Preview: City Council agenda (February 13)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Opiods, homelessness, human trafficking.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Opiods and Human Trafficking: There are a couple items on the agenda asking the Manager to step up existing efforts on fighting opiod abuse. And there are a couple items asking that the city align itself with existing efforts to fight human trafficking, such as draft legislation from the Central Mass Freedom Coalition, and to also give certain city employees some education on the issue.
  • Newton Hill Wall: Councilor Wally requests a report on the stone walls around Newton Hill.
  • Boards and Commissions: As part of her effort to deal with the lack of applicants for certain boards, Councilor Lukes would like the Manager to allow people to serve on multiple boards and commissions, within reason.
  • Encouraging Redevelopment: Councilor Russell requests that the city expedite hearings for small developments, whether for housing or for small businesses.
  • Homelessness: The Manager proposes a series of hearings this spring and summer about what we need to do to address homelessness in Worcester, with an emphasis on the “housing first” model. He notes that we have around 60 chronically homeless people known to the city, and that “chronic homelessness increased 46% from 2016-2017, and unsheltered or street homelessness increased 97%.”
  • Public and Private Streets: The Council will vote to “abandon and discontinue its use of a portion of Chino Ave and Boylston St” as there’s a building that encroaches a tiny bit on those streets.

Worcester School Committee meetings this week

Two subcommittees and a full committee meeting!
It’s not actually clear from the online postings what is going to be discussed at the subcommittee meetings; it’s just everything that has been sent to that subcommittee. That’s not best practice on agenda postings; here’s my guess from what has backups.

Monday, there’s a Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting (5pm). It looks like a lot of the items are facilities repair related (most without a backup); you can see the list of big projects done in cooperation with MSBA (costing more than $60M total since 2012)  here. In other words, the answer to “why haven’t we used bonds?” is “we have.”
Because cell phones are always with us, there is a report on that.
The one to watch, of course, is the quarterly budget update. It’s in much better shape for second quarter (free cash transfer) with a projected ending balance of -$177, 761…still negative, but better. The report is here.
Note that legal was cut by $30,000 and now is over that amount. Workers compensation continues to be over the budgeted amount (remember when there are proposed cuts during deliberations). Special education tuition is eight new students since June (and I don’t understand the last sentence in that paragraph…meaning it was more like $700K?). Translation–in two accounts–has been flagged as underfunded in the past, as well.
The good news on utilities is that the solar panels are working; the bad news is that Nelson Place is getting fewer solar panels than planned? Also, crossing guards are not an account in which one wants to see a balance! There are some account transfers on this one.

Tuesday, Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets at 5. There’s a response to an (old; my name is on it) item on reviewing what instruction there is on coding, for which the response is this:

There’s an item on wrestling teams and one on the reading curriculum
The amendment to the Worcester East Middle innovation school plan has no academic or instructional backup, no support from teams at the school or anything else; it just reports enrollment. As I think of all of the work that went into the innovation plan, this is pretty appalling. 
The one item that may be of most interest is the upcoming school calendars
On Thursday’s full meeting, the report of the superintendent is her goals for the year. They are: 
  • completing the new superintendents’ induction program
  • providing high quality learning opportunities and resources to all students: the benchmarks are around AP, linking to Khan Academy (!), and then by subject area
  • developing a district technology plan…perhaps they could start with the one from five years ago. This includes “scaling computer science,” redoing the website by 2018, and providing “equitable access to mobile technology.”
  • providing effective professional development with a list of professional development plans
  • continuing to analyze district data: with measurements having to do with dual enrollment, tiered support, gifted instruction, 
  • developing a positive school climate: with references to some initiatives
As a response to the frequent “advertise, advertise” itme, the district apparently is being rebranded; beware of reports having no dollar figure attached.
There’s a list of the schools that have students from Puerto Rico.
Relatedly, the $5000 came through, and Worcester is using it on a “homeless liaison.”
There is a request that the School Committee accept: 

  • $450 to the Art Department at Doherty Memorial High School in memory of Jeffrey Gustafson.
  • $300 to the Special Education Department at Grafton Street School in memory of Elisha Inferrera.
There are requests for the following:
  • Request that the Superintendent create an updated Health and Wellness Curriculum for middle and high school students. (Petty, joined by all of the committee; held from the last meeting)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on the accountability changes made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide a progress report on the Hanover Academy at Burncoat Middle School. (McCullough)
  • To consider joining forces with the Brockton Public Schools as a plaintiff in its School Funding Lawsuit. (Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on changes in principal leadership and its plans to hire new principals.(Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on its efforts to attract a diverse pool of teachers and administrators in the Worcester Public Schools. (Comparetto)
  •  To consider a review of a publication entitled Teaching Hard History: American Slavery from the Southern Poverty Law Center.(Comparetto)
  • To support Senate Bill No. S249-An Act to involve youth in civic engagement, a new bill filed on Beacon Hill by State Senator Harriette Chandler. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on the ways in which education is provided to staff and students, in light of the opioid crisis, as a result of the passage of the recently enacted Marijuana Law. (Biancheria)

There is a 6 pm executive session for three workers’ comp cases and a grievance.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 6)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. [The agenda is here](

This week: The usual important but routine stuff, and maybe 1 important but non-routine item to write up for this preview.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, [the link is here](

  • Boards and Commissions: Anthony Pignataro has been appointed a Constable.

Preview: City Council agenda (January 30)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Such a tiny agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Automatic Council Pay Raises: Currently, the Council gets automatic pay raises based on increases in the cost of living. Councilor Lukes would like the Council to have to debate and vote on each pay raise. Note that this is like .004% of the city’s budget. (Though most of the budget is not discretionary, so this is a larger chunk framed that way.) If you assume being a Councilor is a full-time job and discussion on such matters should be proportional to budgetary impact, each Councilor should spend 4.8 minutes a year on this issue.
  • Flavored Tobacco Crackdown: Councilor Toomey would like a report from the city’s lawyers on what the Council can do to ban flavored tobacco.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Yes, I’m sorry, I missed the first one of the year…too much to keep track of this January! 

I’m flagging this one in particular because it’s FIRST LOOK AT THE FY19 BUDGET!
That’s the report of the superintendent this week. The quick glance I gave Worcester’s numbers earlier this week had the foundation budget up by $3.7M; to that, add some from the $15M intended as a grant for the students evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands…I’m guessing another $2.4M or so?
That won’t, of course, be enough, as it doesn’t even cover real inflationary costs.

There are some appointments and congratulations.

The administration is reporting on the $5000 received under McKinney-Vento for homeless students, rather, reporting that it did receive it. I wonder what it will be used for?

There’s also a report on the process of making referrals to DCF.

There are two donations:
$250 from Walmart to Woodland Academy
$286.80 from Box Tops for Education to Tatnuck Magnet School
…as well as a $20,000 grant from UNUM for the “Strong Schools” grant to purchase books and curriculum…that report is very vague….

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on indoor recess policy.

And BOTH Miss McCullough and Mr. Foley are asking what the difference between an excused and an unexcused absence is (I have no idea). Miss McCullough also calls out the scary letter they send if your child gets a certain number of absences (I’ve gotten it; it’s frightening).

The annual audit is coming (it’s not here; it’ll be referred to F&O).
And the annual handbook review is coming (it’ll be referred to Governance).

The administration is looking to amend the innovation plan of Worcester East Middle to drop the sixth grade to have a new “Citywide Health and Science Gifted Academy” starting next year.

At the request of Miss Biancheria, the administration is reporting out on the use of the returned health insurance funds; the recommendation looks like this:

There is approval of the allocation farther down the agenda.

Miss Biancheria is asking if students could do community service at the senior center.

Mayor Petty, following up on his inaugural address, is asking for a review and update on the health curriculum. It’s worth noting that the state is about to start a comprehensive review of the state standards for health.

The administration is referring two sets of curriculum to the school committee for approval: grade 8 and AP science texts and elementary reading curriculum.

There is an executive session to discuss contracts for the IAs and Plumbers and Pipefitters, and also to discuss litigation.

My hope is to be there for the budget presentation. 

Preview: City Council agenda (January 23)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: The littlest agenda. There’s a million dollar DCU item, and a two million dollar health insurance item, and everything else seems routine.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Constables: Jeffrey Cammuso has been appointed a Constable.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will vote on appointing Nicole Dicello to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Downtown Gentrification: Tabled from the last meeting. Councilors Rivera and Mero-Carlson would like to know what the city can do for people at risk of being displaced as downtown becomes more expensive.
  • Mobile City Hall: In response to Councilor Rosen’s suggestion that there should be a van driving around the city for people who need to do municipal paperwork, Councilor Toomey last week proposed (and the Council approved) an item asking the Manager if it would work to use our existing bookmobile for that sort of thing.

Preview: City Council agenda (January 16)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A very brief agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Private and Public Streets: Nick Smith has a petition for the city to remove the private Warmland St from the Official Map, presumably because he wants to do some construction.
  • City Hall to Go: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the Manager to look into having a van drive around neighborhoods where people could do municipal paperwork if they can’t get downtown or go online, modelled after an effort in Boston.
  • Gentrification: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the Manager if the city has a person people should contact if they are at risk of being displaced by gentrification.
  • Changing the Details of Council Service: Councilor Bergman has an item asking the City Solicitor what the Council would have to do to revise things like the length of City Council Terms, meeting attendance requirements, etc.
  • Abby Kelley Foster Memorial?: Mayor Petty has an item asking the Manager to cooperate with city groups working to establish a memorial to the legendary abolitionist, feminist, and Worcesterite radical Abby Kelley Foster (1811-1887).

