Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 31, 2015

Web page includes two videos of Cambridge bicycle infrastructure

Please check out this Web page,with two of four videos illustrating exciting new developments in Cambridge bicycle infrastructure. Can you identify the locations?

Exciting new technology demonstrated at a Cambridge bicycle facility.

Exciting new technology demonstrated at a Cambridge bicycle facility.

Save

March 29, 2015

Out Like a Lamb – What’s Happenin’ at the March 30, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Out Like a Lamb – What’s Happenin’ at the March 30, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Out Like a LambAs this brutal winter stumbles to a welcome end, the City Council meets on Monday to do its thing. Here are a few noteworthy items (at least to this Council watcher).:

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a rescission of the remaining amount of the loan order ($1,600,000) authorized by the City Council on Feb 13, 2012 for the renovations to the original police station at Five Western Avenue.

How can you not like it when a project comes in $1.6 million under budget?

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-07, regarding a report on variance requests and application results since January, 2010. [really big attachment]

I’m reminded of the time several summers ago when a City Council request for information from the Police Department yielded a stack of paper several feet high resting on Councillor Kelley’s desk. This is just a PDF file and not nearly as voluminous, but it always reminds me that you shouldn’t ask for information that requires some effort to generate unless you have some notion of what you’d like to do with that information once you get it. This request came from an Order by Councillor Kelley that was adopted on Feb 20, 2015. If the goal is to identify shortcomings in the Zoning Ordinance that routinely lead to many requests for variances, that would be a useful exercise that might warrant some tweaks to the Zoning Ordinance. It’s just as likely that the intention might be to crack down on variances without examining why people seek them in the first place.


Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of members of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Committees for two year terms, effective Apr 1, 2015.

Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on the status of the Pearl Street reconstruction project.

I occasionally wonder what would happen if someone like me who questions some of the bicycling infrastructure decisions made internally by the City were to apply to be on the Bicycle Committee. My sense is that diversity of opinion is not welcome on that particular committee and that applicants are screened accordingly. Regarding the Pearl Street project, I fear that the plan is to wait out the opposition and proceed with the elimination of curbside parking when the best opportunity arises – regardless of need or the preferences of abutters.


Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the recommendation from the Planning Board to approve 1) the disposition of the leasehold interest in the Foundry Building; and 2) a diminution of the disposition process as it relates to the provision of a traffic study and provision of real estate appraisals of the Foundry Building.

Unfinished Business #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on the Foundry Building process, including the City’s plans to collaborate with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (the "CRA") to redevelop the Foundry building in a way that meets the vision and objectives expressed by the City Council and the community…

It’s good to see some progress on the Foundry matter. I really don’t know what balance will ultimately be struck among the competing interests and financial constraints associated with this building, but at least things are moving forward. It’s great to see how the revitalized Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is playing an active role in this and other initiatives.


Unfinished Business #11. 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 Dec 19, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on an amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.67 entitled relating to Plastic Bag Reduction. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 24, 2014.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 12, 2015 to discuss amendments and other related documents associated with the plastic bags ordinance.

It’s likely that this proposed ordinance will be voted at this meeting. The essential elements are that (1) plastic checkout bags would be banned in Cambridge (which won’t affect those of us who shop almost exclusively in Somerville and Everett), (2) a mandatory fee of at least 10¢ will be charged for every paper bag used at checkout (not sure what this means regarding single- vs. double-bagging), and (3) a minimum thickness (3 mils) will be established for what constitutes an approved reusable bag. There are only limited provisions for exemptions.

Personally I use only reusable bags and have done so for years. I imagine most municipal election candidates this year will be distributing reusable bags emblazoned with their names and the usual #1 Vote request. Perhaps I’ll vote for candidates based on who provides the most durable shopping bags. Councillor Toomey was way ahead of everyone last time in this regard.


Unfinished Business #13. That any committee report that has not been signed by the Chair of the committee within seven days after submission of the committee report by the City Clerk be placed on the City Council Agenda unsigned. Order Number Eight of Mar 2, 2015 Referred to Unfinished Business.

It’s interesting how many committee reports have been submitted since this proposal was submitted by Councillor Toomey. Anything that moves things along is welcome. Now if only we can come up with a Rules Change that would prevent significant matters from being endlessly kicked down the road – and I’m definitely thinking of Central Square here which is only now getting some renewed attention years after a broad range of recommendations were presented as part of the K2C2 process. There will be an Ordinance Committee hearing on those recommendations on Wed, April 15 (at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber), but only for the purpose of discussion with no actionable items before the committee.

