Category Archives: Worcester City Council

Preview: City Council agenda (September 16)

The City Council meets Tuesday, September 16 at 5:30 P.M. The agenda is here. There are a huge number of items on the agenda this week. I’m highlighting only a handful.

  • New City Manager: The first order of business will be for the Council to select one of three candidates to be our next permanent City Manager. Many Councilors and business leaders would really like to see our temporary City Manager, Ed Augustus, stay on permanently, but he’s always said he’s only going to do it temporarily. It’s possible that a majority of the Council will vote for one of the three candidates; it’s possible Augustus will change his mind at the last minute and the process will begin to make him the permanent Manager. Nicole Apostola has the best roundup (and most-opinionated roundup) of the situation. “Bizarro Lukes” has a roundup that reads like a fever dream.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be approving around a dozen new members of Worcester’s boards and commissions. Also, the Council will be electing a new member of the Library Board of Directors.
  • Our New Cable Company: Our city cable contract is probably switching from Charter to Comcast soon. The Council has had lots of discussion on this, in particular about the idea of creating city-owned internet service. The City Manager has a long report about the various questions and ideas. The T&G has more on the situation.
  • Synthetic Marijuana Crackdown: Recently some Councilors asked the City why the police aren’t cracking down harder on synthetic marijuana sales. The police report back that, in reaction to new state laws on the issue, they’ve been pursuing a crackdown and will take more action in the coming weeks.
  • Ebola: A couple weeks ago, Councilor Lukes asked if we are doing anything regarding Ebola. This week, the Division of Public Health reports back that it’s on the radar of local authorities and that we’d be ready if it became an issue.
  • City Bond Rating: The City Treasurer reports that our bond rating remains stable at Aa3 MIG1.
  • Binienda Road: Councilor Rosen asks that something in Ward 7 be named after our long-time State Rep, the late John Binienda.
  • Police Communication: Councilor Rosen asks the police to do a better job responding “to requests from all (large and small) media outlets.”
  • Loud Music: Councilor Gaffney asks how much it would cost to buy sound meters and train the police to use them.
  • Crosswalk Stings: Councilor Rivera asks if our crosswalk stings are working. (Crosswalk stings are when a plainclothes cop stands by a crosswalk, meaning that drivers should stop for this pedestrian, then other cops cite the cars that blow through the crosswalk. Anecdotally, this is not doing much to change the behavior of local drivers.)
  • City Seal Misuse: Yes, the Council is voting to pass a law establishing a $300/day fine for using the city seal, or a close copy, either physically or electronically for non-City purposes.
  • Gender Identity: The Council will vote to expand the Human Rights Commissions’ purview to include gender identity, to create a “gender identity and expression policy” for the City, and to require all vendors we do business with to have similar policies.
  • Charter Change: Last meeting, Councilor Lukes “tabled under privilege” Frank Kartheiser’s petition that there be public hearings on charter change. I don’t know what will happen to this item this meeting

Preview: City Council agenda (July 22)

The City Council meets Tuesday, July 22 at 6 pm. The agenda is here. Because summer Council meetings are rare, the agendas are huge: my original highlights list had 32 items. I’ve left out most of the items that will be discussed further in committee.

There’s a rally before the meeting at 5pm. “Community Unity Rally Against Racism.” This is in response to the noose displayed at the downtown post office. (T&G article.) The feds are investigating the noose, and the Council will be voting on a resolution asking the US Attorney General to get involved.

The Worcester Community-Labor Coalition is asking people to show up at the meeting in support of holding “public hearings starting in September on charter change and that at the conclusion of the hearings take a vote on holding an election to let the voters decide Worcester’s future.” “Charter change” in this case would mean switching from our current City Manager-run government to a Mayor-run government.

