Trash and Recycling Hearing Notes – February 28

Commissioner Moosey of DPW gives overview with Powerpoint.

Comprehensive Clean City Program

Implementation of Clean Team:

High amount of litter, takes attractiveness away from the city

There are no members of this team now; this would be 6 new positions: 2 additional nuisance inspectors, 4 to clean up.  We currently only have 1 nuisance inspector, who mostly handles solid waste issues (early bag leave out, illegal bags, some dumping).

Need for education on recycling.  The person who is collecting trash/recycling would put a sticker on something unacceptable; follow up from nuisance inspector.  Value of recycling commodities has gotten very low.

They will hire a PR firm to assist with the education.  The education campaign will be funded by a DEP grant.  This can be done regardless.  They will see which methods are most effective so that this can be sent to all residents.  Continual new residents who would need to be educated.

Will information be on the new bags?  Yes, but will be more graphic so more universally understood.

Waste Containers in Business Districts

Currently, businesses or groups will put a barrel out, but they will pay themselves for them to be emptied/maintained.  The city will empty and maintain going forward.

Hoping for 2 grants each per council district to assist with neighborhood cleanups.

Expanded Hours and Services on Millbury Street

This would allow for residential disposal of construction and demolition debris.

You can bring your recycling to Millbury Mon-Sat ’til 4pm if you miss your recycling day.

Drop off of yellow bag is a lot more complicated and cannot be done at the moment.

Curbside Textile Collection

Separate bag for textile materials that will be mailed by the vendor.  On trash collection day, the pink bag will be collected at no charge to the city or the resident, and will be recycled.

Litter in the Neighborhoods

(Bob Fiore mostly doing the talking now)

Bungee cord, brown paper bag on top have all been tried.  Two wheeled carts were first thing they looked at, did pilot program in the winter, and it didn’t work well. Carts weren’t placed where they needed to be, was too congested with snow, held up traffic on streets they tried it on.

Discussion of the clear plastic bags, and how AWESOME they are.  Also, the cost of the plastic bags.

Question about smaller clear bags.  Bag breaker will be calibrated to take a certain size bag, so it can’t be a different size.  Corrugated cardboard can go in the clear bag.

Russell asks for report about the $600,000 amount and what represents in pennies to the total cost.

3 clear bags/roll of 10 large or small bags.  For those who need additional clear bags, would be sold in rolls of 10 for 15 cents a piece (subsidized – the cost is 25 cents, I think).

If the recycling has flown out of the bin BEFORE the truck comes by, Casella are not obligated to collect it

Cost of Recycling

perception of the public is that recycling is free and that it’s always been free — neither is the case.

Value of recycling products has decreased dramatically from the past — the cost of processing (not collecting) used to be made back by the value of recycling.  In the current year, we are now $300,000 behind.

Bags would get us to co-collection quicker, but unclear if that is on the table.

Questions about other towns — the clear bag trial was a copy of Boston’s program.

(Discussion of how the rolling bins would be impossible.  I’ve seen these in other cities, including Cork, Ireland, so I’m not sure why Worcester can’t have nice things.)

They still buy 3,000 bins a year.

Questions from Councilor Wally

Educational component should have video – easily shared, can be seen what can/can’t be recycled.

Business districts – could we continue to look at having private contractors remove so that they don’t lose that business?

Allow for yellow trash bags to be dropped off at Millbury St or Foley Stadium.

He talks about the balance of trash and recycling bags.  Could people buy a-la-carte, but at actual cost of the bag?

Moosey responds: the equation doesn’t work for everyone.

Questions from Councilor Mero-Carlson:

Continuing questions about number of bags.  (This is utterly boring, I can’t type any more about this.)

Some of businesses that sell bags – if someone comes in and pays with charge card, upcharge to business.  Asking businesses to take trash bags and take a cut on it.  Is there a way to be helpful to the businesses?  (Answer: not really, if we charge more, it’s passed on to the consumer.)

What other cities use the clear bag program?  There is none local to here, but will get a list of them from around the nation.

Any idea what the grants for neighborhoods would look like?

Did we send the clear bags out to bid?  Who did we send them out to?

Comments from the public

Arthur Mooradian – business district trash containers.  Have been picking these up about 5 years. One problem they have is that people do not like to pay for trash removal.  Residents wait for it to be cleared out.  Russell recommends that people call DPW when they see this happening.  Education is a major component in solving the litter problem.  Could there be a waiver program for people who can’t afford trash pickup?  Making an appointment for Millbury Street is problematic for some as well.

(didn’t get the name) – education is going to be a priority.  As a firefighter, saw people who didn’t know how to dispose of trash.  No problem with his recycling bin.  Doesn’t think this is something that should be curtailed.  Contamination…what happens to it?  Sticker placed, but will it stay out there?  Can’t Millbury Street be open without an appointment?

(sorry, not a lot of notes as I was in line to speak)

 

Recycling Thoughts

Best beloveds,
Mike had asked me to contribute a few words to the forthcoming Happiness Pony about the city’s proposed/updated recycling program.   What I ultimately compiled below is more than would fit into the normal HP article, and probably less polished than what I would usually write on the blog.  But since you haven’t heard from me in a while, I figured I’d share it with you.
-Nicole
1 – History/source of the problem
It’s easy to forget that when Worcester rolled out the pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program in 1993, it was relatively revolutionary.  We were certainly one of the largest communities in Massachusetts — if not New England and the country — that created an incentive to recycle by charging for trash pickup.  By all measures, the program has been very successful.  But it also hasn’t had any radical changes in the past 25 years.  Sure, the price of the yellow trash bag has gone up twice, the size of the recycling container has been increased (from 14 to 18 gallons), and we went to a single stream (no sort) recycling system in 2008.  But we haven’t moved beyond paying for trash removal and the basic recycling.
The city is now proposing that residents will purchase yellow trash bags (at a higher cost).  With the yellow plastic bags will come clear drawstring bags, which will be used for recycling (rather than the existing bins).  With this, the city is trying to address two issues: (1) the high rate of non-recyclable material in bins (which they estimate at 15% and say the “industry standard” is 0.5%) and (2) the quantity of recyclables that are blown into the street with open-topped bins.
Regarding the “contamination” of recyclables, the goal of 0.5% appears to be related to a Chinese requirement for inbound loads of recyclables.  Compared to other communities, Worcester’s contamination rate of 15% is actually pretty good.  The city of Lynn, MA, has a contamination rate of 25%, which is the national average, according to Waste Management.  So Worcester is better than the average.
The city administration says that clear bags will be an easy way to evaluate the recycling for contaminants, and that there would be an education campaign for those who don’t comply.  In fact, they were so enamored of the idea that they held a pilot program for the clear recycling bags.  According to them, “contamination in the clear bag, especially food waste, was a serious problem”, and in many cases it took repeated trips to a residence in order to achieve compliance.  I’m concerned that the (frankly unachievable) 0.5% contamination rate will be held over residents’ heads — when we’re already doing better than the rest of the nation when it comes to contamination.
From my perspective, the so-called single stream recycling has been the main contributor of recycling blowing into the street, and it appears that the city administration agrees.  But rather than go back to the old method (which was two-stream: bottles/cans/plastic on the bottom of a bin topped with a paper bag full of paper products to weigh down the potential flyaways), the city has decided that since people don’t get as much junk mail any more, they’ll continue with single-stream in clear plastic bags.  This doesn’t really make sense: we had a system that was working well, changed it, and are willing to go down other paths (that a pilot clearly proved wouldn’t work) rather than go back to a tried-and-true method.
2 – The point of a recycling program
It’s worth taking a step back and ask what the POINT of a recycling program is.  Very simply, it’s to reduce as much volume from the solid waste stream as possible, both to reduce the city’s overall tipping fee (cost to have our trash brought to Wheelabrator in Millbury) as well as to have a kinder impact on the environment.
The City of Worcester is as close to maximum rate of recycling as we can be.  Roughly 40% of the total picked up every week on the curb is recycling.  The city’s pilot program with clear plastic bags only increased recycling rates by 2-3%.  We cannot expect any great increases in recycling rates.
3 – Reduction of solid waste stream
So that leaves us with other ways to reduce the solid waste stream.
I very much like DPW’s proposal for the textile recycling program (for cloth items that cannot otherwise be used, and which the city estimates make up 8% of our solid waste stream), which hearkens back to the rag man of my father’s youth.  The trick of this program would be how frequently items would be picked up: someone might not want to hang onto a pair of jeans with a busted zipper for 3 months, but might do for a month.
There’s another good proposal, but one which doesn’t go far enough: expansion of hours for bulk item drop-off at the DPW facility at Millbury Street (to 7pm on Wednesdays and increased Sunday hours) as well as a reduction in the bulk fee to $5 for any item.  The prevention of illegal dumping is near to my heart, but this does not go far enough.
For starters:
1 – Bulk item drop-off should be year-round.  Currently Millbury Street drop-off closes in early November and doesn’t open until April.  Just as you don’t want to look at your old broken pair of jeans for months, you don’t want to have to hang onto a mattress with springs sticking out or dead TV for the winter months.  The waiting can encourage even the most civic-minded to consider illegal dumping or otherwise questionable trash practices.
2 – Yard waste drop-off should be allowed with Christmas tree drop-off.  There are certain streets that get placed too late on the calendar to be taken care of before the first snow, and last-minute oak leaves that don’t fall ’til late December.  Would it be more work to allow these drop-offs with Christmas trees?
3 – It would be nice to be able to pilot a program where one day a week (or every other week) drop-offs could be made without appointments.
4 – Compost
It has frustrated me that Worcester has gone from a city that innovated with recycling programs to one that is desperately trying to keep up with waste trends.  One area we are woefully behind in is compost.
The largest source of unnecessary waste in our stream is food scraps that could otherwise be composted.  I was incredibly disappointed — but not surprised — that the word “compost” was not mentioned once in the 19 page DPW report.
All of us produce food waste that does not need to go in yellow trash bags, then to Wheelabrator to be burned.
Many residences in this city don’t have land that can accommodate the space a bin takes and which can use the product it produces.  Other cities with similar situations are rolling out curbside compost programs.  To some in the city, large-scale compost sites, like the one that had been at Hope Cemetery, are associated with not-too-pleasant smells.  However, companies, including our very own city trash vendor, Casella, have created indoor compost facilities where compost is generated with minimal impact to neighbors.
Could Worcester roll out a pilot curbside compost program with as much enthusiasm as it put into putting recycling in clear plastic bags?  I think so.  Could the city have our own indoor compost venue that would complement the city’s existing program to provide compost to residents?  Probably.  Could we make compost a part of community garden programs, so that residents could leave food scraps in compost bins, which would in turn feed the garden with fresh soil?  Most definitely.
But all of this would require bins, which seem to be the latest DPW bugbear.
5 – Bins vs Clear Plastic Bags
There has been a petition circulating to encourage DPW to not use clear plastic bags for recycling.  If recycling blowing in the wind is a big concern, then the better solution would be a large, covered, wheeled 64-gallon cart for recycling.
The city administration evaluated large wheeled carts in a pilot program, but ultimately rejected them due to the risk of contamination, the difficulty in using them in densely populated neighborhoods with multi-family residences, the increase in recycling collection time, and the ultimate cost if it were a citywide solution.
The clear plastic bags are a dumb idea, but not any more dumb than any other dumb idea that’s come out of city hall in the last couple of decades.  They won’t decrease contamination, they won’t reduce waste, and they won’t increase recycling rates.  They may improve the city’s appearance — but that could be done with a move back to double-sort recycling.
I don’t want to diminish the concerns of those who don’t like the idea of clear plastic bags, especially as our leaders (and surrounding communities) look at banning plastic bags from retail outlets.  But we can, and should, think bigger and demand more.
The City of Worcester would do well to look at innovative solutions to reducing solid waste.
DPW and the city administration should also look to advocating for solutions at the statewide level.  Our previous DPW commissioner, upon retirement, decided to take lobbying money and fight against an expanded bottle bill.  We see the consequences of that all over our city in the form of plastic nip bottles and water bottles.  They don’t come out of people’s recycling bins — they come from those who think nothing of chucking them by the side of the road.  Many towns in the Commonwealth would like to see a deposit on these bottles — Worcester should join with them.
So many of our neighboring towns have moved to a pay as you throw model, decades after Worcester led the way.  If we moved towards curbside compost, and had a compost facility — commercial or otherwise — in Worcester, other communities might be willing to join and add to our efforts.
With the instability of the recycling market, we would do well to figure out other ways to reduce our solid waste.  Curbside textile recycling is a good start.  Compost would be even better.

When “I told you so” comes too soon

I find that at the beginning of most of my beautiful friendships, threats don’t really come up.

Not so with the City of Worcester.

As reported in the T&G and the WBJ, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority is now asking to expand its 2016 Urban Renewal Plan to include the west side of Green Street (and all side streets therein), the Burger King at Kelley Square, Table Talk Pie Bakery & Corporate Offices, and the Corner Lunch Diner.  They are proposing to demolish 18 additional buildings.

Perhaps if the city had conducted public meetings about the proposed stadium more as fact-finding sessions and less as rallies for bread and circus, we could have found out a bit more about the grasping that would come from this agreement.

As it stands, the WRA (and, by extension, our new “friends”) are threatening that the stadium will not be completed on time and that the city will be on the hook for damages for the project not completing on time.

I haven’t read the full report, but I encourage you to.  As far as I can tell they want the eminent domain abilities for (1) a new parking garage, (2) to expand streets, (3) to build residential that will have as much success as 145 Front Street, and (4) why the heck not.

One might wonder why a neighborhood that seems to be doing a pretty good job of revitalizing itself needs any outside help.  One MIGHT EVEN wonder if the proposed changes would do away with much of the charm that attracts people to that neighborhood.

Since nothing says Worcester like getting rid of diners and other taxpaying businesses in order to line the pockets of rich out-of-towners, I suggest you come on down to the City Council tonight at 7pm and ask when they will start representing you and stop representing Lucchino, et al.

 

[Non-Table Talk] Pie in the Sky

Tonight, the City Council will likely approve a deal to bring the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester, likely unanimously (or close enough, if Councilor Wally abstains).

I don’t think there’s much anyone can do to sway any city councilor from voting yes on this, or even in making the plan any better than what was presented, but I thought I’d share an outline of what we’re getting into, mostly so that some of us can say “I told you so” twenty years from now.
If you feel strongly about this, reach out to your city councilors. This blog post assumes that you’ve basically read everything there is to read about the WooSox and that you agree with me.
The Myth of the Spoiler in Worcester Politics
First, I’d like to talk about the myth of the spoiler.
There’s a sense, shared by many #WorcPoli types, that anyone who reads the full details of a proposed deal and then has any questions, or who (gasp!) speaks against it in public, or is the sole vote against such a deal, is somehow going to Ruin This For Us All.
This explains at least 90% of the hostility towards Konnie Lukes and the dreaded 10-1 vote…a vote that even she will avoid tonight.
Consensus is a worthy goal, but true consensus can only come about through conversations, questions, answers, and (especially) honesty.
It seems that in the case of the proposed stadium (and the surrounding projects that will fund it), honesty in particular has been in short supply.
The Myth of the Silver Bullet
I’m not sure if the legend of the werewolf began in Worcester, but we certainly hold on to any silver bullet we can find…until the next one comes along.
Longtime residents may recall rosy promises about how Med City would spin off other economic development downtown, or how the Hanover Theater would create a renaissance on its side of Main Street.  Even longer-time residents may recall that the Centrum’s economic spinoff would have sustained more than one restaurant and a few parking lots downtown.
All of these claims were wildly over predicted, and have all been underwritten by the taxpayer, but who’s to let a little thing like a track record get in the way of our DREAMS?
This is why the Telegram can publish an article like “Developers come knocking now that Worcester plans ballpark, business group says” — even after MassLive reports that hotel/residential developer Denis Dowdle would have developed on the site regardless of whether the stadium were built.
Well, which is it?  Certainly Tim Murray getting a phone call must be more indicative of Worcester’s development potential than, you know, someone who started buying a property and who was actively seeking to develop it, right?
Two “Hearings” do not community engagement make
I tried very hard to attend both Economic Development committee hearings.  I was overheated in the first one, at the Crompton Place White Room, and sitting next to an overly loud compressor that made it difficult to hear the speakers.  Frankly, I was expecting a more substantial presentation by the city and its partners than was offered.
I showed up at the second meeting at City Hall at 5:40pm; at that point it was standing room only and anyone outside the room couldn’t hear the proceedings.  So I left shortly after arriving.
City government and business leaders have touted Worcester as a great bedroom community for Boston (though it’s couched in terms of giving Worcester residents access to Boston jobs via commuter rail).  Scheduling important meetings for 5:30 means that anyone with a 9-to-5 job (in Boston or even closer) can have a tough time attending a public meeting.  This city continues to do a poor job of engagement, and this process was probably worse than most.
Worcester loves secrets, so of course there will be no disclosure of the detailed figures that lead to the proforma; the best detail one can get is through a nine-page letter from the city auditor, much of which is a rehash of the larger report.
Neither public meeting went into any great depth about how this will impact taxpayers (except to say that it won’t!) or what the actual costs will be.  Citizens can’t even rely on the Telegram for that, because we just get “take our word for it” statements from the city manager.
So we need to rely on the Boston Globe to tell us that the city is guaranteeing $3.1 million a year in sponsorships for the first five years the team is in Worcester, and that an unspecified (love the secrets!) third party will pick up the slack if they can’t get the sponsorships.  At least some of the sponsorships could come from various non-profit foundations.
In Which Nicole Gets Serious For A Moment
This past summer, two young people from Worcester died in drowning incidents.
We can’t afford to fund free swimming classes for our youth, swimming classes which are desperately needed, but somehow we can ask corporations and non-profit foundations to give the WooSox $3.1 million every year — and (as taxpayers) be on the hook if those pledges don’t come through?
We have a great summer recreation program, Recreation Worcester, that doesn’t provide transportation and which closes when it rains.  [PS — yes, I know that the WooSox have pledged $50,000 over the next two years to Recreation Worcester.  That equals just 6% of the RecWorcester budget.]
Ask yourself, honestly, are we funding every community project to the fullest that the only thing left to fundraise is billionaire subsidies?
Back to Admiral Ackbar shouting “It’s a Trap”
We all know it’s a trap.
The stadium will be built in two years (and Kelley Square will be “fixed”) in the same city that is on its third year of repaving a one-mile stretch of June Street.
The tax revenues we would have gotten from the hotels/residential (that, as you may recall, were going to be built regardless of this deal) will instead be rolled into paying off the stadium bond.  I wonder what else we could have been doing with $1.38 million…but we’ll never know!
There’s a long, infinitely quotable Deadspin piece that you should read.  One of the best quotes is from Andrew Zimbalist, an economist hired by the city to evaluate (and, according to him, at least partially negotiate) this plan: “[Augustus and Traynor] wanted only to do this if the city was not going to have to increase taxes on anybody in order to finance the team moving.”
Thus, the shell game is born.  Tax revenue that was all-but-guaranteed will now be used to finance a project that is not self-sustainable.  The DIF will last thirty years, which is an awful lot of taxes being funneled to subsidize Lucchino, et al.
Diversion: Parking
(Because you know we needed to touch on my favorite topic)
The city will own the proposed 500-space parking garage, which will be leased to Madison Development Holdings; in the first year it’s projected that we get $559,810 in real estate taxes and $250,000 for the lease, and also that the city would get another $595,650 in revenue in other lots due to events at the stadium.  (This can be found on page 5 of the City Auditor’s letter.)
I haven’t been able to find more recent figures than those from the 2013 Parking Study and a 2016 Research Bureau report.  (I welcome anyone pointing me in the direction of more recent figures, but in the meantime I’ll stick with the 2016 WRRB report.)
In FY2015, all city-owned off-street lots brought in $310,820 in income (though expenses put them in the red) and Federal Plaza and Union Station, both similar-sized garages to the one proposed, brought in an average income of $469,000, again in the red due to expenses.
(Let’s assume, for the moment, that we will get $809,000ish from MDH in the first year for the new garage, and just focus on the part of this that is dependent on existent city-owned parking lots.)
The only way we could get $595,650 in parking revenue in the first year is if:  the city charges $5/car during events for WooSox games, all 980 city-owned parking lot spots (including the Highland Street Lot, the McGrath Lot, Amtrak/MBTA Lot, and the Expressway Area C lot on Grafton Street) would be used exclusively for 125 PawSox events, and we get volunteers to collect the cash required.  (We could, of course, charge more for parking, but we know how Worcesterites feel about that.)
According to the Auditor, and the proforma for this deal, in the first year, and presumably to year 15, parking from city-owned lots (excluding the garage) will account for 16% of the revenue to pay down the bond.
My suspicion is that, as with so many other economic development activities, city-owned parking will appear to be in the red even further to subsidize a business.
I’m not sure how the rest of the figures on the projected revenue work out, but I would question everything based on the parking projections alone.
It’s a Trap, Continued
Heck, even I’m falling into the trap.
The PawSox have said that their attendance is in the 6,000 range, and all estimates assume that they will have much higher attendance in Worcester.  Of course, their attendance has dropped in years past, and GoLocalProv has questioned their attendance figures.  While I’m skeptical of anything reported by GoLocal, I’d like to see the team’s plans for how they will improve attendance besides “everyone likes a shiny new stadium” and “Worcester is better than Pawtucket.”
The PawSox also have 70 scheduled home games a year, and have promised Worcester a total of 125 events, which means there need to be 55 non-baseball events in the stadium every year.  How much of the estimates are based on a similar attendance level to the Sox games?
McCoy Stadium currently hosts events like wrestling and food truck festivals.  At the White Room hearing, Dr. Charles Steinberg mentioned other events similar to ones currently hosted in Worcester.  How much competition would there be with the DCU Center, Ecotarium, and other venues for events planned at the proposed stadium?
What about Labor?
Goodness knows I’m not a progressive, but most of my friends are.
And the Worcester Community-Labor Coalition has been working in overdrive to ensure that good-paying jobs go to Worcester residents.
At the City Council meeting where this plan was first presented, Councilor Lukes asked the City Manager if there was any further negotiation possible, and the City Manager indicated that it should be an up/down vote and that there was not a lot of wiggle room.
Considering the city’s investment in this project, it seems ludicrous to me that local hiring and fair labor practices weren’t included in the details of the plan.  I hope WCLC can work with the City Manager’s office on that, but it seems we have a long way to go in advocating for where our money gets spent.
But We Want It!
Well, I don’t, but I’m sure a lot of folks do.
But the real reason for this project comes from Professor Victor Matheson of Holy Cross: “I think Worcester just really, really, really, really, really wanted a baseball team.  I think the city council and the mayor and the city manager had a gigantic inferiority complex, and they wanted to create an identity for the city, and didn’t care what it cost them.”
The fact of the matter is that certain people in this city want something for nothing.  Unfortunately, our negotiating partners also want something for nothing, and they found a city administration willing to give it to them.
Rather than patting ourselves on the back for a good deal, we should ask ourselves who it is good for, and why we are offering so much more than any other community was willing to.
Sadly, none of your elected officials will ask any of these questions tonight.  They will not wonder why nonprofits will be asked to subsidize a stadium rather than help the disadvantaged of our city.  They will not see that the PawSox need Worcester (and its money) a lot more than Worcester needs the PawSox.
But please come out tonight to City Hall and make them think a little.

