Preview: City Council agenda (January 20)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, January 20. The agenda is here. I’ve been on the road the last couple weeks. Did I miss anything?

This week: a slim agenda.

  • Update on Council rule changes: Nothing will be decided yet. Since there is so much detail, we have a separate post on this.
  • Boards and Commissions: Aaron Richman reappointed to the Human Rights Commission; Jake Messier reappointed to the Trust Funds Commission; Matthew Yalouris appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee; Douglas Hannam reappointed to the Citizen’s Advisory Council.
  • Tax Breaks: We’re giving companies tax breaks relating to a rest home project at 102 Randolf Road. There have been delays; the Council will be voting to change the agreement to give them 2 more years to get things done.
  • Snow Parking: At the Council’s request, when the parking ban is declared due to snow, “the Pearl Elm, Federal Plaza, Union Station, and Major Taylor Garages will each be available for overnight parking. The current overnight rate from 5:00 pm-5:00 am is currently Six Dollars $6.00 at each of these locations.”
  • New Nelson Place School: The Council will be voting approval of the financing of a new $57 million Nelson Place School to open near Indian Lake in 2017.
  • 2015 Election Schedule: The new schedule is up. Want to run for City Council or School Committee? Pick up your nomination papers on March 3. Return your sheets of signatures by May 19 at 5:00pm.
  • New Landfill for Basin Cleanings and Street Sweepings: In recent years, the City has put “basin cleanings and street sweepings” into the Greenwood Street Landfill at no cost. Now that it’s full, the Council will be voting to enter a 5 year contract with the Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park to dump this stuff there for $11/ton.
  • Million-Dollar Properties: As part of their effort to figure out how to tax non-profits, the Council has asked for a list of the 1,066 properties in the city worth more than a million dollars. It’s an interesting list. There are 9 worth more than a hundred million dollars. UMass and Holy Cross are at the top of that list.
  • Zoning Changes: One change that I don’t understand but like the sound of is the establishment of a Commercial Corridors Overlay District in the area shown below, where things will be tweaked “to encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of the City’s downtown and urban corridors.”

overlay

Worcester City Council rules changes

Here’s a PDF outlining proposed changes in how the City Council will operate.

A lot of this is just cleaning things up. The discussion of these changes has been happening for many months now, and will go on for some time to come.

Here are a few things I noticed that go beyond cleanup.

  • When the Council takes up an issue that’s not on the meeting agenda, they will first have to explain the emergency situation that’s forcing them to do so.
  • Limits total public comment at a Council meeting to 30 minutes. (The Council can always suspend this rule and let people talk longer.)
  • Reiterates that people at meetings should be silent, and that if you’re still talking after being warned, the Council can call the cops on you.
  • Formalizes that the Mayor can temporarily appoint Councilors to vacant committee spots. This is how it’s already done.
  • Currently, committees are supposed to make a decision on items within 60 days, then report back to the Council. There are a lot of old items drifting around. The new rule says that after 60 days, if the committee hasn’t dealt with the item, it goes back to the Council. Also, the Clerk will give the committees lists of their “dormant items,” and every 2 years there will be a big housecleaning—either a Councilor has to ask to keep an item alive, or it will automatically be “filed.” (That is, go away.
  • The new rules several times call speaking before the Council a “privilege,” whereas the old rules don’t. Not sure if this means anything.

Rules geeks, feel free to post a comment with your impressions.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 9)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, December 9. The agenda is here. Real short agenda this week, so I’m including some links of interest.

  • Library board: The Council will fill 2 positions on the Library Board of Directors from a pool of volunteer applicants.
  • Taxes: The tax discussion didn’t happen last week due to some procedural errors. This week, the discussion of how much to tax residents, businesses, etc. next year will begin.
  • Sex offenders: The Council is asking for a report on how many victims of Level 3 sex offenders knew their abuser at the time, and on the recidivism rate of these offenders.
  • Dover Amendment: The Council will likely ask the city administration for a plan of how we can get around the Dover Amendment, which “exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.” This probably relates to the Council’s renewed interest in trying to get nonprofits to give the city money. See also: this Womag article from January about Councilors wanting more control over how non-profits use their land.
  • Panhandling and Smart Meters: Interesting recent New York Times articles on how our anti-panhandling ordinance may end up before the US Supreme Court, and how cost savings from smart meters have been slow in coming.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 2)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, December 2. The agenda is here. This week: Tax rates, cultural district, surveillance.

