Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 29, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 369-370: Jan 29, 2019

Episode 369 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Proposed moratorium on tree removals; Jan 28 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 370 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Bottled water; value of upzoning; public funding for municipal elections (again); Jan 29 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 28, 2019

Picking through the pieces of the Jan 28, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Picking through the pieces of the Jan 28, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

It's a twister!Here’s my initial selection of the agenda items that either I find interesting or which are sure to bring out a crowd:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $175,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures account to fund a Climate Change Resilience Analysis which will focus on zoning recommendations.

Another $175,000 for a Climate Change Resilience Analysis? Didn’t we do this not so long ago?

Applications & Petitions #4. A Zoning Petition Has been received from Melissa Grippo and Christian Grippo, et al, requesting the City Council to vote to amend Section 5.30.11 of the Zoning Ordinance by adding the following sentence at the end of that section: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the Industry B District, a hotel use (Section 4.31.2), shall be governed by the second number (4.0) for purposes of determining the Maximum Ratio of Floor Area to Lot Area.”

I don’t know nuthin’ about it, but there’s now another zoning petition in the queue.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to review the City’s communications and emergency response policies and protocols related to flooding resulting from infrastructure failures.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley

Order #2. City Council support for I-90 Hybrid Plan with request for further review.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

BIG projects can be fun because when the scale of spending is large it creates opportunities to do some creative things around the edges of the necessary stuff. Envision that.

Order #5. City Council support of HD2395: An act to further provide a rental arrearage program.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

This is the kind of idea I can get behind – assisting people to get through a bad patch with some transitional assistance. It makes a lot more sense than some of the other proposals that have been floating around over the past year.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City departments to conduct a formal and professional financial assessment of the additional value created for the owner/petitioner by up-zonings for developments of more than 50,000 square feet.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

I suspect the motivation behind this is not just information-gathering. It sure seems like a prelude to extracting more "community benefit" money out of proposed developments – or maybe just creating a political basis for not granting zoning relief at all. Naively, I would still like to believe that zoning should be based on good planning rather than on who’s going to share the spoils.


Committee Report #3. 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 Jan 9, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection” to amend section 8.66.40 entitled “Applicability” and by adding a new section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for other projects.”

Order #7. That the tree protection ordinance amendment discussed at the Ordinance Committee hearing held on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 and referenced in Committee Report #3 of Jan 28, 2019 be further amended per additional language.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

Basically, the sponsors want to enact a one-year moratorium on tree "removal permits" (where have we heard that phrase before) except for dead, diseased, or dangerous trees. This doesn’t seem to allow any discretion at all to property owners, and it treats ordinary small-scale homeowners just as harshly as those big evil developers. If you violate this prohibition they’ll make you pay into a tree replacement fund. I’m sure this committee report and order will bring out the troops to public comment, but there are some serious problems with this proposal.

Beyond the simple fact that there has not been proper legal notice (a moratorium is a lot stricter than a requirement to seek approval by the City Arborist), it also completely disrespects the rights of property owners to manage their own property. Furthermore, it would appear that the required payment for violating the moratorium will likely be well in excess of the cost of the tree removal. Most property owners would probably be OK with a reasonable ordinance that would dissuade them from wholesale deforestation of their property, but I seriously doubt whether there would be support for an ordinance that removed all discretion. Most property owners actually remove trees reluctantly and they certainly don’t want to have to appear before the Tree Tribunal whenever they are faced with such a decision.

This is a municipal election year and it’s pretty clear that some people are trying to make tree protection a defining issue for the upcoming election. So let me dabble in a little political calculus for you. There are two, maybe three city councillors who stand to gain politically by being the tree champions. The councillors who will be collecting those #1 Votes are the ones who already have them from those voters who are rallying around this moratorium proposal. Any other councillors will be getting a #3 at best, and those preferences will count for nothing. On the other hand, there are a lot of homeowners – and that includes a lot of environmentally-conscious homeowners – who will not be particularly keen about having their hands tied even though they probably won’t be reaching for the axe anytime during the next 12 months.

Every week it seems like the current City Council shows just how little faith they have in the people who elect them.