D17 State Rep Debate Notes

I attended the Unity Radio / Worcester Mag District 17 State Rep debate tonight.

Bill Shaner was there; I see some notes already on Twitter and will update this with more of his coverage as I see it.

Update: WoMag article here.  Coverage of all primaries here.

As always, my notes are a bit loose but I tried to capture the spirit as much as possible.

While the house was packed at OLA, if you’re reading this you probably didn’t attend, so you can catch it on Unity Radio tomorrow night (8/29) at 6pm, Friday (8/31) at 6pm, and Saturday (9/1) at noon.

And — if you can — please vote in the primary next Tuesday, September 4!

Notes:

Gary Rosen introduces the candidates: Loosemore, LeBoeuf, and Gemme are all running in the Democratic Party primary, Fullen as a Republican.

Hank Stolz discusses the format: every candidate will say something absolutely brilliant tonight.  Hold applause.  Two minute opening statement, one candidate will get a question with two minutes to respond, then each other candidate will get a one minute response, first candidate will get one minute rebuttal.  Last half hour Lincoln-Douglas style debate with candidates asking each other questions.

Paul Fullen (Republican candidate): has always lived a life of service, time in US Navy, has served in WFD for 21 years. Thinks opponents take the label “state representative” literally – representing the state over the people (I think, sorry, kind of missed that).  Families are foundation of society, and that they come first, he will fight for families.  Mentions his wife and seven children.

Pam Gemme: lived challenges and obstacles that many have faced.  Dropped out of high school as a single parent, experienced poverty and homelessness.  She put herself through college, went to school and worked, both full time.  Had supportive parents.  Has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, has been social worker for 28 years, has always served.  Knows that access to good jobs, transpo, affordable housing, are important.  Will focus on issues important to us, will focus on name-calling and blame game for others.

David LeBoeuf: shout-out to his mother, whose birthday is today.  He attended WPS, attended Clark and then Harvard.  Discusses his involvement in the community (ACE) – he began running last year because he saw a need.  Identified issues important to the district, universal pre-K, fighting for small business, econ dev = community dev.  Knows community, knows you, the people who live here.  (This was quite good and unfortunately I couldn’t type it all.)

Stu Loosemore: to fight and work hard for constituents in this district.  Worked at statehouse for 10 years, has worked for 6 years with small businesses. This is our home, wants to work for the people in this district.  Focus on conservation, public safety officials need tools to keep us safe and to keep them safe.

[Sorry, sometimes the ladies next to me speak so loudly I can’t concentrate on the candidates at all times.  Hey, that’s my job!!]

First question to Loosemore, from Walter Bird:

Q: Opioid crisis.  1 – safe injection sites: Y/N

Loosemore: the opioid crisis has touched everyone in some way in this room.  Would want to focus on getting people into programs to get recovery assistance, to help overcome addiction.  Does not need to focus on prolonging the problem.  [Bird pushes for an answer]  The city has done a good job with needle exchange, but probably wouldn’t support needle injection sites.  We should be working to get help/counseling they need.

LeBoeuf: We don’t have enough information to see if this is an effective model.  Gloucester model: no arrest, treatment on demand, Narcan can be in the same box as AED device.  Supports city opioid lawsuit.  Talks about the ability for treatment centers to pull back funding up to 2 years out.  (Again, excellent answers – I couldn’t get to this all)

Gemme: has seen parents pass away from heroin overdoses.  Chief Hurley from Leicester talking about the town’s issues – kits for parents to test their children.  Injection sites would have to be tied to treatment.

Fullen: There is no such thing as a safe injection site unless it’s in an emergency room.  6/7 hits of Narcan to deal with some stuff that is loaded with fentanyl.  We have methadone clinics, we take people off opioids by putting them on opioids.  Talks about lawsuit and says it’s just for votes and to maintain bureaucracy.

[Well, I guess there’s no one-minute rebuttal…]

Q2 from Economou: education funding, lawsuits to try to recover $$ from the state.  How do you go about changing or funding the new foundation budget for education?

LeBoeuf: funding as it exists now is child abuse.  Formula was created in 1993, didn’t take into account special ed or health insurance costs.  Disservice for communities that are working-class like Worcester and Leicester.  Three things: nuts and bolts to determine the roots of inequality (low income, ELL, etc.); morals in regards to budget (moral conscience; why give breaks to tech companies and not fund Pre-K); fair share amendment or millionaires’ tax should be revisited – revenue should include more than property tax and tax overrides.

Gemme: in agreement about fair share amendment.  Has seen education be the most wonderful thing for kids we serve, but also where kids are not having educational needs met.  Fund education from PreK to college.

Fullen: we’re talking about raising taxes “with the fair share thing here”.  Sooner or later we run out of other people’s money.  The state brings in $100 million every day. South High should have been a trade school and serve the kids of Leicester who don’t have a trade school.  Stops sending kids to colleges that are overpriced.  Universal PreK is not effective.  Best thing is to keep your kids at home – they get most of their care from their mother and father.

Loosemore: One size fits all formula does not work well.  We should not turn back to property taxes, funding model should be improved.

LeBoeuf: Studies show that Universal PreK works well for most children.  Families in this district spend more on child care than they do on their mortgage or rent.

Q3 from Bird: are you in favor of comprehensive sex ed programs in public schools?  What should be included or not included?  How to get through the state house?

Gemme: if we’re going to have comprehensive sex ed, it should have wellness and health component.  It might be that it’s getting bogged down because there’s not enough details included.  Most people in American ed have had [sex ed] at one point.  Our kids are experimenting and asking friends.  They learn from their peer groups. They might not get the right answers that way.  More input from parents, teachers, law enforcement, social workers, other stakeholders.

Fullen: not sure what you mean by “comprehensive sex education, would have to see the curriculum for it.”  Schools should teach “reading writing and rithmetic, that would be helpful.”  [Fullen is quotable if nothing else]  We had health and safety class when he went to South High School.  [Bird notes that rates for STDs are through the roof]  Fullen doesn’t see it.

Loosemore: sex ed needs to have an opt out who don’t wish for the school to teach their children.  That’s their right.  But there should be the curriculum offered, should be statewide.

LeBoeuf: graduated from South High in 2008 and didn’t have comprehensive sex ed, questions in a box and luckily had a nurse that was clarifying that.  Studies are there, it makes sense.  Increase in STDs and teen pregnancy in states that do not have comprehensive sex ed.

Gemme: has seen young girls and boys, 10 and 11, trafficked in the streets of Worcester.  Given drugs and alcohol, started with addictions, to work on behalf of their pimps.  We need kids to understand what grooming is.

Q4, from Economou: WRTA has argued that state has level-funded for the last four years.  How would you increase funding from state to WRTA?  Other ways for WRTA to survive?

Fullen: the answer is to keep pouring money into it.  Low ridership, low fares, can’t sustain itself.  Uber/Lyft are being used.  Doesn’t think it’s a sustainable option.  [Economou presses for an answer]  He would let it “run its course”

Loosemore: funding for public transportation same as public education: it’s broken.  People use public transpo – not everyone has the luxury of owning an automobile or multiple autos.  No public transportation can turn people into shut-ins.  Would support moving it into trust funds.

LeBoeuf: three of the proposed cuts were through this district.  No one at the state house was fighting for us.  Met someone who lives on Green Street in Leicester, she has MS, can’t afford Uber and Lyft, and now there is no paratransit for her.  If we can fund the MBTA, we can fund the WRTA.  Companies coming here can contribute to public transportation funding.  We deserve equal access to public transpo.

Gemme: When you visit other countries and states, they have more modern public transportation systems.  Would never have made it through college without the WRTA.  Need to modernize WRTA.

Fullen: we have some of the richest poor people in the world.  So they should be able to take an Uber.  They can afford phones, air conditioning.  [Note: you could CUT THE AIR with the disgust in this room whenever Fullen talks]

Q5, from Bird: do you believe that schools are prepared with violence we have seen [such as in Florida]?

LeBoeuf: hasn’t seen the building plan for South High.  (speaks a bit about design of North High contributing to some issues) Environment in the school system – guidance counselors, social workers, resource officers can be in schools so that students can share any threats they hear.  School safety something we are scared about.  Fortunately we haven’t had that in Worcester because we have a strong school system and community.

Gemme: not for any firearms for teachers.  Kids should not have to be afraid about going to school.  Schools are wiser about violence prep, but we should have ongoing discussion with administrators.  Mental illness should be treated better.

Fullen: schools are unsafe from massacres because schools are gun-free zones so only criminals are there with guns.  Israel has no school shootings because they have armed guards.

Loosemore: kids need to know where they can talk to adult about problems/issues they’re having.  Stop talking AT kids, begin listening to the kids.  How do we help kids overcome the issue.

 

Q6, from Economou: what is first issue you’d like to tackle and why?

Fullen: opioid crisis is biggest one facing our families.  Program that is 22% of budget doesn’t work, [sorry, not sure what program he prefers to] which replaced program that did work.

Loosemore: education funding.

LeBoeuf: education as well, endorsed by Mass Teachers Association.  Would rather invest in PreK than in AK47s in schools.

Gemme: pro-universal PreK through college funding.  All kids deserve appropriate education funding.

 

Now we’re moving into a different round.  Hank asked about the number 1 thing they’ve heard with doorknocking.

LeBoeuf: number 1 district people have talked about…healthcare, esp for seniors and working families.  Proposal in state senate would raise eligibility gap, endorsed by Mass Nurses Association.

Loosemore: number 1 thing he’s heard when doorknocking is thank you.  Folks are happy to talk about what’s important to them and to have someone listen.  When one of us goes to Boston, we’re there to fight for the issues for people in this district.

Fullen: millions of dollars in Mass Health fraud

Loosemore says he does not feel guns in schools are the answer.

Gemme says folks are tired of the politics, want real truth in gov’t, want someone to stand up for them.  Healthcare – seniors should not have to leave their homes because they can’t afford taxes.  She wants to die in her home.  Wants to work on that.  Education – people are tired of being told that they’re losing teacher or assistant principal.

LeBoeuf: our district is a working class district, offended by “richest poor people” comment.  Prescription health care costs go up radically when someone retires.  People should not be squeezed. Why are you in this race if you don’t care about seniors losing their homes?

Gemme: it takes $22/hour to afford rent in Worcester.  Will fight like hell in state house because she’s been doing it all her life.  Will make relationships, knows how to get the job done.

Fullen: likes what Pam said about working across the aisle.  That’s how things get done.  So much animosity, people look for something to complain about instead of moving on.   Rein in abuse of MassHealth.

Gemme: has managed a $20 million budget.  The reason she is good at it is because she is creative.

LeBoeuf: budgets are moral documents.  Where do we want to put our investments in?  If you cut public health funding, people die.  If you cut a health insurance exec’s salary, no one dies.  If company gets a tax break, they need to meet promises.  Incremental TIFs. [whoo-hoo, now he’s speaking my language!]

Loosemore: grab state agencies that don’t need to be in Boston, stop paying rent in Boston and move them to Central Mass.

Bird, to Fullen: probably you have had the most offensive comments tonight, references LeBoeuf.

Fullen: I’m sure David is easily offended.  Seen people living in the streets, nowhere to live.  This country has so many programs to help people.  People in CVS want copay waived because they’re on Mass Health but they’re driving Escalades.  These people will eventually want universal everything.

[At this point, I am convinced that Bruce Willis is here “in the role of Paul Fullen” because this is so over the top I can’t even.]

Gemme: people should be treated humanely, esp if they can’t afford their copay

Fullen: they can afford their copay and they choose not to

LeBoeuf: Mass Health also protects disabled people.  I want to live in a society where we don’t let people die in streets, colleagues on the Democratic side share the idea.  Economic inequality is a major issue in this district.  We have a crisis in Cherry Valley because of people facing foreclosure because of water bills.  We can address this by respecting dignity of our neighbors and working together.

Loosemore: government’s role is to support.  [Good answer, just still in the afterglow of Fullen’s response]

Gemme: Fullen, you have been at Planned Parenthood holding signs.  What are your plans for women’s healthcare when you get to the state house?

Fullen (with 2 mins): I am pro-life, do not believe in abortion.  Public funding for Planned Parenthood, doesn’t agree with.  Country that kills its own citizens is without hope.  Baby is not a disease, it’s a human being.

Gemme: the law is that women have the right to that kind of healthcare.  Decision made between a woman and her doctor.  She is pro-life but still believes in a woman’s right to choose.  To have a man like you with a sign like that, you have right to free speech, but it’s bullying.

Fullen: not bullying, I’ve never held a sign, but I’ve prayed.  This destroys families.

LeBoeuf, to Fullen: would you commit to people’s pledge – pay donation to charity of opponent’s choosing if dark money org advertises on your behalf?

Fullen: each of you has way more money than me.  If org I don’t know about, probably wouldn’t, esp if your charity is Planned Parenthood [back and forth about in-kind contributions from Marlboro Republicans]

[Fullen is a touch amazing.   I do not mean that as a compliment]

 

Loosemore, to LeBoeuf: what’s your solution to the water problem in Leicester?

LeBoeuf: the water districts are independent, quasi-public agencies.  Recognize that this is not the fault of the ratepayers.  Bring people together and leverage state $$ and look for fed $$ – no business development without access to clean water.  Marijuana $$ coming into Leicester – maybe they can leverage some of that into helping with water district.

Loosemore: how can you turn it from unsustainable to sustainable?

LeBoeuf: wants to hear more voices of the people, needs to have community buy-in before taking any action.  If consolidation is what they want, would help with legislation.  Has heard a lot of different opinions.

Fullen, question for LeBoeuf: you like to tout support of H. Chandler.  She voted to give herself a 147% pay raise.  Explain to taxpayers how this is fair and justified.

LeBoeuf: this was regarding raising legislative pay.  He would not have voted for it.  What’s done is done.  Even some who have voted against it took that raise.  Harriette has brought dignity and respect to the Senate.   Proud to have been her campaign manager when she defeated Paul Franco, proud that Matt Wally defeated Paul Franco.  Proud that she passed NASTY WOMAN bill, dental bill.

Fullen: so you would have taken it?

LeBoeuf: glad you have a crystal ball to know what I would have done.  More praise for Chandler [zinger was better than that, you’ll just have to listen to the recording to get it.]

Closing statements – I will only type anything of note as my fingers are out of practice

Fullen wrote everyone (or maybe Gemme?) a poem “because you like poetry” –

Poems are fine and poems are fun,

But vote for Paul to get stuff done.

 

(I would put that in the “doggerel” category, but there you go!)

 

PS — As with so many of these events, I saw a lot of people I’ve known through all walks of life – at least one of whom I haven’t seen since high school.  I’m pretty much staying retired from public life, but it was lovely to see everyone!

WRRB At-Large City Council Forum notes

At-large CC forum

50-60 attendees

In the audience: Tony Economou, Jim O’Day

Moderators: Andrea Negri, Christina Spellane, and Eric Nieland

(Opening statements – I will hold on typing unless it’s something new to me)

Bergman: echoes Bob Kennedy’s opening statement: “The future of Worcester is in our hands” – he is one of the good hands.

King: need more inclusivity, more representative government.

Lukes: “I started school not speaking English, and I often think my colleagues wish I’d never learned” (much laughter)  Flaw in our politics if we do not have high voter turnout.

Straight: being a newcomer part of what he has to offer.  Has lived in other cities and can bring different perspective.  Served in US Navy for 6 years.  After that, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  We have seen a lot of progress in the city over the last few years.  Bringing down taxes for everybody.  Hopes you will consider him on November 7 – but whatever else, go out and vote.

Toomey: “I may not be the most exciting candidate out there but I do work with my colleagues”

Q1: Main Street, downtown: what is city’s next priority?  Where should city focus attention?

King: city in midst of renaissance, result of leadership of City Manager.  [I’m forum-ed out, folks, but — How quickly we forget Mike O’Brien.  Not just his wonderful hair, but – let’s be real – if things are happening downtown, the momentum was really started, perhaps, with Tim Murray but continued for many years with our previous city manager.]

Lukes: if we could be more successful with PILOT with non-profits [It’s like all Nicole’s third rails in one forum!!!]  Need to look at community investment outside downtown.  Only 32% of school population is white, going through major changes.

Straight: neighborhood development.  Short-term tax incentives to redevelop real estate, vacant buildings/lots.  Look at some of tax exemptions on small business side of things.

Bergman: neighborhoods tangential to downtown (lower Belmont, lower Pleasant, which has a lot of vacant storefronts).  [Needless to say, Nicole feels there are a lot of vacant storefronts downtown…]  Likes uniform look of awnings.  Thriving demographic changes in neighborhoods.

Petty: continue to look at recruiting and retaining businesses.  Make sure everybody shares in our successes.  Make investments in public safety.

Toomey: RT 20 – we should stay on top of it.  Surge of interest with Amazon, next biggest economic corridor for us to build on.  Can’t wait for Amazon to come in.  Public safety and schools are priorities.  One of our schools was built in the 1800s.

Rosen: Downtown should be considered as a neighborhood.  Remember downtown as a child.  Hopefully with all the residents it will lead to retail spinoff.

Q2: public safety important issue to residents.  While crime stats compare favorably with similar sized cities, all the ‘burbs look better from a safety perspective.

Toomey: just had citywide crimewatch, crime is down.  We have great police department.  Invested in a number of public safety initiatives: community policing, mounted police.  We are second largest city in NE, not going to be the same as a sleepy little town.  One of biggest issues is that from safety perspective, police officers dealing with a lot of mental health issues.  Not just safety.  Fires have gone down as well.

Bergman: Height of 374 police officers, down but so is crime.  Need full complement of police officers if we will address certain issues.  Better lighting, more foot patrols.  Safest parts of city have highest proportion of homeowners, need to encourage this.

King: engages daily with WPD as frontline social worker, running summer league for 22 years.  Filed order recently to bring back bike patrols.  Park safety is important.

Lukes: job description of police officer has changed over the years as needs of community has changed.  Government only as good as the people in it; police chief is very good.  Community policing is enormously effective.  Establishing body camera program.  Believes in civilian review board.  [Lukes going over the limit]

Toomey: have major investment in ShotSpotter, police been right on top of shootings that have happened.

Q3: as winter approaches, challenging driving conditions.  Are we prepared for winter storms?  What additional resources are you willing to commit?

[I thought we were going to talk about homelessness and cold conditions…I guess not!  As long as we can drive!  And why wasn’t the proposed increase in compensation to private plow operators asked??]

Petty: this year will have proper equipment, management, will continue to look into it.  Probably over a million in equipment over the past year.

[Whoever mentions the Snow Dragon first gets my vote!!]

King: first year on Council, clearly some issues with plowing.  We have a City Manager in place, he did a top-down review of snow removal operation.  We have seen additional resources and equipment.  Those who are elderly, etc., can contact someone to assist.

Straight: after what we have just heard, I am very excited for this winter.  He noticed that the problems that he saw were contractors and not city personnel.  There was a week where a whole lane of a street was covered in snow, so hopes things will be better after these reviews.  [Best response of the evening – I can’t get it all but this is good.]

Toomey: this year will be much better.  Bring in WPI for assistance.

[No one has mentioned the lack of treating many streets before the snow really hits…!!!!]

Q4: PawSox…that’s it, I’m ready to leave.  You know what the question is.  Who is more tired of this question: the candidates or Nicole?

Bergman: Pawtucket is a different example.  Although taxpayers of RI and Pawtucket have some risk, it is manageable.  Question of risk and safety.  PawSox – if level of risk is manageable, could pose huge potential for city.  This would help our inferiority complex.  Ditto Amazon.

Straight: It’s more of a risk-benefit analysis.  Thinks PawSox would be a draw.  People investing money should be ones benefitting.

Rosen: if he could, he would buy tickets tonight.  [note that no one has, as yet, mentioned the Creedon family.]  It’s like opening a business; you have to invest money.  [I thought the PawSox WERE a business; perhaps THEY can invest money when they open a business.]

Petty: would love to have the Red Sox here.  As far as public funding, we should treat as any other developer.

Bergman: rewards would outweigh the risk.

Q5: WRTA – disproportionate impact to low-income, etc., folks when there are cuts to funding, routes.  Commuter rail.

King: when there is an issue with funding, advocated on Beacon Hill.  We need to engage legislators.  Bus on time could be difference between homelessness and having an apartment.  Fair share legislation: money for infrastructure and schools.  Work with transit authority – not just lending an ear, being sensitive to needs of community.

Rosen: WRTA is really hurting.  A lot of people aren’t using the bus.  [I WONDER WHY!!!!]  We need more riders.  Chamber, WRRB, etc., need to encourage people to take the bus.

Lukes: technology is changing.  We haven’t caught up with it.  Self-driving cars, Uber, Lyft, [I think we need someone to talk about ACCESSIBILITY right about now].  MBTA is “an employment agency masquerading as a transportation service.”

Bergman: need to have an independent study.

King: emphasizes reliability.  Opioid crisis: folks need to get to treatment providers.

Q6: as a result of dual tax rate [ALL THE THIRD RAILS…WHERE IS FLUORIDATION??].  Worcester’s tax rate among the highest in the state.  High taxes [do we really have high taxes or high tax rate…?]

Straight: increase economic development.  Bring in more businesses and residents.  Increase senior exemption.  Short-term tax incentives can spur development.

Lukes: just listening here to the talk about tax exemptions.  Just shifts it to someone else.  Giving exemption to one group – we still need to fund services.  Someone else will be paying.  In Shrewsbury, value of property went way up, then selectmen lowered tax rate.   Properties in Worcester are cheap.

Toomey: tax RATE that everyone gets upset about – assessments in Shrewsbury went UP.  What you are approving in budget corresponds with tax rate.  Need to broaden tax base.  More businesses, more opportunity for free cash.

King: when we talk about dual tax rate to single tax rate, has been political issue that has been around a long time.  His father was small business owner, very sensitive to that.  Need to find more $$ for budget, need fair share amendment (for those making over $1million).  Tax rate: not on back of disabled, veterans, elderly.  Not feasible to do at this time.

Straight: all those groups that Mr King mentioned are exemptions.  These are the people we as a society want to help.

Q7: what metrics to assess manager, auditor, clerk?

Rosen: Ed Augustus is intelligent, capable, conscientious, loves the city.  Seen so much change in the last four years.  Supports him 100%.  As far as auditor – sometimes he surprises me, takes him a while to do research.  He should be better prepared as time.  City Clerk does terrific job.

Toomey: currently do have tool they use.  We are the ones who make priorities.  [Sorry, discussing the Boston accent with my companion and missed the response]

Petty: manager brings deals together.  We used to have review of each of those departments, have gotten away with it for past ten years, perhaps should review.

Straight: CM is doing a heckuva job [paraphrase; I’m getting punchy].  City clerk is wonderful, no experience with auditor.

Rosen: economic development, public safety, public health, parks.  He meets with Ed Augustus at least once a month.  “Let’s keep him, we need him.”

Q8: Bond ratings…city pays $35 million in debt service, not including OPEB.  How to lower cost of borrowing?

Lukes: 25% goes to city operations, then fixed costs, debt, OPEB.  Was up to $1billion, down to $800 million.  CM Hoover punted and put in a cushion of $8-10 million.  We don’t tax to the max.

Petty: Keep on the same path we’ve been on.  Five point plan, now seven point plan.  [I never thought of it this way…Mike O’Brien’s standard was the pentagram…?]  Saved $2 million this year due to better bond rating.

Bergman: a lot of cities our size are envious of our bond rating.  Sometimes we lose sight of increases in salaries, etc., “beyond our control”.  Merge school costs and city-side costs.

Rosen: OPEB challenge for all cities and towns.  Bond rating agencies are pretty tough.  They give us a very high bond rating.  They know wherever we can we put money towards this liability.

[this debate is turning me into a Mike O’Brien fangirl.  Bond ratings, the most boring topic ever, was a big deal.]

Lukes: wants to have things both ways.

Q9: Worcester is a creative city.  Arts have positive impact on econ dev.  Do you think city has role in financially supporting the arts?

Toomey: stay out of their way because they’re doing a great job.  Drives community, have people engaged from their community. Michelle May just did 10th year of Cirque du Noir.  Start on the Street.  Need to engage folks to provide housing, live/work spaces.

Straight: agrees with Toomey.  Sorry, missed it.

Petty: $125 million in revenue comes from arts.  4,000 jobs.  $9 million tax revenue.  Many we create a fund for the arts.  Add money from ticket sales for arts funding.

Rosen: arts in the parks, 100 events, certainly exceeded it.  Namechecks the Joy of Music Program, so I will agree with that shout-out.

[no one has yet mentioned the Happiness Pony.]

Q10: Affordable housing, no adjacent community has achieved 10% recommended by state law.

Petty: this is one of the issues we should address as a Council.  [One should really ask these people, so many of whom are incumbents, WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.  My goodness, I don’t want to hear someone who has been in office for years that this is something that “should be addressed.”  Just do it.]  Mentions Main South, other projects.  Supports affordable housing for everyone.  Getting expensive in the city.

Rosen: Worcester needs both affordable and market-rate housing.  Need to have regional approach.  The solution is not Worcester takes more unless surrounding towns pay into the affordable housing we provide.

Bergman: problem not with towns but with the state.  If you don’t do 10%, no stick/penalty; if you do more than 10%, no carrot/reward.  Fact that people who own properties spend more in community.  We need to increase homeownership.

Lukes: being a homeowner is expensive proposition.  We don’t understand population in Worcester, constantly changing.  More issues with homelessness, landlords in triple deckers keeping empty apartments because they can’t deal with business of being landlord.  She lived through this with inherited property.  Revenue coming in was as much as tenants could pay, and did not cover expenses of owning the home.

Q11: downtown’s commercial vibrancy of yore.  Pedestrian-friendly business corridor emphasis relatively new.  Urban design/planning.

Bergman: should be urban design guidelines [not his exact words] for planning board.  New WRTA building looks like it was built in the 1970s.  just because Worcester’s cold doesn’t mean we can’t use bikes.  Evolve to accommodate other types of traffic, still have some ways to go.

Lukes: debate forums painful for candidates.  This year we have gotten a consensus on architectural design review.  “You’re not going to cut me off at 30 seconds, I was just getting warmed up”  If city doesn’t look good, won’t get good first impression.

King: need to have inclusive urban design.  Need to ensure that as Council.  WRA.  Asked for master plan for Main South area.  Comprehensive approach to econ dev.  Participated with Human Rights Commission, navigating with wheelchair.  Moving in right direction.

Toomey: need to do research and look at trends.  People want to live downtown, want to be able to walk to restaurant, theater, etc.

Q12: Tension over issues of race, gender, class.

King: start with representative government.  Most diverse city council in history.  Have to ensure people are part of the process.  Need boards to have diverse representation.  Steer clear of dog whistle politics, have seen some of that on Council floor.  Most councilors have spoken up when they see that.

Toomey: nothing more exciting than when she attends social, cultural, or ethnic events.  Doesn’t see a lot of people crossing over from individual culture.  Would like to see a world parade, or world marketplace.

Straight: city has done some good in this area.  Elections office put out PSAs in different languages.  Crowdsourcing efforts about meetings (didn’t understand this one).  City Council can set the tone and encourage participation.

Petty: worked hard over past 6 years to make everyone feel welcome.  Hired chief diversity officer, in process of hiring another one.  Making sure diverse in hiring practices.  Work with Century to provide translation services.  Clergy working with police.  Jobs for youth, Rec Worcester.

Q13: in 2016, more than 1,000 overdoses.  53 were fatal.  What do you think city should do about drug addiction?

Straight: high on list of his priorities.  People become addicted in different ways.  Not a disease that discriminates.  No other way to address except dedicating resources to it.  Lack of beds and services.  Narcan distributed and has saved lives, but need treatment so that people can take back lives and get well.

Petty: education and taking stigma away.  Have trained police, fire, health workers.  Police and fire have Narcan.  Karyn Polito – diverting people into treatment versus prison.

Rosen: crisis that knows no boundaries.  Make sure doctors no longer prescribe opiates to young athletes, especially.  Would have sports teams, young people educated.  Have to prevent it.

Bergman: equal opportunity disaster.  Council is not the experts, should defer to the experts.  Shouldn’t be treated as a crime but as a disease.

[To those of us who listened to so much stigmatization from various Councilors of yesteryear regarding yellow boxes and various treatment efforts, this is a sea change.  Would that these people, at least one of whom answered this question, had felt differently 15-20 years ago!]

Straight: part of taxes from marijuana shops should go to opioid addiction efforts.

Q14: Mt Carmel, Notre Dame

Rosen: has been working with Preservation Worcester.  Little hope for ND, dwindling hope for Mt Carmel.  We need to look at other historic buildings and developers for proactive preservation.

Bergman: respect private property rights, but needs to be balances with the city’s need.  Once old buildings disappear, new buildings never as attractive.  Needs to be good faith efforts during year of demolition delay.

Lukes: from public policy viewpoint, need to try to preserve these buildings and more.  Look at buildings as form of public art.

King: Council clear about Mt Carmel situation.  Important structures.  Top 10 list developed by the city [as opposed to PW’s top 10 list…?!]  There can be some work done in re econ dev.  Not just about Italian Community, served youth, low income housing, across cultures, heart of community.

Q15: trash collection system.  New approaches to litter, dumping.

Lukes: several years, has tried to have ban on plastic bags.  We have moved too slowly.  Look at whole issue of recycling and reuse.  City can cut back on trash by 90% by 2040.  Need plan in place to move in that direction.

King: has suggested to manager: increase hours of drop-off sites; bins should help keep items inside.

Toomey: non-profit collection bins had a lot of dumping, were able to establish permitting.  Need more cameras in problem spots.  Need to fine folks.  KEEP WORCESTER CLEAN.  [OK, now I really miss Mike O’Brien.]

Straight: trash caught in weeds on side of road.  Hold state accountable for cleaning up on and off ramps of highways.  Clear plastic bags to contain recycling.  Money picking up trash, should put towards bulk trash pickup program.

Q16: public education – 60% of budget, educates 85% of youth.  Strategic plan being developed.

Rosen: SC should consider foundation budget.  If formula were changed – $90 million more for WPS.

Toomey: [Dianna and Brian came here after their forum].  When she was on the SC, advocated for change in Ch 70 funding.  Put pressure on state and federal government to pay their fair share.  We should be educating adults to prepare for new jobs, expand economy.

Petty: we are $90 million behind.

Bergman: more challenges in schools by virtue of different immigrants, socioeconomic differences. Formula will not be solved at the council level.  We can engage in a class action with similar communities as a last resort.

Straight: likes some options mentioned above.  Look at innovative ways to save in school system.  BPS saved $3-5 million by optimizing bus routes.

Lukes: when we look at $90 million figure, we’re not going to get that.  Look at Innovation Districts like Union Hill.  (Sorry, might not have been the exact wording, been typing too long.)

King: always competing priorities.  Investment in ed a priority.  Middle schools sports can be brought back with outside funding.  Great delegation, work with them to move things forward.  Black and Latino Caucus with Sonya C-D, moving to adjust the formula.

Closing statements – I will skip