Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 28, 2010

Campaign Finance Activity – School Committee 2009

Filed under: 2009 Election,campaign finance — Robert Winters @ 3:55 pm

Campaign Finance Activity - 2009 School Committee

Opening Balance
Current Balance
#1 Votes
$ per #1 vote
Fantini, Fred$4966.00$5780.38$6704.59$4041.7912/31/092040$3.29
Grassi, Joseph$10.00$6205.00$6105.95$109.0512/31/091884$3.24
Harding, Richard$0.00$10710.60$10318.67$391.9312/31/091991$5.18report filed late
McGovern, Marc$1873.00$15501.00$17837.00$1237.0012/31/091953$9.13unpaid $1700

debt added to

Nolan, Patty$1385.69$9645.00$10470.06$560.6312/31/091744$6.00
Stead, Charles$0.00$399.87$399.87$0.0012/31/09393$1.02
Steinert, Alan$0.00$23910.54$23910.54$0.0012/31/091445$16.55
Tauber, Nancy$223.82$9775.00$9166.42$832.4012/31/092050$4.47
Turkel, Alice$0.00$22079.69$18142.76$3936.9312/31/091791$10.13

Click on any column heading to sort by that field. Click again to toggle between ascending and descending.

The deadline was January 20, 2009 for filing reports of activity through December 31, 2009.

Richard Harding has not yet filed his year-end report.

Information on all City Council and School Committee candidates may be found at the Cambridge Candidate Pages.

January 25, 2010

Jan 25, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:17 pm

Jan 25, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights (and post-meeting update)

The main item of interest for tonight’s meeting is the still-unresolved election of a mayor. Amazingly, the City of Cambridge has been getting along just fine without a mayor for these last three weeks, but it would be nice if the City Council could choose its Chair so that Council committee appointments can be made. Most of the scuttlebutt suggests that David Maher should pick up the necessary 5th vote to get the nod as gavel-bearer, but there are still a few poker moves being played in this relatively inconsequential game. See below for a scorecard.

There was one ballot for Mayor taken at the meeting. The votes were identical to the previous ballot. See below.

Mayor or no mayor, there is a bit of an agenda for tonight’s meeting. Here are a few notable items:

City Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Fanning, et al zoning petition as filed.

The affected area is bounded by Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Binney Street, the Grand Junction railway, and the edge of the Residence C-1 District. The Planning Board acknowledges some of the residents’ concerns that led to this petition, but nonetheless recommends that the petition not be adopted as written. In particular, the Planning Board highlights that the provision to include the floor area of the existing above-ground parking garage in the calculation of the FAR for the One Kendall Square site would result in the disallowance of any additional development and that it would be unreasonable to effect a change of such magnitude on a single site. They also note that the Eastern Cambridge Planning Study (ECPS), which was the basis for zoning in this area, established a goal of encouraging the development of housing on the affected sites and this existing zoning provides incentives to favor the future development of residential uses over commercial or industrial uses. The proposed zoning change would remove such incentives.

Resolution #13. Resolution on the death of Reverend Douglas Whitlow.   Councillor Simmons

I didn’t know Doug Whitlow very well, but it’s worth noting that he was a City Council candidate in 1997 around the time of the big controversy surrounding the Holmes property in Central Square that pitted the anarchists vs. the capitulators (as some would characterize the conflict). Doug and I were cordial but on opposite sides of the issue. It’s interesting how many of the people who were so concerned at the time about “the indigenous population of Central Square” vanished soon afterwards. The whole tempest seems trivial in retrospect.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to address the complaints of the abutters of 220 Putnam Avenue regarding the illegal housing and raising of chickens and ducks at that address.   Councillor Simmons

It would seem that a conflict is arising between pro-poultry Councillor Davis and anti-poultry Councillor Simmons. Perhaps their differences can be ironed out over a nice chicken dinner. Goose would be a tasty and controversial alternative. – RW

Mayoral update (Jan 25): The City Council failed to elect a Mayor on January 11 and again on January 25. Here’s a scorecard of the poker game to date:

Councillor Ballot #1 (Jan 4) Ballot #2 (Jan 11) Ballot #3 (Jan 25)
Cheung Decker (2) Maher (4) Maher (4)
Davis Davis (1) Davis (2) Davis (2)
Decker Decker Reeves (3) Reeves (3)
Kelley Reeves (2) Reeves Reeves
Maher Maher (3) Maher Maher
Reeves Reeves Reeves Reeves
Seidel Maher Maher Maher
Simmons Simmons (1) Davis Davis
Toomey Maher Maher Maher

