Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 4, 2019

The Last Thing on their Minds – Nov 4, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

The Last Thing on their Minds – Nov 4, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

CountdownThis is your classic night-before-Election-Day City Council meeting where Council business places a distant second behind concerns about having all their incumbency protection ducks in a row. If this meeting goes beyond 6:15pm it will likely be because they were forced to listen to the repetitive whining of Public Comment. Anyway, here is my very short list of interesting items on this very short agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the creation of a new municipal Renewable Energy and Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) Reduction Revolving Fund (“Revolving Fund”) to serve the City of Cambridge’s (“City”) municipal energy aggregation, and adoption of the proposed new ordinance, Chapter 3.24, entitled “Departmental Revolving Funds.”

From the Manager’s letter: "The Aggregation adder is expected to raise approximately $650,000 annually, or a total of $1.3 million during the current supplier contract period (January 2019 – December 2020)." Proposed uses are: (a) Invest $1.3 million in a solar energy project located on a municipal building; and (b) Deposit income earned from the sale of generated Net Metering Credits annually into the Revolving Fund. Those funds would subsequently be used to finance other solar energy/renewable energy projects and all resulting GHG reductions would be attributed to the Aggregation’s participants.

Seems like a reasonable plan of action.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff on determining the most appropriate signage and messaging that would best educate cyclists on the importance of following traffic laws, particularly stopping at red lights, for their own safety and the safety of other cyclists and pedestrians.

30 out of 31 Communications in which cyclists recoil in horror because a City Council Order from last week suggested "signage and messaging that would best educate cyclists on the importance of following traffic laws, particularly stopping at red lights, for their own safety and the safety of other cyclists and pedestrians."

Only in Cambridge would a resolution calling for enhanced safety yield an avalanche of protest. The turf wars continue.

Resolution #5. Congratulations to Sekazi K. Mtingwa.   Councillor Simmons

Sekazi and I worked together at MIT. I did the math and he did the physics in the MIT Concourse program. I’m glad to see him getting the recognition.

Brattle RoundaboutOrder #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the Council by the end of this term on progress toward identifying a source of funding and a timetable for the design and construction of a modern roundabout at the Brattle-Sparks-Craigie intersection, to share the consultant’s 2017-18 report on the feasibility of a modern roundabout, and to schedule a community meeting in early 2020 to further discuss this project.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

I don’t know whether or not this is the best alternative for this intersection but it is an interesting proposal. I don’t like the way it "pedestrianizes" cyclists and I would likely just ride through the roundabout with the rest of the traffic. It’s a bit strange that the Council Order calls for a source of funding and a timetable for the design and construction prior to there being any decision on even doing such a redesign, but it’s fair to say that this isn’t the first instance of engineering via politics by this Council.

Order #5. Resolution in support of the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW’S demands for a fair contract now.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

Finish your thesis, kids. There are better opportunities than being an ABD (All But Dissertation) graduate student. I’ll add that it still seems funny that the United Auto Workers are representing Harvard Graduate students.

99 Items Awaiting Report (sung to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall")

Wouldn’t it be just marvelous if one of these weeks one of the councillors simply asked the manager to run through the list and say (a) which items he has no intention of reporting (possibly because it’s either moot or ridiculous); (b) which items somebody somewhere is actually working on; and (c) which items he considers to be timely and important. For example, should we all be waiting with bated breath on the future of wood-fired ovens or electronic device usage by City-elected officials? I thought that the request for "a comprehensive, independent planning, and parking study of the neighborhood and use of the First Street Garage" had already been completed. Would it be so difficult to report on the "feasibility of allowing small businesses to host live acoustic music performances without a license?" Can anyone shed any light on the proposed Outdoor Lighting Ordinance that has apparently gone missing? – Robert Winters

November 1, 2019

Follow the Money – Cambridge City Council Campaign Receipts 2019

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,campaign finance,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:00 pm

Why do labor unions pour so much money into City Council campaign coffers?

Money![Originally posted Aug 15, updated periodically] – One thing I have always found puzzling is the amount of money donated to the campaign accounts of incumbent city councillors. I suppose this could be interpreted as financial support for those who have supported unions in their noble quest for better wages, benefits, and working conditions, but the fact is that all incumbents and challengers appear to share this sentiment. So perhaps it’s something different. There is a longstanding pattern of labor representatives being recruited by some of the larger real estate developers to speak in favor of new development – supposedly because of the jobs involved, but that always struck me as too simplistic. Many of the people who control the funds of these political action committees are, to say the least, politically connected.

