Cambridge City Council Notes  

updated Sunday, April 26, 2015 11:52 PM

Budget Time!The Big Item is the arrival of the FY2016 Budget. In addition to that, here are a few of my favorite things....

Manager's Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members of the Community Preservation Act Committee for 5-year terms: Ellen Shachter, Gerard Clark, Albe Simenas, Susan Schlesinger

All of these people reappointed by the City Manager are wonderful, community-oriented people well-suited to the CPA Committee. I only wish that all the great people serving on the City's Boards and Commissions got half the attention that the elected officials receive for all that they do for an annual stipend of $0.00.

Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-139, regarding a report on a feasibility study and subsequent action plan on instituting suffrage for immigrants in Cambridge.

At the risk of infuriating some people, let me reiterate my point of view on this: Citizenship = The Right to Vote. If an immigrant living in Cambridge wants to vote in any elections - federal, state, or local - the proper route is to become a U.S. citizen.

Manager's Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-130, regarding a report on whether preference points can legally be allotted to all city employees for affordable housing units.

Though we can all appreciate the desire that City employees should be able to afford housing in Cambridge, that same sentiment applies to everyone else who works here. Seriously, why should a City employee get preferential treatment when there are so many other deserving people seeking affordable housing in and around Cambridge?

Manager's Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-39, regarding a report on the Citywide Planning Process (Master Plan) including next steps and timeline. [Word][PDF]

I suppose this is progress. However, the more I think about this continuing quest for a Mystical Master Plan the more it seems as though we're just spending money on outside consultants to replicate the planning the City has already been doing for the last two decades. I'm sure a few good ideas will grow out of the process and I do hope that constructive people will participate, but I strongly suspect that when all is said in done those people who are perpetually dissatisfied will continue to be dissatisfied.

Manager's Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the FY2016 submitted budget and appropriation orders. [attachment]

This is the best time of year to become a student of how the City really functions. Here's some comparative information of the adopted budgets by department and function in past years and in the newly submitted FY2016 Budget:

GENERAL GOVERNMENT FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
Mayor $430,035 $558,785 $589,680 $586,635 -0.5 5.0 36.4
Executive $1,353,140 $2,008,150 $2,298,685 $2,356,150 2.5 17.3 74.1
City Council $975,570 $1,683,125 $1,711,115 $1,789,700 4.6 6.3 83.5
City Clerk $720,925 $1,119,765 $1,240,705 $1,123,935 -9.4 0.4 55.9
Law $1,780,975 $2,163,240 $2,176,975 $2,174,415 -0.1 0.5 22.1
Finance $8,837,560 $13,292,350 $14,540,220 $16,024,605 10.2 20.6 81.3
Employee Benefits $20,499,920 $32,787,200 $32,882,665 $33,025,885 0.4 0.7 61.1
General Services $984,345 $732,695 $704,725 $683,040 -3.1 -6.8 -30.6
Election Commission $756,540 $1,013,565 $1,072,390 $1,149,425 7.2 13.4 51.9
Public Celebrations $671,505 $891,945 $874,335 $905,900 3.6 1.6 34.9
Reserve $37,500 $37,500 $37,500 $37,500 0.0 0.0 0.0
TOTAL $37,048,015 $56,288,320 $58,128,995 $59,857,190 3.0 6.3 61.6
PUBLIC SAFETY FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
Animal Commission $228,870 $309,700 $323,535 $331,365 2.4 7.0 44.8
Fire $28,891,840 $43,350,275 $44,661,535 $44,990,895 0.7 3.8 55.7
Police $31,515,220 $47,186,015 $49,260,625 $50,646,165 2.8 7.3 60.7
Traffic, Parking & Transportation $8,175,095 $10,935,015 $11,088,415 $11,483,870 3.6 5.0 40.5
Police Review & Advisory Board $77,210 $73,440 $75,235 $77,435 2.9 5.4 0.3
Inspectional Services $2,261,215 $3,180,045 $3,270,335 $3,414,450 4.4 7.4 51.0
License Commission $726,735 $1,030,970 $1,063,745 $1,183,145 11.2 14.8 62.8
Weights & Measures $98,910 $138,540 $142,935 $145,875 2.1 5.3 47.5
Electrical $2,239,640 $2,840,910 $2,767,880 $2,594,885 -6.3 -8.7 15.9
Emergency Management $137,820 - - - -
Emergency Communications $3,097,485 $4,434,425 $4,631,960 $5,077,255 9.6 14.5 63.9
TOTAL $77,450,040 $113,479,335 $117,286,200 $119,945,340 2.3 5.7 54.9
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEV. FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
Public Works $23,648,125 $32,859,690 $33,634,490 $35,090,060 4.3 6.8 48.4
Community Development $4,472,620 $5,676,340 $6,335,440 $7,359,590 16.2 29.7 64.5
Historical Commission $457,580 $632,940 $687,860 $654,580 -4.8 3.4 43.1
Conservation Commission $89,760 $123,470 $127,770 $130,585 2.2 5.8 45.5
Peace Commission $76,215 $143,940 $148,445 $151,510 2.1 5.3 98.8
Cable T.V. $999,500 $1,474,795 $1,452,495 $1,536,585 5.8 4.2 53.7
Debt Service $23,917,070 $49,716,250 $50,446,035 $54,664,525 8.4 10.0 128.6
TOTAL $53,660,870 $90,627,425 $92,832,535 $99,587,435 7.3 9.9 85.6
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEV. FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
Library $5,461,430 $8,946,395 $9,249,325 $9,723,990 5.1 8.7 78.0
Human Services $14,581,590 $23,155,080 $24,225,290 $25,354,795 4.7 9.5 73.9
Women’s Commission $155,860 $233,115 $241,295 $246,425 2.1 5.7 58.1
Human Rights Commission $158,730 $249,380 $266,890 $275,140 3.1 10.3 73.3
Veterans $510,885 $1,005,375 $1,092,655 $1,123,070 2.8 11.7 119.8
TOTAL $20,868,495 $33,589,345 $35,075,455 $36,723,420 4.7 9.3 76.0
CITY TOTAL $189,027,420 $293,984,425 $303,323,185 $316,113,385 4.2 7.5 67.2
EDUCATION FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL) $122,053,195 $150,989,445 $156,669,635 $163,940,420 4.6 8.6 34.3
INTERGOVERNMENTAL FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
MWRA $16,177,455 $21,346,815 $22,189,730 $23,516,200 6.0 10.2 45.4
Cherry Sheet Assessments $11,569,960 $20,126,950 $21,504,975 $21,336,755 -0.8 6.0 84.4
Cambridge Health Alliance $6,500,000 $6,500,000 $6,750,000 $7,000,000 3.7 7.7 7.7
TOTAL $34,247,415 $47,973,765 $50,444,705 $51,852,955 2.8 8.1 51.4
GRAND TOTALS $345,328,030 $492,947,635 $510,437,525 $531,906,760 4.2 7.9 54.0
FY05 adopted FY14 adopted FY15 adopted FY16 submitted 1 yr % change 2 yr % change 11 yr % change
WATER $17,098,120 $14,238,700 $13,964,275 $13,964,115 0.0 -1.9 -18.3
PUBLIC INVESTMENT $8,834,255 $34,407,930 $31,954,025 $18,076,290 (*) -43.4 -47.5 104.6

(*) Does not include additional Public Investment Appropriation Orders for FY16 that require authorization to borrow funds.


Resolution #14. Recognition of the dedication of the Officer Sean Collier Memorial and gratitude to Officer Collier for his service and sacrifice. Councillor Toomey

Many of us who work at MIT and who had the pleasure of knowing Sean Collier will be at the dedication this Wed, Apr 29 at noon.

Resolution #17. Recognition to Sara Mae Berman for her accomplishments and for leading the way in women's sports and congratulations on her induction into the Distance Running Hall of Fame.   Councillor McGovern

Congratulations to my neighbor and friend Sara Mae Berman. I would also give her an award for her rhubarb pies.

Resolution #32. Congratulations to the 2015 City of Cambridge Outstanding City Employee Awards.   Mayor Maher

This year's recipients will be honored at a ceremony on Friday, May 1, 2015, at 9:30am, in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. The City Manager will also be presenting a special award in memory and honor of Assistant City Manager Brian Murphy to a person who is committed to making government improve the lives of others. I can think of many City employees who would be deserving of this award.

