Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 28, 2013

Moving On – April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:10 pm

April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Here are the agenda items that seem interesting:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Maher has notified the City Clerk of his intention to move reconsideration on the vote taken on Apr 22, 2013 to adopt an order for a curb cut at the premises numbered 16 Channing Street.

I hope there was no premature rejoicing by Channing Street neighbors when this was voted last week with two councillors absent. The matter passed on a 4-3-2 vote, so it never achieved a majority of the full City Council. Regardless of the merits of the petition, its disposition should not be determined by the fact that two councillors had to be on Beacon Hill to vote on the State Budget. This deserved a proper vote and Councillor Maher has appropriately filed for Reconsideration.

Last week also saw the introduction of the City’s FY2014 Budget, and the following week’s agenda usually contains a number of Capital Budget orders in order to set the table prior to the annual Budget Hearings (Apr 30 and May 9). Here are this year’s Capital Budget items:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,180,000 to provide funds to supplement other financing sources for improvements to the Cambridge Common.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of several streets and sidewalks.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $54,658,000 to provide funds for construction of sewer separation, stormwater management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Harvard Square, Agassiz, and Cherry Street/South Massachusetts Avenue areas as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow an additional $500,000 to provide funds for improvements to the Kendall Square area including Main Street between Broadway and Ames Street including the reconstruction of streets and sidewalks and the installation of new pedestrian-scale public lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures.

It’s interesting to view these orders over the years as a measure of the gradual rebuilding of City assets. For example, last year’s Capital Budget orders totaled $17,442,670 for such things as replacement of the roofs on City Hall, and the Ryan Garage and Simard Buildings at Public Works; Kendall Square reconstruction of streets and sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures; acquisition of a ladder truck and pumper; synthetic field surfaces on the soccer fields at Danehy Park; and a variety of sewer separation and stormwater projects within the City’s Alewife watershed. This year’s appropriations are much greater and are dominated by sewers – things upon which we all depend but will likely never see.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $40,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account appropriation will fund the feasibility study for the Foundry building. Additional, this request is in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-87 and 12-105 as well as several other Council Orders related to this matter.

The Foundry Building in East Cambridge came to the City as a result of the Alexandria zoning petition. I have been told that the building has been available for occupancy and sitting vacant as potential revenue is lost and potential occupants have been waiting. Perhaps this appropriation together with some cooperation among city councillors will finally get things moving.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from Jenny Popper-Keizer, et al., requesting the City Council amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map from SD-8A to Residence C-1 in the area bounded by Allston Street to the north, Putnam Avenue to the south, Sidney Street to the west and Waverly Street to the east.

This petition is clearly inspired by the proposed housing development at 240 Sidney Street, 40 Allston Street, and 618 Grove Avenue that has already had a public hearing before the Planning Board. There’s an online petition that preceded the zoning petition that reads as follows: "Fulmore Park is the cornerstone of a family neighborhood with about 45 homes surrounding it. Most of these are triple deckers with a couple of two family homes thrown in. The development at 240 Sidney Street aims to build 107 apartment buildings [they meant to say "apartments"] along the eastern edge of the park. The units are studio, one and two bedroom apartments all meant for rental not to create owner-occupied or family friendly homes. This will irreversibly change the character of the neighborhood. ….. Adding more traffic to this street is not in the interest of public safety and should be disallowed. ….. Parking in the on-site garage is rented separately from the apartments. This will create a glut of new residents who choose the much less expensive resident permit rather than renting a spot in the garage of their building. Parking is already congested in the area and will become impossible if this is allowed to pass. Finally the developer has made no attempt to contact abutters to solicit feedback about the project before submitting the plans for approval. We cannot let developers slide by without proper community outreach."

