Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 30, 2012

A word or two on the September 6 Primary Election

Filed under: 2012 election,elections — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:29 pm

A word or two on the September 6 Primary Election:
First, if you are registered to vote, then you should vote – even if there is nothing meaningful on the ballot.

Second, there is almost nothing meaningful on the ballot.

[Where do I vote? Who’s on MY ballot? – Enter your address and Zip Code.
When you get the result, choose your Primary ballot (the colored bands near the top.]

I received a phone call earlier today telling me how important this coming week’s election was. I almost burst out laughing before hanging up. Meaningless elections have unfortunately become the norm in Massachusetts. It’s probably the fact that this is effectively a one-party state that makes most of our elections so meaningless. Contested primaries are virtually forbidden within the Democratic party with candidates sometimes being convinced to withdraw from contested primaries "for the good of the party." Ten years ago Marjorie Decker challenged incumbent Paul Demakis in the Democratic Primary and was roundly criticized by the party establishment. Marjorie won 66.5% of the Cambridge vote, but Demakis easily won the primary based on the majority of votes cast in Boston. Demakis was elected in November and later vacated his seat without finishing the term.

This year’s primary has a few interesting local contests – depending on which precinct you live in. Three credible Democrats (Robert Reardon, Jr., David Rogers, and Margaret Hegarty) are spending real money in the 24th Middlesex State Representative race. That district only includes two Cambridge precincts (11-1 and 11-3).

The 25th Middlesex State Representative Democratic Primary [includes Wards 4, 7, and 8; and Precincts 6-2, 6-3, 10-1, and 10-2] features Marjorie Decker, Gayle Johnson, and Lesley Rebecca Phillips. This is barely a contest with Marjorie Decker almost certain to win, but at least it’s contested. The general election is effectively uncontested. Who would have dreamed ten years ago that Alice Wolf’s coveted all-Cambridge House seat would be simply passed on in a no-contest election? Apparently, being an elected State Representative is about as attractive a job these days as flipping burgers at McDonalds.

The 26th Middlesex State Representative seat has no contested primary, but the novel "No Money" campaign of Mike Connolly (independent) against incumbent Timothy J. Toomey (Democrat) has drawn attention to the November election. Republican Thomas Vasconcelos will also be on the November ballot for that seat.

The Governor’s Council Sixth District Democratic primary has two candidates – incumbent Terrence W. Kennedy and Francis X. Flaherty. Frankly, I don’t know why the Governor’s Council still exists.

Roll of the dieThere are only two other contested primaries. The first is for Register of Deeds, Southern Middlesex District. I have no idea about the chances of any of the six Democrats seeking this seat (Thomas Concannon, Frank J. Ciano, Robert Antonelli, Maryann Heuston, Maria Curtatone, and Tiziano Doto). This will be an absurd winner-take-all contest without a runoff between six candidates in what will likely be a low turnout primary – followed by an uncontested general election in November. If the Massachusetts political establishment was one-tenth as progressive as they seem to think they are, they would abolish party primaries and replace them with an open primary followed by a November general election between the top two finishers in the primary (regardless of party). This, of course, will never happen. [Note: Campaign finance figures indicate that this is really more like a four-way race between Ciano, Heuston, Curtatone, and Doto. See figures at]

The other contested primary is among Republicans for the U.S. Congress 5th District (Ed Markey’s seat). Though Markey will likely trounce the Republican opposition in November, there is actually a contested Republican primary between candidates Frank Addinivola, Jeffrey Semon, and Tom Tierney.

There’s a complete roster of all candidates in the primary and general election at that includes some of the campaign finance totals for those candidates for which this information could be readily found. – Robert Winters

Polling Places for Thurs, Sept 6 Primary Election (updated for 2012)

August 29, 2012

Updated West Nile Virus Information

Filed under: Cambridge — Robert Winters @ 7:44 pm

Updated West Nile Virus Information (Cambridge Public Health Department) – Aug 29, 2012

West Nile coverage on Cambridge Public Health Department website:

The recently added section on Local Response with an update of the City’s efforts can be found at:

Aug 28, 2012

The Cambridge Public Health Department leads the city’s response to the risks posed by West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquitoes in Massachusetts in 2000. Starting that year, Cambridge established a phased response to the threat of West Nile virus that emphasizes reduction of mosquito breeding habitats (e.g., wading pools, old tires, clogged rain gutters), personal protection, and education.

