Preview: City Council agenda (March 25)

The City Council meets Tuesday, March 25 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me.

  • Salaries: The Council is being given a list of city employee salaries. The T&G has more.
  • Foreclosure mediation: For a few months there, the city administration was discouraging the Council from asking for a city foreclosure mediation program, because of legal and other concerns. Well the Council voted for it, and now the administration has an item with details on how it would be implemented, how much it will cost, and what the first financial steps are. The T&G has more.
  • details via T&G). Now that this plan exists, the city is allowed to negotiate directly with people interested in buying parcels, rather than going through a public bidding process. Nicole has all the background on SWIP you could want. Here is a video of the area in question.
  • Parks: The latest Open Space and Recreation Plan is being presented by City of Worcester Parks & Recreation Commission. There is no hope of me summarizing this giant thing.
  • Indian Lake: There’s also a new master plan for Indian Lake.
  • Smart Meters: National Grid has a long response to some of the questions/paranoia surrounding it’s plan to bring “smart meters” to Worcester.
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Preview: City Council Meeting (March 18)

The City Council meets Tuesday, March 18 at 7 pm. The agenda is here.

  • Road work: There’s a citizen request that Eastern Ave be repaid. Councilor Economou is requesting “installation of 6-inch concrete diameter posts in front of 1 Marmion Avenue.” Are people confused by this intersection and driving onto the lawn?
  • Crosswalks: Matthew Kracher has a citizen petition requesting that “police crosswalk stings” cease at the intersection of Lancaster and Dix Streets. He has a writeup of his concerns and basically thinks these stings are BS. Every so often the Council has asked the police department to conduct these stings, to try to get motorists to take crosswalks more seriously. I do not think this culture change has happened.
  • Cable access TV: Councilor Gaffney has an item asking a bunch of questions about how the city has been spending its “cable franchise fees” in recent years. These moneys are used, among other things, for funding the public access and government cable tv channels. The item has no hints of where he’s going with this.
  • Pawnbrokers: Councilors Bergman and Economou would like a city ordinance requiring pawnbrokers “to photograph their purchases and acquisitions and transmit same to the Worcester Police Department.”
  • Alcohol: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking how the city can extend “closing times for the serving of alcohol, especially for a limited geographical footprint as a pilot project.”
  • Street vendors: Councilor Rosen has an item asking if more “street vendors of food and retail items” can be allowed on Worcester Common. (He has in the past also supported food trucks.)
  • WRA: As part of our series noting the revival of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, let’s note item 10b, “relative to the Debt Service Schedule for the City’s Issuance of $500,000.00 in Bonds Associated with the Downtown Urban Renewal Project Proposed in the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget to be Undertaken by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.
  • Name change: There’s a petition from Mahmoud Soheili and Aliveza Avshadi to change the name of Olean Circle to Soheili Circle. At this meeting, the proposal is moving from the Planning Board to the Public Works Committee.
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Preview: City Council Meeting (March 11)

The City Council meets Tuesday, March 11 at 7 pm. The agenda is here.

Quick meeting this week, mostly reports from the City Manager.

  • “Buy Worcester Now”: The City Manager has a report on this program to encourage people to buy houses in Worcester. The program has been revamped a little bit. There’s currently enough money to help “25-30″ new homebuyers with down payments, closing costs, and property rehabilitation.
  • The Triage Center: At the request of the City Council, the city administration has a report on the Triage Center, which replaced the notorious PIP homeless shelter. Some interesting data from 7/1/13-2/28/14. 748 different people stayed there in that time, for an average of 12.5 days. 16 people stayed there, were found housing somewhere else, and later returned to the Triage Center. If you want to get up to speed with homeless services in Worcester, this report is not a bad place to start.
  • Reservoir Land: The City Manager encourages the Council to vote in favor of buying 53 acres of land in the Holden Reservoir watershed, from the Greater Worcester Land Trust, for $111,950. The land would be available for hiking! There’s a T&G article on this, but this is one of these deals where the T&G mostly quotes from the order itself, which is here.
  • Snow Budget: Not surprisingly, we are over our budget. We budgeted $3.8 million, and have already spent $4.1 million. Womag has more.
  • Sidewalk snow removal: Councilor Rivera had asked the city to pass an ordinance requiring people not only to shovel their sidewalks, but also to clear crosswalk entrances. The Law Department has drafted an amended ordinance for the Council to consider.
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Preview: Worcester City Council (March 4)

The City Council meets Tuesday, March 4 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me. There are some important items, and many silly items, on the agenda.

