City council live blog — 10/5/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

On the agenda tonight:
–Sick of just seeing signs welcoming you to Worcester? How about a (federally funded?) diner cart? (Item 11g)
–Is Konnie Lukes Worcester’s newest techie? (Items 11d, 11e, 11h)
–Want to take the council’s advice on how to vote on questions 1 and 3? They’ll say “yea” or “nay” tonight.

All that and more right here (and here) at 7:00 tonight. The internet has been slow in the chamber for the last couple months, so bear with me.

7:14: Proclamation celebrating the Worcester World Cup. Laura Suroviak thanks those who made it possible. Team Colombia is here.

7:17: Walk to school day is tomorrow. You’re encouraged to celebrate it.

7:21: Mike Anderson is here regarding Charter’s decision to do construction work near his property. Haller wants to ask Charter why they’re doing that work and any future work in the area before next week’s hearing.

7:23: Haller wants changes to residential parking regulations:

provide Council with draft changes to the Resident Parking ordinance to remove the requirement for a vehicle to be registered in Worcester. This petition is filed in support of resident parking but to expand the ordinance to include those bona fide residents who do not own their own car but rather borrow, lease a vehicle such that they can receive resident parking privileges.

Smith wants it trashed, saying this would reduce quality of life in neighborhoods (“severe negative impact”). He doesn’t even want it to go to committee. Haller says this came from someone who rents to college students in Haller’s district, but their tenets can’t park on city streets because their car isn’t registered in Worcester.

Toomey says this issue has come up before (resident parking is “one of the most emotional issues we have”). Toomey says if you’re living here for more than 3 months you’re supposed to change the car’s registration. She thinks people need to be educated about the rules. “If people want to park and they’re living here, then they should register their car here.”

It gets sent to the administration for reworking.

7:29: Lukes’ crowdsourcing item comes up (it’s not just Lukes’ idea, Toomey has had similar ones as well). Lukes says citizen involvement in government is changing, and crowdsourcing used to be a tactic for businesses. She says when she spoke with IT she “could almost see the electricity being charged up” — it would be like hiring charettes without having to rent space for them. “This is not a blog. None of us want to see a blog wasting space on our internet sites.” But it would be a “blog-like mechanism.” She does know there could be issues: abuse, possible censorship.

She also brings up city departments using Facebook and Twitter. She wants a report in 30 days about who’s job it is in the departments to manage those pages.

7:34: Nicole Apostola wants to talk about it too. She has a list on her blog about what city departments/affiliates have a social media presence. “There are a lot of communities that are starting to do crowdsourcing.” Someone submits an idea, it gets voted up or down, and other citizens comment on it. “There shouldn’t be a fear that there will be online trolls…the community will police itself…if people get a sense that someone is out there listening it will contribute in a positive way.”

She wants to encourage citizens to create smart phone applications for the city (hint hint).

7:40: Rushton brings up his 311 idea, which is similar to what I just linked to.

7:41: Toomey brings up Nicole and co.’s City Council Bingo. You should play if you’re not already. Toomey says it’s time to open communication with city government and be more transparent. She uses the city of Boston’s website as an example, calling it “very organized.” She wants to have bloggers get together and crowdsource themselves to provide the info. Lukes says “that has to be coordinated.”

Lukes wants to see more publicity for the city departments that are already on Facebook and Twitter.

7:44: Clerk Rushford isn’t here tonight, so the Lukes v. city marriages battle is postponed until next week.

7:46: Germain recuses himself. Rushton wants documents regarding the construction of the new DA’s office at 184 Main St. He wants all information on TIFs, their applications for those TIFs, and any correspondence before those applications were sent in. He wants the actual lease between DCAM and the developers. He wants the city administration to ask the developers for those documents.

7:49: Germain, as chair of Municipal Operations, wants to negotiate a new contract with the city auditor. Haller wants to make it a unanimous motion.

7:52: With the destruction of the future site of the Blackstone Vally Visitors Center, Clancy wants to see an old diner from Worcester (now stored in RI) relocated to serve as a new visitors center on McKeon road. He says there’s federal money lined up for various projects that could fit with this kind of “seasonal tourist stop.” He says the attraction here is the “diner concept.” “Diners have a national following,” and are natural places for people “to stop.” He can see partnerships with area businesses and colleges that have hospitality programs.

7:58: The council brings up Question 3 on the November ballot — the initiative to rollback the sales tax from 6.25% to 3%. Lukes says the Manager “presents a frightening scenario” regarding local aid cuts. But, she says, it can also be considered a scare tactic against people who would want to vote for this. “I think taxpayers are becoming not just angry and cynical, but hardened to the kind of things that we’re seeing here.” She says people think the government doesn’t get the message, and she calls out unions (especially the EAW) for wanting increases. She says Q3 is the only way taxpayers can say “we want reform, we want change.”

“The tea party is not an accident,” she says. “It’s a response to reform.” She votes in favor of “some kind of message being sent” both to state and local government.

8:05: JOB steps down to talk about his. Hint: he opposes Q3. He says there’s looming $2 billion 9c cuts, as Lukes mentioned. “What does this mean for the average person in this community?” O’Brien points out all candidates for governor are against it, so are some anti-tax think tanks. Chambers of commerce too. “I have to very strongly disagree with Councilor Lukes.”

8:09: Eddy says he’s opposed the council getting involved on ballot questions. But this one “does cross the line that it has to do with city government.” “As long as people in MA are prepared to have less services” then Q3 can pass. He says there are thousands of kids getting less healthcare every year “and that list keeps growing.” He says cities and towns are “captives” to the commonwealth, and if Q3 passes then having “60 police officers is going to be looked at as a real rosy time.” Eddy will vote no on Q3. “I ran for office to try to preserve neighborhoods in Worcester.”

