Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 24, 2014

In the Pipeline – Coming up at the Nov 24, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:48 am

In the Pipeline – Coming up at the Nov 24, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

6 inch water main - MWRA
6 inch water main – MWRA

The City Council was supposed to tour the Alewife area this morning to learn the things that all of them should already have known for some time. Perhaps the rain gave them a reprieve. Meanwhile, here are some things on tonight’s menu:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-132, regarding a report on monitoring aged pipelines to prevent unexpected breaks.

One of the realities of older cities is that some of the infrastructure has been in place for many decades and maybe even for a century or more. The Water Department used to have on display some of the water pipes that were excavated when replaced. They were so occluded that you couldn’t believe water could even pass through them. It’s not just the water pipes, of course. There are still plenty of "direct bury" electrical lines that are not in conduit, and blocks and neighborhoods that often operate at full capacity and beyond just begging for a failure. The gas line to my house recently had to be re-lined due to low pressure from the street. When they excavated, they found that the century-old gas line was so degraded and perforated that the packed earth was all that was keeping gas in the line. Renewing old cities is a neverending task.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Calendar Item Number 2, dated June 16, 2014, regarding the legality and feasibility of instituting a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage ordinance.

The City Solicitor’s analysis is an interesting read. The bottom line is this: "Although no Massachusetts court has analyzed the legality of a minimum wage ordinance, based on cases that have analyzed local legislation of the landlord-tenant "civil relationship," it appears that a minimum wage ordinance would lie outside of the City’s authority under the Massachusetts Constitution."

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Cambridge Conversations final report, Strategic Recommendations for a Citywide Plan.

The more interesting process will be the comprehensive planning process that will soon commence. Hopefully that will be as productive as the one that took place in 1992 leading up to the Growth Policy Document: "Toward a Sustainable Future" that still stands at the core of the current "master plan" for the city. My greatest concern is that this could degenerate into an arena where competing factions spend more time lobbying for their predetermined positions that they do cooperatively sketching out balanced plans for te good of the city. The fact that this will get underway at the same time that municipal election campaigns are being organized will likely further pollute the waters.

One of the things I found interesting about the "Cambridge Conversations" process is how fundamentally different many of the public comments were from much of what now occupies the activist sphere. There is generally a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the way the city has evolved in recent years and the fact that so many people want to live here is proof of this. This is not so surprising in that most established neighborhoods have largely been unaffected by recent growth – except for the escalating cost of housing. Most of the growth has taken place in areas that were formerly industrial – consistent with established plans.

Quite a few people, including me, identified the lack of coordinated regional planning as a concern – especially transportation planning. My guess is that the stickiest point next year will revolve around housing. Everybody will say how important affordable housing is, but the battle lines will be drawn between those who support additional housing development in Cambridge and the region vs. those who want to severely restrict new housing with the possible exception of subsidized low- and moderate-income housing.

The best outcome next year will be if the focus can be on "place making" in interesting and creative ways instead of just fighting over how much density or how high the buildings should be. People all over the country are moving back into cities, and figuring out how best to accommodate that trend and create great urban environments should be high on the priority list.

Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from Normandy Real Estate Partners and Twining Properties to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.

This is guaranteed to get a lot of attention in the coming months. Rather than prematurely argue the merits of the petition, I’ll simply say that this is a symptom of a serious problem with the current Cambridge City Council. An extensive planning process (K2C2) was completed about two years ago that culminated in recommendations for Kendall and Central Squares. The City Council has been in a state of paralysis since then. They are under no obligation to support all of the recommendations, but they certainly should be discussing them and proposing changes that can garner majority support. Instead, they have done nothing. So a property owner has to come forward with a zoning petition to jump-start the process.

Order #2. 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

I really don’t think that traffic signage should be about "encouragement" other than the occasional "SLOW" sign. The City lacks the authority to arbitrarily establish speed limits, but there are some specific street types for which that authority should be sought. For example, a one-way street with parking on both sides and a relatively narrow travel lane should have no greater than a 25mph speed limit. Streets with bike lanes should be regulated in such a way that motor vehicle speeds in lanes adjacent to a bike lane should not be more than 15-20mph above typical bike speeds. There should also be much stricter enforcement of all traffic laws (and, yes, that includes cyclists).

