Preview: City Council agenda (June 13)

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

This week: More budget, and some interesting Gary Rosen items. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Executive Session: The meeting will start with an executive (private) meeting between the Council and the City Manager “to discuss litigation strategy with respect to the case of Fargo Management LLC vs. City of Worcester, Massachusetts . . . and further, to discuss matters of collective bargaining.”
  • Rezoning 9 Mountain St: Tran Diep would like this parcel made Business Limited-1.0. Currenly part is BL-1.0 and part is zoned residential. (See map below.)
  • A Bunch of Finance Items: The Council will have the opportunity to vote on the Manager’s proposed budget this week. Various councilors have various inquiries involving the city’s finances. Councilor Russell continues the “Fight for 15” debate by asking the School Superintendant how many school employees earn less than $15/hr. Councilor Gaffney asks the Superintendant how much money is being saved this summer due to changes in bus scheduling, has questions about our health insurance trust fund, if we could save money by hiring more outside lawyers and using the city law department less, and if we can revert increases in property tax assessments that we don’t have good data for. Councilor Lukes would like to see the next DCU Center management services contract before the city signs it, would like to know the impacts of cutting the health insurance fund, would like a list of proposed budget items that are one-time costs, and wants to know all outside lawyers paid by our Human Resources department. Councilor Toomey would like a report on our long-term plan for new school buildings. The Mayor would like to know if cutting our health insurance trust fund would even be legal. Councilor Economou would like to know how much the average taxpayer would save if we cut local taxes.
  • So Much Rosen: Councilor Rosen has long been known for putting slightly more creative or unexpected items on the agenda than other councilors. This week he would like the city to work with Becker College’s School of Animal Studies to revamp our geese control program; get a comment from the Manager on the cruddiness of the current city trash bags; create a committee to find waste and recommend innovations in local government; and crack down harder on illegal dumping, make trash disposal cheaper, and use sheriff’s inmates to do trash pickups.
  • Private and Public Streets: The Planning Board approves of the idea of making the private Ellie Way a public street. Now it is up to the Council.
  • More Video Surveillance: Councilor Bergman would like the city to buy and install a bunch of video cameras around the DCU Center.
  • Police Sub-stations: Councilor King would like a report on the possibility of creating neighborhood police substations.
  • Board and Commissions: Councilor Lukes would like the Council to discuss how the Citizen’s Advisory Board narrowly voted against Margaret Melican being on the Zoning Board, in part because of her connection to local right-wing media outlets.
  • Stop Nailing Your Signs to Trees: Councilor Gaffney would like to know if the city is cracking down on Powers Painting for nailing ads to city trees.

Worcester school meetings this week

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee meets on Wednesday at 5:30. Of note at this meeting: they’re reviewing the student handbook–which suggests no substantive changes–and section I of the district policy manual (that’s Instruction)–which I also don’t see anything to raise eyebrows on–with one exception: they’re about to let vocational students out of the two years of foreign language requirement (‘though that’s only in the handbook, not in the policy manual…and the two should agree). They’re also hearing about collaboration around the Byrne Criminal Justice grant and discussion of municipal governance and registering students to vote.

On Wednesday night, the final CPPAC meeting of the year is 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and the guest speakers are Superintendent Binienda and City Manager Augustus to talk about the budget. A good time to ask questions…

The School Committee picks up budget again at 4pm on Thursday. The sequence of accounts is here, and they left off with security guards. There’s a lot left to get through. If past experience is a guide, they’ll go as far as they can til 6, recess to executive session, come back at 7 for the regular meeting, and pick up budget again once they’ve completed the regular meeting.

The regular meeting has a LOT of recognitions.
The report of the superintendent is on the ALICE security protocol, which includes training students and staff to fight intruders, rather than lockdown. The presentation is here. It appears, from the presentation, that the administration adopted this protocol without a school committee vote or any public notice.


There are also responses to motions made during and surrounding the budget deliberation two weeks ago: the motion on non-fulfillment of transportation, on leasing buses, on the wall by Tatnuck Magnet School, on Seven Hills charter school and WRTA grant-funded transportation, on McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursment (36% last year), on the Foley Stadium revolving fund, on graduation expenses, on what the crew team needs, on the repair of athletic equipment, and on athletic supplies purchased.

Mr. O’Connell is proposing having public meetings and hearings as part of the development of the new South High School.

He also wants to discuss departmental consolidation with the city.

He also is suggesting two meetings a month in summer (continuing the regular year schedule) and an additional meeting in months that have a fifth Thursday.

