Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 13, 2010

Sept 13, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:38 am

Sept 13, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

The summer is over for the Monday Night Nine. The City Council returns to 31 items on the City Manager’s Agenda (including the perfunctory vote on the Community Preservation Act entitlements for Just-A-Start and Homeowner’s Rehab) plus 119 Resolutions, 15 City Council Orders, and 5 Committee Reports. There will also likely be some discussion of the proposed changes to the Sign Ordinance that have been distorted by both sides of that controversy. As if that isn’t enough, the Council will also likely take up the two items “charter righted” from the previous meeting – backyard chickens and a proposed increase in the resident parking permit fee. So, let’s get started with the items that stand out.

Mgr #19. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, requesting that the City Council formally appropriate/allocate the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as follows:

1A. 80% of FY2011 CPA Local Fund revenues ($5,200,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

1B. 10% of FY2011 CPA Local Fund revenues ($650,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

1C. 10% of FY2011 CPA Local Fund revenues ($650,000) allocated to Open Space;

2A. 10% of FY2010 State Match revenues ($1,640,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

2B. 10% of FY2010 State Match revenues ($205,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

2C. 10% of FY2010 State Match revenues ($205,000) allocated to Open Space;

3A. 80% of the Fund Balance ($800,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Affordable Housing Trust;

3B. 10% of the Fund Balance ($100,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

3C. 10% of the Fund Balance ($100,000) allocated to Open Space; and

4A. Appropriate ($7,500) from the Fund Balance the cost for the Community Preservation Coalition Membership Dues.

Having spoken at the hearings leading up to this vote, there is little left for me to say. The nine-member CPA committee was appointed after the 2001 election with the understanding that the maximum (80%) would always be given to subsidized housing and the minimum (10% each) would always be given to Open Space Acquisition and Historic Preservation. The City Council never reviews this prioritization, and they will never deviate from it regardless of any vacuous “debate” that might take place this Monday. If you have anything to say on this topic, you are advised to stay home and watch football.

Mgr #21-25: Five appropriations totaling $2,565,802 to the School Department from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

There’s not much to say other than to note that this is a considerable amount of money. A March 31, 2010 report noted that: “The City of Cambridge has been awarded (up to that time) approximately $6.5 million in ARRA funding through both entitlement and competitive grants. Some of the departments receiving ARRA funding include the School Department, Community Development, Police Department and Public Works.” These new appropriations are in addition to the previous sum and there may have been other ARRA funds awarded in the interim.

Mgr #31. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-116, regarding a report on the impact of decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Police Commissioner Robert Haas proposes in this report that an ordinance be passed prohibiting the smoking of marijuana or hashish in public places, on City property, and while riding the bus. The penalty would be a $300 fine for each offense and confiscation of the drugs.

Charter Right #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 09-147, report on what barriers would prevent residents from raising chickens and what could be done to remove these barriers. [Charter Right exercised by Vice Mayor Davis on City Manager Agenda Item Number
Twenty-Seven of Aug 2, 2010.]

It was interesting to read a Sept 8 Boston Globe article about people raising chickens in Brookline, Belmont, Lexington, and Newton. It’s anyone’s guess whether City officials will take steps to draft regulations that might permit this in Cambridge. It is, however, apparently perfectly OK to keep and feed non-native geese down at the river’s edge, so why not chickens and ducks?

Charter Right #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a recommendation to increase the residential parking sticker fee. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on City Manager Agenda Item Number Thirty-Six of Aug 2, 2010.]

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Transportation, Traffic and Parking Committee, for a meeting held on July 13, 2010 to discuss the parking fee structure.

It’s not clear what will happen with this, but Councillor Decker promised to schedule a Finance Committee hearing on this in addition to the expected Ordinance Committee hearing. Neither has been scheduled and the change would have to be made by the end of September in order to be implemented for 2011.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on July 8, 2010 to consider a petition filed by the City Council to modify the Zoning Ordinance regulation of signs.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on Sept 7, 2010 to consider a petition filed by the City Council to modify the Zoning Ordinance regulation of signs.

My understanding is that this whole controversy grew out of concerns by the Board of Zoning Appeals about frequent requests for variances to this part of the Zoning Ordinance (which were often granted). There was some feeling that this should be handled not by the variance process but instead via a review process by the Planning Board. Significant proponents are backing the proposed changes (as amended), and opponents have lined up on their side of the issue with inflamatory photoshopped images suggesting worst-case scenarios. I suspect the City Council will pass some kind of amendment eventually, and I’ll leave it to others to speculate on the effect of all those $500 checks directed to political campaign accounts.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chairs of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a meeting held on Aug 16, 2010 to discuss the process for the City Council to use in setting the City Council goals FY11and FY12.

