My friends and I have had running joke that I should run for various political offices that has been going on for years. In today’s political climate is that even a joke anymore? A candidate with loud exclamations of preposterous promises with little substance or few ideas seems to be run of the mill these days. It has been written about ad nauseam but today if you can yell “Let’s build a wall!!!” or “Free College for everyone!!!” the loudest that sound bite is just short enough to fit into our ever shrinking attention spans. A candidate’s message is 3 seconds; it is a sentence not a paragraph.
The political winds of Worcester are swirling in the same torrential gusts of the ridiculousness of the presidential race. While we recycle the same candidates their jobs become harder by the day. Why take the daily punishment from ghost written blogs and fake Facebook accounts that rule the city nowadays? The microscopic salaries and general political unrest certainly do not make it worth their time or effort. I applaud the people of the School Committee and City Council for having the patience to deal with this broken system.
So I sit here and write not with the tone of criticism but one of a concerned citizen who has watched the continued deterioration of the city I grew up in seem to pick up steam in the last couple years. I bought a house in this city 6 years ago and watched as my taxes have been raised to what amounts to another mortgage payment in that time. I have watched as an unelected bureaucracy has let our fire department census slip to a dangerously low level while operating on engines and ladders that were purchased before a lot of the people who work on them were born.
I have slipped and slid over our city streets for virtually every storm in what has amounted to a very mild winter. I have watched tens of thousands of dollars be spent on searches for a city manager that lives right around the corner. I have watched the elementary school near my house who I am supposed to send my son and daughter to slip in and out of probation by the state testing standards. Happily, I have watched as the newest leader of that school has that ship heading in the right direction.
Why live here anymore? It has become more and more difficult to defend this city as the years have passed. The way things are heading we are already thinking about sending our kids to private schools. Why not move to a town and pay a higher mortgage which would offset these costs? I went to Saint John’s; would the $52K over 4 years I spend to send my son there be better spent on a house in Northborough where I could send him to Algonquin? Should I join the droves of people heading out to Rutland?
Of all these things, I think the constantly rising real estate prices concern me the most or more specifically the lack of outcry at this. Why is this? Is it because, like my wife and I, people just have their taxes come out with their mortgage on a monthly basis? If you follow the Worcester Herald (@worcesterherald) on Twitter you see that not only are those rates rising annually but we are also losing commercial taxes from many, many properties throughout the city. We have lost a ton of that base to Mass College of Pharmacy and I drive around Main Street and don’t see many ways that their students have spent money to have businesses thrive down there. Are all the students going home on the weekends? What is down there to keep them in the city to spend their free time?
I am not an alarmist but all of these factors added up are certainly concerning to me. Our voter turnout as a city remains spectacularly low for every election we have. My hope is that these factors begin to sound more alarms and raise the ire of more people throughout the city. Let us not be Republicans, Democrats or Independents about this but let’s find some solutions to the problems of our city. One thing at a time. Let’s not spend so much money on lawyers litigating contracts with our civil servants, let’s give them cost of living raises that would probably equal the amounts these firms are billing out or could be even less money than that. Let’s fill a pothole or two, plow a street and figure out how to accurately test our students. Most of all, let’s have the people we elect to office make the key decisions that shape this city. Simply put, let’s change the charter, empower our elected political structure and get some shit done. Give us all a reason to stay.