Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 13, 2013

Letter from Marc McGovern and Richard Harding, Co-chairs of the Budget Subcommittee of the Cambridge School Committee

Filed under: City Council,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:53 am

As Co-Chairs of the Budget Subcommittee of the School Committee, we are writing to express our complete disappointment in the actions taken by a handful of City Councilors who, on May 9, 2013 voted against next year’s school department budget. The school department budget process began over 8 months ago. During that time, numerous public meetings were held to gain community input. Meetings were also held by school councils made up of parents, teachers and administrators who made recommendations to the administration regarding budget priorities. Meetings were held with principals, the teachers’ union, the special education parent advisory council and others to gain budget insight. Many difficult and challenging conversations were had over these months culminating in a balanced budget that was voted unanimously by the School Committee.

It should be noted that these councilors did not express their reasons for voting against the budget at the time of the meeting. Some of the councilors asked only a few questions, never indicating that they would take such action. Since the meeting, three of the five councilors have provided information as to their concerns, none of which relate to the budget itself. The two major concerns expressed were controlled choice and charter school enrollment. These are two important issues and we do not question that they are worth discussion. What is confusing to us, however, is how will voting against the budget help better understand either of these issues? The truth is, it won’t. Families send their children to charter schools for various reasons. Every public school district in the country is aware of this issue and works to keep students in district, Cambridge is no different. In regard to controlled choice, the School Committee, the administration and the public have been working hard on this issue for the past two years, starting with a working group led by Patty Nolan and Richard Harding, and now a subcommittee of the whole led by Alice Turkel and Fred Fantini. Over 20 meetings have been held and as recently as May 7, 2013 the School Committee held a public meeting to review over a dozen recommendations as to how to improve controlled choice. If this issue was of such concern to these councilors that they took this unprecedented step, why didn’t they come to any of these meetings? Why didn’t they raise this concern sooner? Why didn’t they write an email, make a phone call or sit down for coffee to discuss these concerns? Their lack of communication makes us wonder if these are real concerns or just political posturing.

Let us be very clear, the political maneuvering that was carried out at this meeting will do absolutely nothing to help address these concerns. The councilors have done nothing to help bring us together as city leaders. What they did do, is drive a wedge between the school community and the city community. What they did do was potentially damage contract negotiations. What they did do was show that making a political statement was more important than insulting, disrespecting and undermining several months of work by parents, teachers, principals and school administrators. If that is not bad enough, they did it all without any communication, warning or chance for the superintendent or School Committee to be prepared. This was a complete and utter blindside to all who worked so hard.

What is also confusing is that since the School Committee passed the budget several weeks ago, not one of these councilors contacted us with any concerns or questions. Even prior to the meeting, none of these councilors pulled us aside and asked for explanations or gave any indication that they might vote against the budget.

It is important for the public to know that the City Council does not have the authority, nor is it their role, to vote specific budget allocations up or down. The Council must vote on the budget as a whole. So to make a political point these councilors voted down the entire budget which included funding for an additional autism classroom for our autistic children. They voted down adding additional school psychologists, inclusion specialists, athletic trainers, and additional staffing for our new upper schools. They voted down adding an additional Special Start classroom and funding the Wrap Around Zone at the Fletcher Maynard Academy modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone. They voted down funding for professional development for our teachers, for paying our teachers, and for providing school improvement funds. They voted down funding for additional community outreach, and against our partners: Cambridge School Volunteers, City Sprouts, Science Club for Girls, and Breakthrough.

We stand with our parents, teachers, superintendent and School Committee colleagues who worked so hard on the proposed budget which we believe will help move our district forward.

Hopefully, with some time to catch our collective breath, more rational heads will prevail and these Councilors will see that their actions were more damaging than helpful.

