City will hold residency hearing regarding Foster

LaShon Foster

EDITOR’S NOTE: Commissioner Steve Rideout (Ward 1) released on Tuesday the following comments and “Cambridge Matters” report regarding the City Council’s Monday meeting.

Dear Readers:
Attached are my meeting notes from last night’s meeting along with a letter from the Dorchester County NAACP regarding the upcoming election. While I have talked about the upcoming election in earlier reports, understand that everyone wants an open and honest election, and I believe that we will have that and more as a result of the planning for the upcoming election on Oct 17. In order to encourage voting by every registered voter, they will be mailed a ballot at his or her address as known by the County Election Board.

We have an excellent and knowledgeable private provider in place. As the Supervisor of Elections will be mailing out ballots to every registered voter in the city, if you have moved since you last registered and have not updated that information, please do so at the county election office.
If you choose to vote in person rather than by mail or by absentee ballot, the Supervisor of Elections with the assistance and approval of the Election Judges, has chosen the Cambridge Center of Chesapeake College on Race Street for the place to vote. There are entrances to the building from Race Street and from the rear parking lot.

Every Candidate will be allowed to have a poll watcher to observe what is happening at the polls as well as process for the Election Judges opening the mail in ballots. Every effort is being made to ensure that every vote counts.
When you see the results of this years voting for the Mayor and City Council, remember our last election in July 2016. Four of the six races were uncontested. With each Ward having around 1,750 registered voters, we had the following voting totals:

Ward 1 – Steve Rideout – 145
Ward 2 – Donald Sydnor – 50
Ward 3 – LaShon Foster – 179 to 166 for Frank Cooke = 345 total
Ward 4 – Dave Cannon 151 to 139 for Dion Banks = 290 total
Ward 5 – Robbie Hanson – 60
Mayor – Victoria Jackson Stanley – 653

I hope that every race this year will be contested and that voters will be able to hear from the candidates about their positions on the important issues facing the city.

‘Cambridge Matters’ meeting notes
During the July 27 virtual City Council meeting, I ran into technical problems that caused me periodically to lose my connection with the meeting, so there are some matters that I missed about which I am unable to report. I was able to participate in the closed meeting at 5 p.m. and will provide what the Mayor reported about the closed session at the end of the meeting.

After a moment of silence called by the Mayor and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Commissioner Hanson, the agenda was amended to remove three matters from the Consent Calendar for further discussion after which the Agenda was approved 5-0 on the motion of Commissioner Hanson and second by Commissioner Cannon.
There were no public comments or requests from the public, and so the Consent Calendar was then approved 5-0 on my motion and second by Commissioner Cannon. The one item approved was the July 13 meeting minutes.

Discussion then took place on the two matters brought forward by Alpha Genesis regarding the Sept. 12 “Day of Resilience 2020”. Jermaine Anderson of Alpha Genesis provided explanation on issues such as crowd control after which on my motion and second by Commissioner Hanson, the two requests were approved.
The last matter that had been removed from the Consent Calendar was the request of Kevin Sullivan to have the “Awaken the Dawn Prayer Tent” at the corner of Race and Cedar Streets for 48 hours continually from Sept. 5-7. There was no indication on the form that the city manager or police chief had approved the request so discussion ensued about noise ordinance concerns and numbers of people anticipated so the item was postponed to the next city council meeting for the City Manager to be in touch with Mr. Sullivan to obtain answers to the concerns raised.

The next matter on the agenda was the first reading of Ordinance 1166 that would amend the city code regarding residential parking over near the Malkus bridge. The matter was read by the city attorney after which it was continued over to the Aug. 10 City Council meeting for second reading, public hearing, and possible adoption.
The next matter on the agenda was the second reading and public hearing on Ordinance 1165, which proposed to amend the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. During this discussion, I lost internet connection and was only able to call in near the end of this matter.

I moved to adopt the proposed amendments and there was a second by Commissioner Hanson, but for some reason the Mayor moved the matter over to the Aug. 10 meeting despite the request of the city manager to at least approve the proposed funding for mailing ballots to all city residents as previously approved by City Council as this cost was going to be reimbursed by the county with Covid-19 funding.

Old business
Under Old Business there were two matters for discussion and determination. The first was Resolution 20-13 which updated the position and salary grades of city workers to capture what had been previously approved by City Council but had not been formalized in a report. After discussion on extraneous matters and on a motion properly made and seconded, this Resolution was approved on a vote of 3-2 with Commissioners Cannon, Hanson, and me in favor and Commissioners Foster and Sydnor in opposition.

