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Preview: City Council agenda (September 19)

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

This week: Boards and commissions, marijuana, panhandling, sober houses.

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

  • Public and Private Streets: Robin Read requests part of St. Marks Rd. be made a public street. Paul Blanchard Jr requests another part of the road be removed as an official road and deeded to him.
  • Boards and Commissions: Councilor Gaffney has been delaying all board and commission appointments by an extra week, as is his right as councilor. So the following are on this week’s agenda but will likely not be officially happen till next week’s meeting. Jim Knowlton will be reappointed to the Civic Center Commission, and Paul Foley and Patrick Maloney will be appointed to the Trust Funds Commission. The Council will vote as to whether to reappoint Shirley Konneh and Aivi Nguyen to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Senior Housing: Previously, Councilor Bergman asked if the Council could approve tax exemptions for property improvements made to add housing for senior relatives of the property owner. This week, the City Solicitor reports that it would be pretty straightforward to approve property tax exemptions for approx $25,000 of improvements, and that this wouldn’t cut the city’s tax revenues too much.
  • Marijuana Regulations: The Manager will report to the Council about his recommendations on regulating marijuana stores in the city. This will include a bunch of licensing restrictions and a 3% city tax. The T&G has more.
  • Raising Revenue: The Council will vote on whether the Manager should go forward with exploring all the options for increasing revenue recommended by the Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee last year. These include things like getting the state to reimburse us for our providing regional social services, and paying us more in lieu of taxes for the various state-owned properties in the city.
  • Panhandling: Are you kidding me? There is no issue on which the Council has screwed up so thoroughly in recent years, from legislative process through to execution through to getting the city’s ass sued, as they have in their attempts to crack down on people begging money on street corners. Councilor Rosen attempts to run an electric charge through the world’s crappiest Frankenstein monster again this week with an agenda item asking the Mayor “to appoint a task force” on the issue.
  • Amazon: Councilor Lukes asks the Manager to work with the surrounding towns to submit a proposal on behalf of the region for Amazon to build a second HQ here.
  • Sober Houses: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking if the city can have its own set of regulations on “sober houses.” Here’s an old T&G article on the issue. I’ve never lived next to or in a sober house, but I’ve heard a hundred horror stories from people living in badly managed sober houses. I am a little skeptical that the City Council would do a better job than the state legislature in drafting regulations around this. Who knows.

This week’s Worcester School Committee meeting

And it’s the opening of school report! That’s not yet posted, but the agenda is here.

Before the meeting, there is an executive session on negotiations with nurses, custodians, computer technicians, and non-represented personnel, plus two issues in litigation.

This agenda has the lists of resignations, retirements, and moves within the system (there will be more than one round of this); note that the two administrators who have become superintendents elsewhere–Marco Rodrigues in Hudson and Dave Perda in the Worcester Roman Catholic Diocese–are listed.

There is a response on the celebration of Constitution Day (which was yesterday).

There are seven prior year payments:

  • in the amount of $1,470.38 for a student who attended the Waltham Public Schools from September 16, 2016 to June 17, 2017.
  • in the amount of $194.40 for mileage reimbursement for a parent to drive to and from the Thrive day school placement at 100 Hartwell Street, West Boylston, MA in May and June 2017.
  • in the amount of $6,290.00 made payable to May Institute, Inc.
  • in the amount of $8,827.50 for Education Inc. services for home tutoring.
  • in the amount of $2,250 for teacher professional development at Project Lead The Way which was held at WPI.
  • in the amount of $3,000 for Project Lead The Way’s participation fees.
  • in the amount of $1,600 for an employee.

Miss Biancheria wants to celebrate Manufacturing Day (October 6), to recognize Superintendent Binienda’s Healthy Communities award, and to have a report on transportation. 

Mr. Monfredo wants an update on teaching CPR.

There is a request that the School Committee vote to accept a 21st Century Out of School Time Grant for Claremont Academy for $150,000, ‘though there is no backup.

And apparently we’re getting yet another limited admission “academy,” this time at North High for Microsoft Image. The School Committee is being asked to approve the admissions requirement and letter. with no prior conversation…

Preview: City Council agenda (September 5)

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

This week: Boards and commissions, windows and conversion therapy, senior housing and group homes.

Next Tuesday, September 12, there’s a preliminary city election in 2 City Council Districts [PDF]. People in District 1 can choose among Edward Moynihan, Bill Coleman, Gerardo Schiano, and Sean Rose. People in District 5 can choose among Doug Arbetter, Matt Wally, Paul Franco, and Benjamin Champagne. The top vote-getters will face off on the final election ballot in November.

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

  • Rethinking the PawSox: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Council to reconsider its quick vote in favor of trying to get the PawSox baseball team to move to Worcester, and to let her speak on this issue.
  • Boards and Commissions: Janet Theerman will be appointed to the Historical Commission; and Amanda Kidd Schall will be appointed to the Worcester Arts Council. The Council will vote on whether or not to appointment Krystal Vanhorne to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women; Danaah McCallum to the Community Development Advisory Committee; and John Gleason, Fitzroy Hall, Darya Kuruna and Stephen Stolberg to the Commission on Disabilities. The last time an item like this came up, Councilor Gaffney expressed his concerns about how this process happens by holding up the appointments before the Council. So it’s possible he’ll delay these as well. (This would not be the first time a Councilor did something like this, either.) Still to be appointed or reappointed are Donna Connolly and Benjamin Roberts to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women; Suzanne Graham and Arline Rosario to the Community Development Advisory Committee; and Andrew Freilich to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • Orders of Taking: The Council will either take (and pay for) or discontinue (so they are no longer city streets) parts of Washington Square, Southbrige St, and Foster St. These are small bits and pieces, having their status changed for things like installing a power transformer or speeding up redevelopment.
  • Encouraging Senior Housing: Councilor Bergman has an item asking the Council to approve tax exemptions for property improvements made to add housing for senior relatives of the property owner. This is an issue he’s been pushing on for a long time.
  • Dover Amendment: The “Dover Amendment” is a state law which prohibits the city from putting many restrictions on the ability of nonprofits to buy houses and turn them into group homes, and other things like that. For many years the Council has been voting on items opposing the Dover Amendment, with no results. Councilor Bergman has another such item on the agenda of this meeting.
  • Stopping the “Way Finding” Project: For more than 10 years now, the city has been slowly installing signs meant to help visitors orient themselves in the city. Councilor Lukes has an item asking if, in this age of smartphones and Google Maps, we should stop spending time and money on this.
  • War on Windows: Councilor Lukes has another amazing item opposing the “unwelcoming combination of unattractive walls of windows along Foster/Franklin Streets” and asking if we can have a design review process to avoid such things in the future.
  • No to “Conversion Therapy”: The state legislature is currently considering bills that would “prohibit state licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to conversion therapy practices to change sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” Mayor Petty has an item asking the Council to go on record as supporting these prohibitions.

Preview: City Council agenda (August 15)

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

This week: Lots of items, but mostly the usual stuff. I’ve included a note on possible “crosswalk stings” below in case you drive in those areas.

I would not be surprised if there is some discussion about how the city opposes Nazis, and about what the city should do to encourage/discourage rowdy antifascist demonstrations.

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

  • Upland Street: There are several resident petitions regarding heavy truck traffic on Upland St.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will vote on whether or not to reappoint Donna Connolly and Benjamin Roberts to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women; to appoint of Suzanne Graham and Arline Rosario to the Community Development Advisory Committee; and to appoint Andrew Freilich to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • Crosswalk Stings: Councilor Rivera is asking the police to conduct crosswalk stings near various schools, “including the crosswalks near Main St. and Kilby St. where Woodland Academy students cross, the crosswalks near Chandler St. and Newbury St. where Chandler Elementary Community School students cross, the crosswalks near Canterbury St. and Southgate St. where Canterbury St. School students cross, the crosswalks near West St. where Elm Park Community School students cross, the crosswalks near the corner of Main St. and Richards St. where Goddard School of Science students cross, and the crosswalks near Main St. and Freeland St. where UPCS students cross.” If you drive through these areas, a heads-up.
  • Murals: Once again, a bunch of giant murals will appear in the city this summer. This week, the Council is being asked to allow murals at 6-12 Sever St.

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.