Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 30, 2010

Sept 14, 2010 State Primary Candidates (for Cambridge voters)

Filed under: 2010 Election — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:05 pm

Sept 14, 2010 State Primary Candidates (for Cambridge voters)

Governor/Lt. Governor
Democrat: DEVAL L. PATRICK / TIMOTHY P. MURRAY (incumbent) Republican: CHARLES D. BAKER / RICHARD R. TISEI
Green Party: JILL STEIN / RICK PURCELL
(will appear only on the November ballot)
Independent: TIM CAHILL
(will appear only on the November ballot)
Treasurer
Democrat: STEVEN GROSSMAN
Democrat: STEPHEN J. MURPHY
Republican: KARYN E. POLITO
Auditor
Democrat: SUZANNE M. BUMP
Democrat: GUY WILLIAM GLODIS
Democrat: MIKE LAKE
Republican: MARY Z. CONNAUGHTON
Republican: KAMAL JAIN
Green Party: NAT FORTUNE
(will appear only on the November ballot)
Attorney General
Democrat: MARTHA COAKLEY (incumbent)
Secretary of State
Democrat: WILLIAM FRANCIS GALVIN (incumbent) Republican: WILLIAM C. CAMPBELL
Representative in Congress (8th District)
Democrat: MICHAEL E. CAPUANO (incumbent)
Governor’s Council (3rd District) [Pcts. 9-2, 9-3, 10-1, 10-3; Ward 11 (all)]
Democrat: MARILYN M. PETITTO DEVANEY (incumbent)
Democrat: COREY A. BELANGER
Governor’s Council (6th District) [Wards 1 through 8 (all precincts); Pcts. 9-1, 10-2]
Democrat: SUZANNE R. ENGLISH-MERULLO
Democrat: TERRENCE W. KENNEDY
Republican: PAUL A. CARUCCIO
State Senate
First Suffolk and Middlesex District [Ward 1 (all); Ward 2 (all); Pcts. 3-1, 3-3;
Ward 4 (all); Ward 5 (all); Pct. 8-3]
Democrat: ANTHONY W. PETRUCCELLI (incumbent) Republican: FRANK JOHN ADDIVINOLA, JR.
Second Suffolk and Middlesex District [Pcts. 9-2, 9-3, 10-1, 10-3; Ward 11 (all)]
Democrat: STEVEN A. TOLMAN (incumbent)
Democrat: WILLIAM B. FEEGBEH
Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex District [Pct. 3-2; Ward 6 (all); Ward 7 (all): Pcts. 8-1, 8-2, 9-1, 10-2]
Democrat: SAL N. DiDOMENICO (incumbent)
Democrat: TIMOTHY R. FLAHERTY
Republican: BARBARA T. BUSH
State Representative
Eighth Suffolk District [Pcts. 2-3, 3-3; Ward 5 (all)]
Democrat: MARTHA MARTY WALZ (incumbent) Republican: BRAD MARSTON
Ninth Suffolk District [Pct. 2-2]
Democrat: BYRON RUSHING (incumbent)
24th Middlesex District [Pct. 10-3; Ward 11 (all)]
Democrat: WILLIAM N. BROWNSBERGER (incumbent)
25th Middlesex District [Ward 4 (all); Pcts. 6-2, 6-3; Ward 7 (all); Ward 8 (all); Pcts. 10-1, 10-2]
Democrat: ALICE K. WOLF (incumbent)
26th Middlesex District [Ward 1 (all); Pcts. 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 6-1]
Democrat: TIMOTHY J. TOOMEY, JR. (incumbent)
29th Middlesex District [Ward 9 (all)]
Democrat: JONATHAN HECHT (incumbent)
District Attorney (Northern District)
Democrat: GERARD T. LEONE, JR. (incumbent)
Sheriff (Middlesex County)
Democrat: JAMES V. DiPAOLA (incumbent)
Coming up in the November 2, 2010 State Election: BALLOT QUESTIONS (Laws Proposed by Initiative Petition)

Question 1: Sales Tax on Alcoholic Beverages

Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives before May 4, 2010?

SUMMARY: This proposed law would remove the Massachusetts sales tax on alcoholic beverages and alcohol, where the sale of such beverages and alcohol or their importation into the state is already subject to a separate excise tax under state law. The proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2011.

A YES VOTE would remove the state sales tax on alcoholic beverages and alcohol where their sale or importation into the state is subject to an excise tax under state law.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the state sales tax on alcoholic beverages and alcohol.

Question 2: Comprehensive Permits for Low- or Moderate- Income Housing

Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives before May 4, 2010?

SUMMARY: This proposed law would repeal an existing state law that allows a qualified organization wishing to build government-subsidized housing that includes low- or moderate-income units to apply for a single comprehensive permit from a city or town’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA), instead of separate permits from each local agency or official having jurisdiction over any aspect of the proposed housing. The repeal would take effect on January 1, 2011, but would not stop or otherwise affect any proposed housing that had already received both a comprehensive permit and a building permit for at least one unit.

Under the existing law, the ZBA holds a public hearing on the application and considers the recommendations of local agencies and officials. The ZBA may grant a comprehensive permit that may include conditions or requirements concerning the height, site plan, size, shape, or building materials of the housing. Persons aggrieved by the ZBA’s decision to grant a permit may appeal it to a court. If the ZBA denies the permit or grants it with conditions or requirements that make the housing uneconomic to build or to operate, the applicant may appeal to the state Housing Appeals Committee (HAC).

After a hearing, if the HAC rules that the ZBA’s denial of a comprehensive permit was unreasonable and not consistent with local needs, the HAC orders the ZBA to issue the permit. If the HAC rules that the ZBA’s decision issuing a comprehensive permit with conditions or requirements made the housing uneconomic to build or operate and was not consistent with local needs, the HAC orders the ZBA to modify or remove any such condition or requirement so as to make the proposal no longer uneconomic. The HAC cannot order the ZBA to issue any permit that would allow the housing to fall below minimum safety standards or site plan requirements. If the HAC rules that the ZBA’s action was consistent with local needs, the HAC must uphold it even if it made the housing uneconomic. The HAC’s decision is subject to review in the courts.

A condition or requirement makes housing “uneconomic” if it would prevent a public agency or non-profit organization from building or operating the housing except at a financial loss, or it would prevent a limited dividend organization from building or operating the housing without a reasonable return on its investment.

A ZBA’s decision is “consistent with local needs” if it applies requirements that are reasonable in view of the regional need for low- and moderate-income housing and the number of low-income persons in the city or town, as well as the need to protect health and safety, promote better site and building design, and preserve open space, if those requirements are applied as equally as possible to both subsidized and unsubsidized housing. Requirements are considered “consistent with local needs” if more than 10% of the city or town’s housing units are low- or moderate-income units or if such units are on sites making up at least 1.5% of the total private land zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial use in the city or town. Requirements are also considered “consistent with local needs” if the application would result, in any one calendar year, in beginning construction of low- or moderate-income housing on sites making up more than 0.3% of the total private land zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial use in the city or town, or on ten acres, whichever is larger.

The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

A YES VOTE would repeal the state law allowing the issuance of a single comprehensive permit to build housing that includes low- or moderate-income units.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the state law allowing issuance of such a comprehensive permit.

Question 3: Sales and Use Tax Rates

Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives before May 4, 2010?

SUMMARY: This proposed law would reduce the state sales and use tax rates (which were 6.25% as of September 2009) to 3% as of January 1, 2011. It would make the same reduction in the rate used to determine the amount to be deposited with the state Commissioner of Revenue by non-resident building contractors as security for the payment of sales and use tax on tangible personal property used in carrying out their contracts.

The proposed law provides that if the 3% rates would not produce enough revenues to satisfy any lawful pledge of sales and use tax revenues in connection with any bond, note, or other contractual obligation, then the rates would instead be reduced to the lowest level allowed by law. The proposed law would not affect the collection of moneys due the Commonwealth for sales, storage, use or other consumption of tangible personal property or services occurring before January 1, 2011.

The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

A YES VOTE would reduce the state sales and use tax rates to 3%.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the state sales and use tax rates.

Where do I vote?

Comment: My general practice is to leave blank any uncontested race. If you are given no choice, why pretend that you have one? – RW

August 15, 2010

Construction detour at Mass. Ave. and Alewife Brook Parkway

I attended a Livable Streets StreetTalk event on August 4, at which the city of Copenhagen, Denmark was praised for, among other things, always providing a good detour for bicyclists during construction projects.

Only a couple of days later, I got a report from a cyclist who had attempted to take Massachusetts Avenue across Alewife Brook Parkway (Route 16) , and found that the official detour was on Alewife Brook Parkway to Broadway in Arlington — circuitous, and Alewife Brook Parkway has to be one of the least bicyclist-friendly roads in the area. The detour apparently was in effect from 8 PM till 5 AM each night. I don’t know how for how many days this situation continued.

A quote:

It took over 5 minutes for them to stop the 16 traffic and let the Mass Ave traffic go…there are different people out there every day from 5 different agencies. I was not looking for special treatment, just direction when out there as to what the cops wanted me to do. I ended up scooting up the traffic for the last 2 blocks on the sidewalk (because of the lane closing) and waited with many pedestrians at the corner for an extended amount of time until they let the rest of the traffic go and did not try to give us a safe way to cross. I had to cross onto the sidewalk and then get onto the road further down. It took over 5 minutes for them to stop the 16 traffic and let the Mass Ave traffic go.

If Cambridge can’t get something as basic as this right…?

August 11, 2010

“Cycle track”: a sidewalk by another name

Filed under: Cambridge government,cycling — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:00 am

Paul Schimek submitted the following letter on August 10, 2010 to the Cambridge City Council’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Committee. [Paul is the former Bicycle Program Manager for Boston and former MassBike and Charles River Wheelman board member.]

   As City planners race ahead with plans for a separate bicycle facility on Concord Avenue (and possibly elsewhere), some would argue that this is a giant leap backwards in terms of bicycle safety and convenience. Count me among the naysayers. – RW


"Cycle track": a sidewalk by another name.
August 10, 2010
Paul Schimek, Ph.D.

Cambridge has recently been promoting a bicycle facility dubbed a "cycle track." The cycle tracks that Cambridge is building on Concord Road and proposing on Western Avenue are simply wider than usual sidewalks created by narrowing the roadway and removing bike lanes. Once these roads are reconstructed, bicyclists will be forced off the roadway by vigilante motorists who believe that only cars are allowed on the narrowed roadway. Bicyclists using a cycle track instead of the road will need to travel much more slowly, and even then they will be less safe due to the greater risk of collision with pedestrians and motorists turning or entering at side streets and driveways. In fact, Cambridge rightly recognizes that sidewalk bicycling is dangerous and severely restricts it. A number of careful studies have shown that cycle tracks increase the rate of bicyclist collisions.

I would like to have Cambridge officials address the following questions about cycle tracks:

1. How is bicycling on a cycle track meaningfully different from bicycling on a wider sidewalk where bicycling is permitted?

Bicycling on cycle tracks has all the same concerns as bicycling on the sidewalk, none of which are solved by making it wider or changing its name:

a) Even though pedestrians will have a separate part of the sidewalk, they will continue to walk or stand on the bicycle part. Experience on Vassar Street shows this. Will the city issue tickets to pedestrians on the cycle track? Under what ordinance? Pedestrians are not permitted in bike lanes, because it is part of the "roadway," but there is no law prohibiting pedestrians in a cycle track or bike path. Pedestrians must cross the cycle track to get to and from parked cars and stopped buses.

b) At intersections, bicyclists will often be invisible to cars turning into or pulling out of side streets and driveways. Drivers are generally required to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, but pedestrians must not enter the road so quickly that a driver cannot yield. This suggests that bicyclists cannot safely approach cycle track intersections at faster than walking speed.

c) Cycle tracks, like sidewalks, will be used by cyclists going in both directions. A bicyclist traveling on the left half of the road (or going the wrong way on a one-way street) can be ticketed. Under what law can (and will) police ticket "wrong-way" bicyclists on a cycle track?

d) A bicyclist on the roadway can move left (after looking and yielding) to avoid road hazards, overtake, prepare a left turn, or avoid right-turning motorists. A bicyclist on a sidewalk—or cycle track—can do none of these things because there will be a curb or row of parked cars separating the bicyclist from the roadway. Placing the cycle track at the roadway level instead of the sidewalk level does not change these facts.

For these reasons, the city advises bicyclists to stay off sidewalks:

"State law permits bicyclists to travel on sidewalks in the interest of safety except as directed by local ordinance. In general, it is more appropriate and prudent to bicycle in the street, and Cambridge is making every effort to making the city streets safe and comfortable for bicycling. However, it is recognized that there are times when sidewalk riding will be used, for example, with young children. Cambridge traffic regulations require that bicyclists on sidewalks travel at a walking speed and yield to pedestrians."
http://www.cambridgema.gov/cdd/et/bike/bike_faq.html#riding

The Cambridge Police Department states succinctly, "Cambridge discourages the riding of bicycles on sidewalks throughout the city and has provided bicycle lanes on certain streets."
http://www.cambridgema.gov/CPD/CommRes/bicycles.cfm?pv=Yes

2. Will bicyclists be allowed and encouraged to use the roadway instead of the cycle track?

Many bicyclists prefer using the roadway to a sidewalk–even a wider one—for all the reasons stated above. Forcing these bicyclists to use the sidewalk means delaying them significantly and increasing their risk of injury. Knowing that state law guarantees bicyclists the right to use the roadway, many will continue to use it. Will there be sufficient room for motorists to pass a bicyclist without changing lanes? If not are motorists intended to slow to bicycle speed if there is only one travel lane or if the passing lane is occupied? How will motorists know that bicyclists are allowed to use the road, given that they will see signs directing bicyclists off the roadway?

3. What design standard is Cambridge using for cycle tracks?

Cambridge has called the planned cycle track on Concord Road a "raised bike lane," but legally it is not a bike lane, since it is not part of the roadway. A "cycle track" would possibly be considered a "shared use path" under state and national design guides. There is no provision for a bike path that prohibits pedestrians, recognizing that doing so is impossible, and therefore a prudent design must consider their presence.

The Massachusetts Project Development & Design Guide says that "Shared use paths are facilities on exclusive right-of-way with minimal cross flow by motor vehicles. Shared use paths should be thought of as a complementary system of off-road transportation routes for bicyclists and others that serves as a necessary extension to the roadway network. The presence of a shared use path near a roadway does not eliminate the need to accommodate bicyclists within a roadway" (Section 5.3.2.4). By contrast, Cambridge’s proposed cycle tracks will have significant cross flow and they will be created by removing adequate room for bicyclists from the roadway.

Noncompliance with engineering directives and design manuals could mean that Cambridge would be held liable by a court in the event of a lawsuit by an injured bicyclist or pedestrian.

4. What is the safety record of sidewalks and cycle tracks for bicyclists?

Cambridge recently completed a study of six years of reported car-bike collisions. What percent of these collisions involved bicyclists using a sidewalk, crosswalk, or sidepath? What percent were caused by motorists overtaking bicyclists in daylight? Several careful studies have shown that crash rates increased when cycle tracks were installed in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland, and other places. Has the city reviewed these studies? Does the city believe that the crash rate would decrease in Cambridge, even though it did not in these places?

Related topics:
Concord Avenue     Western Avenue

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