(adopted Jan 7, 2014, amended Feb 10, 2014 to reflect new Council committees)

These rules, after adoption by the City Council, shall be published and made available to the public.

Rule 1. At all meetings of the City Council five (5) Councillors shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.


Rule 2. On the first Monday of January, following the regular municipal election, the City Council shall by a majority vote of all the members elected, elect a mayor from its own members who shall preside at all meetings of the City Council and perform such other duties as are prescribed in section one hundred (100) of Chapter 43 of the General Laws, and any acts in amendment thereof or supplementary thereto. The City Council shall, in like manner, elect a Vice-Chairman who shall also be called Vice-Mayor.

Rule 3. The Mayor shall take the chair at the hour to which the City Council has adjourned and call the members to order. In the absence of the Mayor, the Vice- Chairman of the City Council shall preside and, in the absence of both, a temporary chair shall be chosen, who shall serve during the absence of both Mayor and Vice-Chair.

Rule 4. The Mayor shall preserve decorum and order, and may speak to points of order, in preference to other members. The Mayor shall decide all questions of order, subject to an appeal to the City Council, regularly seconded. If the ruling of the Chair is questioned, no other business shall be in order until the question on the appeal shall have been decided; the question shall be put as follows: “Shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the City Council?” The vote shall be by roll call, and it shall be decided in the affirmative unless a majority of the votes are to the contrary.

Rule 5. The Mayor shall declare all votes. If any member doubts the vote, the chair without further debate upon the question, shall require the members voting in the affirmative and negative, respectively, to be counted; the Mayor shall declare the results, but no such declaration shall be made unless a quorum of the City Council has voted.

Rule 6. All final votes of the City Council on questions involving the expenditure of fifty dollars or more, or upon the request of any member, any vote of the City Council shall be by yeas and nays and shall be entered on the records.

Rule 7. All petitions, memorials, communications or any matter before the City Council may be referred as follows:

1. To standing committee of the City Council.

2. To a consent agenda.

3. To a special committee of the City Council.

4. To the City Manager.

5. To any department or department head or any person, group or organization to whom referral is permitted, authorized or allowed under the provisions of the Plan E Charter and under applicable provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Any member offering a motion, order or resolution which is referred to a committee shall be given a hearing on the same by the committee before a report is made thereon, provided he so requests at the time of the communication, or before final action by the committee.

Rule 8. The chair shall put all questions in the order in which they are moved, unless the subsequent motion be previous in its nature, except that in naming sums and fixing times, the largest sum and the longest time shall be first put. After a motion has been put by the chairman, it shall not be withdrawn except by unanimous consent.

Rule 9. When a question is under debate the chair shall receive no motion, but

To Adjourn.

To Lay on the Table.

To Postpone to a certain day.

For the Previous Question.

To Refer.

To Amend.

To Postpone indefinitely.

These motions shall have precedence in the above order. A motion to adjourn shall be in order at any time except upon immediate repetition. A motion to adjourn, to lay on the table, to take from the table, or for the previous question shall be decided without debate.

Rule 10. The previous question shall be put in the following form: “Shall the main question be put?” and all further amendments or debates of the main question shall be suspended until the previous question is decided.

Rule 11. When two or more members ask to be recognized at once, the chair shall name the member who is entitled to the floor.


Rule 12. Every member, when about to speak shall respectfully address the Chair, and wait to be recognized. The member shall confine his/her remarks to the question under debate and avoid personalities.

Rule 13. No member speaking shall be interrupted by another except to make a point of order, request an explanation, or request a point of personal privilege.

Rule 14. No member shall vote on any question, or serve on any committee, where his private interest is immediately concerned distinct from that of the public. The City Council shall by ordinance establish and implement a code of ethics for its members and for all city employees.

Rule 15. When a question is put, every member present shall vote unless the City Council for special reasons excuses him. A vote of “Present” shall be accepted by the Chair and so recorded. Application to be excused from voting must be made before the vote of the City Council has been decided. Such application shall be accompanied by a brief statement of the reasons and shall be decided without debate.

Rule 16. A question having been taken, it shall not be in order for any member to move a reconsideration thereof at the same meeting. A motion to reconsider may be made at the next meeting, provided written notice of such motion has been filed with the City Clerk within thirty-six hours of the day of the vote, Saturdays and Sundays to be excluded in the computation of the thirty-six hours. No more than one motion for reconsideration of any vote shall be entertained. Any member may move reconsideration; if reconsideration is not moved prior to the adjournment of the next regular or special meeting called for that particular purpose, the action taken by the City Council stands.


