Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 31, 2011

Fright Night – Halloween at the Cambridge City Council – Oct 31, 2011

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 3:53 pm

Fright Night – Halloween at the Cambridge City Council – Oct 31, 2011

This is the next to last meeting before next week’s municipal election. If you understand politics, you know that you get more votes by distributing candy to the children of voters than by chatting away at a Council meeting. Let’s hope this is a short one. Here are a few items that caught my attention this week.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-124, regarding a report on the racial makeup of the City’s workforce.

Oct 31, 2011
To the Honorable, the City Council:

Please find attached a response to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-124, regarding a report on the racial makeup of the City’s workforce.

Below is a summary of the attached reports:
Total Employees 2,424
Total People of Color 788 (32.51%) more than double the US Census PMSA goal of 15%. (PMSA Preliminary Metropolitan Statistical Area defined by U.S. Census as our applicant recruiting area. This is taken from the U.S. Census EEO-4 data tool for affirmative action planning purposes. The next release of this tool is scheduled for fall of 2012.)
Women 1,056 (43.56%)

Below is additional information on new hires from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011:
59% of all hires were people of color
46% of all hires were women
86% of all hires were Cambridge residents

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

If you listened to all the misleading information that’s been thrown around lately, you might find this information surprising. Perhaps you should question some of the drivel emanating from Brookford St. and Hilliard St. One of the worst aspects of municipal election campaigns is the tendency for activists with long grudges to manipulate the facts to suit their agendas.

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. [Order #26 adopted on Oct 17, 2011 to discharge from committee. Report placed on Unfinished Business on Oct 17, 2011.] The question comes on passing to a Second Reading. Planning Board hearing held Sept 13, 2011. Petition expires Dec 6, 2011.

Indications are that the City Council will not take final action on this petition before the municipal election, but I’ve seen votes taken on the eve of an election that nobody would have expected. Fear really is a great motivator.

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. Planning Board hearing held Sept 13, 2011. Petition expires Dec 6, 2011.

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 Oct 13, 2011 to consider a petition filed by Laura Runkel et al. to rezone 41 Bellis Circle, an area abutting the northern block of Bellis Circle, bordered on the north by the commuter rail tracks, on the south by Bellis Circle and on the east side by Sherman Street, from Residence C-1A to Residence C.

I have this theory that because so many zoning petitions were introduced recently it may be a good political move to pass one or two of the less problematic ones as kind of a "peace offering" on the eve of the municipal election. These two seem like good candidates.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested confer with the Police Commissioner and report back to the City Council with the details of the recent string of street robberies and the police action being taken to maintain the safety of residents and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

I believe I actually saw the two perpetrators who were robbing people at gunpoint the recent night they robbed a guy on Harvard Street in Mid-Cambridge. Something at the time told me that these guys were up to no good. There have been quite a few of these robberies lately. We had a motorbike and several bicycles stolen from my block over the last few weeks. As a voter, public safety is my personal bottom line. If city councillors cannot address this most basic concern, then everything else they say and do is irrelevant. There will be a Community Meeting hosted by City Councillor Tim Toomey and the Cambridge Police Department on Wed, Nov 2 at 6:00pm in the First Floor Community Room of the Police Station (125 Sixth Street) to address the recent armed robberies in the East Cambridge and Wellington-Harrington area.

Order #3. That the City Manager hereby is requested to provide information responding to questions raised in the Ordinance Committee hearing on a proposed zoning amendment to allow the construction of basement units.   Councillor Seidel, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Davis

This concerns the Petition That Will Not Die from Chestnut Hill Realty, financiers of several City Council reelection campaigns. My view is that these basements should be used for storage, bicycle parking, laundry, and utilities. The only purpose of this petition is to create money. It has nothing to do with good planning or quality of life.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor to look into the feasibility of instituting a policy that, after ascertainment, if the City of Cambridge takes more than 90 days to negotiate a contract with a potential cable service provider, the potentially new service provider can operate under the same terms as the existing incumbent service provider, with the option to continue negotiation with the City of Cambridge while operating under those terms, and report back to the City Council on this matter.   Councillor Cheung

Who knows whether anything will come of this, but anything that offers even a glimmer of hope for competition with the Evil Empire Comcast is worth pursuing. Good move, Leland.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager for Community Development to develop a plan for obtaining regular updates from state officials and for keeping the City Council and the surrounding neighborhoods informed on the status of the future use of the courthouse in East Cambridge.   Mayor Maher

Note that on Monday, Nov 14 there will be a City Council Roundtable Meeting with Commissioner Carole Cornelison, Massachusetts Department of Capital Asset Management, and her staff, to discuss plans for the East Cambridge Courthouse site.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to advise the City Council as to the prudence of taking the former NBC Harvard Street lot by eminent domain.   Councillor Reeves

This is long overdue. Take note, however, that this Order does not call for the taking of this property. It merely asks the City Manager to advise the City Council as to the prudence of taking the former NBC Harvard Street lot by eminent domain. – Robert Winters

2 Comments

  1. The Reeves motion to explore the notion of an eminent domain taking of the former NBC lot is yet another pre-election effort without merit. Sorry that some esteemed political types fell for it. After years of coverups by some politicians and some neighborhood people due to race, gender, political ties and payback, there is little that can be done other than to pressure the Attorney General and the new owner, to do the “right” thing. An eminent domain taking would amount to an expenditure of some $400,000 to $800,000 for the 12,000 square foot lot. In addition, due to a side deal with the NBC folks, more money would flow into their pockets if an eminent domain deal were struck. The City should follow through on their letter to the Attorney General asking for action and investigation. As of last week, the Attorney General had not responded to the City, and the City Council has done nothing to “force the hand” of the Attorney General. In addition, political and community pressure should be put on the new owner to sell the lot to the city for what they paid for it, that is, $100,000 plus associated costs. Thus far, the City has been unwilling to enter into formal talks about this, and the Area 4 community remains asleep. Since the Area 4 Coalition became little more than an information conduit and a city sponsored neighborhood mouthpiece, almost no advocacy and organizing has taken place. Beware of neighborhood groups that receive their operating money through and/or from the government.

    Comment by gerald bergman — November 2, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  2. I don’t know much about the workings of the Area 4 Coalition, so I won’t comment on that. It is worth noting that the Reeves Order asks that “the City Manager be and hereby is requested to advise the City Council as to the prudence of taking the former NBC Harvard Street lot by eminent domain.” Ideally, the City Administration’s evaluation of what is “prudent” should take into account the very valid points Gerry has made.

    Comment by Robert Winters — November 2, 2011 @ 11:10 am

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