Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 19, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 319-320: June 19, 2018

Episode 319 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 19, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 19, 2018 at 5:30pm. Guests: City Councillors Alanna Mallon and Sumbul Siddiqui. Topics included their weekly “Women Are Here” podcast and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Sumbul and Alanna’s “Women Are Here” podcast is available at http://www.podcasts.com/alanna-mallon-and-sumbul-siddiqui-35040b6bf and on iTunes.


Episode 320 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 19, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 19, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: trees, commercial recycling, public safety and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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 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 12, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 317-318: June 12, 2018

Episode 317 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 5:30pm. Our guest was Michael Monestime, Exec. Director of the Central Square Business Association. Topics: Business Improvement District proposal, Central Flea, River St./CB Plaza improvements, Arts Overlay. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 318 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Vellucci Plaza and Inman Square; Envision Cambridge – and then some. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 8, 2018

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (June 8, 2018)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:10 am

Cambridge Housing Authority Board Vacancy

City SealJune 6, 2018 – City Manager Louis DePasquale is seeking to fill a vacancy on the Cambridge Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Established under state law in 1935, Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) provides long-term rental housing and rental assistance to more than 7,700 low-income families, elders, and disabled individuals through its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs. It has an annual budget of $121 million and since 2015 has completed over $230 million in capital investment and construction contracts with another $300 million plus planned over the next 3-5 years as CHA revitalizes all the public housing in Cambridge.

CHA also invests in Cambridge families and provides enhanced support to 12% of the city population. By tailoring its approach to focus on policy innovation and family economic opportunities, CHA is able to meet its mission to develop and manage safe, good quality, affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in a manner which promotes citizenship, community and self-reliance in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

A five-member Board of Commissioners governs CHA. One member is appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts and the remaining four members are appointed by the Cambridge City Manager and confirmed by the Cambridge City Council. By law, the Board must include a housing authority resident and a representative of labor unions; both of these positions are currently filled. All Board members must be residents of Cambridge.

The CHA Board oversees the Agency’s overall direction and approves all significant contract awards, budget decisions, formal submissions to state and federal funding agencies, planning and reporting documents, all major policy decisions, and many other important matters. Commissioners also serve as board members on CHA’s three non-profit affiliates. The Board sets policy but is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

CHA’s Board of Commissioners meets regularly on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, at 5:30 p.m., at the Agency’s office, 362 Green St., 3rd floor, Cambridge. Additionally, the board may occasionally meet for special meetings as needed.

The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, July 6, 2018. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at www.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.


Cambridge City Manager Seeks Applicants for Public Planting Committee

City SealMay 19, 2018 – City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking Cambridge residents interested in serving on the city’s Committee on Public Planting.

The Public Planting Committee is charged with the responsibility of promoting and improving the quality and diversity of plantings throughout all areas of Cambridge. This includes: reviewing planting plans for new public work in the city; advising the city on effective maintenance of public plantings; supporting the role of the City Arborist; and encouraging interest in public plantings in all neighborhoods. Candidates should have an interest in urban forestry and landscape issues, and, ideally, experience in horticulture. The Committee usually meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30-7pm, at the Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA.

The deadline for submitting applications is June 11, 2018. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at www.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 committee, contact David Lefcourt, City Arborist, at 617-349-6433 or dlefcourt@cambridgema.gov.

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 29, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 315-316: May 29, 2018

Episode 315 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 29, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast May 29, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main Topics: the economics of recycling; Broadband & FiOS in Boston. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 316 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 29, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast May 29, 2018 at 6:00pm. Main Topics: The Reluctant Delegate (to the Dem. State Convention); Envision Cambridge. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 22, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 313-314: May 22, 2018

Episode 313 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 22, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast May 22, 2018 at 5:30pm. Guest: Patrick Barrett. Main Topic: Arts Overlay proposal for Central Square Cultural District. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters
[On YouTube]


Episode 314 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 22, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast May 22, 2018 at 6:00pm. Guest: Patrick Barrett. Main Topics: Upcoming events, Inman Square controversy, Harvard Square, alternate views on zoning. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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

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