9:25: Meeting adjourned.
9:11: Now time for Michael O’Brien: “I want to thank you for your kind words and constructive criticism.”
“We are faced with a range of needs and diminishing resources.” He thanks his staff top to to bottom.
“There’s nothing more that I want than to accomplish it all.”
“What you can expect from me consistently is prioritization, thoughtful planning and implementation… compassion…proactivity…care…consideration…and creativity.”
“I’m hired to do a job…I take that job very seriously.”
“I’ve laid out…some very ambitious goals for ’09.” There’s going to need to be unity to move on many of them, especially with tough financial times coming, he says.
9:02: Mayor Lukes (15.5/20) “I didn’t have very high hopes for the manager when he was selected….I have to state my evaluation is probably the highest I’ve given him.”
This is incredible. Lukes being positive on a number of fronts? She’s congratulating his financial acumen and efforts, his leadership on Section 18 (she also tells the retirees not to hope for any reversal of fortune).
Lukes, like everyone, commends the public safety performance. Big night for Chief Gemme; he gets a lot of praise from everyone.
However, she says the economic development and neighborhood work – especially with “green” building zoning – needs more focus.
“We have failed at marketing this city…”
Airport, access road, etc.
(Lukes has talked longer than any other councilor, as she was the one holding everyone else to a time limit)
“Regardless of the disappointments, the [accomplishments] outweigh those…I think we’re getting to the point under this City Manager where we have a large city agenda.”
8:55: Phil Palmieri (18.25/20). Palmieri raises the issue of why the district councilors rated O’Brien so much better than the at-large group: He lists a number of projects but his train of thought is clear—O’Brien has done a lot for the actual rubber on the ground district-impact issues.
“He’s a leader for all seasons….My grade for him has always been near the top.”
“I think we [as councilors] should be driven by principle..and conviction. Not self-preservation.”
“It has been over the past seven months a trying time for some councilors…sometimes it gets personal, and I get admonished for that…but it’s never personal. It’s business.”
“Thank you…for your committment to this city. And to you and you (he gestures to the staff).”
8:50: Bill Eddy (16/20). He’s happy. That’s what you need to know.
“As good a job as I think you are doing…there are some challenges.”
And again the council: He calls talk of dysfunction a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
8:44: Paul Clancy (18/20). Wow. Talk about praise. If O’Brien ever needs a job reference, he should just quote Clancy.
He’s turned his attention to how the council voted on the retiree vote — “the most courageous vote by a council in my tenure.”
Again…this is more about the council than O’Brien in some ways…he says he hope O’Brien and his staff don’t have to go through the “dysfunction” of the council.
8:37-8:44: Gary Rosen (15.4/20). Rosen is commenting on a lot of specific issues, reading from his written narrative evaluation.
He’s focusing on minority recruitment at all levels, saying “we all need to do a better job.” This has been a focus of a few councilors tonight..
And Rosen asks O’Brien to meet with a few constituencies–WCCA and the retirees in particular–that are at odds with O’Brien’s plans.
A lot of Rosen’s time was on specific issues-administration raises, the airport, etc — and lesson his overall performance
8:31: Rick Rushton (11.5/20). From the best score to the worst.
He’s downplaying his low score, but says, “I believe you can do better.” He’s saying there’s not enough of a clear unified vision/mission/values.
“Going from good to great is understanding that core mission.”
“You need to do a better job of showing that people are more than a number on a spreadsheet.”
And one more point: He says there are too many last minute supplemental items that don’t give the council enough time to fully vet them. “Your administration has to do a better job of giving us time to deliberate.”
“You’re a very good City Manager…You have the potential to do better.”
8:24-8:30: Barbara Haller (18.6/20) gave O’Brien his highest score. She says she’s proud of that.
She calls her district “the most needy” and says that his efforts have really targeted and benefited her constituents.
8:19:-8:24 Michael Germain (15/20) was NOT trying to give O’Brien a low score; he says he considers his score great. (a 75% is a C these days, Wormtown Taxi counted it as a D.
“Work ethic is second to none….If i were to make a recommendation, it would be to delegate more.” His only criticisms are “management style.”
Germain is also asking O’Brien to lobby him a little harder.
8:14-8:19: Joe Petty (18/20) says that he is exceptionally pleased with O’Brien and his administration. He’s going point by point, but everything sounds positive. “I think you’re on top of things, I think you do wonderful things…people are behind you, this council is behind you, and I’m behind you.”
8:08-8:14: Joff Smith (17.85/20) says the O’Brien’s biggest strength has been dealing with the budget and financial issues.
Smith spent most of his time on economic development, where he says progress is needed. He was pretty glowing on the other issues.
“Continue working hard as I know you do; looking forward to another great performance this year.
8:02-8:08: Toomey (gave O’Brien a total of 13.4/20) is up first and says she isn’t pleased with the rating system. Interesting use of time, say the judges.
She says the way Section 18 was handled was poor, though the manager’s overall economic performance has been good. And the economic development section? “We’ve been moving at a snail’s pace….we need to be more proactive.”