  • Ferguson: The most notable thing from last week’s meeting was that, in response to the non-indictment in Ferguson, people testified to the Council for an hour about race and police accountability. I don’t see anything on this week’s agenda responding to that, either citizen petitions or items from Councilors.
  • Tax Rates: The Council will discuss what the tax rates for next year will be. They have limited discretion in setting rates for commercial vs. residential property, etc.
  • Boards and Commissions: Martha Assefa will be appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
  • Salisbury Cultural District: The Manager would like there to be a “cultural district” to the northwest of Lincoln Square. I think they want to do this so they can apply for certain grants. The area would be roughly the triangle of Park, Highland, and Grove, plus Rural Cemetery and minus Price Chopper. The T&G has a map.
  • Stop Crashing Into Bridges: As noted at a Council meeting earlier this year, we have a problem with trucks hitting our low bridges. This week, there’s a proposal to fine people $5000 for crashing into a bridge. [T&G]
  • Surveillance: There is a proposal to put police surveillance cameras around Grafton Hill, Union Hill, and Shrewsbury Street [T&G].
  • Spending Revolving Accounts: Council budget watchers will want to note: “Recommend Authorization to use funds from various revolving fund accounts in Fiscal Year 2015, as required prior to the certification of the tax rates by the Department of Revenue.”

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (December 4)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

A quick note, first of all, on this weeks’s Worcester City Council agenda: the City Manager’s portion of the agenda requests Council authorization for use of the revolving funds. If you look at the backup, quite a number of these are WPS accounts, many associated with Worcester Technical High School programs. Revolving funds set aside the money brought in by a program for the use of that program.

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent this week is the administration’s response regarding an exam, or limited admission, or, as it’s called on the agenda, “high school for advanced learners.” There is as yet no backup; I’ll post it once we get it.

We have a number of recognitions and thanks coming forward, including students who are in the Central Mass Senior Music Festival.

Miss Biancheria would like to discuss the use of silent lunches.

She is also looking for an update on the School Facilities Master Plan (still in subcommittee).

We are being asked to approve two prior year payments: one to a nurse for $5,698.70. and one to the Stetson School for $20,381.22.

We have a report on the Level 4 work being done at Elm Park Community School.

We will be having an executive session before the meeting for two items: one for an update on negotiations with cafeteria workers, and one to open negotiations for a renewed contract with Superintendent Boone (while her contract runs through June, the School Committee must inform her of intent to not renew by January).

Preview: City Council agenda (November 25)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, November 25. The agenda is here. This week: PILOT and a few other interesting items.

  • PILOT: There are a couple items on getting non-profits, which don’t pay city property taxes, to give the city some money anyway. The term for this is Payment In Lieu Of Taxes. The Council has talked about this a lot down through the years. Lately there has been a little progress, with some of the colleges giving the city money in exchange for land deals and the like. There are two items on the agenda this week relating to PILOT. (Council geeks will note that one of these items has 2 sponsors and the other 3; there has been very little co-sponsoring of items since the Council was warned the communications it takes to arrange these might sometimes violate open meeting laws.)
  • Saturation: Councilors Economou and Rosen have an item suggesting that we may be “approaching saturation in the rental market specifically as it pertains to our urban core.”
  • Surveillance: Councilor Rivera has an item asking that the city work to promote more small businesses installing exterior surveillance cameras.
  • Blinking lights: Councilor Rivera has an item asking for followup on the proposal to install “a yellow blinking pedestrian crossing light in Main Street
    at Kilby Street.” Seems like we have way more of these lights in recent years.
  • Private and Public Streets: We sometimes note petitions to make private streets public; this week we should note that the petition from Councilor Rushton to make Nathaniel St and Ct public will probably be denied.

Preview: City Council agenda (November 18)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, November 18. The agenda is here.

  • Two citizen petitions of note: one requesting that companies receiving TIF’s purchase from Worcester business; the other looking for regulation of door-to-door salesmen.
  • Taxes: the City Council will do its annual tax rate classification hearing on December 2.
  • Energy upgrades: the City is working on energy efficiency, and plans, among other projects, to upgrade streetlights to LEDs.
  • Library: there are two vacancies on the Library Board coming up January 1.
  • Downtown safety: the Public Safety subcommittee is looking for reports on downtown incidents, as well as safety concerns of downtown businesses.
  • Pools?: Councilor Rosen has asked for plans “for constructing aquatic facilities, especially spray parks”
  • Foothills: Councilor Rosen would like to save the Foothills Theatre sign.
  • Skating: Councilor Bergman is looking for free skating rental hours.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (November 29)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

There is a regular meeting of the Worcester School Committee this Thursday at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

After a couple of recognitions, the report of the superintendent is actually the report of the school committee this week: Superintendent Boone’s annual evaluation. We had to get our individual evaluations in by Friday; Mayor Petty is charged with compiling them into a single joint document. If you’re curious, the form we’re required by state regs to fill out is here. I imagine we’ll have a flurry of document posting close to the meeting itself; I’ve set mine to post once the meeting is starting.

