Preview: City Council agenda (April 14)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: hot dog vendors, recycling.

Pre-meeting: There will be an “anti-repression rally” outside City Hall at 6pm in reaction to Black Lives Matter protesters being charged with “being a disorderly person and disturbing the peace” for blocking traffic in Kelley Square for 4 minutes in January. No one was arrested at the January protest; two months after the protest, approximately 10% of those blocking the street were charged. Those charged are due in court on Wednesday.

  • Dog Signs: “Katherine Fratus request signs be installed in the Beaconsfield Rd. neighborhood that states owners must pick up after their dog or there will be a fine.”
  • Mosaic Cultural Complex: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager for a report on money the city gave to Mosaic Cultural Complex, and “how legitimate are the concerns addressed on the internet regarding this entity.” Mosaic is an organization that has hosted Black Lives Matter meetings and as Councilor Lukes notes, there are “concerns addressed on the internet” that they may not have their nonprofit paperwork straight.
  • The next budget: Councilor Gaffney has an item asking that if there is a tax increase in the next budget, all of that money go to “fund the City’s pension and OPEB liabilities.” The Council usually does not deal with all the tax and budget stuff in the months before the election; an item like this one attempts to make the issue part of the election conversation.
  • HOT DOG VENDORS!: Back in 2008 the City Council voted for new restrictions on food carts in the city, and their number went way down. This week, Coucilors Rose, Bergman, and Rivera ask for a report on what changes can be made to allow vendors on the Worcester Common. Councilor Rosen was on the Council back in 2008 and was outspoken in his opposition to the regulations. (Here’s a video I narrated with some interviews with vendors back then. It is slow but I link it for the record.)
  • Rectangular fields: Councilor Rosen has an item asking how we are doing at adding more soccer etc fields to the city. The Parks Department refers to these as “rectangular fields.” Soccer advocates have been pushing on this issue for years.
  • Recyling in bags rather than bins: Councilor Rosen has an item asking how our most exciting recycling pilot program is going, the one that lets people put recycling in clear trashbags rather than using bins.
  • More recycling: Councilors Bergman and Economou have an item that I think is asking for a report on what needs to change for the city to be able to handle trash and recycling for “townhouse and or condominium developments.” Buildings with a lot of units have to make their own arrangements for dealing with this stuff.
  • Too many apartments?: Councilors Bergman and Economou have another item asking the Office of Economic Development “what level of apartments, especially in the core of the City, would be considered a saturation point.” I am curious to hear what negative impacts they are concerned about.
  • Needle disposal: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking for a pilot needle collection program to deal with discarded needles in Castle Park.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 7)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s meeting: appointments, net neutrality, government channel, the old courthouse, and sewer rates.

  • Commissions: Activist Benito Vega will be appointed to the Citizens Advisory Council. Former City Councilor Mike Perotto will be appointed to the Election Commission.
  • Net Neutrality: A couple weeks back Councilor Lukes asked the administration to ask Charter what impact the FCC’s new net neutrality rules might have on customers. Charter has replied: they’re not sure yet.
  • Government Access Cable Channel: Why does the government channel have $1.7 million in the bank? According to a report to the Council, for salaries, building a studio in the basement of City Hall, and a possible $100,000 upgrade to lighting and audio in the City Council chamber.
  • Selling the Old Courthouse: It seems likely that the Council will at last vote to sell the old, vacant courthouse to a developer to build market-rate apartments and retail space. People have been pressuring the Council to ensure that many of those renovating the building will be local residents, but according to the linked article makes it sound like this will not happen.
  • “Items Reasonably Anticipated”: Procedural geeks and open government advocates will enjoy that there’s a section of the agenda called “Items Reasonably Anticipated,” perhaps a reference to recent Council rules changes that establish how the mayor can add items to the agenda when they are not reasonably anticipated.
  • Water and Sewer Rates Going Up: Because of cost increases, the City Manager recommends that the Council increase water rates by 1.7%, and sewer rates by 5.2%.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (April 9)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee has the first April meeting this Thursday, April 8 at 7pm. You can find the agenda here.

There are two things that may well be of general or continuing interest:

  • We are (finally) scheduled to set FY16 budgetary priorities. We were required to submit our ranked list last week; that has been shared with the committee members, and we’ll be discussing this at the meeting. The budget comes out May 8.
  • We also have an facilities update on the Advanced Academy. It looks as though Doherty does not currently have room for it.
  • We are starting off the meeting with recognitions, and we have a TLSS subcommittee report to accept. We also have some personnel reports to accept.

    We have reports coming back on Read Across America day, on the Spring into Books book drive, and on internal v public documents.

    It’s time to elect a delegate and an alternate to the MASC annual meeting.

