Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Monday’s City Council meeting was delayed – again – as Mayor Henrietta Davis waited for the necessary quorum of councillors to arrive. Public speakers’ remarks stayed on hold. Only after the meeting started did councillors and state Reps. Marjorie Decker and Tim Toomey arrive following a day at the State House.

Incredibly, Decker later announced that she and Toomey would not remain for the full session, as they had to return to Boston for important unfinished business. The main topic of Monday’s meeting was the 2014 city budget – and Decker is chair of the finance subcommittee!

Two weeks ago, at the last council meeting, MIT’s massive reconfiguration of Kendall Square – possibly the most significant and long-lasting item on the council’s 2012-13 agenda – was front and center. Our two councillors/state reps ignored hours of passionate citizen input, arriving after your kids were put to bed.

This nonsense has to stop.

At a 2011 candidates’ forum, Decker pledged to be a full-time councillor. Clearly, she devoted most of 2012 campaigning for the state gig while collecting the generous full-time salary and benefits our councillors receive. The 2012 state representative race was an unlikely-to-be-repeated easy win for Decker, whose recent council races have been most unimpressive.

Toomey has survived many years of criticism for his double role thanks to strong East Cambridge supporters who vote for him every year in staggered annual elections for city and state offices. Voters never see his name on the same ballot twice. Long-term incumbents heavily favor the status quo odd-year city elections, since low turnouts and limited controversy are guaranteed. That’s a worthwhile topic all in its own.

Councillors Decker and Toomey have made their personal priorities crystal clear. Neither has significant policy order histories in council sessions. Citizens of Cambridge deserve better.

Dual resignations will bring back former councillors Sam Seidel and Larry Ward to fill the seats. The alternative, yet another costly and time-consuming special election for the state positions, is less desirable. Both Seidel and Ward have already displayed their real commitment to Cambridge residents. The turnover will also dramatically affect the total dynamic of this year’s race.

Holding two elected positions isn’t about better serving their constituents. It’s about huge salaries, self-entitlement and keeping friends on the city payroll. A full third of their elected term remains, with plenty of important matters ahead. I urge councillors Decker and Toomey to do what’s right.

Gary Mello