Back on the Ferris Wheel

As Rick Rushton put it so eloquently tonight, “I’m going to focus my comments not on the fact that we’re going to get on the Ferris Wheel and do the same loop-de-loop that we usually do.”

But why bother to watch a City Council meeting — nay, why run for City Council — if one is not willing to get on the Ferris Wheel and do that loop-de-loop we know so well?

It’s been about a month since the last time I attended a City Council meeting, but — like an episode of Cheers as directed by Martin Scorsese — everyone knows your name (and they might even know how to pronounce it) but they’re always unhinged in a slightly terrifying way.

Tonight’s meeting was a pastiche of all the favorite topics in city government.  Indeed, if ever a Ferris Wheel made a loop-de-loop, it was tonight.

I will not be able to summarize the meeting fully tonight because I missed a few bits when I took some time to teach Bill Feegbeh how to petition the City Council to make him City Manager.

Do let me know if there’s anything you’d like delved into more deeply this week and I’ll see if I can oblige you with a post.

As far as I can tell, these were the highlights:

  • PILOT.  Rather than summarize what everyone said (you can already guess, anyway), I recommend you read The Municipal Fiscal Crisis and Payments in Lieu of Taxes by Nonprofits by Daphne A. Kenyon and Adam H. Langley of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  (Too long? Here’s a more recent presentation.)  Then you will likely be better informed on the pitfalls and potential of these arrangements than most City Councilors.
  • Dog Park.  A bunch of residents came to speak in favor of this — thank you!!  It will be discussed at an upcoming Youth, Parks, Recreation Committee meeting.  We’ll let you know when it is scheduled.
  • Open Meeting Law (OML).  There were a lot of questions around whether it’s ok for councilors to cosponsor items (which I thought was already addressed when the Attorney General’s Office responded to the complaints Kevin Ksen and I filed a while back) and whether they could speak with one another, or even attend another public meeting with one another.  Kevin and I have requested time and again that councilors attend the AG’s OML Training, which answers many of these questions.  When we attended a training in the fall, the only elected official from Worcester there was Tracy Novick.  There’s a lot of nuance in the law (and, certainly, some recent rulings from the AG’s office have me scratching my head), but there’s no excuse for not watching the video trainings or attending a live session and being able to ask the actual people who make the determinations.
  • Graffiti.  There was a lot of discussion.  It’s bad.  They’ll do something.
  • Calendar.  There was a proposed Council meeting schedule with two meetings on Wednesday (rather than the usual Tuesday).  Councilor Lukes proposed changing the calendar to remove those two meetings, and insanity ensued.  The Mayor wanted to overrule her (or moved against her motion, or something that Robert’s Rules doesn’t understand).  It passed, and at some point or other the Mayor joked that those who voted for it should take a pay cut for the two missing meetings.  Councilor Rushton moved to reconsider after it passed, and then voted in favor of the calendar changes (when he had previously voted against them).  I found this the most fascinating (or, at least most Worcester) part of the meeting.


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