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to assess the possibility of adding dedicated cycling infrastructure to Pearl Street as a part of the reconstruction process.   Councillor Cheung

Councillor Cheung’s order conveniently uses the phrase "dedicated cycling infrastructure" rather than "cycle track." Contradicting many of Councillor Cheung’s assertions is the Vassar Street example where traffic is now routinely choked, there is almost no safe space remaining in the roadway except to "take the lane," emergency vehicles now avoid the street for safety’s sake, and trucks routinely park on the sidewalk due to the extreme inflexibility of the road design. For a great example of cycle tracks in practice on Concord Ave., see cambridgecivic.com/?p=2285 and especially the video at vimeo.com/55394832.

It’s also an established fact that when parking is removed travel speeds increase. I’m sure the City would then decide to turn Pearl Street into an obstacle course of speed tables and raised intersections. What is the incentive for complicating the road in this way? Have there been many bike accidents along this road? In the map at youarehere.cc/p/bicycle-accidents/cambridge, all I see is darkness on Pearl Street – few, if any, reported accidents. In other words, this is a "solution" in search of a problem. The preferred alternative would be to do a complete repaving of the street with appropriate street markings. Kids can continue to ride legally on the sidewalks if they wish.

Order #5. The City Manager is requested to confer with the Election Commission and the appropriate City departments to determine a feasibility study and subsequent action plan, instituting suffrage for immigrants in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

This notion comes up every decade or so and thankfully has gone nowhere each time even when a home rule petition was able to squeak by before getting buried by the state legislature. We already have a suffrage mechanism for immigrants. It’s called citizenship. Many people, including me, feel that citizenship and the right to choose elected officials are indistinguishable. I would not want non-citizens electing my representatives – even in municipal elections.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to examine ways to streamline both the City’s process and the City’s technology for replying to Massachusetts Public Records Law requests and to examine how major cities’ open data and FOIA requests are handled, including options for a full time data management team including representatives of the City Clerk’s office, the City Solicitor’s office, and IT.   Councillor Mazen

The only question in this regard should be which information should be publicly available – not the cost or difficulty in obtaining it. It’s understandable that accessing some documents may require significant time and that there should be a cost associated with that, but this should not apply to the wide range of data that can be made publicly available with relative ease. – Robert Winters

November 21, 2014

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Nov 21)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:14 pm

Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities Vacancies

City SealCity 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, at 51 Inman St., 2nd floor conference room, Cambridge.

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 to maximize access to all aspects of Cambridge community life for individuals with disabilities, 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 (Cambridge Municipal Code, 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.

"It is really terrific to be part of the policy planning and decision-making chain, on behalf of people and families affected by disabilities,” said Bet MacArthur MSW LICSW, Member of the CCPD Board. “The Commission’s energy and attention to disability issues extends our influence far beyond our City operations — to state, regional, and even national levels — it’s fun to work so productively with a smart, positive group like the CCPD Board."

For more information, contact Kate Thurman, Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities at 617-349-4692 or ccpd@cambridgema.gov. Interested persons should submit a letter by Friday, Dec 5, 2014 describing their relevant experience and the kinds of disability-related issues or projects that interest them (along with a resume 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


Members Sought for Cambridge GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Commission

City SealApplication Deadline Extended to Dec 8
City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking individuals to fill vacancies on the Cambridge GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Commission. Prospective Commissioners must either reside or work in Cambridge.

The mission of the Commission is to advocate for a culture of respect and to monitor progress toward equality of all persons with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Commission also monitors policies and practices that have a positive effect on the health, welfare and safety of all persons who live, visit or work in the City of Cambridge with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. For more information about the Commission, visit www.cambridgema.gov/glbt or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/Cambridge.GLBT.Commission.

The Commission normally meets on the 4th Thursday of each month and Commissioners are expected to volunteer some time outside of meetings for various projects.

A letter of interest and brief resumé should be sent via e-mail, mail or fax by Monday, Dec 8, 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

November 10, 2014

STEM and Root – On the Agenda of the Nov 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:24 pm

STEM and Root – On the Agenda of the Nov 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

It’s a very short agenda this week. Here are a few items of interest with brief comments.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the License Commission to approve the jitney application of Groupzoom, Inc., d/b/a Bridj for a six month pilot program.

Bridj has been described as a cross between a bus and a taxi service. It’s a Cambridge-based company that ran into regulatory roadblocks several months ago when planning to launch its service in Cambridge. These are interesting times with the emergence of services like Uber and the widespread availability of applications for mobile communication devices that make services like Uber and Bridj possible. This recommendation from the Cambridge License Commission is for a six-month pilot program but it does seem like the future is upon us and we’ll be seeing a lot more services like this in the future. There was a day when omnibuses and trains were all run outside of government control. Could we be going Back to the Future?

