Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 28, 2016

Cambridge Civic/Political Review 2016

Cambridge Civic/Political Review 2016

Great Events:

May 7 – Moving Day at MIT celebrating the 100th Anniversary of MIT’s move from Boston across the river to Cambridge

MIT Moving Day
Crossing the Charles
MIT Moving Day
Suffragist Katharine Dexter McCormick (who is a dead ringer
for our friend Martha Eddison) and MIT President Rafael Reif

June 4 – Cambridge River Festival along Cambridge Parkway and Lechmere Canal.

Aug 25 – The 2016 Oldtime Baseball Game at St. Peter’s Field on Sherman St. in North Cambridge


Glory

March 12 – Under the guidance of Coach Lance Dottin, Cambridge defeated Lowell by a score of 54-38 to win the Division 1 North Championship.

March 14 – At the Boston Garden, the Falcons won over Catholic Memorial in the semifinals by a score of 77-73.

March 19 – In Springfield, Cambridge defeated St. John’s by a score of 66-51 to win the Division 1 State Championship.

Falcons


Louis A. DePasqualeRetirements and Appointments (just a few significant ones of many):

Susan Flannery retired as Director of the Cambridge Public Library. She was succeeded by Maria Taesil Hudson McCauley.

Police Commissioner Robert Haas retired and Police Superintendent Christopher J. Burke was appointed as Acting Police Commissioner, effective May 8, 2016.

Retirement of Terry Dumas, Director of the Planning and Development Department for over 25 years and as a staff member for a total of 33 years at the Cambridge Housing Authority.

On July 1, CPS welcomed Dr. Kenneth Salim as the new Superintendent of Schools succeeding Jeffrey Young.

Appointments by the City Council:

Mar 11 – Announcement by Richard Rossi that he would not seek a contract extension as City Manager.

Sept 12 – Reappointment of James Monagle as City Auditor.

Sept 12 – Reappointment of Donna P. Lopez as City Clerk.

Sept 29 – Appointment of Louis DePasquale as City Manager.

Nov 14 – Oath of Office for Louis DePasquale as Cambridge City Manager

The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge


Deaths (only a few of the significant passings this year):

Feb 18Death of Marci Mitler in Porter Square

Feb 28 – Death of Dorothy Steele on Columbia Street

Mar 28 – Death of Election Commissioner Peter Sheinfeld.

April 14Death of Suzanne Schell Pearce.

June 23Death of cyclist Amanda Phillips in Inman Square

June 25Murder of Anthony Clay on Harvard Street

Oct 5Death of Lexington cyclist Bernard "Joe" Lavins in Porter Square

In the wider world, let’s take special note of the passing of musicians David Bowie (Jan 10), Glenn Frey (Jan 17), Paul Kantner (Jan 28), Keith Emerson (Mar 11), Prince (Apr 21), Leonard Cohen (Nov 10), Leon Russell (Nov 13), and Greg Lake (Dec 7).


Mayor SimmonsPolitics and Elections:

Inauguration of City Council and School Committee

One new city councillor: Jan Devereux

Election of the Mayor (Denise Simmons) and Vice Mayor (Marc McGovern)

Two new School Committee members: Manikka Bowman and Emily Dexter

Election of School Committee Vice Chair (Fred Fantini)

March 1 Presidential Primary (Super Tuesday)

September State Primary: Connolly defeats Toomey; Jehlen defeats Cheung

November 8 – Election of "He Who Shall Not Be Named" as President

Initiative Petition on Lifting of Cap on Charter School Defeated

Initiative Petition on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Narrowly Wins

David Maher selected as next President & CEO of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce
  • Maher will not seek re-election to City Council


Day-to-Day Stuff and Around Town:

The Plastic Bag Ban went into effect on March 31.

Sept 19 – DPW Commissioner Owen O’Riordan reported on issues relating to the implementation of the Polystyrene Ordinance.

October – Harvard dining hall workers strike over wages, benefits (Cambridge Chronicle, by Amy Saltzman)

Cambridge and much of eastern Massachusetts suffered a severe drought that required Cambridge to purchase water from the MBTA so that the Cambridge reservoirs would not fall below critical levels. [October 31 Committee Report].

