Monthly Archives: March 2017

Preview: City Council agenda (March 28)

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

This week: Marijuana, hate groups, tax breaks, recycling, soccer fields, refugees, Airbnb. So much stuff. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Marijuana Ban: The first item of business will be a proposal from Councilor Lukes to figure out if we can ban non-medical marijuana businesses in the city, as Westborough has recently done.
  • Hate Groups: Idella Hazard has a citizen petition asking “the City to respectfully ask all city employees withdraw membership from any and all hate groups.” I don’t know what this is about.
  • Delaying Notre Dame Demolition: The vacant Notre Dame church, across the street from City Hall and adjacent to the CitySquare development, had an official one-year demolition delay enacted last year, a delay which will expire April 15. Deborah Packard, Preservation Worcester, and the Re-Imagine Notre Dame Committee have a petition asking the Council to urge the owners of the building to continue to delay demolition until someone can find someone who’ll put the building to use and not demolish it.
  • Boards and Commissions: Scott Cashman, Nicholas Chacharone and John Lauring have been reappointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission. The Council needs to vote on reappointing Nancy Garr-Colzie and Paul Keister to the Commission on Disability, Vincent Pedone to the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, and Gerardo Schiano and Paul Smith to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Tax Breaks for Development: The City Manager would like the Council to approve a 20-year, $986,000 tax break for a development at the South Worcester Industrial Park. T&G article.
  • 94 Southgate Street: The city is buying this property adjacent to Canterbury Street School for $8000 and forgiveness of $1000 in back taxes, and turning the property into a playground.
  • Recycling: The Commissioner of Public Works has a report outlining possible improvements to our recycling system. Currently we have these bins which are both too small and have no lids, so stuff blows around the streets. Councilor Rosen has lately been very vocal on this issue. We had a pilot program of those 2-wheeled bins in 2010, and clear bags in 2015. This report really clearly outlines the tradeoffs and is worth a read. I’ve lived in cities with all sorts of recycling containers, and clear bags seem like the best choice to me. I am curious to hear your thoughts. T&G article.
  • Street Sweeping: The city will start sweeping main streets March 27, and residential streets April 3. It’ll take about 3 months to get around to all the residential streets. You should be able to find a schedule here.
  • Rectangular Fields: The city now has a Master Plan Initiative for Rectangular Shaped Sports Fields, aka non-baseball fields. The upshot: we should figure a way to have more of these.
  • Resettlement City: The Council asked the Manager for a report on what legislation created the category of “resettlement cities,” who’s responsible for the costs of being a resettlement city, what the impact has been of Worcester being a resettlement city, and how many refugees we’ve had resettled here because we are a resettlement city. The City Solicitor’s response is basically “WTF are you talking about?” and forwarding a photocopy of a State Department Fact Sheet on refugees. According to his response, there is no such category as “resettlement city,” therefore Worcester is not one, therefore none of this request makes any sense.
  • Airbnb Crackdown: The City Solicitor has a report responding to questions from the Council on what laws might apply to Airbnbs in the city. Are Airbnbs subject to the hotel/motel room occupancy tax? No, though the state legislature is considering this. What about Architectural Access Board accessibility requirements? Probably they don’t need to make changes, but any modifications would need to meet these requirements. What laws might currently apply to Airbnb situations? There’s an ordinance about resident families renting out rooms, but the Solicitor notes it’s really hard for the city to keep track of something like that.
  • Psychiatric Capacity: The Council asked for a report on the impact of UMass closing 13 psychiatric beds. Turns out St. Vincent’s is adding 7 beds next year, and UMass is currently working on a 120-bed facility, so these 13 bed won’t be such a big deal.

Cancelled due to snow [was: Preview: City Council agenda (March 14)]

This week’s Council meeting is cancelled. We can look forward to these agenda items at next week’s meeting.