Order #6. Amendment by adding new Rule 31C regarding City Manager appointments to the Cambridge Housing Authority.   Councillor Kelley

The City Council has the responsibility of approving appointments to only two Boards - the Cambridge Housing Authority and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. The intention of this Order is to establish a formal process for approving these appointments via review by standing City Council committees prior to being voted by the full City Council.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff to: determine the existing capacity of the City to address excessive noise complaints; analyze past complaints to determine if there have been any trends in type, location, time or any other aspect of formal noise complaints and response actions in Cambridge; create a noise map focusing on existing noise from industrial, lab and office buildings and the impact of that noise on residential structures; review opportunities to provide noise measurement and enforcement capabilities and responsibilities within the Police Department, Inspectional Services, DPW and the Department of Public Health to provide comprehensive, 24/7 noise response capacity with Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley and Councillor McGovern

This is a good initiative that I hope will eventually lead to some clarification in the Zoning Ordinance regarding compatible uses in districts with a mix of housing and potentially noisy other permitted uses, especially laboratories and manufacturing facilities. This is a topic that should probably be rolled into the upcoming Citywide Planning Process, a.k.a. Master Plan. Ideally there would be some acknowledgement of the fact that even if labs and residences can coexist in a mixed-use district, that might not extend to 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The same goes for clubs, taverns, and any other use that extend into the night-time hours. Perhaps we need to create zoning based not just on location but also on time of day.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff and report back to the City Council with suggested language for either a Home Rule petition or a change to general state law that requires all individuals involved in a collision, to include dooring, to give everyone else involved written contact information, not just to offer it.   Councillor Kelley

Another good idea from the city councillor who has the most experience navigating Cambridge by bicycle. It's always best to exchange information even for a minor collision because it's often the case that you only discover damage or injury hours or even days after the altercation.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Mar 19, 2015 to provide an update and continue discussion on the incentive zoning study from the Community Development Department.

The current recommendation is to increase the housing contribution from $4.58 to $10 to $12 per square foot and to make regular CPI adjustments in the future. Some activists would prefer that it be multiplied ten-fold, but it's always easy to say that when you're spending other people's money.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 1, 2015 to continue discussions on the Normandy/Twining petition.

There's a good chance that this petition will be passed to a 2nd Reading at this meeting and be placed in the queue for ordination in a few weeks. The Planning Board will also be continuing their hearing on the petition the following day. I'm sure there will be a lot of public comment on this item, though I seriously doubt if there will be any new revelations. People are just digging in at this point and crafting their rhetoric as if this were a military matter. It's not. It's just about building a place where people can live. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Founding FathersHere are a few items that might prove interesting:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Toomey notified the City Clerk of his intention to file reconsideration of the vote taken on Mar 30, 2015 to refer to the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee City Manager Agenda #18 and Calendar #8 as amended regarding the Pearl Street Reconstruction Project.

It's anyone's guess where this will end up, but it did seem odd that this Order would be referred at the last meeting to a committee whose Chair will likely be hostile to it. There really is a need to review some of the boneheaded projects that have been trotted out under the "Complete Streets" banner, but it's doubtful that committee action will lead to anything other than politicizing this. A better term would be "Dysfunctional Streets" to describe road designs that provide no actual additional bicycle safety while rendering streets dysfunctional, e.g. Vassar Street where trucks have no other option than to park on sidewalks, a stopped vehicle brings all traffic to a standstill, and where the safety of any cyclist choosing to ride in the road is greatly compromised. While driving on the newly-choked Western Avenue the other day I got to witness first hand how even the simple act of parking a car can turn Western Ave. into a one-lane, highly congested road.

Manager's Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a recommend on the reappointment of Christopher Bator to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for a 3-year term, effective Apr 13, 2015.

This is not controversial - just an opportunity to once again marvel at how the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority has pivoted over the last few years from being nearly irrelevant to becoming the vehicle of choice for some really important initiatives.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine what types of traffic, parking, and other citations the city has legal jurisdiction over and to confer with the appropriate city departments to institute a day-fine policy in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

This is a ridiculous proposal. A day-fine is "a fine tied to an individual's daily income". This proposal suggests that people whose reported income is low should pay less for parking violations or speeding tickets. The Order notes that "License suspensions and legal fees resulting from unpaid citations have been shown to have a disproportionately negative effect on low income individuals and households." There's an even simpler solution - don't park illegally or drive at excessive speeds that endanger others.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council at the next regular meeting with an update on the Citywide planning process (Master Plan) including next steps and a timeline.   Councillor McGovern

My sense is that when this Magical Master Plan is eventually decided (and I really am interested in the requested timeline), there's a good chance that it won't fulfill the hopes and dreams of those who have come to believe that all clocks must be stopped until it's in place.

Order #9. That Article Six of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance entitled "Off Street Parking and Loading Requirements and Nighttime Curfew on Large Commercial Through Trucks" be amended in Section 6.20 entitled "Off Street Parking Regulations" to include information in "Carsharing Provisions." [attachment]   Councillor Cheung, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Simmons

Order #12. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, an amendment to the Zoning Ordinances in Section 20.300 "Central Square Overlay District" regarding the granting of Special Permits in the Central Square Overlay District.   Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

Order #14. That Article 13 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinances entitled "Planned Unit Development Districts" be amended in section 13.53.2 of 13.50 entitled "PUD-4, PUD-4A, PUD-4B and PUD-4C Districts: Development Controls" by striking out the first sentence and substituting in place thereof the following new sentence: The minimum size of the Development Parcel within PUD-4B shall be two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) square feet.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Cheung and Councillor McGovern

This is a rare thing indeed - three City Council zoning petitions introduced in a single meeting. Almost all zoning petitions tend to originate with either property owners/developers who want to build something or with activists trying to block something from being built. It has become rare for the City Council to initiate the process, and here we hit the trifecta! I'll wait to hear more explanation of the motivation behind Order #9 and Order #14. As for Order #12, I was at first intrigued at what seemed to be an acknowledgement that providing incentives for new housing in Central Square might be a good direction consistent with some of the C2 recommendations from a couple of years ago. Then I read what Councillor Carlone wrote on his blog. Apparently the primary purpose of the zoning proposal in Order #12 is to remove the argument occasionally heard in regard to the ongoing Normandy/Twining petition that if housing cannot economically be built at Mass & Main (Lafayette Square) then an office or lab building would be the default option.

This chess move by Councillors Carlone and Mazen and their sponsors would affect the entire Central Square Overlay District in regard to any Special Permit application for Additional Height. There may be some merit in this proposal but it's also quite possible that it will have some unintended consequences. Either way, it's being introduced at this time apparently as an attempt to derail the Normandy/Twining proposal. Having a broader conversation about delivering new housing in the Central Square area is consistent with the C2 recommendations, but one really has to raise an eyebrow when those now suggesting this are the same people who have squelched that conversation in the past. Besides, as we have heard the naysayers chant time and time again, how can we do anything without first having The Master Plan? [sarcasm intended] - Robert Winters


Update: Order #12 Failed on a 1-7-1 vote (Mazen YES via speakerphone; Carlone ABSENT). I don't recall it having ever happened that a proposed zoning amendment was defeated when introduced without even being formally referred to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board. This was a stunning rebuke of Councillors Carlone and Mazen (and their supporters). - RW
[Video of meeting at http://ec4.cc/dea35349; Order #12 discussion starts at 2:19:20.]

Comments?

Out Like a Lamb - What's Happenin' at the March 30, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Out Like a LambAs this brutal winter stumbles to a welcome end, the City Council meets on Monday to do its thing. Here are a few noteworthy items (at least to this Council watcher).:

Manager's Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a rescission of the remaining amount of the loan order ($1,600,000) authorized by the City Council on Feb 13, 2012 for the renovations to the original police station at Five Western Avenue.

How can you not like it when a project comes in $1.6 million under budget?

Manager's Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-07, regarding a report on variance requests and application results since January, 2010. [really big attachment]

I'm reminded of the time several summers ago when a City Council request for information from the Police Department yielded a stack of paper several feet high resting on Councillor Kelley's desk. This is just a PDF file and not nearly as voluminous, but it always reminds me that you shouldn't ask for information that requires some effort to generate unless you have some notion of what you'd like to do with that information once you get it. This request came from an Order by Councillor Kelley that was adopted on Feb 20, 2015. If the goal is to identify shortcomings in the Zoning Ordinance that routinely lead to many requests for variances, that would be a useful exercise that might warrant some tweaks to the Zoning Ordinance. It's just as likely that the intention might be to crack down on variances without examining why people seek them in the first place.


Manager's Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of members of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Committees for two year terms, effective Apr 1, 2015.

Manager's Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on the status of the Pearl Street reconstruction project.

I occasionally wonder what would happen if someone like me who questions some of the bicycling infrastructure decisions made internally by the City were to apply to be on the Bicycle Committee. My sense is that diversity of opinion is not welcome on that particular committee and that applicants are screened accordingly. Regarding the Pearl Street project, I fear that the plan is to wait out the opposition and proceed with the elimination of curbside parking when the best opportunity arises - regardless of need or the preferences of abutters.


Manager's Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the recommendation from the Planning Board to approve 1) the disposition of the leasehold interest in the Foundry Building; and 2) a diminution of the disposition process as it relates to the provision of a traffic study and provision of real estate appraisals of the Foundry Building.

Unfinished Business #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on the Foundry Building process, including the City's plans to collaborate with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (the "CRA") to redevelop the Foundry building in a way that meets the vision and objectives expressed by the City Council and the community...

It's good to see some progress on the Foundry matter. I really don't know what balance will ultimately be struck among the competing interests and financial constraints associated with this building, but at least things are moving forward. It's great to see how the revitalized Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is playing an active role in this and other initiatives.


Unfinished Business #11. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing held on Dec 19, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on an amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.67 entitled relating to Plastic Bag Reduction. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 24, 2014.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 12, 2015 to discuss amendments and other related documents associated with the plastic bags ordinance.