PB Winners 2016Dec 14 – Participatory Budgeting Results Announced
[Total Budget $706,000]

Solar Power Shines! ($260,000)

Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000)

Solar-Powered Real-Time Bus Tracker Displays ($150,000)

Kinetic Energy Tiles ($50,000)

Hydration Stations in Four Locations! ($37,000)

Upgrade the Moore Youth Center ($80,000)

Cambridge Street Art Trail ($25,000)


Many Election-Related Proposals:

Mar 21 – City Council Order seeking to allow Cambridge to institute municipal lobbying regulations. [Never went anywhere]

Mar 21 – City Council Order to hold hearings on the feasibility of facilitating the appointment of an “Non-Citizen Representative” to the City Council. [Never went anywhere]

May 2 – City Council Order seeking to publish a Cambridge voter guide to be distributed to each household in Cambridge a month before the 2017 municipal election.

June 13 – City Council Order asking that Cambridge operate at least 5 early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11-day early voting period.

Turnout figures for Early Voting (complete)

Early Voting Location Oct 24 Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28 Oct 29 Oct 31 Nov 1 Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 4 Total
Main Library (449 Broadway) 619 396 465 262 289 688 483 376 624 436 848 5486
Election Commission (51 Inman St.) 576 399 465 304 304 401 532 399 571 455 564 4970
O’Neill Library (Rindge Ave.) 387 208 302 171 207 373 273 216 395 279 478 3289
Water Department (at Fresh Pond) 368 207 218 131 157 429 233 216 348 254 474 3035
Police Department (East Cambridge) 290 186 225 93 104 263 251 205 349 260 508 2734
All Locations 2240 1396 1675 961 1061 2154 1772 1412 2287 1684 2872 19514

June 13 – City Council Order asking to explore voter reward options for municipal elections.

June 20 – City Council Order to hold hearings of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration, and the Government Operations committee to discuss different models for campaign finance reform and publicly-funded municipal elections in Cambridge.

Nov 7 – City Council Order asking opinion of City Solicitor on the possibility of allowing non-citizen Cambridge residents to vote in municipal elections without a home-rule petition. [This Order was subsequently amended to actually send such a Home Rule Petition to the State Legislature without holding any hearings or debate on the proposal.]


Civics and Government:

Envision Cambridge continues: Workshops, Outreach, Appointment of Advisory Committees, Committee Meetings, Updates

Charter School Roundtable and Ballot Question [Divide widens on Question 2 in Cambridge (Cambridge Chronicle, by Natalie Handy)]


Traffic/Transportation:

Mar 21 – The City Council adopted the Complete Streets Policy and Council Order.

Mar 21 – The City Council adopted a Policy Order committing Vision Zero, a set of goals of eliminating transportation fatalities and serious injuries.

Apr 25 – City Council Order requested information on the feasibility of waiving the motor vehicle excise tax for electric vehicles.

Apr 25 – City Council Order asking if any progress has been made on the willingness of the City of Cambridge (and local developers) to contribute to a successful Green Line Extension.

May 9 – City Manager Richard Rossi communicates to City Council that City intends to commit $25 million toward successful completion of the Green Line Extension (GLX) Project. Somerville will commit $50 million and Medford will also commit funds.

May 31 – Waverly Path Project Opening Celebration

June 9 – Grand Opening of the first phase (Main Street to Broadway along Galileo Galilei Way) of the Grand Junction Pathway.

June 20 – Communication from Richard C. Rossi regarding the acquisition of two parcels of the Watertown Branch railroad from B&M Corporation for the purpose of creating a future multi-use path and greenway.

25mphJune 22 – City presentation of possible reconfigurations for Inman Square roadways

June 27 – City Council Order regarding feasibility of the City of Cambridge filing its own home rule petition to reduce local speed limits (as Boston was then also seeking to do).

Sept 12 – City Council Order prematurely call for declaring all residential zones in Cambridge to be “Safety Zones” with 20mph speed limits and all office and business zones reduced to 25mph. [Council adopted state’s enabling legislation two months later and set citywide 25mph speed limit.]

Sept 12 – City Council Order asking City Solicitor and other relevant City departments to report back to the City Council on next steps on how to go about lowering our speed limits as well as the timeline for these actions.

Sept 12 – City Council Order seeking to increase the parking permit fee and consider other changes to towards reducing vehicle miles traveled and promoting alternative forms of transportation.

