Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 30, 2012

Budget Season – April 30, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Comcast — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:59 pm

Budget Season – April 30, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

The centerpiece of tonight’s meeting is the FY2013 Budget. The Budget Hearings of the Finance Committee will commence this week. See schedule below.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board petition to amend the Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge for an area along North Massachusetts Avenue.

From the report: "The petition amends the Zoning Map by changing the zoning of an area in the vicinity of Trolley Square and Linear Park from Business A-2 to Residence C-2B. This will allow a similar density to the current Business A-2 zoning district, but is limited to residential uses and provides increased setback and open space standards. The proposed map change is complementary to the proposed zoning text changes to the Mass. Ave. Overlay District previously submitted to the Council."

The meatiest items on the agenda are the annual Big Capital items to be financed by bonds. These are always introduced around the time of the submission of the annual budget. Here are this year’s Big Ticket items:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,100,000 to provide funds for the replacement of the slate roof on City Hall and additional funds for the replacement of the roofs on the Ryan Garage and Simard Buildings at Public Works.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $5,000,000 to provide funds for improvements to the Kendall Square area including Main Street between Broadway and Ames Street including the reconstruction of streets and sidewalks and the installation of new pedestrian-scale public lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,245,000 to provide funds for the acquisition of a ladder truck and pumper to replace vehicles that have been in service since 1994 and 1991, respectively.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,540,000 to provide funds for the design, regrade, drainage, and installation of new synthetic field surfaces on the soccer fields at Danehy Park.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $7,557,670 to provide funds for construction of sewer separation, stormwater management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife watershed.

The central item on tonight’s agenda is the Budget Overview (672 KB PDF). It is always informative and usually very responsive to most of the concerns expressed by councillors during the months leading up to the submission of the budget. The Manager’s presentation is invariable followed by well-deserved praise from most of the councillors. Indeed, their jobs are made so much easier because of the efforts of the City Manager’s Office and the Finance Department to plan and provide adequate funding for all the services and programs that Cambridge provides. [Download the entire FY2013 Budget Book (18.2MB PDF)]

Unfinished Business #6. That the FY2013 City Budget be referred to the Finance Committee, with the exception that the Budget Overview be postponed to … the Apr 30, 2012 City Council meeting … at which time the City Manager will give an overview of the 2013 City Budget….

Then there’s this:

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report to the City Council on appropriate regulation of satellite dishes, possibly through an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance.   Mayor Davis

I don’t suppose anyone likes the idea of satellite dishes decorating the exterior of many residential buildings in Cambridge, but this is the consequence of the predatory pricing of Comcast’s Evil Empire. If the City Council acts in such a way as to make it difficult to find an affordable alternative to the Evil Empire, then they have indeed gone over to The Dark Side. – Robert Winters

Comments?


Schedule of Budget Hearings:

Wed, May 2

9:00am   The City Council’s Finance Committee will conduct a public hearing on the FY2013 City Budget. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mayor’s Office
Executive
City Council
City Clerk
Law
Finance Admin.
Budget
Personnel
Assessing
Purchasing
Auditing
Treasury/Revenue
Information Technology
Employee Benefits
General Services
Election Commission
Public Celebrations
Reserve
License Commission
Animal Commission
Fire Department
Police Department
Traffic, Parking & Transportation
Inspectional Services
Weights & Measures
Electrical
Emergency Communications
Cable TV

Wed, May 9

9:00am   The City Council’s Finance Committee will conduct a public hearing on the FY2013 City Budget. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Public Works
Cambridge Health Alliance
Water
Community Development
Historical Commission
Conservation Commission
Peace Commission
Police Review & Advisory Board
Debt Service
Library
Human Services
Women’s Commission
Human Rights Commission
Veterans
MWRA
Cherry Sheet
Summaries Section
Revenue Section
Public Investment

Date changes for individual departments may occur.

