City Council liveblog 9/8/09

7:24: Off and away on the eve of what’s been one of the busiest political days in recent state history.

7:25: Councilor Eddy says 5 pools & 5 spray parks over the long term is probably “the most realistic” plan.

“For those who say ‘it’s different pots of money’…it simply isn’t.”

“We have to make choices and priorities with limited resources.”

7:29: The conversation is over a new pools plan brought by Councilor Rick Rushton. The plan would use the budgeted $2.5 million to build up to 3 neighborhood sized pools and have the locations determined through community hearings.

7:31: Councilor Kate Toomey asks why the council doesn’t ask for a concrete number of pools—she also questions the longt erm fiscal sense of adding big ticket items that will require maintenance, without establishing a fund to maintain them. (Additionally, she doesn’t want to commit to building more pools after next year without knowing what money will be available).

“We’re supposed to be fiscally responsible.”

She says building one pool at Crompton Park “doesn’t really help” many parts of the city. She wants 2 “good sized” pools.

7:35: City Manager Michael O’Brien, under questioning from Kate Toomey, says next year will be “the most difficult” fiscal year.

Toomey estimates the potential deficit at $35 million; O’Brien won’t confirm or deny.

7:38: We’re now debating….3 or 4 plans for the pools. The Rushton Plan, the Eddy Plan, the Toomey Plan, the City Plan….ugh.

7:39: “I’m hearing a lot of speaking out of both sides of the mouth,” says Rushton.

“The reality is what has been shortchanged is democracy.”

(Loud applause from the gathered pool activists…big crowd. Lukes asks for applause to be held until the end).

7:41: Rushton wants as many pools as possible for the $2.5 million…he says that’s 3 pools for next year.

He questions his colleagues’ lack of “willpower.”

7:47: Rushton also questions locating a pool in the one pools plan at Crompton Park, as it’s only a mile from the pool on Vernon Hill. He wants more conversation on location

Rushton has 8 votes lined up for Eddy’s plan in his figurin’

7:50: Palmieri: “I’m pleased a decision is going to be made after 20 months.” (Although he points out it hasn’t been 20 months on the council floor)

7:52: Palmieri “reminds” his colleagues that they once voted to make Holmes Field the first pool. “Maybe the council has Alzheimers.”

7:54: Here’s a shocker…Palmieri is saying he agrees most with Toomey’s plan.

He also says one size pool doesn’t fit all—that not every pool should be identical.

8:05: They’re still raging on this one. Clancy now, calling for the “big pool” model.

The thing is, they all know there are eight votes for Eddy’s plan…but they keep on debating.

8:16: Now Bill Eddy, whose will carry the day…

It’s essentially in support of the administration plan…

“Making the best judgement we can.”

8:19: Pools activists are in the hallway going over talking points for their speech…they don’t want a vote to go down tonight; if one does, they want Rushton’s plan to carry the day.

8:20: Toomey puts it simply—either build 1 pool near another pool, or build 2 that will serve more people.

“We can help more people in different areas of the city with maybe one small pool and one medium.”

She takes umbrage with the “7 years” component of the plan.

“We have before us $2.5 million…how we deal with that is what’s important.”

8:24: Joff Smith says he doesn’t love the plan, but that it’s the best option.

“This wasn’t the perfect plan, but we have to move forward.”

8:29: Rick Rushton, sound and fury. Questions the framing of the argument.

8:30: Activist Kevin Ksen says he won’t talk about the plan…but will talk about democracy.

He adresses the audience and Eddy directly…”Show respect….Lukes asks him to show respect.”

Ksen bangs the lectern….asks why no one has seen Eddy’s item….why did Eddy question openness last week, but was ok with it this week

Gets applause….asks for item to be tabled….gets applause.

Lukes asks him to stop…he keeps going, finishes to another round of applause.

8:31: Kevin Beam…of All Saints Church.

“If this council tonight doesn’t table the motion presented by Councilor Eddy and goes ahead with this vote…Kevin Ksen has spoken against….”

He’s speaking in favor of RUSHTON’S item, saying it is acceptable to all of the activists in the room.

“This motion…expresses the best stewardship of the money we DO have in hand.”

“If you’re going to vote on anything tonight, please vote Rushton’s proposal. (applause).

8:34: Lukes: Says if no decision is made tonight, a pool won’t be built at all for next year…”we’re paralyzed.”

“Frankly, I’ve been somewhat disappointed at the [process] of the decision making…on both sides.”

She says it’s become all political strategy…and that there have been many pols who have changed their minds.

And says the worst is yet to come in the budget session…says the council and city are in deep deep trouble. “God bless this city….”

“We’re getting to the name-calling stage. Is that appropriate…I think not.”

Says she was prepared to say no pools at all…

The history of the city is its inability to maintain what it owns, she says—GAR Hall, The Aud, the pools, parks, etc.

8:38: Item passes

catcalls.

Lukes: “I expect to have the audience respect the motions of this body.”

“How can we if you won’t respect us.”

CHANTS OF “WE TABLE THIS ITEM! WE TABLE THIS ITEM!” go up.

It should be noted there is no longer a detail officer on duty.

Chants end.

The Eddy/city plan passes.

Activist Cha-Cha Connor: “They turned their backs on us, let’s turn our backs on them.”

Another crowd member “No taxation without representation! I’m fuckin outta here.”

8:42: A mini gathering in the hallway. Connor: “This isn’t over”

Cops have showed up. Three. They are standing calmly with the group right now.

8:44: Grace Ross questions the democracy, the legal method how it was passed, and why spray parks were on the agenda.

“It’s a travesty.”

8:45: Rushton addresses the group briefly.

8:46: Connor “These nine pools will be demolished over my dead body.”

Group disperses…

8:52: Some Worcester Common Ground stuff.

8:53: Sounds like the protestors aren’t done…what sounds like the giant ship bell down on the ground floor was just rung.

8:55: Meeting adjourned.

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23 Comments

Filed under city council

23 responses to “City Council liveblog 9/8/09

  1. I’m watching on tv.

    More riveting than anything on ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX right now!

  2. Well, this could make this year’s election interesting…

  3. Nisa

    I think Scott may have missed the mayor saying something about the community will not be telling the governing body what to do. Request ( FOIA) a copy of that video or the transcripts ( wait a few years if not ever for it ), reviewing it you will begin to understand how this is no longer about pools. It’s about a government body that feels it is writing it’s own course. Wow, some of us believed that in the USA we would live with a government that is run by, for and of the people. It appears no longer true, especially if you live in Worcester.

  4. mike a

    fun meeting tonite..not sure where the protesters think we have the money to spend on more than one pool. Loving the “we table this item” chant. Counting down how long it will take for the protesters to make it on home and start flooding the blog with bad comments about the council. Nice pics btw, an added touch to the great coverage you always provide.

  5. perhaps Nisa, the City Councilors did listen to their constituents on this one…and not a small coalition of folks.

    it is time for the children of this city to learn how to include the library, ballfields, available pool, available natural swimming holes, organized sports, organized scouts, nature preserves within the city, youth employment programs, Worcester Youth Center, work around their own homes and faith CYO type programs into their eight week mid year break….finally some sanity was displayed this evening

  6. Nick

    The idea that these poolheads represent significant resident sentiment really baffles me. I worked with and spoke with dozens of inner-Worcester kids this summer and not one ever mentioned wanting to swim in a pool, most just wanted jobs. Worcester’s got nice lakes and ponds and far too little money to justify spending millions on two-month-a-year facilities that are bound to be poorly maintained and quickly underused.

  7. Chris

    Really Paulie? How would you know what they decided and in what interests when the specifics of the plan they approved aren’t even known? After 20 months of debate and extensive negotiation on various proposals, suddenly some new proposal is put forward that neither you or I have seen and you’re OK with that? What sanity got shown? If you could be bothered to read what happened you’d know that we’re still borrowing the same money for pools, it’s just going to be spent on a crappy proposal that i’ve not heard one person who isn’t a city official or the proposed contractor offer support to.

  8. Chris..feel free to vent your anger but the process has been vetted in my opinion and now the City Council can move on to more pressing issues that it needs to deal with..I have taken the time to speak with many city councilors..looked at the pools and their locations..know the budgetary issues and in general understand the economic state of the city…I supported the efforts but made comment on my own blog that the coalition would lose because if it’s lack of flexibility and understanding of the city pulse on this issue..lastly I do not need to see anything more to understand the issue..anyone with half a brain has the other half filled to the brim on the issue…time to now move on…hopefully the parents in this city will look to the other great amenities offered in this city next summer for their kid’s like my own urban parents did for me and my brothers and sisters.

  9. Bob

    I wonder if any of these activists pay property taxes?I’m pretty sure at least 1 of them lives in the hotel Vernon. A new crompton park pool would make a great bath! I don’t have my pool anymore, because after it broke I couldn’t afford to repair it. I couldn’t find the magical 2.5mil that the city has. I guess if I was the city I would have left my old broken pool standing and built a new state of the art in-ground pool right next to it. History tells us we don’t have to worry about maintenance for at least 15 years.

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  11. Chris

    Paulie- If you know the economic state of the city, why don’t you explain to me how requesting to spend the same amount of money allocated already in a more community oriented manner is such a problem. You seem to be arguing that the city shouldn’t be spending the money, and yet you’re happy with this proposal, which leads me to believe that you don’t understand what they decided to do. This wasn’t a discussion of spending the money or not. THEY’RE STILL SPENDING THE MONEY. The discussion was whether we want a giant pool built a mile from the other giant pool in the city, or whether we want smaller pools in more neighborhoods. To clarify your own position for you, you are supporting the council decision to spend $2.5 million in borrowed and already allocated funds to build a large pool complex at Crompton Park that no one besides you, the City Manager, eight city councilors, and the contractors seem to think makes sense.

    You can make this about me “venting my anger” but it’s pretty clear that I’ve asked you a number of questions about your support of last night’s decision and you don’t really have much to say that shows anything except that you seem confused about what was decided upon.

    Oh, by the way: I’ll be sure to let all 0-14 year old kids know about your suggestion that they should have summer jobs instead of “being at the pool all summer”. I’m sure they’ll find your advice helpful.

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  13. Chris

    I grew up in Greendale going to the Kendrick pool every summer. Im pretty sure my parents were pretty happy about their tax dollars being spent on the operation of the pool and park. None of us in the neighborhood had pools, and it was a great way to spend a hot summer day. This is a city and we should have city ameneties, which means neighborhood schools, services, street cleaning, fire and police protection etc. If the city cannot maintain these services it should raise taxes. We are one of THREE cities in the entire state that dont tax to the limit. Besides meaning $12 million extra per year that isnt available, we have ZERO credibility when we ask for money from the state.

  14. Chris

    Somerville has 2 public pools and 13 spray parks spread over 4.4 sq mi.

    Providence has 6 pools and 7 spray parks spread over 18 sq mi.

    Springfield has 11 public indoor pools (at schools), plus 2 outdoor public pools at parks serving 32 sq mi.

  15. Chris

    Cambridge has 1 pool and 25 spray parks covering 7 sq mi.

  16. “the process has been vetted ” by who?

    Set aside the pool issue. It becomes one of governance. On many other issues I have seen instance where there appeared to be a void between the council and the city manager. When talking with council members, one gets the sense that the council rarely seems to know what the city manager is up to. At least that what they tell you. Who knows if it’s true or not. THAT’s THE HEART OF PROBLEM. Now we are all suspicious of city hall.

    Transparency seems to be at a minimal only what the city wishes to share. Voting on things no one seen and such.

    I seen committee meetings that seemed to have made up minds before the first member of the community walked in. Discussion goes nowhere. It’s all predetermined agendas. This is business as usual.

    That is what we deserve when no one votes. What do you expect. Round and Round it goes.

  17. Michael

    It is interesting to read folk’s sentiments here. I attended the meeting and sense that the key issue is neighborhoods and whether a decentralist approach is better than a centralized one and a commitment to honoring several neigborhood settings for pools (at reduced costs). Clearly, most of the the powers-that-be seem to have cultivated seemingly dismissive attitude toward the actual recommendations of the city’s people. That simply generates the kind of justified anger evinced by the activists who have worked diligently on this effort to both forge a sensible vision and partnerships to get this done the right way. The city leadership is hard pressed but they also injure not only their people but themselves when they give short shrift to the democratic process and the need to genuinely and honestly communicate with the city’s people about their actual commitment to a joint labor.

  18. Cha-Cha Connor

    For the record: Kevin Ksen didn’t say that he didn’t want to talk about “the plan”.

