Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
City Council will start shortly. They’ve scheduled a Public Health subcommittee meeting at 6:45.
7:30: Here we go. The Council is celebrating John Foisey of Worcester Tech and his DECCA students. DECCA is a nation-wide marketing, finance and entrepreneurship group for high school students.
7:37: $3,796.00 from the Friends of the Worcester Senior Center is coming to the city, for upkeep of a veterans memorial.
7:38: Before Michael Amir and Robert Nemeth are appointed to the Airport Commission, the council wants a roll call on the motion to file the informational communication. Apparently, for this one, councilors can only vote “yes” or “present” but not “no.” Only Germain votes “present” (he asked for the roll call in the first place).
7:41: Clancy is talking the burnt down visitor’s center. He says we need to “expeditiously demolish the remains of the building because it’s a safety hazard” and that we shouldn’t “quibble over the funds” about who’s going to pay for it. As if he knew about one of our Worcesteria items for tomorrow, he talks about all the money set aside for it years ago, but that none of it was spent because they didn’t see the point to pour $12 mil into a “core and shell” development.
7:46: Clancy says they’re going to meet with Congressman McGovern later this month to see if they can finagle another way to use the money earmarked for the building. He spins this into discussion of the Walmart.
7:47: He says thousands of hours were spent on the visitor’s center, and despite the fire it was still worth it. He tips his hat to the Historical Museum and state leaders.
7:48: Haller says the commitment to that corridor won’t stop because of what happened to the building.
7:50: Petty talks the Woogle for Google application. He thanks Eileen Kazoropoul, Tim McGourthy, Scott Zoback and Brendan Melican for leading the way. He says Google’s announcement for which city’s will be chosen will come by the end of the year.
7:52: Rushton thanks Worcesterites who got involved too. He says the next issue to be attacked is the census. He’s worried that Worcester is in danger of lagging behind on filling out its census forms.
7:54: Haller is speaking about the city’s housing strategy (city report here). She says she’s concerned that “the city is going in the wrong direction,” pointing to the report. She says Community Development Corporations (CDCs) have done a lot for Worcester, and “that approach has been successful.” She’s concerned that the city is moving away from the CDC model. She wants a chart that shows how much money the city has put into housing development over a certain amount of time (3 years, 5 years, it doesn’t matter). She wants a breakdown of HUD dollars, allocations to private vs. non-profit vs. community housing developers. She says her partner has received funding from the city, but her finances are separate from his. She doesn’t want a list of people, per se, but more like a neighborhood by neighborhood breakdown. She says she thinks community and neighborhood-based development is the most successful.
8:00: She also wants to know how the city figured out that 14% of housing in the city is affordable (the state benchmark s only 10%). She says in her district many (if not most) people need affordable housing, and can’t be homeowners even if they wanted to be.
Here is some background on this argument, and city’s housing policy.
8:04: Rushton wants the info referred to Econ. Development subcommittee. He wants people to know that it will be “approached in a methodical way” and their ears are open.
8:05: J.O’Brien comes down to the floor, calling this a “good jumping off point for dialogue.” He thanks Haller for her passion and commitment to the issue. He says “affordable housing” is synonymous with “workforce housing,” and has concerns that without enough people working for the city there’s not enough manpower to keep getting dollars in the city for housing and construction jobs. He wants copies of the income guidelines for these projects, saying there are some misconceptions about the people who live in affordable housing units and their salary ranges. He echos Haller’s comments about CDCs, saying they focus on the neighborhood rather than one specific construction project. He wants to make sure CDCs stay at the front of Worcester’s housing policy.
8:09: Petty thanks the admin for the report, and takes Haller’s comments “to heart.” He points out the Main South CDC’s work, especially in the Gardner-Kilby-Main area. But, he also says there’s a need in the city for more market-rate housing too. He says it’s not “lost on the city council” that there are people here who need affordable housing.
8:12: Lukes says that she wants a masterplan, especially with CSX’s expansion and how that will affect housing. She says there going to have to be some coordination (between subcommittees, I think) regarding housing information.
8:13: He’s talking street and sidewalk repairs–but goes off topic for a second say he approves of using airport money as a one-time payment.
8:17: Clancy wants to know what money we’re going to get for repairing streets and sidewalks. He wants information on bonds and one-time money that can be used. He says we have a “significant backlog” on street repair and street conversion. He wants airport money to go into a capital plan for street and sidewalk repair so “we can make a significant dent in the list we have before us.” He says repairs right now will cost the city $37 mil, and that doesn’t even include private street conversions.
8:21: Eddy echos Clancy. He says this is a quality of life issue. He says this is a number one issue for Worcesterites, according to the Research Bureau. He asks Moylan how much money he estimates will be spent on repairs this year for street improvement. Moylan estimates $10 mil, and that would be a “small percentage” of the need. He says in theory–”utopia”–we should be repairing 23 to 24 miles of streets per year. In reality it’s more like 11 or 12.
8:25: Eddy wants to know–with the right funding–how much could the DPW do with the man power it has now. Moylan says with some planning and unlimited funding that the DPW could do 20 miles/year. Moylan says residents would notice that, saying that it would be the “buzz of the community.”
8:29: Eddy goes back to the quality of life issue–he says that last year’s money set aside by M.O’Brien for tree stump removal generated incredible goodwill towards the city in some areas. Eddy wants to look into moving around how funding is allocated for street/sidewalk repair, and to see if funding from curb/burm repair could go into street/sidewalk repairs.
8:31: Smith says that even though there’s only $3 mil coming in for street/sidewalk repair won’t catch us up on the repair backlog. He says we’ll have to “get creative” with finding money for this–not raising taxes, but looking into privatizing parking, for example. He says there are better streets in third world countries than in some places in Worcester.
8:35: J.O’Brien takes the floor again. He says that we should be looking at school infrastructure while we look at finding money for streets/sidewalks. He says property values are directly tied to the value of public schools and the perception of public schools. He says certainly one-time money should be spent on streets and sidewalks, but some should also be spent on school improvements. He asks for a report on whether repairs on boilers and windows in schools would save the city money over time.
8:39: Toomey says that she wants a list of pension liabilities and debt, and for the city to look into paying off some of that with the one-time money.
8:40: Petty says the priority should be streets and sidewalks and school repairs. He says for the schools it would be “pretty simple” and “only a few dollars” for some of the school stuff.
8:43: Germain is blunt. It’s probably time to raise property taxes to pay for some of these repairs, especially if they’re going into the public schools.
8:48: Haller talks about the city’s report to address homelessness in the city. She says what’s happening here is “good news” and that the city needs to continue following through on the actions already taken.
8:51: Lukes wants to know if the city is having trouble filling vacancies on its boards and commissions. M.O’Brien doesn’t consider it a “difficulty.” J.O’Brien cracks that Smith has many friends on Facebook he could recruit to fill positions.
8:53: A Department of Conservation and Recreation grant is coming to Coes Pond. Eddy says that Coes Pond could be/is a valuable resource, and this money will go towards upkeep of park land and walking trails in the area.
8:55: Germain agrees, and says Coes Pond is “by far the greatest hidden gem in the city of Worcester when it comes to parks and recreation.” He’d like to see the hillside there be converted into a park. J.O’Brien plugs a “Mayor’s Walk” that will meet at the Knights of Columbus. Germain wants to know about the softball diamond there that’s either officially or unofficially named after Dennis Reid. He wants a report on the history of the park’s name, and if was unofficially named Reid Park, then he wants to put in a motion to officially name it as such.
Update: 9:00: Petty brings up a report by the city that was added as an addendum after the agenda came out (so I haven’t had a chance to see it yet). In the report, apparently, M.O’Brien notes that the FAA requires that money from the sale of an airport only goes back into the airport itself. M.O’Brien says there still might be ways to get around this. Nick Kotsopoulos of the Telegram wrote about this extensively.
9:05: Germain wants to know “where do we go from here” after the sale of the airport is done. He wants to stress that we have some say in what happens at the airport after it’s out of our control.
9:08: Toomey says citizens are concerned about access to Plantation street from Atlanta st.
9:10: J.O’Brien reminds people that next week’s meeting is also Wednesday.