Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Everyone’s getting settled for the meeting. I’ve already gotten one of those after dinner mints (the green and white kind) so we’re already off to a good start.
7:07: The Council recognizes the Worcester Community Action Council for their work.
7:14: Trinh Huynh is on the Human Rights Commission. Kola Akindele, William Bilotta and Vadim Michajlow are on the Zoning Board of Appeals. James Berry is on the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. Herbert Cremer, Mary Healey, and Deborah Malone are appointed to the Commission on Disabilities.
7:18: Petty addresses taking over lights from National Grid. He says it’s good that it will save the city money, but notes the budget gap. Petty says it’s a good idea and “by the end of the day we’ll own the street lights.”
7:20: Smith agrees, and notes that with National Grid’s rates going up it’ll save the city even more. He wants to know how long it will take to resolve owning the lights and when the savings will start showing up in the budget.
7:21: Moylan notes this has been a difficult transition. He says we can get this transaction finished by the end of this month. Smith says that the city has been paying extra for the last couple months, Moylan notes the price increased without anyone knowing. The increase hasn’t been paid by the city yet, and they won’t have to pay the increased fee to National Grid if the light transaction is completed by the end of this month.
7:24: Clancy wants to know if we lose tax money from National Grid by buying street lights. (Moylan noted that we could save up to $1.2 million this year if the transaction is completed by the end of this month.) Moylan says that lost tax money has been factored into the savings figure. Clancy asks for a breakdown in a future report. He also says there are people who have been waiting 8 months for street lights. He wants to know if they’ll have to wait even longer. Moylan says yes, they won’t get street lights until this is settled and the budget for new ones is assessed.
7:29: Haller wants to know if there’s anything the councilors can do to speed up negotiations. Moylan essentially says don’t worry about it.
7:32: Clancy’s talking about the Greenwood Street Landfill and the Blackstone River bike path, which is only a fraction of the length it was planned to be nearly a decade ago. He’s also talking about putting an aquatic playground in the area. Haller says she’s “delighted” with the plans to reuse the land around the Greenfield Landfill, and says she’s happy with the plans.
7:38: The motion to send $740,000 to the Greenwood Street Landfill Re-Capping Fund for the projects passes. It’s sent to committee as well, but only for informational purposes.
7:43: Lukes agrees with Moylan that the EPA is to blame for Worcester’s rising sewage treatment costs. She calls the process “rigged” in the EPA’s favor. There was a lot more to her rant, but City Hall’s wifi dropped out for a couple minutes.
7:47: Moylan says the Clean Water Act does not recognize recessions. He says the chances of saving money by appealing the cost hike is less than 1 out of 3. He also says if the appeal doesn’t work he’ll take it to federal appeals court. Lukes says it’s crazy that we’re getting stimulus money to create jobs while cities pay millions to the EPA for things that still might not meet EPA standards. She wants our federal representative to get whatever information they need to request alleviation from spending so much money to meet EPA standards.
7:56: Clancy says we’re paying a $200 million dollar upgrade to treat water going into the Blackstone River. Recently the EPA raised their standards again, and he says the word “voodoo” has been used to describe their science. He says to meet these standards another $200 million would be needed. He says a lot of the problem is that the legislative branch of government passes these water laws (Clean Water Act, for example, or the recent House Bill 832 that mandates cities flush their reservoirs so water flows through rivers and streams like it would naturally), but then the legislation goes to agencies (like the EPA) and the regulators take things much further than the original legislation.
Man, the EPA is taking a beating tonight.
8:03: Haller jokes that when she first looked at the water treatment cost chart she thought she was looking at a graph showing rising healthcare costs. She wants a chart that goes past 2010 to see where costs will be around 2015 or 2020.
8:05: Rushton says the even the government pushing for the Clean Water Act admitted that the science behind it might not have been legit. He says that the pay ratio between cities to keep up with the Clean Water Act hasn’t been scaled fairly, as other cities haven’t paid their share, but also the argument that Worcester’s rates aren’t as high as somewhere like Newton or Wellsley isn’t fair because the average income is lower here than there.
8:08: Smith calls this “government at its worst.” It doesn’t look out for Worcester’s interest because we pay so much (costs have gone up 143% since 2004). He says we all want to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but they need to get harder science about this, especially since we would have to spend an additional $200 mil to the first $200 mil spent to meet new EPA standards without first knowing the results of the initial investment.
8:11: Smith echoes Rushton, saying he does want this to end up in federal court to fight it.
8:14: Toomey says even if we fight it and the feds end up paying for it, we still pay for it as tax payers. She says we should work out whether or not the rules need to be so stringent now because pollution levels are lower, “and most of the polluting factories are over seas now.”
8:15: Germain calls these fees unconstitutional, and calls for all options to fight it including civil disobedience so Worcester’s tax payers don’t have to pay these rates
8:16: Palmieri says we have this discussion yearly. He says civil disobedience is an option and jokes that “everyone here would look good behind bars.”
8:19: Nothing about renovations to the Worcester Common. It’s been sent to committee.
8:20: Eddy talks about the pools in Worcester after Crompton Park’s renovations to their pool comes up. Eddy calls this a positive step from where the council was on this issue last year.
8:27: J. O’Brien is now on the floor speaking. He’s happy about the pool/park developments, and hopes that the numbers can expand more over the coming years.
8:28: He’s continuing, bringing up neighborhood programs and getting kids into pools and parks, especially over the summer. He wants to work with the city to create a plan (like Wheels to Water) to get kids to pools, parks and jobs this summer. He wants a report done about a new “Wheels to Water” (or whatever it will be called) for this year. He wants it incorporated into other community groups (like WCAC) and city programs. J. O’Brien resumes the Mayor’s chair.
8:30: There’s a grant application going out for a violence against woman prevention solutions. Lukes wants to know if this grant isn’t limited, and is gender neutral since domestic violence victims are both men and woman. M. O’Brien says this is specifically for violence against woman.
8:35: Germain wants to increase the appointment term of city Constables. The motion passes for advertisement. It’ll be officially voted on in two weeks.
8:36: Palmieri calls the yellow box program very successful. Dr. Morse speaks about the program. He says the four boxes in the city have collected and disposed over 500 gallons of used needles in the city. Starting July 1 needles can’t be added to the city’s municipal waste–they have to be incinerated.
8:45: Palmieri is mad at tobacco companies’ new ways of getting nicotine into the hands of people. He points out Virginia Slim cigarettes (20 in a tiny box) and Camel Snus and wants to see if the AG and City Solicitor Moore can look into restricting these items in the city. J.O’Brien would like to refocus on the biological waste topic.
8:48: Rushton goes back to Palmieri’s issue. Rushton says that the placement is bad because things like Snus is placed by the Altoids, rather than behind the counter where cigarettes are. Rushton would like them placed behind the counter.
[Editorial moment: Who would want to put something called “Snus” in their mouth?]
8:51: More wifi difficulties.
8:59: Germain brings up a house bill that would create a procedure to collect unpaid fines from neglectful landlords (snow/ice removal violations, health code violations). He wants the council to vote in support of this as the first item next week.