Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 18, 2015

Chugging Along – Items of Interest on the Oct 19, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:58 pm

Chugging Along – Items of Interest on the Oct 19, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

The City Council returns for one of the last meetings prior to the Nov 3 municipal election (where I’ll again be doing the live coverage with Susana Segat). There will be a Roundtable meeting on Oct 26 on citywide planning, and one more regular meeting on the eve of the election. Here are a few items that caught my attention.

The Port?Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-17, regarding a report on the feasibility of renaming Area IV.

It would have been interesting if the survey asked people in Area 4/The Port if they know if and where there was ever an actual port in this neighborhood.

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-96, relative to the future relationship between the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and Boston Properties.

As the report makes clear, ownership of virtually all of the properties in question was transferred to Boston Properties long ago and the role of the Redevelopment Authority now consists primarily of review and the granting of development rights on the land now owned by Boston Properties.

Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Policy Order No. 12 of 9/15/14, regarding the request for a legal opinion on the proposed amendment to the Municipal Code entitled "Prohibiting the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals in Traveling Shows and Circuses; and Awaiting Report Item Number 14-98, regarding the request for information related to the proposed ordinance entitled "Prohibiting the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals in Traveling Shows and Circuses" ("Proposed Ordinance"). [attachment]

Ringling Brothers TrainIt was nice seeing the Ringling Brothers trains on the Grand Junction the last week or so. Sadly, it appears that Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus will no longer use elephants in their shows starting in 2018, so we have only two more years to watch the elephants parade along Memorial Drive.

Manager’s Agenda #24. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #25. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the establishment of the following two stabilization funds: Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund and the Community Benefits Stabilization Fund.

Manager’s Agenda #26. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $16,630,990 to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund from Free Cash.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I believe the discussion leading up to this proposed ordinance began five or more years ago.

Manager’s Agenda #27. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $3,300,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditure Account for the Citywide Planning process. [attachment]

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate department heads to review the planning work done thus far on the Alewife bridge/platform project and to review the next steps the City can take to see the bridge constructed.   Councillor Cheung

Though I never bought into the need for another citywide process, I do hope some positive benefits are derived it. For starters, I hope that in the early stages they at least consider the possibility of a bridge over the RR tracks connecting the Alewife Triangle and the Quadrangle – a bridge for all vehicles, possibly with some restrictions, rather than just an overpass for bikes and pedestrians. Without such an overpass, Cambridepark Drive is just one long dead-end street.

Applications & Petitions #7. A zoning petition has been received from Kiril Stefan and Catherine Alexandrov, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to extend the Business BA-3 zone on Western Avenue currently in existence from Howard to Jay Streets onto the even number side of Western Avenue from #s 158-168 which is three houses from the corner of Kinnaird Street to Jay Street.

Queue up one more zoning petition.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City departments to draft a Home Rule petition that would allow Cambridge to establish a Job Creation and Training linkage fee to be managed by a Cambridge Jobs Trust.   Councillor Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan

This seems like a good idea, but don’t you just wish that companies doing business in Cambridge would just hire and train local workers without government intervention?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consider expanding the hose distribution program indefinitely for all new trees planted in sidewalk wells or behind sidewalks and explore establishing a credit to be applied to the water bills of participants, not to exceed $50 per year.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Cheung and Councillor McGovern

Some of us already do this. Should I ask the City to send me a $50 check?

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City Departments about the feasibility of a redesign contest of Carl Barron Plaza.   Vice Mayor Benzan

This may be a good idea, but the problem with CB Plaza isn’t the design. It’s the lack of involvement from the abutting property and business owners plus the fact that this is the favorite space for some of the most problematic people in the greater Central Square area. Will a change in landscaping change that?

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to expedite their efforts on crafting an amendment that would not treat reasonably sized shipping container and rooftop farms as agricultural uses when they are being used as an accessory to the principal use of a business.   Councillor Cheung

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and other relevant departments to draft a zoning ordinance that would see the installation of solar panels be as of right in all zoning districts in the City.   Councillor Cheung

These are two examples of desirable uses that should be permitted as-of-right with only minor restrictions to avoid potential conflict.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to review pedestrian and bicycle path plans for the Cambridge Common in consultation with the Community Development Department, with the intent of clarifying rules for use and minimizing potential hazards to and conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.   Councillor Kelley

The primary rule should simply be that cyclists cannot ride at significant speed in a shared-use facility wherever and whenever pedestrians are present. This isn’t rocket science.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and the Department of Public Works regarding the feasibility of installing a speed bump in a suitable location on River Street in order to slow down cars racing over the bridge as they enter Cambridge.   Councillor McGovern

Traffic calming is certainly warranted on River Street in order to effect the necessary psychological shift from highway to local roads, especially for vehicles coming from the Mass Pike. A speed bump is probably not the best solution here, especially for the truck traffic. Think about what that will sound like for any nearly residential neighbors.

Order #21. That the City Manager coordinate with the appropriate departments to record, broadcast, and live-stream the scheduled Oct 26th roundtable meeting to discuss city-wide planning.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

I wish these two rookie councillors were around 16 years ago when the idea of Roundtable meetings was first introduced. The whole point was to create a more relaxed atmosphere during these relatively infrequent meetings where there was no incentive for councillors to play to the camera.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 23, 2015 to discuss the petition filed by the CRA to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the Plan.

The subject of this meeting is but one of several moving parts in the continually evolving greater Kendall Square area.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a response to an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Ilan Levy on Sept 28, 2015 and the response on said complaint.

This complaint from Ilan Levy borders on silliness. I wonder if there will be an open meeting law complaint coming regarding an Oct 18 candidate forum attended by at least six councillors that excluded people based on race or public housing status?

3 Comments

  1. Ilan Levy should publicly apologize for his bullshit.

    Comment by Patrick Barrett — October 19, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

  2. I’d like to see the RoundTables recorded. Perhaps delay the replay for a few days/weeks to slightly lessen the grandstanding impact.

    Some of these meetings are really good and extremely informative because they have Councillors talking with city employees instead of at each other as is more common in Council meetings. It would be very good if more people could hear/see them after they have occurred and not have to trudge down to city hall and where it is often hard to hear what people are saying.

    I actually got to participate in one about the VFW/West Cambridge Youth Center about a way to permit the Contra Dance group that had been there for many years to continue in the new hall. I think the con version helped make the design of the hall a much better place than what was originally planned. Rental terms and a couple of design glitches caused the dance group to move out to Concord.

    Comment by John Gintell — October 19, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

  3. I could be agreeable to recording the Roundtable meetings so they could be made available later on the web – maybe with additional links and supplements in a manner analogous to the Congressional Record.. I would still prefer that they not be broadcast. I agree with those councillors from the late 1990s who felt that this would be a better way for councillors and City staff to have more of a back and forth exchange.

    I don’t like that many Roundtable meetings become a long and often tiresome presentation followed by Q&A after many members of the public have gone home. I have the same complaint about many committee meetings at which the public has to suffer through 90 minutes or more of repetitive speech-making and presentations of facts that almost everyone already knows followed by a few minutes of public input by only those who have the stamina to sit through the first few hours.

    Comment by Robert Winters — October 19, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

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