Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 31, 2019

Preview – April 1, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Preview – April 1, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

City Hall in RedThese days I don’t know whether to watch or simply look away as this City Council behaves in ways that sow the seeds of doubt in even the most ardent supporters of the Plan E Charter like me. As much as I believe in proportional representation (PR) and Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) I find myself asking the simple question: Proportional to what? I am seriously doubting if I have any representation at all, and there isn’t all that much promise among the emerging new candidates, some of whom are just waiting to feed at the trough of the latest iteration of political action committees (PACs). I sincerely hope that some new candidates emerge who actually understand the ins and outs of Cambridge and who are not just ready to ride the latest round of hot button single issues. So far most of the new candidates look like they were printed on a 3D-printer at the Bernie Sanders clone factory.

Meanwhile, these agenda items stand out:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from City Engineer Katherine Watkins, to eliminate and rename certain streets in the Northpoint/Cambridge Crossing area.

I have a mild fascination with the naming (and renaming) of streets. I like these recommendations, especially the theme represented by streets named for Harriet A. Jacobs and Gertrude Wright Morgan. For those who don’t already know, there’s a very strong theme in Cambridgeport based on the War of 1812. You can look it up.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $300,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account which will support the expansion of the curbside organics program to 13+ unit households in FY20 and be used for the purchase of collection bins and outreach efforts.

It will surprise no one to learn that I’m happy to see this, but beyond organics collection there are some troubling realities in recycling these days. American investment in materials recovery (new technology, better processing facilities, and better end markets) has to increase now that we can no longer count on dumping our low quality recycled materials in places like China. Cambridge residents may also soon have to learn to be a bit more thoughtful in how they handle their recyclable waste. Ease of disposal is nice but quality markets for recyclable materials is nicer.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-61 regarding a report on commissioning a public art piece, statue or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment.

I am very glad to see this moving along. Please give consideration to Central Square as a potentially ideal location for such public art.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-12, regarding a report on legality and constitutionality of the proposed "Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal Election Program" and the "Cambridge Municipal Election People’s Pledge", and Awaiting Report Item Number 18-136 regarding a report on submitting a proposal that candidates would agree to not accept donations from persons outside of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [Legal Opinion]

Our City Solicitor really does her homework when researching these questions. Even if there is some merit in public financing of local campaigns (and I am not yet convinced), I have never known the proponents to consider all the consequences and potential problems associated with their proposals.

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-01, regarding a report on the recently adopted regulations of the short-term rental revenue and the necessary steps to impose and access the revenue from the excise and community impact fees. [Legal Opinion] [Chart of Taxes]

Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [Draft Ordinance]

I’ll leave these to the wisdom of councillors or the lack thereof.

Unfinished Business #5. 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 Feb 27, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title Twelve entitled “Streets, Sidewalks and Public Places” by adding a new Chapter 12.22 entitled “Cycling Safety Ordinance” ON OR AFTER APR 8, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

I have no doubt that this will be ordained even though I seriously disagree with the concept of mandating road design by ordinance.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of retired Cambridge Police Officer Edward "Eddie" Burke.   Councillor Toomey

One of the great things about living in Cambridge for a long time (even if you weren’t born here) is that you get to know a lot of people in the Cambridge Police Department, the Cambridge Fire Department, and the Department of Public Works. This also means that you share in the heartbreak when people you’ve come to know pass away. My condolences go to Eddie’s entire extended family.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate departments to provide more information and analysis as it relates to the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay District.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I am glad at least some city councillors are asking questions about this. I served on the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group that supposedly recommended this proposal, and I asked many questions and raised many concerns about this from the first moment the proposal was presented. I attended every meeting and spoke at every one of them. I was resolutely ignored, and not because my concerns were off the mark. The outcome had been determined when the appointments were made and before the committee ever met.

Some things can be amended to make them better. Other things need to be discarded so that something better can be found. This entire concept should be discarded. Has anyone considered the possibility that Inclusionary Zoning was a pretty good idea and that maybe you should just be happy with that?

