Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 21, 2011

March 21, 2011 City Council Agenda – Water & Snow & Everything Else

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:19 pm

March 21, 2011 City Council Agenda – Water & Snow & Everything Else

Here are the highlights as seen from my vantage point high atop Broadway in Mid-Cambridge.

Resolution #31. Congratulating Mr. Michael Muehe, Executive Director of the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities, for receiving the 2011 Advocate and Activist for Disability Rights Award.   Mayor Maher

Read the Cambridge Chronicle story on Michael’s well-deserved award. Cambridge is lucky to have him.

City Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-26, regarding a report on the details of the purchase agreement for Northpoint.

The entire report is interesting. In particular, it states that "the MBTA will convey the site of the existing Lechmere Station to Pan Am, following the completion of the new Lechmere Station." This is important for those who have envisioned a public market for this space. Any such proposals must now be brought to Pan Am and development partners HYM Investment Group.

City Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2011 and ending Mar 31, 2012.

Agenda Item No. 4A     Mar 21, 2011
ORDERED: That the following block rate for water consumption and sewer use in the City of Cambridge be in effect for the period beginning Apr 1, 2011 and ending Mar 31, 2012.

  Annual Consumption* FY11 Water Rate FY12 Proposed
Water Rate
FY11 Sewer Rate FY12 Proposed
Sewer Rate
Block 1 0-40 CcF $3.02 $3.02 $7.86 $7.86
Block 2 41-400 CcF $3.24 $3.24 $8.32 $8.32
Block 3 401-2,000 CcF $3.44 $3.44 $8.93 $8.93
Block 4 2,001-10,000 CcF $3.65 $3.65 $9.62 $9.62
Block 5 Over 10,000 CcF $3.96 $3.96 $10.23 $10.23

*All rates are per CcF. CcF is an abbreviation of 100 cubic feet. One CcF is approximately 750 gallons; and be it further

ORDERED: That the Senior Citizens Discount Program as established in FY91 be continued. This program gives either a 15 percent or 30 percent discount on water/sewer bills, depending upon certain qualifications. Any resident who owns and occupies his/her own home and who is 65 or older on July 1 qualifies for the 15 percent discount. This discount may not exceed $90 for the fiscal year. To qualify for the 30 percent discount, a homeowner must be 70 years of age or older and must have been granted the Clause 41C Elderly Real Estate Exemption, which is based on the demonstrated financial need. This discount may not exceed $180 for the fiscal year.

The Manager’s recommendations are noteworthy in that the water & sewer rates will remain unchanged.

City Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $1,264,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($1,114,000) and to General Fund Public Works Extraordinary Equipment account ($150,000) to cover current and anticipated additional snowstorm expenses associated with snow plowing contracts, salt and other material and repair costs.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Transportation, Traffic and Parking Committee for a public meeting held on Feb 10, 2011 to discuss snow clearance and operations issues.

Everyone knew that this winter’s snow was going to be costly. Now we have estimates of the the actual costs (so far). It’s interesting that the City is anticipating the reimbursement for a portion of the snow-related costs from FEMA. One point that should be made is that in neighboring towns with overnight parking bans, snow clearance was much easier to accomplish than in Cambridge where it’s really no longer possible (or desirable) to impose such a ban. Newton not only has no requirement for residents to clear sidewalks, they also don’t expend any effort to assist pedestrian traffic. In Newton Center, for example, there were snow banks several feet high blocking crosswalks. Pedestrians walking along Rte. 16 near Newton-Wellesley Hospital had no other option than to share the travel lanes with fast-moving motor vehicles. Sure, some parts of Cambridge were less than ideal, but we were better than fellow AAA-bond-rated Newton in every way.

One very important point made by commenters is that the lack of drainage at crosswalks was as great a problem as the snow mounds and that the ability to correct this is often beyond the means of residents armed only with shovels and icebreakers.

Order #5. That the annual CPI-U adjustment for members of the City Council and School Committee as described by City Ordinance be waived until FY13.   Mayor Maher

As the Order states: "Employees of the City of Cambridge who are represented by a variety of collective bargaining agreements have responded to the current economic climate by accepting a zero percent (0%) increase for FY12 which begins on July 1, 2011." The City Council and School Committee in this Order voluntarily accept the same waiver of any pay increase until FY13.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to look into the feasibility of doing a "deep clean" of our city, including but not limited to, extra street sweeping if necessary, aggressive removal of graffiti and trash collection on sidewalks and in parks.   Councillor Decker

This is a very good idea, though any notion of the City doing a "deep clean" should be done in concert with resident initiatives – many of which are already being planned. City resources can only be stretched so much, but there’s a huge reservoir of civic-minded residents who are more than willing to plan and participate in neighborhood cleanups and similar initiatives. In fact, it’s probably the best way for neighborhood groups to gain legitimacy among residents – far moreso than showing up for hearings before City boards and commissions or stepping up to the Open Mike at a Monday night City Council meeting. If you really want to make a difference, join forces with City Year or a similar organization.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with MassDOT to add the underpasses in their proposal to rehabilitate the Anderson Bridge and request that MassDOT work with the Cambridge Community Development Department and the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to refine and implement this plan.   Vice Mayor Davis and Councillor Cheung

As attractive as this idea is, it’s not without logistical difficulties or potential negative consequences. The presence of pedestrians and cyclists on the street is one aspect of "traffic calming" and banishing a portion of these pedestrians and cyclists to an under-bridge crossing may have the unintended consequence of relinquishing the intersections at either end of the bridge to motor vehicles. Tunneling through the bridge structure for a pedestrian underpass may also create a difficult-to-maintain attractive nuisance that cyclists and pedestrians may actually choose to avoid. The best idea I’ve heard is to erect a boardwalk underpass like the one under the BU Bridge on the Boston side of the Charles River, but the word is that some in the rowing community are objecting to this idea. It’s cheaper to build, easier to maintain, and much more pedestrian-friendly than a dark tunnel.

Order #8. That the City Council hereby requests that President Obama and our Congressional delegation does not cut the Community Services Block Grant funding and to restore any lost funding so that the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee and other community action agencies can continue to do the important work that they do.   Mayor Maher

OK, there are some marvelous services performed by CEOC, but one might hope that an Order like this would at least recommend that CEOC evaluate its various services for potential cost-savings in light of potential loss of funding. On a related note, I recommend the New York Times Op-Ed column "Make Everyone Hurt" by David Brooks. It’s just not sensible to insist that every program everywhere continue to be fully funded regardless of the economic circumstances.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Assistant City Manager for Community Development and review the current facade improvement program to target specific squares for greater facade improvement and an expanded budget to accomplish this goal.   Councillor Reeves

Perhaps a little quantification of the current costs and limitations of the City’s Facade Improvement Program would be in order. Is the current budget inadequate? This Order also hints at giving Central Square favored status in the provision of these funds and it’s not so clear that advocates from other parts of the city will agree with this intent.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Peace Commission and the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women on how their future programming efforts might include public information programs which highlight political unrest around the world, the status of men, women and children in these emerging states, what role America has played previously and should be playing now and in the future in these places.   Councillor Reeves

I should probably just keep my mouth shut about Orders like this. I have never been convinced that it is the role of the City of Cambridge to act as either an information clearinghouse or as a conduit for political advocacy in international affairs. There are plenty of other organizations, some based in Cambridge, that do this on their own dime. People who are keen on these issues should support those organizations.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to convene a meeting with the Council, Community Development Department, Planning Board, and other relevant stakeholders to inform all about the future planning efforts for Kendall Square, Central Square and other areas of the city.   Councillor Reeves

This is, of course, a good idea. We can only hope that the good councillor will not use this as yet another opportunity to express his disappointment in not being consulted by MIT planners or his disagreement in the hiring of the new Assistant City Manager for Community Development. The comic aspects of these red-ribbon tirades have worn off and it has become boring and unproductive.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Civic Unity Committee for a public meeting held on Feb 9, 2011 to hear a presentation from the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) on what action has been taken with regard to the recommendations of the Cambridge Review Committee Report: "Missed Opportunities, Shared Responsibilities."

