Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 20, 2013

Merry Month of May – Cambridge City Council May 20, 2013 Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,cycling,School Committee — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:00 am

Merry Month of May – Cambridge City Council May 20, 2013 Agenda Highlights

Amidst the flowering trees and the birds and the bees, springtime also brings the annual City Budget to the peaceful garden of Cambridge. The Big News is that the School Department Budget was not passed by the City Council’s Finance Committee amidst suggestions that important questions asked were not being answered. The 3-4-1-1 vote at the May 9 Budget Hearing [YES - Decker, Maher, Davis; NO - Simmons, Kelley, Cheung, vanBeuzekom; PRESENT - Toomey; ABSENT: Reeves] means that on the night when the final vote on the FY2014 Budget was expected to occur, the largest single component of the budget ($151 million) remains in committee. There appears to be trouble in the garden.

This might have been resolved on May 16 when there was a scheduled meeting of the Finance Committee if necessary, but Finance Committee Chair Marjorie Decker canceled that meeting. Instead of an actual meeting, we’ve been treated to a flurry of letters by city councillors and School Committee members posted here and on the Cambridge Chronicle website. [Mcgovern/Harding (May 13); Davis (May 13); vanBeuzekom (May 14); Cheung (May 14); Decker (May 15); Cheung, Kelley, Reeves, Simmons (May 16 and on this agenda); and Simmons (May 17).] Monday’s meeting agenda is interesting in that there are proposed policy orders that are incompatible. One order calls for the School Committee budget to be released from the Finance Committee and the unresolved issues discussed at a joint Roundtable meeting after the Budget is passed. The other order calls for the Finance Committee Chair to schedule a meeting of the committee before June 3 to resolve these matters prior to the Budget being passed by the City Council. The School Committee is not involved in these votes, but the co-chairs of their Budget Committee, Richard Harding and Marc McGovern, have been quite outspoken in characterizing the City Council’s actions as "reckless."

Here are the agenda items related to the current impasse:

Order #1. That the School Department budget be discharged from the Finance Committee and be referred to the full City Council for adoption at the City Council meeting of May 20, 2013.   Mayor Davis and Councillor Decker

Order #9. That the City Council schedule a Roundtable Meeting on June 10, 2013 at 5:30pm to meet with the School Committee members, the Superintendent of Schools and the School Department as a follow-up meeting to discuss issues raised in the FY14 School Department Budget hearing held on May 9, 2013.   Mayor Davis

Order #17. That the City Council respectfully urges the Chair of the Finance Committee to convene further budget hearings, to allow for additional discussions, with the hope of resolving any outstanding concerns that individual City Councillors may have regarding the FY2014 School Budget.   Vice Mayor Simmons, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Cheung

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillors Cheung, Kelley, Reeves and Vice Mayor Simmons transmitting a copy of a letter to Mayor Davis regarding the Cambridge School Department budget. [This communication gives a very detailed list of grievances/concerns.]

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Jeffrey M. Young, Superintendent of Schools regarding the Cambridge School Department Budget.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #5. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis regarding the School Budget.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #6. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting a copy of a memorandum from Carolyn L. Turk, Deputy Superintendent of Schools regarding Capital Improvements and Corresponding Educational Planning.

Late Communications & Reports from City Officers #7. A communication from Mayor Henrietta Davis regarding the FY2014 School Budget.

Letter from Massachusetts Association of School Committees (written by Glenn Koocher)

It will be interesting to see how this is resolved if, in fact, it is resolved. There has been a lot of talk around town about how the highly-touted Innovation Agenda may not be as rosy in its implementation as it was in its initial presentation. This may not be entirely apparent in the above communications, but the failure to pass the School Department Budget was most likely preceded by many phone calls and e-mail messages to city councillors from parents of children in the public schools.

In other matters, we have these items:

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to develop a progress report on all of the non-zoning recommendations submitted by the Central Square Advisory Committee   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Reeves and Vice Mayor Simmons

This is important. Potential zoning changes to enhance retail and residential opportunities in Central Square will come before the City Council later this year and will hopefully pass in some form. However, many quality-of-life issues and actions that support the retail environment of Central Square are not part of the zoning code and should not be ignored while the zoning discussion continues.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to explore how the City of Cambridge can adjust the structure of its commissions to make them project-based and have the appropriate levels of funding for projects.   Councillor Cheung

It’s a little difficult to read between the lines of Councillor Cheung’s order. Taking a long, hard look at the structure and purposes of the City’s various non-regulatory borads and commissions is overdue, but this order could be little more than a prompt for the City Manager to hire an executive director for one particular board.

City Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-62, regarding a report on evaluating and incorporating traffic signaling during very low traffic volume times.

I found it interesting that the loop detector on Lee St. at Harvard Ave. is not on the list. Perhaps this is why it never registers the presence of my bicycle no matter how I position myself there. The loop detector on Lee St. at Broadway is on the list, but it does not detect bicycles. If you’re on a bike at a red light and there’s no way to make it turn green, what exactly are you supposed to do?

Unfinished Business #14. 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. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 6, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Mar 19, 2013. Petition expires June 17, 2013. May 6, 2013 substituted language referred to Unfinished Business and remained on Unfinished Business.

Having spoken and written about this petition in the past, I’ll just make one simple suggestion for an amendment: Require that in any renovation of a residential or commercial property there be no net reduction in the potential for secure bicycle storage below the established minimum as proposed in this zoning amendment. That is, if basement or garage storage space is converted into living space this should not eliminate the potential of an appropriate amount of secure bicycle parking. – Robert Winters

3 Comments

  1. Note: This post was amended to include two late communications:
    A) Late Communications & Reports from City Officers #7. A communication from Mayor Henrietta Davis regarding the FY2014 School Budget; and
    B) Letter from Massachusetts Association of School Committees (written by Glenn Koocher)

    Comment by Robert Winters — May 20, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  2. May 20 Late City Council Update
    The Cambridge City Council, after much heated rhetoric, defeated (on a 4-5 vote) Order #17 that would have required additional Finance Committee hearings on the School Budget (Cheung, Kelley, Simmons, vanBeuzekom voting YES; Decker, Maher, Reeves, Toomey, Davis voting NO). They then discharged the School Budget from the Finance Committee on a 7-2 vote (Cheung, Kelley voting NO). They also approved Order #9 to schedule a joint Roundtable meeting of the City Council and School Committee on June 10 at 5:30pm. All of the anticipated FY2014 Budget votes then proceeded as originally planned. The General Fund Budget ($472,820,685) passed 8-1 (Kelley voting NO); the Water Fund Budget ($14,238,700) and the Public Investment Fund Budget ($92,715,930) both passed unanimously.

    Comment by Robert Winters — May 21, 2013 @ 1:51 am

  3. Per the CPS budget goings-on, it would have been a classy move for the Superintendent to have accepted the 3-4-1-1 vote not to refer the CPS budget to the Council after the first hearing, acknowledged the democratic process and the Council’s right and responsibility to ask whatever questions they want of the city’s superintendent, and graciously made himself available for a second hearing. Instead, he sat back while a fist-fight ensued to prevent a second televised hearing. In the end, after a string of pugilistic and sanctimonious speeches, it was clear that might makes right. Or as the lawyers say: “When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; when the law is on your side, pound on the law; when you have neither, pound on the table.” The ultimate losers were the SC budget co-chairs, who had to virtually lie to the public, announcing that the Council had “voted down” special education programs, etc. Not good for their credibility or for emphasizing their integrity in an election year.

    Comment by Emily Dexter — May 27, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

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