Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 23, 2016

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:42 pm

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Budgets: FY2005-FY2017The main order of business for this meeting is the vote to adopt the FY2017 Budget and related loan authorizations. There is, however, nothing to debate. Rarely are there any changes to the City Manager’s proposed budget, so this usually amounts to a sequence of well-deserved thank-yous to City staff and the Chair of the Finance Committee for jobs well done. In addition to the committee reports relative to the Budget, there are a few other items of potential interest:

Relative to proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Devereux filed reconsideration of the vote taken at the City Council meeting of May 9, 2016 on Policy Order #2 as amended that the Public Safety Committee conduct a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations and the City Council policy goals on liquor licenses, economic development, the impact on neighborhoods and local business and that the License Commission refrain from any liquor license regulations changes until said hearing before the Public Safety Committee.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor Jan Devereux, explaining why reconsideration was filed on the order adopted on May 9th pertaining to proposed changes to the city’s liquor licensing regulations.

I will not pretend to understand all of the reasons for the License Commission’s proposal to revise some of these regulations. Many date to an earlier time and some do not align with current state laws/regulations – hence the need for revision. On the other hand, one could also argue that the state laws and regulation could use some revision as well. For example, the current Cambridge practice of permitting sidewalk dining where the pedestrian way bisects the restaurant and the seating is apparently a no-no. Does anyone seriously believe it would be good to change this? State law also requires any outside dining that includes alcoholic beverages to be essentially enclosed in a steel cage. That’s idiotic – but that’s the law. [On an unrelated matter, if the legislature feels to compelled to address the matter of who may enter a given bathroom, don’t you think they should also address the need to simply HAVE a public bathroom in areas where people may feel the need to use one. Isn’t this a civil right?]

I found it interesting that it is not permissible for any licensed establishment to offer or deliver any free alcoholic drinks to any person or group of persons. Where I came from it was very common that after buying a few beers at a bar the bartender would "buy you back one" and, most likely, see a bigger tip later as a result. We even had one sentimental bartender who would sometimes send a free pitcher to your table if you played "Good Night Irene" on the jukebox (he was a widower whose wife’s name was Irene). All this generosity and sentimentality is apparently illegal here in the Land of the Puritans.

Regarding the issue of "cap areas" and artificial limits on pouring licenses, this limited supply seems guaranteed to just drive up the value of a transferable license with no concurrent public good. It seems preferable that the License Commission should simply exercise good judgment of a case-by-case basis (assuming that revocation of licenses remains an available option for chronic or egregious offenders).

Regarding the notion that there may never have been a legal basis on which the City Council could (and did) delegate to the License Commission some regulatory authority, I shudder to think how things would be otherwise. A sizable fraction of City Council business would be consumed by this, and I can easily imagine Public Comment being dominated by patrons and potential patrons of various bars and nightclubs.

I continue to marvel at how basic maintenance-level legislation often evades the state legislature – simple corrections for ordinary purposes. Why does it remain so difficult to adjust the funding formulas for charter schools? Why can’t we have a more rational way of filling legislative vacancies? How about making a few modifications to the Open Meeting Law to address the problem of frivilous complaints? If the legislature can devote time to who can use which bathroom, then surely they can take up some of these other matters.


Relative to the vote to approve the FY2017 Budget:

Unfinished Business #5-11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow:

#5: $17,350,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport Neighborhood, and areas in Harvard Square as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

#6: $5,000,000 to provide funds for a Comprehensive Facilities Improvement Plan.

#7: $2,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

#8: $149,600,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including construction for the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex, building envelope repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at the Amigos School.

#9: $150,000 to provide funds for the purchase and installation of mechanical components to ensure the operational integrity of the elevator at the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.

#10: $4,000,000 to provide funds for the renovations of the Out of Town News Kiosk Building and adjacent plaza area in Harvard Square.

#11: $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and construction of a multi-use path/greenway along the eastern Grand Junction railroad right of way from Broadway to the city line.

That’s a total of $188,100,000 in Loan Orders – dominated by the cost of construction of the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 5, 2016, May 12, 2016 and May 10, 2016 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $538,608,450.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Water fund Budget in the amount of $13,969,210.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Budget in the amount of $16,890,570.

These are the three traditional Finance Committee reports associated with the Budget approval.


Relative to City Manager appointments to City Boards & Commissions:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Human Rights Commission for a term of three years, effective May 23, 2016: Olinda Marshall and Chara Itoka

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Arts Council Advisory Board for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: Luis Edgardo Cotto, Lori Lander and Stella Aguirre McGregor.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members to the Cambridge Public Art Commission for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: David De Celis and Dina Deitsch.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Coordinating Council for Children, Youth and Families (aka Family Policy Council) for the 2016-17 term: Tony Clark.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Harvard Square Advisory Board for a term of two years, effective May 23, 2016: Bridget Dinsmore and Maximillan Frank.

Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a full member of the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals for a term of 5 years, effective May 23, 2016: Patrick Tedesco.

Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Police Review & Advisory Board for a term of five years, effective May 23, 2016: Ted Robitaille.

Many appointments to Cambridge Civic University – no tuition required. Being an active member of a City volunteer board provides a great civic education as well as an opportunity to fully participate as a resident.


Other matters on the City Manager’s Agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $10,500 from the General Fund City Council Travel and Training account to the General Fund City Council Other Ordinary Maintenance account for the facilitation of a goal setting session on June 8.

I hope and expect that this is a public meeting, but I’ll be happy to just watch without comment.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $404,505 associated with Forest City’s 300 Massachusetts Avenue building project (Ordinance #1354) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $375,000 associated with Novartis’ Special District 15 (opposite the NECCO Building; Ordinance #1338) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Every little bit helps.

Manager’s Agenda #23. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting the City Council move to Executive Session for an update on the potential acquisition of property located at 859 Massachusetts Avenue by eminent domain.

This has been the home of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce since the 1970s and any eminent domain action will be what is known as a "friendly taking". I’m not sure what City functions might end up there. There’s a neat photo of the ribbon-cutting when the Chamber first moved there.


Notable City Council Orders & Resolutions:

Resolution #3. Urge all Cantabrigians to pause on Memorial Day, and every day, to remember and pay tribute to our nation’s defenders, living and deceased, for their service and devotion to country.   Vice Mayor McGovern

With every passing year I find myself feeling more and more grateful to all the veterans who have served.

Order #5. That the City Council formally go on record declaring June 2, 2016 to be Gun Violence Awareness Day, and in encouraging all Cambridge residents to work proactively and collaboratively in preventing this shameful epidemic of violence to continue.   Mayor Simmons

Cambridge has seen its own share of gun violence during the last few years with several murders still unsolved (or at least unprosecuted for lack of witnesses coming forward to help make a solid case for prosecutors).

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to collaborate with the Cambridge Arts Council to create a process for Artist Certification to ensure that applicants are full-time/career practicing artists and is requested to prioritize the placement of artists in the Inclusionary Housing Program by assigning artists who have been certified by the Cambridge Arts Council one additional point in the Rental Application Pool.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Cheung

This is not the first time there has been a City Council Order like this, and I remain unconvinced that this is a wise idea. It is never a good idea to play favorites like this. If we want to give preferential treatment to artists, what about the thousands of others who work traditional labor-intensive jobs at less than a living wage? Do child-care workers deserve less that artists? I can assure you that there are also many adjunct faculty who have annual incomes comparable to starving artists. Don’t they count as much as artists? Perhaps everyone should just declare themselves to be performance artists and fill out the appropriate application form at the Cambridge Arts Council. – Robert Winters

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