Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 26, 2012

Ins and Outs – Monday, Mar 26 City Council meeting and other news

Filed under: 2012 election,City Council,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 am

Ins and Outs – Monday, Mar 26 City Council meeting and other news

Though there is a City Council meeting this week, all the really interesting stuff happened at last week’s meeting and in the days that followed. The Biggest Item by far was last week’s Order relating to the extension of the City Manager’s contract through June 2013 coupled with Bob Healy’s statement that he would retire at the end of the contract. As if one major retirement wasn’t enough, State Representative Alice Wolf announced on Thursday that she would not seek reelection this Fall. As expected, City Councillor Marjorie Decker then announced her candidacy for the seat now occupied by State Rep. Wolf. Others may yet toss their hats into the ring for the Democratic Primary in September and there’s a decent chance that there may even be a challenger in the November General Election.

Meanwhile at this week’s City Council meeting, there are a few interesting agenda items:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Larry Ward as an Election Commissioner for term of four years, effective Apr 1, 2012, in accordance with Chapter 239 of the Acts of 1921 as amended.

The Manager had a tough choice between nominees Tom Stohlman and Larry Ward. I suppose it didn’t hurt that Councillors Reeves and Simmons were actively supporting Larry Ward (who will be a fabulous election commissioner). If there’s an opening on the Planning Board anytime soon, I hope Tom Stohlman is interested. Even better, let’s hope Tom runs for City Council again and wins.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Board of Zoning Appeal to restart the process of the Dunkin Donuts cafe/coffee shop at 1678 Massachusetts Avenue. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seventeen of Mar 19, 2012.]

The discussion on this at the end of the March 19 City Council meeting illuminated the kind of elitism of which Cantabigians are often accused. If this was yet another yuppie café there would be no objections. (The site is next door to the Evergood Market.) Think of the bright side, folks. With a donut shop, you’ll have plenty of police protection. (I know I’ll get grief for that….)

Applications & Petitions #6. A zoning petition has been received from Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company, requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said parcel to be developed by Forest City.

The Forest City/University Park zoning petition returns. This would alter the zoning in the area bounded on three sides by Green Street, Blanche Street, and Mass. Ave. easterly to the former Cambridgeport Saloon (even more formerly Fathers Four) to extend the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District (CRDD) to include this block. The 7-page petition is here: http://www2.cambridgema.gov/CityOfCambridge_Content/documents/Foresst%20City%20%20Sidney%20St.pdf.

Resolution #1. Congratulations to Mayor Emeritus Walter J. Sullivan and Marion Sullivan as they prepare to celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary on July 22, 2012.   Vice Mayor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

Yes, indeed – wonderful people with a marvelous extended family.

Resolution #3. Urge residents to be cognizant of the beginning of street cleaning which commences the first week of April.   Councillor Toomey

No parking on the odd side of the street or your car will be tagged and towed. Street Cleaning. No parking on the odd side of the street or your car will be tagged and towed. Street Cleaning. No parking on the odd side of the street or your car will be tagged and towed. Street Cleaning…..

Resolution #7. Thanks to State Representative Alice Wolf for her years of service to the citizens of Cambridge.   Mayor Davis, Councillor Toomey, Councillor vanBeuzekom

Absolutely, yet I couldn’t help but notice that Marjorie Decker wasn’t listed as a cosponsor. Perhaps she was busy…..

It never ceases to amaze me how much the Democratic Party in Massachusetts abhors contested elections within its own party. This was the case when Marjorie Decker challenged Paul Demakis in 2002 and all the party regulars recoiled in horror. It makes you wonder what will happen if another Democratic hat comes flying into the ring for Wolf’s seat. Meanwhile, in the other House and Senate Cambridge districts, all we hear are crickets. – Robert Winters

March 22, 2012

Marjorie Decker to Seek Wolf Seat

Filed under: 2012 election,elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 7:25 am

Marjorie Decker to Seek Wolf Seat (Mar 22, 2012):

Dear Friends,

After speaking with State Representative Alice Wolf about her decision to not seek re-election this fall, I have decided to run for State Representative in the 25th Middlesex District. This district includes parts of neighborhoods encompassing West, North, Riverside and mid-Cambridge including the Aggasiz neighborhood. It is my honor and privilege to pursue the opportunity to represent the people of Cambridge in the Legislature.

