Posted by Brittany Durgin
7:06: This is the largest crowd I’ve seen for a council meeting since “poolz”. Members of the police department fill the gallery seats.
7:11: All councils are here and we’re starting off a little out of order with recognizing WPD “quick decisive” response to the Grafton Hill and Vernon Hill recent incidents. City Manager O’Brien recognizes the officers of the department and says while the incident earlier this week in Crompton Park has us all a little nervous, the officers are continuing to excel.
7:15: Chief Gemme speaks at the podium. He recognizes the officers here tonight and lists individuals in the patrol division as well as others including investigative who are thanked for their work in both the Vernon Hill and Grafton Hill incident.
7:18: A vivid detail account of the incidents including a female grabbed by the throat, having a knife pulled on Vernon Hill, and gun shots fired from gang members at officers on Grafton Hill are told as a precursor to the Worcester Police Department administration’s thank you to the individuals who acted and made arrests. The council and audience stands and claps in congratulations to those persons named.
7:25: Councilor Clancy is the first to stand to share his thanks for having the Worcester Police Department serve and “acting most professionally… and that needs to be recognized” and says we need to applaud the department’s efforts on a day to day basis. He finishes by saying thank you for the Worcester Police Department working so effectively with our community.
7:28: Councilor Palmieri, Smith, Toomey, Petty, Eddy, Germain, Haller, Lukes, and Rushton also express their thanks.
7:31: Joff Smith says our police force could stand up to any other in the rest of the country and be said to be the best with their courage and bravery seen in the two incidents spoke of tonight.
7:33: Councilor Toomey says that while these incidents seem surreal, “this is all too real for your family” and asks that we applaud the officer’s families for their support. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart”.
7:39: Germain says tonight we see a unique experience in New England. Providence, RI has had 20 murders this years. Boston has had 70. Per capita, Worcester is a very safe city and says this is a result of the tax payers support and the use of their money at the WPD.
7:46: Lukes takes a slightly different approach at expressing gratitude by reminding us all that the level of safety in our city directly impacts the economic development of the city. When businesses and families feel safe in a area, they are more likely to move and invest there. Lukes finishes by saying thank you for keeping Worcester safe.
7:52: Ruston asks Chief Gemme whether or not he feels he has the resources now to keep Worcester safe because “gangs shouldn’t be running this city, we should be running this city.” He asks the chief to “please tell us” if he doesn’t believe he has the resources to keep our city safe. Ruston says he believes that as a whole the Council would vote for the safety of the city by getting the WPD the budget resources they need as they head toward working with the annual budget.
7:58: Mayor O’Brien closes the discussion by expressing his thanks and asks for a closing round of applause.
7:59: “The gangs are not running the city, that is for sure.” Palmieri says it was an irresponsible and not an appropriate comment to be made [by Councilor Rushton]. Ruston picks his battles and let’s this one go.
8:20: There’s a lot of talk about the new TIF proposal. The councilors agree they want local work done through TIF projects, and that TIF applications be available as a city document online.
8:37: “Kudos to the group who has put this together” Councilor Toomey is pleased with the Woo Card’s expansion and says it’s all about supporting local businesses. “You get a break, yet you’re still supporting local business” and reminds us all that it’s a great gift for this Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, etc. She finishes by saying it’s a great opportunity and hopes to see people utilize it.
9:06: Palmieri reminds us that 980,000 people die every year from smoking related illnesses. He asks that we keep this mind when the city looks at regulating tobacco signage.
9:07: Haller says she looks forward to regulating the signage and make Worcester a safer city in this sense.
9:15: City Manager O’Brien tells of Worcester’s move toward wrap-around housing and triage services in a three year plan to fight homelessness after the PIP Shelter closes January 31.
9:20: Haller stands clapping with a big smile. She thanks both the City Manager and the council for pushing for the right way to deal with homelessness. Dealing with the issue was one for the city, and not social services she says. Following, she says discussions and “our work is not done and in many ways our work has just started” but says today is a momentous day getting to where we are with a plan to make this transition.
9:24: Councilor Clancy praises Haller for her dedication and will to make this happen through all the tough times and decisions.
9:33: Councilor Rushton (now, a hour and a half later) clears up that all he was saying by not wanting gangs to run the city was simply to let the chief know that if he doesn’t feel he has the resources he needs to keep our city safe, to please let the council know.
9:39: Councilor Toomey says the PETA ad is disgraceful to women, nurse, and says it’s sending the wrong message to young children. She jokes with Councilor Ruston that he’s able to see it from his office window. She says “it straddles the line” after Mayor O’Brien reminds her of freedom of speech.