Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 27, 2015

One Week before the Election – Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 85 and 86

Cambridge InsideOut this week focused on some additional aspects of the upcoming election (Nov 3) and other updates from around town.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 85 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 86 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 27, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Background material for these programs can be found here: http://rwinters.com/insideout/2015oct27/

Cambridge’s new Superintendent of Schools – Dr. Kenneth Salim

Filed under: Cambridge,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:21 pm

Dr. Kenneth SalimCambridge’s new Superintendent of Schools

The Cambridge School Committee voted 6 (Cronin, Kelly, Fantini, Nolan, Osborne, Maher) – 1 (Harding) to appoint Dr. Kenneth Salim as the next Superintendent of Schools pending contract negotiations, tonight.

Dr. Salim is the current Superintendent in Weymouth, MA and previously work in the Boston Public Schools as Senior Director for the Chief Academic Office and Interim Assistant Superintendent for Professional Development.

October 24, 2015

2015 Cambridge Pre-Election Fun Facts

Filed under: 2015 Election,Cambridge — Robert Winters @ 2:21 am

Farmers Unite!2015 Cambridge Election Fun Facts (Oct 24, 2015):

There are currently 63,325 registered Cambridge voters.

Of these, 45,038 are listed as "active" voters.

There are 16,479 registered voters who voted in the 2013 municipal election.

There are 10,248 registered voters who voted in both the 2011 and 2013 municipal elections.

There are 7,890 registered voters who voted in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 municipal elections.

There are 6,052 registered voters who voted in the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 municipal elections.

There are 152 registered voters who have voted in every citywide primary and general election since 1997.

There are 5,157 voters who registered this year (2015).

There are 7,409 registered voters who list their occupation as "student".

There are 1,109 registered voters who list their occupation as "professor".

There are 369 registered voters who list their occupation as "artist".

There are 161 registered voters who list their occupation as "musician".

There are 9 registered voters who list their occupation as "farmer".

Addendum:
In 2011 there were 60,367 registered voters at the time of the municipal election.
Of these, 4,413 registered during the year 2011.
736 of these recently registered voters (17%) voted in the Nov 2011 municipal election.

In 2013 there were 70,618 registered voters at the time of the municipal election (typically higher after a presidential election year).
Of these, 4,291 registered during the year 2013.
809 of these recently registered voters (19%) voted in the Nov 2013 municipal election.

In 2015 there are 63,325 registered voters eligible to vote in the municipal election.
Of these, 5,157 registered during the year 2015.

October 21, 2015

PR Election Mechanics – Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 83 and 84

Filed under: 2015 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:28 am

Cambridge InsideOut this week focused on some of the history of Proportional Representation elections (Single Transferable Vote), the mechanics of The Count, and the role of candidate slates.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 83 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 84 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Background material for these programs can be found here: http://rwinters.com/insideout/2015oct20/

October 18, 2015

Chugging Along – Items of Interest on the Oct 19, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:58 pm

Chugging Along – Items of Interest on the Oct 19, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

The City Council returns for one of the last meetings prior to the Nov 3 municipal election (where I’ll again be doing the live coverage with Susana Segat). There will be a Roundtable meeting on Oct 26 on citywide planning, and one more regular meeting on the eve of the election. Here are a few items that caught my attention.

The Port?Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-17, regarding a report on the feasibility of renaming Area IV.

It would have been interesting if the survey asked people in Area 4/The Port if they know if and where there was ever an actual port in this neighborhood.

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-96, relative to the future relationship between the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and Boston Properties.

As the report makes clear, ownership of virtually all of the properties in question was transferred to Boston Properties long ago and the role of the Redevelopment Authority now consists primarily of review and the granting of development rights on the land now owned by Boston Properties.

Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Policy Order No. 12 of 9/15/14, regarding the request for a legal opinion on the proposed amendment to the Municipal Code entitled "Prohibiting the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals in Traveling Shows and Circuses; and Awaiting Report Item Number 14-98, regarding the request for information related to the proposed ordinance entitled "Prohibiting the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals in Traveling Shows and Circuses" ("Proposed Ordinance"). [attachment]

Ringling Brothers TrainIt was nice seeing the Ringling Brothers trains on the Grand Junction the last week or so. Sadly, it appears that Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus will no longer use elephants in their shows starting in 2018, so we have only two more years to watch the elephants parade along Memorial Drive.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #25. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the establishment of the following two stabilization funds: Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund and the Community Benefits Stabilization Fund.

Manager’s Agenda #26. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $16,630,990 to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund from Free Cash.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I believe the discussion leading up to this proposed ordinance began five or more years ago.

