City Council live blog: 6/8/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

The agenda is huge tonight. Let’s get our real-time coverage poppin’. See you at 7:00. (Cover it Live is now working.)

Lukes is starting off the meeting in the tall chair.

7:11: Here we go.

7:12: J.O’Brien takes the chair after he was at South High’s graduation. A rep. from Verizon is here to talk about a pole location on Thornton Road. No opposition.

7:15: Rick Connole is here to request that the Baseball Field at Burncoat Park be named in honor of Eddie Bates (he calls him the “father of youth hockey in the USA”). He’s irritated by Rushford and J.O’Brien’s talking. Clancy says this has to go through the Parks Commission.

7:22: Lukes wants a report on the trees that were ripped out and replaced in the Burncoat area in May.

7:25: Haller wants apartment building managers to be able to switch their heating to air conditioning before June 1.

7:27: This is going out for advertisement with no problems from the council:

Michael V. O’Brien, City Manager, recommend adoption of a Salary Ordinance Amendment to create a Part-Time/Non-Union Detention Attendant and a Part-Time Non-Union Wire Inspector. Further, recommend adoption to reduce the Pay Grade for the Director of the Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board (CMREB) from 53EM to 48EM.

7:35: The council has blown through most of the agenda, accepting and filing a host of traffic and parking ordinances. The council is waiting on Palmieri to show up before talking about CSX.

7:36: Recess to Finance Committee for budget talk.

7:37: Lukes wants money from departments where there is exec. management incentive pay to go into city stabilization funds. She says in this climate she’s “shocked than anybody would demand a raise.” She realizes this is an incentive and it’s mostly cumulative sick time and it’s “mostly symbolic” but she wants to start at the top. She wants 1) an ordinance drafted and 2) that passage of that ordinance will transfer money to stabilization funds for this year.

7:43: Rushton wants to know if money can be transferred because it’s last year’s by-back money. Moore says it’s “contractual in the general sense” because state law requires the funding to be there. Rushton wants to know if there would be issue with the city’s move to do this. Moore says he would like to look at it further, but there could be a legitimate grievance with the city’s move. Rushton says “councilor Lukes is trying to do something we all want to do–that’s save money without cutting core services.” But he adds that this move would probably cost the city more money in the long run.

7:47: Petty says this isn’t a raise, but a ten year-old incentive program.

7:48: Clancy says this was a Hoover reform. One issue was when you get to mid-May it was difficult to find dept. head around because it was “use the time or lose the time.” Clancy calls this a “positive reform” because it increased productivity. Clancy says a request could be made to look at it for the next fiscal year and could be debated over the summer. He says we should honor the current obligation, however.

7:55: Lukes says she’ll “concede that we can’t act in a retroactive manner” but wants this looked at for future budgets. She also wants a report on step increases in the departments.

7:59: Rushton wants each department broken down by salary and what their step eligibility would be. Lukes agrees, saying she wants “as much detail as possible.” Haller wants school side as well. The council agrees. Clancy says if it’s very large it should be an electronic file.

8:02: Germain has some questions on the city’s use of “outside council.” He wants to know what’s been budgeted and spent. $165,000 annual budgeted for collective bargaining. $160,000-$240,000 has been spent, according to M.O’Brien.

8:04: The city is paying about $175/hour for lawyers with their bargaining, which M.O’Brien says they’ve negotiated down–some of these firms usually charge around $400.

8:08: Germain would like to have some union attorneys come on staff–he says it will save taxpayers money. M.O’Brien says that they look for lawyers who will match the power of the lawyers brought to the table by the unions, and that a staff member would have added expenses with health insurance, etc. Germain wants to make a motion that an in-house counsel be brought on. Clancy disagrees saying the last city manager wa “canned” because he and the in-house lawyer failed in a major arbitration case. He says Mayor Murray said outside council should be used after that. He says that was the key issue that changed the council’s opinion on this, and cost the city “millions and millions of dollars.” Clancy says that was the beginning of the end for Hoover.

8:15: Germain says he agrees with that specific point, but it was a specific case of giving bad legal advice, and that could happen from any lawyer the city employs. Germain says to try it for one year. He says there are a lot of lawyers out there who would come here to work for $100,000 and it would save tax payers money.

8:17: Lukes clarifies that this $100,000 would be to hire someone for the law department. Lukes says we’re not going to get someone experienced for $100,000. She says she likes the person the city is using now.