The final matter on the agenda was a request that we authorize the city attorney to pursue the necessary steps to ready the documentation for the city purchase of 810 Park Lane for $3,131 from the County with reimbursement from the state Pine Street Neighborhood Revitalization Area funding. After discussion on this issue, some wanting the city not to use these funds for an empty lot and others being in favor either for the purpose of building a new home or using the property to provide space for the neighboring properties to provide a yard or parking, on a motion properly made and seconded, the request was approved on a vote of 3-2 with Commissioners Hanson, Cannon, and me voting in favor and Commissioners Foster and Sydnor voting in opposition.

You may recall that earlier this year we dealt with concerns raised by Commissioner Sydnor about Habitat houses being built in the Pine Street Revitalization Ares that were close to other existing properties as allowed under the current city zoning rules. As I heard the discussion about this particular property, for a very small sum of money that would be reimbursed by the state, a lot would become available that could either be built on, if appropriate, or remain open to protect neighboring properties by ensuring space between them.
During the public comment at the end of the meeting and the report from staff and the members of City Council, there were several comments and reports made. As I was unable to clearly hear everything, I will only report on what I clearly heard.

One request was from Jan Cephas asking that the city get moving on the Pine Street Neighborhood Revitalization project and start working together. I am in complete agreement with Ms. Cephas and her request.
As you may recall from prior reports, in June of 2019, the person who was the housing specialist running this project was not allowed to continue leading the project as her contract was not renewed on a vote of 3-2 by the City Commissioners. As there was no other housing specialist available then to take over, the project was given to Pat Escher, the head of Planning and Zoning.

While Ms. Escher is very capable and knowledgeable, she was given two jobs to do without the support to do them. A year later, however, we have just hired a new housing specialist, so I am hopeful that Ms. Cephas’ request will become a reality and quickly with the hiring of our new housing specialist.
Lynette Wongus also called in to discuss some matters, one of which was the closed meeting that had taken place at 5 p.m. She also spoke on some other matters, but I was unable to hear clearly what they were.
Residency hearing
As a result of what I understood Ms. Wongus request to be regarding the closed meeting, I asked the Mayor to report on the outcome of the meeting. She had earlier reported that we met to consider the Charter and receive legal advice from the city attorney but did not report on the vote that was taken at the meeting.

While under the requirements of the Open Meetings Act, she was legally entitled to wait until the next meeting to provide a full report on any actions taken, I felt that it was important that she speak to the issue and the vote taken immediately in order to dispel any rumors that would pass through the community without her making her report.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley then reported that on a vote of 3-2 with Commissioners Hanson, Cannon, and me voting in favor and Commissioners Foster and Sydnor voting in opposition, a public hearing will be held regarding the residency of a sitting Commissioner during the Commissioner’s term of office.

Later in the meeting, the date for that public hearing was set for Aug. 24 with Commissioner Foster to report to the Mayor by Aug. 10 the name of her attorney.
As I was concerned that if we set the hearing date without ensuring who the lawyer, if any, might be prior to that date, we might be expecting a hearing on the 24th, only to have a request for a continuance due to the unavailability of the lawyer. I wanted to ensure that any attorney that was hired would be available on the 24th for the hearing.
The final matter of the evening was the reading by the Mayor of a letter from the Dorchester County NAACP, a copy of which is included with this report.

Following is the full text of a July 17 letter to Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley from Dorchester County NAACP Branch, signed by President James Pinkett and Secretary Dr. Barbara Woolford.

To the Honorable Mayor Jackson-Stanley and Commissioners,
The Dorchester County Branch of the NAACP has received complaints of what appears to be possible voter suppression that will take place during the City’s 2020 October election if changes are not made. The concern is the location choice for the election. We are told that the city election usually takes place at Sailwinds Park, where there are better ways to egress and regress to include handicap accessibility. The complaint states that the city has decided to hold the 2020 city election at Chesapeake College which is a smaller venue with limited access and parking.

With the impact of the corona virus and its’ resurgence, we are hoping your location will first address the safety and health of the citizens of Cambridge. We are also hoping that consideration will provide for shorter lines if there is a larger than normal turnout. We think you will agree that this is not the time to experiment or try an unproven system. We strongly believe that after giving this matter your utmost attention, you will do what’s best for the citizens of Cambridge.

Thanks in advance for putting the welfare of the citizens you serve first and making the best decision for ALL.