It's likely that this proposed ordinance will be voted at this meeting. The essential elements are that (1) plastic checkout bags would be banned in Cambridge (which won't affect those of us who shop almost exclusively in Somerville and Everett), (2) a mandatory fee of at least 10¢ will be charged for every paper bag used at checkout (not sure what this means regarding single- vs. double-bagging), and (3) a minimum thickness (3 mils) will be established for what constitutes an approved reusable bag. There are only limited provisions for exemptions.

Personally I use only reusable bags and have done so for years. I imagine most municipal election candidates this year will be distributing reusable bags emblazoned with their names and the usual #1 Vote request. Perhaps I'll vote for candidates based on who provides the most durable shopping bags. Councillor Toomey was way ahead of everyone last time in this regard.


Unfinished Business #13. That any committee report that has not been signed by the Chair of the committee within seven days after submission of the committee report by the City Clerk be placed on the City Council Agenda unsigned. Order Number Eight of Mar 2, 2015 Referred to Unfinished Business.

It's interesting how many committee reports have been submitted since this proposal was submitted by Councillor Toomey. Anything that moves things along is welcome. Now if only we can come up with a Rules Change that would prevent significant matters from being endlessly kicked down the road - and I'm definitely thinking of Central Square here which is only now getting some renewed attention years after a broad range of recommendations were presented as part of the K2C2 process. There will be an Ordinance Committee hearing on those recommendations on Wed, April 15 (at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber), but only for the purpose of discussion with no actionable items before the committee.

The Normandy/Twining zoning proposal for the Mass. & Main area of Central Square is also now before the Ordinance Committee. The petitioners recently increased the percentages of permanently and privately subsidized units in their project to 20 percent should the proposed zoning be approved. Their original petition called for 17 percent affordable and middle-income units. They have now doubled the percentage of affordable units (50 to 80% of area median income) from 8.5 percent in the original petition to 17 percent and will maintain 3 percent middle income units (80 to 120% of area median income). The proposal would deliver 40 affordable and 7 middle income housing units for a total of 47 permanently and privately subsidized units out of a total of about 230 units. Enhanced ground floor retail opportunities and neighborhood connectivity are also included in their proposal.

Unfinished Business #14. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 3, 2015 to continue discussions on the zoning petition filed by Whitehead Institute to amend the Zoning Ordinance, Sections 14.32.1 and 14.32.2 to provide for an increment of 60,000 square feet of GFA to be allowed by special permit in a portion of the MXD District, in Section 14.70 by retitling "Special Provisions Applicable Within the Ames Street District: and by adding a new Section 14.72 "Special Provisions Applicable Outside the Ames Street District. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Mar 30, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Dec 16, 2014. Petition expires Apr 8, 2015.

This zoning petition will likely be ordained at this meeting.

Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from Chestnut Hill Realty, requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Basement Housing Overlay District Section 20.600.

I won't pretend to understand what the intent of these technical amendments are. As was the case when the original zoning was introduced and passed, I'll just say that it would be a shame if any basement space in buildings that is actually necessary for bicycle storage and other needs of residents is lost just to pack in a few more income-producing units. On either side of my house on Broadway there are buildings that maximized the rentable space by eliminating options for on-premises bike parking and seriously compromising the options for storing and managing waste and recycling.

Resolution #24. Reminder to Cambridge residents that street cleaning will begin the first week of April.   Councillor Toomey

Run for your lives! The sweepers are coming! Don't get towed!

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with all relative City departments to increase the number of electric charging stations available in the City, to determine the feasibility of making these stations free and to recommend other incentives that may include, but not be limited to, free resident parking stickers and allowing electric cars to park at parking meters free of charge as ways to encourage the purchase and use of electric cars.   Councillor McGovern

Let me see if I got this straight. This proposes to provide free parking and free electric charging to anyone with an electric vehicle. Why stop there? The City should also pay the rent and mortgage costs for these superior beings. But seriously, I would think that driving an energy-efficient vehicle that costs less to operate should be more than enough incentive. I also expect that any lost revenue or added energy costs borne by the City will ultimately lead to increased parking fees for those of us less enlightened beings who still have more conventional engines in our vehicles.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate city departments to update the City Council as to whether there are any proposed increases to Common Victualer (CV) and Liquor License renewal fees, to determine if there is a liquor license cap in the Central Square area and to the suitability of raising the liquor license cap in and around the Central Square area.   Vice Mayor Benzan

I'm not sure what's behind this, but my understanding is that there is a cap on the number of liquor licenses that may be sold, but the License Commission has been issuing nontransferable "no value" pouring licenses to restaurants In Central Square and elsewhere in order to help those businesses.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the local business associations, neighborhood groups and city departments to conduct a series of cleanups of our neighborhoods and City Squares, primarily Kendall, Harvard, Central, Alewife, Inman, Huron Village and Porter.   Vice Mayor Benzan

These kinds of events are always best organized by the local business and neighborhood associations and by individuals with whatever assistance the City is able to affordably provide. The City should simply let the organizers know what help they might be able to provide, but let the residents and business owners take the lead.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an update on the analysis that has been done to understand the finances of new development in Central Square, including the report by economic consultant Sarah Woodworth.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Mazen

I am curious about the underlying purpose of this Order. While it's certainly a good idea to have a firm grasp on the economic realities surrounding development proposals like the one contemplated for Mass. & Main (Normandy/Twining), my suspicion is that this could be an effort to cook up grounds to justify blocking the proposal. We'll all benefit from an honest discussion of the economics, but hopefully not just as a smokescreen for a separate agenda.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the status and next steps for the Beekeeping ordinance.   Councillor Carlone

I wasn't aware that there was an actual proposed ordinance to allow and perhaps promote beekeeping, but it's a good idea worth pursuing. On the other hand, it seems a bit ridiculous that this should be over-regulated or banned in the first place.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City personnel to determine and provide an update to the City Council on parking needs and availability in the Central Square area and to confer with the appropriate City personnel to determine, as part of the broader question above, the cost and feasibility of adding additional parking levels to the Green Street Garage, to determine how many additional feet the garage could be expanded to as of right and how many extra parking spaces that would yield, and what changes, if any, would be needed to existing zoning laws in order to build the garage to its maximum capacity.   Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Carlone

Though I think it would be a good idea to ensure a sufficient supply of parking in and around Central Square, I can't help but note that if a proposal to add commercial parking was made a decade or two ago it would have been aggressively opposed by some activists. Those were the days when the Parking Freeze was giving way to the current Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance. Times have changed, vehicles run much cleaner, and there are now other competing priorities. Perhaps additional parking capacity at the Green Street Garage would replace what might be lost by building on surface parking lots elsewhere in Central Square. Perhaps the idea is to calm the fears of those who see the building of new housing as an existential threat to the well-being of their on-street parking. In any case, it's a discussion worth having. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Perhaps the most notable items this week are the announcement of the annual water/sewer rates, a couple of committee reports relating to the proposed Twining/Normandy petition, and a resolution on the tragic death of Marcia Diehl - a friend to thousands of Cantabrigians, including me.

Manager's Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $6,000,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($4,825,000) and to the General Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account ($175,000) and to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Maintenance account ($1,000,000) to cover winter 2014-2015 snowstorm expenses associated with snow plowing contracts, salt and other material, and repair costs.

Some years the "Rainy Day Fund" can be a "Snowy Winter Fund". Few should be surprised at this additional cost after a record-breaking winter. Spring (technically) arrives with the vernal equinox this Friday at 6:45pm EDT.

Manager's Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-04, regarding a report on next steps to converting the Watertown Branch rail line.

We're getting there - slowly but surely. This will one day be a nice addition to the off-road recreational facilities for the local region, and will also provide pretty handy access to the Arsenal Mall area.

Manager's Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2015 and ending Mar 31, 2016.

The recommendation is for a 0% increase in the water consumption block rate and a 6.8% increase in the sewer use block rate, resulting in a 4.9% increase in the combined rate for the coming year. This is the fifth consecutive year that the City has been able to produce a 0% increase in the water rate.

Average Changes in Water/Sewer Annual Bills
Residential Type FY15 Average FY16 Projected Annual Variance % Change
Single Family $730 $766 $36 4.9%
Two Family $1,020 $1,070 $50 4.9%
Three Family $1,480 $1553 $73 4.9%

Unfinished Business #12. That any committee report that has not been signed by the Chair of the committee within seven days after submission of the committee report by the City Clerk be placed on the City Council Agenda unsigned. Order Number Eight of Mar 2, 2015 Referred to Unfinished Business.

It's interesting that at the first meeting after Councillor Toomey introduced the Order calling for this modification in the City Council Rules to hasten the delivery of committee reports, this agenda contains 5 committee reports.

Resolution #27. Condolences to the family of Marcia Deihl.   Councillor Simmons

Marcia was killed while riding her bicycle last Wednesday afternoon, March 11. Reports indicate that she was likely exiting the Whole Foods onto Putnam Ave. or riding along Putnam Ave. when she was struck and killed by a truck traveling on Putnam Ave. Many of us are eager to learn more details about this tragedy. Though I didn't know Marcia nearly as well as some others who are now really suffering from this loss, I really loved her sense of humor and her distinctive way with words. Our shared interests included old VWs, kitsch, Zippy the Pinhead, and everything about Cambridge. [Globe story on Marcia Diehl]

Marcia Diehl (early '70s)
Marcia Diehl (early 1970s)

While looking over old email messages from Marcia, I came across this one from 2009: "We really need a Cambridge History thing, or class, or institutionalized available web site. My specialty is the 70s, and I loved working with Charlie (Sullivan) and the Historical Commission looking for old photos. I have performed a few Cambridge history in music shows, one of which 'When Hippies Roamed the Earth' is centered around the Inman, Harvard, and Central Square cultural and political counterculture. Another one was songs related to social justice history at Old Cambridge Baptist Church."

Two years ago (Feb 2013) Marcia wrote this in the CCJ Forum: "I remember being called a 'barnie' and having garbage thrown at me when a bunch of us college grad hippie pinkos lived in communes on the Broadway and Columbia corner in 1971-2. CRA paid us a thousand each to relocate and we carried our stuff across the street to a Chiccarelli building. At a rent control strike hearing, she yelled 'THEY WANT MY BLOOD, THEY WANT MY BLOOD!' Ah, memories. I've lived kitty corner to Villa Vellucci in almost-East Cambridge, attended many times, and busked in Harvard Square. Now retired and living two blocks from where I did 35 years ago in my favorite spot in the universe, Cambridgeport, I know I am not worthy to be a Cantabrigian."

You were as worthy as anyone who has ever lived here, Marcia. I hope we can name a park or a garden after you.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to review the questions raised from Kim Courtney and report back to the City Council on such matters the City Manager considers appropriate to address.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen [Attachments]

I suspect there must be some connection here between the apparent licensing irregularities with Mr. Kapsalis (owner of The Cellar and a neighboring liquor store) and a petition that was submitted to the License Commission several months ago attempting to block Ms. Courtney and her partner from opening a competing establishment near to Mr. Kapsalis' businesses. That petition was pretty much 100% fraudulent and even included fake names at my address. I was able to see the petition when an investigator from the License Commission came to my house verifying the names of those who had apparently signed the petition. It also had the name of at least one friend of mine who said he had never signed such a petition. Even a casual look at the petition showed that it was all likely written by the same person. Who does something like that? I never patronized The Cellar or his liquor store anyway, so they won't be missing my business.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 22, 2015 to discuss the Normandy/Twining zoning petition to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass. and Main Residential Mixed Income Sub district within the Central Square Overlay District.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 26, 2015 to discuss the refiled Normandy/Twining petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and the zoning map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.

The next couple of months should prove interesting. The Cambridge Residents Alliance was spawned a few years back in response to proposals for new housing in and around Central Square. [In short, they don't want it.] They've now spawned yet another entity specifically trying to block new housing at this Lafayette Square location. It's anybody's guess how this zoning proposal will fare and how the actual building will take shape should the zoning change make it possible.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Jan 13, 2015 to discuss the production of language for a city-wide affordable housing overlay district, to be considered by the City Council to identify areas in the city that would be best suited for an affordable housing overlay district.

I'm still curious to see what people have in mind with this proposed "affordable housing overlay district." So far all I've heard is the sentiment that only low- and moderate-income people are welcome in areas like Central Square, and that's not a particularly sustainable (or even friendly) perspective. - Robert Winters

Comments?

In Like a LionHere's my list of interesting agenda items. Additional comments may follow after the meeting (not my usual practice), but here are a few words for now:.

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Mazen notified the City Clerk of his intention to file reconsideration of the vote taken on Feb 20, 2015 failing to adopt an order that the City Manager is requested to identify an organization or organizations to study and present options to the City Council regarding possibilities for publicly funded municipal elections that takes into account issues unique to Cambridge. Order failed of adoption 3-4-1-1 and Reconsideration was filed by Councillor Mazen on Feb 23, 2015.

My great suspicion is that this initiative is part of a greater plan for this year's municipal election to portray any candidate who accepts money from a property owner/developer as inherently "unclean" in the "clean elections" sense of the word. Perhaps a better measure would be the percentage of a candidate's campaign receipts that originate from outside Cambridge or from ANY identifiable "special interest group." At least commercial property owners in Cambridge have a direct interest in the future of the city.

Manager's Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining the noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 34 municipalities in the United States with three AAA ratings from the nation's three major credit rating agencies. [Attachment]

There is simply no way to disassociate this year's round of great bond ratings with the tragedy of Brian Murphy's death that occurred while City officials were in New York City meeting with the rating agencies.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Ten of Feb 20, 2015.]

Just vote it down. City employees already do a fine job assisting the public, and for everything else there are nine city councillors from which to choose to represent you and any concerns that you may have.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to contact the current owners of the Vail Court property and demand that graffiti be removed, exterminators assess the property, and any other maintenance that would improve the appearance and safety of this building be conducted immediately. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Mazen on Order Number Seven of Feb 23, 2015.]

In addition to the obvious deplorable state of this property, it should be obvious to anyone who heard the debate last week on this matter that this is as much about Councillor Mazen's "special relationship" with this property owner as anything else. If he can resolve it, he'll be able to claim some credit. Otherwise, enjoy that albatross, councillor.

On the Table #12. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

I expect the Council will just leave this permanently On the Table rather than seize the opportunity to define limits on how much residents can be abused in the name of a proposal that never achieved anything close to consensus in that neighborhood.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with local business associations, the Arts Council, and other appropriate city departments to determine the feasibility of hosting a series of "End of Winter" Festivals in our City Squares (Harvard, Central, Inman, Porter, Huron Village, and Kendall) to celebrate our city's resilience and strength.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Toomey

Having proposed exactly this sort of thing a week or so ago, I do hereby declare this to be the best damn proposal on this entire agenda. Bring on Martha and the Vandellas.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Information Technology Department to create a space on the city website, where agendas can be made available prior to committee meetings.   Councillor Mazen

This is a good start, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Every City Council committee should have (and maintain) its own web page that indicates all the business that has been addressed by that committee, what matters are currently under consideration (along with all relevant documents), and any future plans under consideration by the committee. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Flotsam and Jetsam - Coming up at the Feb 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

“Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship's load. The word flotsam derives from the French word floter, to float. Jetsam is a shortened word for jettison.”

Most of the business from the three delayed or cancelled City Council meetings was taken up on Friday, Feb 20 at the first of these twin meetings, but there are a few items left, including all of the Calendar. Before getting to the flotsam and jetsam on Monday's agenda, I would like to say a few words about something extraordinary that took place at the Friday meeting. Specifically, the City Council showed some resolve, and I hope this continues - especially if and when more serious matters are before the Council later this year. We sure could have used this last year when the misguided Carlone Petition was dragged out for months even though only fools believed it ever had the votes of more than 2 or 3 councillors (and it needed as least 6 to be ordained). Of course the Carlone Petition was really all about political organizing and not especially about governance.

Specifically, there was an Order on the Friday agenda contained in a report from a Government Operations Committee meeting that called for developing one or more approaches to publicly financed municipal elections in Cambridge. There are many reasonable people who can make a good case for doing this at the state and/or federal level, but I have not yet heard any convincing rationale for doing this for our municipal PR elections. There has also been more than a passive suggestion that such "clean elections" would be a response to implied corruption among elected city councillors who have accepted donations from major property owners/developers. I have never personally seen any evidence of this. There is also a very low threshold for candidacy in the municipal elections - just 50 valid signatures - and Councillor Kelley has convincingly proven that you don't need a big bankroll to be reelected as long as you can maintain the respect of the people who have voted for you in the past. New candidates often face a challenge in wrestling away #1 votes from incumbents or corralling their own quota of ballots from uncommitted voters to gain election, but the most recent election showed that it's not impossible and it may even be getting easier in this day of social media.

Councillor Kelley asked simply: "What's the problem that this proposal is trying to fix?" That's exactly the point. Normally I would have expected the City Council, out of some misguided notion of courtesy, to kick this can down the road, generate a shelf full of studies, waste lots of staff time and ultimately say, "Never mind." This time, they voted and defeated this pointless initiative on a 2-4-1-2 vote (2 Yes, 4 No, 1 Abstain, 2 Absent). Had there not been two councillors absent, I suspect it would have been a 3-5-1 or a 3-6 vote. [Note: Mazen arrived late and added his YES vote to make this 3-4-1-1.] In any case, I would like to commend Councillors Cheung, Kelley, Toomey and Mayor Maher for their resolve in throwing this overboard. There may yet be discussion about this in Government Operations, but at least the Council will then be deciding whether or not to do something prior to drafting plans for how it is to be done.

Another Order that called for the creation of an "ombudsman" position came close to a similar fate, though ultimately it was made subject to the Charter Right by Councillor McGovern. Anyone who has ever dealt with the Community Development Department or just about any other City Department knows just how helpful and cooperative (to a fault) most City staff are. Councillor Toomey and Vice Mayor Benzan also correctly pointed out that one of the most fundamental roles a city councillor plays is as a go-between when residents feel they need an advocate. I really had hoped the City Council would have just voted this Order down, but the Charter Right is nondebatable and we'll just have to wait until another day (maybe Monday) to see what happens.

Oh, yeah, and on Friday they also talked a lot about snow. That's why they're our representatives. We've all been talking a lot about snow.

