Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 25, 2010

Jan 25, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:17 pm

Jan 25, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights (and post-meeting update)

The main item of interest for tonight’s meeting is the still-unresolved election of a mayor. Amazingly, the City of Cambridge has been getting along just fine without a mayor for these last three weeks, but it would be nice if the City Council could choose its Chair so that Council committee appointments can be made. Most of the scuttlebutt suggests that David Maher should pick up the necessary 5th vote to get the nod as gavel-bearer, but there are still a few poker moves being played in this relatively inconsequential game. See below for a scorecard.

There was one ballot for Mayor taken at the meeting. The votes were identical to the previous ballot. See below.

Mayor or no mayor, there is a bit of an agenda for tonight’s meeting. Here are a few notable items:

City Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Fanning, et al zoning petition as filed.

The affected area is bounded by Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Binney Street, the Grand Junction railway, and the edge of the Residence C-1 District. The Planning Board acknowledges some of the residents’ concerns that led to this petition, but nonetheless recommends that the petition not be adopted as written. In particular, the Planning Board highlights that the provision to include the floor area of the existing above-ground parking garage in the calculation of the FAR for the One Kendall Square site would result in the disallowance of any additional development and that it would be unreasonable to effect a change of such magnitude on a single site. They also note that the Eastern Cambridge Planning Study (ECPS), which was the basis for zoning in this area, established a goal of encouraging the development of housing on the affected sites and this existing zoning provides incentives to favor the future development of residential uses over commercial or industrial uses. The proposed zoning change would remove such incentives.

Resolution #13. Resolution on the death of Reverend Douglas Whitlow.   Councillor Simmons

I didn’t know Doug Whitlow very well, but it’s worth noting that he was a City Council candidate in 1997 around the time of the big controversy surrounding the Holmes property in Central Square that pitted the anarchists vs. the capitulators (as some would characterize the conflict). Doug and I were cordial but on opposite sides of the issue. It’s interesting how many of the people who were so concerned at the time about “the indigenous population of Central Square” vanished soon afterwards. The whole tempest seems trivial in retrospect.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to address the complaints of the abutters of 220 Putnam Avenue regarding the illegal housing and raising of chickens and ducks at that address.   Councillor Simmons

It would seem that a conflict is arising between pro-poultry Councillor Davis and anti-poultry Councillor Simmons. Perhaps their differences can be ironed out over a nice chicken dinner. Goose would be a tasty and controversial alternative. – RW

Mayoral update (Jan 25): The City Council failed to elect a Mayor on January 11 and again on January 25. Here’s a scorecard of the poker game to date:

Councillor Ballot #1 (Jan 4) Ballot #2 (Jan 11) Ballot #3 (Jan 25)
Cheung Decker (2) Maher (4) Maher (4)
Davis Davis (1) Davis (2) Davis (2)
Decker Decker Reeves (3) Reeves (3)
Kelley Reeves (2) Reeves Reeves
Maher Maher (3) Maher Maher
Reeves Reeves Reeves Reeves
Seidel Maher Maher Maher
Simmons Simmons (1) Davis Davis
Toomey Maher Maher Maher

For those who have asked, here’s a quote from Glenn Koocher’s Political History of Cambridge in the 20th Century: “Battles over the mayoralty went back and forth with partisans occasionally changing sides. One race, in 1948, required four months and 1368 ballots to complete. Other mayoralty votes traded back and forth over issues.” We’ve only had two ballots so far, folks, so stop your wailing. If they’re still at it a month from now, that’s another story. The next opportunity for a vote will be Monday, January 25. There are no big partisan issues at play now, so it really comes down to personalities and, to some degree, payback.

The most ridiculous aspect to the current mayoral impasse is how some councillors are claiming how much consideration they are giving to the School Committee’s preferences in their decision, yet what I hear from the School Committee members contradicts much of this claim. – RW

1 Comment

  1. Again Robert while I agree that this isn’t as bad as previous impasses, your statement “this does not directly impact the agenda of the City Council” begs the question of why we have a Mayor in the first place? I think we should just dump the titles and allow the most senior council member to serve as Chair, without any additional perks or pay, they just have the honor of chairing the meetings since they have the most experience, and they can chair school committee meetings as well. This whole unnecessary title with extra perks and salaries is what makes this horse trading for votes such a joke in the first place. And they definitely need to get rid of Vice Mayor, nowhere in the Town Charter does that title exist, and I don’t see why the Vice Mayor gets paid 20k more for doing the same job as a City Councilor. Unlike the Mayor they do not have the extra work of going to School Committee meetings so I really don’t see why that position exists or gets paid so much.

    Comment by James Conway — January 30, 2010 @ 11:38 am

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