Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 22, 2010

Nov 22, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:48 pm

Nov 22, 2010 City Council Agenda Highlights

Here are the items that jumped out this week to this Council-watcher:

City Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-152, regarding a report on language in the Noise Ordinance as it relates to enforcement of loud car radios.

The Order that led to this response was about noise coming from cars with sounds systems so loud that the drivers often choose to wear earplugs as their vehicles pollute the sound environment of others. The report states that "the Cambridge Police Department, if made aware by citizens, will respond and evaluate the noise complaint and enforce any violations" which may lead to a fine of $300. This fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the problem. These are not stationary objects and the police are already well aware of the problem. The only way to address this problem is for Cambridge Police and the License Commission to continuously monitor selected streets and catch the bad guys as the problem occurs.

City Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-120, regarding a report on the feasibility and enforceability of implementing the provisions of House Bill 3371 which increases certain motor vehicle fines to improve driving.

According to this report, the fines for a variety of offenses are about to jump substantially. Specifically, the fine for violation of bicycle laws will jump from $20 to $75. The fine for a moving violation of traffic signs, signals, or devices will jump from $150 to $250. The fine for failing to yield to pedestrians in a cross walk wil go from $200 to $250. There is also a new $75 fine for pedestrians (does this include cyclists?) who provide a false name or refuse to provide a name and address to a police officer upon a violation of roadway regulations.

City Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Study Report for St. James’s Episcopal Church at 1991 Massachusetts Avenue.

This has been the center of some controversy in the Porter Square/North Cambridge area. The adjacent car wash and property around the church are slated for a new housing development (Oaktree) and the garden adjacent to the church is part of the leverage being used by neighbors to affect the size and configuraion of the development. The Landmark designation could be approved at this meeting, but there’s a possibility that it could be referred to the Ordinance Committee. The Cambridge Historical Commission voted 7-0 to approve the landmark study report and its findings with a recommendation that the City Council approve the landmark designation. As is always the case, the Historical Commission report is well-researched and filled with interesting facts about this site and the surrounding area.

City Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-118, regarding a report on issues related to scooters and any changes to ordinances or regulations on scooter use and parking.

Yet another report relating to roads and vehicles. This report details the distinctions between what is allowed for motorized bikes and mopeds (max. speed 25mph) vs. scooters and other limited use vehicles with speeds up to 40mph. For example, the slower motorized bikes can use bike lanes and legally pass on the right (like a bicycle might do), but they may not use off-street bicycle facilities. The faster scooters must adhere to the same laws as automobiles and other motor vehicles. Parking regulations for all scooters are the responsibility of each municipality. The report notes that Cambridge currently allows mopeds (max. speed 25mph) to park on sidewalks. No changes to the current regulations are recommended.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to set up a process to reach out to experts and the public in order to create a balanced panel to participate in the Sign Ordinance Task Force.

What makes this item noteworthy is the usual tension between the City Council (always mindful of how their actions may affect their reelection chances) and the City Manager (the "appointing authority" under state law). Exactly what constitutes a "balanced panel" is, of course, highly subjective and always in the crosshairs of those whose motivations are primarily political. I don’t envy the City Manager’s position on this one – damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a meeting held on Sept 14, 2010 to consider a petition filed by Richard McKinnon, et al. to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map in the North Point PUD-6 District.

To the best of my knowledge, this zoning petition is not controversial. It was passed to a 2nd Reading on Oct 18, has gone through the whole process and is ready to be ordained.

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Marc Levin, Director of Development, Chestnut Hill Realty Company, on behalf of Chauncy Court LLC, Wendell Terrace LLC and John Harvard LLC, requesting the City Council to enact new sections of the Zoning Ordinance to permit the creation of workforce housing.

This promises to be very controversial and it should be. The proponents (Chestnut Hill Realty) have a reputation for lavishing some city councillors with extraordinarily large campaign donations by having all members of their extended families write $500 checks to these councillors. With such "generosity," it is inevitable that some residents will look for evidence of a "quid pro quo" among the recipients of this political generosity. Even more than the apparent effort to buy support, this petition contains language that elevates dishonesty to new all-time highs. Specifically, they propose to modify the Zoning Ordinance to allow basements in large (30+ units) multifamily buildings to be converted to 1-bedroom apartments, and they characterize this as "Workforce Housing." This is reminiscent of the recent Kendall Square zoning petition that would allow the construction of a new high-rise building. It referred to the affected area as the "Smart Growth Underutilized Area."