There’s also the matter of political contributions from people tied to real estate development. This is always difficult to evaluate because of the simple fact that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to determine motive. There are people who have been generous charitable contributors for ages who also happen to own and/or develop Cambridge real estate. Are their contributions related to their real estate interests or not?

Of course, there’s also the matter of whether or not contributions come from Cambridge residents. It’s not always easy to draw conclusions from this – primarily because some candidates have family and friends scattered across the rest of the state and the country.

Here’s a revised account of the (a) Cambridge contributions, (b) union contributions, (c) real estate contributions (as best as I could discern), and (d) total of union and real estate money contributed over this election cycle starting from Feb 1, 2018 through the latest data available for all City Council candidates (notes: – receipts include loans from candidates to their campaigns; refunds deducted if clearly a refund):

Table of reported City Council campaign receipts (Feb 1, 2018 - present) - Total, Cambridge, Unions, Real Estate - updated Nov 15, 11:15am
Candidate (and PACs)ReceiptsCambridgePctunionsPctReal EstatePctunions+REPct
Total $669,682.15 $424,293.5563.4% $41,250.006.2% $67,751.0010.1% $109,001.0016.3%
McGovern, Marc C. $102,962.21 $44,418.0043.1% $12,050.0011.7% $30,200.0029.3% $42,250.0041.0%
Simmons, E. Denise $63,371.19 $30,751.1948.5% $6,250.009.9% $20,100.0031.7% $26,350.0041.6%
Toomey, Timothy J., Jr. $55,361.68 $31,048.5856.1% $4,600.008.3% $10,750.0019.4% $15,350.0027.7%
Mallon, Alanna $41,195.25 $27,612.2567.0% $6,450.0015.7% $1,900.004.6% $8,350.0020.3%
Siddiqui, Sumbul $30,064.68 $18,186.6860.5% $4,250.0014.1% $350.001.2% $4,600.0015.3%
Musgrave, Adriane $41,308.35 $20,624.3549.9% $3,700.009.0% $600.001.5% $4,300.0010.4%
Kelley, Craig A. $33,504.00 $26,772.0079.9% $2,500.007.5% $1,650.004.9% $4,150.0012.4%
ABC - PAC $24,259.26 $20,207.2383.3% $ -0.0% $1,866.007.7% $1,866.007.7%
Carlone, Dennis $32,173.00 $25,698.0079.9% $500.001.6% $250.000.8% $750.002.3%
Mednick, Risa $19,237.00 $13,854.0072.0% $500.002.6% $ - 0.0% $500.002.6%
Azeem, Burhan $13,199.35 $10,494.3579.5% $450.003.4% $35.000.3% $485.003.7%
Williams, Nicola A. $27,272.59 $20,413.5274.8% $ -0.0% $ 50.000.2%$ 50.000.2%
Akiba, Sukia $3,000.00 $980.0032.7% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
BikeSafety-PAC $3,230.00 $1,905.0059.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CCC - PAC $18,805.00 $17,925.0095.3% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CResA - PAC $2,905.00 $2,905.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
Franklin, Charles $31,321.55 $20,253.5564.7% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Kopon, Derek Andrew $8,203.71 $6,817.6683.1% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Levy, Ilan S. $ 450.00 $ 450.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
McNary, Jeffery $ - $ - - $ -- $ - - $ - -
Moree, Gregg J. $ 1,500.00 $ 1,500.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Nolan, Patricia M. $21,961.23 $13,555.0061.7% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
ORC - PAC $1,992.00 $1,892.0095.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
Pitkin, John $14,022.00 $12,122.0086.4% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Simon, Ben $12,255.33 $6,742.0055.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan $25,331.77 $18,337.1972.4% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Zondervan, Quinton $40,796.00 $28,829.0070.7% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%

Source: Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF)

ABC-PAC: “A Better Cambridge Political Action Committee”
BikeSafety-PAC: “Cambridge Bicycle Safety Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee”
CCC-PAC: “Cambridge Citizens Coalition Political Action Committee”
CResA-PAC: “Democracy for Cambridge Political Action Committee” – Cambridge Residents Alliance
ORC-PAC: “Our Revolution Cambridge Political Action Committee”

2019 Cambridge City Council Campaign Bank Reports

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,campaign finance,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:51 pm

The following table shows the summary bank reports (Feb 2018 to present) for 2019 Cambridge City Council candidates and active local political action committees involved in the municipal election. These reports are updated at the middle and at the end of every month. You can sort by any of the fields shown by clicking on the field name – one click ascending and second click descending. #1 Votes and $/Vote fields added Nov 10 and will be updated as bills continue to be paid.

