Preview: City Council agenda (October 21)

The City Council meets Tuesday, October 21 at 7 P.M. The agenda is here. Short agenda this week.

  • Private/Public Streets: Petitions will me made to make Stanley Rd. and Beamon Ave. public (rather than private) streets.
  • Tobacco: There are several items proposing that the city’s tobacco ordinances be made tougher and enforced better.
  • Sexual Exploitation: The Council’s Public Health Committee proposes that the Commissioner of Public Health assign an outreach worker to attend neighborhood meetings on sexual exploitation.
  • Volunteering In Lieu Of Taxes: Councilor Rosen has an item asking if the City can have a program wherein senior citizens volunteer for the city “in exchange for a reduction in their property taxes.”
  • An Oath: So many people have emailed me about this one. Councilor Gaffney has an item asking if the Council and Committees can “require an oath or affirmation to provide truthful information.” There’s no other detail about this on the agenda.
  • Grants: Councilor Gaffney also has an item asking that the City Manager include “grant requirements with all reports or requests relative to grants.” This is already done by the School Committee, and presumably would make sense for the Manager/Council to start doing it too.
  • Cable Matters, Part 1: There are at least a couple of things going on with our city cable TV system. First, the current company, Charter, is planning to hand off its contract with the city to Comcast, who are a notoriously bad cable company. Last week, the Council surprised me by taking a stand against the handoff. The Law Department said this was within Charter’s rights under the current contract. The Manager said he’d talk to Comcast, and Comcast agreed to delay things for a couple weeks so maybe they could come up with an agreement to avoid bad blood between them and city government. This week, the Public Service Committee wants the full council to “go on record in opposition to the merger of Comcast Corporation with Time Warner Corporation.” (This merger is the reason Charter would transfer the contract to Comcast.)
  • Cable Matters, Part 2: The other thing going on with our cable is that Charter is moving to an all-digital system, and planning to move our public access channel (and a couple others) to entirely new numbers way up the dial. The Manager has responded with a strongly-worded letter asking them not to move the channels.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 14)

The City Council meets Tuesday, October 14 at 7 P.M. The agenda is here. Pretty short agenda this week.

  • Newly-public streets: People are petitioning for Firglade St. and Davis Way from Lake Ave to #13 David Way to become public streets.
  • Low bridge: About 20 trucks have hit the low Cambridge Street railroad bridge so far this year. The Department of Public Works suggests we install a height-clearance curtain to warn trucks.
  • Gun violence: There have been some gang-related shootings recently, and the police have responded with a wave of arrests. This week the chief has submitted a report to the Council outlining the shooting and gang problems. 35 people have been shot this year, we have 18 gangs with 700 members. The police make a special note in the report that ShotSpotter and Real Time Crime Center technology has been helpful in resolving these cases.
  • Climate Action Plan: An update on our Climate Action Plan is packed with facts. Within 15 months, solar cells on municipal buildings will soon generate 2.2 million KWh/yr, enough power for 500 homes.
  • Cable: There may be a discussion of proposals relating to our switching our city cable service from Charter to Comcast.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 7)

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

  • Cable: There are several items relating to the impending change of our cable company from Charter to Comcast. A lot of this discussion has been happening in the Public Service committee, but if this is an issue you’re working on it’s probably worth attending this meeting because these items are finally coming before the full Council.
  • What Is Art?: A number of murals have been painted in the city in recent months. Councilor Russell has an item raising concerns that some murals should be considered “signs” and fall under the city Sign Ordinance. The wording of this item is lovely, as others have noted: Request City Manager provide interpretation and recommendations to the City Council concerning commercial wall murals and/or signs addressing the following questions: At what point is art considered a sign? Is a sign not a sign just because it is painted directly on a structure? Are there rules in place that address this or do we need to consider a new ordinance? Further, request City Manager include in this discussion the painting of portions of exteriors in bright or fluorescent colors as part of signage’s attraction.
  • Ebola: Councilor Lukes has a followup to her previous item on ebola: Request City Manager report on any updating of rapid responses to confirmed illnesses caused by ebola and EV-D68.
  • Cable Access: I’m going to mention Wednesday’s Public Service and Transportation Committee meeting here. It’s 4pm at City Hall. WCCA TV13, our cable access station, is mobilizing its membership against impending changes to our cable system that will move WCCA from channel 13, its longtime home to channel 113. This is part of Charter phasing out analog service.

