Thursday, October 08, 2015

A bad Cambridge City Council in real trouble?

A bad Cambridge City Council in real trouble?

1. Introduction.
2. Analysis.
a. Cambridge Common.
b. Outrageous zoning vote in Central Square.
c. Actions to destroy the zoning ordinance.
d. Charles River, Alewife, and other.
e. Monteiro.
f. “Unity” Slate.
g. The stench.
3. Summary.
4. Caveat.

1. Introduction.

Tuesday night, October 6, I was outside a candidate’s night conducted in the Senior Center across from Cambridge City Hall.

It was a very unusual experience.

This was a gathering sponsored by a Ward 6 group in which folks were given an opportunity to see City Council candidates in person answering questions.

These gatherings in this location, over many years of observation, are always notable by large numbers of candidate workers lining both sides of Massachusetts Avenue bearing signs to promote the candidacy of their favorite.

It has not been unusual for the workers to fill the block of Massachusetts Avenue in front of City Hall and to fill much of the block around the Senior Center.

Tuesday night, there were seven workers.  Five (or was it four?) of the seven were working for Minka vanBeuzekom.  Two (or one) of the workers were there for another candidate.

This sort of a terrible turnout is unheard of in my experience.  I do recall the candidate with one or two workers coming out of the meeting and looking bewildered, apparently at the situation.

A candidate’s night for East Cambridge on Wednesday evening showed six workers from a different candidate.

2. Analysis.

It is mild to say this bad worker turn out speaks badly for the candidates, particularly the incumbents.  Incumbents normally really turn out folks.

a. Cambridge Common.

It gets worse when you take into account my clearly hearable exchange with one of the Minka workers.  Minka vonBeuzekom is a one term city councilor who failed reelection in the last election.  Her performance is the reason I am insistent that Cambridge has ten city councilors (out of nine) to blame for the destruction of the Cambridge Common.

I asked the worker why Minka has a green leaf on her campaign sign.  (Quotes approximate.)

“Because she is an environmentalist.”  He said proudly.

“But she destroyed the Cambridge Common.”

“That can’t be.  You must have something wrong.”

“She voted for the funds. [pause] She explained her vote by saying the Development Department said it was OK.”

End of discussion.  A definite pall over the workers.  They left after the candidate session was apparently filled with participants.  I offered a leaflet to the last one remaining after the others were gone.  It was dispiritedly declined.

The nine current incumbents all have filthy hands.  The destruction of the Cambridge Common happened on their watch, plus they had a unanimous vote several weeks before the start of destruction concerning the project.  The city council in that vote wondered why the destruction was not going forward (They ALWAYS use euphemisms).

The destruction of the Cambridge Common is a very major issue and a major cause for distress concerning and for reconsideration of all ten of the guilty city councilors, among aware voters.

b. Outrageous zoning vote in Central Square.

Additionally, the Cambridge City Council (and there may have been some negatives) changed the zoning in Central Square to allow ONE new building perhaps 50% higher than any other building in Central Square, including the very few really tall buildings.  Restricting building height is a matter of great concern to Cambridge voters.

This is a matter in which the usual suspects created the usual fake group to control local “activists.”  The “protective” group, predictably, achieved yet another loss.

Losses or even achievement of the opposite of stated goals are not surprising when observing in such groups.  I have a lot of zoning / environmental victories.  I learned very early to keep out the usual suspects.  When the usual suspects get involved, bad things too often have happened.

The manipulation of the “activists” is something most people would not understand.

The very unattractive vote is something a lot of concerned people would understand and could get very hostile about.

c. Actions to destroy the zoning ordinance.

This is something which most people would not understand, and if they are talking to one of the controlled “activists” would get exactly the wrong impression about.

Nevertheless, there are a number of city councilors working to destroy the zoning ordinance through a manipulation called a “Master Plan.”

This con game translates into giving appointees of the Cambridge City Manager the power to trash the zoning ordinance at will.  The trashing would be based on provisions of a “Master Plan” which quite certainly will be beyond the comprehension of the average person, but which will be very destructive to the existing zoning ordinance without the victims having any knowledge or understanding of what has been done to them.

Once again, not something the average human is going to understand, but very real.

d. Charles River, Alewife, and other.

I have gone into these repeatedly, including the Charles River and Alewife, but not just on the Charles River and Alewife.  

The reality is there is a stench and bad faith, to put it mildly, is in the middle of a very significant percentage of city actions which count.  The stench, in particular, surrounds too many groups which claim to be protecting the city but which in reality are clearly cheerleaders for a bad city government.

e. Monteiro.

Malvina Monteiro was the head of the City of Cambridge’s police review board.  She is a black Cape Verdean woman.  She made the mistake of listening to the self deification of so many members of the political establishment.

Monteiro filed a civil rights complaint alleging unfair treatment by the City of Cambridge based on her gender.

The City Manager destroyed her life in retaliation.

The jury awarded $1.1 million in real damages and $3.5 million in penal damages.

The judge issued an opinion which quoted the City Manager extensively.  She referred to his behavior as “reprehensible.”

The appeals court panel refused to dignify Cambridge’s appeal with a formal opinion.  The opinion which they did not call an opinion spoke of “ample evidence of . . . outrageous behavior.”

Total costs to the City of Cambridge in Monteiro and related cases exceeded $14 million.

The City Solicitor fairly promptly “retired”

The City Manager, who had been roundly condemned by three levels of court, retired after a reasonable period with praise.  The City Council named the Police Station after him.

In the first city council election after that outrage, one councilor almost certainly was fired as a result.  He called destruction of Monteiro’s life no big thing in one of those election candidate sessions.

In the second city council election after the Monteiro outrage, a second councilor could very likely have been fired as a result.

The councilor I saw looking outside the candidate presentations room at the near empty sidewalk which contained one or two workers for that councilor could very possibly still be threatened by voter retaliation.

f. “Unity” Slate.

In front of Tuesday’s gathering, one of the sign posts in the minority included a photo of all seven current incumbents on a slate they call the “Unity” Slate.

The pitch is that they work together well and thus that they endorse each other.

In the past, Cambridge used to have two competing slates during elections.  They were, respectively, pro and anti rent control.  The slates were ideologically strong and highly competitive.  The two groupings, during the year, kept a close eye on each other, and their supporters publicized alleged wrong doing as they saw it.

Since the death of rent control, policy differences among incumbents have drastically disappeared.  Really terrible votes see unanimous or near unanimous support.  My experience is that, on a lot of really bad actions in the development field, there are often two explanations for the actions.  One explanation goes to the well intended voters.  The other explanation is the one held by those in the know.

Support for environmental destruction is commonly unanimous.  Support for outrageous action in the Monteiro matter was commonly unanimous or near unanimous.  I very seriously doubt (although I have not checked) that there was meaningful opposition to naming the Police Station after that City Manager whose destruction of Monteiro’s life was so roundly condemned by three levels of Court.

I am quite certain that NO then sitting member of the then Cambridge City Council, in any way, supported firing the then sitting City Manager after those decisions in Monteiro.  This was in spite of the very clear fact that the decisions gave them a free pass to fire the Cambridge City Manager without fear of meaningful legal suit.  The big issue would have been whether they could have stripped him of his pension rights.

The “Unity” Slate and those photos, plus the striking record on bad actions give an reasonable impression that almost all of the Cambridge City Council is ganging up on the voters.

g. The stench.

Folks will not see much if at all anything of these analyses and the analyses probably would be way out of comprehension to most of them.

But there is a very real stench.

3. Summary.

I know very little about many of the challengers.  I know too much about ten present or former city councilors seeking reelection and not being worthy of it.

The incumbents normally dominate the workers on the sidewalks.  There may have been 7 workers on those sidewalks on Tuesday when I normally expected to see perhaps hundreds.  And I may have chased away one or more of Minka’s five.

I was very pleased to see that bad turn out of workers.

4. Caveat.

The unusual system of voting in the City of Cambridge has an unusual side effect.  Voter’s vote, numerically, in order of preference among the entire slate of candidates.  During the count of votes, votes get “transferred” to lower preference numbers on respective ballots as candidates get elected or lose, and thus no longer “need” the votes because they are either in or out.

I have seen councilors who looked in serious trouble roundly reelected, probably because their names get moved up the individual preference lists based on need.

I recall at least one councilor who looked like a sure thing losing, clearly because a lot of people moved that councilor down their list of priorities because that councilor did not “need” the vote.