  • City of Worcester Veterans Square Project: The Council is honoring Worcester Police Officer Sean M. Lovely, Sr. for creating the worcvs.org website.
  • The Worcester Revolution of 1774: Randall Orno wants a plaque at Main & Exchange “to commemorate September 6, 1774 when the representatives of King George were escorted out of Worcester, which ended up being a significant factor in the Battle of Lexington & Concord six months later.” More on the Worcester Revolution.
  • Asian Longhorned Beetles: “Anthony Maloney et al request to stop the removal of 500 ALB host trees” in Green Hill Park “that are not yet infected by the Asian Longhorned Beetle. Instead, treat the unaffected trees with Imidacloprid, which is well documented to kill the beetle and prevent infestation.” The counter-argument here is that this chemical is bad for bees and other bugs.
  • Gender Identity: There’s an item which will expand the Human Rights Commissions’ purview to include gender identity, to create a “gender identity and expression policy” for the City, and to require all vendors we do business with to have similar policies.
  • Crime Stats: The Council will officially receive a report stating that arrests are up and crime is down. T&G story.
  • Senior Center Heroes: The Council will honor Matthew Sullivan and Brandi Manca of QCC, who operate a cafe at the Senior Center where they train students, and who have dealt ably with three medical emergencies there in recent months.
  • The Unused Field at Boynton Park: The Council wants the City Manager to come up with a plan for this.
  • Olympics: Councilor Rosen wants the City to tell Boston we’re willing to partner in their bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • City Seal: Councilor Toomey wants the Law Department to say whether people can use takeoffs of the City Seal. I don’t know what this is about. People using takeoffs of the City Seal include at least one local blogger and one e-cigarette store. In another item, Councilor Bergman would like flags with the City Seal flown in our parks.
  • Pedestrian Safety: Councilor Lukes wants a pedestrian safety pilot program in Webster Square. This would be based on programs in other cities which have free flags!
  • City E-mail Signatures: From Councilor Economou: “Request City Manager consider all City e-mail signatures include the following, in an effort to self-promote our community: 'One of the Top 10 Largest Metro Cities to Raise a Family - Forbes 2014'.”
  • Sex Offenders: Councilors Bergman and Rivera are asking about legal issues regarding limiting where “Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders” can live.
  • City Manager Search: Item 17a notes that the City Councilors are meeting with consultants [T&G link these last few days, ranking candidates for City Manager.
  • Uncle Sam’s: “22q. REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC AND PARKING Upon the Petition of Dheyaa Al Khamees of Uncle Sam request 15 minute parking for business at 151 Pleasant St.: recommend Petition be denied.”

Preview: City Council agenda (June 17)

The City Council meets Tuesday, June 17 at 7 pm. The agenda is here. Here are some other items that jumped out at me.

  • Library Board: Candidates for an open spot on the Library Board will be speaking before the Council. A new member will be voted in next week.
  • Obama: Bill Coleman wants the City (item 9j) to put up a plaque at Tech High to commemorate Obama’s commencement speech.
  • Bus changes: Beloved gadfly Jo Hart has an item (9l) requesting the city take out a front-page ad in the T&G any day there are bus changes. I’m skeptical about this idea as compared to, say, text alerts.
  • Board of Health: There are more items regarding the City Manager’s efforts to make our Board of Health a regulatory, rather than advisory, board. These items are scheduled to go to committee, which is the best place for you to comment if you care about this issue. T&G article.
  • DCU: There’s at least one $2.2 million finance item regarding rehabbing the DCU Center. The City Manager would like to borrow millions more for this and related projects. T&G article.
  • Meeting rules changes: The Council is expected to approve some changes in the ways meetings happen. The changes include:
    • “That when scheduling Standing Committee Meetings, that they be
      conducted after regular working hours, as often as possible, for the
      convenience of the public”.
    • That if you come to a meeting wanting to speak, you should speak at the beginning of the meeting, even if you’re addressing an item to be discussed much later in the meeting.
  • Maps: Councilor Toomey has an item requesting that the city talk “with the various online mapping and directional agencies” to make sure that changes to our streets are reflected in the digital world.
  • More Obama: Councilor Lukes wants the School Department to pay for part of the police costs associated with Obama giving the commencement speech at Worcester Tech High School.
  • Crystal Pond cleanup: Councilor Rivera wants there to be a “cleanup of the pond in University Park (formerly known as Crystal Park).”
  • No dogs in the parks: Councilor Rivera additionally wants there to be “No Dogs Allowed” and “No Littering” signs in our parks.
  • NDAA: The City Council is expected (item 13a) to ditch (“file”) a citizen request that it speak out against certain parts of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains troubling attacks on our civil liberties. The Council is very capable of taking stands on non-municipal issues like this when it wants to.

Preview: City Council Meeting (Jan 14)

The City Council meets Tuesday, January 14 at 7 pm. The agenda is here

Under Public Petitions, Jo Hart, Council gadfly, calls out the Council’s longstanding practice of using supplemental agenda items and of bringing up practically anything under suspension at the end of their meetings: 

7f.  Jo Hart request Mayor and City Manager, in fairness to the public and in support of the Open Meeting Law, immediately cease the current practice of bringing up items not on the current agenda at City Council meetings, including items under suspension of rules and supplemental items.

Councilor Lukes (8c) is asking about the properties owned and run by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority (WRA) and how much it’s costing the city. 

The city administration requested a 30-year lease of the ground-floor space of the Union Station Garage for the WRA (9b/10a). The WRA would then sublet the space for commercial use. The administration says that the RFP process has been a hindrance in finding a tenant for the space, and that the WRA can negotiate with tenants in a way the city cannot. Some city councilors expressed concerns about the length of the lease (30 years) to the WRA. This was held (by Councilor Lukes) from last week’s meeting; expect another lively discussion.

Councilor Economou (8j) is pushing for better public notification about postponed meetings (due to lack of quorum) and postponed items.

And Lukes is calling for an immediate process on getting a new permanent city manager (8l).

For those interested in smart meters, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets tonight at 5:30 in the Levi Lincoln chamber at City Hall regarding National Grid’s proposed project.

The WRTA Transit Advisory Board meets Thursday at 8:30 am at 60 Foster Street.

At the last City Council Rules Committee, City Clerk Rushford agreed to start posting what is called the “Pending List” for all the City Council Committees. The pending list is the list of items referred to the Committee which are waiting to be discussed.  You can now find the pending list for each committee next to that committee’s archived agendas.

 

Preview: City Council Meeting (Jan 7)

Augustus Sworn In
Ed Augustus, who officially became Worcester City Manager at midnight Sunday, will be publicly sworn in at 6 pm before the City Council meeting.

New Councilors Beginning their first terms on Council at Tuesday’s meeting are

  • Gary Rosen, District 5
  • Moe Bergman, At Large
  • Michael Gaffney, At Large

The first meeting of the year for the Worcester City Council is tomorrow night. As it is a new term, the Councilors will start the meeting by drawing for their seats, approving their rules, and voting to publish their rules.

On the agenda:

  • a request from a member of the public that commercial property owners get a tax deduction if they clear their own snow.
  • $1.4 million coming in from the EPA for brownfield clean ups
  • changes to CitySquare, including use of Parcel F for public open space (until it is built) and a change in the fee structure for the third permit fee of $1 million
  • as already mentioned by Nicole, the DPW is suggesting a dog park for Green Hill Park. If this is something you’re interested in, you’ll want to come and testify or get in touch with your councilors.
  •  new councilors filing orders: Rosen brings up PILOT again; all three new councilors on Tatnuck Square; Gaffney on other post employment benefits (OPEB); Bergman looking for more credit card parking meters, market rate housing downtown, and he joins Palmieri and Rivera on items on graffiti
  • Lukes is asking for clarification on the Open Meeting Law specifically on councilors communicating with each other and councilors spending time together socially.
  • Rivera and Palmieri also have the first of the annual shoveling items.

Preview: City Council meeting (April 23)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Esther Howland Chamber, City Hall. 7:00 P.M. Agenda.

  • Slot machines: Our story so far–the state is going to authorize someone to put in a slot machine casino somewhere. A company wants to put it in Worcester. After the City Manager makes a proposal to the company (what will they do to help the city deal with the inevitable problems), there will be a vote where Worcesterites can decide if they like the deal. The Council will be voting on whether they want the Manager to engage in this process at all. Also there are other citizen petitions on the issue. Also some people are concerned that councilors may have been discussing the issue illegally outside of the official meetings. The T&G has a good wrapup of all that. If you are pro or anti-slots, this is a good meeting to attend.
  • Let’s get this show on the road: There’s a citizen petition that the Council moves petitions through the process in a timely manner. “Cecilia Mason et al request that all petitions filed before City Council and upon referral of any and all petitions to the proper committee, board, commission or any other body of the City Council shall not remain in any committee, board, commission or any other body of the City Council for more that 90 days and request all City Councilors or city employees refrain from the practice of prioritizing any and all petitions and to afford every petitioner the right to be heard fairly, impartially and in a timely manner of 60 days as stipulated in rule 51 of the Rules of City Council.”
  • Taping more city meetings: A related “order” from two councilors: “Request City Council amend the the Rules of the City Council to require all Regular, Special and Emergency meetings of the City Council and its Standing, Ad-Hoc and Joint Committees be videotaped regardless of the location in which they are conducted in order to provide more complete community access. (Rivera, Economou)”
  • The Council will be notified of the herbicide application schedules of MassDOT, Pan Am Railways, and other organizations.
  • More about the WRA: As has been mentioned in this email several times, there has been an ongoing effort to revitalize the City’s WRA, which would seem to compete with the non-governmental WBDC. From the City Manager this week: “Transmitting Informational Communication Relative to an Update of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.”