Sincerely,
Marc McGovern and Richard Harding
Co-Chairs of the Budget Subcommittee of the Cambridge School Committee

May 10, 2013

FY2014 School Department Budget Stalled by City Council

Filed under: City Council,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:14 am

The Cambridge City Council at its FY2014 Budget Hearing on May 9 failed to approve the School Department Budget of $150,989,445 on a 3-4-1-1 vote [YES - Decker, Maher, Davis; NO - Simmons, Kelley, Cheung, vanBeuzekom; PRESENT - Toomey; ABSENT: Reeves]. The budgeted amount represents a 4.1% increase over the previous year and is in line with the increases of other City departments. This should require at least one more meeting of the Finance Committee to take up the FY2014 Budget and, presumably, another meeting of the School Committee to respond to the rejection of its budget. [Update - The Budget was not rejected, but held in the Finance Committee pending the resolution of a variety of questions. It was subsequently discharged on May 20 without any of these questions being addressed.]

Under the Charter, the City Council may reduce any submitted departmental budgets but they may not increase them. On the other hand, requests can be made through the City Manager to adjust and resubmit budgets. Cambridge being Cambridge, it’s likely that the budget rejection is based on a desire to spend MORE money rather than less money. It is the responsibility of the Cambridge School Committee to determine how money is allocated within the School Department budget. The City Council can only vote on the bottom line. If the intention of the City Council is to now involve itself in specific School Department budget items, this represents a radical departure from what is permitted under the Charter and calls into question the role and responsibilities of the School Committee. – RW

Reference: Cambridge Chronicle story

May 6, 2013

Bikes and More on the May 6 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,cycling — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:22 am

Bikes and More on the May 6 Cambridge City Council Agenda

There will be a 5:00pm Special Presentation prior to the regular City Council meeting to thank all first responders and all public safety officials who were involved in the events that began with the Marathon Day bombings. After that, a few items seem interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to revised text of the Bicycle Parking Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #15. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 6, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Mar 19, 2013. Petition expires June 17, 2013.

I’m not sure whether the City Council will be voting yet on this proposal, but I have to say that the response from CDD relative to the revised test is somewhat nonresponsive. Among other things, the issue was raised at an Ordinance Committee hearing whether requirements for bicycle parking should also apply to buildings such as triple-deckers that undergo complete renovation as part of a condominium conversion. The CDD response correctly states that unless the building associated with the project is enlarged it would not be defensible to require bicycle parking. However, the main issue raised at the Ordinance Committee hearing pertained to conversions where basement and other space not previously inhabited becomes an occupied part of one or more of the condos. This is, in fact, pretty standard practice for such projects and the new space is often taken from what previously had been storage space – including space where bicycles would have been stored. This seems totally contradictory. On the one hand the City correctly states that there’s a dire need for bicycle parking in residential buildings, yet we are supposed to look the other way when existing space for bicycle storage is removed in order to increase the market price of new condominiums.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-49, regarding a report on recommendations for the next steps on updating the City’s nexus study.

I found these few sentences from Brian Murphy’s letter especially interesting: "The incentive zoning contribution rate was initially set (in 1988) at $3.00 per square foot, and, after periodic adjustments by the Affordable Housing Trust based upon changes in the consumer price index, is currently $4.44 per square foot. Proceeds from the housing contributions are used by the Trust to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing. The City last reexamined the incentive housing contribution rate in 2002 when a second nexus study was completed. The 2002 study found that the housing contribution rate would have had to be increased to $7.83 per square foot to adequately address the impact of new development on market rents. However, after some discussion, no action was taken in response to this study."

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to clarify whether private driveways and apartment garages may be rented to car owners that are unrelated to the property and by what process can these spaces be legally rented.

Though the motivation for this Order was to recognize the possibility of sharing parking facilities, it may be interesting to hear the City’s response regarding how this may relate to the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance.

Resolution #28. Congratulations to the Cambridge Health Alliance on their affiliation with the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.   Mayor Davis

This reminded me of something John O’Brien, former CEO of the Cambridge Health Alliance, once told me: "In this business, you either marry or you die."

Order #5. That the City Council meet in the Government Operations and Rules Committee with the purpose of discussing open space, transportation, and workforce readiness initiatives.   Councillor Toomey and Mayor Davis

This Order apparently is an attempt to respond to the last-minute amendment to the recent MIT/Kendall Square zoning petition that was perceived as punishing neighbors who worked cooperatively and constructively in the rezoning process. Some councillors have some obligation to explain why they voted for that amendment, and maybe this Order will provide a mechanism for these councillors to be taken to task and for possible corrective action to be taken.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments as to the feasibility of implementing a program that makes cycling a more affordable, accessible and practical commuting option for low-income residents in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Give me a break. Buy yourself a solid old bike for cheap, get a good lock, and you’re good to go. Is this really something that requires yet another City program? The idea is a good one, but this really is something best handled outside of government.

Order #8. That the matter of Cambridge City Council Rule 16 pertaining to "Reconsideration of a Vote" be referred to the Government Operations and Rules Committee for review and revision.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Sounds like a councillor didn’t like a recent vote. Time to change the rules.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee, for a public meeting held on Apr 9, 2013 to assess how other cities support neighborhood groups and examine how Cambridge could make use of these practices.

This was an interesting meeting. The report only barely captures the tone of the meeting which included at least some testimony about whether established neighborhood groups legitimately represent neighborhoods. Also unanswered (but worth answering) is the question of how the neighborhood school programs can better be utilized as a vehicle for City support for neighborhood initiatives. – Robert Winters

April 28, 2013

Moving On – April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:10 pm

April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Here are the agenda items that seem interesting:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Maher has notified the City Clerk of his intention to move reconsideration on the vote taken on Apr 22, 2013 to adopt an order for a curb cut at the premises numbered 16 Channing Street.

I hope there was no premature rejoicing by Channing Street neighbors when this was voted last week with two councillors absent. The matter passed on a 4-3-2 vote, so it never achieved a majority of the full City Council. Regardless of the merits of the petition, its disposition should not be determined by the fact that two councillors had to be on Beacon Hill to vote on the State Budget. This deserved a proper vote and Councillor Maher has appropriately filed for Reconsideration.

Last week also saw the introduction of the City’s FY2014 Budget, and the following week’s agenda usually contains a number of Capital Budget orders in order to set the table prior to the annual Budget Hearings (Apr 30 and May 9). Here are this year’s Capital Budget items:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,180,000 to provide funds to supplement other financing sources for improvements to the Cambridge Common.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of several streets and sidewalks.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $54,658,000 to provide funds for construction of sewer separation, stormwater management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Harvard Square, Agassiz, and Cherry Street/South Massachusetts Avenue areas as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow an additional $500,000 to provide funds for improvements to the Kendall Square area including Main Street between Broadway and Ames Street including the reconstruction of streets and sidewalks and the installation of new pedestrian-scale public lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures.

It’s interesting to view these orders over the years as a measure of the gradual rebuilding of City assets. For example, last year’s Capital Budget orders totaled $17,442,670 for such things as replacement of the roofs on City Hall, and the Ryan Garage and Simard Buildings at Public Works; Kendall Square reconstruction of streets and sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures; acquisition of a ladder truck and pumper; synthetic field surfaces on the soccer fields at Danehy Park; and a variety of sewer separation and stormwater projects within the City’s Alewife watershed. This year’s appropriations are much greater and are dominated by sewers – things upon which we all depend but will likely never see.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $40,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account appropriation will fund the feasibility study for the Foundry building. Additional, this request is in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-87 and 12-105 as well as several other Council Orders related to this matter.

The Foundry Building in East Cambridge came to the City as a result of the Alexandria zoning petition. I have been told that the building has been available for occupancy and sitting vacant as potential revenue is lost and potential occupants have been waiting. Perhaps this appropriation together with some cooperation among city councillors will finally get things moving.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from Jenny Popper-Keizer, et al., requesting the City Council amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map from SD-8A to Residence C-1 in the area bounded by Allston Street to the north, Putnam Avenue to the south, Sidney Street to the west and Waverly Street to the east.

