Preview: City Council agenda (April 26)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: ATVs, JROTC, budget cuts. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • TIFs: There’s an Economic Development meeting at 5pm. Beforehand, there will be a Worcester Community-Labor Coalition rally outside City Hall calling for “local hiring requirements” and other conditions to be a part of any future special tax breaks (TIFs) on property development.
  • Boards and Commissions: Expected appointment of Shirley Konneh to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee; Lindsey Silva to the Commission on Disabilities; Jose Ramos to the Worcester Housing Authority; Donna Connolly to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
  • Elm Park Pond Water: Stephen Oliver has a citizen asking that “water in Elm Park Pond be drained and replenished with fresh water.”
  • Rydberg Terrace: Benjamin Parker has a citizen petition asking this become a public road.
  • ATVs: Billy Breault has a request that there be a new law allowing the city to seize ATVs and “dirt bikes” being driven illegally. Last week, a guy was arrested for riding an ATV around Crystal Park.
  • A Portrait of Mike O’Brien: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition asking that the Council invite former City Manager O’Brien to present a portrait of himself for display in City Hall.
  • Tobacco: The Public Health Subcommittee wants the full Council to vote in favor of slightly expanding the city’s tobacco regulation. The proposal would allow the city to yank tobacco permits from anyone who sells to underaged people. (This in addition to existing penalties.)
  • Citywide Crime Watch: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like a report on whether the police could reinstate semi-annual citywide Crime Watch meetings.
  • Manager’s Agenda: The whole “section 9” part of the Council agenda, the City Manager’s part, was late being posted this week, but now it’s up. I assume it was not posted so late as to require being postponed till the next meeting.
  • Boards and Commissions: Jacob Poplaski will be appointed to the Worcester Arts Council; Matthew Wally to the Parks and Recreation Commission; and Nghia Le to the Elder Affairs Commission.
  • JROTC: The Law Department is back with an opinion as to whether the Council can discuss expanding JROTC programs in the schools. The answer is: it’s under the School Committee’s control, but that doesn’t mean they can’t discuss it, and doesn’t mean the Manager can’t talk to the Superintendent about it.
  • Large Capital Transfers: $200,000.00 from Sewer Construction loan account to Infiltration/Inflow; $360,000.00 from Parks Building Rehab. loan account to Parks Building Rehab; $200,000.00 from Sewer Construction loan account to Sewer System/Stormwater; $171,000.00 from Union Station Garage to Parking Garages – Improvements, “to allow for payment of current and anticipated obligations associated with an upgrade of the fire alarm system at the Major Taylor Garage”.
  • Large Grants and Donations: Will file for a $292,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs; $200,000 firefighting grant from FEMA; $500,000 Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Supplemental Grant from the EPA.
  • Lots of Budget Items: The Council meeting will recess to a Finance Committee meeting, which will discuss tax assessments, bond ratings, etc.
  • Budget Cuts?: The City Auditor has a report on possible budget cuts. If the city doesn’t increase property taxes (current proposal is to increase them 2.5%), there would be a $9 million deficit. The report notes this would mean cutting something like 150 city employees. Currently there are 1901 non-school employees. 281 are funded by non-property-tax sources; 219 are only partially funded by these taxes; the remaining 1401 are funded entirely by these taxes. The lowest staffing level in recent years was 1760 for the 2012 fiscal year.
  • Join the Library Board: Carolyn Noah has resigned her position on this board. Now’s the time to apply to be on this board.

Preview: Worcester Education Meetings (Week of April 25)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

It looks like a bumper crop of school-related meetings this week:

Monday morning at 7:30, there is a meeting of the negotiations (with the superintendent-elect) committee. As those are negotiations, I’d assume they’ll immediately vote to go into executive session. As we’re now at six weeks and counting since the vote to appoint, one wonders what the hold-up is on the contract.

Monday night at 5, there is a Joint Education (City Council) and Finance & Operations (School Committee) meeting. It appears that the discussion is budget.

Tuesday at noon (erg!) there is a Governance and Employees Issue meeting. There are a few issues on that agenda: cell phones is on there, though I assume there will not be student or staff comment, given the time of day. The item on a major overhaul of WPS policy (looooong overdue) is also on there.

Also on Tuesday at 5:30 is an Accountability meeting. That has the amount of testing on the agenda. Also, the “Arrested Futures” on student arrests is on the agenda, which certainly warrants attention, as well as the October 1 student count.