    Mr. Monfredo asks if the testing calendar changed as a result of snow days (the response is we extended the window).

    Miss Biancheria is looking for an expert to talk about linking cameras to the police department, and also about budgetary means for additional positions at North. Also, she’s interested in what training is giving to staff regarding electronic media use.

    Mr. Monfredo would like to recognize our facilities staff for their fine work this winter. He’d also like to set a date in October to meet with our delegation, and to encourage students to take part in the Worcester Bravehearts Home Run club (which I can’t find anything about online).

    Mr. O’Connell would like to congratulation the Burncoat Green Reapers and the crew team.

    Mr. Monfredo wants to know if we can give preference to people who reside in Worcester in hiring (see MGL Ch. 71, sec. 38).

    We’re being asked to declare as surplus a sliver of land directly next to Nelson Place School as part of the land swaps necessary to build the school. THIS IS NOT THE ASSUMPTION DEAL. This is essentially trading land with a neighbor to improve things for construction.


    We’re going to be considering summer reading and new courses in TLSS and considering the student handbook in Governance (those meetings and specifics to come).

    And we have an executive session to consider a grievance. <

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 31)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week’s meeting has many items, but most of them are the usual sorts of business.

    • Voting on the Olympics: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition to ask, on the November 3 municipal ballot, “Do you support bringing the Olympics to Boston in 2024?”
    • Rooftop gardens: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager for a report on “the feasibility of installation of roof top gardens for new development projects and whether incentives or other encouragements would be appropriate for such installations.”
    • Chambers Street still private: The Public Works Committee recommends that the petition to turn Chambers Street from a private to a public (city-maintained) street be denied.

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 24)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 24, 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: selling the old courthouse, conserving open space, free electronic recycling.

    • Nelson Place land swap: The city wants to swap some Nelson Place School land with Assumption College to help out the college. School Committee member Tracy Novick has more.
    • Conserving 6 acres: The City Manager wants the city to spend $300,000 to purchase a “conservation restriction” on 6 acres of land from the EcoTarium.
    • Selling the old courthouse: The city is selling the old courthouse to developers for $1.2 million. The building will be preserved and turned into apartments and retail space.
    • Dover Amendment: Councilors Bergman and Economou would like the city to seek special exemptions from the Dover Amendment, which “exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.” The City Solicitor has written a report for the Council that I think can be summarized as “that’s probably not going to work.”
    • CitySquare updates: The City Council needs to amend some stuff to keep the CitySquare project moving forward, so the manager has an update of how all the pieces are going.
    • Free Household Electronics Recycling Day: Saturday, April 18, 9:00 AM-2:00 PM, 1065 Millbury Street. More details here.

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 10)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 10, 6:30pm. The agenda is here. This week: city employees union, Uber, Holy Cross tax-exempt land.

    • City Employees Union: The City has made a 3-year agreement with the National Association of Government Employees. The T&G has details. The Council will briefly recess into executive session to “discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining.”
    • SeeClickFix: We will soon have a smartphone app for reporting and tracking non-emergency issues like potholes and graffiti.
    • Library Parking Lot: There’s a report on this. Since the introduction of paystations, revenue is up 8%, complaints are down, and operating costs are down. Some students of the downtown QCC campus are using the lot.
    • Uber: The City Law Department has a report on proposed regulations for Uber. From my sleep-deprived reading of this report, Uber doesn’t qualify as either a taxi or livery service, so it’s not currently regulated.
    • Holy Cross Undeveloped Properties: You may remember that Holy Cross College has a couple of undeveloped parcels that it doesn’t pay tax on. People have argued that since it’s not using these parcels for educational or charitable purposes, it should be paying taxes. The City Assessor has issued a report saying that the courts have generally found it is OK for a college to have undeveloped parcels as buffers or green space.
    • Snow Removal: The City Manager is requesting another $1,619,557.53 be authorized for the snow removal budget, both to cover current invoices and “anticipated future snow costs.”

    Preview: City Council agenda (March 3)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, March 3, 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the triage center, Net Neutrality, Holy Cross tax-exempt land.