8:19: J.O’Brien says there can’t be a vote until there’s a line item in the budget identified in the budget that says there’s $100,000 available for use. Clancy says there’s an item on p. 67–not that he’s agreeing with this, he just wants to be helpful.

8:20: Rushton says “the idea that we should not look at this in the future is not wise.” He thinks we could get a very good attorney for $100,000. He says he’ll vote against Germain’s motion, but it’s something that needs to be discussed. He does, however, believe we don’t spend $100,000 on outside counsel.

8:24: Don Cummings, pres. of IBPO (WPD union). He says he’s been here during and after outside/inside house council. He says they don’t pay their attorney $175/hour–“nowhere near that.” He says “both sides have to work together.” He says he has an issue with using outside counsel for disciplinary actions. He thinks taxpayers can save if an in-house counsel is hired.

8:26: Lukes wants a report on who we’ve used this past year on who we’ve used on outside counsel and what for, even if it calls for an executive session.

8:28: Clancy says we have “excellent in-house counsel” already, using the airport contract as an example. But he says given the nature of the work sometimes more is needed and it’s important to hire the best, even if it’s $175/hour. He says we’ve saved probably $100 mil. over that time period–he calls this a good trade off, $175/hour in exchange for millions in health insurance, settlements, etc. He calls this “prudent spending.”

8:30: Germain reminds people that game three is tonight. He says he knows where this is going, and says David Moore is the best city solicitor “in the world.” Germain takes on Clancy’s charge of how much was saved, because there’s no way to quantify it. Rushton adds that he wants the individual retainer agreements with each lawyer, because he and Lukes have the feeling we’re spending more than $175/hour.

8:35: The motion does not pass. Only Germain votes for it. “Another big win for Councilor Germain,” Germain says.

8:36: Clancy brings up MMA dues vs. stump removal. He asks if anyone has noticed the stumps in the city that haven’t been dealt with yet. Eddy says he withdraws his amendment to cut back on MMA money. Clancy wants to just vote on it–stay in the MMA or use the money for stump removal around the city. Eddy asks the manager “what do we get from the MMA?” M.O’Brien says participating towns/cities share resources, attend best practice meetings, forums, collective bargaining, borrowing/bonding advice, etc.

8:39: Eddy wants to know if there’s a policy we’ve crafted that has been assisted without the resources of the MMA. M.O’Brien says there are benefits to being in the MMA.

8:45: Jo Hart addresses the council. She wants more information. She says with MMA you get a free subscription to State House News. She wants access to this. She wants the City Manager to donate this to an accessible device to the public (she has previously mentioned a computer set up by the Clerk’s office for public use).

8:49: Last chance before the vote: Haller wants the city to stay in the MMA.

8:51: Toomey says every single council member has access to the State House News, calling it “timely information” about budgets, etc. Clancy says any info from the State House News is in the Telegram.

8:53 Clancy Y, Eddy Y, Germain N, Haller N, Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty N, Rushton N, Smith N, Toomey N, O’Brien N. Motion fails. Worcester stays in the MMA, $50,000 won’t go to curb repair and tree stump removal.

9:00: Back to the City Council agenda.

9:01: The council votes in the new sewer rate hikes. Lukes, Smith and Palmieri are the councilors who vote no.

9:04: Ronal Madnick from the ACLU speaks about his item for public forums before meetings passing.

9:08: Eddy says his subcommittee voted 2-1 in favor of this. He says he voted against it, but not because he’s not “against citizen access,” but because, as Madnick points out, the council has never not let people speak while he’s been on council. He calls out protestors who says that they have. “They’re problem isn’t that we don’t let people speak, but it with the decisions we make.” He calls it “crap” that people say the council doesn’t like the decisions made. Eddy calls out detractors, telling them to run next year, and it takes courage to make some decisions they make.

9:12: Eddy likes the second part of Madnick’s petition though, that makes sure any petitioner gets to speak at the time their petition is addressed by the council.

9:14: Clancy says subcommittees already do this, however, and he likes the rules how they are. He says the “items of citizen interest” is on there for people to speak about an urgent cause.

9:15: Petty agrees. He says this goes back to Mayor Mariano. Lukes says she did the same as mayor. She supports 17a. Clancy N, Eddy Y, Germain Y, Haller N, Lukes Y, Palmieri N, Petty N, Rushton Y, S (absent for vote) Toomey Y, O’Brien Y–the motion passes. Primary petitioners are given the opportunity to speak the day it appears on the City Council agenda.

