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.

Preview: City Council agenda (July 22)

The City Council meets Tuesday, July 22 at 6 pm. The agenda is here. Because summer Council meetings are rare, the agendas are huge: my original highlights list had 32 items. I’ve left out most of the items that will be discussed further in committee.

There’s a rally before the meeting at 5pm. “Community Unity Rally Against Racism.” This is in response to the noose displayed at the downtown post office. (T&G article.) The feds are investigating the noose, and the Council will be voting on a resolution asking the US Attorney General to get involved.

The Worcester Community-Labor Coalition is asking people to show up at the meeting in support of holding “public hearings starting in September on charter change and that at the conclusion of the hearings take a vote on holding an election to let the voters decide Worcester’s future.” “Charter change” in this case would mean switching from our current City Manager-run government to a Mayor-run government.

  • City of Worcester Veterans Square Project: The Council is honoring Worcester Police Officer Sean M. Lovely, Sr. for creating the website.
  • The Worcester Revolution of 1774: Randall Orno wants a plaque at Main & Exchange “to commemorate September 6, 1774 when the representatives of King George were escorted out of Worcester, which ended up being a significant factor in the Battle of Lexington & Concord six months later.” More on the Worcester Revolution.
  • Asian Longhorned Beetles: “Anthony Maloney et al request to stop the removal of 500 ALB host trees” in Green Hill Park “that are not yet infected by the Asian Longhorned Beetle. Instead, treat the unaffected trees with Imidacloprid, which is well documented to kill the beetle and prevent infestation.” The counter-argument here is that this chemical is bad for bees and other bugs.
  • Gender Identity: There’s an item which will 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.
  • Crime Stats: The Council will officially receive a report stating that arrests are up and crime is down. T&G story.
  • Senior Center Heroes: The Council will honor Matthew Sullivan and Brandi Manca of QCC, who operate a cafe at the Senior Center where they train students, and who have dealt ably with three medical emergencies there in recent months.
  • The Unused Field at Boynton Park: The Council wants the City Manager to come up with a plan for this.
  • Olympics: Councilor Rosen wants the City to tell Boston we’re willing to partner in their bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • City Seal: Councilor Toomey wants the Law Department to say whether people can use takeoffs of the City Seal. I don’t know what this is about. People using takeoffs of the City Seal include at least one local blogger and one e-cigarette store. In another item, Councilor Bergman would like flags with the City Seal flown in our parks.
  • Pedestrian Safety: Councilor Lukes wants a pedestrian safety pilot program in Webster Square. This would be based on programs in other cities which have free flags!
  • City E-mail Signatures: From Councilor Economou: “Request City Manager consider all City e-mail signatures include the following, in an effort to self-promote our community: 'One of the Top 10 Largest Metro Cities to Raise a Family - Forbes 2014'.”
  • Sex Offenders: Councilors Bergman and Rivera are asking about legal issues regarding limiting where “Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders” can live.
  • City Manager Search: Item 17a notes that the City Councilors are meeting with consultants [T&G link these last few days, ranking candidates for City Manager.
  • Uncle Sam’s: “22q. REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC AND PARKING Upon the Petition of Dheyaa Al Khamees of Uncle Sam request 15 minute parking for business at 151 Pleasant St.: recommend Petition be denied.”

Preview: City Council agenda (June 17)

The City Council meets Tuesday, June 17 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some other items that jumped out at me.

  • Library Board: Candidates for an open spot on the Library Board will be speaking before the Council. A new member will be voted in next week.
  • Obama: Bill Coleman wants the City (item 9j) to put up a plaque at Tech High to commemorate Obama’s commencement speech.
  • Bus changes: Beloved gadfly Jo Hart has an item (9l) requesting the city take out a front-page ad in the T&G any day there are bus changes. I’m skeptical about this idea as compared to, say, text alerts.
  • Board of Health: There are more items regarding the City Manager’s efforts to make our Board of Health a regulatory, rather than advisory, board. These items are scheduled to go to committee, which is the best place for you to comment if you care about this issue. T&G article.
  • DCU: There’s at least one $2.2 million finance item regarding rehabbing the DCU Center. The City Manager would like to borrow millions more for this and related projects. T&G article.
  • Meeting rules changes: The Council is expected to approve some changes in the ways meetings happen. The changes include:
    • “That when scheduling Standing Committee Meetings, that they be
      conducted after regular working hours, as often as possible, for the
      convenience of the public”.
    • That if you come to a meeting wanting to speak, you should speak at the beginning of the meeting, even if you’re addressing an item to be discussed much later in the meeting.
  • Maps: Councilor Toomey has an item requesting that the city talk “with the various online mapping and directional agencies” to make sure that changes to our streets are reflected in the digital world.
  • More Obama: Councilor Lukes wants the School Department to pay for part of the police costs associated with Obama giving the commencement speech at Worcester Tech High School.
  • Crystal Pond cleanup: Councilor Rivera wants there to be a “cleanup of the pond in University Park (formerly known as Crystal Park).”
  • No dogs in the parks: Councilor Rivera additionally wants there to be “No Dogs Allowed” and “No Littering” signs in our parks.
  • NDAA: The City Council is expected (item 13a) to ditch (“file”) a citizen request that it speak out against certain parts of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains troubling attacks on our civil liberties. The Council is very capable of taking stands on non-municipal issues like this when it wants to.

Preview: City Council agenda (June 3)

The City Council meets Tuesday, June 3 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. The City Council should be finishing up with the municipal budget at this meeting. Here are some other items that jumped out at me.