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Whitehead Institute, Nine Cambridge Center, to amend the Zoning Ordinance, Sections 14.32.1 and 14.32.2 to provide for an increment of 60,000 square feet of GFA to be allowed by special permit in a portion of the MXD District, in Section 14.70 by retitling "Special Provisions Applicable Within the Ames Street District" and by adding a new Section 14.72 "Special Provisions Applicable Outside the Ames Street District.

The proposal seems sound, but the fact that it does not propose to build housing (only contribute money toward that goal) might translate into some resistance. Not every site is appropriate for housing and this may be one such site. It also proposes to simply expand an existing structure. However, this petition should focus some attention on the bigger picture of adding housing in Kendall Square in locations such as the site of the Volpe Transportation Center down the street. I’m sure there will be some who will say that no changes should be approved until the "Master Plan" process is complete, but that really borders on the ridiculous in a district such as this.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Michael Brandon, 27 Seven Pines Avenue, regarding the Planning Board appointments.

Translation: Mr. Brandon is unhappy with the recent appointments to the Planning Board. His description of the appointments: "Despite the dedication, expertise, civic-mindedness, and good intentions of the board members, this same-as-it-ever-was, opaquely picked panel of powerless project tweakers is obviously designed and inherently destined to obey the administrative staff’s instructions and support the rampant, unplanned, uncoordinated, uncontrolled overdevelopment of the city’s neighborhoods and natural resources that continues to degrade the quality of residents’ lives." I beg to differ. The current Planning Board members and the new appointees are all great people whose interests align well with the great majority of Cambridge residents.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to locate the additional funding needed to move forward with the archiving and preservation of all City Council records in the Vault Phase II project.   Councillor Simmons

Cambridge is an historic city that should appropriately maintain all of its historic treasures – including the records of City Council proceedings. Whether or not this project can be completed in the current budget cycle, it does have to happen. The City has done a lot in this regard over the last decade or so, especially in conjunction with the opening of the new Main Library and its most excellent Cambridge Room.

STEM and rootCommittee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, 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 and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee for a joint public meeting held on Oct 28, 2014 for the STEAM working group and its subcommittees to discuss how best to present their research to the greater Cambridge community and for working group members to collectively put forth sound recommendations around: STEAM workforce development, the alignment of all stakeholders, access for all to the innovation economy, and partnerships that will speed the journey.

I have been looking over the committee reports on this for a while now and it’s hard for me to get a clear picture of what’s going on other than some "brainstorming," creating some kind of web portal, and creating a new "coordinator" job. Maybe this will all turn out great, but so far it seems more like a lot of politically-oriented people riding on board the current national STEM bandwagon. One might think from these reports that education and excitement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics has been thoroughly lacking in elementary and secondary schools in Cambridge. That’s not the case. There is, however, a gap between the world of MIT, Harvard, and a host of science and technology-oriented companies in Cambridge and many young Cambridge residents who could benefit from jobs and other opportunities in these schools, labs, and companies. I worry that advocacy relating to the Foundry Building as well as much of this other STEM/STEAM discussion may lead to enhanced opportunities for young people who were already going to find good opportunities anyway. Only time will tell if those who might otherwise have been left out will somehow get excited about the opportunities around them and get a head start on developing the kind of skills that will be necessary to access these opportunities.

Frankly, this isn’t something that should be bubbling up from a couple of City Council subcommittees. Efforts in this regard should really be growing out of a partnership between the Cambridge School Department, our great local universities, and some of the companies that have been locating in Cambridge during the last few decades. They have had some representation at these committee meetings, but it would be so much better if they were driving the initiative. Otherwise the whole initiative could just come and go with only an extra job left in its wake. The entire Cambridge School Department and all the other local schools have to be at the root of any lasting change.

I am old enough to remember President Kennedy’s exhortations on the importance of science and mathematics education in the era of the space program. So many young people, including me, drew inspiration from what was happening during those years. I don’t know what the modern-day equivalent inspiration might be, but that’s really what is needed in order to get people jazzed about mathematics, science, and related fields. – Robert Winters

November 6, 2014

CRLS Alumni Association – 2014 Homecoming Calendar

Filed under: Cambridge,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:26 am

