Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 23, 2019

Anxiously Waiting for Summer Recess – and Nomination Papers – June 24, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:22 pm

Anxiously Waiting for Summer Recess – and Nomination Papers – June 24, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

Dance Party (photo cropped from Press Release)This will be the last meeting until the Midsummer Meeting in late July. Committee meetings will continue here and there. Dance Party at City Hall this Friday. Candidates can pick up nomination papers for the municipal election starting next Monday (July 1). Here’s my first pass at the tastier items on the meeting menu:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $150,000 from excess FY19 parking fund revenue to the Public Investment Traffic and Parking Department Extraordinary Expenditures account, to establish 20 Mile Per Hour (MPH) Safety Zones on primarily local access streets across the City.

Sooner or later the argument will be made that 15mph is even safer. And so on. In truth, 20mph makes a lot of sense of some streets, but there are plenty of other streets where 20mph or even 25mph feels like an unnecessary crawl. Then again, with traffic congestion worse (by design), it’s all academic since you might rarely break 20mph anyway.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board not to adopt the New Street Overlay District Zoning Petition.

That’s two strikes. They apparently tried to sweeten the petition this time by including some subsidized housing in the mix, i.e. Let’s Make A Deal. This doesn’t have the votes to pass. Will there be a third attempt?


Unfinished Business #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED]

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding Establishing the Equitable Regulation of the Cannabis Industry in the City of Cambridge.

The cannabis train keeps on rolling (slowly) along. The voters approved it but the really wacky part of this is the way some councillors are trying to microscopically tailor the language of the Permitting Ordinance in order to effectively select who will get the greatest advantage in obtaining a permit to operate a cannabis retail store and even how much shelf space will be allocated to what products.


Communications #2. A communication was received from Gregg Moree, 25 Fairfield Street, regarding several issues he needs the Cambridge Police Department’s help rectifying.

If ever there was something in writing that should disqualify a City Council candidate, perhaps this is it. I won’t bother to link to the text. This man is an embarrassment.

Resolution #1. Resolution on the death of Professor Ifeanyi Menkiti.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley

I remember riding the MIT-Wellesley Exchange Bus with Professor Menkiti when I worked at Wellesley College. Farewell, sir.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to draft a zoning amendment that will count a portion of a new or substantially renovated building’s rooftop mechanicals (excluding solar installations) toward its allowed height and/or FAR.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

This isn’t the first time this matter has been addressed. There was the Citywide Rezoning Petition (Sept 2000) that considered issues of bulk and height related to rooftop mechanical equipment (among other things). There was also a zoning petition on this topic introduced in August 2003 and ordained Nov 3, 2003. This followed the Rooftop Mechanicals Task Force Recommendations of June 2003 which also looked at visual and acoustic issues. This new proposal appears to be primarily about height and density and the fact that some of these installations today are much larger than in days of yore.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and the City Hall building staff to identify a suitable location other than the Sullivan Chamber where the state flag may be displayed in compliance with state law.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

We may soon need a "trigger alert" read at the start of every City Council meeting so that nobody is offended or traumatized by symbols or fabric or furniture or floor coverings. This Order actually symbolizes the distracted priorities of some councillors.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, Assessor’s Office, and the City Solicitor’s Office on developing a Vacant Storefront Registration Policy.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Collecting data and developing a database of such vacancies may be useful information, but the real question comes down to how that information will be used. There was a previous Order a couple of years ago that would have taxed such properties into oblivion. A far more thoughtful approach would be to provide incentives and guidance to get most of these properties back into active use – the carrot, not the stick.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to explain how Newport Construction was selected to work on the Inman Square redesign despite the serious allegations pending against them in Somerville.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone

Apparently the chosen contractor cut some trees down in Somerville. In the case of Inman Square, the City beat them to it.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Finance and Department of Human Services to explore options for incorporating additional line items in the FY20 Budget to allocate supplemental funds for legal aid services, housing stabilization and tenant education and organizing to prevent displacement and address its ramifications on Cambridge residents and families.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

These are basically all good ideas aimed at addressing things at a scale that actually matters, i.e. helping individuals rather than a wholesale policy change such as the proposed "100% Affordable Housing Overlay District" that seeks to move privately-owned residential property into public and quasi-public hands by allowing some select property developers to operate under radically different rules than other property owners.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes for the meeting of the ninth and last meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task.  [Links to all Task Force reports]

While the intention of this Task Force is laudable, some of the comments and recommendations of its members cross way over into the political, i.e. echoes of the Sanders campaign and the Occupy phenomenon of a few years back. Former and new City Council candidates have not hesitated to shower fellow Task Force members with self-serving stump speeches. I’m sure some good actions will grow out of this Task Force and a place like Central Square will be better for it, but I hope that delivering personal or political benefits to outspoken Task Force members should not be among the benefits. It’s right and proper that we should take a step back every few years and reconsider the various arts initiatives and institutions supported by the City to make sure they are delivering best outcomes for all the residents of the city. However, this really shouldn’t be driven by the discontinuation of one person’s arrangement with the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC) or the loss of a rehearsal space in the old EMF building in Cambridgeport. – Robert Winters

1 Comment »

  1. The safety benefits of speed limits become more apparent when the number is viewed as a percentage of potential velocity instead of as an absolute velocity. For example, some cars that move at 25 miles per hour are operating at only 25% of their potential velocity. All road users should think about what percentage they’re operating at and how that percentage affects their ability to stop safely, especially when approaching traffic situations that have some probability of a negative result.

    Comment by George Stylianopoulos — June 24, 2019 @ 2:11 pm

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