Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 26, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 321-322: June 26, 2018

Episode 321 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 26, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 26, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics were the June 25 City Council meeting and pending zoning petitions. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 322 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 26, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 26, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topics were the autonomous vehicles, the future of transportation, and the recent Open Archives events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 24, 2018

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:49 pm

Pre-Vacation Convocation – Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeThese tasty morsels are available for you to digest in the last regular meeting before the summer recess.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-33, regarding a report on supporting a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-42, regarding Autonomous Vehicles testing.

These are included primarily for information. By the way, the prediction is that if and when autonomous vehicles become commonplace there will be considerably more vehicles on the roads at any given time, and tailgating will be the norm because, you know, sensors. There is also some concern that the use of public transportation may drop considerably.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-48, regarding a request for yield to Pedestrians signage in bike lanes.

Nothing special here except for the funny line: "We do not recommend installing post mounted signs, as they will add additional sign clutter to the roadside environment…" Nothing says clutter more than zig-zagging lines of upright PVC posts bolted to the roadway – and there’s more coming – and it’s not debatable.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-59, regarding a report on collecting data from the Human Rights Commission on housing-related activities including number of housing related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the two following ordinances: Chapter 2.76 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Human Rights Ordinance) and proposed amendments to Chapter 14.04 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Fair Housing Ordinance).

Again, mainly for information. It is curious to see just how much effort is required to change the word "gender" to the phrase "gender identity". Whatever.

Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a revised draft of the proposed Surveillance Technology Ordinance.

I drove down to MIT and then Harvard and then back home earlier today. I was probably recorded dozens of times along the way, and I will miraculously still sleep well tonight. By the way, I tip my hat to the various people who have surveillance cameras on the homes and businesses. They were really helpful in the Cambridge Police Department being able to quickly identify and arrest people involved in recent shootings in The Port and the Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from the Pizzuto Family Limited Partnership Cambridge Zoning Ordinance 20.900 and Zoning Map by added section entitled New Street Overlay District.

The Nakagawa-Brown petition was getting lonely. Now there are two zoning petitions in the queue.

Order #1. That the City Council refer proposed changes to Cambridge Zoning Article 5.000.Rainwater & Flat Roof Zoning to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

Make that three.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, and any other relevant departments to conduct a much more thorough process of community engagement and outreach – particularly in regards to the senior community – prior to the establishment of any new bicycle lanes in the area of South Massachusetts Avenue.   Councillor Simmons

This is a nice sentiment, but we have already learned that none of this is negotiable and reasonable alternatives won’t be considered.

Order #4. That the zoning amendment to section 4.22 of the zoning code, with strikeouts and highlighting to identify proposed changes for discussion, be forwarded to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee for their review as a zoning solution to the challenges posed by current zoning constraints regarding accessory dwelling units.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Make that four.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Deputy City Manager for the Department of Human Service Programs and the Director of the Office of Workforce Development to establish and implement a dynamic new initiative that will seek to place Port residents (ages 18 and over) on paths to jobs with family-sustaining wages.   Councillor Simmons

This is perhaps the single most intelligent policy order I’ve seen all year. It may also be the most difficult to implement, but it’s worth it.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to ensure the new zoning regulations and table of land use, licensing and permitting process, Host Community Agreements, and Economic Development Department programming reflect best equity practices and ensure Cambridge residents benefit from the cannabis industry.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I suppose we’ll have to just disagree on whether we should "ensure that people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry" or just try to make sure there’s a level playing field.

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to include a Job Linkage fee to the list of topics being evaluated in the upcoming Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

I can certainly understand prioritizing job creation using funds derived from the Incentive Zoning Linkage Fee, and how the next round of revision of those fees might rise with this goal in mind, but creating a separate fee seems unnecessary, overly restrictive, and legally questionable.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 7, 2018 to discuss amendments to the Street Performers Ordinance in section 12.16.170 in the Municipal Code. [June 26, 2017 message from City Manager] [Proposed Amendments] [Proposed Amendments with Kelley revisions]

Again – for information purposes. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten the context that led to the creation of the Street Performers Ordinance and why the buskers themselves were supportive of it at the time it was ordained. There really was a lot of competition among the performers at the time over location and volume, and this was a relatively benign way to regulate that competition.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding "Cannabis Use Equity".

Miraculously, people always seem to find a way to a solution. Is the suggestion here to set aside parts of public parks as "high zones"? If smoking pot in the street becomes legal I certainly hope the City Council and the Cambridge Police will look kindly on me walking down the avenue with a pint of Guinness.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Devereux , transmitting a memorandum regarding Policy Order #72 dated Mar 19, 2018 that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Election Commission regarding the possibility of instituting early voting in the 2019 municipal election and what actions would be required by the City Council to do so.

As much as I want to see more people opting to vote in municipal elections, I’m still unsure what problem this proposal is trying to solve. It’s very easy to vote in municipal elections, there’s rarely a line, and absentee voting is as easy as 1-2-3 (or as many rankings as you please).

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cybersecurity.

