Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 27, 2020

Notable Items on the Jan 27, 2020 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:42 am

Notable Items on the Jan 27, 2020 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at the interesting stuff ("interesting", of course, being a relative term):

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the recommendation to reappointment of Gerard Clark as a member of the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners for a term of 5-years.

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a new member of the Affordable Housing Trust Board for a term of three years, effective Jan 22, 2020: Elaine DeRosa

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members of the LGBTQ+ Commissioner for a term of three years, effective Feb 6, 2020: Mal Malme, Robert Parlin, Aren Stone, Catherine Grams, Noelani Kamelamela, Gregory MacDonough and Britt Huhmann

Many board appointments this week. The City Manager is "the appointing authority" under the City Charter, but there are two boards for which City appointments require City Council confirmation – the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and the Cambridge Housing Authority – so the CHA appointment will likely be referred to the Housing Committee for a formal hearing. [Members of Cambridge Boards & Commissions (updated Jan 24, 2020)]

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $46,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Elections Department Salary and Wages account ($6,145) and to the General Fund Elections Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($39,855) which will be used to cover the additional costs associated with recently approved early voting for the Presidential Primary, Mar 3rd, 2020.

Early Voting for the Presidential Primary will be available Feb 24 through Feb 28 at 6 locations [www.CambridgeMA.gov/EarlyVoting]. Election Day is Mar 3, 2020.

Unfinished Business #3. Fuel pump warning labels [Passed to Second Reading on Jan 13, 2020 to be ordained on or after Jan 23, 2020.]

I expect this perfectly meaningless gesture will be ordained unanimously.

Resolution #2. Congratulations to Sydney Cox for 45 Years at DPW.   Councillor Simmons

One of the best things about being involved in recycling and composting promotion in Cambridge was the opportunity it afforded me to meet so many of the really great people at the Department of Public Works – many of whom, including Sydney Cox, have careers with the City spanning many decades. The annual DPW Commissioners Awards Ceremony in the spring has always been one of my favorite City events (and not just for the cookout!).

Resolution #11. Resolution on the death of Richard B. Griffin.   Vice Mayor Mallon, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

Richard was one of the most decent people I ever met in Cambridge civic life. Perhaps the most moving tribute I have seen is this editorial by Cambridge Chronicle editor Amy Saltzman: Richard Griffin, longtime Chronicle columnist, dies at 91

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City Departments, and, where relevant, the MBTA and counterparts in other municipalities for routes not wholly in Cambridge, on the feasibility of instituting and funding a fare-free pilot bus program.   Vice Mayor Mallon, Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler, Mayor Siddiqui

The chance of doing this just within the boundaries of Cambridge is very low. The idea, however, is not crazy. If done more broadly it could be transformative, but the cost would not only be in lost fare revenue. Ridership would likely jump, and more buses (and drivers) would have to be added with greater frequency of buses (shorter headways). This would also likely lead to demands for more routes as well.

Order #9. That the Cambridge City Council amend the Municipal Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to insert a new Chapter 2.129, entitled WELCOMING COMMUNITY ORDINANCE.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor Siddiqui

Sanctuary City Rebranded

Banned!Committee Report #1. Report of the Ordinance Committee – Dec 11, 2019, 2:00pm (Natural Gas Ban)

Committee Report #2. Report of the NLTP Committee – Dec 19, 2019, 5:30pm (Cambridge Carnival)

Committee Report #3. Report of the Health & Environment Committee – Jan 22, 2020, 2:30pm (Tree Protection Ordinance)

There are more effective strategies than an outright ban on new gas hookups. Hopefully the various "stakeholders" can make their case, but it’s likely that this will be just one more step down the Road To Ban Everything. As for where the "Tree Protection Ordinance" is headed, I’m sure those trees will be lining The Road To Ban Everything. Any notion that the eventual permanent version of the Tree Protection Ordinance will allow reasonable people to do reasonable things is likely pure fantasy. – Robert Winters

January 16, 2020

Follow the Money – Cambridge City Council Campaign Receipts 2019

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,campaign finance,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:58 am

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 Jan 21, 3:08pm
Candidate (and PACs)ReceiptsCambridgePctunionsPctReal EstatePctunions+REPct
Total $716,223.68 $453,410.1563.3% $45,250.006.3% $70,851.009.9% $116,101.0016.2%
McGovern, Marc C. $107,006.21 $46,638.0043.6% $12,550.0011.7% $30,200.0028.2% $42,750.0040.0%
Simmons, E. Denise $64,111.19 $31,466.1949.1% $6,250.009.7% $20,600.0032.1% $26,850.0041.9%
Toomey, Timothy J., Jr. $63,112.80 $33,325.1452.8% $5,100.008.1% $13,350.0021.2% $18,450.0029.2%
Mallon, Alanna $42,475.25 $28,537.2567.2% $6,450.0015.2% $1,900.004.5% $8,350.0019.7%
Siddiqui, Sumbul $33,654.68 $19,871.6859.0% $5,250.0015.6% $350.001.0% $5,600.0016.6%
Musgrave, Adriane $42,278.35 $20,919.3549.5% $4,200.009.9% $600.001.4% $4,800.0011.4%
Kelley, Craig A. $40,385.00 $32,378.0080.2% $2,500.006.2% $1,650.004.1% $4,150.0010.3%
ABC - PAC $24,259.26 $20,207.2383.3% $ -0.0% $1,866.007.7% $1,866.007.7%
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan $28,430.00 $18,710.4265.8% $1,500.005.3% $ - 0.0% $1,500.005.3%
Carlone, Dennis $33,648.00 $27,098.0080.5% $500.001.5% $250.000.7% $750.002.2%
Mednick, Risa $19,541.00 $13,908.0071.2% $500.002.6% $ - 0.0% $500.002.6%
Azeem, Burhan $14,719.35 $11,654.3579.2% $450.003.1% $35.000.2% $485.003.3%
Williams, Nicola A. $31,501.78 $24,251.5277.0% $ -0.0% $50.000.2% $50.000.2%
Akiba, Sukia $3,000.00 $980.0032.7% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
BikeSafety-PAC $3,480.00 $2,155.0061.9% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CCC - PAC $19,130.00 $18,250.0095.4% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CResA - PAC $3,173.08 $3,005.0094.7% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
Franklin, Charles $34,392.78 $22,639.7865.8% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Kopon, Derek Andrew $8,873.16 $7,295.0182.2% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Levy, Ilan S. $650.00 $550.0084.6% $ -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 $14,072.00 $12,172.0086.5% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Simon, Ben $12,540.33 $6,892.0055.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Zondervan, Quinton $46,336.23 $33,559.2372.4% $ -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”

January 15, 2020

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 445-446: Jan 14, 2020

Episode 445 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 14, 2020 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 14, 2020 at 5:30pm. Topics: New year, new City Council; Jan 13 Council meeting, Tree Removal Moratorium extension debated; practical vs. ideological; committee appointments; City Manager contract and budget growth. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 446 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 14, 2020 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:00pm. Topics: Schmidt Petition, definition of “family” in zoning, rooming houses; rent control vs. helping people; What’s Next? chasing a crisis vs. promoting a good idea; Will this be a confiscatory Council?; incentives vs. mandates. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 13, 2020

It’s Opening Day – Jan 13, 2020 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 2:14 pm

It’s Opening Day – Jan 13, 2020 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallThis is the first regular City Council meeting of the 2020-21 term. The mayoral vote at the Jan 6 Inauguration was a single take, and newly minted Mayor Siddiqui broke the record for fastest City Council committee appointments. Here are a few items on the agenda of some interest.

