Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 21, 2016

Happy Spring! – Coming up at the March 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:23 am

Happy Spring! Coming up at the March 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!

Here are a few items that aroused my interest:

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Peter L. Cohen, et al., Zoning Petition, with a recommendation that the issue be incorporated into a broader study.

Not much to say about this except that the Planning Board recommends that "the issue of parking location may be best studied as part of the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process." There are some who would like to freeze all new construction until that process is complete (which is silly), but there are lots of issues major and minor that can be made part of that discussion without bringing the city to a screeching halt.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Complete Streets Policy and Council Order.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the adoption of a Policy Order committing Vision Zero, a set of goals of eliminating transportation fatalities and serious injuries.

I don’t think anyone can argue against the general concept of safer streets that accommodate all modes of travel. My only concern here is that there needs to be some understanding that there is no universal agreement on how best to accomplish this. Some people will not be satisfied until all cyclists are removed from the roadways under the dogma that creating segregated facilities is the only safe way to accommodate cyclists. Many of us disagree strongly with that assumption except where there is a great differential in relative speeds of cyclists and motor vehicles, e.g. along most DCR parkways. I certainly hope that in accepting these reports there is no implied endorsement of segregated cycling facilities in all or even most circumstances.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2016 and ending Mar 31, 2017.

The Bottom Line: Another 0% increase in the water consumption block rate and a 3.2% increase in the sewer use block rate, resulting in a 2.4% increase in the combined rate for the period beginning Apr 1, 2016 and ending Mar 31, 2017. This is the sixth consecutive year that the City has been able to produce a 0% increase in the water rate.

Resolution #1. Congratulations to the CRLS Boys Basketball Team on their hard-earned semifinals victory and best wishes in the upcoming State Championship games against St. John’s Shrewsbury.   Councillor Toomey, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

You can add the Division 1 State Championship to the resolution. The Cambridge Falcons (CRLS Boys Basketball) won the state title Saturday night against St. John’s, 66-51.

Resolution #2. Retirement of Susan Flannery from the Cambridge Public Library.   Mayor Simmons

We have been blessed with Susan Flannery as Director of the Cambridge Public Library for over two decades. Enjoy your retirement! The Order declares March 30 as Susan Flannery Day in the City of Cambridge. Celebrate by reading a book!

Resolution #3. That the City Council declare Apr 9, 2016 to be Tom Lehrer Day in the City of Cambridge.   Mayor Simmons

Yet another fine example of how mathematicians can be good at more than just mathematics. The Resolution declares April 9 to be Tom Lehrer Day in the City of Cambridge. Coincidentally, that’s also the anniversary of my own mathematics doctoral defense – a personal holiday of sorts. I think I have all of Tom Lehrer’s records.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update to the City Council as to what steps may have already been undertaken to examine the question of the legality of tying the Living Wage Ordinance to the Linkage Ordinance, what additional measures must be taken in order to obtain a definitive answer, and what the timeline for this process is projected to be.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

It’s not entirely clear what is intended here, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea to intermingle policies regarding what can be built in Cambridge and how developers or commercial tenants should pay their workers. To the best of my understanding, there are also no requirements about hiring union workers in the zoning code, and only the Commonwealth and the federal government have the authority to determine any minimum wage or living wage.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and other relevant City departments to consider the pending State legislation and pending legislation in the City of Boston and any other actions that would allow Cambridge to institute municipal lobbying regulations.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen

Not only is this unnecessary given the limited authority of city councillors under the Plan E Charter, it also reads like an accusation from three city councillors directed at their colleagues. All campaign contributions are now easily accessible public records. There is no need for any additional layer of bureaucracy. This is a "solution" in search of a problem.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Managing Director of the Cambridge Water Department for the purpose of creating an online database of lead service lines similar to the one created by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and to disseminate information to residents about the Cambridge Water Department’s free quality testing and lead service pipe replacement services.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Water Department to create an informational web page that will provide plumbing infrastructure installation tips for residents, commercial customers, and contractors in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Unlike other cities across the country, the City of Cambridge has been way ahead of the game in terms of testing and replacement of lead services. My house is a good example. I replaced my old service in conjunction with an emergency repair by the Water Department some years ago, and my building has been one of the City’s lead and copper testing sites for nearly three decades. We are definitely not Flint, Michigan.

Order #7. That the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Committee and the Civic Unity Committee hold a joint hearing to determine the feasibility of facilitating the appointment of an “Non-Citizen Representative” to the City Council.   Councillor Mazen, Mayor Simmons

This is a ridiculous proposal. There has never been a day in the history of Cambridge when a non-citizen couldn’t bring concerns to any of the elected city councillors with every expectation that those concerns would be addressed. All five items proposed are already available to any member of the public – citizen or not. It is also abundantly clear that the appropriate City Council Committee for the substance of this Order would be the Government Operations Committee – and neither of the two committees specified in the Order.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to update the City Council on the effects of the removal of sidewalk vaults in Central Square.   Councillor Cheung

For those not in the know, the continued presence of hollow sidewalks, a.k.a. sidewalk vaults or area ways, in Central Square is one of the main reasons why the sidewalks routinely fail and are difficult to maintain. Eliminating these area ways is not cheap and the financial burden primarily rests with the property owners. At the very least the City could require that these be remedied as a precondition for any City grant programs or zoning relief. This is just one of many things that continue to need attention in Central Square. – Robert Winters

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