Preview: City Council agenda (September 30)

The City Council meets Tuesday, September 30 at 6 P.M. The agenda is here. The most interesting item this week will probably be the quarterly economic development report. I don’t see a copy online, but I highly recommend you take a look at one of these sometime. You’ll almost certainly find something to fascinate you.

  • Wither Lincoln Square?: There will be a presentation on ideas for the hulking, unused buildings in Lincoln Square. “Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) Program presenting an evaluation of the former Worcester County Courthouse, Worcester Memorial Auditorium and the Boys’ Club (Voke A) building, as well as the Highland Street parking lot.”
  • City Manager, continued: So Ed Augustus, our current temporary City Manager, will be our next long-term City Manager. The Council will recess into executive session and talk through the details of a new contract for him.
  • Forbes Street: A citizen request: “George Haddad request No Parking on Forbes St. from Westminster St. to Lincoln St.”
  • Tatnuck Square: There’s been some controversy around proposed changes to Tatnuck Square. This week, the Council will presumably vote in favor of “an order of taking” for this project. The City will take easements from 6 companies’ land by eminent domain, and pay them a total of $11,600.
  • Narcan: The Council will vote to accept a state grant to equip our firefighters with the anti-overdose drug Narcan.
  • Adapting Former School Builings: The Council will vote in favor of zoning changes to allow former school buildings to be converted to multi-family residences.

Preview: School Committee agenda (October 2)

Reposted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee has a regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, October 2, at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

In addition to our regular approval of the public session minutes of the previous meeting, you’ll see we’re approving (and releasing) the minutes of six executive sessions. In each case, the reason for it being an executive session has expired. Kudos to Dr. Friel to getting these out! Score one for open government!

  • We’re recognizing the donations from two groups who have helped to start our students’ school year off well: Cradles to Crayons and Reliant Medical Group.
  • We also have a new section, giving our student representative a chance to speak.
  • The report of the Superintendent is on the Family and Community Academy.
  • Colleen O’Brien has retired and we have several new appointments.
  • We’ll be hearing from Jen Carey on Friday’s “Worcester: the City That Reads” event (more on that to come!)
  • Mr. O’Connell is bringing in a document on travel abroad for consideration.
  • He’s also concerned about gym floors, Constitution Day, and AP Mandarin Chinese.
  • We are being asked to accept a donation for the special education department in memory of Paul Piuze, who was a special ed bus monitor. His family asked that donations in his memory be made to the special ed department.
  • We have several requests for recognitions.
  • Miss Biancheria would like the job description for the position of principal of Worcester Technical High School.
  • She’d also like a report on raising MCAS scores and a description of college nights at high schools.
  • We’ll also at 6, be having an executive session for an update on our negotiations with nurses.

Preview: City Council agenda (September 18)

Yes, there’s an extra City Council meeting this week. They’ll vote to “authorize the Mayor to initiate negotiations with City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. for a long term extension of his contract as City Manager.”

At the September 16 meeting, it was clear that there wasn’t a majority of Counselors willing to vote for any of the 3 finalists in the nationwide search held this summer. Whereas most or all Counselors liked the idea of Ed Augustus continuing with the job.

Link to 2-item agenda for this meeting.

Preview: School Committee agenda (September 18)

Reposted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee has its regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, September 18, at 7 pm at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
First up, recognitions! Worcester Tech English teacher Caitlin McCarthy is being recognized for her Kathleen Roberts Creative Leadership Award from the MTA. Ms. McCarthy was recognized for her work on diethylstilbestrol (DES) (a synthetic estrogren) and its impact on those who have been exposed in utero. For more on that, see here
We had a great event this summer, seeing some nice work at Worcester East Middle School’s library, due to their librarian Sarah Kopka and the grant she received from Heart of America. That, with volunteers from AbbVie, led to a lovely library!
Jennifer Cordero, a student at Doherty, was selected for the Hispanic Youth Research and Leadership program at the University of New Mexico.
And the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team, along with others, instructed some of our youth in solar and STEM topics this summer.

The report of the Superintendent is (my personal favorite) the opening of school report! The presentation is not yet posted. Should you want to know how the beginning of school went, or all those numbers that go into running a system of 25,000 students, this is the report for you!

“Worcester: the City That Reads and Smiles!” kicks off on October 3. We’re going to be hearing from Jen Carey on that during the meeting. 
A recommendation from Mr. O’Connell coming in that we acknowledge the late Rep. Binienda.
Mr. O’Connell wants to try out standing desks. 

We have this great list of facilities work that was done over the summer. 

We are being asked to approve three grants: one for $16,500 from the Mass Biotechnology Education Foundation for science equipment for Worcester East Middle School; $15,000 from the Verizon Foundation for STEM education for grade 5; and $31,200 for “professional development innovation” from the state (I don’t know what that last one means, either, but I’ll ask.)

Mr. Monfredo is asking about additional bullying prevention programs for October, and the bowling club at Tech. 
I’m asking that we give our student advisory council space on the agenda. 

And it’s INTERNATIONAL WALK TO SCHOOL DAY on October 8; please plan to celebrate!

Miss Ramirez proposes honoring Candles to Crayons.
Ms. Biancheria is asking for a review of procedures for kindergartners getting on and off buses.

We’re being asked to approve school year calendars through 2018! 
We’re being asked to approve the appointment of a nurse.

And we have two items in executive session (which starts at 6, which is going to be interesting, as the City Council now has a meeting at 5:30): collective bargaining with nurses, and an update on litigation. 

Preview: City Council agenda (September 16)

The City Council meets Tuesday, September 16 at 5:30 P.M. The agenda is here. There are a huge number of items on the agenda this week. I’m highlighting only a handful.

  • New City Manager: The first order of business will be for the Council to select one of three candidates to be our next permanent City Manager. Many Councilors and business leaders would really like to see our temporary City Manager, Ed Augustus, stay on permanently, but he’s always said he’s only going to do it temporarily. It’s possible that a majority of the Council will vote for one of the three candidates; it’s possible Augustus will change his mind at the last minute and the process will begin to make him the permanent Manager. Nicole Apostola has the best roundup (and most-opinionated roundup) of the situation. “Bizarro Lukes” has a roundup that reads like a fever dream.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be approving around a dozen new members of Worcester’s boards and commissions. Also, the Council will be electing a new member of the Library Board of Directors.
  • Our New Cable Company: Our city cable contract is probably switching from Charter to Comcast soon. The Council has had lots of discussion on this, in particular about the idea of creating city-owned internet service. The City Manager has a long report about the various questions and ideas. The T&G has more on the situation.
  • Synthetic Marijuana Crackdown: Recently some Councilors asked the City why the police aren’t cracking down harder on synthetic marijuana sales. The police report back that, in reaction to new state laws on the issue, they’ve been pursuing a crackdown and will take more action in the coming weeks.
  • Ebola: A couple weeks ago, Councilor Lukes asked if we are doing anything regarding Ebola. This week, the Division of Public Health reports back that it’s on the radar of local authorities and that we’d be ready if it became an issue.
  • City Bond Rating: The City Treasurer reports that our bond rating remains stable at Aa3 MIG1.
  • Binienda Road: Councilor Rosen asks that something in Ward 7 be named after our long-time State Rep, the late John Binienda.
  • Police Communication: Councilor Rosen asks the police to do a better job responding “to requests from all (large and small) media outlets.”
  • Loud Music: Councilor Gaffney asks how much it would cost to buy sound meters and train the police to use them.
  • Crosswalk Stings: Councilor Rivera asks if our crosswalk stings are working. (Crosswalk stings are when a plainclothes cop stands by a crosswalk, meaning that drivers should stop for this pedestrian, then other cops cite the cars that blow through the crosswalk. Anecdotally, this is not doing much to change the behavior of local drivers.)
  • City Seal Misuse: Yes, the Council is voting to pass a law establishing a $300/day fine for using the city seal, or a close copy, either physically or electronically for non-City purposes.
  • Gender Identity: The Council will vote to expand the Human Rights Commissions’ purview to include gender identity, to create a “gender identity and expression policy” for the City, and to require all vendors we do business with to have similar policies.
  • Charter Change: Last meeting, Councilor Lukes “tabled under privilege” Frank Kartheiser’s petition that there be public hearings on charter change. I don’t know what will happen to this item this meeting

Preview: City Council agenda (August 19)

The City Council meets Tuesday, August 19 at 6 pm. The agenda is here. This week: charter change, murals, heroin, switching cable companies, the old courthouse, homelessness, the City Seal, and ebola.