The Public Health Department works closely with the city’s Department of Public Works and Inspectional Services Department to reduce mosquito-borne risk during the mosquito season (May through early November).

Mosquito control actions taken as of Aug. 28, 2012:

The use of mosquito larvicides is generally considered more effective than spraying for adult mosquitoes, since it stops mosquitoes from breeding. Cambridge larviciding activities include:

  • The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project (through an agreement with the City of Cambridge), has treated the city’s 5,140 municipal storm drains with a larvicide that prevents mosquito larvae from reaching maturity.
  • The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project has applied hand-held non-chemical larvicide to treat areas that are considered prime habitats for mosquito breeding. The treated areas include the Fresh Pond Reservation, Danehy Park, the Fresh Pond Golf Course, Magazine Beach, and the wetland areas along the Little River near the Alewife Brook.
  • Both universities are currently treating storm drains on their own property or working with the city and the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project to arrange for treatment by the end of August.

The Cambridge Public Health Department is not recommending spraying for adult mosquitoes at this time, but an active review of most effective practices used in other urban communities is underway.

  • This decision is based on multiple factors, including research demonstrating that “truck spraying” in densely built urban communities, such as Cambridge, may be of limited effectiveness because buildings and higher trees prevent spray from reaching the most likely mosquito habitat in the canopies of trees. Further evidence of risk to humans is being carefully monitored and will be an important factor in the decision to use truck-based spray during the current season.
  • The health department has been informed by the mosquito control agency serving Cambridge that spraying Russell Field or Danehy Park will not be carried out because these are open fields not bordered by thick vegetation, and thus spraying would likely not be effective in reducing the adult mosquito population.
  • Wetlands near both Russell Field and Danehy Park have already been treated during the summer with non-chemical larvicides (as mandated by law) to reduce the adult population of wetlands mosquitoes. It is important to note that typical wetlands mosquitoes, while annoying, are not the carriers of West Nile virus in urban areas like Cambridge.

More About Larviciding

  • Every summer, the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project (EMMCP) treats the city’s municipal storm drains with a larvicidal agent that prevents mosquitoes from breeding. The treatment rotates between a chemical agent and a bacteriological agent to reduce the risk of natural resistance in mosquito larvae.
  • The EMMCP, through an agreement with the City of Cambridge, applies hand-held non-chemical larvicide to treat areas that are considered prime habitats for mosquito breeding. The treated areas typically include the Fresh Pond Reservation, a small portion of Danehy Park, and the wetland areas along the Little River near the Alewife Brook. EEMCP also maintains several surveillance mosquito trapping stations in Cambridge.

Public Information about West Nile Virus in Cambridge

  • The Cambridge Public Health Department website offers information about mosquito-borne illnesses, including news updates, disease fact sheets, prevention tips, and links to relevant state and national public health agencies.
  • The Cambridge Public Health Department maintains an e-mail list to deliver periodic updates about West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis to subscribers. The WNV Listserv is a service available to all community members. Please type “subscribe” in subject header when requesting to be put on this list.
  • The Cambridge Public Health Department assists the Cambridge Public Schools in communicating with parents and establishing an appropriate policy for outdoor athletic events that are held from late August until early October, or the first frost (periods of heightened risk).

Eliminating Stagnant Water

  • The Cambridge Public Health Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Inspectional Services Department respond to calls reporting stagnant water and other potential mosquito habitats on private and public property. The division of responsibilities for responding to these calls is as follows: DPW is charged with addressing standing water on public property, Inspectional Services is responsible for standing water on construction sites and commercial property, and the public health department follows up on calls about standing water on private property.

Revised on August 28, 2012

August 24, 2012

Second Cambridge Resident Diagnosed with West Nile Virus

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 4:55 pm

Second Cambridge Resident Diagnosed with West Nile Virus – August 23, 2012

MosquitoState health officials reported today that a second Cambridge resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus. The patient, a man in his 70s, is currently hospitalized.

The state’s first human case of West Nile virus this year was confirmed in another Cambridge resident on August 15. This resident, a man in his 60s, is recovering.

West Nile virus is a disease that can only be transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.

As of August 23, West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Cambridge and neighboring municipalities, including Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Newton, and Watertown.