Sept 26 – City Manager Richard Rossi conveys City’s Agreement with MassDOT and MBTA regarding funding contribution agreement for Green Line Extension Project.

Oct 17 – City Council Order seeking to form a Vision Zero Working Group comprised of staff from the relevant City departments and residents to collaboratively develop and review traffic safety plans, street designs, public education initiatives, traffic enforcement and related policies with the shared goal of eliminating crashes that result in serious injuries and deaths as quickly as possible.

Oct 17 – City Council Order seeking to restrict the routes of travel and delivery hours of oversized trucks on City streets.

Nov 7 – City Council adopts Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2016, “An Act Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government”, Sections 193 and 194 giving municipalities the authority to reduce speed limits on all ways other than state highways.

Dec 8 – Speed Limit on City-Owned Streets Reduced to 25mph
City of Cambridge implements component of Vision Zero Initiative


Bicycle Specific Blitz of No-Process Orders:

Sept 12 – City Council Order asking for hearing of Transportation and Public Utilities Committee to discuss how City staff review use of bike infrastructure to determine what works, what does not work and what could be improved and to specifically discuss the possibility of making the Western Avenue cycle track a two-direction bike facility.

Oct 17 – City Council Order seeking information from Community Development Department and the Cambridge Police Commissioner on specific recommendations and measures the City should consider in order to prevent future bicycle accidents and fatalities from occurring, and to make our streets safer for bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians.

Oct 17 – City Council Order calling for pilot system of flex-post separated bike lanes and intersections, along Massachusetts Avenue, Hampshire Street, and Cambridge Street.

Oct 17 – City Council Order to schedule hearing of Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee to discuss the possibility of adding a bike-bus lane to Pearl Street and any measures that can be taken to accommodate on-street parking preferences of residents.

Oct 17 – City Council Order asking to include separated bicycle facilities or adjacent off-street paths in any plans for reconstructing all or part of Massachusetts Avenue.

Oct 17 – City Council Order seeking a pilot program of segregated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue between Cedar Street and Harvard Square; on Cambridge Street between Inman Square and Quincy Street; and on Broadway between Prospect Street and Quincy Street.

Oct 17 – City Council Order asking for segregated bike lanes on both sides of Huron Avenue for the full length of its reconstruction.

Nov 7 – City Council Order seeking a deadline of Nov 1, 2017 for fully implementing the various street improvements and safety measures for increasing bicycle safety that were passed during the Oct 17, 2016 meeting.


Housing/Zoning:

Jan 11 – Ordination of Barrett Petition to modify zoning relating to Accessory Apartments and Basement Space

Apr 11 – Inclusionary Housing Study followed by many hearings of the City Council’s Housing Committee
[Aug 11 Committee Reports: Report #1, Report #11, Report #12]
The proposals are now before the Ordinance Committee with action expected in early 2017.

Multiple Medical Marijuana Dispensaries filed zoning petitions for favorable sites.
The City Council is currently attempting to address this by alter the allowed uses in certain business zones.

Aug 1 – City Council Order seeking update on the status of the Classification of Commercial Land Use and Recommendations Study.
Sept 12 – The Classification of Commercial Land Use and Recommendations study is reported to the City Council
This may play a significant role in 2017 if the City Council chooses (as is expected) to update the "Table of Uses" for the various business zones in the city.
The series of marijuana dispensary zoning matters plus the recent initiative petition regarding recreation marijuana and potential retail stores may necessitate this discussion.


Harvard Square:

Aug 1 – Committee Report of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee on topic of possible formation of a special working group tasked with developing a framework for the continued stewardship, curatorship and oversight of the Out of Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square.

Sept 12 – City Council Order asking Historical Commission to produce a new status report that reviews the Harvard Square Conservation District’s effectiveness since 2005, and that considers whether new zoning regulations may be necessary to fulfill the community’s goals.

Oct 17 – Committee Report of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee on the redesign of the Out of Town News Kiosk.

The year ended with significant activism regarding the future of Harvard Square and specifically the plans for the Abbot Building (Curious George) and neighboring buildings recently purchased with plans for significant alterations. The status of some major vacant spaces, esp. the Harvard Square Cinema, have also been central to this discussion.


Central Square:

Dec 19 – Ordinance Committee Report on zoning petition submitted by Nabil Sater, et al to amend the Zoning Ordinances in the Central Square Overlay District, Section 20.300 (a.k.a. – the Central Square Restoration Petition). This petition received unanimous approval by the Planning Board at its initial hearing.