This petition is clearly inspired by the proposed housing development at 240 Sidney Street, 40 Allston Street, and 618 Grove Avenue that has already had a public hearing before the Planning Board. There’s an online petition that preceded the zoning petition that reads as follows: "Fulmore Park is the cornerstone of a family neighborhood with about 45 homes surrounding it. Most of these are triple deckers with a couple of two family homes thrown in. The development at 240 Sidney Street aims to build 107 apartment buildings [they meant to say "apartments"] along the eastern edge of the park. The units are studio, one and two bedroom apartments all meant for rental not to create owner-occupied or family friendly homes. This will irreversibly change the character of the neighborhood. ….. Adding more traffic to this street is not in the interest of public safety and should be disallowed. ….. Parking in the on-site garage is rented separately from the apartments. This will create a glut of new residents who choose the much less expensive resident permit rather than renting a spot in the garage of their building. Parking is already congested in the area and will become impossible if this is allowed to pass. Finally the developer has made no attempt to contact abutters to solicit feedback about the project before submitting the plans for approval. We cannot let developers slide by without proper community outreach."

The petition focuses on loss of parking, increased traffic, the somewhat vague "change the character of the neighborhood", and lack of sufficient process. The parking issue is interesting primarily because the developers sought from the Planning Board a reduction in required parking. There has been a curious mixture of actual trends and wishful thinking of late when it comes to the matter of parking for new residential developments. While it’s true that more households are going without cars, it’s a valid concern that when parking is not included in new housing, at least some of the new residents will store their cars on the streets ($25/year permit fee) instead of paying exorbitant fees to park on premises. Honestly, that’s what I would do. The claims of burdensome increases in traffic seem ill-founded. Residential developments generally don’t have major impacts on traffic, especially if many of the residents exhibit similar behavior to other Cambridge residents in walking and biking to work.

The "change the character of the neighborhood" concern is the one I find most interesting. Neighborhoods are more about people than buildings, so it’s a little hard to figure what kind of change is the offense here. Perhaps it’s the potential influx of young professionals (they give me the willies, too), but it’s probably the case that most of the new residents would be much like the people who have been bidding up and buying homes throughout Cambridgeport and the rest of Cambridge for the last decade and more. If that’s the objection, then it’s fair to say that this is not an issue of zoning.

Resolution #6. Resolution on the death of Krystle M. Campbell.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #7. Resolution on the death of Martin Richard.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #8. Resolution on the death of Lu Lingzi.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #11. Thanks to MIT and public safety officials who organized the memorial service for Officer Sean Collier and sympathy to MIT community in this time of loss.   Mayor Davis

The events of the last two weeks have hit most of us pretty close to home. In addition to the deaths of these four individuals, many have been maimed, including a number of Cambridge residents known to many of us. When the city was effectively shut down during the hunt for the surviving murderer, some people worried that we were in a "police state," but one friend of mine appropriately characterized it as "an act of mass cooperation with law enforcement." I think that captures it perfectly, and I hope that spirit of cooperation continues. This chapter began for me when, after an 8-mile hike with AMC Local Walks, I was under Copley Square when the bombs exploded. This past Saturday I led another AMC hike in the Middlesex Fells, and I’ve chosen to close this horrible chapter on that positive note. I hope we never have to go through anything like this again.

Order #1. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, the proposed changes to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance relating to rainwater separation in residential buildings.   Councillor Kelley

I’m pretty sure the genesis of this proposal was a request last year from one resident who wanted to replace his flat roof with a pitched roof. Overall, the proposed zoning change contains some interesting ideas and deserves consideration.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to clarify the expiration date for zoning petitions filed in the City of Cambridge – either 90 days from the date of the first City Planning Board meeting or 90 days from the first City Council Ordinance Committee meeting.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Let’s just make this simple. There is no need for further clarification. Simply propose a minor zoning amendment to change Section 1.52 of the City’s zoning ordinance to replace "within ninety (90) days after the Planning Board’s hearing" to "within ninety (90) days after the initial Ordinance Committee hearing". That makes the state law and the city ordinance consistent – problem solved.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to clarify whether private driveways and apartment garages may be rented to car owners that are unrelated to the property and by what process can these spaces be legally rented.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

The simple answer is that they generally cannot be rented, but we all know people who do rent them out. It’s one thing to let a friend or neighbor park in your driveway, but it’s a whole ‘nuther matter when you’re essentially running a commercial enterprise by deriving income in this manner. It also violates the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to provide to the Cambridge City Council an explanation of how the City of Cambridge Police Department and the FBI work together to collect and share local intelligence information and respond to reports on individuals that are identified as potential terrorists.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This should receive a fine response from Councillor Decker and the ACLU gang, but it’s a legitimate question and concern. – Robert Winters

April 22, 2013

The Bottom Line – April 22, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:54 am

This last week has been one of pure horror in Boston, Cambridge, Watertown and vicinity – the Marathon Day bombing that killed 3 people and maimed many others, the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier and subsequent carjacking, the gunfight in Watertown that put an end to one of the murderers, and finally the dramatic capture of the other murderer. The fact that these murderers have been living in Cambridge for the last decade and that one of them recently was awarded a scholarship from the City of Cambridge left many of us stunned. We now have some resolution as the investigation continues and charges are pending, but this was a week few of us will soon forget.

Life goes on, I guess, and so do civic affairs, including the following items of interest on Monday night’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the FY2014 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

Here’s a table showing the total proposed budget by department as well as the figures from last year and from 9 years ago together with percentage changes. Draw your own conclusions, but one thing that jumps out is the steep increase in public investment. We’ll get more details Monday night when the Budget Book is publicly available, but it’s likely that new school construction and ongoing sewer work will comprise a substantial part of the budgeted amount for public investment. On a minor note, how is $143,940 justified for maintaining the "Peace Commission?" Isn’t it about time we took another look at consolidating some of these non-regulatory, yet budgeted, boards and commissions?

City of Cambridge Budget Totals by Department – FY2014

GENERAL GOVERNMENT
FY05 submitted
FY13 submitted
FY14 submitted
1 yr % change
9 yr % change
Mayor$430,035$554,040$558,7850.929.9
Executive$1,353,140$2,068,675$2,008,150-2.948.4
City Council$975,570$1,642,165$1,683,1252.572.5
City Clerk$720,925$1,067,130$1,119,7654.955.3
Law$1,780,975$2,061,495$2,163,2404.921.5
Finance$8,837,560$12,350,575$13,292,3507.650.4
Employee Benefits$20,499,920$31,796,130$32,787,2003.159.9
General Services$984,345$726,475$732,6950.9-25.6
Election$756,540$1,004,285$1,013,5650.934.0
Public Celebrations$671,505$799,370$891,94511.632.8
Reserve$37,500$37,500$37,5000.00.0
TOTAL$37,048,015$54,107,840$56,288,3204.051.9
PUBLIC SAFETYFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Animal Commission$228,870$298,585$309,7003.735.3
Fire$28,891,840$40,111,145$43,350,2758.150.0
Police$31,515,220$45,643,095$47,186,0153.449.7
Traffic, Parking & Transportation$8,175,095$10,551,435$10,935,0153.633.8
Police Review & Advisory Board$77,210$70,730$73,4403.8-4.9
Inspectional Services$2,261,215$3,115,045$3,180,0452.140.6
License$726,735$986,140$1,030,9704.541.9
Weights & Measures$98,910$134,325$138,5403.140.1
Electrical$2,239,640$2,792,005$2,840,9101.826.8
Emergency Management$137,820$0  -100.0
Emergency Communications$3,097,485$4,242,970$4,434,4254.543.2
TOTAL$77,450,040$107,945,475$113,479,3355.146.5
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Public Works$23,648,125$31,945,265$32,859,6902.939.0
Community Development$4,472,620$5,482,210$5,676,3403.526.9
Historical Commission$457,580$587,025$632,9407.838.3
Conservation Commission$89,760$101,925$123,47021.137.6
Peace Commission$76,215$139,595$143,9403.188.9
Cable T.V.$999,500$1,436,360$1,474,7952.747.6
Debt Service$23,917,070$47,526,975$49,716,2504.6107.9
TOTAL$53,660,870$87,219,355$90,627,4253.968.9
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Library$5,461,430$8,710,520$8,946,3952.763.8
Human Services$14,581,590$22,480,760$23,155,0803.058.8
Women’s Commission$155,860$225,425$233,1153.449.6
Human Rights Commission$158,730$220,160$249,38013.357.1
Veterans$510,885$981,165$1,005,3752.596.8
TOTAL$20,868,495$32,618,030$33,589,3453.061.0
CITY TOTAL$189,027,420$281,890,700$293,984,4254.355.5
EDUCATIONFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL)$122,053,195$144,987,705$150,989,4454.123.7
INTERGOVERNMENTALFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
MWRA$16,177,455$21,006,055$21,346,8151.632.0
Cherry Sheet Assessments$11,569,960$19,700,025$20,126,9502.274.0
Cambridge Health Alliance$6,500,000$6,500,000$6,500,0000.00.0
TOTAL$34,247,415$47,206,080$47,973,7651.640.1
GRAND TOTALS$345,328,030$474,084,485$492,947,6354.042.7
 FY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
WATER$17,098,120$14,144,080$14,238,7000.7-16.7
PUBLIC INVESTMENT$8,834,255$21,277,065$92,715,930335.8949.5

