Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 6, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 127-128: April 5, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:53 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 127 (Part 1)

Episode 127 – Cambridge InsideOut. This episode was broadcast on April 5, 2016 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. In tonight’s episodes we spoke about Envision Cambridge and a variety of other current civic affairs. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 128 (Part 2)

Episode 128 – Cambridge InsideOut (Part 2). This episode was broadcast on April 5, 2016 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. In tonight’s episodes we spoke about Envision Cambridge and a variety of other current civic affairs. [On YouTube]

September 23, 2015

A Better Cambridge Holds Fall Discussion Series on Affordable Housing and Development in Cambridge

Filed under: 2015 Election,Cambridge,planning — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:35 pm

A Better Cambridge Holds Fall Discussion Series on Affordable Housing and Development in Cambridge

HousingA Better Cambridge (ABC), Cambridge’s citywide group of residents working to build a more diverse and livable Cambridge, has announced a fall discussion series to help engage Cambridge residents, political candidates, and policy experts in planning for the growth of a sustainable Cambridge that provides affordable housing options for all families.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th: POLICY DISCUSSION
Affordable Housing in Cambridge – At the Epicenter of Development and Demand

As Cambridge embarks on a citywide plan for development our real estate market booms and our population is expected to grow in the coming decade, low and middle-income families in Cambridge city still struggle with unaffordable and rising housing costs. How can we ensure that new development in Cambridge serves the housing needs of all families including those with lower incomes? How does this relate to other important development issues – density, walking/biking/public transit, parking, and creating exciting, walkable neighborhoods? A Better Cambridge brings together experts to discuss what Cambridge can do to build a more diverse, affordable, and livable city for all families.

  • Aaron Gornstein, President/CEO, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)

  • Edward Marchant, Affordable Housing Development Consultant and Adjunct Lecturer of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

  • Andre Leroux, Executive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance

  • Moderator: Dante Ramos Boston Globe Op-Ed Columnist

This panel will be held on Saturday, 9/26, 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the Citywide Senior Center (806 Mass. Ave, Central Square). For updated information, including the announcement of additional panelists and moderator, visit the ABC website: http://www.abettercambridge.org/housing_forum_2015.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15th: CANDIDATES’ FORUM

Cambridge stands at a crossroads and the next City Council will play a major role in determining the future diversity, sustainability, and character of our city. As we look to this November’s municipal election, residents want to understand how all City Council candidates approach the development challenges and opportunities facing our city. Join candidates for Cambridge Cambridge City Council in a moderated discussion about their plans and visions for our city’s future.

This candidates forum will be held on Thursday, October 15th, 6:30pm to 9:30pm at the Broad Institute (415 Main Street, Kendall Square). The moderator will be Robin Young, host of "Here and Now" on WBUR. Please stay tuned to the ABC website for more details.

ABC is Cambridge’s only citywide pro-smart growth resident group. Since our founding in 2012, ABC has been instrumental in opposing the downzoning of Central Square, advocating for expansion of a mixed-use neighborhood in Kendall Square, and most recently, securing the promise of 50 units of affordable housing at Mass. Ave & Main Street. For more information about ABC or either of these events, contact jesse@abettercambridge.org.

August 21, 2015

City of Cambridge Selects Utile Architecture + Planning team for Citywide Plan

Filed under: Cambridge,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 4:40 pm

City of Cambridge Selects Consultant for Citywide Plan
Utile Architecture + Planning team selected to run multiyear process

Cambridge NeighborhoodsAug 21, 2015 – Today, Cambridge Officials announced that an interdisciplinary team led by Utile Architecture + Planning (Utile) has been selected for the Cambridge citywide planning project. “The City is looking forward to embarking on this important citywide process with Utile,” said Richard C. Rossi, City Manager. “This multiyear effort is a major investment that the City is making in the future of our community. Residents, business employers and employees, property owners and developers, institutions, non-profit organizations, and many other stakeholders will be active participants in this process and a key component to ensuring that the citywide plan reflects the values of our community. I want to thank the other highly qualified and respected firms that participated in our selection process.”

The other finalists in the City’s selection process were Sasaki, and Perkins + Will.