No one can fill Alice’s shoes, but I assuredly share her values and those of the people of Cambridge. If elected, I will continue to work hard every day to live up to the standard of excellence in public service that she has set.

I look forward to the opportunity to continue my work on early childhood education, strengthening the economy to help create new jobs, expanding health care to make it more affordable, and working to expand a green legislative agenda that is rooted in the preservation of future generations to come. I look forward to talking with voters about the issues they deeply care about at the local and state level.

I want to thank Representative Wolf for her work on behalf of families across the Commonwealth and, most importantly, right here in Cambridge. It has been an honor to know and work with Alice since her days as the Mayor of Cambridge, when I was a student at CRLS, and later as her campaign manager and Legislative aide. Her tireless efforts and enduring optimism that we can and must do better for ourselves and each other have inspired and mentored me over the years.

I look forward to meeting with and listening to the concerns of Cambridge voters from across the 25th Middlesex District in the coming weeks and months. This is sure to be a spirited election year with so many important issues at stake. I hope to earn the opportunity to represent the values and ideals of the people of Cambridge on Beacon Hill.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Decker

March 21, 2012

Alice Wolf will not seek reelection in 2012

Filed under: 2012 election,elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 9:50 pm

This just in from Rep. Alice Wolf (Wed, Mar 21, 2012):

Dear Friend,

I want to let you know, personally, before you hear it through the grapevine that I will announce tomorrow that I am not running for reelection in November. I thank you for your support, friendship, interest in the community and political action over the years.

While I don’t, yet, have specific plans for my next venture, I know it will involve continuing to advance the progressive causes and values that have been the hallmark of my career and our work together.

While I’m making those plans, I won’t drop the ball in the House. My term continues until the end of the year and I plan to continue to work on my current legislative agenda and to represent my constituents as vigorously as I have for the past 16 years.

In those years in the House, I have been the leader on many issues, such as:

Creating the Department of Early Education and Care – to work toward universal access to high quality programs for all young children – especially those at risk.

Creating the special education circuit breaker to assist school systems by providing funds for programs for kids with substantial special needs.

Making gay marriage a reality in Massachusetts, continuing many years of advocacy for civil rights and for the GLBT community.

Passing legislation to keep homes in expiring use housing affordable – a 14-years effort. The first homes saved under this law are in a building at the corner of University Road and Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge – a project just recently completed.

Thank you for your part in enabling me to serve. I hope you feel I have represented you well. I look forward to continuing our work together to strive to make Cambridge and all of Massachusetts a fair, humane, sustainable place to live.

Sincerely yours,

Alice

March 19, 2012

Getting Down to Business – Mar 19, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Getting Down to Business – Mar 19, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

There can be little doubt that this meeting is the most serious meeting so far this year and possibly for this entire year. Front and center on the agenda is City Council Order #7, cosponsored by seven of the nine city councillors, calling for an extension of the City Manager’s contract (through mid-2013) and a commitment to begin consideration of how the process of succession might be conducted should this be the final contract extension for City Manager Robert W. Healy. There has been no recent public statement from Mr. Healy regarding his wishes for any additional contract extension, but a short-term extension like the one proposed seems consistent with statements made in recent years. It is noteworthy that seven of the nine city councillors had the good sense to grant a contract extension. The two councillors who did not sign on to this Order are Councillor Kelley (who has been a vocal opponent of Mr. Healy since long before his time as a councillor) and Councillor Reeves (speculation encouraged).
[Update: City Manager Robert Healy has now stated that he will retire at the end of this extended contract - in mid-2013.]
The relevant Order is this:

