Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 23, 2018

Charter Right Do-Over – Agenda items from the Sept 24, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:19 pm

Charter Right Do-Over – Agenda items from the Sept 24, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallMuch of the previous meeting was made subject to the Charter Right by Councillor Toomey, so those items will be back before the City Council this week plus a few more bits and pieces. Here are a few that seem interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-30 regarding a report on the possibility of Cambridge joining the national suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Normally I don’t care for lawsuits like this, but in this case I’ll make an exception. These are the worst kinds of dope dealers. Better yet, we don’t have to pay for the litigation unless the City prevails and is awarded damages.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department to establish a Senior Living Overlay District at the current site of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility to encourage and incentivize redevelopment specifically for continuum of care services. [Order #1 of Sept 17, 2018]

I think we’re starting to get a bit too prescriptive with Cambridge zoning, especially with the introduction of "overlay districts" for every imaginable use. Many of us would like to see opportunities for senior living or a place where artists can flourish. We would also like places to buy affordable groceries. Is the creation of an overlay district to dictate one use while preventing other potential good uses the right way to go? It’s one thing to classify land use as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., but how far down should this categorization go?

Charter Right #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments and relevant housing partners to aggressively attempt to obtain, or help others obtain, the Sancta Maria property for purposes of affordable housing. [Order #3 of Sept 17, 2018]

Whatever happened to the idea of a relocated Public Works Yard? I’m not necessarily recommending this, but putting DPW on Concord Ave. and building mixed-income housing on the current DPW site isn’t a crazy idea.

Both of these Orders now appear to be moot thanks to this news flash:
Salvation for Sancta Maria: Nursing facility to remain open in Cambridge (Sept 17, 2018, Cambridge Chronicle)

Charter Right #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the tax status, zoning history, and sale of The Constellation Center’s Parcel C in Kendall Square. [Order #7 of Sept 17, 2018]

Anyone who has followed this knew this Order would eventually come. That will be an interesting and likely fruitless journey down the road of Retroactive Zoning & Tax Classification. Looking forward would make a lot more sense, but I’m sure I’ll find the history interesting.

Charter Right #12. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development Division to regularly update the vacant property database as well as review the strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report and report back on the feasibility of implementing these recommendations. [Order #12 of Sept 17, 2018]

I testified recently at a follow-up meeting of this committee about the potential unintended consequences of encouraging "pop up" businesses to occupy vacant spaces at (presumably) much lower rents than nearby businesses. I can easily see a seasonable "pop up" store showing up and stealing all the holiday business away from an existing business. The temporary filling of a vacant store could then lead to another vacancy.

Charter Right #14. 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 July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.” [Committee Report #6 of Sept 17, 2018]

I attended this meeting. My impression is that we have several elected officials who have never seen a fee increase or a tax increase that they didn’t embrace and celebrate. The simplest way to understand fees is to make clear the distinction with taxes. A fee pays for a service, and the money raised has to support that service. It’s not just another revenue source like a tax that can be used for whatever pet project a councillor wants to support. Personally, I find the notion of renewing a parking sticker every year a bit ridiculous. We accept it only because we’re familiar with the routine (and the long lines for some). A much better system would be to pay a one-time fee for a sticker that’s good for as long as you own the vehicle and still live in Cambridge. It would be easy to encode the sticker for easy verification against City databases. The only people waiting on lines would then be for new residents or new vehicles.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on June 12, 2018 to discuss the housing ombudsman position, receive a detailed update regarding the timeline and plan for the affordable housing overlay district, an update on the inclusionary housing report, and the map of all affordable housing in the city.

I get the sense that not many Cambridge residents know what exactly is being proposed in the current plan for a citywide "affordable housing overlay district". I’ll provide a few more details shortly, but the basic idea is that your city councillors want to give builders of subsidized housing the right to to build up to four times the density as any other property owner with some setback requirements waived and little or no public process permitted. – RW

September 16, 2018

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:50 pm

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe boys and girls return to the playground this week. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for FY2019.

80% housing, 10% open space, 10% historic preservation – same as every year. Not negotiable.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommended appointment of the following person as a member of the Cambridge Housing Authority for a term of 5 years: Elaine DeRosa

I cannot think of a better choice for this important appointment.

Committee Report #3. 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 Wed, June 20, 2019 to discuss the potential for a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program, focusing on ways to reduce barriers to entry in the commercial Cannabis industry.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Cannabis Zoning Petition with suggested revisions and additional considerations.

I’m a little curious about this: "Board members suggested further study of whether mobile facilities could be allowed, given that a mobile facility operating on a temporary basis might provide lower barriers to entry for small businesses that cannot afford typical retail rents." Are they talking about pot trucks to go along with the food trucks? When I was a kid there was a Good Humor Man who got caught selling dope out of his ice cream truck. Nowadays they’d just call that economic empowerment.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following persons as a members of the Library Board of Trustees: Karen Kosko, Patricia Payne and Nancy Woods.

Excellent appointments all around.

Applications & Petitions #3. An application was received from the Office of the Mayor McGovern requesting permission for a temporary banner across Massachusetts Avenue in front of City Hall promoting the Indigenous Peoples’ Day from Oct 3, 2018 thru Oct 15, 2018.

