Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 13, 2016

Kicking Off the Post-Columbian Era – June 13, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:18 am

Kicking Off the Post-Columbian Era – June 13, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Now that Christopher Columbus is persona non grata in the City of Cambridge, the search for the New World continues…

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of Larry Ward and appointment of Charles Marquardt as Election Commissioners.

Congratulations to Larry Ward on his reappointment to another term (through 2020) and to Charlie Marquardt on his appointment (through 2017) to complete the term of the late Peter Sheinfeld.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Rainwater Separation from Flat Roofs Zoning Petition. [Report]

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Riverside Neighborhood Protective Zoning Petition. [Report]

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 25, 2016 to amend the Zoning Map in the Riverside neighborhood from the existing Residence C-1 to Residence C within the area bounded by Franklin and River Streets and Putnam Avenue.

That’s two negative Planning Board recommendations. In addition, the Flat Roofs Zoning Petition was Placed on File due to the Ordinance Committee hearing not being held pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 40A. The Flat Roofs Zoning Petition does have merit but needs refinement.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a recommendation that the City Council approve an Order to take by eminent domain a parcel of land comprising approximately 5,000 square feet of land located at 859 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge which is presently owned by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and that the City Council approve an Order appropriating One Million Three Hundred Sixty-Three Thousand Eight Hundred Seventy-Five ($1,363,875) Dollars to the General Fund Law Department Travel & Training (Judgment & Damages) Account from Free Cash.

We don’t see too many eminent domain takings, though this is a "friendly taking". It hasn’t yet been determined whether this will end up as housing or for expansion of City offices. However, having watched the trend over the last 15+ years where city councillors got expanded office space, magnificent salary increases, and their own designated parking spots (previously were available to others), my guess is that unless this building is used for affordable housing somebody will get bumped up the street to provide even more full-time space in City Hall for our part-time city councillors.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager review City policies on the availability and use of City office and meeting space for non-City appointed functions by non-City officials. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Mazen on June 6, 2016] [Order #4 of June 6, 2016]

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager review and report back to the City Council on the City’s policies and best practices in the use and supervision of City Council interns. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Mazen on June 6, 2016] [Order #5 of June 6, 2016]

These two Orders were the subject of quite the kerfuffle at last week’s City Council meeting. The Orders themselves were worded so neutrally that you had to wonder what motivated Councillor Kelley to write them, but the heated exchange revealed that the attendees of one unofficial gathering somehow connected to one councillor was in conflict with an official meeting scheduled to take place in the same location. It seems pretty clear that if councillors intend to use City Hall as a staging ground for "civic engagement" only peripherally related to the business of the City Council, there will need to be some greater clarity about the rules and protocols. This isn’t Dewey Square and people can’t just Occupy wherever they please whenever they please.

Order #1. That the Mayor convene a Task Force charged with establishing recommendations for the City Council on what the ideal minimum wage in Cambridge should be, and how to best implement this increase without creating unintended consequences in Cambridge or elsewhere.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mazen, Councillor Toomey

I suppose one could argue that the Community Advisory Board on the Living Wage has already been working on this, but what’s wrong with a little redundancy? In any case, it has already been established that the City Council does not have the authority to impose a citywide minimum wage. That could change if the state legislature chose to grant such authority, but there are plenty of good reasons why it would be better to maintain a uniform statewide minimum wage in addition to the federal minimum wage.

Order #2. That the City Council reaffirm the month of October as Italian Heritage Month in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Maher

Columbus $5 stampIt was interesting to read the actual language of the City Council Order of last week declaring the 2nd Monday of October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Nowhere in that Order does it say anything about it no longer being recognized as Columbus Day, so it really now has two designations instead of one having replaced the other. This week’s Order simply reinforces the idea that Columbus Day hasn’t really been so much about Columbus but rather a commemoration of our brethren with Italian heritage.

Order #4. The City Manager is requested to coordinate with the Election Commission in order to operate at least 5 early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11-day early voting period, coordinate with the appropriate departments to develop and launch an awareness campaign that will educate Cambridge voters, and operate the polling locations as non-precinct based, “Vote Centers,” thereby allowing anyone desiring to vote early the ability to do so at the center most convenient location.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux

Why not also prescribe the color of the curtains on the voting booths as long as you’re micromanaging down to this level? It’s one thing for the City Council to express a policy regarding expanded early voting opportunities, but how this should be carried out is still a management issue with real cost consequences. It’s not at all clear how many early voting days, hours, or locations are realistically needed, and the cost per day quoted by Common Cause seems completely unrealistic.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate city departments to determine the feasibility of requiring gas pump labels with information about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels at all gas stations in the City.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

Why stop there? I’m sure the authors of this Order may also wish to mandate appropriate labeling of beef products based on the same criteria. I’m just wondering what the gas pumps would say. Perhaps something like: "You are an evil bastard for using fossil fuels in your earth-killing machine. Shame on you!" I’m sure they’ll also insist on placing signs in front of homes that use natural gas for heating and cooking declaring them to be unmutual enemies of the people.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the appropriate departments to explore voter reward options for municipal elections that are most appealing for citizens and businesses alike.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

Suffice to say that higher voter turnout is not a desirable end in itself if the only reason for the additional (likely uninformed) voters is a cash reward or other prize. Perhaps our elected officials could instead start by doing a better job of explaining why casting an informed ballot matters before doling out the cash.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on June 2, 2016 to discuss and review a proposed list of community focus groups that the search firm will be conducting with various groups during the month of June and any other business that may properly come before the committee.

The process continues and your input is being actively sought. You can access schedules, documents, and more at www.cambridgema.gov/CityCouncil/citymanagersearch.

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