Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Your city council live blog cravings will be satisfied here at 7:00. Be sure to involve your own live blog and running commentary here with our Cover It Live account. It’s 7:00ish, here we go.
The gallery (both levels) is filled with livery drivers and their friends and families. Five cops are up here too on detail. It’s going to be a lively meeting. The Red and Yellow cab owners are here too, and the front row of the bottom floor (at least) is filled with cab drivers.
7:10: Lukes is in charge tonight while J.O’Brien is in Ethiopia. She stresses that Sam Rosario only has three minutes to address his 12 items, and that the taxi owners will have three minutes to have their say.
7:11: Rosario says there are multiple questions that he’s asking, including wanting to know why the 12 hour rule for livery drivers was created, and where that number came from. He says it was created arbitrarily to eliminate competition.
7:12: He address “rumors and innuendos” that say the livery doesn’t want to play fair. He says all they want is fair competition with livery drivers.” Calls the enforcement of taxi laws “selective,” including the law that requires cab drivers wear badges on their chest, which he says he never/rarely sees.
7:15: William Clark speaks. He’s co-owner of Yellow Cab and says three minutes isn’t enough to address everything Rosario says. He says there are 110 cabs in the city with drivers from all over the world. He asks the cab drivers to stand up. It’s the whole bottom floor. He says they can put out more medallions if there’s need, but there isn’t need right now. He says people who own livery licenses should act like liveries and play by livery rules.
7:16: He says liveries undercut their business and “they’re taking our livelihood away from us.” He says the owner of Red Cab can’t put her cabs on the road because there isn’t enough road. He says get rid of the liveries and let the two cab companies do the work. If there’s a need after that, then allow more competition.
7:18: Shouts from the gallery. Sounded pro-livery, but I couldn’t quite hear. Lukes quiets it down.
7:19: No councilor speaks on the issue. Lukes sends all of Rosario’s items to traffic and parking.
7:20: Lukes offers a three-minute recess as the drivers file out. Councilors are ordered to stay in their seats.
7: 23: Talking outside to cabbies.
7:31: Smith is talking privatizing parking for upfront money. He says the city should get out of this business, “the key thing is to be getting a lump sum of multi-millions of dollars” for school buildings and repairs. He says there’s interest from companies, and that it’s been “successful” in other cities. “This would be a great win for the city.” He wants a time frame and to see if it’s realistic. Sent to M.O’Brien as a report.
7:33: Palmieri is talking changeable digital billboards. He says we could rake in a lot more money, and it would limit the number of billboards because more could be crammed into one. He wants to look at the fee structure and whether it should be the same as a standard billboard.
7:37: Palmieri wants it looked at by M.O’Brien
7:38: Palmieri’s second item about digital billboards is about their placement, and that there “should be some consideration” about where they’re placed. He says it can’t look like Christmas all of the time.
7:39: Smith is talking signs too. Welcome to Worcester signs. He jokes they don’t have to be digital, but says they should be there. He says there’s a “Welcome to Holden” sign, but no “Welcome to Worcester” sign. “We need to be a welcoming city.”
7:41: Clancy’s talking facade grants from Quinsig landfill money. He says it’s “obvious” that Holy Cross has no idea about the plan, and they should meet regarding land development in that area. He wants to model it after the Highland St/WPI and Main st/Clark relationships. He says this could become a Holy Cross hub for students living and spending money down there. “It’s something Holy Cross should be aware of, and I’m not sure we’ve made them aware.”
7:43: He says Holy Cross made the mistake of “sandwiching” their students in one area. Other colleges have their students in a radius around campus.
7:44: Clancy’s talking about Greenwood St. landfill. He says the Rand-Whitney bid is good, but there’s no idea when the road to the landfill would be completed to alleviate truck traffic from Greenwood road. He says the city should take a look at Nippnapp road for future city use if it can’t be moved or will be costly to develop.
7:51: Valet parking comes up, and there’s arguments over where these ordinances are changed–whether it’s in public hearing, committee or in front of council.
7:53: Haller, Rushton, Smith and Palmieri speak about where it’s best for the valet item to go. Ultimately it gets sent to traffic and parking, rather than debated in council.
7:55: Lukes comes down, Clancy steps up. Clancy calls her mayor, then vice-chair, then former mayor. She talks about the regulation of signs. She says there’s been a “barrage” of permits for signs.
7:56: She says ordinances are important and different because things get grandfathered in after ordinances are established. She says the city has not kept up with technology, especially regarding digital signs. She wants a six month moratorium for “breathing space” so the zoning board can write an ordinance and to make sure future problem signs aren’t built and then grandfathered in.
7:58: Toomey wants clarification. Would this include new business’ signs? Solicitor Moore addresses this. He reads the language and says “the short answer is yes.” Toomey wants to know if it can exclude new business, calling it “a bad precedent that we’re setting.” Moore says probably. She said she understands what people are trying to do, but it shouldn’t stop business from opening. She wants a report on that.
8:02: Smith agrees with Toomey. He says a hypothetical is the new WalMart–what about their sign? Clancy says they’re permitted already. Smith wants new facades excluded as well. Clancy jokes that he can put up a huge sign that says “Joff’s” on it.
8:04: Rushton wants to know how long this moratorium would last vs. how long a report would take to get. O’Brien says he hopes to have an ordinance to council by the end of April. Rushton clarifies we’d be here in May or June to vote on it.
8:06: Haller says “I want to move this forward.” She wants people to look at the “sign pollution” as they drive around the city over the next couple weeks. She says there a plan on litter on trash, but not on signs. She commends Lukes for bringing it up. She wants it referred to the planning board.
8:08: Lukes says this was not her idea, but rather from the chairman of the planning board. She says exemptions aren’t good because it will still take advantage of the special permits loophole, especially that it’s now publicized.
8:13: Eddy understands this is an important issue. He says he takes to heart Toomey’s point about business. He says he assumes there’s a lead time for new businesses coming to Worcester. He wants to know if we would already know if businesses will be coming in between now and the months until this moratorium would end.
8:14: M.O’Brien says not really, and signage doesn’t equate to lead time.
8:16: Clancy rephrases the question about when the moratorium should start: Now or if referred, then later. He says waiting two more months is “no big deal.” He says moratorium has a negative connotation, and it could send mixed signals.
8:20: Palmieri brings up electronic signs in neighborhoods. He says if we don’t have an ordinance in place (particularly in D2 and D4) new businesses could still put up digital signs before an ordinance is written for it. He calls this a catch-22 scenario, asking if we have the patience to wait a little bit on allowing new signs that could sneak in before an ordinance is written.
8:25: Toomey is back up. She’s still concerned about small business though, and that while she doesn’t want digital signs, she thinks business will be affected. She’d like her clarification of the rule to exclude digital signs–wait, they’ve been debating this in so many circles that everyone’s lost track of what’s going on.
8:27: Eddy clears things up. We’re doing a roll call to refer 9b without amendments. We’re back to talking about the moratorium. He rephrases to call for a moratorium to call for clarifications excluding new business, except for new businesses using digital signs. Toomey says that what she just said. (It essentially is what she just said, Lukes says it got confusing when the word “amendment” was thrown around.)
8:31: All that just to send it to committee. Moving on.
8:31: Google’s FTTH comes up. Scott Zoback is here to speak on it. He says “it looks different from this side.” He’s asking for a huge community response–that’s what Google wants to see. He references Topeka and Duluth’s cries for attention. He has an easy “one-sheet” to spread around town. There’s a Worcester YouTube channel and Worcester Woogle all over. There’s also a map (the post below) where you can pinpoint where you are and why you want Google to come to Worcester. He wants this to get out to schools and parent meetings, community leaders, etc. He says Google wants to see partnership between community and government.
8:36: Petty speaks on this too, reiterates its importance. He says our infrastructure is there, and it’s not just the internet–but cable and phone could/will come too. He says it could be made a contest between the schools.
8:38: Rushton says “the pressure of a deadline” often produces great results, noting that the March 26 deadline for this is approaching. He says we’ve had a monumental month with CSX, the “impending good news with CitySquare” and now if we get Google FTTH. He says this is “at our fingertips” and we should come up with as many ideas to show Google how diverse and great this city is.
8:41: Haller says they should attach Zoback’s onesheet to the report given out by M.O’Brien. She wants everyone to get involved and asks if there’s a plan in place. M.O’Brien says there is, and he’ll be reaching out to corporate partners as well as the colleges, schools, etc.
8:43: Haller wants to know who came up with “Woogle.” She calls it “brilliant.” He says he can only say it was “great minds who came up with it outside of [his] purview.”
8:44: Smith is excited about this too. He says this fast internet would do a lot for marketing, and wants to commend those involved, but says this has to be a grassroots effort and people have to tell their family, friends, neighbors. He says he’s become a “fan” of Woogle on Facebook. He wants everyone talking about this everywhere “to put us in a position to win this.”
