There have been some people lately challenging the Plan E Charter under which the City of Cambridge operates. This includes some local candidates and their handlers. Those who have lived in Cambridge long enough will recall that this criticism tends to be cyclical with several candidates raising the issue perhaps every decade.
The primary claims are that the City Manager has too much authority or that the system is somehow not democratic. Others argue that because the City Manager “serves at the pleasure of the City Council” there is actually greater accountability than in a “strong mayor” system where the mayor is all-powerful and the City Council is impotent (as in the City of Boston). It’s worth noting that public process in Cambridge (as well as public comment at City Council meetings) tends to be far greater than in most other communities – which usually leads to City-funded projects costing far more than original estimates.
Discussion of the Plan E Charter generally doesn’t draw much of a crowd, especially in light of the fact that Cambridge’s residential property tax rates are among the lowest in the Commonwealth and the City’s fiscal position is the envy of every municipality in Massachusetts. Nonetheless, Plan E does have its critics.
So, what are your thoughts on the Plan E Charter? You can read the Charter here: http://rwinters.com/docs/PlanE.htm
We’ll take up the issue of proportional representation (PR) elections in another week or so.