The Government Affairs Committee learned about the changes effective November 1 in the administration of the Massachusetts Transportation system at their September meeting and in October heard about a proposal to adopt the Stretch Energy Code in Cambridge.
The Council approved the property tax rate and adopted new regulations for dumpsters in September. Council and School Committee elections were held on November 3.
At the State level, four Democrats and two Republicans are running in the Special Election to fill the United States Senate seat held for 47 years by Ted Kennedy. The Primary Election is scheduled for December 8, 2009 and the General Election is scheduled for January 19, 2009. In the interim Governor Deval Patrick appointed Paul Kirk to fill the seat until a successor is elected.
Murphy Addresses GAC
At the September GAC meeting, former Cambridge City Councillor and Vice Mayor Brian Murphy, who now serves as Deputy Secretary for Government Affairs with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation, discussed the new unified and streamlined Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which went into operation on November 1. MassDOT will bring all of the State’s transportation agencies (except for MassPort) into one integrated agency.
According to Murphy, the organizational model and management philosophy guiding MassDOT includes establishing it as an enterprise with a focus on performance management and accountability. He said that MassDOT has been designed like a business with a focus on customer satisfaction, driven by performance and innovation, and attuned to operations.
Stretch Energy Code
The GAC met in October and discussed the proposed adoption of the Stretch Energy Code. City of Cambridge Director for Community Development Susan Glazer provided an overview on the Stretch Code and provided information on the steps the City is going through in considering adoption. The City has held a number of meetings regarding this issue and recommendations are being prepared for transmittal by the City Manager to the City Council. Information is posted on the City Web site at www.
The Stretch Code establishes requirements designed to ensure that new commercial and residential buildings and renovated residential buildings will be 20% more efficient than projects built under the base building code. Commercial projects and residential renovations can meet this requirement by using materials and equipment meeting specific standards. Commercial projects over 100,000 square feet and specialty buildings like laboratories and supermarkets 40,000 square feet or larger will be required to demonstrate increased efficiency using energy modeling. New residential projects will be required to demonstrate efficiency using a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater.
The Stretch Code can only go into effect on January 1 or July 1 and a minimum of six months is required between adoption by a City and its implementation. The soonest this can go into effect in Cambridge is July 1, 2010 and only if the Council acts by the end of this year.
Property Tax Rates Up Slightly
The City Council approved the property tax rate for the current fiscal year at the September 21, 2009 meeting. The commercial property tax rate is $18.75 per thousand dollars of valuation and the residential property tax rate is $7.72 per thousand dollars of residential valuation. The commercial rate applies to both real and personal property. The commercial rate increase was 4.3% over last year’s rate of $17.97. The residential increase was 2.1% over last year’s rate of $7.56. Commercial property taxpayers will again pay approximately two-thirds of the taxes levied by the City.
According to Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy, careful fiscal management reduced the overall increase in the City budget to 2% while absorbing a $9.9 million reduction in State assistance. The budget passed in May was based on a reduction of $7.7 million in State aid. The Council recently approved an increase, effective on October 1, 2009, in the meals and lodging taxes to cover the additional $2 million reduction. The City also used $9 million in so-called “free cash” to reduce the tax levy.
Dumpster Licensing Requirement
At the September 14 meeting, the City Council adopted a new ordinance that will, as of January 1, 2010, require all property owners who use dumpsters to have a license for each dumpster. The new dumpster regulations are designed to address the City’s rodent issue and establish standards that must be met for location, condition and maintenance of dumpsters. The City has posted information about the Dumpster Ordinance on its Web site at www.cambridgema.gov/deptann.cfm?story_id=2356. Information includes a guide to dumpster licensing and the specific requirements a property owner must meet.
The 2009 Government Affairs program is sponsored by Genzyme Corporation. For more information on GAC activities or to sign up to receive a weekly Government Affairs Update by e-mail, contact Director of Government Affairs Terrence Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 876-4213.