Unfinished Business #4. Amendment to Chapter 8.12 of the Municipal Ordinances of the City of Cambridge. [Passed to a Second Reading on Dec 16, 2019 To Be Ordained on or after Dec 29, 2019]

This is the proposed municipal ordinance that would ban mobile fueling operations throughout Cambridge, i.e. where a vehicle shows up where you are and fills your gas tank for you. As I said when this was first introduced as a zoning amendment last October: "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."

Applications & Petitions #1. A Zoning Petition has been received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding an amendment to Section 2.000 of the Zoning Ordinance.

This is a simple and sensible proposal that would amend the definition of "family" in the Zoning Ordinance to remove restrictions on unrelated family members. Specifically, it would simply say: "Family. One or more persons occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit."

The current definition is this:

Family. One or more persons occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit; provided that a group of four or more persons who are not within the second degree of kinship shall not be deemed to constitute a family.

Notwithstanding the definition in the preceding paragraph, a family shall be deemed to include four or more persons not within the second degree of kinship occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single, nonprofit housekeeping unit, if said occupants are handicapped persons as defined in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the “Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.” Such unrelated individuals shall have the right to occupy a dwelling unit in the same manner and to the same extent as any family in the first paragraph of this definition.

It’s unknown when the last time the current definition was ever enforced, and households consisting of several unrelated persons are very common in Cambridge and the region. The only potential downside of this simplification might be that an apartment specifically designated as "family housing" may become just another roommate situation.

Resolution #2. Resolution on the death of Carol Cerf.   Councillor Simmons

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Susan Noonan-Forster.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #9. Resolution on the death of Thomas F. Courtney.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons, Councillor McGovern

I knew Carol Cerf from the CCA Board over 25 years ago and would often run into her on her bicycle for years after that. She was one of the more kind and generous people I met in local politics over the years. There was a moment of silence at the Jan 6 School Committee Inauguration noting the death of Susan Noonan-Forster. Thomas F. Courtney, among many other notable distinctions, was the father of our most beloved Deputy City Clerk Paula Crane.

Order #4. TPO Extension PO.   Councillor Zondervan

The cryptic summary refers to a proposed extension of the Tree Protection Ordinance, i.e. Moratorium, from the current expiration date of March 11, 2020 to December 31, 2020. The Order also encourages that more permanent language be soon established based on recommendations of the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force. I can only hope that some flexibility is written into the more permanent ordinance to allow reasonable homeowners to do reasonable things without exorbitant cost, but recent trends tend to be the opposite.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, transmitting information from the Jan 7, 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Committee.

It’s good to see intermural communication like this from the Mayor to the City Council regarding School Committee matters.

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, announcing the formal 2020-2021 appointments to the City Council Committees.

This has to be a new record for fastest City Council committee appointments. It usually takes weeks and Mayor Siddiqui had it done in three days. – Robert Winters

January 3, 2020

2019 Cambridge City Council Campaign Bank Reports (and $/Vote)

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.