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to ensure that the Housing Committee hearing scheduled for Apr 25, 2019 be televised and livestreamed, to ensure that as many people as possible will have the opportunity to view this hearing.   Councillor Simmons

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to ensure that the Housing Committee hearing scheduled for Apr 16, 2019 be televised and livestreamed.   Councillor Simmons

These meetings have been little more than Bad Theater – more of a competition between mailing lists of those wishing to pack the meetings than anything substantive.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and MassDOT staff, as well as with representatives of the communities through which the Minuteman Bikeway passes, to review infrastructure designs and investigate ways, to include speed limits, enforcement, striping, construction projects, signage and education efforts, to maximize safety for all users of these regional bike-related amenities.   Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

This Order follows the recent head-on bicycle collision that fatally injured an Arlington man. Sure, put up signs and lay down paint and maybe bolt some plastic poles to the ground, but this still comes down to people learning to travel responsibly. This goes beyond hardware and regulations.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to televise and record the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee hearing scheduled for Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:00pm.   Vice Mayor Devereux

The purpose of this public hearing is to discuss the logistics and feasibility of implementing early voting in City Elections and to discuss the possibility of pursuing a Home Rule petition to lower the voting age to City elections to 16 years old. As to the former, it may have a marginal benefit but it will likely come at a considerable cost. Furthermore, there’s a chance it will somewhat bias the municipal election toward areas where early voting sites are located. As for lowering the voting age for municipal elections to 16 years old, my belief is that the minimum voting age should be the same across the entire Commonwealth and not vary from town to town. If you want to make the case for this, try to convince the state legislature to do it statewide or pursue other matters.

Order #12. That the City Council go on record in enthusiastic support of H.2865, “An Act to Establish a Net Zero Energy Stretch Code.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Even if every single suggestion in such a revised code is a good idea, there is little doubt that the costs to anyone doing a renovation will be substantial. Perhaps a lot of people will choose to adhere to stricter standards because of the long-term savings, but I have never been a big fan of absolute mandates except for the purpose of safety. – Robert Winters

Street Cleaning, Yard Waste Pickup, Hazardous Waste Collection, Rabies, and some really cool Watertown history

Filed under: Cambridge,history — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:35 pm

Street Cleaning and Yard Waste Pickup Resume Monday, April 1
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event on Saturday, April 6

City SealStreet cleaning and yard waste pickup in Cambridge will be resuming for the season on Mon, Apr 1, 2019. The next Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day in Cambridge will be held on Sat, Apr 6, from 9am–1pm, at the Volpe Transportation Center; entrance near 125 Munroe St. Below are more details regarding these services and information on registering for notifications.

Street Cleaning
Public Works mechanically sweeps each street in Cambridge once per month, April through December (weather permitting). Signs are posted on each residential street indicating the schedule. In order to ensure that streets are properly cleaned, cars must move off the side of the street being swept to avoid being ticketed and towed. Cars must remain off the side of the street until the time indicated on the sign, even if the sweeper has already made a pass down the street, since it will often return to do it again. Citywide street sweeping includes twice yearly vacuum sweeping to improve storm water quality.

Yard Waste Collection
Separate yard waste collection begins Apr 1, 2019 and continues through Dec 13, 2019. Please be sure to set yard waste out by 7:00am on your regular collection day, or after 6:00pm the night before. Yard waste is not accepted in plastic bags by recycling or trash crews. Place yard waste in barrels marked with City-issued stickers and facing the street, or in lawn refuse bags sold in most hardware stores. Barrels and bags must be set on the curb apart from the trash. Do not staple or tape bags. Bundle small twigs and branches with string. Contact Public Works at 617-349-4800 to request Yard Waste stickers.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day
The City of Cambridge holds four Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Days in 2019. Proper disposal of materials helps protect public health and the environment. A list of accepted items can be found at www.CambridgeMA.gov/HazardousWaste.

