Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 24, 2013

And the Oscar goes to…. Feb 25, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

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

And the Oscar goes to…. Feb 25, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

There are a few major items on the agenda this week: (1) The possible signing of a 3-year contract with Rich Rossi as the next City Manager (starting July 1), and (2) a possible vote on ordination of the Forest City zoning petition. Starting with the big items:

Richard RossiCommittee Report #1. 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 Feb 13, 2013 to continue discussions with Attorney Elizabeth Valerio, representing the City Council in negotiations with the next City Manager, Richard Rossi.

Communications and Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor David P. Maher transmitting a copy of a letter sent to Councillor Kelley.

Communications and Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Councillor David P. Maher transmitting the proposed contract between the City of Cambridge and Richard C. Rossi as the next City Manager for the City of Cambridge. [original PDF]

The contract offers a very generous salary for each of the next 3 years, but it’s also interesting in that part of the deal is that Rich Rossi gives up an enormous amount of accrued value in compensatory time and sick leave gathered over his decades of service. The City gets a good deal in the short term, and Mr. Rossi potentially gains in the very long term due to an enhanced pension. Read the contract and draw your own conclusions. I’m sure we’ll hear public comment from the usual suspects. The communication from Councillor Maher to Councillor Kelley is delightful.

Unfinished Business #10. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, Office of the City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 30, 2013 to continue discussions on a zoning petition filed by 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. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 25, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Jan 8, 2013. Petition expires Apr 17, 2013.

Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Council Order No. 14, dated 2/11/13 regarding the Forest City Petition and letter of commitment to ensure that it is consistent with other letters of commitment, and Council Order No. 15 dated 2/11/13 regarding whether the Forest City Petition would be considered spot zoning. [Legal opinion from Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor]

Communications and Reports from City Officers #4. A communication was received from Councillor David P. Maher transmitting a proposed amendment to the Forest City Zoning Petition and the Letter of Commitment as revised by Forest City to be accepted and incorporated into and made part of the Zoning Ordinance.

This is the Forest City petition and it could come to a final vote at this meeting. It’s been before the City Council in one form or another for about two years now, so please laugh out loud when anyone says that they need more time to study the issue. The votes of most of the city councillors have not changed since early in the process. It’s always been a matter of whether one or two councillors would value the overall public benefit of this petition over their need to cater to a few influential political supporters. The future debate over the potential for new housing development in and around Central Square is yet to come, and it will be a relief if we can allow the redevelopment of that long-neglected stretch of Mass. Ave. to proceed so that we can move on to the more important stuff.

Don’t be surprised if public comment turns into a circus with fear-mongering, accusations of corruption, and speeches by aspiring Council candidates all fighting over the same pool of a thousand votes.

Elsewhere on the City Manager’s Agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-65, regarding a report on Sunday openings at the Library.

The bottom line is that even if everyone would love expanded Sunday Library hours, you still need workers to staff the place and that’s not necessarily a sure thing.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-90, regarding a report on Executive Session to discuss lawsuits.

I’m not sure which lawsuits this refers to, but there will always be some people who want to milk Mother Cambridge.

Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining the rare distinction of being one of 37 municipalities in the United States with three AAA ratings from the nation’s three major credit rating agencies.

We get a similar report every year around this time. Though it may seem routine, it really is something worth celebrating. I wonder how many of the aspiring Council candidates actually understand its significance.

Resolution #14. Happy 90th Birthday wishes to Mayor Emeritus Walter J. Sullivan.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Maher

Happy birthday, Walter. You were the first person I ever met at the Count at the old Longfellow School about 30 or so years ago. I don’t know whether I should thank you or blame you for encouraging my interest in the Cambridge elections.

Resolution #15. Congratulations to Saul Tannenbaum on launching a daily compilation of local news in and out of Cambridge titled Cambridge Happenings.   Councillor Cheung

Though Cambridge Happenings is what they call a news aggregator (as opposed to a content provider), our good pal Saul is a pretty damn good content provider as well. Check out Saul’s CCTV site for a sample.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Election Commission and Information Technology Department on the feasibility of passing an ordinance that requires landlords to provide new tenants with a voter registration form when they move into a property in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Election Commission and Information Technology Department on the feasibility of providing a service in which residents are able to look up their voter registration status online.   Councillor Cheung

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Election Commission regarding the feasibility of including voter registration forms in the annual census mailings.   Councillor Cheung

These are highlighted because of all the recent interest in elections – not just this year’s municipal election but the game of musical chairs that has been set off by the exit of Senator John Kerry to become Secretary of State. Because Massachusetts is effectively a one party state with the custom of Democrats not challenging incumbent fellow Democrats, it becomes a cascading free-for-all whenever a vacancy occurs. I have no idea whether Markey or Lynch will get the party blessing to become Senator, but if and when one of them is elevated another vacancy for a U.S. Congress seat will then occur. That’s when things could get very interesting. Will one of our State Reps. or State Senators go for the seat? Yes. Maybe one of our city councillors? If a State Rep. or State Senate seat opens up, perhaps a city councillor will go for it (and maybe create a City Council vacancy). In Massachusetts, we get a cascade of vacancies and special elections instead of actual contested elections like you might have in a two-party state. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Order #9. That the City Council schedule a roundtable/working meeting for Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber to discuss the Central Square Advisory Committee Report.   Mayor Davis

It’s about time. Remember that the Central Square Advisory Committee Report is ultimately just a collection of good ideas and suggestions. The Community Development Department is now drafting actual proposed zoning language that should enter the public arena sometime this summer.

