City Council hears from skateboarders

MD-Cambridge city council meeting-3x

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
Skateboards parked neatly under their chairs, representatives of the skating polulation of Cambridge voice their concerns about a lack of recreation space in town.

CAMBRIDGE — With issues such as Sailwinds and Yacht Maintenance, plus goals for the some-day-to-be-hired city manager on the City Council Agenda, you could expect the seats in the chamber to fill up. But it was an unusual, pleasant, even amusing sight to see five teenagers carrying skateboards to be the last to sit down in the only seats left, the front row. They sat in an orderly manner as the Commissioners and Mayor plowed through the agenda, and then they were called on to speak.

The boys already knew their skateboarding on Cambridge streets had become an issue, mentioned in the City Council meetings repeatedly by Commissioner Jackie Vickers. She is aware that some drivers and pedestrians feel unsafe and want a solution. Prepared but not presumptuous, smart but not sassy, the skateboard spokesman, 14-year-old Axavier Spencer, presented a cogent case: what is there for teenagers to do in a city that doesn’t provide facilities for their popular sport. They’ve bounced enough basketballs and don’t want to do the activities that get young people in trouble. The five teenagers look to towns with facilities where boys there can “carve” (a skateboard trick where you skate in a long arc). What they want is for city officials to “carve” out a spot suitable for them.

The Commissioners expressed sympathy, several possibilities were mentioned, but much more is required and they will be looking into the problem. The Mayor complimented the boys on using the democratic method to accomplish a goal. It was a good lesson for anyone who thinks they can affect change by complaining to the walls at home.

And so, back to the rest of the city business. Permission to serve liquor for one day was given to Gerry Boyle for Ironman festivities, and to Brandon Hesson for a Main Street event. The Agape Temple of Praise and Ministries was granted permission to close Center Street on Oct. 3 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. for their 98th Annual Community Day. Council also approved the 98th Annual Organization Weekend of Dorchester Lodge 223 and Progressive of Dorchester Temple 224 from Oct. 22 though Oct.24. A noise ordinance variance was issued for the Saturday parade and parking closed on Pine Street.

Less festive but quite important is the approval of contracts for street resurfacing and going to bid for Long Wharf bulkhead improvements. Funds were approved for rifles and manhole rings and de-icer supplies. Also stipends for the Fire Chiefs.

The deadline for comments on Sailwinds was Sept. 8 and both Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and City Attorney Robert Collison received written comments from the public. What the Mayor revealed is that people agreed Yacht Maintenance should remain in its 1.56 acres. No further movement on the question of holding or selling the property was discussed.
Goals for the city manager are being written as a necessary step in the hiring process. The search committee and consultant have a two-prong set of goals: the first, goals for the first six months and secondly, goals for the next 12-18 months.

Part one: Build relationships with city leaders, department heads, establish monthly meetings. Also, understand the community through its major civic and business organizations and churches. Get to know state leaders and various departments in order to build a strong network. But Councilman Frank Cooke objected to the criteria, saying it was too “meet and greet,” but the other commissioners gave it approval.

Part two: deal with Sailwinds, demolition, locating a community facility, comply with state grant funds. Develop a capital improvement program and a host of other tasks and responsibilities.

In the time allowed for public comment, former Judge Steve Rideout told commissioners that since the process allowed hiring an acting city manager and since it was taking so long, perhaps the commissioners would find it helpful to learn what it’s like to work with a city manager. He expressed dismay that the city was setting out goals for the manager before they familiarized themselves with the workings of the future governance.

The mayor announced that by the end of October, the search committee’s selected candidates will be presented to the commissioners for interviews. Mayor Stanley says the search committee has done “all the heavy lifting.”

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