Preview: City Council agenda (February 12)

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

This week: Open meeting law, network TV.

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

  • Zoning: The Council will likely vote to rezone 223 Greenwood St. from a current designation of single-family residential to light manufacturing.
  • Public and Private Streets: Mimoon Alwash would like the private Riedl Place to be be made a public street.
  • Police Body Cameras: Gordon Davis would like the Council to “establish policies for the use of police body cameras.” The city’s most recent union agreement with our police should have them starting a body camera pilot program this year. If you are not happy with the language in that agreement or would like more specifics this would be a good meeting to make some comments. (I don’t know anything about the specifics here.)
  • Violating Open Meeting Law: The Council will likely request the city’s lawyers opine as to whether Council subcommittees can do site visits if part of the site is not open to the public, or whether that would be a violation of open meeting law. Last meeting, at the prompting of Councilor King, the Council asked for a legal opinion as to whether we could get the state legislature to exempt the Worcester City Council from open meeting law. (This sounds crazy but this is what the minutes say, maybe this was misstated in the minutes.)
  • Network TV in Worcester: Councilor Rosen would like the Manager “to be taken to bring a network-affiliated television station to the resurgent City of Worcester.” Note that traditional television and especially network-affiliated television would seem to be on the decline nationally.
  • The Revenue of the Renaissance: Councilor Lukes would like a report from the manager as to whether we are seeing more property taxes the last couple years “resulting from the Worcester Renaissance.”

Preview: City Council agenda (February 5)

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

This week: Boards and commissions.

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

  • Zoning: Jonathan J. Thomas is asking for a bunch of parcels in the Malden Woods subdivision to be zoned Rl-7, residential with a minimum lot size of 7,000 square feet. This matter will be referred to the Planning Board.
  • Boards and Commissions: The City Manager is appointing Edward Moynihan and Angel Santana as Constables, and Priscilla Lippert to the Trust Funds Commission. The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Coretta McCarter to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women and Osaghale Aisagbonhi to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Affirmative Action: The city is adopting a new affirmative action policy with “teeth.” The T&G has more.
  • Stop Violating Open Meeting Law: Responding to a request from Coucilor Lukes, the city’s lawyer confirms that a quorum of the Council is not supposed to discuss Council business except at public meetings.

Preview: City Council agenda (January 29)

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

This week: Streets, finances.

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

  • Zoning: Susan S. Nichols requests all of 195 Mill Street be zoned business BL-1.0, as it currently has split zoning. The Economic Development Committee endorses a request (made last May!) to rezone 223 Greenwood St. (in Quinsig Village, adjacent to Rand Whitney) from single family residential to manufacturing. The Planing Board endorses Robert Longden’s request to rezone 305 Belmont St., currently a mix of light manufacturing and 2-story businesses, to all 3-story business.
  • Working Off Property Taxes: Bill Coleman has a petition asking for a “Senior Citizen Property Tax Work-Off Abatement Program”.
  • Fixing Online Agendas: Councilor Wally asks if the city can start including relevant attachments with the online meeting minutes it posts. Currently, a board or commission might have a meeting, and the online agenda or minutes would have an item like “Alien Abduction,” and the context of that discussion would remain a mystery, because the minutes wouldn’t have a link to a slideshow or handout or whatever the person submitted to the committee in re alien abduction.
  • Snow Plow Surveillance: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager to do a better and more efficient job plowing the streets. This would be the sort of snow plowing item that pops up most weeks most winters, except she also asks if we should start using “surveillance camera networks to plow the streets more efficiently.”
  • City Finances: The Manager will present the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the last fiscal year, as prepared by independent accountants the city hires. There is a ton of stuff in there. The first bullet point is: “The liabilities and deferred inflows of the City (primary government) exceeded its assets and deferred outflows (net position) at the close of fiscal 2018 by $674,056.”
  • Private and Public Streets: The Planning Board wants the Council to approve Polar Beverages’s request to remove the private Wolfenden St. from the official map. They also endorse Kristin Sundberg’s request to make the private Martha Ave. a public street. They endorse John Paul and Michelle L’Esperance’s request to make the private Bishop Ave. a public street. The Public Works Committee asks the Council to reject Carole Edwards’s request to make part of Hooper St. public.
  • Renaming Streets: The Public Works Committee endorses Councilor Rivera’s request to rename Kilby St. to Boys & Girls Club Way.
  • Adding Businesses to Municipal Recycling?: At the last meeting, a couple recycling-related items were discussed that were not on the meeting’s agenda. First, Councilor Russell wonders if we could let “very small businesses” use our recycling program. Currently, it’s only for single-family homes or small apartment buildings.
  • Recycling Systems: Second, Councilor King would like us to change our recycling system from using small open bins to using larger 2-wheeled lidded bins or clear plastic bags. I am so happy to think about being able to use bags for recycling just as we do for trash, rather than having our neighborhood hit by a rain of garbage each week on trash day as the wind blows stuff out of the recycling bins and onto the streets. Some, for whom “single-use plastic bags” are anathema, are organizing against the bag proposal. I don’t think the amount of extra plastic injected into the recycling system (the bags would likely be recycled) is what we should be worrying about here, but I did break out a scale and a calculator to compare bags with the current system. Our current bins are 3.5 pounds or so, containing as much plastic as 50 transparent trash bags. The bins last as many as 5 years in my experience, and as few as 2, before they start to crack and fall apart. We currently use 3 bins, so we might use 100 bags a year. If the bins last a full 5 years before replacement, the bin system would generate 10.5 pounds of waste plastic in those 5 years, whereas a bag system would generate 39 pounds of plastic. (If the bins broke in 2 years the bag system would only generate 16 pounds.) To put this another way, my household would be generating an extra 1/4 ounce of plastic per day (a gram per person). Are there things the average household could be doing to reduce their plastic waste by vastly more than this? I think so.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 11)

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

This week: Taxes.

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

  • Tax Hearing: Among other things on the agenda is a hearing for setting property tax rates for 2019. If you have an opinion, this is a good meeting to attend. As per usual, the Council will also be voting on offering a $1,400.00 property tax reduction to the elderly.
  • Private and Public Streets: John Paul and Michelle L’Esperance want the private Bishop Ave made public.
  • Boards and Commissions: Michael Baker and Linda Hixon will be reappointed to the G.A.R. Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; Devon Kurtz reappointed to the Historical Commission; Walter Shea reappointed to the License Commission; and Thomas Conroy, Meaghan Hardy-Lavoie and HRH Gabriel Rollins to the Worcester Arts Council.
  • Plastic Bag Crackdown: The Council will vote on banning retailers from offering single-use plastic bags. They could sell non-plastic bags for 5 cents. After a grace period, there would be a $100/day fine for violating this.
  • Quality of Life Taskforce: There’s a report on what this small team of city employees has accomplished over the past 3 years. Illegal dumping: 5788 properties visited, 86 tons of trash collected, $31k in fines levied. Vacant and problem buildings: 3477 visited. Board of Probation checks on lodging house managers: 159 records checked. Unregistered vehicles: 251 dealt with. Homeless camps: 128 visited, 670 outreach visits. In the last 2 months they have added a Recovery Coach who has placed 8 homeless people into recovery programs and gotten an additional 7 people permanent housing. Needles collected: 1500. (Editorial note: I have interacted with a couple QOL people and they were awesome, good job picking people for this team.)

Preview: City Council agenda (November 27)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Expanding the Ballfield Project: The Worcester Business Journal has a good writeup on this. The Worcester Redevelopment Authority would like to expand the “urban revitalization area” associated with the upcoming minor league ballfield by an additional 21 acres, about a 10% expansion. As the article notes, this expansion plan includes acquiring “more than 20 properties and tearing down 18 buildings.”
  • Changing the Hope Cemetery Board of Commissioners: The manager would like to make some changes in the legal requirements for the Hope Cemetery Board, so as to make it easier to have a full slate of commissioners. One change would remove the requirement that there be 1 commissioner from each of the 5 city council districts. Another change would extend the term of service from 3 years to 5; the idea is that since people end up serving decades on this board, extending the term would mean they’d have to deal with the process of getting re-appointed fewer times.

Preview: City Council agenda (November 20)

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

This week: The proposed Downtown Business Improvement District.

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

  • Downtown Business Improvement District: The T&G has a good writeup on this. The Council will be discussing whether or not to approve a Downtown Business Improvement District. The city would add an additional .3% property tax to properties in the 78-acre BID (including non-profit properties) and that money would be spent by a Board of Directors on things like marketing, clearing ice from sidewalks, and repairs. The representatives of at least 51% of the property value of the BID submitted petitions in favor.
  • Public and Private Streets: These proposals will be forwarded to the Planning Board. Kristin Sundberg wants the private Martha Avenue be made a public street. Polar Beverages wants the private Woolfenden Street to be removed from the official map.
  • Zoning Changes: New Garden Park Inc. wants part of 305 Belmont Street rezoned from 2-story commercial and very light manufacturing to 3-story commercial. Tuan Ngo wants 96-102 May Street rezoned residential to 2-story commercial.
  • Whither the Urban Agriculture Ordinance: There are several items this week in which Councilors ask, “What happened to some old item the Council approved but the city seems to be ignoring?” For example, Councilor Rivera asks for an update on the proposed urban agriculture ordinance.
  • Expanding the Scope of Veterans’ Affairs: Councilor Bergman would like the Council’s Committee on Veterans’ & Military Affairs turned into a Committee on Veterans’, Military and Historical Affairs.
  • Regulation of Charter Communication: Currently, the city licenses a monopoly on cable services to Charter Communications. Charter is arguing to the FCC that their cable TV business faces “effective competition” from AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW service, and so Charter should be exempt from various regulations since they don’t actually get the monopoly they are paying for. The Massachusetts Attorney General opposes this, and Councilor Lukes wants the Council to go on record as supporting the AG. (I find this petition a little confusing, sorry if my explanation is wrong.) In an unrelated item, Councilor Rosen wants the City Manager to investigate the problems with Charter’s screwed-up phone service, “problems that result in, among others, dead phone lines, one-way audio reception, dropped calls mid-conversation, unrecorded voice mail messages, and threats to the operation of telephone-dependent medical alert systems.”
  • I Can Drive 25: Councilor Lukes wants a report on whether or not we should make 25mph the city-wide speed limit.

