Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 14, 2011

Feb 14, 2011 City Council Agenda – Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:48 am

Feb 14, 2011 City Council Agenda – Valentine’s Day

It’s the lightest of agendas coming up this Monday in the Sullivan Chamber. The only items of interest I’ll note on this "Cambridge blogger’s website" are the following:

Communications #3. A communication was received from Peter Zak Valentine, regarding the Health Care Bill.

The text of Peter’s letter is included here for your entertainment – from the National Officer in Charge.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to designate an individual in his office or in the Cambridge Police Department for the specific purpose of providing information to the City Council and the community-at-large about incidents, be they of crimes, fires, or floods that occur in Cambridge on a timely basis.   Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

Every few years after a criminal incident there’s an Order like this one to create another position or designate a person for this task. The problem, if there is a problem, is not in the lack of personnel. It’s a matter of whether the job is being done as it should be. Complicating things in the case of criminal incidents is that sometimes there are good reasons for not disseminating this information while the bad guys are still being sought.

Order #5. That the Mayor, the City Clerk and/or City Council’s committee on Government Operations and Rules plan a meeting of the City Council to go over the new changes of the Open Meeting Law.   Councillor Simmons

We all believe in open and transparent government, but the fact is that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The additional record-keeping and prohibitions against a wide range of ordinary ways of communicating can be pretty stifling. There does come a point of diminishing returns in open government where the costs start to outweigh the benefits. Seriously, should every advisory committee with no actual regulatory authority have to adhere to the same rules as legislators? On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have all of the wheeling and dealing over zoning amendments more out in the open.

Order #6. That the City Manager address the problem of cars that have been left unshoveled for long periods of time causing problems for snow plows and difficulty parking.   Councillor Decker

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Public Works to investigate designated spots near intersections for residents to move snow which would be picked up by DPW, snow melting machines and whether there are additional parks, parking lots or other public spaces that could be used to dump snow for this winter and in the future.   Councillor Cheung

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to report back with clarification on what the policy is regarding ticketing of cars who are parked more than three feet from the curb due to snowbanks.   Councillor Toomey

Snow, snow, and more snow. The DPW has done a great job under trying circumstances this winter. What a joy it is to see that the temperature may rise to 50° later this week. That said, a few warm days won’t solve all of the problems as noted in these Orders and we could use a few more visits from the trucks to help things along. It’s been really miserable for all who have to park on the streets of Cambridge. I haven’t moved my vehicle for weeks. There are some good ideas about how we can better deal with all the snow (and I do mean we – not just the men and women of DPW). In these days of social media that can help coordinate a revolution in Egypt, we can probably use the same tools to coordinate the allocation and/or removal of snow on the streets of Cambridge. Maybe not revolutionary, but still worth looking into.

Other notable items:

Les Barber, zoning mensch of the Community Development Department, enjoys his last day before retirement on Friday, Feb 25.

As was noted in a Late Order at the February 7 City Council meeting, former City Councillor Brian Murphy will soon take the reins as Assistant City Manager in charge of the Community Development Department. I met at length with Brian when he first ran for City Council. I suggested that he attend the Budget Hearings to learn more about City government and meet all the players in the City administration. Brian attended every one of those hearings. As a councillor, he then chaired the Finance Committee. He and David Maher were also the prime players among the elected officials in negotiating with Harvard in their major Riverside development a few years ago. You have to respect a guy who actually shows up and does his job, and I’m sure Brian will be a popular hands-on manager at Community Development.

Speaking of the Finance Committee, Councillor Decker initiated a series of Finance Committee hearings for early public input on the upcoming FY2012 Budget. The first hearing only had one public attendee, but the second meeting on Feb 12 had perhaps a dozen or more. Hopefully attendance will be better if this becomes the norm in the future. Those of us who attended were treated to a top-notch interactive presentation with Louis DePasquale, David Kale, and other people from the City Finance Department and the Budget Office. – Robert Winters

City Manager’s Budget Guidelines to City Department Heads (for upcoming FY2012 Budget)

• Salary and Wage Budgets can increase to reflect, Increments, Pensions, Health Insurance, Medicare and Allowance increases. This includes a projected 11% increase in health insurance costs and a 5.5% increase in pension costs over the current fiscal year.

• All vacancies will be reviewed. Position reductions may occur as part of this process. Therefore, budget submissions should include a description of the operational impact on your department if vacant positions are eliminated.

• For FY12, it is the City Manager’s goal to submit a budget to the City Council that supports their priorities with the same number of or fewer positions.

• Non-Salary Budgets are to be level funded. Generally, no increases to Other Ordinary Maintenance, Travel and Training or Extraordinary Expenditure accounts.

• All non-personnel operating items with contractual increases must be absorbed within the budget and not knowingly under-budgeted. Major contracts for services must be reviewed to ensure departments have sufficient funds to meet contractual needs. Energy budgets will be reviewed on a department by department basis. Departments will need to document, for their budget hearing, large cost increases and the impact on their operating budgets if the increases are absorbed in their present level of service budget.

• Extraordinary Expenditures must be updated and one-time items from the current fiscal year eliminated.

• Reductions in Grant Funded programs cannot be absorbed into the General Fund Budget.

• Each Department will be asked to review their current operations and provide suggestions to achieve savings through service/position reductions, restructuring or efficiencies.

Budget Calendar

Jan-March • Department Budget Preparation and Hearings with City Manager
March • Water-Sewer Rate approved by City Council
April • Proposed Budget Submitted to City Council
• 2nd half tax bills sent to property owners
May • City Council Budget Hearings
• 2nd half bills due
Late May • Budget Adoption
June • Current Fiscal Year ends June 30
July • New Fiscal Year begins July 1
September • Tax Rate set/Final Tax Levy Established
September/October     • Tax Newsletters sent to residents
October • Property tax bills sent/Abatement Application Deadline
November • 1st Half bills due

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