Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 2, 2015

Cambridge Municipal Election Candidates – 2015

Cambridge City Council Candidates - 2015 (updated Aug 19) - FINAL

LastFirstaddresszipbirthdateoccuppapersvalid signatures
BenzanDennis1 Pine St.021391/25/1972AttorneyJuly 186
CarloneDennis9 Washington Ave. #6021405/7/1947ArchitectJuly 263
CheungLeland157 Garden St.021382/11/1978July 176
ConnollyMike20 Harding St. #3021416/3/1980July 2467
CourtneyKim2 Ware St. #4010213812/6/1973AttorneyJuly 161
DavidsonMariko2 Ware St. #4110213811/20/1981July 171
DegoesPlinio99 Garden St.021382/10/1981TeacherJuly 184
DevereuxJan255 Lakeview Ave.021385/13/1959Writer/CommunicationsJuly 191
DietrichXavier2 Ware St. #4010213812/2/1961July 1354
KelleyCraig6 Saint Gerard Ter. #2021409/18/1962PoliticianJuly 191
LevyIlan148 Spring St.0214111/1/1967Software EngineerJuly 1364
MaherDavid120 Appleton St. #2021388/8/1958Non-profit Mgr.July 196
MahoneyPaul F.23 Lawn St.021385/8/1950July 257
MazenNadeem720 Mass. Ave. #4021399/20/1983EntrepreneurJuly 281
McGovernMarc15 Pleasant St. #20213912/21/1968Social WorkerJuly 192
MelloGary324 Franklin St. #2021395/24/1953ClerkJuly 164
MoreeGregg25 Fairfield St. #4021406/16/1957CarpenterJuly 175
SanzoneJohn540 Memorial Dr. #3040213910/16/1988July 257
SimmonsE. Denise188 Harvard St. #4B0213910/2/1951Public OfficeJuly 184
ToomeyTimothy88 6th St.021416/7/1953CouncillorJuly 199
vanBeuzekomMinka20 Essex St. #1021397/24/1960GovernmentJuly 187
WaiteRomaine60 Lawn St. #5021386/7/1991July 273
WilliamsonJames1000 Jackson Pl. #45021401/13/1951July 162

50 valid signatures are needed to have candidate’s name placed on the municipal ballot.

Cambridge School Committee Candidates - 2015 (updated Aug 19) - FINAL

LastFirstaddresszipbirthdateoccuppapersvalid signatures
BowmanManikka134 Reed St.0214011/27/1979July 189
CisterninoPia62 Holworthy St. #1021388/28/1974speech-language pathologistJuly 267
CroninFran1 Kimball Ln.021402/14/1952School CommitteeJuly 184
CrutchfieldJake281 River St.021393/31/1987TeacherJuly 153
DexterEmily9 Fenno St.021383/16/1957Educational ResearcherJuly 1398
FantiniAlfred B.4 Canal Pk. #203021416/8/1949RetiredJuly 198
HardingRichard189 Windsor St. #10213910/16/1972AdministratorJuly 181
KadeteElechi10 Laurel St. #4021399/30/1989AccountantJuly 157
KellyKathleen17 Marie Ave. #1021393/8/1960Social WorkerJuly 192
NolanPatricia184 Huron Ave.021388/28/1957School CommitteeJuly 160
WeinsteinDavid45 S. Normandy Ave.0213812/10/1972Writer/CommunicationsJuly 164

50 valid signatures are needed to have candidate’s name placed on the municipal ballot.

Vote!Cambridge Candidate Pages – 2015
(candidates are encouraged to send additional information)

2015 Calendar of Election-related Events
[ submit your events ]

Campaign Finance – 2015 Cambridge City Council Candidates

June 30, 2014

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:29 am

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

The curtain falls tonight on the FY2014 Fiscal Year as the City Council enters its Summer Recess – but not without a little controversy. Councillor Dennis "Pearl Harbor" Carlone is the first signer of a new zoning petition that is almost guaranteed to bring some fireworks in advance of the July 4 holiday. The petition has near zero chance of ultimately passing but stands out prominently in its disrespect for the Planning Board, the Community Development Department, and previous Cambridge City Councils who have passed a variety of zoning petitions with detailed Special Permit criteria spelled out to guide the Planning Board in the granting of Special Permits under the Zoning Ordinance.

Monkey WrenchApplications & Petitions #5. A zoning petition has been filed by Dennis Carlone, et al. requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to designate the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits.