  • Property taxes: There’s a citizen proposal that $1,000 each year be subtracted from property tax bill for three-family, owner occupied buildings if $1,000 is spent on exterior house improvements.”
  • Civil War: One of the most confusing items ever. Why doesn’t this call it the Civil War? And why does it read like there are 150-year-old donations to the city sitting in an escrow account somewhere? “Transmitting communication from Councilor Morris A. Bergman and Dr. Wendy J. Bergman requesting City Council to accept donations relating to the City of Worcester from the period 1858 through 1863 in conjunction with commemorations taking place across the United States noting the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States.”
  • Crime Stats: There are some items requesting crime stats, as well as “a map of those areas of the city that have been recipients of Tactical Response Area funds.”
  • Flagg Street: The Committee on Traffic and Parking is asking for a review of how effective the Resident Permit Parking zone on South Flagg Street has been, 6 months after it’s instituted. I don’t know what the background is, but it’s encouraging to see something reviewed a few months after it’s tried. The Committee is also asking for “aggressive enforcement.” Non-residents, beware!
  • Dog Park: The Parks & Rec Committee has a bunch of items relating to the proposed new dog park. The most hilarious one asks if we could use “some kind of tag or card” that would only unlock the gate for licensed dogs, and if we can charge non-Worcester dogs a different fee. The marginal cost of a visiting dog has not yet been reported publicly. The marginal cost of irritating visitors with dogs who just want to hang out with their friends has not been reported either.
  • Panhandling: Speaking of reviewing the effectiveness of new policies, it’s been a year since Worcester’s latest anti-panhandling ordinances came into effect. Councilor Rivera has an item asking how things are going with the city’s panhandler outreach worker.
  • TV: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the City Manager if we can get a network-affiliated TV station in Worcester, so that we’ll have better news coverage. If the City Manager’s powers of persuasion can get a TV station to move here, I can come up with a long list of other stuff the Council should ask for.
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Preview: School Committee (March 6)

The Worcester School Committee has the first March meeting on Thursday, 7pm. You can find the agenda here. (This preview cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.)

  • First up, the postponed honors from last week for South High.
  • We also have a member of the public coming to speak on PARCC. That, combined with a response from administration regarding an item from Ms. Colorio on PARCC, means it is up for discussion. Please come if you wish to be heard!
  • We have several responses coming back from administration: on the Sheriff’s FACE to FACE program; on posting the Friday letters online (they’re up!); on the participation of students with disabilities in athletics; on data charts (no, not walls); and on sending requests for repairs through SchoolDude.
  • We have Ms. Biancheria’s items, held from last week.
  • We have a request to approve a prior year payment of$1,960.00.
  • The School Committee is requested to accept the donation of $2500 for a scholarship for a graduating senior, which is from ASBO due to Mr. Allen’s Distinguished Eagle Award
  • We have a request to approve a prior year payment of $28,105 to Behavior Concepts, Inc. for ABA services.
  • I’ve put the proposed charter regulation changes on the agenda for consideration ahead of the Board of Ed’s March 24th meeting; I’ve also proposed that we urge our delegation to oppose any lift of the charter school cap.
  • We’re being asked to accept a donation to the Caradonio New Citizens Center from METSO Automation USA, Inc.
  • We have a bit of a tweak to Worcester East Middle School’s Statement of Interest with MSBA–if you’re interested in WEMS, you’ll want to read it–that adds a general systems upgrade to the request for roof and windows that we’d requested. It’s pretty cool that MSBA did this; they could have just turned us down flat, but instead agreed that we needed what we asked for and more.
  • We’ve got the Meritorious Budget Award!
  • Assuming a positive vote, we’re setting a date for budget priority setting of March 20.
  • We’re going to recognize our ski team (that we share with St. Peter-Marian).
  • We’re asked to accept a donation of $500 from METSO Automation USA, Inc to Clark Street for basketball.
  • And we’re working on moving the School Committee date in April off of Holy Thursday, for those who observe it.
  • Plus: executive session has three student long-term suspension hearings.
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Worcester City Council meeting preview (Feb 25, 2014)

The City Council meets Tuesday, February 25 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me.

  • Finding a new, permanent City Manager: The Municipal Operations Committee has approved a plan. It’s now before the full City Council. There would be finalists by the end of May, and a Manager by the end of September. Community groups would have an opportunity to meet with the finalists. The T&G has more.
  • Medical marijuana: Famous/infamous activist Billy Breault has an item asking the City Manager to investigate Good Chemistry, a company that the state has approved to open a medical marijuana store in Worcester. The store will be on 9 Harrison St, between Green and Water, and might open in December. They’re also authorized to build a grow house at 6 Pullman St. Councilor Lukes has an item requesting a “report on ownership and status for siting of Medical Marijuana entities in Worcester and any community outreach and meetings held regarding the siting.” The T&G has some good background.
  • SWIP: The decades’-long saga of trying to get something built at the South Worcester Industrial Park continues. The Economic Development Committee wants the city to develop and economic development plan for the area, which would then mean the city could negotiate directly with people interested in buying parcels, rather than going through a public bidding process. Nicole has all the background on SWIP you could want. Here is a video of the area in question.
  • Snow: Councilor Rivera wants people to have to clear crosswalk entrances of snow, like they have to clear their sidewalks. Councilor Lukes and Rosen want a report on how the city’s “snow account” is doing.
  • Zoning: Councilor Bergman continues to focus on zoning changes, this week asking if the Parks Department can “when making public park improvements, to follow the City of Worcester Zoning Ordinance, Article V-Site Plan Review, requiring the planting of trees at 20 -25 foot intervals.”
  • Free Public Wifi: Councilor Bergman also wants a report on whether the city could have free wifi.
  • Changes at the Board of Health: The City Manager wants it to be a regulatory, rather than advisory, board. Councilor Gaffney plans to slow down that process and ask for there to be public meetings on the issue. The T&G has more.
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Worcester City Council meeting preview (Feb 11, 2014)

