Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 10, 2013

FY2014 School Department Budget Stalled by City Council

Filed under: City Council,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:14 am

The Cambridge City Council at its FY2014 Budget Hearing on May 9 failed to approve the School Department Budget of $150,989,445 on a 3-4-1-1 vote [YES – Decker, Maher, Davis; NO – Simmons, Kelley, Cheung, vanBeuzekom; PRESENT – Toomey; ABSENT: Reeves]. The budgeted amount represents a 4.1% increase over the previous year and is in line with the increases of other City departments. This should require at least one more meeting of the Finance Committee to take up the FY2014 Budget and, presumably, another meeting of the School Committee to respond to the rejection of its budget. [Update – The Budget was not rejected, but held in the Finance Committee pending the resolution of a variety of questions. It was subsequently discharged on May 20 without any of these questions being addressed.]

Under the Charter, the City Council may reduce any submitted departmental budgets but they may not increase them. On the other hand, requests can be made through the City Manager to adjust and resubmit budgets. Cambridge being Cambridge, it’s likely that the budget rejection is based on a desire to spend MORE money rather than less money. It is the responsibility of the Cambridge School Committee to determine how money is allocated within the School Department budget. The City Council can only vote on the bottom line. If the intention of the City Council is to now involve itself in specific School Department budget items, this represents a radical departure from what is permitted under the Charter and calls into question the role and responsibilities of the School Committee. – RW

Reference: Cambridge Chronicle story

May 6, 2013

Bikes and More on the May 6 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,cycling — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:22 am

Bikes and More on the May 6 Cambridge City Council Agenda

There will be a 5:00pm Special Presentation prior to the regular City Council meeting to thank all first responders and all public safety officials who were involved in the events that began with the Marathon Day bombings. After that, a few items seem interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to revised text of the Bicycle Parking Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #15. 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 hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 6, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Mar 19, 2013. Petition expires June 17, 2013.

I’m not sure whether the City Council will be voting yet on this proposal, but I have to say that the response from CDD relative to the revised test is somewhat nonresponsive. Among other things, the issue was raised at an Ordinance Committee hearing whether requirements for bicycle parking should also apply to buildings such as triple-deckers that undergo complete renovation as part of a condominium conversion. The CDD response correctly states that unless the building associated with the project is enlarged it would not be defensible to require bicycle parking. However, the main issue raised at the Ordinance Committee hearing pertained to conversions where basement and other space not previously inhabited becomes an occupied part of one or more of the condos. This is, in fact, pretty standard practice for such projects and the new space is often taken from what previously had been storage space – including space where bicycles would have been stored. This seems totally contradictory. On the one hand the City correctly states that there’s a dire need for bicycle parking in residential buildings, yet we are supposed to look the other way when existing space for bicycle storage is removed in order to increase the market price of new condominiums.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-49, regarding a report on recommendations for the next steps on updating the City’s nexus study.

I found these few sentences from Brian Murphy’s letter especially interesting: "The incentive zoning contribution rate was initially set (in 1988) at $3.00 per square foot, and, after periodic adjustments by the Affordable Housing Trust based upon changes in the consumer price index, is currently $4.44 per square foot. Proceeds from the housing contributions are used by the Trust to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing. The City last reexamined the incentive housing contribution rate in 2002 when a second nexus study was completed. The 2002 study found that the housing contribution rate would have had to be increased to $7.83 per square foot to adequately address the impact of new development on market rents. However, after some discussion, no action was taken in response to this study."

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to clarify whether private driveways and apartment garages may be rented to car owners that are unrelated to the property and by what process can these spaces be legally rented.

Though the motivation for this Order was to recognize the possibility of sharing parking facilities, it may be interesting to hear the City’s response regarding how this may relate to the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance.

Resolution #28. Congratulations to the Cambridge Health Alliance on their affiliation with the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.   Mayor Davis

This reminded me of something John O’Brien, former CEO of the Cambridge Health Alliance, once told me: "In this business, you either marry or you die."

Order #5. That the City Council meet in the Government Operations and Rules Committee with the purpose of discussing open space, transportation, and workforce readiness initiatives.   Councillor Toomey and Mayor Davis

This Order apparently is an attempt to respond to the last-minute amendment to the recent MIT/Kendall Square zoning petition that was perceived as punishing neighbors who worked cooperatively and constructively in the rezoning process. Some councillors have some obligation to explain why they voted for that amendment, and maybe this Order will provide a mechanism for these councillors to be taken to task and for possible corrective action to be taken.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments as to the feasibility of implementing a program that makes cycling a more affordable, accessible and practical commuting option for low-income residents in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Give me a break. Buy yourself a solid old bike for cheap, get a good lock, and you’re good to go. Is this really something that requires yet another City program? The idea is a good one, but this really is something best handled outside of government.

Order #8. That the matter of Cambridge City Council Rule 16 pertaining to "Reconsideration of a Vote" be referred to the Government Operations and Rules Committee for review and revision.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Sounds like a councillor didn’t like a recent vote. Time to change the rules.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee, for a public meeting held on Apr 9, 2013 to assess how other cities support neighborhood groups and examine how Cambridge could make use of these practices.

This was an interesting meeting. The report only barely captures the tone of the meeting which included at least some testimony about whether established neighborhood groups legitimately represent neighborhoods. Also unanswered (but worth answering) is the question of how the neighborhood school programs can better be utilized as a vehicle for City support for neighborhood initiatives. – Robert Winters

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