Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 20, 2019

Passing the Buck – May 20, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Passing the Buck – May 20, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Buck and DoeMove along people – nothing to see here. Well, maybe that hidden state flag. The FY2020 Budget is expected to be approved at this meeting after some fiddling and diddling over some late budget-related communications touching on who gets to be artistic at CMAC (Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center).

The pickings are slim this week:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, in response to requests for additional information made by the City Council Finance Committee during hearings on the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) City Budget.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 1, 2019 and May 7, 2019 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $638,060,155.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on May 7, 2019 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the Water Fund Budget in the amount of $12,833,295.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on May 7, 2019 relative to the Public Investment Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Fund Budget in the amount of $26,796,725.

First, expect all sorts of mutual congratulatory statements – it’s all part of the ritual and it happens every year. There may be some back and forth over the additional information, especially regarding CMAC, but after that expect all bucks to be passed.

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-93, regarding Parcel C (Constellation Center) in Kendall Square.

It’s hard to say whether there will be any push-back on this. Perhaps there will be some questions raised regarding the tax-exempt status of Parcel C for approximately 16 years during which the taxable value of all neighboring properties soared. It’s likely now all just water under the bridge, but it does raise some questions.

Applications & Petitions #1. A re-filing of a zoning petition has been received from Joseph T. Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. transmitting a proposed revised amendment to the zoning ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

It’s hard to say whether or not this proposal will fare better than the previous one given the increasingly hostile political context of the area when factoring in the controversies surrounding the nearby Eversource site and other proposals in East Cambridge. It should be possible for reasonable people to assess this proposal independent of these other matters.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Mar 28, 2019 to discuss Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut continues. It’s remarkable just how comfortable some people have become with double standards.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes for the meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force held on May 9, 2019.

Most of the ideas floated seem all well and good, but I am a bit skeptical about the idea of having a "City-owned arts facility, akin to the EMF building." There is often a fundamental conflict between governmental control and artistic freedom, and the result can often be mediocrity. There is also the problem of political patronage in deciding which artists should be granted money, jobs, and status. This report suggests that "the Task Force could continue on and become an adjudicator based on an equity rubric." This Task Force was appointed by the Mayor, by the way.

There is one suggestion contained in the meeting notes that reflects something I have been emphasizing for several years: "The Baptist church as an arts and culture space". The truth is that there are quite a few older church buildings in the neighborhoods abutting Central Square that would benefit from partnering with various charitable uses, including arts-related functions. Indeed, I have to wonder whether the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority has considered such possibilities as it discusses rescuing the building at 99 Bishop Allen Drive in order to preseve affordable space for the various nonprofit entities now housed there. Dwindling congregations, deferred maintenance, and charitable activities strongly suggest possible mutual solutions. – Robert Winters

March 18, 2019

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at what seems comment-worthy:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the bi-annual City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey for 2018. [Manager’s message] [aggregate responses] [longer report]

The wording of the questions and the meaning of the choices can have a tremendous effect on surveys such as this. For example, if the question "What do you think is the single most important issue facing the City of Cambridge today—the one that affects you and your family the most?" simply lists one option as "Affordable housing/housing", then it’s not at all surprising that this will be the overwhelming first choice. However, does this mean access to subsidized housing or, more likely, does this mean that most renters feel that their rent is higher than they would like it to be and that most buyers feel that purchase costs are much higher than they would like it to be? This is an important distinction because this survey may be used to justify only the expansion of subsidized housing without addressing what most people actually meant by their response in the survey.

Order #2. Reappointment of James Monagle as City Auditor.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

Good choice. Do it.


Bikes, Buses, Scooters & other Transportation:

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-142, regarding a report on efforts to educate cyclists about riding safety and sharing the road especially at intersections.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff about updating the bike data count chart, along with other data tables and charts, in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan to reflect 2016 and 2018 data.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff to report to the City Council on how the data collected from the Broadway Eco-Display is used to inform the City’s transportation planning efforts and to address the possibility of installing additional Eco-Display counters at the highest trafficked bicycle locations to provide more comprehensive information about bike use and other vehicles such as scooters.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with City Staff and report back to the City Council on the status of any micro-mobility pilot programs or partnerships in Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley

I’ll be interested in seeing the requested data (with appropriate documentation to support its validity). I have come to believe that when you start factoring in such things as weather, the need to run multiple errands, electric vehicles and micro-cars, TNCs, and various micro-mobility options, as well as age/condition, we may conclude that Cambridge is not actually located in The Netherlands and that the choice of bicycle transportation may have a natural upper limit no matter how many flex-posts you bolt to the road.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 26, 2019 to discuss the MBTA’s Better Bus Project report as it relates to proposed changes to bus lines and service throughout Cambridge.

If Better Bus means little more than Cutting Corners then there’s not a whole lot to like here. I do, however, think that folding the CT1 into the #1 Bus with more frequent service is a good idea, but only if they can finally solve the problem of Bus Bunching.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 27, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title Twelve entitled “Streets, Sidewalks and Public Places” by adding a new Chapter 12.22 entitled “Cycling Safety Ordinance”.

The key question I would have asked is whether or not this proposal unnecessary restricts the ability of the City Manager and City Departments from using good judgment and appropriate discretion in deciding how future road projects should proceed. As near as I can tell, everything that was and is on the table came from just one lobbying group. Then again, that seems to be the way this City Council operates.


Order #5. Thanks to Mayor McGovern and all members of the Harm Reduction Commission and the Cambridge Opioid Working Group for their leadership and service and that a Human Services and Veterans Committee hold a future hearing to receive an update on the recommendations in these reports and on efforts in Cambridge to address substance use disorder and the opioid crisis.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

Prelude to the Mayor enabling a "safe injection site" to be located inevitably in Central Square to supplement the existing Needle Exchange and other sites enabling IV drug users to flock to Central Square. Wouldn’t it be great if we instead concentrated on things that helped to attract families with children to Central Square?


Housing-Related:

Order #8. City Council endorsement of the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

This Order seems to be setting up for the case to be made that current Cambridge zoning is too restrictive and must be changed to allow for significantly increased density. Note the sponsors. It is curious how the extremely strict zoning restrictions of the suburbs and exurbs are somehow being invoked to make the case that Cambridge, with one of the highest population densities and highest proportions of subsidized housing in Massachusetts, is somehow comparable to Weston. Mendacity seems to be the new official language of Cambridge.

Order #13. City Council support for fully funding the Section 8 Housing Choice Tenant-Based Voucher Program.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Good idea and more to the point than what is otherwise being discussed these days.

Order #14. That the City Manager direct the appropriate City staff to examine the need and possibility of neighborhood preference in Cambridge in the short and long-terms.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Feb 24, 2018 meeting minutes.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding "Affordable Housing Overlay Initial Thoughts".

I’ll be adding more than just my "initial thoughts" on this soon. This juggernaut really needs to be stopped and reconsidered.


Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 13, 2019 to receive an update on the progress to date on the retail strategy plan and vacant storefront initiative.

Faux Retail is apparently The Future. – RW

Update: Councillor Toomey exercised his Charter Right to delay all of the City Manager’s Agenda until the next Council meeting (March 25). The only other consequential thing in the meeting was the back-and-forth posturing of Councillors Zondervan, Siddiqui, Mallon, Carlone, Devereux, and McGovern over Councillor Zondervan’s "initial thoughts" memo on the Public Housing Expansion Initiative, a.k.a. the "Affordable Housing Overlay". Vice Mayor Devereux handled herself rather well. Councillor Mallon argued in favor having her own Maple Ave. be a preferred site for new Public Housing. Councillors Kelley, Simmons, and Toomey wisely remained silent.

December 12, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 361-362: Dec 11, 2018

Episode 361 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 11, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 11, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: New Central Square Police Substation; Central Square BID update; Surveillance Ordinance; Revised Street Performer Ordinance; 1899 Ordinances. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 362 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 11, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 11, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: City Hall landscaping; Late Order on “Act to Promote Housing Choices”, oddity of asymmetric rules for passing zoning ordinances, political consequences; Airplane Noise. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

November 29, 2018

Fifth Friday – Nov 30, 2018 – Central Square

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 4:50 pm

You’re Invited!

Fifth Friday - Nov 30, 2018

Kick off your weekend (and the holiday season!) with a Fifth Friday celebration
in #CentralSQ! Events will take place tomorrow (11/30) from 5-8pm on
City Hall Lawn and throughout Central Square, including:

• Tour of Workbar Cambridge
• Petting Zoo on City Hall Lawn
• Holiday Card Making at Eastern Bank
• Photo Booth with Santa at the Fire Station
• Record Swap at Cheapo Records
• Ornament Making Workshop at NuVu Studio
• Winter Cocktails & Live Music at La Fábrica
• Live Pop-up Art Gallery at 541 Mass Ave from the #CSQinColor Mural Project artists & friends
• Performance and Refreshments at Dance Complex
• Sock and Coat Drive throughout Central Square
• Board Game Night at 730 Tavern, Kitchen & Patio, provided by Pandemonium Books and Games
• Lighting Ceremony and unveiling of new Holiday Lights
• Hot Cocoa with a Cop at Amazon, provided by 1369 Coffee

Fifth Friday is brought to you by the Central Square BID, Starry, Cambridge Community Foundation
and the CSBA, with help from the Cambridge Savings Bank Street Team!

Friday, November 30 • 5 to 8pm • City Hall Lawn

Details & RSVP

November 6, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 351-352: Nov 6, 2018 w/Patrick Barrett

Episode 351 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 6, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 6, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Central Square, Business Improvement District (BID), Formula Business Ordinance and the Central Square Restoration Petition, Envision Cambridge. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 352 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 6, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 6, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Nov 5 City Council meeting highlights, Envision Cambridge, First Street Garage & Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 12, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 317-318: June 12, 2018

Episode 317 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 5:30pm. Our guest was Michael Monestime, Exec. Director of the Central Square Business Association. Topics: Business Improvement District proposal, Central Flea, River St./CB Plaza improvements, Arts Overlay. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 318 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Vellucci Plaza and Inman Square; Envision Cambridge – and then some. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 20, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 297-298: March 20, 2018

Episode 297 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 20, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on March 20, 2018 at 5:30pm. Patrick Barrett was the guest. Main Topics: Tenant Right of First Refusal, Envision Cambridge. Host: Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 298 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 20, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on March 20, 2018 at 5:30pm. Patrick Barrett was the guest. Main Topics: Envision Cambridge, Central Square. Host: Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 9, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 225-226: May 9, 2017

Episode 225 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 9, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 9, 2017 at 5:30pm. Patrick Barrett was our guest co-host this week. Topics included the death of former City Councillor Bob Moncrieff, vacancies on the Central Square and Harvard Square Advisory Committees, Participatory Budgeting, and the Outstanding City Employee Awards. Host: Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 226 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 9, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 9, 2017 at 6:00pm. Patrick Barrett was our guest co-host this week. Topics included the misbehavior of a city councillor at last week’s Budget Hearing; this week’s Budget Hearings; the AirBnB Question; and the issue of long-term vacant properties and how best to deal with them. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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