Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 30, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 287-288: Jan 30, 2018

Episode 287 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 30, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 30, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Jan 29 City Council meeting; electric vehicles; Mass Pike reconfiguration; committee appointments, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 288 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 30, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 30, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Central Square updates; Carl Barron Plaza charrette, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 29, 2018

Featured Items on the Jan 29, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

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

Featured Items on the Jan 29, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Mayor McGovern has appointed the City Council committees and their Chairs pending final adoption of the City Council Rules. In addition, here are just a few of the noteworthy agenda items:

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding efforts to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations, the feasibility of appropriately placing electric vehicle chargers on residential streets where there is need, the status of possible City fleet replacement to electric vehicles, expanded outreach and education on available rebates and incentive programs, and the feasibility of requiring developers to include a greater number of electric vehicle charging stations in new or substantially renovated multi-unit buildings. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Simmons on Jan 22, 2018.]
Approved as Amended, Add’l Order Approved to also refer to Health & Environment Committee

This Order from last week exposed a potentially pretty significant rift. It’s one thing to require electric vehicle charging capacity in new residential and commercial construction, but providing charging stations on public streets basically means that only those who can afford a $100,000+ Chevy Volt or comparable vehicle will be able to use those parking spaces. [Correction: It’s the Tesla Model S that went for ~$100K. The Chevy Volt apparently goes for ~$30K.] It’s understandable that people without driveways might want a mechanism for charging their cars (since running power cords across the sidewalk or down the street is not an option), but how will it go over with the neighbors if only some people are privileged to use these parking spaces?

Unfinished Business #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Devereux, Chair of the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee, for a public hearing held on Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules and transmitting recommended changes to the City Council Rules.
Approved – and copies of the amended Rules were made available at the meeting

I honestly don’t know what Rules Changes they finally settled on at last week’s meeting. The meeting materials only show the suggestions from the Ad-Hoc Committee and it’s simply not worth reviewing the video to find out what the Council decided on before referring the revised version to Unfinished Business. It’s primarily just nickel-and-dime stuff anyway.

Communications #16-25 and #27 transmitting written opposition to the Peter Kroon, et al. Harvard Square Overlay District Zoning Petition.
Referred to the Petition

In addition to these communications, most of the public comment at last week’s Ordinance Committee meeting was against the petition. I believe there may now be or will soon be expressed written opposition from more than 20% of the affected land ownership which means that a three-quarter super-majority vote would be needed to pass the Kroon Petition, i.e. 7 votes instead of 6 out of 9. I don’t think it had the votes anyway, but it apparently doesn’t matter because the Ordinance Committee failed to move it out of committee so it can’t be passed to a 2nd Reading on Monday and it therefore cannot be ordained prior to the expiration date. It seems likely that a revised version will be filed after the Feb 19 expiration.

One particularly offensive part of the Ordinance Committee discussion centered on term limits on membership on the Harvard Square Advisory Committee and the desire of the petitioners and some councillors to drive one particular person out of the Chair and maybe even off the advisory committee entirely. There is a notification in this week’s agenda for the reappointment of two 20+ year members to the Library Board of Trustees. Will the City Council now argue that they should be booted from the Board in the quest for "new blood"? City boards & commissions benefit greatly from having a mix of newer members and long-time members who carry a lot of institutional memory and skills. Having a good balance is what’s really important.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor and any other appropriate City departments to report back to the City Council with an update on any work that is currently underway regarding regulating adult use marijuana and to suggest next steps to the Council.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern
Approved

This is a timely order. The Trojan horse of medical marijuana facilities has already entered the city and it has the munchies.

Vision Central SquareOrder #4. That the City Manager is requested to explore funding options for the possibility of creating a Business Improvement District (BID) for Central Square.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern
Approved

It is quite apparent that groups like the Harvard Square Business Association and the Central Square Business Association are already taking on some of the rules associated with a Business Improvement District. This may be the right time to make this official in Central Square. The benefits are many and the down sides are few.

PS – The Central Square Business Association and its most excellent Executive Director Michael Monastime hosted an especially good charrette on Saturday on the future of Carl Barron Plaza in the heart of Central Square. This was just the first of what will be many opportunities for public input on the upcoming River Street reconstruction project (from the river to Carl Barron Plaza) that will commence at some point in the next year or so.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department with the view in mind of creating a list of mitigated private spaces that are available to the public, what the exact eligibility of using these spaces is, and making the list available to the public.   Councillor Toomey
Approved

This is a welcome request. Most people have no idea what spaces are available for use and what rules govern the use of these open spaces and meeting spaces. It will be great if this information can be made available along with information on all City-owned resources that are available for public use. Ideally there should also be a list of all spaces in churches and other buildings that are available for use at modest cost for meetings and events.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Commissioner of Public Works and the City Engineer on the potential of utilizing trenchless technology, micro tunneling and/or pipe jacking to lessen the time and impact on the residents of Gore Street.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Mallon
Approved

Order #8. That the City Manager maximize the community benefits from and mitigating the impacts of the Cambridge Crossing sewer construction.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Toomey
Approved

Suffice to say that if during the construction of that dedicated sewer line the century-old water mains and gas mains are replaced (which will have to occur at some point anyway), that is, in itself, significant mitigation. If some of the electrical infrastructure can also be renewed and moved from poles to underground that would be even better.

Order #7. Endorsing Requests for Action or Further Study for the I-90 Allston Interchange Project in Boston.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone
Approved

This is a complicated project with the potential for a lot of benefit and a fair amount of disruption during construction. I won’t offer any opinions just now, but there are plenty to go around. It’s worth the read.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Mayor Marc C. McGovern, transmitting the City Council Committee Assignments for the Council Term 2018-2019 pending adoption of the Rules as amended.
Placed on File

There’s nothing particularly stunning about the appointments – mostly natural matches of function and interest. There are maybe three out of the 11 standing committees that could become cauldrons of controversy, but it’s probably best to wait and see. I’ll let you guess which three. – Robert Winters

January 26, 2018

Cambridge School Committee 2017 Campaign Finance Summaries and $/Vote

Cambridge School Committee 2017 Campaign Finance Summaries

CandidateFromToStartReceiptsExpendBalanceLiabilities#1 Votes$/VoteNotes
Bowman, Mannika1/1/1612/31/17$2,005.37$17,169.72$15,578.13$3,596.96$0.002768$5.63
Cronin, Fran1/1/1612/31/17$3,095.36$24,806.00$26,687.34$1,214.02$0.001572$16.98
Crutchfield, Jacob1/1/161/17/18$41.07$5,931.00$5,972.07$0.00$0.001039$5.75dissolution
Dexter, Emily1/1/1610/20/17$2,575.32$2,520.00$2,874.89$2,220.43$4,655.382378$1.21no report yet
Fantini, Fred1/1/1612/31/17$5,475.07$8,425.00$9,716.06$4,184.01$14,695.992728$3.56
Kadete, Elechi1/1/1610/26/17$48.48$5,644.00$2,856.99$2,835.49$0.00846$3.38no report yet
Kelly, Kathleen1/1/1612/31/17$5,687.05$13,295.00$7,809.39$11,172.66$3,000.001882$4.15
Kimbrough, Laurance1/1/1712/31/17$0.00$10,325.94$9,766.90$559.04$0.001856$5.26
MacArthur, Will11/4/1612/31/17$0.00$5,492.43$4,264.87$1,227.56$0.00795$5.36
Mitros, Piotr1/1/1712/31/17$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00511$0.00dissolution
Nolan, Patty1/1/1610/20/17$80.24$6,885.00$6,299.45$665.79$8,850.003458$1.82no report yet
Weinstein, David1/1/1612/31/17$1,604.03$3,395.00$4,488.26$510.77$0.00797$5.63
School Committee Campaign Finance 2017 - updated Jan 26, 2018

The receipts and expenses shown cover the period from Jan 1, 2016 through Dec 31, 2017. The totals will be updated as late reports are filed.

You can access the full reports here.

Vote!

January 24, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 285-286: Jan 23, 2018

Episode 285 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 23, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 23, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics were some of the large transportation projects neighboring Cambridge. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 286 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 23, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 23, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics included the Women’s March – one year later; the Kroon Petition and regulation of “formula businesses” in Harvard Square and elsewhere; and some news updates around Central Square. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 22, 2018

Choice Bits from the Jan 22, 2018 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:34 pm

Choice Bits from the Jan 22, 2018 Cambridge City Council agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeHere’s my first pass at what seems interesting (at least to me):

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $23,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Elections Commission Other Ordinary Maintenance Account to reimburse funds used for the 2017 voter guide printing and mailing. The reimbursement is necessary to cover other election related expenses.

