Notable Floatables on the Nov 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda
These items have floated to the top of my barrel this week:
Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Coolidge Place Land Disposition Report, pursuant to Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code.
Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Planning Board recommendation favoring the Coolidge Plan Land Disposition.
In a rational world, this would be a routine minor land disposition. This was a well-known component of the Mass&Main zoning package that was passed by the City Council last spring but, just like curb cut approvals, these can sometimes become opportunities for continued efforts to block projects or extract additional concessions. Honestly, this was all settled in May and the exchange of this passageway for a far better one (plus cash) should be a slam dunk. Perhaps we can get a player to be named later in the trade. The hearing starts at 7:00pm.
Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to further study the Barrett, et al Zoning Petition.
This petition has already had one pass at the Planning Board (Oct 27) and at the Ordinance Committee (Nov 19). Parts of the proposal will likely be kicked down the road as part of the citywide planning exercises, but some could be acted upon sooner. At the heart of the petition is the basic concept of allowing residential property owners to make better use of existing, underutilized space in their buildings for additional rental housing. People already do this under the radar all over Cambridge.
Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with changes the Carsharing Zoning Petition (refiled).
The Planning Board remains convinced that this is generally a good thing but that there should be a registration mechanism to allow the City to monitor how expanded carsharing on residential properties evolves and if any problems arise.
Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the purchase of the premises numbered 0 Winter Street, Assessor’s parcel #165-21-1, in the Town of Lincoln ("the Property") consisting of 54.35 acres of undeveloped land for the purposes of protecting the City’s drinking water supply and for land conservation.
Watershed protection is one of those unseen and underappreciated things the City does. This is money well spent.
Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-85, regarding a report on the feasibility of having the City purchase the buildings on Harvard Street and Harding Street.
The short version is: No Deal.
Unfinished Business #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 16, 2015.
I’m not so sure this is ready to rock and roll, but that hasn’t stopped this City Council in other votes during the last two years. Why let legal enforcibility or economic viability get in the way of a popular vote?
Communications #3. A communication was received from Kim Courtney, regarding Xavier Dietrich’s Open Meeting Law Complaint against the Board of Zoning Appeal and Chair Constantine Alexander.
Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a response to the Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich, 955 Massachusetts Avenue #259, Cambridge, regarding the Minutes of the City Council meeting of Aug 10, 2015.
Mosquitoes are annoying pests, but you have to at least respect their need for nutrition. I have yet to see any basis for respect for this not-so-dynamic duo of Courtney/Dietrich whose sole reason for being is to be an annoyance. Perhaps they should open a whine bar.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back on the feasibility of making a comprehensive housing plan an early action item of the pending citywide planning process. Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen
Sound great just as long as "comprehensive" doesn’t translate into "build nothing that doesn’t sit well with our political supporters."
Order #3. City Council support of the efforts of the Harvard Graduate Student Union and urging the Harvard administration to commit to refrain from legal or other action that would delay graduate employees’ right to choose collective bargaining, to refrain from efforts to influence research assistants and teaching assistants in their decision to vote on HGSU-UAW, and to commit to commence good-faith negotiations for a contract immediately upon confirmation of a majority vote by research assistants and teaching assistance in favor of HGSU-UAW as their union. Councillor Toomey, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung
Like many others, I was once upon a time a graduate student upon whom many responsibilities were heaped for a fixed stipend – so much so that it interfered with my own studies. [Well, at least they gave me an award for all my good work!] That said, I can’t completely get behind the idea that this should be the subject of collective bargaining in the same way that a long-term job might be. The bottom line is that graduate students should not be put in the position where their graduate studies are unreasonably extended due to underpaid commitments within their respective academic departments. This is a larger issue that has to be addressed at universities everywhere along with the often abysmal pay scales and heavy workloads for adjunct faculty (the dirty little secret of colleges across the USA, including some very prestigious ones). What we should really work toward is appropriate workloads for graduate students that enhance their ability to work in the future at full-time jobs – tenured or otherwise – at reasonable pay scales. Graduate school work is ultimately just temporary employment.
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development with the vision of including within the Master Plan and Alewife Study a plan for the relocation of the DPW facilities. Councillor Toomey
Let me guess – the semi-suburbans of West Cambridge will want to host a relocated DPW Yard at their end of town about as much as they would welcome the CASPAR wet shelter, a methadone clinic, or any of the many social service agencies now in the Central Square area. Where would you move the DPW Yard?
Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the Election Commission in order to operate at least 5 early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period and that the City Manager and Election Commission confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings. Councillor Mazen
This is a solution in search of a problem. Is it really a hardship when there is scheduled to be a 11 day early voting period in addition to normal Election Day voting? Councillor Mazen has concluded that the voters of Cambridge are so completely incapable of finding their way to Inman Street that there is the need to have "5 separate early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period". But that’s not all – he also proposes that the Election Commission "confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings". This translates into staffing for a minimum of 440 hours (plus security considerations) for something that is almost certainly unnecessary. I could see perhaps having a 2nd location open for a portion of a few days as an added convenience, but the scale of this Order makes no sense whatsoever.
Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 12, 2015 to discuss a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District. The majority of the PUD-KS District is occupied by the Volpe Transportation Systems Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
There’s another Ordinance Committee hearing on this topic scheduled for Tues, Dec 1. The trend of late is to load up the proposed zoning with so many constraints (affordable housing, open space, etc.) that the only way for anything to be financially feasible would be to permit building heights on the order of twice the scale of anything currently in Cambridge. Then everyone will complain about the heights. – Robert Winters