CandidateToStartReceiptsExpendBalance#1 Votes$/VoteNotes
PAC - ABC10/31/190.0021084.2716770.494313.78--A Better Cambridge
PAC - CCC10/31/190.0016900.2411739.355160.89--Cambridge Citizens Coalition
PAC - CResA10/31/190.002522.70735.951786.75--Cambridge Residents Alliance
PAC - Cambr. Bike Safety07/15/190.000.000.000.00--Cambridge Bike Safety
PAC - Our Revolution Cambridge10/31/190.001427.000.001427.00--filed 10/9/19 w/OCPF
Akiba, Sukia10/31/190.003000.031738.181261.85362 $4.80
Azeem, Burhan10/31/190.0012979.5811938.161041.42959 $12.45new candidate, May 7
Carlone, Dennis10/31/1910088.5829068.3322556.5416600.371478 $15.26
Franklin, Charles10/31/190.0030297.7127037.453260.26323 $83.71new candidate, Mar 5
Kelley, Craig10/31/194951.6529149.2026458.097642.761422 $18.61
Kopon, Derek10/31/190.009047.277973.841073.43493 $16.17new candidate, July 2
Levy, Ilan10/31/19-44.32555.71432.1379.26110 $3.93
Mallon, Alanna10/31/195380.4540515.3738248.677647.151256 $30.45refund deducted
McGovern, Marc10/31/196376.1796408.1481075.1421709.171619 $50.08$600 refund deducted
McNary, Jeffery10/31/190.000.000.000.0077 $0.00will not raise/expend funds
Mednick, Risa10/31/190.0016955.5615255.451700.11244 $62.52new candidate, July 15
Moree, Gregg10/31/190.001500.001427.1072.9047 $30.36
Musgrave, Adriane10/31/19474.6738370.1633149.405695.43726 $45.66
Nolan, Patty10/31/190.0020012.7414878.575134.171683 $8.84new candidate, June 11
Pitkin, John10/31/190.0012648.975519.807129.17536 $10.30new candidate, July 17
Siddiqui, Sumbul10/31/199334.0530183.3122895.9316621.432516 $9.10
Simmons, Denise10/31/197595.5053626.6235370.1725851.952006 $17.63
Simon, Ben10/31/190.0012145.958787.403358.55294 $29.89new candidate, Apr 2
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan C.10/31/190.0024407.5619930.524477.041321 $15.09new candidate, Mar 11
Toomey, Tim10/31/1910024.4955361.8041349.6724036.621729 $23.92$15,000 repaid loan deducted
Williams, Nicola A.10/31/190.0027874.6324933.802940.83631 $39.51new candidate, Mar 12
Zondervan, Quinton10/31/191279.6640775.9939855.032200.621380 $28.88
Summaries of potential 2019 City Council campaign bank reports. Adjustments to the totals have been made to reflect returned donations and other factors. [updated Nov 5, 2019 at 4:38pm]

Campaign Finance Reports – 2019 City Council (updated Nov 5, 4:38pm)

Vote!

October 27, 2019

Nervously Waiting and Wading through the Campaign Mailers – October 28, 2019 City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:15 pm

Nervously Waiting and Wading through the Campaign Mailers – October 28, 2019 City Council Agenda

Ballot BoxHere are some items of interest up for discussion/approval/referral this week:

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $350,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Library Extraordinary Expenditures account. This appropriation will fund a feasibility study and interior improvements to the Central Square Branch Library.

It’s all feasible. The greater questions are (a) whether the City is willing to substantially redesign the Central Sq. library entrance to make it less of a nuisance, and (b) whether there’s any interest in adding another level or two of parking to the Green Street Garage to meet existing demand and to compensate for losses elsewhere in the Central Square area. My guess is that they’ll do neither.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the request for two appropriations of $23,000,000 from Free Cash and $7,000,000 from Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for the Foundry project.

The gift that keeps on giving.</sarcasm>

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff on determining the most appropriate signage and messaging that would best educate cyclists on the importance of following traffic laws, particularly stopping at red lights, for their own safety and the safety of other cyclists and pedestrians.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Ensuring cyclists own safety seems like a continuing uphill battle. This past Thursday on my way to teach a lecture I watched two cyclists with no lights ride at around 8:00pm directly across the path of a large truck on Oxford Street below the field of vision of the driver. Near miss.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and the Department of Public Works to determine what facilities, parking changes, and other improvements to the pavement conditions would be necessary and feasible to make Porter Square and Massachusetts Avenue between Roseland Street and Beech Street a quick-build Complete Street with bus priority.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

I have minimal knowledge of the best remedy for this area. I can, however, show at least one location where paradoxically the removal of an exclusive bus priority lane would actually make bus traffic move more quickly. Beware of one-size-fits-all solutions.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 24, 2019 to discuss the City policy on sidewalk surface treatments as discussed in Policy Order #16 of July 30, 2019.

I like all-brick sidewalks except when I have to shovel them after a snowstorm. Then again, in my neighborhood when an asphalt patch of a concrete sidewalk is made it can take over 5 years to restore the sidewalk. Or never. Especially if the cut was made by Eversource/Neverfinish.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Mayor McGovern, transmitting a report, "The Kind of City which is Desirable and Obtainable:" A brief history of zoning in Cambridge.

I love anecdotal and oral histories. They add to the story. As for the political point attempting to be made here, never forget the age-old advice that "correlation does not imply causation." Cambridge zoning was initially done to simply acknowledge and codify what was already built. One definitely gets the impression that the current mayor wants to obliterate existing zoning primarily to facilitate a specific proposal. If you start with a conclusion you can nearly always cobble together a narrative to support it. I am far more interested in the here and now and whether specific modifications to existing zoning might be appropriate to achieve best outcomes, e.g. transit-oriented development, moderate increases in density, and adjusting the table of uses to reflect present-day uses in commercial zones. – Robert Winters

October 21, 2019

Coming up at the October 21, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:24 pm

Coming up at the October 21, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallMost of the controversial business has been either dispensed with (e.g. Cannabis) or neatly stored away for the sake of incumbency protection (Subsidized Housing Overlay) which leaves the agenda open primarily for targeted advertising (dog owners who vote and followers of Greta Thunberg – How Dare You!). Throw in a few street/sidewalk improvements and you have a normal pre-election sampling. Here are the delightfully few things that caught my eye this week:

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5,000,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures account for the City’s annual contribution to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line Extension (GLX) project.

Here’s what I wrote in January, 2018 on this: "Could this be the new normal, i.e. that developers and host cities who would benefit by new transit should pay for the transit? The realization of the Green Line Extension seems to have been made possible, at least in part, by the promise of financial contributions from Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and the developer of the NorthPoint area."

In any case, it’s good to see that progress is being made. Indeed, just yesterday while driving back from leading a Middlesex Canal walk in Billerica I passed through some of the construction in Medford/Somerville. It’s really happening.

Charter Right #1. An application was received from &Pizza, requesting permission for a sandwich board sign in front of the premises numbered 3 Brattle Street with a start date of Dec 1, 2019 thru Mar 31, 2020 and a start time of 11:00am and an end time of 11:00pm.

As I wrote for the last meeting: "As for the sandwich board sign in front of &Pizza, I thought having one of the most prominent locations in the heart of Harvard Square would speak for itself – no extra signage required. I’ll add that really good pizza also speaks for itself."

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development division of the Community Development Department to retain a financial/economic analyst to conduct a confidential financial analysis of NED’s pro forma to inform the council in confidence on the value of the proposed upzoning.

To repeat myself once again: "This may make sense in this specific case since the proponent has offered to provide this financial information, but I hope that we don’t go down the road of only approving projects after analyzing the books of the proponents. Ideally zoning should be about good planning and betterment for the city and not on how much profit is permissible in the long run."

Applications & Petitions #2. A refiled 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.

This was anticipated. Joe Maguire’s feet may be quite warm by the time this reaches the ordination stage. More than a few councillors have promised to hold his feet to the fire in regard to the Eversource substation sub-issue.

Order #8. Zoning Amendment Articles 2.00 and 4.32 regarding opposition to permitting on-demand mobile fueling services to operate in Cambridge.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Yet more evidence of the lazy ass, "call the servants" times that we now live in. If pumping your own gas at the filling station is so burdensome that you must use a phone app to have the "little people" show up to do it for you, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your life choices. – Robert Winters

October 7, 2019

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Here’s this week’s sampler of things interesting and/or infuriating (grouped as appropriate):

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the City Council zoning petition to amend Article 19.000 of the Zoning Ordinance regarding utility and infrastructure impacts of large development projects that require a Project Review Special Permit.

