A quick guide to the preliminary election tomorrow

Just don’t vote for Cipro. Also vote for Haxhiaj.

It’s entirely possible you have absolutely no idea that tomorrow there’s a preliminary election for City Council here in Worcester, and while that sucks, it’s understandable. It’s not really all that much of an election and participation in municipal elections has remained dismally low for decades. People “in the know” are expecting one of the worst turnouts ever for this one.

But I want you to care! I want you to pay attention and to vote and to understand why local politics matter. That’s sort of the point of what I do here, after all. There are a few strong, left-wing candidates who could use a boost and a couple right-wing candidates that are frankly sort of scary. 

But first, the facts:

The preliminary election tomorrow will only decide which candidates advance to the Nov. 2 general election in District 1 and District 5. There weren’t enough candidates for any of the other three district seats or the at-large council or the school committee to warrant a preliminary. Also, we should call it a “primary” because more people know what that means but instead we call it a “preliminary” because of politics and the English language and all that jazz. 

Once in office, the District 1 and District 5 candidates have the same power as any other City Councilor, but as far as elections go they’re only beholden to the voters in their district. So you should care who wins either way, but as far as voting goes you either have to live in the green part of the city or the orange part of the city as outlined below: 

In District 1, there are three candidates running for two open spots on the Nov. 2 ballot. Sean Rose currently holds the seat, and he is being challenged by David Shea and Richard Cipro. 

Rose is a Good Democrat if you catch my drift. He’s usually in lockstep with Mayor Joe Petty and word on the street is he’s being groomed for command. In my experience with him I’ve found him to be smart, capable and put together, but a challenger of the status quo he is not. That said, he is vastly preferable to the alternative here. 

Richard Cipro is a cop, and not just any cop—he’s one of the biggest Back The Blue cop propagandists in the city. I mean the guy’s a walking Punisher logo. He’s the sort of guy who thinks Black Lives Matter and Antifa are one big terrorist organization. The guy is all police all the time and if he were to get a seat on the council he would join Donna Colorio, Kate Toomey and Moe Bergman in their holy war to make sure the cops get everything they want no questions asked. 

Further, Cipro as a cop is a city employee, which is an obvious conflict of interest. For some reason, it’s not legally a conflict of interest. But like come on the guy’s gonna be voting on his own paycheck. It is definitionally a conflict of interest regardless of the legal statute that allows Cipro to run. 

Of all the challengers in this year’s election, Cipro is the most dangerous. He’s active in the local police union and he’s a common poster on the most racist corner of Worcester Internet, the patrolman’s union Facebook page. He has a clear base of support. 

Cipro has come at Rose aggressively for Rose’s vote to support a plan from the City Manager to remove cops from schools. Like I said, Rose is in lockstep with the mayor and the mayor supported it. It was a good vote on a decent piece of public policy. Taking school resources officers out of the schools is one of the better things to come out of Worcester City Hall in quite some time. But to Cipro and people like Cipro, it’s a horrible affront. There are a lot of weird little townies that are big big mad that the city voted to remove school resource officers, and Cipro is channeling that anger into his campaign. Cipro is also trying to say Rose wants to defund the police, which I wish was true. Not even close. 

Still, Rose is fine. Cipro is horrible. If you live in District 1, please get out tomorrow and vote for Rose. A Worcester in which a Cipro has political power is a much, much worse Worcester. 

The third candidate, David Shea, is sort of a mystery. He doesn’t have a campaign Facebook page or website which is suspect. He might be on the ballot in name only and is, in any case, the least serious candidate of the three. 

What is probably going to happen here is that Rose and Cipro advance to the general election. It would be nice if Cipro was not allowed the momentum of a by-the-numbers victory in the preliminary. 

In District 5, the dynamic is sort of the same, honestly. There are four candidates seeking the seat, which Matt Wally is leaving for a chance to be just as useless as an at-large city councilor.

The candidates are as follows: Etel Haxhiaj, Steve Quist, Yenni Desroches and Greg Stratman. 

Last Thursday I watched most of a candidate forum with these four and, same as District 1, the police were the biggest point of contention. Quist called for an increase of police officers, saying the department should go from 375 or so to 450 officers. Stratman, a former state police officer, repeated often that he used to be a cop as if that were itself a qualification for a City Council position. 

