Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 13, 2010

Dec 13, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights – Myriad Resolutions

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:48 pm

Dec 13, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights – Myriad Resolutions

Among the myriad items on this week’s agenda, the one that stood out was this excerpt from a report from the Government Operations and Rules Committee: "Councillors Toomey and Cheung both voiced concern about making a recommendation assigning specific goals to specific committees without providing an opportunity for committee chairs to be involved in a committee discussion on this issue. All agreed that this matter is an important issue that needed further consideration and should not be overlooked in the face of the myriad time demands faced by members of the City Council."

There are myriad comments that could be made here, though myriad time demands restrict what I might say. Certainly, with myriad personal staff assistance now available to councillors for holding their coats, taking their myriad calls, shining their shoes, etc. one would think that such myriad burdens would be lifted from the aching shoulders of the councillors. Certainly no working Cambridge resident or parent could possibly imagine the myriad responsibilities that a part-time city councillor must bear for a mere $72,000+ per year for their Monday night performances and record few committee meetings rarely attended by a full complement of members. There are also the myriad congratulatory resolutions to be filed each week celebrating restaurant openings and newborns. The myriad burdens of shaking hands and getting myriad face time at myriad community events on the myriad roads to reelection must surely bring myriad stress to our elected representatives. We feel their myriad pain.

There are also these items of note:

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to consult with relevant department staff and report back on the legal limits of the City Council’s involvement in non-budget School Department issues. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Maher on Order Number Two of Dec 6, 2010.]

This provoked a firestorm at least week’s meeting, especially between Councillors Kelley and Toomey. Perhaps they’ve smoothed things out during the ensuing week. The underlying issue is a significant one. City councillors are not elected to manage or oversee the public schools or to use the City Budget as a vehicle for micromanagement of the School Department. Candidates for public office should be clear about which office they sought in the previous election. Pick one. If you want to influence school policy, run for School Committee or get in line along with every other resident who has something to say. It’s noteworthy that city councillors who have previously served on the School Committee rarely, if ever, engage in meddling in school affairs.

Unfinished Business #6. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on Sept 14, 2010 to consider a petition filed by Richard McKinnon, et al. to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map in the North Point PUD-6 District. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 1, 2010. Planning Board hearing held Sept 21, 2010. Petition expires Dec 13, 2010.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and the Assistant City Manager for Community Development to provide a report on the state of the law relating to community benefits as mitigation in zoning amendment petitions.   Vice Mayor Davis, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Seidel and Councillor Cheung

These are related. The McKinnon petition will likely receive the necessary votes to pass at this last meeting before the deadline. The only question has been the "mitigation," i.e. what other community benefits can be leveraged in return for the zoning amendment. Though perhaps not specifically tied to this matter, the Order from Councillors Davis, Toomey, Seidel, and Cheung is both timely and well-targeted. Where exactly do you draw the line between leverage and legislative extortion? Where does long-term planning enter into the picture? Or does it? We’ve been rapidly descending in recent years toward a system where zoning amendments have become currency to be exchanged for supposed community benefits. The recent amendment in Kendall Square may be the worst such example in which a laundry list of everybody’s favorite pet projects to be funded was generated en route to delivering the votes.

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from Michael R. Hegarty et al., requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance by adding after the title of Section 5.28 the sentence: "No use shall be permitted by any provisions of this Section 5.28 except as set forth in Section 4.30 Table of Use Regulations or the sections that define districts not included in Section 4.30."

This sets up a parallel zoning petition to run alongside the Council petition introduced last week that seeks to clarify the section of the Zoning Ordinance. It is clear that Section 5.28 was written to encourage the preservation of institutional and industrial buildings as housing, but it has now become clear that some unintended consequences have resulted – most recently involving the Norris Street proposed development.

Committee Report #2. 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 Dec 7, 2010 to finalize the City Council goals for FY11 and FY12 to present a recommendation on the goals to the City Council.

This report has myriad aspects to it, but the bottom line is that it contains the new biennial Goals & Objectives for FY11 and FY12. To paraphrase the lyrics from The Who: "Meet the New Goals, Same as the Old Goals." – Robert Winters


  1. To paraphrase the great political philosopher Marx (Groucho), You left out a myriad, and that was the most important one.”

    Comment by Mark Jaquith — December 13, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  2. Animal Crackers

    Yours truly,
    Hoongadoonga, Hoongadoonga, Hoongadoonga and McCormick

    Comment by Robert Winters — December 13, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

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