Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 29, 2020

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 449-450: January 28, 2020

Episode 449 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 28, 2020 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 28, 2020 at 5:30pm. Topics: Impeachment; Kobe Bryant & Graffiti Alley; Jan 27 City Council meeting; Richard Griffin; free buses; the Green Tortoise and the Gray Rabbit. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 450 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 28, 2020 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 28, 2020 at 6:00pm. Topics: Natural gas hookup ban; Tree Protection Ordinance and extension of moratorium; Cannabis lawsuit and injunction; laws vs. guidelines vs. good intentions; Board vacancies. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 27, 2020

Notable Items on the Jan 27, 2020 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:42 am

Notable Items on the Jan 27, 2020 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at the interesting stuff ("interesting", of course, being a relative term):

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the recommendation to reappointment of Gerard Clark as a member of the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners for a term of 5-years.

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a new member of the Affordable Housing Trust Board for a term of three years, effective Jan 22, 2020: Elaine DeRosa

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members of the LGBTQ+ Commissioner for a term of three years, effective Feb 6, 2020: Mal Malme, Robert Parlin, Aren Stone, Catherine Grams, Noelani Kamelamela, Gregory MacDonough and Britt Huhmann

Many board appointments this week. The City Manager is "the appointing authority" under the City Charter, but there are two boards for which City appointments require City Council confirmation – the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and the Cambridge Housing Authority – so the CHA appointment will likely be referred to the Housing Committee for a formal hearing. [Members of Cambridge Boards & Commissions (updated Jan 24, 2020)]

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $46,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Elections Department Salary and Wages account ($6,145) and to the General Fund Elections Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account ($39,855) which will be used to cover the additional costs associated with recently approved early voting for the Presidential Primary, Mar 3rd, 2020.

Early Voting for the Presidential Primary will be available Feb 24 through Feb 28 at 6 locations [www.CambridgeMA.gov/EarlyVoting]. Election Day is Mar 3, 2020.

Unfinished Business #3. Fuel pump warning labels [Passed to Second Reading on Jan 13, 2020 to be ordained on or after Jan 23, 2020.]

I expect this perfectly meaningless gesture will be ordained unanimously.

Resolution #2. Congratulations to Sydney Cox for 45 Years at DPW.   Councillor Simmons

One of the best things about being involved in recycling and composting promotion in Cambridge was the opportunity it afforded me to meet so many of the really great people at the Department of Public Works – many of whom, including Sydney Cox, have careers with the City spanning many decades. The annual DPW Commissioners Awards Ceremony in the spring has always been one of my favorite City events (and not just for the cookout!).

Resolution #11. Resolution on the death of Richard B. Griffin.   Vice Mayor Mallon, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

Richard was one of the most decent people I ever met in Cambridge civic life. Perhaps the most moving tribute I have seen is this editorial by Cambridge Chronicle editor Amy Saltzman: Richard Griffin, longtime Chronicle columnist, dies at 91

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City Departments, and, where relevant, the MBTA and counterparts in other municipalities for routes not wholly in Cambridge, on the feasibility of instituting and funding a fare-free pilot bus program.   Vice Mayor Mallon, Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler, Mayor Siddiqui

The chance of doing this just within the boundaries of Cambridge is very low. The idea, however, is not crazy. If done more broadly it could be transformative, but the cost would not only be in lost fare revenue. Ridership would likely jump, and more buses (and drivers) would have to be added with greater frequency of buses (shorter headways). This would also likely lead to demands for more routes as well.

Order #9. That the Cambridge City Council amend the Municipal Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to insert a new Chapter 2.129, entitled WELCOMING COMMUNITY ORDINANCE.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor Siddiqui

Sanctuary City Rebranded

Banned!Committee Report #1. Report of the Ordinance Committee – Dec 11, 2019, 2:00pm (Natural Gas Ban)

Committee Report #2. Report of the NLTP Committee – Dec 19, 2019, 5:30pm (Cambridge Carnival)

Committee Report #3. Report of the Health & Environment Committee – Jan 22, 2020, 2:30pm (Tree Protection Ordinance)

There are more effective strategies than an outright ban on new gas hookups. Hopefully the various "stakeholders" can make their case, but it’s likely that this will be just one more step down the Road To Ban Everything. As for where the "Tree Protection Ordinance" is headed, I’m sure those trees will be lining The Road To Ban Everything. Any notion that the eventual permanent version of the Tree Protection Ordinance will allow reasonable people to do reasonable things is likely pure fantasy. – Robert Winters

