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Preview: City Council agenda (March 5)

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

This week: Pretty light.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (February 26)

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

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

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

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

This week’s School Committee Agenda

And the agenda is here. Much of it, the–finally!–report of the superintendent on FY20 included, is items held from last meeting due to the three hours of public testimony on sex ed.

Relatedly, if for some reason you didn’t read Bill Shaner’s comprehensive cover story in last week’s Worcester Magazine on Worcester’s long and winding road to not getting anywhere on sex ed, you really should.

That FY20 report appears also to be the only place as yet that anyone has compared actual impacts of the three (as yet) bills proposed in the Legislature on reforming the foundation budget, ‘though of course it only does so for Worcester. Scott O’Connell asked Secretary Peyser about the lesser funding in the Governor’s bill in his interview covered in yesterday’s T&G, to which Peyser responsed that he thinks “people should wait to see how these proposals unfold,” before responding.

A number of the other items that have been held from the prior meeting are related to transportation, responded to here.  Also of note: going to subcommittee is this:

To review bid specifications for student transportation services and award contract to lowest responsive and responsible bidder for a contract term to begin in June 2020.

That’s the bid for school buses! If you haven’t been happy with the WPS bus service, now is the time to speak up (and keep an eye out for that Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting)! Goodness knows I plan to.

There are an array of recognitions, thanks, appointments, and such.

There’s also still a prior year payment (of $48 to Learnwell Education) and I am curious if anyone at any point is going to bring up that this is not good practice.

There is…I wouldn’t really even call this a response…an acknowledgement of the request for information on how the district plans to implement civics education (“we’re going to pilot some things” is not an answer). The bill is much longer than quoted, has many more pieces than referenced, and this doesn’t answer the question posed.

There is a multi-part response to an item on a specific dyslexia program (the link goes to the part that actually responding about the program; there is a summary of district sped literacy initiatives here, a summary of the dyslexia screening law here, a dyslexia evaluation checklist here, and what appears to be a copy of an individual’s discussion of types of dyslexia here), of which the upshot appears to be no, we’re not going to do anything with this.
Mr. O’Connell and several other members propose to comment on the state health education standards (which won’t be set out for public comment for a bit as yet).

Several members wish to support HR 141, which would make those who get a government pension, currently not eligible for Social Security eligible; you can read the argument from those in favor here. 


There’s a request for an update on bringing down school suspensions.
There’s a request to administration to change policy in the handbook regarding headwear (as that’s under policy, the committee can just do it).
There’s a request from Mr. Comparetto and others to use some of the taxes from marijuana for schools, and also to increase school funding “in light of new revenues coming into the city.”
Five members have co-sponsored an item to support the PROMISE act.
Mr. Comparetto also wants to reduce state spending on prisons and spend money on schools.
Miss Biancheria wants an update on the use of the Shannon Grant.
She also wants an update on lawsuits.
Mr. Monfredo, who is under the impression the school districts bans cell phone use in school (it does not) wants to consult with “secondary school principals” about their use. Perhaps we’re missing several groups of people to consult there?
Miss McCullough is asking for an update on graduation rates by ethnic categories.
Mr. O’Connell wants an update on a court case.
The Committee is being asked to approve:

There is also a posting for an non-specific executive session, which is not something that one can do legally under the Open Meeting Law.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 12)

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

This week: Open meeting law, network TV.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (February 5)

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

This week: Boards and commissions.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (January 29)

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

This week: Streets, finances.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (December 11)

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

This week: Taxes.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (November 27)

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

This week: A pretty light agenda.

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

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

Preview: City Council agenda (November 20)

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

This week: The proposed Downtown Business Improvement District.

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

  • Downtown Business Improvement District: The T&G has a good writeup on this. The Council will be discussing whether or not to approve a Downtown Business Improvement District. The city would add an additional .3% property tax to properties in the 78-acre BID (including non-profit properties) and that money would be spent by a Board of Directors on things like marketing, clearing ice from sidewalks, and repairs. The representatives of at least 51% of the property value of the BID submitted petitions in favor.
  • Public and Private Streets: These proposals will be forwarded to the Planning Board. Kristin Sundberg wants the private Martha Avenue be made a public street. Polar Beverages wants the private Woolfenden Street to be removed from the official map.
  • Zoning Changes: New Garden Park Inc. wants part of 305 Belmont Street rezoned from 2-story commercial and very light manufacturing to 3-story commercial. Tuan Ngo wants 96-102 May Street rezoned residential to 2-story commercial.
  • Whither the Urban Agriculture Ordinance: There are several items this week in which Councilors ask, “What happened to some old item the Council approved but the city seems to be ignoring?” For example, Councilor Rivera asks for an update on the proposed urban agriculture ordinance.
  • Expanding the Scope of Veterans’ Affairs: Councilor Bergman would like the Council’s Committee on Veterans’ & Military Affairs turned into a Committee on Veterans’, Military and Historical Affairs.
  • Regulation of Charter Communication: Currently, the city licenses a monopoly on cable services to Charter Communications. Charter is arguing to the FCC that their cable TV business faces “effective competition” from AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW service, and so Charter should be exempt from various regulations since they don’t actually get the monopoly they are paying for. The Massachusetts Attorney General opposes this, and Councilor Lukes wants the Council to go on record as supporting the AG. (I find this petition a little confusing, sorry if my explanation is wrong.) In an unrelated item, Councilor Rosen wants the City Manager to investigate the problems with Charter’s screwed-up phone service, “problems that result in, among others, dead phone lines, one-way audio reception, dropped calls mid-conversation, unrecorded voice mail messages, and threats to the operation of telephone-dependent medical alert systems.”
  • I Can Drive 25: Councilor Lukes wants a report on whether or not we should make 25mph the city-wide speed limit.

Proposed Business Improvement District

Preview: City Council agenda (November 13)

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 City Manager is appointing Tracey Weeden to the Human Rights Commission, Mariana O’Brien to the Elder Affairs Commission, Lisa Malo and Yasmin Goris to the Worcester Arts Council, and Kira Terrill to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Fund. The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Savvas Kosmidis to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Marie Dicardy to the Cable Television Advisory Board, George Cortes to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Rachel Brown to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Christmas Tree Crackdown: The mayor wants a report “regarding the regulations and enforcement plan for the selling of Christmas trees for this upcoming holiday season.”
  • 4 Winslow Rezoning: The council will vote whether to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to rezone all of 4 Winslow, the property adjacent to Ed Hyder’s Market, to residential.