Rule 17A. Special Events Presentations.
Commencing at 5:00pm before any regular meetings there may be a SPECIAL EVENTS PRESENTATION. At this time special events will be presented and will be broadcast on cable television. Special Events Presentations will be scheduled through the Mayor’s Office. The Special Events Presentations will conclude at 5:30pm. No quorum of the City Council is required.

Rule 17B. Meetings.
All regular meetings of the City Council shall be held in the Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, or, if agreed to by a majority of the City Council, at any other suitable public building within the City of Cambridge, at 5:30 pm on Monday of each week, from the first Monday in January to and including the last Monday in June, and from the second Monday in September to and including the last Monday in December.

When a meeting day falls on a holiday, the succeeding Monday shall be the meeting. The City Council may at any meeting, by a majority vote, decide to discontinue any future meeting previously scheduled. All City Council meetings shall end no later than 12:00 midnight.


Rule 18. The Mayor, or the Vice-Chairman of the City Council, or any four members thereof, may at any time call a special meeting by causing written notices, stating the time of holding such meeting and signed by the person calling the same, to be delivered in hand to each member of the City Council, or left at his usual dwelling place, at least forty-eight hours notice to all members and the public prior to each meeting. (Chapter 303 of the Acts of 1975)


Rule 19. Any ordinance, order or resolution may be passed through all its stages of legislation at one session, provided that no member of the City Council objects thereto; but if any member of the City Council objects, the measure shall be postponed for that meeting. (Chapter 43, Section 22 of the General Laws.)

Any member may move the item, which has been subject to the Charter Right. If no action is taken at the next regular meeting by any member, then the item will be removed from the City Council Calendar.

Upon the objection of one Councillor, no action may be taken on any item not on the Calendar of the day and shall not be acted upon until the next regular meeting.

Rule 20. All matter of whatever description which require action by the City Council at its meeting shall be presented to the City Clerk by 5:00pm on the Thursday preceding the regular meeting, except for orders and resolutions which shall be presented to the City Clerk by 3:00pm. During a week in which a legal holiday falls on a Friday, said matters shall be presented to the City Clerk by 5:00pm on the Wednesday preceding the regular meeting except orders and resolutions which shall be presented to the City Clerk by 3:00pm. Communications submitted later will be held over for the next regular meeting, except that where the City Manager believes that emergency or exigent circumstances require him to present to the City Council a matter which was not presented to the City Clerk by 5:00pm on Thursday, the City Manager may present such matters to the City Council at its meeting in writing as part of a Supplemental Agenda of the City Manager.

Rule 21. The City Clerk shall prepare the minutes of the previous regular and/or special meetings and a calendar of all matters to come before the City Council at each meeting in accordance with the established order of business and shall deliver to the residence of each Councillor a copy of the same not later than twenty-four hours prior to said meeting. On all matters on which there has been a roll-call vote, the minutes shall reflect the votes of the individual members.

Rule 22. The City Clerk is authorized by these rules to order and publish notice of hearings on petitions presented to him regarding public hearings before the Council.


Rule 23A. At every regular meeting of this City Council, except for roundtable/working meetings, the order of business shall be as follows:

1. Reading of the record, if requested by the City Council.

2. Motions for Reconsideration

3. Manager’s Consent Agenda

4. Communications from the City Manager (Manager’s non-Consent Agenda)

5. Unfinished business from preceding meetings

a. Charter Rights

b. On the Table

c. Unfinished Business

6. Consent Applications for permits or petitions which require City Council approval or referral.

7. Consent Communications (petitions, memorials and other communications from citizens, employees and others, which do not require action by the City Council.

8. Consent Orders and Resolutions.

a. Resolutions

b. Orders and Resolutions relating to policy analysis or development

9. Committee Reports

10. Communications and Reports from City Officers

11. Non-Consent Communications (applications, petitions, memorials and other communications removed from the Applications and Petitions or the Consent Communication Agenda by request of a member of the City Council.

12. Resolutions and orders which have been removed from the Consent Resolution and the Consent Order and Resolution Relating to Policy agendas by request of a member of the City Council. Requests for information of limited public interest and for repair, replacement, attention or implementation which do not require a change in current practice shall not be placed on the agenda but shall be referred directly to the City Manager by the member making the request.

Public hearings shall be scheduled at the request of the City Council but not on the night of a regular business meeting.

