Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 10, 2013

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 25 and 26: Focus on Porter Square

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:12 pm

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 25 and 26: Focus on Porter Square
with guest John Howard, President of the Porter Square Neighborhood Association

Broadcast Dec 10, 2013 at 5:30pm:

Broadcast Dec 10, 2013 at 6:00pm:

December 9, 2013

10th Count complete – Cambridge City Council Recount

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 5:35 pm

They’re cruising along. This how far they got before closing up shop today around 5:00pm.

I’m getting some of the numbers 2nd hand, so I hope this is all correct. I’ll check and correct later, if necessary.


FaTeague – Dec 9, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:21 pm

FaTeague – Dec 9, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda

There are basically two noteworthy items on this week’s agenda and both of them relate to Kendall Square. The first is the Ames Street Land Disposition. There’s a public hearing at 6:30pm on the proposal by the City of Cambridge to sell a 20-foot wide strip of public land along the eastern edge of Ames Street between Main Street and Broadway in Kendall Square. The land would be sold to a private owner with the condition that it would be combined with adjacent land to enable the construction of a residential building with ground floor retail. The public hearing is being held pursuant to the requirements of Section 2.110.010 of the Cambridge Municipal Code, regarding Disposition of City Property. [text from the call of the meeting]

The Cambridge Revelopment Authority (CRA) supports the plan as does the Planning Board as indicated in:

City Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation supporting the proposed Ames Street Land Disposition.

Date: Dec 3, 2013
Subject: Ames Street Land Disposition
Recommendation: The Planning Board supports the proposed disposition.

To the Honorable, the City Council,

The Planning Board recommends that the land disposition proceed in accordance with the terms outlined in the City Manager’s Nov 18, 2013 report, the attached Request for Proposals and the winning proposal submitted by Boston Properties Limited Partnership.

The Board finds that the report adequately and correctly summarizes all of the considerations with regard to the land disposition. The proposal has many significant benefits to the City, including the addition of new housing to Kendall Square and the activation of the streetscape with ground-floor retail and small open spaces on Ames Street. The financial arrangements will also benefit the City, as the report indicates that the price offered for the Property is within the range of the City’s independent appraisals, that the buyer will also assume responsibility for public roadway improvements associated with the project, and that the project will generate ongoing tax revenue for the City. The report also indicates some potential drawbacks of the proposed project, such as shadow impacts, which will be assessed by the Planning Board as part of its project review requirements.

Taking into account all considerations with regard to this disposition, the Planning Board finds that it is an appropriate action to be taken by the City.

Respectfully submitted for the Planning Board,
Hugh Russell, Chair

Most reasonable people, including most or all of the city councillors, will likely agree with the assessment of the Planning Board. Nonetheless, the hearing is likely to bring out those who continue to object to last year’s approval of the downsizing of a rooftop garden in exchange for a greatly extended time during which it will be maintained for public access (an additional 28 years). Some will likely testify that this is some kind of scandalous giveaway to big, bad corporations. Others will argue that the City should somehow try to leverage the delivery of All That Is Good in exchange for this unimportant strip of the public way. This is nothing but bad political theater.

Communication #3. A communication was received from Charles Teague, 23 Edmunds Street transmitting his reply to Cambridge City Council response on Open Meeting Law Complaint dated Nov 5, 2013.

Carlone AccusesSpeaking of bad political theater, the meaningless saga continues of the unhappy activist filing Open Meeting Law complaints when votes don’t go his way. This week’s agenda brings a tedious 76 page communication from Charles Teague, the new right-hand-man of Councillor-Elect Dennis "Pearl Harbor" Carlone. The thought that this kind of pointless harassment may become the norm for the new City Council is enough to drive away even long-term Council-watchers like me. Is this what civic activism has degenerated into? Will every significant City Council vote now be subject to complaints filed with state agencies?

In baseball, when the 3rd out is registered in the bottom of the 9th, you accept your loss and head for the locker room. You don’t file a protest with the Baseball Commissioner. The antics of Teague and company are the civic equivalent of bad sportsmanship, and this may soon become the norm.

You can never predict how an idiotic complaint like this will ultimately turn out, but the incident that was the subject of the complaint is simple to describe:

(a) MIT filed several iterations of a zoning petition for an area in and around Kendall Square where MIT owns a significant amount of property. The petition went through many public hearings before finally coming to a vote on Apr 8, 2013.

(b) During the weeks and months leading up to ordination, MIT representatives met with all of the city councillors and developed a memorandum of understanding that included substantial commitments.

(c) Prior to final ordination on the night of the vote, a series of amendments were proposed by several councillors. Councillor Kelley objected strenuously to the late arrival of the proposed amendments. 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.

  One such proposed amendment by Councillor vanBeuzekom would have required "net zero" energy standards on any new buildings. This 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. This led to very clear expressions from MIT representatives that such a requirement would invalidate the commitments to which they had previously agreed. This was communicated to Councillor Maher and through him to Mayor Davis. 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. All of this took place in full view of the public.

(d) The MIT/Kendall zoning petition was then ordained 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.

There was NOTHING unusual in what transpired that evening. However, a photograph of MIT representatives explaining their position to Councillor Maher was used to claim that some sort of shenanigans had taken place. This led to a complaint being filed long after the period for such complaints had expired. The City Clerk and City Solicitor drafted a response that was approved by the City Council, and we now get this 76 page followup from the disgruntled political activist.

Many people have noted that the current City Council has at times engaged in pointless interpersonal bickering, and this is fair criticism. However, unless some of the newly elected councillors and the incumbent councillors take some affirmative action early in the 2014-15 term to set a good tone, we may find ourselves looking back longingly toward the relative peace and harmony of the 2012-13 City Council. – Robert Winters

December 7, 2013

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 7, 5:15pm)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,City Council,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 3:56 pm
Changes in Cheung Surplus Transfer (Official to Recount)
Candidate   expected   Official   Recount   Gain 
Kelley, Craig 66 74 65 -9
Maher, David 63 68 69 +1
vanBeuzekom, Minka  60 64 56 8
McGovern, Marc 64 61 60 -1
Simmons, Denise 47 49 51 +2
Reeves, Ken 46 37 46 +9
Seidel, Sam 40 37 47 +10
Mazen, Nadeem 33 36 41 +5
Smith, Jefferson 31 28 26 -2
Benzan, Dennis 24 25 20 -5
Carlone, Dennis 27 25 21 -4
Toomey, Tim 26 24 24 0
von Hoffmann, Kristen 19 20 20 0
House, Janneke 26 19 21 +2
Lee, James 10 10 11 +1
Leslie, Logan 10 10 14 +4
Vasquez, Luis 7 9 11 +2
Phillips, Lesley 4 7 4 -3
Mirza, Mushtaque 6 5 4 -1
Mello, Gary 3 4 5 +1
Williamson, James 2 2 0 -2
Moree, Gregg J.  0 1 0 -1
Yarden, Elie 1 1 0 -1
Peden, Ron 2 0 1 +1
write-ins 0 0 0 0
Total surplus 617 616 617 1
Dec 7 Update: Based on that actual ballot data, the expected
values for the surplus transfers are shown in the 1st column.

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 7, 5:15pm)

The distribution of Leland Cheung’s 617 surplus ballots was completed today. There were a few big swings in the number of ballots transferred to particular candidates, but it appears at this point unlikely that there will be any change in who will ultimately be elected.

The candidates who gained the most in the new surplus distribution are Sam Seidel (+10) and Ken Reeves (+9), though neither will ultimately benefit from these gains. Nadeem Mazen also picked up an additional 5 ballots. The candidates who suffered the greatest loss from Original Count to Recount are Craig Kelley (–9) and Minka vanBeuzekom (–8). Dennis Carlone also lost 4 ballots in this surplus distribution.

What this basically means is that the likely outcome when this gets to the deciding round (the 17th Count this time) will be that Craig Kelley and Nadeem Mazen should have approximately the same number of ballots (7th and 8th place) followed by Dennis Carlone (9th place); and the gap between Carlone and Minka vanBeuzekom will likely be greater than in the original count.

Perhaps the only uncertainty in this may be in how the additional ballots picked up by Sam Seidel and Ken Reeves may eventually find their way to the continuing candidates when they are counted out in the 15th and 16th Counts.

It was anticipated that as soon as Leland Cheung’s surplus distribution was made official, the election workers would commence the counting out of candidates with fewer than 50 ballots (Gregg Moree), then Ron Peden, then James Williamson. This all depended upon how far they would get before the expected close of the day at around 5:00pm, but they never got past the 2nd Count. The counting out of minor candidates will begin Monday morning at 8:30am. The ballots of most, but not all, of the continuing candidates have already been matched and sequenced in accordance with the original count, so many of the next few rounds should go relatively quickly. – Robert Winters

December 6, 2013

RECOUNT UPDATE (Dec 6, 2013)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:29 pm


Dec 6 – The 2013 Cambridge City Council Election Recount finished its fifth day today. The distribution and counting of ballots according to #1 Votes was completed early in the day and the results announced (see below). The rest of the day was dedicated to matching Leland Cheung’s #1 paper ballots with replica ballots created from the official electronic record of his #1 votes. This is necessary prior to any drawing and distribution of surplus ballots to other candidates (2nd Count) because of the legal requirement that ballot transfers must follow the same course as in the official results unless the discovery of an error warrants otherwise.

The matching of ballots and ballot records will continue on Saturday and, hopefully, the 2nd Count will then be carried out. Once that is complete, most of the uncertainty about the eventual election outcome will be removed since subsequent transfer rounds as candidates are defeated should proceed more or less as they did in the Official Count. The matching of paper ballots and ballot records will occur in later rounds whenever ballot order is relevant. – Robert Winters

Revised Ward & Precinct Totals for City Council Election (Recount)

Differences between Official Results (Nov 15) and Recount

Recount - Photo by Tom Stohlman
panoramic photo by Tom Stohlman

December 4, 2013

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 23 and 24

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 23 – The Recount Commences. Broadcast Dec 3, 2013, 5:30pm.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 24 – Looking Deeper at the Ballot Data. Broadcast Dec 3, 2013, 6:00pm.

December 1, 2013

Home Stretch – Dec 2, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Home Stretch – Dec 2, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

This Monday should be an interesting day. The City Council Recount commences at 8:30am at the Moore Youth Center (12 Gilmore St. by Hoyt Field), and at 5:30pm the City Council will meet in City Hall at the same time the Central Square Advisory Committee will be meeting next door in the Lombardi Building to hear testimony and discuss a housing proposal for 10 Essex Street. [The Planning Board will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the same proposal.]

There’s not a single City Council Order on the agenda this week, but there are a few noteworthy items as the 2012-13 City Council heads into its final month.

Central SquareManager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Council Order No. 28, dated Sept 9, 2013, regarding establishing a committee to monitor the progress of the non-zoning recommendations of the C2 Committee.

The proposal is to fold consideration of the non-zoning C2 recommendations into the scope of the existing Central Square Advisory Committee which has been around since the creation of the Central Square Overlay District over two decades ago. This will coincide with upcoming appointments to the committee to bring it back up to the 9 members specified in the ordinance. The zoning-related recommendations of the C2 Committee (as developed by CDD staff) will likely be where most of any controversy will play itself out, but the non-zoning recommendations will have a lot to do with defining the fabric of Central Square in the sense of "place-making."

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, regarding the creation of a short term task force that will consider drafting a municipal ordinance related to outdoor lighting.

The Teague Petition on this subject may have died last year due to its shortcomings, but a task force was promised to come up with a more appropriate proposal. These appointments mark the beginning of that process. Recommendations are anticipated in the spring. It’s not surprising that Charles Teague is one of the appointed members, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he can work cooperatively with the other 11 appointees. As with most things it’s better to have a balanced committee that can gather input from all stakeholders. This also applies to the soon-to-be-appointed "Net Zero" task force.

Unfinished Business #13. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 7, 2013 on the petition received from Boston Properties to amend the Zoning Ordinances and Zoning Map in the Ames Street area. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 2, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Nov 12, 2013. Petition expires Feb 5, 2014.

Communications #2. A communication was received from Kathleen Born, Chair, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board transmitting the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Support for Boston Properties Ames Street Zoning Petition including a response to a request from the Ordinance Committee regarding fast food permits for the MXD District together with a Letter of Intent for the Ames Street Housing Project between the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and Boston Properties Limited Partnership.

The Ames Street Zoning Petition has another City Council hearing scheduled for Dec 9, so this matter won’t be voted until at least then. The communication from CRA Chair Kathy Born provides some details behind various provisions in the petition which is primarily about facilitating construction of housing on this stretch of Ames Street.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 20, 2013 to discuss a petition by the City Manager to amend the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to define and list Registered Marijuana Dispensary, delete Section 11.700 and create a new Section 20.700 entitled Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts.

The proposed ordinance change is now taking shape, but it’s probably a good idea to think of this in conjunction with proposed statewide ballot questions that could potentially legalize marijuana outright. It would be reasonable to speculate that regulations now being developed for dispensaries would become the basis for future regulations for general sale of this drug should any such ballot questions prevail.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 21, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on a zoning petition filed by Christopher H. Lutz, et al requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by rezoning an area on the northern border of Richdale Avenue from Upland Road to Walden Street from its C1-A designation to residential C-1.

There’s not much to say about this except to note that the petition arose from a proposed redevelopment of the former Hathaway Bakery on Richdale Ave. for up to 54 units of new housing. Because the petition is opposed by owners of more than 20% of the affected area, it will require 7 votes out of 9 city councillors to pass the petition. As this may be difficult to achieve, it may well be the case that negotiation will be the preferred course of action for those unhappy with the proposed development. – Robert Winters

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