Sunday, September 10, 2017

Worcester: preliminary election on Tuesday! A few thoughts on D5

Worcester districts 1 and 5 have a preliminary election on Tuesday; in both cases, the four names on the ballot will be narrowed to two for the November election. I live in D5, and I haven't been following D1 closely. I will say that I've worked with Ed Moynihan, and if I lived in D1, I'd vote for Ed. What follows are some thoughts on the D5 race, in part drawn from Nicole's liveblog of the forum earlier this week, in part drawn from what I've found in my mailbox. 
In full disclosure: of the three candidates running active campaigns, I've met Matt Wally twice, have lived down the street from Paul Franco for twelve years, and know Doug Arbetter pretty well.

From an education policy perspective, the City Council races are relevant for where they actually have a purview on school policy, From past experience, I can tell you that councilors often appear to have no idea where that is. The refreshing thing about this year's district race is that we at least don't appear to have candidates who are overstepping. It's not as clear that we have a solid group stepping up.
The main place Council purview falls on schools is the budget, of course, and as Worcester has yet to fight its way up to a full percent over foundation, and at a time when Worcester is owed on the order of $100M a year in foundation funding from the state, it might have been good if anyone (anyone?) had asked about that as an issue. It does not appear that they did; I have seen no mention in the forum or in interviews of Worcester's funding (as a measure of foundation) nor of state funding for schools.

I have on my table the mailers of the three candidates: the only one who mentioned school funding at all was Doug Arbetter.
from Doug Arbetter's mailer

Yes, yes, you're thinking, Tracy continually goes on and on about foundation and that's your thing. Well, if the district is owed another $100M on the school budget, I'd expect any candidate who professes to care about education to know and care about that.

This is not, however, the only place that schools are mentioned on the mailers, though, to be fair: both Franco and Wally talk about South and Doherty, which Arbetter does not:

from Paul Franco's mailer

from Matt Wally's mailer

 Yes, South High is in District 5, as much as that may be a surprise: D5 is, as Cyrus Moulton points out in his coverage, truly the west side of Worcester. That isn't necessary what Worcester thinks of as the "West Side" of Worcester (roughly, north of Park Avenue). Note the difference in focus: Wally (as he echoed in Nicole's forum coverage) is concerned about paying for the schools; he said that he disagreed with the decision the Council made not to add to the North High stabilization fund. Franco's "will stand the test of time" language appears to be remarking on the age of the buildings we're replacing, that is 40 and 50 years old respectively. MSBA's standards are for buildings to last fifty years. Wally's point is something that arguably is within the Council's purview (as they vote the capital budget); unless Franco is appointed to a building committee, I'm less certain his is.

That's it for specific mentions on schools by the candidates, which in itself is disappointing. There's a few other things of note on the mailers, though:
Doug Arbetter mailer
 Arbetter's is the only one that mentions political party; Worcester's elections are (at least nominally) non-partisan. Interestingly, if you get the city Republican party's updates on Facebook, you'd know that Franco's a Republican, though he doesn't mention it on his mailers.
Paul Franco mailer (with edits)
The big push that Franco talks about on the right of his mailer, around property that isn't developed, largely has to do with the owners not wanting to move forward with projects. As you might gather from Nicole's blog, Franco's experience on the Conservation Commission largely (in his case) was around his working "with" developers to develop property, rather than to preserve open space. This sets up an interesting conundrum: does he privilege the rights of the property owners, or is he advocating for the city to take these properties by eminent domain?
Matt Wally mailer
Wally, as the other two do, hits public safety in his mailer, but he also links to his current seat on the Parks and Rec Commission by mentioning parks improvements.

It's pretty clear from Nicole's blog that Wally is hoping to position himself as the "centerist" candidate in contrast to Franco the conservative and Arbetter the progressive. Both Franco and Wally hit the policing theme hard in their T&G interview, something Arbetter, who appears to be focusing on taxation, does not. I'm not sure what "today's approach to policing" is, as mentioned by Franco. There has been no discussion of police in the schools, nor of the nearly million dollars a year that is now costing the district. In the forum, Arbetter captured the question of pedestrian safety--key, in a city in which half the schoolchildren walk--best, though all spoke of sidewalks.

When it comes to my vote on Tuesday, I'll echo what I've heard lots of people say since January (or even last November): resistance starts locally. I want, and I think my city needs, a city councilor who of course is going to keep all our people safe and use best practices to do so; a city councilor who of course is going to protect the rights of LBGTQ people; a city councilor who of course sees women as equals, not as pawns; a city councilor who of course supports the right of all to worship (or not) as they choose in safety; a city councilor who of course doesn't resort to fearmongering for political ends.
We also need a candidate who will clearly disavow those who do otherwise.
Earlier this week, only Doug Arbetter did.
I'll be voting for him on Tuesday.

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