Monthly Archives: August 2015

Preview: City Council agenda (September 1)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here. Nothing on the agenda in reaction to the accidental SWAT raid, but plenty of other items. Now that summer is over we are moving back to a mostly weekly schedule, so these agendas will be shorter.

  • Quarterly Economic Development Report: The City Administration has some updates on the Homewood Suites Hotel to be developed in Washington Square; bids for environmental remediation of the Old Courthouse; a reportback on the Worcester Local Kickoff Weekend; a report on the ongoing success of the Out to Lunch Concert Series; and a report on improvements being made in Union Hill.
  • CitySquare: The current situation: “The construction of the underground parking garage is ongoing and a crane is on site erecting steel. It is anticipated that the portion of the garage, bounded by Eaton Place, Front Street and Mercantile Street, will be open to the public in late 2015. The portion of the garage underneath the hotel parcel will remain closed as the hotel is constructed above it, commencing in calendar year 2016. Ownership of the vacant parcel directly across from the WRTA Bus Hub has transferred from CitySquare II Development Co. LLC to Roseland Properties. Roseland has received Definitive Site Plan approval from the Planning Board to construct 370 residential units with 12,000 SF of retail, and anticipates starting construction in Fall 2015. The Hotel Developer continues to finalize its design and intends to file an application for Definitive Site Plan approval from the Planning Board in the short term.”
  • Planet Coleman: The always-civically-active Bill Coleman has seven petitions on this week’s agenda (not to mention an old one coming back from the Parking Committee). These are about: a mural on Walpole St; a non-binding ballot question on whether 17-year-olds should be able to vote in city elections; a non-binding ballot question on Common Core; the City Council adding a City Council Standing Committee on Ethnic Affairs and Concerns of People of Color; a question (on behalf of downtown shop owner Rajesh Patel) about the economic impact of people not walking around downtown; a request that the mayor’s salary be raised; getting a plaque at Worcester Technical High School honoring the Class of 2014 and Obama’s speech at their commencement.
  • Dirt Bikes and ATVs: Billy Breault has an item asking for a new law that would let the police seize ATVs and dirt bikes “being illegally driven on city streets and in city parks.”
  • Recycling Bins: Rachel Tadmor is asking for bins to be placed “on the Common outside City Hall.”
  • Bike Lane: Jennifer Chau & Chau Tran of Southeast Asian Coalition have a petition for a bike lane on Walpole St.
  • The Knife Attack Case: Ron Madnick has an item asking the City Manager to investigate the WPD in the wake of a convicted knife attacker’s conviction being vacated after the state Supreme Judicial Court decided the WPD used “impermissibly coercive tactics” in interrogating him. There will be a new trial, and the evidence from that interrogation won’t be admissible.
  • Boards and Commissions: Thomas Conroy and Matthew Foster have been reappointed to the Worcester Arts Council. The Council will be voting to appoint Winifred Octave to the Election Commission, Anthony Salvidio to the License Commission, and George Valeri to the Zoning Board of Appeals (a reappointment).
  • Finance Items: As an experiment, this week I’ll note all finance items more than $100,000: $600,000.00 be transferred from Reserve Revenue Account–Greenwood Street Landfill, and be appropriated to Blackstone Gateway Park, to allow for the payment of current and future obligations associated with the design, permitting, and construction of the park project; accept with gratitude numerous small donations to the Worcester Public Library in the amount of $85.00 (ok this is less than 100k); accept a MassWorks Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the Quinsigamond Avenue – Gateway I, Phase I Project, in an amount not to exceed $2,000,000.00; accept a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in the amount of $1,000,000.00; $413,500.00 transferred from Contingency to Court Judgements; $500,000.00 transferred from DCU Improvement Fund, and be appropriated to Promotion & Tourism, to provide funding for Destination Worcester; $413,401.00 be transferred from the following accounts: $147,000 from Account #750-92000, DCU Center Ordinary Maintenance, and $266,401 from Account #750-94000, DCU Center Debt Service, and be appropriated to the following accounts: $147,000 to Account #75S503-92000, DCU Center Ordinary Maintenance, and $266,401 to Account #75S503-94000, DCU Center Debt Service; $164,315.56 be transferred from various accounts and be appropriated to various accounts, to make adjustments to City accounts, to balance the Fiscal Year 2015 budget; adoption of a Loan Order in the amount of $7,012,100.00 be appropriated to fund four building improvement projects of the Worcester Public Schools.
  • Trains: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking the Mayor and City Manager to work with our state representatives to get some nonstop trains between Worcester and Boston.
  • Skate Park: Councilor Rosen wants a “state-of-the-art skate park for skateboarding, BMX, scooter, wheelchair and inline skating” somewhere around the old Beaver Brook Park swimming pool.
  • Binienda Beach: Councilor Rosen wants the beach at Coes Pond named the “John J. Binienda Memorial Beach” in honor of our late state rep.
  • Municipal Unions: There will be some changes in salaries of members of Local 490, NAGE (Clerks) and Occupational Group W – Miscellaneous (Intake Workers).
  • Food Trucks: The latest food truck ordinance will allow, as a pilot program, some food trucks to be at some parks some of the time.
  • Cityscape: Coughlin Electrial Contractors wants to make improvements toGarden St. from Prescott St. to the far entrance of Coughlin Electrical Contractors” and pay for them. Below: How it looks now, and how they want it to look.

1

2

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (September 3)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday, September 3. You can find the agenda here.

We’ll have the opening of school report at our next meeting, I’m told, once we get the numbers clear.

Our student reps are back! Looking forward to their contributions!

It’s the hiring report! Thus while face of the agenda doesn’t look very long, here’s what the School Committee, with backup, version looks like:

And yes, I’ll read every page! Thanks to the HR department for getting the information together!

