Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 21, 2012

Passing the Budget and the Shape of Things to Come – May 21, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Passing the Budget and the Shape of Things to Come – May 21, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

The FY2013 General Fund Budget [$454,384,460], the Water Fund Budget [$14,144,080], and the Public Investment Fund [$21,277,065] will be approved this week along with final votes on 5 loan authorization orders totaling $17,442,670 to cover various public works projects. That’s the Big Stuff. In addition, there are a few other items sure to attract some interest from the councillors and the public.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-61, regarding a report on implementing a Buy Local policy.

To the Honorable, the City Council:

In response to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-61, regarding a report on implementing a Buy Local policy, please be advised that the procurement of goods and services is controlled by State Law, MGL Chapter 30B. This statute does not permit the granting of preferential treatment for businesses in local cities or towns.

I am extremely skeptical that the Legislature would enact an amendment authorizing such a preference due to the potential "balkanization" impact.

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

There has been a fair amount of agitation from several councillors to adopt some sort of local preference for City purchasing. They’re not going to like this response and will likely quote statutes from other states to justify the worthiness of the concept of giving local preference. This, however, is Massachusetts and Chapter 30B is fairly restrictive in what cities and towns can and cannot do when it comes to purchasing and awarding contracts for goods and services. The Manager’s statement about "balkanization" could just as easily be applied to periodic efforts to require residency for City jobs. The taxicab industry, on the other hand, is solidly located in the Balkans. A Boston cab picking up a fare in Cambridge (or vice-versa) could spark all-out war.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Acting City Solicitor to prepare draft language to the Municipal Code that will increase the fines for violations to the dog ordinance and refer said language to the Ordinance Committee. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Kelley on Order Number Thirteen of May 14, 2012.]

This was Councillor vanBeuzekom’s late Order from last week that was appropriately delayed by Councillor Kelley. The Dog Lobby can both bark and bite and there’s a good chance that some of them will come barking in opposition at this meeting. Seriously, proposing changes in fees via a late Order with no public notice is very bad move.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department and report back to the City Council on the current status of the Inlet Bridge and steps the City can take to ensure that agreements with the Commonwealth are upheld.   Councillor Toomey

I have a place on my shelf at home for City reports and plans for projects that never materialized. There’s the well known stuff like the Inner Belt, but there’s also the rapidly disappearing "Urban Ring" plan for public transportation, the pedestrian walkway that was supposed to be suspended from the back of the Museum of Science garage to reconnect the fabulous walkway behind the Museum that looks out over the Charles, and perhaps now the less consequential "Inlet Bridge" designed to create another means of access to the new NorthPoint Park and the brand-new bridge over the RR tracks to Charlestown. Maybe it’s time we pulled some of these plans off the shelf and put them back on the table for a fresh look.

Elsewhere in town, the newly reconstituted Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) will have their first meeting Monday evening at the same time as the City Council meeting. Up at Harvard, if you haven’t yet heard of the plans for the space between Harvard Yard and the Science Center above the tunnel, you may want to check it out. Major rejuvenation of the tunnel structure will commence after Commencement. The redesigned plaza will lose most of its greenery but promises to become a significant new civic space – not just for Harvard.

Meanwhile, we are getting close to the day when the Kendall and Central Square Goody/Clancy advisory committees communicate their thoughts on their respective Squares. It appears that the Harvest Market in Central Square will soon disappear or have to relocate into another (smaller) space. Mega-profit plans for the Naggar property, well-wrapped in red ribbons from political friends, are moving forward hungrily awaiting zoning changes to allow significantly greater density. Densification is the latest craze – quite the contrast from the wave of downzoning proposals that were common a decade or so ago. Further down the street, proposed plans for a 165 foot residential tower next to the Lafayette Square fire station and another 145 foot tall proposed building in the 300 block of Mass. Ave. are receiving their first taste of pushback from a wary public. – Robert Winters


  1. about my late order…it came up during last week’s Council meeting in the context of discussing other City Manager proposed changes to the ordinance enforcement of dog rules. That change was referred to the Ordinance Committee for further discussion. I thought we could discuss other changes to that same ordinance at the same committee meeting. Certainly plenty of opportunity to have public input…something I want more of.

    Comment by minka vanBeuzekom — May 21, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  2. I am so pleased to see Order #4 make it to the Council tonight. I took this issue to Councillor vanBeuzekom early last week after hearing someone from the city explain that the only real monitoring system they have in place for people abusing the private handicapped space laws is “well, you just have to rat on your neighbor”. That is just insane. There are two such spots on my block alone and everyone knows that neither household needs the special spot any longer. Why should it be in our hands?

    Unfortunately I will not be attending the council meeting tonight due to the CRA meeting. I would be curious to hear what any of the other Councillors have to say about this (if it even gets pulled).

    Comment by Joe Aiello — May 21, 2012 @ 11:53 am

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