City Council liveblog 2/3/09

7:10: Live and atcha. Here we go.

7:11: Former council candidate Joe Casello is speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Worcester Retirees, looking for a move from two-tier health insurance to a four-tier system. He says the total cost to the city will not increase, but will make it more equitable for retirees being pushed into a family-tier who don’t need it.

7:16: That oft-discussed insurance audit is located here, though the site seems to be down for the past several hours. Many city employees have already responded to the memo(linked on that site, once it’s back up), and City Manager Michael O’Brien says eventually, any employee who doesn’t respond won’t be allowed to reenroll.

A great question from Bill Eddy: Can employees file copies of birth certificates, or are they forced to go through the Clerk’s office(if from Worcester)? O’Brien says copies are allowed; Eddy wants to limit it only to originals. (So city employees would have to go request and receive a document from a city department to give to ANOTHER city department to prove birth.)

7:24: Toomey: If employees can’t get marriage certificates, and use joint tax returns to prove marriage, can they redact financial information?

Yes, they can.

Toomey: If Blue Cross has already certified a child is enrolled in school, why should parents have to re-prove it?

O’Brien: “It’s key all information is resubmitted in its totality.”

7:34: There are 50 openings on boards and commissions in Worcester. That’s a HUGE hole.

7:37: Doherty and Holy Cross graduate John Odell has been named the city’s “Program Manager for Energy Efficiency and Conservation.” He was formerly employed in Concord, MA.

Councilor Rick Rushton says that he won’t cost the city money, because he’ll save it so much.

7:42: The city budget, under discussion. We’d link you to the document everyone is talking about…but the site is still down.

“There are some scary times ahead” locally and nationally, says Councilor Mike Germain.

He’s putting forth a motion asking the city to impose the hotel and lodging tax on all of the colleges in Worcester.

He says there are (estimated) 15,000 dorm rooms; it costs about $10,000 per student (for a room)…we’re talking millions in revenue. At 2 per room, he estimates about $24 million.

“Obviously, this would take the efforts of the state delegation,” says Germain…and he says legislators have said it’s under consideration at some levels.

7:55: Talking about the horrific budget outlook. This is somber, somber stuff.

O’Brien says he thinks Governor Deval Patrick was purposely conservative in revenue projections.

Interesting note: Most councilors are making a point of saying they support O’Brien and his plan/actions.

7:58: Rushton wants the city to pursue some more regionalization efforts with surrounding towns.

Bring back county government!

And Rushton says an 18-month budget as proposed might not be enough; we might need to project 24-month budgets.

8:01: Rosen is looking at the “human” aspect of cutting city workers…talking about people getting sick, depressed, family problems, etc.

“Are we preparing ourselves for how we can help our employees after those cuts?”

O’Brien says layoffs will be the last resort; that other cost saving measures will come forth.

Rosen: “…there probably will be cuts”

And more from Rosen: Will the Municipal Relief Package be passed soon?

8:11: Councilor Eddy is talking about his meeting with the Mayor and local legislative delegation last Friday. We don’t hear a lot new here on proposals, but Eddy hammers that it’s a “collective effort” with the delegation.

8:15: Another little tidbit…if Governor Patrick’s proposal passes, the schools will lose $2 million in funding.

8:19: “As of this writing,” says O’Brien, the $15.6 million in cuts for Fy2010 is the most optimistic estimate, save for some future changes in numbers(estimates are still volatile).

“The longer we wait,” says Clancy, “the more jobs we’ll have to shed to make up for any shortfall.”

“I’m not saying wholesale layoffs,” he says, but he does think we need to “start the process” for some layoffs.

“For the fiscal health of this city for next year, we need to at least begin that process.”

8:33: Councilor Toomey: Let’s make sure we help local businesses

8:37: Councilor Rushton, again: He wants to make sure the city manager sat down with the unions to talk about the benefits of restructuring contracts in order to save jobs.

O’Brien says “candid conversations with union leadership” is already underway.

8:41: Mayor Lukes: She says this is the worst crisis the city has ever faced. That’s a huge change from about 9 months ago, when senior councilors were talking about the early 1980s being worse.

8:43: She says we’re as a society using 1930’s agrarian based techniques to solve the crisis.

“We’re not going to see the services…we take for granted.”

(One of the problems, she raises, is that the city won’t get all the state numbers until after we need to make a decision)

Last week, Lukes brought up having a 0% raise next year; she says union leadership totally balked. She calls it a total failure to understand the seriousness of the situation.

“Giving the fact there is a reluctance to admit the seriousness of the situation facing us, I’m going to be asking that my item be held again.”

Freezing raises isn’t an option, she says, because it is a simple deferral, not a true savings.

“We need to keep people in jobs…we can’t have a large unemployed sector.”

“[The city manager]…needs to be more aggressive in looking at reforms.”

8:49: Rushton: “Apparently, there is a pirate radio station being operated here in Worcester. It is called 105.5 the flava…they’re using it as a vehicle to promote after hours parties.”

Rushton says on Stafford Street, Park Ave, near Clark University, there are full out DJed parties with booze.

“Starts out as small parties…[then] at 4am…someone ends up dead.”

8:53: Boston Power is looking at expanding to Worcester.

8:54: Palmieri: “There continues to be…people not taking care of their sidewalks.  I think the policy in place should be more strongly enforced…”  He’s not calling for fines, yet.   “I really hope it’s stepped up a bit.”

“I don’t think it’s just me driving around…and seeing [unplowed] sidewalks, including state-owned.”  It’s not just you.

8:59: Clancy: “We should be going after private snowplow operators that bank snow on sidewalks.”

Adjourned at 9:02

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “City Council liveblog 2/3/09

  1. They’d not only have to request birth certificates from the Clerk’s office…they’d have to PAY for them, too.

  2. Re: 7:34: There are 50 openings on boards and commissions in Worcester. That’s a HUGE hole.

    I remember a list of vacancies published last year. Do you know of one?

  3. Did the Health subcommittee make having a more diverse makeup on these boards one of their goals for the year? Any idea what they’re doing to that end?

  4. So the city wants to cut jobs eh?
    Here’s a bright idea, let’s cut management salaries first! Plenty of pork there.
    Hey CM OBie could afford to take the bus to work a few times the week!
    Its easy. Out the front door walk down Moreland St. to Pleasant St. Find bus stop. Board bus and pay and get dropped off right in front of City Hall. And the best part is, the bus picks him up and brings him home too! How convenient.
    Or he could also use Salisbury St… opps… no bus stops there. Someone had the foresight of inhibiting riffraff from wandering the area.
    The tough part for Obie is walking down Moreland St. when all the sidewalks are , opps, there aren’t any sidewalks on Moreland St. Ok fagit then. It was just an idea. Let him use his SUV.

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