Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 21, 2016

Navigating the Post-Apocalypse in the Peoples Republic – Nov 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council Preview

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:05 am

Navigating the Post-Apocalypse in the Peoples Republic – Nov 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council Preview

Peoples RepublicWhile the Orange Emperor prepares to assume the throne, Cambridge responds with symbolic acts of virtual warfare. I expect that the next two months will be dominated by discussions of Sanctuary Cities and declarations of our municipal virtue.

Here are the City Council agenda items that seem most noteworthy:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an update on the drought conditions.

The drought persists, but things appear to be less dire than they seemed a month ago. The reservoirs are slowing gaining water and we have been able to use Cambridge water to some degree, so the cost of purchasing MWRA water is less than was projected.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to various projects and initiatives related to the City’s Bicycle Safety Work Plan.

City staff seem to be approaching this more thoughtfully than the "my way or the highway" approach suggested in recent City Council orders. For example, there is a substantial analysis of the pros and cons of completely revising the good plans already developed for Huron Avenue. Based on that analysis and the impacts associated with making major changes to the design at this point in construction, City staff does not plan to modify the layout of Huron Avenue.

There definitely are some modifications to street configuration and on-street parking that can be made for greater bicycle safety, but this is best done in conjunction with a thoughtful process involving all stakeholders – and not with the banging of drums. It is worth noting that at a recent City Council committee meeting on a possible increase in the cost of a resident parking permit, one councillor clearly stated that she hoped that by jacking the sticker price up sufficiently high it would lead to enough people giving up their vehicles so that parking could be eliminated from most or all of Broadway, Cambridge Street, Hampshire Street and Massachusetts Avenue. She especially liked that Uber vehicles would more easily be able to pick up passengers on these streets. Public process may be time-consuming, but it’s far preferable to a dictatorial City Council.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the zoning amendments with recommended changes to the Inclusionary Housing Provisions.

Presumably, the zoning amendment process will now commence with referral to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee. It will be interesting to see if the shifting economic forecasts associated with changes in Washington, D.C. will affect the view of how viable the proposed 20% Inclusionary Zoning percentage might be.

Charter Right #1. The City Manager confer with the City Solicitor on the possibility of allowing non-citizen Cambridge residents to vote in municipal elections without a home-rule petition. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Cheung on Nov 7, 2016.]

Perhaps the juxtaposition of this with the Sanctuary City discussion may give this a boost, but I still think that individual cities and towns should not be setting their own policies in matters such as this. For a hundred years the standard has been that Citizenship = "Right to Vote", and a lot of us agree with that definition. I will again add that just about everyone is a citizen of some country and they likely still retain those voting rights even if they currently reside in Cambridge.

Order #3. That all Awaiting Report items on the Awaiting Report List on Nov 7, 2016 be placed on file.   Councillor Cheung

Perhaps most of the slate should be wiped clean, but maybe councillors should be afforded the privilege of selecting a few or the more substantial requests for retention on the list. While they’re at it, we could also use a little Fall Cleaning of some of the items that are On the Table collecting dust and going nowhere. The City Clerk will, I’m sure, appreciate the gesture.


Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to commit to funding any and all programs that may be in jeopardy should the federal funds affect the viability of these programs.   Councillor Cheung, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Kelley

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to forward a letter to Cambridge organizations and City Departments regarding the status of our Sanctuary/Trust Act City and what this means for working non-citizens and the resources available.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen
[References1985 Sanctuary City resolution    2006 Sanctuary City resolution    Joint Statement by City Manager & Mayor Simmons]

Order #8. Nov 28th Roundtable/Working Meeting be changed to discuss Cambridge remaining a Sanctuary City.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

As an exercise, let’s separate out the substance of these Sanctuary City resolutions from all the other statements of conditions, causes, and virtue.