As I began reading this report, I have to admit that I was expecting it to be yet another obsolete rehash of the Great Gates-Crowley Kerfuffle. In fact, the report indicates that Police Commissioner Haas has taken advantage of that situation to enhance the training in the Cambridge Police Department in regard to de-escalation in some interactions when appropriate. – Robert Winters

March 17, 2011

East Cambridge Planning Team meeting and presentation by the East Cambridge Open Space Trust – Wed, March 23, 7:00pm

Filed under: East Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:35 am

Wed, Mar 23

7:00pm   East Cambridge Planning Team meeting and presentation by the East Cambridge Open Space Trust  (East End House, 105 Spring Street)

What would you do if you had the funds to acquire or improve open space in your neighborhood? That’s what the trustees of the East Cambridge Open Space Trust are asking Photo of sculpture at Lopez Avenue Community Garden by Mark Jaquithour neighbors. The Trust is custodian of a fund dedicated to that purpose. The trust was formed as part of the settlement of legal action over public amenities provided with the development of what was known as Cambridge Research Park. No longer known by that name or owned by the original developer, it is the area south of Binney Street. and east of Third Street. including the Genzyme building, Watermark apartments, and the Kendall Skating rink.

Money was given to the trust based on the number of square feet in the buildings in the development. Most of the money expected from the settlement has been paid to the trust and we are ready to begin deciding how we can do the most for our neighborhood. That’s where we need your help. We want to know what you want in your neighborhood. Is it a new pocket park, playground, park benches, planters, public art,or something else? We have lots of ideas, but we want to know what you want. The money can only be spent on open space projects in East Cambridge. That means the part of Cambridge bounded by the Grand Junction tracks to the west, the Somerville and Boston borders to the north, the Charles River to the east. and Main Street to the south. If you live here, or even if you don’t, we would like your ideas about how to improve the area.

We don’t have enough money to buy and build a big new park, but maybe we could work with the city to make that happen. We might be able to buy a small plot and make a nice little area, but working with partners such as our city government might make a big difference and we would love to make the fund go farther.

We will be making a presentation to the East Cambridge Planning Team at their meeting at East End House, 105 Spring Street, on Wed, March 23 at 7:00pm. We will ask attendees to write down their ideas for us to add them to ours for consideration. You may also contribute your suggestion on our blog site. [CCTV announcement]
[This announcement was contributed by Mark Jaquith, Chairman, Board of Trustees, East Cambridge Open Space Trust]

March 15, 2011

Cambridge Public Schools – Decision Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 5:30 pm

Sat, Mar 12

9:00-11:30am   School Committee Public Comment on Innovation Agenda  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, Mar 14

5:30-8:00pm   School Committee Public Comment on Innovation Agenda  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, Mar 15

6:00pm   School Committee meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

VOTE on Superintendent’s Recommendations for "Innovation Agenda"

Mar 8, 2011 – ‘Upper school’ proposal goes on with minor changes (Marc Levy)

Here are the main changes:

1) The revised Agenda now proposes an upper school campus in the Cambridgeport/Riverside neighborhood rather than two campuses in East Cambridge.

2) The revised Innovation Agenda district configuration provides JK-­8 immersion opportunities for students in the Amigos two-­way immersion school and for students in the Ola program.

3) The King School JK-5 will remain at the Putnam Avenue building.

4) The Amigos School JK-8 will relocate to the Upton Street building.

5) King upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Rindge Avenue campus).

6) Morse upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Spring Street campus).

7) Kennedy-Longfellow upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Spring Street campus).

8) The Ola Program JK-8 will remain at the Cambridge Street building.

