Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 8, 2010

March 8, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:45 pm

March 8, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

It is expected that Mayor David Maher will announce the City Council committee appointments either tonight or tomorrow. Let’s hope the persons most suitable to the tasks at hand find their way into leadership positions on these various committees (see March 1 notes below for elaboration). The City Manager’s Agenda is relatively routine this week, but there are a few notable Resolutions and Orders:

Resolution #5. Retirement of Marsha Weinerman from the Election Commission.   Mayor Maher

Though I have not always enjoyed the friendliest relations with Marsha during her time at the Election Commission, in the end it’s fair to say that she always tried to make the operation as professional as possible and was open to constructive suggestions even from the likes of me. In addition, when controversies arose over errors in the voter lists or what activities were permitted at the polls, she was always quick to defend her staff and take the heat – even when the national press chose to make a federal case out of relatively small and understandable missteps. I’m glad that as she leaves the job, she and I have managed to attain some level of mutual respect.

Order #5. Availability of public meeting space at the Cambridge Main Library and other library related issues.   Councillor Kelley

Though Councillor Kelley is well known for his frequent requests for information, often of questionable value and requiring substantial staff time, this particular request is of some interest. The new Main Library has become a very popular place and with this success has come some perhaps unintended consequences. Kelley’s Order notes that some staff from the various branch libraries have been needed at the Main Library with resulting decreased service at the branches (at least according to the Order). Councillor Kelley also asks about the availability of public meeting rooms and the new café space. Access to Library space is of some interest to me as a teacher who occasionally needs to arrange for makeup exams for a few students, and the Library is a great location for miscellaneous tasks such as this. Though not in Kelley’s Order, I would like to know if the room that houses the Cambridge history collection is open yet or when it will become open to the public.

I’m especially intrigued by this line in Kelley’s Order: “WHEREAS: Coping with the influx of high school students at various parts of the day has proven to be somewhat problematic.” High school students using the Library is a good thing to be sure, but perhaps there can be too much of a good thing.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to convene a meeting of various stakeholders in the Central Square community for the purpose of discussing and reviewing current action plans for Central Square.   Councillor Reeves

This Order is both necessary and timely. Anyone passing through Central Square today is struck by the number of commercial vacancies. This includes a number of properties that have remained vacant for several years now – perhaps most notably the MIT-owned space next to the new theater and the recently vacated space previously occupied by Pearl Art. A recent Council Order (with a response this week) inquired about making some of these vacant spaces temporarily available to various nonprofit groups. Though a nice sentiment, this is a distraction from the more serious challenge of attracting good, economically sustainable businesses to Central Square with a spectrum of spaces and rents that will ensure an economically diverse mix of businesses that match the needs and interests of residents in the greater Central Square area. This should not be about temporary solutions.

Councillor Reeves’ Order also makes note of the never-ending presence of people in the Square engaged in substance abuse and other problematic behavior. However, as long as the City directly or indirectly concentrates most of its shelters and social service agencies in the Central Square area, this problem will remain insoluble.

Once upon a time during its relatively brief existence, the Central Square Neighborhood Coalition was very successful in convening various stakeholders (residents, business owners, landlords, and City officials) to collaborate for their mutual interests in Central Square. Now is the time for more of that collaboration and it’s appropriate that Councillor Reeves should file the Order as he was, once upon a time, a major advocate for the betterment of Central Square before it was fashionable.

Order #10. City Council support for Massachusetts House Bill 4526 “A Bill Relative to Municipal Relief.”   Councillor Seidel

This Order is specifically about making loans available to private property owners for energy efficiency projects. It’s appropriate that with the conclusion of the “Cambridge Climate Congress” this past weekend the City Council should be advocating for initiatives such as this. Though the activity and outcome of this Cambridge Climate Congress is perhaps a topic for a much more involved discussion, at the very least we should expect to see some specific and sensible energy efficiency goals and City initiatives in the coming days and years. — Robert Winters

1 Comment

  1. I do applaud Councillor Reeves for seeing the threat of a faltering commercial scene in Central Square (and the annoyance of problematic residents loitering in the square– but I worry that we have a deeper problem in commercial activity that needs attention. I recently moved from Central Square to Harvard Square, and can report the same ‘space available’ problems in Harvard Square, too.

    We seem to have a vacancy problem through most of the Mass. Ave corridor from lower Central Square (at the fire station) right up into Harvard Square and beyond the Cambridge Common. This the is major, showpiece artery of our city and seeing so many empty storefronts is terrible. I hope city officials don’t perceive the problem as strictly a Central Square phenomenon, because, sadly, it isn’t.

    Comment by Matt — March 13, 2010 @ 8:13 am

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