On July 27, 2015, the finalists made presentations to and answered questions from the public in an event held in the Sullivan Chambers in City Hall. Following the public presentations, the City’s Selection Committee conducted a multi-day evaluation process that resulted in City Manager Richard C. Rossi accepting the recommendation to hire Utile. Over the next few weeks the City will be working with Utile to finalize a contract, including financial arrangements, for the public process that will begin this fall.

“The Utile team brings a deep understanding of local planning issues and a fresh, creative approach to public engagement,” said Lisa Peterson, Chair of the Selection Committee. “Using a rigorous, data-driven process, the Utile team will complement and augment the capacity of City staff to develop a strategic framework to address a broad range of issues including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space.”

The planning process that will be kicked off this fall will span multiple years and will include a robust community engagement process.

“Cambridge’s citywide plan will create a shared vision for the city, develop policy and design goals and actionable recommendations to guide future changes in the city,” said Iram Farooq, Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “The end result of this process will be a shared vision on how Cambridge can remain livable, sustainable, and equitable not just for the current generation, but also for generations to come.”

The citywide planning process aims to integrate and build upon the City’s existing policies, programs, and initiatives through an inclusive, wide-reaching process that looks beyond traditional planning efforts to guide future change in Cambridge. During the multi-year process, early action items and pilot projects may be identified and launched. [Read Utile Proposal (22.6MB PDF)]

The planning process will examine a broad range of issues, including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about the public process that will begin this fall!

For more information, please visit the project page on the Community Development Department’s website, or email CambridgeConversations@CambridgeMA.gov.

Utile is a 40-person, Boston-based planning and design firm. Built like a think tank, the firm thrives on solving complex problems in intelligent and pragmatic ways. From theoretical issues that frame policy to the practical implementation of architectural commissions, Utile develops a rigorous research-based approach for finding the best solutions. Utile specializes in unique regulatory, political, and design challenges, and is committed to the revitalization of the American city through proactive planning and design that bridges public and private jurisdictional boundaries.

May 18, 2015

Coming up at the May 18, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,planning — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:26 am

Coming up at the May 18, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Mass+MainThere are plenty of items from which to choose on this week’s agenda, but there’s really little doubt that the one to watch is the vote to ordain the Normandy/Twining petition that would allow a significant number of new apartments to be built at the eastern end of Central Square, a.k.a. Lafayette Square.

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Normandy/Twining (Mass and Main) Zoning Petition. The Planning Board recommends adoption with suggested modifications.

Unfinished Business #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 1, 2015 to continue discussions on the Normandy/Twining petition. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 11, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Feb 24, 2015 and continued on Apr 28, 2015. Petition expires May 27, 2015.

Communications – 30 letters in support of Normandy/Twining Petition and 21 letters opposing Normandy/Twining Petition.

The necessary votes appear to be there to ordain this petition, but the real story is the political dynamics surrounding it. The Cambridge Residents Alliance (CResA), an unregistered political action committee disguised as a non-profit civic association, was born a few years back in response to the very things this petition would bring, i.e. additional height and residential density in Central Square. Back then it was the prospect of apartment buildings popping up on Prospect Street and Bishop Allen Drive and a residential tower behind the firehouse in Lafayette Square. Those ideas were either withdrawn or put on permanent hold. Other ideas were floated during the C2 process that helped to shape their recommendations, but the prospect of something actually being built only began to materialize at the end of the C2 process when the Quest properties in and around Lafayette Square were sold. There was little doubt that something would be done with these properties.

Objectively speaking, there’s a lot to be said for bringing significant new housing to this location, especially with a sizable number of units set aside for people with low/moderate income. There’s also some great possibilities in terms of ground floor retail and what people these days like to call "placemaking". It’s also very significant that a residential building is being proposed rather than an office or lab building.

On the other hand, this is also an opportunity for politics and we’ve seen a lot of that lately. There was an organized effort to turn an Ordinance Committee meeting on this petition into a tribunal directed at any city councillor who ever took a dollar from a property owner or developer. Poorly researched investigations into other Normandy-owned properties led to slanderous accusations propagated on various listservs. CResA activists and their scribes promoted conspiracy theories about City departments trying to work around the Zoning Ordinance and evade planning. A well-considered (and courageous) letter sent out by Councillor Kelley over the weekend has sparked some angry responses from the perpetually closed-minded. Through it all we’ve seen incumbent city councillors slandered while new candidates bulk up their campaign accounts and try to recruit feeder candidates for the November election – all of this over the building of new homes (near transit) where people can live.

It’s worth noting that a significant amount of public testimony on this matter has been in support of the Normandy/Twining petition, and many people who are not taking sides on the issue at least generally acknowledge that if there is to be residential density in Cambridge this is a pretty sensible place for it to be located.

Manager’s Agenda #20. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Chestnut Hill Realty Zoning Petition. The Planning Board recommends adoption.

This appears to be just a technical improvement of a zoning change enacted a couple of years ago.

Order #4. Support of House Bill 340 that calls on the Department of Education to not approve PARCC for Massachusetts public schools; calls on the state to not require high-stakes standardized tests be used as a requirement for high school graduation for at least the next three years; and that the state establish an Educational Review Task Force to examine the effectiveness and impact of these high-stakes standardized tests.   Councillor McGovern and Councillor Kelley

This is a matter that has lots of people pretty charged up. I teach mathematics primarily to university students, but I also have quite a few high school students in my Harvard Extension School classes. You’ll never hear me arguing against the need for better standards in mathematics education – especially when it comes to challenging students to aim higher. Part of that means having some standardized testing and I don’t especially care what form that testing takes as long as it’s fair. I also have never been of the "every kid gets a trophy" mindset, but I do think it’s important that every kid have a path to graduation even if it means adjusting the path. Not all kids are destined to win Nobel Prizes, but everyone deserves a chance to one day have a chance at economic opportunity – especially in a city like Cambridge. Minimal standards won’t help to achieve that goal. Is PARCC better than MCAS? I don’t know, but I sure wish people would just make a good decision and go with it.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to review the attached seven recommendations submitted as part of the Apr 30, 2015 Housing Committee hearing minutes and instruct the City Solicitor and the Acting Assistant City Manager of the Community Development Department to prepare appropriate zoning language to achieve these recommendations.   Councillor Simmons

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 30, 2015 to continue the Apr 22, 2015 discussion on the incentive zoning study from the Community Development Department.

While the political people have been obsessing over Normandy/Twining, housing in the Alewife area, and the ultimate legal resolution of the Sullivan Courthouse, there has been an ongoing review and update to some of the financial mechanisms that help to fund various affordable housing initiatives via fees derived from new non-residential development. The recommendations contained in this Order are mostly timely and appropriate, but I’m skeptical about any effort to tie linkage fees to job training programs or the City’s living wage ordinance for reasons similar to why unionized labor requirements should not be written into the Zoning Ordinance. Not all good standards and practices should be bound into law. Some things, like lease covenants requiring tenants to not seek residential parking permits, are best left as agreements and understandings rather than governmental requirements.

Order #16. That the Cambridge City Council officially go on record supporting the efforts and progress of the Cambridge Community Development Department related to the C2 study and we look forward to considering the zoning and non-zoning recommendations when presented to the Council.   Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Ideally, once the Normandy/Twining zoning petition is settled, there should be renewed interest and greater seriousness about the C2 study and its recommendations. Sometimes it takes a serious development proposal to motivate people to actually get serious. This isn’t the only example of that principle in action.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee for a public hearing held on Mar 25, 2015 to receive updates and to discuss next steps for the shared-use, rails-with-trail path along the City’s Grand Junction Corridor.

As I testified at the hearing, the most interesting parts of this proposal are how it will connect to places outside of Cambridge. It has the potential to create much better links between destinations at/near MIT to housing in Somerville and across the Charles River. At the Somerville end there are better and worse ways to align this route to the planned Somerville routes and the right-of-way being planned for the Green Line Extension. The primary bicycle facilities will always be the existing road network, but it’s great to make better use of abandoned and underutilized rail assets to create more and better connections. – Robert Winters

February 21, 2015

Plowing, or sweeping under the rug?

The photo of the Western Avenue bikeway with this post has been making the rounds in bicycling advocacy circules, accompanied with praise for Cambridge’s plowing it.

