Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 18, 2017

That’s All Folks! – Featured Items on the Dec 18, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:40 am

That’s All Folks! – Featured Items on the Dec 18, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

That's All Folks!This will be the last meeting of the 2016-2017 Cambridge City Council and the final meeting for Councillors Cheung, Maher, and Mazen who will soon pass their seats along to Councillors-Elect Mallon, Siddiqui and Zondervan for the 2018-2019 City Council term. It’s been great having Leland Cheung (first elected in 2009) and David Maher (first elected to the Council in 1999) for all the years they served and the wisdom they shared.

Here are some agenda items that seem to rise above the others:

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Regulation for Keeping of Honey Bees. [DPH Bees Memo] [DPH Bees Regs]

Unfinished Business #8. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge on Beekeeping. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 6, 2017. Planning Board hearing held on Oct 3, 2017. Petition expires Jan 3, 2018.

This is expected to be ordained at this meeting (or it will expire).
Update: It was Ordained 9-0 as Amended.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to letter from Leggat McCall Properties regarding the proposed disposition of a leasehold interest in the First Street Garage for parking spaces and the development of first floor retail space in connection with Leggat McCall’s redevelopment of the former Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse building at 40 Thorndike Street in East Cambridge.

Now that the series of lawsuits (that never had a chance) have expired, the redevelopment of the courthouse building is expected to proceed.

Unfinished Business #9. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge on Innovation Office Space in PUD-3A and PUD-4C Zoning Districts. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 18, 2017. Planning Board hearing held on Oct 17, 2017. Petition expires Feb 13, 2018.

This may also be ordained on Monday. The expiration isn’t for some time but there’s really no reason to kick this can down the road.
Update: It was Ordained 8-0-1.

Resolution #6. Retirement of Alessandra "Sandra" Albano from the City Council Office.   Councillor Cheung

Sandy’s tenure dates to the days of Mayor Al Vellucci. It’s hard to imagine City Hall without her. Happy Trails, Sandy.

Update: Here’s the list of city councillors Sandra will have worked with by the time she leaves after the Inaugural meeting.

Alanna Mallon
Alfred LaRosa
Alfred Vellucci
Alice Wolf
Anthony Galluccio
Brian Murphy
Craig Kelley
Daniel Clinton
David Maher
David Sullivan
David Wylie
Denise Simmons
Dennis Benzan
Dennis Carlone
Edward Cyr
Francis Duehay
Henrietta Davis
James Braude
Jan Devereux
Jonathan Myers
Katherine Triantafillou
Kathleen Born
Kenneth Reeves
Larry Ward
Leland Cheung
Leonard Russell
Marc McGovern
Marjorie Decker
Michael Sullivan
Minka vonBeuzekom
Nadeem Mazen
Quinton Zondervan
Sam Seidel
Saundra Graham
Sheila Russell
Sumbul Siddiqui
Thomas Danehy
Timothy Toomey
Walter Sullivan
William Walsh

Order #1. That all items pending before the City Council and not acted upon by the end of the 2016-2017 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 on the Calendar under "Unfinished Business" during the 2016-2017 City Council term, along with any other pending matters on the Calendar listed as "Unfinished Business," 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

There’s nothing nicer than a clean slate, and that goes especially for virtually all of the items on "Awaiting Report" – many of which have already been addressed and some of which should have been brushed off long ago. I hope the next City Council exercises more discretion in the demands made of City staff and the wild geese it chooses to chase. – Robert Winters


  1. To me there is something wrong with the whole process of officially asking the City Manager a question (sometimes about a tiny thing, and sometimes something big) and the Manager not responding to it such that the requests get wiped out at the end of the term. There about 60 un-answered ones on this list (some from last year, some from this month). The purpose of this process is to make sure every request is out in the open and that the request and the response get into the public record. Of course sometimes the requests are just to get some visibility for a councillor making the request but there are a bunch of serious questions that should get an answer of some sort (no, not at this time is one possible response, and yes, we will address this next year another).

    As an example I see three requests about municipal broadband and the TaskForce that is now dormant. (The TaskForce had city employees and outsiders on it). This is an important issue – now perhaps even more important if the killing of net-neutrality stands. Why doesn’t it deserve a serious new look with some options and cost-benefits offered?

    Comment by John Gintell — December 18, 2017 @ 3:16 pm

  2. I think there’s a fundamental problem in the way the Council approves virtually every request by an individual councillor that require the investment of staff time. The councillors should scrutinize these things far more than they do. As for the little requests, the manager (and staff) should just give short formal responses to those matters rather than leave them languishing on the Awaiting Report list. There’s nothing wrong with one-paragraph quick responses, and the Council can always send it back if they don’t like the response.

    As far as the more substantial matters are concerned, any councillor can simply request that an item remain on Awaiting Report and it stays. I would hope they would exercise some discretion in doing so. Council committees (presumably at the request of their respective Chairs) can also simply ask the City Clerk to leave items on the Calendar.

    The end of the Council term is mainly a good opportunity to clean house by default – not an obligation.

    Comment by Robert Winters — December 19, 2017 @ 12:00 am

  3. The second sentence of Ch 43, Section 107 of the City Charter says:

    “Except for the purpose of inquiry, the city council and its members shall deal with that portion of the service of the city as aforesaid solely through the city manager, and neither the city council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinate of the city manager either publicly or privately.”

    A quick glance at most of the requests is that they are probably not just inquiry because they really are asking for some work to be done before the question can be answered or addressed and therefore might be construed to be an order. Thus it might well be a violation if a councilor did the obvious thing and went to speak to some employee of the city about one of those matters.

    Comment by John Gintell — December 19, 2017 @ 11:15 am

  4. On Item #8–beekeeping:

    I kept bees for a number of years when I lived out on the North Shore so I have some simple observations:

    (1). A beehive that is oriented into a back yard is of absolutely no danger to anyone. I kept bees in Essex and, as other bee keepers will tell anyone, an unmolested hive is not a danger to any person. In fact, a dirty little secret: I have a neighbor with an illegal hive. I can see the flight path of many of the bees in summertime and they go right by or through the porch of one of my next door neighbors. There are literally tens of thousands of bees that have gone right by their porch every summer day for the last two years and they are blissfully unaware of it.

    (2). Keeping bees is very hard because of the number of bee diseases. Twenty five years ago, I had to feed my bees agricultural tetracycline a number of times to keep the hives from succumbing to European foul brood. There are even nastier bee diseases now. Bees are foragers but they can also be predatory in the sense that bees from a strong hive will sometimes try to steal from a weaker hives stored honey. If the hive they steal from is weak because of disease, they bring it home. Where there are lots of hives, the diseases spread readily. So, I’d predict that to the extent that beekeepers were successful in establishing significant numbers of hives, we would soon import all of the bee diseases that are present in established hives in the close in suburbs.

    Nonetheless, I’d wish any potential beekeeper in my neighborhood well. As a species we’ve done a pretty good job of eliminating all but a few others especially in our neighborhoods. What harm can their be in trying to aid another to gain a tiny foothold?

    On that last question, an observation: last summer, a very young coyote got into our neighborhood for a little bit. It was clearly out of its element and frightened. Perhaps it wandered in from the Fresh Pond Parkway area or from Fresh Pond. In any event, it got into my back yard for a bit and decided that it didn’t like being hemmed in and then trotted off hopefully towards home. With that one visit from a completely wild animal, I felt completely refreshed for a week. There has to be something more to living than your next cafe americano.

    Peter Dane
    N. Cambridge

    Comment by Peter Dane — December 19, 2017 @ 9:26 pm

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