UPDATE: The City Council passed to a 2nd Reading the proposed revision to the Tree Ordinance included in the Committee Report (as amended in the report). Though there was spirited public comment favoring Order #7 – the proposed moratorium and punitive fines ($300/day) for removing a significant tree, the City Council voted 5-4 to send that proposal to the Ordinance Committee for an actual hearing and possible revision. This was really the only reasonable course of action, but Councillors Zondervan and Devereux apparently feel that discretionary tree removal, even by a homeowner, is the moral equivalent of murder. Councillors Kelley, Mallon, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor McGovern voted in favor of due process; while Councillors Carlone, Devereux, Siddiqui, and Zondervan would have preferred immediate action without any public notice. There has never been any hearing where this punitive moratorium was on the agenda and where property owners could address their concerns. Councillors Zondervan and Devereux made it quite clear that they believe that informing people after a law is passed constitutes adequate notice. Democracy, representation, and due process apparently mean little to these councillors. – RW


Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor, in consultation with the Election Commission, to report back on the legality and constitutionality of the proposed “Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal Election Program” and the “Cambridge Municipal Election People’s Pledge.”   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley

Though I would like to see the legal opinion on these ideas, I still think they are ill-conceived for Cambridge municipal elections.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 29, 2018 to discuss Urban Form Recommendations from the Community Development Department.

Speaking of municipal elections….

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Nov 28, 2018 to discuss the proposed Affordable Housing Overlay District and on the first annual Inclusionary Zoning report.

Here’s an idea – Let the City’s policy be simply to maintain the subsidized housing stock that already exists and add to it via Inclusionary Zoning. We’re already way ahead of the game compared to almost every other city or town in Massachusetts.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes from the meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force from Jan 10, 2019.

These Arts Task Force minutes sometimes read like the psychiatrist’s notes at a wacky therapy session. How does that make you feel? – RW

January 21, 2019

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – Jan 21, 2019

Foundry Property Management RFP — Seeking Responses!

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA), in partnership the Lemelson-MIT Program (a leader in the Foundry Consortium), is seeking Proposals for Property Management Services for the Foundry.City Seal

Later this year, the Foundry site will start construction…and before too long, we will have a vibrant community center for creativity and collaboration, buzzing with programs!

Therefore, the CRA is now seeking a property management firm. The successful respondent will be offered a two-part contract to provide consulting services to the CRA during the design and construction phases of the Foundry, and to provide property management services to the Foundry Consortium once the building is operational.

The full RFP can be downloaded from the CRA website, where we will also post addenda as needed: www.cambridgeredevelopment.org/jobs-contracting

There will be a site visit for interested parties on January 23rd at 10:00am. RFP responses are due on Thursday, February 14, 2019 by 4:00pm.

Interested parties are encouraged to register their interest before they apply by emailing Erica Schwarz at eschwarz@cambridgeredevelopment.org.


Call for Cambridge Artists: Vacant Storefront Creative Design Contest
Winners Will Receive Prize Money and Artwork Will Be Displayed in Vacant Storefront Windows

Jan 3, 2019 – The City of Cambridge invites local artists to submit their work to the Vacant Storefront Creative Design Contest. The program, designed by the Community Development Department and Cambridge Arts, aims to energize neighborhoods by filling empty store windows with reproductions of locally-made art.City Seal

Five finalists, chosen through a jury and public voting process, will each be awarded a one-time honorarium of $1,000. These winning designs will be available for Cambridge property owners to print and display in vacant ground-floor storefronts throughout the city.

“The City’s Retail Strategy Plan identified vacant storefront activation as a key recommendation for enhancing Cambridge’s retail environment,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “This contest is a unique opportunity for local artists to make our commercial districts more vibrant and engaging.”

“In Cambridge, we’re always looking for opportunities for our artists and businesses to partner—from the Central Square Mural Project and the Central Square Cultural District to our Creative Marketplace Exhibitions program,” said Jason Weeks, Executive Director of Cambridge Arts. “The Vacant Storefront Creative Design Contest is another way the arts can make our city a more dynamic and engaging place to live, work, and explore.”

Artwork must be uploaded to an online submissions form by Friday, Feb 8, 2019 at noon. Original artwork—from paintings and prints to photographs and graphic designs—must be formatted into a digital, high-resolution PDF file that can be printed to paper or vinyl and is adaptable to a variety of window sizes. Designs must be original and not infringe on any copyrighted material.

