Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – Budget Adoption

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:45 pm

May 23, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – Budget Adoption

The main item on the menu is the adoption of the FY2012 Budget and a variety of final authorizations to borrow money for capital projects. The Manager’s Agenda also includes responses to 12 of the 36 items on the 2011 Awaiting Report list. Another 16 items from 2010 remain on Awaiting Report. Perhaps a little more spring cleaning is in order.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-53, regarding a report on way to make the Follen Street/Little Concord Avenue intersection safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

Bicycle safety expert John Allen has a few things to say regarding the original Order as well as in response to this report. John Allen is the author of Street Smarts, a guide for safe cycling that has been adopted in several states. It is generally best to heed his advice even when it goes against current trends/fads. I know of no one who understands the nuts and bolts of bicycling safety more than John Allen.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-12, regarding a report on any foreseeable tax revenue implications of Vertex’s decision to leave Cambridge.

The analysis from Director of Assessment Bob Reardon indicates that the length of time associated with Vertex’ exodus as well as the continuing high demand for Cambridge lab space will result in no significant tax impacts. The sky shall not fall.

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to information regarding Information Technology (IT), which was requested at the Information Technology Department (ITD) Budget Hearing.

Though much of this report will appeal only to techies, two items are noteworthy:

• Citizen Complaint System – Enhancements to the current Cambridge Request System (CRS) to allow the public to enter a complaint directly to the work order system and receive notification of the work order ticket, an estimate of when the problem will be resolved and notification when the problem is resolved. The Complaint System will include access to a website database that shows the ticket and status.

• An Optimized Search Function – Using Google Search, enhance the search function on the City website to return more relevant information.

Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to dedicated funding for GLBT Commission activities.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-02, regarding a report on tax treatment of health benefits for couples in same sex marriages.

The first of these provides $2,500 in supplemental funds to the GLBT Commission in addition to continuing support from other departments. This may not satisfy those who would prefer a dedicated staff position, but the whole matter of staffing for this and similar commissions still needs some attention and political will. The second of these indicates that the total financial impact of this added benefit is quite manageable – the estimated cost to the City with full implementation is approximately $12,000 per year; for the School Department the cost with full implementation is estimated to be closer to $21,000 per year.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to ask the City’s private law firm to waive any statute of limitations defense regarding potential liability to Cambridge for its actions and advice in the Monteiro case. [Charter Right exercised by Vice Mayor Davis on Order Number Fourteen of May 16, 2011.]

Perhaps this Order is now moot since the expiration referenced in this Order occurred yesterday. It’s hard to know for sure what the intent of this Order was, but its author appears to be Councillor Kelley’s mentor Richard Clarey who has been at war with the City Manager for perhaps two decades. On the surface, the Order seems designed to drive a wedge between the City administration and its outside legal counsel. Specifically, if the City’s actions in the dismissal of a problematic employee were done on the advice of this legal counsel, the case can be made that City’s actions were not "retaliation." This Order suggests that the City should retain the option of suing its own legal counsel – not exactly the best move in ongoing litigation.


Budget-related items to be voted at this meeting:

Committee Report #1. Finance Committee Report for public hearings held on May 4, 2011, May 11, 2011 and May 12, 2011 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2012 and recommending adoption of the budget in the amount of $439,008,170.

Committee Report #2. Finance Committee Report for a public hearing held on May 11, 2011 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2012 and recommending adoption of the budget in the amount of $14,902,620.

Committee Report #3. Finance Committee Report for a public hearing held on May 11, 2011 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2012 and recommending adoption of the budget in the amount of $11,613,225.

Unfinished Business #10-13, 15-17. Various orders requesting 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;
• $33,754,300 to continue sewer projects in the Harvard Square, Agassiz, Western Avenue and Alewife Watershed areas of the City.
• $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;
• $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;
• $2,000,000 to provide funds for the second phase of the reconstruction of the Harvard Square Tunnel (Cambridge Street Underpass);
• $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; and
• $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.

Barring a delayed Rapture, it’s expected that the General Fund Budget ($439,008,170) will pass on an 8-1 vote with Councillor Kelley, as always, voting in the negative. You can expect a speech from Kelley regarding the Law Department budget, possibly conflated with the topic of Charter Right #2. Though the Annual Budget is the single most important vote by the City Council almost every year, there are basically never more than a few minor changes to the Manager’s submitted budget – regardless how much time is spent pontificating about the Budget. High priority items for individual councillors are usually worked out (when feasible) before submission of the proposed Budget, so the adoption is usually noncontroversial. If Cambridge’s financial resources were as strained as many other Massachusetts cities and towns, it might be an entirely different story.


Unfinished Business #14. Ordinance Committee Report 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. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 16, 2011. Planning Board hearing held Mar 29, 2011. Petition expires May 31, 2011.

This "workforce housing" petition will likely be voted at this meeting or be allowed to expire if there are insufficient votes to pass it. As has been mentioned here many times, the amount of campaign contributions that flowed from the petitioner to several elected councillors makes this a vote worthy of scrutiny.

Committee Report #4. Ordinance Committee Report for a public hearing on Apr 6, 2011 and a follow-up public meeting on May 17, 2011 to consider a petition to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance filed by Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, joined by M.I.T. as land owner, to allow for the creation of a new Special District 15 along a portion of Massachusetts Avenue between Albany Street and Windsor Street opposite the location of the Novartis main campus at the former Necco Building.

This will likely be Passed to a 2nd Reading tonight, perhaps with the amendments recommended by the Planning Board. When it comes to a final vote, most likely in a few weeks, it will almost certainly be passed. Together with the concurrent MIT/Forest City petition affecting an area just up the street on Mass. Ave., there will likely be a major transformation of Mass. Ave. over the next few year between Sydney Street and the railroad tracks. – Robert Winters

1 Comment

  1. The Rapture has happened. Councillor Kelley voted to approve the General Fund Budget to make the vote unanimous. Prior to the final vote, Kelley moved to rescind the budget for the Law Department (or at least that part relating to the ongoing Monteiro litigation). His motion failed on a 2-5-2 vote with Kelley and Seidel voting to rescind, Reevs abstaining, and Simmons voting Present.

    Comment by Robert Winters — May 23, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: