2002 CCJ Notes
(items moved from the main page)

Congratulations to Don Drisdell on his appointment as City Solicitor and to Louis DePasquale as Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs and to Nancy Glowa as Deputy City Solicitor, all effective December 2, 2002.

Nov 25, 2002 City Council meeting notes (corrected Dec 16)

The physical condition of several public squares was a topic of considerable discussion at tonight's meeting. Specifically, the plantings in Carl Barron Plaza (in Central Square) elicited comments by Vice Mayor Davis and Councillor Reeves regarding City Manager's Agenda #2 and #5. Ken Reeves offered the rather un-PC suggestion that "we give the job to the ladies" in reference to general cleanliness on public squares. He told the story of his experience in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday where a woman in her 70's had charge of the area in which Mr. Reeves was enjoying a cup of coffee. Though the proposal seemed a bit strange for Cambridge, the idea that a specific individual be given responsibility for the cleanliness of a location is actually a pretty good idea. It brings to mind the reorganization several years ago that gave three individuals personal responsibility for the parks, playgrounds, and tot lots in their assigned sector of the city.

Perhaps the most interesting item of the evening was City Manager's Agenda #12 that authorizes the reallocation of $1,800,000 from the North Cambridge railroad underpass project (at Yerxa Rd.) to the Cambridge St. improvements, miscellaneous building renovations, and for Phase I of the Area Four Open Space Project. For several years, North Cambridge activists pressed the City Council and the City Manager for safer crossings of the North Cambridge railroad tracks. This resulted in a bond authorization for $1.8 million. Unfortunately, soil and drainage conditions at the site as well as right-of-way issues with the railroad led to considerable delay and higher costs. (Apparently when the City first built the present underpass many years ago, they did so without a legal right-of-way.) Since bond authorization requires that the money be spent within a certain time, these funds will now be spent on projects now in construction. The City Manager assured the Council and the public that a $100,000 temporary repair of this underpass will commence soon and that a new bond authorization of $4.1 million for permanent repairs will be presented to the Council next spring.

Though it was passed without discussion at the meeting, City Manager's Agenda #17 was a resolution that help move along the long-delayed Neville Manor skilled nursing facility that was to have been built as a companion to the Neville Place assisted living facility. The facilities would share that portion of the Fresh Pond Reservation that was formerly the Neville Manor Nursing Home. If all goes well, there's a good chance that ground may be broken for this project by the end of this year.

Councillor Galluccio brought up the matter of renovations to Russell Field (adjacent to the Alewife T station). These renovations have been delayed due to well-fueled controversies regarding chemical and asbestos contamination in the soil at Russell Field and at the adjacent W.R. Grace site. City Manager Healy reports that additional soil testing at the site (at 35 ft intervals instead of the original 70 ft intervals) has indicated contaminant levels below the threshold listed in Cambridge's Asbestos Ordinance. The only thing holding up the renovations now is an agreement with Alewife Neighbors, Inc. (ANI) that allows them to do independent testing from the same samples. The City has set a December 15 deadline for ANI to return their test results. Councillor Galluccio asked the Manager to send the message to ANI that “it's the kids who will be missing out” if they fail to adhere to this deadline. The Manager said that with these latest test results, the renovations and the remediation can be done under a single contract and that the project could be done by next fall.

On a related matter, City Manager Healy informed the City Council that the City prevailed in court in a legal challenge of the W.R. Grace zoning. That lawsuit was initiated by W.R. Grace. The Land Court and now the Appeals Court have rejected all of Grace's claims, ruling that the temporary open-space buffer zoning, the interim building moratorium, and the final downzoning amendment did not constitute an abuse of the city's zoning power, spot zoning, or a taking that entitled Grace to compensation. The full decision at http://www.socialaw.com/appslip/appNov02ee.html is no longer online.

[Thanks to Michael Brandon for the corrections and the legal reference.]

Further details of the agenda are available in the full agenda for the meeting or at the compact HTML and PDF versions.
"Final Actions" of the Nov 25 meeting is also available at the City website, thanks to the diligence of the City Clerk's Office.

Mon, Nov 18, 2002 - The Cambridge City Council tonight approved an extension of City Manager Robert W. Healy's contract through Aug 31, 2006. Though Councillor Reeves expressed some concern about the balance of power between the City Manager and the City Council, the vote was unanimous in favor of the extension.

The City Council also unanimously approved an appropriation of $86,000 to allow CASPAR to partially restore shelter services, specifically to allow extra beds at night (up to 107 beds) and to restore the daytime program for those in need (up to 40) - a necessity now that winter is coming.

Without competition, is it still democracy?