O-7     Mar 19, 2012
COUNCILLOR MAHER, COUNCILLOR CHEUNG, COUNCILLOR DECKER, VICE MAYOR SIMMONS, COUNCILLOR TOOMEY, MAYOR DAVIS, COUNCILLOR VANBEUZEKOM
WHEREAS: City Manager Robert Healy’s current employment contract with the City of Cambridge expires on Sept 30, 2012; and
WHEREAS: The contract contains a notification provision which needs action by the City Council or Mr. Healy on or before Mar 31, 2012; and
WHEREAS: As a result of Mr. Healy’s long tenure as City Manager, the City of Cambridge has not undertaken a search for a new City Manager for over thirty years; and
WHEREAS: It is imperative to the overall stability of the City of Cambridge that the City Council develop both a comprehensive short-term and long-term succession plan that will assist the City Council in their ongoing goal of providing fiscal stability and thoughtful strategic planning and any short-term plan should be in place before the FY 2014 budget process begins; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Council amends the expiration date of the City Manager’s current employment contract to June 30, 2013 which coincides with the fiscal FY 2013 year-end; and be it further
ORDERED: That all other provisions of the employment contract remain unchanged; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Council’s Government Operations and Rules Committee, with the assistance of the City Manager, begin the process of developing comprehensive short-term and long-term succession plans. Such plans shall include timelines and outline opportunities for input from the community including residents, businesses, institutions and City staff. Once developed, such plans shall be presented to the full City Council for final consideration.

Regardless whether any addition contract extensions occur in the future, there is wisdom in this City Council developing some kind of vision of how the City will one day, perhaps next year, make the difficult transition to a new City Manager after three decades of extraordinarily competent leadership. Let’s just hope that when the time comes this City Council or a future City Council is up to the task.

Elsewhere on the agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2012 and ending Mar 31, 2013.

The proposal is that the water and sewer rates remain unchanged for the coming year – the 2nd consecutive year of 0% increases. The future may not be as bright with projected water rate increases in the coming few years of 1.1%, 0.2%, 1.3%, and 2.0% but more significant projected sewer rate increases of 5.8%, 9.1%, 6.0%, and 10.2%. Sewer costs are currently about 72% of a typical water/sewer bill, so escalating sewer rates will have a significant impact down the road even as the water rates remain relatively stable.

On The Table #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties Limited Partnership ("Boston Properties") for the modification of two existing open space restriction covenants on buildings located at Four and Five Cambridge Center in connection with the creation of a new 47,000 square foot urban park and new open space restriction covenant for a net gain 28,853 square feet of public open space.

The proposal introduced several weeks ago by Boston Properties (to reduce the rooftop garden on the Kendall Square garage in exchange for greatly extending the agreement to maintain the garden and landscaping additional open space in the Kendall Square MXD District) was Tabled in order to allow more time for public process and, presumably, negotiation. Much of the public comment to date has been resoundingly negative, and there has been at least one proposal (from the East Cambridge Planning Team) to link any changes to the existing rooftop park to the provision of comparable space on adjacent buildings and a commitment to build the housing mandated by zoning guidelines. There are efforts to lure prize tenant Google away from Cambridge should this matter be long delayed, so there is some pressure on the City Council to resolve this soon and, hopefully, amicably for all affected parties.

Communications #3-32 and #36-111. A barrage of computer-generated petitions regarding the proposed reconfiguration of Community Schools programs associated with the temporary relocation of the King School and the programs housed therein.

It took me all of about a week to grow tired of the computer-generated communications that these "change.org" petitions produce – all identical lemming-like statements of dissatisfaction over whatever the flavor-of-the-week gripe happens to be. There are aspects of the proposed Community Schools reconfiguration worthy of discussion, but advocacy by the pound is thoroughly unappealing. Several well-considered letters from a few thoughtful individuals carry so much more weight than 76 sheep clicking "send" on a petition-generating website.

Much more entertaining are the following communications from the Odd Wizard of Franklin Street.

Communication #34. A communication was received from Peter Valentine regarding activity throughout the nation and territories where the national interests are involved.

Peter urges the following: To all True Americans from Peter Valentine, National Officer In Charge under the authority of a Constitutional State of "Imminent Danger That Will Not Admit Delay" 37 Brookline St., 3/9/2012. Orders that all governments in the United States of America be it Town, City, State or National implement a Department of Constitutional monitoring, investigation and corrective action to whatever degree necessary pertaining to any rights violations that a citizen believes a government may have perpetuated against a citizens’ constitutional rights. And further to all True Americans be it known that the National Officer In Charge is aware of all subversive activity throughout the nation and territories where the national interests are involved whether it be enemies who have infiltrated the government, the security forces or to undermine the security and well being of society in general. As Above, So Below. The term True American does not have to be defined because if you are a True American, You have The intelligence to Know What It Means.

