Vice Mayor column: Now is the time to get involved in shaping Cambridge's future

By Vice Mayor Marc McGovern

Posted Jun. 6, 2016 at 3:27 PM
Updated Jun 6, 2016 at 3:36 PM

CAMBRIDGE

As the weather becomes warmer and the calendar turns to the summer months, municipal government in Cambridge typically slows down, but not this year. In fact, the next few months will be filled with various meetings, hearings, and public process on three important issues that will shape the future of our city. If there has ever been a time to tune in and get involved in citywide conversations, now is the time.

CITY MANAGER SEARCH: Rich Rossi, our current city manager made the difficult decision to retire after 43 years of serving our city. The council decided to engage in a national search for Mr. Rossi’s replacement and has hired GovHR, a national search firm, to assist. As part of the process, the council has asked GovHR to hold 19 focus groups with various groups ranging from affordable housing advocates to environmental groups, senior citizens to neighborhood and community organizations. There will also be focus groups open to the general public and drop-in sessions in various locations.

These meetings will take place between June 9 and June 16, after which GovHR will use the information gathered to develop a recruitment brochure that will be advertised nationally. After receiving resumes from interested candidates, the search firm will identify the top eight to 10 candidates who will be presented to a group of approximately 19 people including residents, city employees, city councilors, and others who will whittle the pool of candidates to the top three. Those top three will be presented to the full City Council, who will conduct interviews and public question-and-answer sessions, before voting on our next manager. The council’s goal is to have a new city manager in place by the end of September. For more information on this process and how to get involved, visit http://www.cambridgema.gov/CityCouncil/citymanagersearch

INCLUSIONARY ZONING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Inclusionary Zoning is a program that requires residential developers who are building projects over 10 units to turn over 11.5 percent of those units to the city for our affordable housing program. This program has produced just under 1,000 units of affordable housing since 1997. The council, looking at ways to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city and seeing inclusionary zoning as one piece of this puzzle, commissioned a consultant to study ways we can improve our current program – a program that is already considered one of the most successful in the nation. The Community Development Department hired David Paul Rosen and Associates from California to conduct the yearlong study that was recently released. The City Council’s Housing Committee, which I co-chair with Mayor E. Denise Simmons, has already held two public meetings regarding this report and will be holding at least two more before making recommendations to the council’s Ordinance Committee, who will then hold another series of public meeting before making recommendations to the full City Council for additional public hearings. What the council finally decides will have a dramatic impact on the amount of affordable housing produced in our city moving forward. For more information, visit http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2016/4/inclusionaryhousingstudycompl...

ENVISION CAMBRIDGE: Envision is the citywide process that will help shape the way the city moves forward in areas including housing, environment, development, open-space, transportation, economic development, among others. This initiative is being led by Utile, a Boston firm that specializes in citywide planning. This initiative will lead to a report with recommendations on ways Cambridge can advance these important aspects of our city. For more information, visit http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Planning/citywideplanning

As a lifelong Cambridge resident and two-term city councilor, I am very excited about these three important conversations currently underway in our city. Cambridge is an amazing place to live; there is no other city that is doing what we are doing in terms of services for our residents. No matter how great we are, we must never become complacent. Even with our city’s great financial stability we still have work to do. We have far too many residents struggling to get by. We have improvements to make to battle climate change. We have to improve our educational system so that every child reaches their full potential. And we must push back on the increasingly high rental and housing costs that are making our city unaffordable for so many.

This is your chance to take part in these conversations that will shape our city’s future for decades to come. Please take the time to visit the links, come to meetings, and share your thoughts. We need to hear from you so we can be as well-informed as possible in making decisions. I look forward to packed meetings and packed houses in the months to come.

Marc McGovern, a second-term councilor, is vice mayor of Cambridge.

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