Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 7, 2013

A Sampler from the Jan 7, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,Kendall Square,planning — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:40 am

A Sampler from the Jan 7, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda

The 2013 City Council season opens this Monday with little at bat and a lot on deck. Here is a sampler of some interesting agenda items:

Communications #4. A communication was received from Tom Stohlman transmitting a copy of a letter to Ms. Amy Nable of the MA Attorney General’s Office in response to his Open Meeting Law Complaint.

This is an interesting interpretation of the Open Meeting Law. It seems to suggest that the only legitimate legislative actions the City Council or any public body can propose is the kind that’s dreamt up in a vacuum by an individual or that emerges spontaneously on the floor of the City Council. I don’t think ANY legislative body works this way nor do I think any effective organization or group of individuals works this way. People talk to each other. Elected officials talk to each other (or at least we hope this is the case). Sometimes a consensus around a good idea develops before the whole group gets together. The public gets a chance to chime in, discussion ensues, and a vote is taken. What is to be gained by turning elected officials into robots in straitjackets? What is so offensive about the practice of allowing councillors to individually sign on as sponsors of a City Council Order prior to voting on the record in favor of the Order? If you are unhappy about the decision to hire Rich Rossi as City Manager for a few years, so be it, but why make such a whine out of sour grapes?

Resolution #15. Resolution on the death of Karen Klinger.   Councillor Cheung

Karen Klinger, photo from CCTVWhen I receive email messages from Cambridge people, I confess to classifying the senders mainly into three categories: Friends, Civics, and Politics. Only my real friends are classified as Friends. I lump much of the mail I receive into the Politics category and, quite frankly, I don’t put a lot of weight in that stuff. The special category is Civics – for people who are really trying to do all the best things a citizen should do. These are the constructive people, the thoughtful people, and many of them I eventually call Friends. Karen Klinger was a Civic person, well on her way to being a Friend – a constructive and thoughtful citizen who did not participate in civic life merely to inflate her ego or to obstruct whatever comes along. Karen and I would often ride together on the bike rides sponsored twice per year by the Cambridge Bicycle Committee and we would catch up on things as we rode through the streets of Cambridge.

When I heard that Karen had died after an extended illness, I looked back at some of the messages we had exchanged over the last few years. Just two years ago when fellow cyclist Henry Lewis died suddenly, Karen wrote these haunting words: "That’s so sad about Henry Lewis. What happened? He looked to be the picture of health on the Bow Tie Ride. A very enthusiastic, charismatic guy. I always find it especially shocking when seemingly healthy people who are surely younger than I am suddenly die. I can’t get the image of him, enthusing about the ride and the one coming up next spring–with a music theme–out of my head." Karen was also a very enthusiastic, charismatic gal and I will especially miss her when riding in the next Cambridge Bike Tour on May 13.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate city staff to provide a report to the City Council explaining the SOV target rate that has been established for the City of Cambridge; data that explains how the City of Cambridge is doing in relation to meeting its SOV target rate; and future plans to reduce the actual SOV rate including barriers to achieving as low a rate as is possible.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Nothing unusual in this Order. It’s highlighted primarily to note how certain issues and language seem to rise and fall in importance over the years. It wasn’t so long ago that the City Council often referred to the problem of "single occupancy vehicles." Much of those concerns were incorporated into the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordiance that effectively replaced the old Interim Parking Freeze. That ordinance drives much of City policy today. We don’t really hear the phrase "single occupancy vehicle" any more. The language today tends to focus on larger themes like energy efficiency, climate change, LEED standards, smart growth, and transit-oriented development. I remember a day 24 years ago when recycling was the new wave. We really have come a long way since then.

Order #4. That the City Council go on record strongly urging the City Manager to fill the two vacancies on the Planning Board with people who have a background in, or association with, the skilled labor and building trades.   Vice Mayor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

I beg to differ. The Planning Board ideally consists of objective, fair-minded people who bring a range of relevant skills to the business of planning the future of the city and its urban design. What exactly is the value added by insisting on having skilled labor and building trades represented on the Planning Board? Will there be another Order forthcoming urging that representatives from the life sciences be appointed to the Planning Board in recognition of their major presence in Kendall Square and elsewhere? Why not have representatives from the universities in recognition of the dominant role they play in Cambridge? Those vacancies should be filled as soon as possible, but the pool should not be restricted to any specific interest group.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 12, 2012 to receive an update on the long-term vision for Kendall Square.

There’s not much to add other than to highlight all the potential activity that is now on deck. New buildings are under construction in Kendall Square and there may be other significant changes there from whatever emerges from the recently re-filed MIT Kendall Square zoning petition and the concurrent planning process now underway. Meanwhile, at the other end of Main Street, the Fennell properties – all 15 of them in the Lafayette Square area – recently sold for $32 million to New Jersey’s Normandy Real Estate Partners which is teaming up with Twining Properties, the New York firm that brought the Watermark apartment towers along with new retail and restaurant offerings to Kendall Square. Great things (or horrible things) could come of all this, but it’s guaranteed to not set well with many activists. It should keep things peppered up around here for the next few years.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a public meeting held on Dec 19, 2012 to introduce Attorney Elizabeth Valerio, who will represent the City Council, in negotiations with the next City Manager, Richard Rossi.

The specifics of the proposed contract with our next City Manager Richard Rossi are due to appear sometime this month.

Miscellaneous #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012.

There are a few City publications that are worth perusing, and this is one of them. If you really have time to waste, you can also check out the City’s annual line item budget at the Cambridge Public Library. That’s the one that gives the names and salaries and benefits of all the City’s full-time employees. Or you could go hiking. I’ll choose the latter.

1 Comment

  1. “It seems to suggest that the only legitimate legislative actions the City Council or any public body can propose is the kind that’s dreamt up in a vacuum by an individual or that emerges spontaneously on the floor of the City Council.”
    Nope, I am not suggesting this.
    “I don’t think ANY legislative body works this way nor do I think any effective organization or group of individuals works this way.”
    We’re in agreement.
    “People talk to each other. Elected officials talk to each other (or at least we hope this is the case). Sometimes a consensus around a good idea develops before the whole group gets together. The public gets a chance to chime in, discussion ensues, and a vote is taken.”
    I’m with you. That’s what public deliberation is all about.
    “What is to be gained by turning elected officials into robots in straitjackets?”
    Is this on the agenda too?
    “What is so offensive about the practice of allowing councillors to individually sign on as sponsors of a City Council Order prior to voting on the record in favor of the Order?”
    From a previous comment by me on this blog: “Why do you believe it’s so hard to deliberate, cooperate, and collaborate in front of the public?” Yes, it can be hard, as public officials, you have to schedule a public meeting, you have to argue, you have to risk being wrong, and you have to vote on the record. The public can miss a lot when this is done prior to the meeting.
    If you are unhappy about the decision to hire Rich Rossi as City Manager for a few years, so be it, but why make such a whine out of sour grapes?
    Assuming you transcribed it onto CCJ, I know you’ve read my complaint and reply. So you know that’s not what I’m whining about.
    I’m whining about a possible (unintentional) violation of the Open Meeting Law. And by the guidelines of the Attorney General, I have to whine in public.

    Comment by Tom Stohlman — January 7, 2013 @ 8:55 am

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