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.

Preview: City Council agenda (March 13)

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.

Preview: This week’s Worcester School Committee meeting

And no, I can’t go and liveblog; I have a meeting myself that night!


The Governance subcommittee meeting is reporting out, including a clarification that, yes, students can use cell phones at after-school events.

There are appointments, resignations, and recognitions.

There is a brief report on the EPIC grant on a pipeline of teachers.

There is a request for a report on Earth Day participation; a request that the Future Teachers program be expanded; for a report on school libraries.

Administration wants the Committee members to get back to them on co-sponsorship of items earlier (by Thursday noon).

There is a request to accept an innovation pathway grant for Worcester Tech; to approve prior fiscal year payments of $6,366.84 for Seven Hills Groton, MA Pediatric Center and of $4,396 for Durridge Radon Implementation; to accept donations of $10,000, on behalf on the Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU), for scholarships to graduating seniors, $25,000, on behalf of the Hanover Insurance Group Foundation, for the Hanover Insurance Academy for the Arts at Burncoat Middle School, $350, on behalf of the Boston Museum of Science, to Woodland Academy for bus funding for the student’s field trip to the museum.

Oh, and Worcester F&O, as we mentioned, is being nationally recognized for being awesome again.

There is an executive session for a worker’s comp case, and for bargaining with administrative secretaries.

Preview: City Council agenda (March 6)

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

This week: Weed, dogs, tax breaks, the usual.

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

  • Making Streets Public: The Council will vote to make a bunch of streets near Assumption College public streets. These are Knapp Ave, Myrick Ave, Pelican Ave, Phoebe Way, and Toronita Ave.
  • Removing Tax Breaks for Wage Violations: Councilor Bergman wants to know if the city can “deny or terminate” tax break (TIF) agreements for developments when “employee wage violations are present.”
  • Nationally Legalized Weed: Last week, there were a bunch of items about restricting marijuana retailers in the city, including a proposal from Councilor Mero-Carlson that there could be three weed stores in each Council district. This week, Councilor Lukes wants the Council to vote on whether they want our US Congressman and Senators to remove marijuana as a controlled substance from the U.S. Code.
  • Dog Licensing: In 2010, the city began issuing lifetime dog licenses. Now that dogs are allowed in some city parks, the City Clerk would like to go back to annual licenses and dog tags that are a different color each year, so enforcement officers can easily check which dogs are currently licensed. I don’t understand this item.
  • Stop Making Your Own Driveway: In an item held over from last week, Councilor Rosen wants people to stop making DIY driveways that take away curb parking and encourage people to drive back and forth over the curb.

Preview: City Council agenda (February 27)

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

This week: So much stuff.

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

  • Residential Zoning Changes: Councilor Russell would like to change the zoning regs for RL-7 “Limited Residence” zones. Currently, you can build “low-rise multi-family dwellings” and “single-family attached dwellings” with a special permit. Russell’s changes would make that a blanket “no.” You could still have things like a single-family attached dwelling or a group residence.
  • A Giant Heart Behind City Hall: Bill Coleman (who has a giant heart) would like the city to make a mosaic of the city seal on the Common.
  • Fatty Jenkins Basketball Court: Councilor Rivera would like the City Manager to attend an April 5 meeting at the Network Center concerning a plan for the city to take ownership of the basketball court on Piedmont St. This plan has been a long time coming. As I understand it from going to some neighborhood meetings, currently a semi-defunct trust owns the property. The city would like to switch the entrance from Hawley to Piedmont St and do more trash pickup. (The currently Hawley St entrance is the site of lots of police incidents and the occasional drug dealing.)
  • Stop Making Your Own Driveway: Councilor Rosen wants people to stop making DIY driveways that take away curb parking and encourage people to drive back and forth over the curb.
  • Let’s Use the Lincoln Square Tunnel More: Councilor Rosen wants to know if we can reroute Lincoln Square traffic so as to make better use of this tunnel.
  • Let’s Privatize the Bus: Councilor Rosen would like to get a private bus company to provide unsubsidized service to part of the city, so that the WRTA could make better use of its resources in the rest of the city.
  • Cleaning Up Patch Reservoir: Councilor Wally would like the Manager to devise a plan to resolve problems with Patch Reservoir, such as water quality and access. He would also like “the abutting piece of property” moved under control of the Conservation Commission.
  • Encouraging Owner-Occupancy: Councilor Russell would like the Manager to encourage home ownership of the 2- and 3-family homes in our “general residence” RG-5 neighborhoods. He would also like to include facade improvements in this plan, and do particular outreach to the employees of our colleges.
  • Affirmative Action: Councilor Rivera would like the Manager to update our affirmative action policies and hiring to do a better job ensuring equity. (There are no specifics in this item. I am told Councilor King will sign onto this as well.) Activists are planning to rally at the meeting around this item.
  • Flags of Diversity: Councilor Lukes would like us to fly some flags downtown “representing the diversity of the city’s population.”
  • Shutting Down Group Homes: Councilor Lukes would like a report on “any and all public licenses, certifications, notices, etc” that are required of our “group homes, shelters, and sober houses.” This ties in with the years-long quest of the Council to find some way to get Council control over such establishments, which are otherwise protected by state, not local, law.
  • 65 Kenwood Ave: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like an official report of code violations for 65 Kenwood Ave. (It has been some time since complaints about a specific address surfaced at a Council meeting.)
  • Hats and Gloves for the Homeless: Councilor Bergman would like the city to buy “hats and gloves” for the homeless next winter. (I am not sure what prompted this item; there are of course considerable efforts among the public to take care of this need each winter.)
  • Holden Stop Pollutin Indian Lake: Councilor Rose would like the city’s lawyer to figure out if we can stop “fertilizer and nutrient run off that is entering Indian Lake from the Town of Holden.”
  • Street Changes: The Council will likely approve a request by Nick Smith to remove the tiny Warmland St, a private street in Quinsig Village, from the official map.
  • Zoning Changes: The Council will likely approve zoning changes that would see part of 408 Pleasant St and an adjacent part of Winslow St rezoned from residential to commercial and added to the Commercial Corridor Overlay District. These are at Ed Hyder’s Market. The Council will likely approve cleaning up the zoning of 127 Cambridge St to make it all “Business Limited.” The Council will likely approve rezoning all the parcels at 7 Brookfield St to make it uniformly “General Residence.”
  • Marijuana Zoning: The City Manager would like to keep marijuana establishments out of residential areas and away from schools. They could be allowed in business or manufacturing areas in a permit. The T&G has much more.
  • Can There Be Private Marijuana Clubs?: The Council approved last week, though it was not previously on the agenda, a request from Councilor Lukes for details on the legal status of private marijuana clubs in Worcester. As it happens, today the state Cannabis Control Commission touched on social clubs for weed, however they didn’t do anything so these remain legal.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will vote whether to appoint Lindsey Silva to the Commission on Disabilities, and Madison Friend to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
  • More Boards and Commissions: The city has responded to several questions from Councilor Lukes on making changes to our boards and commissions. Can city employees be on boards and commissions? No, but this is a matter of policy and management, it is not prohibited by law. Can someone be on multiple boards? No, but this is a matter of policy, not law. The current City Manager says he wants to stick with the current policies. What would it take to change the lengths of City Council terms and the times of Council elections? Full-blown Charter Change, that’s what.