Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 27, 2011

Calendar of Cambridge Candidate Forums and Events – 2011

Filed under: 2011 Election,elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:30 am

Calendar of Cambridge Candidate Forums and Events – 2011

SUNDAY MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY SATURDAY
July 31 Aug 1
Deadline for submitting
nominating signatures
2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 Aug 23
Davis Kickoff, 6pm
24 25 26 27
28 29 30 Aug 31
Ward 6 City Council Candidates Forum
at Senior Center, 7pm
Sept 1 2 3
Sept 4
Tauber kickoff, 3pm
5 Sept 6
Minka vanBeuzekom kickoff
7 Sept 8
Seidel kickoff, 6:30pm
9 10
11 12 13 14 Sept 15
Cheung kickoff
16 17
Sept 18
Turkel kickoff
19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 Sept 27
East Cambridge City Council Candidates Forum
, 7:00-9:30pm, Multicultural Arts Center, Second St.). The Forum will be facilitated by a trained moderator from the League of Women Voters
28 29 30 Oct 1
2 3 4 Oct 5
School Committee Candidates Forum
at East End House (Spring St.), 7:30pm, moderated by Nancy Stiening of East Cambridge Planning Team
Oct 6
School Committee Candidates Forum
sponsored by Ward 6 Dems, YMCA, 820 Mass. Ave., 7-9pm
7 8
Oct 9 10 11 Oct 12
City Council Candidates’ Forum
, sponsored by MCNA (Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association), 7-9pm, Cambridge College, 1000 Mass. Ave.
School Committee Candidate Forum, 6:30-8:30pm, hosted by Cambridge Parent Advisory Council on Special Education, Cambridge Citywide Senior Center. Info: www.cambridgepacse.org
Oct 13
School Committee Candidates’ Forum
, sponsored by CFIN (Cambridge Family Information Network), 6:00pm, Cambridge Public Library Lecture Hall (moderated by Monica Brady-Myerov, Senior Reporter and Assistant Managing Editor at WBUR)
14 15
Oct 16 17 18 Oct 19
West Cambridge City Council Candidates Forum
, 7:00pm, Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue
20 21 22
23 24 Oct 25
City Council Candidates Forum
co-sponsored by CEOC, ACT (Association of Cambridge Tenants), MAPS (Mass. Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, and CCC (Cambridge Community Center), 6:00-8:30pm, Citywide Senior Center (806 Mass. Ave.)
Oct 26
West Cambridge School Committee Candidates Forum
sponsored Ward 9 Dem. Committee, 7:00pm, Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue
Oct 27
Area IV (City Council) Candidates Forum
, 6:30-9:00pm, Pisani Community Center, 131 Washington St. This forum is hosted by: Area IV Coalition, MFNH, Area IV for Peace, Port Action Group, and the Washington Elms/Newtowne Court Tenants Council.
28 29
30 31 Nov 1 Nov 2
City Council Candidates’ Night on Environmental and Energy Issues
, sponsored by Green Cambridge, at the YMCA Theatre, in Central Square, 6:30pm to 9pm, with 3 different time slots available for candidates.
3 4 5
6 7 Nov 8
ELECTION DAY

List any events (or corrections or additional details) as comments below and they will be added to the Calendar.

Find out about all the candidates at the Cambridge Candidate Pages.

September 26, 2011

The Taxman Cometh – Highlights of the Sept 26, 2011 City Council agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:43 am

The Taxman Cometh – Highlights of the Sept 26, 2011 City Council agenda

In addition to the Executive Session delayed from last week by the Charter Right of Councillor Seidel, the top item tonight is the public hearing and the usual series of City Council votes that will ultimately lead to the setting of the residential and commercial tax rates for the current fiscal year, FY11-12. As Mr. Healy likes to remind the Council in his remarks, the City does not technically set these tax rates. They merely take the votes that ultimately lead to the state Department of Revenue setting the rates.

