Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 25, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 221-222: April 25, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 221 (Part 1)

This program was broadcast on Apr 25, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics were drawn from the Apr 24 Cambridge City Council meeting, including the FY2018 Budget and the proposed Surveillance Ordinance. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 222 (Part 2)

This program was broadcast on Apr 25, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics include the Envision Cambridge Working Groups and general concerns about long-term planning. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 24, 2017

It’s Budget Season – Featured Items on the April 24, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:33 am

It’s Budget Season – Featured Items on the April 24, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Budget Season!Here’s a look at some of the more interesting items on this week’s agenda.

The Budget

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the FY2018 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $20,000,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport neighborhood, and the Port neighborhood.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $4,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including roof repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at an elementary school.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $5,000,000 to provide funds for the Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan.

The Budget Hearings are scheduled for Tues, May 2 and Wed, May 10 at 9:00am for the FY2018 City Department Budgets and for Tues, May 9 at 6:00pm for the FY2018 School Department Budget.


Appointments

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as member of the Community Preservation Act Committee for a term of five years, effective Apr 24, 2017: Anna Aldric and David Kale

Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Recycling Advisory Committee for a term of two years, effective Apr 24, 2017: New Appointments: Ilana Bebchick, Joel Dashnaw, David Frank, Martha Henry, Susy Jones, Liz Marr, Michael Papas, Anne Sherman, Matthew St. Onge, Quinten Steenhuis, Kristen Watkins Reappointments: Keith Cialino, Debby Galef, Rob Gogan, Debby Knight, Janet Mosley, Laura Nichols, Meera Singh and Mary Verhage

Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Envision Cambridge Focus Area Working Groups on Economy, Housing, Climate and the Environment, and Mobility. The Focus Area Working Groups are tasked with developing recommendations on topic-specific goals, strategies, and targets and indicators.


Items of interest to those who live in fear of being watched

Manager’s Agenda #29. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a notification of a request from MIT to perform a test installation of a range of sensor technology along Massachusetts Avenue between Vassar Street and Lansdowne Street, in proximity to the MIT campus.

Manager’s Agenda #30. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-15, Council Order Number 7 of 11/21/6 and Council Order Number 2 of 3/27/17, regarding an update on language in a proposed surveillance technology ordinance.

Tin foil hats may be ordered on eBay here. They can also be ordered on Amazon.


Zoning Stuff

Manager’s Agenda #20. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Harding, et al Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #6. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge in Article 8.000 entitled "Nonconformity" by deleting Section 8.23 in its entirety and substitute a new Section 8.23. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 17, 2017. Planning Board hearing held Mar 21, 2017. Petition expires June 27, 2017.

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 Apr 6, 2017 to discuss a petition by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Article 20.50 entitled “Harvard Square Overlay and Harvard Square Historic District” by adding a new Section 20.54.7 Exempting rooftop spaces from FAR.

I expect the "Nonconformity" zoning amendment will be ordained at this meeting. The proposal to make it easier to open active roof decks in the Harvard Square area remains in committee, and the combatants have entered the ring.


Airbnb and related stuff

Communication #10. A communication was received from Rebecca Rutenberg, Chief Operating Officer, The Novus Group, transmitting the Airbnb -Cambridge Housing Report.

Communication #15. A communication was received from Caitlin O’Neill, Director of Public Policy, Sonder, 271 Cambridge Street, regarding model language for professional short-term providers.

Order #5. Proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance creating a regulatory framework to ensure the City’s short-term rentals are legal, safe, and fair.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

Committee Report #1. 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 Apr 4, 2017 to conduct a general discussion on short-term rental uses throughout the City.

It’s very important that this matter be resolved soon, but I have yet to see a completely coherent proposal that provides flexibility for homeowners but which does not overreach. As for the investors who are intentionally buying up multifamily houses so that they can run them as Airbnb profit-makers rather than as homes for actual people, I wish you all frontier justice. To those who paid far too much for your buildings and who now argue that the only way they can make ends meet is to rake in gobs of Airbnb cash, I say "Caveat Emptor". You should have bought a place in Malden.


Brief snippets of wisdom

Communication #8. A communication was received from Peter Valentine, regarding the reason humans don’t need robots. [“The reason humans don’t need robots is that humans can be any kind of robot they want, and the reason for that is that they possess within themselves the ultimate chip, which is The Creator of All of Existence.” True or not true.” – Peter Valentine, 4/6/2017]


Birds, bees, flowers, trees, parks, and gardens

Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-17, regarding a report on a Tree Task Force to protect the Urban Canopy.

