How Worcester’s Mayor Is Like the Queen

Worcester has a modified Plan E form of government–our chief executive is the (unelected) City Manager; the Mayor is nothing more than the head of our legislature, the City Council. Worcesterites affectionately call this the “Weak Mayor” form of government. We’ve had this form of government for over 60 years, though every ten years or so Worcesterites get restless with the status quo and toy with the idea of “charter change,” imagining that a “Strong Mayor” would be an improvement. Here are some typical reasons offered for such change:

Accountability. Electing a leader would mean that the chief executive would be accountable to voters on a regular basis.

Effectiveness. There are a significant number of people who look at the career of Providence’s Buddy Cianci not as a cautionary tale of corruption but as an example of a person who gets things done.

Leadership. What the Buddy Cianci fans are really pointing to is a sense of leadership. A City Manager just manages city operations with some input/direction from the City Council. A strong Mayor would have much more freedom to direct the city according to his own vision.

Those content to leave Plan E in place feel:

A strong mayor form of government might politicize city government. One of the reasons Worcester moved to a City Manager was to avoid political appointments and to have a professional administrator running the city.

An apathetic electorate, few of whom vote regularly, effectively negate the benefit of electing the administrator. We could end up with a ten-term Mayor who is just as unaccountable as an unelected City Manager.

Our two-year election cycle is too short for the administrator of a city. A strong Mayor who spends half his time scheming for the next election with feel-good projects isn’t an effective administrator.

These are just a few points raised by both sides of the “charter change” divide. That we revisit this topic so often could indicate a lack of institutional memory, or perhaps just a stubborn Yankee sense that things might possibly work better if we get under the hood & tinker a bit.

The Weak Mayors of
Worcester’s Current Charter

Jordan Levy

Raymond Mariano

Timothy Murray

Konstantina Lukes

Joseph C. O’Brien

Joe Petty

Our “current charter” includes both District Councilors and direct election of the Mayor.

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Booming Connecticut

Rumbles and sounds like gunfire today emerge from a cave in Moodus, Connecticut. Seismologists say the noises are related to mini-earthquakes. (There was a serious earthquake in the area in 1791, felt as far away as New York and Boston. It was estimated at Mercalli Intensity vii, roughly Richter 6.0.) Scholars think that this place, called in the native language Machimoodus, or “the place of noises,” was a neutral, holy ground for the native peoples. Early white settlers believed it was a center of devil worship. According to Charles Montgomery Skinner, writing in 1896, “It was finally understood that Haddam witches, who practised black magic, met the Moodus witches, who used white magic, in a cave beneath Mount Tom, and fought them in the light of a great carbuncle that was fastened to the roof.” The noises apparently lessed after an English magician named Dr. Steele arrived, built a house, sealed it tight, caused loud noises, sparks, and smoke to emerge from it, and finally extracted the carbuncle before heading out for parts unknown. Today, there is “hiking, tennis, golf, horseshoe pitching, badminton, volleyball, softball, fishing, boating, canoeing, basketball, boccé,” and a “game room.”

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Planting Trees in Afghanistan

Hania's drawing

Hania is five years old going on six. I took this photo of her March 19, 2011 at the School of Knowledge and Religion in Kabul, Afghanistan. She’s holding a drawing of trees she made for a “tree-planting for peace” organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Just prior to the tree-planting, the group, who have all lost parents or siblings in the Afghan war, read a poem they wrote for the occasion (below). Find out more about the group at

We need a different tree
For seekers of roots, life has ample proof
that Power and Privilege consistently oppress the People.
This Power and Privilege is perfected in war,
& accepted universally like any other conventional tree.
And then,
its shade kills the People.
Why would an Afghan mother want a tree that kills?
Why would scholars promote it?
Why would the few rich and powerful insist on it?
Why would the People want it?
War is NOT what we wish to plant on any day, & certainly not today.
We wish to plant a tree rooted in Love,
a Love which says,’I live and love, so I shall not kill.’
If we wish to live without wars,
we need to plant a different tree.

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Salt for the Unsalted

Hey Bruce: What do you think of Worcester’s Mechanic’s Hall?

The problem with Mechanic’s Hall is, I never found a good mechanic there. Just a bunch of maniacs!

How do you survive life in Worcester?

Try to think positive. Don’t let people get under your skin, knock you down, or define you. The other possible solution is like climbing to the top of a Silver Mountain. Once you’re in the middle, it’s a long way to the top. Do you want to stop there or keep going?

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Youth Un!ted Against Tree-Licking

As a Youth, it is with great regret that I deplore the lack of gathering places for young people in Worcester. As we ride from place to place, many of my fellow Youth may be driven down dark paths. I beseech my peers not to turn to licking the trees of our fair City. With the encroach of the Asian Longhorn Beetle, and the spraying of nicotine-based imidacloprid pesticide on our vulnerable trees, combined with the forthcoming ban on the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies, which will completely prevent youth from accessing nicotine, it is a great temptation to run into the nearest forest and lick trees until your tongue turns to bark—but you can just say NO! Despite society’s hatred for our boisterous conduct, deviant behavior, and general flippancy, we Youth must never succumb to weakness, but strive onwards, creating positive places for emotional and psychic growth, making our presence felt, and raising our voices, refusing to accept the prevalent stereotype of “tree-licking delinquents.” There can be a better tomorrow, and I’ll need you all there, with me.

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

How many teeth do women have?

Many people today believe that women have fewer teeth than men, a theory most famously promoted by Aristotle in his 350 B.C. classic History of Animals, where he stated that “Males have more teeth than females in the case of men, sheep, goats, and swine.” Recent scientific research tells us, and the Happiness Pony editorial team can confirm, that men and women usually have the same number of teeth, 32. Other Aristotelian theories of women, such that they have a poor disposition, and are mis-shapen, also remain strangely popular.

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]