It’s unclear whether the Executive Session (relating to the now-settled Monteiro case and two other pending milkings of Mother Cambridge) will take place early in the meeting or after all other business is dispensed with. Ultimately, the primary purpose of the session is to help Councillor Kelley determine what particular negatives should appear in his campaign literature. Anyway, the important item is this one:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek the Massachusetts Department of Revenue approval for the tax rate for FY2012:

A. Authorize the use of Free Cash of $11,300,000 to reduce the FY12 tax rate;

B. Authorize $2,000,000 in overlay surplus/revenues to be used for reducing the FY12 tax levy;

C. Authorize $5,150,000 from the Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget;

D. Authorize $632,470 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 56.2602%;

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 FY12 exemption of $285.00 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17D;

J. Vote the FY12 asset limits of $56,695 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17E;

K. Vote the FY12 income and asset limits allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 41D as follows: Income limits of $23,442 for single and $35,163 for married; and asset limits of $46,883 for single and $64,464for 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 accept Clause 56 of G.L. c. 59, Section 5, which allows members of the Massachusetts National Guard or military reservists who are on active duty to obtain a reduction of all or part of their real and personal property taxes for any fiscal year they are serving in a foreign country.

Text of the City Manager’s message. The tax districts are shown below.

FY12 Tax Districts

Key Facts:

1) The final property tax levy for FY12 will be $299,090,641, an increase of 5.33%.

2) Based on a property tax levy of $299.1 million, the FY12 residential tax rate will be $8.48 per thousand dollars of value, which is an increase of $0.32, or 3.9% from FY11. The commercial tax rate will be $20.76, which is an increase of $0.86, or 4.3% from FY11. [These are upon final approval by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.] Both increases in the tax rate are less than FY11.

3) In FY12, commercial property owners will pay 65.4% of the property tax levy, the same share as in FY11. Consequently, residential property owners’ share of the FY12 tax levy is 34.6%, also the same as in FY11.

4) Approximately 63.9% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY12 tax bill. In addition, another 22.8% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100-$250. Therefore, a total of 86.7% of the residential taxpayers will see no increase or an increase of less than $250.

5) The Residential Exemption for the fiscal year will be $198,085 with a resulting tax savings of $1,679.76.

6) The changes in median assessed value and tax bill by property class are shown in the following table:

Change in the Median Value and Tax Bill by Property Class (includes Residential Exemption)
  FY11 Value FY11 Tax Bill FY12 Value FY12 Tax Bill Dollar Change Percent Change
Single Family $670,450 $3,870 $686,200 $4,139  $269  6.95%
Condominium $364,100 $1,370 $366,700 $1,430 $60  4.38% 
Two Family

$638,550

$3,609 $644,600 $3,786  $177  4.90%
Three Family $721,500 $4,286 $728,900 $4,501 $215 5.02%

These figures are not uniform throughout the city. Values and taxes vary greatly by neighborhood.

  • The median value of a single-family home ranges from a high of $2,448,500 in Tax District R10 (Brattle St. area) to a low of $403,500 in District R1 (everything east of Windsor St.).
  • The median value of a condo ranges from a high of $1,269,700 in District R10 to a low of $318,750 in District R4 (Harvard edge of Mid-Cambridge).
  • The median value of a two-family home ranges from a high of $1,915,800 in District R10 to a low of $449,600 in District R1.
  • The median value of a three-family home ranges from a high of $2,940,300 in District R10 to a low of $530,000 in District R9 (Fresh Pond south toward Mt. Auburn Cemetery).

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board not to adopt the Chestnut Hill Realty Zoning Petition.

This is the beast that refuses to die. The Planning Board panned it once, and now twice. The petition is all about shoehorning more apartments into below-grade, basement apartments so that the property owners (Chestnut Hill Realty) can make even more money. They first tried to call these "workforce housing" as if to suggest they were planning to house cooks and housekeepers in their overpriced new units. What makes the petition interesting is the fact that Chestnut Hill Realty has contributed handsomely to the political campaigns of several incumbent city councillors – typically giving maximum $500 donations from many principal players in the company and several members of their extended families. It’s always entertaining to watch the votes on these things.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Noel Johnson.   Vice Mayor Davis, Councillor Simmons

I salute a fellow member of the Central Square Advisory Committee from Pine Street in the Area 4 neighborhood. Rest in peace, Noel.

Resolution #5. Encourage residents to attend Cambridgeport History Day on Oct 1, 2011.   Vice Mayor Davis

This is something everyone should attend if in town that day. I’m scheduled to co-lead a history-themed bicycle ride that day from Charlestown to Lowell. October 1 must be a Big Day for historical explorations.

Resolution #12. Congratulations to The Dance Complex on its 20th anniversary.   Councillor Simmons

And especially to my good friend Rozann Kraus who has helped to guide the Dance Complex from its inception 20 years ago to today.

