Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 8, 2012

A Clean Slate – Jan 9, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:09 pm

A Clean Slate – Jan 9, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda

This is the first regular meeting of the 2012-13 City Council term and, except for a few matters of Unfinished Business, it’s a clean slate. Because the new City Council was unable to elect a mayor at its Inaugural Meeting last week, it is expected that one or more mayoral ballots may occur at this meeting. It’s anyone’s guess whether they will succeed in electing a mayor this time, but there will be no City Council committees appointed until there is a mayor. The relevant agenda item is Unfinished Business #1. In the event that this is decided later in the meeting, I invite my diligent civic friends to report the play-by-play as a comment at at the earliest opportunity.

Resolution #21. Retirement of Robert M. Stevens as Director of Veterans Services for the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley

Bob Stevens is a good man whose company has been enjoyed by all who have worked with him and by many others (including me). Enjoy your retirement!

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to present a plan to offer recycling receptacles in the public realm such as in parks and city squares.   Councillor Davis and Councillor vanBeuzekom

There are now many solar-powered "Big Belly" trash containers in Central Square and elsewhere. Ideally, some of these might be repurposed for single-stream recycling, but the signage would have to be unmistakably clear indicating that only recyclable materials are to be deposited in the containers. This Order references dual purpose solar-powered containers in use in Somerville, but such an additional purchase would likely be a nontrivial additional cost.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate departments and report back to the City Council with an opinion on whether the widespread use of rodent resistant trash bags would improve the City’s pest management efforts.   Councillor Cheung

The theory is that some scent or chemical is added to the plastic to deter the rodents. Cambridge rodents are, of course, more intelligent than ordinary rodents and will surely research the matter and gnaw their way toward a solution.

Order #6. That the City Clerk, who is the Parliamentarian of the City Council, is requested to organize a review of Robert Rules of Order beginning with the current Council and every new Council hereafter, with a view towards ensuring transparent, orderly and productive deliberations of the City Council.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Cheung and Councillor vanBeuzekom

This has been a sore spot for several city councillors – most notably Councillor Simmons and Councillor Kelley. Proper procedure during the regular meetings would be welcome, but it would be even more helpful if the City Council committees could be restored to productive use. With a few exceptions, Council committees have largely become places where the Chair of the committee carries out a pet project or two – hardly a collaborative process. Committee attendance has declined accordingly, and the last City Council had a number of significant resignations from committees. Some committees met rarely, and one committee did not meet at all during the entire Council term. There has also been a proliferation of single-councillor ad-hoc committees (Red, Blue, and Silver Ribbon Committees) that are not subject to any of the rules applicable to regular City Council committees.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to prepare a home rule petition to delegate the approval of curb cuts and report back to the Council with the necessary legislative language.   Councillor Cheung

This was an early issue from Councillor Decker a decade ago. Delegating the approval of curb cuts seems like a good idea in most instances, but there have been a few significant cases in which the City Council’s authority in this matter has played a role in negotiating a better outcome for neighbors.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a letter from former Mayor and City Councillor David P. Maher, regarding executive session minutes of City Council discussions of the Monteiro case.

Former Mayor Maher has determined that there is no longer a need for these minutes to remain confidential. They go now to the Law Department for review and possible exemptions before public disclosure. Perhaps there will be an interesting twist revealed with this disclosure, but this dead horse has now been beaten beyond recognition. – Robert Winters


  1. Robert–

    Delegated to whom? Policy order #7.


    Andrea Wilder

    Comment by Andrea Wilder — January 15, 2012 @ 10:16 am

  2. Regarding the delegation of authority on curb cuts, the response in 2002 from the City Manager says: “If the City Council wished us to prepare a home rule petition for the passage of such a special act, we would need additional information as to whether the City Council would seek to delegate all of its powers with respect to the acceptance, layout and alteration of the public ways, or only with respect to curb cuts. Whether the City Council were to decide on a complete or only a partial transfer of its authority, the special act would provide for the transfer of that authority to the City Manager, after following appropriate procedures.”

    Generally speaking, this translates into “staff” after which the Manager formally signs off. This includes Inspectional Services or the Board of Zoning Appeals, Traffic & Parking, Historical Commission, and Public Works. Neighborhood Associations would be notified and may submit their points of view.

    Comment by Robert Winters — January 15, 2012 @ 10:39 am

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