Communication #113. A communication was received from Peter Valentine regarding the way to end all the world’s problems is for everyone to become creative instead of average and or despotic.

Peter urges the following: To all True Americans from The National Officer In Charge, under the authority of a "Constitutional State of Imminent Danger That Will Not Admit Delay", citizen Peter Valentine, 37 Brookline St. 3/11/2012. The Officer In Charge sends the Directive forward that the way to end all the world’s problems if for everyone to become Creative instead of Average and or Despotic.

Resolution #1. Retirement of Darleen G. Bonislawski from the Election Commission.   Mayor Davis

Darleen Bonislawski has served honorably as an Election Commissioner since 1988 (24 years). As one of the few residents who ever goes to meetings of the Election Commission, I’ll note that Darleen has been the most outspoken commissioner advocating for members of under-represented communities to register and to vote. Her successor must be appointed by April 1 from a list of three persons nominated by the Cambridge Democratic City Committee. Two of those nominees, Tom Stohlman and Larry Ward, are superb choices – either of whom would be an excellent choice to succeed Darleen.

Order #3. That the City Manager, in conjunction with the Community Development Department, is requested to investigate the improper leases and rental of owned affordable housing units.   Councillor Reeves

What a revelation. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the days of rent control when property owners were constrained in what they could legally charge for rent, but many tenants were earning great money (including a former mayor) and other tenants were subletting their rent-controlled apartments for substantially more than the maximum legal rent. I guess it just goes to show that we’re all good capitalists at heart. That includes many people in subsidized housing who are expert at being "poor on paper" in order to qualify for taxpayer-supported cheap housing, and apparently a few ultra-capitalists who are now using their taxpayer-supported housing as a tradable commodity. All Hail Marx and Lenin here in the Peoples Republic!

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Information Technology Department and the Government Operations and Rules Committee to look into the feasibility of recording all roll call votes online and report back to the Cambridge City Council.   Councillor Cheung

As the ultimate Council observer, I endorse this wholeheartedly. It does, however, seem rather odd that the City is so enslaved and choked by its own technology that the IT Department is required when all that is needed is a simple annotation indicating how people voted. This is already done for some items voted by the City Council. – Robert Winters

March 5, 2012

Cambridge City Council subcommittees for 2012-2013

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 8:49 pm

City Council subcommittees for 2012-2013

Committee Members Staff
Ordinance Maher (Chair), (committee of the whole) Lopez, Crane
Finance Decker (chair), (committee of the whole) Lopez, Crane
Government Operations and Rules Maher (Chair), Cheung, Simmons, Toomey, vanBeuzekom Lopez
Transportation, Traffic, and Parking vanBeuzekom (Chair), Decker, Simmons Lopez
Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Cheung (Chair), Reeves, vanBeuzekom Lopez
Housing Decker (Chair), Kelley, Reeves Lopez
Economic Development, Training, and Employment Toomey (Chair), Cheung, Reeves Lopez
Public Safety Kelley (Chair), Simmons, Toomey Lopez
Human Services Simmons (Chair), Kelley, Reeves Lopez
Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Reeves (Chair), Cheung, Maher Crane
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities Cheung (Chair), Decker, vanBeuzekom Crane
Veterans Kelley (Chair), Decker, Toomey Crane
Claims Toomey (Chair), Maher, Simmons Cosgrove
University Relations Reeves (Chair), Maher, vanBeuzekom Lopez
Community Health Decker (Chair), Toomey, vanBeuzekom Crane
Environment vanBeuzekom (Chair), Cheung, Kelley Crane
Civic Unity Simmons (Chair), Maher, Kelley Crane

Parks, Petitions, and Pickups – March 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:18 am

Parks, Petitions, and Pickups – Mar 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