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

This week: Dropping crime, rezoning. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Streets and Zoning: The Planning Board recommends that the Council proceed with rezoning part of the James Street and South Ludlow Street area, which entails both rezoning manufacturing areas to residential and changing some residential areas zoned for single family homes to less-restricted, more general residential zoning. A couple items that will be sent to the Planning Board, then perhaps back to the Council. Tony Ngueyn of Goldstar Builders Inc. asks that a portion of Benoit St. be removed as an official city street; Stephen Madaus for Agrand Realty LLC wants 241 Greenwood St. rezoned from residential to light manufacturing.
  • Kindness: Bill Coleman has an item asking the Council “to encourage all citizens and visitors to Worcester to commit a random act of kindness in our City.” He has another item asking people to participate in “Worcester’s Spring Cleaning 2017. We want Worcester to be the cleanest City in New England.”
  • Boards and Commissions: Albert M. Toney, Jr. will be appointed a Constable. The Council will vote on the appointment of Benjamin Roberts to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women and Michael Murphy to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
  • Economic Development Report: Mostly progress on ongoing projects. The Manager notes that a mild winter has meant construction projects have experienced few delays.
  • #Worcester100: There is an ongoing initiative (complete with hashtag) to have 100 days of events on the Common in 2017. The Manager has a report on this. I’m not sure how many events there are, maybe way more than 100.
  • Water and Sewer Rates: The Public Works Department recommends that water and sewer rates are raised approx. $13.46 for a typical Worcester home. This is a smaller increase than in other recent years.
  • Drought Fading: Our reservoirs are at 83%, so we are moving from a Stage 2 drought back to a Stage 1 “drought alert.” We still have less water in the reservoirs than in most years.
  • Crime Stats: The Police Chief has a report noting decreases in violent and property crimes in 2016 vs 2015 and over the past 5 years in general. There are a couple areas where crime was up a bit last year—aggravated assaults and vehicle thefts. Traffic accidents were up as well. Arrests were down more than 4% due mainly to the Police Department’s “Crisis Intervention Team.” The CIT deals with incidents where it makes more sense to call a social worker rather than arrest the perpetrator. As you might expect, a small number of people dealing with addiction, mental illness, or general life chaos make up a disproportionate amount of Worcester arrests. Doing volunteer work I’ve had some contact with the Crisis Intervention Team, and have a really positive impression of their work.
  • Lead Prevention: Among many finance items—we’re getting a $140,000.00 grant from the state Department of Public Healthfor childhood lead poisoning prevention.
  • Long-Term Financial Plan: The Manager would like to make 7 changes to our long-term financial plan, which was written in 2006. The changes: 1.Create a new High School Construction Stabilization Fund for new South and Doherty high schools; 2. Base City’s borrowing amount on its ability to pay; 3. Increase reserve level targets to 10 percent of budget; 4. Create an irrevocable OPEB trust and a new city commission to manage it. Require annual report on the city’s liability; 5. Memorialize fixed cost budgetary assumptions based on historic trends; 6. Apply excess New Growth to create tax relief; 7. Enhance financial reporting and transparency.

Worcester schools meetings this week

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday, March 16; you can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent this week is on drinking water quality (as an aside: that’s been uploaded as the actual PDF, which I haven’t seen happen on a school committee backup). The EAW is rallying ahead of Thursday’s meeting for healthy schools, something which began with the PCB issue and has now expanded to air and water quality. Note that the report on Thursday is Worcester’s part of the larger statewide testing in schools of water for lead and copper, as this is well beyond being a Worcester issue.

(I’ve been intending to do a larger facilities post at some point; I hope to get to that this week.)

There are a number of recognitions.

There are subcommittee reports from TLSS and from Governance. Note that TLSS apparently discussed the Burncoat academy (TM), in the only place I’ve been able to find that actually describes admission requirements–at least an advanced/proficient on 5th grade testing–and its “enriched” course of study. It is procedurally fascinating/problematic that this meeting took place after both the announcement and the first parent meeting; both parent meetings are taking place prior to any action by the full school committee. Also, the request to approve those courses appeared on the school committee agenda without detail prior to any discussion as to where they were going. 

In Governance, after a several years abeyance, it appears as though the subcommittee is doing a policy review!

The Administration is responding to a request for an update on dual enrollment.

They are also responding to a request regarding a Main South soccer team (no backup to link to).

There is a request that the committee accept a STARS residency grant for Elm Park ($4400 for Asian myths and storytelling).

There is a request that the committee accept a$37,292 Mass Commended Schools grant, which is going to the former Level 4 schools to share best practices during summer professional development.
There is a request that the committee accept a donation to Tatnuck Magnet.

There is a request that the committee accept a donation to Lakeview.

Miss Biancheria is requesting an update on the career and technical education grant; an update on summer school; and the enrollment report which the committee received at their January 19 meeting.
While it is not a report of the superintendent, Superintendent Binienda is also sharing her (draft until approved by the committee) goals (which are…vague?). Paraphrased:

  • professional practice goal: to complete the first year of superintendent training
  • student learning goal: by September, to provide intervention for 3rd, 6th, and 10th graders at high risk and not meeting test scores
  • 1 on instructional leadership: to create and sustain excellent instruction through 1) continually evaluating data; 2) adding AP capstone and continuing SAT, PSAT, and college application day; 3) enhancing current literary initiatives
  • 2 on management and operations: a supportive, safe, orderly learning environment through 1) a chronic absenteeism plan; 2) all teachers on the state evaluation system; 3) “implement and monitor strategies to ensure a safe, welcoming learning environment”
  • 3 on family and community engagement: “engage responsively with families and higher education, business and community partners” through: 1) attending community events; 2) “deepen community support for ‘Compact for Public Education in Worcester’ by partnering with community businesses, agencies, and higher education” to quote; 3) opportunities for family engagement
  • 4 on professional culture: “enhance professional collaborative culture that promote strong ethical leadership and scholarship” through: 1) providing high quality professional development; 2) providing targeted intervention including central admin support for lowest performing schools by monitoring turnaround schools; 3) assist schools in using data

The committee is also being asked to review and approve changes to the Collaborative’s agreement; this appears to be a name change throughout (from “Central Massachusettts Special Education Collaborative” to “Central Massachusetts Collaborative”); there are no substantive changes.

And there is a request that the committee approve the AP Capstone Program; there is no backup on this, so I would assume it is going to subcommittee…? 

The Committee is also scheduled for an executive session at 6 on negotiations with the teachers’ union and with custodians; and a grievance for an HVAC technician.

There also is a Legislative breakfast on Friday morning at 9 am at Worcester Tech; on the agenda is the FY18 budget and a visit to the new Nelson Place. It also appears they want to have another legislative meeting on March 30 to discuss the new academy, AP test funding, MSBA projects, and the Adopt-a-School program.


no liveblog at the meeting; I’ll see about the Legislative breakfast. Maybe. 

Preview: City Council agenda (March 7)

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

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

  • Zoning: Tuyen Nguyen has a request to rezone 110 Lovell St from “limited business” to “limited residential.” This will be sent to the zoning board.
  • Public and Private Sts: Mark DeMauro has a request request to make part of Garrison Ave public.
  • What’s Attracting Businesses?: The Economic Development Committee is requesting reports from the City Manager about whether tax breaks for “bio manufacturing” have brought business to Worcester, and whether reducing the sewer connection fee has done something similar.
  • Psychiatric Capacity: Councilor Rivera is requesting details on “the current number of psychiatric beds that are available at area hospitals” and what impact may result if “Umass Memorial Medical Center closes 13 psychiatric beds.”
  • CSX Trucks: Councilor Russell is requesting a 30-day action plan for dealing with increased truck traffic due to the CSX terminal expansion. It seems like there’s an item about this every month, I’m not sure why new items are being submitted.
  • New Recycling Ideas: The city has been trying a pilot program where, instead of putting out your recycling in lidless bins, you use clear trash bags (a la NYC). Councilor Rosen, calling this pilot “highly successful,” asks if we can make these bags available citywide, suggesting that if we only pick up recycling every other week we’ll save enough money to make the clear bags available free. Councilor Rosen further asks if we can keep track of days that might be really windy, and delay recycling a day to skip those days (when the trash blows all around). I am curious how people would be informed of “wind days” in advance.
  • Public Displays of Health Inspection Reports: Citing Council votes from 2013 and 2014, Councilor Lukes asks if the city can require restaurants to post their health inspection reports.
  • The Past Five Years: Mayor Petty has an item asking for “a report concerning the last five plus years of investments in parks, playgrounds, school improvements, streets/sidewalk repair, and any other major neighborhood improvements.” I don’t know what larger issue this is concerning.
  • …And Justice for All: Councilor King has an item asking the Council to “hereby reaffirm the values of inclusion, respect and justice for all of its community members.”
  • Other Post-Employment Benefits: The Research Bureau has a report noting that while we’ve set aside money to fund 62% of our city employee pension liabilities, we’ve only funded 1% of our $860 million “OPEB” liabilities (healthcare etc.). The report further notes that most local towns are doing a terrible job of this as well. We do have more OPEB liabilities than other municipalities as a percentage of total property value.
  • More Murals?: The Economic Development Committee has considered a request from Bill Coleman for locals “to create a cityscape mural on city walls on Walpole St” and wants a report from the Manager on this.