Service Schedules and Notifications
Residents can find their curbside collections and street cleaning schedules by entering their address in the “My Cambridge Schedule” tool at www.CambridgeMA.gov/theworks. Notifications are now available by text message, email, or app notifications by downloading the “Zero Waste Cambridge” app for iPhone/Android. Those previously signed up for reminders through ELine should re-subscribe using the scheduling tool or by downloading the app. Residents are also encouraged to visit www.CambridgeMA.gov/theworks and use the “Get Rid of It Right” tool to search how to properly dispose of items.


Rabies Vaccination Clinic for Dogs Only – Saturday, Apr 6
Annual Dog Licenses also Available

Dog LicenseCambridge Animal Commission will be holding a Rabies Vaccination Clinic for dogs only on Saturday, April 6, from 9-11am, at the Cambridge Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire St. Cost is $15 per dog; cash or check only please.

State laws require that all dogs and cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. A vaccination clinic for cats has not been planned, though there are clinics in the area that administer low cost programs for rabies vaccinations.

Annual dog licenses for Apr 1, 2019 – Mar 31, 2020 will also be issued at the Rabies Vaccination Clinic. The fee for a dog license for a spayed/neutered dog is $10, or $30 for a dog that is not spayed or neutered. State law requires that all dogs over 6 months have a current dog license. Please note that all current dog licenses expire on Mar. 31, 2019. The fine for an unlicensed dog is $50. In order to obtain a dog license, owners must have a current rabies vaccination.

Cambridge residents can apply for or renew their dog’s license online, CambridgeMA.gov/doglicense, or download the paper application and renew via mail or in person, following instructions on the respective form.

For your pet’s safety at the Rabies Vaccination Clinic, dogs must be leashed at all times. You are still welcome to attend if your dog is up to date on its rabies vaccination and you just need a license. Please bring a current rabies vaccination certificate and proof of spay or neuter if your dog has not been licensed in Cambridge before.

Rabies has and will continue to be present in Cambridge and throughout the Commonwealth. The best thing you can do for your pet (dogs and cats) is to have it vaccinated and to teach your family and friends to avoid contact with wild animals. The basic rule is to “leave wildlife alone.”

When you are outside with your dog, please adhere to the leash law. When you are in shared use areas in the city, always have your dog under control and within your sight (particularly at Fresh Pond). Regulations are posted in shared use areas and at designated dog parks in the city. Cat owners should keep their cats indoors as it’s a safe and controlled environment.

As always, the Cambridge Animal Commission would like to remind dog owners of the three L’s of dog ownership – License, Leash, and Love your pet.

For more information, please call the Cambridge Animal Commission Office at 617-349-4376. If we are not in the office, please leave a voicemail with a convenient time and number to return your call.


The Belmont Historical Society Presents – Destination Watertown: The Armenians of Hood Rubber
A Program by Local Filmmaker Roger Hagopian

Date: Sunday, April 7, 2019, 2:00pm     Location:
Assembly Room — Belmont Memorial Library (336 Concord Ave., Belmont)
A documentary of the immigrant workers of the Hood Rubber Company, a once bustling shoe and boot factory from 1896 until its closing in 1969. Learn about life in the factory and the factory’s impact on the local community. [Flyer for event]

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Mar 31, 2019)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:40 pm

City of Cambridge Seeking Volunteers to Serve on Foundry Advisory Committee

City SealCambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking volunteers to serve on the Foundry Advisory Committee. The Committee is made up of community members who serve in an advisory capacity to the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA), to help ensure that the Foundry building’s (101 Rogers Street) redevelopment and ongoing operation remains consistent with the Vision and Objectives established in the Demonstration Plan.

This group provides regular updates to the City Manager and to the CRA Executive Director on proposed uses within the Foundry building, which is in the process of being redeveloped and operated consistent with the vision and objectives that grew out of an extensive community planning process. Once the building is redeveloped, the Committee will also review any proposals for significant capital changes to the building as they affect the Foundry’s objectives.

Meetings are held quarterly and are open to the public. The Committee provides annual updates to the CRA Board at regular Board meetings, which provides an additional forum for public input. Members of the Committee will be appointed by the City Manager to a term of 3 years.