Semi-finalists, chosen by a jury, will be announced in February 2019, followed by a public vote to help determine finalists. The five finalists will be announced in March 2019, with installations expected later in the spring.

For more information about the contest’s submission and selection process, visit www.cambridgema.gov/StorefrontContest.


Cambridge Community Electricity Program to Fund Development of Local Solar Project, Provide Savings to Consumers
The City’s new contract with Direct Energy will increase local renewable energy production and provide lower electricity rates than Eversource Basic Service.

The Cambridge Community Electricity Program is launching a new model for using the City’s electricity aggregation to directly create more local renewable electricity. Effective January 15, 2019, the program will collect a small amount of money, $0.002/kWh, from all participants as part of their regular electricity bill, which will be used to fund a new local solar project. Once built, the solar project will provide green electricity to everyone enrolled in the Cambridge Community Electricity Program.City Seal

The new program model is made possible through a 24-month electricity supply contract with Direct Energy. This contract offers new program prices that are fixed from January 2019 through January 2021. Participants in the Standard Green option will receive greener electricity than available through Eversource Basic Service by supporting the new local solar project. The Standard Green price will change to 11.12 cents/kWh, which is lower than Eversource’s January 2019 through June 2019 residential price of 13.704 cents/kWh.

The previous 100% Green option is now the new and improved 100% Green Plus option, which current 100% Green participants will be automatically enrolled in. 100% Green Plus participants will continue to receive 100% renewable electricity through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) from existing renewable energy projects in New England and will receive additional solar electricity from the local solar project. The 100% Green Plus price will be 11.94 cents/kWh, also less than Eversource’s winter 2019 Basic Service price. Any Cambridge resident or business can opt into 100% Green Plus at any time.

“This innovative model for our Community Electricity Program supports Cambridge’s local economy and furthers our renewable energy goals without having a negative impact on personal finances,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “We are proud to continue pioneering programs that lower the carbon footprint of our community in cost-effective ways.”

Beginning in February 2019, Direct Energy will replace Agera Energy as the supplier listed on Eversource electricity bills. Participants will continue to receive and pay one bill from Eversource, which will be responsible for delivering electricity to Cambridge and for addressing power outages. Those who are eligible for discounts from Eversource will continue to receive the same benefits. Those with solar panels on their property will continue to receive net metering credits, which will be calculated based on the Eversource Basic Service rate, not on the program rate.

Savings cannot be guaranteed for future Eversource rate periods because Eversource’s prices change every 6 months for residential and small business customers and every 3 months for large business customers. Program participation is not required; participants can opt out of the program at any time with no penalty or fee and return to Eversource Basic Service.

All active accounts will be automatically enrolled in the new contract with Direct Energy unless participants choose to opt out. New Eversource electricity accounts in Cambridge will also be automatically enrolled in the program.

To switch between Standard Green or 100% Green Plus enrollment options or to opt out of the program, call Direct Energy at 1-866-968-8065. Cambridge residents and businesses currently enrolled with the Cambridge Community Electricity Program do not need to take any action to continue their enrollment as part of this new program model.

Additional information is available on the program website at www.masspowerchoice.com/cambridge. Questions or comments can be directed to Cambridge Community Electricity program consultants at 1-844-379-9934 or cambridge@masspowerchoice.com.

Launched in July 2017, the Cambridge Community Electricity Program is an electricity aggregation, which uses the bulk purchasing power of the entire community to negotiate a price and increase the amount of renewable energy in the City’s electricity supply. The City uses a competitive bidding process to choose an electricity supplier for residents and businesses and to secure the best price possible for the community while advancing the City’s sustainability goals.


City of Cambridge Sets Up Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund for Residents Impacted by Jan. 14 Fire on Cambridge and Hunting Streets

Jan 14, 2019 – Today, an early morning four-alarm fire ocurred at 6 Hunting St. and 851/855 Cambridge St. The initial time of the call was at 5:42am, with the fourth alarm being issued at 6:33am. In total, 12 engines, seven ladders, two squads, one rescue, and numerous chief officers and support units were on scene. No serious injuries have been reported, with only minor injuries reported due to falls on the ice.City Seal

In addition to Cambridge Fire Department, fire companies from Somerville, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Waltham, and Watertown aided at the fire scene. Fire companies from several cities and towns, including Arlington, Boston, Brookline, Newton, and Waltham, provided station coverage in Cambridge and responded to numerous unrelated incidents in the city during the fire.

