Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 26, 2011

June 27, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – as the campaign season kicks off

Filed under: 2011 Election,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:48 pm

June 27, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – as the campaign season kicks off

This is the last meeting before the summer break. The City Council won’t convene again until Aug 1 and then not again until Sept 12. The agenda is light, but there could be extensive haggling over the proposed Section 5.28.2 zoning amendments (Unf. Bus #2 and Comm. Rpt. #2). There may also be some local and imported public testimony over Councillor Decker’s Big Bad Walmart Order. But first….

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-70, regarding NBC violations.

The Order leading to this response really should have come a long time ago, but the prospect of a possible investigation by the Attorney General into this despicable breach of public trust is now very welcome. This is the story of a gesture from a developer to a neighborhood being twisted into a private income source by members of one family. The original 1998 agreement conveyed a 10,000 square foot parcel of land at 131 Harvard Street to the inappropriately named "Neighbors for a Better Community" (NBC) for $1 plus an initial monetary payment of $360,000 and additional payments to NBC of $710,000 spread over 10 years. The agreement required that the parcel be "a gift for public and charitable purposes" to be "used only for affordable housing, a gymnasium, community center, or a park, and accessory parking, or for any other community use approved by … the then record owner of 210 Broadway". None of these community benefits ever occurred. Furthermore, one Jonathan "Jay" Carroll appears to have paid himself at least $461,800 as "executive director" for doing essentially nothing. This is a crime, and Mr. Carroll should be prosecuted.

Unfinished Business #9. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing on May 5, 2011 for the purpose of considering proposed amendments submitted in response to City Council Order No.11 of Jan 24, 2011, in which the Council requested that Community Development Department (CDD) staff engage in a comprehensive review of Section 5.28.2, including the history of the use of the section for special permit applications for conversion of commercial and institutional uses to residential building, and the recent public conversations on this section of the Zoning Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 20, 2011. Planning Board hearing held May 10, 2011. Petition expires Aug 3, 2011.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public meeting held on June 15, 2011 to continue to consider proposed amendments submitted in response to City Council Order No.11 of Jan 24, 2011, in which the Council requested that Community Development Department (CDD) staff engage in a comprehensive review of Section 5.28.2.

What began as a clarification has become a fiasco. The well-intentioned efforts to make clearer what is and what is not permitted when certain institutional buildings are re-purposed as housing has led to what some activists are now characterizing as "city-wide upzoning". That’s probably not a fair characterization since greater constraints are being placed on what has been permitted under the current law, but the process has brought into greater focus what could potentially be built in the future at some of these sites.

Order #7. That this City Council go on record encouraging Dr. James Cash to speak out about the Supreme Court’s ruling on a controversial gender-discrimination case and to lobby executives at the world’s largest retailer to reform its policies and provide justice to its female employees.   Councillor Decker

This may well be a first – a city councillor filing an Order calling on a private citizen to speak out on a specific issue. It’s a good thing that the City Charter does not grant subpoena power to the City Council or we’d be hauling people in on the carpet every week. I can see it now – Councillor Decker grilling Mr. Cash with "Are you or have you ever been privy to managerial decisions at Walmart?" Perhaps we could draft a few blacklists while we’re at it. – Robert Winters

PS – Incumbents and challengers for seats on the City Council or School Committee can pick up Nomination Papers starting this Friday, July 1 at the Election Commission Office between 8:30am and 5:00pm (they’re staying open late). Come one, come all! [Municipal Election Calendar] Candidates must submit at least 50 certified signatures by Monday, August 1 at 5:00pm. If desired, I will personally escort any candidate to the Election Commission office in order to get there before the deadline. Don’t delay!

June 20, 2011

City of Cambridge – 2011 Final Re-Precincting Plan

Filed under: elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 3:32 pm

Press Release – Cambridge Election Commission – June 20, 2011

City of Cambridge

2011 Final Re-Precincting Plan

Every ten years after the Federal Census is complete, ward and precinct boundary lines are re-drawn to reflect changes in the City’s population and to anticipate the needs of the City’s election system for the next decade. This process is separate from the state legislature’s role to re-draw congressional boundaries along with the state senate and representative districts.

