WORCESTER – Worcester’s City Council comes back to work after a light summer schedule and will meet tonight for the first time in three weeks in what should be an eventful post-Labor Day council meeting — with the November municipal election just months away.
There are 195 items on this week’s meeting agenda — including items from the City Council, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr and the city’s Economic Development office.
One item worth watching is an order filed by Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes regarding the potential Pawtucket Red Sox move to Worcester.
Councilor Lukes is requesting an order from August 15 to be reconsidered to not include a commitment to build a stadium.
The original order from last month read: “That the City Council does hereby support in principle the re-location of the Red Sox Triple A baseball team to Worcester including building a stadium to accommodate this team and further, request the City Manager do all that is reasonably in his power to facilitate this move.”
“I haven’t spoken to anyone that doesn’t support [bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester],” Lukes said in a phone interview on Friday, Sept. 1. “[The commitment of the stadium] means we are negotiating in public without public discussion. We need to know what this thing will cost.”
The stadium plan that the Rhode Island Legislature originally rejected was for $83 million, with the State of Rhode Island paying $23 million and the City of Pawtucket paying $15 million.
In an email to ThisWeekinWorcester.com on Saturday, Sept. 2, District 5 City Councilor Gary Rosen Rosen said that Rhode Island will do whatever it takes to keep the PawSox, but if they can’t strike a deal “…then Worcester would be the next logical choice.”
“We are prepared to hold in-depth discussions with the team. However, every step of the way, we must put the interests of our local taxpayers first,” Rosen added.
“What a shock,” Lukes said, in reference to Rhode Island lawmakers scheduling public hearings throughout the state from Sept. 14-19 to discuss a new bill proposed. Lawmakers are working to address this in their special session on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. was unavailable for comment.
Whatever happens, the city will continue to try and “woo” the Red Sox.
A second item on the agenda from Councilor Lukes is asking the City Administration if an Urban Design Review was part of the ongoing construction in the downtown area.
Lukes’ order states that the current construction “(has created) an unwelcoming combination of unattractive walls of windows…”
Lukes is also calling for a process of design review for future development. “This is not new,” Lukes said. “I have been asking for an Urban Design Review process for a long time.”
Lukes believes that city architecture should be a magnet to attract new people and businesses to the city, and stated that the downtown construction is “not a magnet.”
Councilor Rosen doesn’t completely agree with Lukes’ viewpoint on the attractiveness of the downtown area saying, “Worcester residents, college students and visitors notice and often comment on this long-awaited renaissance.”
However, Rosen does believe a review process may be in the best interest of the city
“As progress continues, an Urban Design Review might prove to be worthwhile to the city. In any case, I think it’s time for better planning and more action to make some of our neighborhoods well beyond the limits of downtown more welcoming and vibrant,” Rosen said.
Where’s the Money?
District 3 City Councilor George J. Russell is calling on the city administration to provide a report of exactly where the money from the CSX deal – a $120 million expansion agreement – has been spent.
“The CSX account is just one example that Councilors and the public need to have a clear understanding of what is spent and how.” Russell said regarding his order.
“[The agenda item] focuses on CSX, but this has been an ongoing issue with me looking for easier access to information — especially the capital expenditures. The CSX fund is a prime example,” Russell said when asked whether this order was more about transparency from the city as a whole or only in regard to CSX expenditures.
“You should not have to be a CPA to understand where and on what capital funds are spent,” Russell added.
Tonight’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.