The petition focuses on loss of parking, increased traffic, the somewhat vague "change the character of the neighborhood", and lack of sufficient process. The parking issue is interesting primarily because the developers sought from the Planning Board a reduction in required parking. There has been a curious mixture of actual trends and wishful thinking of late when it comes to the matter of parking for new residential developments. While it’s true that more households are going without cars, it’s a valid concern that when parking is not included in new housing, at least some of the new residents will store their cars on the streets ($25/year permit fee) instead of paying exorbitant fees to park on premises. Honestly, that’s what I would do. The claims of burdensome increases in traffic seem ill-founded. Residential developments generally don’t have major impacts on traffic, especially if many of the residents exhibit similar behavior to other Cambridge residents in walking and biking to work.

The "change the character of the neighborhood" concern is the one I find most interesting. Neighborhoods are more about people than buildings, so it’s a little hard to figure what kind of change is the offense here. Perhaps it’s the potential influx of young professionals (they give me the willies, too), but it’s probably the case that most of the new residents would be much like the people who have been bidding up and buying homes throughout Cambridgeport and the rest of Cambridge for the last decade and more. If that’s the objection, then it’s fair to say that this is not an issue of zoning.

Resolution #6. Resolution on the death of Krystle M. Campbell.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #7. Resolution on the death of Martin Richard.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #8. Resolution on the death of Lu Lingzi.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #11. Thanks to MIT and public safety officials who organized the memorial service for Officer Sean Collier and sympathy to MIT community in this time of loss.   Mayor Davis

The events of the last two weeks have hit most of us pretty close to home. In addition to the deaths of these four individuals, many have been maimed, including a number of Cambridge residents known to many of us. When the city was effectively shut down during the hunt for the surviving murderer, some people worried that we were in a "police state," but one friend of mine appropriately characterized it as "an act of mass cooperation with law enforcement." I think that captures it perfectly, and I hope that spirit of cooperation continues. This chapter began for me when, after an 8-mile hike with AMC Local Walks, I was under Copley Square when the bombs exploded. This past Saturday I led another AMC hike in the Middlesex Fells, and I’ve chosen to close this horrible chapter on that positive note. I hope we never have to go through anything like this again.

Order #1. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, the proposed changes to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance relating to rainwater separation in residential buildings.   Councillor Kelley

I’m pretty sure the genesis of this proposal was a request last year from one resident who wanted to replace his flat roof with a pitched roof. Overall, the proposed zoning change contains some interesting ideas and deserves consideration.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to clarify the expiration date for zoning petitions filed in the City of Cambridge – either 90 days from the date of the first City Planning Board meeting or 90 days from the first City Council Ordinance Committee meeting.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Let’s just make this simple. There is no need for further clarification. Simply propose a minor zoning amendment to change Section 1.52 of the City’s zoning ordinance to replace "within ninety (90) days after the Planning Board’s hearing" to "within ninety (90) days after the initial Ordinance Committee hearing". That makes the state law and the city ordinance consistent – problem solved.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to clarify whether private driveways and apartment garages may be rented to car owners that are unrelated to the property and by what process can these spaces be legally rented.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

The simple answer is that they generally cannot be rented, but we all know people who do rent them out. It’s one thing to let a friend or neighbor park in your driveway, but it’s a whole ‘nuther matter when you’re essentially running a commercial enterprise by deriving income in this manner. It also violates the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to provide to the Cambridge City Council an explanation of how the City of Cambridge Police Department and the FBI work together to collect and share local intelligence information and respond to reports on individuals that are identified as potential terrorists.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This should receive a fine response from Councillor Decker and the ACLU gang, but it’s a legitimate question and concern. – Robert Winters

April 22, 2013

The Bottom Line – April 22, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:54 am

This last week has been one of pure horror in Boston, Cambridge, Watertown and vicinity – the Marathon Day bombing that killed 3 people and maimed many others, the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier and subsequent carjacking, the gunfight in Watertown that put an end to one of the murderers, and finally the dramatic capture of the other murderer. The fact that these murderers have been living in Cambridge for the last decade and that one of them recently was awarded a scholarship from the City of Cambridge left many of us stunned. We now have some resolution as the investigation continues and charges are pending, but this was a week few of us will soon forget.