In 2000 there were 101,355 people living in Cambridge. By 2010 that number had increased 3.76% to 105,162. Because there has been uneven growth over the years in sections of the city, we were required, by law, to adjust the precinct lines city-wide to ensure that there is an even distribution of population across precincts. The target number was 3,187 people per precinct—the total number of residents divided by the number of precincts (105,162/33=3187). The law allows up to a 5% (+/-) variance for the number of residents per precinct. A goal was set by the Commission to use a smaller variance of 3%.

Although guided by law, the Board also factored into its considerations input from the public and other practicable concerns, such as: minimizing the need for voters to cross major thoroughfares, walking distance to polling locations and also minimizing change to existing precincts lines. The Board has successfully developed and approved a proposed plan that would allow voters in most areas to continue to go to the same polling places to cast their ballots as they have in the past.

The Board was required to vote on the proposed re-precincting by June 15, 2011. On June 15, 2011 the Board met and voted unanimously to approve the proposed re-precincting plan. The proposed re-precincting plan has been submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC). Once received, the SOC will transmit the proposed re-precincting plan to an independent commission consisting of three members known as the Local Election District Review Commission (LEDRC) for review. The LEDRC has the authority to accept or reject the plan.

It should be noted that the re-precincting changes would take effect on December 31, 2011 and therefore in time for the 2012 elections.

Final Proposal showing new Cambridge wards & precincts

June 20, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights – The Joy of Opportunism

Filed under: City Council,cycling — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:36 am

June 20, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights

This Monday’s meeting could prove interesting. There are a number of significant zoning-related matters, but the items that jump right out are Committee Report #4 and Councillor Clarey Kelley’s Order #4. Opportunism apparently knows no bounds. Some may recall Councillor Kelley’s earlier Order in which he (or his ghost writer) prematurely speculated on the retirements of the City Clerk, the City Manager, and various department heads and how best to seize the moment. His colleagues handed him his head for that piece of spectacular rudeness. His latest Order is an attempt to renegotiate the City Manager’s contract based on an inadvertent omission in the 2006 and 2009 contracts that must now be corrected. Could someone loan Councillor Kelley a moral compass? He’s apparently quite lost.

Here are a few items of interest on the Agenda.

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-57, regarding a report on Harvard University’s acquisition of three properties formerly owned by the Society of Jesus of New England/Weston School of Theology and affordable housing in Cambridge.

Committee Report #2. 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 May 9, 2011 for the purpose of receiving information regarding plans to sell Craigie Arms (also known as Chapman Arms) and the City’s options to preserve affordability.

Order #7. That the City Council go on record asking Harvard University to work closely and cooperatively with the City Manager, the Affordable Housing Trust, Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc., tenants and others to facilitate the sale of the property to Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc to ensure the continued affordability at Craigie Arms for current and future tenants.   Councillor Decker

I might also add to this the upcoming meeting of the Community Preservation Act Committee scheduled for Tuesday, June 21 at 6:00pm at the Cambridge Senior Center. It is again expected that they will dedicate the maximum 80% for "affordable housing" and the minimum 10% to both open space and historic preservation. Perhaps dedicating so much money and other resources toward "affordable housing" still makes sense, but there never seems to be any effort made to measure the need or the effectiveness of these expenditures. There is a "Freakonomics" concept that if one community (like Cambridge) dedicates a disproportionate amount of resources to this, the effect may be to actually increase the local demand for this housing. Expenditures seem to be driven more by beliefs than by any hard analysis and rarely, if ever, do we see a regional analysis of housing needs and provision. How many people believe that housing agencies ensure that only those with legitimate needs are receiving the benefits of government-subsidized housing? In many respects, it has become just another system to be "gamed".


Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Richard Johnson as a member of the Cambridge Water Board for a five year term, effective June 30, 2016.

Here’s to the many men and women who serve without compensation on the many City boards and commissions. Voter turnout and civic responsibility may be in decline, but the tradition is carried on by all those who volunteer for these boards and commissions.


Manager’s Agenda #25. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to proposed zoning language to enable a regional bike share program.

It may seem strange that the zoning code has to be amended to allow this use, but it is a service for a fee just like any other commercial use and the zoning code does spell out what uses are permitted in which zones. One curiosity in the proposed amendment is that all signage and illumination for a Public Bicycle-Sharing Station is exempt from regulation. Does this permit advertisements by companies that might subsidize the bike-sharing program?