In addition to the elevated threat level in Cambridge, the nearby communities of Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Somerville and Watertown have been raised to a “high” threat level for West Nile virus.

“We urge residents to be vigilant about avoiding mosquito bites and removing stagnant water near their homes,” said Claude Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department.

“Our department has been working with city and community partners to inform residents about the increased risk of West Nile virus this summer. We’re also working with the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project and city departments to reduce mosquito breeding grounds,” Jacob said.

Jacob added that the Cambridge Public Health Department has developed flyers and fact sheets in multiple languages on preventing mosquito-borne illnesses. These materials have been widely distributed to city departments and community organizations, and are available at

In addition, signs on avoiding mosquito bites will be posted in athetic fields, as well as the city’s golf course and larger parks that are frequented in the evening.

The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Here are some tips from the Cambridge Public Health Department:

  • When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the directions on the package.
  • The mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus are most active in the evening and at night. Be sure to use insect repellent, and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
  • Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
  • Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

Most people who get infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms and do not become sick. About 20% of infected people, however, experience mild sickness that may include fever, headache, and body aches. A small number of people—less than 1% of those infected—do develop severe illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. People over age 50 have a higher risk of developing severe illness. Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, contact your doctor or nurse.

For news and information on West Nile virus and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, visit or More information on choosing and using repellents safely is included in the MDPH Mosquito Repellents fact sheet, which can be viewed online at

If you have questions or concerns about West Nile virus or standing water, please contact the Cambridge Public Health Department’s Environmental Health Division at 617-665-3826 or contact Environmental Health staff at

August 16, 2012

More Fun with Ballots

Filed under: 2011 Election,Cambridge,Central Square,elections — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:45 am

More Fun with Ballots (June 23, 2012, updated Aug 16, 2012 with additional Central Sq. results)

I recently installed Cambridge’s municipal (PR) election tabulation software (ChoicePlusPro) on a new Windows 7 computer and thought I might run a few tests tonight during the Red Sox game just to see if everything was OK. Everything checked out, but you have to understand that when I get to playing around with ballot data, there’s no way I’m going to just run a standard test and shut down for the night. So…..

I decided to chop Cambridge up into neighborhood districts (imperfectly, along precinct lines) just to see who would be elected "mayor" in each of these districts using only the ballots from precincts within these artificial districts. I didn’t try to balance out the population, so the populations vary significantly. Here are the results:

East Cambridge (1-1, 1-2, 1-3): Toomey wins an absolute majority in the First Round, 880 out of 1638 ballots – no contest.

Area 4 Plus (2-1, 2-3, 3-1, 3-2, 3-3): Simmons (714) over Toomey (630) out of 1763 ballots.

Cambridgeport (2-2, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3): Davis (835) over Simmons (585) out of 1811 ballots.

Riverside (4-1, 4-3, 8-3): Reeves (333) over Cheung (271) out of 808 ballots (a very small district).

Mid-Cambridge (4-2, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 7-3): Cheung (897) over Seidel (695) out of 2165 ballots.

Avon Hill & Agassiz (7-1, 7-2, 8-1, 10-2): Cheung (813) over Davis (609) out of 1697 ballots.

West Cambridge (8-2, 9-1, 9-2, 9-3): Maher (1258) over Cheung (1132) out of 2839 ballots.

North Cambridge (10-1, 10-3, 11-1, 11-2, 11-3): Cheung (1411) over Maher (990) out of 3124 ballots.

That takes care of all 33 precincts in the city. You can also look at various other "districts" to determine who might prevail as "mayor" using the 2011 ballots from those precincts. For example:

Greater Central Square (2-1, 3-2, 3-3, 4-1, 4-2, 5-1, 5-2, 6-1): Simmons (1618) over Cheung (1498) out of 4083 ballots.

Narrower Central Square (3-3, 4-2, 5-1): Cheung (562) over Simmons (523) out of 1420 ballots.
Note: The top five in the 1st Round were (in order): Cheung, vanBeuzekom, Simmons, Davis, and Reeves.

It should also be mentioned that if the 2011 City Council ballots from all 33 precincts (citywide) were used to elect a "mayor", the result would be:

Citywide (all 33 precincts): Cheung (6827) over Simmons (4586) out of 15,845 valid ballots (15,971 total).

If anyone would like me to investigate any other "districts", just let me know. I can also provide the full transfer reports for each of these artificial contests. – Robert Winters

There was a request to run the ballots for the 25th Middlesex House District (Alice Wolf’s seat), so here are the last few rounds of those results (5,342 valid ballots, 5,374 total):

Candidate Round 13 Round 14 Round 15 Round 16
Cheung, Leland 117 1445 268 1713 336 2049 318 2367 ELECTED
Davis, Henrietta 107 1020 134 1154 234 1388 369 1757 DEFEATED
Decker, Marjorie 117 838 55 893 116 1009 0
Seidel, Sam 93 779 105 884 0 0
vanBeuzekom, Minka 29 705 0 0 0

Of these, only Marjorie Decker lives in the district. – RW

August 5, 2012

Town and City (Forest City, that is) – Aug 6, 2012 Cambridge City Council Special Meeting Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:25 pm

Town and City (Forest City, that is) – Aug 6, 2012 Cambridge City Council Special Meeting Agenda Highlights

Last week’s annual Midsummer meeting unanimously resolved most of the pending zoning petitions before the City Council, but deliberation and a possible vote on the Forest City/MIT petition was delayed one week as late negotiations continued toward a possible resolution. Public comment at the July 30 meeting was remarkable in its alarmism, disregard for protocol, and distortion of facts. The bottom line is that Forest City could build a functional building right now within the constraints of existing zoning, but that building would contain no retail frontage on Mass. Ave. and provide no "community benefits" whatsoever other than expanding the number of jobs for biotech workers. The question to be answered by the City Council is whether they want to allow a relatively small increase in height (from 80 ft to 95 ft not including rooftop mechanicals that would be added either way) and additional floor area in exchange for a much improved retail corridor and guarantees of long-term affordability of existing housing at University Park and the promise of additional affordable units.

The greatest difficulty of this petition (and a related "Permanent Parking Petition" as well as another petition yet to come calling for no additional density increases anywhere in the city) is that it has been caught in the crosshairs of a political campaign. This was perhaps best captured by one July 30 commenter who matter-of-factly said to the city councillors that the real purpose of their petition was to buy time so that they could replace the City Council. Perhaps it is not such a wise move to instruct city councillors to support a petition that is supposedly designed to defeat them in the next municipal election.

In addition to some priceless communications from naysayers, the agenda for the Aug 6 Special Meeting really consists of just four items – three committee reports on the Forest City/MIT petition on Unfinished Business and a communication from Mayor Davis containing additional information on the University Park housing and a FAQ from the Community Development Department.
Full text of these documents (HTML)    Original (scanned PDF)

The Monday, Aug 6 meeting at City Hall starts at 7:30pm. – Robert Winters

Aug 6, 9:30pm update – The petition was allowed to expire without coming to a vote.

Mayor Henrietta Davis released the following statement (July 31, 2012):

I’m writing to update you on the status of the Forest City Zoning Petition.

Right now, without needing City Council permission, Forest City can build up to 80 feet and just under 139,000 square feet of space. They would not be required to provide ground floor retail or other benefits for the community. They are asking for an additional 15 feet in height and an additional 107,000 square feet to be used for lab space and ground floor retail.

Originally Forest City also proposed a high rise residential structure. I’m pleased to report that Forest City has removed this portion of the proposal, a residential tower at the corner of Sidney Street and Green Street that would have abutted the Mass Ave park and cast some shadows on Jill Brown-Rhone Park.

The most important news is that the Mayor’s Office is now working with representatives of Forest City and the Chair of the Ordinance Committee to address housing needs in other ways:

1. We are hoping Forest City will extend affordability on approximately over 150 units of housing in University Park by 50 years. The units are now set to lose their affordable status starting in the next decade.

2. It is also proposed the Forest City provide 20 new units of affordable housing, possibly in connection with a new housing development.

I appreciate that this had been a difficult and complex process for the community. In order to continue and possibly complete negotiations with Forest City, I have scheduled a special City Council meeting at City Hall for next Monday August 6 at 7:30 PM. The public is welcome to attend.

1. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting the following documents:
   • Communication from Assistant City Manager Brian Murphy transmitting the original Forest City housing commitment letter from 1988;
   • The Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District (CRDD) Affordable Housing FAQ; and
   • The Cambridge Revitalization Development District Affordability Requirements.
Full text of these documents (HTML)    Original (scanned PDF)

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