Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 16, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 71 and 72: News and Events, July 2014

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:08 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 71

This episode was broadcast on July 15, 2014 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 72

This episode broadcast on July 15, 2014 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

July 2, 2014

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (July 2)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 6:30 pm

Members Sought for Cambridge Planning Board

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking residents interested in serving on the Cambridge Planning Board. The Planning Board is the special permit granting authority for the city and is responsible for the review of special permit requests, the review and development of zoning proposals, and the study of land use throughout the city.

The Planning Board includes seven members and two alternates. The Board generally meets twice a month on Tuesday evenings. Persons with a general interest in effective city planning and/or specific expertise in such areas as architecture, urban design, urban planning and zoning are encouraged to apply. Planning Board members must be residents of the City of Cambridge.

Interested persons should submit a resume and a brief letter describing their interest via e-mail, mail or fax by Fri, Aug 1, 2014, to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Ph. 617-349-4300; Fax 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov


Cambridge Human Rights Commission Vacancy

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Made up of 11 members who serve three-year terms, the CHRC meets on the first Thursday of every month at 6pm. The Commission seeks Cambridge residents representing the diversity of Cambridge.

Commissioners are expected to work with other members of the Commission and staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the Cambridge Human Rights Commission Ordinance (CMC Chapter 2.76). Commissioners are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in subcommittees on outreach and public education, and work with Commission staff on the investigation, mediation and resolution of complaints filed with the Commission which allege discrimination in housing, public accommodation, employment or education based upon race, color, sex, age, religious creed, disability, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, family status, military status or source of income.

For more information, contact Nancy Schlacter, Cambridge Human Rights Commission, at 617-349-4396 or nschlacter@cambridgema.gov. Letters of interest, including resume and/or applicable experience, can be sent via mail, fax or e-mail by Friday, July 18, 2014 to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov


Member Sought for Police Review & Advisory Board

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking Cambridge residents interested in serving on the Police Review & Advisory Board. Made up of five volunteer members who serve five-year terms, the Board generally meets on the last Wednesday of the month at 6pm, except for July and August.

The Police Review & Advisory Board was established by City Ordinance in 1984 to:

  • Provide for citizen participation in reviewing Police Department policies, practices and procedures;
  • Provide a prompt, impartial and fair investigation of complaints brought by individuals against members of the Cambridge Police Department; and
  • Develop programs and strategies to promote positive police/community relations and to provide opportunities for expanded discussions, improved understanding and innovative ways of resolving differences.

The Board consists of five Cambridge residents who are representative of the City’s racial, social and economic composition. Board Members must: possess a reputation for fairness, integrity and responsibility; have demonstrated an active interest in public affairs and service; and be a resident of the City of Cambridge. For more information about the Board, see its web page at www.cambridgema.gov/prab.

Board Members serve as volunteers without compensation and assist in education and outreach to improve community confidence in city government in general, and to strengthen community-police relations.

A letter of interest with a brief résumé should be sent via e-mail, mail or fax by Thursday, July 31, 2014 to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Ph. 617-349-4300; Fax 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 69-70: Transportation Safety with Rozann Kraus

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 69

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 69 featured highlights from the June 30 City Council meeting, updates from the state legislature, and transportation safety in Cambridge. This episode was broadcast on July 1, 2014 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 70

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 70 focused on transportation safety in Cambridge. This episode broadcast on July 1, 2014 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

June 30, 2014

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:29 am

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

The curtain falls tonight on the FY2014 Fiscal Year as the City Council enters its Summer Recess – but not without a little controversy. Councillor Dennis "Pearl Harbor" Carlone is the first signer of a new zoning petition that is almost guaranteed to bring some fireworks in advance of the July 4 holiday. The petition has near zero chance of ultimately passing but stands out prominently in its disrespect for the Planning Board, the Community Development Department, and previous Cambridge City Councils who have passed a variety of zoning petitions with detailed Special Permit criteria spelled out to guide the Planning Board in the granting of Special Permits under the Zoning Ordinance.

Monkey WrenchApplications & Petitions #5. A zoning petition has been filed by Dennis Carlone, et al. requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to designate the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits.

The intent of this petition appears to be to enact an effective 30-month moratorium on all larger proposed developments in Cambridge by turning each project into a political football. Except for Councillors Carlone and Mazen (first and last signers), the signers of the petition consist almost entirely of principal players of the Cambridge Residents Alliance who have made no secret of their desire to enact such a moratorium. The essential component of the petition is the transfer of Project Review Special Permit authority from the Planning Board (where there is substantial professional expertise) to the City Council. Anyone who has ever witnessed the Planning Board working together to devise detailed conditions on the granting of a Special Permit should now imagine what this process might look like if conducted by the City Council as they play to the favor of their various political supporters. I shudder to think of it.

Fortunately, it appears that this misguided proposal has the support of only the two city councillors who signed it. Ideally, the City Council would just vote it down and declare it Dead On Arrival, but it’s possible that it may be formally referred to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee (co-chaired by Carlone) so that it can receive a proper funeral. As a zoning petition, it would require 6 of 9 city councillors to support it and that’s pretty much an impossibility unless they start lacing the Kool-Aid with hallucinogens.

Meanwhile the initial phase (Cambridge Conversations) of the upcoming review and possible revision of the City’s existing master plans has been met with expressions of satisfaction from most members of the public. Perhaps this is why Carlone and Company have chosen to toss a monkey wrench into the process. Political organizing thrives so much more when wrapped in controversy.

Communications #6. A communication was received from Rick Snedeker, 107 Clifton Street regarding a request for a Special Act Charter for Cambridge that does not include Proportional Representation.

This is included primarily for comic relief. This Snedeker fellow has now written a series of letters to the Cambridge Chronicle detailing his hostility regarding the structure of Cambridge city government and the way municipal elections are conducted. He believes that having 90% of ballots count toward the election of city councillors is more disenfranchising than a winner-take-all election where often fewer than 50% of ballots count toward the election of a candidate. That’s interesting math. He would have elections of ward councillors by simple plurailty vote with no runoffs or primary elections. This installment from Snedeker also calls for the Mayor and City Council to be able to dismiss any City department head by a simple majority vote. I can only imagine the thrilling City Council meetings when a department head says something not to the liking of the elected councillors.

Communications #11. Sundry communications were received regarding the East Cambridge Courthouse.

There are 38 individual signed letters plus an additional 74 petition signatures in support of the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse building. The prisoners are now out of the East Cambridge Courthouse and the transfer of the property from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Legatt McCall, the chosen developer, is imminent. While there is clear opposition to the proposed redevelopment from many residents, it’s pretty clear that this is not a unanimously held position. The Planning Board is expected to make a decision on the Special Permit for the 40 Thorndike Street proposal at its July 29 meeting (to be held in East Cambridge, most likely at the Kennedy-Longfellow School). Regardless what the Planning Board decides, it is very likely that lawsuits will follow.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee for a joint public meeting held on June 25, 2014 to discuss the ongoing out of school/STEAM working group research.

I’m sure the participants at this meeting meant well and I think we all want to see some good programs developed in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The report, however, is remarkable in some of its convoluted quotes. Some of my favorites are these: "Councillor Mazen explained that it’s important for one subgroup to track other subgroup. People in this subgroup should ask other subgroups: Are we talking around the subject or are we addressing it?" and "Councillor Mazen confessed he isn’t opposed to having another subgroup but he feels that this can fall into other subgroups and can also be discussed by each subgroup." and "Councillor Mazen said he hoped next time will be an opportunity for everybody to work more circularly about a coordinator position".

Exactly how does one "work more circularly?" Does it involve beating around the bush? I’ll have to consult with my subgroup about this. – Robert Winters

Note: Due to construction in the Sullivan Chamber, this City Council meeting will take place in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at 459 Broadway (CRLS).