Also on the agenda: the report out of the Teaching, Learning, and Student Support meeting on the math curriculum. This should include a revised contract with the clause allowing a termination after one year for any reason.

We have some personnel items, including the retirement of June Eressy, who has served in a number of roles in the district, most recently as principal of Chandler Elementary. Best wishes, June!

The various items from last time, filed by Miss Biancheria, held due to absence at the meeting, because of her mother’s illness, are up this week.

We’re being asked to approve the private Center for Applied Behavioral Instruction (yes, this is under our purview. New private schools? Yes. New charter schools? No.).

I’m asking that administration share with us the communcation they intend to send to parents who refuse the PARCC or MCAS for their children, as well as the process that they intend to follow with those students.

I’m sending the homework policy off to Governance (we haven’t looked at in awhile).

We’ve had some generous donations to Andy’s Attic, for which we are thankful.

We’re being asked to approve a $5000 grant for Columbus Park.

We’re being asked to approve a $1000 grant for the Books for Babies program.
Mr. O’Connell is asking that we recognize the recent donation of muscial equipment to Worcester East Middle school.

We’re being asked to approve a donation of $294.76 from the Kiducation fund.

And we’ll have an executive session at 6 pm to discuss two contract negotiations and a lawsuit.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 28)

The City Council meets Tuesday, October 28 at 7 P.M. The agenda is here. Short agenda this week.

  • Agendas: Scott Ricker has a citizen petition asking that Boards and Commissions include supporting materials (“correspondence, charts, maps, graphs and/or plans”) with their agendas. This would definitely be a help in writing some of these meeting previews.
  • Heroin Overdoses: Billy Breault is asking the Council and Manager to work with law enforcement to pursue “more aggressive sentencing” towards those who distribute “heroin which results in an individual’s death.”
  • Lightower Fiber Networks: There are a couple of routine items on the agenda regarding this company doing some conduit work. Someone wrote in asking if they were new in town. I believe they have had some presence in the city for years now, and have a presence in the collocation building downtown. For example, here’s a T&G article on one of their projects in 2012.
  • Grants and Transfers: There are a variety of routine finance items on large grants. There’s a $400,000 “assessment grant” “from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program”, and $2,975,000.00 in old Community Development Block Grants the city is rushing to spend (on a firetruck, a bike path, and some housing).
  • Ebola: The City has a Ebola plan. It is nothing out of the ordinary, but the curious can read it here.
  • Elderly Tax Exemptions: The Council is expected to vote to establish a tax exemption for the elderly that would be expected to save 438 of “our most financially
    challenged elderly homeowners” more than $603,000 in property taxes.
  • Youth and Gang Violence: Recently the Council received a report on what the police were doing about a surge of gang violence. This week, the Council will receive an assessment and plan for dealing with youth and gang violence, prepared by a team from Clark University. It is here. In addition, the Main South CDC recently received a grant of almost a million dollars for community safety projects.

Two school finance meetings on Tuesday

Crossposted from Tracy’s blog.

Quick post to make sure you do know that there are two finance meetings on Tuesday.

  • There is a joint meeting of the City Council Education subcommittee meeting with the School Committee Finance and Operations subcommittee. This is at 5:30 pm in the Levi Lincoln chamber (north chamber) of City Hall. The agenda for that is here. Largely, budget updates, facilities updates, and a bit on transportation.
  • Following that meeting, there will be the first quarter meeting of the Finance and Operations subcommittee. It is posted for 6:30 that night, but it will start after that if the preceeding meeting runs long. Note that it is at our usual location on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building. The agenda for that is here. We’re closing out FY14, looking at the first quarter of FY15, considering transporation bid specs, talking about ads on buses and repaired gym floors, and getting an update on playgrounds. PLUS there’s some really important numbers in those special education estimates AND the significant work of the foundation commission is up for conversation. Those last two are really important stuff moving forward!

As always, they are public!