Manager’s Agenda #27. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $3,300,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditure Account for the Citywide Planning process. [attachment]

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads to review the planning work done thus far on the Alewife bridge/platform project and to review the next steps the City can take to see the bridge constructed.   Councillor Cheung

Though I never bought into the need for another citywide process, I do hope some positive benefits are derived it. For starters, I hope that in the early stages they at least consider the possibility of a bridge over the RR tracks connecting the Alewife Triangle and the Quadrangle – a bridge for all vehicles, possibly with some restrictions, rather than just an overpass for bikes and pedestrians. Without such an overpass, Cambridepark Drive is just one long dead-end street.

Applications & Petitions #7. A zoning petition has been received from Kiril Stefan and Catherine Alexandrov, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to extend the Business BA-3 zone on Western Avenue currently in existence from Howard to Jay Streets onto the even number side of Western Avenue from #s 158-168 which is three houses from the corner of Kinnaird Street to Jay Street.

Queue up one more zoning petition.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City departments to draft a Home Rule petition that would allow Cambridge to establish a Job Creation and Training linkage fee to be managed by a Cambridge Jobs Trust.   Councillor Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan

This seems like a good idea, but don’t you just wish that companies doing business in Cambridge would just hire and train local workers without government intervention?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consider expanding the hose distribution program indefinitely for all new trees planted in sidewalk wells or behind sidewalks and explore establishing a credit to be applied to the water bills of participants, not to exceed $50 per year.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Cheung and Councillor McGovern

Some of us already do this. Should I ask the City to send me a $50 check?

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City Departments about the feasibility of a redesign contest of Carl Barron Plaza.   Vice Mayor Benzan

This may be a good idea, but the problem with CB Plaza isn’t the design. It’s the lack of involvement from the abutting property and business owners plus the fact that this is the favorite space for some of the most problematic people in the greater Central Square area. Will a change in landscaping change that?

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to expedite their efforts on crafting an amendment that would not treat reasonably sized shipping container and rooftop farms as agricultural uses when they are being used as an accessory to the principal use of a business.   Councillor Cheung

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and other relevant departments to draft a zoning ordinance that would see the installation of solar panels be as of right in all zoning districts in the City.   Councillor Cheung

These are two examples of desirable uses that should be permitted as-of-right with only minor restrictions to avoid potential conflict.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to review pedestrian and bicycle path plans for the Cambridge Common in consultation with the Community Development Department, with the intent of clarifying rules for use and minimizing potential hazards to and conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.   Councillor Kelley

The primary rule should simply be that cyclists cannot ride at significant speed in a shared-use facility wherever and whenever pedestrians are present. This isn’t rocket science.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and the Department of Public Works regarding the feasibility of installing a speed bump in a suitable location on River Street in order to slow down cars racing over the bridge as they enter Cambridge.   Councillor McGovern

Traffic calming is certainly warranted on River Street in order to effect the necessary psychological shift from highway to local roads, especially for vehicles coming from the Mass Pike. A speed bump is probably not the best solution here, especially for the truck traffic. Think about what that will sound like for any nearly residential neighbors.

Order #21. That the City Manager coordinate with the appropriate departments to record, broadcast, and live-stream the scheduled Oct 26th roundtable meeting to discuss city-wide planning.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

I wish these two rookie councillors were around 16 years ago when the idea of Roundtable meetings was first introduced. The whole point was to create a more relaxed atmosphere during these relatively infrequent meetings where there was no incentive for councillors to play to the camera.

Committee Report #4. 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 Sept 23, 2015 to discuss the petition filed by the CRA to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the Plan.

The subject of this meeting is but one of several moving parts in the continually evolving greater Kendall Square area.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a response to an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Ilan Levy on Sept 28, 2015 and the response on said complaint.

This complaint from Ilan Levy borders on silliness. I wonder if there will be an open meeting law complaint coming regarding an Oct 18 candidate forum attended by at least six councillors that excluded people based on race or public housing status?

October 14, 2015

The Return – Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 81 and 82

Filed under: 2015 Election,Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:28 am

Cambridge InsideOut returned on October 13, 2015 after a one-year hiatus.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 81 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 13, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 82 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 13, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

October 12, 2015

Flashback to March 1998

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:09 pm

Flashback to March 1998 (Issue #7 of the original Cambridge Civic Journal)

Save Central SquareI was looking back at some early writings in the original Cambridge Civic Journal and took note of some of the similarities between then and now. This was before the invasion of the millennials and hipsters and the full buildout of Kendall Square and its associated companies and high-income employees. Surprisingly, the tenor of the conversation hasn’t really changed all that much. Just replace "Holmes project" with "Mass & Main" and the group "Save Central Square" with "Cambridge Residents Alliance" and subtract out some of the most severe Marxists among them, and it’s hard to tell them apart. Here are a few sample quotes, starting with my own:

"Civic participation has become a way of life for me over the last twelve years and has served as a kind of free education about government and society. In recent weeks I have been having second thoughts due to all the rancor associated with the Holmes project in Central Square. In all my time in Cambridge, I have not come across a more vicious, mean-spirited group of people than the gang that calls itself Save Central Square."