As for this Monday's agenda, there are only the 12 Orders pulled (most as a courtesy to Councillor Mazen who did eventually show up over 2 hours late to the meeting) plus the items on the Calendar. The only remaining items of some interest to me are these (and there may be some misnumbering caused by the unusual nature of this double-meeting):

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Ten of Feb 20, 2015.]

See my comments above or in my notes for the Fri, Feb 20 meeting. I'm not sure if this item can be properly acted upon yet. If the interpretation is that these twin meetings are really formally the same meeting, then we'll have to wait until the March 2 meeting before the City Council can take up the question.

On the Table #11. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

Again, see my comments in my notes for the Fri, Feb 20 meeting or in my notes for the Jan 29 meeting. There are much better ways to make Pearl Street better for all users, and the City Council really should send a message that it's not OK to railroad residents based on a biased and nondemocratic process to force an outcome based on the agenda of a select group of individuals, especially when that agenda will compromise resident parking needs and other curbside activities and yield no net safety or environmental benefits. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Catch Up - The City Council will have a Special Meeting on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 9:00am

City SealIn order to catch up on the multiple meetings cancelled due to snow, the City Council will have a Special Meeting on Fri, Feb 20 at 9:00am. Any business not addressed at that meeting will carry over to the regular meeting on Mon, Feb 23 at 5:30pm. City councillors have been requested to resubmit any new items for the following (Mar 2) meeting. The most notable agenda items (at least to me) are these:

Resolution #15. Resolution on the death of Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.   Councillor Simmons

The people who work at CDD are my neighbors and friends, and Brian was a great friend to me personally and to many other people throughout Cambridge and elsewhere in Massachusetts.

Manager's Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a requesting that the City Council refile and again refer the Normandy/Twining Zoning Petition to the Planning Board.

Order #28. Refiling of Normandy/Twining Petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinances and the zoning map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.   Mayor Maher

This re-filing is necessary because of the snow cancellations that prevented the scheduled Planning Board meeting to occur within the legally required time frame. Meanwhile the Cambridge Residents Alliance, a.k.a. the Peoples' Revolutionary Front to Stop Everything has already drafted its TalkingPoints Memo for its drone activists to recite at meetings explaining why new housing near transit is bad for people.

Manager's Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to amendments and other related documents associated with the proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance.

The proposed amendments are all well-founded and should be given proper consideration by the City Council prior to ordination.

On the Table #10. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

I have commented on this previously, so I'll simply say that the City Council should pass this Order. If not, the majority of city councillors who have expressed support for this rebuke will have been played by those who want to use delay in order to solidify their propaganda. Sometimes a rebuke is exactly the right thing to do. There are better plans circulating for Pearl Street that would designate it as a bike/ped priority street without segregating cyclists and compromising resident parking needs and other curbside activities.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Mayor to reach out to representatives and city officials in Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Everett and Somerville to gauge interest in forming an inter-city committee which would meet three times per year to discuss and develop strategies for common issues that would be best handled regionally with support from the state.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Cheung

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments and elected officials from Somerville to arrange a public meeting of the two cities to discuss regionalism and potential regular scheduling.   Councillor Mazen

Again, I have commented previously about the idea of a standing intercommunity committee of local elected officials from Cambridge and its neighbors. It would be a good way to address more regional concerns, especially in the areas of housing and transportation.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

This policy order is an insult to all of the good people who work for the City who have been consistently helpful to residents in practically every way. I sincerely hope the City Council has the wisdom to reject it.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee conducted a STEAM Summit on Dec 10, 2014 to present research by the STEAM Working Group and to present the Working Group's recommendations.

Order #25. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of executing the recommendations of the STEAM Working Group with the appropriate City departments.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Carlone and Councillor McGovern

I have also commented on this previously. Suffice to say that the intention of these efforts is commendable and I hope that we can capture the interest of young people in every possible way to find a future that takes full advantage of those industries and educational institutions that are all around us in Cambridge. I am not yet convinced that a City Council-inspired plan is the best approach. What is really needed is some re-thinking among all local educational institutions about how to best match Cambridge residents, especially very young Cambridge residents, with the wealth of opportunities all around them. This should be as much about inspiration as facilitation.

Order #29. That the City Manager is requested to work with all relevant City staff to revise the proposed zoning for the Volpe site to include an option for a 7.5 acre public park as originally planned.   Councillor Carlone

We all like parks and open space, but I'm not yet convinced that this proposal is about creating amenities so much as simply blocking new construction, including the construction of new housing. It's definitely worth pointing out that the original 7.5 acre proposal predates the donation of open space that grew out of the Alexandria re-zoning process. No plan should remain static as circumstances change, and until very recently very few people actually believed that the Volpe site might actually become available anytime soon.

Order #32. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to release a legal opinion regarding the discretion of the Planning Board to deny special permits, even when the special permit criteria have been met, reflecting in particular on the bearing that the case Humble Oil and Refining Company vs. Board of Appeals of Amherst has on discretionary authority of the board.   Councillor Mazen

Give us a break. This effort to politicize the Special Permit process expired with two-thirds of the latest Teague Petition.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee for a public hearing held on Jan 20, 2015 to discuss changing the method by which surplus votes are transferred in Municipal elections whether the Fractional Transfer Method could replace the Cincinnati Method and whether this requires a Chapter change and to discuss the Clean Election Law.

This committee meeting only began to scratch the surface of the two topics - (a) practical changes to the Cambridge municipal elections, and (b) the pros and cons of public funding for local elections. I look forward to the continued conversation. - Robert Winters

Comments?

The Feb 9, 2015 City Council meeting has (again) been cancelled due to snow.

Marathon, Part 2 - Coming up at the February 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting
This meeting was cancelled. Agenda items roll over to the next (Feb 9 Feb 20) meeting.

As expected, the City Council wasn't able to make it through last week's long agenda and many of the items (all of the Orders, in fact) are being carried over to this meeting. In addition to the 27 Policy Orders from last week, there's an additional 10 this week. Several other items from last week are also on the Calendar. I won't repeat my comments from last week for the Old Business and will focus this week primarily on the New Business (after the football game is over).

See below for remarks on Orders #1-27 and other matters from last week.

On the Table #10. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

Manager's Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a requesting that the City Council refile and again refer the Normandy/Twining Zoning Petition to the Planning Board.

Order #28. Refiling of Normandy/Twining Petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinances and the zoning map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.   Mayor Maher

Order #29. That the City Manager work with all relevant City Staff to revise the proposed zoning for the Volpe site to include an option for a 7.5 acre public park as originally planned.   Councillor Carlone

Order #30. That the City Manager confer with the appropriate departments and determine the feasibility of renaming the Area IV Youth Center the "Dr. Robert and Janet Moses Youth Center" in honor of these two great community leaders, and report back to the Council.   Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #32. That the City Manager instruct the City Solicitor to release a legal opinion regarding the discretion of the planning board to deny special permits, even when the special permit criteria have been met, reflecting in particular on the bearing that the case Humble Oil and Refining Company vs. Board of Appeals of Amherst has on discretionary authority of the board.   Councillor Mazen

Order #35. That the City Manager report on the rationale behind why there are so many "No Turn on Red" signs in the city at intersections where residents would otherwise feel safe to turn right on red.?   Councillor Cheung

Order #36. That the City Manager confer with the Mayor and various boards and agencies of the City to confers such a working group [of representative members from the City Council, Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, License Commission, and any other boards charged with enacting Council policy].   Councillor Cheung

Early Marathon Monday - Coming up at the January 29, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

NOTICE: Due to the expected snowstorm this meeting has been postponed
to Thurs, Jan 29, 5:30pm at the Attles Meeting Room (CRLS)

This should be a rollicking meeting (still up at the high school) with plenty of interesting and controversial items on the agenda. Honestly, there are enough significant items to fill the agendas of several meetings. To provide time for a fair discussion of all of them, this would be a good time to use the Charter Right option to spread some of them over the next several weeks. It may also be wise to refer some of them to the appropriate Council subcommittees for more detailed discussion. Here are some of the items that are especially noteworthy together with some brief comments.

Manager's Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an appropriation of $10,000 for the Healthy Aging through Healthy Community Design grant from the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging to the Community Development Grant Fund Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will allow for the Community Development Department to collaborate with the Council on Aging and the Cambridge Public Health Department to ensure that the bicycle network planning process incorporates measures of and actions for mobility and accessibility for the 55+ population on bicycle infrastructure.

Manager's Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the status of the reconstruction plan of Pearl Street.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back on any progress made in acquiring state funding for design and construction of the portion of the Watertown branch B&M Line railroad property to construct the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and on the feasibility of a low-cost, temporary paving solution for the Greenway in order to realize the community benefits while the path awaits permanent construction. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Two of Jan 5, 2015.]

Charter Right #4. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015.]

BicycleThese are some of the bike-related items on the agenda. Manager's Agenda #3 is a bit mysterious to this 55+ daily cyclist since I've always understood the "bicycle infrastructure" to be the street network. There are, unfortunately, some people in the City administration who are convinced that cyclists need to be segregated into separate facilities rather than share the roads with motor vehicles. This is also the central issue with Manager's Agenda #5 and Charter Right #4 which is a proposed City Council Order to stop the City from removing all parking from one side of Pearl Street in order to segregate those pesky cyclists. My sense is that the Order in Charter Right #2 was only delayed as a response to the Pearl Street plan in order to force a discussion. There is, however, a big difference between making use of an abandoned rail line as a bike/pedestrian path and radically changing the way an existing residential street functions.