CandidateToStartReceiptsExpendBalanceAs Of#1 Votes$/VoteNotes
PAC - ABC12/31/190.0021436.4119355.532080.8801/02/20--A Better Cambridge
PAC - CCC12/31/190.0017867.2212661.465205.7601/03/20--Cambridge Citizens Coalition, $300 refund deducted
PAC - CResA12/31/190.003166.771811.541355.2301/02/20--Cambridge Residents Alliance
PAC - Cambr. Bike Safety07/15/190.000.000.000.0007/15/19--Cambridge Bike Safety
PAC - Our Revolution Cambridge12/31/190.001427.001367.0060.0001/02/20--filed 10/9/19 w/OCPF
Akiba, Sukia12/31/190.003000.032820.03180.0001/03/20362 $7.79
Azeem, Burhan12/31/190.0014459.2513860.37598.8801/03/20961 $14.42new candidate, May 7
Carlone, Dennis12/31/1910088.5833141.6335850.177380.0401/03/201479 $24.24
Franklin, Charles12/31/190.0033326.6031624.441702.1601/02/20323 $97.91new candidate, Mar 5
Kelley, Craig12/31/194951.6539413.2029964.5014400.3501/02/201422 $21.07
Kopon, Derek12/31/190.009716.729716.720.0001/03/20493 $19.71new candidate, July 2
Levy, Ilan12/31/19-44.32650.51534.4171.7801/02/20110 $4.86
Mallon, Alanna12/31/195380.4541744.7642078.485046.7301/03/201256 $33.50refund deducted
McGovern, Marc12/31/196376.17105295.6895375.0816296.7701/03/201621 $58.84$600 refund deducted
McNary, Jeffery12/31/200.000.000.000.0001/02/2077 $0.00will not raise/expend funds
Mednick, Risa12/31/190.0019618.9916171.283447.7101/02/20244 $66.28new candidate, July 15
Moree, Gregg12/31/190.001500.001500.000.0001/03/2047 $31.91
Musgrave, Adriane12/31/19474.6741091.1936832.544733.3201/03/20726 $50.73
Nolan, Patty12/31/190.0022587.0216495.886091.1401/02/201685 $9.79new candidate, June 11
Pitkin, John12/31/190.0014304.6813328.57976.1101/02/20536 $24.87new candidate, July 17
Siddiqui, Sumbul12/31/199334.0533624.2827522.3415435.9901/02/202516 $10.94
Simmons, Denise12/31/197595.5063834.3362278.199151.6401/02/202007 $31.03
Simon, Ben12/31/190.0012145.9511132.411013.5401/02/20294 $37.87new candidate, Apr 2
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan C.12/31/190.0027478.1325647.491830.6401/02/201321 $19.42new candidate, Mar 11
Toomey, Tim12/31/198024.4963166.7255998.8615192.3501/02/201729 $32.39$22,000 loan repayment deducted
Williams, Nicola A.12/31/190.0030532.8830815.01-282.1301/02/20631 $48.84new candidate, Mar 12
Zondervan, Quinton12/31/191279.6646916.4047836.53359.5301/02/201382 $34.61
Summaries of potential 2019 City Council campaign bank reports. Adjustments to the totals have been made to reflect returned donations and other factors. [updated Jan 3, 2020 at 7:38pm]

Campaign Finance Reports – 2019 City Council (updated Jan 3, 7:38pm)

Vote!

December 15, 2019

That’s All Folks! – Featured Items on the Dec 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

That’s All Folks! – Featured Items on the Dec 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

That's All Folks!The last meeting of the 2018-2019 Cambridge City Council takes place this Monday (thanks to the cancellation of the remaining two meetings). This will also mark the final meeting for both Vice Mayor Jan Devereux (served 2 terms, first elected 2015) and Councillor Craig Kelley (served 7 terms, first elected 2005). With the exit of two of the most reasonable members of the City Council we may well be heading toward the Wild Card Council for 2020-2021 where the only real question will be "how far left?"

Here are a few items on this final meeting agenda worthy of note:

Unfinished Business #5. A revised Petition has been received from Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridge Side Galeria Associates trust to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by adding a new Section 13.100 to Article 13.00 of the Zoning Ordinance and to amend the Zoning Map to add a new PUD-8 District overlay that certain area (which includes parcels and portions of ways and streets) labeled as "PUD-8 district". [Passed to a 2nd Reading on Nov 26, 2019 to be Ordained on or after Dec 16, 2019]

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Anthony I. Wilson, Esq. transmitting a communication from John E. Twohig, Executive Vice President of New England Development, regarding the proposed CambridgeSide PUD-8 District. [Cover letter] [Redline_CambridgeSide 2.0 – PUD-8 Zoning Text (12.11.19 edits)] [CambridgeSide 2.0 – PUD-8 Zoning Text (12.11.19)]

I’ll say it one last time before the Council either ordains this on Monday or punts: I hope the City Council passes some form of this thing so that the area can get a shot in the arm, but I find this whole "Let’s Make a Deal" aspect of how zoning petitions are approved lately to be very problematic. Rezoning is becoming less about good planning and more about generating revenue and goodies.


