May 14, 2017

Editorial: City Council’s dog squabble deserves motherly rebuke

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Don’t have children? Or are the children grown and gone?

Well, if you live in Worcester you can take heart this Mother’s Day anyway.

You’ve got the City Council.

Just kidding — mostly. But the word “childish” did get bandied about like a birthday balloon at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

And what, this time, caused the yapping and snarling that broke out in the chamber?

A dog, of course! A free, smart, useful, probably cute-as-a-button K-9 proposed for the police department.

Saint-Gobain Abrasives generously offered to make the purchase, and all the City Council had to do was vote to accept the Worcester company’s $7,500. And, of course, say thank you.

“Waah,” said Councilor-at-large Michael T. Gaffney.

Mike Gaffney

He wanted to know why no one had listened two years ago when he brought up the topic of expanding the K-9 force. “I’m curious why all of a sudden, what was bad then is good now,” he said, according to the Telegram & Gazette’s report on an agenda item that should have sailed as easily as a Frisbee.

City Manager Augustus Edward M. Augustus Jr. snapped back, “Because I said so, that’s why.”

Might as well have.

Actually, the words he chose were: “I’m very deferential to department heads as to what they think their tools are, and so when Chief [Steven] Sargent wanted to move with this I fully supported him.” Sargent took over as police chief last year, when Chief Gary Gemme stepped down.

When Gaffney didn’t drop it, the city manager — not a hothead, and generally the adult in the room at 455 Main St. — again explained that the circumstances were different this time around. “If somebody takes a fresh look at something and if I’m presented different facts, we’re open to changing our mind on things.”

Courtesy NAMI Mass

Edward M. Augustus Jr.

But then, alas, Augustus couldn’t resist getting in a little jab, telling Gaffney he appreciated his “wanting to rub my nose in it.”

“Mommy, Eddie’s being mean to me!” Gaffney wailed.

What he really said was that Augustus’ comment was “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.” Then he turned on some of his council colleagues, thinking they were snickering over the exchange.

“It’s really childish,” Gaffney said of the understandable chuckles .

“Freakin’ moron,” thought Mayor Joseph M. Petty.

Maybe he thought it, maybe he didn’t. What Petty said out loud was that it’s “been childish for two years in this room.” (Gaffney, a city councilor since 2014 and hard-right Republican, often quarrels with the mayor and his left-leaning allies, and will likely challenge Petty in this year’s mayoral election.)

Mayor Petty

“You want to go there? You want to go there? It’s been childish in this room and outside of this room,” Petty shot at Gaffney.

At least, after all this, the K-9 contribution was accepted.

But didn’t our leaders’ parents teach them not to look a gift horse in the mouth? That’s just good sense — and common courtesy. And when the gift horse is a gift dog, it’s Childhood 101 to be happy.

Dogs, we can send to obedience school. Too bad there’s no good way to keep the City Council under control.

Maybe it’s time to bring in the big guns: words of wisdom from mothers near and far.

Our mothers, bless their souls — and happy Mother’s Day to all — teach us to “Stay calm,” “Think before you speak,” “Appreciate what you have,” and that “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” TV mom Carol Brady schooled one of her young charges, who was jealous of all the attention her sister Marsha was getting: “Find out what you do best, and then do your best with it.”

And then there’s the mother of all motherly wisdom: “Mind your manners.”

Was there ever a more valuable piece of advice for adults?

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