City Council liveblog, 5/5/09

4:23: Alright. Little bit of a late start. But let’s go… (Should be noted Councilors Toomey and Clancy are absent.)

4:24: It’s a packed house. The crowd literally spills over into the hallway. The two most notable groups in the audience are members of the Commission on Disability, the now defunct Office on Disabilities and other members of the physically disabled community. Six people in wheelchairs are by the hallway entrance. Clearly accommodations are not ideal as crowd is bottle-necked. Will report more on disability issues later…

4:26: Councilors Smith and Petti ask for FY 2010 capital budget monies to plant trees along city streets. Smith notes that while other funds are  using as part of capital budgeting project. Replanting this year, this spring, continue in fall. “Only prudent way [to adress problems] is to borrow money through the capital budget.”

4:32: Let’s just fast forward to the good stuff, shall we? School versus City, (insert ominous sound effect)

4:32: Mayor Lukes speaks on behalf of Councilors Rosen, Rushton, Smith and Germain when she requests a cost savings measure to merge the school’s human resources department with the city’s human resources office.

4:33: “With the administrative structure we have, we’re going to have to merge and make more cuts,” Lukes says in her typical no nonsense style. ” We’re going to have to take away more. We’re not going to give back.” Lukes asks that if teachers are going to be kept in classroom, where are cuts going to come. But most DAMNING follows…Lukes calls the School’s Human Resource Dpeartment a “black eye to the city.” She mentions the hiring of “a particular person.” She calls the city’s Human Resource Department “more transparent” and has been able to avoid school issues.

4:45: Fast forward…Tracy Novick, School Committee candidate fights back during a citizen comment (while Lukes watches the clock–she only has 3 min.).

“This is not springing up organically…this is not the kind of item that assists in an effort in forming a partnership. This is coming from one side of isle and it’s the side of isle that holds purse strings…

4:46: Novick tells the Council that they cannot force a human resource merger under law without consulting school committee. “You all suggesting this on your own, independently, is not the best way to do this.

5:00: Councilor Rosen asks City Manager to report on how the city plans to mantain services for those of the disability community after the elimination of the Office of Disability. He says members of the disability committee have told him that their voice needs to be here. “These people have told me that, ‘We deserve services too. That we are taxpayers too.'” Members of the disability community in attendance applause and nod their heads in agreement. Some gave each other looks as if to say, “Wow…wasn’t expecting that kind of support.”

5:08: Former Director of Office on Disability, Larry Raymond, speaks to the council, criticizing the lack of warning before his office was dismantled. He also cited efforts of previous city managers to maintain disability services.

5:23: Rosen asking city to accept Federal Aviation Administration Emergency Material Arresting System grants, declaring the savings to the city. Rushton asks for status on negotiations with MassPort. Says the city should have the issue on the radar. … Smith says not to “give away” airport to MassPort, while pledging his support to the project.

5:28: “We’re damned if we don’t, damned if we do,” Councilor Eddy says. Says will protect district 5 but his criticism of deal is also  about the “fiscal prudency of city.”

6:10: Long conversatino about the anticipated DCR cleanup of brush still on streets after the December ice storm.  Last week, the council had heard that the cleanup was ready to start, but this week, the administration was handed another delay.  (FEMA and DCR aren’t getting along, says Moylan)  It’s been over a month that the city has been waiting for DCR, and is now being told to wait longer; Moylan says that the city could have crews on the road within a few days.

The total cost to the city is estimated at $1,125,000, whether or not the city contracts out the work itself; it would be about $100,000 higher if the city handled the chipping itself, rather than DCR.

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