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City of Cambridge

City Council

Photo of the Sullivan Chamber in City Hall The City Council, the policy setting arm of the City, derives its powers from the City Charter and the laws and Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The City Council authorizes public improvements and expenditures, adopts regulations and ordinances, establishes financial policies and performs many related legislative tasks.

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About the City Council

The City Council, the policy setting arm of the City, derives its powers from the City charter and the laws and Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It authorizes public improvements and expenditures, adopts regulations and ordinances, levies taxes, controls the finances and property taxes of the City, and performs many related legislative tasks.

The City Council is elected at-large by the proportional representation electoral process. Upon organization of each new Council, the members elect a Mayor and a Vice-Mayor, with the Mayor serving as the Council's chief legislative officer. The Council organizes into committees, which have become increasingly active over the past few years, providing much of the research and legislative analysis on major policy issues before the Council.

The City Council meets regularly on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. from the first Monday in January to and including the last Monday in June, and from the second Monday in September to and including the last Monday in December in the Sullivan Chamber on the second floor of City Hall. Approximately one meeting each month is scheduled as an informal roundtable discussion meeting at which no votes are taken. Business meetings are televised live on 22-CityView, the Municipal Channel, and rebroadcast on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m. They are also live streamed on the Open Meeting Portal.

The City Council's regular business meetings are conducted in accordance with the City Council Rules.  The City Council meeting agenda is generally posted online by 5:30 p.m. on the Thursday before the meeting on the City Council Open Meeting Portal. Copies of the agenda are generally available between 10 a.m. and Noon on Fridays at the City Clerk's Office. Please note that City Hall closes at Noon on Fridays.

Members of the public may speak at the public comment section of the scheduled business meeting for up to three minutes on any matter that is being considered by the City Council for action at that meeting (the public may not speak on items in the communications section of the agenda during public comment). You may sign up to speak by calling the City Council Office at 617-349-4280 on Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., or by signing up at the meeting between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

To have an item placed on the City Council agenda for action at the meeting, contact a City Councillor to request that he or she submit an order or resolution to the City Clerk to be placed on the agenda.

The agenda is also the way to send a letter to the City Council that will become part of the formal record of City Council proceedings. The letter should be addressed to the City Council, care of the City Clerk. The City Clerk will place all new communications on the agenda for the next regular City Council business meeting. Such letters, if they are about issues that are not otherwise on the Council's business agenda, are not considered part of the action agenda for that meeting, and thus, public comment on these communications is out of order.

2016-17 Cambridge City Council

2016-17 City Councilor group photo

Pictured in Front Row: Dennis J. Carlone, Jan Devereux, Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Leland Cheung, and Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern.
Back Row: Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Nadeem A. Mazen, Craig A. Kelley, and David P. Maher.

Guiding Principles and Goals (Adopted Provisionally)

On October 16, 2017, the City Council adopted provisionally Guiding Principles and Goals.

Guiding Principles

  • Accessible: We make it safe and easy for people to get where they need to go, for work and play.  
  • Deliberate. We plan for the future so that we’re ready for its opportunities and challenges. 
  • Diverse: We make room for a mix of people to feel welcome and at home here.
  • Efficient: We get the work of government done smoothly, in a transparent, collaborative, and fiscally responsible manner.
  • Equitable: We treat each other fairly and without bias; we respond to the humanity we recognize in each other.
  • Innovative: We support the people and institutions that are   inventing new ways to make life better. 
  • Navigable: We make it easy for people to find their way to the city services they need, so all our residents can figure out how to “make the system work” for them.
  • Neighborly: We strive to connect to the people around us; we pitch in to help each other out. 
  • Resilient: We take careful steps now to leave a better world for the generations to come. 
  • Rooted: We preserve the feel of a deep history that runs under our city. 

City Council Goals

  • Goal 1: Increase access to affordable housing for all income groups.  
  • Goal 2: Ensure that Cambridge offers economic and educational opportunity to all. 
  • Goal 3: Deepen our commitment to sustainable use of energy and strengthen our capacity for resilience. 
  • Goal 4: Expand and deepen community engagement.  
  • Goal 5: Develop more proactive, inclusive, and transparent city planning process. 
  • Goal 6: Make it easy to move safely through the City, especially by sustainable modes of transportation. 
  • Goal 7: Increase opportunities for all residents to enjoy the City’s open spaces. 
  • Goal 8: Ensure that Cambridge remains an Innovation Hub that integrates businesses of all sizes into a thriving ecosystem. 
  • Goal 9: Improve Council’s capacity to collaborate more effectively, make better decisions, and increase its accountability to the public. 
  • Goal 10: Ensure City’s budget allocates resources responsibly and responsively. 
  • Goal 11: Ensure Public Safety efforts reflect current and emerging challenges and opportunities in a way that incorporates Cambridge’s core values. 
  • Goal 12: Eliminate Bias within the City workplace and wider community. 


City Council Meeting Final Actions

Last Updated: 3/15/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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