Order #1. 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

This was introduced on Oct 21, 2019 and I can’t see any difference between that petition (which expires Mar 9, 2020) and this supposedly amended petition.

Order #3. That section 11.202(b) of Article 11.000, entitled SPECIAL REGULATIONS, of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge, be amended the table as follows: Jan 28, 2020 (Annual Adjustment) $19.10 per square foot.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone, Mayor McGovern

This was discussed at the Dec 9 meeting – an itsy bitsy zoning amendment that changes a dollar amount. Let the hearings begin!


Order #5. That all items pending before the City Council and not acted upon by the end of the 2018-2019 Legislative Session be placed in the files of the City Clerk, without prejudice provided that those proposed ordinances which have been passed to a second reading, advertised and listed on the Calendar under "Unfinished Business" during the 2018-2019 City Council term, along with any other pending matters on the Calendar listed as "Unfinished Business," shall be forwarded to the next City Council and further provided that any items pending in committee may, at the discretion of the committee, be forwarded to the next City Council.   Mayor McGovern

….. and, of course, 97 Items Awaiting Report. There are 6 responses, so we’ll apparently end the term at 91 items awaiting report. Some will be carried over to either languish in Managerial Purgatory or maybe see the light of day.

I repeat – let ’em all expire and start fresh. Perhaps for the next City Council term the City Council and City Manager should establish a cap on how many items are allowed to languish on the Awaiting Report pile.


Order #6. That the City Manager instruct the City Solicitor to provide and update on the previous two orders requesting draft legislation for a Real Estate Transfer Fee Home Rule petition   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Though this will likely only affect the relatively large real estate transactions, I expect the next City Council will have as a primary goal to separate as much money from property owners – large and small – as they can legally justify. And when that runs out they’ll just change the laws for more.


Order #7. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the CPSD Superintendent to ensure that the CPSD budget is enough to meet the educational needs of all children in Cambridge rather than a formulaic increase over past CPSD budgets.   Councillor Kelley

I would have thought the statement contained in this Order would have been the rule all along.

Order #8. Continued Anti-Bias Training in 2020 and beyond.   Councillor Simmons

Nevermind.

Order #9. Removing Sackler family name from Harvard University Museum.   Mayor McGovern

I pass by a portrait of David Koch every day at MIT. It has never bothered me. Should we obliterate the family name of everyone whose business interests include some things we don’t like even if they have contributed tremendously toward other things that we do appreciate? Cancel Culture is insanity.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Councillor E. Denise Simmons regarding an "End of Term Report from the Housing Committee".

That little matter of tearing the civic fabric to shreds didn’t appear in this report.

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Vice Mayor Devereux.

A classy exit message from a classy lady (even on those occasions when we have disagreed). – Robert Winters

December 9, 2019

Ordaining the Remnants of the 2018-2019 Council – Bits ‘n Pieces from the Dec 9, 2019 City Council Agenda

Ordaining the Remnants of the 2018-2019 Council – Bits ‘n Pieces from the Dec 9, 2019 City Council Agenda

Puzzle PiecesWe’re down to the last few meetings before the new Council is inaugurated on January 6 ["The city council, elected as aforesaid, shall meet at ten o’clock in the forenoon of the first Monday of January following the regular municipal election, and the members of the city council shall severally make oath, before the city clerk … to perform faithfully the duties of their respective offices…. Thereupon the city council shall, by a majority vote of all the members elected, elect a mayor and a vice-chairman from its own members…."]

Until that little bit of biennial drama occurs, here are some things that are either interesting or up for discussion and/or action this week:

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the EMF and Metropolitan Ice Co. buildings at 116 Brookline and 112 Pacific Streets. [Cover letter] [Landmark Report] [Landmark Order]

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the George E. Bridges House at 74 Oxford Street/43 Wendell Street. [Cover letter] [Landmark Report] [Landmark Order]

Though I think we’re starting to get to the point where some pretty ordinary buildings are seen as historical, I always love reading the well-researched landmark studies from the Cambridge Historical Commission. These are no exception.


Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Surveillance Use Policy and related documents.

Committee Report #4. A report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 3, 2019 to discuss an amendment to the Surveillance Ordinance.

No comment. I fear I’m being watched by the Fusion Center ghoulies.


Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with modifications, the Harvard Square Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a communication from the Planning Board with no recommendation on the Shared Mobility Zoning Petition.

The Council could pass all three to a 2nd Reading, or two to a 3rd Reading, or one to a 6th Reading. Or something.


Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to zoning language as requested by the Ordinance committee in connection with the CambridgeSide PUD-8 Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #6. A revised Petition has been received from Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridge Side Galeria Associates trust to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by adding a new Section 13.100 to Article 13.00 of the Zoning Ordinance and to amend the Zoning Map to add a new PUD-8 District overlay that certain area (which includes parcels and portions of ways and streets) labeled as "PUD-8 district". [PASSED TO SECOND READING ON NOV 26, 2019, TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER DEC 16, 2019]

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a communication from John Twohig, Representative for Cambridgeside Galleria Associates Trust regarding the revised Commitment Letter for Proposed PUD-8 District. [Commitment Letter] [red-lined version]

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley regarding Cambridgeside.

As I’ve said before, I hope the City Council passes some form of this thing so that the area can get a shot in the arm, but I find this whole "Let’s Make a Deal" aspect of how zoning petitions are approved lately to be very problematic. Rezoning is becoming less about good planning and more about generating revenue and goodies.


Manager’s Agenda #14. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to supplemental information in response to an Ordinance Committee request on the Green Buildings Requirements Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #4. 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. [PASSED TO SECOND READING ON NOV 18, 2019, TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER DEC 9, 2019]

This should breeze through unanimously.


Manager’s Agenda #15. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-21, regarding a report on Affordable Homeownership Programs.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and Assistant City Manager Community Development Iram Farooq, relative to the Incentive Zoning Nexus and Jobs Linkage Study.

Interesting reading.


Unfinished Business #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the following ordinance: and proposed amendments to Chapter 14.04 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the “Fair Housing Ordinance”). Fair Housing (passed to a 2nd reading) [HOME RULE LEGISLATION – RECEIVED PROPOSAL TO BE ORDAINED]

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Anthony Wilson transmitting Chapter 118 of the Acts of 2019; "AN ACT FURTHER REGULATING THE FAIR HOUSING ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF CAMBRIDGE".

Alas, one of the lingering Home Rule petitions actually came home for ordination.


Unfinished Business #5. 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. [PASSED TO SECOND READING ON NOV 18, 2019, TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER DEC 9, 2019]

This should also breeze through unanimously.


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to provide updated data on enforcement of the city’s short term rental regulations, including (but not limited to) the number of units that have registered with the city, the number of applications that have been rejected, the number of inspections that have been undertaken by the Inspectional Services Department, and the total number of units listed on various short term rental websites including Airbnb.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux

Committee Report #1. A report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Nov 12, 2019 at 5pm to discuss the findings of the Urban Forest Master Plan task force.

Now can I manage the problematic trees on my property without a court order or a punitive fine? I promise I’ll plant more and let the others flourish.

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 Oct 23, 2019 to discuss tracking of the City’s emissions and identifying key indicators that would give a sense of where the City is going.

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 26, 2019 to discuss an amendment to article 19 of the zoning ordinance.

Committee Report #5. 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 Nov 13, 2019 to discuss the final Envision Report.

Communications & Reports #4. A communication was received from City Clerk, Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Mallon, regarding the Tobin Montessori/VLUS building proposals.

These are interesting, but I’ll withhold comment on these last few items.

….. and, of course, 99 Items Awaiting Report.

Let ’em all expire and start fresh. Perhaps for the next City Council term the City Council and City Manager should establish a cap on how many items are allowed to languish on the Awaiting Report pile.

November 24, 2019

Turkey Trot – Nov 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Turkey Trot – Nov 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Turkey TrotPerhaps we should call this the Lame Turkey Session and give the ducks a break. Here are a few agenda items that caught my eye:

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $1,924,594.18, associated with Education First’s EF 3 Building, SP#328) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Public Works Extraordinary Expenditure account which will be used to support utility work associated with the Port Project and were paid by Education First to fulfill their Inflow and Infiltration requirement.

This is what "mitigation money" is supposed to be all about – actual mitigation and infrastructure improvement. Contrast this with the current practice of granting upzoning not for the sake of good planning but for cash and prizes – and, of course, subsidized housing units. At least the proposal to glue subsidized housing units onto a self-storage facility didn’t fly. Mark my words – this is only going to get weirder in the next City Council term.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-140, regarding Harvard Square plaza area safety improvements.

During my four decades in Cambridge I have seen the Harvard Square pedestrian environment reconfigured several times – each time under the belief that nirvana had been achieved. The last iteration was the "Super Crosswalk" that apparently was never all that super. The next iteration is coming. No matter the outcome, we will be assured that congestion and delay is not a negative consequence but is instead good for us and we should shut up and be grateful – and all parties involved will continue to bend the traffic laws as they see fit.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $107,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Finance Other Ordinary Maintenance account as initial support of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force regarding the Central Square Cultural District.

Yippee! Money for Central Square! Now if we could only categorize sidewalk repair and improvements to the T station as "art" we’ll be all set.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-122, which requested a legal opinion on the License Commissions authority.

This is by far the most important item on this agenda. Though this legal opinion merely states what many of us have known and understood all along, it should put to rest some of the outrageous misunderstandings that have been circulating. That said, I read an opinion today that it was somehow problematic that a quasi-judicial body like the Cambridge License Commission can act without micromanagement by the City Manager – even though any decision of the License Commission can be appealed. Imagine how outraged people would feel if it was suggested that the Planning Board should not issue or deny a Special Permit without the approval of the City Manager. Ultimately the City Manager is "the appointing authority" and could appoint only yes-men (and yes-women) to all the City’s Boards and Commissions as well as the Police Commissioner and Fire Chief, but that practice would likely head south pretty quickly. City Solicitor Glowa’s legal opinion is both impressive and timely, and I hope it puts to rest some of the falsehoods from the Lower Port to the Upper West.

Committee Report #1 & Committee Report #2. 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 26, 2019 and Nov 14, 2019 to discuss the petition by Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridgeside Galleria Associates Trust, to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by adding a Section 13.100 that creates a new PUD-8 District and to amend the Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding the new PUD-8 District, which District would include the property located at 100 Cambridgeside Place (currently zoned in the Business A and PUD-4 Districts).

I do hope that the City Council passes some version of this zoning amendment solely because I think we could a lot do better in that corner of the city than what exists now, and some reconfiguration of the Cambridgeside Galleria should be part of that. However, I find aspects of the committee report to be problematic, e.g. "the Petitioner will pay the City $50 million dollars in mitigation funding" and "what would happen to the proposed community benefits if the Petitioner decided to proceed under their current zoning" and "she felt that the height and massing could be appropriate depending on the community benefits." In short, approving changes in zoning should be primarily about good planning and not about any "quid pro quo". Unfortunately, this brand of zoning negotiation as commodity trading is not exceptional in Cambridge these days – and it may only grow worse. – Robert Winters

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