The City Council meets Tuesday, February 11 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me.

  • Prostitution: The Health and Human Services committee is asking the City Manager to “consider assigning the outreach position being created to deal with the issues of prostitution, to work with the public health structure of the administration rather than with the economic development hierarchy.”
  • Dog crap: Also from Health and Human Services–”Request City Manager consider requesting the Worcester County Sheriff to assist the City of Worcester with identifying solutions to the problems associated with domestic animals defecating in public areas including the creation of appropriate signage.” This has never been a noticeable part of my Worcester experience. Maybe I hang out in the wrong parts of town.
  • Transparency: Councilor Russell will ask that when Municipal Operations meetings are held places other than City Hall, that they still be broadcast and webcast.
  • Mayor salary raise?: Councilor Gaffney is asking that the Council un-table the proposal to give the mayor a raise. The T&G has more.
  • City Manager search: Councilor Lukes has several items regarding the search for a new, permanent City Manager. She’s asking that the city’s 2008 process for finding a new schools superintendent be a model. She’s also asking that the city hire a professional search firm.
  • Graffiti crackdown: Councilor Bergman would like a graffiti crackdown, possibly including “loss of driving license privileges if restitution/community service does not occur.”
  • Dumpsters: Councilor Rivera would like an ordinance to prevent people from having dumpsters in their front yards.
  • Flashing sign: The Traffic and Parking committee would like to see a “rectangular rapid flashing beacon pedestrian actuated traffic signal on High Street at the entrance to the Denholm’s Building.”
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Schools: Citywide Parent Planning Advisory Council mtg Wednesday

“A friendly reminder of next weeks CPPAC meeting on Feb 12th, 7pm at the Worcester Public Library. Brian Allen, the WPS Chief Financial Officer, will be presenting the FY15 budget projections and we will be discussing how we will hold our elected officials accountable to appropriate funding levels for our schools. Looking forward to seeing you there!”

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CANCELLED (First Public Meeting on City Manager search – Feb 13)

This listening sesh is cancelled.

The city has announced that the first of five listening sessions for the city manager search will be held Thursday:

Municipal Operations Committee Meeting
Thursday, February 13, 2014
6:00 pm
Worcester Senior Center
128 Providence Street

Nicole Apostola has more.

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Worcester City Council meeting preview (Feb 4, 2014)

The City Council meets Tuesday, February 4 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me. There’s also some finance stuff.

  • Banning circus animals: This was tabled, then “tabled under privilege,” but this week should be under discussion. The City Manager sent a report to the Council outlining concerns about, among other things, the legality of the proposed ban, and the economic impact of keeping big circuses out of town (an estimated $1.5 million per year.)
  • Report on the Worcester Redevelopment Authority: Another small chapter in ongoing revitalization of the WRA. The City Manager has a report on “the Operating Expenses, Revenue and City Tax Levy Support for all Properties Under the Control of the WRA for the Past Three Years”.
  • Smart Grid: National Grid wants to do a “Smart Grid” pilot in Worcester. Some are concerned that details of power use would be sent to the utility every 15 minutes. Others are concerned that the electricity meter will send this communication wirelessly, and that this wireless signal will hurt people’s health. This will be discussed at a March 17 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. At this Council meeting, the City Manager will present a report on the matter. The City doesn’t seem concerned about health impacts. (I haven’t seen anything that convinces me the health impacts are a valid concern.) I am having trouble with the City’s website and can’t figure out if privacy issues are addressed in the report.
  • Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: The company “Good Chemistry” “who has identified property locations at 9 Harrison Street and 6 Pullman Street” has received a license from the state of open a marijuana dispensary in Worcester.
  • Water Bill Auto-Pay: This isn’t on the agenda, but readers of this preview will be interested to know there’s an online petition relating to City business. Petitioners (including myself) would like the City to allow people to automatically pay their water bills, rather than having to login to the website etc each time. Will any Councilor bring this up this week? I will be on the edge of my seat.
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