Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 30, 2012

Cambridge City Council to Propose 3-Year Appointment of Richard Rossi as City Manager

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:41 am

On this Monday’s Agenda:
Cambridge City Council to Propose 3-Year Appointment of Richard Rossi as City Manager

Richard RossiO-6     Dec 3, 2012
COUNCILLOR MAHER
COUNCILLOR CHEUNG
COUNCILLOR REEVES
COUNCILLOR TOOMEY
MAYOR DAVIS
COUNCILLOR DECKER
WHEREAS: City Manager Robert W. Healy has notified the City Council of his intent to retire as of June 30, 2012 after 32 years in that position; and
WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge’s current executive leadership team led by Mr. Healy and Mr. Rossi has one of the longest tenures of any municipal leadership team not only in the Commonwealth but in the nation; and
WHEREAS: The City Council has committed to conducting an in depth "community visioning and engagement" process at this important juncture and prior to commencing a formal executive search; and
WHEREAS: The City Council would like to ensure that during these fiscally challenging and uncertain times Cambridge will continue to thrive and provide new opportunities; and
WHEREAS: The City Council would like to make this leadership transition as seamless as possible for residents, the business community and city staff; and
WHEREAS: Planning for the 2014 fiscal budget is fast approaching with initial meetings scheduled to begin on Dec 5, 2012; and
WHEREAS: The City will benefit from proven leadership, talent and experience as the City is currently in the process of a number of major initiatives including planning studies in Central and Kendall Squares and an aggressive capital improvement plan to rebuild several schools; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Council hereby appoint Richard C. Rossi as City Manager of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts beginning on July 1, 2013 for a period of three years ending on June 30, 2016; and be it further
ORDERED: That City Manager Robert W. Healy work collaboratively with Mr. Rossi in the development of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, a budget that Mr. Rossi will ultimately be charged with administering; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Council continue its work to develop a comprehensive "community visioning and engagement" process; and be it further
ORDERED: That a contract which sets forth, inter alia, the provisions specified above, shall be provided by the Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee to the City Council for approval no later than Jan 7, 2013.

November 19, 2012

Nov 19, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,cycling,elections,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:42 am

Nov 19, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Here are some items that jump out as worthy of comment:

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Council Order Number 10, dated 5/23/2011, regarding Biogen return to Cambridge.

Biogen Idec Inc. intends to soon relocate its headquarters to Cambridge where it now has a substantial presence. As the Manager’s letter states, "The remaining outstanding barrier is the zoning requirement that a cafeteria be located on the ground floor of the building and open to the public at least 20 hours per week." This seems like a completely reasonable accommodation, especially if the local business association makes a parallel effort to create affordable food options in the immediate area. Most people would likely choose to eat in a restaurant than in the cafeteria of a life sciences building anyway. Perhaps that existing provision in the zoning code is a vestige of the days when Kendall Square had vanishing dining options. That’s no longer the case, though the provision of affordable dining options could still use some attention.

Resolution #15. Resolution on the death of William M. Hogan, Jr.   Councillor Maher

William Hogan was a former Cambridge City Councillor and first Vice Mayor under the Plan E Charter. He was the last surviving councillor elected in 1941 in Cambridge’s first PR election under the Plan E Charter adopted the previous year. He died at the age of 100. He would have been about 27 when he was elected (in 1939) and 31 when he left office. He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1943. He was among the last elected councillors-at-large in 1939 under the previous charter and the first under the new Plan E charter.

Resolution #25. Thanks to City staff for their work on Election Day.   Mayor Davis

Order #16. That the City Manager confer with the Election Commission to make information publicly available on wait times throughout Election Day and the number of booths at each precinct.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Though I had to wait over 40 minutes in line to vote this year, when I got to the front of the line I saw only efficiency and courtesy from the the poll workers at the City Hall Annex. Though things may have run faster with more booths, the real slowdown was caused by the presence of several additional nonbinding ballot questions that most people did not have an opportunity to read prior to voting. If it were my call, I would allow voters the option to vote outside of the booths if they don’t mind doing so. The checking in, checking out, and inserting of ballots into the scanner go very quickly. The limiting factor is the number of booths. One of the great advantages of scannable paper ballots is that there is no strict limit on how many voters can simultaneously if there is some flexibility in where you can fill out your ballot. Mayor Davis’ appreciation of election workers stands in marked contrast to the recent bellyaching of one of her colleagues.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to investigate creating a pilot program for installing mini exercise stations on major walking routes throughout the city, perhaps at bus stops, subway stations and public parks.   Mayor Davis

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to look into the installation of public drinking fountains at additional locations in the city – possibly working with the Cambridge Arts Council on interesting designs.   Mayor Davis

These are interesting and creative suggestions. Every such installation, however, will have to be maintained and that could be problematic. I’m inclined to believe that public parks and plazas would be a lot more appropriate than bus stops and subway stations.

