Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 21, 2009

Dec 21, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:20 am

Dec 21, 2009 City Council Agenda Highlights

This is the last meeting of the 2008-09 City Council term and the last one for Councillor Larry Ward who was not reelected in the November election. As much as I look forward to the arrival of newly-elected Leland Cheung to the City Council, I would have preferred to see someone other than my neighbor and friend Larry Ward vacate the seat to make room for the new guy. Life goes on and Larry will continue to be a bigger-than-life presence in the neighborhood as he has always been. I know that his Council colleagues and the City administration appreciated his time on the City Council.

There are 10 responses by the City Manager to Council requests for information on tonight’s agenda. This leaves only 22 out of 305 such requests from this Council term – not a bad response rate. The remaining requests cover truck traffic, traffic at two major intersections, tenant representation on the Housing Authority Board and stimulus money for CHA projects, the Walden Street cattle pass, hoarding, security cameras, library hours of operation, a Women’s Commission report, smoking in parks and outdoor seating areas, noisy rooftop mechanicals, dark sky zoning amendments, a 311 alert system, middle schools, damaged overhead wires, videos for Mac users, playgroups, Lakeview Avenue construction, rodents, and raising chickens.

One notable item on the City Manager’s Agenda is this:

City Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the acceptance of M.G.L. Chapter 32B, Section 20, which will establish an Other Post Employment Liability Trust Fund. This irrevocable trust fund will provide the City a vehicle to make contributions to meet the unfunded liability; and the transfer of $2.0 million from the City’s Health Insurance Claims Trust Fund, which has a balance of $17.7 million to the Other Post Employment Liability Trust Fund. This initial allocation will begin the process of providing future allocations from this and/or other funding sources to the OPEB Trust Fund based on an annual review.

This initiative is part of a long-term change in the way states and cities handle the accounting of these obligations. As reported by the Manager, these recommendations have been in the works since 2007 and “the City has positioned itself to address the OPEB liability in an orderly and planned manner in the future, which has been recognized by the rating agencies as part of its positive credit rating.”

There’s also this procedural Order regarding the forwarding of items not yet acted on to the 2010-2011 City Council.

Order #1. That all items pending before the City Council and not acted upon by the end of the 2009 Legislative Session be placed in the files of the City Clerk without prejudice provided that those proposed ordinances which have been passed to a second reading, advertised and listed under “Unfinished Business” during the 2008-2009 City Council term shall be forwarded to the next City Council and further provided that any items pending in committee may, at the discretion of the committee, be forwarded to the next City Council.   Mayor Simmons

Not that it matters all that much to anyone, but I really wish the City Council would dispose of the following item one way or another:

Unfinished Business #5. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on Nov 18, 2004 for the purpose of considering proposed amendments to Chapter 2.74 of the Cambridge Municipal Code, the Police Review and Advisory Board (PRAB) Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 14, 2005. [Four sections of the proposed amendment were passed to be ordained as amended. Ordinance #1284. The remaining proposed amendments to chapter 2.74 remain on Unfinished Business.]

It’s embarrassing to have items over five years old lingering on the agenda week after week and year after year. There is an ongoing review of police and PRAB matters. If the Council cannot resolve this now, they should refer it to the ongoing review and start fresh in the new Council term. Even proposed amendments to ordinances have a shelf life.

Meanwhile, the speculation continues as to who will be chosen as Chair of the City Council and School Committee in two weeks, i.e. the new mayor. It matters little to most residents, but these two higher salary years can make a big difference in the pension of a city councillor. The selection is something of a strategic contradiction – councillors who do well in the November election are often disadvantaged by the fact that their colleagues don’t want to strengthen their hand by giving them the increased visibility of being mayor. Some people get all worked up about this short period of conflict among councillors, but this usually (and hopefully) passes quickly. It is, after all, not really that big a deal. – RW

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