Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 2, 2015

In Like a Lion: Mar 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 5:05 pm

In Like a Lion: Mar 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

In Like a LionHere’s my list of interesting agenda items. Additional comments may follow after the meeting (not my usual practice), but here are a few words for now:.

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Mazen notified the City Clerk of his intention to file reconsideration of the vote taken on Feb 20, 2015 failing to adopt an order that the City Manager is requested to identify an organization or organizations to study and present options to the City Council regarding possibilities for publicly funded municipal elections that takes into account issues unique to Cambridge. Order failed of adoption 3-4-1-1 and Reconsideration was filed by Councillor Mazen on Feb 23, 2015.

My great suspicion is that this initiative is part of a greater plan for this year’s municipal election to portray any candidate who accepts money from a property owner/developer as inherently "unclean" in the "clean elections" sense of the word. Perhaps a better measure would be the percentage of a candidate’s campaign receipts that originate from outside Cambridge or from ANY identifiable "special interest group." At least commercial property owners in Cambridge have a direct interest in the future of the city.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining the noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 34 municipalities in the United States with three AAA ratings from the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. [Attachment]

There is simply no way to disassociate this year’s round of great bond ratings with the tragedy of Brian Murphy’s death that occurred while City officials were in New York City meeting with the rating agencies.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Ten of Feb 20, 2015.]

Just vote it down. City employees already do a fine job assisting the public, and for everything else there are nine city councillors from which to choose to represent you and any concerns that you may have.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to contact the current owners of the Vail Court property and demand that graffiti be removed, exterminators assess the property, and any other maintenance that would improve the appearance and safety of this building be conducted immediately. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Mazen on Order Number Seven of Feb 23, 2015.]

In addition to the obvious deplorable state of this property, it should be obvious to anyone who heard the debate last week on this matter that this is as much about Councillor Mazen’s "special relationship" with this property owner as anything else. If he can resolve it, he’ll be able to claim some credit. Otherwise, enjoy that albatross, councillor.

On the Table #12. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

I expect the Council will just leave this permanently On the Table rather than seize the opportunity to define limits on how much residents can be abused in the name of a proposal that never achieved anything close to consensus in that neighborhood.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with local business associations, the Arts Council, and other appropriate city departments to determine the feasibility of hosting a series of "End of Winter" Festivals in our City Squares (Harvard, Central, Inman, Porter, Huron Village, and Kendall) to celebrate our city’s resilience and strength.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Toomey

Having proposed exactly this sort of thing a week or so ago, I do hereby declare this to be the best damn proposal on this entire agenda. Bring on Martha and the Vandellas.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Information Technology Department to create a space on the city website, where agendas can be made available prior to committee meetings.   Councillor Mazen

This is a good start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Every City Council committee should have (and maintain) its own web page that indicates all the business that has been addressed by that committee, what matters are currently under consideration (along with all relevant documents), and any future plans under consideration by the committee. – Robert Winters


  1. I really don’t “get” reconsideration item #1, the whole developer money = bad seems really too narrow for me to buy. Outside money however is a little more interesting, but you’d have to get me pretty late into St. Patrick’s day-esque “festivities” to convince me that any of these nine can be bought for $500, $1000, $2000, or more. If so I owe you a coke.

    Comment by patrick barrett — March 3, 2015 @ 12:09 pm

  2. Regarding Charter Right #2, I have to be curious: did the Council ever offer a similar suggestion to the owners of the similarly-hideous Faces property that welcomed people to Cambridge for years as the first thing they saw over the border when arriving via Route 2? Good riddance, of course, but it sure took a while.


    Comment by FRED BAKER — March 3, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

  3. Patrick – As I said in my original comment, “My great suspicion is that this initiative is part of a greater plan for this year’s municipal election to portray any candidate who accepts money from a property owner/developer as inherently “unclean” in the “clean elections” sense of the word.” Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but when people who have NEVER voted in a Cambridge municipal election testify at a hearing about the need to “get money out of politics”, my bullshit alarm goes off.

    I greatly respect a candidate’s ability to run a campaign on money generated locally – from residents AND from commercial property owners/developers who live here and have some skin in the game. [I’m also OK with out-of-state money coming from long-time friends and family.] I also believe in full disclosure. If a candidate is willing to accept money from an identifiable source, then he or she should also be comfortable in having that source be disclosed, and if voters want to draw conclusions – fairly or unfairly – then so be it.

    I am mindful of a variety of low-voter-turnout school board elections in various cities where the Religious Right flooded some campaigns with cash in order to push their agenda. These are not property owners/developers, but those donations would likely be considered perfectly “clean” by the “clean elections” advocates. Apparently, evil only resides with the big, bad capitalists.

    Comment by Robert Winters — March 3, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

  4. Fred – I do remember some controversy about the Faces site being played out at the City Council. It may have been Frank Duehay who first highlighted the importance of having our “gateways” present a good image for the city. I also recall a period when the brothers (Martignetti?) who owned the Faces nightclub may have even testified at a City Council meeting about their eventual intentions. That’s quite a different story than the Vail Court fiasco in which, I believe, the patriarch of the family is holding most of the cards, most likely still has strong negative feelings toward the City of Cambridge dating back to the rent control days when there were lots of protests associated with Vail Court, and is very unlikely to be interested in anything charitable. There are some next generation family members who may have a more generous spirit, but I seriously doubt if they are making the decisions.

    Comment by Robert Winters — March 3, 2015 @ 5:02 pm

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