WHO GETS TO SPEAK; WHOSE VOICE COUNTS: Lessons from the Sullivan Court House Fight
A strange thing happened at both the Planning Board and City Council public discussions of the Garage question at the heart of the Sullivan Court House Debate. In both settings, the PRO-Leggett-Mcall speakers were massed together at the front of the long speaker's list ahead of the opponents, forcing the latter (of nearly equal number) to speak after a very long wait. This is very different from how both meetings are usually run, where speakers from both sides are more evenly dispersed. Strategic control of community speaker sign-ups seems to have been a key factor in this. How was this done? At the City Council meeting, citizens were not allowed to use the call-in sign up as usually happens for City Council discussions, but instead were told there would be separate special sign up available from 5:30 on. Alas, there was no sign up available then. And even when the Mayor announced the sheets would be brought out at 6 PM, the sheets were not on the table where they usually are, and indeed, they were no where to be found, despite several inquiries into the Council Office. Instead a group of Leggett-McCall allies had taken the sheets to the other side of the hall filling out the pages with their supporters. It was stated that some supporters were even able to get ahold of an online sign-in means by way of a special URL set up. (The Mayor denied this, but there clearly was manipulation. Few knew even if their attempt to sign up had worked. And, as we signed up, we were asked whether we were PRO or AGAINST the plan, suggesting that this data also may have been used in selecting who could speak when. They Mayor was clearly reading off of multiple lists throughout the night.
Hundreds signed up to speak, but the order in which they were allowed to speak was clearly being manipulated through various means. This resulted in a completely off-balance parade of speakers before the Council on this key issue. Many of those opposed to the Leggett-McCall proposal were forced to wait until late into the night to speak, while those in favor were able to speak at the outset and then head home to their families. This is hardly fair, nor is it what the City should be allowing to happen clearly to the benefit of developers.
Ironically who showed up to speak, or rather, those who were allowed to speak at a reasonable time, is also being used by proponents of this plan. Indeed yesterday, the Communications Director of ABC AF posted a map showing where the speakers came from, arguing that only nearby residents should be taken seriously. Alas, many speakers who opposed this simply did not have the time to wait until close to mid-night to let their voices be heard. Nor did the Council provide us with a copy of all the letters, pro and against, so we could see for ourselves. Below is a map posted on twitter by ABC AF showing where those speaker who were able to stay for this meeting and speak reside.
What does Leggatt-McCall think? Well clearly they see this as a city-wide issue. They have sent the SECOND very expensive full color large postcard to every resident of Cambridge to try to win voters city-wide to their cause.
This IS a Citywide issue - see the message on the flier above! Indeed as this advertisement points out. Why would the city choose to give away public land for more administrative offices - for a teaspoon of additional affordable housing (22 units), removing needed public parking? Clearly this kind of action would not be part of any city-wide plan, had Cambridge allowed Utile to undertake an actual Citywide plan as part of the expensive Envision planning process. There is an easy compromise plan that should be considered now.
$45 million is the estimated cost of tearing down the Courthouse building. Divide this cost between the city, the state and the developer ($15 million each). Then provide this developer with roughly half the land for its use (at a cost reduced by their share of the removal of the building) and use the other half to build affordable housing with ground floor commercial space and other amenities. Parking could be underground for both.
Sometimes members the pro-developer ABC-AF group have sought to undermine community members who speak at Planning Board, CHC, City Council and other meetings by insisting that we do not represent the community as a whole because most people who have to work or take care of children are not able to attend. In this case, however, these same proponents are suggesting that if you do not live near to the Court House you should not have a voice in this matter. To the contrary, speakers at Monday night's meeting began to take notice of some of these issues. One speaker noted that many of those in favor lived in a building owned by the developer; another speaker requested that before any Councillor voted on an issue they must state if they had received developer funding. What we are lacking on this - and many other issues coming before Council - is transparency, planning, and valued input from local neighborhood groups.
9/15/2019 08:23:44 pm
Not sure why the sign is portrayed as a one sided issue given that there was confusion all around. Many supporters left before they spoke. There is no underdog in the opposition many of who are regulars at public meetings. To the contrary the many East Cambridge residents who are new to this just want that building cleaned and redeveloped. The state has already said if not this developer another one. 300 spaces now vacant in a garage built in part for this purpose already encumbered with long term leases is not “public land . I am very proud of all the upsides to this deal. I represent LMP and pushed for much if the benefits. I guess CCC is just going to be against new construction as was alleged. Was hoping for more. In the past developers were criticized for “ inside deals”. We opened an office and informed the neighborhood of our plans and listened. Yes we mailed and canvassed. Very proud of that. Damned if you do.....volunteers organized and were activist. Pro project can be activist too!
9/15/2019 09:30:53 pm
Anthony, how much transparent money have you guys paid for your PR campaign? Where's the tower on your model?
Anthony D. Galluccio
9/15/2019 09:47:48 pm
Always back to the “ gentrification “. Which for the record happened in the 80s. Being against redeveloping an abandoned building is fine but lets not now say the fabric of the garage will change. Yea the City will rent vacant spaces out anyway so using them and getting a private payor to clean the building and provide 10s of millions in affordable housing benefits and revenue makes sense. The courts have ruled the building us legal. DCAM has stated it will be rebid. The states not going to give up the value. I am surprised at the oppositions love for the garage but residents have never used it much. Thats just the facts. Snow emergency use is protected. Using parking as an attack was a clever way to scare seniors but people evaluated the spaces and the benefits of the redevelopment and made up their minds. We cant control the facts here. The city loses the deal proposed and then buy the building and pay to remediate the asbestos is a 300 million plus swing over 30 years. This matters to many people across Cambridge.
9/15/2019 11:25:06 pm
Someone just sent us the following with her experience, which we are sharing with her permission: "Long story. I had to sign up three times to speak on Muni Garage at City Council. My sister as well. We first signed up online over weekend and got confirmation. Then on Monday Mike C emailed out that there were two lists somehow and we needed to sign up again since earlier one was not for Courthouse. We signed up again. Then at Council that night when I checked, woman who was checking computer list told me to sign up again since my name was not showing up. Same with my sister.
9/16/2019 09:11:52 am
Your entire conspiracy about the sign-up sheets and the "special URL" is a flat-out lie.
9/16/2019 04:49:43 pm
I have to agree with Joe Aiello here. There was no conspiracy in who got to speak or in what order. If something was out of order I would chalk that up to error rather than some grand conspiracy.
9/17/2019 07:11:44 am
If the signup sheets asked/required whether those signing up were for/against Leggat-McCall, and then the first who get to speak are primarily for Leggat-McCall, how can the selection of speakers not be rigged?
1/5/2020 10:52:31 pm
https://youtu.be/SMeZ2i2MC6c This is the Honest Truth , Now what will you do with it ?
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