There are also these items of interest, offered with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-03, regarding a report on the possibility of a gun buy-back program.

This is not recommended due to limited effectiveness and better alternatives.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-20, regarding a report on the feasibility of providing a service in which residents are able to look up their voter registration status online.

This is feasible and the City is looking into implementing it at some point in the near future.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the Gartner IT Strategic Plan report.

Seems like a good thing looking toward the future of "e-government", but I’ll need a robot to read the report for me.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties that the City of Cambridge consider the disposition of approximately 8,660 square feet of land on the east side of Ames Street between Main Street and Broadway to enable Boston Properties to develop residential uses on that site.

This is part of the fulfillment of a promised 200,000 square feet of housing, though it’s not clear if all of that is to be associated with this project. The proposed development will also include ground floor retail and is consistent with the City’s future plans for the reconfiguration and reconstruction of Ames Street.

Unfinished Business #16. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Council Order Numbers 13 and 14 of Mar 18, 2013, regarding revised zoning language to the Section 11.700 entitled Interim Regulations for Medical Marijuana Uses. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 15, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Jan 22, 2013. Petition expires Apr 22, 2013.

This interim measure is something of a formality and will likely be ordained at this meeting.

Resolution #2. Retirement of George Fernandes from the Electrical Department.   Mayor Davis

Don’t worry, we’ll turn off the lights at the end of the meeting. This is another significant retirement.

Resolution #24. Thanks to the City of Cambridge’s first responders for their assistance in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy.   Mayor Davis, Councillor Maher

When this resolution was filed, nobody knew just how significant a role the Cambridge Police and the MIT Police would play as events unfolded. We should salute all of the officers and other police personnel who were involved.

Order #1. That the City Council go on record urging the 113th Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform as outlined in this resolution that addresses (1) earned legalization with a path to citizenship; (2) updated future immigration of families and workers; and (3) improved immigration enforcement and border security that is consistent with our nation’s values.   Vice Mayor Simmons

This is, of course, a very large issue that should have been addressed directly some time ago, but it seems inevitable that the debate will now be influenced by the very small sample of events that unfolded here over this past week.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Cable TV Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee for a public meeting held on Apr 2, 2013 to discuss the ability of the City’s existing utility infrastructure to meet long-term increases in demand.

This was an interesting meeting about a topic that most people don’t even think about – utility infrastructure and capacity. The report is very informative.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking.

This is a good idea and overdue, though the proposal really doesn’t go far enough. As proposed, bicycle parking would be mandatory for most new residential and commercial developments, but it fails to address major renovation of existing residential buildings. Multi-family houses with existing basement space suitable for bicycle storage are being turned into million-dollar condos and these projects should be subject to the same regulations as new developments.

