Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 24, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 141-142: May 24, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:35 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 141 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 142 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

May 23, 2016

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:42 pm

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Budgets: FY2005-FY2017The main order of business for this meeting is the vote to adopt the FY2017 Budget and related loan authorizations. There is, however, nothing to debate. Rarely are there any changes to the City Manager’s proposed budget, so this usually amounts to a sequence of well-deserved thank-yous to City staff and the Chair of the Finance Committee for jobs well done. In addition to the committee reports relative to the Budget, there are a few other items of potential interest:

Relative to proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Devereux filed reconsideration of the vote taken at the City Council meeting of May 9, 2016 on Policy Order #2 as amended that the Public Safety Committee conduct a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations and the City Council policy goals on liquor licenses, economic development, the impact on neighborhoods and local business and that the License Commission refrain from any liquor license regulations changes until said hearing before the Public Safety Committee.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor Jan Devereux, explaining why reconsideration was filed on the order adopted on May 9th pertaining to proposed changes to the city’s liquor licensing regulations.

I will not pretend to understand all of the reasons for the License Commission’s proposal to revise some of these regulations. Many date to an earlier time and some do not align with current state laws/regulations – hence the need for revision. On the other hand, one could also argue that the state laws and regulation could use some revision as well. For example, the current Cambridge practice of permitting sidewalk dining where the pedestrian way bisects the restaurant and the seating is apparently a no-no. Does anyone seriously believe it would be good to change this? State law also requires any outside dining that includes alcoholic beverages to be essentially enclosed in a steel cage. That’s idiotic – but that’s the law. [On an unrelated matter, if the legislature feels to compelled to address the matter of who may enter a given bathroom, don’t you think they should also address the need to simply HAVE a public bathroom in areas where people may feel the need to use one. Isn’t this a civil right?]

I found it interesting that it is not permissible for any licensed establishment to offer or deliver any free alcoholic drinks to any person or group of persons. Where I came from it was very common that after buying a few beers at a bar the bartender would "buy you back one" and, most likely, see a bigger tip later as a result. We even had one sentimental bartender who would sometimes send a free pitcher to your table if you played "Good Night Irene" on the jukebox (he was a widower whose wife’s name was Irene). All this generosity and sentimentality is apparently illegal here in the Land of the Puritans.

Regarding the issue of "cap areas" and artificial limits on pouring licenses, this limited supply seems guaranteed to just drive up the value of a transferable license with no concurrent public good. It seems preferable that the License Commission should simply exercise good judgment of a case-by-case basis (assuming that revocation of licenses remains an available option for chronic or egregious offenders).

Regarding the notion that there may never have been a legal basis on which the City Council could (and did) delegate to the License Commission some regulatory authority, I shudder to think how things would be otherwise. A sizable fraction of City Council business would be consumed by this, and I can easily imagine Public Comment being dominated by patrons and potential patrons of various bars and nightclubs.

I continue to marvel at how basic maintenance-level legislation often evades the state legislature – simple corrections for ordinary purposes. Why does it remain so difficult to adjust the funding formulas for charter schools? Why can’t we have a more rational way of filling legislative vacancies? How about making a few modifications to the Open Meeting Law to address the problem of frivilous complaints? If the legislature can devote time to who can use which bathroom, then surely they can take up some of these other matters.


Relative to the vote to approve the FY2017 Budget:

Unfinished Business #5-11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow:

#5: $17,350,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport Neighborhood, and areas in Harvard Square as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

#6: $5,000,000 to provide funds for a Comprehensive Facilities Improvement Plan.

#7: $2,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

#8: $149,600,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including construction for the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex, building envelope repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at the Amigos School.

#9: $150,000 to provide funds for the purchase and installation of mechanical components to ensure the operational integrity of the elevator at the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.

#10: $4,000,000 to provide funds for the renovations of the Out of Town News Kiosk Building and adjacent plaza area in Harvard Square.

#11: $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and construction of a multi-use path/greenway along the eastern Grand Junction railroad right of way from Broadway to the city line.

That’s a total of $188,100,000 in Loan Orders – dominated by the cost of construction of the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 5, 2016, May 12, 2016 and May 10, 2016 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $538,608,450.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Water fund Budget in the amount of $13,969,210.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Budget in the amount of $16,890,570.

These are the three traditional Finance Committee reports associated with the Budget approval.


