Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

August 25, 2015

Visiting Lucius R. Paige and I.F. Stone at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:22 pm

Rev. Lucius R. Paige was the Town/City Clerk of Cambridge in 1839 and from 1843 through 1855. In 1877 he published his History of Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1630-1877, the definitive text on the subject. Lucius Paige lived from 1802 to 1896.

Lucius R. Paige portrait

Lucius R. Paige

Lucius Paige

Lucius R. Paige

 I. F. Stone

Not far from the grave of Lucius Paige is the final resting place of I.F. Stone (Isador Feinstein Stone). As his Wikipedia page says: "In 1999, a New York University poll of journalists ranked I.F. Stone’s Weekly at 16 in "The Top 100 Works of Journalism in the United States in the 20th Century," placing the Weekly second among print journalism.

Both Lucius Paige and I.F. Stone are inspiring figures for anyone who cares to write about local history, government, or politics. Mount Auburn Cemetery is an inspiration in so many ways.

August 21, 2015

City of Cambridge Selects Utile Architecture + Planning team for Citywide Plan

Filed under: Cambridge,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 4:40 pm

City of Cambridge Selects Consultant for Citywide Plan
Utile Architecture + Planning team selected to run multiyear process

Cambridge NeighborhoodsAug 21, 2015 – Today, Cambridge Officials announced that an interdisciplinary team led by Utile Architecture + Planning (Utile) has been selected for the Cambridge citywide planning project. “The City is looking forward to embarking on this important citywide process with Utile,” said Richard C. Rossi, City Manager. “This multiyear effort is a major investment that the City is making in the future of our community. Residents, business employers and employees, property owners and developers, institutions, non-profit organizations, and many other stakeholders will be active participants in this process and a key component to ensuring that the citywide plan reflects the values of our community. I want to thank the other highly qualified and respected firms that participated in our selection process.”

The other finalists in the City’s selection process were Sasaki, and Perkins + Will.

On July 27, 2015, the finalists made presentations to and answered questions from the public in an event held in the Sullivan Chambers in City Hall. Following the public presentations, the City’s Selection Committee conducted a multi-day evaluation process that resulted in City Manager Richard C. Rossi accepting the recommendation to hire Utile. Over the next few weeks the City will be working with Utile to finalize a contract, including financial arrangements, for the public process that will begin this fall.

“The Utile team brings a deep understanding of local planning issues and a fresh, creative approach to public engagement,” said Lisa Peterson, Chair of the Selection Committee. “Using a rigorous, data-driven process, the Utile team will complement and augment the capacity of City staff to develop a strategic framework to address a broad range of issues including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space.”

The planning process that will be kicked off this fall will span multiple years and will include a robust community engagement process.

“Cambridge’s citywide plan will create a shared vision for the city, develop policy and design goals and actionable recommendations to guide future changes in the city,” said Iram Farooq, Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “The end result of this process will be a shared vision on how Cambridge can remain livable, sustainable, and equitable not just for the current generation, but also for generations to come.”

The citywide planning process aims to integrate and build upon the City’s existing policies, programs, and initiatives through an inclusive, wide-reaching process that looks beyond traditional planning efforts to guide future change in Cambridge. During the multi-year process, early action items and pilot projects may be identified and launched. [Read Utile Proposal (22.6MB PDF)]

The planning process will examine a broad range of issues, including mobility, housing, land use, urban design, environment, social equity, economic development, and open space. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about the public process that will begin this fall!

For more information, please visit the project page on the Community Development Department’s website, or email

Utile is a 40-person, Boston-based planning and design firm. Built like a think tank, the firm thrives on solving complex problems in intelligent and pragmatic ways. From theoretical issues that frame policy to the practical implementation of architectural commissions, Utile develops a rigorous research-based approach for finding the best solutions. Utile specializes in unique regulatory, political, and design challenges, and is committed to the revitalization of the American city through proactive planning and design that bridges public and private jurisdictional boundaries.