Expect some serious self-righteous commentary during Public Comment about how the unenlightened residents of Cambridgeport are standing in the way of progress by not bending over and accepting what is being shoved at them.


Manager's Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a communication from Director of Environmental Health Sam Lipson relative to proposed amendments to the Tobacco Ordinance along with new red-lined draft amendments addressing the most recent changes requested by the Council at its meeting of Dec 15, 2014 regarding e-cigarettes being banned in workplaces and hookahs being allowed in restaurants. Also attached is the Appendix A list of parks and plazas (Option B) that was previously sent to the Council.

Unfinished Business #15. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 30, 2014 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.28 entitled "Restrictions on Youth Access and Sale of Tobacco Products and Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Jan 5, 2015.

Not much to say on this other than to observe that the last several City Council meetings have brought out a significant number of people passionately opposed to the banning of smoking in public parks.


Manager's Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-116, regarding a report on Cambridge Youth Programs usage rates and space.

This report reminds me of similar reports back around 2000 that showed less than full utilization of some of our well-intentioned youth programs and facilities.

Manager's Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Joseph Barr as the Director of the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department, effective Mar 2, 2015.

Welcome back, Joseph.

Manager's Agenda #21. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-103, regarding a report on making the Foundry Building available for a major installation of the 2015 Fab Lab Conference.

Manager's Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Disposition Report for the Foundry Building.

The evolving story of "The Gift" continues.

Manager's Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-144, regarding the drafting of a framework for a Community Benefits and Mitigation Plan. [Attachment]

Manager's Agenda #23. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.

Both of these reports have been a long time coming, and the substance of either one of them could dominate an entire City Council meeting. Read the reports and form your own opinions.


Resolution #1. Congratulations to Yoni Appelbaum on being named The Atlantic's politics editor.   Councillor Cheung

Yoni Appelbaum is an incredibly insightful fellow, and The Atlantic chose well in naming him as their politics editor. Perhaps he can exchange notes with Thomas Edsall, a son of Cambridge, who currently writes a weekly New York Times opinion column and who was political editor of the Huffington Post from 2007 to 2009 after working many years as a newspaper journalist.

Resolution #86. Congratulations to Jim Braude on being named the new host of Greater Boston.   Councillor Toomey

Another great choice of our friend and former Cambridge City Councillor Jim Braude.


Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Mayor to reach out to representatives and city officials in Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Everett and Somerville to gauge interest in forming an inter-city committee which would meet three times per year to discuss and develop strategies for common issues that would be best handled regionally with support from the state.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Cheung

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments and elected officials from Somerville to arrange a public meeting of the two cities to discuss regionalism and potential regular scheduling.   Councillor Mazen

I have spoken with several city councillors during this past year about this very idea and I think it's an idea whose time has come, especially in regard to regional housing and transportation planning and economic issues of mutual interest. Somerville has big plans for Union Square and there's a need to expand housing opportunities in the urban core of Greater Boston. Few would disagree about the need for a more coordinated discussion of regional transportation. Some of our elected officials and their counterparts in neighboring cities and towns would be well-suited for this kind of inter-city committee.


Order #6. That the attached amendment to the Municipal Code entitled "Prohibition on the Use of Polystyrene Based Disposable Food Containers," together with the input of the Recycling Advisory Committee, be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a hearing and report.   Councillor Cheung

On balance this is probably a good thing but, as we saw with the discussion of the proposed plastic bag ban, the alternatives are not always so obviously beneficial from an environmental perspective.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to contact the current owners of the Vail Court property and demand that graffiti be removed, exterminators assess the property, and any other maintenance that would improve the appearance and safety of this building be conducted immediately.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Simmons

The Vail Court saga continues. Perhaps the political contributions of the property owners to local City Council campaigns can be redirected toward rodent extermination and graffiti removal. That might be a good step toward clean elections.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to ask all City Departments to have documents and presentations made available to the public and the City Council at least three business days in advance of the scheduled meeting to allow ample time for review.   Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Why stop there? Each City Council committee should have its own web page where information on all matters before the committee is posted so that it's easy to understand all issues that have been decided, are under consideration, or are planned to be taken up by that committee. Instead of City Council personal aides, there should instead be staff charged with gathering, organizing, and posting this information and facilitating the business of the committee. Each Roundtable meeting should also have a page containing all relevant reference material, but meetings should not be postponed simply because of late submissions of reference materials.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members.   Councillor Cheung

I'm sure there will be a number of people speaking during Public Comment in favor of this proposal. I respectfully disagree with that point of view. There are plenty of helpful City staff who are always available to assist the public, but advocacy should be left to residents and their various organizations.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to take the necessary measures to formally designate the 2nd Floor meeting room at the City Hall Annex, located at 344 Broadway, as the Bayard Rustin Meeting Room.   Councillor Simmons

Bayard Rustin was a great man, but it is perhaps advisable to reserve the naming of public meeting rooms for distinguished Cantabrigians.

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to work with applicable boards and commissions to assist them in clarifying yearly goals and initiatives, to provide increased administrative oversight and accountability where necessary, and where possible, discuss ways to increase resident involvement.   Councillor Mazen

I'm not quite sure what the real intention of this Order is. Most if not all of the City's boards and commissions already do set annual goals and objectives. Public input is generally very welcome, but it's not always so easy to know the specifics of what is before a given board - even if they have a posted agenda. It is, however, a lot better than it used to be.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to report to the City Council any existing agreements that may have been signed between the City of Cambridge and Boston 2024, the US Olympic Committee, or any other organizations representing Olympic interests and that the City Manager is requested to bring any proposed agreement regarding the Olympics to the City Council for discussion and debate prior to signing.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Kelley

Perhaps I'm misreading this, but it sure seems as though we're setting Cambridge up to be voice of the Loyal Opposition in all matters relating to the 2024 Olympics bid. Boston employees will be under a gag order and all of the criticism will be routed through voices in Cambridge and Somerville.

Order #17. That the City Council go on record in support of the We the People Act.   Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

It's a sure bet that some people will step up to the microphone in support of this Order. The referenced Act centers on a proposed U.S. Constitutional amendment in response to the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Order #18. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested not to enter into any future contracts to obtain electricity from TransCanada and to investigate the possibility of entering into an agreement to obtain up to 100% renewable power for all municipal electricity needs.   Councillor Carlone

Buy the cheapest electricity regardless of the source. Focus your advocacy on making alternate energy sources more economically competitive rather than just making economically poor choices based on political criteria.

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to work with all relevant City Staff to explore the potential for installing composting facilities inside City Hall and other key municipal buildings.   Councillor Carlone

Perhaps the intention of this Order is to facilitate organics collection at City Hall and other municipal buildings. That's NOT the same thing as installing composting facilities in these buildings which will likely be problematic and ill-advised.


Order #23. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to determine if they can be of further assistance in understanding how the portion of the [Grand Junction Multiuse] path from Binney to the Somerville border can be completed and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

Order #24. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and report back to the City Council with language that could create a Grand Junction Overlay District that would help to create incentives and ensure the completion of the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.   Councillor Toomey

Anything that helps to facilitate the improvement of this corridor to support a multi-use path is worth it - as long as future rail passenger service can still be accommodated. This corridor has great potential for linking Cambridge and MIT with new and existing housing in Somerville and Allston and beyond.


Order #25. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of executing the recommendations of the STEAM Working Group with the appropriate City departments.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Carlone and Councillor McGovern

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee conducted a STEAM Summit on Dec 10, 2014 to present research by the STEAM Working Group and to present the Working Group's recommendations.

I can't speak to the specifics and I'm still skeptical of the focus on creating new agencies and new staff positions to support this, but I do agree with the underlying goals. I would much prefer realigning existing staff in the schools and elsewhere to achieve the goal of matching local residents, especially those who have been traditionally disadvantaged, with job opportunities in fields requiring science, mathematics, and engineering skills.


Order #26. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of creating a survey in collaboration with the Community Development Department and other appropriate departments to gather data on the positive impact of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance on the lives of Cambridge residents and families and to determine the feasibility of hosting a town hall meeting where tenants and families who benefit from the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance can come together to share their experiences and provide valuable feedback on how to perfect the program.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Cheung

Together with the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study and possible revisions to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, we may see a lot of activity this year on the various tools for producing housing and other benefits from the money generated by new development.

Order #27. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of renaming Area 4 "The Port."   Vice Mayor Benzan

There's really no need for a feasibility study for a change like this. Just do it and have future documents reflect the change. It will be a little confusing having one neighborhood called Cambridgeport and another called The Port. Perhaps we should again refer to them as The Upper Port and The Lower Port. There's also the annoying little detail that there hasn't actually been a port in either neighborhood for ages. Perhaps we should also change the name of a part of North Cambridge to The Brickyards in honor of another discontinued use. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Happy New Year!Here are a few items of interest at the first meeting of this brand new municipal election year. Though the Sullivan Chamber in City Hall appears to be fully renovated, this meeting is taking place in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at CRLS.