Though not on the agenda, I do hope some brave councillor speaks to the now obvious value of surveillance cameras as an important tool in protecting public safety. A Late Order empowering the City Manager and the Cambridge Police Department to switch on the equipment already installed would be a nice gesture. – Robert Winters

April 21, 2013

The Bottom Line – City of Cambridge Budget Totals by Department – FY2014

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 2:58 am
GENERAL GOVERNMENT
FY05 submitted
FY13 submitted
FY14 submitted
1 yr % change
9 yr % change
Mayor$430,035$554,040$558,7850.929.9
Executive$1,353,140$2,068,675$2,008,150-2.948.4
City Council$975,570$1,642,165$1,683,1252.572.5
City Clerk$720,925$1,067,130$1,119,7654.955.3
Law$1,780,975$2,061,495$2,163,2404.921.5
Finance$8,837,560$12,350,575$13,292,3507.650.4
Employee Benefits$20,499,920$31,796,130$32,787,2003.159.9
General Services$984,345$726,475$732,6950.9-25.6
Election$756,540$1,004,285$1,013,5650.934.0
Public Celebrations$671,505$799,370$891,94511.632.8
Reserve$37,500$37,500$37,5000.00.0
TOTAL$37,048,015$54,107,840$56,288,3204.051.9
PUBLIC SAFETYFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Animal Commission$228,870$298,585$309,7003.735.3
Fire$28,891,840$40,111,145$43,350,2758.150.0
Police$31,515,220$45,643,095$47,186,0153.449.7
Traffic, Parking & Transportation$8,175,095$10,551,435$10,935,0153.633.8
Police Review & Advisory Board$77,210$70,730$73,4403.8-4.9
Inspectional Services$2,261,215$3,115,045$3,180,0452.140.6
License$726,735$986,140$1,030,9704.541.9
Weights & Measures$98,910$134,325$138,5403.140.1
Electrical$2,239,640$2,792,005$2,840,9101.826.8
Emergency Management$137,820$0  -100.0
Emergency Communications$3,097,485$4,242,970$4,434,4254.543.2
TOTAL$77,450,040$107,945,475$113,479,3355.146.5
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Public Works$23,648,125$31,945,265$32,859,6902.939.0
Community Development$4,472,620$5,482,210$5,676,3403.526.9
Historical Commission$457,580$587,025$632,9407.838.3
Conservation Commission$89,760$101,925$123,47021.137.6
Peace Commission$76,215$139,595$143,9403.188.9
Cable T.V.$999,500$1,436,360$1,474,7952.747.6
Debt Service$23,917,070$47,526,975$49,716,2504.6107.9
TOTAL$53,660,870$87,219,355$90,627,4253.968.9
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Library$5,461,430$8,710,520$8,946,3952.763.8
Human Services$14,581,590$22,480,760$23,155,0803.058.8
Women’s Commission$155,860$225,425$233,1153.449.6
Human Rights Commission$158,730$220,160$249,38013.357.1
Veterans$510,885$981,165$1,005,3752.596.8
TOTAL$20,868,495$32,618,030$33,589,3453.061.0
CITY TOTAL$189,027,420$281,890,700$293,984,4254.355.5
EDUCATIONFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL)$122,053,195$144,987,705$150,989,4454.123.7
INTERGOVERNMENTALFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
MWRA$16,177,455$21,006,055$21,346,8151.632.0
Cherry Sheet Assessments$11,569,960$19,700,025$20,126,9502.274.0
Cambridge Health Alliance$6,500,000$6,500,000$6,500,0000.00.0
TOTAL$34,247,415$47,206,080$47,973,7651.640.1
GRAND TOTALS$345,328,030$474,084,485$492,947,6354.042.7
 FY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
WATER$17,098,120$14,144,080$14,238,7000.7-16.7
PUBLIC INVESTMENT$8,834,255$21,277,065$92,715,930335.8949.5

April 20, 2013

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. — Blaise Pascal

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:33 am

April 20 – Those who murdered and maimed at the Boston Marathon and who subsequently murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier have now been killed or captured. Cambridge, Watertown, and surrounding areas are no longer in a state of siege. There are a few things that come to mind now that I’ve finally been able to sleep after this ordeal.

  • There should now be no doubt that surveillance cameras are valuable tools for identifying criminals and helping to bring them to justice. Elected officials who fail to understand this should not be elected. The argument that these cameras infringe on civil liberties is an argument I no longer wish to hear.
  • If ever there was any doubt that the dissemination of local news is important, this should no longer be in doubt. How that information is distributed is rapidly evolving, but it now clearly includes such tools as Twitter and other forms of social media. It’s also clear that when so many people are taking part in the rapid exchange of information, it’s important that everyone understands that there have to be some rules, especially regarding things that could make it more difficult for the police and other officials to do their work. Those rules are not yet established, but experiences like this help to create them.
  • I greatly appreciated all of the people I know who openly expressed their anger and their unvarnished points of view during this ordeal. I find honesty very refreshing. What I despise is when the thought police try to dictate what emotions you’re allowed to have. Put it all out there, folks. Repressing your honest thoughts is like stifling a sneeze.
  • To all the conspiracy theorists with their "false flags" and other rubbish, get a life. – Robert Winters

April 16, 2013

Cambridge Delegation Announces Ethanol Train Meeting (Tues, Apr 16, 2013)

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:10 pm

Cambridge’s legislative delegation invites residents, property owners, and local organizations to participate in a public forum about a proposed plan to transport ethanol through the City of Cambridge by rail. The forum will be held Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 6:00PM at the King Open School, 850 Cambridge St., Cambridge. Representatives from MassDOT will present the findings of their ethanol safety study at this meeting, followed by an opportunity for a dialogue between the public and elected officials.

“Ethanol is a highly volatile substance, and this proposal presents a clear and present public safety risk for the people of Cambridge. Without concerted action, the burden of emergency preparedness will fall on Cambridge taxpayers, while a Fortune 500 company pads its profits,” Representative Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. said.  “I hope that everyone who has an interest in the future of Cambridge will attend this meeting.”

“Public safety and the environment remain central issues in the shipment of ethanol through the Commonwealth,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “I continue to stand in opposition to the issuance of the Chapter 91 license to Global and I am committed to working with my fellow legislators in assuring that our public safety officers are prepared to protect our communities.”

“The plan to bring ethanol via train through Cambridge raises serious public safety concerns and potential negative environmental impacts for its residents and for the residents of its surrounding communities,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico. “Ethanol is a highly flammable liquid, and this project will greatly increase the risk of spills, releases, and fires along the route in which the 1.8-million-gallon ethanol-carrying train would pass. I urge all residents to attend the meeting to learn more about these risks and how they can be mitigated. We need answers to these serious questions.”

“Running trains carrying ethanol through densely populated residential neighborhoods carries serious potential consequences,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen. “Cambridge residents should take this opportunity to learn more about the process and ramifications of the proposal, and have their voices heard.”

“This meeting is a great opportunity for residents to learn about MassDOT’s safety study and to speak directly with their legislators about how we can stand together to oppose this plan,” said Representative Marjorie Decker. “Please attend this vitally important meeting.”

Representative David Rogers said, “Shipping ethanol through Cambridge will create an unacceptable transfer of risk from a private company to the general public. I am concerned about both the potential for a catastrophe and the ongoing financial cost to the City of Cambridge.”

This meeting will be hosted by the Cambridge delegation, which includes Representatives Toomey, Decker, Rogers, and Hecht and Senators Petruccelli, Jehlen, and DiDomenico.

MassDOT’s ethanol safety study and related documents can be found at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/planning/Main/CurrentStudies/EthanolSafetyStudy.aspx

Any questions regarding the meeting may be directed to Dan Weber at Daniel.Weber@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.


UPDATE: Cambridge Ethanol Train Meeting Agenda Changed, MassDOT Safety Study Presentation Being Rescheduled

Due to the tragic and disturbing nature of the events that occurred at yesterday’s (Apr 15) Boston Marathon, the Cambridge state legislative delegation has chosen to abbreviate this meeting regarding the transportation of ethanol that was originally planned for 6pm this evening at the King Open School. The delegation has decided that it will go forward with the meeting in a shortened format, and will postpone the presentation of a Massachusetts Department of Transportation safety study by Department officials. Residents who still wish to attend will have an opportunity to discuss their questions and comments with their elected representatives. Residents who attend the meeting will also be able to obtain copies of MassDOT’s safety study presentation. The Cambridge delegation plans to reschedule a full meeting with Department of Transportation officials and will announce the rescheduled meeting’s date, time, and location in the coming days.

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