Clarence The Clown Cries Foul!
Much has been said about the vigor and unseemly haste with which seven members of the Cambridge City Council voted last Monday evening, May 18th, to approve the Normandy/Twining (N/T) proposal to build an unprecedented 195’ tower in Central Square.
When told this final version of the agreement, officially an ‘amendment by substitution,’ with its last minute language changes, had not yet been read or even proofread to ensure completeness and adherence to previously agreed terms, the councilors waved away any concern.
“Hey!” one of them cried out, “if it’s good enough for Mark, Al and Tony…” referring to developers Mark Roopenian, Alex Twining and their attorney, former City Councilor Anthony Galluccio. “…then it’s good enough for the Cambridge City Council!”
“Right on!” another agreed. “Where do we sign?”
Shouting down objections from Council members Carlone and Mazen, who pleaded for a week’s delay in order to read and thoughtfully respond to this latest draft agreement, the seven councilors quickly voted “Aye!” and Mayor David Maher abruptly declared “So moved!” sharply gaveling in the council’s approval.
Barely had the echo of the gavel’s harsh retort subsided before certain oddities written into the agreement began to emerge for inspection.
First among the agreement’s controversial clauses was language that transferred to city ownership a still-undetermined percentage of N/T’s newly zoned surface parking lot after 5 years, as agreed, but shockingly in exchange for two city-owned parking lots and one city park “to later be determined.”
Upon later investigation it was learned the language transferring ownership of the parking lots and city park to N/T was accidentally retrieved from a DPW proposal of possible summer venues for Clarence the Clown and His Talking Jackass, a popular outdoor children’s entertainment.
When asked why the size of N/T’s gift deed transfer was still left uncertain in the agreement, Attorney Galluccio explained, “Obviously it depends on how many Cadillacs, Hummers and pickup trucks we have in the lot; something we won’t know until the first weeks of occupancy.”
Also somewhat controversial, the new agreement indemnifies all city councilors from actions or lawsuits, “including ethics investigations” resulting from their approval of the N/T petition. This apparently in response to the recent disclosure that six out of the seven councilors voting for approval—Councilors Cheung, Maher, Toomey, Simmons, McGovern and Benzan—had received campaign donations totaling almost $12,000 from N/T and related associates in a series of payments doled out over two years.
When learning he received a scant $950 from N/T in comparison to Councilor Cheung’s $3,000, Vice Mayor Benzan showed his customary modesty and self-effacement, declaring,” Hey, I’m the new guy on the block. Give me time; I’ll catch up to the veterans.”
Also, under the terms of the final approved agreement the city vowed to continue to ignore the impacts of gentrification. Specifically, the Community Development Department was enjoined against “any research that would quantify displacement of current residents. Or any study that might undermine the often-stated claim that luxury high-rise developments will house more poor people than they displace.”
Commenting on that restriction, Iram Farooq, Cambridge’s Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development, smiled at the interviewer and said, “Not a problem. We do that everyday.”
In response to complaints about mistakes in the final draft agreement, Attorney Galluccio promised to deliver a corrected version for the council to vote on and review…”sometime during their next scheduled council meeting.”
DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE ESSAY IS SATIRE, though there may be far too many chunks of reality and truth buried within the sarcasm and farce. A reader questioned my post as though some of the items mentioned might actually reflect (FOR REAL!) what was ultimately included in the revised Amendment by Substitution, which was submitted at the last minute, during public comments, to the city council. I have no idea what wonderful offerings or missing agreements will ultimately be discovered in that document which seven city councilors so quickly approved. Aside from the figures given for Normandy/Twining campaign donations to city councilors, nothing I said in my essay is meant to be believed or taken as fact. Again, this is meant to be SATIRE.