Reconsideration #1. Reconsideration filed on Dec. 16, 2014 by Councillor Mazen on Part (2) relating to granting special Permits in Section 10.43, remained in committee. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 29, 2014 Part (1). Planning Board Hearing held Nov 18, 2014. Petition expires Feb 10, 2015.

The Teague Petition consisted of three parts - the obvious, the misinterpreted, and the absurd. The obvious part calls for making the expiration dates for zoning petitions consistent between state law and the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance. This first part was passed to a 2nd Reading on Dec 15 and is expected to be ordained shortly. The misinterpreted part is the basis of Mazen's filing for Reconsideration. At issue is the distinction between the phrases "Special permits will normally be granted" vs. "Special permits may be granted". There was a Late Order passed at the Dec 15 meeting asking for further clarification. The Planning Board unanimously recommended leaving the "will normally be granted" language intact and the City Council on Dec 15 voted to leave the matter in committee. Councillor Mazen apparently disagreed and feels that the proposed new language should have been passed to a 2nd Reading. In truth, the Planning Board has always had discretion in the granting of Special Permits and the existing language is perfectly consistent with this. The 3rd part of the Teague Petition that "All permits, including, but not limited to, Building Permits, Special Permits, and Variances shall comply with the Master Plan for the City of Cambridge" was a non-starter for a variety of reasons.

Manager's Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the authorization to borrow an amount not to exceed $39,000,000 for the purpose of refinancing existing General Obligation Bonds to acquire lower interest rates than those currently being paid.

Excerpts: "The purpose (of this Order) is to refinance existing General Obligation Bonds to acquire lower interest rates than those currently being paid."... "While the City received favorable interest rates at the time of the sale of these bonds because of its Triple A rating, current market conditions would allow the City to refund the remainder of the eligible maturities (those with 10 years or longer remaining in principal and interest payments) to realize savings of approximately $190,000 annually through 2028, which equates to $2.4m in gross savings."

Resolution #8. Resolution on the death of George L. Hinds, Sr.   Councillor Toomey
[George was known to many of us as "The Mayor of Fayette Street". Obituary]

Resolution #12. Resolution on the death of Sister Mary Mark Pizzotti, DM.   Mayor Maher
[Sister Mary Mark was Administrator of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility for 42 years. Obituary]

Having lived in Cambridge for only 37 years, I don't always appreciate the passing of significant Cantabrigians. In the case of Sister Mary Mark, I only know of her role at Sancta Maria through the words of others. George Hinds, on the other hand, has been a neighbor of mine for all the years I've lived here. He died on Christmas Day at the age of 85. I knew him first about 30 years ago as that grumpy guy who didn't appreciate when I would sometimes park my old VW Beetle near his house. As the years passed, talking with George became an indispensable part of my walking down Fayette Street, and I always looked forward to talking with him. I will really miss seeing him. George's son and other family members will, no doubt, continue the tradition among the sidewalk ambassadors of Fayette Street.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back on any progress made in acquiring state funding for design and construction of the portion of the Watertown branch B&M Line railroad property to construct the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and on the feasibility of a low-cost, temporary paving solution for the Greenway in order to realize the community benefits while the path awaits permanent construction.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Kelley and Councillor McGovern

I don't believe anyone will object to the intent of this Order. Off-road options for biking and walking, when they become available, are great additions as linear parks and as transportation resources. I don't know that I agree with temporary solutions as they have a way of becoming semi-permanent. There's really no down side for Cambridge or our neighboring towns in getting this done. I only wish we had better inter-governmental mechanisms to make these kinds of things happen with fewer bureaucratic delays.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to report back on Policy Order #5 of May 19, 2014 regarding the feasibility of taking the Vail Court lot by eminent domain for the “public good.”   Vice Mayor Benzan

This blight has existed for ages and it's about time something was done. I don't know what the best use is for this property or whether an eminent domain taking is the best course of action, but there needs to be some pressure applied. When this Order was passed 8 months ago, some explanation was offered by one city councillor who knows the owner and who has used that abandoned property as a parking space for the bus he used during his 2013 campaign, presumably at no cost even though the in-kind value of that parking must now be in the thousands of dollars dating back to Fall 2013. [Correction: Rent has been paid for this parking space. Suffice to say that all elected officials should take care to avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest, including a situation where the City Council threatens an eminent domain taking.] - Robert Winters


PS - It will be interesting to see what the City Council does with the following:

LATE ORDER     Jan 5, 2015
COUNCILLOR TOOMEY
WHEREAS: The reconstruction of Pearl Street and the subsequent removal of a significant amount of parking spaces to create a bike lane has caused much concern and opposition; and
WHEREAS: Cambridge is dedicated to increasing safe biking opportunities and providing means for alternative transportation; and
WHEREAS: Cambridge also must maintain a balance with residents who have a real need for automobiles as well as a place to park them; now therefore be it
RESOLVED: That the City Council go on record opposing the option of removing parking along the length of Pearl Street to create a bike lane; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street.

Comments?


Quick Update on last night's (Jan 5) City Council meeting:

(1) There were many people there for the Public Comment portion of the meeting addressing the proposed changes to the Smoking Ordinance - specifically the prohibition of smoking in public parks and outdoor patios of restaurants. One definitely gets the sense that any support for those proposed prohibitions is quickly going up in smoke.

(2) Discussion of Reconsideration #1 bordered at times on the ridiculous. It seems that the real issue may simply have been the failure to take a vote to close discussion at the previous meeting before disposing of the underlying matter (Teague Petition - Part 1 passed to 2nd Reading, other parts left in committee for further discussion). Reconsideration failed 3-6 with only Councillors Carlone, Cheung, and Mazen in favor and the vote of the previous meeting stands. Late in the meeting Councillor Mazen brought up Part 1 (uniformizing expiration dates for zoning petitions) and it was ordained unanimously as expected.

(3) There was a good discussion between the City Council and representatives of the Cambridge Police Department that covered a number of topics. Vice Mayor Benzan was prominent in that discussion and spoke of his brother being a Cambridge police officer and of Deputy Superintendent Joseph Wilson having previously been his Assistant Scoutmaster. This was definitely one of those "little town within the big city" moments.

(4) There were several Late Orders at the end of the meeting on which some councillors exercised their Charter Right to delay discussion and consideration until the next regular City Council meeting (Jan 29). Perhaps the most significant was a proposed Late Order from Councillor Toomey that the City Council go on record opposing any plans to remove parking along the length of Pearl Street to create a separated bike lane (as opposed to an ordinary bike lane striped on the road surface) and to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. There will, no doubt, be a lot of public comment on this later this month. - RW

FYI - Current Rules and Goals: Cambridge City Council & Cambridge School Committee

City Council Rules 2010-2011 (adopted January 4, 2010)

City Council Goals - FY2010-2011 (approved February 2, 2009)

City Council Committees (for the 2010-2010 term)
Note: The City Council Rules were amended to permit the splitting of the old Health & Environment Committee into the Community Health Committee and the Environment & Sustainability Committee.


School Committee Rules (adopted January 7, 2008)

School Committee Goals (adopted October 7, 2008)


Research Assistants? I don't think so...

May 2, 2006 – The Cambridge City Council voted 8-1 on May 1 in favor of giving themselves personal “research assistants.” Only Councillor Craig Kelley had the fortitude to raise any questions about the proposal. So it appears the proposal will sail through the Budget Hearings with barely a raised eyebrow. While I have raised the issue of the genesis of this proposal, the question of its merits and its implementation have not been addressed here. So, here are some observations, questions, and suggestions for our elected officials, City administration, and residents to consider:

1. There was a time when our elected officials enlisted citizens to assist them in research matters relating to public policy. Cambridge is perhaps the best city in the United States in which to find experts in almost any matter that the City Council (or School Committee) may need to better understand. There is a wealth of evidence over the last 65 years showing how citizens have worked with elected officials in the development of public policy. If the City Council feels burdened by the research needs of its committees, there is an enormous pool of talent available at no cost. Currently, the City Council makes very little use of this very available resource.

2. There was a time when councillors collaborated much more than they currently do in committee work and in the development of policies. A well-functioning City Council committee should delegate responsibilities so that each member masters certain facets of the tasks at hand and shares this knowledge with the rest of the committee. In effect, councillors serve as staff to each other. I would argue that it is better that elected officials educate themselves.

3. Are these jobs going to be publicly posted with a job description? Who will be doing the actual hiring? If Councillor Smith wants to hire Mr. Jones as personal staff, will the mayor have veto power over the hire? Does the Personnel Department have a role to play here or are these to be political hires? None of these details have been discussed publicly and they are important.

4. If these “research assistants” are to be hired, there should be policies and safeguards to ensure that they are not working on behalf of any councillor's political campaign. Otherwise, this proposal will have the effect of using taxpayer dollars to support the political campaigns of incumbent councillors. In fact, maybe it's time to consider a similar disqualification for staff in the Mayor's Office. A founding principle of Plan E government is the elimination of political patronage in favor of responsible, professional government. Some of us still believe in this ideal. At the very least, strong guidelines should be established for what is and is not permissible.

