The agenda for the Cambridge City Council meeting on Monday, May 15 is posted online. The meeting starts at 5:30 as usual, immediately following the annual City Scholarships Awards ceremony, which begins at 4:00 in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall.
Last week, in addition to our Monday meeting (see video), the Council held two public hearings to review the School Budget (see video) and the balance of the City’s FY18 Budget (see video). We will formally vote to adopt both budgets at our May 22 meeting.
City Manager’s Agenda
There are 4 roll call votes for appropriations for:
#1 $5K for printing and translation of outreach materials related to immigrant rights.
#2 $64K for publishing the Historical Commission’s book Building Old Cambridge; #3
#3 $2K from the Alexander W. Kemp Foundation to maintain the Cambridge Common playground.
#4 $62K grant from MassDEP to DPW for its proven waste reduction and recycling programs.
Applications and Petitions:
There will be banners reminding us to save the dates for the River Festival (Sat., June 3) and the Dragon Boat Festival (Sun., June 11) and altering us that another cycle of Participatory Budgeting is starting up soon.
#1 and #6: More places to sit at Fresh Pond: Both the mayor and I submitted policy orders to request more seating for visitors to Fresh Pond. Mine identified the grassy hilltop at Kingsley Park, where dogs are allowed to play off leash, as entirely lacking seating (when I was there last week several older people pleaded with me to get them a place to sit while their dogs play; others would doubtless would also enjoy a place to sit near the field with a book or a sandwich). There are benches at intervals around the perimeter path, near the parking lot, and at the dog beach but none near this field.
#2 Classrooms for more of our 3- and 4-year-olds at the renovated Tobin: I co-sponsored this order with Councillor Cheung to ask that we consider designing the new Tobin School building to accommodate up to half of our 3- and 4-year-old student population. At present about 40% of 4-year olds do not qualify age-wise for Junior Kindergarten and space is always cited as one of the reasons we cannot equitably serve all 4-year-olds who wish to enroll in public JK and get an additional year of public education. Rebuilding a school is an opportunity to meet the strong demand for more publicly funded early childhood programs. Our Early Childhood Coordinator is concentrating on improving the quality of existing early childhood centers and offering scholarships to low-income children to attend them, but with a growing population we will need more seats in city-run programs.
#3 Local procurement data: This order asks for quarterly reports on the City’s procurements from locally owned businesses of all sizes and larger non-local businesses. It would be helpful to know if there are opportunities to shop local and to support small businesses within the municipal procurement laws.
#4 A way to foster more collaboration between the School Committee and the Council: This order suggests forming a new standing committee composed of three councillors, three school committee members, the city manager, the superintendent and other staff to meet monthly to discuss areas of overlapping interest (like early childhood ed, out of school time, and facilities planning). Seems like a good idea.
#5 Zoning for small retail and commercial spaces: This oder asks that Community Development draft new citywide zoning that would apply storefront restrictions and incentives for co-working and entrepreneurial co-working spaces that are used on North Mass Ave and in Kendall Square. The order doesn’t give very specific guidelines to follow and business districts vary greatly. On Wed., May 17 at 3:30pm, I will chair one of the three public meetings that day with the city’s retail strategy consultant (Larissa Ortiz); I would expect some of her recommendations will address these goals and needs based on the study she has ben conducting this spring.
#7 More opportunities for the Council to talk with department heads: After over 13 hours of budget hearings in the past two weeks, this order suggests holding more frequent Roundtables for us to talk informally with departments heads about their priorities, programs and needs. I think this is a good idea but that these should be Finance Committee hearings, not Roundtables, so that they don’t chew up our Monday meeting schedule. We are already supposed to hold regular Roundtables with the School Committee and with Envision Cambridge, which we haven’t always made time for so I don’t think we should plan to use up for Mondays.
#8 CORI review of minors: The mayor is asking that we review our policy of requiring CORI reports for participants in the Mayor’s Summer Youth program, some of whom are only 14 years old. I would hope we haven’t been seeking CORI reports from our youngest summer “employees” unless it is required by the state law.
#1 Finance Committee meeting on the Community Needs Assessment Report: The presentation we discussed is here. The report shows the extent of the need in our community and prioritizes affordable housing, financial security and mental health. The next step is for the city manager to appoint a 13-member advisory committee that will work with local non-profits to make grants from the Community Benefits Funds to organizations addressing priority needs. There is about $7.4M in the fund, collected as mitigation for development, and the city manager expects the advisory committee will make annual grants of between $500-750K. One thing is clear: we will need a more robust public-private partnership to meet all the identified needs.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at email@example.com. 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