City Council liveblog 3/3/09

7:17: We’re underway, talking about this Saturday’s planned City Council retreat at Tower Hill. A couple councilors(Rushton among them) hate the idea, but Clancy says it’s just about having a cooperative discussion and go forward. Haller, who tabled a discussion on the issue last week, said that after this week’s legal opinion, she has no problem acting on the items.

Petty says he likes the idea of the retreat, but wishes it was in Worcester.

Rushton: “I too agree with the concept. I too also believe the people matter….the Open Meeting Law is clear. It is put in place so that we can open up and put as much sunshine on our government as possible.”

She thanks the non-represented employees for helping stabilize the budget.

Despite the “dour” situation, Haller says it’s “Worcester’s time” to prove we can get through it without the same level of problems that other cities are having/will have.

He is hammering the idea that the meeting is inaccessible for many…”When we’ve worked best is when we’ve had the public in the audience.”

Lukes, (after more Rushton remarks) “I am choosing not to respond.”

7:27: Steve Quist’s item on turning cell phones/PDAs/Blackberry’s off during meetings.

He also asks how long texting and email records are kept on city-owned PDAs.

It’s referred to Legislative Affairs.

7:30: Rosen, whose committee has a number of beetle items.

He is again questioning whether or not the state and feds have followed the city’s request to save as many “blue dot” host trees as possible.

Well..we’d tell you what the recommendations are, but there is nothing in the official agenda about this. Instead, we have a Telegram article.

7:34: The city wants to designate CitySquare as a Priority Development Site, which would expedite permitting. The project would speed the permitting process to about 180 days. (The same length as ‘shovel-ready’ development proposals….no, CitySquare isn’t on the list for stimulus package funds.)

7:40: Eddy wants a comprehensive report from the City Manager on everything going on with MassPort, the airport, etc.

Timeline wise, O’Brien says within two weeks, there should be a report on the initial state legislation in front of the council.

7:43: Rushton echoes Eddy’s questions about how much the city will get from MassPort, what the agreement will say, etc.

He’s also asking for a formal assessment of the airport land.

O’Brien: Airport is great..asset…value…asset…value..value…asset.

He wants the airport assessment value and estimated sale price – because of the “sensitivity” of negotiations – to not be publicly reported, but be discussed in executive session.

Rushton seems to have no problem with that..as long as the assessment is done ASAP.

Rushton…asking more questions about how preliminary values are being established.

Lukes: “You have to tread lightly [on] assets…in negotiation.”

“It’s really a matter for executive session.”

8:02: Once again, those blasted tech difficulties…

We had a bunch of updates on this airport discussion, but…well, they’re lost to the Internet ether.

Summary: Airport value is for executive session.

8:05: Sidewalk rehab selection hearing in Public Works! Next Tuesday! 6pm! Only on ESPN!

8:12: Buget stuff.

Haller: “We are shrinking city government, and not because it’s the right thing to do.”

She calls an earlier conversation about the budget situation over the next several years “dismal.”

8:19: Clancy, who went to the same presentation as Haller by Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation. Apparently it was quite the doomsday speech…this budget crisis will go on for years, Clancy says.

(The city has been level funded, he says…schools, have gotten any fiscal bump)

“Let’s be clear. The layoffs must begin…the pink slips must start going out.”

8:25: Joff Smith says a big piece of the budget crisis is the state’s reliance on capital gains taxes, and the disappearance of those gains.

“We need to be able to have all the tools we can…to get some additional revenues.”

8:36: Palmieri just lost his cool a little bit when Mayor Lukes didn’t recognize him, despite his hand being up…he eventually spoke, but only after Eddy asked for rules to be suspended, and Clancy encouraged him to speak.

8:50: Budget budget budget budget budget budget budgetbudget budget budgetbudget budget budgetbudget budget budgetbudget budget budget.

O’Brien: “When you look at a history as a guide,” we’ve never recovered from previous cuts, 9C and otherwise. That’s bleak.

He thanks the non-represented employees for going along with his adjustments.

8:56: Under suspension: nothing interesting, except for Lukes asking if the city has any problem with cast-iron pipes, re: the gas company’s “major” investigation.

MEETING ADJOURNED.

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2 Comments

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

  1. Schools got a “fiscal bump” from the state under the Ed Reform Act of 1993, which settled a lawsuit saying that schools were underfunded.
    aka: They had no choice.

    (Watch this, incidentally: as the front page of today’s T&G reports, the state’s lowballing funding this year is going to put them in serious arrears on the settlement that caused the Ed Reform Act. They aren’t funding up to foundation.)

  2. I’m curious as to the value of an airport that no one uses.

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