Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009 City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: City Council — Robert Winters @ 2:01 pm

Oct 19, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s agenda is relatively light, but there are a few notable items. In the weeks immediately preceding a municipal election, you can usually expect to see some effects of the campaign bleeding their way into the City Council agenda. Often this takes the form of a zoning petition carefully timed to come to a final vote immediately prior to the election, though this is not the case this year. Issues at the core of a challenger’s campaign which become topics at candidate forums can also pop up within City Council orders as the incumbents try to steal some thunder. One such example is Order #15 addressing the Council/Manager balance of power that has been beaten to death at candidate forums. Here are a few items that stood out:

Communication #5. A communication was received from Kathy Podgers, transmitting information on how stress makes allergies worse and last longer.

Though clearly irrelevant to the City Council or the business of the City of Cambridge, this letter highlights the ongoing grudge by Ms. Podgers directed toward Councillor Decker growing out of a City Council meeting a few years ago at which the presence of Ms. Podgers guide dog caused a substantial allergic reaction by Councillor Decker (who was pregnant at the time and unable to take anti-allergy medication) forcing her to leave the meeting early. My only comment is that the civic environment can only be diminished when people resort to lawsuits and personal vendettas instead of acceptable compromise. Besides, if a resident/candidate wants to take issue with an incumbent city councillor, there are better, more adult ways of doing so. This letter stinks of passive aggression.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor to report back to the City Council with a legal opinion on whether or not listing public notices on the City website could fulfill the obligation of the City to publish legal notices.   Councillor Toomey

See comments entitled “Putting the Paper to Bed.”

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council if any residents are in danger of losing their housing due to the fiscal status of affordable housing providers in Cambridge.   Vice Mayor Seidel

I periodically wonder about questions such as this. The City has now worked collaboratively on many housing projects with companies like Just-A-Start, Homeowner’s Rehab, and CASCAP. As buildings age and the economic and political landscape shifts, how secure can the City’s “housing policy” be when so much of it is in the hands of agencies that are influenced by the City but not really under the control of any City department? Perhaps it’s better this way – almost a privatization of City housing policy. However, a day may come when some of these agencies will have costs that exceed their revenues. What then? Can they sell off some of their buildings to cover the rest?

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to submit to the City Council a request for an appropriation sufficient to enable the City Council to undertake academic or legal counsel to review the Plan E Charter.   Councillor Reeves

O-15     Oct 19, 2009
COUNCILLOR REEVES
ORDERED: That the Mayor and Cambridge City Council shall seek independent academic or legal counsel to review the Plan E Charter for the purpose of a clear and definitive explanation of the role and power of the City Council and the role and power of the City Manager before mid-December; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to submit to the City Council a request for an appropriation to the City Council Office Budget sufficient to enable the City Council to undertake this consultation on this timetable.

I’ve never seen the matter of the Council/Manager balance of power as particularly complicated or difficult to understand. The City Council passes ordinances, approves budgets, and determines overall policies (Orders) for the Manager to implement. The Manager submits an annual budget and oversees all of the operational details necessary to run the City government and implement City Council policies, including the hiring and management of all City personnel. If a majority of the City Council decides that the Manager is not properly doing his job, they can show him the door.

There is, of course, the reality that the long tenure of a Manager will tend to strengthen the hand of the Manager, but this is primarily due to the willingness of the City Council to go along with the wisdom gained by tenure. The flip side of this is that during the early years of a new Manager, the City Council will have the greater “wisdom” and the stronger hand. Such will be the case in just a few short years at the end of Robert Healy’s current contract, or sooner should he choose to retire earlier. Be careful what you wish for! Will this City Council be up to the challenge when the pendulum swings? To some, including this observer, this is a serious factor in sorting out the challengers as well as the incumbents. I’m not so sure that we now have nine who can choose a new Manager let alone manage their new Manager.

Is Reeves’ Order really asking a question or is he merely trying to shift the balance during an election in which some challengers have chosen to make the City Manager an issue? Is this just another page in the ongoing saga of last year’s Monteiro decision and this year’s Great Gates Case that have made their way into Reeves’ statements at candidate forums? Is it really necessary to obtain a budget for legal and academic consultation on this? My understanding is that Mr. Reeves has a Harvard law degree. Surely he can answer his own question as well as anyone. — Robert Winters

Putting the Paper to Bed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert Winters @ 12:40 am

Oct 18 – Putting the Paper to Bed

There seems to be a movement afoot at the state and local level that could have a significant effect on any local newspaper that may still exist in Cambridge. The basics are that a) newspaper circulation is significantly down, b) more people are using Internet resources to get their news, and c) local and state finances are challenged. So, why not change the requirement that legal notices be published in a “paper of general circulation” to a standard more appropriate to the realities of today?

At the state level, the Beacon Hill Roll Call reports:

“ALLOW BIDDING NOTICES TO BE POSTED ON WEBSITES – The State Administration Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow notices soliciting bids from companies seeking contracts to work on local city, town and county projects to be posted only on the local community’s website or the state website. Current law requires that the notices be published in local newspapers.”

“The Patrick administration says that the change would save the state time and money and ensure that projects move forward faster. Critics say that the change would hurt many newspapers that are already struggling. They argued that this new policy is unfair and decreases openness and transparency because not every business and individual has Internet access.”

To this you can add the following City Council Order for Monday, October 19 from Councillor Toomey:

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor to report back to the City Council with a legal opinion on whether or not listing public notices on the City website could fulfill the obligation of the City to publish legal notices.   Councillor Toomey

O-10     Oct 19, 2009
COUNCILLOR TOOMEY
WHEREAS: The requirement to list legal notices in local newspapers cost the city an estimated $125,000 per year; and
WHEREAS: Newspaper circulation and the industry in general has faltered as a result of increased use of the internet for news and information; and
WHEREAS: Public access to the internet is significantly improving; and
WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge website could be used as an alternative for listing notices in the newspaper; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the City Solicitor to report back to the City Council with a legal opinion on whether or not listing public notices on the City website could fulfill the obligation of the City to publish legal notices.

It’s been reported many times over that Legal Notices are a sizable and dependable source of revenue for “newspapers of general circulation.” The Cambridge Chronicle, for example, appears to average about one and a half pages per issue of Legal Notices – much of it from the City of Cambridge. The City’s Purchasing Department already posts all of its requests for bids on the City website. There are also some City job listings posted. You can also find Proposed Zoning Amendments Currently Under Review with minimal effort. It seems pretty clear that the City could post all of its Legal Notices and other Public Notices in a clear and inviting way at little or no cost to taxpayers. There are also other civic websites (such as this one) that would gladly link to all of the City’s Legal Notices or post them at no cost, especially if City officials made it as effortless as possible.  —  Robert Winters