Manager’s Agenda #29. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation of the Section 5.28.2 Rezoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #9. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing on May 5, 2011 for the purpose of considering proposed amendments submitted in response to City Council Order No.11 of Jan 24, 2011, in which the Council requested that Community Development Department (CDD) staff engage in a comprehensive review of Section 5.28.2, including the history of the use of the section for special permit applications for conversion of commercial and institutional uses to residential building, and the recent public conversations on this section of the Zoning Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 20, 2011. Planning Board hearing held May 10, 2011. Petition expires Aug 3, 2011.

This proposed zoning amendment (spurred primarily by a development on Norris Street) will come to a vote either at this meeting or very soon. At issue is the appropriateness of language introduced in the years following the demise of rent control when new housing was being encouraged and when there may have been insufficient attention paid to the unintended consequences of those policies. One interesting idea expressed in this discussion and at the recent Roundtable meeting with the City Council and the Planning Board is to detail what could actually be built in various parts of the city under the current zoning ordinance. At a recent neighborhood study meeting (for Mid-Cambridge), CDD staff showed maps detailing where and how many new housing units could be built as of right without the need to seek a variance. Most proposed zoning changes are done either by developers who want increased densities for their projects (for which they often offer "community benefits" for the privilege) or by neighbors threatened by a specific development proposal. Ideally, the Planning Board and the Community Development Department should conduct "what if" studies throughout the city to identify potential problems before they arise.


Manager’s Agenda #32. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request for approve of the alteration, layout and acceptance of the portion of Vassar Street that is between Massachusetts Avenue and Audrey Street in the City of Cambridge.

This is about the sidewalk bicycle paths that were underwritten by MIT along Vassar Street. Sadly, there are City staff who believe that the only safe place for cyclists is on the sidewalk, and they choose to ignore any testimony to the contrary. Few people will disagree with the value of such facilities along high-speed arterial roads such as Memorial Drive, but there are strong arguments to be made against such facilities along ordinary roads, especially when the creation of such sidepaths causes on-street lanes to be narrowed to the point that they become less safe for cyclists who choose to travel on the road rather than on the sidewalk (such as the current proposal for Western Avenue). The Vassar Street facilities are, at best, unnecessary.


Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing on Apr 6, 2011 and a follow-up public meeting on May 17, 2011 to consider a petition to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance filed by Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, joined by M.I.T. as land owner, to allow for the creation of a new Special District 15 along a portion of Massachusetts Avenue between Albany Street and Windsor Street opposite the location of the Novartis main campus at the former Necco Building. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 6, 2011. Planning Board hearing held Mar 29, 2011. Petition expires July 5, 2011.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public meeting held on June 15, 2011 to continue to consider a petition to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance filed by Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, joined by M.I.T. as land owner, to allow for the creation of a new Special District 15 along a portion of Massachusetts Avenue between Albany Street and Windsor Street opposite the location of the Novartis main campus at the former Necco Building.

There is little doubt that the Novartis Petition, possibly with some amendments and certainly with some "community benefits" forked over, will pass either this week or next. Everybody loves Novartis. In the report, Councillor Reeves notes that the matter of community benefits has been referred to the Government Operations and Rules Committee to explore the issues of what principles should govern the negotiations for community benefits and to develop a formula based on these issues, but nothing has yet come of this. Reeves states that "there should be a community benefit fund and the City Councillors should decide what community agencies should benefit. He himself would tend to favor the settlement houses because they benefit some of the most disadvantaged residents."

It is indeed unfortunate that the Government Operations Committee has chosen not to address this issue. The inherent danger in the increased use of these "community benefits" deals is that the City Council might never reject a zoning petition as long as it has sufficient money promised that can be allocated at the discretion of the City Council. The committee report states that "Novartis is prepared to offer $1 million to go to the City of Cambridge for allocation of such benefits to the community as the City Council determines."


Unfinished Business #8. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing on Apr 6, 2011 for the purpose of considering the re-filed Fox petition to rezone an area primarily along Cottage Park Avenue from Business A-2 to Residence B. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 20, 2011. Planning Board hearing held Mar 29, 2011. Petition expires July 5, 2011.

As with the Novartis Petition, this must come to a vote either this week or next, or it will expire. The Planning Board has not yet reported on the re-filed Fox petition, but it gave a negative recommendation in January on the original petition.


Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Co-Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee for a public meeting held on June 8, 2011 to discuss clarification/correction to the City Manager’s contract.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to submit an order allocating funds from the current budget so that the City Council can hire outside counsel to provide independent advice about the manager’s employment contract and his request to amend it.   Councillor Kelley

These two items will likely guarantee the attendance of the perennial Healy-haters – led by Councillor Kelley’s mentor/ghost writer Richard Clarey who has carried on his vengeful campaign for decades through a variety of venues. It’s one thing to harbor ill feelings about Robert Healy or even to take the position that the City should cave in to every lawsuit filed by those seeking "to milk Mother Cambridge" (as Councillor Reeves once characterized it). It’s an entirely different matter to opportunistically try to use an unintentional error in the wording of the Manager’s contract to renegotiate that contract after the fact. – Robert Winters

June 13, 2011

Voter Choice Local Option Proposal

Filed under: elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 9:37 am

A bill was filed (January 2011) in the Massachusetts State Legislature that would permit cities and towns in Massachusetts to adopt Instant Runoff Voting using ranked choice ballots in their local elections. This local option could be adopted for single winner elections and/or multi-seat (at-large) elections such as a city council or school committee.

How do people feel about this enabling legislation? Bear in mind that this proposal would not impose any changes to any local elections. It would simply grant the right to Massachusetts cities and towns to adopt ranked choice voting without having to file a home rule petition for a Special Act of the legislature. More information is available at http://voterchoicema.org. The text of the bill follows.

Voter Choice Local Option Proposal (January 2011)

HD 02026: An Act Providing a Local Option for Instant Runoff Voting in City or Town Elections

SECTION 1: Section 44A of chapter 43 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 7, the words "section forty-four G" and inserting in place thereof the words "sections 44G and 103R".

SECTION 2: Section 77 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 5, the words "section thirty-three E" and inserting in place thereof the words "sections 33E and 103R".

SECTION 3: Chapter 54 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 103Q the following section:-

Section 103R. Instant Runoff Voting in city or town elections

(a) Notwithstanding any other general or special law to the contrary, any city or town may conduct a local election using instant runoff voting in which voters rank the candidates for an office in order of preference. Instant runoff voting elections may be used for single-winner elections, such as Mayor, or for elections that elect multiple candidates to office, such as city council. Instant runoff voting elections are tabulated in rounds using the "single transferable vote" method. Winning thresholds shall be calculated based on the number of countable votes and the number of seats to be filled. General provisions for either single-winner elections or multiple-winner elections shall be specified by ordinance, provided that a person’s lower ranked choices shall not harm the likelihood of their higher ranked choices becoming elected. Such ordinances shall be enacted by the municipality’s legislative body, be it a city council, board of alderman, board of selectmen, or town meeting, and the body shall request the input of the community’s registrars of voters and town clerk or city election commissioners. The ordinance shall specify at a minimum the method of calculating winning thresholds, how candidates with the fewest votes shall be eliminated before a subsequent round of the tally, how votes for eliminated candidates shall be transferred to the voter’s next valid choice, how ties shall be dealt with, how ballots that skip a ranking or otherwise are mismarked shall be counted, and in the case of multi-seat contests, how surplus votes above the winning threshold for a candidate shall be transferred to alternate choices. Preliminary elections shall not be held in cities and towns using instant runoff voting for all offices that would otherwise require preliminary elections.

(b) A voting method authorized by this section may be adopted by any of the following:

(1) By approval of a ballot measure submitted to the voters by the governing body of the city or town at a regular or special election.

(2) By initiative ordinance or charter amendment.

(c) Any city or town using a instant runoff voting method shall conduct a voter education and outreach campaign to familiarize voters with ranked voting.

(d) The instant runoff voting ballot shall allow voters to rank as many choices as there are candidates. In the event that the voting equipment cannot feasibly accommodate a number of rankings on the ballot equal to the number of candidates, town registrars of voters or city election commissioners may limit the number of choices a voter may rank to the maximum number allowed by the equipment. If there are three or more candidates, this limit shall never be less than three.

(e) The ballot shall not interfere with a voter’s ability to rank at least one write-in candidate. For the purposes of this section, a mark for an unqualified write-in candidate shall not be considered a mark for a candidate.

(f) After four years, a city or town which has adopted instant runoff voting may choose to return to its prior voting method by any of the following:

(1) By approval of a ballot measure submitted to the voters by the governing body of the city or town at a regular or special election.

(2) By an initiative ordinance or charter amendment.

SECTION 4: This act shall take effect upon its passage.