We have a reponse on clearing up the grounds at City View (it happened).

We have a couple of responses [PDF] coming from our budget session: the first clears up Miss Biancheria’s query regarding the IT department; the third describes the school fruit and vegetable grant. The middle one is pretty interesting, as it deliniates school security spending. As you can see in the backup, more than double the designated school security budget is spent on security from the facilities budget.

We have the (now graduated) Doherty students coming to talk to us about their mentoring proposal.

We have recognitions for Mock Trial, for the library foundation awards, for the Boys and Girls Club awards, for Melissa Watson and the 1000 Watts barber shop, and for Mr. Twiss and the Burncoat Madrigals.

We’re being asked to accept a donation from the Emerald Club for iPads for Belmont Street School.

We’re being reminded of International Walk to School Day (October 7) and Manufacturing Day (October 2).

And we’re being asked to appoint four school nurses.

There is NO executive session this week.

Preview: City Council agenda (August 11)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here. The agenda is huge but much of it is routine. Be sure to note the item about goose-chasing Canadian drones.

Note that if you want to vote in the Sept 9 Preliminary Election, you must register by August 19. You can register with this PDF form or just go to the Elections window on the second floor of City Hall.

  • Physical Layout: Gadfly-of-gadflies Jo Hart has an item requesting that the City Manager “delineate the physical layout of the manager’s entire staff” so they will be easier for the public to find.
  • Appointments: Anthony Pignataro has been appointed a Constable; Izaida Gonzalez to the Human Rights Commission; Thomas Cullinane, Theresa Eckstrom, Christopher Evans, and Ursula Hanus reappointed to the Elder Affairs Commission; Christopher Rodwill reappointed to the Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees; Randolph Bloom, Robyn Conroy, Andrew Shveda, and Karl Bjork reappointed to the Historical Commission; and Nicholas Cuba reappointed to the Off Street Parking Board.
  • More Appointments: The Council must vote to approve the reappointment of Jennifer Madson to the Advisory Board on the Status of Women; the reappointment of Peter McKone to the Conservation Commission.
  • Mobile Food Truck Pilot Program: The Manager recommends an ordinance that would establish three Food Truck Friendly Zones, which would be active Fridays and Saturdays through November. These would be adjacent to the Common, Elm Park, and Institute Park. Food trucks have been controversial for years now, though not much seen since the last ordinances regulated many of them out of existence.
  • HUD: There’s a report on the City’s paying a $3.4 million fine to the U.S. Department of Housing and Economic Development for not complying with HUD grant regulations.
  • Keep Worcester Clean: The City’s KWC program has a report on efforts made to keep Worcester clean in May and June. May: 249 sites cleaned, 34 tons of trash removed, 10 citations issued. June: 203 sites cleaned, 35 tons of trash removed, 14 citations issued.
  • Tasers: Last month a man went on a “rampage” in a Worcester market, was tased by police, and died. The Worcester Police Department has a report this week saying that they have 48 Tasers (model X26P), that every officer gets 8 hours of Taser training and is retrained 4 times a year, that officers have tased people 60 times since 2007, and have brandished Tasers without using them 36 times.
  • Crime Stats: According to a report to the Council, our crime stats are pretty good, with the obvious exception of the surge in shootings this summer.

stats

  • Patch Pond Dam: The Council will be voting to accept a $1 million grant from the state to replace this dam.
  • Openings on Boards and Commissions: There’s an item noting that there are lots of openings in City boards and commissions, including the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Citizen Advisory Council, Commission on Disability, Conservation Commission, Elder Affairs Commission, GAR Memorial Hall Board of Trustees, Historical Commission, Hope Cemetery Board, Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees, Planning Board, Worcester Arts Council, and the Worcester Housing Authority. These are a great way to take your involvement in public life to the next level.
  • Keeping Nonprofits and Churches Out of Residential Zones: The Council’s Committee on Rules and Legislative Affairs has an item asking the Manager for a report on “enacting legislation to regulate and restrict use by non-profit organizations for religious or educational purposes in residentially zoned districts.”
  • Police Resources: Councilor Lukes has an item asking for the State police to get involved in our gang violence problem. The Mayor and the Chief have both come out against this idea; the State Police already meet regularly with Worcester law enforcement to collaborate on these kinds of things. There has been some back and forth in the media over this idea. We will be getting more police in both the short-term and long-term, however. I can’t figure out if there is anything about this on the Council agenda, but the Manager has approved keeping 18 “Summer Impact Program” officers on the street even after the summer, and increasing “the upcoming recruit class from 23 to 35.”
  • Food: Councilors Gaffney, Lukes, and Rivera have an item asking the Worcester Public Schools to donate their excess food (that has not been served) to the St. John’s Food Pantry. This is one of those “Why isn’t this on the School Committee Agenda?” items. If you haven’t stopped by St. John’s Food for the Poor, it is a great spot.
  • Day Shelter: Councilor Rivera has another item asking for an update on Worcester’s homelessness efforts and “specifically concerning the progress to initiate a day shelter plan.”
  • More TIFs: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking for the City to be able to give tax breaks (TIFs) “to owners of small multi-family properties to allow them the benefit of enhancing their properties without the immediate burden of increased property taxes.”
  • #GaryRosenIsBackBaby: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the City to use a goose-chasing “dive-bombing drone” to chase away our many Canada geese. He cites the GooseBuster used in Ottawa. I like the GooseBuster website. “I am the first and only company in Canada to be registered to chase geese using a remote controlled aircraft.”
  • Merging Police and Fire: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to investigate merging the police and fire departments “into a single department of public safety.”
  • Greenwood Street Landfill Solar Project: There’s a little paperwork item regarding this 5.6MW solar project. It’s still moving forward.