This is the biennial goal-setting process and what is proposed is a pretty good process. The finished product always looks terribly generic to this observer – lots of rosy language about diversity and fostering community and the usual stuff, but the process does have the potential to motivate some of the councillors to take on some initiatives. [current FY2010-FY2011 goals]

Resolution #26. Congratulations to Colleen Johnston on her appointment as Acting Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission.   Mayor Maher

Resolution #27. Congratulations to Brian Corr on his appointment as Acting Executive Secretary of the Police Review & Advisory Board.   Mayor Maher

Something is going on here, but I don’t know what. Marlissa Briggett was appointed on Jan 19, 2010 to be the Executive Director of the Cambridge Human Rights Commission and Executive Secretary of the Police Review & Advisory Board. It appears that she is no longer serving in that role. Colleen Johnston has been on the staff of the Human Rights Commission, and Brian Corr is the Director of the Peace Commission.

Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on the nature of MBTA improvements to the Grand Junction Railroad.   Councillor Toomey

It appears that Worcester Mayor Tim Murray (oh yeah, now he’s Lt. Governor) is on the verge of getting his Worcester-North Station commuter line in spite of the absurd amount of grade crossings this will produce in a well-traveled part of Cambridge. The diesel fumes should also delight the Cambridge Climate Congress and all those who were so concerned about a few buses that might have followed this route as part of the now apparently defunct Urban Ring proposal.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments and report back to the City Council with the explanation of how the project on Broadway near the Marriott Hotel which reduces traffic to one lane came about and what it hopes to accomplish.   Councillor Toomey

This is noteworthy primarily because of the way changes like this happen seemingly without any input from the public or from elected officials. If Councillor Toomey gets to argue this out at a subsequent meeting with Traffic Czar Susan Clippinger, I’ll bring popcorn to the meeting.

Order #8. That the City Council go on record in opposition of the Mass Department of Transportation traffic management plan which will disproportionately affect the East Cambridge neighborhood comparative to other abutting communities.   Councillor Toomey

Apparently the Craigie Bridge (the one you may know as the Museum of Science Bridge) will be restricted during reconstruction work from Nov 2010 to April 2011 to two lanes from Boston to Cambridge and zero lanes from Cambridge to Boston. When are they supposed to start restricting the Longfellow? This could get interesting!

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the recent developments and sale of the Northpoint Project.   Councillor Toomey

The ever-evolving NorthPoint development takes yet another twist. Apparently Magic Johnson is part of the new team. It’s unclear what previous agreements about the development of this area and the Green Line extension through it will remain intact. Zoning amendments were made for this area, but any related understandings could get washed away. The state has apparently agreed to fund the construction of the relocated Lechmere/NorthPoint Green Line station, but everything else is in flux.

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Director of Information Technology Department to address issues of energy consumption and emissions used by the City of Cambridge to include distribution of and dissemination of information to city employees and residents about ways to reduce energy consumption by way of deleting and/or limiting email storage.   Councillor Decker

My favorite quote in this Order is that “Sending large picture or video attachments can use the energy equivalent of boiling seventeen kettles of water”. Sure, maybe if you’re spamming them across the globe. In any case, people who send excessively large e-mail attachments are nitwits – even if their carbon footprints are the size of hamster feet.

Maybe we should come up with an estimate of how many boiling kettles of water are associated with robocalls and mass mailings in a typical political campaign. It warms my heart just thinking about it. – Robert Winters

3 Comments

  1. The Craigie Bridge– is that the drawbridge by the MoS? We’re cutting that from four lanes to two, for six months? Lovely.

    As to the North Point expansion– I still believe we’ll see full development of that area shortly after the sun goes red giant and destroys the earth. More pressing: When will we get more parking near the EF Building on Education Way? Sorely needed, even if it’s just a concrete monstrosity in one of the open fields over there.

    Comment by Matt — September 13, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

  2. I trust that you know that EF will likely be building next door if they get the zoning change they are now pursuing, i.e. the “McKinnon et al. petition to amend NorthPoint PUD-6 District”. It will be before the Ordinance Committee on Tues, Sept 14 and before the Planning Board on Sept 21.
    Zoning Petitions here: http://rwinters.com/zoning.htm
    Civic Calendar here: http://rwinters.com/calendar.htm

    Comment by Robert Winters — September 13, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  3. Of course, the obvious way to save energy is to *turn off your computer* when you’re not using it!

    Comment by boblothrope — September 20, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

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