Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 20, 2015

Catch Up – The City Council will have a Special Meeting on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 9:00am

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:29 am

Catch Up – The City Council will have a Special Meeting on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 9:00am

City SealIn order to catch up on the multiple meetings cancelled due to snow, the City Council will have a Special Meeting on Fri, Feb 20 at 9:00am. Any business not addressed at that meeting will carry over to the regular meeting on Mon, Feb 23 at 5:30pm. City councillors have been requested to resubmit any new items for the following (Mar 2) meeting. The most notable agenda items (at least to me) are these:

Resolution #15. Resolution on the death of Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.   Councillor Simmons

The people who work at CDD are my neighbors and friends, and Brian was a great friend to me personally and to many other people throughout Cambridge and elsewhere in Massachusetts.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a requesting that the City Council refile and again refer the Normandy/Twining Zoning Petition to the Planning Board.

Order #28. Refiling of Normandy/Twining Petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinances and the zoning map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.   Mayor Maher

This re-filing is necessary because of the snow cancellations that prevented the scheduled Planning Board meeting to occur within the legally required time frame. Meanwhile the Cambridge Residents Alliance, a.k.a. the Peoples’ Revolutionary Front to Stop Everything has already drafted its TalkingPoints Memo for its drone activists to recite at meetings explaining why new housing near transit is bad for people.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to amendments and other related documents associated with the proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance.

The proposed amendments are all well-founded and should be given proper consideration by the City Council prior to ordination.

On the Table #10. 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. Placed on the Table on the motion of Councillor Cheung on Jan 29, 2015.]

I have commented on this previously, so I’ll simply say that the City Council should pass this Order. If not, the majority of city councillors who have expressed support for this rebuke will have been played by those who want to use delay in order to solidify their propaganda. Sometimes a rebuke is exactly the right thing to do. There are better plans circulating for Pearl Street that would designate it as a bike/ped priority street without segregating cyclists and compromising resident parking needs and other curbside activities.

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

Again, I have commented previously about the idea of a standing intercommunity committee of local elected officials from Cambridge and its neighbors. It would be a good way to address more regional concerns, especially in the areas of housing and transportation.

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, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

This policy order is an insult to all of the good people who work for the City who have been consistently helpful to residents in practically every way. I sincerely hope the City Council has the wisdom to reject it.

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.

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

I have also commented on this previously. Suffice to say that the intention of these efforts is commendable and I hope that we can capture the interest of young people in every possible way to find a future that takes full advantage of those industries and educational institutions that are all around us in Cambridge. I am not yet convinced that a City Council-inspired plan is the best approach. What is really needed is some re-thinking among all local educational institutions about how to best match Cambridge residents, especially very young Cambridge residents, with the wealth of opportunities all around them. This should be as much about inspiration as facilitation.

Order #29. That the City Manager is requested to work with all relevant City staff to revise the proposed zoning for the Volpe site to include an option for a 7.5 acre public park as originally planned.   Councillor Carlone

We all like parks and open space, but I’m not yet convinced that this proposal is about creating amenities so much as simply blocking new construction, including the construction of new housing. It’s definitely worth pointing out that the original 7.5 acre proposal predates the donation of open space that grew out of the Alexandria re-zoning process. No plan should remain static as circumstances change, and until very recently very few people actually believed that the Volpe site might actually become available anytime soon.

Order #32. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to release a legal opinion regarding the discretion of the Planning Board to deny special permits, even when the special permit criteria have been met, reflecting in particular on the bearing that the case Humble Oil and Refining Company vs. Board of Appeals of Amherst has on discretionary authority of the board.   Councillor Mazen

Give us a break. This effort to politicize the Special Permit process expired with two-thirds of the latest Teague Petition.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee for a public hearing held on Jan 20, 2015 to discuss changing the method by which surplus votes are transferred in Municipal elections whether the Fractional Transfer Method could replace the Cincinnati Method and whether this requires a Chapter change and to discuss the Clean Election Law.

This committee meeting only began to scratch the surface of the two topics – (a) practical changes to the Cambridge municipal elections, and (b) the pros and cons of public funding for local elections. I look forward to the continued conversation. – Robert Winters


  1. Did Kelly’s order regarding variances get any nods or traction?

    Comment by Patrick Barrett — February 22, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

  2. Patrick – Are you referring to Order #11?: That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff and report back to the Council with a list of variance requests and applications results (approved, disapproved, withdrawn) since Jan 1, 2010. Councillor Kelley

    They passed it as amended to ask to what degree the request would be feasible. There was a definite (and very welcome) tone at this meeting to the effect that it’s not OK to keep making endless requests of City staff unless there’s a compelling reason to do so. I hope they keep this alive at future meetings.

    Comment by Robert Winters — February 22, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

  3. Robert,

    If Monday is considered part of Friday’s meeting does this mean a limitation on Public Comment as it was already provided for in the Friday meeting?

    Just wondering if a process has been identified that can allow for public comment followed by far more time for debate on the issues of policy. Hold a meeting on Thursday or Friday continued to Monday giving the Councillors more time for debate and discussion.

    Comment by Charlie Marquardt — February 22, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

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