Preview: Worcester City Council (March 19)

This week’s meeting: billboards, city census, CitySquare, slot machines, litigation, SWIP, and possibly the Theater District Master Plan. Agenda.

  • Ad company wants to make I-290 billboard digital: “Transmitting correspondence received from Lamar Advertising notifying of their intention to submit applications to the Outdoor Advertising Board requesting to convert from static to digital on its west facing billboard structure on I-290 located at 28 Garden St. and on both faces of the billboard structure located on I-290 near Route 146 and 45 McKeon Rd.
  • City Census and Absentee Ballots: Every year the City expects you to mail them a census form, or reply via their website, telling them you have not moved and should still be counted as an active voter at your address. According to a report from the City Clerk that will be presente to the Council, in recent years somewhere between a quarter and a half of Worcester’s voters have been on the “inactive” list. Another report shows that somewhere between 1% and 5% of Worcester votes are absentee.
  • CitySquare/Notre Dame: Economic Development Committee is recommending that the old Notre Dame Church and property be allowed to be added to “the CitySquare Priority Development Site”.
  • Gambling: A company wants to build a slot machine casino and hotel on the old Wyman-Gordon property near the Green Island neighborhood. There is lots of opposition, some from people who think this sort of gambling enterprise will hurt the city, some from people concerned that a new hotel there would damage the chances of getting a fancy new hotel downtown. There are three City Council items on this, including one proposing public hearings, and another (from Konnie Lukes) wanting to make it clear that anti-casino comments are allowed at these hearings.
  • Litigation: Looks like the Council might recess to a non-public Executive Session to discuss “pending litigation.”
  • South Worcester Industrial Park: For more than 18 years now, the powers-that-be have been trying to get someone to do something with the large SWIP parcel of land. The latest: the Economic Development Committee recommends that parcels within SWIP be designated “Specific Economic Opportunity Areas”.
  • The Theater District Master Plan: Tracy Novick has the details. This was introduced but tabled at the last Council meeting. It will likely be discussed this week. If you have an opinion about whether the Library parking lot should be turned into a hockey rink or something potentially more interesting, today would be a good day to contact your City Councilors. The plan will likely be sent to a City Council committee for more discussion. Nicole Apostola notes that the public hearings had almost no effect on the (possibly) final wording of the plan.

Worcester Meetings, Midweek Update

This week: City Council hears about Triage Center, seeks answers on Willis Center, votes for anti-panhandling plan. Also: School Committee considers Common Core, Exam Schools. And: an Open Space meeting.

Recap: City Council meeting

  • Members of the Worcester Unemployment Action Group spoke at the meeting about safety and health concerns at the Triage Center (formerly the PIP shelter).

  • The Council will be seeking more information from state officials on the circumstances surrounding the ending of state contracts with the Willis Center and the transfer of those contracts to SMOC.

  • The Council asked the City Manager for a report on possible non-city funding for bike lanes in Worcester.

  • The City Council voted, 9-2, to implement anti-panhandling ordinances. A handout with some, but not all, of the ordinances is being distributed to frequent solicitors.

Preview: School Committee meetings

  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports Subcommittee Meeting: January 31 at 5:30pm (subcommittees meet in the 4th floor of the Durkin Administration Building). School Committee member Novick writes: “Two biggies on the agenda: an update on curriculum renewal, and the implementation on the Common Core standards.”

  • Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an Exam School and/or Baccalaurate Program Meeting: Thursday, January 31, 7:30 PM. Ms. Novick also notes: “The Ad-Hoc committee will be reviewing two reports from administration: one from Mr. Perda regarding admissions, and one from Mr. Allen on budget. The committee will then vote to recess to executive session for the purposes of reviewing a draft report, which will be public next month.”

“Open Space” meetings

  • The next one is Jan 31.

    Every 5 to 7 years the City of Worcester crafts a plan for what unprotected open spaces are important to conserve, and what efforts should be taken to improve the ponds, meadows, wetlands, and forests we rely on.

    This is that time and there will be meetings held all over the City of Worcester to solicit citizen input. You only need to attend one meeting to give your feedback.