Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 23, 2012

Will there be a Mayor? – Jan 23, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:51 am

Will there be a Mayor? – Jan 23, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda

In addition to the regular items on the meeting agenda, there’s still the lingering question of whether this City Council plans to elect a mayor this term. The results of the first two ballots may or may not be meaningful – it all depends upon whether the two who amassed 3 votes each last time (Cheung, Decker) can ever make it to 5 votes. If not, eventually the votes will find their way to a candidate who has majority acceptability, and that may not be either of the two current frontrunners. The relevant agenda item is Unfinished Business #3. The votes taken will continue to be recorded here: Feel free to comment.

Fundamentally, this matters more to the councillors than it does to the residents of the city. It really only determines who gets to appoint the committees, chair the meetings, get a paycheck bonus, and have the privilege of planning a few senior picnics. The one exception is that the mayor becomes the 7th voting member and Chair of the School Committee, and this is potentially consequential in that they are right now making decisions about the new upper school structure (Innovation Agenda). It would be nice if the person elected as Mayor actually believes in and is willing to act in support of academic excellence. [Ref.: Cambridge Public Schools Academic Challenge Plan]

There’s one other potential consequence of this mayoral election. If the choice of mayor causes many Cambridge residents to shake their heads in disbelief, this could lead some to seek a change in the Charter to have a popularly elected mayor (which would continue to be more ceremonial than substantial) or perhaps even more fundamental Charter change (along with the inevitable unintended consequences). On the other hand, civic interest is currently so dreadfully low that it’s hard to imagine any person or group having enough interest to carry out such a campaign. In any case, it would be a mistake to blame the system for the failings of the people we elect.

It’s interesting that Resolution #22 (sponsored by 8 councillors) offers congratulations to Councillor Henrietta Davis on being named Chair of the National League of Cities International Council. Meanwhile, back in Cambridge, none of these 8 councillors seem willing to vote for Davis as mayor.

There are several energy/environment Orders on this agenda:

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to devise and implement a system for annually reporting the energy use of each municipal building, including schools and buildings leased by the city, and to communicate this information to the public by making it available on the city website and through other means such as displays in building lobbies and city publications.   Councillor Davis and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to designate a committee to include the City’s Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs, to analyze various scenarios for installation of renewable energy facilities for city buildings.   Councillor Davis

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to revisit instituting a ban on plastic bags from retail institutions.   Councillor Decker and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Order #11. That this City Council go on record requesting that Cambridge go "coal-free" in an effort to combat the negative effects such energy has on health, economics and social justice.   Councillor Decker and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Councillor vanBeuzekom is wasting no time promoting some of the things that really matter to her, and the combination of her and Councillor Davis should keep these issues in the forefront for the next two years. In Order #10, most of the emphasis is on pollution, but there is an even more basic reason for dissuading people from using plastic bags. They inevitably make their way into the single-stream recycling containers (even though it’s against the rules) and they foul up the machinery at the Charlestown processing plant. However, banning Cambridge retailers from using plastic bags is not a particularly great strategy when so many of us do our shopping in Somerville and elsewhere. Rules governing product packaging and recycling have to be regional or statewide to be effective.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on how the City of Cambridge promotes and enforces the Cambridge Employment Plan.   Councillor Toomey

It’s worth reading this plan that dates primarily to 1984 and 1990. Councillor Toomey’s focus seems to be on hiring Cambridge residents for construction projects. It’s interesting that a proposed ordinance change in 2008 in response to threatened litigation would have relaxed portions of the Ordinance relating to the hiring of Cambridge residents, but the matter was placed on file without action.

Order #12. That this City Council go on record strongly suggesting that Equity World only work with companies that do meet community standards and to provide further information regarding why they chose to work with a company that does not.   Councillor Decker

Yet another Order filed on behalf of the labor unions. The Order states that a certain contractor has been "accused of fraud, asbestos violations, debarments, apprenticeship issues and DOL issues." It’s interesting that a Council Order should be based on accusations without any reference to whether this contractor has ever been found guilty of any of these accusations.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the Council on how appropriate information pertaining to parking sticker location (how many parking stickers are issued to a street or address) may be made readily available, free of charge and on the City’s website, to the general public or, if that is not possible, what information may be made available and why any limitations on dissemination of such information exists.   Councillor Kelley

Nobody likes competing for on-street parking spaces, but do we really want to categorize buildings and the neighbors who live in them by how many resident stickers are issued for each building?

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to develop a complete list of all agreements which give continuing benefit to the residents of Cambridge and the mechanism for keeping track of expiration, enforcement or change of ownership.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This is the kind of thing you might think is already routinely done, but it’s doubtful that it is. It might be a good idea to merge this information with the identification scheme proposed in Order #15 of Aug 1, 2011 (comments here).



  1. They’re almost through the whole agenda at 7:05pm and no mayoral vote yet. Perhaps they’ll give it a go and do a ballot at the end of the meeting. If not, we’ll do it again on Jan 30.

    Comment by Robert Winters — January 23, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

  2. Councillor Kelley stated that he’s hit while biking every two months. Some of us have bicycled for decades with barely an interaction. What conclusion do we draw from this?

    Comment by Robert Winters — January 23, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  3. There was a vote for mayor. Same result as last week.

    Comment by Robert Winters — January 23, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  4. Clearly Councillor Kelley needs to be a bit more careful while on his bike

    Comment by Joseph Aiello — January 24, 2012 @ 12:10 am

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