Order #5. Seeking intervention from Federal officials in keeping the Inman Square and MIT Post Offices open.   Mayor Maher

This Order is co-sponsored by all 9 city councillors, yet I have yet to see any analysis that suggests that either of these post office branches is necessary or even well-utilized.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Co-Chairs of the Government Operations and Rules Committee for a public meeting held on Aug 29, 2011 to discuss policy development on community benefits as mitigation for zoning amendments and dedication of street corners.

Suffice to say that "community benefits" not directly related to burdens caused by new development (as a result of zoning changes) should never be characterized as "mitigation". A better term might be "extortion" or "pay to play". As I have said repeatedly (and apparently to the deaf ears of councillors determined to say yes to any and all new development resulting in more money to spread around to their favorite charities), this is a dangerous road to go down. The clear message is that if you are willing to pay to play, zoning for higher density is for sale. It is difficult to see what, if any, connection this has to rational planning for a better city. – RW

September 19, 2011

A Quick One – Highlights of the Sept 19, 2011 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:49 am

A Quick One – Highlights of the Sept 19, 2011 City Council agenda

The Cambridge City Council meeting this week has the lightest of agendas and virtually nothing of any real interest. I’ll highlight only two items and make minimal comments on each.

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a recommendation for the City Council to move to Executive Session to discuss Awaiting Report Item Number 11-117.

This relates to the resolution of the unfortunate Monteiro case and (I believe) what can and cannot be publicly discussed regarding the other two shakedowns by one former and one current City employee that have yet to be completely adjudicated. Brookford Street in North Cambridge is certain to have one less person for dinner during public comment while that 20-year-long vendetta continues.

Order #5     Sept 19, 2011
COUNCILLOR CHEUNG
WHEREAS: The Department of Public Works reported a series of procedural changes it would be undertaking this upcoming winter to deal with snow; and
WHEREAS: In response, residents have expressed opinions and raised questions about additional options for handling large amounts of snowfall; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on the feasibility of the Department of Public Works using machines such as Bobcats to do a single pass through neighborhoods and retail streets to clear snow from sidewalks after a large snowfall.

This is a great Order from Councillor Cheung – at least the part about retail streets. I’ve been saying for years that this should be done in commercial districts if for no other reason than the fact that commercial property owners pay the majority of taxes. Also, facilitating access to commercial areas, especially when driving is a less attractive option, is a great service for residents and would greatly support local retail. The suggestion of doing this through all neighborhoods is, in my opinion, unrealistic. There’s just too much mileage and everyone in Cambridge knows that our sidewalks are not exactly uniform surfaces. Residential property owners are more than capable of taking care of the sidewalks in front of their homes. – Robert Winters

September 15, 2011

Concord Avenue, Under Construction

I just rode Concord Avenue last Sunday to see what was happening there.

I had thought that the construction project would have been completed by now, but it isn’t.

The image below is of the east end of the section under construction. I find a bit of irony here in that the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” sign is placed at the start of a project which intends to get bicycles off the road, and also it is nonstandard — diamond-shaped like a warning sign which is supposed to be yellow, but white like a regulatory sign, which is supposed to be rectangular (as with speed-limit and no parking signs). The message is a regulatory message: it is law.

Looking west at the east end of the Concord Avenue section under construction

Looking west at the east end of the Concord Avenue section under construction

Construction barrels divide the narrowed roadway into two lanes, rather than the three planned for when construction is complete. As the westbound bikeway is incomplete, I rode west on the roadway. Motorists still were able to overtake me without leaving their lane, as they were when the roadway was wider, with three travel lanes and a bike lane on either side. I was passed by a number of cars, no problem. I had one conflict with a driver who moved out of a side street into my path. Such conflicts will be much more common when bicyclists are riding in sidewalk space.

The road surface was very bumpy because the street has not yet been repaved. The effort is going into construction of the bicycle sidepaths at this time.

I shot video of my rides. It’s HD video and you will want to view it full screen to get all the details. This is the link to the video of my westbound ride. And here is my eastbound ride.

One other thing I hadn’t expected is that the south-side (eastbound) path was almost completely empty, except for me, though it was nearly finished, and unobstructed — on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon when there was heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic in Fresh Pond Park and on the Minuteman path.