Order #4. That the Cambridge City Council go on record urging the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to pass MA Senate Bill 2314, "An Act Relative to Plastic Bag Reduction."   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Law Department to prepare language for an amendment to the Municipal Code to ban the use of polystyrene-based disposable food containers and to provide a waiver provision similar to the by-law of the Town of Brookline.   Councillor Cheung and Mayor Davis

I’m glad that there is attention being given to some of these more annoying aspects of waste management, especially the reduction of materials for which there are limited recycling options. It should be noted that consumers have always been able to avoid plastic bags simply by providing their own reusable bags when shopping. Regarding the banning of polystyrene food containers, don’t be surprised if some food vendors replace them by even more wasteful containers made of other plastics that rarely make it into the recycling stream.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate city officials to explore the possibility of completing and submitting the Bicycle Friendly Community application by Feb 26, 2013 so that the City of Cambridge may be included in the next review cycle and join together with other communities in participating in the Bicycle Friendly Community program.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

As a daily cyclist, I continue to scrutinize the City’s decisions regarding safe accommodation for cyclists and transportation policies that often seem more rooted in hostility toward motor vehicle operators than in the promotion of good alternatives. The City does seem to be doing a better job in their design of on-street bike lanes, though they routinely err in their treatment of these lanes at intersections. State law requires that right-turning vehicles move as far right as possible before making their turn, yet the City often stripes bike lanes with a solid line right up to intersections. Unless a motor vehicle operator drives in the bike lane immediately before turning, there will be a greater risk of turning into a cyclist passing on the right – and many cyclists are oblivious to this danger. The City is also installing "cycle tracks" on some streets that will create significant conflicts at driveways and intersections and will most likely narrow travel lanes to the point where on-street cyclists wishing to maintain more than casual recreational speeds are endangered. I don’t expect these realities to be reflected in the City’s application, and City planners have been unresponsive in their cycle track juggernaut.

Order #9. Special Permit process pursuant to MGL 40A as it relates to the impact of re-filing a zoning petition on pending special permits or special permits that have been granted.   Councillor Kelley

Though I won’t speak to the merits of this Order, the confusion by city councillors over the recent "move to withdraw" the Yanow Petition indicated that a little more schooling on zoning regulations and procedures may be in order.

Order #11. That the Cambridge City Council go on record urging the members of the Massachusetts Committee on House Steering, Policy and Scheduling to pass MA House Bill 4165, "An Act Relative to Speed Limits."   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This legislation would reduce the speed limit within "thickly settled areas" and business districts from the current level of 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. As a "thickly settled area", all of Cambridge would likely be covered by this reduced speed limit. While this would make sense in many Cambridge locations, especially on narrow streets with many parked cars, there are plenty of other streets where the existing 30mph speed limit makes more sense. This proposal is introduced every few years and is usually not supported by transportation engineers who argue that, in the absence of other factors, speed limits should be set according to prevailing speeds in order to minimize conflicts.

Order #20. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate city officials to explore the possibility of communicating appropriate storm preparedness through the website and text messages sent by the city.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This is a good suggestion and consistent with the City’s long-standing practice of encouraging residents to help keep storm drains clear during and after winter storms. Having braved Sandy’s wrath on several occasions to clear the storm drains in my neighborhood, I think it would be very helpful if people were more aware of keeping these drains unobstructed. That means not only parking clear of the drains, but also picking up a rake and getting out there to help keep the drains clear.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a public meeting held on Oct 19, 2012 to discuss Community Benefits.

The report suggests that the City Council has a long way to go before really coming to terms with this issue. In simple terms, a community benefit is the money paid or benefit provided by a developer for up-zoning property. However, when city councillors are closely involved in deciding how these funds should be spent, the funds often go toward pet projects or priorities of individual councillors. The default option is often affordable housing. One of the more refreshing aspects of the Goody Clancy process for Kendall Square and Central Square has been the expanded definition of community benefits to include things like the exclusion of ground floor retail in the calculation of building densities, financial support for retail in the form of either reduced rent or outfitting the space, and the creation of public spaces for markets and other purposes. These and other ideas are welcome additions to the discussion of what community benefits might flow from permitting additional density in appropriate locations. This committee report only refers to housing and human services, and that’s far too limiting. The Government Operations Committee and Ordinance Committee would be well-advised to absorb the forthcoming recommendations regarding Kendall Square and Central Square before redefining what constitute community benefits and how any related funds should be disbursed. It should also be stated that when community benefits are tied to up-zoning proposals, there is the very real possibility that every such proposal will be granted as long as enough cash is put on the table – regardless if the proposal makes good planning sense. – Robert Winters

November 14, 2012

Cycle track disease is contagious!

It crosses over from Cambridge to hit the slippery slope (literally) in Somerville.

Please see my extended comments here: http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=4862

November 7, 2012

Cambridge Election Results: Nov 6, 2012

Filed under: 2012 election,Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:43 am

State & Presidential Election Unofficial Results November 6, 2012
(Cambridge Totals Only – from City website)
Unofficial Results do not include Write-In, Auxiliary, Overseas Absentee or Provisional Ballots.

ELECTORS OF PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT Party Votes %
Johnson and Gray Libertarian 550 1%
Obama and Biden Democratic 41,991 86%
Romney and Ryan Republican 5,340 11%
Stein and Honkala Green-Rainbow 906 2%
SENATOR IN CONGRESS
Scott P. Brown Republican 7,463 15%
Elizabeth A. Warren Democratic 41,127 85%
REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
Fifth District
Edward J. Markey Democratic 21,048 90%
Tom Tierney Republican 2,297 10%
Seventh District
Michael E. Capuano Democratic 19,641 88%
Karla Romero Independent 2,690 12%
COUNCILLOR, Sixth District
Terrence W. Kennedy Democratic 38,657 100%
SENATOR IN GENERAL COURT
Middlesex and Suffolk District
Sal N. DiDomenico Democratic 18,915 100%
First Suffolk and Middlesex District
Anthony W. Petruccelli Democratic 6,775 89%
Thomas J. Dooley, III Republican 801 11%
Second Middlesex District
Patricia D. Jehlen Democratic 12,640 100%
REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT
24th Middlesex District (Cambridge Only)
Tommasina Anne Olson Republican 177 7%
David M. Rogers Democratic 2,169 85%
James F. Gammill Open Innovative Government 207 8%
24th Middlesex District (Arlington, Belmont & Cambridge)
Tommasina Anne Olson Republican 4,420 20.5%
David M. Rogers Democratic 12,338 57.1%
James F. Gammill Open Innovative Government 4,857 22.4%
25th Middlesex District
Marjorie C. Decker Democratic 14,997 100%
26th Middlesex District (Cambridge Only)
Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. Democratic 7,752 69.2%
Thomas Michael Vasconcelos Republican 596 5.3%
Mike Connolly Progressive Independent 2,855 25.5%
26th Middlesex District (Cambridge & Somerville)
Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. Democratic 10,772 68.3%
Thomas Michael Vasconcelos Republican 1,010 6.4%
Mike Connolly Progressive Independent 3,968 25.2%
Write-in   16 0.1%
29th Middlesex District
Jonathan Hecht Democratic 7,361 100%
8th Suffolk
Martha Marty Walz Democratic 5,053 100%
CLERK OF COURTS, Middlesex County
Michael A. Sullivan Democratic 38,629 100%
REGISTER OF DEEDS, Middlesex Southern District
Maria C. Curtatone Democratic 37,423 100%
SHERIFF, Middlesex County (to fill vacancy)
Peter J. Koutoujian Democratic 34,430 88%
Ernesto M. Petrone Unenrolled 4,596 12%
STATEWIDE BALLOT QUESTIONS (For full text of the statewide ballot questions (questions 1-3), please see http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/message12.htm
Question 1: Availability of Motor Vehicle Repair Information
Yes 35,841 88%
No 4,715 12%
Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life
Yes 30,909 68%
No 14,639 32%
Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana
Yes 36,063 79%
No 9,564 21%
NON-BINDING PUBLIC POLICY QUESTIONS
Question #4:
Shall the state senator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress and the President to: (1) prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance; (2) create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services; (3) provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and (4) redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now?
Yes 32,812 82%
No 7,134 18%
Question #5 (Wd 1, Wd 2 Pct 1, Wd 3, Wd 4 Pct 2, Wd 6, Wd 7, Wd 8, Wd 9, Wd 10, Wd 11)
Shall the state senator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?
Yes 25,944 78%
No 7,294 22%
Question #5 (Wd 2 Pcts 2&3, Wd 4 Pcts 1&3, Wd 5)
Question #6 (Wd 1, Wd 2 Pct 1, Wd 3, Wd 4 Pct 2, Wd 6, Wd 7, Wd 8, Wd 9, Wd 10, Wd 11)
Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?
Yes 39,206 87%
No 5,872 13%
Question #7 (Wd 9, Wd 10 Pct 3, Wd 11)
Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress and the President to: (1) prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance; (2) create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services; (3) provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and (4) redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now?
Yes 7,805 82%
No 1,720 18%

In Somerville, Question 4 (Community Preservation Act) passed on a 76%-24% vote.

November 6, 2012

The Choice

Filed under: elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 8:17 am

Betty Boop for President


Olive Oyl for President

November 4, 2012

Meanwhile, outside of Ohio – Nov 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: 2012 election,Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:24 pm

Meanwhile, outside of Ohio – Nov 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

On Election Eve when the focus of one or more members of the City Council is on the next day, the tradition is to have a very short meeting. Colleagues generally respect this, and it’s considered offensive to violate this tradition. Here are a few items that drew my attention for this (hopefully) short meeting:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the results of the bi-annual Citizens Opinion Survey for 2012. [Survey Results]

Short version – everybody’s happy except for a few raised eyebrows about the quality of the public schools. The once ultimate priority among residents on affordable housing is now barely a blip on the radar. People are now more concerned about public safety and quality City services. Nobody is outraged by the tax rates, especially condo owners.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-115, regarding additional information requested on accessibility and other potential barriers at polling locations.

This is a follow-up report requested by Councillor Decker who spent the last meeting berating good City employees for no good reason. Just because a politician has some skin in the game does not give her license to bully people who are doing their best under circumstances over which they may not have total control. One has to wonder whether elevation to the state legislature will bring a little grace and perspective to this politician. If not, she should expect a lot of pushback from her future colleagues and maybe an actual challenger in the 2014 election.

Charter Right #2. That the Mayor and the Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee are requested to provide updates every other week on the status of the City Manager search process to the City Council and to work with the City’s Information Technology staff to have those updates posted on the City Council website under a separate tab on the City Council’s page on the City’s website. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Davis on Order Number One of Oct 22, 2012.]

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a public meeting held on Oct 24, 2012 to discuss the visioning process for the City of Cambridge and the City Manager search.

The City Manager selection process carries on – sort of. At the recent committee meeting, the strong suggestion was that the councillors should expect glacial progress with an actual candidate not arriving until possibly 2014 after the current City Council term has passed. Naturally, that suggestion didn’t sit well with some councillors – ironically the same councillors who were most in favor of an elaborate process of self-realization, soul-searching, goal-setting, and kumbaya-singing prior to hiring a successor to Bob Healy. I expect there to now be some movement toward a more abbreviated process, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole process falls apart by next summer and 5 councillors just make a motion from the floor to hire someone they like.

Unfinished Business #10. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Oct 3, 2012 to discuss a zoning petition filed by Susan Yanow, et al to rezone……

Nothing will likely happen with this silly petition to downzone Central Square. The Council voted to "leave to withdraw" at the previous meeting in response to a request of one of the petitioners to withdraw the petition. Expect it to gather dust on Unfinished Business until it expires on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, the actual planning process with Goody/Clancy and the short-term "Central Square Advisory Committee 20011-12" continues. Their next meeting is Wed, Nov 7 to attempt to formulate final recommendations. Where it all goes from there is an open question.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Public Works on the feasibility of installing recycling bins adjacent to trash bins and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor vanBeuzekom

It should be noted that there has already been a dramatic increase in the number of "Big Belly" recycling bins in Central Square and elsewhere. There is a cost associated with each new installation, but there are also considerations about maintenance of these bins. They can very easily become just another trash bin to careless people, and that does not promote recycling.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department, the Chief Information Officer of the Information Technology Department and any other relevant departments to evaluate the feasibility of ensuring all city-sponsored committee hearing minutes are available online and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor vanBeuzekom

No argument with this Order, but I wonder sometimes what the actual demand really is for this enhanced availability and whether the cost is always worth it. Let’s hope that the response to this Order is just a revision to the protocol for generating and making these documents available – rather than a lot of additional labor with greatly diminishing returns.

One more thing: Life will go on relatively unchanged for most people regardless of Tuesday’s election outcome. You might not believe that based on all the rhetoric generated by the Senate and Presidential election campaigns. – RW

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