And the full committee meets Thursday. They’ll be opening with the annual school choice hearing (Remember this means school choice IN; school choice OUT is allowed, at the state level). There are a number of recognitions, both happening and requested, plus all of the above subcommittees reporting out. There is no report of the superintendent. Ms. Biancheria, interestingly, is asking that a grievance be reconsidered.

Bill Coleman, adding the School Committee to his rounds of public petitions, is asking that a portrait of the new superintendent be installed in every school. I will leave the historical and literary analogies to others, but they do leap to mind, don’t they?

Mr. O’Connell is asking that the School Committee consider the Rise Act (which has passed the Senate; I assume they’d be weighing in on House action).

Mr. O’Connell is also requesting the update of a couple of policies–administration of medication to students and student activity accounts–from recent MASC updates. He’s also asking that they update their substance abuse prevention policies (which MASC hasn’t updated yet, as the regulations from DESE haven’t been issued yet).

The audits are coming! (not attached; I’m assuming you should look for them to turn up in F&O)

Mr. Monfredo is asking that the School Committee go on record supporting the Fair Share amendment.

The School Committee is being asked to set the dates for their budget hearings: there’s no backup attached; my best guess is June 2 and 16 at 4 pm.

Mr. Foley is asking that the Committee invited Treasurer Goldberg to talk about the $eedMA program of saving for college.

And there are donations! $100 from Worcester Refugee Assistance Project to Greendale Head Start; $1000 from Worcester District Medical Society to support the CPR project; and $10,000 from Digital Credit Union and the DCU for Kids Charitable Foundation for scholarships for graduating seniors.

Finally (but coming first) there is an executive session scheduled to reconsider the grievance (as requested by Ms. Biancheria above) and to update the committee on the superintendent-elect negotiations.

Executive session is at 6; the school choice hearing at 6:45; the regular meeting at 7.

On blogging: I won’t be there for the full meeting Thursday; I plan to blog the joint meeting Monday night.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (April 7)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, April 7. You can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent (and the big thing on the agenda) is setting budget priorities. It’s worth reading the backup for this (the PowerPoint you’ve already seen from the preliminary presentation in February). It lays out what you probably already know if you’ve been watching this: the increases in the budget ($4.6M) don’t come close to covering a level budget ($11M), never mind the increases the district actually needs ($11.7M at least!).

The meat of the message (from the memo) is here:

Given uncertainty as to student enrollment and demographics, the state’s foundation budget
inflation factor, adoption of the Foundation Budget Review Commission Report, fixed cost
increases, and additional contractual or compliance spending demands, it is likely that a
reallocation, reduction, and deferred spending on positions and non-salary items will be necessary
in order to have a balanced budget. This means that while some areas of the budget will see
increases, there will be other parts of the budget may also see a reduction of teachers, other
positions and non-salary spending.

So, pay attention. I’d further note that the time frame on all of this is going to be somewhat compressed due to the superintendent transition (just the fact that they’re setting priorities in April is late).

That’s the big one.

There are a few recognitions.

There’s a communication coming in from a citizen regarding the MOU between the schools and the police department.

There are several midyear resignations.

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior year payment for $3,536 for McKinney-Vento transportation for homeless students.

There are several requests for recognitions.

It looks as though the School Committee got an email on the Goddard Scholars program, as there are not one, but two items regarding expanding it.

Mr. Monfredo wants administration to create an early learning committee to consider lobbying for full-day preschool funding, discussing a two year kindergarten program, and “gradually advancing 4 year olds yearly, based on readiness” (and I don’t know what that means).

The vet tech program at Worcester Tech is getting a grant of $347,882.

There are donations of $500 for the Worcester Tech robotics team; $100 for the CPR project; and $1000 for the CPR project.

There is a Rice Square/Lake View sharing best practices grant coming in for $6658.

There is an executive session before the meeting for negotiations with the incoming superintendent (no contract as yet); collective bargaining (no group specified); and two grievances.

The policy handbook is going off to subcommittee.

I do not plan to be there; here’s hoping the press coverage is good!

Preview: City Council agenda (March 22)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Food trucks, mattress recycling. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Boards and Commissions: Expected appointment of Shirley Konneh to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee; Lindsey Silva to the Commission on Disabilities; Jose Ramos to the Worcester Housing Authority; Donna Connolly to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
  • Food Trucks: A few years back the Council adopted new regulations on food trucks that drove several of them out of the city. Now there’s a proposal before the Council to allow the City Manager to designate “food truck friendly zones” where it would be easier to operate food trucks.
  • Federal Grants: The Council will be approving a bunch of “funding recommendations” relating to HUD Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), HOME Investment Partnership Program, and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS.
  • Hazardous Waste Disposal Day: Worcester residents will have the opportunity to get rid of hazardous waste properly on Saturday, April 23, 2016. More info.
  • Street Sweeping: Street sweeping will start in April and continue through July. The schedule will be posted online and signs will be put up warning people when & where to not park. Keep your eyes open.
  • Open Meeting Law: Can City Councilors spontaneously sign on as co-sponsors to a Council Order during a meeting? The city’s Law Department says yes.
  • Six-Figure Finance “Transfer” Items: $132,990.40 from Capital Equipment Technical Services to Technical Services Capital Equipment; $1,912,250.38 from Building Rehabilitation City & Schools to Citywide/Schools Energy Improvements for energy-related projects; $250,000.00 from Park Improvements – Worcester Common to Worcester Common for work relating to the war memorials; $400,000.00 from Elm Park Improvements to Elm Park and $250,000.00 from Citywide Building Remodel to Elm Park for park improvements; $475,000.00 from Park Improvements – Hope Cemetery to Hope Cemetery for cemetary improvements; $100,000.00 from Water Meters Replacement to Capital Water Meters Program; $100,000.00 from Sewer Pumping Rehab to Sewer Pumping Station Capital Program; $100,000.00 from Water Pumping Stations to Water Pumping Rehab; $500,000.00 from Sewer Reconstruction to Sewer Reconstruction; $200,000.00 from Park Improvements – Shore Park to Shore Park.
  • Grant Applications: Green Communities grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for $250,000.00; Commonwealth Corporation’s YouthWorks 2016 Summer Jobs for Youth Placed at Risk Program for $662,972.00; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Mattress Recycling Initiative grant for $174,000.00.
  • Union Negotiations: The Council will go into “executive session” “to discuss matters regarding collective bargaining.”
  • Planning Board Items: These will likely be sent to subcommittees—if you care about them, you should look up the relevant subcommittee meetings. Request to clean up zoning discrepancies at 128 Chandler St (near Piedmont); request to make part of Market St no longer a public street (this is off Major Taylor between Police Headquarters and the DCU Center, Google Maps doesn’t even label this street); request to modify the official map for a teeny piece of land off Summer St where a hotel is planned; request to modify the map for a small area off Sherman St; request to remove part of Pitt St as a public street.
  • American Legion Parcel Rezoning: The Council is expected to approve rezoning of part of the old American Legion property at 1023 Main Street, so the parking lot will no longer be “residential.”

Preview: City Council agenda (March 15)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Spoiled food, taxes. Pretty short. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Spoiled Food: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition asking that the city “encourage citizens to properly discard expired food as they begin Spring cleaning in their homes.”
  • Dover Amendment: Councilor Bergman would like would like the city to seek special exemptions from the Dover Amendment, which “exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.” This week’s he’s asking the city’s law department for their opinion on “regulating non-profit social service agency day uses in a proposed Dover Exclusion Home Rule Petition.”
  • Budget Scenarios: Councilor Gaffney would like the City Manager to draft more than one budget proposal this year, for various possible tax levels.
  • OPEB: Councilor Lukes wants a report from the City Manager about transforming our fund for retiree health insurance etc “into an irrevocable trust.”
  • Portable Speed Bumps: Councilor Bergman would like the city to try a pilot program using “portable rubber speed bumps” to stop people speeding on certain streets.
  • Welcome to Worcester: Councilor Bergman wasnt the city to make sure there are “Entering Worcester” signs at all entrances to the city.
  • EM Employees: Councilor Gaffney has an item asking how many “Executive Management” level employees in the Public Health Division don’t live in the city.

Preview: City Council agenda (March 8)

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

  • Boards and Commissions: Sean Lauziere will be reappointed to the Human Rights Commission; Meg Mulhern and George Sedares will be reappointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • WCUW Mural: The Council will authorize an easement so a mural can be installed on WCUW’s building (910 Main St).
  • Six-Figure Capital Transfers: $150,000.00 Loan Account for Street Construction to DPW Account for Private Street Construction; $197,191.00 from DCU Special District to Civic Center Equipment; $750,000.00 from Loan Account for Street Resurfacing to DPW Account for Street Resurfacing
  • Other Six-Figure Finance Items: $990,841.50 transferred to fund the Off-Street Program.
  • Marijuana Dispensaries: More paperwork. This is moving forward but slowly.
  • $15 Minimum Wage: The Economic Development Committee is asking the City Manager for a report on whether requiring companies that get city tax breaks for development (TIFs) to pay their workers at least $15/hr will discourage such development.
  • Handball: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the Parks Committee to improve city handball facilities.
  • Sponsorship: Councilor Russell wants to know if a Councilor can speak up during a meeting and ask to be made a co-sponsor of an item under discussion. (The last year or so the Council has been forced to be more strict about having tons of people co-sponsor an item before the meeting; mass co-sponsorship would imply discussion between lots of Councilors outside a public meeting, something they are not supposed to do.)
  • Recycling Barrels: Councilor Gaffney asks if we could use larger, covered recycling containers. I still haven’t seen the results of our pilot program letting people put out recycling in clear bags (an idea I love).
  • Snowplow Reports: Councilor Lukes asks if, when we have a “snow removal event,” the Manager can post a report online outlining “the technology used,” the cost in time and money, and the decision-making process used.
  • Private Streets: The Public Works Committee wants to deny two requests to make private streets public, regarding Stanley Road an Beaman Avenue.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 23)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s agenda includes the sale of Mosaic’s building and a desire for city surveillance drones. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Solar Roadways: Sergio Bacelis, Jr. has a citizen petition asking the city to contact the company Solar Roadways about them doing a pilot program in Worcester. I am no solar engineer, but this seems like a terrible idea.
  • Youth Center Safety: Charles Luster has a citizen petition asking the City Manager to “review the operations of the After-School Program of the Worcester Youth Center to guarantee the safety and well-being of young participants.” I don’t know what prompted this.
  • Selling Mosaic: The city-owned building used by the controversial and besieged non-profit Mosaic is up for sale; the Council will be voting “to authorize an invitation to bid.”
  • Merging the School Department: Councilor Rosen has an item asking about the feasibility of “having the city administration absorb the personnel, purchasing and clerk responsibilities of the school department.” This item has come up many times only to be shot down. The schools have three times the personnel of the city administration, and the administration already does purchasing for the schools. So it is a bit of an odd proposal.
  • Recycling Pickup: Councilor Economou has an item asking the Commissioner of Public Works and Parks to look into the job our recycling pickup vendor is doing. You may recall that awhile back there was an attempt to do a pilot program wherein people could put their recycling in clear trash bags rather than bins; no idea how that is doing. Seems like that would solve the main issue with pickup, trash strewn everywhere.
  • Surveillance Drones: No joke—Councilor Lukes has an item asking the city to look into “the viability, legality and cost of a pilot program for the use of camera equipped drones by the police, fire and/or public works departments to promote public safety and efficiency.”
  • Cap on Charter Schools: Councilor Mero-Carlson has an item asking the Council go on record as supporting the current cap (limit) on charter schools. Governor Baker has proposed a bill raising the cap, and that there is a proposed ballot question that would also raise it. Last month the Worcester School Committee passed a pro-cap motion unanimously (eventually; on the first round, Colorio was opposed). These votes come in direct response to requests from the legislative delegation that local government weigh in on the impact of charter schools.
  • American Legion Re-zoning: This item keeps getting held, and may get held again. The American Legion building at 1023 Main St has been sold and the new owner would like consistent zoning across the property (the parking lot is “residential”). The Planning Board approved this, but some councilors would like more feedback from the neighbors before approving it.
  • Five-Year Financial Forecast: (Held over from previous meeting.) The City Manager has a report on what he expects the city’s finances to look like over the next five years. A key chart is below.
  • Six-Figure Finance Items: $335,000.00 transferred from Sewer Drainage loan account to DPW Surface Drainage account to allow for the payment of current and future obligations; $339,110.00 from Capital Equipment loan account to DPW Capital Equipment account to allow for purchase and future payment of two sanitation vehicles; Improving Criminal Justice Grant to Encourage Arrest from the US Department of Justice for $450,000.00; Community Compact Information Technology grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for $400,000.00.



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).