Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 23, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 427-428: October 22, 2019

Episode 427 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 22, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 22, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Election coming; election systems, district vs. at-large; Candidate page updates; slates & endorsing organizations; incumbency protection and feeders; how to vote a PR ballot. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 428 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 22, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 22, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Candidate forums; Cambridge Club event; some Plan E history; Devereux piece; myths about single-family zoning and density; Green Line Extension; growing the metropolis. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applications & Petitions #2. A refiled Zoning Petition has been received from Joseph T. Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. transmitting a proposed revised amendment to the zoning ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

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

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

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

October 18, 2019

2019 Cambridge City Council Campaign Bank Reports

The following table shows the summary bank reports for 2019 Cambridge City Council candidates and active local political action committees involved in the municipal election. These reports are updated at the middle and at the end of every month. You can sort by any of the fields shown by clicking on the field name – one click ascending and second click descending.

CandidateFromToStartReceiptsExpendBalanceAs OfNotes
PAC - ABC05/16/1810/15/190.0019509.0910626.498882.6010/16/19A Better Cambridge
PAC - CCC10/01/1910/15/190.008855.005654.153200.8510/18/19Cambridge Citizens Coalition
PAC - CResA07/15/1910/15/190.001204.250.001204.2510/16/19Cambridge Residents Alliance
PAC - Cambr. Bike Safety07/15/1907/15/190.000.000.000.0007/15/19Cambridge Bike Safety
PAC - Our Revolution Cambridge10/09/1910/09/190.000.000.000.0010/09/19filed 10/9/19 w/OCPF
Akiba, Sukia07/16/1910/15/190.003000.031112.141887.8910/17/19
Azeem, Burhan05/01/1910/15/190.0011475.638724.092751.5410/17/19new candidate, May 7
Carlone, Dennis02/01/1810/15/1910088.5824352.3314678.9619761.9510/18/19
Franklin, Charles03/05/1910/15/190.0023700.3717854.465845.9110/16/19new candidate, Mar 5
Kelley, Craig02/01/1810/15/194951.6524349.6818113.4811187.8510/17/19
Kopon, Derek07/01/1910/15/190.002808.341905.83902.5110/18/19new candidate, July 2
Levy, Ilan02/01/1810/15/19-44.32546.05401.9199.8210/16/19
Mallon, Alanna02/01/1810/15/195380.4536321.2524348.7117352.9910/17/19refund deducted
McGovern, Marc02/01/1810/15/196376.1788669.7271664.6123381.2810/16/19$600 refund deducted
McNary, Jeffery08/02/1910/15/190.000.000.000.0010/15/19will not raise/expend funds
Mednick, Risa07/16/1910/15/190.0013501.4910097.273404.2210/16/19new candidate, July 15
Moree, Gregg08/01/1910/15/190.001500.001427.1072.9010/18/19
Musgrave, Adriane02/01/1810/15/19474.6735690.0713631.9622532.7810/17/19
Nolan, Patty07/01/1910/15/190.0016652.033564.8713087.1610/16/19new candidate, June 11
Pitkin, John06/16/1910/15/190.009468.432218.337250.1010/16/19new candidate, July 17
Siddiqui, Sumbul02/01/1810/15/199334.0530183.3114852.3924664.9710/16/19
Simmons, Denise02/01/1810/15/197595.5038957.1023125.9423426.6610/16/19
Simon, Ben03/16/1910/15/190.0011457.336837.404619.9310/16/19new candidate, Apr 2
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan C.03/11/1910/15/190.0017559.4812998.624560.8610/16/19new candidate, Mar 11
Toomey, Tim02/01/1810/15/1910024.4938500.8836320.4512204.9210/16/19$15,000 repaid loan deducted
Williams, Nicola A.03/12/1910/15/190.0022989.3821278.571710.8110/16/19new candidate, Mar 12
Zondervan, Quinton02/01/1810/15/191279.6633725.9327802.697202.9010/16/19
Summaries of potential 2019 City Council campaign bank reports. Adjustments to the totals have been made to reflect returned donations and other factors. [updated Oct 18, 2019 at 7:15pm]

Campaign Finance Reports – 2019 City Council (updated Oct 18, 7:15pm)

Vote!

October 17, 2019

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Oct 17, 2019)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 9:25 am

Member Sought to Fill Cambridge Library Board of Trustees Vacancy

City SealCity Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking to fill a vacancy on the Board of Trustees for the Cambridge Public Library.

Library trustees are volunteer community representatives, library advocates, and leaders in the establishment of goals and policies for the Cambridge Public Library system. Trustees are a vital link between the library staff and the community and work to ensure the quality of library services, collections, and programs, and to make certain that the library reflects and is relevant to the community.

Trustees serve a 3 year term and are expected to attend monthly board meetings, committee and community meetings, appropriate continuing education workshops or conferences, and library programs as their schedules allow.

Ideal candidates will have an interest in and passion for public libraries and an understanding of the importance of the public library as a center of information, culture, recreation, and life-long learning in the community. Candidates should also have knowledge of the community, including an awareness of diverse social and economic conditions, needs and interests of all groups. Strong verbal and written communication skills, including public speaking skills are required. Trustees work productively as a team. It is also important for candidates to understand how the role of the public library is evolving and how information technology and societal changes inform the library’s future.

The deadline for submitting applications is October 22, 2019. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. For more information about the role of Library trustees, contact Maria McCauley, Director of Libraries at 617-349-4032.


Members Sought for Cambridge Citizens’ Committee on Civic Unity

City SealCambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking members of the community who live and/or work in Cambridge (including private sector and municipal employees, business owners, students, and others) to become a part of the Citizens’ Committee on Civic Unity. Applications from interested community members are welcome through October 18, 2019.

The mission of the City of Cambridge Citizens’ Committee on Civic Unity is to foster fairness, equity, unity, appreciation, and mutual understanding across all people and entities in Cambridge. The Citizens’ Committee on Civic Unity works to provide opportunities for constructive discussions and community events regarding race, class, religion, gender, disability, and sexual orientation, through recognizing and raising awareness of historic, existing and potential civic issues; providing opportunities for honest dialogue and engagement; and by building bridges across communities to better understand and connect with one another.

The Committee generally meets monthly. Committee meetings are open to the public and may include presentations by guest speakers, city staff, and various experts. For information on the committee’s work, current goals, meeting schedule, and events, please visit: www.cambridgema.gov/civicunity

Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. Once your application is submitted, you will receive a confirmation email. Applications are due by Friday, Oct 18, 2019.

If you have question about the application process, please contact the City Manager’s Office at 617-349-4300 or fgaines@Cambridgema.gov.


Member Sought for Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust

City SealCambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking residents who are interested in serving on the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.

The Affordable Housing Trust administers and oversees city funds allocated to create and preserve affordable rental and homeownership housing, and to support housing programs that address the city’s affordable housing needs. The Trust members review proposals for new housing preservation, development efforts, and other housing programs, and provide housing policy and program advice to the City Manager, city staff, other city boards and commissions, and the Cambridge City Council.

The Trust is comprised of members with experience in affordable housing, housing policy, finance, development, planning, and design. The Trust is chaired by the City Manager and generally meets on the fourth Thursday of every month, from 4-5:30pm, at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, Nov 1, 2019. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the city’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.


Members Sought to fill Upcoming Vacancies in Recycling Advisory Committee

City SealCity Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking Cambridge residents, business owners, and local professionals interested in serving on the Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC) beginning in January 2020.

The RAC is a volunteer committee which provides advice, recommendations, and assistance to the Department of Public Works (DPW) regarding recycling, composting, reuse, and waste reduction. The RAC does this through research, feedback, public outreach, and event planning. The RAC has been instrumental in the city’s new Zero Waste Master Plan, Fix-It Clinics, marketing and education, and other important initiatives that have made Cambridge a national leader in waste reduction.

Cambridge Recycling began in 1989 with a few volunteers dedicated to beginning a recycling drop-off program. Today, the city recovers more than 11,000 tons per year of recyclables from more than 44,000 households. Approximately 32,000 households have access to curbside composting, reducing the city’s trash by more than 7% in the first year of citywide composting. More households will be added to the program over time. The City now serves 123 businesses in the Small Business Recycling Pilot. Lastly, the RAC is working on a Single-Use Plastics regulation in conjunction with the Cambridge City Council and the Department of Public Works.

Currently, the city’s goals to reduce waste match those in the MA Solid Waste Master Plan. Using 2008 as a baseline year, the city aims to reduce trash 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. As of 2018, the city has reduced trash by 28%.

The Committee has been active for over 20 years and consists of at least nine members with a demonstrated interest in the topics listed above. Members serve a three-year term and are expected to attend monthly meetings (Sept-June). The city seeks members that represent local businesses and property managers, Cambridge residents, and users of the Recycling Center, universities, non-profit organizations and social service agencies whose goals overlap with waste reduction.

Duties, Responsibilities and Minimum Requirements include:recycling symbol

  • Attend and participate in monthly meeting, held the second Wednesday of the month (September-June) at 8am, at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Sullivan Chamber, 2nd Floor. Enter through back door of City Hall.
  • Participate in creating committee direction and implementation of ideas
  • Take a leadership role in projects, such as doing research, organizing & attending events, and advocacy.
  • Work with the Public Works Recycling Division, Climate Protection Action Committee, and other appropriate City staff to provide feedback on City initiatives.
  • Research different approaches to communication, education and best practices for recycling, composting, reuse and waste reduction programs.
  • Disseminate outreach materials and educate the community
  • Write articles or blogs to promote Cambridge recycling.
  • Initiate, plan, attend and run events to promote recycling, composting, reuse and waste reduction
  • Meet with the community and participate in at least 2-3 events, such as Danehy Park Family Day, Public Works Week events, Fresh Pond Day, May Fair, block parties

Helpful Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Marketing
  • Outreach and community engagement
  • Project Management
  • Advocacy for state policies
  • Familiarity with Cambridge Public Schools

To learn more about the committee’s work, please consider attending an upcoming meeting, on Oct 16 or Nov 13. For more information, contact Michael Orr, Recycling Director, at 617-349-4815 or morr@cambridgema.gov. The deadline for submitting applications is November 15, 2019. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

October 16, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 425-426: October 15, 2019

Episode 425 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 15, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 15, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate slates and election outlook; a look at municipal elections over the years; CCA history; Flotsam & Jetsam. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 426 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 15, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 15, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Slates, candidate forums, strategies, campaign spending, “developer money”; Ranked Choice Voting; MIT, energy; Opening King Open. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 14, 2019

Follow the Money – Cambridge City Council Campaign Receipts 2019

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,campaign finance,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:35 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Table of reported City Council campaign receipts (Feb 1, 2018 - present) - Total, Cambridge, Unions, Real Estate - updated Oct 23, 12:45am
Candidate (and PACs)ReceiptsCambridgePctunionsPctReal EstatePctunions+REPct
Total $530,626.10 $331,695.3562.5% $35,300.006.7% $46,881.008.8% $82,181.0015.5%
McGovern, Marc C. $90,036.21 $40,413.0044.9% $ 11,550.0012.8% $26,000.0028.9% $37,550.0041.7%
Toomey, Timothy J., Jr. $50,215.76 $27,843.0355.4% $4,100.008.2% $10,750.0021.4% $14,850.0029.6%
Simmons, E. Denise $39,006.00 $21,551.0055.3% $5,200.0013.3% $5,700.0014.6% $10,900.0027.9%
Mallon, Alanna $36,990.25 $25,622.2569.3% $5,250.0014.2% $1,400.003.8% $6,650.0018.0%
Siddiqui, Sumbul $30,064.68 $18,186.6860.5% $4,250.0014.1% $350.001.2% $4,600.0015.3%
Kelley, Craig A. $24,999.00 $19,117.0076.5% $2,000.008.0% $150.000.6% $2,150.008.6%
Musgrave, Adriane $36,778.35 $18,719.3550.9% $1,500.004.1% $600.001.6% $2,100.005.7%
ABC - PAC $22,294.26 $18,482.2382.9% $ -0.0% $1,596.007.2% $1,596.007.2%
Carlone, Dennis $21,640.00 $16,400.0075.8% $ 500.002.3% $ 250.001.2% $ 750.003.5%
Mednick, Risa $14,414.00 $9,556.0066.3% $ 500.003.5% $ - 0.0% $500.003.5%
Azeem, Burhan $11,664.35 $9,084.3577.9% $450.003.9% $35.000.3% $485.004.2%
Williams, Nicola A. $23,118.59 $17,154.7274.2% $ -0.0% $ 50.000.2%$ 50.000.2%
Akiba, Sukia $3,000.00 $980.0032.7% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CCC - PAC $9,205.00 $8,575.0093.2% $ 0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
CResA - PAC $1,350.00 $1,350.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
Franklin, Charles $24,663.55 $14,858.5560.2% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Kopon, Derek Andrew $ 2,810.00 $ 2,500.0089.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Levy, Ilan S. $ 450.00 $ 450.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
McNary, Jeffery $ - $ - - $ -- $ - - $ - -
Moree, Gregg J. $ 1,500.00 $ 1,500.00100.0% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Nolan, Patricia M. $14,350.00 $8,930.0062.2% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
ORC - PAC $1,992.00 $1,892.0095.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0% $ -0.0%
Pitkin, John $10,797.00 $10,047.0093.1% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Simon, Ben $11,823.33 $6,352.0053.7% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan $17,846.77 $11,739.1965.8% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%
Zondervan, Quinton $29,617.00 $20,392.0068.9% $ -0.0% $ - 0.0% $ - 0.0%

October 12, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 423-424: Oct 8, 2019

Episode 423 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 8, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 8, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Tax rate hearing; property tax classification; residential exemption; tax levy; Harvard Square Zoning Petition; and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 424 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 8, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 8, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Energy (gas & electric) infrastructure and City Council proposals; other topics from Oct 7 Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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