17b vote: Clancy N, Eddy N, Germain Y, Haller N, Lukes Y, Palmieri N, Petty N, Rushton Y, S Toomey Y, O’Brien Y.–Motion doesn’t carry because of the tie. No public access forum. They bring Smith in to vote. But there’s debate over whether or not Smith can vote. Clancy says he can’t because Clancy couldn’t a few weeks ago when he missed a vote over valet parking. Haller says we should just follow what the rules are–the past Clancy’s scenario could have been a mistake, she says.

9:24: According to Moore, 2/3 of the council needs to vote for reconsideration to allow a vote so that Smith could vote on this.

9:27: Lukes wants to hold the motion to reconsider under privilege to make sure the rules are followed. Rushford says you cannot hold an item that’s already been voted on. “Mr. Chairman, this is going to get worse before it gets better,” says Moore of all the confusion.

9:31: J.O’Brien weighs in, agreeing with Lukes, noting that if this passes it will be a significant change to how City Council operates, and time should be taken out to make sure they’re going about the process correctly. Clancy withdraws his motion for reconsideration. Now there’s nothing to hold. “The committee screwed it up,” says Clancy.

9:33: Germain takes exception to Clancy’s comment. He wants it ruled “out of order.” Lukes withdraws her motion to hold as long as it can be sent back to committee. Eddy says it passed committee. It’s now here. It’s been defeated. So what are we recommitting? J.O’Brien sums up what just happened.

9:36: Things are getting tense. J.O’Brien has decided to keep Lukes’ motion to hold. Debate should have been cut off after that. Moore agrees with him. Clancy says we’re holding a motion that has been withdrawn. J.O’Brien says that he was asked to recognize Lukes’ item under priviledge. He’s going to do it. Discussion should have ended then, and it’s “done” now.

9:39: Rushton rises–J.O’Brien is not happy. Rushton wants clarification about holding it. J.O’Brien says this item is done. He’s not recognizing anyone else.

9:40: We’re back in Finance Committee to talk more budget.

9:41: Finance items passed.

9:43: Roll call on passing the budget: All but Lukes and Smith pass it, because of their opposition to how the $2 million from the airport sale will be used.

9:45: Palmieri wants info on clear cutting in Greendale and around Burncoat st. as a result of ALB.

9:49: M.O’Brien talks about CSX. He says a tentative agreement has been reached with CSX and the state. M.O’Brien says the $23 million is on top of the $100 million CSX is expected to invest in construction. $5 mil for a neighborhood improvement fund. A community fund, which come from a fee per container. $20,000/year for 20 years, which he adds up to $4.4 million. That will go into a fund managed like the Greenwood St. landfill fund.

9:52: More money will go towards lower Grafton st. improve access from the highway to the freight yard. Atchison st. will get some improvements too, to the tune of $1.5 mil from the state. There’s a lot more coming too. More info coming from this Monday’s subcommittee meeting (at 7:00 pm).

9:57: Palmieri says he’s been familiar with these numbers. But he says the paper only wrote about Putnam Lane. (Which he says won’t be part of the formal agreement.) Palmieri says Rep. Pedone financed an independent engineer through his state house committee private funds to look at the Putnam Lane issue. Palmieri says the community should raise funds similarly for their own.

10:04: Smith wants the city to report back next week on tree planting in the Hillcroft area.

10:04: Rushton says this weekend is going to be the first Worcester Half Marathon. It’s running past an area of town that’s torn up. Rushton wants to know if it’ll be paved by Sunday or notify the organizer to see if they want to make a change.

10:06: Eddy adjourns. J.O’Brien calls it an “interesting meeting.”

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “City Council live blog: 6/8/10

  1. And tonight’s first question is: just what is Council rule 60 o ?

  2. t-traveler

    havin trouble with coveritlive

  3. Who would have thought that so much wrangling would have come out of Rules?

  4. Pingback: “The committee screwed it up” « Nicole, Worcester

  5. 9:45: Palmieri wants info on clear cutting in Greendale and around Burncoat st. as a result of ALB.

    >>around the above time Phil was talking about a problem property in his district that had a ring similiar to an issue we have on Mason Street..I caught the end oif it..anyone take better notes and know the location..the issue?

  6. t-traveler

    PAulie its the former Dartmouth St school

  7. t-traveler

    Dartmouth st school courtesy of Wormtown TAxi
    http://www.wormtowntaxi.com/2008/01/scofflaw-redux.html

  8. Pingback: How to make a public comment at a Council meeting « Nicole, Worcester

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