Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Patrick Sargent, GoLocalWorcester Contributor
Lifelong resident of Worcester and College of the Holy Cross graduate, Matt Wally has decided to run for an At-Large seat on Worcester's City Council. Wally is the Community Development Group Manager for New England and New York for TD Bank and serves as a Director of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.
GoLocalWorcester caught up with Matt and had 10 questions for him.
1. What is the most important issue the city of Worcester faces today?
There has been an alarming increase of gun violence in the city. Although Worcester is much safer than other similar sized urban communities, gun violence must be curtailed. Public Safety programs such as the Worcester Police Department’s Summer Impact Program are important, effective, and necessary approaches to this problem. I am glad to see funding for this program included in the City Manager’s proposed budget. Bringing the right partners to the table to develop programs that provide Worcester’s youth with alternatives to joining gangs is another important vehicle for keeping the streets safe. Going forward it will be necessary that other community policing initiatives continue to be evaluated for their impact, cost effectiveness, and ability to be successfully implemented.
2. Why did you decide to run for City Council?
I have made the decision to run for an At- Large seat on the Worcester City Council for a reason: to improve the quality of life in Worcester. As the second largest city in New England it is vital that the ‘quality of life’ borne from safe streets and excellent public schools ensures current residents continue to live here and others are enticed to move here.
3. What challenges do you expect to face over the course of your campaign?
The candidates in the current field for the City Council At-Large contest are all highly credible and I expect a very competitive race.
4. What part of Worcester are you from and what opportunities has Worcester given you?
I grew up on Burncoat Street, own a three-decker on Lincoln Street, and my wife and I currently live off of Pleasant Street. The most important opportunity Worcester has given me was the opportunity to receive an excellent education from kindergarten through graduate school. The education I received at Thorndyke Road School and Burncoat Middle and Senior High Schools allowed me to further my education at two great colleges in Worcester. I received an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the College of The Holy Cross and a graduate degree in Community Development and Planning from Clark University.
5. What are some of your favorite restaurants/hangouts in Worcester?
There is nothing better than enjoying a nice cold beer and a tasty burger while watching the sun set on the deck at the Grill on the Hill overlooking Green Hill Golf Course. My wife and I consider ourselves “foodies’ and we are fortunate that Worcester offers so many different dining options at reasonable prices.
6. What initiatives do you intend to present if elected for City Council?
If elected to the City Council I intend to present initiatives that support public safety programs in our neighborhoods, ensure the Worcester Public Schools have enough funding for excellence inside and outside of the classrooms, and create an environment that encourages private businesses to invest their capital in our city. Police bike patrols are a great way to improve the interaction between residents and public safety personnel. As a proven community policing model bike patrols should be funded in order to deter crime in problem neighborhoods. Although under the jurisdiction of the School Department it would be valuable to revisit the dialogue concerning the repair of the Olympic-size pool at South High School. The unduplicated success of the Gardner High School swim team is an example of what a first class indoor pool can do for the retention and recruitment of outstanding student athletes. Small businesses development in Worcester is critical for the expansion of the tax base and growth of jobs. Facilitating access to capital, streamlining the permitting process, and encouraging entrepreneurs to start-up in Worcester is an important role the City can play in the growth of private businesses.
7. If you were part of the current City Council, what changes in the city would you want addressed immediately?
Many cities and towns across the country employ a full time permanent Director of Recreation/Sports/Fitness. Unfortunately the City of Worcester does not. The benefits of recreational activity to both the physical and mental health of an individual are numerous. Although the city of Worcester offers great recreational programs such as the Green Hill Junior Golf Program and the Wheels to Water & Beyond Program they are seasonal and have age limitations. The development of year round recreational programming for both youth and adults would be a tremendous asset to have in Worcester. Unfortunately funding limitations have impacted the budget of the Parks, Recreation & Cemetery Division over the last few years. Therefore I would propose a public-private partnership between the City of Worcester and the athletic departments at Worcester’s colleges and universities to develop year round recreational programs for all Worcester residents.
8. What's one thing you hope to clearly communicate more than anything else to voters?
I hope to clearly communicate to voters my passion for Worcester. There are so many great things I love about this city: the parks, the tree lined streets, the restaurants, the cultural amenities, the numerous recreational options, but most importantly I love the people who make up the diverse fabric of life in Worcester.
9. What is your opinion on the community discussions on race?
Discussions on race on both a national and local level have increased in recent months. It is an important dialogue for urban communities to have as demographic shifts have dramatically changed the population of cities over the last 25 years. As this type of change occurs it is important to ensure a city government is representative of its population. Recently City Manager Ed Augustus released a plan to improve Worcester’s approach on diversity and inclusiveness in the community. This is a positive initiative and one that will hopefully allow for a continuation of healthy, productive, and open discussions on race.
10. What was the last book you read and how was it?
The last book I read was Scribe: My Life in Sports, by Bob Ryan. An award winning Boston Globe sports columnist, Ryan describes personal stories from his career covering athletes.