Voter turnout went up in the 2017 municipal election by about 26% from 17,959 to 22,581. There were many factors – reaction to the 2016 presidential election, multiple vacancies and a large field of interesting new candidates, several issues whose flames were fanned by activists, increased use of social media and related tools to target voters, and the citywide mailing of the voter guide. It’s hard to say which factors had the greatest effect. I’ll add that the most well-funded campaign was unsuccessful while a new candidate soared over quota with relatively little campaign funding. Perhaps money is no longer, as Tip O’Neill used to say, "the mother’s milk of politics".

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5 million from Fund Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures account, for the City’s first contribution to the GLX project.

This expenditure has me thinking about the Mass Pike (I-90) realignment project now being planned for the Allston-Brighton area across the river, and the current omission of the proposed West Station that was to be part of it. I have been reading about suggestions that since the concurrent new development in that area would primarily be by Harvard University, then perhaps Harvard should be providing the funds for the new station. Could this be the new normal, i.e. that developers and host cities who would benefit by new transit should pay for the transit? The realization of the Green Line Extension seems to have been made possible, at least in part, by the promise of financial contributions from Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and the developer of the NorthPoint area.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt parts of the Kroon, et al, Harvard Square Zoning Petition and to further study some parts.
[Original Petition Text][CDD Memo – Nov 8, 2017][Revised Petition Text][Planning Board Recommendation]

There is wisdom in the Planning Board recommendations (as usual). It is especially interesting to see the Board agreeing that the "formula business" regulations adopted not long ago for Central Square would also be appropriate for Harvard Square (and presumably elsewhere). The Board makes a special point regarding the review of signage which might be subject to review by both the Historical Commission and the Planning Board. [Frankly, I think the issue of signage is overstated. Some business districts, e.g. Central Square, would benefit from some additional "gawdy" and "spectacular" signage.] Despite some legal risk in moving toward "formula business" regulations, it is far preferable to some previous regulation such as the regulation of "fast food". One other positive recommendation from the Planning Board is for the exemption of below-grade space from floor-area limitations. This is consistent with the Barrett Petition of a couple of years ago. The Planning Board also cites the City’s recently completed Retail Strategy. Indeed, the whole matter of the table of uses in the City’s various zoning districts needs some attention.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding efforts to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations, the feasibility of appropriately placing electric vehicle chargers on residential streets where there is need, the status of possible City fleet replacement to electric vehicles, expanded outreach and education on available rebates and incentive programs, and the feasibility of requiring developers to include a greater number of electric vehicle charging stations in new or substantially renovated multi-unit buildings.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

It’s worth noting that Eversource doesn’t exactly have the best track record for proactive electric utility planning in Cambridge. They generally upgrade service only when new development requires it or if the service fails. If electric vehicle charging locations are installed on some Cambridge streets it seems likely that increased capacity will be needed and aging and failed service will have to be upgraded – like on my street where the underground service failed several years ago and where numerous "temporary" quick fixes are now the norm.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works to publicize and enforce a “zero tolerance” policy on space savers, working to remove them as quickly as possible following snow events.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Is this really a widespread problem in Cambridge? The only places where I have seen this are on streets near public housing. A better solution would be to selectively have even/odd side parking restrictions during which all snow is pushed back all the way to the curb and/or consolidated – assuming there are no plastic "flexi-posts" there to prevent it.

Order #4. City Council support of the New York City climate lawsuit.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

I’m starting to get the sense that every City Council meeting agenda is going to have several climate change-related Orders, and that this will become the universal public policy litmus test – even for things that have little or nothing to do with climate change.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to explore mechanisms for achieving greater levels of snow clearing by the city and increase the public response during major snow events or heavy snow winters.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

See above.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Chief Information Officer for the City and report back with information regarding electronic device usage and current processes regarding the same.   Councillor Toomey

Did the exiting three councillors run off with their City-issued computers and phones?

Order #8. That the Mayor is requested to work with the appropriate City staff to establish a method of effectively communicating the new rules for the 2018-2019 City Council term with the members of the public.   Councillor Simmons

I’m on it.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Devereux, Chair of the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee, for a public hearing held on Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules and transmitting recommended changes to the City Council Rules.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux regarding the outcome of the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee hearing.

