2006 Cambridge City Council Notes

December 18, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

December 4, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

November 20, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

October 30, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

October 16, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

September 25, 2006 City Council meeting notes 

August 7, 2006 Midsummer City Council meeting notes 

June 26, 2006 City Council notes 

June 19, 2006 City Council notes 

June 5, 2006 Council notes 

April 24, 2006 – Bottom Line: Cambridge Budget Changes from FY06 (adopted) to FY07 (proposed)

The Annual Budget for the City of Cambridge becomes available today. The overall increase in the operating budget bottom line is 4.4%, but this change is certainly not uniform across City departments and divisions. Leading the way in extravagance is, not surprisingly, the Mayor's Office budget which is proposed to increase a whopping 54.3%. Clearly political patronage is alive and well in at least one facet of Cambridge city government. Will the courageous councillors even pull this budget at next week's Finance Committee hearing (Wed, May 3 starting at 10:00am)  in order to inquire of the Mayor how he's spending the public's dime? Or will they play “go along to get along?”

My guess is that the councillors either don't pull this budget or they lob softballs at Hizzoner. What we really need is a complete accounting of every person now employed in the Mayor's Office - what they do, who they serve, what they're paid. The City Council can't increase any budget, but it only takes 5 votes to decrease a department's budget. Is anyone counting to five?

Apr 24 Addendum: Tonight I picked up a copy of the FY07 Budget Book from the City Manager's Office. Upon reading the section on the budget of the Mayor's Office, the mystery of the mammoth budget increase has now been solved! – and it's far worse than I suspected. The plan is to give each of the seven councillors their own personal "research assistants" for 30 hours per week (not including the Mayor and Vice-Mayor who utilize existing staff). Absolutely incredible. Cost to the taxpayers - approximately $240,000. Several years ago when several councillors expressed a desire for personal staff, the matter went before the Government Operation Committee and was the subject of several hearings. The resolution was that there would be no personal staff and the City Manager (who opposed the proposal for personal aides at that time) recommended a 23% increase in pay for councillors and an ordinance change that future increases would no longer require a vote. Now the councillors want to eat their cake and have it too.

This time around, the matter of personal assistants (inevitably political positions) is being slipped through as part of the Mayor's Office budget. Indications are that this is yet another facet of the deal that elected the current mayor - and funded by the taxpayers. Equally disturbing is that this is in the budget submitted to the City Council by the City Manager, so the only way to prevent this waste is for 5 city councillors to vote against the budget of the Mayor's Office in its current form. Are there 5 city councillors who are willing to take a stand? As the primary beneficiaries of this waste, I doubt it.

From this voter's perspective, after the May 3 hearing there will just two kinds of city councillors - those who vote in favor of the Mayor's Office budget as proposed and those who vote against this unnecessary and wasteful proposal. – RW


April 3, 2006 at City Hall – Another Monday, another lackluster meeting....

When the agenda is thin, posturing is often the rule on Monday Night Live. There will be plenty of opportunity to address all matters small and smaller this week. There's a state grant for low-income heating assistance on which councillors can show us how much they care, two appropriations for the planting of street trees in which we may get to hear which trees and flowers the mayor likes, etc., etc.

OK, there are a couple of items that are a tiny bit substantial, such as the Planning Board reports on two pending zoning petitions. There are also several financial maneuvers reported from the School Department. One bookkeeping measure will move $450,000 to the School Debt Stabilization Fund. Another moves $1.1 million in surplus funds to be used for a variety of computer-related expenses, including the purchase of laptop computers for all school principals, assistant principals, and deans ($60,000) and the School Committee members and secretary ($16,000). I wonder what they'll do if a member already has a computer. Can they take cash instead?

The item on the Manager's Agenda that grabbed my attention concerns something I'll get to look at from my front window. This is a request for an "aerial easement" at a building now in the process of being turned from apartments into (I'm sure) high-priced condos. The developers of the property have apparently closed off the existing 2nd means of egress from several apartments (in order to maximize their value, no doubt) and are now turning to the City to permit them to build fire escapes out over the narrow sidewalk. This is reminiscent of my next-door commercial neighbor who absorbed his 2nd egress and back yard into his commercial space and turned the alley next to me into an all-purpose egress and commercial and residential rubbish area (which is often piled so high that egress is impossible).

This is the new Cambridge. Condo developers buy up an apartment building and put their noisy HVAC systems and powered vents in locations that maximize the value of their investments and the luxury of their potential buyers while dumping the means to that end on the surrounding neighbors. Now it's trading in exits for private decks while dangling the exits out over the public way - with the City's blessing.

The only other item of interest to me is Order #12 from Councillors Kelley and Toomey. This asks the Manager to meet with appropriate department heads to see if they have any ideas about how to "minimize bothersome vehicular noise" as the warm weather approaches. Presumably, this concerns the so-called "boom cars" which cruise up and down streets (like Broadway) with overpowering bass speakers harassing everyone within earshot. I expect the City Council, the City Manager, and the Police Department to do nothing, though I'm sure the City Council will hold hearings leading nowhere. The matter of noisy leaf blowers, on the other hand, will be fully addressed. – RW

March 6, 2006 City Council agenda    HTML    PDF 

There are no real highlights on the agenda, except maybe the following Resolution:

41. Congratulations to David R. Slavitt on his publication entitled “Blue State Blues” which is about the November 4, 2004 election for state representative in the Twenty-sixth Middlesex district.   Vice Mayor Toomey

Note that in the referenced election, Mr. Slavitt's competition for the seat was Timothy Toomey.

Blue State Blues – How a Cranky Conservative Launched a Campaign and Found Himself the Liberal Candidate (and Still Lost)  –  by David R. Slavitt

“Here is an inside view of running for office that is purely ingenuous, with no agenda other than reporting the details of the process as accurately and entertainingly as possible. What Slavitt has accomplished here is not only valuable, but unique; this book is wise, and brave, and hilarious.” – Daniel Mark Epstein, author of Lincoln and Whitman


Mon, Feb 27, 2006 City Council meeting: The most significant item on the agenda was the extension of City Manager Robert Healy's contract to 2009. The vote was 8-0-1 (with Councillor Kelley voting “Present”). Public comment was nearly unanimous in opposition to the Manager's contract extension at the Council meeting and at the Government Operations Committee meeting the previous week. This only served to reinforce how non-representative public comment has become. It is very clear that the elected councillors have a far better sense of the general public than do the various neighborhood groups or outspoken activists.

On a related note, City Manager's Agenda #19 was a communication relative to the three Triple A ratings from the nation's major credit rating agencies. Though some dismiss this as unimportant, it's probably the best indication of how those outside Cambridge assess its fiscal management. This translates into the flexibility of elected officials and the administration to support a wide range of initiatives in areas like human services, housing, and the maintenance and improvement of the city's infrastructure.

The City Council will also adopted several changes to its Rules in order to increase the number of members and co-chairs on some Council subcommittees in accordance with recent appointments by Mayor Reeves.

Check out the Feb 27 meeting agenda.