Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 26, 2011

June 27, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – as the campaign season kicks off

Filed under: 2011 Election,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:48 pm

June 27, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – as the campaign season kicks off

This is the last meeting before the summer break. The City Council won’t convene again until Aug 1 and then not again until Sept 12. The agenda is light, but there could be extensive haggling over the proposed Section 5.28.2 zoning amendments (Unf. Bus #2 and Comm. Rpt. #2). There may also be some local and imported public testimony over Councillor Decker’s Big Bad Walmart Order. But first….

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-70, regarding NBC violations.

The Order leading to this response really should have come a long time ago, but the prospect of a possible investigation by the Attorney General into this despicable breach of public trust is now very welcome. This is the story of a gesture from a developer to a neighborhood being twisted into a private income source by members of one family. The original 1998 agreement conveyed a 10,000 square foot parcel of land at 131 Harvard Street to the inappropriately named "Neighbors for a Better Community" (NBC) for $1 plus an initial monetary payment of $360,000 and additional payments to NBC of $710,000 spread over 10 years. The agreement required that the parcel be "a gift for public and charitable purposes" to be "used only for affordable housing, a gymnasium, community center, or a park, and accessory parking, or for any other community use approved by … the then record owner of 210 Broadway". None of these community benefits ever occurred. Furthermore, one Jonathan "Jay" Carroll appears to have paid himself at least $461,800 as "executive director" for doing essentially nothing. This is a crime, and Mr. Carroll should be prosecuted.

Unfinished Business #9. 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 hearing on May 5, 2011 for the purpose of considering proposed amendments submitted in response to City Council Order No.11 of Jan 24, 2011, in which the Council requested that Community Development Department (CDD) staff engage in a comprehensive review of Section 5.28.2, including the history of the use of the section for special permit applications for conversion of commercial and institutional uses to residential building, and the recent public conversations on this section of the Zoning Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 20, 2011. Planning Board hearing held May 10, 2011. Petition expires Aug 3, 2011.

Committee Report #2. 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 June 15, 2011 to continue to consider proposed amendments submitted in response to City Council Order No.11 of Jan 24, 2011, in which the Council requested that Community Development Department (CDD) staff engage in a comprehensive review of Section 5.28.2.

What began as a clarification has become a fiasco. The well-intentioned efforts to make clearer what is and what is not permitted when certain institutional buildings are re-purposed as housing has led to what some activists are now characterizing as "city-wide upzoning". That’s probably not a fair characterization since greater constraints are being placed on what has been permitted under the current law, but the process has brought into greater focus what could potentially be built in the future at some of these sites.

Order #7. That this City Council go on record encouraging Dr. James Cash to speak out about the Supreme Court’s ruling on a controversial gender-discrimination case and to lobby executives at the world’s largest retailer to reform its policies and provide justice to its female employees.   Councillor Decker

This may well be a first – a city councillor filing an Order calling on a private citizen to speak out on a specific issue. It’s a good thing that the City Charter does not grant subpoena power to the City Council or we’d be hauling people in on the carpet every week. I can see it now – Councillor Decker grilling Mr. Cash with "Are you or have you ever been privy to managerial decisions at Walmart?" Perhaps we could draft a few blacklists while we’re at it. – Robert Winters

PS – Incumbents and challengers for seats on the City Council or School Committee can pick up Nomination Papers starting this Friday, July 1 at the Election Commission Office between 8:30am and 5:00pm (they’re staying open late). Come one, come all! [Municipal Election Calendar] Candidates must submit at least 50 certified signatures by Monday, August 1 at 5:00pm. If desired, I will personally escort any candidate to the Election Commission office in order to get there before the deadline. Don’t delay!

1 Comment

  1. Robert, with respect to Section 5.28 and whether these changes constitute upzoning, I think you’re overlooking something very important. No matter what position you take on what the law says now (and I disagree vehemently with the notion that you can amend the use regulations by putting something in the dimensional regulations), adding the possibility of certain commercial uses in residence districts that do not permit those uses now is undeniably an upzoning.

    Comment by Heather Hoffman — June 27, 2011 @ 11:24 am

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