Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 1, 2018

Preview of April 2, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:06 pm

Preview of April 2, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City Hall postcardHere’s my pass at this week’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-33, regarding a report on whether or not Chapter 4.25 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance applies to the Inman Square redesign project and therefore whether or not a report should be made to the Planning Board.

The upshot: "Vellucci Plaza was taken by the City for a purpose (public open space) protected by Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution ("Article 97"), and as such is subject to the protections of Article 97. Therefore, it is likely that if a road is constructed through a portion of Vellucci Plaza at its current site, legislative approval will be required [the State legislature, that is, and not just the City Council]. Although the construction of a roadway on land protected by Article 97 requires legislative approval, it does not require relief from the provisions of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance."

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to compile a list of single family homes which could be purchased by the Affordable Housing Trust and converted to Single Room Occupancies or Housing Cooperatives.

And the train keeps a rollin’. Every week it’s another proposal to transfer private property to public or quasi-public ownership. Is this really the ideal "vision" for the future? Will such acquisitions be uniform across the city or concentrated in just some neighborhoods?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to place a commemorative plaque at eye-level at the plaza in Harvard Square dedicated to former judge, Mayor, and City Manager Joseph DeGuglielmo so that it is more prominent to pedestrians.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

For you newcomers, Joseph A. DeGuglielmo, better known as "Joe DeGug", began his public career in 1938 as Assistant City Solicitor of Cambridge. He first ran and was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1945 and served 8 consecutive terms (1946-1963). He was elected every time he was a candidate and was chosen by his colleagues as Mayor for the 1952-53 term. Two years after leaving the City Council he was hired as City Manager in February 1966 and served through January 1968. In 1971, he was appointed an associate justice of the Boston Municipal Court by Governor Francis Sargent. He retired from the bench in 1978. He died in May 1983. His nephew is Jimmy Tingle – comic and now candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts.

Order #4. That the City Council encourage residents to be more conscious of their water consumption during the month of April, to take steps to reduce storm water runoff on their own property, to prevent polluted runoff from entering our water system, and to find time to engage with our natural areas.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Being conscious of water consumption, reducing stormwater runoff, and engaging with our natural areas are clearly good things, but perhaps the message regarding the prevention of polluted runoff entering our water system is best directed to the inhabitants of Waltham, Weston, Lexington, and Lincoln where our primary water source is located.

Order #5. City Council support of House Bill 3857, “An Act providing tax relief for rent-burdened individuals and families."   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

This bill would increase the rental deduction for the Mass. state income tax and index it for inflation. It would also restrict eligibility for the deduction to taxpayers who earn no more than 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Law Department, Community Development Department and any other appropriate City departments regarding the feasibility of requiring property owners to give the City written notice when a storefront becomes vacant, including plans for finding a new tenant and keeping the premises tidy and in compliance with all applicable codes to mitigate any negative effects or safety concerns on the neighborhood.   Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon

This is a good intention that needs amendment. Property owners should not be required to inform the City the moment a storefront becomes vacant or be made to instantly submit future plans for tenancy. Perhaps the City Council could establish a time frame after which these steps might be required – somewhere between a few months and Gerald Chan time.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to notify the owners of the former Harvard Square Theater that the City Council has requested that they provide a firm schedule for when they will submit their application to the Cambridge Historical Commission and begin the public engagement process along with a projected timeline for the rest of the process through completion of the project, once the necessary permits are granted.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Speaking of Gerald Chan, whatever became of those good-looking plans for the transformation of the old Harvard Square Theater on Church Street? Tick tock tick tock……

Order #9. That the City Council go on record in opposition to the oppressive policies of Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Saudi Arabia.   Councillor Zondervan

But they are letting women drive! Isn’t that generous? Seriously, if we’re going to single out repressive regimes that use religion and/or ideology to justify brutal repression, then let’s start a list. It won’t be a short list.

Order #10. City Council support of Massachusetts Resolve H. 4159: "Resolve creating a task force on sexual misconduct climate surveys for colleges and universities in Massachusetts."   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons

Good idea all around. You have to first measure the extent of a problem if you want to adequately address it.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to work with Trinity Property Management to give the nearly 200 tenants of the EMF building additional time beyond Apr 30, 2018 to find new space, considering the unique circumstances and outsized impact of this eviction.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

This a completely reasonable Order, but ultimately the only way to preserve space for uses such as these is through ownership of the building. Begging for handouts from the City is not a solution. Haven’t we produced a few nationally known artists who wouldn’t mind being seen as heroes by swooping in, buying and outfitting a building or buildings for this purpose? Where are you Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck? Wasn’t this your neighborhood? Maybe you guys can assemble a team. Give Mindy Kaling and John Malkovich and Sam Waterston and Jane Curtin a call. Maybe Lenny Clarke can pitch in a few bucks.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to allow autonomous vehicle (AV) testing in Cambridge provided certain conditions are met.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

Please, just don’t. – Robert Winters


  1. What the heck is a “sexual misconduct climate survey”?

    Comment by FRED BAKER — April 1, 2018 @ 10:28 pm

  2. My assumption is that it’s an effort to measure the extent of sexual misconduct at universities without necessarily identifying who the bad players are or were. I have worked at several universities and virtually all of this information was the subject of anecdote and rumor. That’s never a good starting point for a discussion.

    I remember when Wellesley College really struggled with these questions quite a few years ago. They took a very nuanced view in light of the fact that there were some well-respected married couples whose relationship began when one was a professor and the other a student. This falls under the category of “what is appropriate” as compared to what might constitute sexual assault.

    Comment by Robert Winters — April 1, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

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