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.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (March 5)

People who would like to see a strong police presence at North High will be protesting outside before this meeting.

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

You can find the agenda here; we also have a supplemental, which is just sending the bus bids off to the March 16 F&O meeting for consideration.

We’re recognizing our Posse Scholars this week!

We have a communication coming in from the EAW regarding the new fingerprinting law.

The report of the Superintendent this week is the first FY16 budget estimates. Note that the Governor’s budget is set to come out the day before, on March 4 (which is why there’s no backup on this item as yet). If you can’t make the meeting this week,  Mr. Allen will be at CPPAC on March 11 at 7 pm at Chandler Magnet with the same presentation (or a similar one).

We have a response from administration on Constitution Day activities.

We have a response from administration regarding the CSX funds.

We have a response from administration regarding the Betty Curtis Young Writers’ Conference.

We have an item on the auditors’ reports which we’re sending off to F&O, to discuss at the same March 16 meeting.

Mr. Monfredo has asked that we congratulate the Valentine’s Day contest winners.

Ms. Biancheria is asking for an update on North High.

We’re being asked to accept a donation of $45.05 for Tatnuck Magnet School.

I have an item congratulating WPS on the second reception of the Meritorious Budget award!

I’ve asked that parents receive the specific dates their children are scheduled to take PARCC or MCAS.

I’ve also asked that we get some information on the impact the changes in vocational school regulations passed last week by the Board of Ed will have on admission to Worcester Tech.

Finally, administration is requesting authority to enter a 10 year lease agreement with the YMCA. Jacob Hiatt uses their gym and some parking spaces.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 3)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, February 3. The agenda is here. This week: ALBs, Uber, zoning, WRA.

  • Theater District: If you care about the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s plans for downtown Worcester, there will be a public hearing February 26. Also, there’s been a committee named to advise the WRA on this stuff: John Brissette, Vice Chair Jill Dagilis, Frank Carroll, Linda Cavaoli, Paul Demoga, Jack Donahue, Alex Dunn, Michelle Jones-Johnson, Alec Lopez, Stacey DeBoise Luster, Mable Millner, Deborah O’Malley, and Hong Tran.
  • Asian Longhorned Beetles: Many items on the agenda this week regarding attempts to fend off these beetles, still plaguing the city. Last meeting, the Councilors seemed quite resistant to the advise they were getting from experienced and credentialed issue. If you have an opinion as to whether we should try to stop the ALBs by cutting down a bunch of trees in Green Hill Park, or not cut trees and hope for the best, you might call your Councilor or make a comment at this meeting.
  • Pawn Shops: Councilor Lukes has an item wondering if the City Council can “place a cap on the number of pawn shops operating in the city.”
  • Uber: Councilors Lukes and Russell have some items asking the City Manager to look into how the popular car service is operating in the city, and how city government should regulate it.
  • Zoning Changes: This was delayed from the last meeting. The Council will be voting to establish a Commercial Corridors Overlay District where property owners will not be required to provide as much parking as in other areas of the city, “to encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of the City’s downtown and urban corridors.”

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Preview: City Council agenda (January 20)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, January 20. The agenda is here. I’ve been on the road the last couple weeks. Did I miss anything?

This week: a slim agenda.

  • Update on Council rule changes: Nothing will be decided yet. Since there is so much detail, we have a separate post on this.
  • Boards and Commissions: Aaron Richman reappointed to the Human Rights Commission; Jake Messier reappointed to the Trust Funds Commission; Matthew Yalouris appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee; Douglas Hannam reappointed to the Citizen’s Advisory Council.
  • Tax Breaks: We’re giving companies tax breaks relating to a rest home project at 102 Randolf Road. There have been delays; the Council will be voting to change the agreement to give them 2 more years to get things done.
  • Snow Parking: At the Council’s request, when the parking ban is declared due to snow, “the Pearl Elm, Federal Plaza, Union Station, and Major Taylor Garages will each be available for overnight parking. The current overnight rate from 5:00 pm-5:00 am is currently Six Dollars $6.00 at each of these locations.”
  • New Nelson Place School: The Council will be voting approval of the financing of a new $57 million Nelson Place School to open near Indian Lake in 2017.
  • 2015 Election Schedule: The new schedule is up. Want to run for City Council or School Committee? Pick up your nomination papers on March 3. Return your sheets of signatures by May 19 at 5:00pm.
  • New Landfill for Basin Cleanings and Street Sweepings: In recent years, the City has put “basin cleanings and street sweepings” into the Greenwood Street Landfill at no cost. Now that it’s full, the Council will be voting to enter a 5 year contract with the Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park to dump this stuff there for $11/ton.
  • Million-Dollar Properties: As part of their effort to figure out how to tax non-profits, the Council has asked for a list of the 1,066 properties in the city worth more than a million dollars. It’s an interesting list. There are 9 worth more than a hundred million dollars. UMass and Holy Cross are at the top of that list.
  • Zoning Changes: One change that I don’t understand but like the sound of is the establishment of a Commercial Corridors Overlay District in the area shown below, where things will be tweaked “to encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of the City’s downtown and urban corridors.”

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Worcester City Council rules changes

Here’s a PDF outlining proposed changes in how the City Council will operate.

A lot of this is just cleaning things up. The discussion of these changes has been happening for many months now, and will go on for some time to come.

Here are a few things I noticed that go beyond cleanup.

  • When the Council takes up an issue that’s not on the meeting agenda, they will first have to explain the emergency situation that’s forcing them to do so.
  • Limits total public comment at a Council meeting to 30 minutes. (The Council can always suspend this rule and let people talk longer.)
  • Reiterates that people at meetings should be silent, and that if you’re still talking after being warned, the Council can call the cops on you.
  • Formalizes that the Mayor can temporarily appoint Councilors to vacant committee spots. This is how it’s already done.
  • Currently, committees are supposed to make a decision on items within 60 days, then report back to the Council. There are a lot of old items drifting around. The new rule says that after 60 days, if the committee hasn’t dealt with the item, it goes back to the Council. Also, the Clerk will give the committees lists of their “dormant items,” and every 2 years there will be a big housecleaning—either a Councilor has to ask to keep an item alive, or it will automatically be “filed.” (That is, go away.
  • The new rules several times call speaking before the Council a “privilege,” whereas the old rules don’t. Not sure if this means anything.

Rules geeks, feel free to post a comment with your impressions.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 9)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, December 9. The agenda is here. Real short agenda this week, so I’m including some links of interest.

  • Library board: The Council will fill 2 positions on the Library Board of Directors from a pool of volunteer applicants.
  • Taxes: The tax discussion didn’t happen last week due to some procedural errors. This week, the discussion of how much to tax residents, businesses, etc. next year will begin.
  • Sex offenders: The Council is asking for a report on how many victims of Level 3 sex offenders knew their abuser at the time, and on the recidivism rate of these offenders.
  • Dover Amendment: The Council will likely ask the city administration for a plan of how we can get around the Dover Amendment, which “exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.” This probably relates to the Council’s renewed interest in trying to get nonprofits to give the city money. See also: this Womag article from January about Councilors wanting more control over how non-profits use their land.
  • Panhandling and Smart Meters: Interesting recent New York Times articles on how our anti-panhandling ordinance may end up before the US Supreme Court, and how cost savings from smart meters have been slow in coming.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 2)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, December 2. The agenda is here. This week: Tax rates, cultural district, surveillance.

