Preview: City Council agenda (July 21)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here. The agenda is huge and full of controversy, so this week I’m adding the bare minimum of context.

  • Executive Session: There will be an Executive Session early on “to discuss pending litigation.” Either the councilors will leave the chamber or the audience will be asked to step out for a moment.
  • Needles: Ron Madnick has a request that the city start a pilot program for needle exchange (in accord with M.G.L. Chapter 111, section 215). Councilor Gaffney has six items on the agenda asking the city for detailed reports on needle-related items like drug overdoses and the spread of Hepatitis C through dirty needles.
  • Skate Parks: Tyler Kuhn has a request that the City Council create a Worcester Youth Park Skate Commission as part of getting some skate parks in the city.
  • Drug Dogs: “Patricia Sullivan requests City Council request City Manager to request the Police Chief to reconsider his decision not to accept a donation of a narcotic specific K-9.”
  • Street Sweeping: “Brittany Remillard requests the opportunity to speak before City Council regarding better ways to notify residents when street sweeping will take place.”
  • Youth Violence: Bill Coleman has an item asking the City Manager to talk about how the city is working to reduce youth violence. (There have been a spate of shootings and murders this summer.) The Manager will indeed be speaking on this; his report is here. Councilor Gaffney has an item also asking for this information, as well as for “emergency funds” for the police to deal with this.
  • PARCC: Bill Coleman requests there be a non-binding balance question on whether there should be a moratorium on PARCC testing. School Committee Member Tracy Novick has a short blog post explaining this item.
  • Murals: A couple items that the Council will approve as part of the process of getting new murals at 104 Pleasant Street (The Raven) and 2 Southbridge Street.
  • Crowdsourcing: The Manager has a report on Worcester + crowdsourcing. You can now offer your 2 cents on the city website. First issue: food trucks.
  • Dog Parks: There are a ton of items on getting a legit dog part in Worcester.
  • Tennis: The Committee on Youth, Parks, and Recreation wants a report on “the cost for making the tennis courts at Morgan Landing Park, Newton Square and Institute Park playable.”
  • Mosaic: Mosaic Cultural Complex is an organization that has, among other things, sponsored meetings related to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the 5-minute civil disobedience in Kelley Square earlier this year. They’ve also received grants from the city, and there are allegations that they have not been properly organized as a non-profit, and questions about how they spent those grants. Councilors Rosen and Gaffney have an item asking the city to audit Mosaic. This T&G article [$] has just enough information to make me even more confused about Mosaic’s status.
  • Rectangular Fields: Councilor Rosen has an item regarding getting more soccer fields (“rectangular fields”) in the city.
  • Dumping at Donation Sites: Councilors Gaffney and Rosen have another joint item asking if the city can end the “proliferation of charity donations bins, many of which are magnets for illegal dumping of garbage and trash around them.”
  • Tasers: Councilor Lukes has another item asking about tasers, the protocol for their use, and what sort of training is happening.
  • City Councilors and Lobbying: I don’t know what this item from Councilor Lukes is about: “Request the City Council’s Standing Committee on Rules and Legislative Affairs develop a protocol and include this in the revised City Council rules regarding the appearance and advocacy by a member of the City Council on proposed legislation or regulations before a state or federal governmental body.”
  • Drones: Councilor Lukes again has a drone item, this time asking the city about regulating “the use of drones in the proximity of the airport.” Councilor Toomey has an item asking for more clarification on drone regulation.
  • Making Private Streets Public: On the agenda are Aroostook Street, Beaver Brook Parkway, Bergin Lane, High Ridge Road, Monmouth Avenue, Valley View Lane, Norton Street, and Botany Bay Road.
  • Castle Park -> Institute Park: There is the usual litany of routine finance items. I wanted to include this one in the agenda preview because it is interesting: “That the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars And No Cents ($200,000.00) from the Loan Order authorized by the City Council on June 10, 2014 and appropriated to Account #91C784J, Castle Park, to fund improvements associated with Castle Park, is hereby rescinded in its entirety; and be it further ordered: That the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars and No Cents ($200,000.00) be appropriated to Account #91C784AE, Institute Park, to fund improvements associated with Institute Park.”
  • Changes in Employee Contracts: Lots of items related to the latest multi-year agreements on city employee wages and benefits. For example: “Amend the Salary Ordinance of August 20, 1996 relative to members of DPW Clerks Bargaining Unit (Local 170, Teamsters).”

Preview: Economic Development committee agenda (July 21)

The Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee meets Tuesday at 4pm, in the third-floor Esther Howland Chamber of Worcester City Hall. Their agenda is all about “plans to improve the business climate for food truck operators.” If you care about this, you might like to speak at this meeting.

They’ll also consider the “quarterly update report of economic development initiatives.”

Preview: City Council agenda (June 30)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the Council evaluates the City Manager. Presumably they will decide he is doing a great job. Some other items before the Council are noted below. This week at the Federal level, the US Supreme Court expressed some concern with Worcester’s 2013 anti-begging ordinances.

Also: There will be a prayer vigil for Charleston before the meeting at 6pm outside City Hall.

  • Board and Commissions: Thomas Dillon will be appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • Private and Public Streets: The Committee on Public Works recommends the Council make Wescott St., from Paris Ave. to Scandinavia Ave. a public street.
  • Common WWII Memorial: The Council will be approving improvements and enhancements to the World War II Memorial behind City Hall. Pictures below.
  • Report on City TV Funds: This item was tabled last week—perhaps it will be discussed this week.

Continue reading Preview: City Council agenda (June 30)

Preview: City Council agenda (June 23)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the capital budget. Specifics on the capital budget are at the bottom of this post.

The rest of the agenda:

  • City TV Stations: The Auditor was asked for an analysis of the funds for the Public, Educational, and Government TV channels. He provides this report this week, including some details on how and why the Government Channel has $1,000,000 in reserves.
  • Tax Breaks: There are some items regarding Tax Incentive Financing for the project building a giant industrial building at 150 Blackstone River Road in Quinsig Village. The T&G has more.
  • Foreclosures: Some changes will be made to the city Ordinances Relative to Vacant and Foreclosing Properties.
  • Boards and Commissions: Ariel Lim will be appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
  • Food Trucks: The City plans to make it easier to operate food trucks in Worcester. The T&G has more.
  • Murals: The city is expected to approve 3 new spots for murals, the Raven (256 Pleasant St), 19 McKeon Road, and 50 Water St. The T&G has more.
  • City Manager Evaluation: The Council will be evaluating City Manager Ed Augustus on June 30. This week, he has a 50-page report to the Council on what he’s done and how Worcester is doing.

The Capital Budget: First note that the capital budget is here and totals $76 million for FY16. The Council will actually vote it as a series of loan orders at the end of the agenda.

Capital budget highlights:

  • Two new fire engines (replacing 9 and 15), totalling $930,000 (with half coming from non-municipal sources)
  • funding to make water fountains at the DCU accessible ($9,600) and to replace the stage lift ($12,000) plus a new commercial popcorn popper ($12,000)
  • multiple new dump trucks (ranging from a 5 ton truck for $170,000 to 1 ton for $55,000) for DPW, all with plows
  • a new cell room wagon ($59,000) for WPD along with $30,000 in forensic unit equipment ($30,000) a universal film scanner ($14,000) and 7 marked ($275,000) and 5 unmarked ($170,000) cruisers
  • an ADA compliant check out station for the library ($20,000) plus new sound systems for the Banx and Saxe rooms ($42,000)
  • upgrading the internet platform ($135,000) and the city wifi ($45,000)
  • a deck grinder (a big wood chipper) ($250,000), a catch basin cleaner ($210,000), and a compressor/vacuum truck ($125,000)
  • $100,000 for new lab equipment for the water treatment plant
  • 1st, 3rd, and 4th floor renovations for City Hall ($140,000)
  • repaving the Senior Center parking lot ($225,000)
  • $500,000 added to $1,000,000 in funding from elsewhere for the Wayfinding Initiative
  • $1 million for abatement for the old Courthouse (plus $3 million from elsewhere)
  • $45,000 to upgrade the entry way vestibule roof for Technical Services
  • $140,000 for the WRA urban renewal plan
  • $6.4 million in street resurfacing (of which $4 million from state funds)
  • $3.2 million for downtown sidewalks
  • funding to begin Nelson Place construction ($2.3 million plus $9.2 million from the state) and plan South High ($150,000 plus $600,000 from the state)
  • $315,000 for technology upgrades for schools (leveraging $5.1 million in federal funds)

Preview: City Council agenda (June 16)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: traffic, needles, TIFs.

  • Youth Voting: Bill Coleman (City Council candidate) has an item asking that the Council have a non-binding survey question on the ballot: “Should 17 year old American citizens be allowed to vote in local municipal elections? Yes or No.”
  • #BlackLivesMatter: Coleman also asks the City to “consider dropping all charges against four demonstrators who obstructed traffic at Kelley Square as an olive branch to diffuse tensions in our community regarding race and public protest.”
  • Green Hill Golf Course: Councilor Lukes has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking for a report on what it would take to lease the Green Hill golf course to a private management company.
  • Evaluating the Clerk and Auditor: Councilor Lukes has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking that the Municipal Operations Committee have an annual evaluation of the City Clerk and City Auditor. (I am surprised this doesn’t already happen.)
  • Keeping Trees Alive: Councilor Economou has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking if the City can do a better job watering public shade trees rather than having them die and then having to buy new ones.
  • Scavenging Bottles: Councilor Russell has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking if the Council can create a new law to keep people from digging through curbside recycling bins looking for bottles etc.
  • Traffic Enforcement: The Traffic and Parking Committee has asked for speeding surveillance or enforcement at Drummond Ave., Holden St. near Lansing Ave., at the corner of West Chester St. and Barrett Ave., on Olean St. between the hours of 6:00 A.M. to 9 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. weekdays, and for unregistered vehicles in the vicinity of Stockton St. from Vernon St. to Fairbanks St.
  • Police and Elm Park Prep: Councilor Rivera requests “an enforcement sweep of the Elm Park Prep area.”
  • Dirty Needles: Councilors Rosen and Gaffney ask the City Manager for 2 reports, one on drug use at the library and other public buildings, the other about whether needle disposal boxes in the library bathroom are working.
  • Senior Citizen Tax Breaks: Councilor Bergman has an item asking the City include, in quarterly tax bill mailings, info about real estate tax credits available to those over 65.
  • Dog Park: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking about turning park of Boynton Park into a dog park. (It’s currently a de facto dog park but not a legitimate one.)
  • Tax Incentive Financing: Councilor Russell has an item asking for a new process around how TIF applications are processed.
  • Retiree Benefit Report: There are several items regarding pensions and other benefits for retired city employees, including a detailed report.
  • E-Cigs: The Manager has an item asking the Council to pass new anti-nicotine laws, including one requiring retailers to post signage warning customers “that nicotine refills are poison.”

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%.