    He said he wasn’t going to bother reminding councilors about “the promises” they made to Save Our Poolz and community members over the past two years.

    Promises like, supporting a 9 pools task force (which we’ve been asking to help serve on for over 6 months now), and support neighborhood sized pool models (which would cost less money). Or, promises like: abiding by an agreed upon public process in which the Youth, Parks, and Recreation committee comes up with a plan that reflects the voices of hundreds of people who apparently wasted their time coming to 7 public hearings about the future of the pools.

    Since 8 votes were lined up in favor of Eddy’s proposal, which is actually the City Manager and Robert Moylan’s proposal of 2 years ago, it seemed pretty useless to remind the majority of councilors of the many conversations we’ve had and the process which was agreed upon and then, apparently, discarded.

    We could have talked about an alternative plan, though, if given a chance.

    We could have talked about the neighborhood sized pool model put together with the help of Custom Pools, the company that built the original Kendrick pool. The first draft neighborhood sized pool that we worked out with Custom was 4000 sq feet, 0 entry, and cost less than $500 K, even accounting for MA state tax, and prevailing wage.

    Contrary to some media accounts that portray the Save Our Poolz neighborhood sized pool plan as a fantasy, it was actually a well researched proposal that we have been working on with the help of aquatics engineers. I wish more media had reported on this alternative accurately and in detail, but they didn’t.

    In the face of the City Manager’s need to get his way come hell or high water, though, it turns out that good research, public opinion, and over 2 years of work by hundreds of neighborhood residents doesn’t matter to most of our Councilors. Bill Eddy, in particular, has taken us 2 years backwards, to a proposal that almost NOBODY wanted. By disregarding the public process, he also taught a large group of residents that you can’t trust any promise you hear out of most of our councilors. Lesson learned!

    When Lukes told Ksen to “be respectful,” that was really quite a laugh for all the people in that room who feel beyond disrespected by the politicians who are supposed to abide by the public process, and don’t. No one in that room, or in the neighborhoods, had been given any clue that the City Manger / Bill Eddy were going to pull out the very proposal that hundreds of people have been protesting / organizing against for 2 years. It wasn’t on the agenda. And it’s not as though we hadn’t been calling our Councilors in the interim – it would have been easy for someone to communicate, but they didn’t. 100% back door garbage, if you ask me.

    And then, when residents feel like the 7 public hearings and the agreed upon process was all a sick joke, Councilors are surprised when they are angry enough to yell. I mean, it seemed like pretty straight forward cause and effect to me.

    So often when I read about the pools issue on the internet, it seems like many commentators really do think that it’s all about pools. A far cry from the folks in affected neighborhoods who have been part of the process. Every single one of them that I’ve spoken with understands that it’s about way more than pools – it’s about democracy, and having a public process that reflects the will of the people who bother to participate.

  19. Cha-Cha Connor

    It’s a funny clip, but it’s not really an accurate portrayal of what happened.

  20. Your anger at those council members who’ve wasted so much of your time is completely justified. Of course they should never have made promises if they knew full well that they would later renege.

    The neighborhood pools issue in particular seems to be mostly about cultural differences. The council members apparently want “only the best” pools for their city – as they probably would for their own homes/families. I myself would prefer to see Wheels to Water continue and expand, because I think it gives inner-city kids the same advantage of close adult monitoring and supervision that the suburban kids have. Nearly all the suburban kids’ parents transport them to and from every activity.

    It does make sense that the availability of simple, basic neighborhood recreation facilities would be a high priority for young, still-enthusiastic people like yourselves. (Although it seems like a lifetime ago now, I can still recall what it was like to feel that way – and I miss it.) But some of us more world-weary residents see things from a standpoint closer to the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We see a city that first needs to continue:

    1. updating its deteriorating water and sewer systems;

    2. restoring or demolishing its run-down old houses and dilapidated old factory buildings;

    3. cleaning up its roadside litter and removing its four foot tall weeds; and

    4. replacing its crumbling sidewalks.

    We also see a city that needs to find creative ways to motivate some of its more apathetic public school students. As for maintaining public safety and domestic tranquility (usually first priority), I would say that the city seems to be doing a pretty good job of that already. Knock on wood.

    P.S. to the Editor:
    I didn’t think you would allow embedding in these comments… Anyway, thanks for taking care of that for me.

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