  • Billy Breault’s one-man war on soft drugs: Mr. Breault has a citizen petition asking the city to “enforce existing ban on the distribution or sale of certain herbs coated with synthetic chemicals . . . that mimic a marijuana or THC derivative high, sometimes sold in head shops, convenience stores or gas stations in Worcester.”
  • Charter Change: The Worcester Community-Labor Coalition has an item requesting that the city hold public hearings starting in October to discuss changing our form of government.
  • Worcester Revolution of 1774: Another item regarding this anniversary, asking the Council to support the commemoration of “the acts of over 4,600 Worcester area militiamen in overthrowing British rule on September 6, 1774.”
  • Murals: There are a couple of items accepting murals from the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association and the QALICB Corporation. It has been a year of public art
  • The old courthouse: The city now officially owns the old County Courthouse. The state gave us $3million as part of the deal, to fix it up or demolish it or whatever. While we find a buyer, we’ll be leasing out the parking lots.
  • Sex offenders: A couple of Councilors have asked if we can limit where Level 2 and 3 sex offenders live. The response of the city law department is that it would be tricky but possible.
  • The City Seal: The worst use of the Council’s time this summer will undoubtedly be their effort to limit the use of the City Seal. A local e-cigarette shop has a logo that’s a takeoff of the seal, so the Council is considering a new ordinance that would establish a $300/day fine for using the city seal, or a close copy, either physically or electronically for non-City purposes. How they are going to enforce this against electronic uses, I have no idea. If some smartass in Holden uses the City Seal as his Facebook profile pic, or a business in West Boylston adds the seal to their signage, how is a Worcester municipal ordinance going to apply?
  • Heroin overdoses: There have been many fatal heroin overdoses in and around Worcester this summer [T&G]. There are several items on the agenda relating to this. If you would like the city to do something more than it’s been doing, or something different, this would be a good meeting to share your opinion.
  • Cable: Worcester’s cable provider is probably switching from Charter to Comcast next year. The Council has several items relating to this, one requesting that we consider creating our own broadband internet provider, another asking the Manager for a report on how else we can respond. For more, see Brendan’s notes.
  • Dog park: Councilor Rosen would like the City to consider putting a dog park in Beaver Brook Park.
  • Keeping homeless people from sleeping in the parks: Councilor Rosen asks the City for a report on homelessness, especially on what we’re doing to keep homeless people from sleeping in parks and tossing out their drug paraphernalia.
  • Ebola: The usually-staid Councilor Lukes has had several interesting agenda items this summer. This week: “12gg. Request City Manager report on what measures are being taken locally regarding the ebola virus.”

Preview: School Committee agenda (August 21)

Reposted from Tracy’s blog.

Last summer meeting this year! You can find the agenda here.

First up is the first round of the usual summer retirements, resignations, leaves, transfers, and hires.

We have the results of the annual teacher survey, which is coming in as the report of the Superintendent.

We have a report on the average class size at the secondary level (along with the number of teachers carrying more than 125 students).

As I mentioned earlier, we have several proposed changes to the student disciplinary policy, in response to state changes in regulation. Ms. Biancheria also has sought an answer to what change this makes in School Committee involvement in discipline.

Mr. Foley is publicizing the events of September 6, honoring the 1774 events in Worcester.

Worcester Tech is being given $5000 for their robotics team, for School Committe to receive.

Mr. Monfredo is looking for summer school test results.

He’s also asking for an update on the Comprehensive Community Responsibility Framework.

Mr. O’Connell recognizes the 2014 Master Mechanic Award, going to Worcester Tech this fall.

We have the innovation plans for:

They are up for three year approval by the School Committee.

Ms. Biancheria would like a report on A.P. classes.

She’d also like information on  internships.

Mr. O’Connell is asking about computer coding classes being offered.

We’re also being asked to approve a prior year payment totalling $1988.32. 

We will have an executive session AFTER the meeting, to get an update on negotiations with our nurses.