5. The existence of this proposal within the budget of the Mayor's Office is very strange indeed since it involves personnel for councillors, not the mayor. Should we not infer from this that the consensus of the councillors is that the City Council staff is not up to the task? If the job of councillor has changed so much, should there not be some discussion of revamping the Office of the City Council to better match the needs of the councillors? Why are these tasks being outsourced?

6. Some councillors have recently stated that the filing of City Council orders requesting information through the City Manager is not enough and that councillors would be better served by having their own staff to get this information. This strikes me as contrary to the intent of the Plan E Charter which dictates that all matters involving City personnel be directed through the Manager. One can easily imagine a scenario where each councillor has his or her personal staff contact City department heads for information rather than filing an Order as a body to get a common response. If the consensus is that the City Manager is being obstructive or extraordinarily slow in responding, shouldn't the City Council take more forceful action in holding the Manager accountable?

7. If the term “research assistant” is meant to be factual, then perhaps these RAs should be topic-specific so that we can have people who have some background or aptitude for the tasks at hand. If, for example, research in energy-related matters is what is needed, then someone with that knowledge would be ideal. Is any such protocol being discussed to ensure that the councillors and the taxpayers will get the best quality research for their tax dollars? I would hope that matters like scheduling and event planning will be handled by the City Council Office rather than by “research assistants.”

8. Several councillors have complained that e-mail has had a dramatic effect on the responsibilities of a city councillor due to the time consumption associated with responding to these messages. I don't doubt this. However, there are efficiencies that can make such tasks much easier. For example, if each councillor receives 100 e-mail messages on a particular topic, then rather than making 100 shallow replies, I would advise responding to ALL of the issues of substance raised by residents in a single, comprehensive message sent (using blind-carbon-copy) to all of the people who sent messages. Those of us in academics have been doing this for years. It's much more effective to craft comprehensive messages sent to the whole class rather than many nearly identical messages sent to individual students. There are MANY ways to be more effective in e-mail communication. Then again, if individual responses are seen as more valuable in securing potential votes in the next election, that's a choice each councillor must make on his or her own - independent of taxpayer-supported staff.

In summary, I am not questioning whether or not some changes in staffing are warranted. I am, however, asking that any such changes be done in the best interest of taxpayers and that City funds are never used to either directly or indirectly support the reelection efforts of elected officials. - RW, May 3, 2006


Punching Out Your Cake and Having it Too – a chronology of the proposal for personal Council staff
(posted April 28, 2006)

Jan 1998 - The vote for who was to be mayor went on for several weeks as Ken Reeves held out until there were 4 other votes for Katherine Triantafillou, an outcome sincerely supported by at most two councillors (Reeves and Triantafillou). The would-be mayor rounded up her supporters for the coronation. A congratulatory cake was ordered. As the vote occurred and there were momentarily 5 votes on the table for Triantafillou (Born, Davis, Duehay, Reeves, Triantafillou), Councillors Galluccio and Russell changed their votes to Duehay. Councillors Born, Davis, and Duehay then changed their votes to Duehay and Mayor Duehay was elected. Councillor Galluccio was then elected vice-mayor. Meanwhile, in the room next to the Council chamber, Alice Wolf aide and Triantafillou supporter Marjorie Decker exploded in anger and punched out the cake, police were called, and a grudge began that remains to this day.

Feb 1998 - Mayor Duehay made good on the deal by hiring Galluccio campaign worker Terry Smith to work in the Mayor's Office "to assist the mayor and vice mayor". This marked the first time (to my knowledge) that any councillor other than the mayor received personal staff (except for a brief experiment with interns some years earlier). Resentment grew among other councillors about the special treatment one councillor received in exchange for delivering the mayor's job.

1999 - Frank Duehay and Sheila Russell announced they would not seek reelection. Jim Braude, David Maher, and Marjorie Decker were subsequently elected to the City Council as incumbent Katherine Triantafillou was defeated, principally as a result of Marjorie Decker winning her seat.

2000 - After 1½ months without electing a mayor, Anthony Galluccio was able to secure 6 votes to become mayor (Braude, Davis, Galluccio, Maher, Sullivan, Toomey). David Maher was elected vice-mayor. Terry Smith became chief of staff of the Mayor's Office. David Maher did not request any personal staff. Kathy Born suggested during the Budget hearings that the idea of personal staff for councillors be referred to the Government Operations Committee. Ken Reeves said at this time, "I don't believe the vice-mayor needs the extra staffing and not us." Note that this was a reference to the previous administration (Duehay-Galluccio).

Around this time, the Government Operations Committee met to discuss the proposal for personal staff. The estimates given for City Council staff were: (1) $390,250 for a low-level, bare bones proposal; (2) $157,450 for 8 part-time staff with no benefits; (3) $72,300 for one legislative research assistant. Deputy City Manager Rich Rossi said personal staff was tried briefly about 10 years earlier with interns. Michael Sullivan voiced concern about keeping in touch personally with his constituents and wondered how he would find enough things for this person to do. Most of the councillors spoke in support of giving themselves personal staff. Kathy Born said that if she found her job to be too much, she could hire her own staff person, only she would have to pay for it out of after-tax money, unlike an employee of a business. She suggested higher Council pay with the option of paying for a staff person out of this additional pay. The option would remain for a councillor to act as a “full-time councillor” without staff. Jim Braude said that a councillor could lend his or her campaign the money for the staff person.

One week later, the City Manager proposed a 23% pay raise for city councillors and a change in the ordinance to allow for automatic increases so that they would never again have to vote to raise their own pay. The pay raise was approved and the question of personal staff disappeared for the rest of the Council term.

2001 - Kathy Born and Jim Braude chose not to seek reelection. Brian Murphy and Denise Simmons were elected to the City Council.

2002 - Michael Sullivan was elected mayor on Inauguration Day. Henrietta Davis was elected vice-mayor. Unlike the previous term, Henrietta Davis did request and receive personal staff as vice-mayor when Garrett Simonsen, Davis' election campaign manager, was hired to the Mayor's Office staff as her assistant. Indications are that he served more than just the vice-mayor.

2004 - Michael Sullivan was again elected mayor, only this time Marjorie Decker was elected vice-mayor. Garrett Simonsen became chief of staff of the Mayor's Office. Sullivan hired Kristin Franks (who had been Decker's campaign manager) as “assistant to the mayor and vice-mayor” but the indications were that she was working almost exclusively for Decker. By summer, Franks was gone and Nicole Bukowski, another Decker campaign worker, was hired as exclusive staff to Decker. For the remainder of the Council term, Bukowski waited hand and foot on Decker - and resentment among other councillors grew for the remainder of the Council term.

Late 2005 - Craig Kelley was elected to the City Council and incumbent David Maher was defeated. Speculation immediately began about who would be the next mayor. Some councillors reported that a plan was being discussed to give certain councillors personal staff as part of the vote-trading for electing the mayor.

Early 2006 - Ken Reeves was elected mayor and Tim Toomey vice-mayor. In a surprising turn of events, Bukowski continued to serve out of the Mayor's Office as personal staff to Councillor Decker - clearly a part of the deal to make Reeves mayor. Rumors circulated that there was a plan to assign some councillors additional committee chairs as justification for getting personal staff. When the committee chairs were announced, Councillor Decker (who, along with Councillor Galluccio, has maintained the worst record of committee attendance during her time on the Council) was surprisingly given four committees to chair. In contrast, Henrietta Davis (who has always been at or near the top in committee attendance) was given only one. This was seen by some as a way to justify Decker keeping her personal aide in exchange for her vote for mayor.

April 2006 - Ken Reeves submitted a budget for the Mayor's Office that is 54.3% higher than the previous year. The cause for the increase is a proposal for personal staff for all the remaining councillors at a recurring annual cost of about a quarter-million dollars. There was no public indication of any kind that such an extravagant plan was in the works. An order is on the May 1 City Council agenda (after the budget was already submitted on April 24 including the increase) formally calling for the major staff increase. The order is co-sponsored by Reeves, Toomey, Decker, Galluccio, Sullivan, and Davis. It is expected that, like every person hired to date as staff for the vice-mayor (and most of those on the mayor's staff), all of the new “research assistants” will be affiliated with the election campaigns of the officials they will serve. Curiously, these patronage hires will be occurring at a time when there are fewer major issues before the Council and when an unprecedented number of councillors are either serving in other elected positions or seeking election to other positions now or in the near future. - RW, April 28, 2006

April 27, 2006 Cambridge Chronicle story on the Council staff proposal 

April 27, 2006 Cambridge Chronicle story on the submitted FY07 Budget 

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The nine Nazgūl arose as Sauron's most powerful servants in the Second Age of Middle-earth. It is said that three of the Nine were originally "Great Lords" of Nśmenor. They were all powerful mortal Men to whom Sauron each gave nine Rings of Power. These proved to be their undoing:

"Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thralldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron's. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgūl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death" (The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", 289).

The corrupting effect of the rings caused their bodily forms to fade over time until they had become wraiths entirely. Given visible form only through their attire, their original form was completely invisible to mortal eyes. The red reflection in their eyes could be plainly distinguished even in daylight, and in a rage they appeared in a hellish fire. They had many weapons, which included long swords of steel and flame, daggers with magical venomous properties and black maces of great strength.