Oct 4, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights
Today we’ll be having two City Council meetings. At 3:00pm there will be a Special City Council meeting to discuss the costly Cambridge Review Committee Report that grew out of the absurd Gates-Crowley kerfuffle of Summer 2009. There are indications of efforts to pack this meeting with partisans on one side of this dated conflict so, as is usually the case, attendance at this meeting will be indicative of nothing. Frankly, we’d be better served if we all went out for a few beers. I hear Obama’s buying.
Far more significant is the Regular City Council meeting that will follow at 5:30pm. There will be a 6:30pm hearing on the City’s recommendations to the Department of Revenue that will determine the property tax rates for FY11. According to the City Manager’s communication, a 5.69% increase in the property tax levy is anticipated for a total levy of $283,961,699. The residential tax rate is expected to be $8.16 per thousand dollars of assessed value and the commercial tax rate is expected to be $19.90 per thousand.
The median tax bills are expected to rise 8.59% for single-family homes, 5.96% for condominiums, 3.80% for two-family homes, and 3.73% for three-family homes. (These figures include the residential exemption.) The overall valuation of the City’s residential property decreased 0.47% during Calendar Year 2009 while commercial property decreased 0.41%. As is always the case, changes in property values were not the same throughout Cambridge. Single family homes saw the greatest increase (+5.5%) along Grove Street at the western edge of Cambridge and the greatest decrease (-9.06%) in the Shady Hill neighborhood. Condominiums saw the greatest increase (+0.96% – barely noticeable) in Area 4 and the greatest decrease (-5.62%) in East Cambridge. Two-families increased in only one district (+2.87%) around Huron Village and saw the greatest decrease (-9.98%) in Neighborhood 10 (Brattle Street area). Three-families saw the greatest increase (+5.23%) in Shady Hill and the greatest decrease (-8.60%) in the vicinity of Fresh Pond.
The required roll call votes are as follows:
A. Authorize the use of Free Cash of $11,400,000 to reduce the FY11 tax rate;
B. Authorize $2,000,000 in overlay surplus/revenues to be used for reducing the FY11 tax levy;
C. Authorize $8,300,000 from the Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget;
D. Authorize $1,198,615 from the School Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget;
E. Classify property into five classes;
F. Adopt the minimum residential factor of 56.3344%;
G. Approve the maximum residential exemption factor of 30% for owner-occupied homes;
H. Vote to double the normal value of the statutory exemptions;
I. Vote the FY11 exemption of $280.00 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17D;
J. Vote the FY11 asset limits of $55,775 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17E;
K. Vote the FY11 income and asset limits allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 41D as follows: Income limits of $23,061 for single and $34,592 for married; and asset limits of $46,122 for single and $63,418 for married;
L. Vote the income limit for deferral of real estate taxes by elderly persons as determined by the Commissioner of Revenue for the purposes of MGL Chapter 62, Section 6, subsection (k) for a single person ($51,000) and for married ($77,000);
M. Vote to lower the interest rate by 4% to 14% for overdue water and sewer bills in FY11; and
N. Vote to accept MGL Chapter 200A, Section 9A, which allows for an alternative procedure for disposing of abandoned funds held in custody by the City as provided for in the recently enacted municipal relief legislation.
Otherwise, the meeting agenda is very light with no controversial items. The interesting Orders are as follows:
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department on how the transition of the Grand Junction Rail Road to Commuter Rail traffic could impede the implementation of the Grand Junction Rail Trail and report back to the City Council. Councillor Toomey
This evolving issue promises to be a source of controversy as the Tim Murray Express rolls on through Cambridge. Councillor Toomey’s latest Order on this matter focuses on other uses that have been proposed for this rail corridor – most notably the idea of a Grand Junction Rail Trail. It’s hard to imagine commuter rail trains whizzing through the eastern part of Cambridge with six at-grade street crossings – some in pedestrian intensive areas.
Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back on the language in the noise ordinance as it relates specifically to the noise of car radios and what steps the police can take and what steps residents can take to combat and end this disturbance. Councillor Decker
O-8 Oct 4, 2010
WHEREAS: The decibel level of the bass of some car radios is at such a level that it causes an enormous disturbance and distress when said cars are in motion, stopped at traffic lights, and idling; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back on the language in the noise ordinance as it relates specifically to the noise of car radios and what steps the police can take and what steps residents can take to combat and end this disturbance.
Some of us have been bringing up this matter for years only to have it fall on deaf City Council ears. Maybe Marjorie will be the one to finally convince her colleagues that the scourge of these vehicles is far more annoying and ever-present than signs on commercial buildings or the occasional leaf-blower. As a resident who lives on a street (Broadway) close to a traffic light, I would be happy to have the traffic light removed just to eliminate the annoyance of loud sound systems in cars driven by people with tiny brains. My recollection is that when Councillor Davis tried to bring up this issue of "boom cars" several years ago, she was stonewalled by Councillor Reeves. Let’s hope everyone has learned a thing or two since then. Perhaps the biggest difficulty is that most of the city councillors live on relatively quiet streets and don’t appreciate just how invasive these idiot cars can be. As a Walden Street resident, my guess is that Councillor Decker is treated to a front row seat just like those of us who live on Broadway, or Cambridge Street, or Mass. Ave., etc. Indeed, I believe Marjorie is the only one of the nine who is regularly treated to this abuse.
Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Public Health Department and ask for a report back on the feasibility of Cambridge following suit with banning smoking in public parks, beaches and other public places. Councillor Decker
I believe the City Council already voted to ban smoking in public parks, but it’s doubtful that it was ever enforced. [Section 8.28.090 of the Municipal Code – Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places: A. Smoking Prohibited: No person shall smoke nor shall any person be permitted to smoke in any public place or municipal facility.]
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a hearing held on Sept 23, 2010 to continue to consider a proposed amendment to Chapter 10.17 of the Municipal Code entitled Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance to increase the residential permit parking fee from $8 to $20 effective in 2011 and $25 effective in 2013, and to clarify that the fee revenue can be expended on "other actions addressing climate change."
This matter awaits a vote at the next regular City Council meeting (October 18). The fee is not excessive, but the earmarking toward "other actions addressing climate change" deserves some discussion. — Robert Winters