Take a look at these numbers from the Massachusetts 2000 election:
In the state Senate, 37 of 40 incumbents had no primary election opponent. (93%)
In the state Senate, 23 of 40 incumbents had no general election opponent. (58%)
In the state House 137 of 160 incumbents had no primary election opponent. (86%)
In the state House 98 of 160 incumbents had no general election opponent. (61%)

Addendum: According to MassINC, for the Massachusetts 2002 election:
In the state House, 69% of the incumbents had no general election opponent from the other major party. Massachusetts ranks 49th out of 50 states in the percentage of seats contested by both major parties. Michigan ranks #1 with 99% of all seats contested by both major parties.

Election Day News item:  Florida voters on Tuesday, November 5, 2002 overwhelmingly banned smoking in the workplace, including about 12,000 restaurants and bars statewide. The Sunshine State joins California, Maine, Utah, Vermont and Delaware that ban smoking in public places.

Now it's Cambridge's turn.

Design Process for the Main Library expansion

There was a public meeting on Wed, Oct 16, 2002 at which residents could view the proposals now being considered for the expanded Main Library on Broadway. Peter Bruckner has provided panoramic views of the current conditions at the site from various vantage points:  http://www.designerscadd.com/library/map.html

Many people spoke at this meeting making it clear that the new design must not diminish nor detract from the open space. The panoramas are intended to focus on the major pedestrian paths to the library and what the current spaces feel like.

For further news and details of the project, see http://www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~CPL/booksandmortar/connews.html.

The Zakim Bridge during the Bridge Walk on October 6, 2002
attended by hundreds of thousands of people

It was amazing to hear how many people spoke of their satisfaction and gratitude.

Sept 25, 2002 - At the City Council Ordinance Committee working meeting on this issue, we learned that the number of communities in the Boston Metropolitan that have now joined Clear Air Works stands at 16. There are an additional 9 north shore communities that have formed Clean Air North. The objective for all 25 communities is to protect workers' health by prohibiting smoking in all indoor public spaces. The announcement from Mayor Menino the day before did seem to affect the tone of the statements by the five city councillors present at the Ordinance Committee meeting, Councillors Maher, Murphy, Davis, Toomey, and Simmons. Some of the main issues discussed related to the possibility of nuisance behavior outside bars by smokers, the negative effect of a private club exemption on public bars and restaurants, schedule of implementation, and the matter of who has the authority to issue these regulations in each of the other communities who have joined Clear Air Works in order to clear the air.

Many advocates and opponents came to this hearing, even though public comment was not allowed. The matter was kept in committee, though co-chair David Maher made clear that he was committed to action on this matter and that would not just sit in committee. There will be at least one more hearing before the matter is moved to the full City Council for a final vote.

Councillors Maher and Murphy, why has this been sitting in the Ordinance Committee for so long?

A class action complaint was filed on September 19, 2002 by 6 Holyoke students against the MCAS high stakes graduation requirement. The legal document is provided here (PDF, 65 pages) and is recommended reading for anyone concerned about the MCAS graduation requirement. It outlines the arguments (federal) against the high stakes portion of the law and provides some valuable research and analysis.

Class Action Complaint vs. MCAS

Steve Buckley's Oldtime Baseball Game 2002

The 20th “Doc” Linskey five mile race took place Sunday, September 15, 2002. This is to be the final running of this event,
though all it would take is a few charitable local businesses to continue the tradition. Any takers out there?

City Councillor and State Representative Tim Toomey running with former Water Dept.
Managing Director Mike Nicoloro, two sons of East Cambridge.

Joanne Luciano sports her original
“Doc” Linskey T-shirt from 1983.

July 2, 2002 - Death in Central Square: Dana Laird killed when car door thrown open into bike lane

About the Dana Laird fatality  - by John S. Allen

People Republic
Remember this sign? Contrary to the belief of some, I did not put it up on that fateful April Fools Day several years ago. To my knowledge, nobody ever claimed responsibility. If anyone knows the identity of the inspired person who posted it or whatever became of the sign, I'd like to know. -- Robert Winters

Eastern painted turtles atop a snapping turtle at Blair Pond, Cambridge near the Belmont border.
Turtles at Blair Pond
Photo courtesy of Roger Frymire

The Charles River Basin Master Plan is now available on the MDC (DCR) website

Zakim Bridge
The Zakim Bridge (Apr 21)
interesting from any angle

June 27 - This was a Special City Council meeting held at the Fletcher-Maynard Academy on Windsor Street. The sole topic of this meeting was the increased violence in the Area 4 neighborhood, especially the recent murder on Windsor Street.

Though one must certainly commend the City Council's intentions in calling this meeting, the simple truth is that there is almost nothing that the City Council can do as a body to affect the situation. As individuals, each and every one of the elected officials can certainly take steps as potential leaders to address the situation, but solutions are really in the hands of the police department, the affected neighbors who have been less than forthcoming in reporting incidents up to now, and among those who are committing the violence and other criminal acts.

