Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 1, 2016

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – April 1, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 3:05 am

Vision Zero Policy approved by Cambridge City Council
Goal is to Eliminate all Motor Vehicles by 2020

The Cambridge City Council adopted on March 21 the long-anticipated "Vision Zero" policy. Originally conceived as a plan to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities through better road design, the ever-so-progressive Cambridge City Council decided to take things a step further by banning motor vehicles outright. No need to crush the cars just yet, however, since the absolute prohibition won’t go into effect until March of 2020.

There are, to be sure, some transitions that must take place before Cambridge can become truly a Vision Zero city and an example to other cities wanting to battle climate change in the worst way. Perhaps the greatest challenges are in rubbish/recycling collection and emergency services like police and fire protection, but these challenges also provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Patrick Wardell announced that CHA is already well on its way toward Vision Zero. They have begun training and recruitment for very athletic persons to operate their new fleet of human-powered pedambulances.

It won’t be an all-bicycle future of course. To handle some of the heavier tasks, we’ll be seeing a lot more horses in the streets of Cambridge.

New Fire Apparatus
New Fire Apparatus

The Cambridge Fire Department embraced the initiative. "In addition to the environmental and nostalgia benefits, maintaining the horses will create jobs," said Fire Chief Gerald Reardon. "We have to think of the future even as we embrace the past."

Several new condo developments along New Street and elsewhere to be converted to stables. "We feel that horse-drawn vehicles are a sustainable solution to all delivery needs." Danehy Park will be converted to hayfields.

"The road apples left by horses will be an essential part of the citywide composting program," said DPW Commissioner Owen O’Riordan.

Meanwhile, the City’s Department of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation has been drafting new specifications for "cycle tracks" to require a minimal 10 foot width. "Our plan all along has been to eventually execute a complete mode shift. At some point motor vehicles will be moved to the cycle tracks while cyclists take over the roadways. "This should provide ample accommodation for motor vehicles during the interim years before the banning of all motor vehicles within city limits," said Traffic Director Joseph Barr.

New Fire Apparatus

Street Cleaning/Towing to be Eliminated in Cambridge
New technology renders the old street sweeping program obsolete

Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi today announced that the dreaded  morning call of "No Parking on the Even/Odd Side of the Street or your car will be tagged and towed" will soon be forever silenced. The City recently signed a contract with the iRobot company to deliver their next generation street-scale Road-Roomba device for cleaning city streets.

"There simply is no longer the need to tow away cars when the Road-Roomba can easily go under them," said Rossi. The fleet of Road-Roombas are expected to work through the night leaving city streets clean enough to eat off of in time for breakfast.

The City will, however, continue to tag vehicles. "We need the revenue to pay for the purchase and servicing of the Road-Roomba fleet," said City Finance Director Louis DePasquale.

Charles River Dam to be Breached to Allow Enhanced Passage of Diadromous Fish

After years of avoiding the issue, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) yesterday announced that after a century of use the Charles River Dam will be breached to allow the Charles River to once again become tidal and removing this hindrance to fish migration upstream.

Portions of The Port and Cambridgeport to be cleared to make way for restored Charles River Estuary. Schooners will also be returning to the river during high tide, and to make way for their return and the regrowth of the maritime economy, several elements of the historic East Cambridge canal network will be restored.

Councillor Tim Toomey expressed great excitement over the possibility of the extension of the Broad Canal and the "daylighting" of the long-gone Portland Street Canal to allow navigation completely encircling East Cambridge.

"I was a great advocate of the Grand Junction Multi-Use Path," said Toomey, "but this takes "multi-use" to a whole new level." Bikes and pedestrians will soon be able to travel alongside the newly restored waterway while navigating their way around horses and mules pulling barges along the restored canal.

Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, announced that the development of more detailed plans will now be made Action Item #2 for the Envision Cambridge group after they settle all issues relating to the Alewife area of Cambridge.

Cambridge City Seal to Change

Ever since Cambridge became a city in 1846, the official seal of the City of Cambridge designed by Edward Everett for the newly incorporated city has featured Gore Hall – named in honor of Christopher Gore (1758-1827), a Federalist politician, former Governor of Massachusetts and a Harvard alum. In addition to establishing a successful law practice in Boston, Gore built a fortune by purchasing Revolutionary government debts at a discount and receiving full value for them from the government.

