Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 10, 2010

May 10, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 pm

May 10, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

The City Manager’s Agenda tonight features significant public investment items – primarily authorizations to borrow for infrastructure projects. Here’s the list:

Mgr #8. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $5,250,000 to continue sewer projects in the Harvard Square, Cambridgeport, and Alewife Watershed areas of the City.

Mgr #9. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $700,000 to provide funds to replace the existing artificial turf on the soccer field at Danehy Park as well as resurfacing the 400 meter running track.

Mgr #10. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds to fund the reconstruction of JFK Street between Eliot and Brattle Streets.

Mgr #11. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,500,000 to provide funds to fund the first phase of the reconstruction of the Harvard Square Tunnel (Cambridge Street Underpass).

Mgr #12. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $500,000 to provide funds to fund the design of the restoration of the Kendall Square area on Main Street between Broadway and Ames Street.

Mgr #13. Appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,500,000 to provide funds for improvements to several City buildings including the East Cambridge and Inman Square Fire Stations, Ryan Garage at Public Works, Central Square Library, and several elementary schools.

There should be “suitably engrossed” awards in gilded folders given to city councillors who generate excessive numbers of suitably engrossed resolutions at (I believe) around $5 a pop. This week’s runner-up award goes to Mayor Maher for his 11 identical resolutions to various people for “passing the Massachusetts Department of Public Health written and performance test for the position of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).” The top prize this week goes to Councillor Simmons for her 51 (I’m not kidding) nearly identical resolutions to people for their “work on the Prince Hall Memorial Committee.” Good thing she has that aide to help with such important “research” matters like this. By the way, did I mention that the single biggest jump in department budget over a five year span was for the City Council. So many resolutions, so little time.

Councillor Decker has another Vanity Order this week:

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to determine with due consideration for, among other things, return on investment, to what extent it is reasonable to not participate in any business activities substantially connected with the State of Arizona, municipalities in Arizona, and other business entities in Arizona or conducting substantial business in Arizona.   Councillor Decker

Regardless of the merits of the Arizona law, it’s arrogant for an elected official in the northeast to weigh in on matters in a border state whose issues she can’t even begin to appreciate. Besides, it’s hard to imagine the City of Cambridge having any investments in Arizona, so this really is just a Vanity Order.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads and commission heads to develop a standard set of resources, facility privileges, tools, and barebones operating budget the unfunded commissions may use in their work of enacting Council policy.  Councillor Cheung

Essentially all Cambridge citizen boards and commissions work closely with one or more City departments which provide support for these boards. Councillor Cheung’s Order focuses primarily on “the capability for all commissions to post and maintain an email distribution list” and seems to suggest that the capacity for this should be made available on City servers rather than via such services as YahooGroups and GoogleGroups. This does raise the inevitable issue of public records. Clearly, if City servers are involved then any and all communications are potentially available as public records. It’s not clear if this is the case for communications among members on outside servers. Another consideration is that with an outside service the group “owner” can freely moderate the group and even delete some communications. This probably would not be permitted if hosted on City servers as it may constitute “destroying a public record.” Perhaps things are better left as they are.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to update the City Council on the impact of the MWRA water pipe rupture on the Charles River in Cambridge.  Councillor Seidel

Actually, Councillor Seidel’s Order asks about two incidents: the recent MWRA break in Weston and a February 2010 diesel spill in the Lower Charles River Basin. While I cannot speak to the latter, I can say with some confidence that the Weston break had no impact whatsoever on Cambridge other than to highlight the great advantage of having our own independent water supply. As it turns out, I was leading a group of 40 hikers that day (May 1) along a section of the Sudbury Aqueduct in Wellesley and telling the history of Boston Water and about how this aqueduct was last used about 35 years ago and was still maintained for use in a “catastrophic emergency”. Little did I know that such an emergency was unfolding even as I spoke and that by day’s end the Sudbury Aqueduct would be back in service during the emergency. — Robert Winters

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