CWW: Free Fun Fridays, Week 1

Every year, the Highland Street Foundation offers free admission at different museums and cultural venues on Fridays in the summer.

This Friday is the first Free Fun Friday, and offers admission to the following venues:

Worcester Art Museum (and WAM will also have free admission during the months of July and August!)
Tanglewood (registration info on the website)
Stone Zoo
Freedom Trail Foundation (more info about tours on the FFF website)
Heritage Museums & Gardens
MassMoCA

Also of note:

Next Wednesday, July 3, the deCordova Museum will have free admission!

Discovery Museums in Acton are free every Friday evening in the summer.

And if you need more tips on saving on museums, please visit my page (and send me suggestions as needed).

 

Open Space and Recreation Plan Meetings

Just a reminder that the city will be holding three meetings to discuss the draft Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The draft plan has been posted to the city’s Parks website, which also has other associated documents (notes from meetings and surveys, inventories of parks, etc.).

The three meetings will be held starting this week:

  • Thursday, June 27, 6:30 p.m., Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Program Room, 414 Massasoit Road
  • Monday, July 1, 6:30 p.m., Levi Lincoln Chamber, City Hall, third floor, 455 Main St.
  • Thursday, July 11, 6:30 p.m., Parks & Recreation Administration Office, Green Hill Park, Meeting Room A, 50 Skyline Drive

You can find my notes about this process in the Open Space category of the blog.
http://www.worcestermag.com/blogs/dailyworcesteria/Worcester-to-release-draft-of-Open-SpaceRec-plan-211753251.html

Food Truck Festival on Saturday

Last year, there was a food truck festival in Worcester, and there will be another one this year.  I’d posted information about it, but I don’t think I’d ever written further about it.

A friend and I went last year because I had won free tickets from boston.com.  We ate from the Bon Me and Frozen Hoagies food trucks; both were really good, but we wouldn’t have shelled out money to attend.  There are great restaurants right here in Worcester, and the entertainment was somewhat limited (one three-piece band in the middle of a long line of food trucks) and the lines got quite long.

Last year, you had to pay for tickets and then each food truck took so many tickets for each item.  (This was after they’d tried to sell admission for $30, and then $15…)  Each ticket cost $1 (as I recall) and sandwiches at Bon Me were 6 or 7 tickets.
 
This year, you can buy a wristband that gets you discounts on the food.  You can buy the wristband for $7 online ($10 at the door), but if you buy online you need to pay another $1.38 in handling.  I am cheap, but buying online to save $1.62 doesn’t seem worth it even for a cheapo like me.

Also, the website doesn’t say what kind of discount you’ll get with the wristband.  If the reviews on Yelp (from last week’s Cambridge festival) are any indication, you won’t be getting any sort of discount with the wristband — or at least not enough to justify shelling out $10.

I’m sure the costs associated with this kind of festival (between closing off Park Ave between Highland and Elm, as was done last year, and the permits and police) are high, but asking for volunteers to work an eight-hour shift for lunch and a t-shirt at what is essentially a commercial endeavor…

June Boards and Commissions Vacancies

The next selection meeting for city boards & commissions will be Wednesday, June 26 at 6:30pm in the Saxe Room of the Main Library.

The list of vacancies can be found on the City website.

There are lots of openings.  Some highlights:

  • There are openings on some other influential city boards.  If you live in D4, there’s an opening on the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  If you live in D1, D3, D4 or D5, there are openings on the Community Development Advisory Committee (which has recently been in the news).  If you live in D3, there’s an opening on the Conservation Commission.  There are three openings on the Historical Commission for those who live in the historical districts.
  • There is one opening on the Citizen Advisory Council for a resident of D1.  If  you’re interested in getting folks more involved in city government, now might be your chance!
  • Two lesser-known boards that will likely heat up in the near future have openings: Cable Television Advisory Committee and Off-Street Parking Board.
  • If advocacy is your thing, there are openings on Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, Elder Affairs Commission, and Commission on Disability.
  • There are also two openings on the Hope Cemetery Commission.

If you’d like to see how the process works, watch Worcester Boards and Commissions 101.

Please consider applying for the boards that look most interesting…and get the word out to those you know.

Kennel Services for Worcester strays – of interest

In case “Leicester shelter barred from accepting dogs” wasn’t an obvious headline (in today’s T&G), the latest news is that Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources inspected Barton Brook Kennel on March 11 and BBK “was ordered to immediately stop accepting dogs for detention from Worcester and from other animal control officers.”

Also in the article:

Worcester police used Barton Brook on a limited basis in March and April, according to Kathleen A. Daly, spokeswoman for the department. For much of 2013, Worcester police primarily used the Worcester Animal Rescue League for animal shelter services.

Frequent readers may recall that we’ve talked a bit about this in the past, and that Councilor Lukes had requested a report (which I don’t think we’ve seen yet) on the status of Worcester’ kennel services contract at the April 9 City Council meeting.  According to the city’s website from a few months ago, BBK had the city’s contract for the next few years; it’s unclear how this will change.