October 12, 2009

Decker Campaign – September Receipts

Filed under: 2009 Election,campaign finance — Robert Winters @ 2:10 am

AmountNameAddressEmployer1Employer2City
$100.00Bandar, Dany2 Warren Drive Middleton, MA 01949Middleton
$500.00Gilmore, Marvin26 Mount Vernon Street Cambridge, MA 02140Cambridge
$100.00Glodis Committee39 Old Cart Road Auburn, MA 01501Auburn
$500.00Keegan, William197 Old Colony Avenue South Boston, MA 02127Bridge & Structural
Workers Union Local 7
Boston
$500.00McKinnon, Rich1 Leighton Street, Unit 1905 Cambridge, MA 02140Cambridge
$500.00Melonie, Jr., James7 Laborers Way Hopkinton, MA 01748Mass Laborers
District Council
Hopkinton
$100.00Pedi, Richard35 Salem Street Medford, MA 02155Carpenters Local
Union No. 218
Medford
$100.00Bandar, Stephen6 Azalea Road Winchester, MA 01890Winchester
$250.00Barbosa, Valdir2531 N Talman Avenue, Apt. 3W Chicago, IL 60647AttorneyLatham & WatkinsChicago, IL
$100.00Boland, Robert8 Riverview Terrace Dover, MA 02030Dover
$100.00Braccia, Richard21 Mazzeo Drive Randolph, MA 02368Carpenters Local
Union No. 424
Randolph
$400.00Clancy, John295 Devonshire Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02110Boston Carmen's
Union Local 589
Boston
$100.00Clancy, John295 Devonshire Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02110Boston Carmen's
Union Local 589
Boston
$250.00Coyle, James213 N Street South Boston, MA 02127Secretary TreasurerBuilding & Construction
Trades Council
Boston
$500.00DiGiovanni, Anne19 Hilliard Street Cambridge, MA 02138Real EstateTrinity PropertyCambridge
$500.00DiGiovanni, John19 Hillard Street Cambridge, MA 02138Real EstateTrinity PropertyCambridge
$100.00Entine, Jean259 Upland Road Cambridge, MA 02138Cambridge
$100.00Epstein, Gail43 Linnean Street, Apt. 8 Cambridge, MA 02138Cambridge
$100.00Friedman, Richard20 University Road Cambridge, MA 02138PrincipalCarpenter & Company, Inc.Cambridge
$100.00Jackson, Bud206 N. Washington St, No. 10 Alexandria, VA 22314Business OwnerThe Jackson GroupAlexandria, VA
$200.00Joslin, Alan36 Banks Street Cambridge, MA 02138Information RequestedCambridge
$500.00Keshishian, Vartan17 Morningside Lane Lincoln, MA 01773EngineerSelf-employedLincoln
$500.00Levin, Marc45 Clearwater Road Newton, MA 02462Information RequestedNewton
$200.00Maher, John8 Dunstable Road Cambridge, MA 02138RetiredCambridge
$500.00McGettigan, Kevin50 Park Street Dorchester, MA 02122Elevator Constructors
Local 4
Dorchester
$500.00McLean, Thomas10 Drydock Avenue Boston, MA 02210Carpenters Local
Union No. 33
Boston
$500.00Morat, Catherine159 Red Acre Road Stow, MA 01775Information RequestedStow
$100.00Narinian, Aram316 Mt. Auburn Street Watertown, MA 02472Watertown
$200.00Neer, Jr., Robert100 Morningside Drive , Apt. 3c New York, NY 10027PresidentZaps, Inc.New York, NY
$500.00Poras, Patti121 Park Avenue Newton, MA 02458Information RequestedNewton
$500.00Poras, Peter121 Park Avenue Newton, MA 02458President, Investment DivisionChestnut Hill RealtyNewton
$250.00Rafferty, James187 Concord Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138AttorneyJames J. Rafferty,
Attorney at Law
Cambridge
$300.00Roberts, Gail9 Washington Avenue Cambridge, MA 02140Information RequestedCambridge
$500.00Rodgers III, C.R.P.84 Bigelow Drive Sudbury, MA 01776Information RequestedSudbury
$500.00Rodgers, Danyel84 Bigelow Drive Sudbury, MA 01776Information RequestedSudbury
$100.00Sacco, Louis1 Carson Road Woburn, MA 01801Woburn
$100.00Straus, Robert22 Berkeley Street Cambridge, MA 02140Cambridge
$250.00Tenney, Bradford163 Wright Street Arlington, MA 02474FirefighterCity of CambridgeArlington
$250.00Vigeant, Richard13 Branch Street, Unit 215 Methuen, MA 01844Carpenters Local
Union No. 111
Methuen
$100.00Vrotsos, Lynda57 Summer Street Arlington, MA 02474Arlington
$250.00Wolfman, Toni229 Brattle Street Cambridge, MA 02138LawyerBentley College Institute
