All posts by Mike Benedetti

Preview: City Council agenda (July 17)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:00pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Affordable housing and homelessness.

There’s a memorial event for the recently-demolished Worcide skate park Tuesday at 5pm. I am told discussions between Worcide people and the city have been productive so far, and thus there is no big protest planned at the Council meeting. “We are beyond city council at this point and if you want to stick it to them find someone from district 2 to run and oppose that counselor.”

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

  • Racial Slurs: Idella Hazard has an item asking the Council to take not that “using racial slurs toward minorities” is a civil rights violation and “a civil complaint can be taken out at the court house.”
  • This Week In Notre Dame: This week’s proposal from the Save Notre Dame Alliance “would include significant new construction on the site, as well as a new destination public element, the Worcester Public Garden, anchored by the Notre Dame building preserved as an architectural monument.”
  • Affordable Housing Update: The latest update on affordable housing in Worcester notes that we have spent $17.6 million of mostly-federal money in the past five years, 84% of which has been for projects in “neighborhoods,” which is to say not downtown. We now stand at 1,752 units, or 13.4% of our units, a percentage only bettered by Boston and Springfield. We also spent a few hundred thousand dollars on down payment assistance for homeowners, and helped 300 families at some level of homelessness to stabilize their situation.
  • More Watershed Land: The Manager would like the city to purchase 93 acres in Paxton and Holden at a cost of $660,000. These purchases ensure the water draining into our reservoirs is clean.
  • Free Gravel for Private Streets: Starting in September, you can get free gravel at the city recycling center if you need to maintain a private street.
  • Solving Chronic Homelessness: The city’s homelessness task force has a plan for helping the estimated 103 chronically homeless people in the city. The plan would cost $4-$6 million. The core of the plan would be to create housing (with additional financial supports) for people in this situation. The 103 units would be complete within the next two years.
  • Stop Making Your Own Driveway What The Hell Is Wrong With You: Councilor Rosen is still bird-dogging the DIY driveway problem, this week asking the city for a report as to the legality of unauthorized curb cuts and the like.

This week’s Worcester School Committee agenda

Not a dull agenda for July!

First, note that there is a Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meeting on Thursday immediately preceding the full School Committee meeting at 3:30 pm at City Hall; it appears as though this is only to approve the four new courses listed, ‘though they persist in just listing every item that has been referred there on the agenda, which is not okay.

The full Committee meets at 4 pm (it’s summer) at City Hall, but note the “now they’re here, now they’re not” schedule:

  • 4:00 p.m. – Regular Session
  • 5:00 p.m. – Executive Session
  • 6:00 p.m. – Regular Session and Proposed Strategic Plan

The message appears to be that if you’re there for the strategic plan, you should come at 6.

There are recognitions and congratulations.

The superintendent’s midcycle review opens the meeting; this appears to be a 46 page PowerPoint (which is sideways online) in which Superintendent Binienda has filled out the rubric required of school committee evaluators, marking herself as “proficient” in all standards save human resources; law and policies; all of the family and community engagement section; commitment to high standards; communication; and managing conflict, in which she has rated herself “exemplary.” Per the state, an “exemplary” rating means quite literally one could be used as an example of this standard and could teach it. Appropriately assessed, it is quite rare. This appears to be followed with what looks like an update on district work–changes and updates in curriculum, required implementation of changes in standards, continued PD and such–as evidence of goals.

The pre-meeting TLSS meeting will report out.
The Superintendent has posted: School Bus Service Manager, School Bus Router, Acting Transportation Operations Supervisor, Transportation Liaison, and School Bus Driver – Full Size Bus as non-represented (non-union) positions.

The strategic plan, as above, is on the agenda. From the agenda, it looks as though the Research Bureau and Worcester Educational Collaborative are going to be presenting a sort of summary (?); there is no public hearing session, and the committee is meeting in regular formal session, so it isn’t clear how or if things are going to be deliberated formally in order to refine, amend, or develop the plan.
As part of the same item, there is a presentation on the WPS rebranding effort, which would look like this:

You can see the PowerPoint for the process of development.
Did anyone ever ask how much any of the previous parts cost?

Miss Biancheria is requesting the number of staff on leave.
The committee needs to select their represenatives to the MASC Delegate Assembly.

Mr. O’Connell (supported by the rest of the committee save Mayor Petty) has submitted the following item:

To discuss projected litigation as to the obligation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assure an “adequate education” to Massachusetts children, including potential plaintiffs, litigation funding sources, and a timeline.

This is of course the push for a new foundation budget lawsuit, which you may have read more over the weekend.
The new crowdfunding and educational surveys policies are up for review.
Apparently, the $7.4M in revolving funds weren’t approved during the budget deliberation, so they–and the updated budget total–are now.
There’s a–quite good!–appropriate school response to immigration activities policy memo for approval. It appropriately centers on the child, requires district response for ICE activities at schools, and reinforces the district’s non-involvement (as per requirements) in enforcement. My only complaint is we should have had this years ago. Nonetheless…

There’s a prior year payment to College Board for testing and to an instructional technology coach.
Mr. O’Connell wants to be sure there are sufficient AEDs.

There’s a request that the committee approve the student handbook; the changes are here. Interestingly, this is being added to the “student access” section: “Certain individuals, including school personnel, police, and employees of certain state agencies may be granted access to students in the performance of their official duties.” That seems…troubling. They’re also cutting inclusion of the actual due process language on student discipline, putting it only on the website, which also seems troubling.
In the homework section, what was a minimum per-subject homework policy of 45 minutes is now being amended to add “or 1 hour for AP.” \.
Also, the non-discrimination policy doesn’t have “pregnancy and pregnancy-related” added yet and it should.
The entire policy manual of the Worcester Public Schools is also up for approval.

Mr. O’Connell wants to review indirect costs again.
Miss Biancheria has asked that the “Accountabilty and Student Achievement” subcommittee be renamed “School and Student Performance” which is apparently what the office is being renamed, as well.
There are donations to be accepted:
– $8,000.00 from SME Education Foundation/General Motors to Worcester Technical High School Advanced Manufacturing Program
– $250.00 from WEDF to Woodland Academy
– $500.00 from Metso USA, Inc., to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy
– $250.00 from WEDF to Tatnuck Magnet School
– $250.00 from WEDF to Lake View School
– $2,000.00 from Saint-Gobain to Lake View School
– $738.82 from Lake View School PTO to Lake View School
– $2,000.00 from Furniture Trust Organization, Inc. to Worcester Alternative School
– $600.00 from Sunbelt Rentals Inc. to South High Community School Diesel Program
– $250.00 from WEDF to Lincoln Street School
– $250.00 from WEDF to New Citizen Center
There is an executive session for Plumbers, Steamfitters and Tradesmen.

Preview: City Council agenda (June 19)

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

This week: More Notre Dame.

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

  • Public and Private Streets: Augustus Kormah requests the private street Brookside Avenue in West Tatnuck be made a public street.
  • Saving Notre Dame Church: With every passing day this seems even more remote. This week there are 2 citizen petitions on the issue. Randy Feldman wants the city to mothball the church, and do an immediate $10,000 study of the practicality of this. Jonathan Ostrow wonders if the city can preserve its shell “prior to its repurposing.”

This week’s School Committee agenda

On the last day of school for the year, the Worcester School Committee meets for budget and for a regular session. The agenda is here.

They meet to discuss budget at 4 pm. The sequence of accounts is here; they made it through the non-salary accounts at the last meeting, so they’ll pick up with the second page this week. Note that there are a series of responses to questions from the last budget session posted on the regular agenda; this includes further detail on the transportation change in the first and spells out the change in funding allowing for middle school sports in the second. There’s also the traditional “you made these motions during the year to think about during budget; here are the answers” response.

I’m out of town, so you’re on your own on this one.

After executive session (collective bargaining for liaisons, tutors, plumbers and steamfitters, and tradesmen), the regular agenda is taken up at 7pm. There are rounds of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is presentation of the proposed strategic plan; note that this thus is the administration presenting a proposed plan to the School Committee, whatever rhetoric there has been otherwise. The agenda also has a motion assigning the proposal to subcommittee by section. With these items on the agenda, the time is good to comment on the proposal if you have comments. Public comment in Worcester takes place under a suspension of rules; I would be surprised if that doesn’t happen this week.

There are a series of prior year payments:

  • $3,750.10 made payable to the Milford Maine School District 
  • $16,808.00 to James F. Farr Academy, Inc. for services rendered during a prior fiscal year 
  • $70.00 to JN Philips Auto Glass for repairs to a school bus
  • $3,090.00 to Van Pool Transportation for McKinney-Vento Transportation in June 2017
  • $153, 022.52 to Direct Energy for natural gas payments; finance types, check the backup: there’s a thing there around tracking of prior balances

There are also donations:

  • $125.00 from George’s Coney Island to Woodland Academy 
  • $250.00 from Amica Mutual Insurance Company to Woodland Academy 
  • $250.00 from WEDF to Nelson Place School 
  • $4,455.50 from Unifirst Corporation to Tatnuck Magnet School 
  • $250.00 from WEDF to Belmont Street Community School

Mr. O’Connell is requesting that they review the new science curriculum.

There are several new courses coming through, seeking approval:

Mr. Monfredo is asking “Administration forward a letter to the City Council requesting that it review the proposed zoning regulations for cannabis facilities and reconsider the proposed boundary by making it further than 500 feet away from any school building.” Not sure why the School Committee wouldn’t simply to this itself.

Mr. Comparetto is suggesting a development position be added to the Worcester Public Schools; please see Boston for why Worcester keeps its development outside the administrative structure. 

Mr. O’Connell wants to set up a public participation process for Doherty and Burncoat; watch this one. We’ll be told that all meetings are posted public meetings, but note how few there have been for Doherty (and were for South) compared even to Nelson Place, let alone what happens in other districts. The Worcester way is come back with a fait accompli and say that there are no other options. 

And Mr. O’Connell has an item about JROTC participation in Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day activities, which sounds like someone thinks they got left out.

Remember, if the School Committee doesn’t pass the whole budget before their regular meeting, they’ll stay after the regular agenda to do so then!

Preview: City Council agenda (June 12)

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

This week: More budget, Notre Dame, antipsychotics.

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

  • Budget: If you care about the details of the city’s budget for the next fiscal year, this is a good meeting to attend and speak your mind.
  • $15 million for Notre Dame church: Barbara Haller wants the city to commit as much as $15 million to save Notre Dame church from demolition and turn it into a “multicultural center/performance and event space.” She and Ted Conna also have several items asking the Council to instruct the Manager to buy the building. Last week the mayor made it clear this isn’t going to happen, but the mayor of course is just one vote.
  • Drugs in the water: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to test “if medications and drugs are in our drinking water,” in particular antipsychotic and antibiotic drugs. I am surprised we don’t already test this from time to time.
  • Sidewalk trees on Pleasant Street: The section of Pleasant Street nearest to downtown is getting new sidewalks this summer. Councilor Rivera has an item asking if there can be some trees added at the same time. I was at a neighborhood meeting last week where a constituent requested Councilor Rivera try to make this happen. This is how stuff gets done.

Preview: City Council agenda (May 29)

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

This week: Boards, commissions, and lots of small stuff.

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

  • Stop Selling the Tax Liens of the Elderly: Norman Guertin and 18 others have a citizen petition requesting that the city “stop selling tax liens of owner occupied houses of elderly persons over the age of 62 years to third parties.”
  • Boards and Commissions: Paul Franco and Cathy Rao will be appointed to the Elder Affairs Commission; Eric Goldstein to the Parks Commission; Zachary Washburn to the G. A. R. Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; and Amy Skrzek to the Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees. For other boards and commissions, the Council will vote to approve (or not): Stephen Quist to the Cable Advisory Committee; Priscilla Elsass to the Advisory Committee on the
    Status of Women; Devin Canton to the Conservation Commission; and Albert LaValley to the Planning Board.
  • Preserving More Watershed Land: The city will spend $360,000 to take over, via “friendly eminent domain,” 48 acres in Princeton that drain into one of our reservoirs.
  • Problem Properties: The Finance Committee has recommended the full Council vote on Councilor Rivera’s request that the Manager create “a holistic task force that could focus on combating issues with properties consistently creating neighborhood and community problems.” Presumably this would have a somewhat different focus than the existing Problem Properties and Quality of Life taskforces.

Held over from last week:

  • Notre Dame des Canadiens: Ted Conna (et al) have a bunch of proposals for the City Council, which if the Council approved them would help the effort to preserve this striking downtown church, currently long-vacant and scheduled for demolition.
  • Let’s Not Crack Down So Hard On Flavored Tobacco: Councilor Bergman would like the Board of Health to hold back on restricting flavored tobacco sales to adult-only establishments, and instead consider other measures, like prohibiting the display of these products.
  • The Destructive Foul Balls of Vernon Hill Park: Councilor Rosen would like “additional steps” taken at the Verning Hill Park baseball field “to prevent foul balls from striking and damaging the homes and parked cars of neighbors on adjacent Ames Street.”

Preview: City Council agenda (May 15)

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

This week: The budget begins, foul balls, Notre Dame.

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

  • Zoning: Agrand Realty LLC would like 223 Greenwood St (in Quinsig Village, adjacent to Rand Whitney) rezoned from single family residential to manufacturing. This matter will now go before the Planning Board.
  • Notre Dame des Canadiens: Ted Conna (et al) have a bunch of proposals for the City Council, which if the Council approved them would help the effort to preserve this striking downtown church, currently long-vacant and scheduled for demolition.
  • Rectangular Fields: Cassie Giardina would like the city to allocate funding for rectangular sports fields as in the Tacoma St. and Great Brook Valley Master Plans.
  • The Destructive Foul Balls of Vernon Hill Park: Councilor Rosen would like “additional steps” taken at the Verning Hill Park baseball field “to prevent foul balls from striking and damaging the homes and parked cars of neighbors on adjacent Ames Street.”
  • Better Dump Access: Councilor Russell would like the city to consider letting people drop off large items and yellow bags of trash at the Millbury St DPW facility without making an appointment.
  • Garbage Can Ads: Councilor Russell would like a private company to maintain our public trash cans and fund this by putting ads on the trash cans.
  • Let’s Not Crack Down So Hard On Flavored Tobacco: Councilor Bergman would like the Board of Health to hold back on restricting flavored tobacco sales to adult-only establishments, and instead consider other measures, like prohibiting the display of these products.
  • Rideshare Money for Experimental Transit: So the city gets like ten cents for every Uber or Lyft ride originating in Worcester. For 2017, this was $85,000. Councilor Lukes would like the WRTA to spend this money to develop “pilot programs for alternative and innovative modes of transportation in place of the current transportation services and to include evaluation tools to measure the effectiveness of the pilot program.”
  • Local Labor to Build South High?: The Mayor would like to know if the city can negotiate that local labor be used to build (the new) South High, and would also like to know more about our options for Doherty High.
  • The Budget: The City Manager has proposed a $650 million budget. The Council can now theoretically make some changes to this.
  • Rezoning 5 Reeves St: The Planning Board likes the proposal to clean up the zoning around 5 Reeves St., extending the amount that is residential and excluding all of it from the Commericial Corridors Overlay District. This proposal now goes to the Economic Development Committee for more debate.
  • Public and Private Streets: The Planning Board likes the proposal to make the private Weldon Street a public street. This now goes to the Public Works Committee for more debate.

This week’s School Committee Agenda

The agenda is posted here.

There are recognitions and such.

The report of the Superintendent is “An Overview of the Process for District Site Visits” and I don’t know what that means.

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports is meeting Monday afternoon and is reporting out (on gifted programs, ice hockey, Mandarin Chinese, summer programs, and the future teachers’ program at Worcester State).

There will be (only one is posted) responses from administration on free drivers’ ed and on Earth Day.

Miss McCullough is requesting a report on vocational programs not at Worcester Tech.

Mr. O’Connell wants to appropriate the funding the state has allocated for students evacuated due to Hurricane Maria; he’s going to be told that they’ll do that at the FY19 budget hearing, as that’s been said several times. 



Mr. O’Connell (co-sponsored by five other members of the committee) has an item: “review the recommendations of the proposed Strategic Plan and assign them to appropriate Standing Committees of the School Committee, and/or to the Administration, for further analysis, consideration, discussion, and development.” Two things: that puts the strategic plan on the agenda (important if you’d like to comment) and sets up a committee public process of review (which we haven’t had so far).

Mr. O’Connell also wants to set up an English Learner Parent Advisory Council, per the LOOK bill; maybe we should have regulations first. Comments are due this Friday! 



There is a request for approval of a prior fiscal year payment of $1,496.50 for services rendered to a Special Education student who was placed in the Uxbridge Public Schools.

There is a request that the Committee accept donations of:

 – $4,000.00 from the WEDF for the Leap Program in collaboration with the Worcester Art Museum

– $250.00 from donors to Heard Street Discovery Academy for the purchase of a new classroom rug

– $1,000.00 from donors to a Doherty Memorial High School football player in memory of Thomas Walles

– $1,000.00 from Alliance Energy LLC to Grafton Street School

– $1,000.00 from a Foundation to the Goddard Scholars Academy for the purchase of a tuba for the their Band

– to Woodland Academy:

– $122.31 from CEC Entertainment Inc.
– $250.00 from the College of the Holy Cross

– $2,583.87 from the City of Worcester for being selected as a recipient of a Worcester Arts Council 2018 Award for their project “Making the Impossible Possible”

– to Tatnuck Magnet School:

– $4.50 from Box Tops for Education
– $85.00 from various donors
– $300.00 from I.U.O.E Local No. 4 Social Action Committee
– $500.00 from Country Bank

There is a request for approval of a High-Quality Instruction grant of $20,000 for working groups on curriculum.

There is an annoucement about Reading in our City week from Mr. Monfredo.

Mr. Comparetto has three related items on middle school sports: one on partnering with Recreation Worcester, and two on reports.

There is also (THIS IS IMPORTANT) a request that the committee accept a donation and approve an agreement with/from Berkshire Bank, successor to Commerce, of $500,000 for naming rights to Foley Stadium (extending the agreement) and replacing the turf field.

There is a non-specific posting around collective bargaining and/or litigation for executive session.

Preview: City Council agenda (May 1)

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

Some union and community groups are holding a May Day rally outside City Hall at 5:30pm (and down the street at 145 Front Street at 4:45pm) in support of the jobs fund, a stronger wage theft ordinance, and equity in hiring.

This week: Wage theft, Dan Dick, lots of items held over from last week.

“We have three crops in New England: trees, rocks, and water.”
–Dan Dick, Worcester legend and environmentalist

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

  • City Clerk Election: The Council will “elect” the City Clerk tomorrow to a 2-year term. Presumably we will keep the same clerk?
  • Executive Session: At some point the Council will begin a private session to discuss a property deal, “having been advised by the City Manager that a public discussion will have a detrimental effect on the City’s negotiation position.”
  • Dan Dick Bridge: State Rep Kate Campanale, Tatnuck Brook Watershed Association president John Reed, and John Stewart have a citizen petition to rename Coes Reservoir Dam and Bridge “Dan Dick Bridge and Dam”, after the late, great Worcester environmentalist.
  • Wage Theft: The Mayor celebrates May Day by calling for a stronger ordinance against not paying workers for all their work, aka “wage theft.”
  • Hiring Disparities: Councilor Rivera celebrates May Day by asking the City Manager for a study on hiring disparities for public construction projects, “to include race, gender, residency and veterans.”
  • Exit Interviews: The Mayor would like to know if we can have a process for interviewing companies leaving the city.
  • Municipal Turnover: Councilor Toomey would like to have a report on the turnover for city employees.

Items Discussed Last Week that Weren’t on the Agenda

  • Nip Bottles: Councilor Lukes would like a report from the Board of Health about why there are so many nip bottles being sold nowadays.

Held Over from Last Week to this Week

  • Let’s Not Expand the Library: Councilor Rosen wants a report on how much taxpayers would save if we put the $8 million expansion and renovation of the main library “on hold.” (It has been suggested to me that the savings are likely $8 million.)
  • Unrelated Occupants: Held over from last week–Councilors Russell and Rivera would like to know if we can let landlords with RG-5 apartments apply for a special permit to allow more than 3 unrelated persons live in a unit.
  • Vintage Streetcars: Councilor Rose has an item asking if we could create a mile-long “trolley or street car system.” The T&G clarifies this would be more about making a bus look cool than actually installing train tracks.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 24)

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

This week: Affordable housing, health centers, Bill Coleman.

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

  • Free Dog Licenses for the Elderly: Kathryn Hagan has a citizen petition asking the city to waive the dog license fee for people over the age of 65. Currently the fee is waived for those over 70.
  • Fatty Jenkins Court AKA The Cage: There was a big neighborhood meeting a couple weeks back, at which it was agreed that the city should take steps to clean up, and possibly even relocate, the basketball court on Hawley St off Pleasant St. This week, Councilor Rivera has the first mention I’ve seen of this in the public record, asking there to be “No Parking Anytime” signs installed in front of the court.
  • Raising Taxes for Affordable Housing: A group is asking the city to approve an extra 1.5% property tax to fund more open space, recreational land, and “community housing” (which I guess is affordable housing?). If we did this, the state would give us an extra 16%. To do this, it would have to be approved by a ballot measure. The T&G reports this would generate like $2.5 million in extra taxes.
  • Closing Our Community Health Centers: There’s a report to the Council on how things will go with UMass Memorial closing Plumley Village Health Services, which has something like 1,000 active patients. Councilor King has an item asking UMass Memorial and Community Healthlink to reconsider their decision to close the children’s mental health facility Burncoat Family Center.
  • Bill Coleman’s Giant Mosaic of the City Seal: The Economic Development Committee is interested enough in Bill Coleman’s idea that they’d like a report from the city administration on what it would take to make it happen.
  • Airbnb: Councilor King would like a report on how recent state legislation regarding state and local taxes on Airbnb will be implemented in Worcester.
  • Are Our Yellow Bags Worse?: Councilor Rosen wants a report on whether city trash bags are worse than they used to be. (They are definitely different.)
  • Let’s Not Expand the Library: Councilor Rosen wants a report on how much taxpayers would save if we put the $8 million expansion and renovation of the main library “on hold.”
  • Summer Youth Bus Passes: Councilor Rivera would like to know how things worked out with our summer 2017 program issuing unlimited ride passes to people ages 8-24, and if it will happen again this summer.
  • Unrelated Occupants: Councilor Russell would like to know if we can let landlords with RG-5 apartments apply for a special permit to allow more than 3 unrelated persons live in a unit.
  • Vintage Streetcars: Councilor Rose has an item asking if we could create a mile-long “trolley or street car system.” The T&G clarifies this would be more about making a bus look cool than actually installing train tracks.
  • These Kids on Their Bikes: Councilor Rivera has an item asking how things are going with various groups working with the police “to approach” the problem of kids on bikes doing crazy stuff.
  • Public and Private Streets: Andrey Rudenko wants the private street Gardner Terrace to be made public. The Public Works Committee (and the Planning Board) recommends that the Council turn down Ninonzka Garcia’s request for the private portion of Welcome St. to be made public.