All posts by Mike Benedetti

Preview: City Council agenda (June 4)

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

This week: Pretty light.

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

  • Billboard: Idella Hazard has an item asking the City Manager to “direct the package store on the corner of Grafton St. and Waverly St. to remove the half sized billboard on their roof that depicts a black man and a liquor bottle, as though he were dreaming of it.” I have not seen this billboard.
  • Bus Changes?: The Research Bureau will officially submit their white paper on “The Implications of a Fare-Free WRTA” to the Council. At a previous meeting, the Council discussed the proposal to make the bus free, with Councilor Rosen notably asking for public hearings on whether our public transit system is obsolete.
  • Body Cameras: The Manager and Police Chief have submitted a report on the Worcester Police Department body camera pilot program. The Manager writes: “The Body Worn Camera Pilot Program began May 1, 2019. Twenty officers, including sixteen from the Operations Division, two from the Traffic Division, and two from the Neighborhood Response Team, will wear the cameras for their regular tour of duty during the six month program. All of the officers involved volunteered to participate in the pilot program.” Officers will be encouraged not to record in any area where people have the expectation of privacy without asking, and the WPD plans to retain the footage from the pilot program for one year (longer if there’s anything relevant to legal proceedings). The cameras are squarish, black, and attach to the middle of the officer’s chest.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 2)

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

This week: Lodging, rectangular fields.

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

  • Airbnb: The Council will likely ask the City Manager to come up with a plan for collecting the various taxes the city can levy on Airbnbs (“the 3% Community Impact Fee and the 6% hotel-motel tax for short term rentals”).
  • Four Unrelated People: Councilor Bergman, in the spirit of making housing more affordable, has proposed that the city allow more than 3 unrelated people to live in certain units, without those then being subject to costly “lodging house” requirements. The Council has a couple related items this week, asking for clarification on “lodging houses” and for a legal opinion as to whether relevant Boston ordinances could be adopted by Worcester. In slightly related items, Councilor Wally wants the city to keep a list of all non-owner-occupied units, so the city could keep a special eye on substandard situations in absentee landlord buildings.
  • Rectangular Fields: AKA soccer fields. Councilor Rose has an item asking the city to build a soccer field “adjacent to the Roberto Clemente baseball/softball field on the Northeast Cutoff.”
  • Pretending to Be the School Committee: Councilor Lukes wants the Council to “endorse” police being stationed in public buildings, particularly schools. I never understand why the Council so often feels bored with non-school business and attempts to be the School Committee. Mayor Petty has a previously-tabled item in which the city’s lawyers make clear that the City Council is not the School Committee.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Here’s an angry/sarcastic/opinionated agenda preview cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

Let me note by the way that we’ve entered the biannual “city council takes up school committee items” that happens every election year; that was last week, but there are more items on this week’s agenda. We’re also seeing the school committee agenda flooded with items, as happens every election year. That’ll get a lot of reports generated (maybe) but it doesn’t get work done.

In any case, the Governance subcommittee has a meeting scheduled this week on Tuesday (it says Thursday, but I’m going to guess the date is what’s right) with a number of items that…look like they belong in finance? However both a possible lunch policy and adherence to the recess policy are the agenda, which I know is of interest to many.

As a side note, having to click through means one can miss meetings; Teaching, Learning, and Student Support met on March 20. This report on Hanover Academy raises more questions than it answer. There was also a report on snow day remote learning (which looks mostly as though it is another copy of DESE’s information on it).

The full Committee meets Thursday. The agenda is here. The superintendent’s report is on AVID.

The mostly-online back and forth over a post by Mr. Comparetto (see the first Worcesteria item here) is being taken up by the EAW president Roger Nugent, who calls Mr. Comparetto’s comment “racist.”

Mr. Nugent is also requesting additional speech and language pathologists.

There are appointments and recognitions.

The same backup is coming back on online grading and has anyone yet asked about doing it in house?

Mr. O’Connell is suggesting the use of Confronting White Nationalism in Schools: A toolkit. I’ll just leave that there.

Somehow we’re still seeing prior year payments, this one for $60.00 to the LearnWell for in-district tutoring.

There is a request that the committee accept a donation of $5,700 from the Goddard Scholars Academy PTO for Chromebooks.

Mr. Monfredo is collecting books and suggests that administrators highlight programs in their schools during the report of the superintendent.

Miss McCullough is proposing “Adulting Days.”

Oddly, Mr. Monfredo and others are suggesting now that the Committee send a letter requesting “Foundation Funding Bill that would benefit the GateWay Cities,” which is odd coming from a committee that received the clear comparisons they did.

There is a request for dates and times of spring cleanups.

Mr. Comparetto is proposing: district school committee seats; mentorship opportunities; a report on teacher diversity; a grow your own teacher program; a report on One City, One Library; a report on farm-to-school programs; an internship program; a moratorium on high-stakes testing; a report on progress of the strategic plan; a request for additional budget hearings; a report on wraparound coordinators; an update on immunizations; after school and out of school programming.

Mr. O’Connell is asking for information on Stembus.org

Miss Biancheria is asking for a report on “Stand for the Silent.”

And there is an executive session on a grievance, a workers comp case, possible litigation around a teacher, and Jane Doe v the Worcester Public Schools.

Preview: City Council agenda (March 5)

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

This week: Pretty light.

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

  • Alum Dosing: Councilor Rose has an item asking what it would take for the city to build an “alum dosing station” at the main inlet to our 190-acre, often-unsafely-gross Indian Lake.
  • Farmstands: The Council will likely approve a new farmstand ordinance “to increase access to fresh, healthy food for the residents of the city of Worcester by promoting urban agriculture.” You will be able to operate a farmstand but will have to get a permit from the city.
  • Extending the City Manager’s Contract: At some point the meeting will recess into an executive session that will not be open to the public, so the Council can start hammering out an extended contract for City Manager Augustus.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 26)

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

This week: The last meeting was cancelled, so lots of stuff you’ve read about before.

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

  • Zoning: The Council will likely vote to rezone 223 Greenwood St. from a current designation of single-family residential to light manufacturing. There is a request to make 35 & 33 Wachusett Street zoned for business and part of the Commercial Corridor Overlay District.
  • Public and Private Streets: There are requests to make the private streets Riedl Place, Forkey Ave, and Sherer Trail public streets.
  • Police Body Cameras: Gordon Davis would like the Council to “establish policies for the use of police body cameras.” The city’s most recent union agreement with our police should have them starting a body camera pilot program this year. If you are not happy with the language in that agreement or would like more specifics this would be a good meeting to make some comments. (I don’t know anything about the specifics here.)
  • Violating Open Meeting Law: The Council will likely request the city’s lawyers opine as to whether Council subcommittees can do site visits if part of the site is not open to the public, or whether that would be a violation of open meeting law. Last meeting, at the prompting of Councilor King, the Council asked for a legal opinion as to whether we could get the state legislature to exempt the Worcester City Council from open meeting law. (This sounds crazy but this is what the minutes say, maybe this was misstated in the minutes.)
  • Network TV in Worcester: Councilor Rosen would like the Manager “to be taken to bring a network-affiliated television station to the resurgent City of Worcester.” Note that traditional television and especially network-affiliated television would seem to be on the decline nationally.
  • The Revenue of the Renaissance: Councilor Lukes would like a report from the manager as to whether we are seeing more property taxes the last couple years “resulting from the Worcester Renaissance.”
  • A Town, A City: Evan Corrigan requests that we start preparing for February 29, 2020 as “Worcester Day.” Since we were chartered a city on Leap Day, this is the closest thing to a 200th anniversary we are going to have.
  • Boards, Commissions, and Appointments: Michael Curtis will be appointed a constable, Mitchell Perry will be appointed to the Worcester Arts Council, and Chareese Allen will be appointed to the Board of Health. The Council will vote on appointing Carol Stovall to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Airbnb: A report from the city’s lawyer notes that there is now statewide regulation of Airbnbs and the like, including up to 9% taxes and the option for cities to pass their own regulations.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 12)

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

This week: Open meeting law, network TV.

