Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Before some people can go to bed tonight and shield themselves from the harsh winter elements, they’ve got a $550 million city to run (or they have to report on how that $550 million city is being run).
Most of the exciting agenda items come in the form of orders this week, which means a lot of mic time for the City Manager. Keep up on all the action from the comfort of your homes on TV or with Cover It Live.
7:02: Here we go. Quick moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Arizona this weekend.
7:06: Proclamation for human trafficking awareness. Jayna from Lutheran Social Services speaks about bringing greater awareness to the issue. “The crime of human trafficking largely goes unnoticed and is often perceived as non-existent in our communities.”
No Telegram reporter tonight. I’m your only coverage. The city collectively shudders.
7:10: Laurie Ross from the HOPE Coalition speaks about getting tobacco products out of health facilities and pharmacies. They’ve been working with Palmieri on this.
Paul Hernandez, a HOPE member, says he’s “happy the city is looking to decrease the number of places where tobacco is being sold,” especially when it comes to places where youth have access to it.
Michael Lanava talks about this in conjunction with the sign ordinance. He says they surveyed all places that received a tobacco permit from the city and looked at their signage. He’ll be there as it’s deliberated in subcommittee. He also wants to see other types of “wellness messages” placed in other places (like trash bags, tax bills, report cards).
Palmieri says “this is issue is probably one of the more important issues we’ve taken up over the past five years.” He says working with the Chamber was an “absolute critical element.” He says Lanava photographed 260 businesses to get it done.
Deborah (speaking on behalf of some neighbors on Parsons Hill Drive (near Goddard Memorial Drive) says she needs to be by a bus stop because she’s legally blind. She says a year ago she asked the council for a crosswalk down the street. She wants an approval for a partial sidewalk to be put near the bus stop sign. She says waiting on the street with her sight dog people ask if she’s ok, and she thanks the people of Worcester for that, but says if there were a sidewalk with a bus stop on the other side of the street that wouldn’t have to happen.
Jo Hart says she was there when she made this petition and says she was “appalled.” She says the comment that there can’t be a bus stop without a sidewalk isn’t true because there are plenty of bus stops without sidewalks.”The whole thing is barbaric.”
7:24: Lynn Pledger, Hardwick, MA of Clean Water Action Council talks about a mechanism to reduce product and packaging waste. She says this gives companies “a financial incentive” to produce things that are easier to recycle. “Cities and towns are very pleased to promote this because it saves a tremendous amount of money.” She says 180 cities/towns in MA are doing this. It’s called EPR. Look it up.
On a very related note, “the city of Worcester urges the Massachusetts legislature to enact comprehensive EPR legislation based on the Framework Principles for Product Stewardship Policy; and Further, the city of Worcester will work with the Massachusetts Product Stewardship Council and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to enact EPR legislation and regulation” passes unanimously.
7:28: Brian O’Connell of Meadow Lane address the council. He says they received 17 pages of legal opinion regarding ownership of the sidewalk. (“No wonder you guys are having problems with the EPA,” he says, regarding the amount of paper.) He says they received notification of the ruling from the T&G before it came from the City. (“A real class act,” he says.) He says there will be further legal action taken by the citizens.
Rushton says “our ordinance is clear…as it reads it looks like the city may be correct, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with how the city is interpreting this.” He says he didn’t think anyone expected that passing this ordinance meant residents would have to traverse a lot of land to shovel. “It may be necessary…tweaking this ordinance.” He says it looks like the state owns part of this land, and they should be responsible for shoveling this sidewalk. He says the state hasn’t shoveled the sidewalk by the old courthouse either.
Eddy says “I am sympathetic to the residents’ concerns.” He agrees with Rushton, saying that no one expected this ordinance to require so much effort, but he says you can’t question the city’s lawyer — “you get on shaky ground” when that happens. “Our options as a council is not to second guess our attorney.” He says he’d love to make an exception for Meadow Lane, but there are a lot of residence around the city with two sidewalks. He says no one can shovel (non-profits, charity groups or trial court folks) because no one wants to own the potential lawsuit if someone doesn’t get out there in time to shovel and there’s an injury because of it. “Legally we all went into passing this snow ordinance knowing what we were passing.”
Clancy says the ordinance has been in place for decades, but the ordinance Eddy was referring to was just a stepped up enforcement of what was previously on the books. “It is working, to some degree.” He says Rice Square and Grafton St. are in a similar situation to Meadow Lane. “Those are just some examples, but there are many, many more where people abut two sides of roadways…some one has to clear them and we can’t have the City clearing private property.”