The intent of this petition appears to be to enact an effective 30-month moratorium on all larger proposed developments in Cambridge by turning each project into a political football. Except for Councillors Carlone and Mazen (first and last signers), the signers of the petition consist almost entirely of principal players of the Cambridge Residents Alliance who have made no secret of their desire to enact such a moratorium. The essential component of the petition is the transfer of Project Review Special Permit authority from the Planning Board (where there is substantial professional expertise) to the City Council. Anyone who has ever witnessed the Planning Board working together to devise detailed conditions on the granting of a Special Permit should now imagine what this process might look like if conducted by the City Council as they play to the favor of their various political supporters. I shudder to think of it.

Fortunately, it appears that this misguided proposal has the support of only the two city councillors who signed it. Ideally, the City Council would just vote it down and declare it Dead On Arrival, but it’s possible that it may be formally referred to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee (co-chaired by Carlone) so that it can receive a proper funeral. As a zoning petition, it would require 6 of 9 city councillors to support it and that’s pretty much an impossibility unless they start lacing the Kool-Aid with hallucinogens.

Meanwhile the initial phase (Cambridge Conversations) of the upcoming review and possible revision of the City’s existing master plans has been met with expressions of satisfaction from most members of the public. Perhaps this is why Carlone and Company have chosen to toss a monkey wrench into the process. Political organizing thrives so much more when wrapped in controversy.

Communications #6. A communication was received from Rick Snedeker, 107 Clifton Street regarding a request for a Special Act Charter for Cambridge that does not include Proportional Representation.

This is included primarily for comic relief. This Snedeker fellow has now written a series of letters to the Cambridge Chronicle detailing his hostility regarding the structure of Cambridge city government and the way municipal elections are conducted. He believes that having 90% of ballots count toward the election of city councillors is more disenfranchising than a winner-take-all election where often fewer than 50% of ballots count toward the election of a candidate. That’s interesting math. He would have elections of ward councillors by simple plurality vote with no runoffs or primary elections. This installment from Snedeker also calls for the Mayor and City Council to be able to dismiss any City department head by a simple majority vote. I can only imagine the thrilling City Council meetings when a department head says something not to the liking of the elected councillors.

Communications #11. Sundry communications were received regarding the East Cambridge Courthouse.

There are 38 individual signed letters plus an additional 74 petition signatures in support of the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse building. The prisoners are now out of the East Cambridge Courthouse and the transfer of the property from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Legatt McCall, the chosen developer, is imminent. While there is clear opposition to the proposed redevelopment from many residents, it’s pretty clear that this is not a unanimously held position. The Planning Board is expected to make a decision on the Special Permit for the 40 Thorndike Street proposal at its July 29 meeting (to be held in East Cambridge, most likely at the Kennedy-Longfellow School). Regardless what the Planning Board decides, it is very likely that lawsuits will follow.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee for a joint public meeting held on June 25, 2014 to discuss the ongoing out of school/STEAM working group research.

I’m sure the participants at this meeting meant well and I think we all want to see some good programs developed in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The report, however, is remarkable in some of its convoluted quotes. Some of my favorites are these: "Councillor Mazen explained that it’s important for one subgroup to track other subgroup. People in this subgroup should ask other subgroups: Are we talking around the subject or are we addressing it?" and "Councillor Mazen confessed he isn’t opposed to having another subgroup but he feels that this can fall into other subgroups and can also be discussed by each subgroup." and "Councillor Mazen said he hoped next time will be an opportunity for everybody to work more circularly about a coordinator position".

Exactly how does one "work more circularly?" Does it involve beating around the bush? I’ll have to consult with my subgroup about this. – Robert Winters

Note: Due to construction in the Sullivan Chamber, this City Council meeting will take place in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at 459 Broadway (CRLS).

February 9, 2014

Leaving Cincinnati? Feb 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:33 pm

Leaving Cincinnati? Feb 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Here are a few Agenda items that sparked some interest.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the Early Education Services Task Force.

As the report states, "The charge to the Task Force is to identify a range of possible options for expansion of early childhood services and to explore the benefits and challenges of each option." Candidates and elected officials have talked for some time about the value of early education services as an effective means of preventing future achievement gaps and other hardships. Many people believe that directing these resources early may lessen the need for corrective action later. We have now apparently entered into the planning and implementation phase of this initiative.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-03, regarding the progress of the Eastern Cambridge Kendall Square Open Space Planning Committee.

The ECKOS planning study committee has been meeting for much of this past year to develop an initial vision and goals for the entire open space network in Kendall Square and vicinity building upon the K2C2 Planning Study. There is now underway a planning and design competition. My only question is where they will be locating the miniature golf course. I’m dead serious. Think about how amazing it would be to have a sculpture garden that doubles as a mini-golf course.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-02, regarding a report on determining whether Councillors "replying all" to emails, addressed to the on business that may subsequently come before the Council are unintentionally violating the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

Though everyone applauds the goal of transparency in public process and open meetings that encourage civic participation, one really has to wonder if we’ve now gone way over to the other side when every interaction among elected officials and between elected officials and the public entails the risk technically violating this law. I simply cannot believe this was the intention of the legislature when they drafted the current version of the law.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining the noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the United States with three AAA ratings from the nation’s three major credit rating agencies.

We’ve come to take Cambridge’s credit-worthiness for granted, but it’s the result of the City administration and the City Council maintaining a steady financial plan even as we’ve undertaken some very ambitious and expensive projects. We often hear about Cambridge’s "free cash" and excess levy capacity whenever someone wants the City to break the bank to pay for another public amenity, but maintaining such a buffer is precisely why our bond ratings are so good.

Unfinished Business #3. That City Council Rule 35A be amended to provide that no suspension of the rules shall be required for late ceremonial resolutions filed after the close of the meeting agenda or before resolutions are voted on at the meeting. [Order Number Eight of Feb 3, 2014 Placed on Unfinished Business on Feb 3, 2014.]

Unfinished Business #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a letter from Mayor David P. Maher regarding the Ad-Hoc Committee relative to changes to Rule 26 of the City Council Rules. [Communication and Report from City Officers Number Four of Feb 3, 2014 Placed on Unfinished Business on Feb 3, 2014.]

It was interesting to hear some of the back-and-forth at last week’s City Council meeting about these proposed rules changes. The most significant changes are the reduction of the number of City Council Committees from 17 to 11 and the establishment of quorums for each of these committees. The proposals are simple, sensible, and workable (in spite of being called "fierce and complicated" by one observer). If all goes well, the rules changes (mainly the consolidation of committees) will be voted at this meeting and the City Council committee appointments will be made public. I’m looking forward to seeing how well this group of nine works together on specific matters in committee.

Resolution #1. Congratulations to State Representative Marjorie Decker for spearheading an amendment to fund a total of $13.5 million in Cambridge infrastructure transportation projects that was unanimously passed by the members of the State House of Representatives.   Vice Mayor Benzan

Though it clearly takes more than one representative in a House of 140 members to bring home the bacon, it’s good to see Marjorie Decker and the entire Cambridge delegation getting the job done. My understanding is that the Mass. State Senate and ultimately the Governor still have to weigh in before the deal is done. The noted $13.5 million is for the design and reconstruction of roads and sidewalks in Harvard Square and on River Street. There is also $3 million for completing the design and construction of the Inlet Bridge connecting North Point Park to the O’Brien Highway; $1.5 million for the design of a rail trail in the Grand Junction Railroad corridor in Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown; $1.3 million for the Watertown Greenway which runs from Watertown to the Fresh Pond Reservation in Cambridge; $500,000 for construction at Fresh Pond Parkway and Mount Auburn Street; and $500,000 for a new pedestrian bridge at Alewife. None of this is final, but the signs are good.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with all relevant city departments and engage with the leadership of Globe Direct to ensure that Cambridge residents who have not subscribed to weekly Globe Direct circulars and have indicated that they do not wish to receive more are promptly removed from further distribution lists.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing held on Dec 19, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on an amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.68 entitled relating to Plastic Bag Reduction.

The topic of Order #3 is also contained in the committee report, i.e. those unnecessary red plastic bags containing advertisements that now litter Cambridge porches, sidewalks, and anywhere else they can toss them. The main subject of the committee report is a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags that’s been kicked around for the last year or two. I need to point out that opinions are not unanimous in the recycling advocacy world on this topic. If plastic bags are replaced by paper bags, this is not necessarily a net positive from an environmental point of view. The hope is that the use of reusable grocery bags will greatly increase, and a proposed mandatory fee on paper bags is meant to encourage this. It’s also worth mentioning that many Cambridge residents (perhaps most) do their grocery shopping outside of Cambridge, e.g. the Somerville Market Basket, and may bu only minimally affected by this proposed ordinance.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department and the Election Commission to determine what steps would be necessary to change the method by which surplus votes are transferred in municipal elections and whether the Fractional Transfer Method could replace the Cincinnati Method.   Councillor Carlone

This is a good Order but it needs at least one more "Whereas" to emphasize the real reason why this reform should be considered. Allow me to go through this point by point (and you can feel free to tune this out if you’ve heard this before):

First, let’s be clear that a candidate does not need to reach the election quota in order to be elected. The purpose of the quota to to limit the number of ballots a winning candidate is allowed to keep in order to assure proportional representation. It does happen in some elections that candidates elected late in the process do not reach quota, but all other candidates have then been defeated and the number of candidates is reduced to the number to be elected.

It’s true that the Cincinnati method involves an element of chance, and that never sits well with people. It is, however, a fair system in that there is no systematic bias for or against any individual candidate, election precinct, or any subset of the electorate. The fact that shuffling and then recounting the ballots may give slightly different results is a serious problem, especially if there’s a close election.

The primary reason why a change should be considered to a system that is independent of ballot order is not because the current method in unfair, but rather because it creates a perverse incentive for a losing candidate to seek a recount solely to take advantage of this random element. The recent Recount cost an additional $109,604 and served only to prove the relative accuracy of the original scan of the ballots. [It should also be noted that much of this cost is caused by the substantial time needed to recreate the original ballot order. If this sequence didn’t matter, things would go a lot faster and cost far less.]

The Fractional Transfer Method noted in the Council Order is a ballot-order-independent method, but it must be noted that this requires somewhat more than simply changing the way surplus ballots are transferred. An equally important aspect of the method is how it deals with the election of a candidate during a round. In order to not have ballots transferred early in the round be treated differently than those transferred later in the round, it’s necessary that candidates be allowed to go over-quota during the round and then have their total reduced to quota using the same fractional transfer rules. The Fractional Transfer Method is actually the default option for the tabulation software Cambridge uses. The use of the Cambridge Rules is an optional set of rules built into the software.

The real purpose of the Order is to get information from the Law Department and the Election Commission about what steps would be required in order to make a change. The Election Commission can make changes to the procedures by simple majority vote to another method consistent with the principles of the law, but only to another method in use at the time of enactment of the law (1938), and there is no evidence of Fractional Transfer being in use anywhere at that time. The real goal should be to add this method to the list of permissible methods now that it can be done simply and quickly using modern technology. It is likely that this can be accomplished via a Home Rule Petition and a subsequent Special Act of the State Legislature. However, it’s important to also clarify how such a change might affect other provisions in the law, e.g. the right to a manual recount. It would perhaps be best if the standard for a recount could be clarified so that verification of voter intent followed by a computer count would be the preferred procedure should there be a call for a recount.

In anticipation of future conversations about this, today I carried out the Fractional Transfer Method and compared it with the Cincinnati Method for 7 City Council elections from 2001 through 2013. I will be happy to share the results with anyone who is interested (the winners are the same, by the way, though order of election does change in some elections). I also plan to do this for School Committee elections over this same period. – Robert Winters

December 12, 2013

2013 City Council Recount Completed – Same Winners, Similar Margins

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:56 pm

Recount Completed – Same Winners, Similar Margins

Dec 12, 2013 – The 2013 City Council Election Recount is now complete: Recount Results (PDF, 2 pages)


Note: This chart was modified from an earlier version to reflect a correction in Count 15.

RECOUNT UPDATE – 16th Count Complete: Deciding round up next (Dec 12)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:18 pm

RECOUNT UPDATE – 16th Count Complete: Deciding round up next

Day 9 (today) will likely be the last day of the City Council Election Recount. They have no counted out Sam Seidel and Ken Reeves is next. At the end of that rount (Count 17) the winners will be determined (and it’s pretty much certain that they will be the same as the original winners with a margin between Carlone and vanBeuzekom in the 16-22 ballot range, though there are about 17 other ballots in play during the Reeves transfer that could narrow the margin a bit.

Here’s the latest: Results at the end of the 16th Count (PDF)

UPDATE (5:40pm) – The 17th Count has been completed except for the totals and any last verification of ballots. The results will be announced shortly and the remaining winners declared. The winners will be the same as in the original election results. The margin between 9th Place (Carlone) and 10th Place (vanBeuzekom) will also be approximately the same as in the original results – anywhere between 14 and 22 votes (by my estimate). I’ll post all the details as soon as its been made official and I get the remaining numbers. – Robert Winters

December 11, 2013

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 11, 3:00pm)

Filed under: 2013 Election,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:05 pm

Cambridge City Council Election Recount – 13th Count Complete
Right now the margin between 9th and 10th place in the deciding round projects to about 14 votes, but candidates Seidel and Reeves each have 11 more ballots than they previously did and, when Seidel (16th Count) and Reeves (17th Count) are defeated, vanBeuzekom and Kelley could gain a few to narrow the margin. Though an upset is very unlikely, this ain’t over yet.

UPDATE – 14th Count Complete (3:24pm)
The projected margin between Carlone and van Beuzekom is now down to 12. Seidel (16th Count) has an additional 10 ballots and Reeves (17th Count) has an additional 11 ballots compared to the original count. When defeated, vanBeuzekom and Kelley could gain a few more ballots than Mazen and Carlone to narrow the margin. Again, this ain’t over.

The remaining rounds with transferred ballot numbers from the original count look like this (updated Dec 12, 9am):
After trimming out some excess caused by earlier rounds, there are really only about 18 ballots in play and the margin between Carlone and vanBeuzekom projects to about 18 in the deciding round. This is starting to look pretty settled now.

December 9, 2013

10th Count complete – Cambridge City Council Recount

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 5:35 pm

They’re cruising along. This how far they got before closing up shop today around 5:00pm.

I’m getting some of the numbers 2nd hand, so I hope this is all correct. I’ll check and correct later, if necessary.


December 7, 2013

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 7, 5:15pm)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 3:56 pm
Changes in Cheung Surplus Transfer (Official to Recount)
Candidate   expected   Official   Recount   Gain 
Kelley, Craig 66 74 65 -9
Maher, David 63 68 69 +1
vanBeuzekom, Minka  60 64 56 8
McGovern, Marc 64 61 60 -1
Simmons, Denise 47 49 51 +2
Reeves, Ken 46 37 46 +9
Seidel, Sam 40 37 47 +10
Mazen, Nadeem 33 36 41 +5
Smith, Jefferson 31 28 26 -2
Benzan, Dennis 24 25 20 -5
Carlone, Dennis 27 25 21 -4
Toomey, Tim 26 24 24 0
von Hoffmann, Kristen 19 20 20 0
House, Janneke 26 19 21 +2
Lee, James 10 10 11 +1
Leslie, Logan 10 10 14 +4
Vasquez, Luis 7 9 11 +2
Phillips, Lesley 4 7 4 -3
Mirza, Mushtaque 6 5 4 -1
Mello, Gary 3 4 5 +1
Williamson, James 2 2 0 -2
Moree, Gregg J.  0 1 0 -1
Yarden, Elie 1 1 0 -1
Peden, Ron 2 0 1 +1
write-ins 0 0 0 0
Total surplus 617 616 617 1
Dec 7 Update: Based on that actual ballot data, the expected
values for the surplus transfers are shown in the 1st column.

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 7, 5:15pm)

The distribution of Leland Cheung’s 617 surplus ballots was completed today. There were a few big swings in the number of ballots transferred to particular candidates, but it appears at this point unlikely that there will be any change in who will ultimately be elected.

The candidates who gained the most in the new surplus distribution are Sam Seidel (+10) and Ken Reeves (+9), though neither will ultimately benefit from these gains. Nadeem Mazen also picked up an additional 5 ballots. The candidates who suffered the greatest loss from Original Count to Recount are Craig Kelley (–9) and Minka vanBeuzekom (–8). Dennis Carlone also lost 4 ballots in this surplus distribution.

What this basically means is that the likely outcome when this gets to the deciding round (the 17th Count this time) will be that Craig Kelley and Nadeem Mazen should have approximately the same number of ballots (7th and 8th place) followed by Dennis Carlone (9th place); and the gap between Carlone and Minka vanBeuzekom will likely be greater than in the original count.

Perhaps the only uncertainty in this may be in how the additional ballots picked up by Sam Seidel and Ken Reeves may eventually find their way to the continuing candidates when they are counted out in the 15th and 16th Counts.

It was anticipated that as soon as Leland Cheung’s surplus distribution was made official, the election workers would commence the counting out of candidates with fewer than 50 ballots (Gregg Moree), then Ron Peden, then James Williamson. This all depended upon how far they would get before the expected close of the day at around 5:00pm, but they never got past the 2nd Count. The counting out of minor candidates will begin Monday morning at 8:30am. The ballots of most, but not all, of the continuing candidates have already been matched and sequenced in accordance with the original count, so many of the next few rounds should go relatively quickly. – Robert Winters

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