of Women in Le
Cambridge
$100.00Wortis, Rochelle106 Berkshire Street Cambridge, MA 02141Cambridge
$100.00Zahr, Nadia21145 Helmsman Drive, Apt. N13 Aventura, FL 33180Aventura, FL
$500.00Zuker, Edward128 Baldpate Hill Road Newton Centre, MAOwner/ceoChestnut Hill RealtyNewton
$500.00Zuker, Judi128 Baldpate Hill Road Newton, MA 02459Information RequestedNewton
$500.00Zuker, Molly22 Griggs Terrace Brookline, MA 02446Information RequestedBrookline
$500.00Zuker, Robert22 Griggs Terrace Brookline, MA 02446Information RequestedBrookline
$500.00Abuzahra, Jehad29 Mackenzie Lane Wakefield, MA 01880Information RequestedWakefield
$500.00Abuzahra, Sheriff331 Salem Street Lynnfield, MA 01940Information RequestedLynnfield
$200.00Fry, Shanti4 Berkeley Street Cambridge, MA 02138HomemakerCambridge
$500.00Gim, Meehn581 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02116Kaya RestaurantOwnerBoston
$500.00Gladstone, Melissa94 Woodbine Circle Needham, MA 02494Information RequestedNeedham
$500.00Gladstone, Stephan94 Woodbine Circle Needham, MA 02494Information RequestedNeedham
$500.00Goodman, Abigail78 Lake View Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138Information RequestedCambridge
$500.00Goodman, Mark78 Lake View Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138Information RequestedCambridge
$500.00Higgins, Kelly133 Claflin Street Belmont, MA 02478HomemakerBelmont
$500.00McHugh, George286 Independence Drive Chestnut Hill, MA 02467Information RequestedNewton
$500.00McHugh, Laurie238 North Street Stoneham, MA 02180Information RequestedStoneham
$500.00Professional Firefighters
of MA People's Cttee (80374)
130 Bowdoin St #710 Boston, MA 02108Boston
$500.00Siff, Eden185 Baldpate Hill Road Newton, MA 02459Information RequestedNewton
$500.00Siff, Lauren185 Baldpate Hill Road Chestnut Hill, MA 02467Information RequestedNewton
$500.00Zuker, Matthew39 Glenland Road Chestnut Hill, MA 02467Information RequestedNewton
$500.00Andrews, Thomas7 Brickyard Lane Westborough, MA 01581Information RequestedWestborough
$250.00Bachman, Katharine23 Circuit Road Chestnut Hill, MA 02467AttorneyWilmer Hale LLPNewton
$100.00Barboza, Robert12 Massasoit Way Mendon, MA 01756Mendon
$100.00Carbonneau, Steve68 Frankland Road Hopkinton, MA 01748Hopkinton
$100.00Gibbons, Bernard65 Shawmut Street Quincy, MA 02169Quincy
$500.00Joseph Powers803 Summer Street South Boston, MA 02127New England Regional
Council of Carpenters
Boston
$500.00Kazlauskas, JosephP.O. Box 88 Bridgewater, MA 02324Information RequestedBridgewater
$250.00Kennedy, Sean29 Sparhawk Street Brighton, MA 02135Grafton Street
Pub & Grill
RestaurantBrighton
$250.00Lee, Patrick141 Arlington Street, Unit 2 Boston, MA 02118Grafton Street
Pub & Grill
RestaurantBoston
$250.00Lee, Peter49 Century Lane Canton, MA 02021Information RequestedCanton
$500.00Maguire, Joseph309 Hall Street Dunstable, MA 01827Information RequestedDunstable
$300.00Mahoney, Robert113 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138Cambridge Firefighters
Federal Credit Union
Cambridge
$500.00Manfredi, David90 Pembroke Street Boston, MA 02118Information RequestedBoston
$500.00Marcus, JoelP.O. Box 2807 Beverly Hills, CA 90213Information RequestedBeverly Hills, CA
$100.00Mello, David1 St. Lawrence Way North Attleborough, MA 02760N. Attleborough
$500.00O'Reilly, Jr., William133 Abbott Road Wellesley, MA 02481Information RequestedWellesley
$100.00Queen, Kerrie5 Abbott Road Natick, MA 01760Natick
$500.00Richardson, James1525 Escondido Way Belmont, CA 94002Information RequestedBelmont
$250.00Sheerin, Gerald49 North Crescent Circle Brighton, MA 02135Information RequestedBrighton
$100.00Southwell, Donna43 Locke Street Cambridge, MA 02140Cambridge
$100.00Wright, Charles39b Park Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138Cambridge

Click to column heading to sort. Click again to sort in reverse order.

Table updated October 19.
Total itemized receipts for September: $27,450
Total unitemized receipts: $765
Total Receipts: $28,215

October 5, 2009

Oct 5, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:08 pm

Oct 5, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s City Manager’s Agenda is dominated by many responses (16) by the City Manager and staff to Council Orders requesting information. The City Council Orders may prove interesting. They run the gamut from violence in the Congo to tree wells, flagpoles, greyhounds, and the Police Review and Advisory Board. Some that drew my attention are:

Order #10. That the City Council hold a special meeting on the status of the Police Review and Advisory Board [PRAB] and all related topics. Councillor Kelley

Perhaps Councillor Kelley could be more nonspecific, but I doubt it. If the intention of this Order is to clean house on the Unfinished Business item that has been languishing on the agenda for half a decade, then this is good housekeeping at its best.

Unfinished Business #3. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on Nov 18, 2004 for the purpose of considering proposed amendments to Chapter 2.74 of the Cambridge Municipal Code, the Police Review and Advisory Board Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 14, 2005. [Four sections of the proposed amendment were passed to be ordained as amended. Ordinance #1284. The remaining proposed amendments to chapter 2.74 remain on Unfinished Business.]

However, the vagueness of Kelley’s Order seems to open the door for a free-for-all during which we may be treated to speeches on a) the ongoing legal challenge to the Monteiro v. City of Cambridge verdict; b) the recent PRAB decision to take up the a case filed by a Boston-based advocacy group on the Great Gates Affair; and c) anything under the sun. I hope there’s at least one city councillor who will force a little more specificity on this.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an explanation of the Cambridge Police Department’s policy on making available to the public information about crimes and suspects and other information not prohibited from public release. Councillor Kelley

This brings to mind a Council meeting a while back when Councillor Kelley asked that the Police Department publish a list of all the places where they regularly look for speeding violations. I’m all for public disclosure of useful information, but is it sensible for the Cambridge Police Department to announce in advance where they will or will not be looking for speeders? Regarding Councillor Kelley’s latest foray into police work, I would like it if complete descriptions of bad guys were made available after every crime, regardless of concerns about political correctness. Public safety is more important than concern for delicate sensibilities. On the other hand, I definitely don’t need to know about details in an ongoing investigation that might possibly compromise the investigation or subsequent prosecution. In some matters, you just have to trust the cops to do their job.

Order #17. Urge members of the Cambridge Legislative Delegation to support House Bill No.3643 which would reduce the prevailing speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph in urban districts on local roads. Councillor Davis

This Order is notable only because of how many times we’ve seen it. It must be a dozen or more times that I’ve read essentially the same Order over the last decade.

Order #18. Urge members of the Cambridge Legislative Delegation to support H.853 which would prohibit new buildings that cast new shadow on parks except during the first hour of sunrise or before 7:00 a.m. or during the last hour before sunset. Councillor Davis

It’s important to note that the proposed law would apply only to specific parks. There is already a law affecting the Boston Public Garden, the Boston Common, and the Lynn Common. This would expand that list to include Magazine Beach Park, the Esplanade, Christopher Columbus Park, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and Copley Square Park and would not apply to the long shadows of early morning or late afternoon. I suppose the devil is in the details and I would anticipate a few reasonable exceptions that may have to be made.

Order #20. That the City Manager is requested to provide a status report to the City Council on traffic safety measures in place at the intersection of Fresh Pond Parkway and Mount Auburn Street. Vice Mayor Seidel

They could start by painting some lanes to guide the traffic on Mt. Auburn as it passes through that intersection. However, all the traffic engineering in the world will likely have minimal effect on those drivers who continue to enter the intersection after the light has turned red. Red light cameras might help a lot. Let’s not forget that vote on March 23: Order #20. The City Council go on record supporting red light camera enforcement. Councillor Kelley and Councillor Toomey. Voting in favor: Davis, Kelley, Maher, Seidel, Toomey; voting against: Decker, Reeves, Simmons, Ward. — Robert Winters

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