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on itinerant special education staff caseloads, specifically referencing Boston, and also a report on “what, if any, orientation, training or ongoing professional development is provided by special education department leadership to principals, as it relates to itinerant special education staff.”

The committee is being asked to accept a donation of $19.10 for classroom books, of $1000 for SAT for seniors, of $1000 for a scholarship (due to Mr. Allen’s award), of $676 for special education transitions, of $250 for the alternative program (from an award they won!), of $660 from Intel, and of $13,000 from the Quinsigamond Village Improvement Council for equipment. They’re also being asked to vote a prior year invoice of $585 and invoices of $7695.

Mr. Foley is suggesting the following:

To ask the Mayor and the Superintendent to develop a new approach to the School Committee agenda that will make the meetings more effective, productive, and deliberative. Suggestions would include the establishment of a consent agenda for items such as routine approvals of donations and recognitions, the development of criteria for recognitions, designated meetings for honoring recipients of recognitions, and the presence on the agenda at each meeting or every other meeting an important educational policy issue facing Worcester Public Schools that school committee members would learn about (through materials distributed prior to the meeting) and discuss with administrators at the meeting.

There is an executive session scheduled for 6 pm on a grievance, contract negotiations with the teachers’ union and with non-represented personnel (both non-administrative and administrative), and:

To authorize the Superintendent to negotiate an employment contract for Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as the Deputy Superintendent, effective July 1, 2017.

…which I assume means that the committee voted in favor of the hire?

Preview: City Council agenda (June 6)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Hashing out the budget, and a couple other things. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Budget: There’s a nice T&G article summarizing the likely discussion around the City Manager’s $632 million budget and potential cuts the Council will make. It sounds like if all the cuts are made (unlikely) this would cut the budget by 0.75%. (0.55% of this would be cuts to our health insurance trust fund; the Manager has a report to the Council this week arguing this would be financially reckless.)
  • Boards and Commissions: Derek A. Evers will be appointed a constable; Oriola Koci will be reappointed to the Worcester Airport Commission; Kevin Durkan and Robert Hennigan will be reappointed to the Off-Street Parking Board. The Council will vote on whether or not to reappoint Paula Stuart to the Community Development Advisory Committee.

Correcting the record on a recreational marijuana item

In last week’s Council roundup, I wrote that, with no advance notice, the Council voted to ask the City Manager for “a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the use of recreational marijuana.”

This wording was incorrect–they actually asked for “a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the sale of recreational marijuana.”

This was a mistake in the initial copy of the meeting minutes; after review, it was corrected in the final, official version.

Two city officials reached out to me on this, so I thought this correction was important enough to deserve its own item.

Preview: City Council agenda (May 30)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A very short agenda. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

Last Week: At one point last week, when the conversation had turned to marijuana decriminalization, Councilor Toomey proposed the city figure out what it would really mean to have local restrictions, and the other councilors agreed. So the Council approved “Under suspension” of the rules, meaning it wasn’t announced beforehand, this item: “Request City Manager request City Solicitor provide City Council with a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the use of recreational marijuana.” As originally reported, this item was incorrect. In the final, official version of the minutes, the item was listed, correctly, as “a temporary ban on the sale of recreational marijuana.”

  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be voting to fill the vacant spot on the Library Board.
  • Public and Private Streets: Kevin Bushe says that part of the private street Gould Hill Road (blue in the image below) has been inaccessibe for at least 40 years, and he’d like the city to remove it from the official street listing.
  • Crosswalk Stings: Gareld Emerson requests crosswalk stings at the various crossings of Belmont Street. He also requests “investigation of the traffic lights and crosswalk signals” at the intersection of Major Taylor and MLK Boulevards, right by the DCU Center.
  • Sealcoating the Streets: Councilor Rosen would like a report on applying sealcoat to our streets. Wikipedia is skeptical of this technology.
  • Middle School Youth Sports: Councilor King has an item asking the Manager to work with the School Superintendant to reestablish the old Middle School Youth Sports program. (Just a note for newcomers: the Worcester Public Schools are not controlled by the Council or the Manager, but rather the School Committee and the Superintendant.)
  • A Bunch of Tax Stuff: There are many items on property tax rates and requests for information on how much tax money we could be getting if we taxed organizations we can’t tax.

The School Superintendant requests a deputy, and other school news

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

Superintendent Binienda requests appointment of a deputy

From Thursday night’s Worcester School Committee agenda:

To consider approval of the appointment of Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, effective, July 1, 2017. 

That is the date that Dr. Rodrigues begins in Hudson. 

Dr. O’Neil was the principal of Worcester Arts Magnet School until last year until she joined central administration.

Note that this is also a reorganization of positions, as there is as of now no deputy position in administration; there is no note of a request of that being approved, though the creation of such positions does require School Committee approval under the Massachusetts General Law:

Upon the recommendation of the superintendent, the school committee may also establish and appoint positions of assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent, and the school committee shall fix the compensation paid to such assistant or associate superintendents. 

As for the appointment itself, under MGL Ch. 71

The school committee shall approve or disapprove the hiring of said positions. Such approval by the school committee of the recommendation shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that upon the request of the superintendent the school committee shall provide an explanation of disapproval.


The rest of Worcester schools meetings this week

Note that the Worcester Public Schools’ (bottom line) budget is before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, May 30, at 4 pm.

The School Committee begins meeting in budget session on Thursday, June 1 at 4 pm, with an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. The agenda for all of that is here.

In addition to recognitions and the major request for an appointment I posted below, the School Committee is hearing a report on professional development, which largely seems to be focused on the curriculum liaisons, including at least one “to be appointment” for “college and career readiness.” OCPL is apparently “Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning.”

The reports out from the meeting of and budget hearing by Finance and Operations are on the agenda. As always, the hearing on the budget is being reported out after the first School Committee budget session. 

The restorative justice programs at Claremont and at North are back on the agenda (?).

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $1685; to accept a grant from “Project Lead the Way” at Doherty, which appears to involve classes at WPI, for $26,250, and for Worcester Tech for $15,000; to accept a grant from Lowe’s for $3810 for Burncoat High; to approve a prior fiscal year payment for Education, Inc. for home tutoring services for $8,902.50; to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $435;

Miss Biancheria is asking for monthly incident reports and for the cost and locations of graduations. She also is requesting more information about the changes in staffing around the Central Mass Collaborative.

Miss Colorio is suggesting that recognitions be consolidated to once a month.

The Administration is asking that the admission policy of Worcester Tech (largely regarding legal changes, per the notice).

The executive session is for the teachers’ contract, for an HVAC worker’s grievance, for worker’s compensation for a teacher, and for non-represented employees, both administration and not (as they don’t have a union negotiating, they haven’t come through on new contracts. This probably is whatever the administration is proposing in cost of living increases.)

Preview: City Council agenda (May 23)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Police and finance items. There are some interesting items which are just developments of issues we’ve already noted in recent months, so I’m skipping those for the sake of brevity. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

A non-Council meeting of note: There is a public hearing on the WPS budget starting at 6:15 at the Durkin Administration Building. The budget is here [PDF].

  • Stop Smoking Outside the DCU: William Belcher has a citizen petition asking the city to enforce smoking policies at the DCU Center, specifically to make employees stop smoking at the entrances and exits.
  • Tax Breaks: The Manager has a report on recent tax breaks for development (TIFs) and which of them have a tax breakee who is not in compliance with the terms of the agreement. The report notes that over the past five years these TIF agreements have created 1679 permanent full time jobs, retained 4682 full time jobs, and added $202,000,000 to the value of real estate in the ciyy.
  • We Are Not in a Drought: The Manager notes we are no longer officially in a drought.
  • Preventing New Pawn Brokers: The law department has drafted an ordinance that would prohibit Worcester from issuing any new pawnbroker licenses. There are currently 6 of these businesses, and the ordinance would keep it that way.
  • Finance Items: There are a bunch of items that have made it through the Finance Committee and which the Council can now approve or discard. Councilors Luke and Economou are curious what it would cost to add 10 more police (especially if this would reduce overtime hours for existing police), Councilor Gaffney of course has an item about the city’s investment in Union Station,
  • More Police Living in the City?: Mayor Petty has an item asking if we can use a Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America program to give incentives to police and other public safety personnel to buy homes in the city.
  • Bike Police: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the police chief to “initiate a process to bring back police officers on mountain bikes.”
  • “Complete Streets””: Councilor Rivera has an item asking how the city’s doing with implementing Complete Street standards for our streets.
  • Plastic Bag Ban: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to get around to implementing a request from 2009 and 2010 to come up with an ordinance that would ban retailers from offering plastic bags. (I have one or two ancient petitions that were approved but never acted on, sometimes I think about bringing them back to the Council for old time’s sake.)

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, May 18

Also at Tracy’s blog.

You can find the agenda here.

While it does not appear until later down the agenda, in honor of the anniversary of Ernest Thayer’s death, the Worcester School Committee will be doing a reading of “Casey at the Bat” as part of the meeting.

There are also a number of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is end of cycle reports on the innovation plans of Chandler Magnet, Goddard Scholars, University Park Campus School, Woodland Academy, and Worcester Tech. Each of the schools is requesting a renewal of their innovation plans; remarkably, all that is being offered to the committee for this decision is 2 to 4 page charts. Most schools are requesting no change in their innovation plan. The one change that is being requested is from Goddard Scholars, which is asking to eliminate the “proficient” tier for the 4th grade MCAS, which is the sole determent of admission. They would thus be taking only “advanced” students. Interesting in that it more concretely sets the academy’s emphasis on test scores, and does so in a year in which testing is through a new system. 

There are updates on restorative justice programs at Claremont Academy and at North High School.

The committee is being asked to accept an “Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Grant” for $51,602, which surprisingly is actually for machine shop training (with an ESL component).

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a summer reading kickoff.

The committee is being asked to accept a number of donations to Tatnuck Magnet, to Woodland Academy, to Burncoat Street Prep, to Worcester Tech, to Canterbury Street, to Belmont Street, and to the administration (?) for the opening of school in 2017. They’re also being asked to vote a prior year payment of $1,685.00 to WB Mason.

There is also an executive session on teachers’ contract negotiations, a worker’s comp case, and a grievance.

No liveblog; I’m off to cover MASBO’s Annual Institute! 

Preview: City Council agenda (May 9)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Finance, snow removal, the “fight for 15.” My writeup is deceptively short, because the agenda includes the entire budget, which I am not going to break down here. Links below for those who want to at least read the executive summary. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Finance: There are a number of big finance items this week. Among them is the Manager requesting the Council to approve his plan for using HUD and other federal grants for the coming year. The Manager is also submitting his proposed $600 million budget for 2018.
  • Snow Removal: The Manager has a report on how snow plowing went this year, noting there was 17% more snow than average and that we spent $6.8 million dealing with it.
  • $15 State Minimum Wage: Last week, Councilors King, Mero-Carlson, Rivera, Toomey, Russell, and Mayor Petty requested that the Council vote to go on record as supporting state legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Councilor Lukes tabled this item unilaterally, as is any councilor’s right. So it’ll be back under discussion this week.

Worcester City Council Agenda Preview (May 2, 2017)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Recycling and the minimum wage. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Private and Public Streets: Councilor Bergman (on behalf of Arthur Mooradian) requests Westfield St. Extension be made a public street.
  • Recycling: A number of Councilors have agenda items relating to recycling this week. The Councilors include Mayor Petty and Councilors Russell, King, and Lukes. The items include reviewing the city’s policies and procedures concerning illegal dumping, making the current city recycling/waste dropoff center easier to use, cutting the cost having large trash items picked up temporarily to see if that impacts dumping, the status of our striving to be a “Zero Waste” city, and adding bungee cords to our recycling bins to keep trash from blowing out. (In times past, these probably would have been single items with multiple co-sponsors, but of late the Councilors have been made aware that they can’t have large de facto meetings outside of official meetings and so don’t do mass co-sponsoring anymore.)
  • Bikes at City Hall: There haven’t been bike racks at City Hall since all the exterior changes. Simon Elliot requests they be returned.
  • The Slow War on Airbnb: The Economic Development Committee has discussed “the negative aspects associated with short-term bedroom rentals” and would like the whole Council to ask the Manager for a report on how the city could regulate Airbnb.
  • Gas Leaks: The Mayor would like a draft ordinance similar to Boston’s dealing with management and elimination of gas leaks.
  • City Employees on Boards?: Councilor Gaffney has an item suggesting that the Manager let city employees join boards and commissions.
  • $15 Minimum Wage: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like a report on what would happen to our budget if we adopted a $15/hr minimum wage for all City and School Department employees. Councilor King has an item asking the Council to show their support for state legislation changing the minimum wage in Massachusetts to $15/hr by 2021.
  • Streets and Sidewalks: Lots of items on these topics as usual. For example: “Request City Manager request Commissioner of Public Works and Parks extend the time the yellow blinking lights flash at the crosswalk in front of 1050 Main St. to give residents with disabilities enough time to cross. (Rivera).”
  • Transporting Students on City Buses: Councilor Bergman has an item asking if we could use city buses to transport students to and from high schools. Councilor Rivera has an item asking if there could be a “youth pass” giving kids access to free or very cheap city bus rides.
  • Boards and Committees: Collins Nuamah is resigning from the Library Board. Hey readers of this newsletter: consider applying for this interesting position!
  • Zoning and Tax Breaks: The Council will finalize rezoning “parcels in the James Street and South Ludlow Street area,” and will approve tax breaks for redevelopment of 49 Canterbury St.