Life goes on, I guess, and so do civic affairs, including the following items of interest on Monday night’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the FY2014 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

Here’s a table showing the total proposed budget by department as well as the figures from last year and from 9 years ago together with percentage changes. Draw your own conclusions, but one thing that jumps out is the steep increase in public investment. We’ll get more details Monday night when the Budget Book is publicly available, but it’s likely that new school construction and ongoing sewer work will comprise a substantial part of the budgeted amount for public investment. On a minor note, how is $143,940 justified for maintaining the "Peace Commission?" Isn’t it about time we took another look at consolidating some of these non-regulatory, yet budgeted, boards and commissions?

City of Cambridge Budget Totals by Department – FY2014

GENERAL GOVERNMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Mayor$430,035$554,040$558,7850.929.9
Executive$1,353,140$2,068,675$2,008,150-2.948.4
City Council$975,570$1,642,165$1,683,1252.572.5
City Clerk$720,925$1,067,130$1,119,7654.955.3
Law$1,780,975$2,061,495$2,163,2404.921.5
Finance$8,837,560$12,350,575$13,292,3507.650.4
Employee Benefits$20,499,920$31,796,130$32,787,2003.159.9
General Services$984,345$726,475$732,6950.9-25.6
Election$756,540$1,004,285$1,013,5650.934.0
Public Celebrations$671,505$799,370$891,94511.632.8
Reserve$37,500$37,500$37,5000.00.0
TOTAL$37,048,015$54,107,840$56,288,3204.051.9
PUBLIC SAFETYFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Animal Commission$228,870$298,585$309,7003.735.3
Fire$28,891,840$40,111,145$43,350,2758.150.0
Police$31,515,220$45,643,095$47,186,0153.449.7
Traffic, Parking & Transportation$8,175,095$10,551,435$10,935,0153.633.8
Police Review & Advisory Board$77,210$70,730$73,4403.8-4.9
Inspectional Services$2,261,215$3,115,045$3,180,0452.140.6
License$726,735$986,140$1,030,9704.541.9
Weights & Measures$98,910$134,325$138,5403.140.1
Electrical$2,239,640$2,792,005$2,840,9101.826.8
Emergency Management$137,820$0  -100.0
Emergency Communications$3,097,485$4,242,970$4,434,4254.543.2
TOTAL$77,450,040$107,945,475$113,479,3355.146.5
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Public Works$23,648,125$31,945,265$32,859,6902.939.0
Community Development$4,472,620$5,482,210$5,676,3403.526.9
Historical Commission$457,580$587,025$632,9407.838.3
Conservation Commission$89,760$101,925$123,47021.137.6
Peace Commission$76,215$139,595$143,9403.188.9
Cable T.V.$999,500$1,436,360$1,474,7952.747.6
Debt Service$23,917,070$47,526,975$49,716,2504.6107.9
TOTAL$53,660,870$87,219,355$90,627,4253.968.9
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Library$5,461,430$8,710,520$8,946,3952.763.8
Human Services$14,581,590$22,480,760$23,155,0803.058.8
Women’s Commission$155,860$225,425$233,1153.449.6
Human Rights Commission$158,730$220,160$249,38013.357.1
Veterans$510,885$981,165$1,005,3752.596.8
TOTAL$20,868,495$32,618,030$33,589,3453.061.0
CITY TOTAL$189,027,420$281,890,700$293,984,4254.355.5
EDUCATIONFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL)$122,053,195$144,987,705$150,989,4454.123.7
INTERGOVERNMENTALFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
MWRA$16,177,455$21,006,055$21,346,8151.632.0
Cherry Sheet Assessments$11,569,960$19,700,025$20,126,9502.274.0
Cambridge Health Alliance$6,500,000$6,500,000$6,500,0000.00.0
TOTAL$34,247,415$47,206,080$47,973,7651.640.1
GRAND TOTALS$345,328,030$474,084,485$492,947,6354.042.7
 FY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
WATER$17,098,120$14,144,080$14,238,7000.7-16.7
PUBLIC INVESTMENT$8,834,255$21,277,065$92,715,930335.8949.5

There are also these items of interest, offered with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-03, regarding a report on the possibility of a gun buy-back program.

This is not recommended due to limited effectiveness and better alternatives.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-20, regarding a report on the feasibility of providing a service in which residents are able to look up their voter registration status online.

This is feasible and the City is looking into implementing it at some point in the near future.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the Gartner IT Strategic Plan report.

Seems like a good thing looking toward the future of "e-government", but I’ll need a robot to read the report for me.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties that the City of Cambridge consider the disposition of approximately 8,660 square feet of land on the east side of Ames Street between Main Street and Broadway to enable Boston Properties to develop residential uses on that site.

This is part of the fulfillment of a promised 200,000 square feet of housing, though it’s not clear if all of that is to be associated with this project. The proposed development will also include ground floor retail and is consistent with the City’s future plans for the reconfiguration and reconstruction of Ames Street.

Unfinished Business #16. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Council Order Numbers 13 and 14 of Mar 18, 2013, regarding revised zoning language to the Section 11.700 entitled Interim Regulations for Medical Marijuana Uses. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 15, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Jan 22, 2013. Petition expires Apr 22, 2013.

This interim measure is something of a formality and will likely be ordained at this meeting.

Resolution #2. Retirement of George Fernandes from the Electrical Department.   Mayor Davis

Don’t worry, we’ll turn off the lights at the end of the meeting. This is another significant retirement.

Resolution #24. Thanks to the City of Cambridge’s first responders for their assistance in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy.   Mayor Davis, Councillor Maher

When this resolution was filed, nobody knew just how significant a role the Cambridge Police and the MIT Police would play as events unfolded. We should salute all of the officers and other police personnel who were involved.

Order #1. That the City Council go on record urging the 113th Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform as outlined in this resolution that addresses (1) earned legalization with a path to citizenship; (2) updated future immigration of families and workers; and (3) improved immigration enforcement and border security that is consistent with our nation’s values.   Vice Mayor Simmons

This is, of course, a very large issue that should have been addressed directly some time ago, but it seems inevitable that the debate will now be influenced by the very small sample of events that unfolded here over this past week.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, City Clerk’s Office, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Cable TV Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee for a public meeting held on Apr 2, 2013 to discuss the ability of the City’s existing utility infrastructure to meet long-term increases in demand.

This was an interesting meeting about a topic that most people don’t even think about – utility infrastructure and capacity. The report is very informative.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking.

This is a good idea and overdue, though the proposal really doesn’t go far enough. As proposed, bicycle parking would be mandatory for most new residential and commercial developments, but it fails to address major renovation of existing residential buildings. Multi-family houses with existing basement space suitable for bicycle storage are being turned into million-dollar condos and these projects should be subject to the same regulations as new developments.

Though not on the agenda, I do hope some brave councillor speaks to the now obvious value of surveillance cameras as an important tool in protecting public safety. A Late Order empowering the City Manager and the Cambridge Police Department to switch on the equipment already installed would be a nice gesture. – Robert Winters

April 21, 2013

The Bottom Line – City of Cambridge Budget Totals by Department – FY2014

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 2:58 am
GENERAL GOVERNMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Mayor$430,035$554,040$558,7850.929.9
Executive$1,353,140$2,068,675$2,008,150-2.948.4
City Council$975,570$1,642,165$1,683,1252.572.5
City Clerk$720,925$1,067,130$1,119,7654.955.3
Law$1,780,975$2,061,495$2,163,2404.921.5
Finance$8,837,560$12,350,575$13,292,3507.650.4
Employee Benefits$20,499,920$31,796,130$32,787,2003.159.9
General Services$984,345$726,475$732,6950.9-25.6
Election$756,540$1,004,285$1,013,5650.934.0
Public Celebrations$671,505$799,370$891,94511.632.8
Reserve$37,500$37,500$37,5000.00.0
TOTAL$37,048,015$54,107,840$56,288,3204.051.9
PUBLIC SAFETYFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Animal Commission$228,870$298,585$309,7003.735.3
Fire$28,891,840$40,111,145$43,350,2758.150.0
Police$31,515,220$45,643,095$47,186,0153.449.7
Traffic, Parking & Transportation$8,175,095$10,551,435$10,935,0153.633.8
Police Review & Advisory Board$77,210$70,730$73,4403.8-4.9
Inspectional Services$2,261,215$3,115,045$3,180,0452.140.6
License$726,735$986,140$1,030,9704.541.9
Weights & Measures$98,910$134,325$138,5403.140.1
Electrical$2,239,640$2,792,005$2,840,9101.826.8
Emergency Management$137,820$0  -100.0
Emergency Communications$3,097,485$4,242,970$4,434,4254.543.2
TOTAL$77,450,040$107,945,475$113,479,3355.146.5
COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Public Works$23,648,125$31,945,265$32,859,6902.939.0
Community Development$4,472,620$5,482,210$5,676,3403.526.9
Historical Commission$457,580$587,025$632,9407.838.3
Conservation Commission$89,760$101,925$123,47021.137.6
Peace Commission$76,215$139,595$143,9403.188.9
Cable T.V.$999,500$1,436,360$1,474,7952.747.6
Debt Service$23,917,070$47,526,975$49,716,2504.6107.9
TOTAL$53,660,870$87,219,355$90,627,4253.968.9
HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENTFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Library$5,461,430$8,710,520$8,946,3952.763.8
Human Services$14,581,590$22,480,760$23,155,0803.058.8
Women’s Commission$155,860$225,425$233,1153.449.6
Human Rights Commission$158,730$220,160$249,38013.357.1
Veterans$510,885$981,165$1,005,3752.596.8
TOTAL$20,868,495$32,618,030$33,589,3453.061.0
CITY TOTAL$189,027,420$281,890,700$293,984,4254.355.5
EDUCATIONFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
Schools Operating (TOTAL)$122,053,195$144,987,705$150,989,4454.123.7
INTERGOVERNMENTALFY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
MWRA$16,177,455$21,006,055$21,346,8151.632.0
Cherry Sheet Assessments$11,569,960$19,700,025$20,126,9502.274.0
Cambridge Health Alliance$6,500,000$6,500,000$6,500,0000.00.0
TOTAL$34,247,415$47,206,080$47,973,7651.640.1
GRAND TOTALS$345,328,030$474,084,485$492,947,6354.042.7
 FY05 submittedFY13 submittedFY14 submitted1 yr % change9 yr % change
WATER$17,098,120$14,144,080$14,238,7000.7-16.7
PUBLIC INVESTMENT$8,834,255$21,277,065$92,715,930335.8949.5

April 20, 2013

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. — Blaise Pascal

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:33 am

April 20 – Those who murdered and maimed at the Boston Marathon and who subsequently murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier have now been killed or captured. Cambridge, Watertown, and surrounding areas are no longer in a state of siege. There are a few things that come to mind now that I’ve finally been able to sleep after this ordeal.

  • There should now be no doubt that surveillance cameras are valuable tools for identifying criminals and helping to bring them to justice. Elected officials who fail to understand this should not be elected. The argument that these cameras infringe on civil liberties is an argument I no longer wish to hear.
  • If ever there was any doubt that the dissemination of local news is important, this should no longer be in doubt. How that information is distributed is rapidly evolving, but it now clearly includes such tools as Twitter and other forms of social media. It’s also clear that when so many people are taking part in the rapid exchange of information, it’s important that everyone understands that there have to be some rules, especially regarding things that could make it more difficult for the police and other officials to do their work. Those rules are not yet established, but experiences like this help to create them.
  • I greatly appreciated all of the people I know who openly expressed their anger and their unvarnished points of view during this ordeal. I find honesty very refreshing. What I despise is when the thought police try to dictate what emotions you’re allowed to have. Put it all out there, folks. Repressing your honest thoughts is like stifling a sneeze.
  • To all the conspiracy theorists with their "false flags" and other rubbish, get a life. – Robert Winters

April 16, 2013

Cambridge Delegation Announces Ethanol Train Meeting (Tues, Apr 16, 2013)

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:10 pm

Cambridge’s legislative delegation invites residents, property owners, and local organizations to participate in a public forum about a proposed plan to transport ethanol through the City of Cambridge by rail. The forum will be held Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 6:00PM at the King Open School, 850 Cambridge St., Cambridge. Representatives from MassDOT will present the findings of their ethanol safety study at this meeting, followed by an opportunity for a dialogue between the public and elected officials.

“Ethanol is a highly volatile substance, and this proposal presents a clear and present public safety risk for the people of Cambridge. Without concerted action, the burden of emergency preparedness will fall on Cambridge taxpayers, while a Fortune 500 company pads its profits,” Representative Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. said.  “I hope that everyone who has an interest in the future of Cambridge will attend this meeting.”

“Public safety and the environment remain central issues in the shipment of ethanol through the Commonwealth,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “I continue to stand in opposition to the issuance of the Chapter 91 license to Global and I am committed to working with my fellow legislators in assuring that our public safety officers are prepared to protect our communities.”

“The plan to bring ethanol via train through Cambridge raises serious public safety concerns and potential negative environmental impacts for its residents and for the residents of its surrounding communities,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico. “Ethanol is a highly flammable liquid, and this project will greatly increase the risk of spills, releases, and fires along the route in which the 1.8-million-gallon ethanol-carrying train would pass. I urge all residents to attend the meeting to learn more about these risks and how they can be mitigated. We need answers to these serious questions.”

“Running trains carrying ethanol through densely populated residential neighborhoods carries serious potential consequences,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen. “Cambridge residents should take this opportunity to learn more about the process and ramifications of the proposal, and have their voices heard.”

“This meeting is a great opportunity for residents to learn about MassDOT’s safety study and to speak directly with their legislators about how we can stand together to oppose this plan,” said Representative Marjorie Decker. “Please attend this vitally important meeting.”

Representative David Rogers said, “Shipping ethanol through Cambridge will create an unacceptable transfer of risk from a private company to the general public. I am concerned about both the potential for a catastrophe and the ongoing financial cost to the City of Cambridge.”

This meeting will be hosted by the Cambridge delegation, which includes Representatives Toomey, Decker, Rogers, and Hecht and Senators Petruccelli, Jehlen, and DiDomenico.

MassDOT’s ethanol safety study and related documents can be found at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/planning/Main/CurrentStudies/EthanolSafetyStudy.aspx

Any questions regarding the meeting may be directed to Dan Weber at Daniel.Weber@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.


UPDATE: Cambridge Ethanol Train Meeting Agenda Changed, MassDOT Safety Study Presentation Being Rescheduled

Due to the tragic and disturbing nature of the events that occurred at yesterday’s (Apr 15) Boston Marathon, the Cambridge state legislative delegation has chosen to abbreviate this meeting regarding the transportation of ethanol that was originally planned for 6pm this evening at the King Open School. The delegation has decided that it will go forward with the meeting in a shortened format, and will postpone the presentation of a Massachusetts Department of Transportation safety study by Department officials. Residents who still wish to attend will have an opportunity to discuss their questions and comments with their elected representatives. Residents who attend the meeting will also be able to obtain copies of MassDOT’s safety study presentation. The Cambridge delegation plans to reschedule a full meeting with Department of Transportation officials and will announce the rescheduled meeting’s date, time, and location in the coming days.

Once Upon a Marathon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:09 am

Green Building at MITApril 16, 2013 – I led an 8-mile AMC Local Walk yesterday from the Forest Hills T station to Heartbreak Hill where we then watched the Marathon runners before heading back into Boston. After a walk from the Boston College area to the Reservoir stop on the Green Line, several of us were packed into a trolley heading toward Park Street. We never arrived. We were approximately under the Copley Square station when the bombs exploded above us. I didn’t hear them, but when we were evacuated at Arlington Street you could tell that something was extremely wrong. When we got out into the street there were emergency vehicles racing from everywhere. At first nobody knew what was happening. When word started to spread that there had been a bombing, it was accompanied by word that it had been a diversion and that other bombings might follow. There was a lot of worry in the faces of most people. Thankfully, no other bombs followed.