Kendall Square and Nearby:

Sept 12 – Notification from City Manager of approval of the Kendall Square Foundry Development Partners as the development entity for the Foundry.
This was followed by irate reaction from at least one city councillor. [Councilor calls Foundry process egregious; city manager says project not finalized (Cambridge Chronicle, by Adam Sennott)]
The latest word is that the entire process is being restarted.

Volpe Working Group Formed

Oct 3 – As part of the City’s continuing effort to plan for the future redevelopment of the Volpe National Transportation Research Center site in Kendall Square, the City Manager has appointed a "Volpe Working Group" consisting of residents of the surrounding neighborhoods – East Cambridge, the Port, and Wellington-Harrington – along with representatives of the Kendall Square business community and other community stakeholders.

Nov 15 – MIT tapped to redevelop Volpe Center in Cambridge (Boston Globe)


Berkshire St. fire, Dec 3, 2016Wellington/Harrington Neighborhood:

Dec 3 – The Berkshire Street Fire

The Dec 3, 2016 fire in the Harrington/Wellington/East Cambridge neighborhoods caused significant damage to six buildings, and fire or water damage to at least five others.

Initial estimates were that there were 48 displaced families, representing 104 individuals, registered with the Red Cross of Massachusetts.

The public can donate to the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund online at www.cambridgema.gov/firefund or by sending a check to:

Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

By all accounts, the City, many relief agencies, and a tremendous number of individuals really stepped up to the plate to assist others in the wake of this catastrophic event.


Other City Council Initiatives:

Minimum Wage:
June 13 – City Council Order asking that the Mayor convene a Task Force charged with establishing recommendations for the City Council on what the ideal minimum wage in Cambridge should be, and how to best implement this increase without creating unintended consequences in Cambridge or elsewhere.

Outdoor Lighting:
There were various hearings and other meetings on the recommendations from the Outdoor Lighting Task Force (and related proposals for zoning changes) that address the potential detrimental impact of outdoor lighting and propose solutions that diminish existing problems and address problems that may be created by new development. [Report][Proposed Ordinance]. The Task Force was appointed Dec 2, 2013 and was originally expected to complete its report and draft Ordinance by Spring 2014. It took a lot longer than that with many different iterations of the proposed Ordinance.

Short-Term Rentals:
June 20 – City Council Order calling for a joint hearing of the Public Safety and Housing Committees for the purpose of gathering testimony from stakeholders in the City regarding the impact of short-term rentals on our communities with a view in mind to draft an ordinance that meets the goals outlined above, and to refer that proposed ordinance to the Ordinance Committee at the appropriate time.
Councillor Kelley’s June 20 Communication on "Short-Term Rentals in Cambridge: An Overview of Current Usage and Patterns as well as Policy Recommendations".
Aug 1 – Committee Report of Public Safety Committee and Housing Committee on the presence and impact of short-term rental units (Airbnb, FlipKey, VRBO, etc.) in Cambridge.

Broadband Task Force:
Sept 26 – Broadband Task Force recommendations and Tilson Report.
One estimate is that it would cost $187 million dollars to build such a network with no guarantee that customers would leave Comcast or another Internet service provider in favor of such a new network.

Nov 17 – Joint Statement of Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale Regarding Cambridge as a Sanctuary City


Eminent Domain:

June 13 – City Manager’s recommendation that the City Council approve an Order to take the property at 859 Massachusetts Avenue by eminent domain at a cost of $1,363,875. (This would be a friendly taking from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.)
June 20 – City Council approves this taking and related expenditure. City Manager Richard Rossi explained at the meeting that the facilities study as well as the $5 million renovation cost will cover three buildings – the newly acquired 859 Mass. Ave. building as well as 831 Mass. Ave. (the Lombardi Building) and 3 Bigelow St. (currently used for transitional housing). It is anticipated that 859 Mass. Ave. will be used for housing and 3 Bigelow St. will be converted to municipal uses and possibly joined to an expanded 831 Mass. Ave.

Sept 26 – After multiple City Council Orders calling for the City to take the long-derelict Vail Court property on Bishop Allen Drive, the City Manager brought in a recommendation and plan to take Vail Court by eminent domain. This was approved by the City Council, and the cost is now being challenged by the previous property owners.