June 29, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 67-68: More News Around Town (June 24, 2014)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:47 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 67

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 67 featured some highlights of a recent City Council Roundtable meeting on Climate Change Mitigation and Preparedness Planning. This episode was broadcast on June 24, 2014 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Related:
Presentation at City Council June 23, 2014 Roundtable meeting on City’s Climate Mitigation and Preparedness Planning
City website on Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
Interactive Hurricane Inundation Maps (Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security)

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 68

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 68 touched on a variety of current hot topics in Cambridge and featured some highlights of a recent meeting regarding traffic and related issues in the Fresh Pond/Alewife area. This episode broadcast on June 24, 2014 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

June 24, 2014

Starts and Stops, mostly stops

Filed under: Cambridge — jsallen @ 11:17 am

I’m commenting on the “Starts and Stops” article which appeared in the Boston Globe on Sunday, June 22, 2014.

That’s behind a paywall. You may need to log in as a Globe subscriber to see it. (I’m one, but if I recall correctly, there’s a limited number of views till the paywall descends). You can also log in from home in the Boston area using a library card number.

The Globe article describes a bicycle-specific traffic signal on Western Avenue and makes the claim:

The Western Avenue signal is timed so that cyclists get a green light a few moments before their vehicular counterparts headed toward Memorial Drive; that way, cyclists have several seconds of a head start to get out ahead of the cars and become more visible to motorists, especially motorists turning right who may not think to look for cyclists approaching on their right side.

That only works if bicyclists happen to be waiting when the light changes. Otherwise, according to the description in the article, there is a right-hook conflict, with motor vehicles turning right across the path of bicyclists approaching in their right rear blindspot. I haven’t checked out the installation yet; I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with more detail.

The article goes on to say:

Additionally, signals like this one address one of the biggest gripes motorists have with bike riders: that they’re constantly running red lights. For cyclists, there can be no confusion whether they’re expected to stop at a red light when that light shows a little bicycle. Many engineers believe that when cyclists are assured that a traffic light is targeted at them and designed to protect their safety, they’re much more likely to wait for their rightful turn to proceed through the intersection.

Here’s the photo which the Globe posted with the article.

New bicycle-specific traffic light on Western Avenue

New bicycle-specific traffic light on Western Avenue

Wishful thinking. Normal traffic lights also apply to bicyclists. Do we need our own very special, and eexpensive, signal just so we will feel pampered? The traffic light shown in the photo, by the way, isn’t at Memorial Drive. It is at Putnam Avenue, a block earlier. Because the photo doesn’t show the installation which the article describes, I’m not entirely clear about the details.

It was previously possible for bicyclists to approach Memorial Drive in the through lane and enter on the normal green light — or sensibly, though in violation of the specifics of traffic law, at the left side of a right-turn lane lane, and also enter on the normal green. Now, bicyclists and right-turning motorists are, at least as described in the article, forced into a right-hook conflict.

Please, who are the unattributed “many engineers”? Opportunistic bicyclists and pedestrians, motorists too — commit traffic-signal violations because they get annoyed with waiting. Compliance improves if a traffic light system is designed to minimize waiting time. This one doesn’t, and right-hook conflicts don’t protect anyone’s safety.

I am about to attend the summer meeting of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), where I sit on its Bicycle Technical Committee. Two proposals currently before the Committee, in experimental status, are special bicycle traffic signals, and right-turn lanes with a bicycle lane inside their left side. I would have hope that the Cambridge had submitted a formal Request to Experiment from Cambridge for either of these proposals — which would add to the knowledge base, and confer immunity from legal liability — but I’ve seen none. I should have. The Federal Highway Administration calls on the NCUTCD to review them.

Oh, and also — in the Globe’s photo, it looks as though a car is sitting in the bikeway.

More to come.

June 21, 2014

Who’s in the Picture?

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 6:14 pm

Ribbon-cutting
The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce recently posted this photo from a ribbon-cutting event supposedly in the 1970s, though it could be later. Can you identify everyone in the picture? That fellow on the right is lookin’ pretty sharp!

June 19, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 65 and 66 – Democratic Convention and News around Town

Filed under: 2014 Election,Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:52 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 65 – The Convention

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 65 featured an account of the recent Democratic Party Convention in Worcester. This episode was broadcast on June 17, 2014 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 66 – News around Town

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 66 touched on a variety of current hot topics in Cambridge. This episode broadcast on June 17, 2014 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters.? [On YouTube]

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