Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
7:06: A delegation from Worcester’s Russian sister city, Pushkin, is here to “see how efficiently our city government works,” as mayor Lukes says. She acknowledges someone’s chuckle in the audience.
7:07: Big news right away: Joe Casello was on the agenda to speak this week to the council, but he’s been put off until next. More on this in Thursday’s paper.
7:11: Eddy speaks about his charter change (look under the heading “He Doesn’t Know“). He defends his argument that a special election is the way to go when a vacancy appears in a district council seat. “It’s about what voters want–going to the polls and electing who they want.” He’s charged out of the gate–very impassioned, like he’s ready for a debate on this (stay tuned for next week’s council meeting). He’s recommending the charter change to the council.
7:16: Germain recommends to hold the charter change under priviledge. It’ll be brought up next week.
7:17: Rushton wants more information from the Police about citations against the Livery companies in the city.
7:19: Clancy is stunned by the “disregard for the law” by the Livery companies. He wants to explore the heaviest amount of money that can be fined against these companies.
7:20: The council votes to allow the city manager to designate areas within the city for stimulus Recovery Zone Facility bonds (again, look for more info on this in Thursday’s paper).
7:25: Discussing the Canal District stimulus money. Commissioner Moylan says the deadlines are very tight, and that the state has decided to fund the streetscaping with their own enhancement funds to help the city stay on these very tight timelines. The new funding “gives us a buffer” so the city has more time to get rights of way from the nearly 200 abutters of the Canal District funding. The only change now is that instead of bidding in January, the state (more specifically MassDOT) will now bid for the city in April. Moylan assures the council that the monetary amount and type of projects haven’t changed. [The meeting for this was liveblogged today by another Worcester blogger. Read it here.]
7:32: Clancy expresses dismay that sidewalks in the area of the construction that have just been laid will be tore up and replaced in order for the streets to look consistent. He says it’s too bad that money couldn’t be used in other way.
7:33: They’re talking new North High now. “I think North High is shaping up to be an excellent facility,” says Clancy. It’s looking like construction will be on time and on budget, which is something definitely worth acknowledging.
7:38: “It’s on time, but it’s 25 years late,” says Palmieri.
7:40: Eddy speaks about arming animal control officers and putting them under the WPD, saying it’s a need for fighting urban crime and drugs. He says pit bulls are being used more and more in relation to drug crime.
7:42: Mike O’Brien has been very pleased about the combination of animal control and the WPD.
7:43: Haller wants to know if the WPD’s change to the hours of its records bureau has inconvenienced the public. Chief Gemme says he hasn’t heard any negative feedback.
7:45: Petty is talking about the WPD’s redeployment plan. 11 police official posts will be reduced, 21 patrol positions will be lost and 30 recruits will be laid off. Chief Gemme compares these layoffs to the early ’90s.
7:48: “This is a really depressing report” says Haller. She does say there are positives, like the chief is working with the city manager to make the best of what they have, but she says they’re “dismantling the positive strides” in terms of community development. She says the chief doesn’t have the tools (because of the budget, not competence) about reducing traffic issues in the city, and that’s disappointing.
7:55: “This has been a thoughtful and systematic scale back of the WPD” says Mike O’Brien.
8:01: Haller wants to know if we have any grants or federal money coming to help alleviate some of the WPD’s issues. O’Brien says no, but he’s actively “scanning” for any available monies.
8:03: More discussion on the WPD’s budget. Eddy calls this report “triage.” He, like Haller, hears a lot about traffic and safety at public meetings. He says we can’t meet public safety demands based on this report, as this is the lowest number of staffed police officers since the 90s.
8:08: Eddy says we’ll be talking about the budget in the spring, and we have to get beyond using words like “distressing” or “depressing”.
8:12: Smith talks about “hate-filled graffiti” on the west side of the city. He wants the councilors to sign on to a joint statement between him and Sen. Harriette Chandler: “We do not tolerate hate, and we do not encourage those who promote it.” He wants the local pols to sign onto this to show that city officials hate hate.
8:19: Gemme says he believes they have suspects involved in the graffiting and the overturned gravestones in the Worcester Hebrew Cemetery in Auburn.
8:20: Rushton says that “wherever you’re from, you’re welcome in Worcester.” He references recently helping a Kenyan woman seek asylum in Worcester.
8:26: Worcester Public Library just got $1,000 from the Central MA Regional Wellness System!
8:27: City Assessor Ford and Rushton get into a conversation about analyzing/assessing properties. That’s not going to happen until the spring.
8:32: Mass College of Pharmacy and WPI offer a ton of money in the form of PILOT. Haller says there’s a correction. She says it should say MCPHS has paid around 1.25 million to the city.
8:38: Toomey says there needs to be “open communication” coming up. It’s going to be a difficult budget season coming up, she says.
8:38: Clancy says the city report was good, the School Dept.’s was “gobbly guk.”
8:39: Toomey and Clancy team up to get some answers to questions posed to the School Department.
8:40: Airport talk. Petty says Direct Air is doing a good job, and the council is hoping there will be expanded flights to other states.
8:42: Petty says a grant is available for 16 communities to track public health issues. He thinks Worcester would be a great place for that. The filing date is in mid-January, and he wants the city for file for it.
8:43: Smith wants the city to start using Zumbox. He explains: “it’s pretty simple. It functions like the USPS but without envelopes and stamps.” It’s good for bills, notices and instantly sending out information if a geographic area has a problem like a water main break. There’s no cost to the city to use this. Even if 1/3 of the people sign up for this, that means it’s 1/3 less stamps, paper, etc. used by the city. He says that some cities have saved up to six figures using it.
8:46: Mayor Lukes steps down to address the council. Rushton takes her place. She wants Worcester to “shed it’s inferiority complex” and begin to present the city better in its marketing campaigns.
8:50: Amending the Salary Ordinance of August 20, 1996 relative to Members of Local 911, NEPBA (police offices) passes. Lukes is the only “nay” vote.
8:58: We’re back to talking about Holy Cross and Father McFarland. Nothing new is being said since the discussions over the last couple weeks.
9:00: And we’ve adjourned. Council Rosen makes the motion.