Though I was pretty tired after walking perhaps 9 miles already, I had to then hike over to the Charles/MGH station to get back to Cambridge. Near MGH you could see hospital staff running toward MGH as the ambulances were arriving. I was practically the only one not staring into a cell phone or texting messages to people. It was surreal. From Central Square, yet more walking to get home and even in Cambridge you could see and hear the emergency vehicles racing toward Boston and toward suspicious sites in Cambridge. Like everyone else, watching the TV was like watching a horror movie.

Today I’m reading messages from politicians trying to get in air time. Spare me. Like millions of people in this area, I don’t want to hear any more messages from politicians expressing concern. I don’t want to hear about peace vigils or about why we should not give in to fear. Any fear passed quickly for most people. I want only that justice be done. Any person or group of people who would do such a thing should be treated like a disease and removed from the civilized world. Any philosophy or ideology espoused by such people should be damned. – Robert Winters

April 10, 2013

“A Better Future for A Better Cambridge” – updated

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,Kendall Square,planning — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 2:45 pm

How can we plan for urban growth in Cambridge to promote a more diverse, livable, and sustainable city for all residents?

An esteemed panel will address the coming demographic shifts that will put further pressure on the Cambridge’s housing market and our transportation systems, and talk about solutions that can make Cambridge a leader in defining a new urban America in the age of climate change.

  • Frederick P. Salvucci, Former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation and current MIT Professor of Civil Engineering
  • Barry Bluestone, Founding director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University
  • Amy Cotter, Director of Regional Plan Implementation for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)

Moderated by Renee Loth, Editor at ArchitectureBoston and former Editorial Page Editor for the Boston Globe.

Thursday, April 11th
7:00PM
Cambridge College
1000 Massachusetts Ave.

All are welcome! Please register online to let us know you’ll be participating in the discussion: http://abettercambridge.org/register-forum

Sponsored by A Better Cambridge | Working to build a more diverse and dynamic Cambridge on the path toward sustainable growth.

Web: http://abettercambridge.com | Facebook: http://facebook.com/ABetterCambridge | Twitter: @ABetterCambMA

April 9, 2013

MIT/Kendall Night at City Hall – Apr 8, 2013 City Council meeting (updated)

Filed under: City Council,Kendall Square,MIT — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:40 am

MIT/Kendall Night at City Hall – Apr 8, 2013 City Council meeting

Though there are a few other items on the agenda, this meeting is clearly centered on the potential ordination of the MIT/Kendall zoning petition that was introduced in December 2012, but which has actually been around, debated, and refined since its original introduction over two years ago. There have been many meetings of the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board on the substance of this petition plus volumes of input from the public.

The central agenda item is this:

Unfinished Business #15. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Mar 7, 2013 to continue discussions on the petition by MIT to create a new Section 13.80 Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District; specifically to discuss Uses, Incentive Zoning, Community Fund, Housing and Sustainability. A presentation will be made by the Executive Director of Historical Commission on historic building. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 1, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Jan 15, 2013. Petition expires Apr 15, 2013.

A related Order from Councillor Decker highlights one feature that is now part of the revised language of the petition:

Order #1. That the text of the MIT Zoning Petition be amended to increase the inclusionary housing from 15% to 18%.   Councillor Decker

The last Ordinance Committee report on this matter is this:

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Apr 2, 2013 to continue discussion on the petition by MIT to create a new Section 13.80 Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District; said report contains text of zoning language with changes since the Planning Board referral and a draft letter of commitment.

Though there may be other efforts to amend the proposed zoning amendment on the floor, the latest version as submitted is here:

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Councillor David Maher transmitting additional information received from Steven C. Marsh, Managing Director, Real Estate MITIMCo., regarding the MIT revised draft zoning amendment, a revised commitment letter and a table providing an overview of the public benefits contained in the revised commitment letter and the revised draft zoning ordinance amendments. [HTML Version of Revised Petition & Letter of Commitment]

There is much that could be said at this point about the MIT/Kendall Petition. In spite of questionable claims of MIT faculty opposition to the proposal, most of the letters from the MIT faculty and administration have shown clear support. Many of the suggestions of the East Cambridge Planning Team have been incorporated into the proposal. There are legitimate arguments that can be made in favor of MIT providing additional housing for graduate students and post-docs, but there is no reason why that housing should be located in Kendall Square. There is also an ongoing analysis within MIT to determine the best ways to address these housing needs, and there is every reason to believe that MIT will act in good faith to ultimately do what’s in the best interest of its students. This may well mean that new housing will be constructed at the opposite end of the MIT campus.