It seems pretty apparent that Chestnut Hill Realty is simply trying to add value to their existing rental properties (within 1200 feet of Mass. Ave. according to the petition). That they would cast this self-enrichment as altruism leaves me (and I’m sure others) speechless.

Communications #5. A communication was received from Peter Valentine, regarding the printed phrase on his fence.

Just in case you think that Cambridge is getting too boring, Peter’s letter to the City Council states simply: "Be it known to this City Council of Cambridge, MA USA that Peter Valentine printed the phrase ‘cat’s cut loose so it ain’t no use’ on the center of his fence on the Franklin St. side on November 18, 2010 at 8:45 AM."

Resolution #9. Resolution on the death of Henry Lewis III.   Councillor Reeves, Councillor Simmons

This shockingly premature death (Henry was not yet 48 years old) still resounds among all who knew him. There will be a memorial "Bike Ride Honoring Henry Lewis" on Saturday, Dec 4 starting at 9:00am at a point yet to be determined. A gathering at the Elks Lodge at 55 Bishop Allen Drive will follow. You can call 617-665-3677 for more details which will be posted here as they become known.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation and report back to the University Relations Committee on all recent changes to parking meters that affect the City’s universities.   Councillor Cheung

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation regarding the feasibility of converting the Inman Square parking meters to two hours along Hampshire Street.   Councillor Cheung

No particular comment on the substance of these orders, but I will again remind everyone that according to state law, Cambridge is required to have an appointed Traffic Board with the power to overrule (upon the petition of 50 residents) regulations promulgated by of Traffic & Parking Czarina Susan Clippinger. There is currently no means of redress other than to beg for mercy from the Czarina.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with Community Development Department and report back to the Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee on the feasibility of instituting a moratorium on particular industries, such as banks, that are already well represented in the city’s squares.   Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

This is a nice sentiment that is guaranteed to be Dead On Arrival. It’s quite true that the major squares have an overrepresentation of banks and cell phone stores, but such is the nature of free enterprise. If the City Council could somehow gain moratorium power over banks, does anyone seriously think it would stop there? Anyone remember the Starbucks Wars of a decade ago in Central Square where protesters supported by the 1369 Coffee House argued that there should be no more coffee places?

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to inform the Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee on its options with regards to the means and the manner by which it may hold a meeting with the Boston City Council at the Museum of Science.   Councillor Cheung

This is a very interesting thought. In feudal New England where every city and town stands alone (with or without a moat), the concept of a joint meeting of the Cambridge City Council and the Boston City Council on a matter of mutual interest borders on revolutionary. Next thing you know the councilors of Boston will be asking the advice of the councillors of Cambridge on what to do with convicted felon/councilor Chuck Turner.

Order #7. That the City Manager and the Mayor of Cambridge meet directly with the presidents of MIT, Harvard, Leslie and Cambridge College and work out a guarantee proposal that these colleges will pay the tuition and fees of students graduating from Cambridge public high schools.   Councillor Reeves

This is also a nice sentiment. I could see a few more scholarships coming from this, but a guarantee that all tuition and fees would be paid for any Cambridge resident gaining entry to these schools? I know we think we’re special in Cambridge, but are we really that special?

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council the progress of search for experimental music venues and spaces in Central Square.   Councillor Reeves

The efforts of Councillor Reeves of late to get Central Square moving are appreciated, but the last gathering of his "Red Ribbon Commission" had far too much of the councillor’s pontification of his personal vision of what should and shouldn’t be. This included a tirade against Forest City (who was hosting the event) because they had not included Cambridge officials in the loop regarding possible plans for the stretch of Mass. Ave. between Blanche St. and Lansdsdowne St. as well as the proposed Novartis expansion across the street from their current facility in the old Necco building. At that same meeting, we also heard a proposal to pack hundreds of new housing units into the block bounded by Mass. Ave., Essex Street, Bishop Allen Drive, and Norfolk Street plus a plaza fronting onto Mass. Ave. on the site owned by the Naggar family. Most of the people at the meeting were polite but unimpressed.

