Thursday, July 18, 2024

In addition to the election of city councillors and School Committee, the November ballot will have three questions about reforms to the city charter. They are the beginning of work to change the charter and make our Cambridge government more responsive.

  • Question 1 would give the City Council the power to confirm appointments by the city manager to boards and commissions, which is not currently required.
  • Question 2 would provide for the council to establish a process for an annual review of the city manager’s performance.
  • Question 3 would provide for the council to establish a process for the review of the city’s Plan E Charter every 10 years.

These are very basic but are a beginning and it would be a big step forward for them to pass. They are binding resolutions, and would go into effect Jan. 1.

Many people are frustrated with the way the city is run. We elect nine councillors who elect the mayor from within their ranks and appoint the city manager. Under our Plan E form of government, the city manager has the power. The manager appoints all the members of boards and commissions in the city, and they have not been representative of the community. And much that the City Council passes does not get done if the manager doesn’t want to do it.

One example that resonates so much now, especially with Covid, is the manager’s lack of interest in pursuing municipal broadband. Despite years of panels and council votes, the manager has dragged his feet on getting a feasibility study and we are still stuck with a Comcast monopoly that is expensive and lacking in customer service.

There are people looking at bigger charter changes than the three proposed. Should Cambridge elect the mayor directly? Should we have some councillors represent wards and some be elected citywide, instead of all being elected citywide as they are now? What other changes would help make the city more responsive to its citizens? Help pass the three beginning changes and there will be discussion of others.

Rena Leib, Arnold Circle