This is a societal problem, an economic problem, and often a family problem. After tonight's meeting, I'm convinced that one thing this is not is a political problem. The rhetoric from the councillors was well-intentioned but of little practical value. Of much greater value was the commentary from residents in the immediate neighborhood like Lorraine Scott, Jackie Carroll, and especially Regina Jones. Though there was the usual share of questionable accusation about more resources going to other neighborhoods, the real message from these and other residents was that they refuse to accept any more drug dealing, gun violence, stabbings, and other crime in their neighborhood.

What is less than clear is whether the perpetrators share this point of view. Hanging on the wall of the gymnasium where the meeting was held was a sign that said “Attitude is BIG”. Though this was directed at the schoolchildren at the Fletcher/Maynard, it struck me that maybe this is really the issue more than the guns and drugs. As Regina Jones put it, “Drugs are about a lifestyle. If the drugs don't get you, the lifestyle will.” Yes, Regina, attitude is big.

Several things were clear from the remarks of Police Commissioner Ronnie Watson. First, there has been less reporting of information pertinent to these crimes and there needs to be more. Second, most of the recent violence has not been random in nature but has been between people who apparently know one another. This is important to keep in mind when fear starts to creep in. As Commissioner Watson said, “Sometimes the fear is worse than the actual incidents taking place.” Of some reassurance was the report of the recent arrest of a person who had been trafficking in guns in Cambridge.

Commissioner Watson may be reached directly at 617-349-3378 or at ...... [Ronnie Watson has since retired.]

Dinner in Harvard Square: During a June 23 visit by my friend Charlie (who I hadn't seen in 16 years), we got to talking about falcons and hawks in cities. Later, we walked up to Harvard Square to have some dinner at Grendel's. As we stood in front, a red-tail hawk nabbed a pigeon off the roof of the House of Blues, swooped to about eye level right in front of us, and disappeared down JFK Street with its catch. It was beautiful. -- Robert Winters

The June 17 City Council meeting was scheduled to be the last one until the July 29 midsummer meeting, but in the wake of yet another murder in Area 4, there was a request from some councillors to schedule a special meeting at a location in Area 4. The purpose of this special meeting would be to address what appears to be a new wave of violent crime in Area 4. Though it's not at all clear how a City Council meeting would impact the problem, it should provide anxious residents an opportunity to express their fears and concerns.

Public comment Monday night was almost exclusively on the proposed order tabled from the June 10 meeting that called for a reaffirmation of Cambridge as a “sanctuary city” and for City departments to not cooperate with provisions of the federal USA Patriot Act except where doing so would violate state or federal laws. What makes this somewhat silly is that the USA Patriot Act is a federal law, hence the order is effectively meaningless except as a political statement. One after another public speaker told their personal tales of repression in China, in the former Yugoslavia, during the McCarthy Era in the United States, or of some personal acquaintance who was arrested, harassed, or inconvenienced. It seemed a bit of stretch to compare the detention of non-citizens suspected of having ties to terrorism to the internment of Japanese-Americans families after Pearl Harbor, but such is the nature of rhetorical zeal.

Eventually it was the Council's turn to crank out the rhetoric as they took up the USA Patriot Act order after working their way through the City Manager's Agenda. Adding to the drama was the news flash of the murder that had just taken place on Windsor Street in Area 4. (It was reported on the late night news that the name of the young man who was shot to death while sitting in his car was Ricardo Williams, someone known to some of the councillors.) How the debate on the USA Patriot Act became rhetorically linked to the Area 4 murder was the product some new alchemy, yet there it was and several councillors ratcheted up the emotional level of the debate by repeated reference to the murder. The implied message was that unless an affirmative vote was taken on the order right then and there, some other murder could happen in Area 4, even though there is no connection between violent crime in Area 4 and the provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Vice Mayor Davis' motion to refer the matter to the Public Safety Committee for further clarification was welcomed by Councillors Galluccio, Maher, and Toomey, but was beaten back by Councillors Murphy, Decker, Reeves, and Simmons. Mayor Sullivan supported neither the main motion nor Davis' motion to send it back to the shop for repairs. Ultimately, several symbolic amendments by Vice Mayor Davis were passed and the order was approved in a 5-4 vote. Supporters were joyous, and little if anything will change in Cambridge as a result.

Pictures from the June 13, 2002 Groundbreaking at North Point Park

Notes from the June 10 City Council meeting:
Most of the public comment was on just a few issues:

(1) A proposed order that would reiterate the "sanctuary city" policy of Cambridge, oppose many provisions of the USA Patriot Act, and call for City agencies (including the Police Dept.) to not cooperate with other government entities in enforcement of the Act.

(2) A curb cut application on Sacramento Place opposed by most abutters.

(3) A proposal from the Public Health Commission to prohibit smoking in all workplaces in Cambridge, including all bars and restaurants. [It's about time!]

(4) Geese.

Highlights of the meeting:

(1) Ken Reeves was almost charming in suggesting that the City Manager use some of the available balances from FY02 to support the Central Square World's Fair (which is in jeopardy).

(2) In response to a proposed amendment to the Noise Ordinance that would penalize the idiots with obnoxiously loud sound systems in their cars, Ken “Hip Hop” Reeves suggested that leaf blowers should also be regulated.

(3) City Manager Robert Healy was a breath of fresh air when he answered Reeves' inquiry about how he felt about the proposal to prohibit smoking in all workplaces, including all bars and restaurants. Mr. Healy said simply, “I've become a believer.” [This was my highlight of the year to date at City Hall.] We'll soon be hearing from Joe “Middle East” Sater and John “Green Street Grill” Clifford as they try to convince city councillors that they will be driven out of business if the proposed ordinance passes. If this Council does nothing else this term other than to pass this ordinance without amendment, it will be a successful term. The proposal is now before the Ordinance Committee - stay tuned.

Text of Proposed Amendments to the Tobacco Ordinance

Boards of health and health departments from Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Newton, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, and Watertown are joining together as a partnership, each seeking to improve the health of their citizens and workers. Last year, the Massachusetts the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the authority of cities and towns to enact local laws that prohibit smoking, noting the scientific support linking secondhand smoke to adverse health. Health advocates including: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Asthma & Allergy Foundation, MA Association of Health Boards, Mass Medical Society and the Boston Hotel Workers Union.

(4) The order calling for Cambridge to not cooperate with the federal Patriot Act was tabled to the June 17 meeting by Councillor Decker's charter right. Prior to debate being cut off, there were efforts from some councillors to amend the language, especially those portions that may be problematic for the Cambridge Police. The order is really just a reaffirmation of the 1985 City Council “sanctuary city” resolution that called upon City departments to protect refugees by not cooperating with other government agencies. Problematic aspects of the new resolution include, among other things, requiring local police to release the names of any detainees and to not permit surveillance, wiretaps, or the securing of private information - even for suspected terrorists.

(5) Councillor Maher informed the public that long-time City Hall regular William Jones is in the Mt. Auburn Hospital and is gravely ill after suffering a stroke several weeks ago.

May 13 City Council meeting

It wasn't a record. Mayor Sullivan brought the gavel down after less than 50 minutes in uneventful City Council meeting that was not all that different than other Council meetings this term. Perhaps that's the real story - the citywide rezoning's all but done, rent control battles are nowhere to be found, no new Starbucks stores have opened recently, and there seem to be no big issues with which to grapple.

The only thing worth debating is who's going to shut off the lights at the end of the meeting. Most of "the usual suspects" who habitually speak during Monday Night Live's public comment period are attending lefty organizing meetings or are at home watching Ally McBeal. Only Roy Bercaw, Elie Yarden, and Bill Jones remain to hold down the fort at City Hall.

If representative government is supposed to be just that, i.e. representative, then perhaps all is well in Cambridge. Could this be the time to consider changing from weekly City Council meetings to biweekly or monthly meetings?

Harvard students can keep their Cambridge resident parking permits (Harvard Crimson)

May 6 City Council meeting

There was some discussion on a proposed new zoning amendment from the Community Development Department (CDD) that would yield housing opportunities for moderate and middle-income homebuyers. CDD Director Beth Rubenstein alluded to the matter of how much of a (density) bonus would be required to yield these units and of some misgivings in CDD about taking a citywide approach (as opposed to a case-by-case basis). Councillor Davis referred the report from CDD to the Council's Housing Committee for a larger discussion on this matter. Mayor Sullivan spoke to the need for an underlying policy for how and when density bonuses would be granted. Such density bonuses for middle and moderate income housing were a part of the East Cambridge (ECPS) rezoning passed last December.

Councillor Galluccio recommended that this be done under the umbrella of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. The intended beneficiaries would be those whose income lies between 80% and 120% of median income. Federal money is unavailable above the 80% range. An incentive zoning provision such as this would be entirely under the control of Cambridge authorities.

Sidewalks, streetlamps, and backyards

Councillor Davis spoke on the problem of deteriorating sidewalks throughout the city and what residents should do if problems are discovered. DPW Commissioner Lisa Peterson reported that sidewalk conditions are now being surveyed throughout the city. There are over 300 miles of sidewalks in the City of Cambridge. [As boring as this topic may seem, it was a pleasant change from the previous week's discussion of the World Bank and Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts.]

Councillor Maher asked about maintenance of sidewalks along MDC roads like Memorial Drive. The City Manager reported that these problems are reported to the MDC, but that they often quote budget concerns as the reason why they do not adequately address these problems. [Note: While it can be said that the MDC does a very good job at major capital projects like the new Charles River basin and the new pedestrian/bicycle paths further upstream, they generally do a very poor job of routine maintenance of roads, sidewalks and bridges. The condition of the BU Bridge, for example, borders on the frightening. There are a number of places where lanes are striped narrower than the width of vehicles, if you can believe that.]

Councillor Reeves suggested that DPW rubbish crews would be ideal for reporting problems with city sidewalks. Councillor Galluccio lamented the work of City contractors doing sidewalk replacement. Councillor Decker asked about brick replacement on Magazine Street where bricks are popping out and gaps are opening in the sidewalks. She asked about the policy of replacing brick sidewalks with concrete sidewalks. The DPW would prefer concrete for ease of maintenance, but property owners are generally given the option of retaining brick sidewalks.

Though sidewalks are the property of the City, maintenance of sidewalks is the responsibility of the abutting property owner. The City Manager expressed his preference for concrete sidewalks, though the policy has developed over the years to retain brick unless the property owner agrees to change to concrete. [Note: I remember hearing the brick vs. concrete debate at City Hall during past city councils. Let's face it - those bricks are a “Cambridge thing” and all the reasoning in the world will not change that. So we stick with the bricks.]

Vice Mayor Davis responded to the City Manager's report on the possibility of the City taking over the ownership and maintenance of streetlights. The Manager reported that the City is moving forward on this. There is a continuing problem of NSTAR not adequately maintaining these lights, especially in the replacement of burnt-out bulbs. Vice Mayor Davis also asked about possible energy-saving initiatives that might be possible if Cambridge had control of these lights.

Councillor Murphy addresses three communications from NSTAR giving their financial reports for 2001. These reports show a significant decrease in funds for maintenance during a year when there were many complaints about service.

Councillor Maher addressed an order he introduced gently asking residents who have driveways to use them so that their neighbors without driveways will be better able to find parking on the street. [Amen - I have no driveway and it is very aggravating to see people with driveways and/or garages renting them out or not using them while the rest of us have to struggle for a parking space.]

Councillor Reeves spoke about the idea of residents taking down backyard and sideyard fences in order to create better shared green space. This is a great idea, if people can be cooperative. However, two old adages still apply: (1) “One bad apple can spoil the bunch” (with or without the apple tree), and (2) “Good fences make good neighbors.” The matter was referred to the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee for further discussion. Councillor Davis noted that her yard is open in four directions to her neighbors and that her neighbors regularly pass through each others yards. Reference was made to "modernizing property laws," though the meaning of this were not elucidated.

There was one late policy order opposing a proposed State budget amendment that would transfer control of MDC parkways to the Mass Highway Department.

Go Green 2002 at Fresh Pond

Spring 2002 CUE newsletter  [CUE = Cambridge United for Education]

April 29 City Council meeting

After public comment dominated by testimony on various nefarious activities of the World Bank, the Cambridge City Council passed two orders impacting the foreign policy of the Peoples’ Republic of Cambridge (PRC). They voted to support the boycott of World Bank bonds and to investigate any further actions that the PRC could do against the policies of the World Bank.

In response to a rumor reported by Councillor Reeves, CDD Director Beth Rubenstein reported that Harvard has no plans for a second 18-story tower at Mather House. Reeves followed with further speculation about future traffic impacts of the new Harvard residential building now under construction on Western Ave. just across the Charles River. Ms. Rubenstein noted that Harvard's analysis suggests a minimal impact.

Reeves also spoke of his positive impressions of the facilitated meetings of the University Relations Committee. To this, committee chair David Maher reports that there will be still another facilitated “mini-meeting” prior to the public meeting in late May. That mini-meeting will take place on May 20 at the conclusion of the regular City Council meeting. Mr. Maher emphasized that the public is invited to both the May 20 meeting as well as the previously scheduled meeting on Tues, May 28. [Two previous meetings were not announced publicly, so this is a positive development.]

Reeves addressed what he called the “moribund” nature of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee and suggested that the number of City employees on the committee is excessive.

Vice-Mayor Davis (whose birthday is on May 18) and Councillor Reeves wandered on and on about the May "Golden Shoes" campaign promoting walking.

Councillor Galluccio let it be known that he will soon be proposing changes to Cambridge's Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to address the housing needs of moderate and middle-income families and individuals. Stay tuned - this promises to be an interesting initiative.

Councillor Decker led the discussion on the order calling on Abercrombie and Fitch to provide diversity training to its employees. She called their actions “racist”. Reeves followed with his comments on their “Two Wongs make a white” T-shirts and asked the City Clerk to write a letter expressing the sense of the Council on this matter. To this, the City Clerk said she felt it was not her place to speak for the Council. Reeves countered that there might be a "drafting session" to write the letter after the vote. Mayor Sullivan suggested that the Mayor's Office write the letter and that the individual councillors could sign on to the letter (or write one of their own).

Councillor Galluccio joined in condemning the use of racial stereotypes to sell T-shirts and asked that the Council call on the Harvard Living Wage Campaign to promote a boycott of the store. Vice-Mayor Davis chimed in with her condemnation of the store's actions.