The Normandy/Twining zoning proposal for the Mass. & Main area of Central Square is also now before the Ordinance Committee. The petitioners recently increased the percentages of permanently and privately subsidized units in their project to 20 percent should the proposed zoning be approved. Their original petition called for 17 percent affordable and middle-income units. They have now doubled the percentage of affordable units (50 to 80% of area median income) from 8.5 percent in the original petition to 17 percent and will maintain 3 percent middle income units (80 to 120% of area median income). The proposal would deliver 40 affordable and 7 middle income housing units for a total of 47 permanently and privately subsidized units out of a total of about 230 units. Enhanced ground floor retail opportunities and neighborhood connectivity are also included in their proposal.

Unfinished Business #14. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 3, 2015 to continue discussions on the zoning petition filed by Whitehead Institute to amend the Zoning Ordinance, Sections 14.32.1 and 14.32.2 to provide for an increment of 60,000 square feet of GFA to be allowed by special permit in a portion of the MXD District, in Section 14.70 by retitling "Special Provisions Applicable Within the Ames Street District: and by adding a new Section 14.72 "Special Provisions Applicable Outside the Ames Street District. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Mar 30, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Dec 16, 2014. Petition expires Apr 8, 2015.

This zoning petition will likely be ordained at this meeting.

Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from Chestnut Hill Realty, requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Basement Housing Overlay District Section 20.600.

I won’t pretend to understand what the intent of these technical amendments are. As was the case when the original zoning was introduced and passed, I’ll just say that it would be a shame if any basement space in buildings that is actually necessary for bicycle storage and other needs of residents is lost just to pack in a few more income-producing units. On either side of my house on Broadway there are buildings that maximized the rentable space by eliminating options for on-premises bike parking and seriously compromising the options for storing and managing waste and recycling.

Resolution #24. Reminder to Cambridge residents that street cleaning will begin the first week of April.   Councillor Toomey

Run for your lives! The sweepers are coming! Don’t get towed!

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with all relative City departments to increase the number of electric charging stations available in the City, to determine the feasibility of making these stations free and to recommend other incentives that may include, but not be limited to, free resident parking stickers and allowing electric cars to park at parking meters free of charge as ways to encourage the purchase and use of electric cars.   Councillor McGovern

Let me see if I got this straight. This proposes to provide free parking and free electric charging to anyone with an electric vehicle. Why stop there? The City should also pay the rent and mortgage costs for these superior beings. But seriously, I would think that driving an energy-efficient vehicle that costs less to operate should be more than enough incentive. I also expect that any lost revenue or added energy costs borne by the City will ultimately lead to increased parking fees for those of us less enlightened beings who still have more conventional engines in our vehicles.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate city departments to update the City Council as to whether there are any proposed increases to Common Victualer (CV) and Liquor License renewal fees, to determine if there is a liquor license cap in the Central Square area and to the suitability of raising the liquor license cap in and around the Central Square area.   Vice Mayor Benzan

I’m not sure what’s behind this, but my understanding is that there is a cap on the number of liquor licenses that may be sold, but the License Commission has been issuing nontransferable "no value" pouring licenses to restaurants In Central Square and elsewhere in order to help those businesses.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the local business associations, neighborhood groups and city departments to conduct a series of cleanups of our neighborhoods and City Squares, primarily Kendall, Harvard, Central, Alewife, Inman, Huron Village and Porter.   Vice Mayor Benzan

These kinds of events are always best organized by the local business and neighborhood associations and by individuals with whatever assistance the City is able to affordably provide. The City should simply let the organizers know what help they might be able to provide, but let the residents and business owners take the lead.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an update on the analysis that has been done to understand the finances of new development in Central Square, including the report by economic consultant Sarah Woodworth.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Mazen

I am curious about the underlying purpose of this Order. While it’s certainly a good idea to have a firm grasp on the economic realities surrounding development proposals like the one contemplated for Mass. & Main (Normandy/Twining), my suspicion is that this could be an effort to cook up grounds to justify blocking the proposal. We’ll all benefit from an honest discussion of the economics, but hopefully not just as a smokescreen for a separate agenda.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the status and next steps for the Beekeeping ordinance.   Councillor Carlone

I wasn’t aware that there was an actual proposed ordinance to allow and perhaps promote beekeeping, but it’s a good idea worth pursuing. On the other hand, it seems a bit ridiculous that this should be over-regulated or banned in the first place.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City personnel to determine and provide an update to the City Council on parking needs and availability in the Central Square area and to confer with the appropriate City personnel to determine, as part of the broader question above, the cost and feasibility of adding additional parking levels to the Green Street Garage, to determine how many additional feet the garage could be expanded to as of right and how many extra parking spaces that would yield, and what changes, if any, would be needed to existing zoning laws in order to build the garage to its maximum capacity.   Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Carlone

Though I think it would be a good idea to ensure a sufficient supply of parking in and around Central Square, I can’t help but note that if a proposal to add commercial parking was made a decade or two ago it would have been aggressively opposed by some activists. Those were the days when the Parking Freeze was giving way to the current Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance. Times have changed, vehicles run much cleaner, and there are now other competing priorities. Perhaps additional parking capacity at the Green Street Garage would replace what might be lost by building on surface parking lots elsewhere in Central Square. Perhaps the idea is to calm the fears of those who see the building of new housing as an existential threat to the well-being of their on-street parking. In any case, it’s a discussion worth having. – Robert Winters

March 26, 2015

Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Clinic for Dogs Only: April 11

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 pm

Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Clinic for Dogs Only: April 11

PoochThe Cambridge Animal Commission is sponsoring a Rabies Vaccination Clinic for Dogs only Saturday April 11, from 9-11am, in the Public Works lot, 147 Hampshire St., Cambridge. The cost is $15 per dog. Rabies vaccinations are required by Massachusetts General Laws. A Microchip Clinic, sponsored by All Dog Rescue, will also be available at this clinic at a cost of $20 per dog.

For your pet’s safety, dogs must be leashed at all times. Please note that also per state law, every dog over the age of 6 months is required to have a current dog license. Dog licenses for the license period from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 will be available at this clinic. Pet owners are also welcome to stop by to pick up a license if their dog is up to date on its rabies vaccination. Cost of the license is $8 for spayed/neutered dogs or $25 for non-spayed/neutered dogs.

Controlling your dog at all times is also an excellent way to keep them protected. When you are outside with your dog, please make sure to obey the leash law. Also, to keep our community, parks and open space clean, owners are required by law to carry means to pick up and dispose of their dog’s waste. The city does supply dog waste bags but the responsibility to have means of disposal and to pick up is entirely on the owner or keeper of the dog.

When walking your dog in shared use areas, always have your dog under control and within your sight (particularly at Fresh Pond). Please note that there are fundamental elements of these regulations that are posted at the shared use areas and also at the designated dog parks in the city. Cat owners should keep their cats indoors; it’s a safe and controlled environment.

As always the Cambridge Animal Commission would like to remind dog owners of the three L’s of dog ownership – License, Leash and Love your pet.

If your cat needs to be vaccinated, there are clinics in the area that administer low cost programs for rabies vaccinations. For more information, please call the Cambridge Animal Commission at 617-349-4376.

March 20, 2015

Catching Up on the Cambridge News (March 20, 2015)

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:47 am

City of Cambridge Health and Human Services Job Fair April 1

The City’s Office of Workforce Development is sponsoring a Health & Human Services Job Fair on Wednesday, April 1, from 11:00am-1:00pm at Central Square Library, 45 Pearl St., Cambridge.

This will be a great opportunity for job seekers to connect with employers such as Cambridge Health Alliance, Crittenton Women’s Union, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Perkins, Senior Whole Health, Spaulding Hospital/Cambridge, and many others.

Those who plan to attend should remember to research companies and job opportunities before the job fair and to apply for appropriate positions online. For more information, contact Josh Foley at 617-349-6259 or jfoley@cambridgema.gov.

Participating organizations include:Job Fair 2015

Cambridge Health Alliance Perkins
Spaulding Hospital / Cambridge Fenway Health
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health     Bay Cove Human Services
Arbour Counseling Services Nurtury
The Edinburg Center Senior Whole Health
Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries Crittenton Women’s Union

Tip: Take the time to apply for positions online and research companies before attending


How Would You Spend $500,000 to Improve Cambridge?
Vote on Participatory Budget Capital Project Proposals March 22-28

City HallIf you’re a Cambridge resident age 12 or older, YOU can VOTE on how to spend $500,000 in FY16 Capital Funds to improve the community! In December 2014, the City of Cambridge launched the Participatory Budgeting (PB) initiative inviting community members to share ideas on projects to improve Cambridge.

