Legislative Affairs Update by Terrence F. Smith
City Manager Healy Addresses February GAC
Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy was our guest speaker at the February 23, 2010 Government Affairs Committee meeting and luncheon held at the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. IOP Director Bill Purcell welcomed attendees including newly elected Cambridge Mayor David Maher who accompanied the City Manager. In brief remarks, Mayor Maher expressed his interest in working collaboratively with the business community and the universities during his term.
City Manager Healy began his remarks with the good news that the City has received AAA bond ratings from the three major municipal rating agencies. As a result of the AAA rating Cambridge recently borrowed $32 million, through a bond sale, for capital projects at a rate of 3.08%. The City has originally estimated a rate of 4.25%, resulting in an annual savings of $250,000.
Healy expressed concern about the near term economic outlook for Cambridge. He said that building permit fees are down and, while thanking the Governor for proposing no reduction in local aid in his budget, Healy said that he is assuming a 10% reduction in local aid once the budget goes through the legislative process. A major part of the Cambridge budget is wages and benefits and in July 2010 the City’s unionized employees will receive a 3% wage increase under current collective bargaining agreements. In 2011, most of these agreements call for no increase in wages. Healy discussed the need to prepare for down economies and said that Cambridge is much better positioned for these downturns than it was during the early 1990s while continuing to invest in capital projects.
The Manager said there is some light on the horizon. Alexandria has begun the process to permit a development planned for Binney Street, a new building is in construction at Discovery Park that will house Forester Research and Microsoft’s expansion in the city continues. He also expressed the importance of our educational institutions to the Cambridge economy and thanked the staff members from those institutions in attendance for their continued work with the City.
During the question and answer session Brian Burke from Microsoft asked the Manager how the business community can help “grow Cambridge.” The Manager said that business can and should direct efforts to assist the Cambridge schools and recommended that such efforts be coordinated through the administration of the Cambridge Public School Department as efforts at individual schools are difficult to track and assess. David Luberoff, Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, which is part of the Kennedy School, noted that Cambridge is in a different fiscal position than most Massachusetts cities and towns and asked how Cambridge can inform actions in other communities. Healy discussed the need for local management that is able to have a longer term perspective on actions and outcomes.
The Chamber and the GAC thank Bill Purcell and his staff at the IOP for hosting this event, and thank Chamber members and members of the Harvard Community who attended.
Maher Elected Mayor
On February 22, the Cambridge City Council elected David Maher as mayor for the current term. The Council also elected Henrietta Davis as Vice Mayor at that meeting. David Maher was first elected to the City Council in 1999 and previously served on the Cambridge School Committee. This is his first term as Mayor. Vice Mayor Davis was first elected to the City Council in 1995 and has served one previous term as Vice Mayor. She also previously served on the School Committee. The CCC looks forward to working with Mayor Maher, Vice Mayor Davis and the entire Council this term.
City Receives AAA Bond ratings for 11th Consecutive Year
The three major municipal bond rating agencies again awarded Cambridge AAA bond ratings. Significant factors identified in the three reports include the City’s continued strong financial management and the presence of Harvard, MIT and other educational institutions to anchor a diverse local economy with a significant presence of the health care, biotechnology and life sciences industries. The City’s low debt burden is also identified as a positive attribute. City Manager Robert Healy transmitted this information at the February 10, 2010 City Council meeting and his transmittal included an attached letter providing a summary of the major findings from the three reports and the text of those reports. The Chamber applauds the City Manager and his staff and the City Council for ensuring the long-term financial strength of our community and we thank our 1,500 members who are the diverse economy the rating agencies refer to in their assessments.
Breakfast with Capuano
US Congressman Michael E. Capuano will be the featured speaker at the Government Affairs Executive Breakfast on April 26. See page five for details.
or (617) 876-4213.
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