable and unacceptable. Our services have not increased, but our taxes have caused businesses and property owners to move out of the city at an alarming rate.
Being a leader means getting things done, even against seemingly insurmountable circumstance. As above, the School Committee and Mayor refused to take action to protect our students and teachers. I forced action. As above, the Council and Mayor refused to consider holding the line on taxes, one week later, the Mayor calls for a taskforce to "study"" the issue. I forced the action.
Our city belongs to everyone, regardless of who you know, not run by the mutual admiration society of political insiders. This is now the third election cycle with the same group talking about City Square and future development. Yet, the vacant store fronts on Main Street remain vacant. There is a complete lack of retail business in the city. Taxes continue to increase. Water and Sewer rates continue to increase. The only thing that hasn't increased are the services being provided by the city.
It is time for us to address the issues in our city government to move forward.