August 9, 2015

On Tap at the Aug 10, 2015 City Council Midsummer Meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 3:03 am

On Tap at the Aug 10, 2015 City Council Midsummer Meeting

People's RepublicThis is usually the biggest agenda of the year. Here are a few highlights:

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Karen Kosko as a member of the Cambridge Library Board of Trustees effective Aug 1, 2015 for a term of three years.

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Gary Dmytryk as a member of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities for a term of three years, effective July 1, 2015.

Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointments of the following persons as members of the Kids’ Council effective Aug 10, 2015: Bridget Rodriguez, Rabeya Akther, Michelle Lower, Ron Benham, Neal Michaels, Liz Hill, Claude Jacob, Geeta Pradhan

The appointments to City Boards & Commissions continues (more to come!).

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to approve the Incentive Zoning Petition.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on July 14, 2015 to discuss proposed amendments to Section 11.200 entitled Incentive Zoning Provisions and Inclusionary Housing Provisions.

The proposal as amended is ready to be Passed to a 2nd Reading and ordained at the first City Council meeting in September. No doubt some people will continue to clamor for even higher fees to be exacted, but the current amended proposal is the best compromise and is long overdue.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting approval of the discontinuance of an approximately twenty (20) foot wide, 8,660 square foot parcel of City owned land along the eastern edge of Ames Street between Broadway and Main Street (the Ames Street Parcel) in connection with the disposition of this parcel that the City Council previously approved. [Map Plan]

The sale of this narrow strip will facilitate the development of a 200,000 square foot multi-family residential project with up to 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail and an improved Ames Street. This disposition is consistent with previous actions approved by the Planning Board and the City Council.

Applications & Petitions #9. A petition has been received from Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD district in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the Plan. [Text of Petition]

No comments are necessary other than to suggest that you read the petition (93 pages). The proposed changes are consistent with much of the discussions regarding Kendall Square in recent years.

Resolution #23. Resolution on the death of retired Chief of Police of the City of Cambridge Anthony G. "Tony" Paolillo.   Councillor Toomey and Mayor Maher

According to his obituary in the Belmontonian, Chief Paolillo was hired as a patrol officer, worked his way to captain before being named acting chief in 1982, and was sworn in as chief a year later. He retired from the post in 1991, after which the city appointed a police commissioner to run the department. The Anthony Paolillo Tot Lot on Pine Street is named for him. He was quite "progressive" as a Chief, embracing the earliest concepts of "Community Oriented Policing".

Resolution #28. Congratulations to the Preservation of Affordable Housing on its acquisition of the Briston Arms Apartment and thanks for their commitment to affordable housing in Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

According to the City’s press release: "This acquisition by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) will continue its use as a mixed-income community and make renovations which will help preserve and ensure its affordability for years to come. The mix includes Section 8 Housing Assistance rental subsidies for 73 of the apartments and new rental assistance subsidies for an additional 46 apartments. Thirty five of the apartments will continue to be offered at market rates. Briston Arms was at risk of losing its affordability when the subsidy restrictions were due to expire in 2018. Cambridge and Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust provided more than $4 million in loans to help preserve these apartments as affordable housing."

Resolution #67. That the City Council declare Sun, Aug 9, 2015 to be proclaimed as "Mike Brown Day" in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

It’s worth reading this: US Dept. of Justice Report on Ferguson incident

Order #1. That the City Council amend Policy Order #11 of June 22, 2015 attached.   Councillor Simmons

The Order seeks to amend the phrase "all lives matter and all lives are precious" to read "all lives matter and all lives are precious, and we must take actions to affirm that Black Lives Matter".

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel to determine the effectiveness of the policy of ticketing and towing vehicles that obstruct street cleaning, to determine whether modifying this policy to exclude towing vehicles would have a negative impact on the City’s ability to maintain clean streets.   Councillor Simmons

Is the primary purpose of street cleaning to collect fines or to clean the streets? Perhaps a better alternative would be to fine the offending vehicle and tow it a half-block away to a parking spot that was just cleaned. Cars with alarms can be crushed.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and other appropriate City personnel to compile a report of the housing and financial assistance options the City and its community partners offer to seniors living on fixed incomes in order to help them remain housed in their current units and to estimate how many seniors on fixed incomes are in danger of being priced out of their units in the coming half-decade to determine whether additional City resources are needed to assist these seniors.   Councillor Simmons

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee, for a public hearing held on July 9, 2015 to discuss whether there are measures the City and local housing agencies and advocates can take to assist the soon to be displaced tenants of 295 Harvard Street.