CRLS Alumni Association – 2014 Homecoming Calendar

  • Mon, Nov 24:  Rindge Tech Dinner – Tickets sold by the Rindge Tech Alumni Association: Hellenic Cultural Center, 25 Bigelow Avenue, Watertown.
  • Wed, Nov 26:  Open House at CRLS – tours of the new facilities and meeting with Principal Damon Smith 10:00am to 12:00pm @ CRLS. Free of charge!
  • Wed, Nov 26:  Alumni Reunion Night – All classes, all schools. Free Hors D’oeuvres 8:00pm to 10:00pm. Cash Bar. @ Grendel’s Den, 89 Winthrop St., Harvard Square.
  • Thurs, Nov 27:  Boys Alumni Soccer Game – 9:00am to 11:00am at Danehy Field #4. No charge!
  • Thurs, Nov 27:  Pre-Game Tailgate – CRLS Football game, with coffee, snacks and good company, 8:30 to 10:00am @ Dilboy Field, 324 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Somerville.
  • Thurs, Nov 27:  CRLS vs Somerville Football Game at 10:00am. AWAY GAME @ Dilboy Field, 324 Alewife Brook Pkwy, Somerville. $5.00 tickets.
  • Fri, Nov 28:  “Back to the Future” Annual CRLS Alumni Association Luncheon with brief business, 11:30am to 2:00pm @ CRLS. No charge, registration requested.
  • Fri, Dec 15:  CRLS Fall Musical “The Addams Family” 7:00pm. with reception @ Fitzgerald Theater, CRLS. $5.00 tickets.

To register or pre-pay for tickets, please go Eventbrite.com and search “crls alumni” or check out the CRLS Alumni Association page on Facebook.

The alumni association is open to those who have attended CRLS and all of its predecessor schools such as Rindge Tech and CHLS. As of today, there are 849 members with the goal of bringing this up to 1000 by the end of the calendar year and to 1500 by the end of this school year. Sign-up and some information is available at https://crlshomecoming2014.eventbrite.com.

November 2, 2014

Boarding and Baiting – Nov 3, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:22 pm

Boarding and Baiting – Nov 3, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Boards & Commission ReceptionThere’s a reception this Wednesday honoring the many volunteer members of Cambridge’s boards & commissions. The City administration, the Mayor and, presumably, all of the city councillors actually appreciate the efforts of these residents who give their time and energy in support of their city – all without compensation. Some board members deserve special thanks and recognition for their willingness to serve on regulatory boards such as the Planning Board which often has to decide controversial cases. Their public service and generosity often puts them in the crosshairs of malcontent activists who thrive on negativity.

The long-awaited appointments of several new Planning Board members are on this week’s agenda. As with every current member of the Planning Board, the new appointees will bring wisdom and a generous spirit to the Planning Board. Unfortunately, the anti-everything activists await them only with slings and arrows. One especially sorry individual even characterized the appointments in a message titled "Healy-Lite locks and loads his ‘Planning’ Board" stating that "Member-for-Life Chairman Hugh Russell and five other real estate and construction industry reps were retained and extended" and "three more connected pro-development insiders added to the team." His unhappiness is apparently tied to his great disappointment that an applicant who has repeatedly been involved in lawsuits against the City was not appointed (shocking!). The appointments by City Manager Richard Rossi are, in fact, excellent choices and his message to the City Council shows just how responsive this City administration has been to feedback from the public.

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to appointments of the following citizens to the Planning Board effective Dec 1, 2014: Mary T. Flynn, Louis J. Bacci Jr., and Thacher Tiffany (Associate Member), and I have reappointed H. Theodore Cohen, and Catherine Preston Connolly.

Nov 3, 2014
To the Honorable, the City Council:

I am pleased to inform you that I have appointed the following citizens to the Planning Board effective Dec 1, 2014: Mary T. Flynn, Louis J. Bacci Jr., and Thacher Tiffany (Associate Member), and I have reappointed H. Theodore Cohen, and Catherine Preston Connolly. They will be serving on the Board with continuing members Steven Cohen, Tom Sieniewicz, Hugh Russell, and Ahmed Nur (Associate Member).

Let’s extend a hearty welcome to Mary Flynn, Luis Bacci, and Thacher Tiffany who will lend their various talents to the planning of their city. Let’s also extend heartfelt thanks to outgoing members Pam Winters and Steve Winter who have given so much of themselves over the years as members of the Planning Board. As with the newly appointed members, they are our neighbors and friends.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to appointments of members to the Police Review & Advisory Board effective Oct 23, 2014: Mertin Betts, reappointment to a 5-year term; and Beverly C. Sealey, appointment to a 5-year term.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Ivria Glass Fried as a member of the Conservation Commission for a term of 3-years effective Nov 1, 2014.

Much attention has been focused on the Planning Board appointments, but there are many City boards – and hundreds of appointments to be made. The Police Review & Advisory Board (PRAB) and the Conservation Commission are two boards that also serve crucial functions within the City of Cambridge requiring special expertise. We’re lucky to have as much available talent in Cambridge as we do.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a recommendation to change the street name "Rumeal Robinson Place" to Norfolk Place.

I have lived long enough in Cambridge to remember that street being renamed in honor of former CRLS basketball star Rumeal Robinson who went on to achieve fame in both college basketball (Univ. of Michigan) and in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks and several other teams. After his playing career ended he tried his hand at property development in Jamaica and ended up being arrested and charged with bank fraud, bribery and wire fraud. He was found guilty and served time in jail. His adoptive mother, Helen Ford, was swindled out of her home by one of Robinson’s business associates when Robinson asked her to use it as collateral for a loan. The agenda item contains only the message from the City Engineer: "I have received requests from property owners and residents of Rumeal Robinson Place, formerly known as Norfolk Place, to change the name of the street back to Norfolk Place. I have consulted with both the Historical Commission and the Traffic Department regarding this request and have also met with the residents and property owners of the street. All parties are supportive of the requested change." Considering the background, it’s no surprise that everyone is in agreement that the name of the street should revert back to Norfolk Place. [You can read one account of the story here.]

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-19, regarding an update on the Concord-Alewife Plan.

The short version is that the Concord-Alewife Plan was well-conceived and the associated zoning was adopted by the City Council in 2006. At the core of the plan was the goal of introducing housing into this previously commercial precinct to transform it to a mixed use district. Now that the recovering economy has led to housing production in this area, some activists have risen up over the last few years to oppose it. The plan will not be reviewed separately but the City expects to "develop recommendations for possibly updating the plan and zoning in the Concord-Alewife area as the early phase of the upcoming Citywide Planning process in the context of the overall city goals and objectives." Next year is shaping up as an interesting battleground between the pro-growth and no-growth forces. Quite a few cans have now been kicked down the road that we’ll now have to travel.

Order #2. The City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, the Department of Public Works and Boston Properties BXP to determine the financial feasibility of the repair needed to the Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain.   Councillor Mazen

There’s some interesting background (and photos) on this in former Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Associate Director Thad Tercyak’s article "MBTA Role in Cambridge Center Project – Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989". The artist’s name, by the way, is Joe Davis.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to provide the City Council with a listing of all available land and buildings currently on the market or potentially for sale in order to initiate a discussion about land purchase and subsequent development of 100% mixed-income housing.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Simmons

I’m sure some developers would also like to get a copy of that listing once it becomes a public record. It will save them a few bucks on research. Two points can here be made. First, it’s not such a good idea to show your cards in potential real estate transactions. Second, consider carefully how neighborhood residents will perceive their City government. Most people tend to want to preserve what now exists – even if this is not in their overall best interest or that of the city and the region. The choice they may end up with is between a developer wanting to build lots of gilded condos or the City wanting to build subsidized housing. It’s likely that neither option will match the ideal of existing residents. – Robert Winters

October 30, 2014

On the Nov 3, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda – Planning Board appointments

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,planning — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 5:53 pm

On the Nov 3, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda:

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to appointments of the following citizens to the Planning Board effective December 1, 2014: Mary T. Flynn, Louis J. Bacci Jr., and Thacher Tiffany (Associate Member), and I have reappointed H. Theodore Cohen, and Catherine Preston Connolly.

November 3, 2014
To the Honorable, the City Council:

I am pleased to inform you that I have appointed the following citizens to the Planning Board effective December 1, 2014: Mary T. Flynn, Louis J. Bacci Jr., and Thacher Tiffany (Associate Member), and I have reappointed H. Theodore Cohen, and Catherine Preston Connolly. They will be serving on the Board with continuing members Steven Cohen, Tom Sieniewicz, Hugh Russell, and Ahmed Nur (Associate Member).

As City Manager, one of my most important responsibilities is appointing members to the Planning Board. These choices directly impact the future of our community. In our densely populated city, residents want a smart balance between growth, development, and maintaining neighborhood vitality and overall quality of life.

The paramount goal of the City administration is for Cambridge to remain a highly desirable community to live, work, or raise a family. I want to thank you for your continuing support and guidance on maintaining this critical goal, and I want to recognize the civically engaged citizens across the City for their dedication, hard work, and contributions throughout this process.

Community input has been invaluable to City Staff and me during the selection process and has played a large part in creating a more focused, deliberate, and comprehensive procedure for soliciting and selecting highly qualified candidates. While the process took longer than some may have anticipated, I believe that the selection process has been refined in a way that will continue to benefit us in the future.