8:45: Toomey says there were cheers and excitement in her house when this was brought up. She says the highlights of this “opens up a whole new plethora of businesses” that could open in the city. She says this Sunday is the St. Patrick’s day parade, and it would be great to have Woogle for Google signs all along the parade. Maybe an insert in the paper. She wants someone to talk to the T&G about that one.
8:49: Eddy wants to know why Clancy filed “Request City Manager report to City Council concerning the development and implementation of a program to encourage residential property owners to participate in a sidewalk reconstruction program. Said program would encourage property owners to pay for the reconstruction of sidewalks in front of their homes utilizing the services of a vendor from a list of contractors authorized by the DPWP to conduct such work in accordance with city standards. Once the reconstruction work is completed and inspected by the city, the property owner would be entitled to a real estate tax bill rebate equal to 50% of the cost of said work, apportioned over a period of five years”
8:50: Clancy said because it would require changing state law. He says people would request their money go to specific departments/accounts.
8:51: Eddy stands behind the idea though, calling it “thoughtful and innovative.” Clancy says “not legal” without the mic. Eddy wants it referred to the law department.
8:53: Valet meters at 1 Exchange sent to traffic and parking. The council steamrolls through the remaining agenda, passing everything from 11 to 17 on the agenda.
8:56: Clancy talks sewers, saying the sewerage project in Quinsig village is a tremendous start. He recaps yesterday’s public works committee meeting. Clancy has more items under suspension. He wants to change the payment plan for the sewerage–currently state law says homeowners payback the sewer project at 5 years with 8% interest. He wants it uniform with street betterment–20 years with 5%.
8:57: He also talks about a raise: School Committee votes a $16,000 raise for Brian Allen in the school dept. He finds that “unsettling” because of the economy. He says the municipal side hasn’t given raises. He says the City Manager has “set an example with his own salary.” He says the vast majority of the collective bargaining hasn’t happened on the school side, and now “a precedent is set in place.” He says this sends a terrible message as they go through negotiations and the city goes through budget considerations, as well as reduction in local aid and school funding.
[Updated 8:45 am: From Nick Kotsopoulos of the T&G late last night: Mr. O’Connell, who opposed the pay raise, said the raise for Mr. Allen was actually in the vicinity of $12,000 — $7,355 that was added to his annual salary and $4,350 for an annuity.]
9:03: He calls out the newspapers for not reporting this. He says it wasn’t even talked about in chambers and wasn’t on the agenda. He “finds all of this unsettling.” He wants someone to ask the school admin/school committee members who voted for this to explain this decision to the council.
9:06: Eddy says that the statehouse is looking at a 3-5% reduction in local and school aid. He says this is a whole new ballgame. He says he “doesn’t want to question the school committe,” but does question the political message the pay raise sends at a time where there’s bargaining going on with teacher salaries.
9:09: Rushton says he wants all of the facts. He says there’s a history of pay raises, like when Comm. Moylan was offered another job the city gave him a raise because of his value to the city. He says we owe “our counterparts the ability to respond before we start casting deep aspersions.” He says it doesn’t look good, but they deserve to respond.
9:11: Haller wants the entire council to sign on to Clancy’s request for more info. Lukes clarifies that this issue isn’t new, but thought it was voted down. She also says she didn’t like that there was a vote not to accept federal funds (doing that would almost ensure the principals of Union Hill and Chandler Elementary would loose their jobs). She says this is why there needs to be more communication between council and school committee.
9:14: Rushton wants the city to take a look at SeeClickFix.com. An open source program that lets citizens have a direct connection with City Hall. More on this in Thursday’s paper. He says it’s used in Philadelphia to monitor idling trucks. He says we need more people to hear about this. He calls it “ridiculously low cost” (it’s free right now, but if we want a city “platinum” model than it’s about $100/month). He wants all media outlets to embed SeeClickFix in all of their websites. Something we’ll start doing. He says it’s already connected to the DPW and work orders have been released on messages sent to them.
9:19: Haller wants to know about geese control this year, especially in University/Crystal Park. Now she wants a report on the Mason-Winfield site.
9:21: Toomey says she got an email from SeeClickFix about an issue on Fruit and Sever st. She says the DPW responded right away, and commends them. She wants to review the tagging ordinance. She says she’s talked with businessmen who’ve been tagged numerous times over the past couple months and have received fines for not removing the tags right away. She wants to find funding for owners to help them find/purchase paint.