God love the People's Republic: Cambridge officials worry Boston wants to steal all their super-secret ideas

Wicked Local Cambridge reports some Cambridge city councilors oppose any efforts to cooperate with Boston on regional economic development. A number of Cambridge councilors fret that the one councilor who doesn't mind shaking hands with Tom Menino - especially now that he's getting that elbow looked after - would spill all the beans about what makes Cambridge the special place it is.

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      Hey, I'm a Bostonian but I

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      Hey, I'm a Bostonian but I totally understand where they're coming from. Our mayor has been known to appropriate the ideas of others without neccessarily sharing the glory or rewards. And more generally, Boston is percieved by other MA communities - deservedly or (at least as often) not - as taking more than its fair share of the region's focus and resources.

      The members of Cambridge's City Council would be remiss in their responsibilities to their constituents if they didn't take at least a measure of care to preserve some of the advantages that Cambridge has when it finds itself looking at the same pool of jobs, money, etc. as it's bigger sister.

      Not to quibble

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      But that's kind of what mayors do all the time. They travel around to other cities, see what's working in some places and not working in others and using it for the betterment of their own city. The "glory and rewards" come from seeing your initiatives succeeding on a larger scale.

      Despite labeling Boston the Hub, New England has always been reluctant to embrace Boston as its major city... which it is, folks. As a region's major city, Boston has the infrastructure and populace to warrant a greater allocation of resources than its satellites. As far as job losses are concerned, exactly how is Boston going to to suddenly cull jobs that are inherent to Cambridge's culture? Cambridge is a town built around its universities -- hence the name bestowed upon it by members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who wanted their college town named after the finest institution of higher learning in their place of origin. Harvard and MIT's research drew the science and tech companies, those companies made Kendall and its surrounding area the hotbed it is and those companies won't be so easily swayed by a Boston tweak that requires them to put their best source of talent an hourlong T ride away.

      Much like most New Englanders, the Cambridge City Council needs to learn how to take a compliment and stop whining, For those who thought the region's perpetual inferiority complex died in 2004 need only attend a Cabridge council meeting to see it alive, well and hard at work.

      But that's kind of what

      By on

      But that's kind of what mayors do all the time. They travel around to other cities, see what's working in some places and not working in others and using it for the betterment of their own city. The "glory and rewards" come from seeing your initiatives succeeding on a larger scale.

      A lot of the comments here seem to be almost deliberately misreading the article - maybe it's just not that clearly written. I don't think that what's being discussed here is the sort of adapting of general planning ideas described in the above quote - this is about the Cambridge City council being aware that Menino has a habit of publically ignoring or actively discouraging a proposal or initiative from another quarter and then later presenting it as if it originated from his office - John Tobin's wireless initiative is a good recent example. The Mayor has done the same with various development deals in the greater metro region.

      Cambridge's City Council is trying to encourage new ventures to start, and existing companies to relocate to this area. Towards that end, Councilor Leland Cheung wants to meet with Boston's city councilors to discuss how the two cities might work on this effort together. The other councilors warned him "Hey, Menino is not above finding out what companies you think are ripe for this sort of pitch and making a poach play for them himself."

      I think it's a completely legitimate point-of-view. Heck, their quotes even show that they have a grudging admiration for how good he is at it.

      Our most valuable possessions

      Our most valuable possessions are those which can be shared without lessening-those which, when shared, multiply. Our least valuable possessions, on the other hand, are those which, when divided, are diminished. -William Danforth

      Classic

      Copying something that works in another place saves money and guesswork. It should be encouraged.

      Copying something from another place, and acting like it was your original idea or trade secret? Classic Massholery.

      I used to be highly amused by the full-size color portraits sent out with notices from the RMV declaring their supposedly original new idea to make things better - except it was always some "feature" that I remembered being standard elsewhere 10 years previously.

      Cambridge isn't exactly innovative with the urban planning - which is probably a good thing. Cities should look to others for what works. They should not, however, act like implementing some pretty basic functional standards of urban planning is a trade secret. That's just pathetic.

      OK...

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      So given the current economic situation, people in a position to fuel economic growth should limit their scope because of playground-type attitudes? Now that's leadership....

      What a joke

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      Cambridge is lucky it was never annexed. It is one of the many* cities adjacent to Boston that is perceived by most people outside the region as part of it. If this were any other part of the country it would had been annexed (along with others*) in the name of cost savings alone. (Does it really make sense to have this many sets of mayors, school boards, city councilors, etc., in such a small space?) With all due respect to the universities located there, the best thing going for Cambridge is that it is next to Boston.