You can praise the plowing all you like, but in terms of safety, it amounts to window dressing, distracting from problems which would not exist except for the segregated bikeway: with the snowbanks, bicyclists and motorists are both going to have to come nearly to a complete stop at every crossing to see each other in time to avoid collisions. Streets, on the other hand, even narrowed by snow, are wide enough that the cyclists can ride away from the edge, and motorists can poke out far enough to see approaching traffic without the risk of collisions.

The bikeway is also too narrow for one bicyclist safely to overtake another. The street is wide enough for anyone — bicyclist or motorist — to overtake a bicyclist, though maybe not always wide enough for one motorist to overtake another, what with the snow. It is narrower too because of the space that was taken out of it for the bikeway. The street also most likely is clear down to pavement within a day or two after a snowfall, and it is crowned so meltwater drains to the curbs. The bikeway is going to be a sheet of ice if there are thaw/freeze cycles, unless there is a very heavy application of road salt.

Bicycling is already difficult enough in winter without the added difficulties and hazards imposed by this bikeway.

western_avenue_winter

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December 30, 2014

Another Pause Button for the Plastic Bag Bill

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,elections,planning — Sharanya Srinivasan @ 3:39 pm

It seems that the fate of plastic bags in the City of Cambridge is suspended in limbo. Multiple iterations of a Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance have been ferried in and out of City Council hearings since 2007, but without a resounding “Aye!” After successive rounds of discussion and drafting, then-councilor Marjorie Decker introduced her “Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance” in July 2013. This required retail establishments to distribute either recyclable paper bags or reusable checkout bags to customers. The law was never called to vote because of Decker’s departure to the state legislature, and the arrival of four newly elected councilors. So Decker’s ordinance went back on the revision merry-go-round, resulting in an amended version of the 2013 bill titled the “Checkout Bag Ordinance of the City of Cambridge”. The revised amendment package, proposed on October 27, was placed before the council in December 2014. However, a scattered consensus and interpolation of additional amendments has resulted in the postponement of a vote to February 2015.

In its conception, the plastic bag bill functions to counteract the “single use, throwaway” culture of city life, which contributes to global climate change, and degradation of the natural environment through littering and waste production. Both versions of the ordinance promote the distribution of recyclable or reusable bags by retail establishments in Cambridge. So, why does the plastic bag issue keep getting recycled in hearings? One reason is the discordant opinions on the severity of the bill. Decker’s original version was undoubtedly more stringent in its enforcement. It defined “recyclable paper bag” as a 100% recyclable bag that contains at least 40% post-consumer recycled content; the amended version simply defined it as a 100% recyclable bag, and also permitted the usage of compostable plastic bags. The revised Checkout Bag Ordinance also permits the city’s Public Works Commissioner exemption powers under circumstances of “undue hardship” to retailers, for up to 2 years. In contrast, Decker’s 2013 ordinance only granted 6 month exemptions. Given that the plastic bag restrictions are broadly imposed upon retail establishments, including restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores, thus extending the regulatory reach of the bill, dissent on the bill’s severity is unsurprising. Additionally, new amendments continue to facilitate debate, and by extension, indecision! New addenda proposed in the December 2014 hearing include an amendment to exempt church events from the regulations and to establish an oversight committee for businesses to directly appeal restrictions.

The newer Checkout Bag Ordinance is more balanced, and more likely to appeal to the greater Cambridge community. More importantly, tweaks and revisions can be identified in a more targeted and effective manner once the ordinance has been passed by the council. The plastic bag ordinance has been tethered in legislative limbo for long enough. Hopefully, it will be brought to reality in 2015.

October 30, 2014

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

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

On the Nov 3, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following biographical descriptions are for the three new appointees:

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

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

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

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

Very truly yours,
Richard C. Rossi
City Manager

June 30, 2014

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:29 am

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

The curtain falls tonight on the FY2014 Fiscal Year as the City Council enters its Summer Recess – but not without a little controversy. Councillor Dennis "Pearl Harbor" Carlone is the first signer of a new zoning petition that is almost guaranteed to bring some fireworks in advance of the July 4 holiday. The petition has near zero chance of ultimately passing but stands out prominently in its disrespect for the Planning Board, the Community Development Department, and previous Cambridge City Councils who have passed a variety of zoning petitions with detailed Special Permit criteria spelled out to guide the Planning Board in the granting of Special Permits under the Zoning Ordinance.

