Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 14, 2018

Civic Nerdiness

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 7:42 pm

Civic Nerdiness

Annual Documents SealThis week on Tuesday, Jan 16 at 2:30pm, the City Council’s Ad-Hoc Rules Committee will conduct a public hearing in the Sullivan Chamber to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules. This committee consists of Vice Mayor Devereux (Chair) and Councillors Mallon and Kelley; as well as Donna Lopez, City Clerk; Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor; Maryellen Carvello, Office manager to the City Manager, and Wil Durbin, Chief of Staff to the Mayor.

I suppose it must be the pinnacle of civic nerdiness to care about the City Council Rules, but the structure of the City Council subcommittees, their mission, the number of members on each committee, and what constitutes a quorum are actually contained within the City Council Rules. From this civic nerd’s point of view this actually is significant. In an ideal world the subcommittees should be where most of the detail work takes place. Unfortunately, it has sometimes been the case that these subcommittees become little more than discretionary devices for their respective Chairs where matters that sometimes have little to do with the purpose of the committee are pursued. In addition, there have been some topics in the last few years that didn’t really have a natural match to any of the existing City Council committees or which were taken up by what might be viewed as the wrong committee. For example, if there is a Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, why were matters relating to bicycle transportation handled within the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Committee? [I would restructure the committees just to shorten the name of that one.]

It’s interesting to look at what the standing committees have been at various times in Cambridge history. Here are a few snapshots, including some recorded in the City’s Annual Documents (yes, I really do have these original books on my shelf):

Joint Committees: 1887
Accounts
Almshouse
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Fuel
Health
Lamps
Ordinances
Printing
Public Instruction
Public Property
Roads and Bridges
Rules and Orders
Water Supply

Standing Committees
of the Mayor and Alderman

Bonds
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Licenses
Police
Roads and Bridges
Sewers

Standing Committees
of the Common Council

Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances

Joint Committees: 1911-1912
Accounts
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
City Home
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Legal Matters
Legislative Matters
Ordinances
Parks
Printing
Public Property
Public Instruction
Water Supply
Wires and Lamps

Standing Committees
of the Board of Alderman

Bonds
Cemeteries
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Licenses
Parks
Police
Rules and Orders
Sewers
Soldier’s Aid
Street Railways

Standing Committees of the Common Council
Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances
Rules and Orders

City Council Committees: 1938
Americanization and Education

Bonds

City Engineering

City Planning

Claims

Elections and Printing

Finance

Health

Industrial Development

Legislative Matters

Licenses

Military Affairs

Ordinances

Parks and Cemeteries

Public Celebrations

Public Property and Public Institutions

Public Safety

Public Service

Roads and Bridges

Rules and Orders

Soldier’s Aid

Water Supply

Wires and Lamps

City Council Committees: 1998
Cable TV and Communications

Civil and Human Rights

Claims

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Elder Affairs

Environment

Finance

Food Policy

Government Operations

Health and Hospitals

Housing and Community Development

Human Services and Youth

Ordinance

Public Safety

Public Service

Rules

Sister Cities

Traffic and Transportation

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2000
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long-term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2012
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Claims

Community Health

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Environment

Finance

Government Operations and Rules

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

University Relations

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2016
Civic Unity

Economic Development and University Relations

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services and Veterans

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Ordinance

Public Safety

Transportation and Public Utilities

City Council Committees: 2018
?????

It’s likely that prior to the adoption of the Plan E Charter that went into effect in 1941 there was either the need or the desire for more oversight of City departments, and both the number and the nature of the City Council (and Board of Alderman) committees seem to reflect this. Some standing committees are essentially permanent (Ordinance, Finance), but others clearly change with the times and even with the desires of individual councillors. What should be the focus of City Council subcommittees for the 2018-2019 City Council term? Should they remain the same? Are there any priorities that warrant a redefinition of the Council subcommittees? Should we revive some committees from the long past?

If you have any ideas, come to the meeting Tuesday afternoon. – Robert Winters

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: