April 12, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights
The agenda is relatively light but the tension should be palpable on the eve of the Special State Senate Primary. As a courtesy, if there is still such a thing in the Cambridge political world, this meeting should open and shut in a half hour so that candidate Denise Simmons can attend to her campaign. Therefore I expect we’ll see Councillor Reeves, Craig Kelley, and former and future Senate candidate Marjorie Decker engage in extensive questions and comments just to extend the meeting for hours. Councillor Simmons should just check in and check out or exercise her Charter Right liberally at the first hint of nonsense.
[Postscript (8:25pm) – The predictions turned out all wrong – it was Simmons supporter Councillor Davis who spoke and lengthened the meeting the most. Marjorie Decker was concise and to the point. So much for fanciful predictions.]
On the agenda, we have the following items of interest:
City Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-52, regarding a report on the possibility of structuring the parking ticket system in a way that would increase parking tickets as people stay longer at expired meters or general no-parking spots.
Short answer – this is prohibited under state law: “all such fines shall be uniform for the same offense committed in the same zone or district“. One wonders how this applies to Somerville’s posted practice of permitting residents to park for free for several hours at parking meters in some areas at the edge of commercial zones. It’s a good idea, but is it legal under state law?
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to make City staff available to the Economic Development Committee to look at current real and personal property taxation issues which affect entrepreneurial businesses within the city. Councillor Cheung
Councillor Cheung is diving right in as the new Chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee. The key phrase in the Order is: “That staff review and report back to the Economic Development Committee of the City Council on state taxation guidelines and statutes that could potentially be adopted or changed to impact new business development, including but not limited to the taxation of R&D related personal property, economic distress regulations, and real estate related tax increment financing, for the purpose of encourage new business growth and job creation.” Councillor Cheung may soon discover how restricted City officials are in matters such as real estate taxation. Good ideas surfaced several years ago when multi-family residential property taxes were escalating with condominium real estate taxes relatively flat, but it went nowhere without changes in state law.
Order #2. That the City Council reappoint D. Margaret Drury as City Clerk for a term beginning June 1, 2010 and ending May 31, 2013. Mayor Maher
Order #3. That the City Council reappoint James Monagle as City Auditor for a term beginning June 1, 2010 and ending May 31, 2013. Mayor Maher
The City Council has authority under the Plan E Charter to appoint only the City Manager, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor. Tonight they’ll extend the appointments of two of these. Though not specified in the Charter, the City Council also formally appoints the Deputy City Clerk and, whether official or not, they now get to “appoint” their own patronage personal assistants, almost all of whom are City-funded campaign workers. On a brighter note, both City Clerk Margaret Drury and Auditor Jim Monagle are well deserving of reappointment.
Order #4. That the City Council place a temporary moratorium on designating any location under its control as “in memoriam” until such time as naming criteria are developed by the Government Operations Committee and adopted by the City Council. Mayor Maher
If passed, this represents a victory of sorts for Councillor Kelley who has played like a broken record on this issue. Annoyance aside, the substance of his argument is correct. This practice has been too long abused.
Order #5. That the City Council go on record urging Cambridge’s Delegation to the Great and General Court to support Section 25, the Municipal Early Retirement Incentive Program, contained in the HB4526. Mayor Maher
The key phrase in the Order is: “This program would allow a limited number of long term employees to receive early retirement benefits, while restricting the City’s ability to refill those same positions to no more than 30%, 45% and 60% of the former total salaries over the next three years, respectively.” Seems like a good option in tight financial times. – Robert Winters