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Council Weighs New Mayoral Vote Rules

By Dana Levine


The Cambridge City Council has proposed amendments to its rules that could shorten the mayoral election process significantly.

The amendment, which was tabled until the next meeting, was proposed by councillors Jim Braude, Henrietta Davis, Michael A. Sullivan, Timothy J. Toomey, Jr, and Vice Mayor David P. Maher. The amendment would mandate that the Council elect a mayor on the sixth ballot if they have not reached a consensus in the first five votes.

On this sixth ballot, the council must elect by majority either the “member of the City Council senior in length of service” or the “member of the City Council senior in length of service who has not yet served as mayor.”

Past struggles lead to amendment

Current election rules, which dictate that the mayor be chosen from among the councillors by a majority vote, have lead to several difficult and protracted election battles. The current council did not choose Anthony Galluccio as mayor until February 15, 2000, nearly a month after it took office.

However, Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves said that recent elections have been significantly less contentious than ones in the past. “The mayoral elections prior to the last five have been much more controversial,” Reeves said. “Of the last five mayors, two were selected on election day,” he said.

Despite this, Reeves said that he was once required to serve as temporary mayor for six weeks while the council chose a permanent mayor.

Citizens voice concerns

Cambridge resident and former council candidate Robert Winters said he was bothered by the requirement that councillors choose a mayor on the sixth ballot. “You cannot oblige any councillor to vote a certain way,” he said.

Winters said that he hopes the incoming council can come to a decision on a new mayor by themselves. “My hope is that at least five councillors can decide on a new mayor before election day,” he said. “It’s best to have the council choose their own chair.”

Roy Bercaw, another Cambridge resident, said he was bothered by the addition of additional regulations which may infringe upon the voting process.

“One thing that I’m concerned about is the gymnastics that compel a mayor to be elected without a lengthy vote,” Bercaw said. He argued that the proposed rule does not make it clear whether the required majority vote is a majority of the entire council or only a majority of the members present.

Council limits late policy orders

The council also voted to approve an amendment that requires a single roll call vote before late policy orders may be considered. Under the previous rules, late policy orders, voting items which are submitted after the deadline for agenda items, could be introduced and passed at the end of a City Council meeting, along with ceremonial resolutions.

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker said that policy orders sometimes pass unnoticed. “There have been later orders that have passed that most of us have not noticed,” she said. She described the role call bell as a white flag of sorts, which will cue the councillors to pay extra attention.

Galluccio reminded the council that their rules are just guidelines, which can be overruled at any time. “Rules are good guides, but not to be overthought, because they can always be suspended,” he said.

Both amendments were brought up as a result of discussion at a public meeting of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee held on November 28.