Rule 23B. Six to eight meetings per year shall be roundtable/working meetings. The date for a particular roundtable shall be set by majority vote at a prior regular business meeting or as a special meeting. At a roundtable meeting, no votes shall be taken except upon a motion to adjourn. The meeting shall not be broadcast on cable television. The Mayor shall determine the agenda for the roundtable meeting in consultation with the City Manager and other members of the City Council.

Rule 23C. Public Comment.

1. Regular business meetings

a. Under the provisions of Chapter 43, Section 98 of the General Laws, Tercentenary Edition, citizens and employees of the city shall have reasonable opportunity to be heard at any meeting of the City Council in regard to any matter considered thereat. Opportunities for citizens and employees to be heard at all regular meetings, except for working/roundtable meetings, shall be provided directly after the reading of the record, if requested by the City Council (submission of the record of the previous meeting). Members of the public may comment upon items in the following categories of business: Motions for reconsideration, City Manager’s consent agenda, Unfinished business from preceding meetings, Applications and petitions requiring approval or referral by the City Council, Consent resolutions. Consent resolutions and orders relating to policy analysis or development, Committee reports and Communications and reports from other city officers. Each speaker shall limit his or her comments to no more than three minutes.

b. Procedure: An individual may sign up to speak before the City Council via telephone to the City Council office on Mondays from 9:00am to 3:00pm, or in person from 5:00pm to 6:00pm via a sign-up sheet available in the Sullivan Chamber. The individual must indicate on the sign up sheet which item(s) he or she is planning to address.

2. Regular roundtable/working meetings.

Public comment shall not take place at working/roundtable meetings of the City Council, where no matter being discussed may be finally considered, in that no votes may be taken. Written comments will be accepted and made part of the record of the meeting. The opportunity for the public to make oral comments on items discussed at working/roundtable meetings shall be at the regular meeting at which the item may be considered for action by the City Council.

Rule 23D. Each consent agenda is voted on in its entirety, with no discussion. By request of a single City Councillor, item(s) may be removed for separate vote. Upon such request, the item will be moved to the appropriate section of the agenda. Placement of items on the City Manager’s Consent Agenda shall be determined by the City Manager. Placement of items on the Communications Consent Agenda shall be at the discretion of the City Clerk.

Rule 23E. The City Clerk shall include the written statement of the mission and goals or priorities of the City Council and the City Manager with the materials prepared for the agenda of the City Council for its weekly meeting.

Rule 24. The seats of the members of the City Council shall be determined by the City Clerk in consultation with the members; no member shall change his seat but by permission of the Chair.


Rule 25. All communications, petitions, or resolutions addressed to the City Council, which require action by the City Council at its meeting shall be filed with the City Clerk. The City Clerk shall place all new communications on the agenda for the next regular City Council meeting. Upon receipt of a communication that is a substantially unchanged copy of a previously submitted communication, the City Clerk shall not place the communication on the agenda and shall transmit said communication to the Mayor. Any communication, petition, or resolution that does not meet the agenda deadline specified in Rule Twenty shall be held over for the subsequent City Council agenda unless it is of an emergency nature.

Rule 26. The Mayor shall appoint the standing committees of the City Council. The Mayor shall appoint a chair for each committee and may at his or her discretion appoint co-chairs for the committees that consist of at least five members. The Mayor may appoint additional members to committees designated as three-member committees in the Rules but shall not appoint fewer than five members to committees designated in the Rules as five member committees. The clerk or his/her designee shall staff each committee and where deemed appropriate, the chair may request additional staff help through the City Manager.

Each committee shall meet regularly to review matters referred to it by the City Council or to take up other matters within its domain. To the extent possible, matters of policy shall be referred to the appropriate committee, so that careful study and consideration can be given to the subject matter. Where appropriate, the committee shall work with other committees of the City Council to assure the coordination of related aspects within the purview of those committees. The committee shall make policy and other recommendations to the City Council as a whole for discussion, consideration and adoption. The committee may monitor implementation of City Council policies related to the subject matter within its purview as authorized by the City Council. If so authorized by the City Council, the committee may represent policy interests related to its subject matter at committees of the General Court of Massachusetts.

It is the goal of the City Council to involve citizens actively in the work of city government through these committees. All committees shall work with community and neighborhood groups and committees on issues that relate to these groups’ mandates and interests. The committee staff shall keep lists of interested parties and shall keep citizens informed of the meetings and deliberations of the committees.

The standing committees of the City Council shall be as follows:

ORDINANCE COMMITTEE – A committee of the whole consisting of the mayor and eight City Councillors – the quorum shall be three members.


- To consider the merit of any ordinance presented to the City Council and to consider the form and legality thereof;

- To consider all legal matters for which no other provision is made; and

- To represent general interests of the city before committees of the General Court when so authorized by a vote of the City Council.

FINANCE COMMITTEE – A committee of the whole consisting of the mayor and eight City Councillors – the quorum shall be three members.


- To consider all matters relating to the financial interests of the city, including the city budget, sources of city revenue, appropriations and loans, and city bonding capacity;

- To work with the City Manager and other officers of the city for the financial benefit the city; and

- To work with citizen groups and committees that might be formed from time to time to consider the financial health of the city.

GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS, RULES AND CLAIMS COMMITTEE – A committee of five City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To consider matters relating to the effective delivery of city services, the functions and operation of city government and city departments; and to consider the rules of the City Council and its committees and to recommend amendments and changes thereto;

- To consider matters relating to the hiring and evaluation of employees who report to the City Council;

- To consider claims that have been filed against the city.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND UNIVERSITY RELATIONS COMMITTEE – A committee of five City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To consider all issues regarding the relationship between the city, educational institutions, and other partners within the city, to develop policies and programs that will enhance economic development in the city and expand employment opportunities for Cambridge residents;

- To develop policies that will facilitate the regular and timely exchange of information between institutions, partners in the community, and the city administration and City Council, and monitor implementation;

- To review and evaluate agreements between the city and institutions for payments made by institutions in lieu of property taxes, develop policies to ensure that the agreements are fair and equitable, and monitor implementation;

- To monitor and improve existing employment programs.

HOUSING COMMITTEE – A committee of five City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To develop policies for the maintenance and development of housing, with an emphasis on the needs of low income and working people;

- To coordinate with city and other agencies as necessary toward this goal;

- To monitor implementation.

CIVIC UNITY COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To promote civic unity;

- To consider matters relating to the civil rights, human rights, race and class relations and other aspects of civic unity in the City of Cambridge;

- To work with city and other agencies that deal with these issues;

- To respond to incidents or concerns that are brought to the attention of the City Council relating to civil and human rights, race and class relations and other aspects of civic unity and to bring in the appropriate agencies, departments or legal services to assist in responding to such incidents; and

- To develop needed policies and legislation in this area.

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To consider and monitor matters relating to the health of the citizens of Cambridge and to improve city policies relating to health programs;

- To consider matters relating to the physical environment of the city including without limitation issues relating to air and water quality, solid and hazardous waste, visual quality and the environmental impact of development and the sustainability of our physical environment.

HUMAN SERVICES AND VETERANS COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To develop and support policies assuring a broad human service delivery system to be provided by the city, other levels of government, and non-profit and private agencies for children, youth, families, single adults and senior citizens of all backgrounds;

- To study policies, overall planning, and the delivery of human services to Cambridge people;

- To make recommendations to the City Council to improve the scope and quality of these services and to locate new sources of funding;

- To consider all matters affecting veteran services and benefits of the City.

NEIGHBORHOOD AND LONG TERM PLANNING, PUBLIC FACILITIES, ART AND CELEBRATIONS COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To enhance the quality of life in Cambridge as it relates to the livability of neighborhoods, public art and art projects, and public celebrations;

- To consider all matters relating to land use planning, sustainability, open space, public facilities and public buildings, industrial and commercial development, especially as they relate to linkage and neighborhood protection, and other long range planning;

- To consider matters related to the appearance of squares and neighborhoods of the city and their upkeep, and public planting.

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To consider all matter affecting the public safety of Cambridge citizens; and

- To review matters relating to the performance, organization, and effectiveness of the police and fire departments, the Inspectional Services Department as it relates to public safety issues, and the Police Review Advisory Board.

TRANSPORTATION AND PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE – A committee of four City Councillors – the quorum shall be two members.


- To consider and recommend to the City Council policies on matters affecting transportation, traffic and parking;

- To monitor transportation proposals and services of all kinds which affect Cambridge;

- To develop policies which promote a multi-model and environmentally friendly traffic and transportation program which will balance the needs of residents and employees at a minimal cost to the environment.

- To consider issues relating to cable television, telecommunications, and public utilities and consumer protection issues related therein.

Rule 27. Every committee of the City Council to which any subject may be referred shall report on the subject within a reasonable time from the time of referral. In the case that the chairman of any committee shall fail for thirty (30) days from the time any subject has been referred to it to call a meeting of the committee, a majority of the committee may call a meeting of said committee. Notice of all committee meetings must be given at least forty-eight (48) hours before the time of the meeting.
Note: An amendment to this rule is now On The Table pending final adoption.

Rule 28. Minutes shall be kept of all committee proceedings. All minutes, reports, and papers shall be submitted to the City Council by the clerk of Committees at the request of the chairman or a majority of the committee thereof. Recommendations of each committee shall be made to the City Council for consideration and adoption.

Rule 29. The Councillor first named thereto shall be the chair of any committee of which he/she is a member, and in case of his/her resignation or inability to serve, another member of the committee shall be named by the Mayor.


Rule 30. No person will be admitted within the rail in the Sullivan Chamber or in Members’ Lobby connected with said chamber at any meeting of the City Council except upon permission of the Mayor.


Rule 31A. Public hearings may be requested for matters of public interest or of legislative requirement. Public hearings shall not be held during regular business meetings of the City Council except in an emergency. The City Council shall refer such requests to a committee of the City Council. If the City Council deems it advisable, it may direct that the hearing be televised.

Rule 31B. The time devoted to public hearings shall not be more than two (2) hours at any one sitting. Any hearing not completed within the specified time may be continued to another meeting.

Any individual appearing before the City Council at a public hearing and claiming to represent another as agent or otherwise in the matter of being heard shall file with the City Council a written authorization signed by the individual, organization or corporation whose interests such individual represents.

There shall be a five (5) minute time limit for each speaker to express her or his views on the matter being heard by the City Council. Speakers will be required to address themselves solely to the issue, which is before the City Council for discussion and shall not engage in personal or rude remarks.

In all hearings before the City Council, the case of the petitioner shall be submitted first, except in matters affecting acceptance of highways or taking by right of eminent domain.


Rule 32. All by-laws passed by the City Council shall be termed ordinances, and the enacting style shall be “Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Cambridge.” In all votes by which the City Council expresses anything by order or command the form of expression shall by “Ordered,” and in all votes by which the City Council expresses opinions, principles, facts or purposes, the form shall be “Resolved.”

Rule 33. The City Clerk shall determine the newspaper of the city in which shall be published any loan order or any ordinance and said publication shall be made in each newspaper in regular order, beginning with the oldest publication.

Rule 34. Every ordinance and every order, resolution or vote shall after its passage remain in the possession of the City Clerk for thirty-six (36) hours after the day of the meeting for the purpose of giving any Councillor an opportunity to file notice of his intention to move reconsideration.


Rule 35A. Any of the foregoing rules with the exception of Rule 19 may be suspended at any meeting by a two-thirds yea and nay vote of the entire membership of the City Council, provided that suspension of the rules to take up an item of business out of order may be moved only one time per meeting by each member. This limitation does not apply to motions to suspend the rules to move reconsideration hoping the same does not prevail. A roll call vote for suspension of the rules to consider late policy orders, separate from any vote for suspension of the rules to consider late ceremonial resolutions, shall be required to allow consideration of policy orders at the end of the regular business meeting, after the regular order of business has been concluded.

Rule 35B. No amendments or additions to the rules may be enacted until at least seven days have elapsed from the date of the submission of the proposed changes or additions and require a majority vote of the entire membership of the City Council.


Rule 36. The City Council shall be governed by “Robert’s Rules of Order” in all questions of parliamentary practice not provided for by special rules of order.


Rule 37.

1. No one shall delay or interrupt the proceedings, or refuse to obey the orders of the presiding officer.

2. All persons shall refrain from any private conversation, which would interfere with the proper conduct of the meeting or hearing.

3. All persons should refrain from smoking, drinking or eating in the Sullivan Chamber.

4. Poster or placards must remain outside the Sullivan Chamber.

5. People are admitted to the Sullivan Chamber up to the fire safety capacity of the room which includes the fourth floor balcony. Overflow crowds may listen to the proceedings on loud speakers and television provided in the hallway.

6. All persons shall confine their remarks to the question under debate and avoid personalities.

7. While in the Sullivan Chamber, all persons with cell phones, pagers or other devices emitting audible signals shall either set the device to a non-audible signal mode or turn off the device.


Rule 38. The City Council’s travel and incidental expenses thereto shall be approved by five members of the City Council through the budget process. All individual expenses will be substantiated by receipts and requests for payments will be approved by the City Auditor prior to reimbursement. The City Auditor shall be required to keep copies of Travel Expense Reports for all City Council travel expenditures reimbursed by the City and make the same available on request to all interested persons. The City Council may adopt a Travel Policy consistent with this rule to specify acceptable travel arrangements and limitations on reimbursable expenses.