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Hey! We got death panels in Cambridge!

When Obamacare was first debated, a proposed provision for end-of-life counseling was turned by Sarah Palin and others into warnings of government “death panels” that would decide treatment by treatment whether individual patients – mainly the elderly – got to live. Thanks to Palin’s need for attention, end-of-life counseling was pretty much the first thing taken out of the Affordable Care Act.

In Cambridge, we have a policy order being debated tonight looking at whether the city has a proper development master plan, and the order asks the Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee to “examine opportunities for improved citywide planning with a view toward empowering resident groups and promoting greater social equity in the community.” It also wants “all interested stakeholders” to be able to “further explore the issues highlighted by this policy order.”

Since a reference to the order was posted on the local Curbed.com, an anonymous commenter has responded with alarm (with emphasis added):

It asks for a community-based planning process, but would discard the results of years-long community planning processes that were recently completed. It would empower small neighborhood associations of a few dozen members to make decisions on behalf of the rest of Cambridge’s residents. It is, in a word, insane.

Sure is.

While there are other questionable things in what the commenter believes, to put it mildly, it’s a bit of a leap to say that “empowering resident groups” means their members get to decide for everyone else – you’d imagine the City Council, city manager, Planning Board and Community Development might want to keep their hands in as well.

But if you’re going to read between the lines, it might as well be from the dystopian fiction shelf, right? Maybe some of this sort of hyperventilating will enliven what promises to be a long night of discussion of development issues.