Relative to City Manager appointments to City Boards & Commissions:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Human Rights Commission for a term of three years, effective May 23, 2016: Olinda Marshall and Chara Itoka

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Arts Council Advisory Board for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: Luis Edgardo Cotto, Lori Lander and Stella Aguirre McGregor.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members to the Cambridge Public Art Commission for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: David De Celis and Dina Deitsch.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Coordinating Council for Children, Youth and Families (aka Family Policy Council) for the 2016-17 term: Tony Clark.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Harvard Square Advisory Board for a term of two years, effective May 23, 2016: Bridget Dinsmore and Maximillan Frank.

Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a full member of the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals for a term of 5 years, effective May 23, 2016: Patrick Tedesco.

Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Police Review & Advisory Board for a term of five years, effective May 23, 2016: Ted Robitaille.

Many appointments to Cambridge Civic University – no tuition required. Being an active member of a City volunteer board provides a great civic education as well as an opportunity to fully participate as a resident.


Other matters on the City Manager’s Agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $10,500 from the General Fund City Council Travel and Training account to the General Fund City Council Other Ordinary Maintenance account for the facilitation of a goal setting session on June 8.

I hope and expect that this is a public meeting, but I’ll be happy to just watch without comment.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $404,505 associated with Forest City’s 300 Massachusetts Avenue building project (Ordinance #1354) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $375,000 associated with Novartis’ Special District 15 (opposite the NECCO Building; Ordinance #1338) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Every little bit helps.

Manager’s Agenda #23. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting the City Council move to Executive Session for an update on the potential acquisition of property located at 859 Massachusetts Avenue by eminent domain.

This has been the home of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce since the 1970s and any eminent domain action will be what is known as a "friendly taking". I’m not sure what City functions might end up there. There’s a neat photo of the ribbon-cutting when the Chamber first moved there.


Notable City Council Orders & Resolutions:

Resolution #3. Urge all Cantabrigians to pause on Memorial Day, and every day, to remember and pay tribute to our nation’s defenders, living and deceased, for their service and devotion to country.   Vice Mayor McGovern

With every passing year I find myself feeling more and more grateful to all the veterans who have served.

Order #5. That the City Council formally go on record declaring June 2, 2016 to be Gun Violence Awareness Day, and in encouraging all Cambridge residents to work proactively and collaboratively in preventing this shameful epidemic of violence to continue.   Mayor Simmons

Cambridge has seen its own share of gun violence during the last few years with several murders still unsolved (or at least unprosecuted for lack of witnesses coming forward to help make a solid case for prosecutors).

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to collaborate with the Cambridge Arts Council to create a process for Artist Certification to ensure that applicants are full-time/career practicing artists and is requested to prioritize the placement of artists in the Inclusionary Housing Program by assigning artists who have been certified by the Cambridge Arts Council one additional point in the Rental Application Pool.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Cheung

This is not the first time there has been a City Council Order like this, and I remain unconvinced that this is a wise idea. It is never a good idea to play favorites like this. If we want to give preferential treatment to artists, what about the thousands of others who work traditional labor-intensive jobs at less than a living wage? Do child-care workers deserve less that artists? I can assure you that there are also many adjunct faculty who have annual incomes comparable to starving artists. Don’t they count as much as artists? Perhaps everyone should just declare themselves to be performance artists and fill out the appropriate application form at the Cambridge Arts Council. – Robert Winters

May 18, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 139-140: May 17, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:12 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 139 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 5:30pm. Our guest was Will MacArthur, a graduating CRLS senior who will be attending Harvard University in the fall. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 140 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 6:00pm. Our guest was Will MacArthur, a graduating CRLS senior who will be attending Harvard University in the fall. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

May 16, 2016

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (May 16, 2016)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 7:50 am

Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities Vacancies

Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) advisory board. Made up of 11 Members who serve three-year terms in a volunteer capacity, the CCPD board meets on the second Thursday of every month at 5:30pm.

CCPD seeks to build a membership that reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the City, is cross-disability in nature and representative of the different geographical areas of the community. Members must be current residents of Cambridge.

CCPD works dynamically to maximize access to all aspects of Cambridge community life for individuals with disabilities, and strives to raise awareness of disability matters, to eliminate discrimination, and to promote equal opportunity for people with all types of disabilities – physical, mental and sensory. CCPD members are expected to work with other members and CCPD staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the CCPD Ordinance (CMC Chapter 2.96). CCPD members are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in subcommittees, and work on various short and/or long-term projects, as needed.

City SealFor more information, contact Kate Thurman, Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities at ccpd@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4692 (voice) or 617-492-0235 (TTY). Interested persons should submit a letter by Friday, June 17, 2016 describing their relevant experience and the kinds of disability-related issues or projects that interest them (along with a résumé if possible) to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax: 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov


City Manager Seeks Members for a new Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship

City SealMay 9, 2016 – Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on a Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship. The Commission will consist of 11 volunteer members to be appointed by the City Manager. Commissioners are expected to be knowledgeable about immigrant rights and citizenship and must be residents of Cambridge. It is desirable for this Commission to be fully representative of the diverse Cambridge community.

Cambridge welcomes immigrants and wants to encourage their success and access to opportunity and advancement in this country. It will be a goal of this Commission to get the message of welcome out, through collaboration with organizations that already provide services and outreach to our immigrant community. The Commission will act as a centralizing organization in Cambridge, to address immigrant rights and citizenship issues. Through collaboration with other Commissions and service providers, outreach efforts to different cultural and language communities, and identification of existing resources, both in Cambridge and regionally, the Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Commission can assist in finding ways that existing services can better meet the identified needs of our immigrant population.

Commissioners are expected to work with other members of the Commission and staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Ordinance (CMC Chapter 2.123).

Resumes and letters of interest should be sent by June 10 via email to citymanager@cambridgema.gov or by mail 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


Fresh Pond Advisory Board Vacancy

City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking Cambridge residents to fill vacancies on the Fresh Pond Advisory Board. The Fresh Pond Advisory Board was created in 2001 to advise the City Manager and City boards and commissions on implementation of the Fresh Pond Reservation Master Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in January 2001. The Master Plan provides guidance for the maintenance and improvement of Fresh Pond Reservation, a critical element of the City’s water supply, and the City’s most heavily used open space.

The primary purposes of the Advisory Board are to oversee the general stewardship of Fresh Pond Reservation in accordance with the Master Plan and to maintain collaborative relationships among City departments and user groups that impact the Reservation. The Advisory Board also provides a forum for public discussion and evaluation of proposals for land-use and land-management projects.

City SealThe Fresh Pond Advisory Board includes up to 15 members (at least nine of whom are resident volunteers with active, long-term knowledge of the Reservation, who are not City employees or consultants to the City). Board members are appointed for three-year terms and may be reappointed at the City Manager’s discretion. Persons with expertise in landscape architecture, park management and environmental management are encouraged to apply. The Fresh Pond Advisory Board meets at least four times annually, on Thursday evenings.

For more information, contact Sam Corda, Managing Director, Cambridge Water Department at 617-349-4770 or scorda@cambridgema.gov. Interested persons should send a letter and/or resume via e-mail, mail or fax by Monday, May 23, 2016, 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 Family Policy Council (Formerly Kids’ Council) Vacancy

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking a Cambridge resident interested in volunteering to serve on the Cambridge Family Policy Council (Formerly Kids’ Council), which is dedicated to developing policy and program recommendations aimed at improving the quality of life for children, youth and families in the City of Cambridge, so that children and youth are:

  • Ready for school;
  • Healthy and live in safe communities;
  • Succeed in school and are prepared for work;
  • Engaged in enriching activities and civic life;
  • Live in stable, self-sufficient, supportive families.

The Family Policy Council meets approximately six times per year on the 3rd Thursday of the month, from 5:15-7:15pm.

The Mayor of Cambridge serves as the Chair of the Family Policy Council, and membership is comprised of key stakeholders in local government and in the community, which includes the following:

  • City Councilor and School Committee member
  • City Department Heads (City Manager designee, Assistant City Manager for Human Services, Chief Public Health Officer, Police Commissioner, Director of the Cambridge Public Library, and Superintendent of Schools)
  • Representatives from the philanthropic community, a state agency serving children, youth and families, the business community, the university community, the early childhood community, the community-at-large, and youth (ages 14-18).

Recent Family Policy Council Initiatives
The Family Policy Council has been focusing on family engagement and developing recommendations to create and support genuine partnerships between families and the organizations and institutions that serve them by:

  • Developing the FIND IT CAMBRIDGE website, which will make it easier for parents and other caring adults to find the amazing array of activities, services, and resources that are available for children, youth and families in Cambridge.
  • Creating a City-wide Family Engagement Policy which was adopted by the Cambridge City Council on November 18, 2013.
  • Developing recommendations to enhance the capacity of the Community Engagement Team (CET) by:
    • Hiring additional outreach workers and a full-time program assistant;
    • Developing and implementing a training program for those who do outreach and engagement work in Cambridge;
    • Establishing a more formal partnerships with the Cambridge Public Schools.
  • Voting to support a second Book Bike by using money from the Friends of the Kids’ Council and asking for additional City funds to support operations of the second Book Bike.

Past Family Policy Council Initiatives:

  • Cambridge Policy for Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities in Out of School Time Programs
  • Agenda for Children Literacy and Out of School Time Initiatives
  • Center for Families

For more information, please contact Nancy Tauber, Executive Director, at 617-349-6239 or ntauber@cambridgema.gov.
To apply, please submit a letter of interest and, if possible, a resume, by Friday, May 20, 2016 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 Conservation Commission Member Sought

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking a Cambridge resident to fill a vacancy on the Cambridge Conservation Commission.

The Conservation Commission is responsible for administration of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA), a state law governing activities in and immediately adjacent to local wetlands, waterways and floodplains. The Commission holds two regularly scheduled public meetings each month to review permit applications under the WPA, issue permits and conduct other business related to the management of Cambridge’s natural resource areas.

The Conservation Commission consists of seven members appointed by the City Manager to serve three-year terms. Cambridge residents with expertise in landscape architecture, civil/environmental engineering, hydrology, ecology, or law are encouraged to apply.

Interested persons should send a letter of interest and/or resume via e-mail, mail or fax by May 6, 2016 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

May 13, 2016

Rep. Tim Toomey Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign

Filed under: elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:02 am

Tim ToomeyState Representative Tim Toomey announced today that he has officially qualified for the Democratic Primary ballot on Thursday, September 8th for re-election to the 26th Middlesex District seat representing parts of Somerville & Cambridge. Toomey submitted nearly three times the required 150 certified signatures.

Rep. Toomey is hosting a Campaign Kick Off meeting at Atwood’s Tavern, 877 Cambridge St, Cambridge on Thursday, May 19th at 7 pm and has invited everyone interested in helping in the campaign to attend. Refreshments will be served.

“I’m grateful to all of the Somerville and Cambridge residents who have again placed their faith in me to serve as their State Representative,” said Toomey. “I’m very excited to be running this year and plan to continue to lead the way in our community for better public transit options, sustainable development, fair wages and equal pay for working families, and expanded affordable housing options.”

“I look forward to continuing my work at the State House because our neighborhoods deserve a progressive State Representative who also provides outstanding constituent services to the residents of Somerville and Cambridge,” said Toomey, a lifelong resident of the district.

During his time in office, Rep. Toomey has become a well-known progressive advocate and has consistently been a voice for progressive causes at the State House. In the past year, Toomey has been an outspoken leader for single payer health care, promoting solar energy and other renewable energy sources, instituting smart criminal justice reforms, and providing rental assistance programs to help struggling low income families and people with disabilities find long-term housing solutions. He has also worked to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence and rape, and has been a leading voice behind efforts to expand access to drug treatment and rein in the opioid crisis.

“A lot of important work is still ahead of us,” said Toomey. “I will continue to fight for passing the Fair Share Tax Amendment, making insurance coverage mandatory for a wider variety of contraceptives, passing the Equal Pay Act, adding protections for gender identity in public accommodations and increasing funding for low income and affordable housing.”

For more information about Representative Toomey’s re-election campaign, residents are encouraged to visit www.timtoomey.org or contact Tim’s Campaign Manager, Jefferson Smith, at (978) 376-2143.

May 11, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 137-138: May 10, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:38 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 137 (Part 1)

Episode 137 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 10, 2016
Part 1 (5:30pm) The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. Topics include the Budget Hearings, the Cambridge Outstanding Employee Awards, and MIT’s Moving Day extravaganza. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 138 (Part 2)

Episode 138 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 10, 2016
Part 2 (6:00pm) The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. Topics include the City Council discussion on May 9 on setting speed limits, the Green Line Extension, and a curious proposal to use a lottery to determine who will screen City Manager candidates (don’t worry – it’s not going to happen). [On YouTube]

May 9, 2016

At the Signpost Up Ahead – the May 9, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:46 am

At the Signpost Up Ahead – the May 9, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here are some of the items that drew my attention this week:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Conservation Commission for a term to expire November : Dorothy Altman, Edward Pickering, Purvi Patel

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Fresh Pond Master Plan Advisory Board effective May 9, 2016: Janice Snow (3-year term), Jim Barton (3-year term), Janet Burns (2-year term), Deborah Masterson (3-year term), Ann Roosevelt (3-year term), Claudia Thompson (2-year term), Susan Agger (2-year term)

I continue to celebrate all of the great people who agree to volunteer for Cambridge boards and commissions. Not only is it a great opportunity to offer your own insights and talents in the service of your community, it’s also a great education that costs nothing but the time you put into the endeavor.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Police Superintendent Christopher J. Burke as Acting Police Commissioner, effective May 8, 2016.

When I heard about this at last Thursday’s Budget Hearings, I couldn’t help but think of things said by outgoing Police Commissioner Robert Haas and former Commissioner Ronnie Watson regarding the "bench strength" we have developed in the Police Department and other City departments. We often have multiple great people who can step up into a leadership role either temporarily or permanently. Congratulations to Commissioner Burke, and grateful thanks to Commisioner Robert Haas for his years of service!

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-39, regarding the Green Line Extension (GLX) Project.

Much could be said about the latest developments in the status of the proposed Green Line Extension and the unprecedented offers of financial assistance from Cambridge, Somerville, and other parties to improve the chances of it becoming a reality. It’s definitely worth reading the multiple communications from City Manager Rossi (and Somerville Mayor Curtatone) on this topic. Even if the project is scaled back and is somewhat less spectacular than originally proposed, this is something that really needs to more forward in some form and I hope the contributions from Cambridge and Somerville help to influence the decision to carry on.

Resolution #4. That the City Council go on record congratulating the 2015-2016 Cambridge Rindge and Latin Boys’ Basketball players, coaches, and support staff for their well-earned championship and recognizing them for their dedication and hard work.   Vice Mayor McGovern

I’m crossing my fingers hoping that our heroic Cambridge Falcons will be there for the reading of this resolution!

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with all relevant City staff and departments to examine the feasibility of posting advisory signage to broadly encourage a motor vehicle speed limit of 20 to 25 miles per hour on City streets.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

Speed Limit UnknownI have been thinking a lot lately about how often the wrong questions and wrong solutions are offered in a variety of settings. This is one of them. As stated in this Order, there is plenty of evidence available showing how rapidly the risk of fatalities and severe injuries increases with motor vehicle speed. However, there are also compelling arguments that can be made in support of common standards across the borders of cities and towns. The issue really isn’t what speed limit Cambridge or some other town should have the right to impose. The real issue is what the common standards should be for different kinds of roads and situations.

For example, on the many local one-way streets in Cambridge where there is one relatively narrow lane with cars parked on either side, the speed limit should be no more than 25mph because there is simply no time to otherwise react if someone were to dart out from between parked cars. Also, on these and other streets, no motor vehicle should ever pass a cyclist or pedestrian without at least 3 or 4 feet of clearance – and never at a great differential in speed. These are the kinds of laws that should be adjusted, and they should be adjusted statewide rather than by individual municipality. This is not just about whether or not a town is "thickly settled" and thereby subject to a 30mph speed limit (which is often not enforced other than to raise revenue). Standards for speed limits, sight lines, lane width, and more should be based on actual safety rather than political discretion. The proposal contained in this Order and in a concurrent effort in Boston should be addressed more comprehensively by the state legislature. Even the name "thickly settled" speaks to the archaic nature of how speed limits and safety standards are established and enforced.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on May 3, 2016.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from Councillor Jan Devereux, suggesting a random drawing of four City Councillors to serve on the Preliminary Screening Committee on the city manager’s selection process.

The process continues. I’m perplexed at the addition of an "interfaith community representative" to the proposed Preliminary-Screening Committee. Unless the next City Manager will be delivering sermons, I see absolutely no reason to rub out the line between church and state here. Regarding Councillor Devereux’s proposed random selection of City Council representatives in the screening process, I will say only that there are reasons why a majority of councillors choose a Mayor and how that Mayor chooses people to chair important City Council committees like the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee. There is still a place for good judgment here that is best not replaced by the successive flipping of coins or drawing of names from a hat. – Robert Winters

May 5, 2016

Joint Statement of Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi Regarding the Green Line Extension

Filed under: Cambridge,MBTA — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 5:00 pm

Joint Statement of Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi Regarding the Green Line Extension

May 5, 2016

Somerville sealToday the Cities of Somerville and Cambridge Massachusetts are pleased to make this important announcement of our continued support for and commitment of new funds to bridge the funding gap that will allow the construction of the Green Line Extension Project (GLX) to move forward.