Order #8. Public Utilities’ Planning and public meetings.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

The Planning Board basically said in recommending against this petition that though they would like Project Review Special Permit applicants to provide information about energy needs, etc., they don’t believe it’s in their purview "to make findings with regard to infrastructure that is managed by state-regulated public utilities over which neither the City nor the developer have control." They also expressed concern that the proposed changes might prevent development projects that could otherwise improve existing infrastructure (as mitigation). The Board did acknowledge the value of receiving information on the overall impact of a particular project on the energy system and the cumulative impacts of new development but did not support precluding projects strictly on the basis of such information.

The context of this proposal is the proposed Eversource substation on Fulkerson St. and the fact that with new development comes the need for such facilities – unless you are of the belief that all new buildings can be built honestly "net zero". The fact is that most, perhaps all, buildings that are advertised as "net zero" still require energy off the grid. The "net zero" identification is achieved by creative accounting, i.e. by purchasing energy from renewable sources and by buying of energy credits. This doesn’t eliminate the need for the infrastructure to deliver the energy.

Order #8 seeks "to institute regularly scheduled, public conversations between the Planning Board and public utility representatives from Eversource, the Water Department, Comcast, Verizon, and any other appropriate entities, in order to keep the City and the public informed." That’s a good idea regardless how one feels about this specific zoning petition.


Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2020.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding not using excess balances to lower the tax levy.

The FY20 property tax levy based on the approved FY20 Budget is $438,128,694, an increase of $28,318,833 or 6.9% from FY19. For comparison sake, the current national inflation rate is 1.7%. The FY20 Adopted Operating Budget increased by 5.7% over the FY19 Adjusted Budget. The FY19 levy was 5.3% over FY18.

The FY20 residential tax rate will be $5.75 per thousand dollars of value, subject to Department of Revenue approval – a decrease of $0.19 or -3.2% from FY19. The commercial tax rate will be $12.68 – a decrease of $1.03 or -7.5% from FY19. However, before you pop the champagne corks to celebrate the lower tax rate, note that assessed values continue to soar. Total residential property values increased by 9.9%, and total commercial property values increased by 15.6%, so the median tax bills (including the residential exemption) will all be jumping – 8.9% for single-family homes, 7.4% for two-families, 6.0% for three-families, and just the tiniest of increase of 2.8% for condominiums.

I find it interesting and somewhat alarming that at City Council candidate forums some incumbents and challengers continue to celebrate how flush with cash we are and that we should be substantially increasing spending. As the noted letter indicates this also appears to be the sentiment of the major players with endorsing organizations like ABC. There was even one candidate at a forum last night who proposed that the City simply buy up all residential housing in Cambridge and turn it into "social housing". At the signpost up ahead, The Twilight Zone.


Charter Right #6. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to determine whether it would be possible to allow a permitted area for serving alcoholic beverages on Danehy Park property during special community-wide events.

As I said when this was introduced – great idea, and consistent with policies that the DCR has adopted for some of its parks.


Unfinished Business #12. A Zoning Petition has been received from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. et al proposing a Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District [Ordination Comes on or after Oct 7, 2019]

Communications #39. A communication was received from Joseph T. Maguire, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. regarding Amended Zoning Petition for Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

Alexandria is asking that the petition be allowed to expire so that it can be re-filed. This matter is also intertwined with the Eversource substation matter.


Applications & Petitions #2. An application was received from &Pizza, requesting permission for a sandwich board sign in front of the premises numbered 3 Brattle Street with a start date of Dec 1, 2019 thru Mar 31, 2020 and a start time of 11:00am and a end time of 11:00pm.

Applications & Petitions #5. A Zoning Petition has been received from Suzanne P. Blier regarding Harvard Square Zoning Petition.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Harvard Square Business Association and the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association to determine the feasibility of closing some portion of Harvard Square to vehicular traffic on a select number of days during the summer of 2020 to have open market-style events.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

It is worth noting (and celebrating) that the freshly introduced Harvard Square Zoning Petition is the result of collaboration among residents and property owners who haven’t always been on speaking terms. Kudos once again to future Nobel Peace Prize nominee Patrick Barrett for helping this process along. We all want to see a Harvard Square revival – and not just for occasional one-day events. As for the sandwich board sign in front of &Pizza, I thought having one of the most prominent locations in the heart of Harvard Square would speak for itself – no extra signage required. I’ll add that really good pizza also speaks for itself.


Communications #2-6,12. Sundry communications re: "Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay".