For those who have asked, here’s a quote from Glenn Koocher’s Political History of Cambridge in the 20th Century: “Battles over the mayoralty went back and forth with partisans occasionally changing sides. One race, in 1948, required four months and 1368 ballots to complete. Other mayoralty votes traded back and forth over issues.” We’ve only had two ballots so far, folks, so stop your wailing. If they’re still at it a month from now, that’s another story. The next opportunity for a vote will be Monday, January 25. There are no big partisan issues at play now, so it really comes down to personalities and, to some degree, payback.

The most ridiculous aspect to the current mayoral impasse is how some councillors are claiming how much consideration they are giving to the School Committee’s preferences in their decision, yet what I hear from the School Committee members contradicts much of this claim. – RW

January 19, 2010

And now… a few words about the U.S. Senate Special Election, i.e. Coakley vs. Brown vs. Kennedy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert Winters @ 7:51 pm

What a perfect election storm where controversial national political decisions coincide with the death of Ted Kennedy, a consequential Senate vote, and essentially a referendum on a sitting U.S. president – all in the bluest of blue states where most elections are noncompetitive formalities. For those of us who actually believe in democracy (small “d”), it simply doesn’t get any better than this.

As I type these words, it’s less than an hour until the polls close in Massachusetts. I’ve been robo-called, repetitively and intrusively polled, and subjected to an endless stream of ridiculous and propagandistic TV ads. To believe any of this garbage, you’d have to buy the line that Martha Coakley is a mindless party-line drone who would do little more than bark when Obama gives the signal, and Scott Brown is just a good-lookin’ Karl Rove. Neither picture is even close to accurate.

I like Martha – her understated style, her intelligence, and even her name. The fact that she’s married to a now-retired Cambridge cop also makes her one of us. I also like Scott Brown – his strategic political thinking, his remarkable family, and the promise of competitive Massachusetts elections that he represents. It’s also fun that he posed in the buff for Cosmopolitan Magazine years ago as their “sexiest man in America.” His wife, WCVB reporter Gail Huff, was once featured in the video for the Digney Fignus song “The Girl with the Curious Hand,” and one of his two daughters went all the way to the Sweet Sixteen of that forgettable TV show “American Idol.” This is great stuff!

I really don’t know how the election will turn out. The latest polls suggest a Scott Brown victory, but the Democratic Party regulars have been in panic mode for the last week trying to turn out every last loyalist, so Martha My Dear may yet squeak out a victory. Regardless of the outcome in this Special Election, for those of us who have great misgivings about the government expansion now underway and the unprecedented proposal to mandate U.S. citizens to pay money to private (health insurance) companies, the message has already been sent – and congressmen and congresswomen across the county understand that if this can happen in the bluest of blue states, then they will soon have their own election problems to worry about.

The fact that a Republican candidate might even have a chance in Massachusetts should not really be all that surprising. Massachusetts residents have more than a healthy dose of suspicion about one-party rule even though every one of our Congressmen and an overwhelming majority in both houses of the State Legislature are Democrats. That’s why we elected Republican governors for 16 years until the last go-round. That’s also why most Massachusetts voters choose to remain unenrolled in any party. The truth is that the best thing that could ever happen to Massachusetts Democrats would be a significant Republican victory. The evidence suggests that the Massachusetts Democratic Party doesn’t really believe in elections. They believe that all seats in the state legislature should be filled after private consultation behind closed doors and settled in low-turnout primaries followed by general elections with no significant competition (or no competition at all). I am reminded of the election a few years ago when Marjorie Decker campaigned in the Democratic Primary against party-favored Paul Demakis. Marjorie was criticized broadly for challenging “one of ours”. That offended me so much that I wrote her a check. A few years later when Jarrett Barrios backed out of a District Attorney election against Gerry Leone and chose to seek reelection to his State Senate seat after Anthony Galluccio had announced his candidacy for that seat, the head of the state Democratic Party traveled to Cambridge to broker a negotiated settlement in order to avoid an actual election between two strong candidates. The message was clear – good elections are bad for the party.

So, tonight I’m feeling optimistic – not about the specific outcome of this Special Election, but about the possibility that the moribund Massachusetts Republican Party might get the outrageous idea that they can and should run candidates for every elected office and that Democratic candidates will have to step up and perform better instead of treating their elected jobs as lifetime entitlements. That would be my idea of a victory. — Robert Winters

January 11, 2010

Jan 11, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:10 pm

Jan 11, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

This is the first regular meeting of the 2010-11 City Council term, and the new Council begins with a relatively clean slate as the much of the detritus of Councils past has been allowed to expire. The first order of (unfinished) business is the election of a mayor. The first attempt on January 4 resulted in a highly fractured vote, but it is expected that votes will shift on the second ballot and any subsequent ballots. Multiple factors are at play including (a) the news from the grapevine that Marjorie Decker will be having a State Senate campaign event in Saugus on January 31 – an apparent sign that she intends to pursue the Galluccio seat; (b) the commitments for the first mayoral ballot have now been expended; (c) feedback from political supporters in the wake of the January 4 ballot may cause a councillor or two to think twice about the political fallout; and (d) nobody really wants this to go on very long with the resultant delay in Council business caused by the lack of any appointments to City Council subcommittees by the new mayor. Most of the speculation centers on either Henrietta Davis or David Maher being best positioned to pick up the necessary 5th vote, but the continued meetings and wheeling and dealing and political hardball yields no certainty in the outcome.

As far as the rest of the meeting agenda goes, here are a few items of interest:

RECONSIDERATION. Councillor Kelley filed Reconsideration on the vote taken on Dec 21, 2009 confirming the appointments transmitted on a communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as Commissioners of the Cambridge Housing Authority: Anthony Pini (term expires 4/1/2014) and Gerald Clark (term expires 1/11/2015) [Dec 21, 2009 motion of Councillor Kelley to Table failed 4-5-0. Appointments confirmed 8-1-0. Councillor Kelley filed Reconsideration.]

Though I don’t pretend to understand all the intense passion expressed about these appointments and the behind-the-scenes push to change the vote late in the December 21 meeting to approve these appointments, it is worth noting that this is precisely the reason why state law and Robert’s Rules of Order allow for reconsideration of votes. Many outspoken public housing advocates had gone home on December 21 after this matter had been tabled and were shocked to learn that this changed late in the meeting. Expect some spirited public comment on this matter regardless how the final vote goes.

Order # 1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City department heads and personnel in order to determine alternatives to laying off the five employees from the Lead Safe Cambridge program.   Councillor Simmons

This Order is noteworthy primarily in that it seems to direct the City Manager what to do in a personnel matter. It would be one thing if the Order focused on the importance of preserving the Lead-Safe program, but this Order instead is all about retaining five employees. Presumably, all of these employees have the opportunity to respond to any internal or public postings for City jobs. The City Council Order seems to say that the Manager should retain these employees in their current jobs regardless of need or budgetary concerns. Does this not seem like micromanagement from a city councillor?

Order #4. City Council concerns regarding House Bill 4410 which would give new powers to state and local school officials to turn around under-performing schools and increase the number of charter schools.   Councillor Davis and Councillor Maher

The sponsors of the Order seem to agree with the Legislature on (1) reducing the financial impact of charter schools on regular public schools; (2) better processes for evaluating and approving charter schools; and (3) amendments that would help turn around underperforming schools. However, the sponsors express opposition to amendments that would (1) weaken proposed management powers or enhance the ability of unions to block action by school districts; (b) require municipalities and school districts to sell or lease surplus school facilities to charter schools; (3) new spending mandates on cities, towns and school districts; and (4) lifting the cap on charter schools. Councillor and State Representative Toomey may have something to say in response to this Order. H4410 passed by a 119-35 vote. The Senate approved a different version and a 6-member House-Senate conference committee is now working on a compromise of the two versions.
According to my reading of the City Council materials, the only holdover items from the previous Council are these:
(1) Council Kelley’s Reconsideration of the Cambridge Housing Authority appointments.
(2) The Fanning Petition to rezone an area in East Cambridge.
(3) A December Order regarding increasing the amount of public information about elections while the municipal election is in progress.
(4) A December Order and a committee report regarding the City Council’s policy on naming street corners.
(5) A request to the City Manager for information regarding what barriers would prevent residents from raising chickens and what could be done to remove these barriers.