Proposed Business Improvement District

Preview: City Council agenda (November 13)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Boards and Commissions: The City Manager is appointing Tracey Weeden to the Human Rights Commission, Mariana O’Brien to the Elder Affairs Commission, Lisa Malo and Yasmin Goris to the Worcester Arts Council, and Kira Terrill to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Fund. The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Savvas Kosmidis to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Marie Dicardy to the Cable Television Advisory Board, George Cortes to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Rachel Brown to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Christmas Tree Crackdown: The mayor wants a report “regarding the regulations and enforcement plan for the selling of Christmas trees for this upcoming holiday season.”
  • 4 Winslow Rezoning: The council will vote whether to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to rezone all of 4 Winslow, the property adjacent to Ed Hyder’s Market, to residential.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 30)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Sunderland Road Parcel: Councilor Russell would like the city to sell, if possible, the city-owned lot at Sunderland Road and Lake Ave, as well as zone it for single family homes.
  • Auction City Stuff Online: Councilor Russell would like the city to start selling off surplus real estate, equipment, etc. via an online municipal auction service.
  • Craigslist “Safe Trade Station”: Councilor Bergman would like the city to establish areas in the parking lot and lobby of the main police station where people can meet to consummate Craigslist deals.
  • Jones Memorial: Councilor Bergman would like us to have a monument to Edward Davis “The Jones in Dow Jones” Jones.
  • A Beautiful Tree: Councilor Rose would like the city to plan “an eight foot evergreen tree” at Burncoat and Mountain, to make the area nicer and to allow tree-lighting events.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 23)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Stop Putting Signs in the Newton Square Rotary: The great Paula Bushey and Denise Billotta have a request that the Council prohibit people from putting signs in the Newton Square Rotary. (They are active in maintaining the area.)
  • Recognizing Local Businesses: The great Bill Coleman has two items asking the Council to recognize long-time city businesses. First, “Mark Ruffo, President and Owner of K & N Supply Plumbing & Heating Company of 159 Water St., a Worcester landmark since 1978.” Second, “S. Richard Sachs, his family and employees of A-1 Wholesale Window and Siding Co. for their long time commitment to the City since 1949.”
  • Boards and Commissions: Lowell Alexander will be reappointed to the Civic Center Commission. The Council will vote whether to reappoint Stephen Stolberg to the Commission on Disabilities, and Patrick Hare to the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board.
  • 521 Sunderland Road: The Manager would like the Council to authorize the city to sell a 2,881 square foot parcel there to a private person for $3,800.
  • Development Tax Breaks: The Manager has an update on our current Tax Incentive Financing deals, which he credits with generating $300 million in investment and 1,700 jobs. This particular report doesn’t outline the extent of the tax breaks themselves.
  • Hazardous Waste Collection Day: This will be Saturday, November 3, 2018, 9:00am–12:00pm. If you make an appointment to make a dropoff (1065 Millbury Street, 508-929-1300) you can give the city your hazardous waste to be disposed of in a responsible manner.
  • Leaf Collection: The city begins leaf collection November 5. All the details are here.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 2)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Skate Park: Councilor Rosen has an item asking for “a public hearing on the progress being made in discussions between the city administration and the local skateboarding community as both parties work together to find an acceptable, affordable and safe site for a new skate park.”
  • Let’s Get Those Streets Fixed: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the City Manager to change the process of writing contracts for street or sidewalk repair, such that the contractors would “complete their work in a reasonable length of time.” If we can find such a solution, I think it would revolutionize the practice of construction worldwide.
  • Live-Streaming Meetings: Councilor King wants to know if the city is any closer to being able to livestream city meetings and events on social media.
  • Trans Rights: Councilors King, Mero-Carlson, Rivera, and Rose would like the Council to endorse ballot question 3, which would preserve transgender rights in the state. This was held over from last week’s meeting.