Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
7:25: Late start due to the Economic Development Meeting earlier–surprisingly not because of the Montvale Historical expansion, but because of a presentation on zoning parts of the city for wind power.
7:30: Eddy brings up his charter change right away. Says that this is only a “technical change.” He also takes a dig at Springfield because apparently when there’s a tie for second place in a district councilor race they have a coin flip at City Hall to decide who fills the vacant seat. I don’t see Casello in the audience, which is too bad because I was eagerly anticipating his address to the council in opposition to the Home Rules change.
7:32: “This charter change was never personal,” Eddy says. “It’s about the office.”
7:34: Germain questions how it goes now, and wants a definition of a “certified candidate that could fill the seat.” City Solicitor David Moore answers that as of now, anyone who received a write-in vote is considered a candidate.
7:36: Germain is against the change. He wants to “keep the transparency” that our government has right now. He says that some people worked hard to knock on doors to earn the write-in votes they received.
7:37: Toomey is “not enamored with this.” She asks “Why the rush?” She continues “The public has been taken out of the process.” She wants Eddy to consider sending this back to committee because she can support the change, but wants the public to be involved.
7:40: Palmieri points out that no matter what they do, it still has to be passed by the State House.
7:41: Eddy says that that shouldn’t be a problem.
7:42: Haller calls this a “glaring omission.” She says district 4 to go without representation even for a week would be unacceptable, which would happen if there was no second place candidate to assume the place left by a vacancy. She’s in support of the charter change.
7:43: Clancy says the “real public process here is to make sure you have representation.” He notes that when he first got on the Council nine of the city councilors were from west of Park Ave. If he had his way he’d want each district to have multiple city councilors–one from each ward.
7:46: “[The public] should choose who they want to represent them, just as you have in the process of congress…[and] US senator…I think it’s an important change, and I think it’s most important for districts 2, 3 and 4.” Clancy is referring to districts where there’s only representation by one councilor right now; where no at-large councilors live. He seems to clarify this though, as it turns out other at-large councilors–Germain is noted as living in D2–overlap with some of these districts.
7:48: Rosen says he was “going to try to be good” but he wants to say something. He’s not a supporter of this: “This is going to discourage people from running for office. It effectively removes the second place finisher.”
7:50: Rosen says that the idea that second place or write-in candidates could walk into office with only a few votes is moot because many unopposed city councilors waltz into office with well below 50% of the vote. He also says that passing this charter change would appear “self-serving” and seen as city councilors protecting their seats. He makes a point to stress that he knows that’s not the reason for this, but that’s essentially how it would appear. However, he says that if a charter commission was established and pinpointed this as something that needed to be changed, then he could consider it. Eddy is shaking his head throughout Rosen’s speech. When he sits down there’s loud applause from the crowd.
7:56: Petty stands up to defend the change. He says that other towns and cities nearby use special elections to fill vacant seats. He has “no problem” with the change.
7:57: Eddy “respectfully disagrees” with Rosen. He says that there is a “changing demographic” on the city council, showing that for the first time more than half of the council is retired. If no one official runs against an incumbent it’s not the incumbents fault. He brings up the race between Jim McGovern and Peter Blute, saying that Blute worked really hard but lost, and when McGovern left no one said “gee, Blute should take the seat.” He says running a district race is very different than running as an at-large candidate. He says there was already a public hearing and a thoughtful discussion.
Update: Casello is in the audience. Put up your dukes.
8:02: Germain says that he would support this as long as it’s prospective, not retrospective. He wants to change the charter and say that you’d have to be an announced candidate to assume a vacant seat. A last minute write-in candidate could take the seat, but Mickey Mouse or a neighbor down the street who got four votes couldn’t.
8:09: Toomey would like to hold the motion over priviledge.
8:10: Casello speaks. I’ve been waiting for this all week. (Sad, I know.) He says that the charter change would be expensive ($32,000 for each district), and at the last special election only 8.1% of voters turned out–“not much bang for our buck.”
8:12: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he says. The crowd applauds as he finishes.
8:13: Another speaker says “our charter is like the city’s constitution.” He says his votes–no matter who they are for, no matter what election–is very important to him. He says that people in the community might feel that someone within the community would be good for office then it’s their right to vote them in, that’s why the write-in is important.
