City Council Liveblog 3/10/09

7:20 Underway here. Starting out with a special proclamation thanking our good friends at WTAG for their ice storm coverage in December. Mayor Konnie Lukes says the station’s response and wall-to-wall updates and coverage saved property damage and, potentially, lives.

“Hats off to TAG,” says Councilor Paul Clancy. “They had a five-star response.”

“The entire Worcester County community…is grateful,” says Councilor Phil Palmieri.

Good to see the whole station on-air crew here, including Jordan Levy. That might be a look of nostalgia in his eyes, or he may be bored already. We can’t tell.

Councilor Kate Toomey: “This is what I love about Worcester. In times of crisis, people go above and beyond.”

Councilor Gary Rosen: “Good to see a big crew here [from the station]…looks like a retreat.” ZING! “And you guys are going out of town too!” DOUBLE ZING!!!!

“It was inspirational,” says Councilor Barbara Haller. “It brought the community together.”

7:32: Councilor Joe Petty: “You provided tremendous service,” says Councilor Petty.

Councilor Michael Germain says that his son’s mother didn’t want to tune in to WTAG initially, because she was afraid Jim Polito would call Michael an idiot on-air again.

Is this becoming a roast? Councilor Eddy just called the crew the “Jordan Levy tour group.”

Even City Manager Michael O’Brien is thanking the station, saying they were “instrumental” in getting communication going for the city. He specifically thanks Program Manager George Brown.

7:38: WTAG’s Sean Davy is saying the thanks from the council and the Chamber of Commerce last week is “more than we can ask for.”

7:40: A little speech from Worcester Local First thanking the council for a proclamation issued last week for the “10% Shift” campaign starting next Monday. The campaign encourages consumers to shift at least 10% of their purchases to local businesses away from national chains.

7:47: Bill Coleman speaking on establishing a supplemental budget plan called the “City of Worcester Crisis Budget Fund.” Essentially, it would abe a fund for anyone who wants to donate extra money to the city to help out with the budget situation.

As an aside, we just noticed Nick K from the Telegram has a laptop here. Yes, that’s unexpected enough to be worthy of a mention.

7:52: Germain wants to know how much money is spent on outside counsel versus the City Solicitor, and if it would be more cost effective to utilize only in-house counsel.

Rosen raises that sometimes using specialized outside counsel is more effective–such as Ropes&Gray during CitySquare negotiations.

8:02: On clear opposition from his fellow councilors, Germain withdraws his motion to move only to inside counsel; the motion to get a cost analysis is still on the table.

8:04: Germain wants to see a plan that would reward city employees for moving off the city’s health plan onto a spouse’s plan.

City Manager Michael O’Brien says that when a similar plan was tried several years ago, the city found short term savings, but that many workers transferred back as soon as they could; still, he says his administration is going to look into it one more time.

8:17: Rosen wants to know the pan to get rid of the feral cats and geese in the city; Eddy raises the issue of purchasing a Border Collie for the golf course.

8:18: Rosen is absolutely yukking it up tonight. He wants to know the progress and usage of the Yellow Boxes around the city…

8:24: You know, maybe the retreat did work. This group is downright jovial with each other.

8:26: Petty wants to know how MassPort is spending advertising dollars to promote DirectAir and ORH and why money isn’t being spent in Boston.

8:30: Councilors want to know about tax abatements on properties affected by the Asian Longhorned Beetle tree removal.

Councilor Rushton says it’s simply what’s needed after residents have had their property values so drastically changed—and mentions the trees wrongfully cut down.

Councilor Smith: The mistakes made by the USDA/DCR were “unacceptable.” And while changes are being made, “That doesn’t do anything to mitigate the fact that [neighborhoods] were devastated.”

“These neighbors didn’t bring the Asian Longhorned Beetle here so I don’t think…they should be financially effected.”

He also wants state legislation to allow abatements, since they’re currently not legal in a case like this.

8:40: Palmieri says he hopes a predator or serum can be found to help take out the Asian Longhorned Beetle. None is known to science right now.

8:50: Clancy wants to do a wholesale reevaluation in certain areas…but the important part is specifying how much of value decrease is due to the beetles.

9:00: All beetles all the time. Some more orders in there, and now Petty, asking if we can get data from past eradication efforts…including how many initially “non-infested” trees were eventually found to be infested.

O’Brien: They’ve only surveyed 2.7 sq. miles out of the 64 sq. mi. in the city so far…and when he gets research from government officials of danger of infested trees, it says “quite possible” or “likely.”

O’Brien – for one of the first times so bluntly – says that with the amount of wood product that moves around, “If it’s here…it’s elsewhere in New England.”

9:20: Votes on three resolutions: To support the Telecom Loophole Tax, the Hotel/Motel tax, and the meals tax components of the Emergency Municipal Relief Act. Unanimous Yes on the first two; all yes except for Lukes on the third.

9:22: Toomey is asking the city to ask colleges to loan employees to help the Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development with foreclosure issues.

9:23: The council recesses to executive session to discuss collective bargaining.

We’re out.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “City Council Liveblog 3/10/09

  1. Steve Toomey

    Move the link for the daily wuss up higher on the page so it is easier to get to from my blackberry.

  2. Did the Mayor leave on meals tax or vote no? (Was it 10-0 or 10-1?)

  3. Colin Novick

    Wait a minute?!

    Back to Joff’s line:

    “These neighbors didn’t bring the Asian Longhorned Beetle here so I don’t think…they should be financially effected.”

    This ‘logic’ doesn’t hold. It is an Act of God (in the insurance sense), or more precisely an Act of Beetle.

    The neighbors didn’t bring the beetles here, so they shouldn’t be financially impacted?

    Well…

    The USDA didn’t bring the beetles here either, and they are paying heavily for this,
    The state DCR didn’t bring the beetles here either, and they are paying for it,
    The City didn’t bring the beetles here and they (which is we) are paying as well,
    Norton/St. Gobain did not strictly speaking bring the beetles here either,

    So……

    There is only one answer if you follow Joff’s logic….

    That’s right!

    A Class Action Lawsuit against the Asian Longhorned Beetles!?

    No, no, no.

    We are all impacted, we are all sacrificing, we are all giving something up. Yes, it is hard. No, no one would ever wish this on their community. Blaming USDA, or anyone for that matter, is avoiding the real task we need to focus on:

    Find the beetles quickly and thoroughly, remove them quickly and carefully, and try to save as much of the forest in New England as possible. That is what is at stake here, and that is bigger fiscally, emotionally, and visually than most of us are able to wrap our heads around.

    We didn’t bring this problem on ourselves knowingly, but we are now responsible for facing this as a community, and our sacrifices are benefiting the greater good of New England.

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