Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 10, 2012

Prospect Pubs, Planning, and Pilot Programs – Dec 10, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:36 am

Prospect Pubs, Planning, and Pilot Programs – Dec 10, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

It will be difficult to top last week’s excitement when the City Council voted 8-1 to appoint Rich Rossi to succeed Bob Healy as City Manager starting July 1, 2013. The only other point I’ll make about that excellent decision is directed to those who have suggested that the appointment be an "interim" or "acting" appointment. This is not the lifetime appointment of a Pope or a Supreme Court Justice. Just because Bob Healy has served for over three decades does not change the fact that for his entire term, contract or no contract, Bob Healy served "at the pleasure of the City Council." The same will be true of Rich Rossi. There is nothing interim nor permanent about the job. Unless someone is filling in due to an unexpected departure, you’re either the City Manager or you’re not. The public elects the City Council who then hires their choice of City Manager. The democracy part takes place every 2 years in November. If anyone is especially passionate about this, you can pull papers next July to be a City Council candidate or start recruiting candidates you can support.

Here are the items that I found interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Patty Chen, et al Zoning Petition.

The Council has until Feb 12, 2013 to pass this petition that would slightly expand the set of streets on which bars and alcohol-serving entertainment venues may locate their entrances to include one block of Prospect Street north of Mass. Ave. The Planning Board supports it, and little or no objection from the public has been heard. It’s a good idea and should be approved forthwith. People are waiting to open for business.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a report from the Department of Public Works that summarizes the results from a feasibility study regarding a possible pilot program for curbside food scraps collection from residents for composting.

Honey WagonFrom the Executive Summary:
If implemented, the pilot will run one day a week for one year. We estimate 2 tons per day of food and 124 tons per year. This assumes 800 households generating 10 pounds of food scraps per week with an 85% participation rate and 70% setout rate. To ensure an efficient pilot route, we will choose a neighborhood within one collection day. We would target a range of housing types including single-family homes and residential buildings with up to 12 units… Households participating in the pilot will receive a kitchen scrap container and a year’s supply of 3-gallon compostable bags to line the container…. If the pilot is successful, a voluntary citywide program would be phased in by collection day to get enough participation among households to achieve minimum route density.

This is an exciting development. Many of us will continue to compost organics in our backyards, but if the pilot is successful and the program can eventually be expanded to a citywide program, this will be a great service to those who either cannot set up composting at home or who may prefer an organics collection service. Bring back the honey wagon! What was old is new again.

Applications and Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

This is essentially the same petition that was filed last March together with the committments subsequently made in July prior to the expiration of that petition. The main argument then for why the petition should be allowed to expire was that the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 was still in the process of formulating its recommendations. That process is now complete, so the time is right to revisit this proposal.

Memorandum from the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 on its Final Recommendations

Central Square and Osborn Triangle Plan & Recommendations

Discussion of Recommendations Presentation

Parking Lot Reuse Presentation

Communications #1. Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Tom Stohlman.

Order #9. That the City Clerk, in consultation with the Law Department, draft a response regarding an Open Meeting Law complaint received on Dec 4, 2012 for the City Council’s consideration at its Dec 17, 2012 City Council meeting in order to meet the Dec 21, 2012 deadline.   Mayor Davis

It is doubtful that there is any merit to the claim that the Open Meeting Law was violated in the drafting of last week’s Order on the appointment of Rich Rossi as City Manager starting next July. As City Clerk Donna Lopez clearly explained last week, the Order was drafted by a minority of City Council members and was submitted to the City Clerk who then circulated the Order to provide other councillors the opportunity to sign on as cosponsors. This is standard procedure. There were neither meetings involving a majority of councillors nor were there "serial meetings." It is likely that some councillors had conversations on the topic, but the intention of the Open Meeting Law has never been to require elected officials to avoid all conversation except when meeting in a public session.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the cause and other details of the power outage on Nov 29, 2012.   Mayor Davis

The best report I’ve seen so far is by John Hawkinson of MIT’s The Tech.

Communications and Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting a copy of the Silver Ribbon Commission Report.

There report is available here. [Thanks to the Mayor’s Office for posting the 50-page original document!] – RW


  1. As I’ve tried to make clear to the City Council I respect their appointment and object to their process. A bit of time at the Attorney General’s website reading or watching the OML training videos may change your doubts about the claim of OML violation:

    In the transcript of the video (Slide 8), a description of serial meetings closely resembles what the City Council does as “standard procedure”.

    And as I’ve researched further, the 5-member Government Rules and Operations Committee is a public body under the OML (See the transcript for Slide 5). At the March 19, 2012 meeting under Policy Order O-7 it was given the task of “…developing a comprehensive short-term and long-term succession plans…” for the City Manager position. According to the City Clerk, three members (a majority) of that body actually crafted and submitted the last week’s Order to appoint a new City Manager. Since this was not done at a public meeting of the Committee, it would appear to be a violation of the OML.

    In other news, there was something different about the City Council agenda this week. As near as I can tell, for the first time in at least two years’ worth of agendas, there are no orders with more than one sponsor.

    Comment by Tom Stohlman — December 10, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

  2. Wow, no co-sponsors for any Council Orders. Nice to see that we’re moving completely away from collaboration and cooperation – dysfunction as the new standard.

    All Hail the extreme interpretation of the Open Meeting Law!!

    Oh, and by the way, the Government Operations Committee has been meeting as a committee of the whole regarding the City Manager process. It takes 5 to make a majority.

    Comment by Robert Winters — December 10, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

  3. Why do you believe it’s so hard to deliberate, cooperate, and collaborate in front of the public?

    I missed the change in the number of Councillors on the Gov. Ops Committee. It’s still listed as a committee of 5 on the City Council Website, but according to the meeting minutes of the Committee, they are indeed meeting as a Committee of the Whole on matters regarding the City Manager. Thanks for saving me the time on a second complaint.


    Comment by Tom Stohlman — December 10, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

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