Monday, June 24, 2024

A petition against changes to the city’s sign law will be addressed at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at a meeting of the Board of Election Commissioners, according to a City Hall press release sent Tuesday.

The petition — described as having 15,581 signatures, or double what’s needed for reconsideration of the law — is the only item on the hastily sent meeting agenda, both as “Referendum Petition Signature Certification” and as “Certification Challenge Contingency Scheduling.”

The petition was filed Friday for certification of the signatures, which can take up to a week by state law. After certification, the law goes back to the City Council, which adopted the ordinance Sept. 27 in a 6-3 vote.

Supporters said it was a sensible revision that limited flashy signs and made the rules more consistent; opponents said they were concerned the law would bring more — and more obtrusive — signs to the city, hurting the environment for people and wildlife.

If the council declines to take back or change the law, it will stay inactive until it goes before voters in the November 2011 elections. Despite the number of signatures gathered, passage isn’t certain; a Cambridge Chronicle editorial criticizes the anti-sign campaign as a “personal quarrel” between Terry Ragon, president of health care software company InterSystems, and the company with which he shares a Memorial Drive building — Microsoft.

And in comparing the companies, Boston Globe technology columnist and Cambridge resident Scott Kirsner comes down firmly on the side of Microsoft (and of advertising fairly the companies and innovations in the city’s business districts:

I’ve never seen you speaking at any of the dozens of conferences I go to each year. I notice you aren’t involved in any of the big mentoring programs that help young entrepreneurs, whether TechStars Boston or 12 x 12 or MassChallenge. I’ve never spoken to a college student who is aware of InterSystems as a prospective employer — and I run into a lot of them …

Contrast that with your out-of-state building mate at One Memorial Drive, Microsoft. They throw an annual “welcome back” party for college students every fall. They dedicate an entire floor of their offices to community events, offering meeting space to various tech and entrepreneurship groups for free. (You and your company have been suing Microsoft since 2008.) Hardly a week goes by that I’m not in Microsoft’s space for an event hosted there, and I’ve run into everyone from first-time entrepreneurs to people who’ve taken companies public to the governor. Whether you love or hate Microsoft’s products, you have to acknowledge that they’ve created a clubhouse for entrepreneurship and innovation here — something that didn’t exist before they arrived in Cambridge.

“It doesn’t benefit our city’s economy to have everyone else here — local companies and out-of-state giants — be as low-key as InterSystems,” Kirsner writes.

The meeting is to take place on the second floor of City Hall, 795 Masachusetts Ave., Central Square.