Councillor Reeves had an order calling on the City to develop “Green Zones,” citing an example at Putnam and Pleasant Streets and “a national movement to open up adjoining backyards into shared space.” He characterized this as a response to canyonization, referring to some of MIT's construction in Cambridgeport.

Councillor Reeves also reminded the Council about former councillor Katherine Triantafillou's efforts in making Cambridge a “domestic-violence-free-zone” and asked if additional resources may be needed.

Councillor Davis reported on this past weekend's Area 4 Safety Walk and especially of the need to keep the Market Street Park safe for residents.

Councillor Reeves spoke of a troubling trend among City youth. Kids will stop in local convenience store, buy a "Blunt" cigar, replace the tobacco with marijuana, and then smoke it during the school day. He said that virtually everyone in this demographic also has their own gun. “There is a great lack of respect for individuals as well among these individuals,” he said. Councillor Decker suggested that any discussion of this problem must involve more than just department heads, e.g. youth workers and coaches. She related stories of some of these characters congregating in parks and intimidating people. Reeves suggested having a “youth summit” to draw these individuals into a dialogue. “There is something afoot that we should be aware of,” he said.

Councillor Davis noted that it's important to also emphasize the good things about the young people of Cambridge. Councillor Galluccio said this is not a problem unique to this generation. Each generation has its at-risk population. He said there is a high number of young people who live at home without adult supervision. He emphasized the need to establish standards of behavior among city youth. “Suspension of students from school does not address the underlying social problems. These kids are reaching out to us and we're missing the call.”

Councillor Decker noted that the Kids’ Council has requested funding for some sort of youth summit. “Some kids in Area 4 are intimidating people in the parks. How are adults to negotiate these spaces with these young people? How do these young people experience this community.”

Saying that he is generally not an alarmist, Reeves noted a recent shooting on Norfolk St. which “was lost.” [He was presumably referring to its being overshadowed by the nearly simultaneous murder-suicide that took place nearby.] He observed that rap artists and other successful entrepreneurs do get the attention of these youth. He seemed to be suggesting that Cambridge should invite one of the major rap stars to a proposed youth summit. Not a bad idea.

Councillor Reeves addressed the possibility that there might be no Central Square World's Fair this year. The Arts Council appears to be involved, but there is no plan currently in place.

Mayor Sullivan questioned Vice-Mayor Davis' order calling on Cambridge to send a representative to a DEP workshop on a Pay-As-You-Throw program. (This is the name for a program where residents are billed by weight or volume for their trash, but where recyclable materials are collected at no cost.)  Mayor Sullivan and Councillors Maher and Toomey voted against inquiring further into such a program and the order passed on a voice vote.

Vice-Mayor Davis announced that the North Cambridge Arts Open Studios are taking place this coming weekend.

Late Policy orders:

(1) Decker, Galluccio - calling for revenue enhancement to offset education cuts.

(2) Decker - urging the state legislature to restore funding for police programs and after-school and other programs.

(3) Toomey - determine a suitable location for Harold "Red" Haley Square.

Mayor Sullivan announced that there will be a breakfast meeting this Friday at 10:00am with the Cambridge legislative delegation. [The Open Meeting Law would seem to imply that this meeting in the Mayor's Office is open to the public.]

Apr 22 Note: In the City Council agenda for the Apr 22 meeting there were the following two resolutions:

57. Resolution on the death of Scott J. Saunders.  Councillor Reeves and entire membership

58. Resolution on the death of Desiree Rose Saunders.  Councillor Reeves and entire membership

Ms. Saunders was murdered last week. Her murderer was Mr. Saunders. (Read Eileen McNamara's commentary in the Boston Globe.)
Question: Is it appropriate for the Cambridge City Council to pass a death resolution for a murderer who then commits suicide?

The Public Need Not Attend

The materials for the April 22 City Council meeting reveal something rather startling - three committee reports from "public meetings" that were never publicly advertised. Apparently, the City Council's new University Relations Committee met on March 26 and again on April 5; and the Government Operation Committee met on April 12 to discuss, among other things, the controversial proposal to provide personal staff for city councillors. Councillor David Maher chaired all three committee meetings.

Not surprisingly, no one from the public gave testimony at any of these three meetings. It is doubtful that anyone from the public knew that the meetings were even taking place.

The two University Relations Committee meetings were facilitated meetings held at the Water Treatment Plant. Though the public generally does not give testimony at such meetings, these facilitated meetings have in the past been among the more informative and interesting meetings conducted with city councillors. I am particularly reminded of some of the Council's goal-setting meetings of the past.

The meeting of the Government Operations Committee was especially egregious since one of the topics discussed at the meeting was a controversial proposal to create personal staff for individual councillors. When the same proposal was made two years ago, a number of residents attended and gave testimony in opposition to the proposal (which led to ferocious responses from several councillors). Had the April 12 meeting been publicly advertised, it is likely that there would again have been testimony in opposition.

The April 12 committee report notes simply that “All members present agreed that regardless of the merits of creation of such positions, in light of the budget difficulties at the state level and other effects of the downturn in the economy that will impact the city budget, this would not be a good time to create such additional positions. Councillor Toomey moved that the committee recommend that Order Number 9 of February 25, 2002, requesting that the City Manager prepare a recommendation for full time staff for each councillor, be withdrawn and that no further action be taken on this matter. The motion was passed without objection on a voice vote.

The three councillors present (Maher, Murphy, Toomey) then voted to recommend to the Manager that present City Council staff salaries be reviewed with the intention of raising those salaries.

April 12, 2002 - Still no decision on school mergers/closings

The Cambridge School Committee last night discussed a number of budget-related topics, yet The Biggest Thing, the 400 lb gorilla in their midst, went unmentioned. Apparently, the controversy over which programs are to be consolidated or moved and which school building or buildings are to be closed will have to wait until after this year's budget cycle is complete.

By most accounts, this inevitable consolidation of programs and schools during a time of declining enrollment in the Cambridge Public Schools will have a significant impact on the School Department budget. It will enable the school administration to better utilize its resources to provide a better education to all of Cambridge's schoolchildren.

But then there is politics. Closing a school building is never an easy choice. There will be controversy and there will be angry parents and school employees who will defend their "turf." Nonetheless, closure is inevitable and delay is inexcusable.

Listening to Superintendent of Schools Bobbie D-Alessandro gives no clue as to what the new merger/closure policy and its consequences will be. It also appears that School Committee members are in the dark on this very important matter. The dance around the 400 lb gorilla is becoming almost comical.

Maybe people are still feeling burned by the controversy generated by the merger of the Fletcher and Maynard Schools into the Fletcher-Maynard Academy. While this may be understandable, delay and indecision on the next merger should not be an option. -- Robert Winters

April 9, 2002 - SJC rejects Cambridge challenge to House map (Boston Globe)

March 25, 2002 - The Cambridge City Council tonight passed a home rule petition to the state legislature that would lower the voting age to 17 for municipal elections only. A similar measure that would have lowered the voting age to 16 failed last year on a 4-5 vote. The measure passed decisively tonight on an 8-1 vote with only Councillor Maher voting against the measure. Notable was the fact that Councillors Marjorie Decker, Tim Toomey, Anthony Galluccio, and Mayor Michael Sullivan voted in favor of the current measure after having voted against the similar measure last year.

The matter now goes to the State House where its future is uncertain. There are several previous home rule petitions from Cambridge that are still languishing on Beacon Hill.

March 2002 - Election Reform News from San Francisco and Vermont

History was made on March 5, when more than 56% of San Francisco voters gave a big thumb's up to adopting instant runoff voting for electing their most important offices, including mayor. Across the country, voters in 50 cities and towns in rural Vermont endorsed a proposal to use instant runoff voting (IRV) for electing statewide offices.

Despite a well-financed campaign by defenders of the status quo who spent perhaps as much as $100,000 or more trying to confuse voters with slick mailings, San Francisco now becomes the first major American city to use IRV to elect its officials. It replaces two-round runoff elections that cost more than a million dollars a year, lead to low voter turnout and negative campaigning and exacerbate campaign financing demands. Depending on the capacity of the City's Department of Elections, IRV will be used either this fall or in November 2003.

Center for Voting and Democracy staff members Steven Hill and Caleb Kleppner developed a remarkable grassroots campaign, full of volunteer energy, that delivered more than 125,000 door-hangers in targeted precincts around the city. Leading civic organizations and elected officials rose to the challenge as well; endorsers included Rep. Kevin Shelley, who won the Democratic Party nomination for Secretary of State this week, and the Sierra Club, San Francisco Labor Council, Common Cause, NOW, Congress of California Seniors, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Latino Democratic Club, Libertarian Party, Democratic Party, Green Party and CalPIRG.

In Vermont, 51of 54 town meetings supported a League of Women Voters-sponsored proposal to use IRV for electing statewide offices. Vermont IRV backers range from Democratic Governor Howard Dean and Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz to 2000 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ruth Dwyer, Common Cause and the Grange. Our New England regional director Terry Bouricius did masterful work on this effort on a shoestring budget.

Instant runoff voting (IRV) has the potential to crack open electoral politics to new voices and better choices. Used for major elections in Australia, Ireland and Great Britain, IRV ensures that candidates win with majority support in one efficient election. Voters indicate both their favorite and their runoff choices on the same ballot. If no candidate receives a winning majority of first choices, the weak candidates are eliminated. Just as in a delayed runoff, their supporters choose among the runoff finalists as indicated by the next-choices preferences marked on their ballots. Voters who ranked one of the finalists first continue to have their votes count for their favorite choice.