This is yet another interesting piece of work from Councillor Kelley and his assistant Mark Gutierrez. – Robert Winters

June 19, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 319-320: June 19, 2018

Episode 319 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 19, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 19, 2018 at 5:30pm. Guests: City Councillors Alanna Mallon and Sumbul Siddiqui. Topics included their weekly “Women Are Here” podcast and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Sumbul and Alanna’s “Women Are Here” podcast is available at http://www.podcasts.com/alanna-mallon-and-sumbul-siddiqui-35040b6bf and on iTunes.


Episode 320 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 19, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 19, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: trees, commercial recycling, public safety and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 18, 2018

On Deck for the June 18, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:46 am

On Deck for the June 18, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Here are a few items of particular interest:

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $50,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account for expenses associated with the introduction of commercial recycling expected in FY19.

As the Manager’s note says, "The funds will be used for the purchase of recycling bins and outreach efforts associated with the launch of the program. It is expected that the program will begin in the fall of 2019 and will service up to 150 small businesses." A recent message from the City’s Economic Development Division (CDD) invited businesses with 50 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees or less to apply for a lottery to be part of this pilot: "If selected for the Small Business Recycling Pilot, businesses will receive free collection of up to three 65-gallon carts of recyclables twice per week. Please fill out the Small Business Recycling Pilot lottery form at Tinyurl.com/SmallBizRecycle (deadline Aug 10) to be considered for this free service." There are preferences for various things: women or minority or Cambridge resident-owned, not a "formula business", primarily retail or restaurant.

Resolution #17. Retirement of Virginia "Ginnie" Kelley from the Election Commission.   Mayor McGovern

It will surprise no one to learn that I have a special fondness for all of the people who work in the Cambridge Election Commission office, and that especially goes for Ginnie Kelley. Her combination of expertise, helpfulness, and especially her sense of humor always helped make my frequent visits to the office a pleasure.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works and the Community Development Department on acquiring Big Belly Solar trash cans to replace the current open top trash receptacles, with an emphasis on the business districts.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

While the Big Belly units do hold a lot more and have the added advantage that they can be remotely monitored, the entry chute is the weak link. People frequently overstuff the chute and jam it and others then just cram the jam with more rubbish. They can often be found overflowing more than an open-top container. The design needs further revision to minimize/prevent jams. It may also be worth considering Big Bellies for recyclable materials, but these units don’t come cheap.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Police Commissioner to establish an aggressive new strategy to reduce the violence in the Port and Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.   Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding Gun Violence in Cambridge.

The subject of this Order may well be the single most pressing current issue for those of us who live in the eastern half of the city. Cambridge political people love to invoke the word "emergency" to justify various policies and initiatives, e.g. "housing emergency" or "climate emergency", but the term is unevenly applied. A dramatic increase in gun violence, like a major fire, is an actual emergency that warrants immediate action and not just long-term policy changes. As the map in Councillor Kelley’s memo indicates, this is a relatively localized problem – at least for now.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the City Solicitor, the Director of the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, and the Chair of the License Commission and any other relevant City department to determine the permitting and legality issues of Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on June 5, 2018 to discuss car sharing.

The information requested in the Order should be interesting. I often wonder what the transportation landscape will be ten years from now. Private ownership of motor vehicles will likely drop considerably (and driverless vehicles may become common), but unless a miracle happens this likely won’t lead to a dramatic increase in the use of transit (buses and trains) because of the inherent limitations of routes and capacity. The exception will likely be for longer trips. Weather, commuting distances, cargo limitations, convenience, and comfort will limit how many people eventually use the bicycle as their main transportation mode. Ease of access and lack of route limitations will likely lead more people to access their transportation by pressing a few buttons on their phones. We’re already seeing significant increases in Uber and Lyft (often with unskilled/lawless drivers) as Zipcar (now a subsidiary of Avis) and other car-sharing options seem less attractive.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to identify additional opportunities to plant trees in public spaces throughout the city, particularly in underserved areas of the city, and present a timeline in which this will happen including any necessary fiscal appropriations, as a part of the broader effort to rebuild our declining tree canopy.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons

Nobody disagrees with this.

Order #13. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to notify the City Council whenever a city owned public tree (not considered a “street tree” under 87.3) must be removed for reason other than disease or threat to public safety, and that a public hearing be scheduled prior to its removal.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

I’m not really sure what the intention of this Order is. If the City is redesigning a playground or restoring the Cambridge Common (recently completed), must the City require a hearing for each tree that is removed in addition to the extensive public outreach that projects like these invariably provide?

Order #14. That the proposed amendment to Chapter 8.66 entitled "Tree Protection" be amended in section 8.66.40 entitled "Applicability" and also by adding a new section 8.66.050 entitled "Procedure for Other Projects" be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a hearing to review and consider the attached proposed amendments.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley

Ash treeCommunications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting memorandum regarding recommendations for the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force.