June 6, 2011

June 6, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:30 am

June 6, 2011 City Council Agenda Highlights

The City Council returns Monday to a relatively light agenda. I suspect there will also be some discussion of the major water main break that occurred Saturday night. While most people tend to focus on the inconvenience and losses due to flooded basements, the most serious aspect to the incident was the period of a few hours during which fire protection was seriously compromised due to the lack of any water pressure at fire hydrants in a large portion of the city. Thankfully, there was little or no damage to the Main Library and the Water Department workers did themselves proud by completing all the essential work within one day. A section of Broadway may remain closed for part of the work week as the Trowbridge/Broadway intersection is restored.

Here are a few items of interest on the Agenda:

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-33, regarding the feasibility of using City-installed and managed cameras in the Clifton Street area.

Though I suppose the ACLU whiners may show up to protest this perceived intrusion, hopefully sense will prevail this time and the City Council will give its blessing. On the heels of the City Council’s pinheaded disapproval a few years ago of cameras provided by the federal government (at no cost), one can understand why the City Manager states that "it is not my intention to purchase these cameras absent a City Council endorsement."

There is one annual item from the City Manager about balancing the books prior to the June 30 end of the fiscal year. More interesting, however, is a string of rescissions for money authorized by various loan orders which are no longer necessary. This is the content of City Manager’s Agenda items #20 through #26.

City Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order authorizing the City Manager to transfer appropriations of available balances prior to the close of the books for FY10-11.

City Manager’s Agenda #20-26. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to various loan orders requesting the rescission of the remaining amounts of the loan orders:

#20. $5,000 of $1,355,000 authorized by the City Council on May 12, 1997 for the first phase of the Fiber Optic Infrastructure Project. This project has been successfully completed and the balance of $5,000 on the loan order is no longer required.

#21. $315,000 of $315,000 authorized by the City Council on May 11, 1998 for the second phase of the Fiber Optic Infrastructure Project. This project has been successfully completed and the balance of $315,000 on the loan order is no longer required.

#22. $495 of $31,500,000 authorized by the City Council on Feb 23, 2004 for the construction of the new Main Library. This project has been successfully completed and the balance of $495 on the loan order is no longer required.

#23. $1,555 of $157,405 authorized by the City Council on May 20, 2002 for the Public Works Department Sewer Division Infiltration/Inflow Project. This project has been successfully completed and the balance of $1,555 on the loan order is no longer required.

#24. $205,000 of $305,000 authorized by the City Council on Feb 22, 1999 for the Public Works Department Sewer Division. This project has been successfully completed and the balance of $205,000 on the loan order is no longer required.

#25. $277,358 of $5,700,000 authorized by the City Council on June 4, 2007 for renovations to the War Memorial. The War Memorial renovation project has been successfully completed and the balance of $277,358 represents less than 1% of the total project cost including the State grant and other loan authorizations.

#26. $700,000 of $1,000,000 authorized by the City Council on May 18, 2009 for the remediation of soil contamination at Yerxa Road. The original estimate for the remediation of soil contamination and other environmental issues at Yerxa Road was $1,000,000. However, the bids received were considerably lower, thus creating a surplus of $700,000 in the loan authorization.

We tend to expect only requests for additional appropriations, so it’s noteworthy when the opposite is the case. Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that the Yerxa Road project cost only 30% of what was authorized. There’s also something charming about the $495 left over from the $31,500,000 loan authorization for the Main Library. The overall cost for the new Library and related projects was actually considerably more than $31.5 million.

Unfinished Business #8. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing on Apr 6, 2011 and a follow-up public meeting on May 17, 2011 to consider a petition to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance filed by Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, joined by M.I.T. as land owner, to allow for the creation of a new Special District 15 along a portion of Massachusetts Avenue between Albany Street and Windsor Street opposite the location of the Novartis main campus at the former Necco Building. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after June 6, 2011. Planning Board hearing held Mar 29, 2011. Petition expires July 5, 2011.

This zoning petition could come to a final vote at this meeting. On the other hand, the MIT/Forest City petition affecting a nearby area expires July 13 and there may be some logic in deliberating and voting on these two petitions in some unified way rather than piecemeal.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and the City Solicitor to provide the City Council with background information on the current ownership of the land that was transferred to Neighbors for a Better Community for the benefit of the Area Four community and whether it has been or is being sold and how the benefits will accrue to the community.   Councillor Simmons

This Order really should be amended to more appropriately reflect the possibly criminal aspects of what happened with the self-serving "Neighbors for a Better Community." The Council Order only says "ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and the City Solicitor to provide the City Council with background information on the current ownership of the land, whether it has been or is being sold and how the benefits will accrue to the community."