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process through which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Cambridge’s pilot PB project will for the first time, directly involve residents in the budgeting and city-building process, foster civic engagement and community spirit, and help ensure that the city’s Capital Plan reflects the priorities of Cambridge residents.

From January-March, over 40 volunteer Budget Delegates evaluated the 380 ideas that were submitted, and developed project proposals to meet community needs. From March 22-28, 2015 Cambridge residents are invited to vote on which projects will get funded! Projects on the ballot will be for capital improvements related to:

  • Culture & Community Facilities
  • Environment, Public Health & Public Safety
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Streets & Sidewalks

Each voter can select 5 projects on the ballot, regardless of the amount they add up to. The city will allocate $500,000 for the winning projects. Vote week begins with a kickoff event Sunday, March 22, from 2-4pm, at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Residents will be able to talk with Budget Delegates and view project displays at two Project Expos on Tuesday, March 24, from 5:30-8:30pm, at Windsor Street Health Center, 119 Windsor St., and on Saturday, March 28, from 10am-2pm, during the Winter Farmers’ Market at Cambridge Community Center, 5 Callender St. Paper ballots at voting events will be available in English, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Residents can also vote online, as long as they have a cell phone. Online voting will be text message authenticated. Voters will enter their cell phone number online and then will receive a code via text that must be entered for one-time access to the ballot. A link to the online ballot on the Participatory Budget webpage will be made available during the voting period March 22-28, 2015. The online ballot will be available in English and Spanish. For information on project proposals on the ballot and a full list of voting dates and locations, please visit www.cambridgema.gov/yourbudget.


Connect Kendall Square Competition Finalists to Present Open Space Plans

Connect KendallFour finalist teams will soon be presenting their visions for open space in Kendall Square and eastern Cambridge as part of the City’s Connect Kendall Square open space design competition.

This project presents a unique opportunity to create a framework for the entire open space network in Kendall Square and eastern Cambridge. The competition attracted a wide range of planning and design firms, which were encouraged to consider new thinking regarding not only open space design, but also connections, programming, place making, and the overall public realm.

The vision as well as the planning and design goals for the framework are the culmination of work by the Eastern Cambridge Kendall Square Open Space (ECKOS) Planning Committee, which began meeting in May 2013 and has worked closely with city staff and the community throughout the process.

The four multidisciplinary teams selected as finalists are Somerville based Richard Burck Associates, Cambridge and Brooklyn based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Seattle based Framework, and San Francisco based SITELAB. A public exhibition of the teams’ proposals is currently on display in the Google Connector lobby at 355 Main Street, Cambridge. The plans can also be viewed online at www.connectkendallsquare.com and www.cambridgema.gov/kendallopenspace.

The finalist teams will present their framework plans to the Competition Jury March 25-26 at Cambridge City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor meeting room. Presentations are open to the public and are scheduled as follows: Wednesday, March 25 (SITELAB Urban Studio 1:00-2:30pm; Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. 3:00-4:30pm), and on Thursday, March 26 (Richard Burck Associates 8:30-10:00am; Framework Cultural Placemaking 10:30am-12:00pm).

Over the past several decades, Kendall Square has transformed from a former industrial area into a world-renowned center of biotech, high tech research, and innovation. In the past few years, the City of Cambridge has acquired three parcels in the area, which will be part of more than 5 acres of new and redesigned public open space. The framework derived from this competition will help determine the character and role of the new public open spaces in the area (which will be designed as part of separate, subsequent processes), and guide private entities as to potential programming and design of both existing and future open space as part of private developments.

For more information, contact Taha Jennings, Assistant to the City Manager, at 617-349-4302, tjennings@cambridgema.gov.


Sidewalk Poetry is Coming to Cambridge!

Quick Chair!The City of Cambridge is pleased to announce the launch of a Sidewalk Poetry Program, designed to stamp poems written by Cambridge residents into freshly poured sidewalk locations throughout the City. A collaboration of the Department of Public Works, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library, the Sidewalk Poetry Program will launch with a Poetry Contest to select several poems for 2015.