This Red Ribbon Commission may yet produce some good outcomes including, perhaps, some new music venues as suggested in Reeves’ Order. There’s also the very real possibility that the whole process may be little more than Reeves’ own proposals hoisted up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. Councillor Reeves did help in the revitalization of Central Square about 15 years ago (though most of the effort was done later by others). Now, just as then, what is needed is cooperation of the property owners, business owners, and the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. It might also be argued that economic forces may solve most of the problems around Central Square without any need of government intervention. — Robert Winters

November 8, 2010

Nov 8, 2010 City Council Agenda – After capitulation, the post-recission Council moves on to other business

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 3:54 pm

Nov 8, 2010 City Council Agenda – After capitulation, the post-recission Council moves on to other business

Last week’s meeting (sorry, I missed it) featured the recission of two provisions of the thoroughly misrepresented Ordinance No. 1335 amending the Sign Ordinance. The City Council, while expressing its disgust with the manner in which the petition campaign to challenge the Ordinance was conducted, voted 8-1 to rescind the two provisions and called for the establishment of a Task Force to further study the matter and make recommendations. This was a politically safe strategy and, except for Councillor Toomey’s NO vote, showed a willingness among councillors to not let any one of them be singled out for political retribution. It’s hard to say where things will go from here, but Council Order #4 this week gives a hint of potential volatility. Cambridge conspiracy theorists naturally assume that the new Task Force will be stacked to ensure a pre-determined end.

Meanwhile there’s this:

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a recommendation for the approval of a loan order in the amount of $14,535,000 as well as a vote relative to Chapter 2.110 ("City-Owned Land and Buildings".)

This is the Big Item on this week’s Agenda. Residents and elected officials have been waiting a long time to hear about what would eventually become of the former Police Station as well as a couple of currently surplus school buildings. This answers the Police Station part of the question – a proposed multiple use for the Cambridge Housing Authority, the Community Learning Center, and the City’s Multi-Service Center. This is a win-win-win solution if the details can be worked out – a Multi-Multi-Service Center.

Agenda Item No. 9A     Nov 8, 2010
ORDERED: That $14,535,000 is appropriated for remodeling, reconstructing, and making extraordinary repairs to the original police station at Five Western Avenue in Central Square, including HVAC, plumbing, and electrical system improvements as well as other interior and exterior renovations, including any and all incidental costs related thereto; and that to meet this appropriation the Treasurer with the approval of the City Manager is authorized to borrow $14,535,000 under Chapter 44 of the General Laws or any other enabling authority.

Agenda Item No. 9B     Nov 8, 2010
ORDERED: Pursuant to the provisions of G. L. c. 121B, § 23(d) authorizing the City to "establish exceptions to existing ordinances and bylaws regulating the design, construction and use of buildings" in order to work cooperatively with the Cambridge Housing Authority in the planning, construction and operation of a project, the City Council hereby establishes an exception to Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code, to the extent that said Chapter may be applicable hereto, and orders that said Chapter shall not apply to the leasing and/or redevelopment of City property at the former Cambridge Police Department Headquarters at 5 Western Avenue, and hereby authorizes the City Manager to enter into an agreement with the Cambridge Housing Authority for the leasing and/or redevelopment of this property, as set forth in the City Manager’s Nov 8, 2010 letter to the City Council.

We’ll still have to wait and see what the future holds for the old Graham & Parks building on Upton Street as well as the old Longfellow School building on Broadway. The Longfellow building seems destined to be "swing space" for a parade of school building renovations around the City just as it is now serving as the temporary home of the CRLS 9th Grade during renovations at the high school. Many Mid-Cambridge residents hope that the old Longfellow building will once again become a permanent school building once all the system-wide renovations and consolidations have occurred. Mid-Cambridge is the most populous neighborhood in Cambridge and currently has no neighborhood elementary school.

Order #1. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Election Commissioner to look into the discrepancies of voters being "inactive" or registered under a misspelled or wrong address.   Councillor Cheung

This Order is singled out entirely for the humor contained therein. Councillor Cheung misspelled the word "mispelled" in the first WHEREAS.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to advise the City Council on how to facilitate a public yard sale.   Vice Mayor Davis

Craigslist? Posters? Flyers? C’mon, Henrietta, do you really need to seek the advice of City departments for an answer on how to do this? Besides, Cambridge residents seem to be rather expert on organizing community-wide yard sales without the need for nanny government to make it happen. In Mid-Cambridge, they do a great job on Fayette and Antrim Streets (and elsewhere). The same is true all over town. Perhaps the City would be well-advised to just get out of the way.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to set up a process to reach out to experts and the public in order to create a balanced panel to participate in the Sign Ordinance Task Force.   Vice Mayor Davis and Councillor Kelley

See remarks above. Balanced is in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, even the most "balanced" of committees is guaranteed to be accused of bias if it recommends anything other than what the listener wants to hear.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Human Services Department about the feasibility of hosting a weekly contra dance at the West Cambridge Youth and Social Center and report back to the City Council on this matter.   Councillor Decker

Many of you may recall that the contra dancers were the biggest constituency who came out to protest the proposed arrangement between the Huron Ave. VFW Post and the City to reconstruct the facilty in order to house both a replacement for the VFW Post and the proposed West Cambridge Youth Center. The old VFW Post had been rented by the contra dancers who feared losing the dance hall. They frequently referred to the rare and marvelous "sprung floor" of the facility. Upon inspection, it turned out that there was no sprung floor at all – just greatly deteriorated support under the floor rendering it vulnerable to collapse. In Cambridge, we don’t like to allow facts to get in the way of an attractive argument. The City did eventually alter their plans to allow for a wider variety of uses in the new community center. It’s strange that the contra dancers are only now considering moving back to Cambridge.

Order #9. That this City Council go on record recommending that Cabot, Cabot and Forbes reconsider naming Plumb House as the general contractor on the project on Fawcett Street.   Councillor Decker, Councillor Toomey and Councillor Reeves

Once again, the Cambridge City Council thrusts its collective nose into places it does not belong. The three sponsors of this Order state, "Plumb House has a history of bringing in its own workers and not utilizing the skill of local workers." So what? The property is being developed by Cabot, Cabot and Forbes who chose a general contractor whose workers are not, to the best of my understanding, indentured servants. They choose to work for this contractor and they receive wages in return – simple. They are not being forced to work. The sponsors state that Plumb House does not meet "community standards regarding wages and benefits," but it sure would be nice to see a sampling of the actual wages and benefits these workers receive rather than referencing "community standards" as though this actually means anything. My guess is that they’re OK with their wages and benefits even if the Cambridge City Council thinks otherwise.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Chair of the Housing Committee, for a public meeting held on Aug 4, 2010 for the purpose of receiving an update from the Affordable Housing Trust.

This Report has lots of quotable quotes in it – mainly statements from the Cambridge Affordable Housing Catechism that states that all affordable housing developments are great and that anyone who raises any questions is evil. For example:

"Councillor Decker said that the City Council and the residents need to have more data about why Cambridge still needs affordable housing, and how many Cambridge residents are struggling to stay in Cambridge. Supporters of affordable housing also need the hard data and facts to counter the false assertion that the 80-10-10 split of CPA funds keeps Cambridge from acquiring and preserving open space. Councillor Decker expressed her grave concern with respect to political fear mongering regarding poor people and ‘those people’ who live in affordable housing."

There’s also this Committee Report on the "digital divide":

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Henrietta Davis, Chair of the Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee for a public meeting held on Oct 14, 2010 to discuss the digital divide and the potential for using teleconferencing in the schools.

Much of this report tells the tale of the City’s efforts to bridge the digital divide by arranging for free computers and free Internet and WiFi access in public housing developments. The report seems to suggest that those who planned these installations envisioned a population who could not afford computers and who would be using these resources to look for jobs and to access essential information. CCTV director Susan Fleischmann stated that "massive amounts of data are being downloaded and this could be why the system is slow. CCTV has no resources to do the monitoring." Seems like music and video downloads are what is actually being provided. Also contained in the minutes of this meeting is this delightfully cryptic statement from Councillor Cheung, most certainly garbled in translation:

"Councillor Cheung stated that not all search engines are created equal. Google, he said, is located next to a power plant."

Perhaps that’s the "engine" in the "search engine." — Robert Winters

November 3, 2010

Specific issues with Western Avenue project

In this post, I’m going to examine some of the drawings of its Western Avenue project which the City of Cambridge has provided.