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

  • Zoning: The Council will likely vote to rezone 223 Greenwood St. from a current designation of single-family residential to light manufacturing.
  • Public and Private Streets: Mimoon Alwash would like the private Riedl Place to be be made a public street.
  • Police Body Cameras: Gordon Davis would like the Council to “establish policies for the use of police body cameras.” The city’s most recent union agreement with our police should have them starting a body camera pilot program this year. If you are not happy with the language in that agreement or would like more specifics this would be a good meeting to make some comments. (I don’t know anything about the specifics here.)
  • Violating Open Meeting Law: The Council will likely request the city’s lawyers opine as to whether Council subcommittees can do site visits if part of the site is not open to the public, or whether that would be a violation of open meeting law. Last meeting, at the prompting of Councilor King, the Council asked for a legal opinion as to whether we could get the state legislature to exempt the Worcester City Council from open meeting law. (This sounds crazy but this is what the minutes say, maybe this was misstated in the minutes.)
  • Network TV in Worcester: Councilor Rosen would like the Manager “to be taken to bring a network-affiliated television station to the resurgent City of Worcester.” Note that traditional television and especially network-affiliated television would seem to be on the decline nationally.
  • The Revenue of the Renaissance: Councilor Lukes would like a report from the manager as to whether we are seeing more property taxes the last couple years “resulting from the Worcester Renaissance.”

Preview: City Council agenda (February 5)

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

This week: Boards and commissions.

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

  • Zoning: Jonathan J. Thomas is asking for a bunch of parcels in the Malden Woods subdivision to be zoned Rl-7, residential with a minimum lot size of 7,000 square feet. This matter will be referred to the Planning Board.
  • Boards and Commissions: The City Manager is appointing Edward Moynihan and Angel Santana as Constables, and Priscilla Lippert to the Trust Funds Commission. The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Coretta McCarter to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women and Osaghale Aisagbonhi to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Affirmative Action: The city is adopting a new affirmative action policy with “teeth.” The T&G has more.
  • Stop Violating Open Meeting Law: Responding to a request from Coucilor Lukes, the city’s lawyer confirms that a quorum of the Council is not supposed to discuss Council business except at public meetings.

Preview: City Council agenda (January 29)

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

This week: Streets, finances.

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

  • Zoning: Susan S. Nichols requests all of 195 Mill Street be zoned business BL-1.0, as it currently has split zoning. The Economic Development Committee endorses a request (made last May!) to rezone 223 Greenwood St. (in Quinsig Village, adjacent to Rand Whitney) from single family residential to manufacturing. The Planing Board endorses Robert Longden’s request to rezone 305 Belmont St., currently a mix of light manufacturing and 2-story businesses, to all 3-story business.
  • Working Off Property Taxes: Bill Coleman has a petition asking for a “Senior Citizen Property Tax Work-Off Abatement Program”.
  • Fixing Online Agendas: Councilor Wally asks if the city can start including relevant attachments with the online meeting minutes it posts. Currently, a board or commission might have a meeting, and the online agenda or minutes would have an item like “Alien Abduction,” and the context of that discussion would remain a mystery, because the minutes wouldn’t have a link to a slideshow or handout or whatever the person submitted to the committee in re alien abduction.
  • Snow Plow Surveillance: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager to do a better and more efficient job plowing the streets. This would be the sort of snow plowing item that pops up most weeks most winters, except she also asks if we should start using “surveillance camera networks to plow the streets more efficiently.”
  • City Finances: The Manager will present the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the last fiscal year, as prepared by independent accountants the city hires. There is a ton of stuff in there. The first bullet point is: “The liabilities and deferred inflows of the City (primary government) exceeded its assets and deferred outflows (net position) at the close of fiscal 2018 by $674,056.”
  • Private and Public Streets: The Planning Board wants the Council to approve Polar Beverages’s request to remove the private Wolfenden St. from the official map. They also endorse Kristin Sundberg’s request to make the private Martha Ave. a public street. They endorse John Paul and Michelle L’Esperance’s request to make the private Bishop Ave. a public street. The Public Works Committee asks the Council to reject Carole Edwards’s request to make part of Hooper St. public.
  • Renaming Streets: The Public Works Committee endorses Councilor Rivera’s request to rename Kilby St. to Boys & Girls Club Way.
  • Adding Businesses to Municipal Recycling?: At the last meeting, a couple recycling-related items were discussed that were not on the meeting’s agenda. First, Councilor Russell wonders if we could let “very small businesses” use our recycling program. Currently, it’s only for single-family homes or small apartment buildings.
  • Recycling Systems: Second, Councilor King would like us to change our recycling system from using small open bins to using larger 2-wheeled lidded bins or clear plastic bags. I am so happy to think about being able to use bags for recycling just as we do for trash, rather than having our neighborhood hit by a rain of garbage each week on trash day as the wind blows stuff out of the recycling bins and onto the streets. Some, for whom “single-use plastic bags” are anathema, are organizing against the bag proposal. I don’t think the amount of extra plastic injected into the recycling system (the bags would likely be recycled) is what we should be worrying about here, but I did break out a scale and a calculator to compare bags with the current system. Our current bins are 3.5 pounds or so, containing as much plastic as 50 transparent trash bags. The bins last as many as 5 years in my experience, and as few as 2, before they start to crack and fall apart. We currently use 3 bins, so we might use 100 bags a year. If the bins last a full 5 years before replacement, the bin system would generate 10.5 pounds of waste plastic in those 5 years, whereas a bag system would generate 39 pounds of plastic. (If the bins broke in 2 years the bag system would only generate 16 pounds.) To put this another way, my household would be generating an extra 1/4 ounce of plastic per day (a gram per person). Are there things the average household could be doing to reduce their plastic waste by vastly more than this? I think so.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 11)

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

This week: Taxes.

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

  • Tax Hearing: Among other things on the agenda is a hearing for setting property tax rates for 2019. If you have an opinion, this is a good meeting to attend. As per usual, the Council will also be voting on offering a $1,400.00 property tax reduction to the elderly.
  • Private and Public Streets: John Paul and Michelle L’Esperance want the private Bishop Ave made public.
  • Boards and Commissions: Michael Baker and Linda Hixon will be reappointed to the G.A.R. Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; Devon Kurtz reappointed to the Historical Commission; Walter Shea reappointed to the License Commission; and Thomas Conroy, Meaghan Hardy-Lavoie and HRH Gabriel Rollins to the Worcester Arts Council.
  • Plastic Bag Crackdown: The Council will vote on banning retailers from offering single-use plastic bags. They could sell non-plastic bags for 5 cents. After a grace period, there would be a $100/day fine for violating this.
  • Quality of Life Taskforce: There’s a report on what this small team of city employees has accomplished over the past 3 years. Illegal dumping: 5788 properties visited, 86 tons of trash collected, $31k in fines levied. Vacant and problem buildings: 3477 visited. Board of Probation checks on lodging house managers: 159 records checked. Unregistered vehicles: 251 dealt with. Homeless camps: 128 visited, 670 outreach visits. In the last 2 months they have added a Recovery Coach who has placed 8 homeless people into recovery programs and gotten an additional 7 people permanent housing. Needles collected: 1500. (Editorial note: I have interacted with a couple QOL people and they were awesome, good job picking people for this team.)

Preview: City Council agenda (November 27)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

  • Expanding the Ballfield Project: The Worcester Business Journal has a good writeup on this. The Worcester Redevelopment Authority would like to expand the “urban revitalization area” associated with the upcoming minor league ballfield by an additional 21 acres, about a 10% expansion. As the article notes, this expansion plan includes acquiring “more than 20 properties and tearing down 18 buildings.”
  • Changing the Hope Cemetery Board of Commissioners: The manager would like to make some changes in the legal requirements for the Hope Cemetery Board, so as to make it easier to have a full slate of commissioners. One change would remove the requirement that there be 1 commissioner from each of the 5 city council districts. Another change would extend the term of service from 3 years to 5; the idea is that since people end up serving decades on this board, extending the term would mean they’d have to deal with the process of getting re-appointed fewer times.