The City received 24 Planning Board applications from the public. Each applicant was interviewed, and I selected appointees that will best represent the entire community, including residents and businesses. The composition of the new board provides greater balance and representation in terms of neighborhood distribution, diversity of opinion, community perspective and professional background. Please join my staff and me in thanking the out-going members for their incredible level of dedication and service to our community. Cambridge receives great value from citizens who volunteer their time so generously for a better community. These retiring members of the Planning Board are prime examples of the most dedicated citizens who have served us well for many years and I have offered them the opportunity to consider serving on other board or commission in the future.

Since the law requires Planning Board members to be appointed for five years, staggering the appointment dates of terms is challenging. Because I am strongly committed to creating a representative board, the City will be recruiting additional Planning Board candidates over the coming months. For the duration of this time, one current full member and one associate member will continue serving on the Board in "holdover" status. While future use of "holdover" appointees should be minimized, I feel it necessary to have appointment flexibility at this time to ensure Board diversity.

Shortly after their appointment, new Planning Board members will receive orientation and training. While I believe that Board members are thoughtful in their review and consideration of special permit projects and zoning amendments, I have emphasized to them that it is important to:

1. Be equally considerate, open minded, and fair to all parties with business before them.

2. Follow all City guidelines and be keenly aware of any personal or professional conflicts, both real and potential.

3. Reflect on and consider how projects impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods. During their deliberations and decision making, strongly consider the principles of good urban planning, placemaking, traffic issues, appropriate scale, storm water relief, historical context, and housing needs.

4. Encourage applicants before the Board to proactively engage with neighborhoods and residents, early in the process.

5. Thoroughly review relevant background materials, consult regularly with staff, listen to community concerns, consult with outside consultants, as necessary, utilize site visits, and review relevant reports and studies.

The following biographical descriptions are for the three new appointees:

Mary T. Flynn is a senior manager and strategic planning leader with broad experience in operations management, community development, and planning and zoning process. She is Manager of Facilities Management at Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Key areas of expertise include strategic planning, real estate and facilities management, community development and zoning. Early in her career, Ms. Flynn worked as Deputy Director of the Cambridge Community Development Department, and she led the creation of the 1993 growth policy document, Towards a Sustainable Future. Ms. Flynn holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Cornell University and an MBA from Boston University. She is a lifelong resident of Cambridge.

Louis J. Bacci Jr. is a lifelong resident of Cambridge. He lives in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood in eastern Cambridge and has had the opportunity to witness the changes that have taken place in the City over the past fifty years. Mr. Bacci has served as a Union Representative/Executive Board member of Laborers Local 151 for over thirty years. He has extensive experience in the construction industry and has hands-on experience of day-to-day construction activities and managing and supervising projects. As an Estimator Project Manager and as owner of a property maintenance company, he focuses on creative problem solving and has worked on projects spanning a range of scales and complexity.

Thacher Tiffany is an urban planner who holds a masters degree in City Planning with a certificate in Urban Design from MIT. Mr. Tiffany is a LEED Accredited Professional and works in the field of affordable housing. He is Director of Acquisitions for the Beacon Communities, where he manages acquisitions of affordable housing properties through public and private partnerships. Mr. Tiffany also serves on the board of Tent City, a resident controlled mixed-income apartment building in the South End. He has lived in the Boston/Cambridge area for most of his life, and for the last three years in mid-Cambridge.

As always, my staff and I look forward to supporting the Planning Board and the important work that they do on behalf of the residents of Cambridge.

Very truly yours,
Richard C. Rossi
City Manager

October 29, 2014

Speaking of elections….

Filed under: 2014 Election,Cambridge,elections — Robert Winters @ 10:55 am

Today’s Quiz Question: How many Cambridge voters have voted in every city-wide election since 1997 (including municipal elections, primaries, state elections, special (city-wide) elections, and federal elections)?

I just updated my mega-database of Cambridge registered voters (66,327 currently), street listing, and voter history files dating back to 1997. Any other questions you’d like to ask? This post will be expanded accordingly.

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 4.     Where do I vote?


Vote!