Order #1. That the City of Cambridge partner with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Cambridge Neighborhood Association to revitalize Magazine Beach.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Conservation Commission and report back with a status update of the Community Garden program.   Councillor Devereux

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department to present zoning regulations that allow urban agriculture to the City Council as soon as possible so that an Ordinance Committee hearing can be scheduled.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to hold a community meeting to discuss the lighting design proposed for the path, steps being taken to make the lighting appropriate for the natural context of the Reservation, and steps being taken to make Greenway path safe and useful during evening commuting hours.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux

I could go on at length on a number of these matters – the great efforts of Cathie Zusy and others with Magazine Beach, some very short-sighted rules pushed by the City on community gardens under its jurisdiction, the absurd delay in adopting at least something on urban agriculture, and some of the overstated fears expressed regarding lighting on the proposed Fresh Pond Greenway – but perhaps another time. I’m sure there will be plenty of comment.


Minimal substance, but sure to draw comments

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to ban all City employees from using City funds on services provided by United Airlines when alternatives exist.   Councillor Cheung, Mayor Simmons

Order #10. That the City Manager, in instances where there is no significant additional cost defined in regulations, or conflict with law, is requested to refrain from entering into new or amended contracts to purchase professional, technical, scientific or financial services, goods, construction labor and materials or other services, or supplies from businesses that enter into contracts to provide such services, goods, materials or supplies to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux

I really despise Orders like these. In the former, an airline screws up and promises to do better, so the City Council wants to ban the use of City funds on that airline. Plenty of companies screw up at one time or another. Should they all be boycotted? As for the latter, that Trump wall is perhaps the single most stupid proposal I have ever heard from a U.S. President, but asking the City Manager to filter all contracts based on this criterion is just as stupid.


Obscure but curiously interesting

Order #9. That the Public Safety Committee begin a public discussion of potential methods of regulating an internet-based delivery system that makes any part of any road a possible loading platform in a way that allows such uses to continue without putting other users of Cambridge’s roads in danger or unreasonably obstructing traffic.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux

Now that I have read this Order carefully, it appears that the genesis of this Order is the belief that cyclists are incapable of any wisdom or road sense. This Order wants to encourage delivery vehicles, taxis and similar services to temporarily park in the middle of full travel lanes rather than pull to the curb. The authors apparently believe it is better for cyclists to pass vehicles on the right where active loading and unloading of cargo and passengers is taking place. This is lunacy. My guess it passes without debate.


Good intentions that will likely turn that $30K roof repair into a $150K roof repair

Order #13. Urge the Cambridge Legislative Delegation in the State Legislature to do everything in its power to bring Massachusetts closer to 100% renewable energy by 2035, and ensure that the benefits of renewable energy are realized by Massachusetts residents from all walks of life and supporting a goal of using 100% clean and renewable energy in Cambridge, including in building energy use and transportation, by 2035.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

Who could argue with the rosy future painted by this Order? Well, at some point these matters do eventually get translated into things like stretch building codes and super-stretch building codes, and then one day when you just want to fix that leak in your roof and a City inspector informs you that in order to meet the new code your choice is to fix the roof in secret over the weekend without a permit or pay five times the cost in order to meet all the new standards. When that day comes, I do hope that our legislative do-gooders are as generous with their grant money as they are with their mandates. The devil is always in the details. – Robert Winters

April 20, 2017

Sheet of ice draws praise from bicycle advocates

Snowmelt drains across "protected" bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

Snowmelt drains across “protected” bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

OK, spring is around the corner, so I’m a bit late with this post. But the issue I describe here will occur every year, at least until global warming puts an end to snows or converts central Cambridge into an extension of Boston Harbor.

The headline of the February 17 Boston Globe article with this picture is “Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists”.

The shiny area in the bikeway is meltwater from said snowbank. When the temperature drops below freezing, the meltwater becomes a sheet of black ice. This problem is unavoidable with a street-level barrier-separated bikeway. I discussed it at length years ago in connection with the 9th Avenue bikeway in Manhattan, a bikeway which, on the other hand, I have some nice things to say about.

Neither Steve Annear, author of the article, nor anyone quoted in it, makes any mention of the black-ice problem.

From the article: “’I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,’ Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.” Ari usually ranges widely, imaginatively and thoughtfully in discussing transportation improvements his blog. I usually agree with him, but not in this case.

The article cites Joe Barr, of the City of Cambridge:

Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.

“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.

And Richard Fries, Executive Director of Massbike, commented: “It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.”

Segregation promotes a sense of entitlement on the part of the majority group –in this case, motorists. How do I explain to horn-honking motorists that I have to ride in “their” travel lane, now narrowed to make room for the barrier, to avoid crashing on a sheet of black ice?

Or for that matter, to progress at my usual 15 miles per hour so I’m not stuck behind a cluster of bicyclists who are traveling at 8 miles per hour?

Or to avoid being right-hooked and crushed under the back wheels by a right-turning truck at Douglass Street?

Or that the rear-end collisions that this installation protects against are vanishingly rare on urban streets?

Or that parallel Harvard Street, Green Street and Franklin Street would serve admirably as low-stress through bicycle routes, if the city made the right kind of improvements?

April 18, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 219-220: April 18, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut,transportation — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:42 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 219 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on April 18, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics included Women in Comedy and some local opportunities at the Cambridge Science Festival and elsewhere. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 220 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on April 18, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics included the proposed Mass. Turnpike Realignment and other infrastructure. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 4, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 217-218: April 4, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:51 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 217 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on April 4, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics included the potential for national issues to sway municipal politics; a City Council calling for the impeachment of the President, and some upcoming civic and other opportunities. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 218 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on April 4, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics chosen from the Apr 3 City Council meeting, including a discussion of police presence in City Hall and Central Square; updates on municipal election candidates. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

April 2, 2017

Springing into April – Agenda items from the April 3, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:54 pm

Springing into April – Agenda items from the April 3, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Impeach - The Honey DrippersThe BIG ITEM at this meeting is the ordination of the amendments to the City’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Then there’s also the call for impeachment of the President. Here are some nuggets that caught my attention:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5,250,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account to facilitate the complete renovation of the building located at 859 Massachusetts Avenue.

I’m glad that this building is being rehabilitated for this purpose, but I am astonished at the size of the appropriation – apparently just for this one residential building. Is this what the costs are "to meet the requirements of the City’s Net Zero standards"?

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $2,875,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($1,940,000) and to the Public Works Public Investment Fund ($935,000) to cover winter 2016-2017 snowstorm expenses associated with snow plowing contracts, salt, other material, repair costs and equipment.

I would like to request that the contract not be renewed for whoever was responsible for using the front of my and my neighbors’ houses as a snow storage area for snow moved there from elsewhere. My only other complaint is that apparently the City’s snow clearance guidelines no longer include plowing all the way to the curb on snow emergency routes even for relatively modest snow events. This led to cars being parked 3-5 feet from the curb on some of these streets. The result is a significantly narrowed roadway that is less safe for everyone. I could understand this being the case in an especially harsh winter (like two years ago) where there’s just no place else to put the snow, but this should not have been the case for this relatively mild winter.

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Betsy Allen as the new Director of Equity and Inclusion (formerly known as Director of Affirmative Action) for the City of Cambridge, effective Apr 10, 2017.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Vision Zero Advisory Committee, effective Apr 3, 2017 for a term of two years: Nicholas Dard, Anne Kreider, Jennifer Quick, Peter Kuhlmann, Stephen Varrichio, Becca Wolfson, Nathanael Fillmore, Stacy Thompson, Richard Fries, Wendy Landman, Amy Flax, Sean Peirce, Jim Gascoigne, Michael Muehe, Diane Gray, Todd Robinson, Michele Trifiro and Steve Crossley

I hope this newly appointed advisory committee will focus on actual safety rather than recommending disruptive changes to roadways that are more political than practical and which primarily serve to marginalize cyclists (literally).

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with suggested modifications, the Zoning Petition to Amend Section 8.23 – Reconstruction of Nonconforming Structure or Use Following Fire, Explosion or Other Catastrophe.

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 Mar 29, 2017 to discuss a proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment to strikeout Section 8.23 entitled “Non-conformity” and substitute in place thereof a new Section 8.23.

The modifications suggested by the Planning Board are sensible. The City Council may also wish to consider time extensions beyond the allowed time frame via special permit in case of extraordinary circumstances.

Update: The petition was amended by substitution using language recommended by the Planning Board, then passed to a 2nd Reading.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to amendments to Title 6 of the Municipal Code entitled "Animals" to include a new Chapter 6.20 entitled "Restrictions on the Sale of Animals in Pet Shops".

Very well, but where will you purchase mice and other live food for your pet snake or other animal?

Update: These amendments were referred to the Ordinance Committee.

Unfinished Business #7. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge in Inclusionary Housing, including the insertion of new definitions in Article 2.000 and the substitution of revised zoning text for the current text to Sections 11.200 through 11.206. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 3, 2017. Planning board hearing held Dec 20, 2016. Petition expires Apr 4, 2017.

This should be all set based on the language that was passed to a 2nd Reading on March 20, and the vote will likely be unanimous unless there are some problematic last-minute amendments. It remains to be seen whether the 20% affordable mandate will be viable in the long term or if it only serves to exacerbate the gap between high income and low income residents. My greatest concern is that the current policies will eventually lead to a future where only very high income people can buy or rent unrestricted housing units and the only option for everyone else will be to file an application with a City housing agency to obtain housing.

Update: Ordained 9-0, as expected.

Order #2. That the City Council call upon the United States House of Representatives to support a resolution authorizing and directing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, including but not limited to the violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Cheung

This will certainly bring the TV crews out. [ABCNews story] City Council Orders don’t generally get titles, but perhaps this one could be called "An Order Calling for Hard Right Conservative VP Mike Pence to Assume the Presidency". Be careful what you wish for. I received an email appeal recently about this Order with the subject heading "Support Bold Action by the City Council". It would perhaps better be characterized as a symbolic action meant to achieve nothing more than the attention of ill-intentioned Congressmen, Senators, and the Executive Branch. What exactly that achieves is yet to be determined.

Update: This purely symbolic order passed on a 7-1-1 vote with Councillor Maher voting NO and Councillor Toomey voting PRESENT. The real question is which councillor gets the most quotes in the local press and the most face time on national TV.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 15, 2017 to discuss next steps on bike and transit safety in Cambridge.

Suffice to say that I am very concerned that for purely political reasons some Cambridge streets may soon look like a forest constructed of upright PVC pipe, marginalized cyclists, dangerously narrowed roadways, loss of parking in places where it’s needed, and no net additional safety. I am often reminded of the fact that "skyways", i.e. elevated highways, were one touted as the be-all-end-all solution to traffic problems. Decades later many of these misguided visions are being dismantled as the wrong solution. – Robert Winters

April 1, 2017

All the News That’s Printed to Fit – April 1, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 4:00 am

Roadway cross-section

Plans unveiled for segregated lanes on major Cambridge thoroughfares.
City has long-term plan to install “protected lanes” for bikes, mopeds, cars, trucks, pedestrians, seniors, and hoverboards.

After hours of research, City transportation planners and the newly appointed Vision Zero Advisory Committee released preliminary plans for fully segregated lanes on several major Cambridge thoroughfares. “We must do this for the greater good,” said City Manager Louis DePasquale. “This will unfortunately require the removal of all trees along the city’s major thoroughfares and well as land takings needed in order to create sufficient (100 ft.) road width."

Not all city councillors were on board with the plan. Councillors Devereux and Mazen argued that the trees could be preserved by simply eliminating the lanes for motor vehicles. City Arborist David Lefcourt acknowledged that most trees would have to go as they might cast unsafe shadows on the cycle track, the child track, the senior track, and the hoverboard tracks.

One member of Cambridge’s Bicycle Committee summed it up best, saying “The whole concept of ‘sharing’ is an outdated vestige of the pre-millennial age.” Traffic Director Joseph Barr explained further, saying “Separation of the various modes will be achieved by building a wall, … and the drivers are going to pay for it."


City Poised to Ordain new Inclusionary Shopping Ordinance

After nearly a year of proposals, counterproposals, and last minute amendments at the Ordinance Committee, the Cambridge City Council is expected to ordain the new Inclusionary Shopping Ordinance this Monday, April 3. All retail establishments will now be required to provide a minimum of 20% affordable goods at all retail locations in Cambridge.

A related ordinance is also on the verge of passage – the Inclusionary Drinking Ordinance. Barring any last-minute amendments or legal challenges, all bars will be required to have a mandatory minimum of 20% affordable beverages or risk losing their license. This must apply to all alcoholic beverage categories. Councillor McGovern wisely amended the original language after noticing that a drinking establishment could get away with selling nothing but cheap beer in order to meet the requirements of the ordinance. McGovern explained: "We had grave concerns that low-income drinkers would be forced to choose from a very limited menu. With the new language, they can now order any drink they like as long as they can prove income eligibility."

Additional initiatives to follow later this year include Inclusionary Driving, Inclusionary Sleeping, Inclusionary Dating, and Inclusionary Housing.


BYOTP Ordinance

Now that the Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Ordinance has been in place for a year, progressive activists are now proposing the Bring Your Own Toilet Paper (BYOTP) Ordinance that would require residents to Bring Their Own Toilet Paper to all publicly accessible bathrooms in Cambridge (or pay a 10¢ per sheet fee). Representatives of the Sierra Club hailed the proposal as an idea whose time is now. They have also requested that the ordinance be expanded to include a ban on paper towels. “Surely it’s not so much to ask residents to bring a simple piece of cloth when travelling about the city,” said one of the Sierra Club representatives.


Privilege Checkpoints to be Established

As a convenience for guilt-ridden Cambridge residents, the City Council approved an appropriation to build and staff privilege checkpoints at various locations around the city. Volunteers from various advocacy groups will assist in taking confession, distributing sackcloth and ashes, and accepting cash donations. Turnstiles will be made available at all public rallies for those who simply want to "check their privilege" on the fly prior to repeating the chants of charismatic leaders.

Also planned are limits on critical thinking as it constitutes microaggression – which is now banned within City limits.


New SeeClickFix/Commonwealth Connects categories added to City menu

In addition to complaints about potholes, motor vehicles in bike lanes, and A-Frame sidewalk signs, City staff have agreed to add the following new categories to the popular SeeClickFix/Commonwealth Connect online tool:

  • slightly off-color sidewalk color (02138 only),
  • inability to find parking space, and
  • being stalked by obsessive-compulsive SeeClickFix reporters.

Complaints about poor snow plowing by City contractors will no longer be accepted. The Department of Public Works (DPW) is instructing any resident besieged by snow plows to wait until spring when the problem will be resolved.


Bernie Sanders to Relocate to Cambridge in Preparation for the Revolution

Current Vermont Senator and cult figure Bernie Sanders announced at a rally on Friday, March 31 that he plans to purchase a 4th home – in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sanders explained that he wanted to establish residency in the "Peoples’ Republic of Cambridge" in advance of the rumored relocation of the nation’s capitol from Washington D.C. to Cambridge after The Revolution. “I’ve always been a capitolist,” joked Sanders.

Brattle Street residents are generally supportive of Sanders’ long-term plans to establish a Venezuelan-style government here, but they do remain wary of the threat of redistribution of wealth as their estates could be nationalized to be used as affordable communes. Local Sanders acolytes are organizing a “Revolution Slate” for the municipal election that features a platform calling for the eventual transition of all rental apartments to “social ownership” and a steeply graduated City income tax.


Resistance News

Self-declared “Members of the Resistance” in Cambridge have establish an “underground railroad” for undocumented Cambridge residents who have been benefiting until now from the Sanctuary City policies adopted in Cambridge in 1985. Harboring these residents will now largely take place using the new habitable basement space made possible by the Barrett Petition that legalized accessory apartments in most parts of the city. Previously, only locations in Old Cambridge would have been available for this purpose.

Resistance fighters have been doing training exercises in local cafés. “Posting on social media is exhausting work,” said one bearded member of Our Revolution and former Occupant in Dewey Square. “The danger of tweeting in the wrong echo chamber simply cannot be overstated.”


Political Updates

Devereux SignCouncillor Jan Devereux announced that she will not be distributing bumper stickers for this year’s election “because I don’t wish to send the wrong message by affixing my name to a motor vehicle.” She will instead be promoting her campaign primarily via well-placed A-Frame signs on well-travelled city sidewalks. She has hired Jackson Place resident James Williamson to fabricate the signs, arrange for the locations, and transport and set up the signs at these locations. Said Williamson, “I’m just glad to have the work.”

New Candidates

The field of City Council candidates grew significantly larger this week when it was announced that the entire Foundations of Political Theory (Gov 10) class at Harvard University would be filing papers to seek City Council seats.

As the course description says: "Is democratic rule the uniquely just form of collective decision-making? What political institutions best express the democratic values of equality, deliberation, and participation? What are the moral responsibilities of citizens – whose representatives exercise political power in their name? Is democracy a human right?"

When informed that if elected they would have to actually take calls from constituents about mundane things like potholes, incorrectly pigmented sidewalk concrete, and crime, several of the new candidates responded by saying, "What? You’re shitting me!"

Election Commission Executive Director Tanya Ford expressed concern that with hundreds of candidates on the ballot they might have to limit the number of rankings voters can express on the PR ballot. She was even more concerned about how to fit all the names on the ballot. One option being considered was using specially cut 8½" x 90" ballots, but it’s unclear how this might work with the privacy sleeves. Ms. Ford also shuddered at the thought that a candidate might ask for a recount.

Neighborhood Associations to hold elections

Former Cambridge City Councillor and Mayor Alfred Vellucci often referred to officers and activists associated with various neighborhood associations as the "self-annointed, self-appointed.” In order to address perceptions that they are not reflective of the neighborhoods they claim to represent, several major Cambridge neighborhood associations have scheduled open elections for later this year in which any resident of the neighborhood can ask to be placed on the ballot after collecting the minimum 500 signatures. Existing board members would still retain veto power over unfavorable election outcomes.


Odd Rumblings on Dana Hill

Residents of Centre Street on Dana Hill in Mid-Cambridge have been complaining of late about mysterious rumbling sounds that occur at random times during the day and night. City geologists studying the matter have concluded that this portion of Mid-Cambridge is actually a long-dormant volcano that’s been worn down over millions of years but is still active. “It’s really only a matter of time before a significant eruption occurs,” said Chief Geologist Mike Etna. Cracks that have been developing in basement walls are apparently due to a relatively small lava dome that has been gradually building. It is expected that if ever the lava is released, hopefully not cataclysmically, it will flow gently down into the Riverside neighborhood.


Inman Square Restoration Petition

Following the lead of the recently successful Central Square Restoration Petition that could one day lead to the restoration of several floors of buildings cut down once upon a time for tax purposes, residents of Inman Square have now filed their own zoning petition designed to restore the former greatness of Inman Square. If fully implemented, the petitioners hope to bring back Rosie’s Bakery, Legal Seafood, and the Inman Square Men’s Bar. Of course the name of the bar will have to be changed to the Inman Square Men’s, Women’s, Lesbian’s, Gay’s, Bisexual’s, Transgender’s, Queer’s Plus Bar in keeping with modern standards of inclusivity.

A similar Alewife Restoration Petition seeks to bring back historic warehouses and brick and steel manufacturing to North Cambridge. Sponsors showed up wearing distinctive red hats for the filing of the petition at City Hall. Lead signer Charles Teague explained their goal in simple terms, saying "We’re going to make North Cambridge great again."


Major New Residential Developments in the Pipeline

The Mass+Main project is about to rise in Lafayette Square. What’s next in the long-term plans for this developer? Alex Twining and his partners are seeking to develop thematically in other Cambridge neighborhoods using their distinctive alliterative style. Preliminary plans have been leaked showing the following future projects – each with its own related zoning petition: Pearl+Putnam; Mass+Meacham; Rindge+Reed; and Walden+Wood

Members of A Better Cambridge (ABC) endorsed the plans based on the sheer numbers of residents they could pack into the city limits. Members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance (CResA) argued that these sites would be better suited for either farmland or public housing. Several activists have filed a petition to rename various Cambridge streets so that no two streets beginning with the same letter will intersect anywhere in Cambridge. Consultants from the MIT Mathematics Department have been hired to determine the feasibility of the petition.

In an unrelated development, the long abandoned Vail Court property at Bishop Allen Drive and Temple Street will soon become the new home of the relocated Middlesex County Courthouse. The previous site of the courthouse in East Cambridge will be turned into a community garden.


City Board weighs in on the Living Wage

The City’s Community Advisory Board on the Living Wage last week issued a report stressing the urgency of establishing a citywide minimum wage of $15 per hour. Though many Cambridge jobs have wages well in excess of this proposed minimum, some jobs such as cashiers, burger-flippers, baristas, house cleaners and child care workers currently earn considerably less than $15 per hour.

One profession often overlooked in this discussion is petty criminals and others who violate any of the Ten Commandments, a.k.a. "sinners". The report makes clear that even for this job category, the wages of sin should be $15 per hour.

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