City Council Agenda Highlights (1/8/18)

The Cambridge City Council will hold its first regular meeting of the 2018-19 term on Monday, January 8. The agenda is short and is posted online. The following Monday (Jan. 15) we will be off for the Martin Luther King Day holiday. There are several public commemorations and events on MLK Day that I hope you will attend if you are in town (see calendar). The next regular meeting will be Monday, January 22. Committees have to be re-formed by our new mayor, so this month there will be fewer than usual hearings.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1-3 Appointments to Boards and Commissions: The City Manager’s agenda is light this week. It includes only 3 items, each informing us of appointments to boards and commissions. New members are welcomed to the Public Planting Committee, the LGBTQ+ Commission, and the Community Preservation Act Committee. There is still time to apply to serve on the Human Rights Commission, the Conservation Commission, and the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force. Details on how to apply.

Policy Orders

#1 Star Market on Sidney St closing: Regrettably Star Market has decided to close its 20 Sidney St location, which has long served residents of The Port and the MIT community. This order asks that the city manager reach out to the property manager (Forest City) to see if an affordable grocer such as Market Basket could replace Star. I have already been in touch with Forest City and MIT (the landlord) to stress the importance of maintaining a grocery store in this location. The Star will close in early February, so unfortunately there will be a gap between tenants that will inconvenience those who have relied on its proximity and its relatively late closing time.

#2 Elevators at Fresh Pond Apartments: Complaints about the state of elevators and delays in repairs seem to be a common concern among residents of subsidized housing. I don’t know if these problems are typical for older high-rise buildings, or if there has been deferred maintenance.

#3 Update on the Council goals: Last term we developed and provisionally adopted a set of 12 goals and 10 principles to guide our legislative and policy work. The staff were tasked with developing recommendations for short-, medium- and long-term actions to address them. The goals are very useful in guiding budget decisions, and within a month or two (once the Finance Committee is formed) we will begin reviewing preliminary plans for the FY 2019 budget, which we will adopt in May.

#4 Cultural sensitivity training: This order asks that we continue the work we began last year to provide cultural sensitivity training for department heads and elected officials.

#5 Roundtable on climate change planning: I asked that we schedule a Roundtable meeting to brief the Council as a body on the draft Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Plan for the Alewife area.

Communications from City Officers

Councillor Kelley has submitted a letter informing us that he intends to exercise his charter right to block any late policy orders that he feels are not urgent enough for us to suspend our rules to discuss and vote on. The normal deadline for us to submit a policy order or resolution is Thursday at 3:00pm, and the agenda is published at 5:00pm on the same day for the following Monday’s meeting. I agree that some late orders last term were not time-sensitive and could have been held back and submitted at the next meeting. Adequate public notice is especially important if we are voting on any matter that might affect a budget allocation, a request for information that could consume significant staff time, or that suggests a policy change the public would want the opportunity to comment on — since late orders can’t be the topic of public comment unless the rules are first suspended to allow comment. However, most of the late orders last term were inconsequential in nature, and the degree of urgency can be somewhat subjective. I trust that with this caution we will all endeavor to adhere to the deadline unless events overtake us — and to be collegial in the process of determining urgency if a late order is submitted.

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). A new online system for signing up for public comment has just been launched. You still have to wait until Monday at 9:00 am to sign up, though. Here is the link. To submit written comments, please email and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at 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