Correspondence from the City Manager Pertaining to Laws, Statutes and Ordinances Governing the Use of Public Property/Space

Worcester’s City Manager responds to the City Council’s questions about use of public space in re Occupy Worcester. Full text in original PDF; first page below. Note that the City Solicitor is of the opinion that Lincoln Square is governed by park rules. To the non-lawyer, some sections of this are confusing, like the City Manager’s blanket statement that “Permits are required for park use.” If there’s anything worth noting in this letter, please add a comment below.

Michael V. O’Brien City Manager
November 16, 2011
TO THE WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL COUNCILORS: We uphold the 1st Amendment principals of Freedom of Speech and Right to Assemble in the context of upholding all laws, statutes and ordinances.

As such, City Solicitor David Moore has outlined all the laws, statutes and ordinances that apply to the use of public spaces (please see attached correspondence). As has been presented by the City Solicitor, as I have consistently stated publicly, as has been consistently conveyed to Occupy Worcester, and as I have presented to our electeds and our community: squatting, occupying and camping on public property is not allowed.
All forms of protest and speech are allowed on public property, with exceptions highlighted within the law.
They can use public sidewalks for this purpose, they cannot block the use of public sidewalks or hinder movement by others. All other laws, statutes and ordinances apply.

Public health laws and nuisance ordinances do not allow the staging, stockpiling and disposal of personal items, sleeping materials, food, sanitary waste such as urine, fecal matter etc. on any public property which would obviously include war and veterans memorials. All other laws, statutes and ordinances apply.

Permits are required for park use. These permits, as issued, grant to the permitee the use of a specified area of facility or a park, for a specified period of time, along with the stipulations, conditions and fees of that use per all the rules and regulations. Every permit is tailored to that specified period and the type of use. Permitted activities have precedence over unpermitted activities. Permit stipulations and conditions must be honored by the permitee or the permit may be rescinded. All other laws, statutes, ordinances, rules and regulations apply.

Parade permits are required to hold parades and gatherings within the rights of way of a public street. All other laws, statutes, ordinances, rules and regulations apply.

4 thoughts on “Correspondence from the City Manager Pertaining to Laws, Statutes and Ordinances Governing the Use of Public Property/Space

  1. I do think it’s worth noting that the information from the Manager does not answer all the questions he was requested by Council to answer. I’ve paraphrased them here, the exact text was provided to the City Clerk at last night’s Council meeting and should be available now or shortly.:

    -An exact and complete detailing of ordinances on city-own park land.
    -Whether the entirety of the non-sidewalk Lincoln Square/Worcester Voke areas are city-owned park land and therefore under the ordinances for city parks.
    -What line the city is drawing on the lawful usage of signs as free speech.
    -What activities are restricted by law on city sidewalks, outside of obstructing pedestrian access.

    So, the manager is not only refusing to meet or allow the police chief or solicitor to meet, he is refusing to answer most of the actual questions he was asked to answer

  2. Isn’t it strange that the CM & CC & WPD let the HC drunks run amock on weekends on College Hill while the OW people are strictly held to the city regs. & laws?

    When money talks the rules take a walk. The CM can’t think outside the box and spends way too much time cavorting with the two sidewinders on WTAG radio and allows the City Assessor to screw the homeowners of Worcester to the wall.

    Maybe it’s time for a good old revolution in Worcester.

  3. I’d love to know how staging food is any different from holding a picnic.

    I’m also perplexed by the “Permits are required for park use.” If that was the case the city would be flowing with cash just from all the $150 permit fees collected for those using Elm park on any given weekend. I’d also love to see the cops out in Elm park at lunch time arresting/ticketing/fining people for staging their food in violation of health codes.

    Next they’ll claim that walking on grass bends it and may break stems and therefore is violating rule 1 of parks, “No person may …. injure.. lawns”. Perhaps OW should submit changes to regulations(via council members) to make it clear that the tactics OW is using are legal. Maybe put in a clause that groups under 20 people or something don’t need permits provided they follow other rules. etc.

    1. I was in Elm park the other weekend and the track team for some local college was practicing. They’d run back and forth, about 20 of them. Using a whole lot of the park and making it sort of hazardous for me and the kids to walk around. Did they have a permit? Did I? Such a large group surely should have had police supervising them(as an OW event would).

      Interestingly, if OW could find an ally in the parks department, it could get around a lot of the problems as things like the 5am/10pm curfew can be violated with written permission.

      Also park rule 17 which prohibits tents and such… contains the clause “unless stakeless” (see link below) which indicates that certain tent types are perfectly legal. Also if the intent isn’t to ‘camp or lodge’ you should be fine.

      Rule 25 is the best, if you can get someone in the Park department on OW’s side. “Waiver Rights: The DPW & Parks – Parks, Recreation & Cemetery Division reserves the right to waive and/or limit these rules at any time if in the best interest of the City of Worcester.”

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