Revised Upper School Campuses & Feeder Schools

Upper School Campus Location Elementary School Communities Assigned (Revised) Initial Proposal
Cambridge Street

Fletcher Maynard Academy
King Open

Cambrideport School
Fletcher-Maynard Academy
King Open
Putnam Avenue
(previously at Spring Street)
Amigos School
Morse School
Rindge Avenue Baldwin
Baldwin School
King School
Peabody School
Vassal Lane Graham and Parks
Graham & Parks

March 8 revisions (PDF)

March 6, 2011

March 7, 2011 City Council Agenda: Foreign Affairs Redux… and the Muddy Charles Under Siege

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:48 pm

March 7, 2011 City Council Agenda: – Foreign Affairs Redux… and the Muddy Charles Under Siege

There are at least two potentially flammable items on this week’s agenda. First, there’s this:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-02, regarding a report on unfair financial burden placed on same-sex married employees of Cambridge.

Though the report seems reasonable enough, some of the more activist elements may come out demanding something more than mere reason. The response from the Personnel Department is worth the read.

Sadly, Councillor Toomey’s exercise of his Charter Right last week on an Order of Councillor Decker could lead to a bad rerun of last week’s anti-Israel speechmaking. It would come as no surprise if this issue also brought out the other side this week. The relevant item is this:

Charter Right #2. That the City Council go on record seeking information about the nature of a delegation to Israel. [Charter Right exercised on Order #20 of Feb 28, 2011.]

Members of the "Peace Commission," their friends, and their former executive director will likely once again (from the safety of the Sullivan Chamber) inexpertly instruct the city councillors about Middle Eastern affairs. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go on for another two hours. On a lighter note, the prophet of Franklin Street apparently has some late-breaking news about either the Rapture or the Apocalypse – set to occur sometime this month:

Communications #1. A communication was received from Peter Valentine, 37 Brookline Street, to assist a planet wide understanding of an upcoming major planet wide event.

Resolution #13. Retirement of Richard Scali from the License Commission.   Mayor Maher

According to Marc Levy’s Cambridge blog, Mr. Scali has been on a personal leave of absence for at least the last four months.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to begin a process with City Department Heads to determine possible projects that could be completed with the help of Code for America and be prepared to apply for their 2013 program.   Councillor Toomey

This Order comes on the heels of last week’s Order #3 and Order #19 of a similar nature. Perhaps there may be further "innovation agendas" down the road for City departments unrelated to the middle school proposal now before the School Committee.

Order #3. That the City Manager is hereby requested to direct the appropriate department heads to look into whether the City of Cambridge would benefit from a curb side composting program and the means in which we could implement such a program.   Councillor Cheung

Having spent many years as Cambridge’s "Compost Man," I could say much about this Order. Ultimately it’s a great idea for a host of reasons, but there are financial and logistical challenges that cannot be denied. Nonetheless, perhaps one day soon we may see the return of the "honey wagon" to the streets of Cambridge.

Order #4. That the Cambridge City Council go on record encouraging MIT to allow for the Muddy Charles Pub to remain open.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor Toomey

Though one could accuse Councillors Cheung and Toomey of butting into university affairs, I’m with them on this one. The Muddy was always a favorite of mine when I was in graduate school at MIT. It’s also the place where I watched Bucky "Bleepin’" Dent hit the home run in the playoff game in 1978 between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Having grown up as a Yankees fan, I was on the unpopular side that day and had to leave the Muddy via the window at the end of the game. Eventually, I changed allegiances. It will be a sad day indeed should the Muddy Charles Pub be forced to close – not to mention completely inconsistent with MIT traditions.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council in the immediate future on the feasibility of using City-installed and City-managed cameras as part of an overall safety program for the immediate Clifton Street area.   Councillor Kelley

Mayor Maher will also support this. Anyone else? Or is Nancy Murray of the ACLU still pressing your buttons?

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with data regarding demographic and population trends through the year 2025 for the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Seidel

It’s hard to imagine that City staff can actually make such predictions going out more than a few years, but whatever they come up with will likely be interesting and potentially provocative. – Robert Winters

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