Wed, May 16

6:00pm   The City Council’s Finance Committee will conduct a public hearing on the FY2013 School Department Budget. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012 Cambridge City Council Meeting Highlights – featuring the Proposed FY2013 Budget

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Comcast — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:48 pm

April 23, 2012 Cambridge City Council Meeting Highlights – featuring the Proposed FY2013 Budget

The FY2013 Budget for the City of Cambridge will be submitted this Monday, April 23 to the City Council. Here’s a table of the bottom line for all of the City Departments for FY2013 as well as FY2005 and FY2012 for comparison:

City of Cambridge FY2013 Budget

GENERAL GOVERNMENT FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
Mayor 430,035 587,235 554,040 -5.7 28.8
Executive 1,353,140 1,999,890 2,068,675 3.4 52.9
City Council 975,570 1,602,960 1,642,165 2.4 68.3
City Clerk 720,925 964,540 1,067,130 10.6 48.0
Law 1,780,975 2,112,790 2,061,495 -2.4 15.8
Finance 8,837,560 12,046,005 12,350,575 2.5 39.8
Employee Benefits 20,499,920 30,922,965 31,796,130 2.8 55.1
General Services 984,345 739,215 726,475 -1.7 -26.2
Election 756,540 1,062,480 1,004,285 -5.5 32.7
Public Celebrations 671,505 791,445 799,370 1.0 19.0
Reserve 37,500 37,500 37,500 0.0 0.0
TOTAL $37,048,015 $52,867,025 $54,107,840 2.3 46.0
           
PUBLIC SAFETY FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
Animal Commission 228,870 288,660 298,585 3.4 30.5
Fire 28,891,840 39,055,065 40,111,145 2.7 38.8
Police 31,515,220 43,496,275 45,643,095 4.9 44.8
Traffic, Parking & Transportation 8,175,095 10,294,470 10,551,435 2.5 29.1
Police Review & Advisory Board 77,210 103,745 70,730 -31.8 -8.4
Inspectional Services 2,261,215 2,992,440 3,115,045 4.1 37.8
License 726,735 931,910 986,140 5.8 35.7
Weights & Measures 98,910 130,025 134,325 3.3 35.8
Electrical 2,239,640 2,773,865 2,792,005 0.7 24.7
Emergency Management 137,820 0 0 -100.0
Emergency Communications 3,097,485 4,085,420 4,242,970 3.9 37.0
TOTAL $77,450,040 $104,151,875 $107,945,475 3.6 39.4
           
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENT FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
Public Works 23,648,125 30,397,855 31,945,265 5.1 35.1
Community Development 4,472,620 5,283,620 5,482,210 3.8 22.6
Historical Commission 457,580 571,470 587,025 2.7 28.3
Conservation Commission 89,760 100,305 101,925 1.6 13.6
Peace Commission 76,215 119,590 139,595 16.7 83.2
Cable T.V. 999,500 1,402,505 1,436,360 2.4 43.7
Debt Service 23,917,070 44,594,830 47,526,975 6.6 98.7
TOTAL $53,660,870 $82,470,175 $87,219,355 5.8 62.5
           
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENT FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
Library 5,461,430 8,398,455 8,710,520 3.7 59.5
Human Services 14,581,590 21,227,585 22,480,760 5.9 54.2
Women’s Commission 155,860 217,720 225,425 3.5 44.6
Human Rights Commission 158,730 222,615 220,160 -1.1 38.7
Veterans 510,885 1,033,660 981,165 -5.1 92.1
TOTAL $20,868,495 $31,100,035 $32,618,030 4.9 56.3
           
CITY TOTAL $189,027,420 $270,589,110 $281,890,700 4.2 49.1
           
EDUCATION FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL) 122,053,195 140,719,260 144,987,705 3.0 18.8
           
INTERGOVERNMENTAL FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
MWRA 16,177,455 21,699,800 21,006,055 -3.2 29.8
Cherry Sheet Assessments 11,569,960 18,285,305 19,700,025 7.7 70.3
Cambridge Health Alliance 6,500,000 6,000,000 6,500,000 8.3 0.0
TOTAL 34,247,415 45,985,105 47,206,080 2.7 37.8
           