8:16: Another audience member says that she’s “not saying this isn’t the wrong decision to make, but this is the wrong decision to make right now.” She’s says there’s been a lot more debate about whether Worcester should have a strong mayor format of government, “and no one’s rushing that through three days before Christmas.” More audience applause.
8:19: Another speaker says “for once I agree with you, Mr. Rosen.” She sees the city charter and thinks there are other things that need to be changed, but it needs to be vetted more by the public.
8:20: Rushton says there “may be exaggeration on both sides.” He says “it’s not an abuse of the system when you’re following the system.” No one’s going about this in a shady way. He’s going to vote for this tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s against a full charter review. He says his internship in high school at Doherty (coincidentally overseen by Rosen) was with the charter committee.
8:25: The charter change passes 10 to 1. Rosen is the only vote against.
8:31: We’ve moved on (and the City Councilors hope you have too) to talking about putting retail space in the Major Taylor parking garage using city money to fix up the space so it’s compatible for a business, saying the money would be paid back. Rushton says that the first restaurant at Union station didn’t go so well and got funds from the city too (like is wanted for the Major Taylor garage). It sounds like if it didn’t work at somewhere as nice as Union Station, it’s not going to work on Major Taylor.
8:38: Oh well. The RFP (Request for Proposal) is already out. People can bid on it. Rushton wants to be informed about this stuff because it goes out, rather than hearing about it afterwards.
8:41: Toomey says it would be wise to support the business that are already here, rather than building more space for businesses. She’s all for competition, but the city should focus on what it has now before expanding.
8:44: Clancy talks about the Greenwood Street Landfill, and if a similar RFP is/were put out the city would have to be involved because because it’s city owned.
8:48: Palmieri says it makes sense to invest in any vacant space, and notes there are no businesspeople on the council. “You can’t sell space by giving them a vision.” He calls this fundamental infrastructure–it might not be another restaurant (which was proposed for the Major Taylor garage). “As soon as the city decides to invest somewhere we have the malcontents.”
8:52: Petty says that people have the misconception that the city is giving money away.
8:54: Petty asks to take Montvale Rd. ordeal out of order and deal with it now.
8:56: Jim Crowley, a proponent of the Historic District’s expansion addresses the council and provides the background of the whole saga.
9:03: Joan Caraco (that’s probably spelled wrong) and basically calls this stuff unhospitable. She says that people do whatever they want on their own private property, and what kind of message would it send if the council allowed some neighbors to enforce their rules onto other neighbors.
9:06: Jenny Sherman is in favor of the expansion to “correct the errors in the original survey” (expansion proponents argue that a 1993 survey inadvertently left out certain parts of the district, including the disputed tennis court).
9:11: Buddy Chandler is representing Elizabeth Todd and Adi Tibrewal. He gives some background too, but from the homeowners’ perspective. He claims that they had no idea about the “political hot topic” that was the tennis court. He argues that in order for something to be in a historic district, it should be historic. The tennis court is not historic.
9:21: Palmieri says that this has gone on for sometime. He also just finished a meeting on it (see post below). He says he thought it was resolved a month ago. “This issue we thought was absolutely, unequivocably resolved.”
9:27: Palmieri says he thought they had a deal between the district and the homeowners, but it didn’t work. He’s been frustrated by the inability to find a compromise. He says the Economic subcommittee (which he chairs) voted 2 to 1 to expand the district (see post below). He has been an ardent defender of Todd and Tibrewal, but was disappointed that they/their lawyer pulled out of any bargaining options.
9:30-9:45: Technical problems–City Hall’s wifi signal dropped in and out. A recap: The decision to advertise the Montvale expansion (essentially a vote to expand the district) passed with a 9 to 2 vote. Only Clancy and Eddy voted against the expansion. Also, all the councilors voted to change a zoning law allowing wind energy (or “wind energy conversion facilities”) within the city.
9:47: Smith rises to address the Asian Longhorned Beetle. He’s glad that the USDA is using “science” to best combat the infestation.
9:50: Haller and Petty attack the livery companies for their violations. Haller notes that their violations have declined 50% recently.
9:51: Petty says there are unlicensed cabs in the city, competing illegally with the taxi companies.
9:55: The PIP shelter’s restructuring comes up. Haller calls it a success so far in Worcester’s fight against homelessness, and something to keep watching.
10:00: Councilor Rosen adjourns his last meeting. No fanfare, no gifts. Toomey says he was adamant that he didn’t want anything. And we’re done!