Rt 9 Belmont Street Bridge Informational Hearing

via the MassDOT website – please share with those who might be affected:

MassDOT is inviting the public to attend an informational meeting on the design of the Route 9 Belmont Street Bridge over I-290 in Worcester.  The meeting will be held as follows:

Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m., UMass Memorial Hospital Campus, Amphitheater, Building North 1, 119 Belmont Street, Worcester.

This purpose of the meeting is to update the public on the design for the reconstruction of the Belmont Street Bridge over I-290.  The current project cost estimate is $9.7 million with construction expected to begin in spring 2014.  The proposed bridge will be the same length but 15 feet wider than the existing bridge.  The project also includes construction of a temporary pedestrian bridge to provide for safe pedestrian access over I-290.

MassDOT project staff will be available to provide an overview of the proposal and answer questions.

For more information on the Belmont St. Bridge Reconstruction Project, please visit the project website at www.mass.gov/massdot/belmontstbridge.

Residency Requirements Redux

I’m sure I could have a “residency requirements redux” post every year, because the City Council always brings it up, so expect a “residency requirements redux redux” post next year.

I don’t have a lot to mention that’s new this year, but it’s always worth remembering that the same issues that were mentioned at the May 28 meeting (see “Council rekindles residence issues”, T&G  May 29), and at every meeting where a residency requirement is discussed, occur in the municipalities where there are existing residency requirements.

That is, unless anything has changed — and I don’t believe it has —  teachers, firefighters and police are exempt from Boston’s residency requirementsDitto Springfield.  So while I appreciate the angst we periodically experience about city residency, unless there’s a different plan beyond “but Boston does it” and a willingness to talk about how much this is worth to us, in dollars (as Councilor Lukes said), we’ll just keep talking about this year after year.

But how’s that auditor search coming?

Open Meeting Law memo from the AG’s Office

I don’t believe this is a scoop, since I’m one of the subjects of the memo, but the Attorney General’s Office has responded to Kevin Ksen’s and my Open Meeting Law complaints from last July.  I’ve posted the memo on Google Docs, and you can also find it on their website.

Because it’s been a long time since we initially filed the complaint, I’ll try to give a short timeline of what happened:

On the morning of June 26, 2012, Mike Lanava, the mayor’s chief of staff, sent an email to the City Council to see if anyone wanted to sign on to requesting the city manager draft a panhandling ordinance.  This item was not on the agenda of the June 26 meeting.

Mr. Ksen and I took issue with the way this was handled — both that the email might constitute serial communication and that the Council has a habit of not including important, controversial items on agendas — and filed Open Meeting Law complaint forms in time for the Council’s next meeting, which was held on July 17, 2012.

Mr. Ksen and I then waited months to receive a response.  We contacted the Attorney General’s Office for guidance on what to do, as the city had far exceeded the deadline of 14 business days.   The Attorney General’s Office let the city know that they needed to respond to us by October 17.  We finally received a response on October 22.  That response is covered in this Worcesteria post.

Ultimately, the decision of the Attorney General’s Office was that the city did not violate the Open Meeting Law in either of our complaints.

But wait!  There’s more!

One of our concerns — and one that came up again when the slots parlor was discussed before the City Council — was whether having councilors co-sponsor an item was a violation of Open Meeting Law.

This was the response of the Attorney General’s Office on page 3 of the memo:

City Solicitor David Moore writes in his October 22, 2012 memorandum to the City Manager that “[c]o-sponsoring items is a centuries-old legislative practice. On its face there is no attempt to solicit opinions or provoke a series of emails discussing the merits of the order. There is only an attempt to offer councilors the opportunity to co-sponsor the introduction of an item to the legislative body.” While we acknowledge that this practice has been in effect for many years, to the extent that such practice reaches a quorum of a body’s members, it does not comply with the current Open Meeting Law. If the Council wishes to announce the sponsors of an order at the time it is introduced, an individual who is not part of the Council, rather than a Councilor, may make the request for sponsorship. For example, the City Clerk or a Council administrator could send an email, blind carbon copying the Council members, attaching a specific piece of legislation and requesting sponsorships. That same staff person could then compile the sponsorships, and announce the result during a meeting. The results should not be made public prior to the meeting, however, including in a publicly-posted meeting notice. While the change is admittedly minor, it would enable the Council to compile sponsorship information without members conducting an improper poll outside of a meeting (which is deliberation). See OML 2011-35. Alternatively, a Council member who introduces an order can request sponsors during a meeting, or at a prior meeting before the order is introduced.

(More to come.)

CWW: TouchTomorrow and Day of Play this weekend

TouchTomorrow will be held Saturday, June 8, from 10am to 4pm throughout the WPI campus.

We attended last year and it was sooo good.  Highly recommended!

Take a look at the website for a full list of events.

On Sunday, June 9, from 11am-5pm, the second annual Worcester Day of Play will be held at Elm Park.  You can find a schedule of events on their website.  (And note that this event was originally scheduled for Saturday and switched to Sunday!)