I can say that if much traffic does appear on the south-side path, the situation will be very confused. There is no buffer between the 5′ wide bikeway (closer to the curb) and the wider walkway away from the curb. There was supposed to be a 2-foot-wide buffer, as I recall. Also, the concrete pavement of the pedestrian section, farther from the curb, is smoother. The bumpier asphalt pavement adjacent to the curb is supposed to be for eastbound bicyclists, in defiance of AASHTO guidelines, which require a 5′ spacing or a barrier, and also in defiance of normal path and road rules, which require riding on the right side. The City’s scheme would have eastbound bicyclists riding on the left side of the combined bikeway and walkway. Meanwhile, there also will be westbound bicyclists using this path to avoid the much worse path on the other side of the street, and probably keeping to the right as is usual.

As the path is behind a high curb, bicyclists who want to cross Concord Avenue will have to wait at the crosswalks rather than to merge into the roadway. At the few crosswalks, there is no waiting area (for example, at 1:24 in the eastbound video). Because the bikeway is between the walkway and the street, bicyclists and pedestrians who are waiting to cross the street will block the bikeway, and other bicyclists will have to divert onto the walkway.

As the concrete pavers of the pedestrian section and the asphalt of the bicycle section age and settle, a step could develop between them, just as on the parts of the Charles River paths, widened with asphalt next to the old stone retaining wall along the riverfront. Many bicyclists have gone down as a result.

Many aspects of the Cambridge bicycle program can be described as ideologically driven, and defying national and state design standards. Placing a longitudinal seam along a bikeway, and directing traffic to keep left, are merely incompetent.

Other than what I have described in this post, the project looks as though it will turn out as I expected, with the foreseeable problems I’ve already described in my earlier post; the right hook and left cross conflicts, inability to cross to the south side at most locations without dismounting in the street to lift the bicycle over a curb; resulting wrong-way riding on the north side, etc.

The party line about the Concord Avenue project, which I have in writing from two City employees (here and here) and verbally from a member of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, is that “bicyclists will be riding in exactly the same place as they are now.” This statement turns a blind eye to the encouragement of wrong-way riding, and the keep right/keep left confusion. It ignores bicyclists’ crossing and turning maneuvers, and motorists’ being trapped by the curbs and forced to turn across the path of bicyclists; it denies that motorists block sidepaths so they can see approaching traffic in the street. Saying that “bicyclists will be riding in exactly the same place as they are now” is like saying that a bird in a cage, hanging in a tree, is in exactly in the same place as a bird sitting in that tree and free to fly off.

What really burns me up is that the City employees designing bicycle facilities appear to have no concept of how bicyclists actually are going to use them, or of the potential hazards. It’s all about “build it and they will come” and that means, build just anything they think will attract novice cyclists and children, and to hell with design standards and safety research. I see shoddy and incompetent mimicry of European designs, and astonishing hubris. So far, the Concord Avenue bikeway is half built with one side completely open, and very few bicyclists have come, except for me, and I was there on a discovery tour.

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September 11, 2011

Back to School – Highlights of the Sept 12, 2011 City Council agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:26 pm

Back to School – Highlights of the Sept 12, 2011 City Council agenda

The Cambridge City Council returns from summer vacation this week. Among the 32 items on the City Manager’s Agenda, 83 Resolutions, and 42 Orders on the agenda for this Monday’s meeting, a few items stand out:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative that the City Council formally appropriate/allocate the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as follows:

1A. 80% of FY2012 CPA Local Fund revenues ($5,400,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;
1B. 10% of FY2012 CPA Local Fund revenues ($675,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;
1C. 10% of FY2012 CPA Local Fund revenues ($675,000) allocated to Open Space;
2A. 80% of FY2011 State Match revenues ($1,480,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;
2B. 10% of FY2011 State Match revenues ($185,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;
2C. 10% of FY2011 State Match revenues ($185,000) allocated to Open Space;
3A. 80% of the Fund Balance ($800,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Affordable Housing Trust;
3B. 10% of the Fund Balance ($100,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;
3C. 10% of the Fund Balance ($100,000) allocated to Open Space; and
4A. Appropriate ($7,500) from the Fund Balance the cost for the Community Preservation Coalition Membership Dues.

http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cityClerk/cmLetter.cfm?item_id=20017

This item is noteworthy every year only because the allocation NEVER changes and will NEVER change. Most people who have in the past advocated for a change in the allocation percentages don’t even bother attending the hearings any more. The die was cast in 2001 and it will NEVER change even if all of the city councillors were not around back then. There may be good reasons for maintaining the 80-10-10% allocation, but there’s nothing democratic about it. By the way, if you read the detailed report you’ll see that a sizable portion of the historic preservation allocation also goes toward "affordable housing".

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back on the feasibility of giving residents the option to "go paperless" with their City bills including water, real estate, excise and any other notice or communication the City regularly sends residents.   Councillor Cheung

Another good initiative from Councillor Cheung. I’d be just as happy with an e-mail alert. Where do I sign up?

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant departments to explore the possibility of placing a city-owned shelter at the bus stop at the corner of Brookline Street and Erie Street, and other bus stops next to senior apartment buildings, which do not currently have shelter.   Councillor Simmons

This one’s notable only in that I believe this request from Councillor Simmons has gone in many, many times before. The street corner mentioned in the Order is across the street from Councillor Simmons’ insurance office. It’s nice to know that at least one of the councillors has a job outside of politics. Oh yeah, there’s that oft-stated myth of the "full time city councillor." Slackers.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to work with relevant City departments to identify expedient and cost-effective ways to inform Cambridge residents, especially Cambridge seniors, of the city’s shift to single stream recycling.   Councillor Simmons

There are a few things worth saying here. First, as a member of the City’s Recycling Advisory Committee and, in particular, its Outreach Subcommittee, I bear some responsibility for this. The greatest difficulty, however, is the same as with educating voters about the upcoming municipal election. How do you reach the majority of Cambridge residents when there’s an important story to tell? The reality is that it’s easier to inform residents in a distant suburb than it is a large city (Cambridge) on the edge of a bigger city (Boston). Out in the suburbs, there’s a good chance that many residents actually read the local news.

Where do Cantabrigians get their news? Once upon a time, it may have been from the Cambridge Chronicle, but today it’s much more likely that if a resident even bothers to read the news, it’s probably from the Boston Globe or the New York Times or from one of the major news networks. It is highly likely that most Cambridge residents don’t know who the current mayor is or what form of municipal government we have. The only reason that they might know the rules about recycling is because they have to take out the garbage once per week and the City was kind enough to deliver a big blue recycling toter last year.

Unless there’s some kind of Lazarus-like uplifting of the local news (either print or online), I guess we’ll all just have to tweet, tweet, tweet about what’s happening locally. Mailings won’t do it. Perhaps one day all of the local neighborhood groups will get their acts together and grow widely subscribed listservs or similar tools and that they’ll carry much of the burden of civic education. Unfortunately, they’re just as likely to turn into shallow forums for what Al Vellucci used to call the self-annointed, self appointed. In the meantime, just go visit your neighbor and show them the ropes about single stream recycling. It’s not rocket science. While you’re there, tell them there’s an election coming up.

Order #20. That the City Council vote to file a Zoning Petition amending Section 20.300 Central Square Overlay District of the Zoning Ordinance by deleting Section 20.304.5.3 b.   Councillor Reeves

O-20     Sept 12, 2011
COUNCILLOR REEVES
WHEREAS: Central Square is widely regarded as a thriving entertainment and cultural district; and
WHEREAS: Many successful restaurants and nightclubs contribute to its vibrancy; and
WHEREAS: Opportunities to further enhance the vibrancy of Central Square are limited by a provision in the zoning language for the Central Square Overlay which requires that the principal public entrance be on Massachusetts Avenue; and
WHEREAS: That restriction has the effect of rendering what is a square into a linear strip and preventing active ground floor uses along such principal locations as Prospect Street; and
WHEREAS: In all other areas of the City such uses are permitted in the other Business B Zoning Districts; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Council vote to file a Zoning Petition amending Section 20.300 Central Square Overlay District of the Zoning Ordinance by deleting Section 20.304.5.3 b. which reads as follows:

b. Bar or establishment where alcoholic beverages are consumed and where dancing and entertainment is provided, dance hall or similar places of entertainment; Section 4.35 g shall be permitted only if the principal public entrance or entrances are directly from Massachusetts Avenue or Main Street.

I’m sure this is very well-intentioned and may even solve a problem here or there. On the other hand, one should be mindful of unintended consequences, especially when it comes to those areas where commercial activity (and especially alcohol-fueled commercial activity) operates close to residential areas. Does everyone remember what a zoo it was on Brookline Street when the Man Ray club would let out at the end of the night. That was pure torture of the residents in that area. Now imagine opening clubs on Essex Street or Norfolk Street or Pearl Street or Temple Street. Is that really what we want to encourage?