The arguments of naysayers as this matter heads into its final stage have focused on two red herrings – graduate student housing and claims that the plan does not mandate sufficient "sustainability" requirements. When you consider the fact that none of the new buildings in this PUD-5 zone have actually yet been designed, it makes you wonder what blueprints these naysayers have been consulting. The misinformation has all the earmarks of political organizing during a municipal election year.

On balance, the MIT/Kendall Petition, as amended, is a good plan and it should be ordained. MIT has responded well to most of the requests of City staff and the elected officials. If two-thirds of the City Council see fit to pass the zoning amendment, they should be congratulated for keeping their eye on the many positive benefits of the plan and for navigating wisely through a sea of misinformation spread by reactionaries and political wannabes. There’s more to being a good elected official than just being able to say NO to everything. – Robert Winters


Apr 8 update on the MIT/Kendall Petition

The MIT/Kendall zoning petition was ordained as amended on a 7-1-1 vote with Councillor vanBeuzekom voting NO (as expected) and Vice Mayor Simmons voting PRESENT. The revised Letter of Commitment from MIT was approved unanimously.

Prior to final ordination a series of amendments were proposed by several councillors. Councillor Kelley objected strenuously to the late arrival of the proposed amendments and, in doing so, he came across as the smartest guy in the room. There were so many opportunities to propose amendments during the months, weeks, and days leading to this vote, that there was no excuse for trying to rush these amendments through. Nothing good came of it.

The late parade of amendments began with Councillor Cheung proposing some modifications of the percentages in section 13.83.2(d). This squeaked by on a 5-4 vote with Councillors Cheung, Decker, Reeves, Simmons, and vanBeuzekom voting in favor. Next came Councillor Cheung’s amendment to increase the maximum height of the proposed residential tower from 300 ft. to 350 ft. That failed on a 4-5 vote with Councillors Cheung, Reeves, Simmons, and vanBeuzekom voting in favor.

Then Councillor vanBeuzekom proposed a reduction in the maximum permissible nighttime noise levels from 65db to 55db. Councillor Kelley opined that this was a matter that should be viewed in a citywide context. The amendment failed 4-5 with Councillors Cheung, Simmons, vanBeuzekom, and Mayor Davis voting in favor. The next amendment by Councillor vanBeuzekom to require "net zero" energy standards enjoyed a temporary victory on a 5-3-1 vote with Councillors Cheung, Decker, Simmons, vanBeuzekom, and Mayor Davis voting YES; Councillors Kelley, Maher, and Toomey voting NO; and Councillor Reeves voting PRESENT. Later in the meeting, when informed that this burden could threaten MIT’s other commitments, Mayor Davis reluctantly asked to change her vote from YES to PRESENT which defeated the amendment 4-3-2. This was a vote change that Mayor Davis clearly did not relish, but she did it for the greater goal of passing the entire package.

The last amendment was from Councillor Decker and will likely be the one that brings some repercussions. She proposed that the $10 million that was to be dedicated to a Community Fund be transferred to a general mitigation fund not tied in any way to the K2C2 principles. It is my understanding that this has the effect of cutting out the role of people from the adjacent neighborhood organizations in the mitigation fund. The amendment passed on a 5-4 vote with Councillors Cheung, Decker, Reeves, Simmons, and vanBeuzekom voting in favor.

It was also revealed that Councillor Decker’s Order #1 to increase the Inclusionary Zoning percentage from 15% to 18% was meant to be a citywide proposal. She withdrew her Order and will resubmit it as a citywide proposal at a later date. – RW

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