      *Somerville, Medford, Malden, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Winthrop and Brookline are the others, in my humble opinion.

      Check this out if you have any interest in the annexation debate:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brookline-Boston_anne...

      Slow down there, my

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      Slow down there, my friend.

      Cambridge was not Brookline - it had more in common with Brooklyn, a burgeoning industrial town across the river. And Boston stopped its outward march as much because of internal pressures as from external opposition - the Irish pols were not particularly enthused by the prospect of losing control by diluting their share of the vote.

      Be that as it may, the real problems afflicting Boston have more to do with Boston than with Cambridge or the other inner-core suburbs. Boston has pursued a go-it-alone approach to development, including throwing tax and development incentives at companies already located within the metro region, in an effort to lure them into Boston and bolster the city's tax base. That's despicable, and ultimately self-defeating, and it's the source of the bitterness on the Cambridge City Council, misplaced though these particular suspicions may have been.

      If Boston wants to thrive and flourish, it needs to start approaching its economic development issues from a truly regional perspective. If it wants the outlying communities to fall into line behind it, it might try leading them, instead of fighting them. The overture from the Cambridge City Council - and not, it's worth noting, from anyone on the Boston Council - provides an opening to do just that. The biotech boom in Cambridge is already spilling back over the river into Longwood and the South Boston waterfront. That can help both communities, if Boston is prepared to stop cannibalizing regional growth, and start to work collaboratively.

      Interesting

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      I appreciate your thoughts on the annexation. Its a topic that folks don't consider much, which is surprising as it would be the easiest way to shave municipal costs (not that it would be easy to actually accomplish). Curious to know if any towns would ever actually consider it? Perhaps only the ones on worse financial footing than Boston.

      Anyway...

      Doesn't regional cooperation happen at the state level? I can't see how you would stop Boston, Cambridge (or Waltham for that matter)from acting in their own economic self-interest, e.g., luring jobs and tax base. It doesn't seem prudent for Boston to spend resources lobbying a firm to set up shop in Somerville. Where is the knock-on effect in that case? Additionally, it isn't exactly a zero sum game. If a high-tech company sets up shop on in the seaport district its quite likely that a good chunk of employees will not live within Boston city limits; more likely they will hail from the suburbs.

      Perhaps truer than you meant

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      Cambridge is lucky it was never annexed

      It's hard to make an argument that most of the annexed towns that make up modern Boston - Roxbury, Dorchester, Roslindale, Brighton, Hyde Park - have fared as well than their adjacent municipalities (Quincy, Milton, Dedham, Newton, Watertown) (I'll grant you West Roxbury). Brookline, of course, famously wrested itself away from Boston control and - whether one feels this was civilly ethical or not - has undeniably benefited from its independence.

      Are you a fan of our current de facto model of one-party state government? I'm not (and most certainly wouldn't be if the other party was wearing both boots either). On a state level, has consolidated government inevitably lead to more long-term efficiency, as you suggest it should, or has it just as often allowed political will to stagnate, atrophy, and turn inward to petty internecine squabbling?

      There's a good case to be made that Greater Boston has battled back through every major American urban crisis more quickly and successfully than similarly-sized US urbs. I think it's quite possible that this apptitude for reinvention over the last several centuries is at least in part due to the fact that we are a confederation of municipalities rather than a unified urban-empire - a smaller-scale version of the American thesis of united states.

      Quite frankly, I don't think that any of Boston's mayors since WWII have had, just on their own, enough vision and political chutzpah to bring the whole region back to prominence - and in fact often worked myopically against the best interests of the region as a whole. But because Cambridge (and Somerville, Arlington, Medford, Newton, Waltham, Malden etc) are distinct cities, they have been free to try different models for improvement and growth. Inevitably the most successful of these ideas have been (are being) adapted and adopted by surrounding communities.

      Cambridge's council is smart to want to work with Boston to encourage regional development and also smart to not show every specific card in their hand. It's like trick-or-treating with your sibs. You look out for each other while in the neighborhood, share intel for which houses have the best stuff and barter afterwards so you each get your favorites. But you sure as heck don't leave them alone with your goodie bag!

      My take on feudal New England

      This is a very interesting thought. In feudal New England where every city and town stands alone (with or without a moat), the concept of a joint meeting of the Cambridge City Council and the Boston City Council on a matter of mutual interest borders on revolutionary. Next thing you know the councilors of Boston will be asking the advice of the councillors of Cambridge on what to do with convicted felon/councilor Chuck Turner.

      Posted at http://rwinters.com
      AND
      http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=1125