City council live blog 3/1/11: Pot-zilla vs. Truckasaurus

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Councilor Kate Toomey will request tonight that Worcester ask Boston if we can rent their new “Pot-zilla,” a $151,000 vehicle that permanently patches up asphalt. (Agenda item 9b.)

In the spirit of this request, we want to know which vehicle with a pseudo-reptilian name you would rather have roaming city streets: this Pot-zilla or Truckasaurus.

Your regular live blog (and Cover It Live) after the poll.

7:03: The Worcester Cowboys state champion football team gets a shout out from the council.

7:11: William Breault speaks about his petition to raise fines for the public consumption of marijuana. “One thing remains clear, people are not really sure what the (new) law means,” regarding the 2008 proposition that decriminalized the drug.

He wants to not only increase fines for those smoking/in possession of under an ounce of marijuana, but also mandate that offenders correctly identify themselves to officers writing civil tickets, as is done in Duxbury, Lynn, Medway, Methuen, Milford, Salem and Springfield. He wants the council to look at this, and it won’t need state approval. “We’re absolutely headed in the wrong direction.”

Ron Madnick of the local ACLU is here to provide the counter argument, calling support for question 2 in 2008 “overwhelming” — 65% of the vote. “Tonight you will be considering a proposal to increase the fine by $300,” which could create “unintended consequences” including jail time for those who can’t pay the fine and require police officers to show up at court. “In the end it will end up costing tax payers far more.”

He points out the council has already defeated this proposal once, and they should do it again.

Jo Hart says “America has learned nothing from it’s history at all…it’s time to legalize all drugs and get used to it. This business is insane.”

7:19: Lukes wants a report from the police chief. “My point of reference is the sales and the profit generated from the sales of these drugs is still there and we end up supporting cartels.” She wants to know if the change in legislation has changed drug sales or volume in drugs in Worcester. “We’ve had several drug related shootings in the city,” but adds she’s not sure this fine would stop that. J.O’Brien wants to know the number of tickets written. Haller wants to know the number of complaints.

Rushton says he’d prefer to file it, saying 62% of Worcester residents voted for the present law, and the d-13 area voted in favor of medical marijuana in November. He says if the interested parties want, it should go in front of people as a referendum in November. “I’d rather have the people speak on it and have a non-binding referendum.”

Rushton gets a vote on filing the amendment (the reports will still come): Eddy Y, Haller N, Lukes N, Palmieri Y, Petty N, Rushton Y, Smith N, Toomey N, O’Brien N. The idea moves on to subcommittee.

Paul Franco (Republican challenger in November for d-13 state rep.) is appointed to the Conservation Commission.

Ravi Perry and Kathleen Rentsch are appointed to the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee.

7:25: M.O’Brien calls the report on CitySquare “self-explanatory,” and says the major work is being done inside the building and removing hazardous chemicals like asbestoes. He expects full demolition in the spring.

Toomey says she’s “delighted to see the progress,” but says it’s “hard for the public to see what’s going on inside.” She wants photos online of the progress. M.O’Brien says they already are. (You can see them by clicking on the link.)

Palmieri says they’ve all heard time tables before, and wants to make sure the project is actually on track. M.O’Brien says “Tropicana-like, Las Vegas demolition” won’t be done but you’ll start seeing buildings come down. He says April through June demolition will be “well underway,” and construction and demolition will have to happen simultaneously in order to meet projected time lines.

7:30: Palmieri jumps up to talk about CSX. He makes sure that all the properties have been acquired. M.O’Brien confirms it. Palmieri wonders if there’s any litigation tying up the transactions. M.O’Brien says he hasn’t heard of any. Palmieri and O’Brien go back and forth about easement issues, but O’Brien says he hasn’t heard any. That’s not jiving with what Palmieri’s heard, but that’s all he lets on.

7:38: The Worcester Community Action Council receives a resolution regarding how budget cuts will impact early education, heating assistance, WIC and job placement programs.

Eddy says this resolution “speaks to our commitment to those families.” Toomey says WCAC “there’s nothing else to say other than you are an incredibly importantly life line to people in our community.”

7:44: M.O’Brien calls the application to designate 181 Greenwood Street as a Site Specific Economic Opportunity Area and a Certified Project “a tremendous opportunity.” A TIF will be provided to move Magmotor Technologies from West Boylston to Worcester, and will create 55 jobs.

Rushton questions the TIF process, and specifically, this TIF. He compares this to an older TIF Polar received which had stronger requirements for where employees lived. He’s aiming to get Worcester residents, especially in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood, working at the new plant.  “There’s a lot of very good components here, I just want to see if we can potentially strengthen that up.”

Palmieri has more concerns about the TIF. Paul Morano clarifies that it is a 100% TIF over 12 years. It’s not unprecedented, one was for the Mid-Town Mall and one for the Abbott building. Morano says the company will add 55 jobs to its current 14 over the next few years. Morano adds that the city can seek de-certification if the company doesn’t meet these goals.

Palmieri asks how many times the company has moved in last 7-10 years. Morano says this will be the first time they own the building they’re in. Palmieri says he thinks they’ve moved a half-dozen times. M.O’Brien says they’re investing in the building. “We see a permanency there,” but if they leave the city can recapture that tax revenue.

Toomey and Petty give praise for the project. She asks that there be some kind of partnership be formed between the company and Worcester Tech because Tech uses machinery made by Magmotor. Petty says “eventually the city’s going to gain” from the TIF.

Smith says that “it’s a great story when we are able to recruit and attract new businesses to the city…especially in these tough economic times.”

8:03: Haller talks about flooding on Southbridge St., calling it “a deterrent to economic development” in the area. She’s hoping to get a warning system to drivers installed. She says the flooding on Quinsigamond Ave has ramifications with the EPA’s fight against water runoff into the Blackstone. She says the EPA is more concerned about flood water into the river than flood water running into peoples’ basements.

8:09: The DPW won the 2011 Excellence in Snow and Ice Control Award by the American Public Works Association (APWA). Rushton praises DPW and Moylan. J.O’Brien jokes Rushton’s wondering how the won without dumping snow in Lake Quinsigamond.

Petty says this was a tough winter, and points to stats that show we received 6 feet of snow in 45 days. He praises the work done by DPW crews.

8:12: As if Haller knew about our cover story next week, she talks about Keep Worcester Clean and overdose deaths. She asks for stats and trending for Worcester, but all she has to do is wait until Thursday and pick up a Worcester Mag.

Public Health Commissioner Dale Magee points out a few stats. 1/100 Worcester residents is in opioid treatment. 1/1,000 die from it. Hispanic males are a demographic trending upward. Haller wants more information about where the drugs come from.

Lukes says the city clerk used to compile this information manually through death certificates, but the death certificates weren’t always accurate (something Magee has studied). Lukes wonders if this is still a problem. Magee says death certificates are now not accepted with the cause just being “cardiac arrest” without something else behind it.

J.O’Brien asks about using nasal Narcan. Magee says it makes a huge difference, and his department will continue to work on using it in Worcester.

Rushton says under the Romney administration there was a “severe number” of treatment beds cut. He wants to know if deaths increased during this time period. Magee will follow up with him.

8:20: Worcester wins a solving cold cases through DNA grant from the US Dept. of Justice.

8:25: Toomey calls Pot-zilla “a positive piece of machinery. Definitely worth looking at.”

8:27: Lukes wants to know about the allegations of election fraud and improprieties last November. She says given the charges back and forth, “we have the makings of civil rights charges.” She says this council should have a copy of complaints, affidavits, minutes of the election commission and legal opinions from the state and city solicitor. She wants this information soon because she doesn’t want it to cut into budget time.

8:29: Eddy says the motion to get a report is fine, but Eddy wants to “clarify.” He says an independent body has looked at the issue, the election commission, which is made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent. The election commission held their hearing and “the charter has worked” and the commission “issued a ruling.” The process “hasn’t been anything but above board.” He applauds the clerk for his “stewardship” and the members of the commission for doing their job. Haller chimes in with a “well said.”

J.O’Brien jumps in and reiterates his speech from the meeting, saying the group bringing the charges were directly tied to the campaign of one of the candidates.

8:36: Toomey brings up a Boston phone app that lets users show the city where potholes are. Rushton’s wanted a similar app for Worcester too.

M.O’Brien says they’ll put time-lapse cameras up on public buildings to photograph the construction at CitySquare.

Petty wants Chief Gemme’s thoughts on recent violence on Vernon Hill.

Lukes says that because of all the construction in Kelley Square, it may be time to look into emminent domain to rectify the traffic pattern. M.O’Brien says they can “respond in the form of a report.”

Rushton calls this “a prime piece of real estate” and wants the city to get on some economic development talks.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “City council live blog 3/1/11: Pot-zilla vs. Truckasaurus

  1. Boots

    RE: The Poll Question – Frankly Jeremy, I don’t give a damn! I just want the potholes fixed. Isn’t that the most important thing?

  2. -Q

    8:27 – Lukes feigns ignorance regarding the election commissions complete and unadultered investigation that cleared city poll workers of any wrongdoing.
    Lukes is siding with 3rd congressional candidate loser marty “bankrupt” lamb and the tea-partiers – no suprise there.
    Lukes, if you want all of that information of the completed investigation and to micro-manage another committee then why don’t you put your name in to get appointed to the election commission?
    Lukes must have a lot of time on her hands because she is certainly not fulfilling her duties as city councilor at large.

  3. -Q

    7:30pm – “Thats not jiving what palmeri has heard…..”
    How does palmeri explain all of those little voices taking inside his head?

  4. Pingback: Pie and Coffee » 508 #147: Phantom Critics

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