    • Elections: Tuesday is the first day to “pull papers” to run for Worcester City Council or the School Committee. We’ll be tracking details of this year’s election here.
    • Economic development: The quarterly economic development report will be presented. This quarter: construction of the Gardner Kilby Hammond Bike Path; design work for the Worcester Blackstone Visitor Center; capital improvement plan for Union Station; and “relocation of Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Coghlin Companies, Inc., to 17 Briden Street in Worcester. The company provides manufacturing and engineering services to medical and dental equipment companies”.
    • Triage center: There are several items regarding the homeless shelter on Queen Street. It has been operating way above capacity this winter: as many as 120 people staying in what should be a 40-person shelter. Also, a man died in a private room there earlier this year, and it was days before his body was discovered. The Public Health and Human Services committee is asking the city to make a plan for a second shelter run by a different agency.
    • Net neutrality: the Federal Communications Commission adopted strong net neutrality rules last week. This week, Councilor Lukes has this item: “Request City Manager communicate with Charter Communications regarding how the FCC’s new net neutrality Regulations will impact on programming and costs to the Worcester ratepayers.” Cable monopolies have been against net neutrality; it will be interesting to see Charter’s claims here.
    • Taxing Holy Cross land: Councilor Rosen is asking the city to start taxing Holy Cross College for 2 “long-time vacant but developable parcels” of land, saying that “they are not being occupied for charitable use and, therefore, are not an integral part of the college’s operations.” The local group AWARE thinks taxes on the parcels would be $48,000 annually. It’s worth noting that several Worcester colleges have PILOT deals with the city, where they pay a little money to the city. These agreements have a clause that says that if the city tries to hit them up for tax money on any of their properties, the PILOT agreement goes out the window. Holy Cross gives some money to the Worcester Public Library, but that is not a PILOT deal.
    • Cleaning the slate: There are ongoing efforts to see to it that City Council items are dealt with in a timely manner. This week, there are a ton of old agenda items that will be officially resolved, by “filing” them without any further action. These include items originally proposed by former Councilors Bill Eddy, Mike Germain, Joff Smith, and Paul Clancy.

    Worcester School Committee meeting preview (March 5)

    People who would like to see a strong police presence at North High will be protesting outside before this meeting.

    Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

    You can find the agenda here; we also have a supplemental, which is just sending the bus bids off to the March 16 F&O meeting for consideration.

    We’re recognizing our Posse Scholars this week!

    We have a communication coming in from the EAW regarding the new fingerprinting law.

    The report of the Superintendent this week is the first FY16 budget estimates. Note that the Governor’s budget is set to come out the day before, on March 4 (which is why there’s no backup on this item as yet). If you can’t make the meeting this week,  Mr. Allen will be at CPPAC on March 11 at 7 pm at Chandler Magnet with the same presentation (or a similar one).

    We have a response from administration on Constitution Day activities.

    We have a response from administration regarding the CSX funds.

    We have a response from administration regarding the Betty Curtis Young Writers’ Conference.

    We have an item on the auditors’ reports which we’re sending off to F&O, to discuss at the same March 16 meeting.

    Mr. Monfredo has asked that we congratulate the Valentine’s Day contest winners.

    Ms. Biancheria is asking for an update on North High.

    We’re being asked to accept a donation of $45.05 for Tatnuck Magnet School.

    I have an item congratulating WPS on the second reception of the Meritorious Budget award!

    I’ve asked that parents receive the specific dates their children are scheduled to take PARCC or MCAS.

    I’ve also asked that we get some information on the impact the changes in vocational school regulations passed last week by the Board of Ed will have on admission to Worcester Tech.

    Finally, administration is requesting authority to enter a 10 year lease agreement with the YMCA. Jacob Hiatt uses their gym and some parking spaces.

    Preview: City Council agenda (February 3)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, February 3. The agenda is here. This week: ALBs, Uber, zoning, WRA.

    • Theater District: If you care about the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s plans for downtown Worcester, there will be a public hearing February 26. Also, there’s been a committee named to advise the WRA on this stuff: John Brissette, Vice Chair Jill Dagilis, Frank Carroll, Linda Cavaoli, Paul Demoga, Jack Donahue, Alex Dunn, Michelle Jones-Johnson, Alec Lopez, Stacey DeBoise Luster, Mable Millner, Deborah O’Malley, and Hong Tran.
    • Asian Longhorned Beetles: Many items on the agenda this week regarding attempts to fend off these beetles, still plaguing the city. Last meeting, the Councilors seemed quite resistant to the advise they were getting from experienced and credentialed issue. If you have an opinion as to whether we should try to stop the ALBs by cutting down a bunch of trees in Green Hill Park, or not cut trees and hope for the best, you might call your Councilor or make a comment at this meeting.
    • Pawn Shops: Councilor Lukes has an item wondering if the City Council can “place a cap on the number of pawn shops operating in the city.”
    • Uber: Councilors Lukes and Russell have some items asking the City Manager to look into how the popular car service is operating in the city, and how city government should regulate it.
    • Zoning Changes: This was delayed from the last meeting. The Council will be voting to establish a Commercial Corridors Overlay District where property owners will not be required to provide as much parking as in other areas of the city, “to encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of the City’s downtown and urban corridors.”


    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.”