There were some good ideas and some not-so-good ideas expressed at this meeting. It doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing any realignment of the Council committees. At some level it doesn’t really matter. The real question is whether or not the councillors actually show up for the committee meetings and if they decide to take up matters of substance. – Robert Winters

January 17, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 283-284: Jan 16, 2018

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut,recycling — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 2:01 am

Episode 283 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 16, 2018

This episode was broadcast on Jan 16, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topic was some ideas about City Council rules and the structure of City Council committees over the last 130 years. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 284 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 16, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 16, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topic: Cambridge history of garbage. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 14, 2018

Civic Nerdiness

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 7:42 pm

Civic Nerdiness

Annual Documents SealThis week on Tuesday, Jan 16 at 2:30pm, the City Council’s Ad-Hoc Rules Committee will conduct a public hearing in the Sullivan Chamber to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules. This committee consists of Vice Mayor Devereux (Chair) and Councillors Mallon and Kelley; as well as Donna Lopez, City Clerk; Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor; Maryellen Carvello, Office manager to the City Manager, and Wil Durbin, Chief of Staff to the Mayor.

I suppose it must be the pinnacle of civic nerdiness to care about the City Council Rules, but the structure of the City Council subcommittees, their mission, the number of members on each committee, and what constitutes a quorum are actually contained within the City Council Rules. From this civic nerd’s point of view this actually is significant. In an ideal world the subcommittees should be where most of the detail work takes place. Unfortunately, it has sometimes been the case that these subcommittees become little more than discretionary devices for their respective Chairs where matters that sometimes have little to do with the purpose of the committee are pursued. In addition, there have been some topics in the last few years that didn’t really have a natural match to any of the existing City Council committees or which were taken up by what might be viewed as the wrong committee. For example, if there is a Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, why were matters relating to bicycle transportation handled within the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Committee? [I would restructure the committees just to shorten the name of that one.]

It’s interesting to look at what the standing committees have been at various times in Cambridge history. Here are a few snapshots, including some recorded in the City’s Annual Documents (yes, I really do have these original books on my shelf):

Joint Committees: 1887
Accounts
Almshouse
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Fuel
Health
Lamps
Ordinances
Printing
Public Instruction
Public Property
Roads and Bridges
Rules and Orders
Water Supply

Standing Committees
of the Mayor and Alderman

Bonds
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Licenses
Police
Roads and Bridges
Sewers

Standing Committees
of the Common Council

Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances

Joint Committees: 1911-1912
Accounts
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
City Home
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Legal Matters
Legislative Matters
Ordinances
Parks
Printing
Public Property
Public Instruction
Water Supply
Wires and Lamps

Standing Committees
of the Board of Alderman

Bonds
Cemeteries
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Licenses
Parks
Police
Rules and Orders
Sewers
Soldier’s Aid
Street Railways

Standing Committees of the Common Council
Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances
Rules and Orders

City Council Committees: 1938
Americanization and Education

Bonds

City Engineering

City Planning

Claims

Elections and Printing

Finance

Health

Industrial Development

Legislative Matters

Licenses

Military Affairs

Ordinances

Parks and Cemeteries

Public Celebrations

Public Property and Public Institutions

Public Safety

Public Service

Roads and Bridges

Rules and Orders

Soldier’s Aid

Water Supply

Wires and Lamps

City Council Committees: 1998
Cable TV and Communications

Civil and Human Rights

Claims

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Elder Affairs

Environment

Finance

Food Policy

Government Operations

Health and Hospitals

Housing and Community Development

Human Services and Youth

Ordinance

Public Safety

Public Service

Rules

Sister Cities

Traffic and Transportation

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2000
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long-term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2012
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Claims

Community Health

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Environment

Finance

Government Operations and Rules

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

University Relations

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2016
Civic Unity

Economic Development and University Relations

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services and Veterans

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Ordinance

Public Safety

Transportation and Public Utilities

City Council Committees: 2018
?????

It’s likely that prior to the adoption of the Plan E Charter that went into effect in 1941 there was either the need or the desire for more oversight of City departments, and both the number and the nature of the City Council (and Board of Alderman) committees seem to reflect this. Some standing committees are essentially permanent (Ordinance, Finance), but others clearly change with the times and even with the desires of individual councillors. What should be the focus of City Council subcommittees for the 2018-2019 City Council term? Should they remain the same? Are there any priorities that warrant a redefinition of the Council subcommittees? Should we revive some committees from the long past?

If you have any ideas, come to the meeting Tuesday afternoon. – Robert Winters

January 9, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 281-282: Jan 9, 2018

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:36 pm

Episode 281 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 9, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 9, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main topic: Jan 8 City Council meeting – the first for the new councillors; supermarket closure; and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 282 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 9, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast Jan 9, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: supermarkets, Council committees, partial report card on the 2016-2017 Council. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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