Order #12. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to instruct the City Solicitor and the appropriate city staff to evaluate the feasibility of revising the PTDM ordinance to include Parking and Transportation Demand Management Plans for "residential developments."   Councillor vanBeuzekom

I’m not really sure what Councillor vanBeuzekom is looking for here. Housing development generally has a relatively low impact on vehicle trips compared to most commercial development. I suspect this may be part of the budding anti-housing movement currently being pushed by people who paradoxically call themselves housing activists.

Committee Report #2. 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 Feb 14, 2013 to conduct a follow-up meeting on the development in Kendall Square.

This was an incredibly interesting meeting held in the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Kendall Square. I have to confess that it was my first visit to the CIC. When you arrive you enter your name into a computer and are issued a printed name tag that has a number corresponding to how many times you’ve been there. I had a #1 on my badge, but it looked especially appropriate to see the badge of current Council candidate Tom Stohlman #1. I believe Leland Cheung had a #37 next to his name – not so good in a municipal election year.

It was fascinating to see the beehive of activity in the CIC – almost like a flea market of entrepreneurs busy as can be in chaotic productivity. I may just have to go back there one of these days. – Robert Winters

11 Comments

  1. More classes I’m missing for something we should be cutting the ribbon on. I should make the council apologize to my professors.

    Comment by patrick barrett — February 25, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  2. The problem with certain people saying the Council needs “more time” to go over the Forest City proposal is that those very same people have been in this city less time than the proposal has even been around.

    Comment by Joseph Aiello — February 25, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  3. that really applies only to Minka, who as head of the Area IV coalition out to think about sitting this one out. This also is a presumption on my part that 1) Kelley actually pays attention and ; 2) He has the word “yes” in his lexicon.

    Comment by patrick barrett — February 25, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

  4. I was actually referring to Mr. “No Money”. From my understanding, he moved to the area just before the deadline to run for State Rep against Toomey last year. Now he knows what is best for the city.

    Comment by Joseph Aiello — February 25, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  5. Fortunately he doesn’t have a vote.

    Comment by patrick barrett — February 25, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

  6. Just a quick correction Patrick – I am no longer on the leadership of the Area IV Coalition, since I took office in January of 2012. If I did have a conflict of interest in a petition or any matter before the Council, I would recuse myself during the vote.

    Comment by minka vanBeuzekom — February 25, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

  7. Feb 25 Update: The Cambridge City Council tonight unanimously ordained the MIT/Forest City zoning petition. Later in the meeting they voted 7-2 (Kelley, vanBeuzekom NO) to approve the contract with Richard Rossi as Cambridge’s next City Manager starting July 1, 2013. Then they had a recess to sign the contract and have a few photos taken. Here’s one sent by Councillor Leland Cheung:

    Rich Rossi contract signing

    Comment by Robert Winters — February 26, 2013 @ 12:33 am

  8. I was surprised by the unanimous vote, puzzled by Minka’s reluctance to vote in the affirmative after the zoning approval, surprised by councilor Kelley’s ability to say yes (crow = eaten), annoyed that Kelley and Minka couldn’t see Rossi through, was grateful that Councilor Maher exists, and absolutely blown away by Marjorie Decker. I haven’t been a huge fan, but tonight she was terrific. I will sleep just a little bit easier tonight. Central Square is finally getting its due. It is hard not to feel a little bit of optimism. Next up: fighting a moratorium

    Comment by Patrick Barrett — February 26, 2013 @ 12:52 am

  9. I knew before the meeting that there were enough votes to pass the Forest City petition with maybe a vote or two to spare. I’m impressed that it was approved unanimously. I agree on all other points, especially regarding Councillor/State Rep. Marjorie Decker. She went from being a NO vote 6 months ago to being a dealmaker – someone who played an essential role in getting the real housing activists on board. It was political jujitsu done masterfully. In every other way, this was Councillor David Maher’s night – as Councillor Reeves correctly pointed out. David was the one who carried the ball on both the Forest City petition and the contract with Rich Rossi.

    Comment by Robert Winters — February 26, 2013 @ 1:13 am

  10. Cambridge council approves new life sciences building in Central Square (Brock Parker, Boston Globe)
    An objective, fact-based account of the vote on the Forest City petition.

    Comment by Robert Winters — February 26, 2013 @ 10:35 am

  11. I used to be a major Decker critic but she has evolved into a real pragmatist in the last few years. I think having to win as a write in candidate woke her up (since its not hard to get 100 signatures) that she really had to work for this and earn the vote. And it served her well in her State Rep run where she actually had a contested primary. Good to see her take the ethical call and leave the City Council instead of double dipping. I guess the big question is who gets back on now that she gets out?

    Comment by James Conway — February 26, 2013 @ 11:44 am

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