6:58: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to our regularly scheduled City Council meetings! This week, and every week for the foreseeable future!
We’ll be liveblogging a lively meeting in a bit, stay tuned here for all the fun!
(And, we promise, no more exclamation points.)
7:15: Heeeere we go. We’ll pick up once they’re past proclamations, etc.
7:23: Some economic development resolutions not on the agenda, as far as we can see…a new TIF agreement for the Beechwood Hotel, which is undergoing a massive expansion project–a $17 million investment on the part of the hotel. At least 51% of jobs created will be for Worcester residents, as will 51% of construction teams hired.
7:31: A bunch of sex offender residency requirements proposed by Councilor Haller. Not the first time we’ve seen ordinances like this. A proposal failed in 2007.
1. City Manager provide City Council with a draft ordinance that will prohibit Level 3 sex offenders from living or working within 1000 feet of a school or park.
2. A draft ordinance that will prohibit landlords from renting to more than one Level 3 sex offender at any one building address.
3. A draft ordinance that will prohibit owners of more than one property on a given street from renting to more than one Level 3 sex offender on that given street.
And 4. A report to City Council concerning the South Middlesex Opportunity Council’s placement of “difficult to house” released prisoners, especially Level 3 sex offenders. Request the report to include number of housing placements per town/municipality for the past 2 years. Request that data for Worcester placements be further defined by zip code.
7:34: We wrote extensively about this issue in 2007.
Haller says she’s finding several triple deckers or single residences with multiple sex offenders—she says she’s concerned about a “clustering effect.”
“As we get into a clustering effect, the opportunity for redemption is reduced.”
“I’m not interested in passing anything quickly,” she says, calling for a public hearing.
And she acknowledges that too many restrictions may drive sex offenders underground or to other communities.
7:35: Haller says she filed her orders to “investigate whether there are some steps the city…should take to increase the liklihood of our city remaining safe.”
Haller says her proposals are focused on avoiding clustering – hence her proposal not to allow offenders to live on the same street.
“Driving underground is worse,” says Councilor Rick Rushton, “I’m glad we’re going to get that report.”
7:42: ACLU’s Ronal Madnick, opposing residence and rental restrictions for offenders. He says it impacts stability, rehabilitation, etc…would negatively impact recidivism and undermine the monitoring of offenders.
He says that by forcing offenders into zones, the city would CREATE clustering, the very thing Haller says she opposes.
7:47: Main South activist Billy Breault who is (shocker) in heavy support of the orders filed by Councilor Haller.
Breault bringing up a couple incidents involving offenders—one being the fire/murder on December 18th—saying the two arrested were both sex offenders….as is the “star witness.”
7:50: Breault says one landlord – living in West Boylston – has about a dozen sex offenders living in ten properties throughout District 4(we think)
Something needs to be done, says Breault.
Let us sum up: Sex offenders are frightening, bad people who shouldn’t live in any sort of groups near anyone else.
“The small towns…have reacted. We haven’t reacted.”
“We’re being dumped on.”
8:18: No, we haven’t forgotten about you. Just don’t want you to fall asleep with some of this stuff.
The city is taking stimulus money to make improvements at the water filtration plant.
And everyone is talking about another water issue—the state water sustainability bill. Rushton wants to make sure we don’t harm our water supply in the name of being green.
And Rosen agrees, saying that we don’t want to kill our water supply just to do what advocates suggest. “Creating a shortage of water seems to be the wrong method to help the aquatic life.”
8:23: WE’RE GONNA DIE OF THIRST!
Look, as councilors point out, legislators are going to discuss this, they realize it is probably too strong as written. But with councilors decrying it en masse, we’re becoming deathly afraid.
8:31: The much anticipated pool discussion. The City Manager is looking to build a huge pool next year; activists want a bunch of “neighborhood pools.”
Rushton calls their decision a “40 year decision”
8:33: Rushton says the process so far, “…is not in the spirit of the public process…” to applause.