Most people just celebrate this as Day Off. No banner necessary.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Frances (DeGuglielmo) Tingle.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

Resolution #6. Retirement of Attorney David Sullivan from the Massachusetts State Senate.   Mayor McGovern

Resolution #29. Retirement of William"Bill" Dwyer from the Department of Public Works.   Mayor McGovern

One thing not everyone knows is that the Department of Public Works is a community with many people who work for decades, sometimes their entire working life, within DPW. Retirements of people like Bill Dwyer are a very big deal indeed.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department to establish a Senior Living Overlay District at the current site of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility to encourage and incentivize redevelopment specifically for continuum of care services.   Councillor Mallon

I think we’re starting to get a bit too prescriptive with Cambridge zoning, especially with the introduction of "overlay districts" for every imaginable use. Many of us would like to see opportunities for senior living or a place where artists can flourish. We would also like places to buy affordable groceries. Is the creation of an overlay district to dictate one use while preventing other potential good uses the right way to go? It’s one thing to classify land use as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., but how far down should this categorization go?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments and relevant housing partners to aggressively attempt to obtain, or help others obtain, the Santa Maria property for purposes of affordable housing.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern

Whatever happened to the idea of a relocated Public Works Yard? I’m not necessarily recommending this, but putting DPW on Concord Ave. and building mixed-income housing on the current DPW site isn’t a crazy idea.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner to increase enforcement of the Bike Lane Bill to keep our bicycle infrastructure free and unobstructed.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Does this apply to Really Bad Bicycle Infrastructure (RBBI)?

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the tax status, zoning history, and sale of The Constellation Center’s Parcel C in Kendall Square.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey

Anyone who has followed this knew this Order would eventually come. That will be an interesting and likely fruitless journey down the road of Retroactive Zoning & Tax Classification. Looking forward would make a lot more sense, but I’m sure I’ll find the history interesting.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development Division to regularly update the vacant property database as well as review the strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report and report back on the feasibility of implementing these recommendations.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I testified recently at a follow-up meeting of this committee about the potential unintended consequences of encouraging "pop up" businesses to occupy vacant spaces at (presumably) much lower rents than nearby businesses. I can easily see a seasonable "pop up" store showing up and stealing all the holiday business away from an existing business. The temporary filling of a vacant store could then lead to another vacancy.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to provide a legal opinion on a Motion to Rescind.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #14. That the City Council rescind its vote of July 30, 2018 failing to send the climate safety (Brown, et al) petition to a second reading, thereby taking no action on the petition.   Councillor Zondervan

Our petulant Councillor Zondervan continues to stomp his feet in protest over the failure of the Nakagawa-Brown petition to be passed to a 2nd Reading. First he tried to file reconsideration, and now he wants to go for the legislative equivalent of annulment. I am not a lawyer (IANAL) and I have no prior knowledge of anyone ever looking to do pull a "Motion to Rescind" on a prior vote, but consider the ramifications of such a thing. A local legislature votes on a zoning matter (one way or another) and the matter is finalized. A property owner then happily goes to the bank to secure financing now that the road has been cleared. Then a month or so later the local legislature comes back and cries "Do Over" like that annoying kid who didn’t like the fact that the other kids prevailed in the ball game.

Committee Report #5. 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 13, 2018 to discuss revisions to the proposed Municipal Code amendment to create a new chapter 12.22 entitled “Surveillance Technology Ordinance;” said revisions were submitted to the City Council on June 25, 2018.

The interesting aspect of this (at least to me) is the legal separation of authority under the City Charter. The City Council may be the body that sets general policies, but can you imagine the ensuing chaos of having the Cambridge City Council micromanaging how the Cambridge Police Department conducts its day-to-day operations or how it responds to an emergency situation? It’s one thing to set parameters and maintain a dialogue, but police investigations should not be arbitrarily constrained by people trained more in politics than in police work.

Committee Report #6. 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 July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.”

I attended this meeting. My impression is that we have several elected officials who have never seen a fee increase or a tax increase that they didn’t embrace and celebrate. The simplest way to understand fees is to make clear the distinction with taxes. A fee pays for a service, and the money raised has to support that service. It’s not just another revenue source like a tax that can be used for whatever pet project a councillor wants to support. Personally, I find the notion of renewing a parking sticker every year a bit ridiculous. We accept it only because we’re familiar with the routine (and the long lines for some). A much better system would be to pay a one-time fee for a sticker that’s good for as long as you own the vehicle and still live in Cambridge. It would be easy to encode the sticker for easy verification against City databases. The only people waiting on lines would then be for new residents or new vehicles.

Committee Report #8. 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 8, 2018 to discuss City Council petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Article 5.000 as it relates to rainwater and flat roofs.

As an owner of a triple-decker with a flat roof, I completely understand the concerns about clogged drains and why someone might seek an alternative design. The ideas in this zoning petition have merit. The only issue should be how to ensure that one person’s cure is not another person’s cause of trouble, i.e. rainwater being diverted to an unwelcome place. – Robert Winters

July 30, 2018

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:30 am

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council’s one summertime Special Meeting is this Monday. The actual number of agenda items is not unusually high for a Midsummer meeting, but the 1001 page package of Council materials surely must have violated some City tree ordinance or another. The likely big draw will be the Nakagawa-Brown Petition (which goes by various other marketing names) – the latest in a multi-decade effort to slow new construction in Cambridge. There’s also a proposed ordinance for how to regulate marijuana sales in our emerging world of people neutralized by mind-numbing cellphones, apps that erode personal navigational abilities, and substances that dull your mind.

