5:55 p.m.: Candidate O’Brien fiercely hands out packets summarizing his economic plan for Worcester while Toomey, Tsitsilianos, and Lukes sit at the front of the room awaiting what is said to be a prompt 6:00 start to the debate.
6:05 Radio host Hank Stolz introduces the candidates and welcomes them to the first of four debates before the November 3rd election.
6:08 Candidate Toomey starts the opening remarks with the subject that’s sure to be a common theme in tonight’s event- the city’s economy.
“we have to let the know about the fabulous city we live in”, says Toomey when she talks of her belief of selling the city to the rest of the state and the country.
6:12 Emmanuel Tsitsilianos also asks that we invite those from outside communities to visit Worcester in a way to help Worcester’s economic crisis.
6:13 Konnie Lukes brings up positive things that have happened for the city while being mayor: Forbes Magazine listing Worcester as the 9th most visible city, a Worcester gymnastic group being on NBC for 2 hours, but doesn’t ignore the fact that the city is in a… yes.. economic crisis.
6:17 Joe O’Brien talks about making strong partnerships with pols in Boston as well as companies, and communities outside of Worcester to help build up the city’s economy.
“How do you envision the role of mayor?”
6:23 Moments after Joe O’Brien talks about his ideal Worcester mayor being someone on the streets talking with people, and working with Congressmen, and business partners during large projects the city undergoes, Emmanuel Tsitsilianos disputes the thought. He voices that connecting with civilians, ordinary people in Worcester is more important, and more important than with the higher-ups in Boston.
6:30 “It’s unrealistic to think you could bring it back”, says Kate Toomey in response to the question of whether or not the city should go back to a single rate tax rate. Toomey says she believes a more “sophisticated approach” be considered in this economy.
The candidates are asked why their opponents would not be as good of a choice for mayor as themselves.
6:37 Toomey expresses a need for leadership and experience. She doesn’t believe the three other candidates have these qualities, making her the best person for mayor.
6:38 Emmanuel believes the lack of knowledge with connections outside of Worcester makes his opponents not as strong of candidates as himself.
6:52 “When we talk about going outside of the box, those outside boxes are empty”, says Lukes when responding to making changes during our economic crisis. Lukes finishes with saying we need to look within ourself to fix the issue.
6:55 “What is public service? What do we need to provide for people?” Suggesting the possibility of cleaning the streets or picking up trash every other week, rather than each, Toomey finishes by saying the crisis will last more than one year, and discussions of how to change things to overcome it need to happen with the community to figure out what we really need to be spending money on.
7:04 Candidates are asked whether or not principals have more authority for hiring and firing staff?
7:05 Toomey believes it’s a case by case basis. Worcester needs to look at each school and decide if the process of hiring and firing is currently effective.
7:07 Lukes says because of principal’s contracts, they should have the authority to do the firing and hiring. She says we need to again look at those contracts, and go further with what the paperwork specifically states for their job description.
7:10: Candidates are asked what their priorities are for the city’s budget.
7:10: “Education is the most important thing that the budget should cover”, says Tsitsilianos.
7:11: What really matters to the people. “The pot hole in the sidewalk in front of their home, and if the trash is picked up”, says Lukes.
7:13: Joe O’Brien believes education first, then public safety, then economic development, and finally looking at the money spent on City Hall employees.
7:16: Toomey says the first thing people want in Worcester is economic development to create new jobs. Education, and public safety also need to be considered.
7:19: Joe O’Brien jokes that the question of him being a part of the “good ol’ boys” is a good one, and is surprised that it came up. The crowd laughs.
7:22: Tsitsilianos says “the mayor has, should have two legs” saying that one is local, and one is larger government. Tsitsilianos expresses the importance of the Worcester mayor balancing the legs, making decisions with local, as well as larger government pols.
7:34: Joe O’Brien asks Konnie Lukes what her plans are for economic development.
7:36: Lukes responds saying it’s her job to keep the city on an even keel with the budget.
7:39: Mayor Lukes asks the candidates what the first thing they would do in office if elected.
7:40: “To begin working on this economic development plan that’s laid out in this packet before you” responds Joe O’Brien. He believes at the end of the day, it’s all about creating jobs.
7:42: “Joe you don’t understand how the budget works if that’s what you think”, Lukes tells O’Brien after he gives specific plans for economic development.