Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 17, 2013

Almost Summer – June 17, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 4:58 pm

Almost Summer – June 17, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Just a few brief, late comments this time around. I’ve been busy doing some (free) consulting work for the good folks in Minneapolis analyzing the effect of the number of permitted rankings in Instant Runoff elections. You may find this uninteresting, but it really floats my boat. Perhaps I’ll share some of this information with all my Cambridge friends later. Meanwhile, the Sullivan Chamber will rock tonight (he says tongue in cheek) with the following thrill-a-minute items:

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $40,000 from the Cambridge Community Foundation to the Department of Human Service Programs Salary and Wages account and will support the ongoing programming for families who have participated in the Baby University program.

It’s good to see this program coming along. It grew out of an initiative of Councillor Reeves a few years ago.

Manager’s Agenda #21. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an appropriation of $250,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Finance Department (Information Technology) Extraordinary Expenditures Account which will provide funds to address recommendations of the Gartner Strategic Planning Report over the next 6-12 months.

Committee Report #2. 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 May 23, 2013 to assess the findings and recommendations of the Gartner Report on the City of Cambridge’s Information Technology Strategic Plan.

I’ll leave it to Saul Tannenbaum to discuss the details, but the two items "Implement Citywide Governance Model" and "Public Input to Governance Model" are intriguing.

Manager’s Agenda #29. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a motion to amend a previously adopted order to strike out the sum of $92,715,930 in the Public Investment appropriation and request the adoption of the substituted appropriation order for the Public Investment Fund in the amount of $34,407,930.

This appears to be as much a recording/bookkeeping error as anything else. We’ll still be spending the same amount of money on Public Investments.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the State Auditor’s Office to determine if the state of Massachusetts will fund the costs incurred by the city when it assesses and establishes full and fair cash value for tax-exempt properties within the City of Cambridge even though the city cannot collect taxes from said properties. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number Five of June 3, 2013.]

Order #19. That the Cambridge City Council go on record to urge the members of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Revenue to report favorably MA Senate Bill 1308 and MA House Bill 2642 regarding payments in lieu of taxation of organizations exempt from property tax.   Councillor vanBeuzekom, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Kelley

Last weeks Order that was delayed and this week’s new Order seem interrelated. An accurate assessing of tax-exempt property would only be useful if it was used for determining an actual tax. Seems contradictory, doesn’t it? If a law is passed mandating in-lieu-of-tax payments, then it’s no longer "in lieu of tax". It’s just a different tax classification – like commercial vs. residential vs. industrial vs. agricultural. The key phrase is "These two bills, identical in content, will allow a municipality, upon acceptance at the local level, to implement a program through which nonprofits will make an annual PILOT payment to the municipality equivalent to 25 percent of the amount that the organization would have been assessed on real and personal property if it were not exempt from taxation." In other words, it would be taxable at a different rate. Who knows what the Legislature will do, but this idea seems Dead On Arrival.

Communication #4. A communication was received from Saul Tannenbaum, 16 Cottage Street regarding City Manager Agenda Item #10 of June 3, 2013 on RSS Feeds for the City website.

Saul – have you figured out how to master the feeds on your own news aggregator? Until you do, careful with the stones in that glass house.

Resolution #20. Happy 71st Birthday wishes to Bob Marshall.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Resolution #34. Happy 70th Birthday wishes to Bill Cavallini.   Vice Mayor Simmons

I don’t usually highlight birthday announcements, but I lift my glass to Harvard Square long-timer and photographer Bob Marshall and to long-time activist Bill Cavallini who now resides in, I believe, Somerville. He’s still a Cantabrigian at heart.

Resolution #25. Retirement of Elizabeth Ahsanullah from the Election Commission.   Mayor Davis

I’ll join the chorus in saluting Ellie on her retirement. She’s been one of my Election Commission buddies for ages.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the necessary departments as to appropriate ways for residents to be involved throughout the development of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and publicize such a means to members of the community.   Councillor Cheung

Yup – Shout it from the rooftops. This bicycle/pedestrian connection will be a Good Thing.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments as to the possibility of installing a sign on Peabody Terrace that indicates that bicyclists’ use of the roadway is always permitted.   Councillor Cheung

This is how you tell that Councillor Cheung and his helpers haven’t been around so long. Peabody Terrace is Harvard-owned housing in the Riverside neighborhood. He’s probably thinking of Peabody Street – the actual name for a section of road next to Harvard Yard by the Harvard Tunnel. Maybe his IPhone told him the name. [I just learned that the mixup occurred in the City Clerk's Office, so Councillor Cheung's Cantabrigianism remains intact!]

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to direct Police Commissioner to ensure that no license plate readers become operational for any reason whatsoever, including testing and training, until after the Cambridge Police Department has formulated and publicly posted a policy on their use and management of relevant data   Councillor Cheung and Councillor Kelley

Nab the lawbreakers and leave the decisions to the police. There are better things to worry about than getting your license plate photographed.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate parties and report back to the City Council with an update on the Constellation Center.   Councillor Toomey

Good question, and the property owner will likely continue to have no response.

Committee Report #4. 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 meeting held on Apr 17, 2013 to conduct a joint public meeting with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to review the powers and potential of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority as it pertains to future development plans throughout the City of Cambridge.

The future of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is an open question. It seems like they will become a major force in promoting housing development in the greater Kendall Square area over the next decade, but they could also play a significant role in facilitating change in the Central Square area.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public meeting held on June 5, 2013 to continue to discuss the proposed City of Cambridge Security Camera Policy, Draft 2.

Just do something, boys and girls. Switching on the cameras makes a lot of sense and the proposed policy seems to balance all interests.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting a letter from Hanne Rush, Assistant Attorney General to Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor regarding the Open Meeting Law Complaint.

The Stohlman complaint got a favorable response from the AG’s Office, though the matter that spurred the complaint stands (appointment of the City Manager). I doubt whether we’ll see many cosponsored Orders and Resolutions in the future as the accusations will likely fly that discussing any proposal violates the Open Meeting Law. Perhaps elected officials should just run away from each other from now on if they see each other any time other than on a Monday night.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons transmitting a copy of a letter sent to Councillor David Maher, Chair Government Operations and Rules Committee seeking an update on Community Mitigation.

The Vice-Mayor is correct. The promised discussion regarding a more consistent way of handling mitigation funds, including money already raised, is long overdue. – Robert Winters

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