Here are the agenda items I found either interesting, refreshing, or ridiculous – with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-57, regarding a report on launching a program during the summer months to activate the front lawn of City Hall in the afternoons with games.


Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Douglas Brown, et al., Zoning Petition.

Order #13. That the City Manager, with input from Mayor McGovern and the City Council, is requested to appoint an advisory committee to work through resiliency elements raised during the Envision process and through the Brown petition and report back to the City Council, with the input of the appropriate City agencies and departments.   Councillor Toomey

Committee Report #3. 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 June 27, 2018 to discuss the Zoning petition received from Douglas Brown et al to amend the zoning Section 20.70 Flood Overlay district and creation of a new Section 22.80 – Green Factor.

An enormous number of letters of formal opposition to the Nakagawa-Brown Petition.

The protest letters may represent a sufficiently high percentage of the affected land area that a super-duper majority of 7 of 9 votes would be needed for this zoning amendment to pass. [If you need my 0.07 acres to cross the threshold, let me know.] That said, it probably couldn’t muster 5 votes and will likely be allowed to expire without coming to a vote. There may be a few ideas contained in the petition that could be useful if revised and brought up in a different context, e.g. incentives for better use of privately owned open space and/or recommendations for greater resiliency in building infrastructure. The worst aspect of this petition, in my humble opinion, is that it is being sold as a "climate safety petition" as if the goal was to protect people when it’s primarily about limiting growth (which is a perfectly rational goal, but just be honest about it). Some of its supporters have even gone so far as to suggest that failure to pass this would be "immoral".

By the way, it’s not just the possibility of derailing the renovations to the Miller’s River Apartments that makes this petition problematic, and a few nit-picky amendments to carve out exceptions won’t make it any better. This petition would throw an enormous percentage of the city’s buildings into nonconformity and could turn even the most basic building modifications into an expensive legal nightmare. There’s also an apparent belief that property owners are incapable of making rational economic choices, e.g. taking steps to minimize future costly damage due to heavy rains or storm surges. The petitioners have apparently decided that only they can ensure your personal safety.


Update: Based on concerns that this proposed zoning amendment would jeopardize funding for the Millers River renovations as well as other proposed affordable housing projects, the City Council chose to move the petition to a 2nd Reading for the purpose of having that vote fail (which it did on a 4-5 vote with Councillors Carlone, Devereux, Kelley, and Zondervan voting to pass to a 2nd Reading and Councillors Mallon, Siddiqui, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor McGovern voting against passing to a 2nd Reading). This not only ends the life of this petition but also prevents its reintroduction for the next two years. After the vote, Councillor Toomey made a motion for "Suspension of the Rules for the purpose of Reconsideration hoping the same will not prevail" – a parliamentary move to finalize the vote. That first requires that the Rules be suspended which requires 6 votes, and it failed on a 5-4 vote with those who had voted against passing to a 2nd Reading voting for Suspension of the Rules. That leaves open the possibility that one aggrieved councillor may file for Reconsideration of the vote – a pointless gesture that would most likely lead to a hastily scheduled Special Meeting solely to vote on Reconsideration which would yield no change in the outcome – only delay. [PS – Councillor Zondervan turned out to be that aggrieved councillor who filed for Reconsideration. The only problem is that, as I suspected, under Robert’s Rules of Order (not this Robert) a member has to be on the prevailing side of a vote in order to be able to file for Reconsideration. In this case the prevailing side was the vote NOT to pass to a 2nd Reading, so Councillor Zondervan was ineligible.]

It was pointed out over and over at the meeting that most of the elements of the petition with any merit were already in discussion and being considered both within City departments and City task forces and as part of the Envision Cambridge process. – RW


Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a draft zoning petition concerning the regulation of cannabis establishments in the City of Cambridge in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-75. [Cannabis Zone Map]

My prediction: Legal marijuana shops will sell the expensive stuff and the riff raff will still buy from other sources. Also, let’s face it – so-called "medical marijuana dispensaries" were always intended to be a first step toward recreational pot shops. I hope they can at least bring back the Peter Max posters and lava lamps from the head shops of my youth.


Manager’s Agenda #26. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-14, regarding a report on applying for a Targeted Brownfields Assessment grant for Jerry’s Pond.


Three rambling and incoherent communications regarding Magazine Beach from the inevitable Robert LaTrémouille.

Five communications from the ever-colorful Peter Valentine – who always means well.


Resolution #7. Retirement of Ellen Shacter from the Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Resolution #18. Resolution on the death of George Teso.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #19. Resolution on the death of Richelle Robinson.   Councillor Simmons


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council for an update on the Grand Junction Overlay District in September.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with appropriate staff from the City, MassDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration, the MBTA and any other organization with jurisdiction over the Sherman Street train crossing and related train traffic with the goal of implementing whatever street and intersection changes are necessary to get this area re-designated a “quiet zone.”   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Toomey

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments on what attempts were made to discuss with Lesley University or the Episcopal Divinity School about purchasing the property for affordable housing development and the results of any such discussion.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City departments to establish an action plan to work with the City’s Community-Based Organizations to create a network of summertime evening programming to reduce the threat of violence in the City’s public spaces in 2019 and beyond.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to adopt a policy of replacing any failed 4000K LED streetlights with warmer alternatives as opportunities arise, and offering shielding/filtering upon request from nearby residents whenever possible.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

I want those LED lights that keep changing colors.

