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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
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. . . The massive power the Planning Board wields in guiding large and small developments in a city as dense as Cambridge should be subject to much more public scrutiny, not less . . .
City Manager needs more oversight in Board appointments
Congratulations to the Chronicle for bringing the spotlight on the way City Manager Bob Healy views his control of the Planning Board as something not subject to debate (August 6, 2003). The massive power the Planning Board wields in guiding large and small developments in a city as dense as Cambridge should be subject to much more public scrutiny, not less.
Even a casual review of members who currently serve on the Planning Board is enough to raise the eyebrows of any neighborhood advocate. One Board member earns her living at the City-funded non-profit Just-A-Start. Another is connected professionally to Harvard. A third has been on the Planning Board longer than many of us have lived in Cambridge. These are not regular citizens who simply want to have a say in how their neighborhoods are going to look and feel in a few years. These are disproportionately long-term development professionals who, far too often, don't seem to understand that neighborhoods generally know what's best for them.
Unfortunately, whether it's the Planning Board or the BZA or any other Commission he controls, the City Manager tends to pick members who will rarely be strong neighborhood advocates. Equally unfortunately, when, as with the Trolley Square Committee or the Riverside City Committee, the members come to a conclusion that the Manager doesn't like, he simply ignores them.
Hopefully the efforts of the Chronicle staff in trying to learn more about Planning Board applicants will have the spillover effect of forcing the Manager to be more responsive to the public in all of his appointments.