Monkey WrenchApplications & Petitions #5. A zoning petition has been filed by Dennis Carlone, et al. requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to designate the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits.

The intent of this petition appears to be to enact an effective 30-month moratorium on all larger proposed developments in Cambridge by turning each project into a political football. Except for Councillors Carlone and Mazen (first and last signers), the signers of the petition consist almost entirely of principal players of the Cambridge Residents Alliance who have made no secret of their desire to enact such a moratorium. The essential component of the petition is the transfer of Project Review Special Permit authority from the Planning Board (where there is substantial professional expertise) to the City Council. Anyone who has ever witnessed the Planning Board working together to devise detailed conditions on the granting of a Special Permit should now imagine what this process might look like if conducted by the City Council as they play to the favor of their various political supporters. I shudder to think of it.

Fortunately, it appears that this misguided proposal has the support of only the two city councillors who signed it. Ideally, the City Council would just vote it down and declare it Dead On Arrival, but it’s possible that it may be formally referred to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee (co-chaired by Carlone) so that it can receive a proper funeral. As a zoning petition, it would require 6 of 9 city councillors to support it and that’s pretty much an impossibility unless they start lacing the Kool-Aid with hallucinogens.

Meanwhile the initial phase (Cambridge Conversations) of the upcoming review and possible revision of the City’s existing master plans has been met with expressions of satisfaction from most members of the public. Perhaps this is why Carlone and Company have chosen to toss a monkey wrench into the process. Political organizing thrives so much more when wrapped in controversy.

Communications #6. A communication was received from Rick Snedeker, 107 Clifton Street regarding a request for a Special Act Charter for Cambridge that does not include Proportional Representation.

This is included primarily for comic relief. This Snedeker fellow has now written a series of letters to the Cambridge Chronicle detailing his hostility regarding the structure of Cambridge city government and the way municipal elections are conducted. He believes that having 90% of ballots count toward the election of city councillors is more disenfranchising than a winner-take-all election where often fewer than 50% of ballots count toward the election of a candidate. That’s interesting math. He would have elections of ward councillors by simple plurality vote with no runoffs or primary elections. This installment from Snedeker also calls for the Mayor and City Council to be able to dismiss any City department head by a simple majority vote. I can only imagine the thrilling City Council meetings when a department head says something not to the liking of the elected councillors.

Communications #11. Sundry communications were received regarding the East Cambridge Courthouse.

There are 38 individual signed letters plus an additional 74 petition signatures in support of the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse building. The prisoners are now out of the East Cambridge Courthouse and the transfer of the property from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Legatt McCall, the chosen developer, is imminent. While there is clear opposition to the proposed redevelopment from many residents, it’s pretty clear that this is not a unanimously held position. The Planning Board is expected to make a decision on the Special Permit for the 40 Thorndike Street proposal at its July 29 meeting (to be held in East Cambridge, most likely at the Kennedy-Longfellow School). Regardless what the Planning Board decides, it is very likely that lawsuits will follow.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee for a joint public meeting held on June 25, 2014 to discuss the ongoing out of school/STEAM working group research.

I’m sure the participants at this meeting meant well and I think we all want to see some good programs developed in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The report, however, is remarkable in some of its convoluted quotes. Some of my favorites are these: "Councillor Mazen explained that it’s important for one subgroup to track other subgroup. People in this subgroup should ask other subgroups: Are we talking around the subject or are we addressing it?" and "Councillor Mazen confessed he isn’t opposed to having another subgroup but he feels that this can fall into other subgroups and can also be discussed by each subgroup." and "Councillor Mazen said he hoped next time will be an opportunity for everybody to work more circularly about a coordinator position".

Exactly how does one "work more circularly?" Does it involve beating around the bush? I’ll have to consult with my subgroup about this. – Robert Winters

Note: Due to construction in the Sullivan Chamber, this City Council meeting will take place in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at 459 Broadway (CRLS).

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