Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 20, 2010

June 21, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 8:53 pm

June 21, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

This will be the last City Council meeting before the summer recess. Monday Night Live will return on Aug 2 (and then again on Sept 13) unless some dire emergency occurs. The agenda is brief but does have one contentious Order from Council Kelley (who seems to like stirring controversy of late) challenging the preference given to current residents applying for subsidized housing.

The zoning amendment relating to the Broad Institute’s proposed expansion in Kendall Square will also have to be passed to a 2nd Reading in order to be voted at the Aug 2 (Midsummer) meeting, five days prior to its expiration. In fact, this will make three zoning petitions to be voted (or allowed to expire) at the Aug 2 meeting (including two passed to a 2nd Reading on June 14). Here are some of the more noteworthy items on the June 21 agenda:

City Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Number 10-46, requesting a report detailing issues of greatest importance that are before the Police Review and Advisory Board (PRAB).

There’s nothing particularly revealing in this report, but in the context of a former PRAB director’s effort to milk the City in court plus the Great Gatescapade last summer, anything even remotely related is potentially a hot topic. Expect one or more councillors to use this opportunity to branch out to several barely related matters before they head off for their summer vacation.

City Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Number 10-76, regarding current tree related ordinances, state statutes and informal policies.

This is referenced not because it’s such an earth-shattering topic, but rather to point out that trees and dogs are topics guaranteed to bring out the passions in Cantabrigians. Parking is #3 on the list. I suppose one could conclude from this prioritization that Cambridge is a rather sleepy little village these days. Elsewhere they worry about unemployment, violence, and substance abuse. In Cambridge we lose our minds over dog parks, leaf blowers, tree removal, and finding a parking space. Count your blessings, I suppose.

Resolution #7. Congratulations to Susan Glazer on being appointed Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development.   Mayor Maher

This past Wednesday was Beth Rubenstein’s last day on the job as head of CDD. It will be interesting to see how the focus of the department evolves over the next few years – regardless who gets the job permanently. The City rarely makes wholesale changes in any department, and the Community Development Department is well-staffed in such areas as housing (10 people), community planning (13 people), economic development (5 people), environmental and transportation planning (9 people), plus several others – 44 full-time positions in the FY1022 Budget. Regardless what kinds of policy Orders are passed by this or any previous City Council, there is great inertia/momentum associated with such a significant professional staff – many of whom have been there for some time – and changes rarely happen overnight.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with relevant departments to change Cambridge’s housing lottery system to eliminate the residence preference.   Councillor Kelley

This Order will die on an 8-1 vote. It’s not even clear that Craig Kelley will ultimately vote for his own Order. This does, however, bring attention to some of the paradoxes inherent in several City initiatives. For example, if you locate a wet shelter for active alcoholics in Central Square, this will likely lead to an INCREASE in the number of active alcoholics in the area (unless, of course, every town were to build a wet shelter – which will not happen). If you build it, they will come. Similarly, when Cambridge takes the initiative to build “affordable housing,” the number of people seeking this housing in Cambridge will inevitably go up, not down. One can speculate that the residential preference might cause an increase in demand for this City-sponsored housing among existing residents in excess of the rate at which new housing units can be added to the supply.

If Councillor Kelley is bothered by the preference given to current residents in subsidized housing, perhaps he should also file an Order regarding the numerous well-educated and able-bodied activists who somehow manage to get subsidized housing in Cambridge. Why get a job when it might jeopardize your cheap housing?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to organize a forum forecasting future housing needs for older Cantabrigians that incorporates a panel of housing experts.   Vice Mayor Davis, Mayor Maher and Councillor Simmons

This is a worthwhile goal, but would this be additional subsidized housing on top of existing programs, or should there be a shift in existing resources toward elderly people who might really need the housing in resource-rich Cambridge?

Order #2. Cancellation of the June 28, 2010 City Council meeting.   Vice Mayor Davis

Rarely does a City Council Order get unanimous sponsorship prior to the meeting. This one did! Early summer vacation! Please note that of the 17 City Council committees, 8 of them have yet to meet and only 1 of these 8 has any meetings scheduled.

Order #11. That the City Manager be and is hereby requested to identify areas in need of additional bike racks and the feasibility of installing long term “bike sheds” or “bike lockers” for storage of commuter bikes near metro stations.   Councillor Cheung

The City can start by clearing out the many bicycles that have been locked and not touched for months in Central Square. That would free up quite a few locations for locking up a bike. Let’s hope the City doesn’t start cracking down on the harmless practice of locking bikes to parking meters. Rarely does this cause any obstruction or inconvenience and it greatly increases the available lockups in business districts. — Robert Winters

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