January 21, 2020

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 447-448: January 21, 2020

Episode 447 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 21, 2020 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:30pm. Topics: Red Sox; campaign finance, money talks; Vacancy Recount – David Weinstein elected; Patty Nolan joins the 20,000 Club. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 448 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 21, 2020 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 21, 2020 at 6:00pm. Topics: Impeachment, judicial appointments; seeking a culture of compromise; Board vacancies, regulatory vs. advisory boards, Plan E limitations; proportional representation – proportional to what? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 16, 2020

2020 School Committee Vacancy Recount – David J. Weinstein elected

Filed under: 2019 election,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:55 pm

David WeinsteinJan 16, 2020 – As expected, David Weinstein was elected at the Jan 16 Vacancy Recount to the Cambridge School Committee seat vacated by Emily Dexter (who was elected in the November 2019 municipal election but decided not to serve the term to which she was elected).

Dexter Vacancy Recount (Jan 16, 2020) – David Weinstein elected


2020 School Committee Vacancy Recount

City SealJan 9, 2020 – A vacancy has been created in the School Committee due to the decision of Emily Dexter to not serve as a member of the School Committee for the term beginning January 6, 2020. Pursuant to the Cambridge Charter and Massachusetts General Law Chapter 54A, the Cambridge Election Commission will hold a Vacancy Recount to fill the seat.

This “Vacancy Recount” of Emily Dexter’s ballots will be held on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 5:30pm in the Election Commission office, 51 Inman Street (1st Floor), Cambridge, Mass. Tanya L. Ford-Crump, the Election Commission Executive Director, has been designated as the Director of the Count for this purpose.

Eligible candidates will be invited to attend and are entitled to appoint two witnesses and two alternative witnesses provided that written notice of the names and addresses of the appointees signed by such candidate is filed with the Election Commission no later than 24 hours before this Vacancy Recount.

January 15, 2020

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 445-446: Jan 14, 2020

Episode 445 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 14, 2020 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 14, 2020 at 5:30pm. Topics: New year, new City Council; Jan 13 Council meeting, Tree Removal Moratorium extension debated; practical vs. ideological; committee appointments; City Manager contract and budget growth. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 446 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 14, 2020 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:00pm. Topics: Schmidt Petition, definition of “family” in zoning, rooming houses; rent control vs. helping people; What’s Next? chasing a crisis vs. promoting a good idea; Will this be a confiscatory Council?; incentives vs. mandates. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 13, 2020

It’s Opening Day – Jan 13, 2020 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 2:14 pm

It’s Opening Day – Jan 13, 2020 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallThis is the first regular City Council meeting of the 2020-21 term. The mayoral vote at the Jan 6 Inauguration was a single take, and newly minted Mayor Siddiqui broke the record for fastest City Council committee appointments. Here are a few items on the agenda of some interest.

Unfinished Business #4. Amendment to Chapter 8.12 of the Municipal Ordinances of the City of Cambridge. [Passed to a Second Reading on Dec 16, 2019 To Be Ordained on or after Dec 29, 2019]

This is the proposed municipal ordinance that would ban mobile fueling operations throughout Cambridge, i.e. where a vehicle shows up where you are and fills your gas tank for you. As I said when this was first introduced as a zoning amendment last October: "Yet more evidence of the lazy ass, ‘call the servants’ times that we now live in. If pumping your own gas at the filling station is so burdensome that you must use a phone app to have the ‘little people’ show up to do it for you, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your life choices."

Applications & Petitions #1. A Zoning Petition has been received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding an amendment to Section 2.000 of the Zoning Ordinance.

This is a simple and sensible proposal that would amend the definition of "family" in the Zoning Ordinance to remove restrictions on unrelated family members. Specifically, it would simply say: "Family. One or more persons occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit."

The current definition is this:

Family. One or more persons occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit; provided that a group of four or more persons who are not within the second degree of kinship shall not be deemed to constitute a family.

Notwithstanding the definition in the preceding paragraph, a family shall be deemed to include four or more persons not within the second degree of kinship occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single, nonprofit housekeeping unit, if said occupants are handicapped persons as defined in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the “Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.” Such unrelated individuals shall have the right to occupy a dwelling unit in the same manner and to the same extent as any family in the first paragraph of this definition.

It’s unknown when the last time the current definition was ever enforced, and households consisting of several unrelated persons are very common in Cambridge and the region. The only potential downside of this simplification might be that an apartment specifically designated as "family housing" may become just another roommate situation.

Resolution #2. Resolution on the death of Carol Cerf.   Councillor Simmons

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Susan Noonan-Forster.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #9. Resolution on the death of Thomas F. Courtney.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons, Councillor McGovern

I knew Carol Cerf from the CCA Board over 25 years ago and would often run into her on her bicycle for years after that. She was one of the more kind and generous people I met in local politics over the years. There was a moment of silence at the Jan 6 School Committee Inauguration noting the death of Susan Noonan-Forster. Thomas F. Courtney, among many other notable distinctions, was the father of our most beloved Deputy City Clerk Paula Crane.

