Augustus to ask Worcester City Council to create Latino Advisory Commission – Worcester Telegram

WORCESTER — City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. is recommending the City Council vote to create a Latino Advisory Commission. 
In a communication to the council ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, Augustus wrote that the commission will be responsible for encouraging, promoting and monitoring policies in the city that impact Latinos. 
Augustus said the idea of a commission was developed through a partnership with the Latino Empowerment and Organizing Network. The seven-member commission will work to ensure Latinos in the city have equal access to public services and the full enjoyment and exercise of their civil rights, the city manager wrote. 
The commission would also gather and disseminate linguistic and culturally relevant information and conduct hearings and special studies concerning the city’s Latino communities. 
The creation of the commission requires the adoption of an amendment to the city’s organizational ordinances, which in turn requires a public hearing within 30 days. 
The council will be presented Tuesday with tax tables from the city assessor’s office that will inform the council’s tentatively scheduled vote Dec. 7 to set the fiscal 2022 tax rates. 
According to City Assessor Samuel E. Konieczny, the total assessed value for all taxable property in the city is $17.934 billion for fiscal 2022, an increase of 13.3%. 
Konieczy wrote in a report included in the council agenda that the city’s levy limit is $367,094,665, which is around $20 million above the actual tax levy that needs to be raised for fiscal 2022, which is $346,617,661. 
Augustus in a report to the council noted the untapped levy capacity allows for future financial flexibility. 
The council last year set the fiscal 2021 at $16.28 per $1,000 assessed valuation for residential properties, and $36.20 per $1,000 assessed valuation for commercial, industrial and personal property.
Augustus will ask the council Tuesday to adopt an ordinance banning the use of facial-recognition technology, and unveiled an executive order establishing a policy for the acquisition and use of surveillance technology. 
The two initiatives were part of Augustus’ slate of reforms he presented earlier this year aimed at dismantling structural and institutional racism in the city. 
The surveillance technology policy, Augustus wrote, affords the council and the public a chance to express opinions and concerns on any new surveillance technology the city proposes to acquire, and recognizes the council’s legal authority to approve, reject or reduce appropriations recommended by the city manager. 
The executive order requires any city department seeking to obtain new surveillance technology to obtain city manager approval. Also, before acquisition or use, the department must obtain approval of a surveillance policy for the equipment. There are provisions in the order for the City Council to hold public hearings. 
The results of the city’s community input process for use of American Rescue Plan Act funds are in, and in a report to the council Tuesday, Augustus said those results are informing a revisiting of budget recommendations made over the summer for the nearly $150 million coming to the city in COVID-19 federal relief funding. 
According to the report, residents ranked housing and homelessness as the top community needs that should be addressed with the funds, followed by social and human services, infrastructure and broadband, education and job preparation, and transportation. 
Augustus wrote that when asked to rank priorities as stated in the American Rescue Plan Act language, 27% chose investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, 24% chose support for public health expenditures, 23% chose addressing negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, 18% chose providing premium pay for essential workers, and 8% chose replacing lost public sector revenue. 
The city manager said 331 people responded to the city’s online survey, and 208 people attended in-person sessions held across the city. 
“I appreciate the public’s participation and the meaningful input that we were able to obtain through this process,” Augustus wrote. 
After a public debate about its merits, the city went ahead with the implementation of ShotSpotter Connect earlier this year. The crime-forecasting technology uses data to produce automated patrols. 
In its first three months the city deployed the technology, the 16 offenses modeled by the technology – including murder, robbery, breaking and entering, and motor vehicle thefts -experienced an overall downward trend, Augustus wrote in a report to the council based on information from police Chief Steven Sargent. 
According to the report, all but three of the 16 modeled offenses decreased during the third quarter of this year when compared to the five-year historical average. And of those three that increased, the 72% increase in theft of motor vehicle parts was due largely to a spree of catalytic converter thefts. Augustus noted that those theft appear to have all but stopped since the Oct. 15 arrest of a suspect.