Now, on to 2017 – a municipal election year!

December 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 193-194: December 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 193 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on December 27, 2016 at 5:30pm. The theme of this show was a “Look Back at 2016”. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 194 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 27, 2016 at 6:00pm. In this episode we continued our “Look Back at 2016” blended with a “Look Ahead at 2017”, including the names of some of the new candidates expected to run for City Council in 2017. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

December 21, 2016

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! – December 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,recycling — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 5:30 pm

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! – December 2016

recycling symbolYard Waste Pickup Ends December 16
Holiday Changes for Trash/Recycling & Recycling Center
Reducing Waste During the Holidays
Recycle in the Curbside Toter
Common Curbside Recycling Mistakes
Holiday Drives: Donation and Reuse Opportunities
Holiday Tree Collection and Composting
Join Our Team!


Yard Waste Pickup Ends December 16

  • Collection of leaves, grass and small twigs & branches ends the week of December 12-16, 2016.
  • If your yard waste was missed, please notify us immediately (within 24hrs) by going online (Choose "Missed Yard Waste Pickup") or call us at 617-349-4800.

Holiday Changes for Trash/Recycling & Recycling Center

Due to the Holidays, there will be no trash/recycling collection on:

  • Monday, December 26, 2016
  • Monday, January 2, 2017

All curbside collection will be delayed by one day both weeks. The Recycling Center will be closed on Saturday, December 24, 2016.


Reducing Waste During the Holidays

  • Chose to ReuseCooking and Dining: Use reusable tableware (plates, cups, utensils, etc) and dishware (pans, pie dishes, etc).
  • Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB): Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bag for shopping these holidays. Avoid the mandatory checkout bag charge and help reduce waste. Need a bag? Email us.
  • Gift Wrapping: Reuse bows, boxes, bags and gift wrap. Save these items to reuse.
  • Gift Giving: Consider giving experiences rather than physical gifts. For example, you could give concert, movie, or play tickets, or experiential classes for cooking, exercise (yoga, rock climbing, or spin classes), or painting.
  • Food Waste: After you’ve finished eating and having leftovers, be sure to compost any excess food waste. Visit CambridgeMA.Gov/Compost.

Recycle in the Curbside Toter

  • Aluminum Foil: It’s always recyclable after you have removed food waste.
  • Cardboard: If your cardboard won’t fit in the toter, stack cardboard/nest boxes outside the toter.
  • Paper Gift Wrap, Boxes, and Bags: Recycle after reusing. Sorry, bows and tissue paper are trash.
  • Items Accepted in the Curbside Recycling Program.

Common Curbside Recycling Mistakes

  • NO Styrofoam: Bring Styrofoam peanuts to a UPS Store for reuse or to the Recycling Center. That bulky Styrofoam can’t be recycled. Put it in the trash.
  • NO Plastic Bags, Bubble Wrap or Air Pillows: Bring empty, clean and dry bags to designated bins at store entrances or the Recycling Center.
  • NO Electronics: Some items such as dead string lights, cords, electronics, and non-alkaline batteries can be recycled at the Recycling Center. See here for more info.
  • NO Pots, Pans, Hangers or Other Scrap Metal: Bring metal items to the Recycling Center. Many dry cleaners accept metal hangers for reuse.
  • NO Clothing or Textiles: Donate all dry and clean textiles. More info here.

Thanks for Getting Rid of It Right!


Holiday Drives: Donation and Reuse Opportunities

Mass. Ave. Diner, 906 Massachusetts Ave: Hosts a food drive through Dec. 22. See here for details.

The City Manager’s Office and the Employees’ Committee on Diversity: Collaborating on a Winter Coat and Accessories Drive to benefit CASPAR and help the homeless stay warm this winter. See here for more info.

"Secret Santa for Seniors" Gift Drive: Seekling gifts for Seniors. See here for more info.


Holiday Tree Collection and Composting

DPW will offer curbside collection of holiday trees from Dec 27, 2016- Jan 13, 2017, weather permitting. Remove all decorations and the stand. Place bare trees (no plastic bags) at the curb with your trash and recycling.

Missed curbside pickup? Residents can bring bare trees to the Recycling Center during open hours (Tues/Thurs 4pm-7:30pm and Sat 9am-4pm): Dec 27, 2016 – Jan 31, 2017.


Join Our Team!

Cambridge DPW is hiring for two paid part-time positions. We are looking for a Waste Reduction Outreach Assistant and a Recycling Center Monitor.


  • recycling symbolMissed recycling or trash? Please use Commonwealth Connect and report it online or via mobile app (iPhone / Android) or call DPW at 617-349-4800 by 12 noon the day after collection to make a request.
  • Need toters, brochures, labels, or posters? Email recycle@cambridgema.gov or fill out this form.
  • Following a weekday holiday, curbside trash, recycling, compost and yard waste collection is delayed one day. Check the 2016 collection schedule.

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 191-192: December 20, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 191 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on December 20, 2016 at 5:30pm. Topics included the Dec 19 City Council meeting and the Dec 13 meeting of the Economic Development & University Relations Committee on the topic of Harvard Square development and preservation. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters.
[On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 192 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on December 20, 2016 at 6:00pm. Topics included the Participatory Budgeting winners, a 1987 poem about Central Square, Little Free Libraries for Central Square, and the upcoming Zero Waste Plan. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

December 19, 2016

Closing Down an Unusual Year – Dec 19, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda Notes

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:13 am

Closing Down an Unusual Year – Dec 19, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda Notes

This will be the last City Council meeting of the year. Here are a few agenda items worthy of some comment:Darwin's sidewalk sign

On the Table #1 and #2. Sidewalk sandwich board applications (CareWell Urgent Care, Esmeralda) languishing On the Table since being tabled by Councillor Devereux on Apr 25, 2016.

Applications & Petitions #1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. Applications and reapplications for sidewalk sandwich boards for Esmeralda, Honeycomb Creamery, Darwin’s Ltd., Marimekko, and Mundo/Lux.

Normally I wouldn’t even bother noting such minor goings-on, but when did the lowly sidewalk sandwich board become such a big deal? This year has been the Year of the Mountainous Molehill with the Cambridge City Council focusing excessively on advertising and identification signs on buildings, and on darkening as many lights as possible. We’ll soon be a city of totally anonymous buildings that will only be identifiable via iPhone apps. Apparently the only signage that’s completely OK is graffiti.

Bunches of Communications supporting the building of 100% affordable housing on the City-owned parking lots on Bishop Allen Drive.

Needless to say, all housing is affordable to someone. So the real question is what mix of household incomes should be represented in any new housing that may be constructed on these sites? Is segregating people by income the best strategy in the long term? The beauty of Inclusionary Zoning is that it integrates people of different income levels within the same buildings. I hope that any housing that may be created on these parking lots at leasts tries to achieve some sort of economic integration. Most of the communications posted in the agenda make no reference to economic integration. In fact, they bear all the signs of an organized effort – nearly identical phrases transcribed in response to an appeal from a single source.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Department and other relevant city departments to allow Officer Peter Neal to purchase Rumba upon his retirement.   Councillor Cheung

This is a very nice gesture, but my understanding is that these police dogs (and I’ve met them all) were trained as bomb-sniffers at some expense and may not yet be eligible for retirement. If Rumba is nearing retirement age, I hope she gets a generous pension of dog bones and biscuits and gets to live happily ever after with Officer Neal.

Order #2. City Council support of asking the Cambridge Historical Commission to initiate a landmark designation study process on the Abbott Building in Harvard Square.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

We all want to see the bones of Harvard Square kept somewhat intact even as new owners and new businesses replace others, and this building is certainly deserving of landmark status. That said, some alteration could still make for a better project. There is, however, something backwards about landmarking only after plans have been submitted. Wouldn’t it make more sense to identify and landmark buildings (or entire areas) before they are purchased for redevelopment?

During a recent hearing on Harvard Square that was inspired by this development proposal, one public commenter offered an interesting proposal to create a mid-block alley through this property that would extend Palmer Street and serve as an interesting entryway to any businesses in this building. That would certainly disrupt the "historic facade" of the building, but it was an interesting idea that would be consistent with the many other alleyways and connections that are abundant in Harvard Square. Personally, I just hope that any displaced businesses can be accommodated somewhere in the greater Harvard Square area, though we would certainly welcome them in Central Square or another Cambridge location.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2016 to discuss the zoning petition submitted by Nabil Sater, et al to amend the Zoning Ordinances in the Central Square Overlay District, Section 20.300.

