Attend the City Council meeting for a rat report, plans for a Covid-era inaugural event and more
City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. With Thanksgiving coming Thursday, municipal meetings are limited to this one for the week, and items of interest on this agenda are mainly follow-ups. Among the new items, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui says that for coronavirus safety the Jan. 3 inaugural for the next council term will be streamed to the public on Zoom and held in person only for councillors and a limited number of their invited guests. Vice mayor Alanna Mallon wants the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority involved in finding long-term space for nonprofits in Central Square. Councillor E. Denise Simmons offers a resolution welcoming a new public health department head, though without a public announcement that there is one.
Update on Dec. 27, 2021: The inaugural will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 3 at Starlight Square at 84 Bishop Allen Drive, Central Square. The public is allowed but not encouraged to attend, said Naomie Stephen, assistant to the City Council.
In regard to older items, there’s word back from state Rep. Marjorie Decker’s office on a 2 percent transfer tax that Cambridge wants to impose on real estate purchases of $1 million or more to help pay for affordable housing. (Somerville and Boston have their own proposed versions.) State House of Representatives lawyers are suggesting changes that might help the proposal withstand a legal challenge and win approval from the state Legislature.
City solicitor Nancy Glowa provides a letter-of-the-law response to an Open Meeting Law complaint that city councillors have been acting on agenda items whose documentation is missing, preventing the public and the council members themselves from reviewing the details. The drafted response begs the question of why the council usually includes the backup materials (presumably, to reflect the spirit of the law and promote transparent government), but councillors might also wonder: Why this recent problem?
Councillor Dennis Carlone is supplying city staff anew with his comments and recommendations about the Envision Cambridge plan for the Alewife Quadrangle area now that it’s become the focus of a planning crisis. “It has been three years since this document was first released,” he notes, “and still no response or actual urban design plan has been prepared or discussed.” In a report on the redesign of Carl Barron Plaza in Central Square, the City Manager’s Office assures the council that certain amenities will be included to make life easier for the unhoused who use the space and addresses worries about the removal of seating. The number of seats is expected to grow by one under current plans, though 28 will be movable, the reports say.
There’s also an update on citywide rat control efforts, with some data showing that inspections and trash-violation tickets are up significantly in the first 11 months of 2021 compared with the whole of last year and that the Inspectional Services Department is responding more quickly to complaints – down to an average 3.5-day response time this year from 6.8 last year and 10.8 days in 2019. In addition, the police department submits a more in-depth description and explanation for an Oct. 17 incident in Central Square in which police arrested a shoplifting suspect with the help of a passerby.
The council meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.