FY2015 Budget – Key Items on the April 28, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda
The central item on this week’s agenda is the submission of the FY2015 Budget. The City Manager will present a Budget Overview at this meeting, and the series of Budget Hearings will take place over the next several weeks (May 8, May 15, and May 21). It is anticipated that the final vote to approve the budget will take place on June 2.
Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the FY2015 submitted budget and appropriation orders.
|GENERAL GOVERNMENT||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|PUBLIC SAFETY||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|Traffic, Parking & Transportation||$8,175,095||$10,935,015||$11,088,415||1.4||35.6|
|Police Review & Advisory Board||$77,210||$73,440||$75,235||2.4||-2.6|
|Weights & Measures||$98,910||$138,540||$142,935||3.2||44.5|
|COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENT||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENT||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|Human Rights Commission||$158,730||$249,380||$266,890||7.0||68.1|
|EDUCATION||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|Schools Operating (TOTAL)||$122,053,195||$150,989,445||$156,669,635||3.8||28.4|
|INTERGOVERNMENTAL||FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
|Cherry Sheet Assessments||$11,569,960||$20,126,950||$21,504,975||6.8||85.9|
|Cambridge Health Alliance||$6,500,000||$6,500,000||$6,750,000||3.8||3.8|
|FY05 submitted||FY14 adopted||FY15 submitted||1 yr % change||10 yr % change|
Note 1: Though the City Council’s budget is up just 1.7% over last year, it rose 75.4% over the decade – faster that all other entities in the General Government category.
Note 2: The overall submitted budget is $510,437,525 representing a 3.5% increase over last year’s budget.
Note 3: The Public Investment Fund this year include $3,800,000 for Information Technology Initiatives – apparently a response to a variety of City Council Orders in this area.
Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Chun, et al zoning petition with suggestions for a possible alternative approach.
No particular comments here – just two reports from the Planning Board worth noting.
Manager’s Agenda #9-15. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow:
(a) $1,150,000 to provide funds for the design, drainage, and installation of new synthetic field surfaces on the soccer fields at Danehy Park.
(b) $150,000 to provide funds for the purchase and installation of mechanical components to ensure the operational integrity of the elevator at the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.
(c) $550,000 to provide funds for renovations to the Thomas P. O’Neil, Jr. Fresh Pond Golf Course.
(d) $2,600,000 to provide funds for planning and municipal building renovations, including a Comprehensive Facilities Improvement Plan, design and construction of improvements at the City Hall Annex and upgrades to the City Hall Third Floor Women’s Restroom.
(e) $750,000 to provide funds for building renovations, including water infiltration system repair at the Haggerty School, replacement of the emergency generator at the Graham & Parks, Tobin and Cambridgeport Schools, and boiler replacement at the Graham & Parks School.
(f) $9,205,655 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, stormwater management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Western Avenue and Agassiz areas as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program and public toilet installation at Harvard Square.
(g) $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.
These loan authorization orders are times to coincide with the FY2015 budget process.
Manager’s Agenda #16-17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the rescission of the remaining amount:
(a) $1,000,000 of the loan order authorized by the City Council on May 21, 2012 for the City Hall Roof replacement project.
(b) $100,000 of the loan order authorized by the City Council on May 21, 2012 for the Ryan Garage and Simard Building Roof Replacement project.
We got lucky with a very favorable bidding environment for both of these roof replacement projects.
On The Table #5. That the Cambridge Community Development Department shall hold a series of public meetings to discuss the range of planning and zoning issues that have recently been in active discussion across the city, including, but not limited to, all varieties of housing (such as affordable, middle income, or other types of housing units), the amount, type and location of new and existing development, pre-fabricated units, transportation, congestion, open space, streetscape design, building design, sustainability, infrastructure and economic development with recommendations for moving forward on short range and long range planning work that is recommended as an outgrowth of these discussions. [Order Number Fifteen of Apr 7, 2014 Placed on Table on motion of Councillor Simmons on Apr 7, 2014.]
Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a revised planning order submitted by Mayor David P. Maher and Councillor Dennis Carlone regarding the Master Plan.
WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge is required to have a comprehensive Master Plan to provide a basis for decision-making regarding the long-term physical development of the City; and
WHEREAS: The Master Plan should include: goals and policies, land use, housing, economic development, natural and cultural resources, open space and recreation, services and facilities, traffic and transportation, urban design plans, and implementation schedules; and
WHEREAS: According to the Community Development Department, the City’s Master Plan is composed of a growth policy document, the Zoning Map, Zoning Ordinances, and a variety of planning studies which in many cases have focused on specific neighborhoods within the City; and
WHEREAS: The City has experienced significant development and change in recent years making the need for periodic review of our current growth policies essential to our efforts to promote good urban planning; and
WHEREAS: The City Council understands that a balanced and sensible approach is necessary to better guide future development, and that the amount of development that has occurred in our community has provided social and economic benefits to our residents, while also understanding that residents have questioned or expressed concerns with several projects and issues related to citywide planning/urban design; and
WHEREAS: The City Council recognizes that a diverse set of values exists in our City and further recognizes that our City government must respond to the needs and viewpoints of all neighborhoods, residents and business partners; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to engage the services of an independent planning/urban design professional who will lead a community process beginning with a series of public meetings aimed at receiving public input and discussing the range of planning, urban design and zoning issues that have recently been in active discussion across the city, including, but not limited to, all varieties of housing (such as affordable, middle income, or other types of housing units), the amount, type and location of new and existing development, prefabricated units, building aesthetics, transportation, traffic and congestion, pedestrian and bicycle safety, open space, streetscape design, building design, community-building, sustainability, infrastructure, climate vulnerability and economic development; and be it further
ORDERED: That these initial meetings take place in a variety of neighborhoods throughout the city and that every effort be made to hold these meetings prior to June 30th, 2014; and be it further
ORDERED: At the conclusion of this series of meetings, the consultant along with CDD report their findings back to the City Council through the Ordinance Committee by July 31, 2014; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Council then consider recommendations and a strategy for moving forward on short and long range planning/urban design work based on these discussions, and that the Mayor schedule an upcoming Roundtable Discussion to include the City Council and the Planning Board to address the issue of a Master Plan and to help establish the city’s urban planning and community development priorities.
This was the central agenda item at the April 7 meeting at which the Mayor was requested to negotiate a substitute Order that might win the support of a clear majority of councillors. The essential difference between Order #14 and Order #15 at that meeting concerned whether any new look at comprehensive city planning should be a political process conducted within certain City Council committees (Order #14) or if it should be directed by those City entities (the Planning Board and the Community Development Department) whose job it is to carry out these activities.
It seems very unlikely that the proposed schedule can be met. It’s also not at all clear whether such a short time-frame is even a good idea. It may simply prove to be just a series of meetings in which activists opposed to new housing development send their troops to each and every meeting/workshop to create the (false) impression that the residents of the city are up in arms over the "tsunami of development." Hopefully some rational people will attend to help balance the tone. The intent of the proposed Order appears to be to conduct a short process that will then lead to a larger planning process. It seems likely, however, that some people will intentionally misinterpret this to imply that the goal of the short process is to produce a set of specific goals and that the larger process will then be for producing ways to implement those goals. This is NOT what the Order says.
I’m concerned that the Order calls for the short process to culminate in a report to the City Council via the Ordinance Committee by the end of July. The purpose of the Ordinance Committee is to deliberate on proposed ordinances, and these come to the committee as a result of City Council Orders. I cannot recall any precedent for the Ordinance Committee ever bypassing this protocol. It would be far better for the report to be delivered at a regular or special City Council meeting after which one or more Orders would be submitted and approved by a majority of the City Council to look into specific proposals or a plan for a larger process. I hope the City Council modifies the proposed Maher/Carlone Order accordingly.
The competing Orders of April 7 differed primarily in regard to which body should ultimately conduct a review of comprehensive planning for the city. The proposed Maher/Carlone Order only calls for a consultant to conduct the short process. It is silent on the matter of who shall conduct the longer process. The City Council will ultimately have to approve any significant proposed changes in policy, but any extensive process leading up to that approval should not be conducted by the City Council or any of its subcommittees.
Another aspect of this issue is whether there should be any kind of moratorium imposed on either new development or on changes to existing zoning that would allow any greater development. Though none of the proposed orders specifically call for such a moratorium, many activists who want to slow or stop housing growth have expressed this as a goal and they will continue to advocate for it. Other activists who favor new housing and "smart growth" will continue to advocate for their position. It seems likely that these competing points of view will not find resolution any time soon.
Unfinished Business #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow an additional $11,000,000 to provide funds for construction and other associated costs of the King School project. The question comes on adoption on or after Apr 21, 2014.
This loan authorization order will likely get its final approval at this meeting.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to revisit the City’s policy of establishing Hubway stations in residential areas to determine whether this policy adequately balances the needs of the community and the desires of the residents and to report back to the City Council in a timely fashion. Councillor Simmons
I suspect this Order grew out of the objections from some residents in the Dana Park area in Cambridgeport to a new on-street Hubway installation on Lawrence Street.
Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to draft a legal opinion on whether it is legally permissible to require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) as part of the Board of Zoning Appeal special permit and variance application process and the Planning Board Project Review Special Permit application process and report back to the City Council on this matter. Councillor Cheung
I’m guessing that this is not legal. There are plenty of worthy goals that cannot be turned into legally binding requirements. You will not, for example, find anything in the zoning code that mandates that union members must be employed in the construction of new buildings. A Memorandum of Understanding is one thing, but writing such agreements into zoning language is something entirely different.
Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel to determine what options may exist to provide dedicated office space to the members of the City Council. Councillor Simmons, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Carlone
Allow me to simply point out that during the last 15 years, city councillors have gained reserved parking spots behind City Hall that used to be available to full-time employees at City Hall; they saw their salaries rise dramatically; and they granted themselves the right to hire people from their political campaigns as taxpayer-funded "personal aides". In addition to the City Council office, the Sullivan Chamber, and relatively recent additional office space for councillors (and their "aides"), this Order now calls for there to be "dedicated office space to the members of the City Council". Almost all of the city councillors have other jobs. The job of a city councillor is not now and was never meant to be a full-time job. Adequate meeting space is what is needed – not private offices for individual councillors.
Order #11. That the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee is requested to provide an update to the City Council on any progress that has been made in drafting a Community Benefits & Mitigation Plan, and that an expected timeframe in which a formal recommendation on policy might be made to the City Council is also provided. Councillor Simmons
I was wondering when this issue was going to find its way back into City Council consideration. It’s a tricky issue that’s been batted around now for a number of years without any serious movement.
Order #12. That the City Council hereby endorses the National Association of City Transportation Official’s Urban Street Design Guide. Councillor Carlone
I hope the City Council takes the time to carefully go through this Design Guide before rubber-stamping it. For example, the NACTO website prominently features "cycle tracks" as their preferred facility for accommodating bicycle traffic. There are many people (including me) who disagree with this approach, and I have no doubt that if some of the designs were presented to the public there would be considerable debate. If one of the important roles of the City Council is to listen to the public, I would expect that at the very least this Design Guide should first get a hearing before the City Council’s Transportation & Public Utilities Committee prior to any approval.
Order #16. That the City Manager direct the Community Development Department to work with the owner of 362 and 364 Rindge Avenue, non-profit housing agencies, the Affordable Housing Trust, and other potential public and private partners to develop a plan with the ultimate goal being the preservation of affordable units. Councillor Mazen
These buildings were mentioned at a recent meeting of the City Council Housing Committee meeting as significant expiring-use residential buildings that were a high priority in retaining affordable housing in Cambridge. Though it’s good to have a City Council Order to emphasize this matter, it was already a top priority among the City’s various housing agencies and partners.
Order #28. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Public Works and Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department on the feasibility of painting green all designated bicycle lanes on all major streets. Councillor Cheung
It’s feasible to lay down paint, but it would then also have to be maintained. Most of the painted lanes the City has marked in the past have long since faded away, and except for key locations where they may be useful, they will again fade quickly. It’s better to provide this extra treatment at fewer priority locations that can be regularly maintained. – Robert Winters