Order #15. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts, and Celebrations Committee hold a hearing before October to discuss the various events being planned for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018 and ways to properly observe the holiday in a way that promotes the culture, history, and diversity of Native American peoples during future years.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

This Order really makes me yearn for a cannoli from the Cafe Roma Pastry Shop on Hanover Street in the North End.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff to determine the navigational editing capabilities of the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I continue to marvel at just how quickly the ability of human beings to navigate or even know where they are has degenerated thanks to their "smart" phones and their "smart" cars.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to contract with an outside survey company to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of inclusionary tenants’ experiences, with a particular emphasis on biased practices.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Must be that video.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 15, 2018 to discuss the development of an Affordable Housing Overlay District plan.

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 Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 10, 2018 to discuss the first annual report from the Community Development Department as called for in the updated Inclusionary Zoning ordinance.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 19, 2018 to review the whole licensing and permitting process and to discuss ways to make it more efficient.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 13, 2018 to was to receive an update on the Short-Term Rental Ordinance #1397.

Committee Report #7. 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 May 23, 2018 to discuss an Arts Overlay District ordinance that would achieve the goals of creating and preserving spaces for the arts in the Central Square Cultural District.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez City Clerk, transmitting a communication from Mayor Marc McGovern, appointing Councillor Mallon as chair to the newly formed Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts.

June 24, 2018

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:49 pm

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeThese tasty morsels are available for you to digest in the last regular meeting before the summer recess.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-33, regarding a report on supporting a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-42, regarding Autonomous Vehicles testing.

These are included primarily for information. By the way, the prediction is that if and when autonomous vehicles become commonplace there will be considerably more vehicles on the roads at any given time, and tailgating will be the norm because, you know, sensors. There is also some concern that the use of public transportation may drop considerably.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-48, regarding a request for yield to Pedestrians signage in bike lanes.

Nothing special here except for the funny line: "We do not recommend installing post mounted signs, as they will add additional sign clutter to the roadside environment…" Nothing says clutter more than zig-zagging lines of upright PVC posts bolted to the roadway – and there’s more coming – and it’s not debatable.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-59, regarding a report on collecting data from the Human Rights Commission on housing-related activities including number of housing related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the two following ordinances: Chapter 2.76 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Human Rights Ordinance) and proposed amendments to Chapter 14.04 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Fair Housing Ordinance).

Again, mainly for information. It is curious to see just how much effort is required to change the word "gender" to the phrase "gender identity". Whatever.

Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a revised draft of the proposed Surveillance Technology Ordinance.

I drove down to MIT and then Harvard and then back home earlier today. I was probably recorded dozens of times along the way, and I will miraculously still sleep well tonight. By the way, I tip my hat to the various people who have surveillance cameras on the homes and businesses. They were really helpful in the Cambridge Police Department being able to quickly identify and arrest people involved in recent shootings in The Port and the Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from the Pizzuto Family Limited Partnership Cambridge Zoning Ordinance 20.900 and Zoning Map by added section entitled New Street Overlay District.

The Nakagawa-Brown petition was getting lonely. Now there are two zoning petitions in the queue.

Order #1. That the City Council refer proposed changes to Cambridge Zoning Article 5.000.Rainwater & Flat Roof Zoning to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

Make that three.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, and any other relevant departments to conduct a much more thorough process of community engagement and outreach – particularly in regards to the senior community – prior to the establishment of any new bicycle lanes in the area of South Massachusetts Avenue.   Councillor Simmons

This is a nice sentiment, but we have already learned that none of this is negotiable and reasonable alternatives won’t be considered.

Order #4. That the zoning amendment to section 4.22 of the zoning code, with strikeouts and highlighting to identify proposed changes for discussion, be forwarded to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee for their review as a zoning solution to the challenges posed by current zoning constraints regarding accessory dwelling units.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Make that four.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Deputy City Manager for the Department of Human Service Programs and the Director of the Office of Workforce Development to establish and implement a dynamic new initiative that will seek to place Port residents (ages 18 and over) on paths to jobs with family-sustaining wages.   Councillor Simmons

This is perhaps the single most intelligent policy order I’ve seen all year. It may also be the most difficult to implement, but it’s worth it.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to ensure the new zoning regulations and table of land use, licensing and permitting process, Host Community Agreements, and Economic Development Department programming reflect best equity practices and ensure Cambridge residents benefit from the cannabis industry.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I suppose we’ll have to just disagree on whether we should "ensure that people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry" or just try to make sure there’s a level playing field.

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to include a Job Linkage fee to the list of topics being evaluated in the upcoming Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

I can certainly understand prioritizing job creation using funds derived from the Incentive Zoning Linkage Fee, and how the next round of revision of those fees might rise with this goal in mind, but creating a separate fee seems unnecessary, overly restrictive, and legally questionable.

Committee Report #1. 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 June 7, 2018 to discuss amendments to the Street Performers Ordinance in section 12.16.170 in the Municipal Code. [June 26, 2017 message from City Manager] [Proposed Amendments] [Proposed Amendments with Kelley revisions]

Again – for information purposes. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten the context that led to the creation of the Street Performers Ordinance and why the buskers themselves were supportive of it at the time it was ordained. There really was a lot of competition among the performers at the time over location and volume, and this was a relatively benign way to regulate that competition.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding "Cannabis Use Equity".

