Retired Judge Rideout to speak on city manager issue today

Steve Rideout

CAMBRIDGE — Judge Stephen W. Rideout (Ret.) will speak at the Cambridge Woman’s Club on today at 1 p.m. about the status of a grassroots effort to bring the City Manager form of government to Cambridge.

In December 2014, the Cambridge City Council, on a 4-1 vote, passed the charter changes and transition ordinance needed to implement a City Manager form of government. A group of interested citizens led by Judge Rideout have been working with the City Council and the community for almost two years on this issue.

Under Maryland law, those who disagreed with that law change had until Jan. 26 to obtain signatures of 20 percent of the registered voters in the city seeking a referendum. On Jan. 26, a petition seeking such a referendum was presented at the City Council meeting. As a result, the implementation process for the City Manager initiative is on hold pending a number of things.

1. The Dorchester Board of Elections must review the signatures on the petition and determine if the required number of registered voters have signed it.

2. The language of the petition itself has to be reviewed to determine whether the petition meets legal requirements.

3. If the language and signatures meet requirements, the Board of Elections will certify the petition and refer the matter back to City Council for next steps. It is not clear how long the review of the petition will take.

4. If the petition signatures are certified and returned to City Council, it will need to set a date for a vote on the referendum. The options would be within 40-60 days of the petition being returned or the next general election in June 2016 (over a year from now).

Those who presented the petition asked to have the ability to observe the certification process by the Board of Elections. There will also be an opportunity for those who support the City Manager initiative to observe the process.

In exhorting proponents of the initiative to remain engaged and active, Judge Rideout recently wrote, “In the final analysis, we will get the government that we deserve.”

Judge Rideout served from 1989 to 2004 as Chief Judge of the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, where he led and supported a number of projects that resulted in a significant reduction in the court’s caseload and improved services for children and families in Alexandria, Va. He is on the board of Foster Care Alumni of America and recently finished his term as its President and Acting Board Chair. He consults on child welfare and juvenile justice issues and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

The Cambridge Woman’s Club was founded in 1900 to foster civic engagement. It sponsors monthly educational and occasional social events for the public. It is located at 417 High St. in the historic Sycamore Cottage (1759), which the Club restored and maintains. The event takes place in the Club’s Social Hall, which is located at and accessed from the rear of the Cottage. Parking is available beside the Cottage. The event is free.

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