GRAND TOTALS $345,328,030 $457,293,475 $474,084,485 3.7 37.3
         
FY05 submitted FY12 submitted FY13 submitted 1 yr % change 8 yr % change
WATER $17,098,120 $14,902,620 $14,144,080 -5.1 -17.3
PUBLIC INVESTMENT $8,834,255 $11,613,225 $21,277,065 83.2 140.8

PDF of this Chart    Open Chart on separate page

Note 1: There’s nothing special about FY2005 for making comparisions. That’s just the earliest year with available online budget summaries.

Note 2: Don’t jump to conclusions about the apparent jump in budget for the Peace Commission or the apparent drop in budget for the Police Review Advisory Board. They now share an Executive Director, so the changes are most likely related to which budget is covering that salary.


The proposed FY2013 Budget is City Manager’s Agenda #1. There are a few other items on the agenda as well. For example:

City Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Police Review & Advisory Board for a term of five years, effective Apr 17, 2012:
Ann Coyne,
Laurance Kimbrough,
Lucy Murray-Brown

City Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Board of Zoning Appeals effective Apr 18, 2012:
Lindsey Thorne-Bingham (Full Member, 5-year term);  Janet Green (Associate Member, 2-year term)
Andrea Hickey (Associate Member, 2-year term);  Kevin McAvey (Associate Member, 2-year term)

City Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Human Rights Commissioner for three year terms effective Apr 18, 2012:
Brendan St. Amant,
Adrian Velazquez

It’s apparently catch-up time for appointments to City boards and commissions.

City Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $11,917,462 from Free Cash to the General Fund Law Department Travel and Training (Judgment and Damages) account.

This is the formal balancing of the books to account for the payment out of free cash to cover the legal settlement costs relating to the unfortunate outcome of the lawsuits of Monteiro, Wong, and Stamper. Hopefully we’ll not see any other opportunistic lawsuits like these any time soon.

Resolution #11. Resolution on the death of Timothy J. Decker.   Vice Mayor Simmons, Councillor Maher, Councillor Cheung, Mayor Davis, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Reeves, Councillor Toomey and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Sincere condolences to Marjorie Decker on the loss of her father.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the feasibility of converting portions of the 4th floor of City Hall, or some other under-utilized building space already owned by the City, into office space for the eight members of the City Council who do not currently have office space within City Hall.   Vice Mayor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

This unnecessary Order will likely be approved on a unanimous or near-unanimous vote. It should be noted that during course of the last decade or so, city councillors were granted exclusive parking spaces behind City Hall (usually vacant), their own personal assistants (primarily campaign workers), and magnificent salary increases. The job description remains the same as it was in 1941. Note that the City Council budget has also increased 68% in 8 years. This Order rather absurdly asserts that city councillors lack sufficient space in City Hall. This doesn’t pass the sniff test.

Order #6. That the matter of Reconsideration in Rule Sixteen of the City Council Rules be referred to the Government Operations and Rules Committee for review.   Councillor Maher

This is a good idea, especially since at least one councillor has chosen to file Reconsideration purely to delay matters that have been overwhelmingly supported. Some councillors appear to have never been acquainted with Robert’s Rules or Order or even the City Council’s own adopted rules. This is good for occasional comedy, but not so great for efficient meetings.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine if Cambridge can take similar steps towards being re-certified to regulate basic cable costs in the City of Cambridge and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

I won’t hold my breath expecting anything to come of this. The Evil Empire of Comcast shall not yield. Besides, it’s not the "basic cable" costs that are the big problem with Comcast. It’s the fact that all the other cable packages are absurdly overpriced and the City is not legally permitted to negotiate any of those rates or selections. That’s why I dumped Comcast and use a roof antenna. – Robert Winters

January 29, 2011

Jan 31, 2011 City Council Agenda – The Joy of Zoning, The Agony of Street Cleaning, and The Evil Empire

Filed under: City Council,Comcast — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:58 pm

Jan 31, 2011 City Council Agenda – The Joy of Zoning, The Agony of Street Cleaning, and The Evil Empire

Coming up this Monday are the following items of interest (or objects of derision, depending on your point of view):

Zoning Petitions – We have one new one from Novartis and two old ones to be re-filed.

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from Chris Klee, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company, requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map to allow for the creation of a new Special District 15 along a portion of Massachusetts Avenue between Albany Street and Windsor Street opposite the location of the Novartis main campus at the former Necco Building.

This petition has been anticipated for several months. Novartis wants to expand its presence on Mass. Ave. near MIT and consolidate its Cambridge operations into this area. Everybody loves Novartis, but will the City Council gladly accept the proposal to allow building heights up to 140 feet by Special Permit? That’s perhaps twice the height of anything there now and more like what might be seen in Kendall Square. The situation now with this City Council and zoning petitions from major players is that approval is almost guaranteed and the only issue is what "community benefits" can be extracted from the petitioner. I hope they do better with this one.

Order #8. That the City Council re-file the Chestnut Hill Reality zoning petition.   Mayor Maher and Councillor Seidel

Order #12. That the City Council re-file the petition by William H. Fox et al to amend the zoning in the area of Cottage Park Avenue on Feb 17, 2011 and refer it to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Seidel

The first of these had its Ordinance Committee hearing snowed out, so the re-filing is purely procedural. The Fox petition received a negative recommendation from the Planning Board in part because there are unresolved issues pertaining to yet another zoning petition – the City Council Petition to amend Section 5.28.2 of the Zoning Ordinance (conversion of nonresidential structures to residential use). The timing will now allow the City Council petition to be resolved before the Fox petition is considered for adoption.

Resolution #3. Retirement of Les Barber from the Community Development Department.   Vice Mayor Davis

Resolution #6. Retirement of Elaine Madden from the Community Development Department.   Mayor Maher

These are both significant exits from the Community Development Department. Elaine Madden has been a long-time Economic Development Project Planner, and Les Barber is Director of Zoning and the key person in all matters relating to zoning issues in Cambridge. The Community Development Department is currently headed by Acting Assistant City Manager Susan Glazer while the process of finding the permanent successor to former head Beth Rubenstein continues. This is undoubtedly a major transition time for the department.

Once upon a time, the primary mission of the Community Development Department was commercial development and growing the real estate tax base of the City. It was common back then for the department to publish major planning blueprint documents for developable parts of the city. Some of these plans became reality and others largely remained on the shelf as citizen downzoning movements cut back the plans. With the demise of rent control, the department’s emphasis shifted toward housing development, including "affordable housing" projects and inclusionary zoning. While this emphasis has clearly not disappeared, there has been an apparent shift toward economic development in the department. Major personnel changes could solidify this change in focus.

Order #1. The City Manager is requested to communicate with the Central Square Business Association and the Community Development Department to set up and design a competition to design the future of Cambridge.   Councillor Reeves

Order #2. The City Manager is requested to communicate with Eric Lander of the Broad Institute, The Kendall Square Business Association and the Community Development Department to set up and design a proactive science game.   Councillor Reeves

Reading these Orders leaves one with a view of Councillor Reeves as starstruck by Eric Lander of the Broad Institute. I’m sure everyone will welcome the idea of sponsoring design competitions for some of the major squares and thoroughfares of Cambridge. On the other hand, one might think that with a Community Development Department consisting of 44 people, the goal "to design the future of Cambridge" will be viewed as more than just a student design project.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on any foreseeable tax revenue implication of Vertex’s decision to leave Cambridge and the amount of office space potentially being vacated.   Councillor Toomey and Councillor Simmons

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to determine what incentives were given to Vertex as part of their relocation deal and evaluate how Cambridge could offer those same incentives to companies it is attempting to lure from out of state to the city.   Councillor Cheung

There have been indications that the City Manager did, in fact, offer such incentives to Vertex, but these were not the only factors in the decision by Vertex to relocate to Boston. There could be a significant short-term impact of Vertex leaving, especially in light of the fact that Vertex was the 6th largest employer in the city. On the other hand, by all accounts there is still significant and growing demand by life science companies to locate in Cambridge. One question that is not often asked, but perhaps should be asked, is whether it is healthy in the long term to have so much of the local economy dominated by the life sciences and any other single industry. It’s not quite the same as Detroit and the automobile industry, but it’s generally best to not balance your economic stability on too narrow a base. At least we’ll always have the universities.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate departments to remove improperly placed furniture items that are reserving parking spaces.   Councillor Kelley

I know that Councillor Kelley hasn’t been around very long, but it has been standard practice for a long time for the Public Works Department to remove these objects after a few days grace period. Though I’m sure there are some exceptions here and there, reserving parking spaces is relatively rare in Cambridge. It’s probably fair to say that Public Works employees have been pretty busy in recent days and perhaps gathering up all the old chairs and buckets and other markers hasn’t been the top priority.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to evaluate the possibility of continuing street cleaning days through the winter for the purpose of using those days to clear non-arteries of snow.   Councillor Cheung

I believe I can speak for most Cambridge residents here and say that we’d like to keep those three months of relative peace without having to worry about whether you’re parked on the even or the odd side of the street on those two dreaded days out of each month. It was Councillor Davis who filed an Order a few years ago that resulted in December being added to the street cleaning schedule. Now Councillor Cheung wants to add the remaining three months to the schedule. Please don’t. If anything, give us back December. If any street has a special need for snow clearance, the street can be posted on a case-by-case basis. In fact, residents can always request Public Works to do this if staff and equipment are available after things have settled down after a big snow event.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to devise a way to publicize events happening in the community in a visible location at the Main Library.   Vice Mayor Davis

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to devise a method to publicize events that are taking place at the Main Library, both before events occur and as they are happening, so patrons visiting the library may attend.   Vice Mayor Davis

From the Department of Redundancy Department. One would think that councillors or their personal staff (a.k.a. campaign staff) would actually read their own Orders before submitting essentially duplicate Orders.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department, the Cambridge Arts Council and other relevant entities to ensure that public art is taken into consideration during the planning processes of the Kendall and Central Square areas, as well as along Massachusetts Avenue from Harvard to Porter Squares.   Councillor Seidel

Of course I’m sure that Councillor Seidel is aware of the "One Percent for the Arts" requirement in all major City projects. This includes all of the areas he mentions in the Order. The problem is not so much whether the City integrates public art into major projects but rather if the City does it well. One aspect to this not often mentioned is that the architects who are involved in planning major projects often see themselves as artists, yet a separate process is undertaken for the "art" part of the project. This has not always yielded the best results.

Order #18. That this City Council go on record encouraging the City of Cambridge to strengthen the language of the Cable Television Renewal License.   Councillor Decker, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Toomey

If you read this Order, you’ll see that Councillors Decker, Cheung, and Toomey want to take Comcast to task only over whether or not they will abide by the City’s smorgasbord of labor ordinances. Though current federal law severely restricts what issues can be negotiated by the City Manager in the relicensing (only public access, educational, and governmental programming), one might hope that city councillors would use their bully pulpits to pressure Comcast (a.k.a. The Evil Empire) to provide better service and better options to Cambridge residents. This is a City Council that does not hesitate to interject its views on foreign policy and a host of other matters unrelated to the City of Cambridge. Yet when it comes to something as simple as pressuring Comcast to offer an affordable Cable TV package for those who want a little more than broadcast TV that includes Red Sox games and maybe a movie channel or two, the City Council remains uncharacteristically silent. – Robert Winters

December 22, 2009

Talking with the Evil Empire

Filed under: Comcast — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:06 pm

Talking with the Evil Empire
On Dec 14, I commented on a City Council Order regarding a poll being conducted by Comcast. Here’s what I said:
I don’t know what the Evil Empire of Comcast is up to with this poll, but I’ll be happy to offer some feedback right here. It was not very nice to take away virtually all of the TV stations for Basic Analog Cable customers other than those that can be picked up off the air. Except for New England Cable News, CCTV, and the municipal stations, everything else recently vanished. Perhaps some stations would return if I got their digital service, but I expect that will require at least another $50 per month for the privilege of getting back some of these commercial-laden stations and it’s hard to justify this. I believe I’d have to pay close to $100 per month to see any Red Sox games. Meanwhile, Comcast is in the process of buying the National Broadcast Company (NBC) from General Electric for perhaps $35 billion. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him to break up the trusts?

My inclination is to say good-bye to Comcast. I hope others in Cambridge feel the same way. Of course, I’m sure the Evil Empire will only try to find other ways to restrict access to television programs unless their trolls are paid handsomely in order to buy up even more media companies. Welcome to The World of More.

In response, Comcast’s Marc Goodman had this to say several days later:

I hope you would consider adding my comment to your recent blog post.

Hi, this is Marc from Comcast’s Boston office. Comcast and the City of Cambridge are negotiating a cable license renewal. Part of any cable license renewal is a process called ascertainment where the cable operator works with a third party to assess the interest of local residents in paying for access television and other cable-related needs that are outlined in an actual license. Comcast strongly supports access and CCTV. We look forward to coming to a mutually beneficial agreement for our customers, the city and the company in the months ahead.

And, just to be clear, the only channels that recently moved were from our Standard Cable package as part of our digital network enhancement. This digital upgrade allowed us to double the number of HD channels in Cambridge and introduce even faster Internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps. All current Standard Cable customers are eligible to obtain up to three pieces of complimentary digital equipment as part of this enhancement. And unlike our competitors, Comcast still chooses to provide an analog basic cable option.

As always, feel free to stop by our Cambridge service center at 88 Sherman Street or call us at 1-800-COMCAST or chat with us online at www.comcast.com.

After taking a few days to digest this, here’s my reply (Dec 22):
Marc,
I don’t know why I’m even wasting my time responding to you. Comcast is a predatory company, plain and simple. How else can one describe the practice of restricting access to all stations other than broadcast stations unless one is forced to pay upwards of $70 per month? Comcast chooses to not even offer an affordable package to someone who wants only to add a few basic additions to the most basic lineup. It is now rarely possible to see an old movie on TV because they are only made available on channels in the higher-priced packages. Doesn’t it seem strange that the price jumps from $6.50 per month to about ten times that amount to go from Basic Cable to the next available option?

The truth is that the only reason the City of Cambridge negotiates with you is because they must – there is no competitor willing and able to build a parallel infrastructure. City officials were very eager to talk to RCN or another company the last time the license renewal came up, but the up-front costs kept all potential competitors out – to the eternal detriment of Cambridge residents.

And “just to be clear”, the channels that disappeared recently from Basic Cable customers were most of the stations we used to get. Comcast’s analog basic cable option provides essentially the same thing that anyone can pick up with an antenna, i.e. what you can otherwise get for free. If you want to do me a favor and possibly salvage the Comcast name to at least one customer who is on the verge of quitting you, here’s a request: Give me a package that includes just the broadcast stations and public access stations plus a few Cable news stations and Turner Classic Movies, AMC, and perhaps Comedy Central and a few others at a total cost of around $25-30 per month (and not just a bogus introductory rate that will soon double). Then give me a quote for an a la carte addition of Red Sox games during the baseball season.

If you have an offer like that, we’ll talk. Until then, you are just another employee of the Evil Empire.

Robert Winters
Cambridge Civic Journal
http://rwinters.com

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