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Worcester progressives raise funds, highlight federal neglect of Puerto Rico

Sarai Rivera

WORCESTER, Mass. – “Where else in the United States of America would that ever happen?” Worcester Mayor Joe Petty asked a crowd of about 100 people. Petty was referring to the fact that up to 200,000 people in Puerto Rico are still without power, more than half a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. He was speaking April 11 at “An Evening in Solidarity with Puerto Rico,” a fundraiser sponsored by Greater Worcester Our Revolution (GWOR) at El Basha, a local restaurant. In hosting the event, the GWOR raised more than $2,000 through ticket sales and a raffle, in which attendees could win items donated by local businesses. “It’s pretty clear that Worcester supports Puerto Rico,” a representative of GWOR said, and noted the…

Worcester rallies against “extremists” to defend labor rights, democracy

Crowd watching spekers

WORCESTER, Mass. – Hundreds of people rallied February 26 outside of City Hall, part of a nationwide series of demonstrations, in protest of an expected anti-labor Supreme Court ruling that could cripple public sector unions. Virtually everyone who spoke, however, argued that those pushing the case in the Supreme Court had a bigger goal: to undermine the entire labor movement, as well as, potentially, democratic rights themselves. “Some people in this country have made unions the enemy,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, the son of a steelworker, said. “You’re the only people left, the unions, that protect the workers. You are the protectors. If some businesses had their way, they’d pay everybody nine dollars an hour.” “There are powerful forces,” Central Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Joseph Carlson…

More than 100 attend strategic planning forum for Worcester Public Schools

WORCESTER, Mass. – More than 100 people attended a community input meeting at Claremont Academy in the city’s Main South neighborhood to discuss what they think Worcester Public Schools should look like in the near future. The event was hosted by the Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC) and organized by students, parents, and community activists as the final of several forums designed to gather  qualitative data to help shape a community-created strategic plan for the school system – the first in more than a quarter century. While numerous viewpoints on varied issues were shared, it appeared that the overwhelming majority of those in attendance were highly concerned about race and racism in the school system. Alexizendria Link, a teacher at North High School and union activist,…

In crafting schools’ new strategic plan, a grassroots approach

WORCESTER, Mass. – On Jan. 24, local residents will again have an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about the future direction of the Worcester Public Schools (WPS), as an unprecedented, community-driven data gathering process continues, the ultimate goal of which is to create the schools’ first new strategic plan since Will Smith was still The Fresh Prince. The need for a new plan “One of the shocking realities is that we have not had a strategic plan for the district since 1992,” said Jennifer Carey, executive director of the Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC), the community organization spearheading, along with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, the drive to create the new plan. “That was the year before education reform, which changed the landscape for…

Gaffney, Turtleboy done: Time to move forward

Worcester’s far-right political bloc was obliterated in yesterday’s elections, when voters overwhelmingly decided to toss council member and Republican City Committee chair Michael Gaffney into the dustbin of history, and then blocked every one of his allies from the city council and school committee. In doing so, Worcester strengthened the hand of the currently leading center/progressive alliance and reaffirmed support for those who have strengthened the ongoing renaissance, as well as given a mandate for policies that have made Worcester, as Mayor Joseph Petty calls it, a “welcoming city.” Gaffney disappeared Gaffney has since deleted his public Facebook page and deleted the series of bizarre “Cheers Worcester” videos he routinely posted to Youtube. Gaffney severed his ties with the Turtleboy Sports blog, which had previously…

Worcester elections: the current tasks

It’s almost Election Day. Ballots are about to be cast by several thousand people across Worcester, deciding who will run the city for the next two years. I’ve been active in several campaigns, and supportive of many others, and have written extensively on our local politics. Given that, I think it’s worthwhile for me to put forward my thoughts on who are the best candidates – my “endorsements,” if you will – as well as some thoughts on the overall tasks for progressives now and going forward. Currently, the majority bloc on the city council is a center/left coalition that represents, sometimes uneasily, the interests of the vast majority of Worcester residents, including working people of all backgrounds, the racially and nationally oppressed, and women…

Gaffney: still campaigning, still a threat

It seemed too good to be true, and maybe it was: Michael and Coreen Gaffney announced Oct. 16 that they would be dropping out of their races for city council. That was good news to Worcester voters, a large majority of whom have tired of Gaffney’s campaign rhetoric, based mostly on making up lies and slander about his opponents. However, it appears that he might still be campaigning. Several people have reported receiving Gaffney literature on their doors, and others have seen Michael Gaffney’s signs (which are rather odd: they appear to be leftovers from when he was campaigning for mayor, but have the word “mayor” crossed out) appear after he ostensibly quit. Just this past weekend, I was canvassing for another candidate by Coes…

Gaffneys out, Turtleboy nearly irrelevant: time to work even harder

Sad Gaffney sign

Michael and Coreen Gaffney’s announcement yesterday that they were withdrawing from the race for city council was something of a surprise, but not at all unexpected. It was also confirmation of a point made on this blog several weeks ago: what seemed like a powerful far-right movement in this city, led by Michael Gaffney and vocalized by Turtleboy Sports, has collapsed. Turtleboy still has a website and a bunch of (easily bought) Facebook likes, but where is their influence? Like Gaffney, they couldn’t corral votes in the preliminary elections for their “Turtleboy ticket,” and it seems that no one in Worcester even bothers with them anymore. Look at their page: they took weeks to give away five coffee cups at one of their few remaining…

Labor, community groups and elected officials say “Vote for Dante Comparetto”

WORCESTER, Mass. – Labor leaders, elected officials, and representatives of community organizations gathered at the Educational Association of Worcester’s headquarters this morning to announce their support for Dante Comparetto’s bid for a seat on the city’s school committee. Supporters highlighted argued his years of advocacy for Worcester families and support of working people’s rights make him the ideal candidate. “He’s been an absolute staunch advocate for the educators in Worcester and the members of this union,” said EAW president Roger Nugent. “We are very pleased to unanimously endorse him.” The 2,800-member EAW represents Worcester’s teachers, many administrators, instructional assistants, bus drivers, and other school employees, and is a local of the National Education Association. City Council member Candy Mero Carlson, chair of the Worcester Democratic…

Worcester sends amor, support to Puerto Rico

City leaders addressing crowd

WORCESTER, Mass – More than 100 people gathered at the Christian Community Church today to pray for Puerto Rico and to strategize how best to help the island after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Opening the meeting, Sarai Rivera, the city council member and CCC pastor who organized the meeting, said that Worcester had its part to play in the rebuilding efforts. Referring to the story of the Wall of Jerusalem in the biblical Book of Nehemiah, Rivera said that many small groups worked, focusing intently on their part of the wall. “Eventually we saw the full construction.” In the same way, communities across the U.S. could each do their part to help rebuild Puerto Rico. As might be expected, the meeting was at…

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