It is our understanding that MassDOT has completed its review of the GLX and developed a new cost estimate, and that on Monday, May 9, MassDOT will transmit information for review and evaluation by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors that includes a revised budget and plans and a statement of need for municipal governments hosting the GLX to contribute funding. Based on that understanding, we are prepared to make a recommendation that our municipalities assist the state in the funding solution for this project.

We would like to thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the interim design team for their swift but careful scrutiny of the project plans and budget, their commitment to the inclusion of public and municipal feedback, and their diligence in developing a new strategy for moving forward. Should the FMCB approve their expected recommendation to construct the GLX, residents of the Commonwealth will reap the benefits of the team’s critical effort for decades to come.

Cambridge sealIt is our understanding, however, that without firm financial commitments from our municipalities that the GLX could be canceled and the Commonwealth would forfeit not only its $996 million federal New Starts grant award, but an estimated $700 million in “sunk costs” of the state’s $996 million share of the project. Additionally, the fulfillment of the public needs that this project was designed to meet would remain unrealized.

The purpose of the GLX is to improve regional air quality as required by legally binding resolutions, reduce roadway congestion, encourage sustainable economic growth, and provide a convenient means of public transportation for Massachusetts residents, workers and visitors. To ensure that these needs and goals do not go unmet, the cities of Cambridge and Somerville intend to seek to expand their financial partnership with the Commonwealth to construct elements of the GLX program, subject to and contingent upon approval by the Cambridge City Council and the Somerville Board of Aldermen.

It should be noted that both the cities of Cambridge and Somerville have previously invested significant funds and resources in sunken costs in support of the GLX project, including the City of Somerville’s investment of more than $8 million for land acquisition and other infrastructure, that have relieved the Commonwealth of several specific required project costs. Similarly, the developers of the North Point area are investing tens of millions of dollars in improvements that support and enable the GLX to occur. Expanding this financial partnership is an extreme and unprecedented arrangement for a state infrastructure project. Despite the fact that our cities bear no responsibility for the cost overruns that brought the GLX to this moment of crisis, we will seek to support the Commonwealth by expanding our cost-sharing role. The Green Line is that important to our communities, our region, and our state.

It is our understanding that the new cost estimate for the GLX will retain core program elements including seven light rail transit stations including a spur to Union Square, a Vehicle Maintenance Facility, a Community Path, and related utility upgrades. With that clear understanding, it is our intention as Mayor of the City of Somerville and City Manager of Cambridge to recommend to the Somerville Board of Aldermen and the Cambridge City Council that our cities commit to underwriting project costs for specific, tangible elements that would deliver meaningful public safety and quality-of-life benefits for our residents.

After discussions with the state, the needed value of new financial participation in the GLX for the City of Somerville is projected to be $50 million and the value of the City of Cambridge’s contribution is projected at $25 million, including financial contributions from the North Point developers, to close the funding gap. Again, any contribution will be subject to Board and City Council approvals.

Furthermore, it is our intention to work, alongside MAPC, with Governor Baker’s administration and the cities’ state and federal delegations to seek legislative action on new and refined “value capture” tools capable of supporting new infrastructure investments around Massachusetts. In addition, we request that the Commonwealth establish a baseline tracking framework for future Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) state tax revenue accruals generated by transit-oriented development around the GLX, so as to not preclude a formal application to use eligible I-Cubed revenues to offset Cambridge’s and Somerville’s proposed municipal contribution, if they choose that option.

It is clear that the Commonwealth is shifting to a new paradigm for major transportation infrastructure investments. Across the nation, many states have established predictable and equitable frameworks for local value capture financing in state transportation projects. As we work toward that goal, Somerville and Cambridge will stand with the Commonwealth to advance the state of the art. We do so with the expectation that this is truly a new precedent for statewide policy, and that our communities will not be held to higher standards than other Massachusetts municipalities seeking state and federal financing for roadway, transit or other infrastructure projects.

Additional Comment from Massachusetts Area Planning Council:

“I want to congratulate the Cities of Cambridge and Somerville for making this unprecedented municipal commitment to help fund a critical state transportation project,” said Metropolitan Area Planning Council Executive Director Marc Draisen. “The Green Line Extension will have a significant, positive impact on our region in terms of jobs created and retained, new housing units created, and increased transit access for tens of thousands of residents. Cambridge and Somerville have shown a willingness to help invest in a project that will benefit themselves and their neighboring municipalities. We applaud them and MassDOT for working together to create this opportunity to advance this project.”

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