“I will not go down any slippery slope that says we should start putting exemptions into the ordinance…I’m happy to see over the past year how many new sidewalks have been cleared.”
Petty praises Eddy for working on this for over a year. He wonders if the state actually does clear sidewalks. M.O’Brien says it’s a rare occasion, but the state doesn’t have the resources.
Rushton says people took his comments out of context. He says he agrees with the City’s interpretation and opinion, there’s a question about a specific swath of land that is in a grey area. “Can we tighten this up in such a way that a land owner isn’t adjacent to the sidewalk — it’s the throw up the hands mentality of the state.” He says it’s easier to go after the residents than the state, though.
Haller wants to know if Rushton is on to something. Solicitor Moore says the piece in question is state owned land, but the question is how it’s used — it’s a state highway. “That yellow area represents the addition to the Pleasant St. wideout. It still abuts the property. There’s no difference.”
Clancy says he has “more vagueries to add” and cites other examples of where similar issues crop up in Worcester. “Bottom line is, you abut a sidewalk, the property owner who abuts it is responsible for clearing it.”
Snow update. No word on inches but J.O’Brien says “the manager’s crying because every inch costs us.”
7:59: Lukes talks about having “strict ordinances” in the Blackstone Parkway area regarding digital signs. “I think that area deserves to have time and dedication committed to making it the kind of neighborhood residents would like to see happen.”
Lukes continues, saying it’s worth looking at using digital signs. “We ought to go slowly with this new technology in these areas.”
8:02: Lukes wants “an opinion regarding the legal consequences of a receipt of a DBA certificate and compliance with city zoning ordinances.” Toomey says there are businesses doing business illegally here. She wants the City to look into finding properties that are zoned residential but acting as commercial.
8:05: They’re talking about the micro-loan information that came out in a Sunday Telegram article. She says some beneficieries of the program got painted unfairly, and that there’s never been an issue with this before. She says it’s ok to get information and question the returns, but when it comes out like it did it the information can be seen unfairly.
8:08: The council wants a “report on the real estate taxes due from the 100 highest commercial and industrial taxpayers for last year and this year, showing the increase or decrease as a result of the recent tax rates voted by the City Council.”
8:09: Clancy says that the motion for a “report to City Council on the top 100 taxpayers and delineated those that are commercial and residential taxpayers” in reference to the idea of taxing residential properties with more than 4 units as commercial properties.”
Palmieri says this isn’t “to punish anyone…it’s important to have this discussion and have a grasp of who has 500 units as opposed to 20.”
8:11: Clancy wants to know how much was saved by enacting section 18. “Probably millions of dollars,” he says. “We didn’t put anyone on any plan that other employees didn’t have. They were simply transfered to a plan that other employees were already on.” Some penalties may have been involved, but he wants to know how much was saved (minus the penalties). He says “it was a very tough battle, but it was something we knew we had to do in order to save our city services.”
Palmieri says “I think it is an important issue because it’s been such a contentious one over the past several years.”
8:14: Some quick CSX work (copied and pasted from the agenda): requesting to re-zone certain properties along Franklin St. from RL-7 and BL-1.0 to MG-2.0, requesting to re-zone the property at 0 Atlanta St. from RL-7 to MG-2.0, requesting to layout and decree public the existing Foch Ave, requesting to accept a deed of easement for street purposes from CSX Transportation Inc, or its nominee over a parcel of land at the terminus of Foch Ave, and layout and decree the parcel public, as part of the Foch Ave. public street layout and request authorization to accept a deed of easement for street purposes from CSX Transportation, Inc., in and over a certain parcel of land extending northerly from Grafton St., as shown on Exhibit C and layout and decree the parcel a public way.
Lukes wants a list of what future CSX votes will have to be taken.
Clancy says Foch Ave is actually pronounced “Fosh” and that he was a commander of the allied forces in WWI. He wants the street renamed “General Foch Ave” and wants to see if CSX will sponsor some kind of heritage marker commemorating the general.
8:20: Rushton asks the Manager for a report to outline meeting the needs of the disabled community since Fran Manocchio (human rights and disabilities director) is leaving. M.O’Brien says he shares those concerns and reassigned four staffers to help facilitate communication between his office and the relevant boards. Derek Brindisi, the city’s director of public health, will be working on ADA compliance.
Lukes wants a list of collective bargaining addendums and changes to contracts.
Toomey wants people to reach out to crowd-sourcers regarding making the city’s website easier to navigate and more user friendly.