The essential clauses of the 1985 resolution are:
"The City Council wishes to clarify its desire not to expend City resources, beyond the requirements of federal law, in voluntarily assisting or cooperating with investigations of alleged violations of immigration law by Salvadorean, Guatemalan or Haitian refugees, or in gathering or disseminating information on the citizenship status of those residing in the City of Cambridge"; and
"RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge not participate in any form in the compounding of injustice against refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti or in the federal government’s persecution of those, who in good faith, offer humanitarian assistance to the refugees"; and
"ORDERED: That the City Council declares it to be the policy of the City of Cambridge that, to the extent legally possible, no department or employee of the City of Cambridge will violate established or future sanctuaries by officially assisting or voluntarily cooperating with investigations or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, relating to alleged violations of immigration law by refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala or Haiti, or by those offering sanctuary"; and
"ORDERED: That no city employee or department, to the extent legally possible, will request information about or otherwise assist in the investigation of the citizenship status of any City resident, will disseminate information regarding the citizenship of a City resident, or condition the provision of City of Cambridge services or benefits on matters related to citizenship."

The 2006 resolution actually added little other than statements about how the Cambridge City Council at that time disagreed with a bill then working its way through the U.S. Congress.

Those were some pretty substantial statements in 1985, but they really aren’t all that severe. In a nutshell, they basically say that the City of Cambridge won’t carry out the work of the federal government in carrying out a policy with which the City of Cambridge has great disagreement. The federal government doesn’t round up people who have failed to pay parking tickets while in the City of Cambridge, so this is, in some respects, just a statement that we’ll do our jobs and the federal government can do their jobs.

What is insidious about the current situation is the threat of federal funds being withheld to any city choosing to not do the job of federal authorities. That’s almost like saying that we’re going to withhold your paycheck until you do your boss’s job in addition to your own. Cambridge residents pay federal taxes (sorry, you can’t claim the Peoples Republic of Cambridge as a sovereign state), so federal funding is really just a mechanism through which we get back some of our own money. What is most offensive is the manner in which the federal government attempts to micromanage local communities via the threat of withholding federal funds that they have extracted from residents of those same communities via taxation. This practice has been growing for years and is not particular to the latest dispute over Sanctuary Cities. Even President Obama threatened to withhold educational funds based on failure to reconfigure bathrooms, and there are plenty of other examples of federal authorities using taxation as a means of dictating policy.

So, the question I have is simply this: What aspects of Cambridge’s Sanctuary City resolutions are actually in violation of federal law? Indeed, the last statement of the 1985 resolution states quite clearly that "the provisions of this Resolution shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence or provision of this Resolution is declared by a court of component jurisdiction to be contrary to the Constitution of the United States or of the Commonwealth or the applicability thereof to any agency, person or circumstances is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of this Resolution and the applicability thereof to any other agency, person or circumstances shall not be affected thereby."


Order #7. That the City Council go on record requesting that the Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee hold a hearing or hearings on the attached proposed surveillance ordinance, and that representatives of the ACLU be invited to this hearing or hearings to discuss the necessity of such an ordinance.   Mayor Simmons

I’m not exactly sure who wrote the text of this proposed surveillance ordinance, but I’m pretty sure he wears a tin foil hat.


On the Table #7. The City Manager coordinate with the Finance Department, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and community stakeholders to outline a proposed system of governance, management, and stakeholder engagement for the Foundry, to be discussed in a public forum with the Council and community. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Oct 31, 2016.]

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 6, 2016 to discuss the redevelopment of the Foundry Building.

The more I hear about this the better I feel about how the City and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority came to this point. It seems as though every piece of real estate for which the City Council has some control has become a political football in a game in which All Great Things ride on the outcome. The Foundry is, at the end of the day, just another building. The City has lots of buildings serving community purposes, including multiple Youth Centers and all of the Community Schools programs. While everybody stamps their feet about The Foundry, where is the fervor about all of these other City programs and facilities? Perhaps the best thing would be to start viewing The Foundry as just another asset in an enlarged inventory of facilities. Maybe then we could start thinking less selfishly and more holistically. When was the last time the City Council and the School Committee looked at the bigger picture and asked if we’re making the most of all of the City’s assets?

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