Also in the pipeline – a scattered set of recommendations from December’s “Climate Congress” which will have a follow-up City Hall meeting on January 23. Unlike an actual legislative process where most proposals require majority support, the current draft of these citizen recommendations reads like a laundry list of every imaginable idea in environmental regulation and social engineering. Many of the ideas presented will be dead on arrival such as the proposal to increase the cost of a residential parking sticker every year for the next 20 years – even though most participants seemed to agree that the local impact of automobiles on climate was far less than things like poorly insulated and inefficient commercial, residential, and institutional buildings. A strong theme at this gathering was the need to better quantify the primary contributors to climate change before setting priorities or determining policies and initiatives. Nonetheless, the draft recommendations are dominated by proposals made without any such prioritization. It’s worth looking at for a few good ideas, but this document leaves a lot to be desired as either a legislative agenda or a blueprint for change. – Robert Winters

January 7, 2010

Follow the Money

Filed under: 2009 Election,campaign finance,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:07 am

Jan 6 – Follow The Money – What percentage of the 2009 campaign contributions for each of the elected city councillors came from people with a Cambridge address? Here are the percentages:

Henrietta Davis – 90%    
Craig Kelley – 88%
Leland Cheung – 74%
Sam Seidel – 56%
David Maher – 54%
Denise Simmons – 51%    
Tim Toomey – 45%
Ken Reeves – 28%
Marjorie Decker – 24%
Information based on data from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF)

Addendum: The OCPF data reveals some other interesting things such as which candidates received campaign donations in excess of the individual annual limit of $500. Here are the apparent excesses:

Candidate Donor Annual Amount
Marjorie Decker Asbestos Workers Local 6 $750
Marjorie Decker Carpenters Local Union No. 33 $800
Marjorie Decker Anne DiGiovanni $1000
Marjorie Decker John DiGiovanni $1000
Marjorie Decker IUPAT District Council #35 $1250
Marjorie Decker New England Regional Council of Carpenters $1000
Marjorie Decker Sheet Metal Workers Local #17 $2750
David Maher National Association of Government Employees $750
Kenneth E. Reeves     Muirann Glenmullen $750
Kenneth E. Reeves Kelly Higgins $1000
Kenneth E. Reeves Joyce Naggar $1000
Kenneth E. Reeves Stuart Rothman $600
Kenneth E. Reeves Fred Swanson $600
Kenneth E. Reeves John Toulopoulos $600
Sam Seidel Phyllis Seidel $1000

Perhaps a refund or two may be in order, or maybe there’s some explanation for some of these. Here’s the data (zipped Excel file) for anyone who wants to go fishing: Corrections, explanations, or interesting discoveries are enthusiastically welcome. There may still be a few more 2009 donations to be recorded, but it’s all courtesy of the OCPF. — Robert Winters

January 3, 2010

On the Eve of the City Council Inauguration and Mayoral Vote

Filed under: 2009 Election,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 6:51 pm

On the Eve of the City Council Inauguration and Mayoral Vote

On Monday, January 4, 2010 at 10:00am the newly elected Cambridge City Council will be sworn in at City Hall. Once City Clerk Margaret Drury takes care of all the swearing-in, the new Council will take up their first order of business – the election of a Mayor. If a majority is able to elect a Mayor, they will then proceed to the election of the Vice-Chair of the City Council (commonly known as Vice-Mayor).

The elected councillors have been meeting in pairs and threesomes and foursomes ever since the election results were known in November as the various mayoral contenders have been trying to convince and bargain their way into the Mayor’s Office. Much of the convincing is based on things like philosophy, committee appointments, and who might be well-suited to chair the School Committee. On the other hand, there is a history of some not-so-above-board deal-making that also takes place in this process, e.g. the introduction of personal aides for all city councillors that grew out of the January 2006 deal-making.

As most voting Cantabrigians know, the Mayor of Cambridge is not popularly elected. It’s really more like the election of a City Council President as in Boston and many other places. There is a certain logic in allowing an elected body to choose its own Chair, especially in a city governed by the Plan E Charter in which the City Council chooses a city manager as chief executive officer of the City. However, there is also a point of view that city councillors should act as representatives of the electorate and that they have some duty to act on behalf of those who elected them. If this is the case, what criteria should guide the election?

Criterion #1 – Showing Up for Work

Based on who has attended City Council committee meetings during the 2008-2009 term, the nod might go to Sam Seidel or Henrietta Davis (see chart at, though a strong case could be made for David Maher who chaired more meetings than any of his colleagues. Of course, outgoing Mayor Denise Simmons would also have to be included among the contenders for all the City Council and School Committee meetings she chaired during her term.

