City Council Liveblog 6/9/09

7:11: Underway. Grace Ross talking about the council taking a stand against predatory lending; a state hearing is taking place next week.

7:14: A presentation on the future of development in Quinsigamond Village by Stephen Crane of the Economic Development team.

This is going to be all about “restoring the past” as a path towards “revitalization.”

  • “Directly stimulate…economic development…in the Quinsigamond Vilage area”
  • Capitalizing on historical nature, 146 development, Holy Cross reorienting campus, Blackstone Street development
  • Extension of streetscape efforts
  • Talk of how the Village is really five separate little areas for this study; all have similar issues
  • Coordinate with Worcester Crossing and the Visitor’s Center
  • Promote new business activities that build off character—antique stores, book stores, bike shops college-oriented retail like coffee shops. (So…good retail that’s needed citywide? Got it.)
  • Facade/storefront improvement grants—similar restrictions and requirements to related efforts throughout the ciy

7:26: Clancy. He thanks people. It’s a good project. Etc.

7:29: Haller: She thinks it’s great seeing this go forward with a clear vision.

7:30: Toomey: The Village has “heart” and “great bones” and just needs a good “dressing up.”

7:35: New companies moving into the Airport Industrial Park. Woohoo! Industrial stuff…nothing actually airport related, from what we can hear.

7:40: Palmieri says the city needed to “lobby” the Telegram to get a story on St. Gobain’s planned expansion.

He also says that expansion, which includes manufacturing of solar panel film coverings will be one of Worcester’s biggest growth stories.

(He’s hammering the papers, saying that “maybe…[this will] be on the front page!”

7:49: Bill Coleman calling for a charter review with “no preconceived notions.”

7:50: Bill Eddy – a veteran of several charter efforts – says “there’s nothing wrong with looking at the charter,” but that it must be a “democratic process.”

He says that a Charter Commission is the wrong way to go…that the effort needs to be a grassroots effort to get a charter question on the agenda; he is urging his colleagues to vote against referring the item to committee…he says Coleman should “avail himself of the democratic process.”

Rushton, Germain, and Toomey vote against filing.

7:53: The item calling for consideration of an adjustment of the allocation of street resurfacing funds. It’s at 50/50 right now.

Palmieri. This is his baby….he wants the residential streets getting MUCH more than 50%

Palmieri: “Each district is not the same when it comes to streets and sidewalks.”

For example, he says, his district has a number of arterial streets in good condition…or that fall under state funding. Thus, his district needs money for residential streets.

He says the residential streets in the city…the people with “no voice”…are sometimes the toughest to reach, and the ones that rarely get resurfaced.

8:01: He wants “flexibility” for the districts that may need more money for non-arterial streets.

He says he’s “not playing to any crowd anywhere” and will avoid being adversarial.

Essentially, it’s a call for two things: A change of the 50% split, but also (maybe) more control for councilors over what streets get picked.

“People want to see their taxpayer dollars working. When they see it in front of their home…they see it working.”

8:03: Rushton says the issue is similar to a charter change.

“The reality is a street doesn’t know what district it lies in…it just knows it’s old an broken.”

He says arterial roads have been treated well lately, and a “minor shift” to residential streets might be a more appropriate level of funding.

Rushton says District 1 and 5 have more streets per mile than other districts, so dividing money evenly between districts isn’t fair.

We’re having a few different interconnected discussions here…

8:06: Clancy says he doesn’t like how the item is worded; he’s looking forward to having a conversation on the issue in the subcommittee hearing.

“Don’t say one district has more streets than another…District 4 has more need.”

“Don’t start the district comparison issue. It makes councilors look petty and small.”

Clancy says the cost of asphalt is still high. “The real issue here is money.”

“There has to be a look at what we use our capital for. Streets and sidewalks is the number one issue in the surveys.”

Mayor Lukes: “That’s not going to be a boring conversation

8:12: Rushton asking about the Elm Park Community School park.

City Manager Michael O’Brien says sod will be put down later this summer.

8:32: Police staffing. It’s under attack from slashed state and federal funding, both enacted and proposed.

Chief Gemme says frontline officer staffing is down. And because the community wants to keep Community Impact Division, Chief Gemme says the “only” area left to pull from was the investigative unit.

Down to 75-80 investigators…usually at about 100.

Haller: “I’m extremely disappointed in this memo.”

Toomey, like Haller, says they need to send a letter to Congressman McGovern asking for the legislature to speed up deciding what to do with federal grant money.

8:44: Strategy change on Asian Longhorned Beetle program.

Now, the government scientists say it makes more sense to cut down infested trees during the early emergence phase…they had previously said cutdowns could only happen after the first frost until June.

“Sometimes with the USDA it seems like the science is changed on a week by week basis,” says Councilor Smith.

“Be up front and don’t change your story on a weekly basis.”

“Since they’ve been doing this for over 10 years, why weren’t they aware of this?…it seems like Worcester has been the guinea pig.”

He says he won’t support the strategy change this until a public hearing with EVERYONE this affects.

Calling it “suspect science,” and saying he’s unaware of any major new study, he calls for the city needs to take a “firm stand” and not let the USDA do whatever they want.

“Certainly, we know infested trees must come down…but don’t tell us one thing, and do another.”

Rosen: “We’re told there’s new scientific data.”

Rosen goes to the heart of the USDA’s call for tree cutting, outside of the dormant phase: 300 new trees are infested.

“This is an unusual report from the [administration], there is no recommendation.”

He calls for the USDA to come into a committee hearing as well.

8:57: DPW Commish Bob Moylan says the city still hasn’t gotten all the evidence from the USDA/DCR on the benefits of cutting down the infested trees during the rest of June, rather than waiting until the dormant phase.

Moylan: “The question is do they come down now, or do we wait until the first freeze.”

Clancy: “So why would we wait? What’s the advantage of waiting?”

Moylan: “I thought it was important people understood what we were saying…the difficulty is of course in the pain that will be endured by that neighborhood.”

9:11: Ongoing debate here about when to have a meeting (It’ll be on Monday night), and the truth behind the USDA’s science.

Haller: “I think there’s two issues here:…Can we cut down when they’re emerging…and are they emerging right now.”

9:12: Smith: “If taking the tree down is going to risk spreading the beetle even further, that’s not a good plan.”

“There is no science that they’ve shown us.” He calls July 1 an “arbitrary” date “contrary” to anything the USDA/DCR has said before.

9:17: “There is no change in the science that the trees need to come down…there is no change that we’re in pre-emergence phase.”

The ONLY change is that the USDA says we can now cut trees, rather than having to stop at April 30th, as previously indicated.

The USDA also thinks most of these trees were infested over the past 12 months…Moylan cautions the USDA infers we wouldn’t want to have MORE trees infested next year, just because these were left up.

It’s a change in biological science related to emergence date.

9:22: Haller says there is a change in the science: The USDA used to say emergence phase was in June, now they say it’s July.

If the cutting is approved by next Tuesday, the trees will be felled by the end of the month.

9:24: Clancy says, essentially, “why wait?” He calls for at least taking down the infested trees in public parks this week. (He thought the only issue was making sure abutters were properly informed.)

9:29: Eddy gets rules suspended to ask about storm debris cleanup.

He says it’s all going well. He wanted to get some good news in there.

9:44: Adjourned.

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