The proposal introduced last week by Boston Properties (to reduce the rooftop garden on the Kendall Square garage in exchange for greatly extending the agreement to maintain the garden and landscaping additional open space in the Kendall Square MXD District) elicited a great deal of public comment (almost all opposed to reducing the size of the garden) and a renewed interest by city councillors in the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority that guides the development of the MXD District and much of the Kendall Square area. It was agreed that the matter should be tabled until March 19 so that some public process and additional conversations might take place. The relevant agenda item is this:

On The Table #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties Limited Partnership ("Boston Properties") for the modification of two existing open space restriction covenants on buildings located at Four and Five Cambridge Center in connection with the creation of a new 47,000 square foot urban park and new open space restriction covenant for a net gain 28,853 square feet of public open space. [Placed on Table on motion of Councillor Toomey on Feb 27, 2011.]

One response is the following Order from Councillor Toomey that questions what constitutes open space in that area and whether the area to be landscaped as a "Dog and People Park" has not already been designated for other use.

Order #2. That the City Manager is request to report back to the City Council on what is designated open space within the MXD District in Kendall Square.   Councillor Toomey

Some of the discussion by councillors at last week’s meeting focused on the membership of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA). Though this Board is supposed to have an executive director and five members (four appointed by the City Manager subject to approval by the City Council, and one appointed by the governor), most of the seats have remained essentially or actually vacant for some time. The City Manager last week let it be known that he is now interviewing possible new appointees for this Board. It is not unreasonable to speculate that a renewed CRA could play a role in projects not only in the Kendall Square area but also elsewhere in Cambridge (as it has in the long past).

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to look into the feasibility of hiring an ombudsman to serve as a liaison and internal advocate for community members. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number One of Feb 27, 2012.]

This was Councillors Cheung and vanBeuzekom’s Order last week – a good sentiment but perhaps not the best response to perceptions by some that the Community Development Department (CDD) is not working in the best interest of the residents of the city. As mentioned here last week, everyone at CDD should be and for the most part is already "a liason and internal advocate for community members".

Unfinished Business #3. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a hearing held on December 28, 2011 to consider an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance on the petition filed by Julia Bishop, et al. and re-filed by the City Council to amend Section 17.20 of the Zoning Ordinance – Regulations for Special District 2 located in North Cambridge along Linear Park.

It is expected that this Petition which was amended last week and which has been the focus of so much public testimony and organizing since last summer will be voted this week. The Law Department is expected to address issues of possible spot zoning prior to the Council vote on ordination.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Commissioner of Public Works with the intention of devising a plan for implementing curbside pick up for small businesses along existing curbside pick up routes and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

There was a day not so long ago when the City picked up rubbish from many or most Cambridge businesses, but the policy has for some time been to shift this responsibility from the City to private vendors hired by the businesses or commercial building owners. This same policy has carried over to recycling services. Councillor Toomey’s well-intentioned Order should be understood in the larger context of all solid waste disposal by businesses. For example, if recycling services are provided at low or no cost to small businesses, then this would create a financial incentive for businesses to recycle as much as possible. [This has been the experience in cities and towns with "pay as you throw" systems in which residents can recycle at no cost but must pay by the bag or barrel for rubbish disposal.] This could substantially increase costs for the City. There certainly would be greater efficiency in using the same vehicles for both residential and commercial recycling, but contracts would have to be rewritten and volumes and costs estimated before considering a shift back toward the City providing these services.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to provide to the City Council the response to the Massachusetts Food Association’s letter as it relates to City Council Policy Order Number 10 regarding banning of plastic bag usage by Cambridge retailers.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

It will be interesting to see both the Massachusetts Food Association’s letter opposing such a ban as well as the City Manager’s response. Consumers should be routinely providing their own bags without government intervention, but whether they do or don’t it would still make more sense to have a common policy at all stores and not different policies in different cities and towns.

Finally, it must be noted that this will be the first City Council meeting since the retirement of City Clerk D. Margaret Drury. Interim City Clerk Donna Lopez was sworn in at last week’s meeting. The complete list of Cambridge Town Clerks and City Clerks going back to 1632 is posted at http://rwinters.com/clerks-managers.htm. – Robert Winters

Powered by WordPress