Is anyone listening? Or are 5 councillors still biding their time in the hope that they can inflict this or worse on the city after January 1?

Communications #10. A communication was received from Gregg Moree, 25 Fairfield Street, regarding State Senator Sal DiDomenico clear evidence of him going to Florida without permission.

Unbelievable. Sometimes I feel that the requirement for candidacy should be something other than just 50 signatures.

Communications #13-36. Sundry communications re: support for bike lanes.

Basically all the same letter saying the same thing about how the priorities of one group of stakeholders outweigh all other considerations and there is one and only one way to make cycling safer.


Order #3. That the full City Council ask the City Solicitor to report back on the legal authority of the City to ban the use of natural gas in newly constructed buildings.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor, Community Development, Public Works, Inspectional Services and any other related departments to review the proposed amendments regarding the prohibition of Natural Gas Infrastructure in New Buildings.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux

Committee Report #1. A report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chairs of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 25, 2019 regarding banning natural (fracked) gas infrastructure in Cambridge.

As I wrote elsewhere regarding candidates, some want to mandate change and remove choice. The better candidates want to encourage change and provide incentives. It’s a big difference. Some candidates think primarily in terms of bans and reducing options. Others believe in expanding choice and providing good alternatives from which to choose. I personally prefer using a gas stove. I also believe my natural gas heat is considerably less expensive than the electric alternative.


Relic of the Washington Elm
Circular box carved from a
piece of the Washington Elm
Washington Elm postcard

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Arts Council and the Department of Public Works, in conjunction with the Rindge School of Technical Arts, to determine the best re-use for the four honey locust logs from Inman Square to create public art for the community.   Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 17, 2019 to discuss the preserved Inman Square tree trunks and receive input from the public on possible future uses of the wood, which is a public resource.

This is perhaps one of the tiniest of agenda items, but I really like the idea of using the wood from identified trees either as public art or as mementos. I have a little circular box made from the famous Washington Elm that once stood at Garden and Mason Streets. I have other pieces of that tree as well.


Order #5. That the City Manager have appropriate city staff review the proposed Welcoming Community Ordinance.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 2, 2019 at 3pm to discuss the Welcoming Community Ordinance.

This is basically just an updated version of the existing Sanctuary City resolution but in the form of an ordinance that specifically addresses how the Cambridge Police and other City departments should interact with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The City Solicitor expressed that Council should be careful when limiting a police officer’s discretion to enforce laws, and I agree completely. I do find merit in Sanctuary City principles in that I certainly don’t want people to stop reporting crimes or contacting the Fire Dept. or other services out of fear of being nailed for their immigration status.


Order #7. Fuel pump warning labels.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Sign, sign everywhere a sign blocking out the scenery breakin my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to allocate more funds in the FY21 budget to Inspectional Services to help combat the city-wide rodent issue and report back on the feasibility of providing monetary compensation to homeowners who have had to self-finance traps and what funds could be allocated in the future to help homeowners buy traps.   Councillor Toomey

What about those of us who live next to a building where the property owner (and tenants) don’t properly address their rodent infestation even after the City has been contacted, fines have been issued, and the problems persist? Getting reimbursed for partially addressing problems on an adjacent property that spills over onto your own property hardly seems like a solution.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Budget Department, the Assessor’s Department and the Community Development Department to consider directing a portion of future PILOT funds into the Affordable Housing Trust starting in FY21.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Earmarking funds in this way is generally a bad idea. Same goes for previous notions of dedicating cannabis-related funds toward purposes unrelated to its impacts. Priorities and needs change and restricting in-lieu-of-tax funds from universities to one purpose is short-sighted.

Order #15. That the City Council go on record in support of House Bill 3116, Senate Bill 2034, and the establishment of Governor Baker’s Low-speed Mobility Device Advisory Working Group as part of the Safe Driving Legislation, Senate Bill 7.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This is a good idea and overdue. That said, if anyone thinks that electric scooters and skateboards are going to go a long way toward solving transportation needs, think again.