All of the illustrations below are from the City’s conceptual design booklet.

Western Avenue concept drawing

Western Avenue concept drawing

The cars shown parked at the left are real cars, in the original photograph that was modified to show the conceptual design. Typical sedans are about 5 1/2 feet wide, not counting the side-view mirrors, but common light trucks are as much as 6 1/2 feet wide. Big trucks and buses can be 8 1/2 feet wide.

The cars shown parked at the right are drawings added when the photo was modified. All of them are micro-cars, very much smaller than the cars on the left — only about 4 1/2 feet wide.

Bicyclists complain about “door zone” bike lanes — where opening car doors pose a threat. On the other hand, the door zone serves an important function. A motorist can open the car door without its protruding directly into the path of motor traffic, and can walk around the car.

In the drawing below, I have copied the nearest car in the original drawing into each travel lane. This drawing shows too little clearance between parked vehicles and moving ones to allow motorists safely to walk around to the street side of their vehicles or open the doors. The right lane as shown is especially tight, even with micro-cars parked on the right and ordinary sedans in the travel lanes — though Western Avenue is a designated bus and truck route.

Western Avenue concept drawing, modified

Western Avenue concept drawing, modified

To show how wide the left lane is at present, the white line in the foreground replaces the gray patch that is dimly visible in the original drawing, covering up the location of the present lane line.

The parts of the illustration that are from the original photo are to scale — including the cars I have copied into the travel lanes. The drawn-in elements are conceptual, and some are not to scale.

The drawing below, also from the City, is dimensioned, showing a 36-foot wide roadway. The elements are to scale: 10.5 foot travel lanes, 7-foot parking lanes and mid-sized cars 6 feet wide, not counting the mirrors — like a a Ford Taurus. This drawing shows more room between vehicles than the right lane in the photo, but on the other hand, the parked cars are tight against the curbs, and no trucks or buses are shown.

Cross-section of street with cycle track

Cross-section of street with cycle track

Now let’s look at an overhead drawing, which shows a typical treatment at an intersection.

Western Avenue at Jay Street

Western Avenue at Jay Street

Let’s put more cars and some bicyclists and pedestrians into the picture. I’ve put three bicyclists on the blue strip which represents the cycle track. Two are headed with traffic and one is headed opposite traffic. (Off-street facilities encourage two-direction traffic, and this is particularly so on a one-way street where there is no opposite-direction paired street conveniently nearby.) There also is a group of pedestrians standing on the bulbout before the intersection. Excuse me if the bicyclists and pedestrians look like ants, I’m no Picasso.

Pedestrians and parked cars conceal  right-way bicyclists from drivers of cars A and B, increasing the risk of a “right hook” collision. Also, Car B  is blocking the right-hand travel lane. Such blockages will increase congestion. The more bicyclists, the more often turning motorists will have to wait in the position shown. At present, motorists can keep moving as they prepare to turn right, because they can merge behind a bicyclist before reaching the intersection.

Car C in the drawing must wait far back from the intersection, what with the separate sidewalk and cycle track. Then, on reaching the intersection, as shown in the illustration below, the car must block the cycle track as the driver scans for traffic. If more than one car is in line, both the sidewalk and the cycle track will be blocked at the same time.

Western Avenue at Jay Street, cycle track blocked

Western Avenue at Jay Street, cycle track blocked

Presently, without the cycle track, this kind of blockage happens only for the sidewalk. It is more troublesome and hazardous for bicyclists than pedestrians, because bicyclists are faster, and farther away when the driver must first see them, and can be hidden by buildings or by pedestrians on the sidewalk. The crash rate for wrong-way cyclists on cycle tracks like this one is very high — research in Finland, Sweden and Germany has shown it to be about 10 times as high as for right-way travel on the street. Right-way travel on a cycle track located, like this one, behind parked cars, and with unsignalized intersections and driveways, has been shown only two or three times as hazardous.

There is also a much greater risk of collisons with pedestrians, and with other bicyclists, than when riding in the street. This cycle track has about 6 feet of width where bicyclists are clear of car-door hazards or plantings — very substandard for a two-way facility.

There is a question what the wrong-way bicyclists will do when they reach Franklin Street and the cycle track ends. Most likely, they will go up onto the sidewalk or ride opposite traffic in the bike lane.

Finally, let’s look at the intersection of Western Avenue and Memorial Drive. At present, Western Avenue has four travel lanes approaching the intersection.  The rightmost lane is a right-turn-only lane which the City describes as underutilized. I agree with that description — even in the evening rush hour, I have been able to filter forward to the intersection on my bicycle in that lane.

The City proposes to change that lane into a cycle track, so right turns are made from the next lane to the left. In this connection, I question the City’s conclusion that its plan will not increase congestion. In the evening rush hour, traffic already queues on Putnam Avenue and Memorial Drive, all the way back to River Street. Even one vehicle waiting to turn right, while bicyclists overtake on the right, will block all other vehicles in the lane behind it. This is aside from the issue of institutionalizing the “right hook” — placing all responsibility for bicyclists’ safety on the motorists, and stripping away bicyclists’ defense of merging into the line of right-turning traffic.

Western Avenue at Memorial Drive, conceptual drawing

Western Avenue at Memorial Drive, conceptual drawing

I suggest instead that bicyclists be encouraged to travel along the left side of the right-turn lane, by means of shared-lane markings and signage, or better, if there is room, a through bike lane.

The question remains of how to handle opposite-direction bicycle traffic. It does not admit of an easy answer.  At this point, I’m most inclined to try to address it on River Street.

And, I’ll add: the sacredness of on-street parking is the issue that makes the problem insoluble. If parking could be removed form one side of Western Avenue, a contraflow bike lane would be an option.

There is no such issue on River Street, because there are many parallel streets in Cambridgeport that allow travel in the opposite direction.

Signing off…

November 1, 2010

Nov 1, 2010 City Council Agenda – Light agenda – Sign Ordinance reconsideration vote could happen this week or next

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:07 pm

Nov 1, 2010 City Council Agenda – Light agenda – Sign Ordinance reconsideration vote could happen this week or next

This week’s meeting has little on the agenda, but Unfinished Business #7 (reconsideration of two provisions of the recently enacted Ordinance No. 1335 relating to the Sign Ordinance) will surely elicit discussion and possibly a vote. If not voted this week, state law requires that the matter must be reconsidered no later than next week (by Nov 9). If the original vote stands, these provisions will remain suspended pending a ballot question to dispose of the matter. The most politically safe thing for the City Council to do would be to approve a Special Election on this single matter (thereby not confounding their own reelection campaigns next November). However, the City Manager has estimated that a Special Election would cost approximately $170,000 (an itemization would have been helpful, as this estimate seems unusually high). The Manager’s response (City Manager’s Agenda #10) is worth reading and broadcasting to others.

City Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-164, regarding a report on outlining the ordinance changes to the Zoning Ordinance as it pertains to signs and the impact of repealing Paragraph D3 and E of Ordinance #1335.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting notification of the certification of 11,461 signatures of registered voters by the Election Commission of a referendum petition entitled "SAVE OUR SKYLINE" filed with the Election Commission on Oct 15, 2010. The petition protests Paragraph D.3 of Section 7.16.22, Building Identification Signs, and Paragraph E of Section 7.16.22, General Waiver of Sign Limitations, part of Ordinance No. 1335 amending Section 7 of the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge (the Sign Ordinance).

The following other items are at least somewhat interesting, though barely noteworthy.

Order #2. The City Council supports the mission of the Massachusetts Product Stewardship Council working with other Massachusetts municipalities and other states to move EPR policy forward, and supports the Framework Principles for Product Stewardship Policy.   Vice Mayor Davis

Order #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct City staff to investigate ways in which the City can work with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council on opportunities in Cambridge related to the grant which will support the implementation of MetroFuture.   Councillor Seidel

Order #4. That the City Council go on record acknowledging that the shared planning challenges of the Boston Metro area need to be addressed regionally, and appreciating that the grant from HUD will allow this important work to happen.   Councillor Seidel

Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to review the facade improvement program as part of the FY2011/2012 budget programs for reorganization and increase the funding if possible.   Councillor Reeves

In particular, a few additional notes have been appended after the text of Order #5 to clarify some of its shortcomings. Good help can be so hard to find in this down economy. — Robert Winters

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