There really should be additional language in this Order directing the City’s Law Department to investigate and potentially prosecute those who have misappropriated funds, though technically this arrangement was made only between the developer and this ad-hoc group during the negotiations prior to a zoning vote. In a related matter, a full accounting of the $195,000 payoff made a decade ago to 13 individuals who protested a project across the street from the Alewife T Station should be made public. That money was initially offered by Oaktree to the Affordable Housing Trust ($60,000) and the Mystic River Watershed Association ($135,000), but it was placed under the control of these 13 individuals instead after some legal conflicts. Where did the money go?

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to contact relevant City officials and the officials of Belmont, Arlington and appropriate State agencies and non-profit agencies such as the Trustees of Reservations to determine if the Silver Maple Forest could be purchased for preservation.   Councillor Kelley

If there’s any of that $135,000 left (see above) it might make a good down payment on the purchase. Perhaps Councillor Kelley can provide one or two thirteenths of the answer. – Robert Winters

June 7 Update: Order #1 was greatly amended before passing on an 8-0 vote.

Amended Order #1     June 6, 2011
COUNCILLOR SIMMONS
WHEREAS: Questions continue to be raised by members of the Area Four community regarding what benefits the community has received from monies and land at 131 Harvard Street, the corner of Clark and Harvard Streets, transferred to Neighbors for a Better Community (NBC) for the benefit of the Area Four community; and
WHEREAS: It has come to the attention of the City Council that this land has been sold by NBC for $100,000 after its rejection of an offer of $450,000, which would have resulted in the building of eight affordable homeownership units at 131 Harvard Street and the distribution of the proceeds to community groups for youth and family services; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to provide the City Council with background information and a chronology on the ownership of the land, including the establishment and purposes of the Neighbors for a Better Community 501(C)3, the $450,000 offer from CASCAP and the recent sale for $100,000; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to contact the Attorney General’s Office with a view toward freezing all monies from the sale of the property at 131 Harvard Street and insuring that all proceeds from the sale of the property will ultimately go to the benefit of the community; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to contact the Attorney General’s Office with the request that the Attorney General’s Office investigate whether NBC has violated the obligations conferred by its 501(C)3 status and the purposes set forth in its charter to use its resources for the benefit of the community and further how NBC can be required to fulfill these obligations; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on this matter; and be it further
ORDERED: That the Mayor send a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley on behalf of the City Council conveying its deep concern for the ability of a nonprofit agency to abuse the community trust and urging the Attorney General to take all possible steps to require the return to the community the benefits to which it is entitled.

June 5, 2011

Water Main Break at Broadway and Trowbridge

Filed under: water — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 1:03 am

June 4, 2011 (evening) – The water pressure has returned for most of Cambridge after the major water main break at the corner of Broadway and Trowbridge Street. It’s not yet clear what exactly failed – the 30 inch main, a coupling, or something else, but it wiped out the water pressure for much of Cambridge for several hours – especially in the eastern half of the city. We’ll have to wait and see what the damage is to the new Main Library where the water flooded into the underground garage and, presumably, into at least some parts of the lower floors. They never lost power and had their pumps running, so hopefully much of the potential damage has been at least somewhat contained.

The great flood
View westward along Broadway toward Trowbridge

The temporary moat in front of the new Main Library
The temporary moat in front of the new Main Library

CPD UPDATE: Residents on the even side of Broadway, from Goodman Street to Quincy Street, may be without water until approximately 7:00am tomorrow (Monday, June 6). Crews are working diligently to restore water to residents as soon as possible. http://bit.ly/iWfx1o

The Day After
The Day After

The Day After
Repairs Underway

The Brass Confer - City Engineer Owen O'Riordan, Deputy City Manager Rich Rossi, DPW Commissioner Lisa Peterson, Water Department Managing Director Sam Corda
The Brass Confer – City Engineer Owen O’Riordan, Deputy City Manager Rich Rossi, DPW Commissioner Lisa Peterson,
Water Department Managing Director Sam Corda (not sure who’s in the red shirt)

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