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“… who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly …”
— Theodore Roosevelt
Last week, I wrote about people asking me if I was going to be a candidate for mayor this year. I began laying out what I would do if I decided to run and was elected. I started by mentioning two major initiatives.
The first initiative was to set an agenda of action for the City Council. The City Council needs a game plan that they explain to the citizens they represent, and then they need to get to work.
The second initiative was a focus on public safety. I outlined a series of things we need to do to help improve the safety of our many neighborhoods.
ICYMI: Last week’s Mariano
In addition to these efforts, I would also work on the following:
Rate/track the delivery of municipal services
Are you happy with the way our streets are plowed? What about recycling and trash pickup? Are you pleased with the condition of your neighborhood park?
The City Council should insist on a method of regularly collecting and measuring public input. In addition, citizen complaints, the number and description, should also be a part of that process.
Monthly information would keep the council current and the administration on its toes. It is also a great way to keep the public engaged with its local government.
Measuring public reaction to municipal services helps keep the pressure on city government to respond and lets everyone know that the City Council takes its oversight role seriously.
Play an active role in saving Notre Dame and Our Lady of Mount Carmel
From time to time, issues arise that are both very emotional and important to the character of the city. The potential demolition of Notre Dame des Canadiens and Our Lady of Mount Carmel churches both qualify. While city government cannot control the destiny of these magnificent buildings, I know from personal experience that an involved and energetic mayor can make a real difference in what happens.
As mayor, I would make it my personal responsibility to find a way to save these important pieces of our heritage.
When other issues arose that would have a major impact on our community, I would use the office of mayor on behalf of our citizens.
Work to improve our public schools
More than any time in recent memory, our schools need strong political leadership. Our mayor should make improving our schools among his or her highest priorities. As chairman of the School Committee, there is a great deal the mayor can and should do.
- Solicit input from staff. For a long time now, our staff has felt neglected. Morale in many schools is low. As I did previously when I was mayor, I would schedule visits to each school, meet with teachers and other staff individually and in small groups, and solicit their advice and guidance. Staff needs to know that we value their input.
- Make sure our students and staff are safe. There has been considerable discussion in recent years about the level of violence in our schools. This year violence has been reduced, but there is still a long way to go. As mayor I would insist that every school have a public safety plan that includes input from parents, staff and students. Schools need to be safe places for children to learn. Nothing less is acceptable.
- Develop more programs that retain the brightest students. We know that many of our brightest students leave public schools because they are not challenged enough. We need classical study and other advanced placement programs in place that are more than window dressing. That would include separate schools or schools within a school where the brightest students compete for admission.
- Seek more partnerships with area colleges and universities. We have some outstanding partnerships with area schools, but we should do more. Given the tax-exempt status, every area college or university should be involved. They have the resources and the energy to make a meaningful difference.
Develop a plan to improve repairs to our public streets
If you want to see the worst street patching in the history of Western civilization, drive to Newton Square and turn onto June Street. Even a third-grade child can tell you that this does not make sense. The street has a huge patch running down the middle with so many curves and crazy zig-zag lines it looks like a Rorschach inkblot test. Whatever happened to straight lines?
Our streets are a mess. But we do not have to make matters worse by allowing contractors to do whatever the heck they want when they patch. We need a plan that requires contractors to patch an opening all the way to the curb so that the street is left in better condition than it was before the patch. As mayor, I would insist on a plan, used in many other communities, that is more resident-friendly and makes our roads better and not worse.
Reflecting on the famous quotation from Teddy Roosevelt, being mayor is not for “timid souls.” Our mayor should “dare greatly” knowing that he or she will receive criticism from those who disagree. But nothing is ever accomplished by those who sit on the sidelines and wait for consensus. We need a leader who has the courage to act.
Of course there is much more that needs to be done. But I believe these initiatives are a good starting point.
I love Worcester. This is my home. Serving as mayor was the highest professional honor of my life. I can honestly say that when I read about some of the things going on in our city, I regularly want to get in my car and drive to City Hall, roll up my sleeves and get to work helping to solve the problem.
For years after I left City Hall I refrained from any public comment about our government or the men and women who help lead our city. That ended when I started writing for Worcester Sun.
But, I am not going to be a candidate for mayor or any other office this year. I wrote these last two columns to try to start a conversation among those who would run for the office of mayor and to encourage them to do more.
As the candidates identify themselves, I will comment on their individual strengths and weaknesses and encourage them in ways that I believe will benefit our wonderful community.
NOTE: I really did not know what to expect when I wrote last week’s column. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of calls, texts and email messages of support. For those who offered their encouragement and support, I want to say a very sincere thank you. You made my day.
Raymond V. Mariano is a Worcester Sun columnist. He comments on his hometown every Sunday in Worcester Sun.