This petition – the Central Square Restoration Petition – received unanimous approval by the Planning Board at its initial hearing. It usually takes at least two meetings, so that’s at least one measure of the quality of this petition. Central Square, however, has always been a political football, so I expect that some councillors will try to modify the petition in some ways, hopefully positive ways, in order to get their fingerprints on the football. It’s worth noting that the Planning Board characterized this petition as a good interim measure and made it quite clear that other changes to the zoning in Central Square might be forthcoming as the Envision Cambridge process navigates its way through the next couple of years.

December 17, 2016

Central Square is a Grandma

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:09 pm

Central Square is a Grandma
Snaggle-toothed and silent
Dozing by a drafty window
In a faded cotton dress.
Her stories need no telling
Even the blind can read her features
In the roughness of her knuckles
Or the rattle of her sigh.
She danced ballet and scrubbed the floor
Raised children and taught them in school
And was a Patroness of the Arts
With big green rhinestone earrings.
She’s been in clubs and fights and station wagons
Behind a desk and in the hospital
And life keeps moving into her
Like it does with old people.
When there’s Greek music playing
Her feet will stamp and shuffle
And she’ll always ask for seconds
When the catfish is fried just right
She may mumble Haitian stories
Or hum a Vietnamese lullaby
While she rolls her endless tortillas
And sips papaya punch.
She’s old, as old as we will be
And who wants to be old?
Only old people like old people
We can try to make her young
We can fix her hair up pretty
But the hairpins pinch and scratch her
We can buy her a chrome-plated wheelchair
And push her out of the way.
She’ll sleep when she takes her medicine
And she weighs almost nothing
But now her heart must go
There’s money to be made.

Hilda Marshall
April 1987

 
Central Square is a Grandma

 

 

Poem "Central Square is a Grandma"
written by Hilda Marshall in April 1987

contributed by Judy Nathans
from her archives

December 14, 2016

Participatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:50 pm

Participatory BudgetingParticipatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Please join us tonight from 6-7 p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall when we announce this year’s winning Participatory Budgeting (PB) projects!

Over 4,700 residents voted last week in the City’s third PB process. Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It’s residents making real decisions about real money. Find out how the $700,000 will be spent on projects to improve Cambridge! http://pb.cambridgema.gov/

Past winning PB projects include 100 new street trees, a public toilet in Central Square, water bottle fill stations, painted bike lanes, bilingual books for kids, bicycle repair stations, and many others. What projects will win this time? You decide!

For more information, please visit pb.cambridgema.gov or contact Budget Office staff at pb@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4270. See you at the PB polls!

The Winners!

Solar Power Shines! ($260,000)

Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000)

Solar-Powered Real-Time Bus Tracker Displays ($150,000)

Kinetic Energy Tiles ($50,000)

Hydration Stations in Four Locations! ($37,000)

Upgrade the Moore Youth Center ($80,000)

Cambridge Street Art Trail ($25,000)

The total budget for these 7 winners is $706,000

PB Winners 2016

December 10, 2016

After the Fire – the Dec 12, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting (postponed from Dec 5)

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:32 pm

After the Fire – the Dec 12, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting (postponed from Dec 5)

Dec 3 fireLast week’s meeting was postponed due to the relief efforts associated with the Berkshire Street fire. Any business then before the City Council paled in comparison to the devastation caused by the 10-alarm fire on Sat, Dec 3 in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood. In the midst of it all it was great to see Cantabrigians pulling together to help residents directly impacted by the conflagration. This is a neighborhood where people identify buildings by the names of the families who inhabit them – some for generations.

On the expanded meeting agenda for this week, here are some items of interest:

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with suggested changes to Cambridge’s policy regarding advertising revenue that could help support the continuation and expansion of Hubway in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

The economic sustainability of Hubway may require additional advertising revenue or increased user fees (currently $20/month or $85/year). Or you could just buy a bike and a good lock.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to make the appropriate staff available to assist the Mayor’s Office in facilitating a community conversation about the roles and intersection of race, class, gender, and culture in Cambridge within the first quarter of 2017.   Mayor Simmons

Mayor Simmons has organized such events in the past and does a pretty good job at it.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding the potential of building affordable housing on City-owned parking lots along Bishop Allen Drive.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

