Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 24, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 419-420: Sept 24, 2019

Episode 419 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 24, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 24, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Bow Tie Ride; supervoters; First St. Garage/Courthouse resolution; Cannabis Business Ordinance approved; beer gardens in City parks. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 420 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 24, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 24, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Road ahead for bike lanes on Mass. Ave.; resources to find out about candidates; Candidate Pages, CCTV videos, forums; sage advice; Follow the Money; campaign propaganda. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 23, 2019

Fire Up That Doobie – Cannabis, CPA Funding and the rest of the Sept 23, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:23 am

Fire Up That Doobie – Cannabis, CPA Funding and the rest of the Sept 23, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

After an eventful week of Courthouse Controversy and Picking Winners in the Cannabis Sweepstakes, here are the things that struck me as interesting on this week’s agenda:Reefer Madness

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for FY2020.

It will be the maximum 80% to the Affordable Housing Trust, and the minimum 10% for Open Space Acquisition and 10% for Historic Preservation – non-negotiable, of course.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a petition to amend provisions in Section 22.20, which governs Green Building Requirements, and also applicable definitions contained in Article 2.000.

If I’m reading this correctly, it appears that the City is ditching the costly LEED certification process for "green" buildings in favor of an in-house process that achieves the same goals or better. It’s also noteworthy that this proposal is for larger projects, so ordinary homeowners should not worry yet about the City monkey-wrenching with ordinary home improvements.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a petition to amend provisions in Article 5.000 and Article 22.000 pertaining to setback requirements and exterior building insulation.

This appears to be a reasonable minor proposal to allow additional building insulation that might previously have extended into yard setbacks. We’re talking inches here, not feet.


Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-56, regarding a report on the feasibility of constructing a quick-build complete streets project to provide separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, from Sidney Street to Putnam Avenue.

Communications #22. A communication was received from Michael Monestime, Central Square Business Improvement District, and Nathanael Fillmore, Cambridge Bicycle Safety, expressing their joint support for building protected bicycle lanes on Massachusetts Avenue between Sidney Street and Putnam Avenue in the near future.

The velo-zealots will likely be out in force once again proving their inability to understand words like "reasonable" or "compromise" or anything relating to vehicles with more than two wheels.


Unfinished Business #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

Committee Report #2. 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 Aug 14, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code to create a Cannabis Business Permitting ordinance including amendments submitted at the July 30, 2019 Special City Council meeting.

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 18, 2019 at 11:00am to discuss amendments to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance.

They should just flip a few coins and approve something and move on. The Ordinance Committee apparently decided to go with the two-year moratorium to allow various "economic empowerment" applicants to have a head start before the medical dispensaries can also dip into the pot of Acapulco Gold. By the way, is there anyone who was not offended by the "Slave Amendment" postcard that was sent citywide by Richard Harding and his cannabis pals? I’m really starting to dislike everyone associated with this business.


Order #6. Alcoholic beverage permitting in large parks.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley

As the Order says: "A better experience would be ensured for participants if a regulated, enclosed, and permitted beer garden could be located within a large park such as Danehy during a special event." Quite true, and Vice Mayor Devereux deserves a lot of credit for following up on this after this year’s sizzling Jazz Festival that would be so much nicer if it can be moved back to a field of real grass with a permitted beer garden.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Human Services and the Cambridge Public Library  system to hire a social worker in the FY2021 budget for the Central Square Library branch.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern

I suppose this might be a good thing, but I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another way to enable bad behavior that continues to make Central Square, and the Library in particular, a hostile place for families. – Robert Winters

September 17, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 417-418: Sept 17, 2019

Episode 417 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 17, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 17, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Sept 16 Council meeting (Part 1) – Cannabis, First Street Garage, Lobbying via Direct Mail, zoning history, changing nature of the city, New Street zoning failure. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 418 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 17, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 17, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Sept 16 Council meeting (Part 2) – UpperWest pandering and Charter ignorance, evolution of License Commission practices, Municipal Broadband feasibility and shelf life, candidate forums and endorsements, CDD policy failures. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 16, 2019

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:24 pm

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at what I think is the interesting stuff. See below for snarky comments and enduring wisdom.City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-56, regarding a report on the feasibility of constructing a quick-build complete streets project to provide separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, from Sidney Street to Putnam Avenue.

Perhaps the most important statement in the report is this: "It is also important to note that the continued success of Central Square as a vibrant and livable community hub for business, culture, and government relies on a delicate balance of different activities that go beyond transportation. Any planning related to complete streets and reconfiguring Central Square for the benefit of street users of all ages and abilities must take into account a broad range of factors and stakeholders, to avoid taking any actions that would change that balance in a negative way. We want to ensure that as we contemplate changes that serve our City goals related to promoting sustainable transportation and improving access to community resources and economic opportunities, we do not inadvertently make it more difficult to achieve other goals that we have related to Central Square."

I fully expect the velo-zealots will demand that only their concerns should be addressed and that all others should just get on board. Hopefully reason will prevail and we won’t have people boarding buses while cyclists weave through the line of passengers, or have every cyclist in town dialing up See-Click-Fix because somebody had to make a delivery and had no choice but to encroach on their turf.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-69, regarding a report on the timeline and process for the Net Zero Action Plan 5-Year Review.

We all want energy efficiency but I seriously hope that the mandates don’t come crashing down on reasonable people living in older homes.


Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from Anthony Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 26, 2019 to discuss a petition received from Self Storage Group, LLC to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating a New Street Overlay District. ON OR AFTER AUG 18, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON ORDINATION

Unfinished Business #12. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Vice Mayor Devereux, regarding proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District zoning petition.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk, Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a memorandum from Adams and Rafferty, James J. Rafferty, P.C. regarding proposed Amendments and a related letter of Commitment for consideration by the City Council concerning the New Street Overlay Zoning Petition. The proposed Amendments consist of the addition of Sections 20.96.5 and Sections 20.96.6.

I have no particular opinion on this zoning petition, but it is worth noting that the Planning Board gave it a negative recommendation. The other thing worth noting is that it seems like standard operation procedure nowadays in Cambridge that no matter what the proposal you just promise to throw in a few "affordable housing" units and you’re good to go. Maybe even a tree or two if you still need that extra vote.


On the Table #1. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 4 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Sept 3, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

I hope we never have to suffer through this again but it would be naive to think this is how it will play out. The ABC zealots are already attacking "those wealthy anti-housing people" as part of their election strategy. I personally feel this matter was tabled last week primarily so that its supporters and potential supporters could weather the November election and then ram it through afterwards without fear. The fact is that it remains a shabbily crafted attempt to rewrite all of Cambridge housing policy so that policy-makers don’t have to address the general issue of affordability of housing locally and regionally.

Unfinished Business #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

The Ordinance Committee hearing on this that was recessed in chaos will reconvene this Wednesday as they once again try to decide the winners in the "Who Wants to be a Millionnaire" sweepstakes.

Unfinished Business #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the License Commission and City Solicitor’s office to drop all charges against UpperWest and its owners, to reconsider UpperWest’s package store application, and to issue a public apology to UpperWest and its owners.

Councillor Zondervan may finally have his chance to express his undying love for some of the least likable people anywhere.

Unfinished Business #9. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to obtain a legal opinion from the City Solicitor regarding the License Commission’s authority with regard to the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of liquor licenses in the City of Cambridge.

Go ask Nancy. I think she’ll know.

Unfinished Business #10. A Zoning Petition has been received from Ben LoVemere regarding that the City Council ordain the Zoning language set forth relative the Alewife Quadrangle Northwest Overlay District.

Unfinished Business #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board report with no positive or negative recommendations on the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #13. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner, the Cambridge Carnival Committee, and the community to organize an alternative event to take place in Cambridge on the Carnival’s rain date, that will allow vendors to sell their products and potentially recover at least some of the costs.

While I think this is a good idea, the fact that violence has followed this Carnival is not something that can be ignored, and I seriously doubt if the organizers will be compensating the City for the additional police presence.

Applications & Petitions #2. A petition was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding Upgrade Cambridge Municipal Broadband Petition.

Show me the books. Many of us would welcome additional options for Internet and TV service, but my greatest fear is that whatever technology is used to build such a network could become obsolete the day after it’s put in place.

Order #7. That the City Council urge the MBTA to take whatever emergency measures are necessary to fast-track repairs to the elevators in the Central Square and Harvard Square MBTA stations, and to share these plans with the City Council in a timely manner.   Councillor Simmons

You can add to this the work on the new entrance to City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway. It seems that the new construction standard is to do a week of work, walk away for three weeks, then rinse and repeat. Modest scale construction projects shouldn’t take an eternity to complete. – Robert Winters

September 10, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 415-416: Sept 10, 2019

Episode 415 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 10, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 10, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Sept 9 Council meeting (Part 1) – First Street Garage, Affordable Housing Overlay, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 416 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 10, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 10, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Sept 9 Council meeting (Part 2) – First Street Garage, Affordable Housing Overlay, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 8, 2019

Politics, Posturing, Preaching, or Practical Solutions? – Sept 9, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:04 pm

Politics, Posturing, Preaching, or Practical Solutions? – Sept 9, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

The City Council returns from vacation this week with a loaded agenda and more than a few hidden agendas. Perhaps the biggest deal is the hearing and presumably the vote on disposition of a portion of the parking spaces in the First Street Garage to support the proposed rehabilitation and reuse of the Courthouse Building on Thorndike Street. This has recently become politically superheated by State Misrepresentative Connolly and his Revolutionary Guard who, in Bernie-esque fashion, have promised the moon with no means to fulfill those promises. On the other hand, perhaps the necessary six votes may materialize to begin the asbestos remediation and reactivation of this building as well as revitalization of the First Street Garage and its retail corridor. Hope springs eternal.

MachiavelliThe other big items are the reports from the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board on the "Affordable Housing Overlay" proposal, a.k.a. the "Abominable Hubris Overlay", to replace privately-owned residential property with higher density public housing, i.e. housing accessible only to people who apply through the City for this benefit. Any notion that this would be a temporary "emergency" policy was put to rest when proposals for a "sunset clause" were eliminated in the Ordinance Committee. So this would effectively become a policy to permanently prioritize higher density government-regulated housing over ordinary residential development at prevailing heights and densities.

Mayor Machiavelli has done all that he can to ram this through while attempting to seal off any means via which residents of the city can challenge plans by unelected bodies to inflict whatever they wish whenever and wherever they wish. There are already apparently three NO votes on this matter so it may all come down to whether one other councillor can be purchased by The Prince. The action item for this meeting would be to pass the matter to a 2nd Reading and put it in the queue for possible ordination on Sept 23, and there appears to be 5 votes to do that. Ordination will require 6 votes. One other possibility, should it be unclear whether the necessary two-thirds majority exists, is to allow the matter to expire and be re-filed so that it can be voted after the municipal election when there are fewer political asses on the line. A more appropriate course of action would be to take a huge step back and reconsider housing policy regionally and rationally, but I seriously doubt if this group of nine is up to that task. Regardless of the ultimate outcome it’s fair to say that this one issue has served to realign civic and political lines in a way that will continue for years to come.

UPDATE: The vote was to table the Overlay so that it could expire without a negative vote. This will allow it to be "re-filed so that it can be voted after the municipal election when there are fewer political asses on the line."

They also punted on the the vote on disposition of a portion of the parking spaces in the First Street Garage. That discussion (and presumably the vote) will reconvene on Sept 18 at 3:00pm, but since the hearing was recessed there will be presumably no additional public comment. Hasn’t it all been said by now anyway?

So here’s the usual selection of featured items of interest:

Manager’s Agenda #1-3. Appointments to the Foundry Advisory Committee (2), Pedestrian Committee (22), and Bicycle Committee (21).

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board report with no positive or negative recommendations on the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.


Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Affordable Housing Overlay Zoning Petition.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 1 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 1, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 2 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Aug 8, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 3 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Aug 13, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #8. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 4 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Sept 3, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

These are the items associated with the Abominable Overlay.


Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to approve the disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail in the First Street Garage.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed disposition of a leasehold interest in the First Street Garage.

These are the items associated with the 6:30pm hearing: The City Council will hold a public hearing on the disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail (together the “Leasehold Interest”) in the First Street Garage, located at 55 First Street and owned by the City of Cambridge, to the developer Leggat McCall Properties, which was conditionally awarded the bid pursuant to G.L. Chapter 30B subject to the review and approval of the disposition of the Leasehold Interest by the City Council pursuant to the City’s Municipal Disposition Ordinance, Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the “disposition Ordinance”). This hearing will be held pursuant to the Disposition Ordinance As part of the legal requirements for disposing of the Leasehold Interest.


Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the License Commission and City Solicitor’s office to drop all charges against UpperWest and its owners, to reconsider UpperWest’s package store application, and to issue a public apology to UpperWest and its owners.

As I said when this was introduced, "There is apparently no accounting for taste. If the City Council supports this Order, they belong in an asylum."

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to obtain a legal opinion from the City Solicitor regarding the License Commission’s authority with regard to the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of liquor licenses in the City of Cambridge.

The City Solicitor has answered this on multiple occasions. Pay attention, kids.

Applications & Petitions #1. A Zoning Petition has been received from Ben LoVemere regarding that the City Council ordain the Zoning language set forth relative the Alewife Quadrangle Northwest Overlay District.

Communications #1-193. That’s a whole lotta letters – dominated by First Street Garage and the Abominable Overlay.

Order #5. That the City Manager, without delay to the current First Street Garage lease process, is requested to confer with all relevant City departments and public health officials to conduct City directed environmental testing on the Sullivan Courthouse building and water in basement, to determine the risk posed to the public, and provide a timeline of completion.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

Synopsis: County/State abandons building; long time passes; state offers site up for sale; Leggat McCall wins bid; long times passes while lawsuits play out; building decays; citizen takes it upon himself to gather and test a sample of loose asbestos; state misrepresentative tries to put himself center-stage as the mover and shaker that he so clearly is not; political supporters circle the wagons; nobody wins.

Order #10. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee is requested to hold a public hearing to review the Envision Cambridge plan and recommendations.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Envision Cambridge….. yeah, I remember hearing about that once upon a time. Then the Community Development abandoned its purpose and rebranded itself as the AHO Sales Force.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff on the feasibility of allowing taxicabs to use dedicated bus lanes throughout the City while executing service for fare-paying passengers.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Simmons

Wow, a practical suggestion. Will wonders never cease?


Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on June 24, 2019 to discuss the future electricity needs of the Kendall Square area and progress toward identifying an alternate, viable location for a new substation other than the proposed site on Fulkerson Street.

Committee Report #9. A communication was received from Anthony Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 21, 2019 to discuss the future electricity needs of the Kendall Square area and progress toward identifying an alternate, viable location for a new substation other than the proposed site on Fulkerson Street.

I really hope some good resolution comes of this soon because it’s becoming very boring and we are not about to turn off all the power just yet. – Robert Winters

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