From the City’s website: Tree Canopy in Cambridge, MA: 2009-2014 – Through high resolution imagery and LiDAR it was determined that a 2% decrease in tree canopy cover has occurred between 2009 and 2014….. Overall there has been little net change in tree canopy within Cambridge. The low amount of net change in tree canopy masks the dynamics that have occurred during the 2009-2014 time period. Over 200 acres of tree canopy were lost. Fortunately, this loss has been largely offset by new growth and tree plantings….. Although tree canopy change in the city of Cambridge has been relatively slow, it is important to note that significant changes in tree canopy do occur. The best way for a community to increase tree canopy is to maintain what it currently has. Existing tree canopy helps to support both natural growth and natural regeneration. Removals of tree canopy, particularly in large quantities, pose a threat to Cambridge’s green infrastructure.

Councillor Zondervan quibbles about the percentages quoted in the report. He argues that it’s really a 6.7% decrease rather than a 2% decrease, but that’s really just a choice of denominator. Both are valid perspectives. If a baseball player was batting .300 (that’s baseball-ese for getting a hit 30% of the time), and his average dropped to .280, we’d say that he shaved 20 points off his average (now 28%) – a 2% drop. The Zondervan percentage would be 6.7% – a "batting emergency".

Regardless how you choose to measure canopy loss, the crux of the Order is a proposal to require property owners (and not just "the big guys") to seek and obtain a permit before removing any "significant" tree and fully documenting any such removal. It would be one thing if this was a notice requirement for such a removal which might precipitate a negotiation between a property owner and abutters, but this is a permit requirement. There is also no mention of who would have standing in any proceeding relating to the granting of a permit. Not to be alarmist, but some may remember the term "removal permit" from the days of rent control when, in fact, obtaining a removal permit was essentially impossible in the political climate of the day.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on May 15, 2018 to discuss the proposed Cambridge policy relating to the sale of adult-use cannabis.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is now the law of the land and the pot shops are coming soon, but characterizing this as a "social justice" issue with a proposal for a "City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program" to "promote sustainable, socially and economically reparative practices in the commercial Cannabis industry in Cambridge" borders on the ridiculous. – Robert Winters

June 12, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 317-318: June 12, 2018

Episode 317 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 5:30pm. Our guest was Michael Monestime, Exec. Director of the Central Square Business Association. Topics: Business Improvement District proposal, Central Flea, River St./CB Plaza improvements, Arts Overlay. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 318 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 12, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 12, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Vellucci Plaza and Inman Square; Envision Cambridge – and then some. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 4, 2018

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Inman Square — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:11 am

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council returns Monday for another crack at the Vellucci Park matter. The rhetoric will likely go something like this: (1) "You have to save the trees to save the planet" – even though you could define the word ‘negligible’ by this and many other Cambridge initiatives on that front; or (2) "You have to enthusiastically support the proposed reconfiguration because it removes bicycles from the roadway" (even though it was our 4th choice out of 4 proposed designs); or (3) "If you disagree with our position you support the murder of innocents." Cambridge rhetoric can be a bit overwhelming at times. I just think we could do better if the whole process wasn’t driven by the obsessive falsehoods that only motor vehicles should be allowed to safely use Cambridge roadways and that the only safe place for a bicycle is on the sidewalk.

Anyway, here are a few items that may be of interest at this meeting:

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy.

I believe the City Manager gave a perfectly good response to this at the previous meeting, so I’ll be surprised if there’s anything else that needs to be said this week. My only curiosity lies with the question of whether the Water Board or the Water Department makes the decision if they disagree.

Charter Right #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

This requires 6 votes and it’s not at all clear that the votes are there. There are various reasons why some councillors might disapprove, and it’s not all about whether a few honey locusts get turned into mulch or if a roomy new Ganja Plaza is established adjacent to the new Cannabis Quickie Mart. At the very least, I’d like to see some more current statistics on traffic safety in Inman Square since the bike stripes appeared in the Square. It may be that $60 worth of paint makes for a better solution than $6 million and a year of disruption. The Public Comment should be entertaining, especially in counting all the permutations of the Talking Points sent out by the various advocacy groups who tutor people what to say and how to be as dramatic as possible.

Result: The Home Rule Petition was approved 6-3 (Carlone, Devereux, Mallon, Siddiqui, Zondervan, McGovern – YES; Kelley, Simmons, Toomey – NO)

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Mayor McGovern, transmitting amendments to Policy Order #3 of May 21, 2018 regarding the creation of a structured tax rate system for FY20.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, any change will require a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition, but there are some good reasons to crack open that Can of Worms. Some Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by the combination of rising rents (which include the real estate taxes) and shifting consumer habits. Tax changes may help, but there are other factors as well. Maybe we could consider exempting a portion of ground floor retail space like we do with the residential exemption.

Order #1. Issues to be resolved on the I-90 Interchange Project.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I have no dog in this race, but I’m eager to see the transformation of this area.

Order #3. Advancing Homelessness Issues Docket.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This Order is almost like an Index of the good initiatives now being considered at the State Legislature.

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and any other relevant departments to explore starting a Citizens’ Academy in Cambridge.   Councillor Mallon

I like this idea! Remember – indoctrination is not the same as education and encouragement. Show people how things work and where the on ramps are located, and then let them define how they want to exercise their citizenship.

Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Women’s Commission, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Community Development Department to commission a public art piece, statue, or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

I agree 100%. We already have a lot of establishments celebrating the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment. – Robert Winters

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