City council liveblog: 9/7/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

City council liveblogging is back to its regularly scheduled day and time today. At 6:00 the fun begins. Here’s the agenda. Perhaps you’ll find things of interest on it. Here’s our Cover it Live widget. Perhaps you’ll find things of interest on that as well.

The council is starting in executive session, so this might start a little late. will start at 7:00.

7:15: Still waiting for the meeting to start up again. But all the councilors are in here.

7:17: Here we go. We’re in a public hearing on CitySquare updates. M.O’Brien starts us off. He thanks Hanover and Paul Revere for their commitment to the project. “Bold projects like this are stalled everywhere or put on hold. [But] Not in Worcester.”

He’s got a PowerPoint presentation for us, explaining the purchases by CitySquare II in June.

Phase 1A was triggered by the new tenancy (which we knew) and includes demoing the former mall and 2/3 of the parking garage, construction of Mercantile St. and parts of the Front St. connector. Mercantile street will connect with the current Front St., and turn left at a right angle to connect to Foster St.

There’s going to be a wide open space of land after the demolition on the parcel for a long time.

Amendments for tonight:
-Commencement date moves from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012. This keeps the tax payment schedule will align with the construction schedule
-Adding at least a $4 million grant to the city’s existing $7.25 million Growth District Initiative Award

Construction and demolition will start in September 2010 and go until Fall 2012. Unum is slated to occupy building H in Fall of 2012. Minor demolition has already begun inside the buildings.

He puts a map up of the original development plan from Berkeley. It looks a lot different than the one we’re about to start on. Berkeley’s has more streets and a wider development area.

Infrastructure Challenges:
-Front Street connector will be a challenge because of the underground garage.
-Size of underground garage will be smaller and will affect projected revenues
-A host of other stuff. We’ll try to get a copy posted up here tomorrow

7:42: CitySquare public hearing time. John McGrail is here to speak in support of the project. He says his group has attracted urban professionals in Boston, Lynne and Springfield and is excited about their investment in Worcester.

7:47: Jo Hart wonders if this means there’s going to be twice as much garage. She says people will see it and think that nothing has changed. She says she’s happy something is happening, but wants it to be pedestrian friendly. She wants them to make a cut through even if it’s some rubble to straighten out Front St. right away, instead of waiting.

7:48: David Scherer (Sp), director of development from Acorn Management is here. He is/they are excited about the project too. He thanks Tim McGourthy and Julie Jacobs [sic]. He says they’re proud to be the latest entrant in the redevelopment of the downtown. He says they see Worcester as the next great marketplace in New England. He says he’s looking at other opportunities in Worcester, and gives the teaser that they’re looking at the Aud now too, and “have some ideas for it.”

7:54: Robert Branca, CEO of Edista Management Corp. (the group that invested in Harrington Corner). He believes Worcester can do what Providence did with our downtown — and says he helped with Providence’s turnaround. The trick is getting college graduates to stay.

7:57: Dennis Lyons, VP of MCPHS says they have 200 students in the downtown area. He thinks CitySquare will create job opportunities for their students. It will also reduce students’ needs for cars and parking because everything in the area will be a ten minute walk away from everything else (Shrewsbury St., Union Station, classes).

7:59: Dennis Irish says before CitySquare there was the construction of St. Vincent’s hospital. He says he regrets that when he was a city councilor he couldn’t weigh in on CitySquare because it was a conflict of interest (as St. V’s abbutts), but now urges the council to support the project.

8:02: Bay State Savings Bank is here too. Since 5 of 7 of their banks are in Worcester, the success of the bank relies on the success of the city. He says the Hanover Theatre was an example of good private/public investment, as well as the improvements on the Common have both attracted people downtown.

The internet is down/spotty. Sorry if this isn’t updating much.

8:08: The public hearing is closed.

8:09: Cara Berg Powers to the Human Rights Commission. Damaris Diaz to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Committee. Thomas Gorham to the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee.

8:10: Rushton says “the city is like a child on the top of the steps on Christmas morning.” He wants to “put a Robert Goddard-type rocket booster to it to get it moving.” He says this is happening at the right time.

8:13: Palmieri says it’s nice to hear people from outside the city talk about Worcester’s “economic engine” and the market-rate housing planned for the Boys and Girl’s Club and interest in the Memorial Auditorium. Palmieri says Front St. is a “critical issue.”

“The Front St. connection is so, so important…in order for us to look at this city and move forward…that is an absolute must.” He says Albany St. with it’s city-owned industrial brownstones should become a new “village” in the city after Front St, among other sections nearby. “Front St. is the pivotal connection for our city because it connects all the neighborhoods.”

8:17: J.O’Brien puts a kabosh on individual council thank yous to speed things along. (He says there’s a collective thank you to the major players.) Haller wants a timetable on the Front St. connector. M.O’Brien says they’re still looking at options and finances. She wants to know what’s going to be done to “minimize” the impact of seeing the demolition pile/empty space more “aesthically acceptable” and provide a connector. M.O’Brien says the short-term aesthetics of seeing demolition to linger, and that it will be an active construction site for the developers so it will be utilized and busy.

8:21: Clancy says “many of us didn’t have doubts” but knew it would take a long time. He recognizes the City Manager for working on this project, announcing he’s not even sure if some of the city councilors know how much time he spent on this. He thanks Tim Murray and Jim McGovern too.

8:24: Smith says this shows people are saying “we want to be in Worcester” and it will spur development for living and shopping downtown. He’s “very excited about the direction of this project.” He’s confident Front St. can be worked out. It’s a model of how a public/private partnership can work out.

8:25: Lukes says she’s had concerns, but not anymore and not about the current developer. She says we can see the “light at the end of Front St.” She asks Thomas Zidelis about arbitrage. He says since the $25 mil is coming from the state, there’s no issue with that.

8:28: J.O’Brien says this is a big win, and it can be even bigger if local work is used in the development. He says we should “use this as an opportunity to put folks to work who aren’t currently working in the city.” He wants a list of who’s being used for the public funding of the project to see if local companies will be used.

It’s announced that this concludes work on this phase of the CitySquare project. Lots of applause.

8:32: Here comes the pit bull ordinance. Chief Gemme and Eddy begin a conversation. Eddy wants the chief to describe the “need” for the ordinance and Animal Control’s position on it. (This stems from a couple Worcesteria items about mis-matched statements from the WPD and Bill Eddy.) Gemme says there were 55 complaints of attacks by dogs over two years, 25 were from pit bulls. Gemme says the WPD provided the data, and says his AC team reviewed the proposed ordinance and had no issues with it. Eddy asks for updated statistics: 56 bites in the last year were from pit bulls, while 66 other bites were from other dog breeds.

8:35: Haller asks how many dogs that bit were registered vs. unregistered. No one has an answer.

8:43: Germain says the issue isn’t dogs, it’s gangs. If pit bulls are stigmatized, then the gangs are going to train rotties. His speech draws applause, of course, the internet craps out during it. Nicole captures this on cover it live: “Overreaction from this council to ..affect people who aren’t gang members.”

8:44: Eddy says Toomey did “yeoman’s work” reaching out to people to gather more information about the pit bull ordinance.

8:46: Eddy compares the dog statistics to young drivers’ car insurance. Statistics show young drivers are more prone to cause accidents, statistics show pit bulls are more prone to bite. People accept to pay more for young drivers’ insurance, people should accept tougher laws on pit bulls.

8:48: Eddy understands it’s an ownership problem and a “perception of safety,” but even perception of safety is important. He says will this ordinance will move us in the right direction to solve pit bull issues. He says it doesn’t do harm to the animals themselves. (He brings up leads vs. muzzles.) He moves for adoption of the ordinance as amended. Lots of boos, some audience members are asked to leave the room.

8:51: Toomey says there are enough unregistered dogs to employ another animal control officer. She wants to amend the ordinance to include “and dangerous dog” after every mention of “pit bulls.” She wants new revenue from licenses to go toward hiring another AC officer. She wants a task force created to examine what would constitute/define a dangerous dog. This task force would include people from Tufts vet school, an animal control officer, etc.

8:56: Petty commends Eddy for “listening to the audience” last time. He notes this won’t take affect until next spring, so there will be time to tweak this.

8:57: Haller doesn’t want to stall this ordinance any more and un-do the work Eddy has done. She’d rather it pass now and be tweaked after going into law.

8:59: Rushton says the idea that is has to be passed tonight is “inappropriate.” He says he supports the idea on the exemption — passing the canine test — but as it’s undefined right now it’s a “paper tiger.” He wants to “do it right” and not “pass it to pass it to have something on the books.” He says Toomey’s amendment to come up with a task force to define “dangerous dog” has to pass in order for him to support this new amendment regarding dog tests.

9:01: J.O’Brien says Eddy has worked to acknowledge responsible owners. JOB says he doesn’t like this ordinance anyway, and supports Toomey’s ordinance. He says he lives in d4, and there are a whole bunch of unregistered dogs there all the time. He wants a report on how to actually enforce registration. He says if an ordinance passes tonight you’ve got to give the officers resources to enforce it.

9:05: Palmieri thinks should go to subcommittee because there’s so much discussion. He calls the task force a “silly idea.” He says he could vote for what’s suggested, but he’d also entertain seeing it go to subcommittee. It’s clarified that it would only be Toomey’s recommendations for subcommittee, rather than the whole ordinance.

9:06: Clancy says he wants clarification for what will be voted on. JOB says the clerk has that coming up.

9:08: Clerk Rushford reads off what will be voted on:
-3 motions by Toomey
1) add “and other dangerous dogs”
2) allocate new license revenues to new AC officer
3) request city manager create task force on dogs, with their job being defining a “dangerous animal” and Eddy’s exception rule

Clancy wants to know why a task force has to be convened rather than a subcommittee. He says it’s a better approach to keep it within the council. He says any recommendations are going to end up in the public health subcommittee anyway, so it should go straight there to begin with.

9:11: Germain says he’s more confused about this than anything else they’ve talked about. He says everything should go to public health and “start over.” Have public health come back with one ordinance we can agree on.

9:13: Toomey defines her task force. She says they would be experts in the field. “I think it’s the appropriate way to go.” She says this isn’t just her deciding to do this, but it comes from a lot of discussion.

Voting on Palmieri’s motion. A yes vote refers these to a subcommittee, rather than a task force:

Clancy Y, Eddy N, Germain N, Haller Y Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty N, Rushton N, Smith Y, Toomey N, O’Brien N

5 yes, 6 no. The motion fails.

Next vote is to send the whole thing to subcommittee:

Clancy N, Eddy N, Germain Y, Haller N, Lukes Y, Palmieri N, Petty N, Rushton N, Smith N, Toomey N, O’Brien N

The motion fails.

Voting on “Lynne exception”

Clancy Y, Eddy Y, Germain N, Haller Y, Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty Y, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien N

9-2, the motion passes.

Ordinance as amended and proposed by Eddy

Clancy Y, Eddy Y, Germain N, Haller Y, Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty Y, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien N

The pit bull ordinance passes, 9-2.

3 motions by Toomey
1) Adding “and other dangerous dogs”

Clancy Y, Eddy Y, Germain Y, Haller Y, Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty Y, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien N

The motion passes 10-1.

2) City Manager allocate dog license revenue to hiring new Animal Control officers

Clancy N, Eddy Y, Germain Y, Haller Y, Lukes Y, Palmieri N, Petty Y, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien Y

The motion passes 9-2.

3) City Manager establish a task force

Clancy holds it under privelege.

JOB reminds people that this ordinance goes into affect April 1, 2011.

9:20: Rushford elected as clerk for another two year term.

(Note: I’ll put together a blog post explaining all of this much clearer on Wednesday.)

9:27: Big debate over a Verizon pole turns into Smith and Eddy blasting Verizon for why there’s no cell coverage on the west side from them.

9:31: Clancy would like to point out that a citizen emailed him for wasting city money on the DPW’s open house. He points out it was all volunteer work, and was a great way for the DPW to show what they do besides plowing and trash removal.

9:33: The TIF for 184 Main St. DA office is sent to Economic Development Committee.

9:36: David LeBouff is here to ask the council to vote in support of voting “no” on question 2 on this fall’s November ballot (it would keep the state’s affordable housing law on the books). He says without this law important housing developments wouldn’t have been built around the state, and groups like Habitat for Humanity wouldn’t be able to do what they do.

9:42: Lukes said she asked for a report on what the impact of this question will have on Worcester. She never got it. She wants to hold it before there’s a vote so the council can get the report.

9:48: Bob Moscoffian donates $20,000 to the city for Summer Nationals. Rushton asks if it’s coming in the form of lobsters.

9:54: The Manager’s early retirement plan comes up. Rushton asks why no one in public safety is included. He says public safety is already limited in WPD and WFD that if anyone took advantage they might be hard to replace. Lukes want to know what the minimum number of people needs to be in order kick start it. If only 20-30 take it, will the plan be scrapped? Zidelis says it’s dictated by the individuals and their salaries to see if the savings will be worth it. Lukes says the top 3 people in the auditing department could take the early retirement offers. She wonders if the council is ready for a hit like that.

10:05: Petty seems to agree: if a lot of knowledgeable people leave then that may hurt the city more than the money we’re paying to keep them. M.O’Brien says this will require “tough decisions” and “quick thinking.” “We know we’re going to be a small organization next year,” he says. Haller wants to know if the city can stage when a person can take their leave date. M.O’Brien says they can’t do that, it would all happen at the same time.

Roll call on M.O’Brien’s early retirement incentive for city workers:

Clancy Y, Eddy Y, Germain Y, Haller Y, Lukes Y, Palmieri Y, Petty Y, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien Y. The early retirement plan goes through.

10:16: Palmieri wants a “report to City Council concerning the timetable for creation of Mercantile Street and extended Front Street, and further, if monies are allocated for all of this work to take place within Phase One of the CitySquare work.”

10:20: Lukes wants a report on the crime statistics in the June Street-Chandler Street area for the past two years.

10:27: School repairs come up. Everyone’s happy, but Clancy wants to know why brand new schools like Roosevelt and Quinsigamond need to have their heating systems removed and replaced.

10:30: Petty wants to know about a cab/livery report that was supposed to come before the council. M.O’Brien says it hasn’t been finalized, but right now all liveries are being asked to comply with livery rules. They’re hoping for a report for the 21st on this.

10:34: Germain wants more information from purchasing about construction jobs going to local workers. Also, there’s been reports of sewer backups in the holding cells at the WPD. It’s gross.

10:35: Rushton commends Lukes for her wedding anniversary. Her husband brought her flowers, and she admits she forgot it was their anniversary. She calls her husband “her most loyal constituent.”

Roll call: 11-0, the council recognizes Lukes’ anniversary.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “City council liveblog: 9/7/10

  1. I asked about the heating/cooling systems at Quinsig and Roosevelt. Turns out that all the HVAC systems of that era in WPS don’t work (or the AC doesn’t work, anyway)…that would include Claremont and Norrback, too. It’s not upkeep; they weren’t good systems, apparently.

  2. Joe

    Tracy,
    Where can we find exactly how old these schools are?
    Clancy’s point is a good one (it’s too soon for these systems to need replacing) but I think it’s funny that he referred to thes schools as “brand new” aren’t both at least a decade old?

    Or maybe my memory is playing tricks on me.

  3. I can get a list if you like, and I guess it depends on what ‘new’ is. Roosevelt is ‘new’ (as schools go; the past…15? maybe? years) and Quinsig was taken back to bare walls within that same time frame.
    Since we’re using buildings that date back over 100 years, I guess we’re speaking relatively.

  4. Pingback: Let the scapegoating commence! « Nicole, Worcester

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