Preview: City Council agenda (January 26)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s agenda has many items on finance. Here’s Worcester Magazine’s Council preview. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Citizen Coleman: Bill Coleman has many items on the agenda this week. Two of note: A request to help with “a World War II Memorial honoring Worcester’s citizens of color who served our country” and a request to help “homeowners over the age of 65 years who are in tax title default keep their homes.”
  • Board and Commissions: George Maple, Jr. has been appointed to the G. A. R. Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; Lois D. Cuiffredo and Edward L. Moynihan have been appointed Constables.
  • Mill Street Construction: There is still so much more in the works on Mill Street.
  • Streets: There is a ton of stuff about changing handicapped parking, the winter parking ban, etc along various streets.
  • Civil Rights/Diversity Report: The Manager has a report on what’s happening on these subjects. It notes we’ve hired a Chief Diversity Officer, among many other things.
  • Finance: Various items on issuing bonds and property taxes.
  • Carried Forward From Last Week: Annual Financial Report: The City Auditor will be presenting Worcester’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2015 fiscal year. There’s nothing surprising in the executive summary but I will not pretend to have read this.
  • Six-Figure Finance Items: $2,478,966.00 to refinance a portion of the City’s outstanding 2005 and 2007 General Obligation Bonds; $150,000.00 transferred from WFD Salaries to WFD Overtime; $100,000.00 transferred from Contingency Ordinary Maintenance to City Manager Ordinary Maintenance (new cameras on the Common).

Preview: City Council agenda (January 19)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s agenda is pretty short: new Council rules, new police, and drought. This week Worcester Magazine has also written a Council preview, hopefully the first of many. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Market Street Changes: Appleton Corporation, who manage the biotech building at 55 Union St, are asking that a section of Market St that passes through the property be removed from the Official Public Map. This will go to the Planning Board.
  • Barclay Street Crime Watch: Kamel Anthony Bryant has an item asking the Council to create a Neighborhood Crime watch, and add cameras and patrols to the neighborhood of 23 Barclay St., where he recently thwarted a home invasion.
  • Annual Financial Report: The City Auditor will be presenting Worcester’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2015 fiscal year. There’s nothing surprising in the executive summary but I will not pretend to have read this.
  • Parks & Rec: Councilor Economou has an item complaining that it’s taking too long for Parks and Recreation Commission agendas and minutes to be posted online.
  • The 100: Councilor Lukes is asking for a list of the city’s 100 largest taxpayers and the 100 who owe the most.
  • Tax Breaks for Senior Housing: Councilor Bergman is asking for the city to exempt from property tax anything built or improved for housing a senior relative of the property owner, this exemption lasting as long as the person lives there.
  • District 2: Councilor Mero-Carlson is asking about implementation of the Master Plan at Holmes Field, and the status of the Lake Ave. North street project.
  • Medical Marijuana: Several Councilors are asking the City Manager to make sure medical marijuana facilities are spread throughout the city, not all put in one area. (The Councilors: Mero-Carlson, Economou, Rosen, Toomey, Bergman.)
  • Rules Changes: Several items involving proposed Council rules changes were tabled last week; they’re back this week. These items include the changes themselves (see past previews for details, as well as Councilor Lukes’s request that the rules changes be sent back to the Rules Committee, since only 1 of the 3 members were present at the meeting where the changes were discussed.

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Preview: City Council agenda (January 12)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: new Council rules, new police, and drought.

  • Council Rules Changes: The rules proposed last month are up for a vote. Here’s a summary from the City Solicitor: “Added a statement of rights of councilors to the rule on the duties of councilors; a specific Order of Business for each type of council meeting (Council, Manager, & Joint); allows Councilors to recuse themselves without a vote of the Council; allows chair to determine the extent of debate when a councilor exercises their right under the city charter unilaterally to hold an item; addresses items brought under suspension and city manager supplementals such that the mayor must declare that the item was not reasonably anticipated at the time for posting and by requiring that these items appear on the next agenda. Also it allows Committees to place reports to be taken up at the next council meeting regardless of whether it is a council or a manager meeting; revises Citizen Participation Rules to reflect the new rules allowing citizens two minutes to speak on agenda items and three minutes to speak on their petitions; includes a new rule providing the procedures under state law to address and possibly remove individuals who disrupt a meeting; allows the Council to Discharge an item from a committee and bring it back for consideration of the entire City Council; provides for the disposition of stale items pending in committee at the end of each two year council term.”
  • Removing Streets: There are several items asking for street changes. To be removed: Parts of Pitt Street and Hemans Court. (Would that the street had been named He-Man’s Court.)
  • More Anti-Panhandling?: Michael Grandone has a citizen petition asking for Worcester to formulate yet another anti-panhandling plan. I’m skeptical; we had an anti-panhandling ordinance and we enforced it, and it didn’t seem to make a difference. (Leaving aside that it didn’t survive a challenge in court and might cost the city $1 million in legal fees.) Maybe another ordinance is not what we need.
  • Appointments: Michael Dugan, David Hoffman and Francis Trapasso to Constable; Richard Pinkes to the Elder Affairs Commission.
  • Drought: The City Manager is announcing that we are officially at the first stage of being in a drought. Usually the reservoirs are at 88% in January; they’re currently at 55%. Being in this stage of a drought means the city will not use water for non-essential purposes. Non-residential water users will be required to inspect and repair water lines. There will be reductions in car and truck washing, and washing paved areas is prohibited.
  • 36 Police Recruits: As of this week we have 36 recruits in various types of police training.
  • Homicide: The police chief has a report on homicide and gun violence. 2015 sure seemed like a crazy year in Worcester but statistically it doesn’t look too extreme. We had 8 murders in 2015 (5 by gun), 7 in 2014, and 9 in 2013. We had 31 incidents of gun violence in 2015, and 38 in 2014.
  • Six-Figure Finance Items: $420,000.00 for construction costs associated with retail space at the DCU Center; $154,000.00 to allow for payment of current and future obligations of citywide school energy improvements; $2,000,000.00 grant requested from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
  • City Manager Contract: The Municipal Operations Committee recommends the Council extend the Manager’s contract through October 2020.
  • Gary Rosen: Councilor Rosen is on fire this week. He has items complaining about people parking in their front yards; asking if we have a plan for police body cams; asking for a list of who occupies all city-owned buildings; and asking about efforts to get the PawSox to relocate to Worcester.
  • Sewer Fees: Councilor Russell has several items asking for detailed reports on who pays city sewer fees, for what, and how much.
  • Tobacco: Councilor Rivera has an item asking if it would be a good idea for Worcester to require people to be 21 to buy tobacco.
  • Rules Committee Complaint: Councilor Lukes has an item asking if the suggested rules changes (above) can be sent back to the Rules Committee, since only 1 of the 3 members were present at the meeting where the changes were discussed.
  • No New Taxes: Councilor Gaffney has an item asking the Manager to not increase property taxes in the next budget, or to only use those increases to fund pensions and new police and firemen.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 1)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Worcester’s war on Airbnb begins? Also: after a delay, the big discussion of next year’s property tax rate.

  • Library Board: Two new members will be elected “for terms ending on December 31, 2021.”
  • Residential Taxes: Virginia Ryan has numerous citizen petitions on this subject this week. They include asking the Council to adopt a “Senior/Veterans Voluntary Work-Off Tax Program”; to “lower the tax deferral rate from 8% to 2.5% to accommodate seniors in Worcester who are ‘House Rich and Income Poor'”; to “increase the single/married income limits to reflect those of the Single Circuit Breaker and change the age requirement from 70 to 65 years”; to adopt small business and residental tax exemptions; and others.
  • School Arrests: Gordon Davis and Vianna Mercedes have a citizen asking for a policy of “not arresting kids at school” “unless there is clear and immediate danger.”
  • Homelessness: Councilor Rivera has a couple items asking how Worcester is responding to “the most recent increase in homelessness” and if we have a plan for sheltering homeless families and kids during the cold months.
  • Worcester State University Parking: Councilor Rosen has a proposal to ask the school administration to deal with their parking shortage by paving some of their grass.
  • Airbnb: Councilor Rosen brings up the Airbnb issue by asking about “the advisability, safety and legality of city residents changing the character of their residential neighborhoods by listing their home or apartment on Airbnb, a website that allows people to rent rooms in their residences to guests for one or more nights.” (Personally I am very pro-Airbnb.)
  • Washington Heights: Anthony Fracasso, Senior Vice President of Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, will be giving public notice of a meeting regarding MassDevelopment’s plan to fund the rehabilitation of 404 residential units in Washington Heights (across from Coes Pond).
  • Property Tax Rate Hearing: How much will residential property taxes be next year? Commercial taxes? The Council will decide soon.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (December 3)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, December 3 at 7. You can find the agenda here.
The report of the superintendent this week–the first report Dr. Rodrigues is giving as interim–is his entry plan.

There are no subcommittee reports this week.
We have a response coming back from administration on the updated numbers on the state cherry sheet (worse than they were when we passed the budget in June) and what the final cost on gas will be, as that contract was still being negotiated when we passed the budget. And while it’s lower than the projection, skim down to the utilities line in the first quarter update on where we’re expected to be on building utilities for why we won’t be hearing a recommendation to move funds. 


In the ongoing settling up of the student activities accounts, we’re being asked to accept a donation of $6,261.81 to Doherty. 
We’re being asked to accept $400 from Shaw’s for Heard Street School.
We have several requests for recognitions.
Mr. Monfredo is asking that administration work to get more mentors for AVID.
Miss Biancheria is asking that the security audit be discussed at the December 17 meeting and also at the February 25 meeting.
She’s also asking a number of questions around textbooks: how many are rebound, how many we have versus need, how many are on the computer, how many students don’t have textbooks, and if there’s a central inventory.


I’m clearing out old items (lest I linger on agendas!), so I have a list of items I’m pulling off of subcommittee agendas and out of administration (many of which have been answered, anyway).


We have the annual Head Start report
We have the collaborative’s audit.
We’re being asked to accept an alternative education grant for $20,000 (not clear on what it’s for, exactly).
We’re being asked to accept STARS Residency grants for Columbus Park and for Jacob Hiatt (for neat stuff, incidently: check out the backup!)
We’re being asked to recognize the WPS Foundation for their constuction at the One City, One Library branches, and being asked to accept the donation of the materials and equipment there. 


Every six years, the state comes in and does a Coordinated Program Review (which, inevitably and much to my confusion, gets abbreviated ‘CPR’) to check on on how the district is doing with adhering to federal regulations. Ours has now come back and it includes:

Note that the reports came through a few months ago; I expect that we’ll have a report on what has already been changed or improved in a number of these areas.




There is an executive session for a grievance.

Preview: City Council agenda (November 24)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the big discussion of next year’s property tax rate.

  • Library Board: New candidates for the Library Board will speak briefly about why they want to be chosen.
  • Property Tax Rate Hearing: How much will residential property taxes be next year? Commercial taxes? The Council will decide soon.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will (probably) appointment Etel Capacchione to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Council Geeks Assemble: There are some “major changes in Council rules” on the horizon. Here’s a summary from the City Solicitor: “Added a statement of rights of councilors to the rule on the duties of councilors; a specific Order of Business for each type of council meeting (Council, Manager, & Joint); allows Councilors to recuse themselves without a vote of the Council; allows chair to determine the extent of debate when a councilor exercises their right under the city charter unilaterally to hold an item; addresses items brought under suspension and city manager supplementals such that the mayor must declare that the item was not reasonably anticipated at the time for posting and by requiring that these items appear on the next agenda. Also it allows Committees to place reports to be taken up at the next council meeting regardless of whether it is a council or a manager meeting; revises Citizen Participation Rules to reflect the new rules allowing citizens two minutes to speak on agenda items and three minutes to speak on their petitions; includes a new rule providing the procedures under state law to address and possibly remove individuals who disrupt a meeting; allows the Council to Discharge an item from a committee and bring it back for consideration of the entire City Council; provides for the disposition of stale items pending in committee at the end of each two year council term.”

Preview: City Council agenda (November 17)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. There is so much stuff.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

  • Animal committee?: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition asking for a “licensed animal owner advisory committee” to weigh in on any changes in our pet laws.
  • Vehicular carnage: Jo Hart has a citizen petition asking for a “well publicized public forum/hearing on the ways and means of eliminating vehicular carnage on city streets and sidewalks.”
  • Chirpers: Councilor Economou asks that we add “audible signals (chirpers)” to our crosswalks.
  • Castle Park: Councilor Rivera asks for the timeframe of the handball court’s demolition, and for a public meeting on how we should spend money allocated to upgrading the park.
  • Mosaic: You will remember that this nonprofit attracted a lot of negative attention for its role in Black Lives Matter organizing, which led to an audit of how it and other organizations spent a grant from the city. The audit found problems. Councilor Lukes has an item asking about defunding Mosaic (which I guess means just not giving it grants in the future?).
  • Needle exchange: Councilor Lukes asks that a proposed needle exchange program be remove from our current “Response to the Opiate Epidemic” so it can be discussed separately.
  • Lawsuits: The Council will have a private “executive session” with the City Manager to discuss lawsuits, to wit: a US District Court judge finding Worcester’s 2013 anti-panhandling laws unconstitutional; a lawsuit over who should clean up a contaminated part of Crow Hill; a hotel owner suing the city for not building a skywalk between the Worcester Center Boulevard Parking Garage and the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel; and a lawsuit about an allegedly coercive interrogation by Worcester police.
  • Green Hill Park: The proposal is to change (but not reduce) the conservation restrictions on the park. There are several reasons the City and local conservationists want to do this, including habitat preservation, linking wild areas of the park, and allowing for the possibility of golf course changes. Councilor Gaffney unilaterally delayed the decision till this week, because he said he wanted to discuss the conservation restriction amendments and the golf course all together, rather than as separate issues.
  • Opiate Epidemic: (Delayed from last week.) There will be a presentation on Worcester’s response so far.
  • Getting Plowed In: (Delayed from last week.) Councilor Bergman has an item asking if we can somehow communicate “the timing of snowplowing routes to avoid getting ‘plowed in’.”
  • Rules Geekery: (Delayed from last week.) Councilor Bergman requests “a legal opinion as to authority for any councilor(s) to request items held in committee to be brought forward and whether or not (Worcester Home Rule Charter: Section 2-6 (c)(ii) (Exercise of Powers; Quorum) is/are applicable.”

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Preview: City Council agenda (November 10)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. There is so much stuff.

  • Election: One non-agenda item to start. The upshot of last week’s Council election was that Palmieri and Rushton chose not to run for re-election, and were replaced by Candy Mero-Carlson (D2) and Khrystian King (At-Large). King barely inched out Juan Gomez for the final Council seat. Gomez will be officially asking for a re-count (and alleging some election irregularities). The last time there was a citywide recount, the 2011 School Committee race, candidate vote totals changed as much as 171 votes. Note that Moe Bergman, #5 in the Council race, only barely beat King. So it’s equally plausible that Gomez, King, or Bergman will be the one out.
  • Panhandling: Another non-agenda item. Today a US District Court judge found Worcester’s 2013 anti-panhandling laws unconstitutional.
  • Percent: This week only, I want to note the % of ballots each Councilor got last week.
  • Expansion of the Green Hill Park Golf Course: People who are opposed to this expansion are organizing a presence at this meeting. This doesn’t much change how many acres are under a conservation restriction, just which acres those are. Councilor Economou (55% in his district) has an item asking if this expansion makes financial sense.
  • Signs and Cameras: Councilor Rivera (61% in her district) has items asking for “Neighborhood Crime Watch signs in the area of Hollis and Gardner Sts.,” surveillance cameras in the Winslow Street Park, and signs noting the presence of those cameras.
  • Parking Payment: Casey McHugh has a petition asking for better payment options (smartphone, etc) for the Shrewsbury St. parking lot for Union Station.
  • Public Street: Mahmoud Soheili Arshadi requests that Soheili Circle be made a public street.
  • The Mill Street Dig: Councilor Rosen (71% in his district) is asking that Mill Street, which is all dug up, be restored by Spring 2016.
  • Proportional Representation: Bill Coleman (24%) has an item asking if we can have proportional voting in Worcester, like they do in Cambridge. Bill also has an item asking the City Manager to make his 2016 State of the City address a big, public event.
  • Andrew Haswell Green: Rev. John Griffin has an item asking for us to have an annual October 6 remembrance of Andrew Haswell Green, the Worcester native who was “the Father of Greater New York.”
  • Boards and Commissions: Sean Lauziere has been appointed to the Human Rights Commission; the Council will vote on the appointment of Henry Fields to the Conservation Commission; the Council will vote on the appointments of Maureen Carlos, Patrick Hare, Greta Kenney, Aivi Nguyen, Kathleen Rentsch, Lily Vandyk, and Florette Willis to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Transportation Improvement Projects: The Council will be receiving reports on planned road and sidewalk contruction along and near Lincoln St, Main Street, and Shore Drive.
  • Trash and Recycling for Condos: The Commissioner of Public Works has a report on the Council’s suggestion that the City not only do trash and recycling pickup for people in houses and small apartment buildings, but also for the big ones we don’t currently support. He notes that the cost of Worcester “yellow bags” only funds half the cost of pickup, and that adding these complexes would cost the City $125/unit.
  • More Nicotine Regulation: The City Law Department is ok with Worcester expanding cigarette ordinances to include e-cigarettes, and to generally expand no-smoking zones.
  • Opiate Epidemic: There will be a presentation on Worcester’s response so far.
  • Refugee Resettlement Process: You will remember a couple weeks back that Councilor Lukes (40%) asked questions about the process of resettling refugees in Worcester. This week, the City reports that there are quarterly meetings between the local refugee resettlement agencies, City officials, community group leaders, and people from the colleges. There aren’t details of which community groups are involved, or how you could sit in on these meetings.
  • Taxes: The value of taxable Worcester property is up 0.58% over last year. Next year’s tax rates will be set at a Nov 24 meeting.
  • WSU Parking Plan: Councilor Rosen asks for a comprehensive data-driven traffic and parking study for the Worcester State University and Chandler Magnet School neighborhood.”
  • Getting Plowed In: Councilor Bergman (36%) has an item asking if we can somehow communicate “the timing of snowplowing routes to avoid getting ‘plowed in’.”
  • Rules Geekery: Councilor Bergman requests “a legal opinion as to authority for any councilor(s) to request items held in committee to be brought forward and whether or not (Worcester Home Rule Charter: Section 2-6 (c)(ii) (Exercise of Powers; Quorum) is/are applicable.”
  • Six-Digit Finance Items: $504,522.00 transferred from Police Capital Equipment to Police Equipment; $146,728.09 transferred from Technical Service Capital Equipment to DPSD Capital Equipment; $2,250,000.00 transferred from Building Rehabilitation City & Schools to Citywide/Schools Energy Improvements; $200,000.00 from Dam Rehabilitation to Dam Safety; $300,000.00 from Sewer/Interceptor to Sewers/Interceptor Inspection; $150,000.00 from Traffic Signal Equipment to Traffic Signals; $213,820.00 from the Sewer Capital Equipment loan account to Sewer Capital Equipment; $112,999.65 from Parks Capital Equipment to Parks Equipment, “to allow for the purchase and future payment of approved FY16 Capital Equipment.”