Order #16. Creating the Director of Arts and Culture Position.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons

I have to seriously question the motivation for this Order. If some councillors have questions about how the Cambridge Arts Council prioritizes arts and cultural matters in the city, that’s a totally reasonable inquiry. If they believe that additional staff may be required, that’s also a reasonable thing to ask of the City Manager in the next Budget cycle. However, asking to create a highly specific "Director of Arts and Culture" position seems like these councillors are stepping way over the line into city management. Should the whole universe of how the City supports arts and culture be reviewed periodically? Absolutely, and the City Manager should regularly challenge the Arts Council and other City-supported entities (like CMAC) to be the best they can be. We currently have an especially good Executive Director of the Arts Council in Jason Weeks, and I fail to see how creating a separate and parallel position will in any way further any goals that may have been expressed as part of the recent Arts Task Force.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development division of the Community Development Department to retain a financial/economic analyst to conduct a confidential financial analysis of NED’s pro forma to inform the council in confidence on the value of the proposed upzoning.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

This may make sense in this specific case since the proponent has offered to provide this financial information, but I hope that we don’t go down the road of only approving projects after analyzing the books of the proponents. Ideally zoning should be about good planning and betterment for the city and not on how much profit is permissible in the long run.

Order #21. Proposed amendment to City Ordinance 1.12.040 regarding City Solicitor opinion on proposed ordinances.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui

I don’t know if an ordinance change is necessarily warranted in this case, but it probably is a good idea to get the City Solicitor involved earlier in some of these matters rather than head down some roads leading to a dead end. – Robert Winters

September 23, 2019

Fire Up That Doobie – Cannabis, CPA Funding and the rest of the Sept 23, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:23 am

Fire Up That Doobie – Cannabis, CPA Funding and the rest of the Sept 23, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

After an eventful week of Courthouse Controversy and Picking Winners in the Cannabis Sweepstakes, here are the things that struck me as interesting on this week’s agenda:Reefer Madness

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for FY2020.

It will be the maximum 80% to the Affordable Housing Trust, and the minimum 10% for Open Space Acquisition and 10% for Historic Preservation – non-negotiable, of course.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a petition to amend provisions in Section 22.20, which governs Green Building Requirements, and also applicable definitions contained in Article 2.000.

If I’m reading this correctly, it appears that the City is ditching the costly LEED certification process for "green" buildings in favor of an in-house process that achieves the same goals or better. It’s also noteworthy that this proposal is for larger projects, so ordinary homeowners should not worry yet about the City monkey-wrenching with ordinary home improvements.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a petition to amend provisions in Article 5.000 and Article 22.000 pertaining to setback requirements and exterior building insulation.

This appears to be a reasonable minor proposal to allow additional building insulation that might previously have extended into yard setbacks. We’re talking inches here, not feet.


Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-56, regarding a report on the feasibility of constructing a quick-build complete streets project to provide separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, from Sidney Street to Putnam Avenue.

Communications #22. A communication was received from Michael Monestime, Central Square Business Improvement District, and Nathanael Fillmore, Cambridge Bicycle Safety, expressing their joint support for building protected bicycle lanes on Massachusetts Avenue between Sidney Street and Putnam Avenue in the near future.

The velo-zealots will likely be out in force once again proving their inability to understand words like "reasonable" or "compromise" or anything relating to vehicles with more than two wheels.


Unfinished Business #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

Committee Report #2. 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 Aug 14, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code to create a Cannabis Business Permitting ordinance including amendments submitted at the July 30, 2019 Special City Council meeting.

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 18, 2019 at 11:00am to discuss amendments to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance.

They should just flip a few coins and approve something and move on. The Ordinance Committee apparently decided to go with the two-year moratorium to allow various "economic empowerment" applicants to have a head start before the medical dispensaries can also dip into the pot of Acapulco Gold. By the way, is there anyone who was not offended by the "Slave Amendment" postcard that was sent citywide by Richard Harding and his cannabis pals? I’m really starting to dislike everyone associated with this business.


Order #6. Alcoholic beverage permitting in large parks.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley

As the Order says: "A better experience would be ensured for participants if a regulated, enclosed, and permitted beer garden could be located within a large park such as Danehy during a special event." Quite true, and Vice Mayor Devereux deserves a lot of credit for following up on this after this year’s sizzling Jazz Festival that would be so much nicer if it can be moved back to a field of real grass with a permitted beer garden.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Human Services and the Cambridge Public Library  system to hire a social worker in the FY2021 budget for the Central Square Library branch.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern

I suppose this might be a good thing, but I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another way to enable bad behavior that continues to make Central Square, and the Library in particular, a hostile place for families. – Robert Winters

September 16, 2019

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:24 pm

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at what I think is the interesting stuff. See below for snarky comments and enduring wisdom.City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-56, regarding a report on the feasibility of constructing a quick-build complete streets project to provide separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, from Sidney Street to Putnam Avenue.

Perhaps the most important statement in the report is this: "It is also important to note that the continued success of Central Square as a vibrant and livable community hub for business, culture, and government relies on a delicate balance of different activities that go beyond transportation. Any planning related to complete streets and reconfiguring Central Square for the benefit of street users of all ages and abilities must take into account a broad range of factors and stakeholders, to avoid taking any actions that would change that balance in a negative way. We want to ensure that as we contemplate changes that serve our City goals related to promoting sustainable transportation and improving access to community resources and economic opportunities, we do not inadvertently make it more difficult to achieve other goals that we have related to Central Square."

I fully expect the velo-zealots will demand that only their concerns should be addressed and that all others should just get on board. Hopefully reason will prevail and we won’t have people boarding buses while cyclists weave through the line of passengers, or have every cyclist in town dialing up See-Click-Fix because somebody had to make a delivery and had no choice but to encroach on their turf.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-69, regarding a report on the timeline and process for the Net Zero Action Plan 5-Year Review.

We all want energy efficiency but I seriously hope that the mandates don’t come crashing down on reasonable people living in older homes.


Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from Anthony Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 26, 2019 to discuss a petition received from Self Storage Group, LLC to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating a New Street Overlay District. ON OR AFTER AUG 18, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON ORDINATION

Unfinished Business #12. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Vice Mayor Devereux, regarding proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District zoning petition.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk, Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a memorandum from Adams and Rafferty, James J. Rafferty, P.C. regarding proposed Amendments and a related letter of Commitment for consideration by the City Council concerning the New Street Overlay Zoning Petition. The proposed Amendments consist of the addition of Sections 20.96.5 and Sections 20.96.6.

I have no particular opinion on this zoning petition, but it is worth noting that the Planning Board gave it a negative recommendation. The other thing worth noting is that it seems like standard operation procedure nowadays in Cambridge that no matter what the proposal you just promise to throw in a few "affordable housing" units and you’re good to go. Maybe even a tree or two if you still need that extra vote.


On the Table #1. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 4 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Sept 3, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

I hope we never have to suffer through this again but it would be naive to think this is how it will play out. The ABC zealots are already attacking "those wealthy anti-housing people" as part of their election strategy. I personally feel this matter was tabled last week primarily so that its supporters and potential supporters could weather the November election and then ram it through afterwards without fear. The fact is that it remains a shabbily crafted attempt to rewrite all of Cambridge housing policy so that policy-makers don’t have to address the general issue of affordability of housing locally and regionally.

Unfinished Business #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

The Ordinance Committee hearing on this that was recessed in chaos will reconvene this Wednesday as they once again try to decide the winners in the "Who Wants to be a Millionnaire" sweepstakes.

Unfinished Business #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the License Commission and City Solicitor’s office to drop all charges against UpperWest and its owners, to reconsider UpperWest’s package store application, and to issue a public apology to UpperWest and its owners.

Councillor Zondervan may finally have his chance to express his undying love for some of the least likable people anywhere.

Unfinished Business #9. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to obtain a legal opinion from the City Solicitor regarding the License Commission’s authority with regard to the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of liquor licenses in the City of Cambridge.

Go ask Nancy. I think she’ll know.

Unfinished Business #10. A Zoning Petition has been received from Ben LoVemere regarding that the City Council ordain the Zoning language set forth relative the Alewife Quadrangle Northwest Overlay District.

Unfinished Business #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board report with no positive or negative recommendations on the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #13. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner, the Cambridge Carnival Committee, and the community to organize an alternative event to take place in Cambridge on the Carnival’s rain date, that will allow vendors to sell their products and potentially recover at least some of the costs.

While I think this is a good idea, the fact that violence has followed this Carnival is not something that can be ignored, and I seriously doubt if the organizers will be compensating the City for the additional police presence.

Applications & Petitions #2. A petition was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding Upgrade Cambridge Municipal Broadband Petition.

Show me the books. Many of us would welcome additional options for Internet and TV service, but my greatest fear is that whatever technology is used to build such a network could become obsolete the day after it’s put in place.

Order #7. That the City Council urge the MBTA to take whatever emergency measures are necessary to fast-track repairs to the elevators in the Central Square and Harvard Square MBTA stations, and to share these plans with the City Council in a timely manner.   Councillor Simmons

You can add to this the work on the new entrance to City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway. It seems that the new construction standard is to do a week of work, walk away for three weeks, then rinse and repeat. Modest scale construction projects shouldn’t take an eternity to complete. – Robert Winters

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