Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
I’m back at city council tonight after a couple weeks away (a shout out to Brittany Durgin, who filled in swimmingly), and I wish I could say tonight’s meeting had more fireworks to get excited about. Some things to keep an eye on:
-An update on CSX
-Snow and ice removal
-Maybe a little twisting of the knife that’s stuck in Holy Cross
And, well, that’s about it. Could be a short one tonight. All the more reason for you to weigh in on Cover It Live.*
*Assuming the internet works in the council chamber.
7:18: And we’re off. First, a proclamation about boxer Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez and his family. Juan Gomez brought that in to the council.
Gomez says community groups are hosting an event at Coral Seafood for Rodriguez. He says that — god willing — he will be world champion and “we’re most impressed with the person he is.” He says reservations will be needed, and “high profile names” will be there. RSVP to Centro Las Americas.
7:25: Back to the nitty gritty: Holy Cross. M.O’Brien says he had a “candid conversation” with Father McFarland regarding the partying on St. James hill. O’Brien says it’s now “zero tolerance” and the city will work with the school to bring reforms to those streets (Caro, Boynton, College). He’s asking the council to hold discussion on this this week, while he and the Father continue to talk.
7:28: On to CSX, and Rushton explains what they discussed at the econ. dev. meeting right before this. CSX’s environmental notification report is extensive, he says, and covers all issues. “CSX wants to be a good corporate citizen, and they’ve taken that step by flushing out all of these issues.”
The document will be made public, but you’ve got to get to the MEPA office in Boston to get it. “The committee as a whole felt satisfied .” Rushton says the guy, Ian Bowles, at the MEPA office who will look over this is known as a staunch environmentalist. He has until Dec. 22 to say if the report passes muster.
Palmieri says he’s “appreciative of the work” done by Rushton and the rest of the committee, but points out much of CSX filing has come before the subcommittee twice already this year, so not much is new. Palmieri wants the affected neighborhoods to be able to go through this report and understand what’s in it. He wants a 50 year plan and a defined environmental report. He says there will be a site visit by CSX where community/neighbors will are invited and be able to ask questions.
7:39: Vote on the economic development committee to zone change Putnam Lane. All but Lukes vote yes.
7:41: On the public works committee report. They’re talking about closing off Putnam Lane and the building of an overpass by CSX over Franklin St.
All but Lukes vote yes.
Clancy wants to know if CSX will pay for the conversion of Foch Avenue to a fully public way. M.O’Brien says CSX will be charged with all improvements to Foch Ave. Petty asks about illegal dumping. CSX will also install cameras for policing illegal dumping, and will clean it up once those cameras are up. Petty wants to make sure CSX’s policing/cleaning extends eastward. Maurice O’Connell says the agreement will be done in days, but no timetable yet on when the cameras will be up.
7:54: David Clark is donating wireless communication equipment to the Worcester Fire Dept. Lukes points out it will be involved in some video. Lukes wants to know if the WFD will have oversight over content, Chief Dio says yes.
7:56: Lukes wants an approach like the Worcester Regional Tobacco Control Collaborative to target underage alcohol purchase/use. DPH’s Brindisi says he’ll give it a try.
7:59: Toomey asks if weight loss management programs can be a part of this. She says as a former smoker she knows weight gain is a side effect of quitting smoking. She wants a program that encourages healthy eating habits. “It’s one thing to quit, it’s another thing to remain healthy.”
“There’s good news and bad news here,” says Palmieri. “The bad news is we’re leading the state with people who smoke in Worcester.” He says he’s waiting for the law department to “step up” and deal with the issues Public Health have talked about.
8:04: M.O’Brien talks about the development of a voluntary emergency preparedness registry for people requiring additional assistance. He says this is voluntary and confidential. And he thanks the people who worked on this.
Lukes congratulates all involved, and says it was “long overdue.” She’s still wondering about confidentiality — would this be subject to a freedom of information request and how that can be prevented. She says the info would be misused. M.O’Brien says he’ll provide the answer in writing.
Petty says “this is good news,” Haller calls it “great” and wants to start getting names registered right away. J.O’Brien wants to look at the legality of using the census to help gather info about this.
8:12: Haller wants the city’s ice and snow removal report sent to business and neighborhood groups.
8:13: Petty thanks Rep. Pedone and Mayor O’Brien for their role in asking for a 15 day cooling off period. He wants an update on where things stand now. M.O’Brien says mediation is set for the 23rd. “We look forward to mediation and are hopeful, but we have to prepare for a negative outcome as well.”
Germain reiterates Petty. “People using the bus service are a lot of times the people that need it the most…they don’t have a care.” He points out that in New York, Chicago everybody uses transit services, but in Worcester it’s the most needy. “We need to protect these people.” He wants to know it would be necessary to ask for an extension on the 15 day period because the 23rd is so far away. He says “we’re a heck of a lot closer than what both sides are saying to the newspaper.”
“You’re all adults, get it done,” he says about the negotiating parties. He keeps saying “gosh darn” rather than the alternative cuss.
M.O’Brien says the 15 day period is appropriate — “take a deep breath and re-evaluate positions.” He says the WRTA board, which he serves on, is flexible but needs the union to be too.
Germain says he’s still disappointed that he’s finding out tonight the first meeting comes 11 days into the 15 day cooling off period. He expected them in the negotiation room the day after the cooling off period starts. He thinks the time constraint will just add pressure and we’ll have a frantic day like we did last Friday as a strike loomed.
Lukes begins where she was cut off last week. She wants to know at what point does the WRTA crash because financial insolvency? More retirees than employees and “the pay as you go process is not working.” The city funds a majority of the WRTA but doesn’t have a majority of the vote on the WRTA board. She says other union contracts have to be settled as well. “What is the city’s liability?”
Toomey wants the manager to remember that bus routes on the outer part of the city are being used more and more. “It’s important that the routes be kept as whole as possible.” She points out that the middle class of the city uses the bus as well. M.O’Brien says the “rhythm that we’re in now” is “reduce, reduce, reduce.” This is why it’s important that the union take management’s proposal, he says, otherwise jobs and routes could be cut.
Rushton says the point is that the assumption when he signed the letter last week that called for a cooling off period was that people would get back to negotiating right away, not waiting ten days to “cool off” then start talking. “We’re asking to get the job done. If we’re going to do this, let’s get it right.” He asks the Manager if there will be a “serious attempt to getting this done.” O’Brien says he answered this to in response to Germain — no need to extend the period and to give the federal mediator some flexibility. Haller agrees that parties should get to the table and stay there. She says the council is making it clear that this is the approach they want to see.
Petty wants a report on what the WRTA has done to increase ridership over the past year.
8:43: Haller is disappointed there’s not a report on the PIP. M.O’Brien says a MOU will be worked out this week between the providers. Haller says the number of people at the PIP is low, but it’s still a magnet for crime. She calls the upcoming MOU that will close the shelter a major achievement.
8:47: Clancy and Rushton want updates on towing companies and whether contracts will go out for bid again. Lukes said the problem is towing companies demand cash. She wants credit cards and checks written into the bids.