Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 26, 2015

Early Marathon Monday – Coming up at the January 26, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,cycling,transportation — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:58 am

Early Marathon Monday – Coming up at the January 29, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting

NOTICE: Due to the expected snowstorm this meeting has been postponed
to Thurs, Jan 29, 5:30pm at the Attles Meeting Room (CRLS)

This should be a rollicking meeting (still up at the high school) with plenty of interesting and controversial items on the agenda. Honestly, there are enough significant items to fill the agendas of several meetings. To provide time for a fair discussion of all of them, this would be a good time to use the Charter Right option to spread some of them over the next several weeks. It may also be wise to refer some of them to the appropriate Council subcommittees for more detailed discussion. Here are some of the items that are especially noteworthy together with some brief comments.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an appropriation of $10,000 for the Healthy Aging through Healthy Community Design grant from the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging to the Community Development Grant Fund Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will allow for the Community Development Department to collaborate with the Council on Aging and the Cambridge Public Health Department to ensure that the bicycle network planning process incorporates measures of and actions for mobility and accessibility for the 55+ population on bicycle infrastructure.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the status of the reconstruction plan of Pearl Street.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back on any progress made in acquiring state funding for design and construction of the portion of the Watertown branch B&M Line railroad property to construct the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and on the feasibility of a low-cost, temporary paving solution for the Greenway in order to realize the community benefits while the path awaits permanent construction. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Two of Jan 5, 2015.]

Charter Right #4. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Community Development Department to abandon the "Complete Street" plan for Pearl Street. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Order Number Seven of Jan 5, 2015.]

BicycleThese are some of the bike-related items on the agenda. Manager’s Agenda #3 is a bit mysterious to this 55+ daily cyclist since I’ve always understood the "bicycle infrastructure" to be the street network. There are, unfortunately, some people in the City administration who are convinced that cyclists need to be segregated into separate facilities rather than share the roads with motor vehicles. This is also the central issue with Manager’s Agenda #5 and Charter Right #4 which is a proposed City Council Order to stop the City from removing all parking from one side of Pearl Street in order to segregate those pesky cyclists. My sense is that the Order in Charter Right #2 was only delayed as a response to the Pearl Street plan in order to force a discussion. There is, however, a big difference between making use of an abandoned rail line as a bike/pedestrian path and radically changing the way an existing residential street functions.

Expect some serious self-righteous commentary during Public Comment about how the unenlightened residents of Cambridgeport are standing in the way of progress by not bending over and accepting what is being shoved at them.


Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a communication from Director of Environmental Health Sam Lipson relative to proposed amendments to the Tobacco Ordinance along with new red-lined draft amendments addressing the most recent changes requested by the Council at its meeting of Dec 15, 2014 regarding e-cigarettes being banned in workplaces and hookahs being allowed in restaurants. Also attached is the Appendix A list of parks and plazas (Option B) that was previously sent to the Council.

Unfinished Business #15. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 30, 2014 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.28 entitled "Restrictions on Youth Access and Sale of Tobacco Products and Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Jan 5, 2015.

Not much to say on this other than to observe that the last several City Council meetings have brought out a significant number of people passionately opposed to the banning of smoking in public parks.


Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-116, regarding a report on Cambridge Youth Programs usage rates and space.

This report reminds me of similar reports back around 2000 that showed less than full utilization of some of our well-intentioned youth programs and facilities.

Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Joseph Barr as the Director of the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department, effective Mar 2, 2015.

Welcome back, Joseph.

Manager’s Agenda #21. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-103, regarding a report on making the Foundry Building available for a major installation of the 2015 Fab Lab Conference.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Disposition Report for the Foundry Building.

The evolving story of "The Gift" continues.

Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-144, regarding the drafting of a framework for a Community Benefits and Mitigation Plan. [Attachment]

Manager’s Agenda #23. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.

Both of these reports have been a long time coming, and the substance of either one of them could dominate an entire City Council meeting. Read the reports and form your own opinions.