2014 State Election Candidates (Cambridge only)

Senator in Congress

EDWARD J. MARKEY, 7 Townsend St., Malden, DEMOCRATIC
BRIAN J. HERR, 31 Elizabeth Rd., Hopkinton, REPUBLICAN

Governor/Lieutenant Governor

BAKER and POLITO, REPUBLICAN
COAKLEY and KERRIGAN, DEMOCRATIC
FALCHUK and JENNINGS, UNITED INDEPENDENT PARTY
LIVELY and SAUNDERS, INDEPENDENT
McCORMICK and POST, INDEPENDENT

Attorney General

MAURA HEALEY, 40 Winthrop St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC
JOHN B. MILLER, 40 Westland Ave., Winchester, REPUBLICAN

Secretary of State

WILLIAM FRANCIS GALVIN, 46 Lake St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC
DAVID D’ARCANGELO, 183 Bainbridge St., Malden, REPUBLICAN
DANIEL L. FACTOR, 11 Davis Rd., Acton, GREEN-RAINBOW

Treasurer

DEBORAH B. GOLDBERG, 37 Hyslop Rd., Brookline, DEMOCRATIC
MICHAEL JAMES HEFFERNAN, 244 Grove St., Wellesley, REPUBLICAN
IAN T. JACKSON, 232 Highland Ave., Arlington, GREEN-RAINBOW

Auditor

SUZANNE M. BUMP, 409 North Plain Rd., Great Barrington, DEMOCRATIC
PATRICIA S. SAINT AUBIN, 6 Shady Way, Norfolk, REPUBLICAN
MK MERELICE, 22 White Pl., Brookline, GREEN-RAINBOW

Representative in Congress

FIFTH DISTRICT
KATHERINE M. CLARK, 64 Prospect St., Melrose, DEMOCRATIC

SEVENTH DISTRICT
MICHAEL E. CAPUANO, 172 Central St., Somerville, DEMOCRATIC

Councillor

SIXTH DISTRICT
TERRENCE W. KENNEDY, 3 Stafford Rd., Lynnfield, DEMOCRATIC
VINCENT LAWRENCE DIXON, 60 Lake St., Winchester, REPUBLICAN

Senator in General Court

SECOND MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
PATRICIA D. JEHLEN, 67 Dane St., Somerville, DEMOCRATIC
ROBERT L. CAPPUCCI, JR., 71 Evans St., Medford, REPUBLICAN

MIDDLESEX & SUFFOLK DISTRICT
SAL N. DiDOMENICO, 125 Clarence St., Everett, DEMOCRATIC

FIRST SUFFOLK & MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
ANTHONY W. PETRUCCELLI, 101 Gladstone St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC

Representative in General Court

TWENTY-FOURTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
DAVID M. ROGERS, 18 Richard Ave., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC

TWENTY-FIFTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
MARJORIE C. DECKER, 61 Walden St., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC

TWENTY-SIXTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
TIMOTHY J. TOOMEY, JR., 88 6th St., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC
THOMAS MICHAEL VASCONCELOS, 63 Oak St., Somerville, INDEPENDENT

TWENTY-NINTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
JONATHAN HECHT, 159 Russell Ave., Watertown, DEMOCRATIC

EIGHTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT
JAY D. LIVINGSTONE, 19 Revere St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC

District Attorney

NORTHERN DISTRICT
MARIAN T. RYAN, 8 Bradford Rd., Belmont, DEMOCRATIC

Register of Probate

MIDDLESEX COUNTY
TARA E. DeCRISTOFARO, 36 Terrace Rd., Medford, DEMOCRATIC
JOHN W. LAMBERT, SR., 5 Beverly Rd., Natick, REPUBLICAN

Ballot questions

Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing

Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law

Question 3: Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming

Question 4: Earned Sick Time for Employees

Question 5 (Twenty-Fourth Middlesex District Only): Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?

October 27, 2014

From Evacuation Plans to Traffic Calming – Notable Items on the October 27 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:06 pm

From Evacuation Plans to Traffic Calming – Notable Items on the October 27 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Evacuation!Here’s a grab bag of interesting items.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-82, regarding a report on the feasibility of preparing a climate change checklist and evacuation plan for residents.

Everyone can appreciate the need to know how to "get out of Dodge" in the event of a serious emergency, but it’s interesting how the motivation has shifted over the years from "nuclear attack" to "climate change". It’s worth noting that the motivating City Council order was specifically about climate change but the Manager’s response wisely refers to general emergency preparedness "utilizing an all-hazards approach."

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-48, regarding the appointment of the Central Square Action Team strategies that will help Central Square capitalize on and enhance its designation as a Cultural District.

This is a good move for Central Square and its current "Cultural District" designation. Overdependence on one or two people from the Central Square Business Association was not sustainable. Now there will be a lot more stakeholders who can steer things in good directions and exercise greater creativity.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on Participatory Budgeting in Cambridge.

I am interested in this experiment but I’m also very skeptical. Putting cash ($500,000 to start) on the table when there are potentially competing interest groups can be risky business. Years have passed and people are still debating what should go into the Foundry building that was given to the City. I can easily imagine a scenario where one interest group packs a few meetings demanding that their pet project be funded. It’s also very problematic that few, if any, of the "neighborhood organizations" in Cambridge are especially representative of their respective neighborhoods. The devil will be in the details. The City will hold an information session on Tues, Oct 28 from 6:00-7:30pm at the Citywide Senior Center for community members who are interested in serving on the Steering Committee (SC) or learning how to otherwise get involved with PB in Cambridge. I hope that more than just the usual suspects attend this meeting.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-45, regarding the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance.

This communication gives revised language for a "Checkout Bag Ordinance." The key requirement would be that "Retail Establishments which provide Recyclable Paper Bags or Compostable Plastic Bags shall charge for each such bag provided not less than an amount established by Regulations promulgated by the (Public Works) Commissioner. This Checkout Bag charge shall be retained by the Retail Establishment." Note that the fee would be for any checkout bag that is not deemed "reusable" including paper bags. There are some provisions for short-term exemptions. The penalty would be "not more than $300 for each violation and each day a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense."

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-84, regarding the Planning Board process.

There are a number of sensible improvements that can and should be made, but why on Earth must everything in Cambridge be turned into a process that takes anywhere from a half year to several years to complete? Does this really produce a better product in most cases?

Communication #3. A communication was received from Patrick W. Barrett III, 41A Pleasant Street, regarding the policy order on Lots #5 and #6 of Oct 20, 2014.

The main point I take from this letter is that a long planning process for Central Square took place a couple of years ago that led to numerous specific recommendations. Our new "activist" City Council has done nothing with that report other than to cherry-pick particular ideas that match the personal politics of specific councillors. In terms of the bigger picture, the City Council has shown great expertise in sitting on its hands.

Communication #4. A communication was received from Peter Valentine transmitting information on sitting.

See above remark.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to commission a study of Cambridge Youth Centers with a focus on use rates and underutilized space.   Councillor Mazen

Though I gladly welcome some correction on this, my observation over the years has been that some of the City’s youth centers have been created as much for political reasons as for practical need. We all hope that these centers are well utilized, but past reports have shown this to not always be the case. Now that people are talking about STEM, STEAM, the Foundry Building, pre-K and various other possible initiatives, it’s definitely time to honestly assess what already exists and to see how everything can be made to work effectively for everyone. This is a good Order.

Order #2. The City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, and the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating and maintaining one or more street piano(s) in one or more parks and/or plazas in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

It was fun having the piano in Lafayette Square a few years ago and we could use more public pianos, miniature golf, and other good stuff. Often the best initiatives are the simplest ones.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Police Department, the Fire Department, and other appropriate City departments to review the negative impacts, if any, of street-narrowing initiatives.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Kelley and Councillor McGovern

This Order strikes at the heart of the zealotry exhibited by some City staff who are on a mission to make the landscape as hostile as possible toward motor vehicle operators. Calming traffic is a good thing, but when all flexibility in the roadway is eliminated all it can take is one vehicle to break down or a minor fender-bender and traffic can be brought to a standstill. The "road diet" advocates are, in my humble opinion, ignorant of the realities of actual road usage, especially in winter conditions.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the appropriate City departments to install a raised intersection and traffic-calming measures in front of Cadbury Commons on Sherman Street.   Councillor Cheung

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to investigate the status of the Masse Hardware Company sites located at 243 Walden Street and 253 Walden Street and, if available, consider acquiring one or both sites for mixed-income affordable housing of a suitable scale and report back to the Council regarding findings.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor McGovern

These two Orders appear to directly respond to the housing development proposed for the Masse properties on two corners of the intersection of Walden and Sherman Streets. It is also worth noting that Orders such as #17 nowadays make reference to "middle-income affordable housing" rather than just "affordable housing." This seems to acknowledge the political reality that those who object to proposed housing developments may not be too keen about replacing those proposed high-priced condos with a low-income housing.

Committee Reports #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee for a public hearing held on Oct 8, 2014 to review the City Council’s most recent goals and to make recommendations for the FY16 Goals; said goals to include a goal relating to City-wide planning.

I could say much about this meeting that was supposed to be about all of the City Council’s major goals. One city councillor used this meeting to repeatedly press for the single, overly specific goal of hiring a "STEAM coordinator." That seemed to entirely miss the point of the meeting. One of the more positive goals expressed was for the re-invigoration of philanthropy as a means of funding various initiatives. With some of the big companies locating especially in Kendall Square, that goal could potentially be very consequential. – Robert Winters

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