  • Ferguson: The most notable thing from last week’s meeting was that, in response to the non-indictment in Ferguson, people testified to the Council for an hour about race and police accountability. I don’t see anything on this week’s agenda responding to that, either citizen petitions or items from Councilors.
  • Tax Rates: The Council will discuss what the tax rates for next year will be. They have limited discretion in setting rates for commercial vs. residential property, etc.
  • Boards and Commissions: Martha Assefa will be appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
  • Salisbury Cultural District: The Manager would like there to be a “cultural district” to the northwest of Lincoln Square. I think they want to do this so they can apply for certain grants. The area would be roughly the triangle of Park, Highland, and Grove, plus Rural Cemetery and minus Price Chopper. The T&G has a map.
  • Stop Crashing Into Bridges: As noted at a Council meeting earlier this year, we have a problem with trucks hitting our low bridges. This week, there’s a proposal to fine people $5000 for crashing into a bridge. [T&G]
  • Surveillance: There is a proposal to put police surveillance cameras around Grafton Hill, Union Hill, and Shrewsbury Street [T&G].
  • Spending Revolving Accounts: Council budget watchers will want to note: “Recommend Authorization to use funds from various revolving fund accounts in Fiscal Year 2015, as required prior to the certification of the tax rates by the Department of Revenue.”

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (December 4)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

A quick note, first of all, on this weeks’s Worcester City Council agenda: the City Manager’s portion of the agenda requests Council authorization for use of the revolving funds. If you look at the backup, quite a number of these are WPS accounts, many associated with Worcester Technical High School programs. Revolving funds set aside the money brought in by a program for the use of that program.

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent this week is the administration’s response regarding an exam, or limited admission, or, as it’s called on the agenda, “high school for advanced learners.” There is as yet no backup; I’ll post it once we get it.

We have a number of recognitions and thanks coming forward, including students who are in the Central Mass Senior Music Festival.

Miss Biancheria would like to discuss the use of silent lunches.

She is also looking for an update on the School Facilities Master Plan (still in subcommittee).

We are being asked to approve two prior year payments: one to a nurse for $5,698.70. and one to the Stetson School for $20,381.22.

We have a report on the Level 4 work being done at Elm Park Community School.

We will be having an executive session before the meeting for two items: one for an update on negotiations with cafeteria workers, and one to open negotiations for a renewed contract with Superintendent Boone (while her contract runs through June, the School Committee must inform her of intent to not renew by January).

Preview: City Council agenda (November 25)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, November 25. The agenda is here. This week: PILOT and a few other interesting items.

  • PILOT: There are a couple items on getting non-profits, which don’t pay city property taxes, to give the city some money anyway. The term for this is Payment In Lieu Of Taxes. The Council has talked about this a lot down through the years. Lately there has been a little progress, with some of the colleges giving the city money in exchange for land deals and the like. There are two items on the agenda this week relating to PILOT. (Council geeks will note that one of these items has 2 sponsors and the other 3; there has been very little co-sponsoring of items since the Council was warned the communications it takes to arrange these might sometimes violate open meeting laws.)
  • Saturation: Councilors Economou and Rosen have an item suggesting that we may be “approaching saturation in the rental market specifically as it pertains to our urban core.”
  • Surveillance: Councilor Rivera has an item asking that the city work to promote more small businesses installing exterior surveillance cameras.
  • Blinking lights: Councilor Rivera has an item asking for followup on the proposal to install “a yellow blinking pedestrian crossing light in Main Street
    at Kilby Street.” Seems like we have way more of these lights in recent years.
  • Private and Public Streets: We sometimes note petitions to make private streets public; this week we should note that the petition from Councilor Rushton to make Nathaniel St and Ct public will probably be denied.

Preview: City Council agenda (November 18)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, November 18. The agenda is here.

  • Two citizen petitions of note: one requesting that companies receiving TIF’s purchase from Worcester business; the other looking for regulation of door-to-door salesmen.
  • Taxes: the City Council will do its annual tax rate classification hearing on December 2.
  • Energy upgrades: the City is working on energy efficiency, and plans, among other projects, to upgrade streetlights to LEDs.
  • Library: there are two vacancies on the Library Board coming up January 1.
  • Downtown safety: the Public Safety subcommittee is looking for reports on downtown incidents, as well as safety concerns of downtown businesses.
  • Pools?: Councilor Rosen has asked for plans “for constructing aquatic facilities, especially spray parks”
  • Foothills: Councilor Rosen would like to save the Foothills Theatre sign.
  • Skating: Councilor Bergman is looking for free skating rental hours.