8:37: Rushton continues to refer to the pool company talked to by activists as working for the “president” of Saudi Arabia.
He asks the City Manager to continue the public process. Choosing one neighborhood without input isn’t right, he says….to more applause.
8:44: Councilor Paul Clancy calls for a facility to be open next summer.
Rushton is going to hold the pool item after discussion is complete.
8:47: Haller is calling to pass the motion next week.
8:49: Everyone is being so kind by keeping their remarks “short,” knowing they get to FULLY debate next week.
Rosen asks if the task force discussed months ago was ever going to be convened.
8:55: Councilor Smith says there have been public meetings, but no official recommendation as come out of committee…so how can the City Manager say there is consensus on how many pools or where? “I never voted…for a pool at Crompton.”
8:58: Councilor Palmieri reminds the council that they once voted “11-0” to make Holmes Field the first pool built.
9:02: Councilor Toomey: “Whatever we do…we need to ensure…we are making the most…fiscally responsible, sustainable decisions.”
9:06: Councilor Petty says approving this pool doesn’t preclude any other pools that activists want in the future.
9:07: “I’m beginning to think this chamber is in lala land,” says Councilor Eddy. “[You think] you can be all things to all people.”
He says ANY money for pool is going to come out of our pockets somehow—
He says we’re looking at HUGE cuts, and debating building pools.
AND…Eddy is on a role…he calls holding items under personal privilege the “least transparent” part of council politics.
“We have lost our compass on this issue. This thing is been going on for a year and a half…with no decision. It’s time to make a decision we can fiscally afford, and move forward.”
Eddy is also going to hold rules committee hearings on changing Rule 60, personal privilege.
9:13: We’re going a second round! Lukes says no, councilors say yes! We’re just picking and choosing rules all night!
Rushton is on the attack!
(Who said we wouldn’t have exclamations tonight?)
Rushton said the point of personal privilege was to make sure the City Manager actually listened.
Rushton says Haller told people there would be a pool at Crompton Park.
Haller interjects “I did not say that.”
Lukes: “This is going too far.”
9:19: Rushton says the city needs to do this the right way.
9:20: Haller says the process is going the right way.
She says there are multiple points of view, but while the discussion is ongoing, the city made a decision to actually get something done for next year.
She says she supports the recommendation.
“If we’re going to have 9 pools or 7 pools, 12 pools…it is going to require a public/private partnership.”
9:24: Clancy decries inaction.
Lukes will only allow one pro-Save Our Poolz person to speak.
“I am greatly trouble by the thinking that is going on…spending money that we don’t have.”
9:25: City Manager Michael O’Brien, “The facts speak for themselves and they are stark….we struggle with limited resources.”
O’Brien says the city is just trying to move forward and getting something done.
9:31: Sister Constance Charette, who works at Pernet.
“I think we have before us an issue of pools, swimming pools…[but also an issue of] how come we haven’t come to a decision yet?”
“We’re trying to motivate people…in the democratic process.”
“Over and over people have said ‘we want neighborhood pools'”
“What happened to the process?”
9:36: Lukes is breaking her own rule(ha!) and allowing one more speaker—Susan (something) asking AGAIN(she was here 11 months ago) on the aquatic plan.
She says “we want the process to work. This is our freedom, this is what our country is based upon….please do not jump the gun for one bells and whistles pool that is only going to serve a few.”
9:48: That lasted long. The chief nursing position is being restored.
10:02: Talk on how Health Insurance reform has saved a lot of money. Councilors thank the Manager, he thanks them.
10:08: City is getting ready for possible H1N1 problems…
10:09: Moving through a bunch of orders “as they read” to get through them, and us out of here before 11.
10:13: Supplemental item on “making movies in Worcester.” It’s filed.
10:14: Under suspension, Councilor Joe Petty asks for the business plan for Direct Air.
10:14: We’re adjourned.