Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 13, 2017

Featured Items on the Nov 13, 2017 City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,campaign finance,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:13 am

Featured Items on the Nov 13, 2017 City Council Agenda

City HallFor the moment at least, all six incumbents who ran to retain their seats seem to have been reelected. We’ll know for sure on Friday (Nov 17) unless the closeness of the results warrants a recount. In the meantime, here are a few items of interest on this week’s agenda.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $2,274,829 from Free Cash to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund. Funds appropriated to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund will be used to fund specific projects which will require individual appropriations by the City Council for the related projects in the future.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to adopt the Alexandria Zoning Petition regarding Innovation Space in the PUD-3A and PUD-4C Districts.

Manager’s Agenda #14. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report 16-86, regarding a report on which public campaign finance options are legal for municipal elections in Cambridge; and Awaiting Report 17-84, regarding potential plans and options, responsive to community concerns, for creating a program of tax revenue financing for candidates running for City Council and School Committee in the City of Cambridge.

This is a topic that deserves a lot more discussion than was ever permitted in either the NLTP Committee (no idea why it would even be discussed as part of "neighborhood and long-term planning" or "public facilities" or "arts and celebrations") or the Government Operations Committee. It’s not something Cambridge could even do without approval from the State Legislature and it’s not at all clear that such approval would be forthcoming. In addition, there has been no indication of what scale of funding would be asked – and that’s important in light of the fact that the total campaign expendtitures for the recent City Council election now totals about $600,000 and climbing. The correlation between campaign spending and electoral results is also not at all clear. The cost per #1 vote as of today among successful City Council campaigns runs from a low of $9.75 to a high of $33.50 (these numbers will rise).

It’s also worth noting that MANY Cambridge voters are now consulting the Cambridge Candidate Pages and other resources to learn about candidates, and that costs NOTHING. Indeed the number of visitors to the Cambridge Candidate Pages last week went like this: Nov 4: 1,082; Nov 5: 1699; Nov 6: 6,632; Nov 7 (Election Day): 11,058; Nov 8: 3,584; Nov 9: 941. That’s a lot of visits for an election that had about 22,600 voters, and the Cambridge Candidate Pages aren’t even linked from any City website.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to appoint a Transportation Task Force to develop a large and comprehensive street safety and education plan that speaks to the needs of bicyclist, motorists, and pedestrians, and that can be easily disseminated and understood by all citizens. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Oct 30, 2017]

At this point I’m leaning toward the belief that we should transition toward a single Transportation Board that has subcommittees for transit, motor vehicles, bicycling, and pedestrians. Single issue advocacy has become King and ideas like balance and collaboration among stakeholders has become all but lost. It’s become militant with single-issue advocates using social media to pack any and all meetings. I gave up going to these meetings. It’s become just Bad Political Theater at this point and, contrary to claims of relative safety, it’s really all about turf – establish a beachhead and then defend it even against reasonable criticism.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City departments and report back to the City Council with an update on the City’s plans to expand the curbside composting program citywide.   Councillor Cheung

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 12, 2017 to discuss a Zoning Petition filed by Christopher D. Smith, et al., to create a new Section 13.913 Graduate Student Housing Production Requirement. This petition would require new graduate housing to be built in conjunction with the development of commercial uses in the proposed Planned Unit Development 7 District as well as a phasing plan to implement graduate housing development.

Everyone agrees with the idea that MIT and other universities should provide adequate housing options for their students. As we saw with the recent Volpe Petition, this has been acknowledged by MIT and they are planning accordingly. This Smith Petition, on the other hand, is not only moot but misdirected. – Robert Winters


  1. Mr. Winters,

    This is a helpful site. Thank you for doing this. Your comments about the Agenda for a Transportation Task Force are accurate and to the point. I am an avid 70 year old cyclist/walker and a sometime motorist. There is no question in my mind that cyclists and motorists exist in two different cultural worlds and do not want to listen to each other. Cyclists naturally view themselves as potential victims, which is partially correct, and motorists view cyclists as irresponsible which is also partially correct.

    The City has tried engineering to solve the problems between cyclists and motorists. This won’t work for at least two reasons: (1). The problems to be addressed exist in people’s hearts and heads and are not amenable to engineeering solutions and (2). The actual problem is too much speed coupled with too many individual vector options. Fluids traveling at different speeds and with just slightly different vectors produce turbulence. Turbulence is dangerous.

    The suggestion of a Transportation Task Force would, if well-done, result primarily in the consideration of what is called “traffic-calming”, something that Cambridge has not addressed in any meaningful way. Traffic calming involves the three E’s: engineering, education and enforcement. We are rich, so we try to make our lives simple by doing the first E, which costs money. In reality, we have to do the whole package in order to make it work. The only real solution to the problems we see now is to slow everyone down slightly and find a way to induce a common culture between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. We are smart enough to do this but, so far, we have avoided this larger task.

    Thanks again for providing this forum.

    Peter Dane, Fairfield Street

    Comment by Peter Dane — November 16, 2017 @ 5:36 pm

  2. Peter Dane has nailed the behavior issue. Cyclists’ victim mentality and entitlement mentality are two sides of the same coin. Safe cycling requires the confidence and assertiveness to operate according to the standard rules of the road. When will the colleges and universities come to understand that the expense of education in best practices for safe cycling will pay off in alumni contributions if it saves the life or academic career of even one student every year or two?

    Comment by jsallen — November 28, 2017 @ 9:59 pm

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