All posts by Mike Benedetti

Preview: City Council agenda (May 30)

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

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

Last Week: At one point last week, when the conversation had turned to marijuana decriminalization, Councilor Toomey proposed the city figure out what it would really mean to have local restrictions, and the other councilors agreed. So the Council approved “Under suspension” of the rules, meaning it wasn’t announced beforehand, this item: “Request City Manager request City Solicitor provide City Council with a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the use of recreational marijuana.” As originally reported, this item was incorrect. In the final, official version of the minutes, the item was listed, correctly, as “a temporary ban on the sale of recreational marijuana.”

  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be voting to fill the vacant spot on the Library Board.
  • Public and Private Streets: Kevin Bushe says that part of the private street Gould Hill Road (blue in the image below) has been inaccessibe for at least 40 years, and he’d like the city to remove it from the official street listing.
  • Crosswalk Stings: Gareld Emerson requests crosswalk stings at the various crossings of Belmont Street. He also requests “investigation of the traffic lights and crosswalk signals” at the intersection of Major Taylor and MLK Boulevards, right by the DCU Center.
  • Sealcoating the Streets: Councilor Rosen would like a report on applying sealcoat to our streets. Wikipedia is skeptical of this technology.
  • Middle School Youth Sports: Councilor King has an item asking the Manager to work with the School Superintendant to reestablish the old Middle School Youth Sports program. (Just a note for newcomers: the Worcester Public Schools are not controlled by the Council or the Manager, but rather the School Committee and the Superintendant.)
  • A Bunch of Tax Stuff: There are many items on property tax rates and requests for information on how much tax money we could be getting if we taxed organizations we can’t tax.

The School Superintendant requests a deputy, and other school news

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

Superintendent Binienda requests appointment of a deputy

From Thursday night’s Worcester School Committee agenda:

To consider approval of the appointment of Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, effective, July 1, 2017. 

That is the date that Dr. Rodrigues begins in Hudson. 

Dr. O’Neil was the principal of Worcester Arts Magnet School until last year until she joined central administration.

Note that this is also a reorganization of positions, as there is as of now no deputy position in administration; there is no note of a request of that being approved, though the creation of such positions does require School Committee approval under the Massachusetts General Law:

Upon the recommendation of the superintendent, the school committee may also establish and appoint positions of assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent, and the school committee shall fix the compensation paid to such assistant or associate superintendents. 

As for the appointment itself, under MGL Ch. 71

The school committee shall approve or disapprove the hiring of said positions. Such approval by the school committee of the recommendation shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that upon the request of the superintendent the school committee shall provide an explanation of disapproval.

The rest of Worcester schools meetings this week

Note that the Worcester Public Schools’ (bottom line) budget is before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, May 30, at 4 pm.

The School Committee begins meeting in budget session on Thursday, June 1 at 4 pm, with an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. The agenda for all of that is here.

In addition to recognitions and the major request for an appointment I posted below, the School Committee is hearing a report on professional development, which largely seems to be focused on the curriculum liaisons, including at least one “to be appointment” for “college and career readiness.” OCPL is apparently “Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning.”

The reports out from the meeting of and budget hearing by Finance and Operations are on the agenda. As always, the hearing on the budget is being reported out after the first School Committee budget session. 

The restorative justice programs at Claremont and at North are back on the agenda (?).

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $1685; to accept a grant from “Project Lead the Way” at Doherty, which appears to involve classes at WPI, for $26,250, and for Worcester Tech for $15,000; to accept a grant from Lowe’s for $3810 for Burncoat High; to approve a prior fiscal year payment for Education, Inc. for home tutoring services for $8,902.50; to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $435;

Miss Biancheria is asking for monthly incident reports and for the cost and locations of graduations. She also is requesting more information about the changes in staffing around the Central Mass Collaborative.

Miss Colorio is suggesting that recognitions be consolidated to once a month.

The Administration is asking that the admission policy of Worcester Tech (largely regarding legal changes, per the notice).

The executive session is for the teachers’ contract, for an HVAC worker’s grievance, for worker’s compensation for a teacher, and for non-represented employees, both administration and not (as they don’t have a union negotiating, they haven’t come through on new contracts. This probably is whatever the administration is proposing in cost of living increases.)

Preview: City Council agenda (May 23)

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

This week: Police and finance items. There are some interesting items which are just developments of issues we’ve already noted in recent months, so I’m skipping those for the sake of brevity. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

A non-Council meeting of note: There is a public hearing on the WPS budget starting at 6:15 at the Durkin Administration Building. The budget is here [PDF].

  • Stop Smoking Outside the DCU: William Belcher has a citizen petition asking the city to enforce smoking policies at the DCU Center, specifically to make employees stop smoking at the entrances and exits.
  • Tax Breaks: The Manager has a report on recent tax breaks for development (TIFs) and which of them have a tax breakee who is not in compliance with the terms of the agreement. The report notes that over the past five years these TIF agreements have created 1679 permanent full time jobs, retained 4682 full time jobs, and added $202,000,000 to the value of real estate in the ciyy.
  • We Are Not in a Drought: The Manager notes we are no longer officially in a drought.
  • Preventing New Pawn Brokers: The law department has drafted an ordinance that would prohibit Worcester from issuing any new pawnbroker licenses. There are currently 6 of these businesses, and the ordinance would keep it that way.
  • Finance Items: There are a bunch of items that have made it through the Finance Committee and which the Council can now approve or discard. Councilors Luke and Economou are curious what it would cost to add 10 more police (especially if this would reduce overtime hours for existing police), Councilor Gaffney of course has an item about the city’s investment in Union Station,
  • More Police Living in the City?: Mayor Petty has an item asking if we can use a Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America program to give incentives to police and other public safety personnel to buy homes in the city.
  • Bike Police: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the police chief to “initiate a process to bring back police officers on mountain bikes.”
  • “Complete Streets””: Councilor Rivera has an item asking how the city’s doing with implementing Complete Street standards for our streets.
  • Plastic Bag Ban: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to get around to implementing a request from 2009 and 2010 to come up with an ordinance that would ban retailers from offering plastic bags. (I have one or two ancient petitions that were approved but never acted on, sometimes I think about bringing them back to the Council for old time’s sake.)

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, May 18

Also at Tracy’s blog.

You can find the agenda here.

While it does not appear until later down the agenda, in honor of the anniversary of Ernest Thayer’s death, the Worcester School Committee will be doing a reading of “Casey at the Bat” as part of the meeting.

There are also a number of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is end of cycle reports on the innovation plans of Chandler Magnet, Goddard Scholars, University Park Campus School, Woodland Academy, and Worcester Tech. Each of the schools is requesting a renewal of their innovation plans; remarkably, all that is being offered to the committee for this decision is 2 to 4 page charts. Most schools are requesting no change in their innovation plan. The one change that is being requested is from Goddard Scholars, which is asking to eliminate the “proficient” tier for the 4th grade MCAS, which is the sole determent of admission. They would thus be taking only “advanced” students. Interesting in that it more concretely sets the academy’s emphasis on test scores, and does so in a year in which testing is through a new system. 

There are updates on restorative justice programs at Claremont Academy and at North High School.

The committee is being asked to accept an “Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Grant” for $51,602, which surprisingly is actually for machine shop training (with an ESL component).

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a summer reading kickoff.

The committee is being asked to accept a number of donations to Tatnuck Magnet, to Woodland Academy, to Burncoat Street Prep, to Worcester Tech, to Canterbury Street, to Belmont Street, and to the administration (?) for the opening of school in 2017. They’re also being asked to vote a prior year payment of $1,685.00 to WB Mason.

There is also an executive session on teachers’ contract negotiations, a worker’s comp case, and a grievance.

No liveblog; I’m off to cover MASBO’s Annual Institute! 

Preview: City Council agenda (May 9)

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

This week: Finance, snow removal, the “fight for 15.” My writeup is deceptively short, because the agenda includes the entire budget, which I am not going to break down here. Links below for those who want to at least read the executive summary. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Finance: There are a number of big finance items this week. Among them is the Manager requesting the Council to approve his plan for using HUD and other federal grants for the coming year. The Manager is also submitting his proposed $600 million budget for 2018.
  • Snow Removal: The Manager has a report on how snow plowing went this year, noting there was 17% more snow than average and that we spent $6.8 million dealing with it.
  • $15 State Minimum Wage: Last week, Councilors King, Mero-Carlson, Rivera, Toomey, Russell, and Mayor Petty requested that the Council vote to go on record as supporting state legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Councilor Lukes tabled this item unilaterally, as is any councilor’s right. So it’ll be back under discussion this week.

Worcester City Council Agenda Preview (May 2, 2017)

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

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

  • Private and Public Streets: Councilor Bergman (on behalf of Arthur Mooradian) requests Westfield St. Extension be made a public street.
  • Recycling: A number of Councilors have agenda items relating to recycling this week. The Councilors include Mayor Petty and Councilors Russell, King, and Lukes. The items include reviewing the city’s policies and procedures concerning illegal dumping, making the current city recycling/waste dropoff center easier to use, cutting the cost having large trash items picked up temporarily to see if that impacts dumping, the status of our striving to be a “Zero Waste” city, and adding bungee cords to our recycling bins to keep trash from blowing out. (In times past, these probably would have been single items with multiple co-sponsors, but of late the Councilors have been made aware that they can’t have large de facto meetings outside of official meetings and so don’t do mass co-sponsoring anymore.)
  • Bikes at City Hall: There haven’t been bike racks at City Hall since all the exterior changes. Simon Elliot requests they be returned.
  • The Slow War on Airbnb: The Economic Development Committee has discussed “the negative aspects associated with short-term bedroom rentals” and would like the whole Council to ask the Manager for a report on how the city could regulate Airbnb.
  • Gas Leaks: The Mayor would like a draft ordinance similar to Boston’s dealing with management and elimination of gas leaks.
  • City Employees on Boards?: Councilor Gaffney has an item suggesting that the Manager let city employees join boards and commissions.
  • $15 Minimum Wage: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like a report on what would happen to our budget if we adopted a $15/hr minimum wage for all City and School Department employees. Councilor King has an item asking the Council to show their support for state legislation changing the minimum wage in Massachusetts to $15/hr by 2021.
  • Streets and Sidewalks: Lots of items on these topics as usual. For example: “Request City Manager request Commissioner of Public Works and Parks extend the time the yellow blinking lights flash at the crosswalk in front of 1050 Main St. to give residents with disabilities enough time to cross. (Rivera).”
  • Transporting Students on City Buses: Councilor Bergman has an item asking if we could use city buses to transport students to and from high schools. Councilor Rivera has an item asking if there could be a “youth pass” giving kids access to free or very cheap city bus rides.
  • Boards and Committees: Collins Nuamah is resigning from the Library Board. Hey readers of this newsletter: consider applying for this interesting position!
  • Zoning and Tax Breaks: The Council will finalize rezoning “parcels in the James Street and South Ludlow Street area,” and will approve tax breaks for redevelopment of 49 Canterbury St.

School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday. You can find the agenda here.

It appears it is time once again to honor Mr. Allen for receiving the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officers International. 🎈

The schools receiving the EoS Breakfast awards are also being recognized (and the awards being accepted), making it appropriate that the report is on school nutrition (not yet posted, though today’s announcement may well mean it’s being revised!)

Not having exhausted the discussion at the subcommittee level, the committee will be discussing their concerns over wifi. Salient point:

…extensive research into the matter has not produced any solid evidence that non-ionizing radiation given off by smartphones and Wi-Fi routers is harmful to humans…

They’ll be voting a delegate and an alternative to the MASC Delegate Assembly in November.

Not having acted last week, they’re considering a resolution on the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s findings.

And Miss Biancheria wishes to:

review the precautionary measures and safety features under the safety regulations of the bus contracts for both the Worcester Public Schools and Durham School Services.

The 7th grade science text book is up for review (That’ll go to TLSS)

There is an executive session beforehand for an HVAC employee grievance (again?) and collective bargaining for teachers (still). But hey: NO PCBs!  

I’ll see if I can make at least the nutrition presentation; I’ll be interested to see what difference the federal change makes 

Preview: City Council agenda (April 25, 2017)

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

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

  • Private and Public Streets: Ben Parker and others have a petition that the private Rydberg Terrace be converted to a public street. The Planning Board recommends the Council approve pending requests to make the private part of Welcome St., Garrison Ave. from Clark St. to Governors St., and Soheili Circle into public streets.
  • Zoning: Dave Abramo has a request to rezone 11 Nathaniel Ct. (aka 80 Southwest Cutoff) from residential to manufacturing.
  • Paul Clancy Way: There’s a proposal to rename Millbury St from McKeon Road to the dead end as “Paul Clancy Way,” after the former City Councilor Paul Clancy. This item is sponsored by a bunch of Councilors: Russell, Petty, Toomey, Lukes, Economou, Mero-Carlson, Rosen, Bergman.
  • Traffic and Parking: There are a bunch of proposals that will be sent on to the Traffic and Parking Committee. For example: “Councilor Sarai Rivera on behalf of Linda George request installation of resident permit parking in Piedmont St. from Austin St. to Pleasant St.”
  • Midtown Mall: William Belcher has a request that the city crack down on problems at the Midtown Mall. “Request City enforce all building, electrical, sanitation, air quality, code violations, fire prevention and rodent control for the Midtown Mall.”
  • Recycling: The conventional wisdom is that none of the recent suggestions on reforming our recycling system are going to happen any time soon because the tradeoffs are tough. On this issue, Bill Coleman has a petition asking the city establish a 24-hr self-serve “recycle and trash drop off location.”
  • Boards, Commissions, Appointments: Izaida Gonzalez and Robyn Kennedy will be apponted to the Human Rights Commission; pending approval, David B. Gately will be made a constable; the Council will vote on whether Womag editor Walter Bird, Jr. should be appointed to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Scrivener’s Error: “Recommend adoption of a zoning ordinance amendment, correcting a scriveners error in the recent adoption of the zoning ordinance amendment extending the BG-3.0 zone to include the entire parcel located at 128 Chandler Street.”
  • New Conservation Properties: The city would like to hand 3 properties it has acquired through “administrative foreclosure” to the Conservation Commission, Recommend adoption of an order to transfer jurisdiction of 3 foreclosed tax title properties. These are 64 Rockrimmon Road, 66 Rockrimmon Road, and 6 Passway Six. (Map of the 2 Rockrimmon properties is below.)
  • Gray Water: The Public Works Committee is asking the City Manager for a report on how Worcester can better use gray water.
  • Get Your Sign Off My Pole: Councilor Rosen has a request that the city crack down on businesses who attach signs to city trees and utility poles.
  • Moving TV Channels: A few years back the city’s public access, government, and educational cable channels were moved from channels 11, 12, and 13 to up in the 190’s. Mayor Petty has an item requesting that Charter, our cable company, move them back.
  • Better Traffic and Parking Hearings: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to report on better ways for us to conduct citizen petitions on traffic and parking issues. I’m not sure what inspired this.
  • The City’s Legal Fees: Councilor Lukes is asking for a report on the costs and results of all the litigation concerning the city for the past couple years. This seems like a familiar item; I’m not sure what happened the last time it was brought up.
  • Shovel Your Crosswalk: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the city’s website to note that if your sidewalk abuts a crosswalk, then when it’s time to shovel snow, you have to clear a 4-foot-wide path to the crosswalk.
  • Jane Jacobs in the Woo: The first week of May there are a bunch of events in the city inspired by Jane Jacobs’s ideas on how cities work. Councilor Bergman has an item asking the Council to recognize the 100th birthday of Jane Jacobs and all these events. More info here.
  • Five Point Plan: The City Auditor has a report on how the city is doing managing its long-term financial situation.
  • Increasing Water and Sewer Rates: The Public Works Committee is asking the full Council to vote in favor of increasing water and sewer rates for 2018. Water rates would go up 1.9% and sewer rates 2.3%. The city estimates this will cost an extra $13.46 for the typical Worcester home.
  • Traffic Near Worcester State: The Public Works Committee wants the Council to approve the Manager’s plan for a short-term fix for some of the traffic issues near Worcester State University. This would cost less than $100,000 and involve adding some pavement markings and putting up flashing lights at the crosswalks.
  • Fixing the Zoning for 128 Chandler: At long last the Council will likely vote to fix the zoning for 128 Chandler St, which has been a mix of commercial and residential. It will now be all commercial.

64/66 Rockrimmon:

128 Chandler:

Worcester schools this week

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

Two meetings for Worcester schools this week:

The subcommittee of Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets today at 5:30. On the agenda is a review on AP programs (not the scores, if you look at the backup); a discussion of the possible $20-$30,000 per year funding of Worcester Tech membership in SkillsUSA; a report on last year’s summer programs; yet one more report on wifi (citing actual science); a report on “day-to-day PEAK-like instruction” in WPS elementary schools (in response to a request that the PEAK gifted program be re-established); and a discussion of citywide wrestling.

The full school committee meets Thursday; you can find the agenda here. After recognitions, there is a report on the Worcester HEARS initiative. There are citizen petitions requesting public hearings on the FY18 budget (required by state law) and on standardized testing.

There is a report back on elementary summer programming (18 days, four hours a day, at nine schools); there is a note regarding the decreased funding available this year. The committee is being asked to approve the innovation plan for the Goddard school (the link isn’t to the plan, but to a summary; the full plan isn’t posted).  Administration is asking that dates be set for FY18 budget hearings (really, budget sessions, unless they change this to take public comment).

Among the recognitions being filed this week is year four of ASBO recognizing the Worcester Public Schools’ budget with its Meritorious Budget Award.
Mr. O’Connell wants to request funding for the science AP exams from the state; to submit nominations for awards to MASC; to possibly file items with MASC for its annual Delegate Assembly; and to pass an FBRC petition.

Ms. McCullough requests that the No Live Lice policy be reviewed.

There’s another round of schools receiving grants for Breakfast in the Classroom from the EoS foundation.

The committee is being asked to accept a donation from Scholastic to Woodland Academy, and from Andy’s Attic to South High for marketing.

Mayor Petty has filed a plan on PCB cleaning (still no money mentioned).

Miss Biancheria wants an inventory of playground equipment.

There is also an executive session scheduled: PCB’s, negotiations with the teachers (still), and a grievance from an HVAC worker.

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.