Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 26, 2009

July 27, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:00 pm

July 27, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

The City Council will hold its Midsummer meeting this Monday, July 27 and, believe it or not, there are agenda items not relating to real or imagined incidents on Ware Street. (There are also a few Orders on the Most Overblown Story of the Year.)

City Mgr’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 09-67, regarding the potential use by City departments and staff of social networking programs such as Twitter and Facebook.

This sentence sums it up: “Social networking sites on the Internet are not regulated or secure. Information posted on these sites may not be accurate or current. Therefore it is not recommended that they be used for official City business.” The one thing the City needs to have is a web person in each and every department who will keep their website fresh, accurate, and useful. Leave twitter to the twits.

Perhaps the most substantial agenda item is the proposal for new taxes:

City Mgr’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the recommendation that the City Council vote to accept G.L. c. 64L, Section 2(a), in order to impose a local meals excise and I further recommend the City Council vote to amend the local room occupancy excise, under G.L. c. 64G, section 3A, to the new rate of 6% from the current rate of 4%.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a meeting held on July 15, 2009 to receive updates on the status of the FY 10 budget particularly with regard to the effects of federal stimulus funding, the state budget and the hotel/motel and meals tax.

If this were any place but Cambridge, a proposal for new taxes would be debated – perhaps fiercely. This proposal will likely pass on a 9-0 vote.

Tabled Item #2. That the City Manager is requested to make available adequate funds to the City Council so that the City Council can hire its own legal expert to review relevant issues in pending litigation.

Nothing new to report, but the City’s legal appeal of the case in question continues to make its way through the courts. The underlying political motivations of some councillors and other political players are what continues to make this interesting. Meanwhile, on the Crimson side of town:

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Larry Ward, Chair of the University Relations Committee, for a meeting held on May 20, 2009 to to discuss the committee’s agenda for the remainder of the term, Harvard’s termination of the leases with Three Aces Pizza on Massachusetts Avenue and the layoffs of low paid workers by Harvard and MIT.

Order #5. The City Council go on record asking Harvard University to be patient, to abstain from these radical employment cuts which will deeply injure the most susceptible members of our community, restore valuable workers, and proceed in alignment with its claim to be a world-wide leader in both the business and educational community.   Councillor Ward and Councillor Decker

Order #9. That the City Council recommend that Universities increase their Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payment by 2%.   Councillor Decker

We can always hope that University Relations will some day get back to something other than meddling in internal affairs and begging for cash. The committee reports this week also indicate that Councillors Seidel and Ward now have campaign workers on the City payroll as “aides”. With all but one of the other councillors reveling in the joy of political patronage, I suppose you can’t blame these councillors for grabbing a piece of the City pie as well. I had hoped for better.

Meanwhile, the Gates-Crowley saga continues and our local political incumbents and aspirants will now have their opportunity to capitalize on the controversy. Will any of them be enjoying a beer with the Cop, the Professor, and the President? I hope they don’t feel too left out.

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to report on the measures being taken to expedite a peaceful resolution to the matter involving the police and Professor Gates.   Mayor Simmons

Order #25. That the Cambridge City Council hereby goes on record in support of the statement issued by the City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department and representatives for Professor Gates.   Councillor Ward

Order #27. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report on whether wearing nameplates and badges is still required by Police Officers.   Councillor Reeves

The first of these Orders seems like an initial request for a report on what’s being done “to expedite a peaceful resolution to this matter”, so it appears to be a moot request now that it appears to have been resolved via presidential intervention. The second Order is just a confirmation that the City Council agrees with the dropping of all charges and calling it a day. The third Order is just an inquiry but, along with the other two Orders and the feeding frenzy we’ve been subjected to for the last ten days, political speeches should be in no short supply on Monday night – especially with the likelihood of news cameras at the meeting.

The question that will likely not be answered and which probably won’t even be addressed on Monday is what effect this controversy will have on public safety. Will someone now think twice about calling in a suspected break-in or other crime? The witness who made the initial phone call was named in police reports and brutalized in blog comments for doing what she thought was the right thing. Do you think she’ll make a call again? Does anyone seriously believe that reports of suspected break-ins will not drop as a result of this, especially in cases where an alleged perpetrator is identifiable in any way that might lead to accusations of racial profiling? – Robert Winters

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