Amidst all the advocacy for affordable housing, there should be additional emphasis on taking care of our older residents with limited resources who have fewer options than younger residents and newcomers. This is especially true now with outside investors looking to swoop down and buy properties at stratospheric prices.

Order #7. That the City Manager consult with the Community Development Department and other appropriate City personnel to determine what kinds of incentives could be provided to landlords who choose to refrain from increasing the rents on their tenants, and to report back to the City Council in a timely manner.   Councillor Simmons

Where do I sign up for my incentives? I love the intention, but I expect there’s nothing that can be offered to kindhearted landlords other than a good handshake and a heartfelt "thank you".

Order #10. That the City Manager develop a program to offer home electricity monitors to residents at cost, in a program similar to the distribution of rain barrels through the Department of Public Works.   Councillor Cheung

I seem to recall that there was already a plan to do this at some point – perhaps as a checkout at the library. The monitors are relatively cheap, however, and there’s no reason why residents can’t just buy a few monitors and loan them around to their friends and neighbors. You only need to use them for a little while to determine how much power is being drawn by various devices.

Order #16. That the appropriate City departments in conjunction with other stakeholders, such as the Salvation Army, Cambridge Overcoming Addiction, and other non-profits conduct a survey of opioid-related deaths and persons struggling with the epidemic that are frequenting our squares, particularly Central Square.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor McGovern

This is a very detailed Order well worth reading. Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor McGovern should be applauded for their initiative. This is a BIG problem.

Order #17. That the City Manager confer with the Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development with a mind towards informing new property owners of the desire, based on planning studies, to expand Ahern Field and for planning staff to keep these desires in mind as a vision for this site is developed by the owners, and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

I am reminded of one of our recommendations about 15 years ago from the Green Ribbon Open Space Committee that called for, when feasible, closing inessential city streets adjacent to existing parks as a means to create contiguous park space. I don’t know if the property in question is well-suited for this purpose coupled with some reconfiguration of Fulkerson Street, but it certainly would provide a means to widen the Grand Junction RR corridor consisted with recent proposals for rail with trail.

Order #15. That the City Council hereby goes on record urging Governor Baker and the State Legislature to move expeditiously in issuing guidelines and regulations that will ensure that taxi services and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are able to operate on a fair and even plane throughout the Commonwealth.   Councillor Simmons and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #18. That the City Manager confer with the appropriate City Departments about the feasibility of placing an immediate moratorium on any fees paid by the Taxicab industry to the City of Cambridge until: 1) the State has enacted ridesharing regulations; and/or 2) action is taken by the City to deregulate the Taxicab industry following the Mayor’s Roundtable on this matter.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Cheung

Order #24. That the Cambridge City Council go on record urging the Massachusetts House and Baker administration to move swiftly in clarifying new law and associated regulation, taking into account the needs of municipalities in flux, and ultimately act with the intention of achieving parity and safety amongst transit operators of all kinds.   Councillor Mazen

Other than stating my personal preference that town-by-town issuance of taxi medallions be replaced by a state licensing system applicable to all services that pick up passengers (regardless how the car is hailed), it is worth noting how much attention is being paid to this issue of late. Ideally, cars and vans for hire should supplement the public transit system at rates that are not exorbitantly more expensive than transit. The fact that someone might have to pay $50 for a ride to the airport with the taxi forbidden to pick up passengers on the return trip is absurd. I’ll also note how fondly I remember my friend Arthur Santoro who did wonders for the Cambridge taxicab industry back in the days before human beings were transformed into robots with twitching thumbs habitually staring into small rectangles.

Order #19. That the City Council goes on record refiling as of Sept 16, 2015, the attached proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to amend Article 6.000 of the zoning ordinance to create a new section 6.24 Carsharing Provisions which will create a definition and general provisions for carsharing and allow limited use of parking spaces for carsharing as a means to provide mobility options for Cambridge residents, employees and visitors.   Councillor Cheung

Some version of this will likely eventually pass. Some reassurances to neighbors and appropriate restrictions are in order, but this is basically a good idea – kinda like Hubway with engines.

Order #22. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments with an update for plans for the creation of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) coordinating office, including any financial pledges from the City to implement the STEAM working groups recommendations.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Cheung

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee, for a public meeting held on July 15, 2015 to discuss how emergent out of school time programs recruit underserved youth in innovative ways, how programs engage youth in advanced research or professional skills building, and how these programs may present exciting models for other organizations seeking to impact socio-economic and educational equity in Cambridge.

When Vice Mayor Benzan was Candidate Benzan two years ago he emphasized his goal of connecting people in the neighborhood in which he grew up with potential nearby job opportunities in places like Kendall Square. There have been countless meetings over the last year or so about ways to realize this and similar goals. It will be interesting to see if anything really tangible and lasting comes of this. Most of the reports I’ve read seem to focus on creating new staff positions which might facilitate results, but until we get to see some real success stories much of this remains just good intentions. Most of the Kendall Square jobs that have been created in the last few decades still require significant academic credentials and actual skills – and you really can’t just output those on a 3D-printer or other gadget. As a practitioner of the M part of STEAM, I would like nothing more than to see local Cambridge kids develop the mathematical skills and other skills needed to better connect to the potential of the Cambridge economy.

Order #23. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to setup the most effective voting method that maximizes community participation for the renaming of Area IV.   Vice Mayor Benzan

Ranked Choice Voting anyone?

Order #25. That the City Council go on record petitioning the Massachusetts General Court to enact the attached Home Rule Petition entitled "AN ACT TO ENABLE CERTAIN NON-CITIZEN RESIDENTS OF CAMBRIDGE TO VOTE IN SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS".   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

Some version or another of this comes up every few years – and usually in the months leading up to a municipal election. I’ll just restate my own view that citizenship and voting rights are closely intertwined and that’s the way it should remain. Someone who is currently a citizen of another country but residing in the United States can generally still vote in the country of their citizenship, and many continue to do so. Inventing a new term like "pre-citizen" as is done in this petition actually seems to be unwittingly acknowledging the connection between citizenship and the right to vote. I hope this Order does not pass and, if it does, I hope that the State Legislature rejects it as they have done in the past. There should be uniformity in voting requirements across all cities and towns in Massachusetts. The fact that all cities and towns subscribe to a common statewide voter database is just one example of this principle in action.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a joint public hearing with the Planning Board on June 29, 2015 to discuss a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the Planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District.

This is arguably one of the hottest issues these days – at least among residents in East Cambridge and other neighborhoods close to the Volpe Center property. There is some pressure to gaze into the crystal ball and decide on the best zoning regulations consistent with the constraints associated with the disposition of the Volpe Center, but there are some councillors who feel that kicking this can down the road is a reasonable option. – Robert Winters

August 4, 2015

Cambridge Broadband Matters, Episode 1

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 4:59 pm

Cambridge Broadband Matters, Episode 1

CCTV logoCambridge Broadband Matters is scheduled to play on CCTV:

Saturday, August 8 on Channel 9 at noon [live stream]
Tuesday, August 11 on Channel 96 at 1:00pm [live stream]
Thursday, August 13 on Channel 96 at 9:00pm [live stream]
Friday, August 14 on Channel 9 at 7:00pm [live stream]

Cambridge Broadband Matters is a series that explores the relationship among people, public institutions, non-profit organizations, businesses, and broadband in Cambridge. This series will serve as an educational and community engagement companion to broadband planning and action already underway in Cambridge, including through the city of Cambridge Broadband Taskforce and the efforts of elected officials.

In this episode, Jay Leslie, Susan Flannery, Georgiana Chevry, and Anne Schwieger discuss how broadband enters the spheres of their work and the impact broadband has on the community members who engage with their respective organizations.

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