Oct 24, 2011 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights – Pre-Election Posturing
Anyone who has attended a recent Cambridge City Council meeting (or any candidate forums) will have noticed the pre-election posturing and efforts to capitalize on controversy. This meeting will most likely bring more of the same. One topic that was at the heart of last week’s posturing is the Bishop Petition that aims to amend the zoning in the vicinity of the Fawcett properties adjacent to the former rail line where the Linear Park now runs in North Cambridge.
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 meeting held on Sept 7, 2011 to consider a petition filed by Julia Bishop et al., to amend Section 17.20 of the Zoning Ordinance – Regulations for Special District 2, located in North Cambridge along Linear Park. Proposed amendments include: deletion of allowed non-residential uses; reduction in allowed Floor Area Ratio; increase in required lot area per dwelling unit; reduction in allowed height; new regulations for fences abutting Linear Park.
The Planning Board deliberated on the Bishop Petition on Tuesday, Oct 18. Though there is not yet a Planning Board report before the City Council, it was clear at that meeting that the Planning Board felt that the current zoning was not broken and that the existing tools were sufficient to shape whatever projects are proposed in that area. At last week’s City Council meeting, the Council did vote to discharge the petition from the Ordinance Committee to bring it before the City Council, but Councillor Kelley’s attempt to also move the petition to a 2nd Reading (a necessary step before advertising it and bringing it to a final vote) were soundly rebuffed 8-1. Though in this pre-election setting many councillors voiced their support of the petition, the rhetoric was much closer to that of the Planning Board in its expression that the best solution should go beyond merely changing the zoning.
Unfinished Business #10. 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 Sept 7, 2011 to consider a petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance filed by Elizabeth deRham et al. The petition proposes an amendment to Section 9.16 of the Zoning which currently provides for a $100 per violation per day fine upon conviction of said violation. The amendment would provide for a fine not to exceed the maximum specified in M.G.L. Ch 40A sec.7, currently $300 per violation per day and would allow the fine to be levied at the discretion of the Superintendent of Buildings. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Oct 31, 2011.
My suspicion is that this petition may ultimately pass – possibly before Election Day. Though the Bishop Petition has drawn the most attention, the deRham Petition was filed at the same time by essentially the same people. Politically, there may be some wisdom in passing this less controversial one before Election Day if indeed the intention is to invest the necessary time to get a better resolution of the underlying issues that motivated the Bishop Petition.
Order #4. That the City of Cambridge hereby joins other communities across the country and calls upon the United States Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification, a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people. Mayor Maher
This may be the first example I’ve witnessed of the Cambridge City Council explicitly endorsing an amendment to the United States Constitution. The merits of the proposal notwithstanding, the suggestion that this will "restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people" is woefully naive. While many people correctly complain about the corrosive influence of money in politics, where is the civic education that’s necessary for a well-functioning democracy? The national political media features the nitwits on Fox News propagandizing from the Right, and the nitwits on MSNBC propagandizing from the Left. These and talk radio are what passes today as civic education. Meanwhile the average voter is busy watching American Idol while their national elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising for their reelection. Focusing on the Citizens United court decision is a distraction from much more significant problems in sustaining democracy both nationally and locally.
Order #5. Amendment to Zoning Ordinances by deleting Section 6.22.2 Councillor Kelley
It’s unfortunate that the text of Councillor Kelley’s Order provides no clue at all as to why this amendment is being proposed other than its claim "to mitigate development and parking pressures in Cambridge neighborhoods." Perhaps Kelley will explain the motivation. A few additional "whereases" in the Order would have helped.
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to report back on legal expenses incurred by the City for the Monteiro case and related cases. Councillor Kelley
A handful of activists and sympathizers have been pushing this as though it is the be-all-end-all issue in the upcoming municipal election. It is not. This Order calls for an accounting of the outside legal expenses for the Monteiro case, etc.; the cost of the appeals; the cost of the settlements related to each of the parties in the original ZuckerNaut of lawsuits; the amount of money paid to Malvina Monteiro; and a report on what issues are still considered confidential and why. Ultimately it will be good to have this full story told. However, the full story should also include the background information on the functioning (or lack of functioning) of the City departments and boards over whom some of the litigants presided. The deluxe edition of the book might also include some of the political motivations as well.
This meeting will also feature a presentation from the Reeves committee (excuse me, the Red Ribbon Commission, etc.) on Central Square – well timed to occur two weeks before the election. Time will tell what the next few years will bring to Central Square. There are some who would choose to turn it into a 24-hour entertainment zone. Others want to build densely on every available parcel. It is doubtful whether the report from the Reeves committee will reveal anything particularly world-shaking. In the end, the good health of Central Square will still be determined by the individuals – residents, business owners, and property owners – who have a personal stake in the Central Square area. – Robert Winters
I received an inquiry over the weekend about incumbent city councillors who were not reelected. Since the beginning of the Plan E era (since 1941), here is the chronology of these unfortunate incumbents:
|Candidate||1st elected||defeated||Notes||Candidate||1st elected||defeated||Notes|
|Thomas McNamara||1941||1943||after 1st term||Daniel Hayes||1957||1969|
|William Hogan||1941||1943||after 1st term||Henry Owens||1971||1973||after 1st term|
|James Cassidy||1941||1945||David Wylie||1967||1975|
|Thomas McNamara||1941||1947||Daniel Clinton||1967||1977|
|James Casey||1945||1947||after 1st term||Barbara Ackermann||1967||1977|
|Francis L. Sennott||1941||1949||Leonard Russell||1973||1977|
|Thomas McNamara||1941||1951||later replaced
|David Clem||1975||1977||after 1st term|
|W. Donnison Swan||1945||1953||Mary Ellen Preusser||1977||1979||after 1st term|
|Chester Higley||1949||1953||Lawrence Frisoli||1977||1979||after 1st term|
|Marcus Morton, Jr.||1953||1955||also elected
|Charles Watson||1953||1959||Daniel Clinton||1967||1985|
|John D. Lynch||1941||1961||Alfred LaRosa||1985||1985||had replaced
|Thomas McNamara||1941||1961||Thomas Danehy||1967||1989|
|Cornelia Wheeler||1957||1961||later replaced
|Andrew Trodden||1959||1965||Katherine Triantifillou||1993||1999|
|Thomas Coates||1963||1967||David Maher||1999||2005||later replaced
|William Maher||1965||1967||after 1st term||Larry Ward||2009||2009||had replaced