"There are some in Cambridge who have a distorted view of what democracy is all about. I watched last summer as propagandists from SCS, unencumbered by employment, galloped out from Central Square yelling that "the yuppies are coming", that a building 15 stories tall was about to be built, that everyone’s rent would rise because of the Holmes project, that it would cause traffic to become unbearable, that The Gap and malls and chain stores were coming in, that all commercial tenants would be thrown out permanently, that former Gov. William Weld was behind it, and that people like me who didn’t buy the propaganda did not live in Cambridge. When you lie to people and threaten them and attribute rising housing costs to a single project, and if you have unlimited time on your hands, it is no surprise that you can gather several thousand signatures. If I believed what was being said, I would have signed their petition. Fortunately I knew better. I also know what democracy isn’t."

"Cambridge has a serious problem of authenticity. Every week I hear individuals claiming to speak for entire neighborhoods with nothing to back up their claims. Neighborhood associations with ancient membership lists and no discernible outreach will meet and make declarations about what other people supposedly believe. They will gleefully blend their own personal agendas with their associations and claim authenticity. I propose that in all public meetings there should be a prohibition against anyone claiming to represent neighborhoods unless they can provide objective substantiation of that claim. Individuals will be free to speak their mind, representatives from organizations can speak for their members, but we should have no more advocating without representation." – Robert Winters, Mar 29, 1998

In that same issue, Clifford Truesdell of Essex St. was quoted:
"Save Central Square is not the community. They are a subset of the community. The community is a lot more diverse, a lot less 60’s-ish, and a lot better mannered."

Bill Cunningham’s remarks focused on his perceptions of urban renewal and tokenism and denounced the recently passed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Basev Sen asserted that the Holmes project would draw high income shoppers from the suburbs. He characterized traffic studies as somewhere between shoddy and outright deceptive. Ellen Al-Wequayan characterized the Holmes project as "the death of the neighborhoods." Jeff Duritz called Central Square the most unique place he’d ever lived and warning of "downstream social consequences" of the Holmes project. He railed against Starbucks, calling on the City to take the Holmes property by eminent domain. Michael Isenberg focused on his belief that the Holmes project was not consistent with the guidelines for development in Central Square. Waddie Taylor called for a moratorium on all development in Cambridge.

Loyd Smith was inexcusably insulting to the City Council and others and was followed by James Williamson, who has become the poster boy for incivility during this entire process. Jimmy repeatedly accused City officials of lying and disrespecting guidelines for Central Square development as he went on for 15 minutes in spite of a 5 minute limit on public comment under the rules. He repeatedly characterized minor revisions to the Holmes proposal as "new proposals". He labeled the use of City funds for facade improvements in Central Square as bribes. He accused officials in the Community Development Department of deliberately withholding information from him. My favorite quote of his: "We ARE the rest of the community." If this is the case, God help us all.

My own remarks on the Holmes project went something like this:
"When we were first introduced to the proposal a year ago, we viewed it as an opportunity. We understood the process through which the proposal would have to go. We asked for the inclusion of affordable housing and this was done. Some of us asked for reduction in height and this was done. We asked for alterations to the massing of the building and this was done. We asked that light be allowed to reach Carl Barron Plaza and this was done. This was a long process, a very inclusive process, and a largely successful process. There have been calls for a greater percentage of affordable housing, as was done in the neighboring Church Corner apartments, but the density of that project was far in excess of what is called for in the Holmes proposal and should not be used as a model." Some have characterized the Holmes project in extreme terms. This is neither the death of a neighborhood nor anything else akin to the apocalypse. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a building is just a building.

[Report on the Mar 17, 1998 Planning Board meeting where the Holmes project was approved (CCJ#7)]
You may recognize some of the players – then and now. – RW

October 2, 2015

Cambridge Education Association to host School Committee Candidate Debate/Forum (Oct 7)

Filed under: 2015 Election,Cambridge,School Committee — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 7:42 pm

Cambridge Education AssociationThe Cambridge Education Association will sponsor a forum/debate on Wednesday, October 7, for candidates seeking election to the Cambridge School Committee. The event will take place from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Cambridge Public Library-Main Branch Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway. Earl Wiman, a member of the Executive Committee of the 3-million-member National Education Association, will serve as moderator. The public is invited to attend.

Voters will elect six candidates to the Cambridge School Committee on Tuesday, November 3.

If you are interested in submitting a question for the forum, please e-mail info@cambeducation.org.

For more information, please contact Robert Travers at 617-492-4709 or e-mail him at treas@cambeducation.org.

This election will give voters the ability to make decisions that will have a significant impact on the Cambridge community. The Cambridge School Committee oversees the district’s budget, approves curriculum, and represents the school district in labor negotiations with the unions. It also serves as the voice of the public in the school district, and it must communicate the needs of the school system to the public.” – Terry Gist, president of the 1,200-member Cambridge Education Association

A Calendar of all candidate forums is at: http://cambridgecivic.com/vote/calendar2015.htm

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