City Council Agenda Highlights (5/1/17)

It’s feast or famine. While some are still digesting last week’s super-sized agenda, our Monday, May 1st City Council meeting is of the grab-and-go variety. But even if Monday’s meeting wraps up quickly, we’ll still be spending plenty of quality time with the city manager and department heads during budget hearings over the next two weeks. The FY18 Budget is online, and our first hearing is on Tuesday, May 2, beginning at 9:00am and lasting as long as it takes to cover the departmental budgets we have “pulled” for discussion and questions. The list of departments that could be discussed on Tuesday includes but is not limited to: Police, Fire, IT, Law, Equity and Inclusion, Public Information Office, Election Commission, Tourism and Animal Commission. The batting order has not been set. We will discuss the School Budget on Tuesday, May 9 (6pm) and the remaining city departments on Wednesday, May 10th (9am). All budget hearings are televised and live-streamed/recorded.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Police Review and Advisory Board: Three members are being reappointed to this five-citizen board that provides citizen oversight over the police department. If you have questions about how complaints are filed and investigated you can find information here.

#2 Trauma-Informed Training for Law Enforcement: A grant of $14K will continue this innovative training for police officers in responding to incidents of domestic and gender-based violence.

#3 Hot spot patrols and Metro Gang Task Force participation: A grant of $24K will fund these programs, which include the late night basketball league at the Community Art Center.

#4 Virtual net metering (VNM) solar credits: As part of our renewable energy strategy, the City has five contracts with solar providers to purchase their VNM credits. A new project (“Summer Street Solar”) is about to come online, and we will keep 15% of the revenue received from the credits. At present our total VNM credits represent 6 megawatts of solar power.

Policy Orders

#1 Future of the Tokyo site: This order, which I co-sponsored with Vice Mayor McGovern, asks the manager to determine whether the former Tokyo restaurant site on Fresh Pond Parkway, vacant and neglected for many years, could be redeveloped for affordable housing. The owner is considering another use (used car sales). Given its proximity to the to-be-renovated Tobin School and Fresh Pond Reservation, using the land for affordable housing would be better aligned with planning goals and the public interest.

#2 Health Alliance Housekeeping Services Contract: This order expresses the Council’s desire that Commission Wardell and the Cambridge Health Alliance choose a housekeeping services contractor that will pay “family-supporting” wages. There is concern that the financially-strapped CHA may accept a low bid that would result in reduced wages for housekeeping workers.

Communications from City Staff Officers:

#1 Mayor’s letter on renewable energy: Last week we passed by unanimous vote and without discussion the policy order that I sponsored to sign onto Mass Power Forward’s goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035. The mayor’s letter states that she has concerns about “doing the right thing the wrong way” and suggests that striving to meet this goal could unfairly burden small businesses and homeowners of modest means. We already have an ordinance committing us to achieving net zero building emissions by 2040, and much of that reduction will be accomplished by switching to renewable sources. Mass Power Forward is seeking to build a coalition of cities in order to put more pressure on state officials and energy providers to hasten the transition to renewables. Transportation statewide also must accelerate its shift to clean, renewable power. Cambridge is already a leader in addressing climate change and other cities are looking to us — what does it say if we lose our nerve when cities such as San Diego, Boulder and Burlington (VT) have committed to transition to 100% renewable based on solid research that the goal is within our grasp? Addressing climate change is a matter of environmental justice; less advantaged populations will suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. We owe it to them to step up and lead. We have the technology; what has been lacking is the political will.

Public Comment and Viewing Meetings:

Public comment begins at 5:30 pm. Each person is allowed to speak for up to 3 minutes on any agenda item except for communications from other members of the public. You may call 617-349-4280 on Monday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign in when you arrive (before 6:00 pm). To submit written comments, please email council@cambridgema.gov and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at dlopez@cambridgema.gov. Your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next regular Council meeting.

City Council meetings are televised on Channel 22-CityView and live-streamed on the City Council’s website. Recorded versions of all Council meetings may be found on the city’s Open Meeting Portal.

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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA