Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:05 am

Thanksgiving 2011 – Though the new Cambridge tradition may be self-flagellation on Thanksgiving over the transgressions of European invaders against the native peoples of America, I would like to take a more traditional approach and express thanks for those things for which I am very grateful. Among these are the following:

  • I am, most of all, thankful to be sufficiently strong and healthy to be able to walk and hike and bike as I please.
  • I am grateful to share a happy home with Renée with a roof over our heads and working utilities.
  • I am grateful for all the friends I have known over the years.
  • I am grateful that I am able to provide affordable housing for 9 people (including 3 wonderful babies) in my Cambridge triple-decker.
  • I am thankful to be teaching a mathematics class to 26 magnificent MIT students who inspire me with their questions and insights.
  • I am thankful to be teaching a mathematics class to over 80 students at the Harvard Extension School, a group that includes 50 high school students from the greater Boston area, including some of the highest achieving students from Lexington HS, Belmont HS, and elsewhere.
  • I am grateful for the inspiring leaders and fellow Board members of the Middlesex Canal Association who have maintained their energy and intellect and creativity well into their 80s and 90s.
  • I am grateful to have known neighbors like Floyd Freeman who is still playing piano, going for long walks, and telling stories at the age of 96.
  • I am grateful to live in a city where citizens like me can play an active role in creating or promoting initiatives such as recycling, composting, education about the city’s infrastructure, well-functioning election systems, Central Square improvements, and appreciation for the long and storied history of Cambridge.
  • I am grateful to live in a time when a person like me can freely express his thoughts in a forum like this that is accessible to anyone, anywhere without the intervention of governments or repressive people. – Robert Winters

What are you thankful for?

November 21, 2011

Reports, Reports, and a Retirement – Nov 21, 2011 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:07 am

Reports, Reports, and a Retirement – Nov 21, 2011 Cambridge City Council meeting

There is much to say about this meeting, including numerous Planning Board reports on recently filed zoning petitions. One noteworthy item is the announcement from City Manager Robert Healy that City Solicitor Don Drisdell will be retiring in January. Don has been with the City for a long time, including many years as Deputy City Solicitor before he was appointed City Solicitor in Dec 2002. Nancy Glowa will succeed Don as Acting City Solicitor, effective Jan 20, 2012.

One of the most striking aspects of the upcoming City Manager’s Agenda is that of the 68 matters listing as "Awaiting Report", there are responses for 29 of them – a huge clearing of the backlog. This points to the possibility of a very long meeting. Topics include: a proposed Farmers Market, the merger of the Longy School and Bard College, trimming tree branches, the McCrehan pool, job training programs, a gun shot incident, courteous driving, a Landmark Designation Study Report for the Ellis School, language for a proposed zoning amendment, cable service contract options, a Yellow Pages ban, a bamboo ordinance, bike corrals, bus shelters, upkeep of the Cambridge Common, bicycle safety, the BIO 2012 Convention, the traffic light at Magazine St. and Memorial Drive, restaurant valet parking, hazardous metal pieces of street signs, Bobcats to clear snow, Household Hazardous Waste Days, Citizen Observer alerts, a technology plan for the City, paying for city services on-line, paperless City bills, a unique identifier for official documents (actually a great idea), Code for America, a service similar to SeeClickFix, and the sidewalks on Boardman Street.

And you want to just watch the Patriots game? Just think of all the good stuff you’ll be missing!

Reports from the avalance of zoning petitions filed in August are now filtering in from the Planing Board. There is a negative report on the Andrews Petition (#15), a positive report on the Bagedenow Petition (#16), a negative report on the Bishop Petition (#17), a negative report on the Runkel Petition (#18), and a positive report on the de Rham Petition (#45).

Manager’s Agenda #37. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Number Item Number 11-83, regarding a report on technology plan for the City, the use of social media tools, and identifying projects that would benefit from using Gov 2.0, as well as a response to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-84, regarding the creation of a research and development office for technology.

This is an interesting read. Though the devil is in the details and the City has not always made the best decisions in terms of public communication and web-based interactions with the public (such as the search function of the City website and delays in posting timely information), it seems clear that the City is in the process of making some necessary improvements.

Manager’s Agenda #40. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-92, regarding the feasibility of creating a system that the general public could use to search by a unique identifier for official documents such as building permits, variance applications, License Commission inspections, and the like.

This is based on a very good Order from Councillor Kelley that would make it possible for a resident to easily research the status of a property across multiple categories – zoning, building permits, inspectional services, variances, etc. This would be a huge improvement for both residents and City administration.

Unfinished Business items include several zoning petitions that have been passed to a 2nd Reading and could potentially be voted. These include the de Rham (#9), Bishop (#10), Runkle (#11), and Bagedonow (#13) Petitions. The Chestnut Hill Realty Petition (#12), the gift that keeps on giving to the campaign accounts of several city councillors, could also be voted. There was some comic relief on the Chestnut Hill Realty Petition at the last City Council meeting when one city councillor who lives at the top of a hill and who rents basement apartments in his building questioned concerns about basement flooding based on personal experience. Perhaps some basic knowledge of physics should be mandatory for city councillors, e.g. the fact that water flows downhill and not uphill.

Resolution #19. Congratulations to Department of Public Works Commissioner Lisa Peterson and Recycling Director Randi Mail for their innovative recycling initiatives that merited the MassRecycle 2011 Board of Director’s Outstanding Achievement Award.   Vice Mayor Davis, Councillor Simmons

It’s worth noting that one of Lisa Peterson’s first responsibilities when she began working for the City 20 years ago was to manage the implementation of the City’s new curbside recycling program. Recycling Director Randi Mail and Commissioner Peterson are always seeking ways to expand and improve recycling programs in Cambridge and they always do so with a clear view of the cost-effectiveness of any initiative. We are fortunate to have both of these people in the City’s employ.

Resolution #24. Congratulations to the members of the Mid-Cambridge Oral History Project and the Longfellow Neighborhood Council and Community School on the publication of "From the Heart of Cambridge: A Neighborhood Portrait."   Vice Mayor Davis

These are the stories of people from my own neighborhood within the larger Mid-Cambridge neighborhood. The best stories are from those who have been here far longer than I have, especially my dear friend Floyd Freeman who now lives in Michigan after his house burned down several years ago and who is still going strong at the age of 96. The book tells the stories of 90 people and their families and friends. It is available for sale at Porter Square Books, the Harvard Book Store, The Coop, Rodney’s Bookstore, and directly from the Longfellow Neighborhood Council. All profits go to support the Longfellow Neighborhood Council and Community School.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council at the earliest possible City Council meeting on the possible uses, and the extent of such uses, per the current table of uses in the Zoning Ordinance, and associated language for building conversions, of the Sullivan Courthouse at 40 Thorndike Street.   Councillor Kelley

The Roundtable meeting last week on this topic struck me more as a marketing presentation than anything else. In the long view, it should be noted that this building was originally permitted because it served an essential government function. It is extremely unlikely that it would have ever been permitted at that site if it had been proposed as a private development such as an office building or residential tower. Nonetheless, the presentation seemed to suggest that the most likely future uses would be as an office building or residential tower. The State has a financial interest in this building, but a good case can be made for cutting this building down to a scale more in keeping with the adjacent neighborhood.

Order #3. That the City Council hereby sets 7:00pm at the Dec 12, 2011 City Council meeting as the time to receive the Red Ribbon Commission Report on Central Square.   Councillor Reeves

Another delay. The real question is whether this eventual report will be anything more than a dressed-up proposal to substantially develop the Naggar property at Mass. Ave. and Norfolk St. in partnership with the City. The more substantial planning effort is, at least in principle, the concurrent one with Goody Clancy focusing on both Kendall Square and Central Square (K2C2). The Central Square part of that study could also become just a plan to redevelop the current Central Square parking lots and add height and density to buildings in the area. Residents of Central Square should follow this closely. There are many good opportunities but also some tangible threats and it is not at all clear whether the residential neighborhoods of Central Square are adequately represented in any of these planning efforts. Time will tell.

Order #10. That the City Council hereby goes on record re-filing as of Dec 7, 2011 the Julia Bishop et al. petition to amend the zoning in Special District 2 in North Cambridge.   Mayor Maher

This Order seems to indicate that the highly contentious Bishop Petition will be allowed to expire and the negotiations among neighbors, City officials, and the developer will intensify with the re-filed petition. Councillors made some clear promises before the election in regard to this petition, and they will certainly have their feet held to the fire on this one.

Committee Report #1. 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 held on Oct 13, 2011 to consider a petition submitted by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Section 20.200 et seq., the Central Square Overlay District, by deleting Section 20.304.5.6, which currently requires all establishments where liquor is served to have their principal public entrance on Massachusetts Avenue or Main Street.

There are good, simple alternatives to the petition that was filed – alternatives that will allow new uses where they make sense but not open the door to substantial unintended consequences that could severely impact residential neighbors. – Robert Winters

November 19, 2011

Cambridge Municipal Election Results

Official Final Election Results: The official winners for City Council were (in order of election):
Leland Cheung, Tim Toomey, David Maher, Henrietta Davis, Denise Simmons, Craig Kelley, Marjorie Decker, Minka vanBeuzekom, and Kenneth Reeves.

For School Committee, the official winners were (in order of election):
Fred Fantini, Patty Nolan, Alice Turkel, Mervan Osborne, Richard Harding, and Marc McGovern.

Complete City Council and School Committee Official Final Results and Extras
(PDF includes Counts with transfers, Ward/Precinct #1 votes, #2 vote distribution for all candidates, and number of rankings)

Spreadsheets of City Council and School Committee Official Final Results and Extras
(Excel file includes Counts with transfers, Ward/Precinct #1 votes, #2 vote distribution for all candidates, and number of rankings)

Round-by-Round Official Final City Council Results (HTML)

Round-by-Round Official Final School Committee Results (HTML)

Official Final City Council #1 Vote Distribution by Ward/Precinct (PDF)

Official Final School Committee #1 Vote Distribution by Ward/Precinct (PDF)


Traffic Report: Through Election Day, the Candidate Pages had a total of:
3,774 unique visitors
More than 16,237 candidate pages viewed just on Election Day.
33,546 pages viewed during Nov 1 – Nov 8.
44,842 pages viewed for October-November (so far)….

The Candidate Pages consisted entirely of the words of the candidates – no endorsements, no opinions of the editor of these pages. The fact that so many Cambridge residents took advantage of this resource to learn about the candidates before voting speaks volumes about the voters of Cambridge. – Robert Winters

November 7, 2011

Split in Two – The proposed Congressional Districts for Cambridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:15 pm

Proposed Cambridge Congressional Districts

The new maps for the U.S. Congressional Districts will split Cambridge into two different districts:

Precincts in new 5th Congressional District (Markey):   
part of 3-2
4-2, 4-3
Ward 6 (all precincts)
Ward 7 (all precincts)
Ward 8 (all precincts)
Ward 9 (all precincts)
10-1, 10-2
Precincts in new 7th Congressional District (Capuano):
Ward 1 (all precincts)
Ward 2 (all precincts)
3-1, 3-3, most of 3-2
4-1
Ward 5 (all precincts)
10-3
Ward 11 (all precincts)

Pre-Election Jitters – Nov 7, 2011 Cambridge City Council meeting and the municipal election

Filed under: 2011 Election,City Council,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:21 am

Pre-Election Jitters – Nov 7, 2011 Cambridge City Council meeting

The last thing on the minds of city councillors at this meeting will be the business of the meeting. On the eve of the biennial municipal election, the attention of everyone will be on Tuesday’s election. The agenda is light, and historically these pre-election meetings can break records for brevity.

The only noteworthy items are a few zoning-related matters that could be passed to a Second Reading, though it’s possible that the Bishop Petition (Unfinished Business #12) could again spark a few election-charged rhetorical brushfires. The other zoning matters are the deRham Petition (Unfinished Business #13), the Runkel Petition (Unfinished Business #14), the Bagedonow Petition (Order #3 and Committee Report #2), and the highly profitable Chestnut Hill Realty Petition (the proponents of which have contributed heavily to the campaigns of several city councillors).

This past week has been an interesting one in the political life of the city. Not since the darkest days of the Rent Control Wars have we seen such vitriol – perhaps the worst of which has come from the pseudo-press. I don’t know what kind of psychosis it is that drives fact-challenged bloggers with short perspectives to want to tell voters how to vote – even to the point of referring to several incumbents as "disgusting". A lot of bridges were burned this week.

My advice to voters is simple – ignore all endorsements, ignore the advice of pundits (including me), and spend a few hours learning about the candidates [http://vote.rwinters.com]. Above all, do your homework, and that includes evaluating any propaganda that’s been circulating from Hilliard Street, the pseudo-press, and people with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas. Then cast informed votes. In the Cambridge elections you can vote for as many candidates as you wish (for both City Council and School Committee). I generally advise people to first decide which candidates you like enough to list on your ballot, and then decide how to rank them – #1 to your favorite, then #2, etc. You do not have to rank all candidates, but it is best to rank more than a few. Above all, vote sincerely.

After the polls close on Tuesday, the preliminary PR Election Count will commence at the Senior Center across the street from City Hall. This year (if all the equipment works) CCTV will be broadcasting from The Count starting around 8:30pm. The program will be hosted by former School Committee member Susana Segat and Robert Winters (that’s me). Our hope is to have many of the candidates and other guests appear on camera to share their thoughts. There will be a followup program on Wednesday as the remaining ballots are tabulated and the final (unofficial) results are announced.

Unless the election is extremely close, it is likely that the preliminary winners announced on Tuesday night will be the same as those announced on Wednesday. Officially, the final results will not be determined until Friday, Nov 18 when potentially a handful of additional overseas absentee ballots are included, but there is very little chance that this will alter the results. – Robert Winters

November 2, 2011

2011 Cambridge Municipal Election – School Committee Candidates

Filed under: 2011 Election,elections,School Committee — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:49 am

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

2011 Cambridge Municipal Election – School Committee Candidates

Marc McGovern (15 Pleasant St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 2003.

Nancy Tauber (137 Chestnut St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 2007.

Fred Fantini (4 Canal Park, 02141) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 1981.

Mervan Osborne (149 Auburn St., 02139) is a 1st time candidate.

John Holland (26 Normandy Terr., 02138) is a 1st time candidate.

Joyce Gerber (10 Fairfield St., 02140) is a 1st time candidate.

Alice Turkel (12 Upton St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 1995.

Patty Nolan (184 Huron Ave., 02138) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 2005.

Richard Harding (187 Windsor St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge School Committee in 2001.

Bill Forster (244 Lexington Ave., 02138) is a 1st time candidate.

Charles Stead (598 Putnam Ave., 02139) is a 4th time candidate.

Photos and profiles of all the Cambridge candidates may be found at the Cambridge Candidate Pages
http://vote.rwinters.com    or    http://vote.cambridgecivic.com

2011 Cambridge Municipal Election – City Council Candidates

Filed under: 2011 Election,City Council,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:45 am

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

2011 Cambridge Municipal Election – City Council Candidates

Tom Stohlman (19 Channing St., 02138) is a 2nd time candidate.

Tim Toomey (88 Sixth St., 02141) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1989.

Leland Cheung (157 Garden St., 02138) was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 2009.

Ken Reeves (340 Harvard St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1989.

Larry Ward (372A Broadway, 02139) is a 3rd time candidate and served as a city councillor in 2009.

Denise Simmons (188 Harvard St., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 2001.

Charlie Marquardt (10 Rogers St., 02142) is a 2nd time candidate.

David Maher (120 Appleton St., 02138) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1999 and is currently Mayor.

Gary Mello (324 Franklin St., 02139) is a 1st time candidate.

Henrietta Davis (120 Chestnut St., 02139) was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1995.

Matt Nelson (108 Pine St., 02139) is a 1st time candidate.

Jamake Pascual (10 Laurel St., 02139) is a 1st time candidate.

Gregg Moree (25 Fairfield St., 02140) is a 3rd time candidate.

Sam Seidel (48 Maple Ave., 02139) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 2007.

Minka vanBeuzekom (20 Essex St., 02139) is a 2nd time candidate.

Marjorie Decker (61 Walden St., 02140) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1999.

Craig Kelley (6 St. Gerard Terr., 02140) was first elected to the Cambridge City Council in 2005.

James Williamson (1000 Jackson Place, 02140) is a 4th time candidate.

Photos and profiles of all the Cambridge candidates may be found at the Cambridge Candidate Pages
http://vote.rwinters.com    or    http://vote.cambridgecivic.com

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