Resolution #1. Congratulations to Yoni Appelbaum on being named The Atlantic’s politics editor.   Councillor Cheung

Yoni Appelbaum is an incredibly insightful fellow, and The Atlantic chose well in naming him as their politics editor. Perhaps he can exchange notes with Thomas Edsall, a son of Cambridge, who currently writes a weekly New York Times opinion column and who was political editor of the Huffington Post from 2007 to 2009 after working many years as a newspaper journalist.

Resolution #86. Congratulations to Jim Braude on being named the new host of Greater Boston.   Councillor Toomey

Another great choice of our friend and former Cambridge City Councillor Jim Braude.


Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Mayor to reach out to representatives and city officials in Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Everett and Somerville to gauge interest in forming an inter-city committee which would meet three times per year to discuss and develop strategies for common issues that would be best handled regionally with support from the state.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Cheung

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments and elected officials from Somerville to arrange a public meeting of the two cities to discuss regionalism and potential regular scheduling.   Councillor Mazen

I have spoken with several city councillors during this past year about this very idea and I think it’s an idea whose time has come, especially in regard to regional housing and transportation planning and economic issues of mutual interest. Somerville has big plans for Union Square and there’s a need to expand housing opportunities in the urban core of Greater Boston. Few would disagree about the need for a more coordinated discussion of regional transportation. Some of our elected officials and their counterparts in neighboring cities and towns would be well-suited for this kind of inter-city committee.


Order #6. That the attached amendment to the Municipal Code entitled "Prohibition on the Use of Polystyrene Based Disposable Food Containers," together with the input of the Recycling Advisory Committee, be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a hearing and report.   Councillor Cheung

On balance this is probably a good thing but, as we saw with the discussion of the proposed plastic bag ban, the alternatives are not always so obviously beneficial from an environmental perspective.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to contact the current owners of the Vail Court property and demand that graffiti be removed, exterminators assess the property, and any other maintenance that would improve the appearance and safety of this building be conducted immediately.   Councillor McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Simmons

The Vail Court saga continues. Perhaps the political contributions of the property owners to local City Council campaigns can be redirected toward rodent extermination and graffiti removal. That might be a good step toward clean elections.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to ask all City Departments to have documents and presentations made available to the public and the City Council at least three business days in advance of the scheduled meeting to allow ample time for review.   Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Why stop there? Each City Council committee should have its own web page where information on all matters before the committee is posted so that it’s easy to understand all issues that have been decided, are under consideration, or are planned to be taken up by that committee. Instead of City Council personal aides, there should instead be staff charged with gathering, organizing, and posting this information and facilitating the business of the committee. Each Roundtable meeting should also have a page containing all relevant reference material, but meetings should not be postponed simply because of late submissions of reference materials.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to create and fund the position of ombudsman, with degrees of both organizational independence to serve as an advocate and organizational ties to be effective, to serve as a liaison with and an internal advocate for community members.   Councillor Cheung

I’m sure there will be a number of people speaking during Public Comment in favor of this proposal. I respectfully disagree with that point of view. There are plenty of helpful City staff who are always available to assist the public, but advocacy should be left to residents and their various organizations.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to take the necessary measures to formally designate the 2nd Floor meeting room at the City Hall Annex, located at 344 Broadway, as the Bayard Rustin Meeting Room.   Councillor Simmons

Bayard Rustin was a great man, but it is perhaps advisable to reserve the naming of public meeting rooms for distinguished Cantabrigians.

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to work with applicable boards and commissions to assist them in clarifying yearly goals and initiatives, to provide increased administrative oversight and accountability where necessary, and where possible, discuss ways to increase resident involvement.   Councillor Mazen

I’m not quite sure what the real intention of this Order is. Most if not all of the City’s boards and commissions already do set annual goals and objectives. Public input is generally very welcome, but it’s not always so easy to know the specifics of what is before a given board – even if they have a posted agenda. It is, however, a lot better than it used to be.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to report to the City Council any existing agreements that may have been signed between the City of Cambridge and Boston 2024, the US Olympic Committee, or any other organizations representing Olympic interests and that the City Manager is requested to bring any proposed agreement regarding the Olympics to the City Council for discussion and debate prior to signing.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Kelley

Perhaps I’m misreading this, but it sure seems as though we’re setting Cambridge up to be voice of the Loyal Opposition in all matters relating to the 2024 Olympics bid. Boston employees will be under a gag order and all of the criticism will be routed through voices in Cambridge and Somerville.

Order #17. That the City Council go on record in support of the We the People Act.   Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

It’s a sure bet that some people will step up to the microphone in support of this Order. The referenced Act centers on a proposed U.S. Constitutional amendment in response to the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Order #18. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested not to enter into any future contracts to obtain electricity from TransCanada and to investigate the possibility of entering into an agreement to obtain up to 100% renewable power for all municipal electricity needs.   Councillor Carlone

Buy the cheapest electricity regardless of the source. Focus your advocacy on making alternate energy sources more economically competitive rather than just making economically poor choices based on political criteria.

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to work with all relevant City Staff to explore the potential for installing composting facilities inside City Hall and other key municipal buildings.   Councillor Carlone

Perhaps the intention of this Order is to facilitate organics collection at City Hall and other municipal buildings. That’s NOT the same thing as installing composting facilities in these buildings which will likely be problematic and ill-advised.


Order #23. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to determine if they can be of further assistance in understanding how the portion of the [Grand Junction Multiuse] path from Binney to the Somerville border can be completed and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

Order #24. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and report back to the City Council with language that could create a Grand Junction Overlay District that would help to create incentives and ensure the completion of the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.   Councillor Toomey

Anything that helps to facilitate the improvement of this corridor to support a multi-use path is worth it – as long as future rail passenger service can still be accommodated. This corridor has great potential for linking Cambridge and MIT with new and existing housing in Somerville and Allston and beyond.


Order #25. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of executing the recommendations of the STEAM Working Group with the appropriate City departments.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Carlone and Councillor McGovern

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee conducted a STEAM Summit on Dec 10, 2014 to present research by the STEAM Working Group and to present the Working Group’s recommendations.

I can’t speak to the specifics and I’m still skeptical of the focus on creating new agencies and new staff positions to support this, but I do agree with the underlying goals. I would much prefer realigning existing staff in the schools and elsewhere to achieve the goal of matching local residents, especially those who have been traditionally disadvantaged, with job opportunities in fields requiring science, mathematics, and engineering skills.


Order #26. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of creating a survey in collaboration with the Community Development Department and other appropriate departments to gather data on the positive impact of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance on the lives of Cambridge residents and families and to determine the feasibility of hosting a town hall meeting where tenants and families who benefit from the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance can come together to share their experiences and provide valuable feedback on how to perfect the program.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Cheung

Together with the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study and possible revisions to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, we may see a lot of activity this year on the various tools for producing housing and other benefits from the money generated by new development.

Order #27. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of renaming Area 4 "The Port."   Vice Mayor Benzan

There’s really no need for a feasibility study for a change like this. Just do it and have future documents reflect the change. It will be a little confusing having one neighborhood called Cambridgeport and another called The Port. Perhaps we should again refer to them as The Upper Port and The Lower Port. There’s also the annoying little detail that there hasn’t actually been a port in either neighborhood for ages. Perhaps we should also change the name of a part of North Cambridge to The Brickyards in honor of another discontinued use. – Robert Winters

1 Comment

  1. We should “designate the 2nd Floor meeting room at the City Hall Annex” in honor of Wayne “Rusty” Drugan.
    About time something was named after him. Is the Election Commission listening? Yes, I know the EC
    can’t single-handedly name rooms after anyone, but they can back the effort.

    Comment by FRED BAKER — January 26, 2015 @ 9:32 am

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