All posts by Mike Benedetti

Preview: City Council agenda (July 18)

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

This week: a pretty light agenda. At some point they will incorporate a meeting of the Finance Committee into this Council meeting.

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

  • Rezoning: Bruce LaBoffa has put in a request to change the zone of 452 Southwest Cutoff from residential to manufacturing.
  • Board and Commissions: Donna Goranson and Emily Longvall have been reappointed to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Committee. The Council will have the chance to vote their approval of Dana Strong being reappointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee, and the appointment of Douglas Russell and Robert Bureau to the Commission on Disability.
  • Tax Breaks: The City Manager is asking the Council to approve a $838,000, 10-year tax break for Allen Fletcher’s project to develop the empty lot in Kelley Square. (The lot is currently used as parking for the Crompton Building.) The development is expected to include 48 apartments, a restaurant, and a public market. The assessed value of the property will increase from $391,000 to $8,529,000. The previous plan for this lot was that somebody was going to buy it and put in a fast food restaurant or something. This seems like a much better plan. (Image of the plan below.)
  • Murals: Once again there will be a mural/graffiti festival in the city this summer. The Council is being asked to approve a new mural on CC Lowell (455 Pleasant St) provided by the Worcester Historic Museum.
  • Reassessing Report Requests: As you will know from reading these Council previews, Councilors are constantly asking the City Manager for reports on things. This week, Councilor Rosen has an item asking for a plan to “pare down” the “huge number” of outstanding requests and prioritize “only those report requests that are most important to each councilor.” (As you will also know from reading these previews, Councilor Rosen is among the most prolific report requesters.)
  • Chief Diversity Officer: Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a report on how the city hires people and appoints people to board and commissions, and asking whether these processes are fair. She goes on to ask if the Chief Diversity Officer is having an impact on these issues.
  • City of Literature: Councilor Lukes wants Worcester to apply to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to be listed as a City of Literature. This would be a recognition of our lively writing, publishing, and teaching scene. I am not sure we are world-class in this area but why not give it a shot.

Preview: City Council agenda (June 27)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. 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.

  • Clean Up the Library: “Keith Scott request[s] City Manager provide information concerning how to clean up the entranceway and equipment of the Worcester Public Library, as some patrons leave the areas in an unsanitary condition.”
  • Tax Breaks for Small Businesses: The Economic Development Committee asks if we could give tax breaks to small businesses for development, similar to the tax breaks we sometimes negotiate with large developments.
  • Smoking Various Things: The Public Safety Committee has one measure asking how people can report illegal smoking in public. Other items on the agenda ask about the health effects of marijuana and continue the Council’s exploration of how the city can regulate it.
  • Pawnbrokers, Rare Metal Dealers, and Yard Sales: The Council will likely approve a measure to cap the # of pawnshops in the city at the current number. There is also a proposal to regulate rare metal dealers like we do pawnshops. There is a third proposal asking if we should do more to regulate yard sales.
  • Cars and Pedestrians: The Public Safety Committee recommends the Council ask for a report on the penalties for jaywalking. Additionally, they would like to lower “Worcester’s speed limit to 25 MPH in thickly settled areas and 20 MPH in unusual circumstances.” Another proposal would have the police do more to crackdown on speeding on Lake Ave.
  • Firefighter Union Deal: The Manager will ask the Council to approve a 3-year contract with our firefighters that would give them 2% raises each year.
  • Paul Clancy Way: The Council will likely approve a measure to rename Dryden Access Road to Paul Clancy Way, after the longtime city councilor.
  • Private and Public Streets: The Public Works Committee recommends that the Council not approve either the private Esper Avenue or the private Midgley Avenue becoming public streets.

Preview: City Council agenda (June 13)

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

This week: More budget, and some interesting Gary Rosen items. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Executive Session: The meeting will start with an executive (private) meeting between the Council and the City Manager “to discuss litigation strategy with respect to the case of Fargo Management LLC vs. City of Worcester, Massachusetts . . . and further, to discuss matters of collective bargaining.”
  • Rezoning 9 Mountain St: Tran Diep would like this parcel made Business Limited-1.0. Currenly part is BL-1.0 and part is zoned residential. (See map below.)
  • A Bunch of Finance Items: The Council will have the opportunity to vote on the Manager’s proposed budget this week. Various councilors have various inquiries involving the city’s finances. Councilor Russell continues the “Fight for 15” debate by asking the School Superintendant how many school employees earn less than $15/hr. Councilor Gaffney asks the Superintendant how much money is being saved this summer due to changes in bus scheduling, has questions about our health insurance trust fund, if we could save money by hiring more outside lawyers and using the city law department less, and if we can revert increases in property tax assessments that we don’t have good data for. Councilor Lukes would like to see the next DCU Center management services contract before the city signs it, would like to know the impacts of cutting the health insurance fund, would like a list of proposed budget items that are one-time costs, and wants to know all outside lawyers paid by our Human Resources department. Councilor Toomey would like a report on our long-term plan for new school buildings. The Mayor would like to know if cutting our health insurance trust fund would even be legal. Councilor Economou would like to know how much the average taxpayer would save if we cut local taxes.
  • So Much Rosen: Councilor Rosen has long been known for putting slightly more creative or unexpected items on the agenda than other councilors. This week he would like the city to work with Becker College’s School of Animal Studies to revamp our geese control program; get a comment from the Manager on the cruddiness of the current city trash bags; create a committee to find waste and recommend innovations in local government; and crack down harder on illegal dumping, make trash disposal cheaper, and use sheriff’s inmates to do trash pickups.
  • Private and Public Streets: The Planning Board approves of the idea of making the private Ellie Way a public street. Now it is up to the Council.
  • More Video Surveillance: Councilor Bergman would like the city to buy and install a bunch of video cameras around the DCU Center.
  • Police Sub-stations: Councilor King would like a report on the possibility of creating neighborhood police substations.
  • Board and Commissions: Councilor Lukes would like the Council to discuss how the Citizen’s Advisory Board narrowly voted against Margaret Melican being on the Zoning Board, in part because of her connection to local right-wing media outlets.
  • Stop Nailing Your Signs to Trees: Councilor Gaffney would like to know if the city is cracking down on Powers Painting for nailing ads to city trees.

Worcester school meetings this week

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee meets on Wednesday at 5:30. Of note at this meeting: they’re reviewing the student handbook–which suggests no substantive changes–and section I of the district policy manual (that’s Instruction)–which I also don’t see anything to raise eyebrows on–with one exception: they’re about to let vocational students out of the two years of foreign language requirement (‘though that’s only in the handbook, not in the policy manual…and the two should agree). They’re also hearing about collaboration around the Byrne Criminal Justice grant and discussion of municipal governance and registering students to vote.

On Wednesday night, the final CPPAC meeting of the year is 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and the guest speakers are Superintendent Binienda and City Manager Augustus to talk about the budget. A good time to ask questions…

The School Committee picks up budget again at 4pm on Thursday. The sequence of accounts is here, and they left off with security guards. There’s a lot left to get through. If past experience is a guide, they’ll go as far as they can til 6, recess to executive session, come back at 7 for the regular meeting, and pick up budget again once they’ve completed the regular meeting.

The regular meeting has a LOT of recognitions.
The report of the superintendent is on the ALICE security protocol, which includes training students and staff to fight intruders, rather than lockdown. The presentation is here. It appears, from the presentation, that the administration adopted this protocol without a school committee vote or any public notice.

There are also responses to motions made during and surrounding the budget deliberation two weeks ago: the motion on non-fulfillment of transportation, on leasing buses, on the wall by Tatnuck Magnet School, on Seven Hills charter school and WRTA grant-funded transportation, on McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursment (36% last year), on the Foley Stadium revolving fund, on graduation expenses, on what the crew team needs, on the repair of athletic equipment, and on athletic supplies purchased.

Mr. O’Connell is proposing having public meetings and hearings as part of the development of the new South High School.

He also wants to discuss departmental consolidation with the city.

He also is suggesting two meetings a month in summer (continuing the regular year schedule) and an additional meeting in months that have a fifth Thursday.

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on itinerant special education staff caseloads, specifically referencing Boston, and also a report on “what, if any, orientation, training or ongoing professional development is provided by special education department leadership to principals, as it relates to itinerant special education staff.”

The committee is being asked to accept a donation of $19.10 for classroom books, of $1000 for SAT for seniors, of $1000 for a scholarship (due to Mr. Allen’s award), of $676 for special education transitions, of $250 for the alternative program (from an award they won!), of $660 from Intel, and of $13,000 from the Quinsigamond Village Improvement Council for equipment. They’re also being asked to vote a prior year invoice of $585 and invoices of $7695.

Mr. Foley is suggesting the following:

To ask the Mayor and the Superintendent to develop a new approach to the School Committee agenda that will make the meetings more effective, productive, and deliberative. Suggestions would include the establishment of a consent agenda for items such as routine approvals of donations and recognitions, the development of criteria for recognitions, designated meetings for honoring recipients of recognitions, and the presence on the agenda at each meeting or every other meeting an important educational policy issue facing Worcester Public Schools that school committee members would learn about (through materials distributed prior to the meeting) and discuss with administrators at the meeting.

There is an executive session scheduled for 6 pm on a grievance, contract negotiations with the teachers’ union and with non-represented personnel (both non-administrative and administrative), and:

To authorize the Superintendent to negotiate an employment contract for Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as the Deputy Superintendent, effective July 1, 2017.

…which I assume means that the committee voted in favor of the hire?

Preview: City Council agenda (June 6)

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

This week: Hashing out the budget, and a couple other things. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Budget: There’s a nice T&G article summarizing the likely discussion around the City Manager’s $632 million budget and potential cuts the Council will make. It sounds like if all the cuts are made (unlikely) this would cut the budget by 0.75%. (0.55% of this would be cuts to our health insurance trust fund; the Manager has a report to the Council this week arguing this would be financially reckless.)
  • Boards and Commissions: Derek A. Evers will be appointed a constable; Oriola Koci will be reappointed to the Worcester Airport Commission; Kevin Durkan and Robert Hennigan will be reappointed to the Off-Street Parking Board. The Council will vote on whether or not to reappoint Paula Stuart to the Community Development Advisory Committee.

Correcting the record on a recreational marijuana item

In last week’s Council roundup, I wrote that, with no advance notice, the Council voted to ask the City Manager for “a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the use of recreational marijuana.”

This wording was incorrect–they actually asked for “a draft ordinance regarding putting a temporary ban on the sale of recreational marijuana.”

This was a mistake in the initial copy of the meeting minutes; after review, it was corrected in the final, official version.

Two city officials reached out to me on this, so I thought this correction was important enough to deserve its own item.

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!