The City Manager seeks individuals with demonstrated ability to work effectively on a team with diverse opinions to craft consensus recommendations. The Committee is intended to include experience and expertise in related topic areas, as well as representation from various neighborhoods within the city, and local non-profit and community organizations.

Additional information regarding the Foundry building is available on the project webpage: www.cambridgeredevelopment.org/foundry.

The deadline for submitting applications is Fri, Apr 26, 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 the City Manager’s Office at 617-349-4300 or citymanager@cambridgema.gov.

Foundry


City of Cambridge Seeking Members for Technical Advisory Group on Future of Mobility Implementation Blueprint

City SealCity Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Technical Advisory Group that will provide guidance during the development of the Future of Mobility Implementation Blueprint. The Blueprint’s goal is to help the City of Cambridge prepare for and shape new mobility options in a way that meets established community goals, meets the mobility needs of all people who live in, work in, and visit Cambridge, and is well integrated with our sustainable transportation system.

The Blueprint will help provide clarity and specific, practical direction for strategies that support diverse transportation options and technological innovations, such as micromobility devices, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles, while ensuring that they do not adversely impact, but rather complement, progress towards other city goals related to safety, equity, traffic congestion, transit and goods movement reliability, transportation network connectedness, GHG emissions and climate resilience. The development of the Blueprint will result in transportation trend analysis, strategies and actions that allow the City of Cambridge to shape how new mobility is introduced in the city, a residential/neighborhood EV charging pilot design, a proposed regulatory strategy, and recommended approaches to public engagement.

Applicants with subject matter experience in a field that would help to inform a robust and equitable Future of Mobility Implementation Blueprint are encouraged to apply. This includes applicants with technical expertise in existing and emerging mobility, included but not limited to, connected and automated vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, micromobility (i.e. electric scooters, electric skateboards, electric bicycles), mobility aggregator apps, shared mobility services, mobility data management systems, public transit, bicycling and walking. It also includes applicants who represent community interests related to transportation, including other city departments, underserved communities such as low income and persons with disabilities, neighboring communities, such as Boston and Somerville, health and safety, and local and regional transportation advocacy groups.

The Technical Advisory Group will consist of 15-20 members and will meet up to six 6 times over the course of the project to provide feedback and input on the Blueprint. The group is expected to begin meeting in May and will likely meet three to four times prior to July. The remaining two to three meetings will be scheduled between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. The Advisory Group may also be asked to prepare for a robust, productive discussion at each meeting by reading materials in advance, or to provide feedback between meetings as needed through emails or electronic polls.

For additional questions about the Future of Mobility Technical Advisory Blueprint, contact Stephanie Groll, Parking and Transportation Demand Management Officer at 617-349-4673 or sgroll@cambridgema.gov, or Bronwyn Cooke, Sustainability Planner at 617-349-4604 or bcooke@cambridgema.gov.

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at www.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 Friday, Apr 12, 2019.


City of Cambridge Seeking Members for Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Transit Advisory Committees

City SealCity Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking persons interested in serving on the city’s Bicycle, Pedestrian or Transit Advisory Committees. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings as well as review materials and engage in projects outside of regular meetings. Below is more information on each of these committees.

Bicycle Committee
The Bicycle Committee works to improve conditions for bicyclists in the City of Cambridge and promote bicycling as a means of transportation. Activities include: organizing and participating in public events such as biannual community bike rides; reviewing plans for street construction; commenting on proposed development projects; creating promotional materials to encourage bicycling in the city; and working with city departments on network planning. Committee members must be prepared to work on projects outside of standing meeting times. This committee generally meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30-7:30pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Cambridge. For more information about the Cambridge Bicycle Program, visit: CambridgeMA.Gov/bikes. For questions about the committee, contact Cara Seiderman, cseiderman@cambridgema.gov, 617-349-4629.