Preview: City Council agenda (January 9)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This is a meeting of the new City Council! Now with Sean Rose and Matt Wally.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Rezoning Ed Hyder’s: Ed would like part of 408 Pleasant St and an adjacent part of Winslow St rezoned from residential to commercial and added to the Commercial Corridor Overlay District. The first step in this process is a hearing before the Planning Board.
  • Boards and Commissions, Part One: The Manager is appointing or reappointing a bunch of people. Newly added as constables are Stephen Casey, Peter Derry, Scott Derry, Patrick Duggan, Krystal Gagnon, John Gaimari, Denise Marois Lecuyer, James Racicot, and Anatoly Yankovsky. Diane Long and Tomi Stefanie have been appointed and Robyn Conroy reappointed to the Historical Commission; Jacqueline Yang, Jose Medina-Santos and Luis Portillo Reyes appointed to the Human Rights Commission; Edward Wheeler to the GAR Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; Richard Shea to the Elder Affairs Commission; and Stephanie Mireku to the Worcester Arts Council.
  • Boards and Commissions, Part Two: The City Council will vote whether or not to appoint Benetta Kuffour to the Citizens Advisory Council, and John Deedy to the Hope Cemetery Board of Commissioners.
  • Hub/Cor: The city is starting a new project to improve communication between public safety and social service organizations called Hub/Cor. Worcester already does an okay job of this—we’re even occasionally cited by cities trying to do a better job. I’m curious to see how Hub/Cor operates and what results come out of it.
  • PILOT: Like Ahab chasing the white whale, the Council continues to try to find a way to tax nonprofits. This week there’s an item on the agenda pushing forward a plan for the city administration to work with our state delegation on this.
  • Changing Apartment Tax Rates: The Council will request a report as to what it would look like, financially, if we started taxing 4+ unit buildings as commercial rather than residential property. The commercial rate is almost double the residential.
  • Cracking Down on Johns: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the city police to start running stings to target customers of prostitutes. (This item confuses me, I’m sure we already do this.)
  • Eliminating Boards and Commissions: Councilor Lukes suggests that, as we have trouble filling all the city boards and commissions, we should reorganize things to require fewer members.
  • More Dog Parks: Councilor Rosen wants a plan for dog parks in districts 1, 2, and 4.
  • Please Can We Stop Recycling from Blowing Around the Streets: Councilor Rosen has like his millionth agenda item regarding people’s recycling blowing out of our open-top recycling bins.
  • Suing the State for More Education Funding: The Council will likely ask the Manager to go ahead and sue the state for “underfunded Chapter 70 funding and Charter School Funding.”
  • New School Buildings: Councilor Lukes asks if there will be any design review procedures regarding the construction of our new school buildings.
  • Alcohol and Marijuana: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking if the city can do more to limit the number of establishments that sell marijuana or alcohol.
  • Revising Church Street: This week on the agenda is a decree to rearrange and officially “make public” Church Street, the street behind the Common. This is just legal mumbo jumbo, but also a nice milestone in the long effort to reconfigure a big chunk of downtown Worcester.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 5)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Setting the municipal tax rate.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be selecting 2 new members for the Library Board.
  • Tax Rates: This was pushed off from a previous meeting. This week the Council will presumably set tax rates for the year.
  • Bike Racks with Ads: The Public Safety Committee would like the city to have bike racks paid for by sponsors, who would get ads on the racks.
  • Limiting Marijuana Sales: The Economic Development Committee is requesting that the Council approve a new ordinance which would limit the number of marijuana businesses in the city to 15 (calculated as 20% as many “off-premises alcohol licenses” as we allow), and put a 3% sales tax on marijuana (the maximum state law allows us).
  • Complete Streets: The Public Safety Committee wants the full Council to approve the City Manager’s “complete streets” proposal. This proposal reads a little vague to me, but it basically wants us, when doing future maintenance or rebuilding of streets, to put an emphasis on things like wider sidewalks, more street trees, more crosswalks, more bike lanes, more left turn lanes, more traffic signals, and more bus shelters.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 3)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A slow week.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • 1060 Main St: Michael Morris has a citizen petition detailing alleged financial irregularities in the use of the Tenant’s Council bank accout at the Worcester Housing Authority senior citizen high rise at 1060 Main St.
  • Wayfinding: Councilor Lukes has previously asked about the status of our 2007 “wayfinding” signage project now that times have changed and we are in an age of mobile computing. The city’s Chief Development Officer replies that the city has been rethinking this project and is now planning fewer signs but also an app.
  • Senior Raking Assistance: 10 groups (list below) have volunteered to help Worcester’s seniors rake their yards.
  • How Much Does a Special Election Cost the City?: According to the City Clerk, $150,000.
  • 90 Residential Units at the South End of the City?: This is not a Council agenda item, but rather a news item that seems relevant. A local developer wants to demolish the old factory at 261 Clover St and build low-rise housing there.