You can read much more about instant runoff voting, the win in San Francisco and the near-sweep of Vermont town meeting votes on-line. Please see:

* The Center's news release and two pre-election articles at http://fairvote.org/sf/robmessage.htm

* A range of news and information about instant runoff voting at: http://www.fairvote.org/irv

* The San Francisco campaign's website has been discontinued.

* Coverage at http://www.alternet.org, http://www.tompaine.com and http://www.thenation.com/thebeat [links expired]

Update by Rob Richie, Center for Voting and Democracy (CVD)

News from Fresh Pond (Feb 28):

Cambridge's state-of-the-art water treatment facility at Fresh Pond went back into operation on Wednesday, Feb 27. You will likely notice some (positive) differences in your water now that we're making and delivering our own water and are no longer buying it from the MWRA. Financial responsibility for the repairs and for the purchase of water for the last five months is not yet settled, but it appears to be a good bet that the contractor or its insurance company will have to cover whatever increases in cost were attributable to last September's major failure at the plant.

The Feb 28 Special Joint City Council and School Committee Meeting at Fresh Pond was one of the more interesting meetings I've attended in a long time. Unlike the joint meeting of last spring, this was a remarkably civil and constructive discussion. If our elected officials handled themselves like this as a rule, there would be no basis for public criticism. There was genuine interest in what's happening in the Cambridge schools and the sincere desire of everyone present to do whatever it takes to navigate through upcoming school mergers and closures, significant hiring of new teachers to replace those who are retiring or leaving, and to get the revived Rindge School of Technical Arts (RSTA) up and running. Every member of both elected bodies was in attendance.

This meeting was especially informative about actions taken in the wake of the Spence Report and especially about RSTA, which has now had its accreditation restored (18 months ahead of schedule). There was real passion from Councillors Galluccio, Reeves, Decker, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor Sullivan and from School Committee members Harding, Fantini, and Grassi when they spoke about RSTA. Easily the most contentious issue was whether CRLS students should be permitted to choose Minuteman Tech over the growing and improving RSTA. It's something of a Catch-22 in that public confidence in RSTA is necessary for its improvement but incentives are being offered by Minuteman to draw students away from RSTA. Executive Director Stephen Spofford pitched the RSTA program with gusto to all the elected officials and invited everyone to visit and see for themselves how far they've come in just eight months. In past years, RSTA was seen as a de facto dumping ground which was eventually abandoned. This fact is one reason why some skepticism remains among some of the elected officials.

At least one school merger is a certainty this year, and word of which schools will be merged or closed should be coming very soon from School Superintendent Bobbie D'Alessandro. No schools have volunteered. Another merger/closure is likely in another year or two. Indications are that this year's merger/closure will be bundled with the creation of a new International Baccalaureate (IB) program. My impression was that this would be the carrot to go with the stick. There was a call for unity among councillors and school committee members when the ax falls. Some distress among affected parents and other residents is a foregone conclusion. Indications are that both elected bodies may hang tight through the process.

One thing about which everybody agreed was the need for the Cambridge School Department to be much more aggressive in recruiting the best teachers available. Numerous accounts were given of the recruiter from the Boston Public Schools being everywhere in Cambridge recruiting prospective teachers.

It was also disclosed at this meeting that the high school of the Somerville Charter School will be moving into the St. Mary's building in Area 4. Some city councillors had urged the City Manager to renew our lease with the Catholic Archdiocese, but the Manager reported that negotiations had recently broken down when the Archdiocese was inflexible in their demand not only for significant rent but also significant capital improvements to the building at Cambridge's expense. I was very surprised to hear that although Cambridge would be obliged to make the building fully ADA-compliant, the Somerville Charter School would not be so obliged. This represents a significant difference in the costs of renovation of the building. I will have to check out the truth of this assertion, but it sure would tilt the playing field.

From the Feb 25 City Council meeting:
Order #9 --- February 25, 2002     COUNCILLOR TOOMEY
WHEREAS: During the 2000-2001 City Council term there were several public hearings relative to the issue of staffing for the City Council; and
WHEREAS: There was much public input and debate surrounding this issue; and
WHEREAS: The City budget for the 2002-2003 is presently being reviewed and prepared by the City Manager; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager prepare a recommendation for the City Council, on the creation of full time staff positions, including technical assistance, research and analysis, for each City Councillor and a recommendation as to how the existing City Council Office could work cooperatively and in conjunction with individual Council aides; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager report back by March 18, 2002.
The order was referred to the Government Operations Committee for hearings.

Translation - During a City Council term where the issues are harder to find and where the budget will likely be tighter, here comes a proposal to give each Councillor his or her own personal assistant.

A more reasonable proposal that has been discussed is that of hiring an additional staff person or two to assist in research for some of the City Council committees, such as the Ordinance Committee and the University Relations Committee, that may benefit from such additional resources. This staff would be managed by the City Clerk's Office which now staffs the City Council committees.

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