The Cambridge Sidewalk Poetry Program was inspired by a similar ongoing program in St. Paul, Minnesota, begun in 2008 by artist Marcus Young as artist-in-residence in the St. Paul Department of Public Works. St. Paul has over 450 poems in St. Paul sidewalks to date. The Cambridge program will integrate poetry into its routine sidewalk repairs. The fresh concrete necessary when the City pours new sidewalk panels will provide an opportunity to stamp a poem in selected locations throughout the City.

Any Cambridge resident of any age is invited to submit up to two poems to the 2015 Sidewalk Poetry Contest. Poems will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of representatives from Cambridge Public Works, Cambridge Public Library, and Cambridge Arts, as well as a former Poet Populist and a Cambridge high school student. The deadline for submissions is 11:59pm on Sunday, April 12, 2015. Winners will be announced on Thursday, April 30, 2015. For more information on submission guidelines and how to submit poems, please visit www.cambridgema.gov/sidewalkpoetry


Cambridge Rolls Out Lovin’ Local Raffle Card to Encourage Patronage of Businesses

Lovin Local CardThis winter has been rough on both Cambridge residents and businesses. The good news is that spring is just around the corner. In an effort to encourage increased shopping at Cambridge businesses, the City of Cambridge is launching the Lovin’ Local raffle card game from March 16-April 3, 2015. Here’s how it works: download a raffle card at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/lovinlocal or pick up a game card at one of the following locations:

  • Mayor’s Office, Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave.
  • Cambridge Main Library, 449 Broadway (Q& Desk)
  • Cambridge Community Development Department, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway

Follow these rules:
Step 1: Shop at a local business.
Step 2: Have the local business sign a cell on the card
Step 3: Take a picture of yourself visiting at least 1 business and tweet, Instagram or Facebook a picture using the hashtag #LovinCambMA. Please tag the business you are visiting, too!

Raffle cards can be emailed, dropped off to the Mayor’s Office or City Hall Annex, or mailed in by Friday, April 3, 2015. More information and how to participate are available at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/lovinlocal.

"The Lovin’ Local contest is a creative way for residents and area workers to come together and support our local, small business economy," said City Manager Richard C. Rossi.

For more information on Lovin’ Local, go to www.cambridgema.gov/lovinlocal or contact Pardis Saffari at 617-349-4654 or psaffari@cambridgema.gov.


Cambridge CityRun 5-Mile Road Race and Henrietta’s 3-Mile Fun Walk
Sunday, March 29, 10:30am, Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue

Tim Toomey, Ace RunnerCambridge CityRun, a 5-Mile Road Race and Henrietta’s 3-Mile Fun Walk, is a popular rite of spring that attracts over 1,500 participants annually and was named one of the top 10 road races in New England for the 12th consecutive year by New England Runner magazine.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Friends of Cambridge Athletics and The Andrea Harvey Memorial Fund. The first 1,000 pre-entrants will receive a free T-shirt.

Registration:
Entry Fee is $30 on or before March 21, $35 after. Register online at www.cambridgecityrun.com, in-person through March 21 at Marathon Sports, 1654 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. On the day of the event, register from 8:30-10am and race begins promptly at 10:30am.

Race Route:
The scenic, flat, tree-lined course starts and finishes at the Russell Youth Center, 695 Huron Ave. From the start point, turn right on Grove St., right on Blanchard Rd., right on Concord Ave., right on Fresh Pond Parkway, right into Cambridge Water Department, then right onto Fresh Pond Reservoir Loop, right onto Fresh Pond Parkway, right onto Huron Ave.

For more information or to volunteer at event, contact Paul Ryder, 617-349- 6229 or pryder@cambridgema.gov.


Fair Housing Award Nominations Sought

April is Fair Housing Month and the Cambridge Human Rights Commission is accepting nominations for its Innovations in Fair Housing Awards. Consider nominating individuals and/or groups who are working hard to continue Cambridge’s long history of fair housing and diversity.

Individuals or groups should be Cambridge-based, involved in the promotion of fair housing, and have had a significant achievement within the last two years, with a focus on innovative work in support of fair housing.

When submitting nominations, please tell us why you think this person or group deserves this award and provide a description of the work performed in Cambridge to promote Fair Housing. Selected nominees will be honored at the Fair Housing Month Awards Ceremony Tuesday, April 14, 5-7pm, at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Mass. Ave.

