Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 City Council Agenda – The Budget Cometh

Filed under: City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:50 am

May 2, 2011 City Council Agenda – The Budget Cometh

Top of the Agenda is the Budget Overview by the City Manager, 6 major loan authorizations, and an expenditure related to the consultants addressing planning issues for the Kendall Square/Central Square area. The content of each item speaks for itself. The Budget Hearings start this Wednesday.

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds for the second phase of the reconstruction of the Harvard Square Tunnel (Cambridge Street Underpass).

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $300,000 to provide funds to facilitate coordination among the various consultants working on the design and planning projects for Kendall Square and perform interim repairs in the area.

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,300,000 to provide funds for improvements to Alberico, David Nunes and Fulmore Parks and the establishment of a community garden at Riverside Press Park.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $33,754,300 to continue sewer projects in the Harvard Square, Agassiz, Western Avenue and Alewife Watershed areas of the City.

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $3,000,000 to provide funds for the architectural design and construction of an elementary school to be either rebuilt or renovated as part of the multi-year Elementary School Rebuilding Program.

Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds for improvements to several City facilities including the East Cambridge and Inman Square Fire Stations and the Ryan Garage / Simard Building at Public Works.

Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of several streets included in the Complete Streets Initiative as shown in the five year street and sidewalk program.

Unfinished Business #12. That the FY2012 City Budget be referred to the Finance Committee, with the exception that the Budget Overview be postponed to a certain date, that being the May 2, 2011 City Council meeting and will be placed on Unfinished Business at which time the City Manager will give an overview of the FY2012 City Budget. [Order Number Twelve of Apr 25, 2011 referred to Unfinished Business.]

Discussion and action on several Orders from April 25 were postponed via charter right. These include:

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a complete and comprehensive list of all concessions made to the City and broader Cambridge community by developers and the universities in exchange for zoning relief, special permits, or Council approval. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Reeves on Order Number Eleven of Apr 25, 2011 (Councillor Cheung).]

Councillor Cheung’s Order concerns the "community benefits" and other forms of soft currency associated with the wheeling and dealing for zoning amendments – a questionable practice that elected officials seem to relish. It’s no wonder that discussion of the Order was postponed.

Charter Right #4. That the City Manager is requested to review all PILOT agreements with non-profits and institutions in the city. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Kelley on Order Number Thirteen of Apr 25, 2011 (Vice Mayor Davis and Councillor Simmons).]

This Order from Councillors Davis and Simmons is motivated by Mayor Menino’s recent initiative in Boston and calls for a review of all existing and potential payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreements with non-profits and institutions in Cambridge. At the last meeting, Vice Mayor Davis expressed some dissatisfaction that Menino had not also gone after religious institutions for taxes. It’s not at all clear what the sponsors of this Order would like to see come out of this review, and it’s worth noting that it was not so long ago that the City of Cambridge executed long-term PILOT agreements with (at least) both Harvard and MIT.

Applications & Petitions #4. A petition has been received from Theresa M. Stone, Executive Vice-President and Treasurer, MIT, together with a transmittal letter from Steven C. Marsh, Managing Director, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to add a new section 13.80 to the Zoning Ordinances entitled PUD-5 District and to amend the Zoning Map to add a new PUD-5 District in the Kendall Square area; said petition rezones a 26-acre parcel in the Kendall Square area. [Text of petition]

This petition has been anticipated for some time. The full buildout associated with this zoning proposal is very significant, but it’s mostly confined to an area within the existing MIT campus. Neighboring East Cambridge nonetheless has a significant stake in the outcome. This is primarily a good and interesting proposal if anything close to the image presented at public meetings becomes reality. Based on the recent optimistic actions of all the major Kendall Square property owners we’ve seen lately, good things will come – regardless of any role the City or its consultants have yet to play.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Thomas J. LaRosa, Acting General Counsel, Department of Conservation and Recreation, informing the City that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, acting through the DCR, has under consideration the acquisition of approximately 2.2753+ acres of land, or other property interest, in the City of Cambridge. The property is located between a previously protected section of the Watertown Greenway in Watertown and Fresh Pond.

This concerns the railroad right-of-way that runs along Fresh Pond, behind the Shaw’s on Mt. Auburn Street, along the ege of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery and into Watertown. Hopefully, this will soon become a recreational path – a plan that’s been discussed for an eternity but which may finally become a reality.

Resolutions #28-63 by Councillor Reeves are a regurgitation of the Cambridge winners of the Boston Phoenix’s 2011 "Best of Boston" reader contest. That’s 36 totally irrelevant suitably engrossed resolutions costing perhaps $5 or more each plus postage. It’s just great spending other people’s money. This makes you wonder what exactly is the job description of a city councillor.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation to examine how parking spaces are designated for delivery/loading with a view towards reclaiming some of these spaces for the use of the general public.   Councillor Simmons

You know, if the City’s Traffic Board mandated by state law had been appointed, there may have been a vehicle for residents and businesses to actually petition for changes in how these spaces are regulated. Just saying….

Order #7. That the City Council amend Rule 23A which deals with the Order of Business to include a dedicated section for Councillors to make announcements.   Councillor Simmons

Does this really require a change in the Rules just to make occasional announcements? Answer – No.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public meeting held on Mar 2, 2011 to consider a zoning petition originally filed by Chestnut Hill Realty and re-filed by the City Council to create a new section that would allow for the construction of rental units in the basement levels of existing multifamily buildings in Residence C Districts within 1200 feet of Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge Street or the Red Line through a special permit process.

Communications & Report #1. A communication was received from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, regarding motion to discharge the Ordinance Committee of the Re-filed Chestnut Hill Zoning Amendment Petition.

As I’ve said before, regardless of the merits this is a case where you have to follow the money. The petitioners (Zuker and company of Chestnut Hill Realty) have contributed obscene amounts of money to the political campaigns of several city councillors. They are asking for the right to squeeze nearly 200 additional units of housing into the basements of existing buildings and have comically referred to this cash bonanza as "workforce housing".

Committee Report #3. 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 Apr 14, 2011 to discuss moving to a paperless City Council Agenda, connecting City Council goals and City Department staff and City Council Committees to foster efficient and collaborative results and a proposal to amend the Municipal Code to require posting of the City Manager’s contract 96 hours before it is to be voted on by the City Council.

Though I could not attend this meeting, the report seems to suggest that (a) half the councillors would like to keep their printed agendas; and (b) they’re willing to pass either a rules change or an ordinance regarding the posting of a future contract in advance of the vote, but they’re not sure which. Great. Wonderful. But not really all that important. – Robert Winters

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