Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 20, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 433-434: November 19, 2019

Episode 433 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 19, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 19, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Final Official Municipal election results; ballot data; ward/precinct distribution; #2 Vote Distribution; Instant Runoff mayor. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 434 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 19, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 19, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Election last details; Replacements in the event of a vacancy; campaign finance reform. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 14, 2018

One Hundred Days – Mayor Marc McGovern

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 8:31 am

Mayor Marc McGovernIt’s hard to believe that it was just 100 days ago when I was given the honor of being sworn in as Mayor of my hometown. So much has happened during that time. I want to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues who voted for me as Mayor. I also want to thank my family and friends who have been such great supports as I settle in to this new role.

As I have often said, Cambridge is an amazing city. We are leading the way in so many areas that sometimes we lose sight of the great things that are happening. However, despite all the prosperity and innovation that surrounds us, we are still a city with a higher poverty rate than the state average. We are still a city with far too many homeless struggling on our streets. We are still a city that sends dozens of students to Ivy League schools, while others graduate without the skills needed to be successful. Despite the wonderful things we accomplish we must never be complacent and we must never stop working to become the socially and economically just community we strive to be.

Here are a few things we have accomplished in our first 100 days:

Constituent Services: Since taking office on January 1 we have made constituent services a primary focus. We want every resident of Cambridge to feel welcomed and valued in the Mayor’s Office. In addition to weekly, formal office hours on Mondays from 9 to 11 am, we have also met with hundreds of residents during other times of the day. We have fielded over 250 phone calls, have helped approximately 55 people with housing issues, and another 35 with issues pertaining to the Department of Public Works. We believe strongly that one of the main functions of municipal government is to be responsive to the needs of residents and try and help residents overcome issues they are facing.

Cambridge Immigrant Legal Defense Fund: We are living in a time when immigrants, documented or not, are under attack. ICE agents are sitting in court rooms to detain women who come to file restraining orders due to domestic violence. Stores and homes are being raided. DACA recipients, many who have lived in this country for their entire lives are facing deportation. Cambridge is one of the oldest Sanctuary Cities in the United States. We have spoken loud and clear that we support our immigrant friends and neighbors. Therefore, my office has partnered with the Cambridge Community Foundation to launch the Cambridge Immigrant Legal Defense Fund. This fund, through private donations, will offer grants to non-profit legal services agencies to provide legal representation to documented and undocumented Cambridge residents who are facing deportation. For more information visit:

Warming Center for the Homeless: On any given night, upwards of 500 people try to survive on Cambridge’s streets and shelters. Many are either unable or unwilling to go to a shelter due to safety concerns. Starting last term and then launching just a few weeks into my term as Mayor, my office worked closely with the City to open Cambridge’s first Warming Center for the Homeless. This center, located in the basement of the Senior Center in Central Square, provided much needed shelter to over 400 different individuals during this winter. According to one of the guests: “The Cambridge Warming Center has made the winter months easier for us. It literally saved lives.”

Opioid Working Group: Like communities across the country, Cambridge has seen a rise in deaths by overdose. Last term my office issued a report on the opioid crisis in Cambridge. One of the recommendations was to create a working group of experts to develop a short and long-range plan to provide better support and services to stem the tide of addiction. I am excited to announce that based on that recommendation, the City Manager has formed such a group and that we will be working together to address this emergency.

Public Schools: One of the most important responsibilities as Mayor is chairing the School Committee. As a Cambridge Public School graduate and parent, social worker with over 25 years of working with children, and a former 4 term School Committee member, returning to the School Committee has been exciting. Thanks to the work of our Superintendent and his staff, along with budget co-chairs Fred Fantini and Emily Dexter, the SC just passed a budget of over $191 million to support our students and staff. This includes the addition of 42 new positions. While other districts are cutting positions and services, Cambridge continues to increase public school funding to ensure that every child receives a high-quality education.

To improve communication between the City Council and School Committee I formed a joint committee of three City Councillors, three School Committee members, and city staff to meet three times per year (in addition to our many joint roundtables), to discuss ways in which decisions made by our respective bodies impact the other. For example, when a new development is built in Cambridge it often brings more students into our public schools. Until now, there were no discussions between our elected bodies on how to best manage and support the increase in enrollment. Thanks to the formation of this joint committee, we will now be able to better share information and learn from one another to ensure that we are planning better for our students, staff and families.

These are just a few of the issues and highlights the Mayor’s Office has been working on in partnership with our city departments, non-profits, community members and colleagues. As we move forward we will continue to be a voice for social and economic justice and to ensure that Cambridge is a city that works for all its residents.

If you would like further information on any of these topics, if you have questions, comments or concerns, or if you just want to follow up, please feel free to email my office at We release a weekly, email newsletter of important events going on in the city, please indicate if you would like to sign up, and you can always follow us on twitter at: @Cambridge_Mayor.

Thank you again and I look forward to continuing to represent you and the entire City of Cambridge over the next two years.

Marc McGovern

January 7, 2018

Cold Start – Jan 8, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting (and more)

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:57 pm

Cold Start – Jan 8, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Cold StartThis first regular meeting of the 2018-2019 Cambridge City Council will be chaired by our newly minted Mayor Marc McGovern. As one might expect, it’s a short agenda as the new and returning councillors settle in. City Council committee appointments may not be settled for a few weeks, so the only business will be what takes place in the regular Council meetings for now. There is one active zoning petition and 15 items from Awaiting Report that were requested to carry over to the new Council.

Here are some agenda items this week that seem interesting:

On the Table #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, regarding assessing and approving Neighborhood-Based Resiliency. [Tabled on the motion of Councillor Kelley on Dec 18, 2017]

I remember when the term "Sustainability" was first popularized. It took people years to decide what the word really meant with various interested people and groups trying to fashion it in a way that suited their ideals and/or agendas. I’m not really sure what was ultimately decided. Though I have some idea what the term "Resiliency" might mean, e.g. hardening of infrastructure, my sense is that we’re in a place similar to where we were with "Sustainability" 25 years ago. For example, does Alewife Resiliency translate into transit-oriented development with better connections for all transportation modes or does it mean "Don’t build anything there because there may be flooding at times." The current narrow political dichotomy will likely answer in two radically different ways. Soft definitions are always risky propositions.

Order #1. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to reach out to representatives of supermarkets other than Star Market, such as Market Basket, to determine the possibility of their opening a location at 20 Sidney Street, and to report back to the City Council on this matter.   Councillor Simmons

There has been an active discussion about the store closure on the Cambridgeport listserv over the last few days. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote there:

The Memorial Drive Stop & Shop closed in May 1994 which left the Cambridgeport area very much in need of a local supermarket. I believe it was in 1997 when University Park (really Forest City) offered to host a Star Market in their hotel/garage building. This was definitely done in order to sweeten the deal in order to obtain the necessary curb cuts (and let’s not forget the discontinuation of Blanche Street). There had been a City analysis of access to supermarkets in the wake of the Stop & Shop closure that informed the University Park decision.

At the time a lot of us felt that the whole concept of a 2nd floor supermarket with paid parking (though a discount was offered) was not a sustainable plan, but there really was a serious need for food access at that time – especially for Area 4 (now The Port) and MIT people who would get there on foot. Some of that logic has changed in recent years as more people live without motor vehicles, but most people who do any significant grocery shopping will choose to drive to a place like Market Basket in Somerville not only for the prices but also because there’s (usually) available parking. It’s virtually impossible that Market Basket would want to operate in the University Park space. It’s completely contrary to their very successful business model in which they own most of the locations of their stores and pay no rent. There are other operators that have a very different business model that might be able to make it work at this location, but only if University Park is willing to negotiate a rent that can make it sustainable.

Though I don’t believe there is any legal obligation that University Park must continue to host a supermarket, I think there’s at least some moral obligation to do so. The original University Park plans called for a "marketplace" that was never built (as well as a movie theater), and some might argue that the inclusion of the Star Market was a sort of making good on that original concept. Perhaps more significantly, the offer to host the Star Market came at a point when the matter was before the Planning Board and the City Council (for the curb cuts), and it was part of the negotiation even if there was no formal commitment to maintain the supermarket in perpetuity. – RW

Back in 1998 I wrote this: "We also learned at this meeting that an agreement has been worked out with the new Star Market at University Park that would make parking for the supermarket free for the first 1½ hours. This was one of the stickier issues a few years ago when the City voted to grant various curb cuts and to discontinue Blanche Street in order to make way for the hotel and supermarket." – Sept 14, 1998 in CCJ Issue #12

Here’s what I wrote on June 16, 2000: "There have also been persistent rumors about just how permanent the Star Market is at that location. For now, at least, it appears to be staying put." Well, it lasted longer than I thought and is now scheduled to close on Feb 3, 2018. Hopefully another supermarket operator can be found and that Forest City/University Park will be willing to offer a long-term lease with terms that can can allow a supermarket to economically operate there. Not everyone wants to shop by bike at Whole Paycheck.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update to the City Council on progress made in regards to the Stated Goals of the City Council, as outlined during the 2016-2017 City Council term.   Councillor Simmons

Goals are important, but the primary goal should be to not spend an endless time talking about them. – Robert Winters

The Upshot: There was a very healthy discussion regarding the future of the supermarket site in University Park. Look for some community meetings to take place in the coming weeks and months.

Mayor McGovern has appointed Councillors Carlone and Kelley as Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee.

Mayor McGovern also appointed a Special Ad-Hoc Rules Committee to review the City Council rules and the recommend any changes, including possible restructuring of the City Council subcommittees. This Ad-Hoc Committee will consist 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. This committee is requested to come back with recommendations in time for the next City Council meeting on January 22.

Jan 1, 2018 – The 2018-2019 Cambridge City Council was inaugurated this morning in the Sullivan Chamber of City Hall. After each elected councillor took the oath of office, the new City Council took care of its first order of business – the election of the Mayor. Though the eventual outcome was already known to many in the room for the last few weeks, there is always at least some drama due to the possibility that an alternate deal could be struck in the interim. However the vote went more or less as predicted with Marc McGovern being elected as Mayor for the 2018-2019 term. The initial vote was 7-2 for McGovern with Councillors Simmons and Toomey casting their votes for Tim Toomey, but Councillor Simmons changed her vote to McGovern to make the final vote 8-1.

After a speech by the newly elected Mayor McGovern that stressed themes of unity the Council then elected Jan Devereux to serve as Vice Chair of the City Council for the 2018-2019 term. That vote was initially 5 votes for Jan Devereux and 4 for Denise Simmons, but Alanna Mallon and then Craig Kelley changed their votes to Devereux to make the final vote 7-2 with Councillors Simmons and Toomey voting for Simmons.

After these proceedings there were several statements by councillors thanking Sandra Albano for her 47 years of service to the City and especially her role managing the City Council office since 1982. Sandy’s last day on the job is tomorrow – Jan 2, 2018 – and it’s hard to imagine City Hall without her.

Perhaps the high point of the entire Inaugural Meeting was Cambridge Police Deputy Superintendent Pauline Carter Wells singing John Lennon’s song "Imagine" – just as she did two years ago and just as inspiring.

Later in the day, starting at 6:00pm, the newly elected 2018-2019 Cambridge School Committee took their oaths of office and elected Kathleen Kelly as the Vice Chair (who will be responsible for making all subcommittee appointments). That vote was initially split with Manikka Bowman and Laurance Kimbrough voting for Manikka Bowman; Emily Dexter and voting for Patty Nolan; and Fred Fantini, Kathleen Kelly, Patty Nolan, and Marc McGovern voting for Kathleen Kelly. Emily Dexter and Laurance Kimbrough then changed their votes to Kathleen Kelly leading to the final 6-1 vote to elect Kathleen Kelly.

Mayor McGovern has tapped Wil Durbin to serve as Chief of Staff of the Mayor’s Office. He also tapped Luis Vasquez to be in charge of constituent services and outreach. Both are inspired choices.

The Plan E Charter only designates the Mayor as Chair of the City Council and the School Committee. All other roles and initiatives of the Mayor and the Mayor’s Office are at the discretion of the Mayor, and every Mayor defines their role differently. Mayor Simmons was a wonderful Mayor for the last two years and our newly elected Mayor McGovern promises to be just as inspiring in how he defines his role for the next two years.

One last note: A new portrait of former Mayor Barbara Ackermann now graces the back wall of the Sullivan Chamber. This was an extra special treat. – RW

Mayor McGovern oath
Marc McGovern is sworn in as Mayor
Mayor McGovern
Mayor McGovern’s inaugural address
Pauline Carter Wells sings "Imagine"
Pauline Carter Wells sings "Imagine"
Barbara Ackermann portrait in Sullivan Chamber
Barbara Ackermann portrait in Sullivan Chamber

The Mayors of Cambridge

January 3, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 279-280: Jan 2, 2018

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:35 am

Episode 279 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 2, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast Jan 2, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main topics were the 2018 Inaugurations of the Cambridge City Council and School Committee and the Election of Mayor Marc McGovern. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

Episode 280 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 2, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast Jan 2, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topic was a discussion of some of the more challenging priorities for the new 2018-2019 City Council. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 21, 2016

Back to Work (Really) – Monday, Feb 22, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:05 pm

Back to Work (Really) – Monday, Feb 22, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Committee Members
Ordinance Carlone (Co-Chair), Cheung (Co-Chair)
(committee of the whole)
Finance McGovern (Chair)
(committee of the whole)
Government Operations,
Rules, and Claims
Maher (Chair), Cheung,
Mazen, McGovern, Toomey
Housing Mayor Simmons (Co-Chair),
McGovern (Co-Chair),
Carlone, Devereux, Maher
Economic Development and
University Relations
Devereux (Chair), Carlone,
Cheung, Mazen, McGovern
Human Services & Veterans McGovern (Chair), Devereux,
Maher, Mazen, Toomey
Health & Environment Devereux (Chair), Carlone,
Kelley, McGovern, Toomey
Neighborhood and Long Term
Planning, Public Facilities,
Art, and Celebrations
Mazen (Chair), Carlone,
Cheung, Devereux, Maher
& Public Utilities
Toomey (Chair), Carlone,
Cheung, Kelley, Mazen
Civic Unity McGovern (Chair), Devereux, Kelley,
Mazen, Mayor Simmons
Public Safety Kelley (Chair), Maher, Mazen,
McGovern, Toomey

Back to WorkNote: Much of this meeting’s agenda was originally set for February 8, but all City of Cambridge offices were closed that day due to snow. All of those items were carried over to the February 22 agenda.

The 2016-2017 City Council committee assignments have been announced by Mayor Simmons. There are also proposed amended 2016-2017 City Council Rules on the agenda for this week’s meeting. The proposed changes include uniformizing most City Council committees at 5 members and allowing for the possibility that some Roundtable meetings may be televised. One curious departure from tradition is that Mayor Simmons will co-chair the Housing Committee and also be a regular member of the Civic Unity Committee. In all my year’s of Council-watching, I don’t recall the Mayor being anything other than an ex-officio member of any subcommittees (other than committees of the whole) and certainly never a co-chair. I have to interpret this a strong desire of Mayor Simmons to continue work begun on these committees during the last term.

I’m especially pleased by the appointments to the Government Operations, Rules, & Claims Committee – especially with the City Manager’s contract discussion coming up (very) soon. The City Council must give notice of its intentions no later than March 1.

Other interesting items on this coming Monday’s City Council agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Sharlene Yang as the new STEAM Coordinator.

So much of the focus on STEM/STEAM has seemed like little more than political fashion, but if any of these efforts result in matching young people growing up in Cambridge with real opportunities in the local economy of today, it will all have been worth it. That said, a coordinator needs to have something to coordinate and it will be interesting to see if the required opportunities develop.

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from Sage Cannabis, Inc., to amend the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Overlay District Section 20.700 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance and Map.

Communications #8. A communication was received from Michael Dundas, Chief Executive Officer, Sage Cannabis, Inc., 13 Commercial Way, Milford, MA, regarding a status update on the zoning amendment petition APP 2015 #72 filed with the Cambridge City Clerk on Nov 9, 2015.

Order #3. That the zoning petition filed by Milford Medicinals, Inc. be placed on file.   Mayor Simmons

It’s hard to say where this matter is going to ultimately end up, but it’s important to note that the City Council and City staff spent a considerable amount of time on the current zoning that delineates two areas where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate. Has the case really been made that those districts are inadequate and that additional mini-districts have to be established whenever a medical marijuana dispensary wants to operate elsewhere? It’s also worth considering how the marijuana sales landscape will take shape in the event that the ballot question on legalization prevails later this year.

Resolution #18. Congratulations to the MIT-based members of the LIGO collaboration on their contributions to the observation of gravitational waves.   Councillor Cheung

Occasionally my worlds collide. The "chirp" of two black holes colliding was the talk in every corner of MIT on February 11. Even MIT President Rafael Reif was as excited as a kid at a carnival.

Order #5. That the amendment to the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to amend the provisions of the PUD-KS District set forth in Section 13.10 of the Zoning Ordinances and which includes a majority of the Volpe Transportation Systems Center site, be refiled as of Feb 9, 2015.   Councillor Carlone

This re-filing has been anticipated for some time, and now there will be an Ordinance Committee to work on it.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant City departments to study the benefits of a wellbeing index and plan for how it might be incorporated into various City planning processes, including the city wide Master Plan.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor McGovern

Call me skeptical. I just read the following description of a wellbeing index: "The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is designed to be the Dow Jones of health, giving a daily measure of people’s wellbeing at the close of every day. With a daily measure, determining the correlation between the places where people work and the communities in which they live, and how it impacts their wellbeing, is now possible. Additionally, the index will increase an understanding of how those factors impact the financial health of corporations and communities." This seems to be in part a continuation of the spectrum of policies that Cambridge planners have been using for years in promoting transportation alternatives and integrating passive and active recreational opportunities wherever possible. My skepticism comes from the potential subjectivity of such a measure. I’m reminded how when various measures of cycling safety led to inconclusive results, a new "comfort index" was invented in order to justify specific policies regarding road design that some planners wanted. How shall we measure "wellbeing"?

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding how the decision to move these festivals out of Central Square was reached, what plans the City has to initiate other festivals in Central Square to replace these lost activities, and what can be done to return these festivals to Central Square.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

It would be great if the Central Square Worlds Fair could one day be revived, but these events don’t come cheap, and they don’t all yield benefits for the existing businesses in Central Square.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department, the Public Works Department, and any other relevant City department to level the sidewalks and add new lighting to Carl Barron Plaza prior to any renovations taking place.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

Any significant renovations to Carl Barron Plaza will likely be delayed until the River Street improvements happen a couple of years from now. That said, basic maintenance of the sidewalks and better lighting shouldn’t be delayed. One comprehensive improvement that could also be made now would be a jointly operated storefront abutting the plaza that would house a Cambridge Police substation, coordination of MBTA bus activities, an information kiosk, and the promised public restroom from the last Participatory Budget process. An outside public restroom (the Portland Loo) recently open in the Harvard Square area, but it would be so much better (and more secure) if such a facility in Central Square was done jointly with enhanced police presence. The plumbing will also be a lot simpler.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the progress made in acquiring the Vail Court property, including a financial impact statement and a plan to move forward in acquiring this property through eminent domain.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

The perennial sore thumb continues to throb. Non-friendly eminent domain takings are a huge hassle and don’t always end well, but this situation is ridiculous.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Clerk to communicate the City Council’s strong support of Harvard’s graduate research and teaching assistants to choose collective bargaining to the Harvard University administration.   Councillor Cheung

Some form of collective bargaining may make sense here, but being a graduate student teaching assistant is not a career option and should not be categorized the same way as long-term jobs are – unionized or not. More than anything else, this is really a test of the ethical standards of universities like Harvard, and any discussion of what constitutes fairness should also be extended to adjunct faculty for whom this often does constitute a career choice.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to seek permission from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for the use of two lanes (one in each direction) of Memorial Drive for non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians only and further to coordinate with the appropriate city departments to close two lanes to cars (one in each direction) on Memorial Drive on Apr 29, 2016, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Walk/Ride Days, and the kick-off of the 5th Annual Walk/Ride Day Corporate Challenge.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux, Mayor Simmons

Though there may be some popular appeal in doing something like this, the unfortunate reality is that the DCR "parkways" have become essential links between the urban core and major roads like the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 2. This includes the need for a through lane as well as a turning lane at numerous locations. Removing two travel lanes or even shutting these roads down altogether may be fine on weekends and holidays, but the road already operates at capacity during rush hour on working days. It is hard to imagine the DCR agreeing to such a road closure on a busy Friday. If so, perhaps the name should be changed from "Walk/Ride Day" to "Piss Off Thousands of Commuters Day." – Robert Winters

January 7, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 29 and 30

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 29 – originally broadcast Tues, Jan 7, 2014 at 5:30pm. Former School Committee member Alice Turkel was the guest (Part 1). Program hosted by Susana Segat and Robert Winters.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 30 – originally broadcast Tues, Jan 7, 2014 at 6:00pm. Former School Committee member Alice Turkel was the guest (Part 2). Play-by-play of the 2014 Mayoral Vote. Program hosted by Susana Segat and Robert Winters.

January 6, 2014

Jan 6, 2014 – Inauguration Day

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:40 am

Jan 6, 2014 – Inauguration Day

The Inauguration of the 2014-2015 Cambridge City Council will take place today at City Hall beginning at 10:00am. After the ceremonial activities and the oaths of office, there will be just two items of business – the adoption of the Rules for the 2014-2015 City Council (usually just the formal adoption of the rules in effect for the previous Council) and the Election of a Mayor. The meeting will be conducted by City Clerk Donna Lopez until a Mayor is elected. If a Mayor is not elected at the Inaugural Meeting, the most senior member of the City Council, Tim Toomey, will serve as Acting Mayor until such time as a Mayor is elected.

There is a relatively good chance that a Mayor will be elected at the Inaugural Meeting this year. The major contenders are rumored to be Leland Cheung, David Maher, and Denise Simmons. If a Mayor is elected, the City Council will then proceed to the election of its Vice Chair (customarily referred to as the Vice Mayor).

Later in the day (6:00pm), the 2014-2015 Cambridge School Committee will be inaugurated with the Mayor presiding.

Dennis Benzan
Dennis Carlone
Leland Cheung
Craig Kelley
David Maher
Nadeem Mazen
Marc McGovern
Denise Simmons
Tim Toomey

It’s Mayor Maher

It was a rollercoaster of a mayoral vote this morning, but the new City Council finally did get the job done. Here’s a rundown (using the initials of councillors and mayoral candidates in the tally):

Ballot #1 DM LC LC DS DM DS DM DS DM Maher 4, Simmons 3, Cheung 2
Ballot #2 DM LC LC LC DM LC DM DS DM Maher 4, Cheung 4, Simmons 1
Simmons switch to Maher DM LC LC LC DM LC DM DM DM Maher 5, Cheung 4
Cheung switch to Simmons DM LC DS LC DM LC DM DM DM Maher 5, Cheung 3, Simmons 1
Kelley switch to Simmons DM LC DS DS DM LC DM DM DM Maher 5, Cheung 2, Simmons 2
Carlone switch to Simmons DM DS DS DS DM LC DM DM DM Maher 5, Simmons 3, Cheung 1
Mazen switch to Simmons DM DS DS DS DM DS DM DM DM Maher 5, Simmons 4
Simmons switch to Simmons DM DS DS DS DM DS DM DS DM Simmons 5, Maher 4
Benzan switch to Simmons DS DS DS DS DM DS DM DS DM Simmons 6, Maher 3
Mazen switch to Kelley DS DS DS DS DM CK DM DS DM Simmons 5, Maher 3, Kelley 1
Carlone switch to Kelley DS CK DS DS DM CK DM DS DM Simmons 4, Maher 3, Kelley 2
Ballot #3 DM LC LC DS DM DS DM DM DM Maher 5, Cheung 2, Simmons 2
Cheung switch to Simmons DM LC DS DS DM DS DM DM DM Maher 5, Simmons 3, Cheung 1
Carlone switch to Simmons DM DS DS DS DM DS DM DM DM Maher 5, Simmons 4

It is worth noting that at the end of Ballot #3, Denise Simmons could have once again changed her vote to herself (giving her a majority) but chose not to do so – perhaps due to the belief that this would lead to just another cycle of vote changes.

After Mayor Maher took the oath of office, the City Council then proceeded to the vote for Vice Chair. Though not initially unanimous for Dennis Benzan, Denise Simmons moved that the vote be made unanimous and there was no objection.

Congratulations to Mayor David Maher and to Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan! – RW

February 22, 2012

A Very Special Cambridge City Council Meeting – Feb 22, 2012

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,MBTA — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:20 pm

A Very Special Cambridge City Council Meeting – Feb 22, 2012
It’s Mayor Henrietta Davis and Vice Mayor Denise Simmons

Tonight The Nine shall meet to gather information and public testimony on the effects on Cambridge of the proposed MBTA cuts and fare increases and to develop a policy statement in preparation for the Feb 29 MBTA public hearing at the Senior Center City Hall. It is also expected that one or more additional mayoral ballots will take place at some point in the meeting. Perhaps MBTA also stands for "mayoral balloting tried again".

Today’s date coincides with the date two years ago when the previous mayoral impasse was broken and David Maher was elected mayor. Though I don’t recall the date in 1996 when Sheila Russell was finally elected mayor, I believe that impasse lasted longer. Since then, the dates were Jan 26, 1998 (Duehay, 3rd ballot), Feb 15, 2000 (Galluccio, 5th ballot), Jan 7, 2002 (Sullivan, 1st ballot), Jan 5, 2004 (Sullivan, 1st ballot), Jan 2, 2006 (Reeves, 1st ballot), Jan 14, 2008 (Simmons, 2nd ballot), and Feb 22, 2010 (Maher, 6th ballot). If this history is any indication, there’s a good chance this wuill be resolved tonight or at next Monday’s regular meeting. The 1948 mayoral marathon required 1,321 ballots before Michael J. Neville was elected mayor in late April.

It seems as though everyone who pays attention to the mayoral balloting has their own theory about what should happen or what might happen. I have my own theories as well. In fact, I have written out a scenario of how I believe this thing will ultimately play out. In the spirit of Werner Heisenberg, I won’t yet reveal my theory lest it influence the experiment. It will be revealed in 39 days. Hopefully, The Nine will have decided on The One by then. In the meantime, any mayoral ballots will be recorded at

The real substance of this meeting are the proposed MBTA fare increases and service cuts. It’s not clear how much leverage the Cambridge City Council or the City of Cambridge has in this, but some kind of coherent response is needed. A major focus in Cambridge over the last decade or so has been on transit-oriented development and shifting away from dependence on automobiles. It would be a major setback to have this derailed by disincentives to public transit use, especially when calculations indicate that increases in efficiency and a very modest increase in the gasoline tax could resolve this. The state legislature also has an obligation to unburden the MBTA of the debt caused by mitigation costs related to The Big Dig. However this is ultimately resolved, it’s important that future MBTA financing be primarily self-sustaining so that we won’t be faced with similar threats every few years. – Robert Winters

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