Please send nominations via mail or email by March 30, 2015 at 8pm to: Nancy B. Schlacter, Fair Housing Project Coordinator, Cambridge Human Rights Commission, 51 Inman Street, 2nd floor, Cambridge, MA 02139; Email: nschlacter@cambridgema.gov.


Affordable Rental and Homeownership Programs Information Session March 24

The City of Cambridge will be holding a free, walk-in informational session on affordable rental and homeownership programs Tuesday, March 24, 6-8pm, at the Central Square Branch Library, 45 Pearl St. Additional information sessions will be held in different locations.

Housing personnel from the Community Development Department will be available to discuss the City’s affordable rental and homeownership programs. For more information, please contact us at 617-349-4622.

March 16, 2015

Items of Interest on the March 16, 2015 Cambridge City Council Agenda

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

Items of Interest on the March 16, 2015 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Perhaps the most notable items this week are the announcement of the annual water/sewer rates, a couple of committee reports relating to the proposed Twining/Normandy petition, and a resolution on the tragic death of Marcia Diehl – a friend to thousands of Cantabrigians, including me.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $6,000,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($4,825,000) and to the General Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account ($175,000) and to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Maintenance account ($1,000,000) to cover winter 2014-2015 snowstorm expenses associated with snow plowing contracts, salt and other material, and repair costs.

Some years the "Rainy Day Fund" can be a "Snowy Winter Fund". Few should be surprised at this additional cost after a record-breaking winter. Spring (technically) arrives with the vernal equinox this Friday at 6:45pm EDT.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-04, regarding a report on next steps to converting the Watertown Branch rail line.

We’re getting there – slowly but surely. This will one day be a nice addition to the off-road recreational facilities for the local region, and will also provide pretty handy access to the Arsenal Mall area.

Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2015 and ending Mar 31, 2016.

The recommendation is for a 0% increase in the water consumption block rate and a 6.8% increase in the sewer use block rate, resulting in a 4.9% increase in the combined rate for the coming year. This is the fifth consecutive year that the City has been able to produce a 0% increase in the water rate.

Average Changes in Water/Sewer Annual Bills
Residential Type FY15 Average FY16 Projected Annual Variance % Change
Single Family $730 $766 $36 4.9%
Two Family $1,020 $1,070 $50 4.9%
Three Family $1,480 $1553 $73 4.9%

Unfinished Business #12. That any committee report that has not been signed by the Chair of the committee within seven days after submission of the committee report by the City Clerk be placed on the City Council Agenda unsigned. Order Number Eight of Mar 2, 2015 Referred to Unfinished Business.

It’s interesting that at the first meeting after Councillor Toomey introduced the Order calling for this modification in the City Council Rules to hasten the delivery of committee reports, this agenda contains 5 committee reports.

Resolution #27. Condolences to the family of Marcia Deihl.   Councillor Simmons

Marcia was killed while riding her bicycle last Wednesday afternoon, March 11. Reports indicate that she was likely exiting the Whole Foods onto Putnam Ave. or riding along Putnam Ave. when she was struck and killed by a truck traveling on Putnam Ave. Many of us are eager to learn more details about this tragedy. Though I didn’t know Marcia nearly as well as some others who are now really suffering from this loss, I really loved her sense of humor and her distinctive way with words. Our shared interests included old VWs, kitsch, Zippy the Pinhead, and everything about Cambridge. [Globe story on Marcia Diehl]

Marcia Diehl (early '70s)
Marcia Diehl (early 1970s)

While looking over old email messages from Marcia, I came across this one from 2009: "We really need a Cambridge History thing, or class, or institutionalized available web site. My specialty is the 70s, and I loved working with Charlie (Sullivan) and the Historical Commission looking for old photos. I have performed a few Cambridge history in music shows, one of which ‘When Hippies Roamed the Earth’ is centered around the Inman, Harvard, and Central Square cultural and political counterculture. Another one was songs related to social justice history at Old Cambridge Baptist Church."

Two years ago (Feb 2013) Marcia wrote this in the CCJ Forum: "I remember being called a ‘barnie’ and having garbage thrown at me when a bunch of us college grad hippie pinkos lived in communes on the Broadway and Columbia corner in 1971-2. CRA paid us a thousand each to relocate and we carried our stuff across the street to a Chiccarelli building. At a rent control strike hearing, she yelled ‘THEY WANT MY BLOOD, THEY WANT MY BLOOD!’ Ah, memories. I’ve lived kitty corner to Villa Vellucci in almost-East Cambridge, attended many times, and busked in Harvard Square. Now retired and living two blocks from where I did 35 years ago in my favorite spot in the universe, Cambridgeport, I know I am not worthy to be a Cantabrigian."

You were as worthy as anyone who has ever lived here, Marcia. I hope we can name a park or a garden after you.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to review the questions raised from Kim Courtney and report back to the City Council on such matters the City Manager considers appropriate to address.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen [Attachments]

I suspect there must be some connection here between the apparent licensing irregularities with Mr. Kapsalis (owner of The Cellar and a neighboring liquor store) and a petition that was submitted to the License Commission several months ago attempting to block Ms. Courtney and her partner from opening a competing establishment near to Mr. Kapsalis’ businesses. That petition was pretty much 100% fraudulent and even included fake names at my address. I was able to see the petition when an investigator from the License Commission came to my house verifying the names of those who had apparently signed the petition. It also had the name of at least one friend of mine who said he had never signed such a petition. Even a casual look at the petition showed that it was all likely written by the same person. Who does something like that? I never patronized The Cellar or his liquor store anyway, so they won’t be missing my business.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 22, 2015 to discuss the Normandy/Twining zoning petition to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass. and Main Residential Mixed Income Sub district within the Central Square Overlay District.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 26, 2015 to discuss the refiled Normandy/Twining petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and the zoning map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.

The next couple of months should prove interesting. The Cambridge Residents Alliance was spawned a few years back in response to proposals for new housing in and around Central Square. [In short, they don’t want it.] They’ve now spawned yet another entity specifically trying to block new housing at this Lafayette Square location. It’s anybody’s guess how this zoning proposal will fare and how the actual building will take shape should the zoning change make it possible.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Jan 13, 2015 to discuss the production of language for a city-wide affordable housing overlay district, to be considered by the City Council to identify areas in the city that would be best suited for an affordable housing overlay district.

I’m still curious to see what people have in mind with this proposed "affordable housing overlay district." So far all I’ve heard is the sentiment that only low- and moderate-income people are welcome in areas like Central Square, and that’s not a particularly sustainable (or even friendly) perspective. – Robert Winters

March 15, 2015

Cambridge School Committee 2013-2014 Campaign Finance Summaries

Cambridge School Committee 2013-2014 Campaign Finance Summaries (updated March 15, 2015)

CandidateStartReceiptsExpendituresBalanceIn-Kind#1 Votes$/voteNotes
Fran Cronin$0.00$17,004.00$15,443.97$1,560.03$1,000.001832$8.43$0 liabilities
Fred Fantini$4,501.93$5,788.00$6,503.66$3,786.27$0.002859$2.27$14,396 liab. to candidate
Joyce Gerber$105.20$6,669.94$6,775.14$0.00$450.001126$6.02Dissolution; $333.66 balance donated to RAUC
Richard Harding$8.06 $10,764.73$10,772.79$0.00$0.00 2359$4.57$6,595.54 liab. to candidate
John Holland$15.78$3,504.00$3,506.91$12.87$0.00589$5.95$0 liabilities
Elechi Kadete$0.00$870.00$870.00$0.00$0.00494$1.76$0 liabilities
Kathleen Kelly$0.00$16,830.00$15,075.15$1,754.85$100.002102$7.17$3,000 liab. to candidate
Patricia Nolan$48.44$9,370.00$8,337.04$1,081.40$0.003921$2.13$8,850 liab. to candidate
Mervan Osborne$1,025.58$18,039.34$18,529.20$535.72$325.001238$14.97$0 liabilities

School Committee Receipts 2013-2014

School Committee Expenditures 2013-2014

Number One Votes (2013 School Committee Election)

Cost per Number One Vote (2013 School Committee Election)

March 6, 2015

Nominations Sought for 2015 Outstanding City Employee Awards

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:48 am

Nominations Sought for 2015 Outstanding City Employee Awards

Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking nominations for the 2015 Outstanding City Employee Awards program which recognizes employees for exemplary performance and contributions that go above and beyond job requirements.

Cambridge city government is made up of dedicated employees who strive to provide a high level of quality services to all its citizens. The annual awards ceremony provides a special opportunity to give some well deserved recognition to a handful of deserving individuals. Winners will be recognized at a special awards ceremony on Friday, May 1, 2015.

Outstanding City Employee Awards are designed to recognize contributions that are above and beyond job requirements. Criteria for determining outstanding performance include:

  • City HallDemonstrated strong leadership and a high level of commitment to the City and its residents.
  • Demonstrated outstanding customer service to the public and/or fellow employees.
  • Developed an innovative or creative solution to a problem.
  • Made superior contribution to the success of a project, completing work on time and within budget.
  • Donated significant time to activities that benefit the Cambridge community.
  • Encouraged and valued community involvement.
  • Demonstrated an exceptional ability to work in a multicultural organization.
  • Consistently contributed to better City operations.

All City employees at all levels of the City workforce are eligible for nomination. Anyone who lives or works in Cambridge may nominate one or more City employees for recognition. Individuals are not limited as to how many employees s/he chooses to nominate but must submit a separate Nomination Form or letter for each employee. An employee may not nominate her or his own supervisor or department head for recognition.

Online Nomination Forms can be accessed from this news story at www.cambridgema.gov. A signed nomination letter may be submitted instead of the nomination form. Completed nominations must be submitted to the Personnel Department by Monday, April 6, 2015. In addition, you may email nominations to mcarvello@cambridgema.gov or fax to the Personnel Department at 617-349-4312. For more information, contact Maryellen Carvello at mcarvello@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4301.

March 2, 2015

In Like a Lion: Mar 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 5:05 pm

In Like a Lion: Mar 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

In Like a LionHere’s my list of interesting agenda items. Additional comments may follow after the meeting (not my usual practice), but here are a few words for now:.

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Mazen notified the City Clerk of his intention to file reconsideration of the vote taken on Feb 20, 2015 failing to adopt an order that the City Manager is requested to identify an organization or organizations to study and present options to the City Council regarding possibilities for publicly funded municipal elections that takes into account issues unique to Cambridge. Order failed of adoption 3-4-1-1 and Reconsideration was filed by Councillor Mazen on Feb 23, 2015.

My great suspicion is that this initiative is part of a greater plan for this year’s municipal election to portray any candidate who accepts money from a property owner/developer as inherently "unclean" in the "clean elections" sense of the word. Perhaps a better measure would be the percentage of a candidate’s campaign receipts that originate from outside Cambridge or from ANY identifiable "special interest group." At least commercial property owners in Cambridge have a direct interest in the future of the city.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining the noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 34 municipalities in the United States with three AAA ratings from the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. [Attachment]

There is simply no way to disassociate this year’s round of great bond ratings with the tragedy of Brian Murphy’s death that occurred while City officials were in New York City meeting with the rating agencies.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Ten of Feb 20, 2015.]

Just vote it down. City employees already do a fine job assisting the public, and for everything else there are nine city councillors from which to choose to represent you and any concerns that you may have.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to contact the current owners of the Vail Court property and demand that graffiti be removed, exterminators assess the property, and any other maintenance that would improve the appearance and safety of this building be conducted immediately. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Mazen on Order Number Seven of Feb 23, 2015.]

In addition to the obvious deplorable state of this property, it should be obvious to anyone who heard the debate last week on this matter that this is as much about Councillor Mazen’s "special relationship" with this property owner as anything else. If he can resolve it, he’ll be able to claim some credit. Otherwise, enjoy that albatross, councillor.

On the Table #12. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

I expect the Council will just leave this permanently On the Table rather than seize the opportunity to define limits on how much residents can be abused in the name of a proposal that never achieved anything close to consensus in that neighborhood.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with local business associations, the Arts Council, and other appropriate city departments to determine the feasibility of hosting a series of "End of Winter" Festivals in our City Squares (Harvard, Central, Inman, Porter, Huron Village, and Kendall) to celebrate our city’s resilience and strength.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Cheung and Councillor Toomey

Having proposed exactly this sort of thing a week or so ago, I do hereby declare this to be the best damn proposal on this entire agenda. Bring on Martha and the Vandellas.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Information Technology Department to create a space on the city website, where agendas can be made available prior to committee meetings.   Councillor Mazen

This is a good start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Every City Council committee should have (and maintain) its own web page that indicates all the business that has been addressed by that committee, what matters are currently under consideration (along with all relevant documents), and any future plans under consideration by the committee. – Robert Winters

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: