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Preview: City Council agenda (May 15)

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

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

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

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

This week’s School Committee Agenda

The agenda is posted here.

There are recognitions and such.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

There is a request that the Committee accept donations of:

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

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

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

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

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

– to Woodland Academy:

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

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

– to Tatnuck Magnet School:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (May 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Items Discussed Last Week that Weren’t on the Agenda

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

Held Over from Last Week to this Week

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

Preview: City Council agenda (April 24)

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

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

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (April 10)

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

This week: Affordable housing, complete streets.

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

  • Lodging Houses: Councilor Bergman has an item (held over from last week) asking that existing multi-family homes not be considered “lodging houses” for city enforcement purposes. I do not understand this item.
  • A Million Dollars for the Library: Xristian De’Jesus and about 50 others have a citizen petition asking the City Manager to increase library spending by $1,000,000 “to expand books in the business section, world language books, classrooms, charging stations, recording studios and video game stations to utilize the benefits of the library.”
  • Police Body Cameras: Gordon Davis has a petition asking the Worcester Police Department to use body cameras.
  • Hate Crimes Stats: Gordon Davis also has a petition asking the city to release the hate crimes statistics it sends to the state (are these not a public record already?) and for a report on how the Worcester Police Department prevents and investigates hate crimes.
  • Boards and Commissions: Aaron Richman will be reappointed to the Human Rights Commission. The Council will vote on appointing John Stewart and Kimberly Vanderspek to the Election Commission.
  • Affordable Housing: The Manager has a report noting we’ve committed or spent $23.4 million over the past 7 years to develop and preserve 1,849 affordable housing units. 13.4% of our housing is “affordable.” We “have more subsidized housing inventory than the next eleven towns and cities in Worcester County combined.”
  • Increasing the Sewer Rate 3%: The Manager would like to increase the sewer rate. “The Department of Public Works and Parks recommendation for water and sewer rates for FY18 will increase the annual combined bill for the average single family home by $19.00 or 2.9% based on Worcester’s average usage of 68 CCFs. This recommendation is significantly less than the average combined rate increase of 4.7% over the last 10 years.”
  • $3.5 million Loan Order for Parking Repairs: The Manager would like the Council to approve a loan order so we can restore the Pearl Elm Garage, upgrade the stairs at Federal Plaza, and improve security at the Major Taylor Boulevard Garage.
  • Creating a Transportation Advisory Group: As part of creating a Complete Streets policy, the Manager would like to establish a Transportation Advisory Group that would include city and state employees as well as members of the community at large.

Preview: City Council agenda (April 3)

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

This week: Guns, zoning.

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

  • Guns: Mayor Petty has an item asking if we can stop investing city pension funds in any company “that derives more than 15 percent of its revenues from sales for non-law enforcement or non-military purposes” from guns and ammo.
  • Lodging Houses: Councilor Bergman has an item asking that existing multi-family homes not be considered “lodging houses” for city enforcement purposes. I do not understand this item.
  • Marijuana Laws: After months of back and forth, the Council will officially vote to change the city ordinances to reflect the various suggestions and state mandates on how we handle marijuana establishments.
  • Old Public and Private Streets: Mark Liriano wants Weldon Ave. to be made public.
  • New Public and Private Streets: The proposal to make Norton St. public has gone through the requisite hearings and the Council will presumably vote in favor.
  • New Zoning Requests: There is a request to clean up the zoning around 5 Reeves St., extending the amount that is residential and excluding all of it from the Commericial Corridors Overlay District.
  • Old Zoning Requests: The Council will presumably vote in favor of various zoning requests that have gone through the requisite hearings. These include rezoning areas near 57 Highland St, 452 Southwest Cutoff, and Ed Hyder’s.
  • How Are Our Taxis Doing?: Councilor Rosen has an item asking how the city’s taxi medallion system is doing in this age of Uber and Lyft.

This week’s School Committee Agenda

I don’t usually have musical accompanyment for these, but with the City of Champions coming, I can’t miss the chance to add this: 

The report of the superintendent is “A Tale of Two Cities” (and we’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about revolution. BYO knitting. “It is a far, far better thing I do…”), which, as I understand it, are Brockton and Worcester in this telling. There is only one recognition Thursday (and a single item in executive session), so the report should start before 7:30. Come see the latest in Foundation Budget Review Commission analysis!

There are a number of recognitions and a few appointments.

There is a request for a prior fiscal year payment of (yikes!) $8,212.50.
There is a request for reception of a donation of $100 from Fidelity Charitable Gift4Giving Program

Mr. Monfredo offers a reminder of the annual City that Reads book drive, a request that the district create a community service program of snow shoveling, and a suggestion that students do math over the summer.

Mr. O’Connell offers a request that Worcester send a delegation to the July statewide Civics Education Institute, a request over multiple items that the district consider blizzard bags or the like (aka, some other way to make up snow days other than adding days), a request for an update on federal grants (in a paragraph), a request that the district submit a grant application for a grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program as well as one for STOP School Violence Act.

Miss Biancheria offers a request for a “a report on the cohort, conducted by the Worcester Public Schools”…which I have no idea what that means. 


Mr. Comparetto requests an addition to school adjustment counselors, the course of study for ELL students, and a report on community organization partnerships.
Administration asks that the dates for summer camp at South High be changed.
Administration also asks that the mission and focus statement of South High be changed (for which the only backup is the new statements and what appears to be a pie chart with no information explaining who is responding, let alone anything about where the mission or focus statement came from or why it is being changed).

There is also an executive session at 6 pm on negotiations with administrative secretaries.

Preview: City Council agenda (March 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.

  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Richard Duffy to the Elections Commission and reappoint J. Martin Shanahan to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Rand Whitney Expansion: The Council will vote whether or not to grant 2 easements to Rand Whitney Container as part of that company’s “$20M expansion project at 207 Greenwood Street and 1 Agrand Street.”
  • Street Sweeping: The Manager reports that street sweeping will soon resume. “The Arterial Sweeping Program will begin on Monday, April 2, 2018. Street sweepers will work from 11:30pm to 7:30am Monday through Friday and will sweep major arterial streets throughout the city. We anticipate that it will take up to three (3) weeks to complete street sweeping on major arterial streets. The Residential Spring Sweeping Program will begin on Monday, April 9, 2018, weather permitting and will take 10-12 weeks to complete. Property owners of both, residences and businesses are asked to assist us by cleaning their sidewalks in advance of the street sweepers. The residential street sweeping schedule follows the trash collection routes with sweepers working 7:30am – 4:00pm daily Monday through Friday. Crews will start in the Friday trash collection area and then progress to the Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday areas.”
  • Replacing South: Held over from last week, the Council will vote on a $194,646,240 plan to build “a replacement South High Community School at 170 Apricot Street, to include the demolition and environmental remediation of the existing school.”

Preview: City Council agenda (March 20)

There wasn’t a meeting last week, so the agenda is almost identical to what you’ve seen before. Any agenda additions or changes are small. I’m including last week’s writeup here in case you missed it.

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

This week: Weed, South, conservation, crime.

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

  • Replacing South: The Council will vote on a $194,646,240 plan to build “a replacement South High Community School at 170 Apricot Street, to include the demolition and environmental remediation of the existing school.”
  • Holden Conservation Restriction: The Council will vote to spend $95,000 on a “conservation restriction” on some land near to the reservoir where we get our water. Because of collaboration with other groups, 50 acres of land will end up with conservation restrictions.
  • 2017 Crime Stats: The police chief has a report on last year’s crime stats. Every kind of crime except “disorderly conduct” declined vs. 2016, in some cases more than 30%.
  • Weed As Always: Can the Council limit the number of weed stores to 3 per Council district? The City Solicitor responds, “No.” Potential locations are marked in purple on the map below.
  • Flavored Tobacco: Can the Council restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes? The Health Commissioner says “Yes,” and recommends they be restricted to adult-only sales locations.
  • The Bus: The WRTA Director has a report detailing the ins and outs of proposed service cuts. People continue to organize against these cuts and for increased bus funding.

Some WRTA notes

There have been lots of articles about the WRTA and its financial situation. I’ve found them frustrating because they don’t put the numbers in a context where they make sense to me. At long last, the WRTA administrator’s report has been posted online [PDF], and from that I’ve made some notes to help me out. Here are the notes; please let me know if there are any errors and I’ll correct them.

  • Massachusetts has 15 regional transit authorities.
  • The Worcester Regional Transit Authority has 37 members and a service area of half a million people. Worcester city has a 40% vote on the WRTA advisory board.
  • For FY2018 the WRTA anticipated a $1.1 million deficit, so June 2017 made service cuts and increased fares for the first time in 8 years. We saw ridership drop 13%. (Nationally bus ridership has dropped 10% lately.) We may still have a $200k shortfall.
  • Here’s a financial breakdown for FY18. Total operating costs are estimated at $25.7 million. 22% of this is paid by the federal government, 44% by the state government, 18% by the local governments, and 15% from fares.
  • Massachusetts is keeping its WRTA funding the same for FY19, so we anticipate a $900k deficit. Which is to say a 4% deficit. The current proposal is to cut service beginning this summer.