Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 22, 2013

The Bottom Line – April 22, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:54 am

This last week has been one of pure horror in Boston, Cambridge, Watertown and vicinity – the Marathon Day bombing that killed 3 people and maimed many others, the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier and subsequent carjacking, the gunfight in Watertown that put an end to one of the murderers, and finally the dramatic capture of the other murderer. The fact that these murderers have been living in Cambridge for the last decade and that one of them recently was awarded a scholarship from the City of Cambridge left many of us stunned. We now have some resolution as the investigation continues and charges are pending, but this was a week few of us will soon forget.

Life goes on, I guess, and so do civic affairs, including the following items of interest on Monday night’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the FY2014 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

Here’s a table showing the total proposed budget by department as well as the figures from last year and from 9 years ago together with percentage changes. Draw your own conclusions, but one thing that jumps out is the steep increase in public investment. We’ll get more details Monday night when the Budget Book is publicly available, but it’s likely that new school construction and ongoing sewer work will comprise a substantial part of the budgeted amount for public investment. On a minor note, how is $143,940 justified for maintaining the "Peace Commission?" Isn’t it about time we took another look at consolidating some of these non-regulatory, yet budgeted, boards and commissions?

City of Cambridge Budget Totals by Department – FY2014

FY05 submitted
FY13 submitted
FY14 submitted
1 yr % change
9 yr % change
City Council$975,570$1,642,165$1,683,1252.572.5
City Clerk$720,925$1,067,130$1,119,7654.955.3
Employee Benefits$20,499,920$31,796,130$32,787,2003.159.9
General Services$984,345$726,475$732,6950.9-25.6
Public Celebrations$671,505$799,370$891,94511.632.8
PUBLIC SAFETYFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Animal Commission$228,870$298,585$309,7003.735.3
Traffic, Parking & Transportation$8,175,095$10,551,435$10,935,0153.633.8
Police Review & Advisory Board$77,210$70,730$73,4403.8-4.9
Inspectional Services$2,261,215$3,115,045$3,180,0452.140.6
Weights & Measures$98,910$134,325$138,5403.140.1
Emergency Management$137,820$0  -100.0
Emergency Communications$3,097,485$4,242,970$4,434,4254.543.2
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Public Works$23,648,125$31,945,265$32,859,6902.939.0
Community Development$4,472,620$5,482,210$5,676,3403.526.9
Historical Commission$457,580$587,025$632,9407.838.3
Conservation Commission$89,760$101,925$123,47021.137.6
Peace Commission$76,215$139,595$143,9403.188.9
Cable T.V.$999,500$1,436,360$1,474,7952.747.6
Debt Service$23,917,070$47,526,975$49,716,2504.6107.9
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Human Services$14,581,590$22,480,760$23,155,0803.058.8
Women’s Commission$155,860$225,425$233,1153.449.6
Human Rights Commission$158,730$220,160$249,38013.357.1
CITY TOTAL$189,027,420$281,890,700$293,984,4254.355.5
EDUCATIONFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL)$122,053,195$144,987,705$150,989,4454.123.7
INTERGOVERNMENTALFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Cherry Sheet Assessments$11,569,960$19,700,025$20,126,9502.274.0
Cambridge Health Alliance$6,500,000$6,500,000$6,500,0000.00.0
GRAND TOTALS$345,328,030$474,084,485$492,947,6354.042.7
 FY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
PUBLIC INVESTMENT$8,834,255$21,277,065$92,715,930335.8949.5

There are also these items of interest, offered with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-03, regarding a report on the possibility of a gun buy-back program.

This is not recommended due to limited effectiveness and better alternatives.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-20, regarding a report on the feasibility of providing a service in which residents are able to look up their voter registration status online.

This is feasible and the City is looking into implementing it at some point in the near future.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the Gartner IT Strategic Plan report.

Seems like a good thing looking toward the future of "e-government", but I’ll need a robot to read the report for me.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties that the City of Cambridge consider the disposition of approximately 8,660 square feet of land on the east side of Ames Street between Main Street and Broadway to enable Boston Properties to develop residential uses on that site.

This is part of the fulfillment of a promised 200,000 square feet of housing, though it’s not clear if all of that is to be associated with this project. The proposed development will also include ground floor retail and is consistent with the City’s future plans for the reconfiguration and reconstruction of Ames Street.

Unfinished Business #16. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Council Order Numbers 13 and 14 of Mar 18, 2013, regarding revised zoning language to the Section 11.700 entitled Interim Regulations for Medical Marijuana Uses. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 15, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Jan 22, 2013. Petition expires Apr 22, 2013.

This interim measure is something of a formality and will likely be ordained at this meeting.

Resolution #2. Retirement of George Fernandes from the Electrical Department.   Mayor Davis

Don’t worry, we’ll turn off the lights at the end of the meeting. This is another significant retirement.

Resolution #24. Thanks to the City of Cambridge’s first responders for their assistance in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy.   Mayor Davis, Councillor Maher

When this resolution was filed, nobody knew just how significant a role the Cambridge Police and the MIT Police would play as events unfolded. We should salute all of the officers and other police personnel who were involved.

Order #1. That the City Council go on record urging the 113th Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform as outlined in this resolution that addresses (1) earned legalization with a path to citizenship; (2) updated future immigration of families and workers; and (3) improved immigration enforcement and border security that is consistent with our nation’s values.   Vice Mayor Simmons

This is, of course, a very large issue that should have been addressed directly some time ago, but it seems inevitable that the debate will now be influenced by the very small sample of events that unfolded here over this past week.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Cable TV Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee for a public meeting held on Apr 2, 2013 to discuss the ability of the City’s existing utility infrastructure to meet long-term increases in demand.

This was an interesting meeting about a topic that most people don’t even think about – utility infrastructure and capacity. The report is very informative.

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 Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking.

This is a good idea and overdue, though the proposal really doesn’t go far enough. As proposed, bicycle parking would be mandatory for most new residential and commercial developments, but it fails to address major renovation of existing residential buildings. Multi-family houses with existing basement space suitable for bicycle storage are being turned into million-dollar condos and these projects should be subject to the same regulations as new developments.

Though not on the agenda, I do hope some brave councillor speaks to the now obvious value of surveillance cameras as an important tool in protecting public safety. A Late Order empowering the City Manager and the Cambridge Police Department to switch on the equipment already installed would be a nice gesture. – Robert Winters

1 Comment

  1. Budget Ideas:

    I would consolidate the Historical Commission and Conservation Commission; the Women’s Commission, Human Rights Commission, Peace Commission, and Police Advisory Board into an all encompassing ‘Human Rights’ Commission; Veterans into Human Services; and I am curious why we have a generous Peace Commission budget and no Emergency Management budget? In light of last week’s tragedy it would seem prudent to come up with a comprehensive Emergency Management strategy and to start running drills like Boston did. This is not an overreaction, the drills Menino had in Boston clearly saved lives by making law enforcement, first responders, and medical personnel aware of their roles and how to react during a crisis. We should do that for our hospitals, law enforcement, and first responders as well. I would also consolidate Emergency Communications into that, since effective Command and Control requires integrated communication strategies. But, and this is just my opinion, but I would suspect an Emergency Management budget would be more effective at stopping terrorism than the Peace Commission.

    Comment by James Conway — April 26, 2013 @ 11:18 am

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