Order #4. TPO Extension PO.   Councillor Zondervan

The cryptic summary refers to a proposed extension of the Tree Protection Ordinance, i.e. Moratorium, from the current expiration date of March 11, 2020 to December 31, 2020. The Order also encourages that more permanent language be soon established based on recommendations of the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force. I can only hope that some flexibility is written into the more permanent ordinance to allow reasonable homeowners to do reasonable things without exorbitant cost, but recent trends tend to be the opposite.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, transmitting information from the Jan 7, 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Committee.

It’s good to see intermural communication like this from the Mayor to the City Council regarding School Committee matters.

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, announcing the formal 2020-2021 appointments to the City Council Committees.

This has to be a new record for fastest City Council committee appointments. It usually takes weeks and Mayor Siddiqui had it done in three days. – Robert Winters

January 8, 2020

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 443-444: Jan 7, 2020

Episode 443 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 7, 2020 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 7, 2020 at 5:30pm. Topics: City Council and School Committee Inaugurations; Election of Mayor, Vice-Chair of City Council; School Committee & Cancel Culture; City Manager Contract on the horizon; Liberalism vs. Radicalism; Freakonomics in affordable housing, small business, and the Achievement Gap; money doesn’t solve everything. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 444 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 7, 2020 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 7, 2020 at 6:00pm. Topics: City Council priorities; return of Subsidized Housing Overlay proposal or alternatives; tenant protections and condo regulation; protection vs. control; zoning & development in Central Square, near Union Sq./Green Line Extension; Alewife possibilities, including multiple bridges. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 5, 2020

The Eve of Inauguration

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,School Committee — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:02 pm

The Eve of Inauguration

City HallSun, Jan 5 – It’s the Eve of Inauguration of the 2020-21 City Council (10:00am start, City Hall) and School Committee (6:00pm start, Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway). Upon inauguration of the City Council, they will proceed directly to the Election of the Mayor (and then the Vice Chair should a Mayor actually be elected). There has been the usual chatter among residents (as well as some posturing of incumbents meant to suggest who might have disproportionate influence in the process) but other than the logic of those with high vote totals deserving an advantage in the selection, I have no specific information on how the vote will go. Often the person who is seen as delivering the decisive vote is rewarded by being elected Vice Mayor or getting choice committee assignments. I have attended these inaugurations every two years for a very long time and have generally found the mayoral maneuvering to be interesting, especially in trying to decipher which favors are granted to whom in exchange for votes. It would so much more interesting if there were actual horses being traded.

Whoever does end up with the five votes to become Mayor will then have the distinct privilege of becoming the 7th voting member and Chair of the School Committee. If the tone and focus of the upcoming School Committee is even remotely similar to the outgoing one, a prison sentence might be preferable to being Mayor. Perhaps with mostly new members things will be different. A Mayor who is capable of resolving differences rather than exacerbating them will help. Time will tell.

One City Council Committee appointment (by whomever ends up as Mayor) will be Chair of the Government Operations, Rules, and Claims Committee. We are now entering the final year of the contract with City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. The process of deciding whether to extend that contract or to seek a new City Manager has traditionally been shepherded by the Chair of Government Operations, though any route to five votes would be completely consistent with the Plan E Charter under which the Manager "shall hold office during the pleasure of the city council". As to the timing, the current contract states: "If the City intends to continue Mr. DePasquale’s employment beyond January 8, 2021, it shall give written notice to Mr. DePasquale on or before September 14, 2020, and initiate negotiations for a successor employment contract, which contract, if agreed to, shall become effective January 9, 2021. Absent agreement on a successor employment contract, this Agreement shall terminate on January 8, 2021." – Robert Winters

PS – At this time it appears to still be the case that Emily Dexter may not accept her election to the School Committee. If this does prove to be the case, her replacement will be officially determined later this month. I sincerely hope that this situation is somehow reversed, that the will of the voters is respected, and that a "teachable moment" is somehow recovered. There is an opportunity here for a new Mayor to actually show real leadership. Or not. – RW

City Councillors-Elect: Dennis Carlone, Alanna Mallon, Marc McGovern, Patty Nolan, Sumbul Siddiqui, Denise Simmons, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Tim Toomey, Quinton Zondervan

School Committee Members-Elect: Mannika Bowman, Emily Dexter, Alfred Fantini, Jose Luis Rojas Villarreal, Rachel Weinstein, Ayesha Wilson

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