Haxhiaj and Desroches, on the other hand, called for reform but I gotta hand it to Haxhiaj, she was eloquent and clear on this issue in a refreshing way.

Desroches was big on government modernization and efficiency which is all well and good. Quist wants to implement a 1-cent municipal sales tax which is stupid. Stratman’s main argument that he should be elected is that he is retired, which is also stupid. 

Vote for Haxhiaj or Desroches. 

If I could vote I would vote for Haxhiaj. For years, she’s been among the most committed organizers and activists in the city, on issues of environment and housing especially. We’re better as a city for the work she puts in and it would be a refreshing treat to see her on the City Council. 

So TL;DR: If you live in D1, please don’t under any circumstance vote for Richard Cipro. If you live in D5, vote for Haxhiaj and Desroches and no one else. 

Now, some technical information: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you don’t know where to vote, this tool on the city website will tell you. 

That’s really all there is to say about that for now. As the Nov. 2 election draws closer, expect a lot more from me on the election. There’s sure to be some tomfoolery and nuttiness. 

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As always please consider throwin me a couple bones a month so I can keep doing this thing thank you 

And below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote over the weekend for Welcome To Hell World, one of my favorite newsletters out there. This one sees me being a bit more reporter-y if you’re into that.

If you can look past the inherent cruelty it’s a simple question of math.

A woman in prison costs the state about $100,000 a year. There are, give or take, 135 prisoners in MCI-Framingham, the only state-level women’s prison in Massachusetts. So back of the napkin we’re at about $13.5 million a year.

The state is considering spending $50 million to construct a new prison for these women, where they will continue to cost the state $13.5 million a year, only somewhere else. Somewhere cosmetically different.

What’s the point?

That’s the essential question asked by a coalition of abolitionist and prison reform groups which yesterday embarked on a statewide march in support of proposed legislation to put a five-year ban on all new prison construction, effectively spiking the construction of a replacement for MCI-Framingham. 

They began yesterday morning in Worcester with a rally outside the courthouse. Then they embarked on a six-mile march to the Worcester House of Corrections, a county jail tucked unassumingly in a woodsy suburb just outside city limits. I caught up with the group halfway through the march and found them stopped on a patch of roadside grass for a break. Several dozen demonstrators held signs and waved to a steady line of passing drivers in mid-day traffic. They all wore white shirts sporting a message in bolded all-caps and purple font reading “No New Women’s Prisons: Ending Incarceration of Women and Girls.” Songs of freedom and abolition and also Walk on The Wild Side at one point, because why not, blared from speakers in the back of a pickup truck.

The march is the brainchild of Andrea James, a formerly incarcerated woman and the executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated Women and Girls, as well as the local organization Families for Justice as Healing. Since her release from prison in 2011, James has made the decarceration of women her life’s work. 

“We’re here to say that the last thing we need in Massachusetts is another women’s prison. We have one of the lowest incarcerated populations in the country,” James told me during one of the few moments she could step away from organizing the march. “We have 135 women in our state prison. And we should be creating what ‘different’ looks like.”

Read the full thing on Welcome to Hell World, where it is free to read. Poke around while you’re there. If you like what I do you’ll probably like what Luke does as well. His recent interview on contentious school committee and city council meetings in Massachusetts having to do with masks and critical race theory may be of special interest to you. 

As COVID continues to ravage the country, no matter how much a certain segment of the population maintains to this day that it’s no big deal, the return to school this fall has once again ignited a debate over masks and vaccines for students and school staff. In recent months, local school board meetings and schools themselves have become hotspots for angry and often violent confrontations between people on one side who insist it is their God-given right as an American to look every single one of their neighbors in the eye, spit some COVID into their mouths, and say “fuuuuuck you,” and those who would like fewer people to die alone and terrified drowning in their own lung fluid on the other (a.k.a. authoritarianism). 

That’s not to mention the still somehow lingering panic over “critical race theory,” which is coming any day now to turn your child into a Marxist. Remember that? It was a whole thing. It kind of dropped out of the national conversation for a while there but it’s sure as hell still going on at the local level.

Ok that’s all for now. Talk soon!