Apparently, such wheeling and dealing at the expense of taxpayers has not escaped the attention of the local "Feel The Bern Collective" which has been staging daily protests at City Hall demanding "real change" under their "Occupy City Hall" banner. They had declared their intention of occupying City Hall until such time as the City removed all references to the infamous Gore name from the City seal. By their estimate, had Christopher Gore operated today he would have been worth billions. "The day of government bailouts and welfare for billionaires must end," said Occupy City Hall leader Namaste Populi.

City officials are expected to approve the change to the City seal on Monday. Though final designs are now only preliminary, it is believed that the new City seal will prominently feature images of the Charles River White Geese grazing on the lawn of City Hall.

A Big Win for Transparency and Voting on Beacon Hill

The woefully outdated concept of the "secret ballot" finally gave way to the modern era earlier this week. The Massachusetts State Legislature passed a bill that would assure full public disclosure of each voter’s ballot.

"No longer will voters be able to hide behind this ‘shield of secrecy’", said Rep. Teague, main sponsor of the bill.

Tanya Ford, Executive Director of the Cambridge Election Commission, had spoken at committee hearings in vehement opposition to the bill. "I suppose I’m just an old-fashioned 20th Century gal", said Ford, "but I’m still not convinced that such openness is in the best interest of good government. Ford also objected to a related bill that would move most elections to the Facebook platform.

The ballots of each Cambridge voter will be accessible via the City’s Open Data Portal. “We’re all about transparency,” said an unnamed City official who asked not to identified.

Proposal to establish permanent non-voting Cambridge City Council seats for Harvard and MIT

Hot on the heels of a proposal to appoint a non-voting, non-citizen representative to the City Council, there is a proposal on this coming Monday’s meeting agenda to add two additional non-voting members to the City Council – one each for Harvard and MIT. The history of Harvard and Cambridge have been intertwined ever since both were established in the 1630s, and it’s a mystery why Harvard has not been granted official representation until nearly 400 years later.

The case for MIT representation has been somewhat more difficult, but with the centennial of MIT’s move to Cambridge coming up next month this seemed like the right time to establish MIT as an official part of City government. Harvard President Drew Faust and MIT President Rafael Reif issued a joint statement of appreciation of this gesture. In their statement they stated that "though we are not being granted an actual vote, we will continue to let our endowment speak for itself."

Lesley University, the new kid on the block relatively speaking, was not at all pleased by their being overlooked. "Sure, this cannot be viewed as ‘taxation without representation’ since we don’t pay taxes," said Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore. "We get that. We’ll just have to buy up more properties in the hope of one day getting our own seat on the Council."

Short List for Next City Manager

Almost immediately after City Manager Richard C. Rossi announced his intention to not seek a contract extension beyond June 2016 the rumors of a possible successor began to fly. Government Operations Committee Chair David Maher made the point clearly that navigating the requirements of the Open Meeting Law while maintaining the confidentiality of currently employed candidates was next to impossible.

"We may still be able to do this through the help of an experience independent vendor," said Maher, "but we’re all but resigned to the fact that we will have to seek candidates from the pool of those currently unemployed."

Maher added that familiarity with the City of Cambridge is a big plus when considering candidates. Maher said that while he cannot reveal the names currently on the short list for candidates to be the next City Manager, "we are looking seriously at perennial City Council candidate James Williamson. He’s a Cambridge resident (a big plus) and we understand that he has been available for some time."

Fluoridation of Cambridge Water to be Enhanced with Choice of Flavorings

In response to repeated City Council Orders questioning the City’s use of fluoridation in the municipal water supply, the Cambridge Water Department tooks steps to win over the city’s residents regarding fluoridation. Water Department Managing Director Sam Corda unveiled plans to provide residents some choice not about whether or not to fluoridate but in the choice of several new fun flavors!

Each can be switched on remotely via an iPhone app developed by the IT staff at the Cambridge Water Department. Though the selection is expected to grow as more flavors become available, starting this summer Cambridge residents will be able to choose from three flavors: FluoroCherry,
FluoroCola, or FluoroLemonyTwist. [Seriously, you have to try the FluoroLemonyTwist. It’s delicious – and great for your teeth!]

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