It seems likely that the impetus of this Order was a particular business owner who wanted an exception. If the proposed location was, for example, Prospect Street, then it seems as though a variance would be in order. Would a blanket right to open potentially noisy and rowdy clubs on the side streets of Central Square make for good public policy? That’s debatable.

Order #23. That the School Committee is requested to direct the Superintendent to confer with the City Manager and relevant members of the City and School Department staffs to determine what changes need to be made to playgrounds and playing fields associated with Cambridge Public Schools in order to best support the Innovation Agenda.   Councillor Kelley

Order #30. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads and the School Committee to see that the request for a new playground for the Amigos School be placed high on the list for playground renovations.   Councillor Cheung

Order #33. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads and the School Committee to look into the budgetary impact of implementing the Intel 1:1 eLearning program and report back to the Council on this matter in advance of the next budgetary cycle.   Councillor Cheung

I’ve grouped these three Orders together because they all involve the City Council apparently intervening in what would appear to be the responsibilities of the elected School Committee. Should the School Committee start advising the City Council on zoning matters? The content of each of these three Orders seems like perfectly good suggestions. Perhaps Citizens Kelley and Cheung should present their ideas at the next School Committee meeting. I’m sure they’d get a fair hearing.

Order #24. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council at its Sept 19th meeting on the status of any cases for which the recently concluded Monteiro case might be relevant. To the extent that public discussion on some aspects of these cases may be detrimental to the City’s legal position, the City Council may go into Executive Session, but Executive Session would be as limited as possible.   Councillor Kelley

Does anyone actually believe that Councillor Kelley has kept the proceedings of these Executive Sessions confidential? Not content to undermine the City’s position via private conversation, this Order seems mainly like a request to do so publicly.

Order #26. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of the Cambridge Public Library to reconsider the protocol of having wireless internet access on only the first floor of the public library.   Councillor Decker

My Ipad seems to work just fine on the 2nd floor of the Main Library. In fact, it seems to work fine for everyone else who was surfing the Internet the last time I was there. In fact, the only annoyance on the 2nd floor was the Libary staff person who could not keep his voice down while on the phone. I felt like going over to him to say, "Sshhh. This is a library."

Order #29. That the City Manager is requested to increase enforcement against bikers that endanger pedestrians and report back to the City Council with a plan of action on these two orders.   Councillor Cheung

Knock yourself out going after the bikers who are fewer and far less dangerous that the motor vehicle drivers. Meanwhile, the City is going full steam ahead with its plan to move bicycles off the street on Western Avenue and onto the sidewalk. Go figure.

Order #36. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads to implement stricter laws and increase police presence on Broadway to decrease the number of abnormally noisy trucks and unmuffled motorcycles during the night hours.   Councillor Cheung

As a resident of Broadway, I can testify to this complaint. The worst is when the high school lets out and the nitwits cruise Broadway in loud cars and mufflerless motorbikes to show off their empty skulls. They’re worse than the trucks. A few well-positioned police officers could solve this problem quickly, but the police are nowhere to be seen. The heavy trucks are most likely a temporary problem associated with the construction at the high school and at the Fogg Museum. Councillor Cheung’s watch must be off because the problem is far greater during the daytime hours than at night.

Order #37. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the racial makeup of the City’s workforce by level and department.   Councillor Cheung

Are we going back to racial quotas? If so, is the goal to have the City’s workforce match the demographics of the most recent US Census? Is there an intent here that every individual department and every level should meet predetermined racial quotas?

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public meeting held on July 13, 2011 to consider a petition for a zoning amendment filed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create a new Section 13.80 entitled PUD-5 District and amend the Zoning Map accordingly. The petition would rezone a 26-acre parcel in the Kendall Square area.

This zoning petition remains in committee. The expiration date of this petition is October 11. There are still a lot of unresolved matters about the proposed zoning. There has been compelling testimony questioning whether MIT should be developing commercial frontage or non-student housing in Kendall Square at all. Much of the testimony seems to be asking MIT to dedicate most of its Kendall Square development to non-academic purposes. Neither of these extremes seems likely. Unless some kind of Solomonic wisdom prevails during the next month, there’s a good chance that this petition will end up getting re-filed. – Robert Winters

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