At some point, city councillors and City staff will have to start distinguishing between "building affordable housing" and "making housing affordable". As an interim measure, creating housing accessible to low and moderate income people who access it by applying to a government agency or quasi-governmental entity makes sense. However, this contributes to the division of housing into high-cost housing for the well-to-do and subsidized housing for the not-so-well-to-do. It doesn’t do much for those who are simply looking for an affordable place to live and who are not inclined to seek government-owned or government-controlled housing. Affordable options for most people should be available without having to apply to a governmental agency.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department with the intention of ensuring that zoning and building code restrictions will not prohibit the rebuilding of the damaged structures and to report back to the City Council with necessary language or steps needed to ensure a straightforward process for families and current property owners to rebuild.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Inspectional Services Department, the Community Development Department, the Legal Department and any other appropriate city departments to determine what measures can be taken to fast-track the rebuilding of homes impacted by the fire that may be non-conforming with the current zoning code and report back to the Council in a timely manner on what actions can be considered.   Councillor Devereux

These are both very timely, and if there’s any need to insert an emergency amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to facilitate this, the City Council should fast-track it. Hopefully there’s insurance money to cover most or all of the costs of rebuilding.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to ensure that all money raised during this campaign is distributed to the Wellington Harrington residents impacted by this incident and to report back to the City Council when all funds are distributed.   Councillor Toomey

So far it seems that City efforts and the efforts of the Mayor’s Office have been well-coordinated with the Red Cross and other agencies. Cambridge should be very proud of all these efforts and those of individuals who have stepped forward to assist with money, materials, and housing.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Director of Communications, the Community Development Department, the Human Services Department, and Public Safety Departments to develop an outreach and communications plan for renters in Cambridge about the importance and availability of renters insurance and consult with these departments to assist low- and moderate-income tenants in acquiring affordable renters insurance policies, and to report back on both orders.   Councillor Devereux

Though clearly motivated by the Berkshire Street fire, the reality is that most Cambridge residents and certainly most residents in this affected neighborhood are renters. Buildings can be rebuilt, but the loss of personal property can be equally devastating. People often don’t think about rental insurance, so this is, as they say, "a teachable moment".

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with DCR to request that the speed limit be reduced to 25 mph on Fresh Pond Parkway from the BB&N Upper School campus to the Route 2/16 split west of the Alewife MBTA station.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Though it may not make sense to lower the speed limit to 25 mph on a limited-access highway or an arterial road with relatively few street crossings, Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway both have many intersections where vehicles and pedestrians and abundantly present. Since Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are all reducing the speed limit on City-owned streets, the DCR should do the same on all of their roads that operate like major city streets. Having uniform traffic standards regardless of ownership makes a lot of sense.

Order #12. That the City Council’s Government Operations Committee seek to identify a suitable site to honor Representative Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. for his long and distinguished commitment to the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Maher, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Cheung

This is a great idea. I certainly hope that City Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. will continue in his role on the City Council for years to come – maybe even as Mayor.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 16, 2016 to discuss gradually increasing the parking permit fee and to consider other improvements to the program to help fund the City’s budget towards reducing vehicle miles traveled and to promote alternative forms of transportation.

This was the meeting where some city councillors (Mazen, Devereux) argued in favor of dramatic increases in the Resident Permit Parking fee. Basically, they would like to jack it up as high as they can politically get away with. Councillor Devereux wants to jack the fees up as a way of disincentivising automobile ownership – at least for those with lower incomes. She also noted that Uber does not have enough curb space to pull over and that this could be relieved by driving out resident parking from major streets. In a Twitter post recently she also expressed her desire to double Cambridge parking meter rates like Boston is planning to do in the Seaport District. Gee, thanks.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 27, 2016 to discuss a zoning petition by the City Council to amend four sections in Article 19.000 of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 27, 2016 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title 15 entitled “Buildings and Construction” by adding a new Chapter 15.22 entitled “Outdoor Lighting.”

Rather than get into the details of all this, I will simply note that it is so classically Cambridge that a proposal that was originally intended to limit light trespass into bedroom windows has now morphed into a showdown on the aesthetics of building signage and architectural lighting. It almost makes me yearn for the days of "spectacular lighting" such as the one adorning the Shell gas station on Memorial Drive or, even more spectacularly, the much-beloved Citgo sign overseeing the good fortunes of the Red Sox. – Robert Winters

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: