2019 Election Update & City Council Agenda Highlights (11/18/19) (2 Responses)

Coming after a busy election season and the Veterans Day holiday, the City Council will meet on Monday. November 18, 2019, for what I expect to me one of the shortest meetings this term (see agenda).

Due to Christmas and New Year’s falling on Wednesdays this year, it appears that there is little appetite among my colleagues for holding meetings on either Monday, December 23 or 29, so Monday, December 16 may be the last regular meeting of the 2018-19 term (and my last meeting as a councillor), though committee hearings still could be scheduled beyond that, if necessary. A joint roundtable meeting with the School Committee on Universal Pre-K has already been scheduled for Monday, December 2, from 5:30-7:30pm..

Only a few items caught my eye as worthy of note:

City Manager’s agenda #6: Transfer of $4.476M in funds received from development projects from Free Cash into the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund. This is purely accounting for now; the use of the fund remains TBD. However there is no detailed breakdown of what projects spun off these funds, and I will ask for that.

Applications & Petitions #3: The extension of the Demolition Delay Ordinance period from 6 months to 12 months is up for a vote. We passed it to a second reading at our Nov. 4 meeting, so the amendment is eligible to ordain. I support the change.

Policy Order #2: Fully restore the “sharrow” markings for bikes to use full lane on Broadway, since many cyclists do not feel safe or comfortable using the unprotected door-zone bike lanes that replaced the sharrows recently. Broadway is narrow and busy, and marking the pavement to direct cyclists to ride in the door zone is risky; as a matter of law, cyclists ALWAYS have the right to use the full lane and that is what sharrows reinforce. When bike lanes are painted in the door zone, it signals to drivers that the bikes do not have the right to ride closer to the center of the travel lane and may trigger aggressive behavior by some impatient drivers. I support this order.

Committee Report #1: I chaired a Government Operations Committee meeting on regulating and potentially restricting campaign donations from lobbyists. We again discussed public financing and spending limits, and we renewed our July request to the city manager to form a task force to help the Council work though strategies to reduce the perception of influence and to increase access to participation both among voters and potential candidates. I began my first term in 2016 with an order to explore regulating municipal lobbyists, and almost four years later the idea is inching toward acceptance. Maybe now that Boston has an ordinance that requires lobbyists to register and disclose donations, Cambridge will follow. I hope so. We like to be first on many front but there has been resistance to campaign finance reforms. See spending of candidates in the 2019 election (thanks again to Robert Winters).

Election Update

Following the November 5th election, we now have two “lame duck” members — me, who didn’t seek reelection, and Craig Kelley who garnered more #1 votes than in prior years (in a race with lower turnout overall), but still lost by a nose for lack of enough transfer votes (see detailed results). Based on #1 votes, Craig ranked 7th in popularity, but transfer votes from weaker candidates ultimately helped Alanna Mallon, who was #10 after the first round, get reelected. Transfers changed the order of some of the other 8 councillors elected but did not change the final results, as both the new candidates elected were in the top 9 based on their #1 votes (Patty Nolan got the 4th most #1 votes, and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler got the 9th most). The power of slates and transfers was strong and decisive this season.

I would also note that 20.6% (356) of the people voting #1 for Tim Toomey submitted “bullet” ballots, making him their only choice; that is, they did not rank any of the other 21 candidates. Bullet (single-vote) ballots also represented a significant portion of ballots for the #1 supporters of Denise Simmons (10.1%), Sumbul Siddiqui (7.6%), Ilan Levy (7.3%) and perennial long-shot Greg Morree (19.1%). This shows that for these candidates a fair number of people are voting solely based on either identity issues or on a single issue (in Levy’s case it was his platform to change the city’s charter). See charts by Robert Winters.

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. There is an online system for signing up for public comment that goes live on the Friday morning before each Monday meeting. Here is the link. You also may call 617-349-4280 on the day of the meeting from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign up when you arrive at City Hall by going to the City Council office after 5:00pm and using the public computer terminal on the desk by the door. Regardless of how you sign up you should do so before 6:00 pm on the day of the meeting. To submit written comments, please email council@cambridgema.gov and cc City Clerk Anthony Wilson at clerk@cambridgema.gov. If received after Thursday at 3pm, your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next subsequent Council meeting.

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

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    Jan Devereux
    City Councillor
    Cambridge, MA