8:13: Clancy will vote against it, and asks the city electorate to vote against it also. He says we’re already approaching “draconian” local aid cuts. “If we add this to that, we know the impact will be even more severe on local aid.”

8:16: Haller references the MA Taxpayers Foundation and their doom and gloom scenario. They’re against it as well. She calls it “compelling reading.”

8:19: Rushton asks city CFO Zidelis on what to expect if Q3 passes. “A 28% cut could be realistic”, which transfers to $11 million from the city budget. He says that would mean 200 employees laid off from the city. It would probably come from fire and public works. That doesn’t include the school side. “People will realize the stupidity of this ballot question.”

“There will be spending cuts.” People who want government to stop spending will see it “occur naturally,” says Rushton. “I proudly says Q3 is a stupid idea…this is overboard.” He adds privately that it’s reasonable to roll it to 5%, but 3% is too much.

8:25: Petty isn’t in favor of the ballot question either. He says the budget has already been carefully considered. He says some of the programs to spur the economy have been working (“they’re not hiring, unfortunately” he admits). “People want instant gratification…the Depression took several years” to come out of.

8:27: Palmieri says “I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that wants to see taxes go up,” but “It’s not as simple as it seems. When we look at our city, and I take a look at my district, it will have a dramatic impact.” He brings up something like if it snows, the streets won’t be plowed that same day. “If sales tax goes down, residential tax goes up. We’ll have classrooms with 50 kids in the class.”

8:33: Toomey says “supporting Q3 is a pennywise and a pound foolish.” There’s already going to be $159 million cut in local aid coming. “Voting (yes) on this is an immoral and irresponsible decision.”

10-1, the council denounces Q3. Lukes is the lone vote against.

8:38: Haller wants more info about closing the PIP. She wants to know what all the obstacles are.

8:45: Adjourned!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “City council live blog — 10/5/10

  1. Is it possible that this is not streaming live tonight?

  2. mike

    wasnt streaming tongiht

  3. Kate Toomey

    That was: “…there is already a $159 million dollar CUT coming…”

  4. And the #1 place where drastic cuts SHOULD be made is instead getting extra funding. Why should already ultra-wealthy mega-landlords like Nino Micozzi, Vaios and Vassilios (sp?) Theodorakos, and the rest of their gluttonous thieving ilk still be getting so many rental unit subsidies? I can understand that housing for elderly and disabled people needed to be subsidized, but with so many workers’ rental units now being subsidized as well, it has distorted prices so severely that now the supposed “market” value of run-down apartments in drug-riddled and gun-riddled neighborhoods (like the ones in the area of lower Providence Street, for example) is $1000 per month. Would any of you pay that much for an apartment in dangerous and filthy areas like those – especially if it meant that the first thirty hours of EVERY week at your grueling blue collar job were worked entirely for rent? Most people wouldn’t live in one of those neighborhoods for free. That is THE reason so many workers have fled this state for more worker-friendly states like Texas – where, thanks to sensible, logical politicians like Ron Paul, the true supply/demand free market reigns, and so rents and housing prices are more in line with what renters and home buyers EARN for a living. Rental subsidies in particular have a huge disincentive effect on productivity.

    Back in the early 1980’s, rent prices were still such that young people were able to get our own apartments by our second weekly paycheck. Now, even some graduate students in these godforsaken housing-subsidized states can’t afford to leave their parents’ homes – ever.

    No matter how low the hourly wage, no full-time worker should ever have to be relegated to being subsidized – especially if his/her landlord has already been made wealthy enough by those subsidies to be spending his entire life recirculating that UNEARNED money all over Europe and the Emirates – anywhere but here where they got it from. Please make the tax cuts where they should be made and leave the productive programs alone.

    -Christina
    betterjobsfornightowls@yahoo.com

  5. -Q

    The doom and gloom sayers are out in full force and the first threat ALWAYS made is there will be cutbacks in public safety (police/fire), streets will not be plowed, overcrowding in classrooms and an untenable 50 students per class………etc…
    which is usually how politicians react when faced with reductions in local aid from the state.
    Folks – we are facing an approximately $10.5m –
    $11m deficit……Worcester employs over 7,000+ municipal employees and yes there will have to be cuts to compensate for the passage of tax roll backs but I would suggest to you the cuts CAN be made without affecting frontline city services/workers and without affecting the quality of life in our city – in fact we can enhance and better govern our city.
    How about this go around we attempt something different?
    How about we cut out the overpaid, bloated city administration, cut the duplicicity that is rampant under the city manager, cut the school adminisrators budget at the Durkin building, discontinue the busing contract for any child living within 2 miles of their schools, actually move forward with a legitimate PILOT Program covering ALL NON-PROFITS, all leased city vehicles carting around city officials with tax free gas and insurance be terminated,.
    THE DOLLARS AND CENTS OF ALL OF THIS:
    Cut 100 administrative positions both city/school side earning in excess of $100k= potential savings of $10million+
    Cut school bus service for those students living within 2 miles of their schools = potential savings of $8million+
    Implement the PILOT Program for all non-profits with tax excempt properties assessed at $1.7 billion
    to voluntarily contribute a very minute 1% on the assessed property = another $17million…….
    The plan as outlined above combines new revenues and cost effective measures totalling $35 million dollars – subtract the anticipated shortfall from the state and Worcester still has $25 million to work with……..
    The problem these simple solutions presents is one of lack of courage and conviction on behalf of our elected officials to truly serve the residents and taxpayers (homeowners/business owners) of our city.

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