Preview: City Council agenda (May 12)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 4pm. The agenda is here. This week: budget, some small stuff. (Errata: a few weeks back I wrote that the budget would not be on the agenda soon; this was wrong.)

  • Gun Range: There’s an item from Claudia Russo and 11 others opposing a new gun store and range at 170 Prescott St.
  • Budget: For the next few weeks the Council will be reviewing the municipal budget. This week: Police Department, Fire Department, Health and Human Services, Public Health, Elder Affairs, City Manager’s Office, Contingency, Human Resources, Worker’s Comp/IOD, Unemployment Compensation, Health Insurance.
  • More Food Trucks?: Last week’s food truck item was tabled; it should be back this week.
  • Boards and Commissions: Lawrence Sullivan is now on the Parks Commission; Francesca Abbey and Robert Bilotta are now on the Commission on Disabilities.
  • Discussing Race: The City and the US Justice Department’s Community Relations Service are planning a discussion series on race in the city. The series begins Monday, May 18, 6-8pm at the downtown YWCA.

Preview: City Council agenda (May 5)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: police, tasers, pensions, hot dog carts.

  • Executive Session: The Council will close the meeting for awhile “for the purpose of discussing strategy with respect to collective bargaining.”
  • Retiree Pensions and Other Benefits: Councilors Rushton and Economou have some items asking for reports regarding these.
  • Tasers: Councilor Toomey has an item asking for the WPD to get tasers for all officers.
  • Food Trucks: Councilors Rushton, Rivera, and Rosen have an item asking for a report on food truck regulations, with the intention of the Economic Development Committee revisiting this issue. Back in 2008 the City Council voted for new restrictions on food carts in the city, and their number went way down.
  • More Police: The Council’s Public Safety Committee recommends that the full Council vote “in favor of hiring a police class of at least 20 for Fiscal Year 2016.”

Preview: City Council agenda (April 28)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Civilian Police Review Board, boards and commissions, solar farm zoning, absentee landlords, police in the schools.

  • Request to Make Camden Avenue Public: “Phuong-Tran-Vo request Camden Ave. from Indiana St. to Greenfield St. be made public.”
  • Solar Zoning: Councilor Russell has an item requestingZoning restrictions for solar farms especially near Residential areas… this does not include accessory solar uses.” Specifically: “No – all residential zones”, and “SP – all BL, ML and BO zones” and “Yes – all other B and MG zones”.
  • Boards and Commissions: A lot of people are being appointed to City Boards and Commissions. Shawna Curran and Ike McBride to the Human Rights Commission; Samantha Fiakofi to the Worcester Arts Council; Devon Kurtz to the Historical Commission; and J. Martin Shanahan to the Citizens Advisory Council. Good job everybody.
  • Newbury Street Community Garden: The City will “execute a lease for the 22 Newbury Street Property for community gardening purposes.”
  • City Diversity Plan: The City Manager will present a “plan to implement improved strategies and policies that better serve and represent our diverse community.” Specifically, the plan includes sections on “Creating a more Diverse and Culturally Competent Workforce, Improving Public Safety Relations with the Community, Providing Opportunities for Young People Expanding Efforts to Educate and Engage the Public on the Electoral Process, and Enhancing Economic Development Opportunities.”
  • Civilian Police Review Boards: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking about “the feasibility of establishing an independent Civilian Police Review Board.”
  • Absentee Landlords: Councilor Rivera has an item asking “that the owner’s name and contact telephone number be conspicuously posted to the front of non-owner occupied multi-family properties.”
  • Justice Department Questions: The City and the US Justice Department’s Community Relations Service are planning a discussion series on race in the city. Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a bunch of details on this.
  • Police in the Schools: Councilors Bergman and Russell have an item asking about getting full-time police officers and metal detectors in all our high schools. I am not sure why this is a City Council item since the School Committee is in charge of the schools.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 14)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: hot dog vendors, recycling.

Pre-meeting: There will be an “anti-repression rally” outside City Hall at 6pm in reaction to Black Lives Matter protesters being charged with “being a disorderly person and disturbing the peace” for blocking traffic in Kelley Square for 4 minutes in January. No one was arrested at the January protest; two months after the protest, approximately 10% of those blocking the street were charged. Those charged are due in court on Wednesday.

  • Dog Signs: “Katherine Fratus request signs be installed in the Beaconsfield Rd. neighborhood that states owners must pick up after their dog or there will be a fine.”
  • Mosaic Cultural Complex: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager for a report on money the city gave to Mosaic Cultural Complex, and “how legitimate are the concerns addressed on the internet regarding this entity.” Mosaic is an organization that has hosted Black Lives Matter meetings and as Councilor Lukes notes, there are “concerns addressed on the internet” that they may not have their nonprofit paperwork straight.
  • The next budget: Councilor Gaffney has an item asking that if there is a tax increase in the next budget, all of that money go to “fund the City’s pension and OPEB liabilities.” The Council usually does not deal with all the tax and budget stuff in the months before the election; an item like this one attempts to make the issue part of the election conversation.
  • HOT DOG VENDORS!: Back in 2008 the City Council voted for new restrictions on food carts in the city, and their number went way down. This week, Coucilors Rose, Bergman, and Rivera ask for a report on what changes can be made to allow vendors on the Worcester Common. Councilor Rosen was on the Council back in 2008 and was outspoken in his opposition to the regulations. (Here’s a video I narrated with some interviews with vendors back then. It is slow but I link it for the record.)
  • Rectangular fields: Councilor Rosen has an item asking how we are doing at adding more soccer etc fields to the city. The Parks Department refers to these as “rectangular fields.” Soccer advocates have been pushing on this issue for years.
  • Recyling in bags rather than bins: Councilor Rosen has an item asking how our most exciting recycling pilot program is going, the one that lets people put recycling in clear trashbags rather than using bins.
  • More recycling: Councilors Bergman and Economou have an item that I think is asking for a report on what needs to change for the city to be able to handle trash and recycling for “townhouse and or condominium developments.” Buildings with a lot of units have to make their own arrangements for dealing with this stuff.
  • Too many apartments?: Councilors Bergman and Economou have another item asking the Office of Economic Development “what level of apartments, especially in the core of the City, would be considered a saturation point.” I am curious to hear what negative impacts they are concerned about.
  • Needle disposal: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking for a pilot needle collection program to deal with discarded needles in Castle Park.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 7)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s meeting: appointments, net neutrality, government channel, the old courthouse, and sewer rates.

  • Commissions: Activist Benito Vega will be appointed to the Citizens Advisory Council. Former City Councilor Mike Perotto will be appointed to the Election Commission.
  • Net Neutrality: A couple weeks back Councilor Lukes asked the administration to ask Charter what impact the FCC’s new net neutrality rules might have on customers. Charter has replied: they’re not sure yet.
  • Government Access Cable Channel: Why does the government channel have $1.7 million in the bank? According to a report to the Council, for salaries, building a studio in the basement of City Hall, and a possible $100,000 upgrade to lighting and audio in the City Council chamber.
  • Selling the Old Courthouse: It seems likely that the Council will at last vote to sell the old, vacant courthouse to a developer to build market-rate apartments and retail space. People have been pressuring the Council to ensure that many of those renovating the building will be local residents, but according to the linked article makes it sound like this will not happen.
  • “Items Reasonably Anticipated”: Procedural geeks and open government advocates will enjoy that there’s a section of the agenda called “Items Reasonably Anticipated,” perhaps a reference to recent Council rules changes that establish how the mayor can add items to the agenda when they are not reasonably anticipated.
  • Water and Sewer Rates Going Up: Because of cost increases, the City Manager recommends that the Council increase water rates by 1.7%, and sewer rates by 5.2%.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (April 9)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee has the first April meeting this Thursday, April 8 at 7pm. You can find the agenda here.

There are two things that may well be of general or continuing interest:

  • We are (finally) scheduled to set FY16 budgetary priorities. We were required to submit our ranked list last week; that has been shared with the committee members, and we’ll be discussing this at the meeting. The budget comes out May 8.
  • We also have an facilities update on the Advanced Academy. It looks as though Doherty does not currently have room for it.
  • We are starting off the meeting with recognitions, and we have a TLSS subcommittee report to accept. We also have some personnel reports to accept.

    We have reports coming back on Read Across America day, on the Spring into Books book drive, and on internal v public documents.

    It’s time to elect a delegate and an alternate to the MASC annual meeting.

    Mr. Monfredo asks if the testing calendar changed as a result of snow days (the response is we extended the window).

    Miss Biancheria is looking for an expert to talk about linking cameras to the police department, and also about budgetary means for additional positions at North. Also, she’s interested in what training is giving to staff regarding electronic media use.

    Mr. Monfredo would like to recognize our facilities staff for their fine work this winter. He’d also like to set a date in October to meet with our delegation, and to encourage students to take part in the Worcester Bravehearts Home Run club (which I can’t find anything about online).

    Mr. O’Connell would like to congratulation the Burncoat Green Reapers and the crew team.

    Mr. Monfredo wants to know if we can give preference to people who reside in Worcester in hiring (see MGL Ch. 71, sec. 38).

    We’re being asked to declare as surplus a sliver of land directly next to Nelson Place School as part of the land swaps necessary to build the school. THIS IS NOT THE ASSUMPTION DEAL. This is essentially trading land with a neighbor to improve things for construction.

    WE’RE GETTING ANOTHER FOOD TRUCK!

    We’re going to be considering summer reading and new courses in TLSS and considering the student handbook in Governance (those meetings and specifics to come).

    And we have an executive session to consider a grievance. <

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 31)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s meeting has many items, but most of them are the usual sorts of business.

    • Voting on the Olympics: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition to ask, on the November 3 municipal ballot, “Do you support bringing the Olympics to Boston in 2024?”
    • Rooftop gardens: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager for a report on “the feasibility of installation of roof top gardens for new development projects and whether incentives or other encouragements would be appropriate for such installations.”
    • Chambers Street still private: The Public Works Committee recommends that the petition to turn Chambers Street from a private to a public (city-maintained) street be denied.

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 24)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 24, 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: selling the old courthouse, conserving open space, free electronic recycling.

    • Nelson Place land swap: The city wants to swap some Nelson Place School land with Assumption College to help out the college. School Committee member Tracy Novick has more.
    • Conserving 6 acres: The City Manager wants the city to spend $300,000 to purchase a “conservation restriction” on 6 acres of land from the EcoTarium.
    • Selling the old courthouse: The city is selling the old courthouse to developers for $1.2 million. The building will be preserved and turned into apartments and retail space.
    • Dover Amendment: Councilors Bergman and Economou would like the city to seek special exemptions from the Dover Amendment, which “exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.” The City Solicitor has written a report for the Council that I think can be summarized as “that’s probably not going to work.”
    • CitySquare updates: The City Council needs to amend some stuff to keep the CitySquare project moving forward, so the manager has an update of how all the pieces are going.
    • Free Household Electronics Recycling Day: Saturday, April 18, 9:00 AM-2:00 PM, 1065 Millbury Street. More details here.

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 10)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 10, 6:30pm. The agenda is here. This week: city employees union, Uber, Holy Cross tax-exempt land.

    • City Employees Union: The City has made a 3-year agreement with the National Association of Government Employees. The T&G has details. The Council will briefly recess into executive session to “discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining.”
    • SeeClickFix: We will soon have a smartphone app for reporting and tracking non-emergency issues like potholes and graffiti.
    • Library Parking Lot: There’s a report on this. Since the introduction of paystations, revenue is up 8%, complaints are down, and operating costs are down. Some students of the downtown QCC campus are using the lot.
    • Uber: The City Law Department has a report on proposed regulations for Uber. From my sleep-deprived reading of this report, Uber doesn’t qualify as either a taxi or livery service, so it’s not currently regulated.
    • Holy Cross Undeveloped Properties: You may remember that Holy Cross College has a couple of undeveloped parcels that it doesn’t pay tax on. People have argued that since it’s not using these parcels for educational or charitable purposes, it should be paying taxes. The City Assessor has issued a report saying that the courts have generally found it is OK for a college to have undeveloped parcels as buffers or green space.
    • Snow Removal: The City Manager is requesting another $1,619,557.53 be authorized for the snow removal budget, both to cover current invoices and “anticipated future snow costs.”

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 3)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 3, 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the triage center, Net Neutrality, Holy Cross tax-exempt land.

    • Elections: Tuesday is the first day to “pull papers” to run for Worcester City Council or the School Committee. We’ll be tracking details of this year’s election here.
    • Economic development: The quarterly economic development report will be presented. This quarter: construction of the Gardner Kilby Hammond Bike Path; design work for the Worcester Blackstone Visitor Center; capital improvement plan for Union Station; and “relocation of Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Coghlin Companies, Inc., to 17 Briden Street in Worcester. The company provides manufacturing and engineering services to medical and dental equipment companies”.
    • Triage center: There are several items regarding the homeless shelter on Queen Street. It has been operating way above capacity this winter: as many as 120 people staying in what should be a 40-person shelter. Also, a man died in a private room there earlier this year, and it was days before his body was discovered. The Public Health and Human Services committee is asking the city to make a plan for a second shelter run by a different agency.
    • Net neutrality: the Federal Communications Commission adopted strong net neutrality rules last week. This week, Councilor Lukes has this item: “Request City Manager communicate with Charter Communications regarding how the FCC’s new net neutrality Regulations will impact on programming and costs to the Worcester ratepayers.” Cable monopolies have been against net neutrality; it will be interesting to see Charter’s claims here.
    • Taxing Holy Cross land: Councilor Rosen is asking the city to start taxing Holy Cross College for 2 “long-time vacant but developable parcels” of land, saying that “they are not being occupied for charitable use and, therefore, are not an integral part of the college’s operations.” The local group AWARE thinks taxes on the parcels would be $48,000 annually. It’s worth noting that several Worcester colleges have PILOT deals with the city, where they pay a little money to the city. These agreements have a clause that says that if the city tries to hit them up for tax money on any of their properties, the PILOT agreement goes out the window. Holy Cross gives some money to the Worcester Public Library, but that is not a PILOT deal.
    • Cleaning the slate: There are ongoing efforts to see to it that City Council items are dealt with in a timely manner. This week, there are a ton of old agenda items that will be officially resolved, by “filing” them without any further action. These include items originally proposed by former Councilors Bill Eddy, Mike Germain, Joff Smith, and Paul Clancy.