“I want to thank the men and women of the Cambridge Fire Department for their quick action to contain the fire and protect the building exposures in this highly congested neighborhood,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasqaule. “Losing your home and your belongings to a fire is a devastating tragedy, and I know how difficult this time is for the impacted residents. I was proud that our staff and the American Red Cross were able to work with the displaced residents this morning to get them set-up with emergency housing, debit cards, and access to money from the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund. These residents have a long road ahead of them, and the City will continue to be here to assist them as they figure out how to move forward."

The cause of fire is under investigation by the Cambridge Fire Department’s Fire Investigation Unit and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. As part of that investigation, all residents, property managers, and owners of the buildings involved will be interviewed, and a thorough review of any files, reports, or other relevant information connected to the structures will be conducted.

The Cambridge Fire Department will have no comment on the cause and/or origin of the fire until that investigation is complete.

Support of Impacted Residents
At approximately 8am, the City of Cambridge opened a shelter for impacted residents and neighbors at the Frisoli Youth Center located 61 Willow St.

Staff from the City Manager’s Office, various City departments, Metro Housing Boston, Cambridge Housing Authority, and the American Red Cross assisted displaced residents. The Mayor, Vice Mayor, and numerous City Councillors and School Committee members visited the shelter to speak with the impacted residents.

“The first responders, City staff, local businesses, non-profits, and neighbors who responded quickly and effectively to this morning’s fire deserves our gratitude and praise. They are Cambridge’s strength and pride,” said Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern.

851/855 Cambridge Street is a four-story structure with eight residential units and commercial space, and 6 Hunting Street is a three-story structure with two residential units. In total, 22 individuals in nine units were displaced (1 unit was vacant).

As part of their services, the American Red Cross provided every displaced individual with a $125 debit card for incidental supplies and every household with a $260 debit card for emergency hotel costs. Additionally, the Red Cross will follow each case for up to 45 days, as necessary. Each household will also receive follow-up support from the appropriate housing agency and all relevant City departments.

Additionally, the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund will provide displaced residents with $600 per person with a max of $2,400 per unit. Checks totaling $11,400 from the Disaster Relief Fund will be available to 19 residents tomorrow morning. The remaining three residents are currently out of state. The public can help the impacted families by donating to the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund at www.cambridgema.gov/MayorsDisasterReliefFund. Alternatively, donations can be made in person through the Finance Department’s cashier window at City Hall or mailed to address below:

Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund
c/o Finance Dept.
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Jan 21, 2019)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:04 pm

Members Sought for New Grand Junction Multi-Use Path Design Working Group

Jan 3, 2019 – The City of Cambridge is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Grand Junction (GJ) Design Working Group to help guide the design of the Grand Junction (GJ) Multi-Use Path between the Charles River at the BU Bridge, and the Cambridge-Somerville city line. The group will advise Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and his staff on key issues related to the planning and design for this important “Grand Junction Multi-Use Path and Conceptual Transit Design” project.City Seal

The GJ Design Working Group will consist of 15-20 members, including residents, businesses, property owners, institutions, standing city committees, and other interested parties.

Individuals with interest in the Grand Junction corridor, the neighborhoods along the corridor, and experience or expertise in relevant topics — transportation, accessibility, urban design and placemaking, landscape architecture — and a demonstrated ability to work effectively with diverse viewpoints are encouraged to apply.  Meetings of the GJ Design Working Group will be open to the public.

For additional questions about the new GJ Design Working Group, contact Tegin Teich, Transportation Planner, Community Development Department at 617-349-4615 or tteich@cambridgema.gov.

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and résumé or summary of applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, January 31, 2019.


Residents Sought for Board Vacancy on Cambridge Human Rights Commission

Jan 4, 2019 – Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking a resident to fill a vacancy on the Cambridge Human Rights Commission.City Seal

The Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC) seeks Cambridge residents representing the diversity of Cambridge. Commissioners are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in subcommittees on outreach and public education, and work with Commission staff on the investigation, mediation, and resolution of complaints filed with the Commission which allege discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment or education based upon race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, family status, military status or source of income.

The Human Rights Commission is made up of 11 members who serve three-year terms. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month at 6pm.

The deadline for submitting applications is February 8, 2019. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume, or applicable experience, can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

For more information, contact Nancy Schlacter, Cambridge Human Rights Commission, at 617-349-4396 or nschlacter@cambridgema.gov.


Members Sought to Fill Vacancies on the Cambridge LGBTQ+ Commission

Jan 10, 2019 – Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking individuals to fill vacancies on the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Commission. Prospective Commissioners must either reside or work in Cambridge.City Seal

The mission of the LGBTQ+ Commission is to advocate for a culture of respect and to monitor progress toward equality of all persons with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Commission also promotes policies and practices that have a positive effect on the health, welfare and safety of all persons who live, visit or work in the City of Cambridge with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The Commission normally meets on the 4th Thursday of each month, from 6-7:30pm, at Windsor Street Community Health Center, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 119 Windsor St., Cambridge. Commissioners are expected to volunteer some time outside of meetings for various projects.

The deadline for submitting applications is February 8, 2019. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and resume, or applicable experience, can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

For more information about the Commission, visit www.CambridgeMA.Gov/lgbtqplus. Minutes, and other information can be found there. Visit the Commission’s FaceBook page at: CambridgeLGBTQ+Commission.

January 16, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 367-368: Jan 15, 2019

Episode 367 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 15, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 15, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Notable retirements; recap of Jan 14 City Council meeting and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 368 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 15, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 15, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: How Big is Too Big?; table-setting for the election year. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 12, 2019

What’s Coming Up at the Jan 14, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting?

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:16 pm

What’s Coming Up at the Jan 14, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting?

Calendar - Jan 14, 2019Here’s my take on the interesting stuff this week:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-126, regarding the River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Project.

The basics: The outreach and design processes will occur throughout 2019 and into early 2020. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020. $34 million has already been appropriated for the design and construction of sewer and drainage infrastructure improvements and surface enhancements on River Street between Memorial Drive and Central Square, including Carl Barron Plaza.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-120, regarding the focus of Envision Cambridge goals during community presentations.

If you read the infographic and fact sheet that’s meant "to clarify the 100% affordable housing overlay concept and address any misconceptions related to its potential implementation or impact" it becomes abundantly clear that the Community Development Department has already made its decisions and is now in the process of conducting an advertising campaign to sell it (even though it has received dismal reviews in most venues where it was presented – for good reasons).

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-97, regarding a report on updating vacant property database and reviewing strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report.

I just hope people understand that popup/activation/placemaking or art displays in vacant storefronts is a pretty lame substitute for the real thing. This is really about finding a new economic equilibrium between retail demand and the costs associated with occupying commercial space – and you can’t blame it all on Amazon. My own admittedly naive view is that for multi-story buildings with ground floor retail, that retail space should be re-conceived as something akin to the utilities in the basement – an essential part of the building that should not necessarily be viewed as a primary revenue-generator for the property. Let the upper floors pick up some of the tab.

Resolution #10. Retirement of Timothy MacDonald from the Water Department.   Mayor McGovern

Resolution #12. Retirement of Robert Reardon from the Assessing Department.   Mayor McGovern

Tim MacDonaldThis is a double-whammy for me personally. I have known Tim MacDonald for over 30 years – ever since I served on a Water & Sewer Advisory Committee appointed by then-Mayor Al Vellucci. Tim served as Manager of Water Operations and Director of Water Operations. Blessed with a sense of humor and good nature to go along with his experience and expertise, Tim has long been one of the greatest assets of the Water Department.

Robert Reardon may be one of the most qualified people in his field in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He’s also one of my all-time favorite people in City Hall. He could write a book on the political history of Cambridge. Maybe he should now that he’ll have time on his hands. I don’t know whether to congratulate him or to beg him to reconsider.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to compile a report outlining how a prolonged Federal Government shut-down may impact the people of Cambridge.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Siddiqui

There are two sides to this inquiry. First, how will the lack of federal services and funds (for things like housing vouchers) affect residents who need those services and how many residents are affected? Second, how many residents of Cambridge have been furloughed from federal jobs? I’ll add that banks, landlords, utilities, etc. should really step up and grant time extensions on bills and maybe even extend low or zero-interest loans in lieu of paychecks since (I hope) we all know this can’t go on for too much longer.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Managing Director of the Water Department on whether the department is monitoring aged pipelines to prevent unexpected breaks and if information on the age of the pipes is readily available.   Councillor Toomey

This provides an appropriate follow-up to last week’s Order on the age and maintenance of the city’s water mains.

Order #5. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee hold a public hearing to explore the feasibility of Transit X and their potential to provide an affordable, equitable, safe, practical, congestion-reducing, and eco-friendly public transportation solution for our community.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

There was a guy going around maybe a year ago trying to sell people on this idea of mini-monorails running all over the city. It still seems a bit like something from a Fritz Lang film.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and the City’s legal services providers on establishing a system of information-sharing and/ or alternative method for making available that data which may be of beneficial use to the City in analyzing displacement.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Carlone

Analysis is good, but please don’t unfairly punish small-scale owner-occupant landlords who are just trying to manage their modest investment. I grow increasingly suspicious every week of the City Council’s intentions. The Order provides a list of 46 outcomes of an eviction proceeding and not once does it make reference to an eviction being fairly carried out for justifiable reasons.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to explore the feasibility of designing the next iteration of the Cambridge Community Electricity program.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

If City intervention can land me a better deal on electricity, I’m all in. Otherwise, no thanks. – Robert Winters

January 8, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 365-366: Jan 8, 2019

Episode 365 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 8, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 8, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: History; Political Trichotomy; Trees; Infrastructure & Inundation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 366 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 8, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 8, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Significant passings; arts funding and earmarking; proposed Home Rule petition for a real estate transfer tax; and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 6, 2019

Kicking Off the New Year – Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:42 pm

Kicking Off the New Year – Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council meetingThe beginning of a municipal election year often features some table-setting, i.e. framing some of the issues that are bound to play out as we work our way to the November election. If bike lanes were the AOC of 2017, then trees, battles over density, and the next round of challenges to property ownership are taking the early lead in the 2019 rhetorical derby. Here are some of the agenda items that drew my attention this week.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Bob Richards.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

Bob passed away on December 19. He has been a long-time friend and neighbor, one of the founders of the Antrim Street Block Party – the longest in the city, a CRLS teacher, and a dependable ally on the Ward 6 Democratic Committee. The phrase "he will be missed" is often said, but I will really miss the frequent conversations Bob and I have had over many years – and not all about politics.

Order #1. Creating Gender X on Cambridge Birth Certificates.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

I have lived in Cambridge now for over 40 years and can honestly say that I identify as a True Cantabrigian. I have even been accepted by many native Cantabrigians as something more than a carpetbagger. That said, my birth certificate identifies me as a New Yorker. I would like the option to have my birth certificate revised to better reflect my current identity.

Order #4. Accessing revenue generated from new short-term rental legislation.   Mayor McGovern

This is a timely Order now that the Commonwealth passed short-term rental legislation late in the previous session.


Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes of the meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

Order #5. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council and Department of Finance to allocate a percentage of hotel/motel tax revenue and adult use cannabis tax revenue to the arts in the FY20 budget.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

Order #6. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council, Traffic and Parking Department, Community Development Department, and Central Square Advisory Committee to establish the Central Square Improvement Fund and allocate no less than 25% of funds generated to the arts.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

Order #7. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council and Community Development Department to make the appropriate updates to the City’s 1% for arts ordinance.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

As a long-time booster for Central Square, I suppose I should be thrilled with these Orders – and I am, but with reservations. I dislike the whole idea of earmarking revenues generated from specific activities for the exclusive use of very specific purposes – even if these purposes are things I support. Why should revenue generated by the cannabis industry be dedicated for arts purposes rather than early childhood education (just to give one example)? Why should 25% or more of a proposed Central Square Improvement Fund be dedicated toward arts projects? This is reminiscent of the whole Foundry Kerfuffle where some councillors felt that this building should be dedicated toward very specific arts-related purposes but other councillors had different priorities.

There is something of a "cutting the line" in all this – proposing specific earmarking before other priorities have been considered. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this, e.g. there have been and continue to be proposals to earmark revenue for the purpose of buying up residential buildings and properties solely for use as subsidized housing. Priorities do change from year to year.

As for the One Percent for the Arts Ordinance, some revision may be in order, especially in regard to the rather harsh division between the commissioning of outside artists and the artistic talents of some of the people actually building publicly-funded projects. However, the rather simple math is that because a fixed percentage of the project funding is to be dedicated toward artistic components of a project, then as projects become more expensive the money dedicated for art rises proportionately.


Order #8. Support Green New Deal.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

Translation: This Order proposes to reject the plans proposed by the new House Democratic Leadership (Nancy Pelosi and Co.) in favor of a proposal from a newly elected member of Congress (AOC-NY). The Order also suggests corruption among Ms. Pelosi’s leadership team ("will include legislators who have accepted contributions from or who have themselves made significant investments in the fossil fuel industry"). Please, councillors, edit out some of the WHEREAS’s before voting on this symbolic Order.

Order #9. Water Mains Age and Maintenance Update.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern

The requested report is one I will definitely look forward to reading. Yes, I am an Infrastructure Geek. It says so on my birth certificate.

Order #10. City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to prepare a draft Home Rule petition for a Real Estate Transfer fee.   Councillor Carlone, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Insofar as this might cool down speculative investment in Cambridge real estate, I might be supportive. I do not, however, agree that any revenue generated should be dedicated exclusively toward the acquisition of property to be turned into subsidized housing. [See above remarks re: earmarking.] There is, however, a larger issue. Last year opened with a "Right of First Refusal" proposal to lay a heavy hand on who would have first preference in purchasing residential property put up for sale. Last year ended with the non-support of a state initiative re: housing growth and changes in the threshold for certain zoning changes based on concerns that there should be greater tenant protections (which often translates into greater restrictions on property owners). Councillor Siddiqui at one meeting referred to about 150 additional measures that could be considered in this vein. It is not at all surprising that property owners become concerned about all this – including many landlords who might otherwise be supportive of some of these proposals.

Here’s a suggestion: How about the City Council make a Declaration to the effect that "The City Council shall pass no law infringing on the rights of small property owners to engage in the ordinary business of renting their property in accordance with general laws." If small property owners were not (justifiably) fearful that their local City Council was planning to make their lives especially difficult, they might be a lot more supportive of proposals floated by the Council.

Order #12. Amendment to the Municipal Code to create a new Chapter entitled "Cycling Safety Ordinance".   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Translation: This Order proposes to mandate via Ordinance that whatever the aspirational Cambridge Bicycle Plan (or any plan superseding it) says, then the City must implement those plans on any City-owned street under the City’s Five-Year Sidewalk and Street Reconstruction Plan unless there are extraordinary reasons for not doing so. It’s amazing how wish lists becoming mandates [see Envision] has become the foundation for How We Do Planning in Cambridge.

Order #13. Volpe Project Updates.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I will look forward to hearing more about this. As the Order points out: "As a federal facility, the new Volpe Center will not be subject to the zoning or special permit requirements set out in the PUD-7 Zoning District that the City Council created in October 2017."

Order #14. Major Public Building Projects Selection Committee Representation.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

We are once again nibbling away at the edges of the Plan E Charter. This Order proposes that there be "at least one City Councillor on the Selection Committee for any major public building project." In short, the Order wants to have an elected councillor involved in the awarding of City contracts. Red Flag.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Zondervan and Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chairs of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Dec 4, 2018 to discuss reviewing the preliminary LiDAR-based canopy study results from Apr 1, 2018 and to discuss potential reasons for the precipitous decline in our tree canopy and any other related matter.

There is a related campaign being floated to declare a Moratorium on the cutting of any tree on private property above a relatively low caliper except for reasons of safety. I actually do have very good reasons to cut down a significant tree in my yard, so give me at least a week’s warning before you declare any Moratorium so I can take care of things. – Robert Winters, Native Cantabrigian

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