Pedestrian Committee
The Pedestrian Committee works to promote walking and to help create a more comfortable, safe, and pleasant environment for walking in Cambridge. It advises on the design of roadway projects and policies related to traffic calming, traffic signals, and sidewalk design. It also identifies intersections and other locations where it is difficult to walk, makes suggestions about proposed development projects as they affect people on foot, and undertakes other activities to promote walking. Committee members must be prepared to work on projects outside of standing meeting times. This committee generally meets on the fourth Thursday of each month from 6-8pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Cambridge. (Note: November and December meetings are on the third Thursday.) For more information about walking resources in Cambridge, visit: CambridgeMA.Gov/citysmart. For questions about the committee, contact Cara Seiderman, cseiderman@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4629.

Transit Advisory Committee
The Transit Advisory Committee advances an agenda for a robust public transit system for all who live, work, and visit Cambridge, including the transit services provided by the MBTA and EZRide, among others. The committee membership represents a cross-section of stakeholders, including: businesses and large institutions; commuters; persons with disabilities; neighborhood residents with low income; elderly, youth, and students; and transit advocates. The committee advises on city positions and policies on transit service planning, scheduling, infrastructure modernization, expansion and long-term sustainable funding for transit by the Commonwealth. This committee generally meets on the first Wednesday evening of each month from 5:30-7:30pm. For more information, contact Tegin Teich, tteich@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4615. Visit the committee’s webpage at: CambridgeMa.Gov/transitadvisorycommittee.

Application Process
Applications are sought for a diverse group of dedicated individuals who are representatives of people who live and/or work in Cambridge. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings, review materials, and engage in projects outside of regular meetings. Appointments are made by the City Manager and are for two years of service. Applications to serve on any of these committees can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at www.cambridgema.gov/apply and selecting the respective committee(s) of interest. 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. The deadline for submitting applications for above referenced boards is April 26, 2019.

March 26, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 383-384: March 26, 2019

Episode 383 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 26, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 26, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topic: The Old Middlesex Canal. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 384 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 26, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 26, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Middlesex Canal; Mar 25 City Council meeting; Plan E and Proportional Representation – proportional to what? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 25, 2019

A Few Items of Interest – March 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:13 am

A Few Items of Interest – March 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeIt is getting more difficult every week to watch and listen to this City Council, but here are a few things that have at least some interest::

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-114, regarding bicycle signage on Brattle Street.

The City’s transportation planners acknowledged that they did at one point consider restoring the one-way section of Brattle Street to two-way operation at reduced speed, but they chose instead to go with only the segregated two-way bike lane. The problems associated with this configuration are many, especially at the Brattle Square end, and all the signage in the world will not cure them.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations for the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2019 and ending Mar 31, 2020. [Manager’s Letter] [Order]

Continuing the pattern of the last several years, there will be no increase in the water rate, but there will be a 7% increase in the sewer rate yielding an overall 5.2% increase in the water/sewer combined rate.

  Annual
Consumption*
FY19
Water Rate
FY20
Proposed
Water Rate
FY19
Sewer
Rate
FY20 Proposed
Sewer Rate
Block 1 0 – 40 CcF $3.02 $3.02 $11.00 $11.77
Block 2 41 – 400 CcF $3.24 $3.24 $11.63 $12.44
Block 3 401 – 2,000 CcF $3.44 $3.44 $12.49 $13.36
Block 4 2,001 – 10,000 CcF $3.65 $3.65 $13.45 $14.39
Block 5 Over 10,000 CcF $3.96 $3.96 $14.30 $15.30

*All rates are per CcF. CcF is an abbreviation of 100 cubic feet. One CcF is approximately 750 gallons.

Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the bi-annual City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey for 2018. [Manager’s message] [aggregate responses] [longer report]

Ripe for misinterpretation.

Applications & Petitions #2. A Zoning Petition has been received from Hemenway & Barnes LLP. on behalf of Verizon New England Inc., seeking to amend the Zoning Map to certain provisions of Article 20 of the Zoning Ordinance to allow the creation of a "Ware Street Innovation Space" Overlay District. Note that Ware Street is the only property affected by this petition.

This seems like a good idea for this seriously anomalous old telephone switching building on Ware Street, but it does seem odd that this change is being proposed via zoning petition rather than by seeking a variance. I expect we will again have to be tutored on what is and what is not considered "spot zoning".

Order #6. That a Roundtable meeting be scheduled for Tues, Apr 9, 2019, at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, for the purpose of discussing the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay proposal.   Mayor McGovern

This aberrant "Overlay" proposal that would trash all expectations associated with zoning districts across the city continues like a runaway train. The whole concept is based on a perversion of zoning that says that certain parties may play by one set of rules while others must play by a different set of rules. Zoning is really all about managing expectations, and if this proposal passes all such expectations will change whenever a property changes hands. If you think that the maximum height and density in an area will shape what can be built, you will have to abandon that expectation and accept the fact that you will no longer have a right to even object. Furthermore, if you have issues with this proposal expect to have your reputation trashed as easy as ABC. There are good cases to be made for allowing some additional density where it makes sense, but those are not before this City Council.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City staff to examine the need and possibility of implementing the Pilot Displacement Preference program in Cambridge, especially when new housing is constructed in an existing neighborhood where displacement is occurring.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

There may be some worthwhile ideas embedded within, but the bottom line is that this City Council apparently doesn’t believe that people can sort things out without their intervention, and that the composition of neighborhoods in Cambridge, Boston, and elsewhere should never change.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to double the annual funding (from the FY19 Adopted Budget) over the next 3 to 5 years to reach a combined total minimum of $30 million per year (plus any additional use of “Free Cash”) in the areas of Affordable housing construction, tree canopy, Preschool enrollment scholarships/space, Central Square revitalization and Cultural Arts District and the arts in general.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Take note of the fact that part of the sales pitch for the "Overlay" proposal is that it would yield only modest changes based on available funding. In advertising this is known as the "soft sell". This Order asks that this funding be dramatically increased. Furthermore, there are also proposals pending for a Real Estate Transfer Tax that could potentially lead to even more dramatic increases. The "Overlay" proposal would permanently lock in place a mechanism by which privately-owned residential property will be transitioned to "social ownership" and a future where access to much of the city’s housing will be done via application to the local government.

Deed restrictions on such housing translate into the fact that they pay only the bare legal minimum in real estate taxes, so that tax burden will be transferred to the remaining unregulated housing. The remedy for that may well be to significantly increase commercial development. I will be very surprised if any of the current group of councillors even discuss these long-term effects. They really should scrap the whole concept and start from scratch. – Robert Winters

March 20, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 381-382: March 19, 2019

Episode 381 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate update and some PR notes; counting bikes, proposed Cycling Safety Ordinance; the misuse of surveys; and Better Buses? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 382 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Plan E and the City Auditor; nominations for Outstanding City Employee awards; Faux Retail; Cambridgeside Galeria Re-Envisioned. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 18, 2019

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at what seems comment-worthy:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the bi-annual City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey for 2018. [Manager’s message] [aggregate responses] [longer report]

The wording of the questions and the meaning of the choices can have a tremendous effect on surveys such as this. For example, if the question "What do you think is the single most important issue facing the City of Cambridge today—the one that affects you and your family the most?" simply lists one option as "Affordable housing/housing", then it’s not at all surprising that this will be the overwhelming first choice. However, does this mean access to subsidized housing or, more likely, does this mean that most renters feel that their rent is higher than they would like it to be and that most buyers feel that purchase costs are much higher than they would like it to be? This is an important distinction because this survey may be used to justify only the expansion of subsidized housing without addressing what most people actually meant by their response in the survey.

Order #2. Reappointment of James Monagle as City Auditor.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

Good choice. Do it.


Bikes, Buses, Scooters & other Transportation:

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-142, regarding a report on efforts to educate cyclists about riding safety and sharing the road especially at intersections.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff about updating the bike data count chart, along with other data tables and charts, in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan to reflect 2016 and 2018 data.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff to report to the City Council on how the data collected from the Broadway Eco-Display is used to inform the City’s transportation planning efforts and to address the possibility of installing additional Eco-Display counters at the highest trafficked bicycle locations to provide more comprehensive information about bike use and other vehicles such as scooters.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with City Staff and report back to the City Council on the status of any micro-mobility pilot programs or partnerships in Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley

I’ll be interested in seeing the requested data (with appropriate documentation to support its validity). I have come to believe that when you start factoring in such things as weather, the need to run multiple errands, electric vehicles and micro-cars, TNCs, and various micro-mobility options, as well as age/condition, we may conclude that Cambridge is not actually located in The Netherlands and that the choice of bicycle transportation may have a natural upper limit no matter how many flex-posts you bolt to the road.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 26, 2019 to discuss the MBTA’s Better Bus Project report as it relates to proposed changes to bus lines and service throughout Cambridge.

If Better Bus means little more than Cutting Corners then there’s not a whole lot to like here. I do, however, think that folding the CT1 into the #1 Bus with more frequent service is a good idea, but only if they can finally solve the problem of Bus Bunching.

Committee Report #4. 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 Feb 27, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title Twelve entitled “Streets, Sidewalks and Public Places” by adding a new Chapter 12.22 entitled “Cycling Safety Ordinance”.

The key question I would have asked is whether or not this proposal unnecessary restricts the ability of the City Manager and City Departments from using good judgment and appropriate discretion in deciding how future road projects should proceed. As near as I can tell, everything that was and is on the table came from just one lobbying group. Then again, that seems to be the way this City Council operates.


Order #5. Thanks to Mayor McGovern and all members of the Harm Reduction Commission and the Cambridge Opioid Working Group for their leadership and service and that a Human Services and Veterans Committee hold a future hearing to receive an update on the recommendations in these reports and on efforts in Cambridge to address substance use disorder and the opioid crisis.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

Prelude to the Mayor enabling a "safe injection site" to be located inevitably in Central Square to supplement the existing Needle Exchange and other sites enabling IV drug users to flock to Central Square. Wouldn’t it be great if we instead concentrated on things that helped to attract families with children to Central Square?


Housing-Related:

Order #8. City Council endorsement of the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

This Order seems to be setting up for the case to be made that current Cambridge zoning is too restrictive and must be changed to allow for significantly increased density. Note the sponsors. It is curious how the extremely strict zoning restrictions of the suburbs and exurbs are somehow being invoked to make the case that Cambridge, with one of the highest population densities and highest proportions of subsidized housing in Massachusetts, is somehow comparable to Weston. Mendacity seems to be the new official language of Cambridge.

Order #13. City Council support for fully funding the Section 8 Housing Choice Tenant-Based Voucher Program.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Good idea and more to the point than what is otherwise being discussed these days.

Order #14. That the City Manager direct the appropriate City staff to examine the need and possibility of neighborhood preference in Cambridge in the short and long-terms.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Feb 24, 2018 meeting minutes.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding "Affordable Housing Overlay Initial Thoughts".

I’ll be adding more than just my "initial thoughts" on this soon. This juggernaut really needs to be stopped and reconsidered.


Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 13, 2019 to receive an update on the progress to date on the retail strategy plan and vacant storefront initiative.

Faux Retail is apparently The Future. – RW

Update: Councillor Toomey exercised his Charter Right to delay all of the City Manager’s Agenda until the next Council meeting (March 25). The only other consequential thing in the meeting was the back-and-forth posturing of Councillors Zondervan, Siddiqui, Mallon, Carlone, Devereux, and McGovern over Councillor Zondervan’s "initial thoughts" memo on the Public Housing Expansion Initiative, a.k.a. the "Affordable Housing Overlay". Vice Mayor Devereux handled herself rather well. Councillor Mallon argued in favor having her own Maple Ave. be a preferred site for new Public Housing. Councillors Kelley, Simmons, and Toomey wisely remained silent.

March 13, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 379-380: March 12, 2019

Episode 379 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Fresh Pond/Mt. Auburn walk invitation; Housing Overlay proposal and Housing Committee meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 380 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: New City Council candidates; national politics; PR election realities; Zero Waste Plan; upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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