Criterion #2 – Let the People Decide – Instant Runoff

We could use the ballot data from the November election to see who would be elected if a series of runoffs were to be held using the ballots that elected the city councillors. Based of this, the nod would go to Henrietta Davis (with Denise Simmons as the last eliminated and Tim Toomey before her). However, the notion that voter preferences should factor into the mayoral election exposes a paradox. After the 2005 and 2007 elections, the person elected Mayor was the least preferred by the voters among the nine elected and would have been the first eliminated in an Instant Runoff election. Specifically, in 2005 and 2007 the Instant Runoff winner was Henrietta Davis, but Kenneth E. Reeves was chosen in January 2006 and Denise Simmons in January 2008 as Mayor. The likely reason for this reversal of fortune is that Council colleagues often do not wish to strengthen the hand of a popular colleague. If the pattern of 2005 and 2007 is repeated this year, we’ll be greeting Mayor Leland Cheung on Monday morning.

I made a chart of these Instant Runoff Simulations for the 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1997, and 1991 elections (the ones for which ballot data is available). It’s worth noting that the last times the Instant Runoff winners were actually elected Mayor were in 1997 (Frank Duehay) and 1999 (Anthony Galluccio).

Criterion #3 – Let the People Decide – Look at the Rankings

There are quite a few ways of measuring popularity based on ballot rankings. One rather simplistic approach is to look only at the #1 rankings – a criterion often promoted in years past. The “#1 vote-getter” would make the case that this is what the people demand. Of course, this ignores the phenomenon of vote-splitting – the very thing that preferential ballots are designed to mitigate. Perhaps a more fair way to measure popularity based on ballot rankings would be to count the number of ballots on which each candidate appears with a high ranking, e.g. somewhere in the top 3 or top 5 or top 9 rankings. Henrietta Davis wins according to this criteria in all scenarios except the “Top 3” criterion in which she is eclipsed by 1 vote by Denise Simmons, 5015 to 5014. It’s worth noting that according to these criteria, some elected councillors fare worse than some candidates who were not even elected. For example, using a “Top 3” criterion, Marjorie Decker and Leland Cheung are eclipsed by Eddie Sullivan and Larry Ward. In all criteria using 5 or more rankings, Marjorie Decker actually finishes 12th, though one can certainly argue that this may be a by-product of being a write-in candidate.

Criterion #4 – School Committee Experience

There are four councillors who have been previously elected to the Cambridge School Committee – Tim Toomey, Henrietta Davis, David Maher, and Denise Simmons. Of course, all those who have previously served as Mayor have also served in this capacity.

Criterion #5 – The Rotation Principle

There is something of a tradition of passing the torch among City Council colleagues so that various mayoral styles and priorities can be sampled. Based on this, the nod would go to Tim Toomey and Henrietta Davis for having waited their turn the longest. Needless to say, this criterion is most often quoted in order to dissuade councillors from reelecting a Mayor to a 2nd consecutive term. The Rotation Principle generally goes hand-in-hand with the Exclusion Principle, i.e. the fact that there are some elected councillors whose behavior has been such that they couldn’t get majority support under virtually any circumstance. In short, some measure of acceptability is a prerequisite for consideration under the Rotation Principle. Though there is a temptation to name the Excluded here, I shall resist. In any case, every councillor’s vote weighs as much as any other.

We’ll see what Monday brings. Perhaps a deck of cards or some dice will prove handy in determining the outcome. – Robert Winters

Jan 4, 4:00pm update: The newly inaugurated Cambridge City Council failed to elect Mayor at its opening meeting. Their next opportunity will be at their regular January 11 meeting next Monday. Here’s how the vote went:

Leland Cheung voted for Marjorie Decker
Henrietta Davis voted for Henrietta Davis
Marjorie Decker voted for Marjorie Decker
Craig Kelley voted for Ken Reeves
David Maher voted for David Maher
Ken Reeves voted for Ken Reeves
Sam Seidel voted for David Maher
Denise Simmons voted for Denise Simmons
Tim Toomey voted for David Maher

It takes 5 votes to elect a Mayor, so there’s a way to go. The School Committee will be inaugurated at 6:00pm tonight with Councillor Reeves standing in as Chair in the absence of an elected Mayor. It is not clear whether they will vote to elect their Vice-Chair at this meeting or if they will wait until the election of a Mayor and 7th voting member of the School Committee.

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