Kate is being a little more harsh than we usually see her, across the board. She says things need to be addressed, but she’s overall very pleased with O’Brien.
8:01: But hold the phone!!!! Germain asks comments to be limited to five minutes or less—AND THE VOTE PASSES (Rosen, Rushton, and Toomey vote against)….We take back our estimates kids, 9:30 looks possible.
8:00: So it’s 8pm, and we haven’t started the City Manager’s review yet. We’re also told each councilor is getting 10 minutes—meaning 110 minutes right there. Add in O’Brien’s comments, etc, we’re looking at 10:30pm, easy.
7:54: Finally noticed what the signs say that all the seniors are holding: “Worcester retirees rating for CIty Manager O’Brien: ZERO”
7:46: The foreclosure home-rule petitions are on the floor. These would provide relief to homeowners going through foreclosure, renters, etc. Pretty significant stuff here; really groundbreaking for Worcester. Universal support it seems. Unanimous vote, and huge applause at 7:58pm.
7:42: Voting to hold: Germain, Rosen, Rushton, Smith, and Toomey. Voting against: Clancy, Eddy, Palmieri, Petty, Haller, and Lukes
An interesting note: While the debate was going on, a few downtown restaurant owners whispered to each other that they weren’t trying to shut down the businesses that operate at little leagues, etc. “I have no problem with them,” said one owner.
7:38: Now counterpoint from Palmieri. “To take a look at downtown and how we’re hopeful of it working, we need more storefronts…This ordinance is not counterproductive to anyone in business at all. (He also cites seeing David Forsberg at a hot dog stand, and says, “maybe he didn’t have the money for the ChopHouse.”)
“Quite honestly, spending this amount of time on this issue in this chamber is incredible…with all the problems, and all the issues…It is a direct reflection on this council.”
7:34: The item is going to be held with at least four votes. Councilor Germain is saying that the ordinance needs to be vetted more; he’s speaking in favor of the vendors. “Since I’m 10 years old, we’ve [debated]…are we a city or a bedroom community?” Lukes interrupts his flow, asking if he’ll also allow other councilors to speak. “Or are we a city? I believe we are…I read that [all the councilors] wanted a 18 hour city. An 18 hour city without streetcarts?” He’s calling for the ordinance to be looked at again.
7:20: Speaking AGAINST the ordinance: Ron Laflash. He’s from Worcester; Konnie points out [chastises?] that his cart has Auburn plates. “Yes, my business is in Auburn,” he says. He says he’s more than 150 feet from any open business downtown, and never opens in front of any open business. “That’s a flat out lie,” one of the downtown owners quietly comments. Chris Gould – a potential vendor – says he’s been working with a bar owner on Green Street to open 10pm-2am “and this ordinance would crush that. The current ordinance may have problems, but this one goes too far.” And Jim, who is just starting out on Water Street says it would be tough.
Anthony Perro the flower vendor is giving a speech. He’s two minutes in, but has spent that entire two minutes not understanding that Mayor Lukes is only giving him two minutes to speak. He’s asking for 4 minutes, and then for 10 minutes. Lukes keeps telling him he only has two. He’s trying to explain his views—essentially, that other cities allow for vendors. He’s going to submit his writings to council.
Joanne Hart is saying “We don’t have to ban everything…we have to moderate.” There’s not enough cheaper downtown options, she says, aside from White Hen and sports bars.
And Jon Sweeney, who works a cart at several little league fields in town, says that they serve niche markets. “It’s too bad a few vendors…have to ruin it for the rest of us.”
7:15: Speaking FOR the ordinance are four downtown business owners: Scott Neri from Irish Times; Ryan of Z Cafe(“someone sets up a street cart and takes 20 customers a day…makes my business less feasible.”); Dean from Garden Fresh Courtyard Cafe(“I think the future of the city lives in storefronts….I’m also concerned with people having a propane tank on Main Street…people up and down Main Street smoking cigarettes….I don’t want Worcester to be in the news because [someone] blew up the courthouse.”); and George from we don’t know where.(“The fact to have a disadvantage right off the bat is something I don’t welcome.”)
7:14: Packed packed house tonight. Crowds for and against the street hawker vendor; seniors protesting; and city employees for the City Manager’s review. (Oh, and more Telegram reporters than we know what to do with.)
6:01: Can you feel it????? That pulsating energy that can only be….the CITY MANAGER’S REVIEW!!! YEA!!!!
We’ll be at council in an hour, covering all the praise and criticism live; there’s an added bonus tonight of a rally to support potential foreclosure relief legislation, and an attempt to pass a home rule petition that would effectively shut down any sort of street vendor culture in Worcester. (More on that later)
In any case, we’re taking bets on the length of the meeting tonight. We’ll spot you some inside info: If each councilor takes 7 minutes to talk about the City Manager (and it won’t be less), we’re looking at a minimum of 77 minutes. Counting everything else, we’re looking at a 10pm close tonight. Any over-under wagers?
See you at seven.