  • Universal symbols: I think it’s great that City Hall Plaza gets so much use and people are so excited about it that citizens are filing items about it. I don’t know what the “universal symbol” here is about, but the general item is about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a request that a couple of the Plaza umbrellas be opened by city employees so that people who have trouble operating the mechanism can still hang out in the shade. “8bb. Scott Ricker request the umbrellas on two (2) tables in City Hall Plaza and the deck behind City Hall be opened by 8:00 A.M. and have a universal symbol visible when opened.”
  • Finance: Councilors Russell and Lukes are asking for a report on all city government’s vehicles and whether they can be shared between departments.
  • Apps: Councilor Toomey wants the city to create “a phone app for permitting.”
  • Police lawsuits: At least one “executive session” at this council meeting? “9h. FROM THE COMMITTEE ON FINANCE – Request City Council schedule an executive session for the purpose of discussing all court judgments that includes especially the recently decided case involving a police officer. (Lukes)”
  • Water and sewer bills: It drives me crazy that the city can’t automatically bill your credit card for water and sewer bills. There is no good reason for this. Councilor Bergman has an item about paying these bills “on account,” which I don’t think addresses the autobill issue, but I include this here for our readers who are passionate about water and sewer billing. Councilor Bergman may be the man to talk to. “9l. Request City Manager consider promoting to residents the option to pay water and sewer bills on account. (Bergman)”
  • Parking: Before the election Councilor Bergman said he had lots of ideas relating to both zoning and parking, and he continues to push forward with them. “9o. Request the Commissioner of Public Works & Parks report why there are so many downtown thirty-minute or less parking meters and why they cannot be made to have two hour limits. (Bergman)”
  • Publicly-funded cable channels: Councilor Gaffney has another item this week relating to publicly-funded TV. There are no notes accompanying the item to say exactly what he’s getting at here, but I speculate it might relate to the non-governmental Research Bureau using the government TV channel. “9u. Request City Manager forward to City Council the policy that Cable Services uses regarding filming events. (Gaffney)”
  • Lodging laws: No, the City Council is not going to consider reforming the restrictions against more than three unrelated people living together. But they have several items relating to the city’s continued dislike of lots of unrelated people in the same apartment, with a special focus on the Clark and Holy Cross neighborhoods. 9w, 9x, 9y, 9z. For example: “Request City Manager request Police Chief provide an opinion to City Council concerning whether or not he expects there to be an increase in disorderly conduct should there be four or more non-related persons allowed to reside in a living unit.”
  • Erroneous votes: I don’t know what prompted this but it’s interesting. “Request City Manager request City Solicitor draft an amendment to the Rules of the City Council to set forth a procedure whereby a vote of a Councilor “made in error” and not reconsidered can be recorded as such. (Bergman)”
  • “Cool Roofs”: Posted without comment. “10j. Request City Manager consider an initiative that would convert all municipally-owned buildings to “cool roofs” similar to those created in a New York City program, and further, request the Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools for parallel implementation at buildings under their purview. Additionally, request City Manager request the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce encourage downtown property owners participate in a “cool roof” program. (Rushton)”
  • Panhandling: It’s been more than a year since the city’s latest crackdown on panhandlers. There are no longer kids fundraising on streetcorners, but there are still plenty of disheveled adults holding cardboard signs around town. Councilor Rivera was one of a handful of councilors voting against the crackdown. Awhile back she asked for an update. I don’t believe the update arrived, so here’s another request, relating to the outreach worker who’s touching base with people asking for money. “10q.Request City Manager report to City Council as to the effectiveness of the current panhandler outreach efforts. (Rivera)”

Thanks as always for reading this. As we draft it we keep in mind all the great people at the T&G going through a round of layoffs today. Their work is invaluable. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out their update on the dispute between the EPA and city government on how much Worcester is allowed to pollute the Blackstone and who should be paying for a solution to the problem.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 29)

The City Council meets Tuesday, April 29 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some items that jumped out at me.

  • Complaining about the International Lounge: Item 7cc is a request from Jean-Paul Stevens that the city “review all licenses,” relating to the Lounge (27 Pleasant St), “require the hiring of detail police officers,” and “enforce compliance with city ordinances with regards to decibel levels of music and occupancy capacity levels.”
  • Narcan: Billy Breault is asking the city to let the police and fire fighters have Narcan, which is used to treat heroin overdoses. Good job Billy.
  • Mural at 138 Green St: The city’s asking the council to allow there to be a mural there as a gift from the Canal District Alliance. This is somewhere around Crompton Collective?
  • Tactical Response Areas: The Police Department will submit to the council a map of the city’s “Tactical Response Areas.” Spoiler alert: most of the city [PNG].
  • all the background on SWIP you could want. Here is a video of the area in question.
  • Hot Dog Ventors: The Economic Development Committee presents some items to the full council. Recall that a few years back, at the request of a few local restaurant owners, the council added new restrictions on food trucks, which drove many of them out of the city. It was a close vote. Now, the feeling of the council might be a little different. The committee wants a report on whether the city can designate parking spaces for food trucks, some research on how fees are handled in other New England cities, and a plan for having food trucks in our parks.
  • Smart Grid: Our electrical utility, National Grid, wants to test “smart grid” technology in Worcester. Some in the community have been very concerned, though the arguments against “smart grids” seem sketchy to me. In any case, the Committee on Public Service and Transportation is less skeptical than I, and want National Grid to post a bond in case there are negative health effects, wants National Grid to fund health studies, and wants the whole project delayed a year. The full council will have to vote on these items.
  • Homelessness: Councilor Rivera wants an update on what’s happening with our 2007 plan to end homelessness.
  • Cannabis: Councilor Russell wants to prohibit “open use of non-medical marijuana” in the city.
  • Recycling Bags Rather Than Bins: Councilor Bergman wants a city-wide pilot program using plastic bags to hold recycling rather than bins.

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.