7:17: Hey there, happy new year, and glad you could join us for another edition of Worcester City Council Liveblog. We don’t have video embed working tonight, but if you’d like to watch a streaming feed of the meeting in Windows Media Player, click here. Looks like we’re on about a 45 second delay.
7:20: Commissioner Bob Moylan says that the tree limb clean up from the ice storm (a month ago!) continues; there will eventually be a second sweep through the heaviest hit areas, most likely coordinated by a disaster recovery contractor. All in all, this thing cleanup could go on for months. We’re positive no one will take advantage of free limb pick up.
“At this point…we’ve had no fewer than seven crews out doing nothing but cutting those [hanging] and dangerous limbs.” While they are halfway through the identified list of dangerous limbs, there’s still a substantial amount to go.
And, clarifying the unclarifiable, Moylan says property owners should use “common sense” to dealing with downed branches: Don’t put them in the street, don’t put them on the sidewalk. Put them on the front of your property. Got that? Good.
7:27: The Worcester water filtration plant was without power for ten days, as it is located on the Holden power grid. The plant operated on a generator for that time; the city picked up another standby generator in case that first one went down, but didn’t have to use it.
7:33: Palmieri wants to know if individuals taking wood for personal use from the quarantine zone is a problem. People, legally, can still move wood within the quarantine zone and burn it, though moving it outside the city carries a $25,000 fine.
7:38: There’s a couple overlapping issues here—cleanup from the ice storm and the ALB efforts. A real FUBAR situation. The FEMA declaration of emergency means more funds will be available for Worcester though, hopefully reducing or mostly eliminating the city’s burden for cleanup costs.
7:49: Barbara Haller is talking about this report on rules on Executive Sessions–why they can be called, rules on minutes, on when those records have to be disclosed, etc.
She’s concerned that there’s no explicit law against councilors breaking confidentiality from meetings, though it is implied. She wants to pursue a new rule that would tighten up the rules. “Once we decide we have a rule that’s so sensitive it goes beyond public hearing…absolutely, there’s an implied need for confidentiality….it would behoove us to have that in writing.”
7:53: Councilor Eddy is confused about why everyone is freaking out about the need for the rule. (This all stems from last meeting’s shenanigans over calling an executive session to talk about the Mark Rojas records, etc.)
But, he says, the rule is clearly needed–and should be written by the council, not by the administration.
7:55: Rick Rushton: “We’ve had an unwritten rule…’don’t speak outside of executive session.’ It’s a shame we need a rule….”
7:56: Clancy says screw the intermediary BS, and wants to make a motion RIGHT NOW to make confidentiality a rule of of Executive Sessions until records from said sessions are deemed releasable. That includes discussion, votes, and documents. Violation would mean a referral to the State Ethics Commission. To do so, the council has to…follow this:
Suspend rules to pass a new rule because current rules say rules can’t be passed the same night they are introduced.
1. We love how this is a huge deal to councilors, clearly due to an executive session due for tonight (or in the very near future). This is 20 minutes spent on councilors talking about business that the public may very well know about.
2. This has got to date back to lingering bad will over when Worcester Magazine got information from an executive session that people didn’t want us to have. Sorry guys.
8:02: If this law is going to cover everyone in the room, asks Rushton, who would have the authority to ever speak on any issue discussed in Executive Session.
David Moore says that it would be when the reason for confidentiality/executive session expires.
But Rushton says that the new rule could potentially be so iron clad that no information could legally be released or officials allowed to talk about it.
“It’s a case by case issue,” says Mayor Lukes.
“I’m still confused,” says Germain. He doesn’t know what they’re about to vote on.
Lukes says they’re voting on a new rule, but the Rules committee can bring it up again to rediscuss. So this is CLEARLY to establish a new short term rule for tonight’s Executive Session.
8:11: It’s a new year, meaning it’s time for Phil Palmieri…to do exactly what he did last year. PILOT. His question this time around: What properties have come off the tax rolls in the past few years, and what has it cost in revenue?
8:22: All the councilors are still going on about this—Clancy talks about the ongoing erosion of the tax base. Here’s the report they’re referencing.
8:29: The councilors, with a round of congratulations for the city for getting streaming video up and running. Hope you all have Silverlight!
8:40: Asian Longhorned Beetle time! 6,000 trees will come down, for sure, in the Greendale area, though “that number could grow” due to ongoing search efforts, says O’Brien. That includes grinding of stumps.
Intensive surveying will continue for the next few years, virtually non-stop.
This is scary stuff. And we’re only talking Greendale now, not the rest of the city.
8:51: We’re taking items under suspension, and then the council will head into executive session to discuss pending litigation on the Mark Rojas records.
8:57: A conversation about the city applying for government funds for (two-year) development projects. The application is due this week.
O’Brien says it’s too early to say how much we’re asking for, but that projects will be prioritized.
It’s realistic, says O’Brien, that hundreds of millions could be identified for Worcester, though it would come down to the Commonwealth’s decision on each town’s need.
9:07: The councilors enter executive session, effectively adjourning tonight’s public meeting.