Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
7:04: We’re just waiting for the 5:30 budget meeting to wrap up. Cover it Live should hopefully be is working.
The crowd has left–they waited in the hallway to boo and cheer specific councilors, then left before the meeting started.
7:55: Here we go. Terra Oliveira and Troy Tyree are appointed to the Cultural Commission.
8:00: Billy Breault is here to talk about removing street memorials, citing the April 6 Hollis St. murder and the subsequent candles, alcohol bottles and t-shirts on the sidewalk as evidence that “some kind of guideline” is needed.
Breault says he stopped eating at a restaurant where candles/graffiti followed a murder. He says the owner said a lot of patrons stopped coming. He thanks David Rushford, city clerk, for drafting the “sensitive language” of the petition: “William Breault request City Council consider establishing a protocol for dealing respectfully with the relocation and clean-up of makeshift street/sidewalk memorials after thoroughly consulting with other communities concerning their best practices.”
8:04: Haller acknowledges that this is a very raw issue–especially regarding current events. She says she’s speaking with the family of Jose Rivera to work on a more permanent memorial, such as planting a tree in a city park.
8:05: The council is talking about designating 78 Chilmark Street as a Site Specific Economic Opportunity Area. Tim McGourthy says an EOA is like a TIF, but there’s no TIF involved. “The city is allowing a Worcester based company to expand…at no cost to the city itself.” Haller wants to know what happens when this company leaves 90 Ellsworth st. McGourthy says there’s no interest there at this time.
The company moving sounds like it’s the Cryogenic Institute of New England.
8:12: Lots of money coming in, including $350,000 for summer job funding and $2.6 mil for Gardner-Kilby-Hammond revitalization project.
8:20: The council approves fee hikes that will raise $230,000 for the FY11 budget. Burial fees rise from $10 to $20, tobacco permits rise from $100 to $150. Fire alarm inspections rise to, but single family homes are still free. The city clerk’s office will also begin enforcing unlicensed dog fees by using rabies vaccinations from vets to see if the dog is licensed. If not, then a ticket is issued to the dog owner. More info here.
8:28: Eddy asks about School Committee member John Monfredo’s request to save school money by shifting medicaid costs. Eddy wants to know where the money to do so would come from. J’O’Brien defends him by saying he didn’t think Monfredo meant to suggest that the city lay off or fire worker to make room in the budget for this. Clancy says it’s a matter of a “fixed budget”–money goes from one side to another, but that these debates always come down to city vs. schools. Clancy says there has been a 19% reduction in employees on the school side and a 20% on the city side in the last 10 years, so the bleeding has been pretty even. He says if someone is asking for more money they should suggest where that money is going to come from.
8:35: Eddy clarifies his point–he’s not going after Monfredo, but his point is that “there’s no easy answers. None of us enjoys cutting anyone.” He calls out the EAW as well for asking for money, but with no suggestions on where it should come from. “If you want to put money somewhere it has to come from somewhere.”
8:37: Rushton says Monfredo simply meant to say “the budget doesn’t adequately reach the needs of the children.” He says the point was the council is quick to look at city services like fire and police as quality of life issues, but Monfredo wanted to make the point that school dollars/kids’ educations have the same impact.
8:40: J.O’Brien says we’re making important decisions in our budget to keep some police, fire and DPW programs. (More on this next week.) He says that now is the right time to make investments in school infrastructure too, and spending city escrow money to do so. J.O’Brien says, however, it’s time to start looking at more school funding from the city side, and that people will respond positively when they know tax levy dollars are going to public schools. It sounds like along with the City Manager’s proposal to tap into the tax levy for street/sidewalk repairs, J.O’Brien wants to look at going in deeper for school improvements.
8:48: Toomey says it’s time to stop looking at this as side vs. side, and work closely with School Committee.
8:53: Petty says he’ll try to meet with schools CFO Brian Allen and get more involved, but he does remind people that there’s a balance and a budget to keep in mind. He says a solution needs to be found, however, because next year is going to be “ten times worse.”
8:54: Lukes says raising taxes is dipping into a fund of money that “really isn’t there–tax payers don’t have it.” She says it’s a world-wide recession that no one knows how to deal with. Lukes says if medicaid money goes to schools it’s not funding schools or children “it’s funding salaries and benefits.” She says she’ll oppose raising the tax levy will “be met with opposition on my part.”
8:58: Clancy praises the school admins’ presentation today–citing something as simple as Boone saying they would “live within their budget.” “Boy, I haven’t heard that in years,” says Clancy.
9:08: Rushton talks about last night’s “lively” CSX meeting. He says CSX responded to his query about what hazardous materials will be coming into Worcester if CSX expands here. CSX didn’t really give answers, but rather the non-answer that they would explain what it was if there was a problem and first responders would be trained to deal with it. The City will get a report on contact between fire and police and CSX about who’s being trained and how much communication is going back and forth. Rushton keeps pointing out that it’s not legal for freight companies to keep what hazardous material their moving secret.
9:18: Toomey wants a review of outdated natural gas mains in the city. NStar would be the ones doing the inspections. Lukes brings up her Shade Tree Trust, which dealt with gas leaks destroying the city’s shade trees. It’s attached as a friendly amendment.
9:21: Smith brings up valet parking again. He’s eagerly awaiting a City report for a vote on it next week.