Miraculously, people always seem to find a way to a solution. Is the suggestion here to set aside parts of public parks as "high zones"? If smoking pot in the street becomes legal I certainly hope the City Council and the Cambridge Police will look kindly on me walking down the avenue with a pint of Guinness.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Devereux , transmitting a memorandum regarding Policy Order #72 dated Mar 19, 2018 that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Election Commission regarding the possibility of instituting early voting in the 2019 municipal election and what actions would be required by the City Council to do so.

As much as I want to see more people opting to vote in municipal elections, I’m still unsure what problem this proposal is trying to solve. It’s very easy to vote in municipal elections, there’s rarely a line, and absentee voting is as easy as 1-2-3 (or as many rankings as you please).

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cybersecurity.

This is yet another interesting piece of work from Councillor Kelley and his assistant Mark Gutierrez. – Robert Winters

June 18, 2018

On Deck for the June 18, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:46 am

On Deck for the June 18, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Here are a few items of particular interest:

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $50,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account for expenses associated with the introduction of commercial recycling expected in FY19.

As the Manager’s note says, "The funds will be used for the purchase of recycling bins and outreach efforts associated with the launch of the program. It is expected that the program will begin in the fall of 2019 and will service up to 150 small businesses." A recent message from the City’s Economic Development Division (CDD) invited businesses with 50 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees or less to apply for a lottery to be part of this pilot: "If selected for the Small Business Recycling Pilot, businesses will receive free collection of up to three 65-gallon carts of recyclables twice per week. Please fill out the Small Business Recycling Pilot lottery form at Tinyurl.com/SmallBizRecycle (deadline Aug 10) to be considered for this free service." There are preferences for various things: women or minority or Cambridge resident-owned, not a "formula business", primarily retail or restaurant.

Resolution #17. Retirement of Virginia "Ginnie" Kelley from the Election Commission.   Mayor McGovern

It will surprise no one to learn that I have a special fondness for all of the people who work in the Cambridge Election Commission office, and that especially goes for Ginnie Kelley. Her combination of expertise, helpfulness, and especially her sense of humor always helped make my frequent visits to the office a pleasure.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works and the Community Development Department on acquiring Big Belly Solar trash cans to replace the current open top trash receptacles, with an emphasis on the business districts.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

While the Big Belly units do hold a lot more and have the added advantage that they can be remotely monitored, the entry chute is the weak link. People frequently overstuff the chute and jam it and others then just cram the jam with more rubbish. They can often be found overflowing more than an open-top container. The design needs further revision to minimize/prevent jams. It may also be worth considering Big Bellies for recyclable materials, but these units don’t come cheap.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Police Commissioner to establish an aggressive new strategy to reduce the violence in the Port and Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.   Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding Gun Violence in Cambridge.

The subject of this Order may well be the single most pressing current issue for those of us who live in the eastern half of the city. Cambridge political people love to invoke the word "emergency" to justify various policies and initiatives, e.g. "housing emergency" or "climate emergency", but the term is unevenly applied. A dramatic increase in gun violence, like a major fire, is an actual emergency that warrants immediate action and not just long-term policy changes. As the map in Councillor Kelley’s memo indicates, this is a relatively localized problem – at least for now.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the City Solicitor, the Director of the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, and the Chair of the License Commission and any other relevant City department to determine the permitting and legality issues of Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on June 5, 2018 to discuss car sharing.

The information requested in the Order should be interesting. I often wonder what the transportation landscape will be ten years from now. Private ownership of motor vehicles will likely drop considerably (and driverless vehicles may become common), but unless a miracle happens this likely won’t lead to a dramatic increase in the use of transit (buses and trains) because of the inherent limitations of routes and capacity. The exception will likely be for longer trips. Weather, commuting distances, cargo limitations, convenience, and comfort will limit how many people eventually use the bicycle as their main transportation mode. Ease of access and lack of route limitations will likely lead more people to access their transportation by pressing a few buttons on their phones. We’re already seeing significant increases in Uber and Lyft (often with unskilled/lawless drivers) as Zipcar (now a subsidiary of Avis) and other car-sharing options seem less attractive.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to identify additional opportunities to plant trees in public spaces throughout the city, particularly in underserved areas of the city, and present a timeline in which this will happen including any necessary fiscal appropriations, as a part of the broader effort to rebuild our declining tree canopy.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons

Nobody disagrees with this.

Order #13. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to notify the City Council whenever a city owned public tree (not considered a “street tree” under 87.3) must be removed for reason other than disease or threat to public safety, and that a public hearing be scheduled prior to its removal.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

I’m not really sure what the intention of this Order is. If the City is redesigning a playground or restoring the Cambridge Common (recently completed), must the City require a hearing for each tree that is removed in addition to the extensive public outreach that projects like these invariably provide?

Order #14. That the proposed amendment to Chapter 8.66 entitled "Tree Protection" be amended in section 8.66.40 entitled "Applicability" and also by adding a new section 8.66.050 entitled "Procedure for Other Projects" be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a hearing to review and consider the attached proposed amendments.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley

Ash treeCommunications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting memorandum regarding recommendations for the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force.

From the City’s website: Tree Canopy in Cambridge, MA: 2009-2014 – Through high resolution imagery and LiDAR it was determined that a 2% decrease in tree canopy cover has occurred between 2009 and 2014….. Overall there has been little net change in tree canopy within Cambridge. The low amount of net change in tree canopy masks the dynamics that have occurred during the 2009-2014 time period. Over 200 acres of tree canopy were lost. Fortunately, this loss has been largely offset by new growth and tree plantings….. Although tree canopy change in the city of Cambridge has been relatively slow, it is important to note that significant changes in tree canopy do occur. The best way for a community to increase tree canopy is to maintain what it currently has. Existing tree canopy helps to support both natural growth and natural regeneration. Removals of tree canopy, particularly in large quantities, pose a threat to Cambridge’s green infrastructure.

Councillor Zondervan quibbles about the percentages quoted in the report. He argues that it’s really a 6.7% decrease rather than a 2% decrease, but that’s really just a choice of denominator. Both are valid perspectives. If a baseball player was batting .300 (that’s baseball-ese for getting a hit 30% of the time), and his average dropped to .280, we’d say that he shaved 20 points off his average (now 28%) – a 2% drop. The Zondervan percentage would be 6.7% – a "batting emergency".

Regardless how you choose to measure canopy loss, the crux of the Order is a proposal to require property owners (and not just "the big guys") to seek and obtain a permit before removing any "significant" tree and fully documenting any such removal. It would be one thing if this was a notice requirement for such a removal which might precipitate a negotiation between a property owner and abutters, but this is a permit requirement. There is also no mention of who would have standing in any proceeding relating to the granting of a permit. Not to be alarmist, but some may remember the term "removal permit" from the days of rent control when, in fact, obtaining a removal permit was essentially impossible in the political climate of the day.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on May 15, 2018 to discuss the proposed Cambridge policy relating to the sale of adult-use cannabis.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is now the law of the land and the pot shops are coming soon, but characterizing this as a "social justice" issue with a proposal for a "City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program" to "promote sustainable, socially and economically reparative practices in the commercial Cannabis industry in Cambridge" borders on the ridiculous. – Robert Winters

June 4, 2018

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Inman Square — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:11 am

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council returns Monday for another crack at the Vellucci Park matter. The rhetoric will likely go something like this: (1) "You have to save the trees to save the planet" – even though you could define the word ‘negligible’ by this and many other Cambridge initiatives on that front; or (2) "You have to enthusiastically support the proposed reconfiguration because it removes bicycles from the roadway" (even though it was our 4th choice out of 4 proposed designs); or (3) "If you disagree with our position you support the murder of innocents." Cambridge rhetoric can be a bit overwhelming at times. I just think we could do better if the whole process wasn’t driven by the obsessive falsehoods that only motor vehicles should be allowed to safely use Cambridge roadways and that the only safe place for a bicycle is on the sidewalk.

Anyway, here are a few items that may be of interest at this meeting:

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy.

I believe the City Manager gave a perfectly good response to this at the previous meeting, so I’ll be surprised if there’s anything else that needs to be said this week. My only curiosity lies with the question of whether the Water Board or the Water Department makes the decision if they disagree.

Charter Right #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

This requires 6 votes and it’s not at all clear that the votes are there. There are various reasons why some councillors might disapprove, and it’s not all about whether a few honey locusts get turned into mulch or if a roomy new Ganja Plaza is established adjacent to the new Cannabis Quickie Mart. At the very least, I’d like to see some more current statistics on traffic safety in Inman Square since the bike stripes appeared in the Square. It may be that $60 worth of paint makes for a better solution than $6 million and a year of disruption. The Public Comment should be entertaining, especially in counting all the permutations of the Talking Points sent out by the various advocacy groups who tutor people what to say and how to be as dramatic as possible.

Result: The Home Rule Petition was approved 6-3 (Carlone, Devereux, Mallon, Siddiqui, Zondervan, McGovern – YES; Kelley, Simmons, Toomey – NO)

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Mayor McGovern, transmitting amendments to Policy Order #3 of May 21, 2018 regarding the creation of a structured tax rate system for FY20.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, any change will require a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition, but there are some good reasons to crack open that Can of Worms. Some Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by the combination of rising rents (which include the real estate taxes) and shifting consumer habits. Tax changes may help, but there are other factors as well. Maybe we could consider exempting a portion of ground floor retail space like we do with the residential exemption.

Order #1. Issues to be resolved on the I-90 Interchange Project.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I have no dog in this race, but I’m eager to see the transformation of this area.

Order #3. Advancing Homelessness Issues Docket.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This Order is almost like an Index of the good initiatives now being considered at the State Legislature.

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and any other relevant departments to explore starting a Citizens’ Academy in Cambridge.   Councillor Mallon

I like this idea! Remember – indoctrination is not the same as education and encouragement. Show people how things work and where the on ramps are located, and then let them define how they want to exercise their citizenship.

Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Women’s Commission, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Community Development Department to commission a public art piece, statue, or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

I agree 100%. We already have a lot of establishments celebrating the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment. – Robert Winters

May 21, 2018

Rearranging the Deck Chairs – What’s Up on the May 21, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Inman Square — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 2:08 am

Rearranging the Deck Chairs – What’s Up on the May 21, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here are my selections from this week’s menu:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $44,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures which will be used to assist the Department of Conservation & Recreation in constructing an ADA accessible canoe and kayak boat launch.

I remember back in 1999 when the City first partnered with MDC (now DCR) to invest $1,500,000 to upgrade Magazine Beach in exchange for priority in field scheduling. This satisfied what would otherwise have been a need identified in the Green Ribbon Open Space Report (2000) for access to a community park for the Cambridgeport neighborhood. Most of that investment went toward the fields and landscaping in the eastern part of Magazine Beach. The City’s later investment (approx. $300,000 plus over $700,000 in matching funds and capital expenditures by DCR) has been focused on the western part, and a lot of credit for that goes to the Magazine Beach Partners (originally formed out of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association as the Friends of Magazine Beach) for spearheading the renovations of the old powder magazine and its vicinity. This is civic activism at its best.

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-17, regarding the status and proposed next steps to advance the urban agriculture initiative.

The City already established regulations for the keeping of honeybees (Dec 2017) and will soon address hen-keeping (as opposed to henpecking), but this report is specific to "urban farming" whcih will include zoning recommendations affecting "the cultivation of agricultural products for public consumption". It does not affect home gardening. The zoning recommendations are expected in Fall 2018 and will require City Council approval, and soil safety regulation will be determined by the Commissioner of Public Health.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

Proposed Revisions
VELLUCCI PLAZA – DESIGNATED OPEN SPACE – PROPOSED REVISIONS

This agenda item will likely be the centerpiece of the meeting. There are a few points that warrant comment. First, the substance of this matter is the Home Rule Petition to the state legislature to swap existing designated open space for new "open space" in order to facilitate a realignment of the roadways. That has its own controversies, including different viewpoints regarding preservation of trees in the short and long term. The reconfiguration of the road is being supposedly done for the sake of safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle operators, but it is not at all clear that the proposed configuration (at considerable cost) will actually improve anything. The City routinely invokes the "Vision Zero" mantra to justify non-debatable changes in infrastructure with the assertion that all decisions are "data-driven", but at one recent meeting on this topic it was asserted by someone very close to the debate that there have been no accidents at all in Inman Square since the simple application of green paint to the roadway to better clarify the presence of cyclists as they pass through the intersection.

What seems quite clear in the proposed road reconfiguration is that it is centered on pushing all cyclists to use the sidewalk as they pass through the intersection (which many cyclists simply will not do – and for good reason). Will this result in fewer traffic incidents? Or will there be a spike in altercations between cyclists and pedestrians? Will cyclists who choose to use the roadway have their safety compromised? Personally, though I suppose there may be some room for improvement, my sense is that the "short term" fixes of painting the green lanes and restricting some turning movements have addressed most of the safety issues and that this next round of "improvements" may actually make things worse. The proposed changes seem more ideology-driven than data-driven. There is a lot to be said for intuitive and simple road design, and this is anything but that.

PS – It is stated in the report that "the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission approved the proposed Plaza design", but I heard from one member that this was only because their authority extends only to buildings and not to roadways, and since there are no buildings involved in either the land swap or the road design they didn’t have standing in this matter.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to seek authorization from the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General (the “IG”) for the City to use the Construction Manager at Rick (“CMAR”) procurement and construction method (the “CMAR Method”) in connection with the redevelopment of the Foundry building.

How many years has it been now since we received this "gift" of the Foundry building?

Unfinished Business #1-4. Appropriation and Loan Authorization Orders for $5,000,000 (Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan); $650,000 (School building infrastructure projects, and a new boiler at CRLS); $61,500,000 (water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the The Port neighborhood, and the River Street neighborhood); and $21,000,000 (reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks).

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, 2018, May 8, 2018 and May 9, 2018 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $597,219,385.

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 a public hearing held on May 8, 2018 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the Water fund Budget in the amount of $13,973,855.

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 a public hearing held on May 8, 2018 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Budget in the amount of $17,267,995.

Objectively speaking, this really is the most significant agenda item, but there’s really nothing left but the vote (and, of course, the usual round of gushy thank-you’s by councillors to City staff and vice-versa).

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

There are several available methods for re-lining pipes as an alternative to replacement including Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) which uses fitted mesh and epoxy. Some people, including members of the Water Board, have expressed concerns about this method based on possible leachate, but this seems to be more a function of quality control than of the material itself. The Order states that "all plastics leach chemicals" which may be true but is not helpful. People buy water and other beverages in plastic bottles all the time and those drinks are often in contact with their container far longer than municipal water is with those pipe sections that are lined with epoxy. In addition to the matter of real vs. perceived hazard, there’s also an interesting question here of who really has the authority to make decisions like these – the Water Department or the volunteer Water Board. A century ago the Water Board had very broad authority, but it’s not so clear today where that authority ends under the current form of City government.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons

Any such change would require either a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition. The tax classification (residential, commercial, industrial, open space, and personal property) allows different rates (within prescribed limits) among these categories but there is no further refinement within any of the categories. This can translate into a hardship for a small "mom ‘n pop" retail business since (at least for Cambridge) the commercial tax rate is nearly 2½ times the residential tax rate, and there is nothing analogous to the residential exemption (which is a fixed exemption that can yield very inequitable benefit). Personally, I think the state legislature should create enabling legislation to give cities and towns a bit more flexibility, but there is an understandable risk that this would simply result in the maximum benefit being shifted onto those who vote in the local elections regardless of the net public good. Much of Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by rising rents (which factor in the taxes to some degree) and shifting consumer habits (like, you know, Amazon). Tax relief may help some, but the problem is bigger than that.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City Departments to launch a program during the summer months to activate the Front Lawn of City Hall in the afternoon with games (such as cornhole boards), food trucks, and other forms of entertainment to engage a diverse age range of residents in recreation.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Zondervan

Why not a ferris wheel and a zipline? I do like the fact that people are drawn to this space, but it is passive for a lot of them and they may not appreciate all the activity. Regarding food trucks, there would be a certain irony in having them within 100 or so feet of the License Commission offices (but that cryptic reference is something you’ll have to ask me about). In any case, a hot dog vendor on the sidewalk would be a nice addition, though I suppose it would have to be a vegan alternative "not dog" vendor to gain approval (in which case forget I ever mentioned it).

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to report back to the Housing Committee on how the City could establish a method of eviction data collection.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Cambridge Human Rights Commission to report back on housing-related activities including number of housing-related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations, and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons

My presumption is that these requests relate to the ongoing agenda of the City Council’s Housing Committee, but these issues have also been discussed within the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group and elsewhere. My presumption is that the concern here is the Bad Behavior of Very Big Mean Landlords, but this is, after all, the People’s Republic of Cambridge which, unfortunately, has at least some history of collateral damage against owners of rental property regardless of virtue.

Order #7. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Recycling Division of the Department of Public Works to study the feasibility of expanding the curbside composting program to small businesses and nonprofits in the City by the end of 2019.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

It’s definitely worth looking into, but it’s not so simple to determine what constitutes a small business deserving of the City’s largess. For example, if a large office building houses 50 small businesses should the City pick up the tab (and the garbage) for the whole building? There is already a lot of ambiguity with mixed residential/commercial buildings all over the city. – Robert Winters

May 13, 2018

On the Agenda – May 14, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:32 pm

On the Agenda – May 14, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

First… what’s still Not On the Agenda (even though letters continue to pour in to the City Council commenting on this Non-Order): The HP Divest matter. Wherefore art thou? Perhaps it’s with all the other missing Orders highlighting Bad Behavior (real or perceived) by governments around the world.

On the domestic front, there are these:

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-13, regarding electric vehicles.

It’s an interesting report and it seems like the City is using good sense in knowing when and under what circumstances vehicles should be changed over to all-electric or hybrid-electric. Nobody wants to see a fire engine or police car crap out in an emergency situation because its battery ran down. This report also brings to mind two competing philosophies when it comes to making changes to meet environmental or other goals – the Carrot or the Stick. Some (like me) prefer the carrot to encourage people to make changes, i.e. to provide incentives or offer a convincing argument to make a switch, e.g. to participate in curbside organics collection or to buy efficient vehicles or appliances. Others are all about the stick, e.g. changing the Zoning Ordinance to TELL people what they have to do to be righteous – or else. I have long felt that mandates are what people make when they fail to make a convincing case on the merits.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to develop a small business parking pilot that would allow temporary on-street employee parking during typical daytime operating hours. [Charter Right Exercised By Mayor McGovern.]   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons

I’m interested to see where this goes. People seem to have forgotten that there used to be a lot more unregulated spaces around the city, i.e. neither Resident Only nor sporting a parking meter. In fact, it has often been said by the folks at Traffic & Parking that parking meters are installed not for the revenue but rather to ensure sufficient turnover adjacent to businesses. I don’t know that I believe them anymore. What I do remember is that an enormous number of unregulated spaces were changed to regulated spaces during the days of the Interim Parking Freeze because that was one way to get spaces in the Commercial Parking Bank that could be used in the permitting of new commercial development. The deal was that for every two spaces you regulated you could put one in The Bank. Prior to that there were unregulated spaces that were available to people who worked at local businesses or who taught in Cambridge schools. I’m sure some of the anti-vehicle zealots in the Community Development Department would set themselves on fire rather than agree to ease up on any parking restrictions, but simple deregulation of some spaces in some areas (while keeping some time restriction for nonresidents) might actually be a good way to resolve this dilemma.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council by June 11 with an updated schedule for resubmitting a revised draft of the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance that incorporates suggestions from the Light Cambridge Committee.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

I was wondering when this would again be brought back into the spotlight. The original idea to tone down lights glaring through bedroom windows was worthwhile (even though it originally – and wrongly – appeared as a proposed zoning amendment rather as a municipal ordinance) before it got clogged up and bogged down by its own details. That and the desire of some people to clamp down on lighting in places where they have no business calling the shots. Indeed, there are some places, e.g. Central Square, that would benefit by the return of some pretty spectacular lighting.

Tree HouseApplications & Petitions #1. A petition was received from Sue Butler, et al, regarding concerns of excessive speed on Clinton Street in mid-Cambridge, requesting the City install three speed bumps or speed platforms along the length of Clinton Street.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to explore the possibility of improving road safety conditions on Clinton Street.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

As near as I can tell, it took just one car getting clipped when backing out of a Clinton Street driveway to get this response. There must be some Very Special People living on Clinton Street. To borrow from the statement in this petition, I just want to point out that "there are small children and pets and elderly people" living on probably every street in Cambridge. Perhaps we all deserve to have "three speed bumps or speed platforms" installed along the lengths of all our streets.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to complete a tree canopy study based on the April 2018 LiDAR data before the end of 2018, and to complete future LiDAR based studies as frequently as possible, but no more often than once a year.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley

I do like seeing the data generated by these studies, but I also find it curious how trees have become the defining Cambridge political topic for 2018. From one bandwagon to another, I suppose. I am once again reminded that there are Carrot Councillors and Stick Councillors. Some will prefer to give you encouragement and incentives to preserve trees on your property, while the others will make you hire a lawyer and file a string of permit applications before taking action against your resident Ents. – Robert Winters

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