Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 15, 2018

Notable items on the Oct 15, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:07 am

Notable items on the Oct 15, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at the interesting stuff up for discussion at this week’s meeting:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $160,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will fund an expansion of free food programming for Cambridge youth.

Expanded Free Breakfast & Lunch in Cambridge schools and pre-schools courtesy of Mother Cambridge.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5,000,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures Account to support the completion of the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding Inman Square Redesign Project.

There are some who still feel that the plan needs revision (including Councillor Kelley), but the judge isn’t going to look at the twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-76, regarding a report on Linkage fee as part of the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.

Another study coming. At least this time there will also be effort expended to measure the impact of new nonresidential development on employment opportunities for Cambridge residents (could there be a positive impact?). Currently any linkage fees exacted from new development go toward subsidized housing. Some might argue that the greatest deficiency in how these nexus studies and associated linkage fees work is that they do little to address the lack of access for existing residents to jobs in all these new bright shiny buildings, and building additional subsidized housing without such access to employment isn’t necessarily the best strategy.

Charter Right #1. That the Envision Cambridge draft recommendations should be reviewed by the entire City Council in respective committees.

As I have said previously, handing a laundry list of suggestions from Envision Cambridge working committees to each of the City Council committees hardly seems like the best path toward comprehensive planning (you know – the Master Plan). Maybe they just want the Faster Plan.

Order #1. That the City Manager confer with the City Solicitor’s Office on the legal question and the feasibility of placing a condition in public bidding documents prohibiting municipal contractors from displaying any signage—other than company markers and contact information—on vehicles.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

Though I don’t know for sure (really, I do), I believe this Order came about because somebody snapped a picture of a cement truck that had "Make America Great Again" on it.

Order #4. That the Chairs of the Ordinance Committee schedule a hearing on Tree Protections and the Chairs of the Health & Environment Committee schedule public hearings on Tree Protections and the preliminary results from the Ordinance Committee hearing.   Councillor Zondervan

I may just have to take down sooner than later that problematic ash tree in my yard that’s leaning on my roof. Otherwise, if a new ordinance is passed I may need a lawyer and an additional check.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to investigate the queries posed by the Economic and University Relations Committee for a City-Based Cannabis Social Equity Program.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Cast me out from the community, if you will, but I simply cannot wrap my head around a policy that gives preferential treatment to relatives of people convicted of drug-related crimes. Ensuring that the new dope industry provides economic opportunity broadly, i.e. "social equity", is one thing, but getting nailed for dealing dope under previous laws should not provide an advantage over those who lived within the law.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 27, 2018 to discuss Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut continues. I spoke my mind on this subject at the most recent meeting of the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group (which really should be renamed the "Subsidized Housing Working Group" based on the fact that they never addressed housing generally). As I have stated repeatedly, it’s certainly true that people want housing to be affordable in the sense that a typical person or family can find a place to buy or rent within their budget, but this is not the same as advocating for a dramatic increase in subsidized housing (of which Cambridge already has a significant amount when you add up all the Housing Authority properties, Inclusionary housing units, etc.). Indeed, I think an argument can be made that the singular focus on subsidized housing may be contributing to the non-affordability of housing generally. The best affordable housing program ever conceived was the proliferation of multi-family housing, and that involved no government subsidy at all.

Better ideas would be to permit multi-family housing in all zones, adjust allowable densities to better reflect the existing built environment, and work regionally to increase the overall housing stock. As I stated at the very first meeting of the Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee, constructing many housing units in Somerville’s Union Square, in Everett, in Allston, and elsewhere will do more toward making housing more affordable in Cambridge than anything. Only when people have options can they make rational economic choices. It is the shortage of available better options that allows housing costs in Cambridge to rise unchecked.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 12, 2018 to discuss Storefront Vacancies Best Practices.

Though I suppose I like the idea of "pop up" art in vacant storefronts, it’s a poor substitute for actual retail. On a related matter, current state law requires all new marijuana stores to obscure the views into these establishments (kinda like a speakeasy in the prohibition era). The crappy response has been to propose putting artsy stuff in the front windows. There are better approaches. My proposal is to create arcade-like shallow retail operations on these frontages. How about a hot dog vendor? A newsstand (if anyone still buys newspapers/magazines)? Maybe just a simple water bottle filling station. How about just creating a recessed area with an awning where a local vendor can sell hats, scarves, or trinkets? There are plenty of other good ideas. I would make the same proposal for other "formula businesses" to create active, low-cost, retail opportunities. – Robert Winters

October 3, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 343-344: Oct 2, 2018

Episode 343 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 2, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 2, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Baseball, zoning & housing affordability, property taxes, tax rates, tax classification, tax levy. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 344 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 2, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 2, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: affordable housing, Envision Cambridge end game, the changing face of Central Square. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 1, 2018

Cambridge Absentee Voting & Designated Early Voting Locations, Dates, Hours – State Election, Nov 6, 2018

Filed under: elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:30 pm

Deadline to Register to Vote and Availability of Absentee Ballots for the State Election, November 6th

The State Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. For Cambridge residents not already registered, the last day to register to vote is Wednesday, October 17, 2018 until 8:00pm. The Office of the Secretary of State has developed an Online Voter Registration System at www.registertovotema.com. Individuals may use the online system to submit an online application, update their address or change their party affiliation. You must have a valid driver’s license, learner’s permit, or non-driver ID issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). If you do not have an RMV ID you can use the system to create an application. Print and sign the completed form and mail or bring it to the office of the Cambridge Election Commission.

Absentee Ballots are now available at the Cambridge Election Commission office. Any voter who is unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to physical disability, religious belief, or absence from the City may request an Absentee Ballot from the Commission. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Monday, November 5th at noon. Absentee Ballots may be mailed to voters, or such voters may choose to vote at the Commission office during regular city office hours: Monday, 8:30am-8:00pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Friday, 8:30am-Noon.

The polls will be open on Election Day, November 6th from 7:00am until 8:00pm. For any additional information, please visit the Cambridge Election Commission office at 51 Inman Street, call 617-349-4361 or visit our website at www.cambridgema.gov/election.


City of Cambridge Designated Early Voting Sites Locations, Dates and Hours for the State Election, November 6, 2018

Vote!Early voting will begin on October 22nd and continue through November 2nd for the State Election to be held on Tuesday, November 6th. In 2016, Massachusetts voters were given the opportunity to vote prior to Election Day through early voting. Previously the only way a registered voter could vote prior to Election Day was through absentee voting. Although absentee voting is still available for registered voters who qualify, only those who will be absent from their city or town on Election Day or have a disability that prevents them from going to the polls, or have a religious belief preventing the same, are legally allowed to vote by absentee ballot.

Unlike absentee voting, early voting is for every registered voter. Registered voters do not need an excuse or reason to vote early. Regardless of whether a voter wants to take advantage of early voting, vote absentee or vote on Election Day, the first step is making sure you are registered. To check to see if you are registered to vote, and to find information on how to register to vote, you may visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website: www.sec.state.ma.us/ele. If you need to register to vote, you may do it online by visiting: www.RegisterToVoteMA.com. All you need is a license or an I.D. issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to apply online. To be eligible to vote in the November 6th State Election, you must register to vote or make any necessary changes to your voter registration by the deadline of Wednesday, October 17th at 8pm.

Early voting can be done in person or by mail. In the City of Cambridge, early voting can be done in person at any of the five (5) designated early voting sites during the scheduled dates and times. Please note, however, once a voter has cast an early voting ballot, the voter may no longer vote at the polls on Election Day.

To request a ballot by mail, simply fill out an application or send us a written request with your name, Cambridge address, address where you want the ballot sent and your signature and mail it to the Election Commission, 51 Inman Street, Cambridge, MA 02139. You can download an application at www.CambridgeMA.gov/EarlyVoting.

We encourage all our citizens to exercise their right and take advantage of the opportunity to vote at one of the sites during the scheduled dates and times. For public convenience, the City of Cambridge will also offer weekday evening hours and weekend hours on Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 9am to 5pm.

CITY OF CAMBRIDGE EARLY VOTING SCHEDULE

LOCATION 1st Week – DATE & TIME 2nd Week – DATE & TIME
City of Cambridge Election Commission Office
51 Inman Street, 1st Floor
Mon, October 22, 8:30am to 8:00pm
Tues, October 23, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 24, 8:30am to 8:00pm
Thurs, October 25, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, October 26, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Sat, October 27, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Mon, October 29, 8:30am to 8:00pm
Tues, October 30, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 31, 8:30am to 8:00pm
Thurs, November 1, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, November 2, 8:30am to 6:00pm
Police Department, Community Room
1st Floor, 125 Sixth Street
Mon, October 22, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 23, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 24, 12:00am to 8:00pm
Thurs, October 25, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, October 26, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Sat, October 27, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Mon, October 29, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 30, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 31, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Thurs, November 1, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, November 2, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Cambridge Water Department
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Mon, October 22, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 23, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 24, 12:00am to 8:00pm
Thurs, October 25, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, October 26, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Sat, October 27, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Mon, October 29, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 30, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 31, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Thurs, November 1, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, November 2, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Main Library
449 Broadway
Mon, October 22, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 23, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 24, 12:00am to 8:00pm
Thurs, October 25, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, October 26, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Sat, October 27, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Mon, October 29, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 30, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 31, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Thurs, November 1, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, November 2, 9:30am to 6:00pm
O’Neill Library
70 Rindge Ave.
Mon, October 22, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 23, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 24, 12:00am to 8:00pm
Thurs, October 25, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, October 26, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Sat, October 27, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Mon, October 29, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Tues, October 30, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Wed, October 31, 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Thurs, November 1, 9:30am to 6:00pm
Fri, November 2, 9:30am to 6:00pm

September 30, 2018

A Taxing Situation – October 1, 2018 City Council Meeting Preview

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:07 pm

A Taxing Situation – October 1, 2018 City Council Meeting Preview

Property Tax AssessmentsThe main order of business is the Tax Rate Hearing at 6:30pm that leads to the determination of the residential and commercial tax rates for FY2019.

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2019.

For the most part, the tax levy (and hence the tax rate) was determined several months ago when the City Council voted to approve the FY2019 Budget. Some things have changed since then, but the final steps in the process consist of a series of votes on allocations from available funds to reduce the tax rate, tax classification (primarily residential vs. commercial, subject to limitations under state law), approval of the residential exemption, and several available exemptions and deferrals permitted under state law. Once the votes are taken the Department of Revenue formally sets the tax rates. The Manager’s recommendations are as follows:

1. That the City Council vote to authorize the use of $9,000,000 in Free Cash to reduce the FY19 tax rate.

2. That the City Council vote to authorize $2,000,000 in overlay surplus/reserves to be used for reducing the FY19 tax rate.

3. That the City Council vote to authorize $3,500,000 from the City Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget, which was included in the FY19 Adopted Budget.

4. That the City Council appropriate $3,500,000 from Free Cash to the City Debt Stabilization Fund.

5. That the City Council classify property within the City of Cambridge into the five classes allowed for the purpose of allocating the property tax. It is further recommended that the City Council adopt a minimum residential factor of 57.5386%.

6. That the City Council approve the residential exemption factor of 30% for owner occupied homes, which should result in a residential tax rate of $5.94 and commercial tax rate of $13.71 (per $1000 of taxable value after exemptions) upon final approval by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

7. That the City Council vote to double the normal value of the statutory exemptions.

8. That the City Council vote to increase the FY18 exemption allowed under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17D from $314 to $322.

9. That the City Council vote to increase the FY18 asset limits allowed under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17E from $62,205 to $63,760.

10. That the City Council vote to increase the FY18 income and assets limits for elderly persons (age 65 or older). Income limits of $25,721 to $26,364 for those who are single and $38,582 to $39,547 9 for those who are married, asset limits of $51,439 to $52,725 for those who are single and $70,730 to $72,498 for those who are married, as allowed under MGL, Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 41D.

11. That the City Council vote the income limit for deferral of real estate taxes by elderly persons (at least 65 years old) as determined by the Commissioner of Revenue for the purposes of MGL, Chapter 62, Section 6, subsection (k), for a single person who is not head of household ($57,000) and for a married couple ($86,000), as allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 41A. The reduction of the interest rate to 4% for deferred taxes, which was approved by the City Council previously, will continue.

Order #3. That the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee schedule a hearing on the proposed “Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal Election Program” and the “Cambridge Municipal People’s Pledge Program” as soon as possible and report back to the City Council with a plan for implementation no later than the City Council meeting scheduled for Nov 19, 2018.   Councillor Toomey

I seriously wish these proposals and various alternatives proposed by others would just go away. It is becoming increasingly clear that such things as a positive social media presence, a good email list, and boatloads of personal contact are far more important than money in a local election campaign. So, could we stop chasing this wild goose?

Floating CrosswalkOrder #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Director of the Traffic, Parking and Transportation department and any other relevant city departments to study the potential of utilizing the Icelandic crosswalk design in an intersection in East Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

If you feel that screeching panic stops are a wise choice for traffic calming, then this is your design. I will humbly suggest that simpler solutions would be preferable. On the other hand, we could try some other optical illusions like holographic tigers or various apparitions from Ghostbusters.

Order #7. That the Envision Cambridge draft recommendations should be reviewed by the entire City Council in respective committees.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

My presumption has always been that this laundry list of recommendations would be farmed out to the various City Council committees for further review prior to any consideration of zoning changes in the Ordinance Committee or other actions. I also think it would be a good idea to have the full final Envision Cambridge report in hand before delving too deeply into any of these ideas. Looking at them in isolation is not recommended.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 12, 2018 to discuss the guiding policy and safety priorities for regulating and permitting shared electric scooters to operate in Cambridge.

Maybe the public will gleefully accept these devices, but what is currently available is simply not safe to use under all conditions by any reasonable standard. The relatively small wheels alone virtually guarantee a tumble when encountering even a small imperfection in the road. On a related matter I found it interesting that the response by Ant Bike to statements from CDD that they were not permitted in Cambridge led them to place two of them in the park next to the City Hall Annex where CDD is located. (I moved them outside to the sidewalk.) On the same day that the City of Lynn announced that they were not allowed, seven of them appeared along one stretch of Main Street in Kendall Square (with five of them lying on their side restricting pedestrian movement). What they see as "economic disruption" is hard to distinguish from "obnoxiously aggressive".

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 20, 2018 to discuss reducing the speed limit to 20 MPH on residential streets citywide and the creation of 20 MPH safety zones on certain other streets.

My primary comment at this hearing was that there were some city councillors who would gladly reduce the speed limit to 0 MPH if this was permissible under state law. The simple fact is that almost all drivers operate their vehicles safely under the current 25 MPH limit. The problem is the scofflaws for whom the legal limit will be ignored no matter where you set it. Consistent enforcement is what’s important, though there are some streets and specific locations where a 20 MPH limit is advisable. I also think the City should seriously consider the use of a "shared street" model with an even lower speed limit in some heavily pedestrian areas. This would have been my choice for Brattle Street where the City installed those counterintuitive segregated bike lanes. A much better solution would be to make that entire stretch of Brattle Street a two-way low-speed shared street for all. – Robert Winters

September 25, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 341-342: Sept 25, 2018

Episode 341 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 25, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 25, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Charter Rights and Wrongs, opioid lawsuit, Sancta Maria salvation, zoning & housing affordability, property taxes, tax rates, tax classification, tax levy, assessments. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 342 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 25, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 25, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: time travel, Middlesex Canal, Constellation Center and future possibilities, resident permit parking fees, street cleaning/towing, current zoning petitions. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 23, 2018

Charter Right Do-Over – Agenda items from the Sept 24, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:19 pm

Charter Right Do-Over – Agenda items from the Sept 24, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallMuch of the previous meeting was made subject to the Charter Right by Councillor Toomey, so those items will be back before the City Council this week plus a few more bits and pieces. Here are a few that seem interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-30 regarding a report on the possibility of Cambridge joining the national suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Normally I don’t care for lawsuits like this, but in this case I’ll make an exception. These are the worst kinds of dope dealers. Better yet, we don’t have to pay for the litigation unless the City prevails and is awarded damages.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department to establish a Senior Living Overlay District at the current site of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility to encourage and incentivize redevelopment specifically for continuum of care services. [Order #1 of Sept 17, 2018]

I think we’re starting to get a bit too prescriptive with Cambridge zoning, especially with the introduction of "overlay districts" for every imaginable use. Many of us would like to see opportunities for senior living or a place where artists can flourish. We would also like places to buy affordable groceries. Is the creation of an overlay district to dictate one use while preventing other potential good uses the right way to go? It’s one thing to classify land use as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., but how far down should this categorization go?

Charter Right #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments and relevant housing partners to aggressively attempt to obtain, or help others obtain, the Sancta Maria property for purposes of affordable housing. [Order #3 of Sept 17, 2018]

Whatever happened to the idea of a relocated Public Works Yard? I’m not necessarily recommending this, but putting DPW on Concord Ave. and building mixed-income housing on the current DPW site isn’t a crazy idea.

Both of these Orders now appear to be moot thanks to this news flash:
Salvation for Sancta Maria: Nursing facility to remain open in Cambridge (Sept 17, 2018, Cambridge Chronicle)

Charter Right #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the tax status, zoning history, and sale of The Constellation Center’s Parcel C in Kendall Square. [Order #7 of Sept 17, 2018]

Anyone who has followed this knew this Order would eventually come. That will be an interesting and likely fruitless journey down the road of Retroactive Zoning & Tax Classification. Looking forward would make a lot more sense, but I’m sure I’ll find the history interesting.

Charter Right #12. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development Division to regularly update the vacant property database as well as review the strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report and report back on the feasibility of implementing these recommendations. [Order #12 of Sept 17, 2018]

I testified recently at a follow-up meeting of this committee about the potential unintended consequences of encouraging "pop up" businesses to occupy vacant spaces at (presumably) much lower rents than nearby businesses. I can easily see a seasonable "pop up" store showing up and stealing all the holiday business away from an existing business. The temporary filling of a vacant store could then lead to another vacancy.

Charter Right #14. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.” [Committee Report #6 of Sept 17, 2018]

I attended this meeting. My impression is that we have several elected officials who have never seen a fee increase or a tax increase that they didn’t embrace and celebrate. The simplest way to understand fees is to make clear the distinction with taxes. A fee pays for a service, and the money raised has to support that service. It’s not just another revenue source like a tax that can be used for whatever pet project a councillor wants to support. Personally, I find the notion of renewing a parking sticker every year a bit ridiculous. We accept it only because we’re familiar with the routine (and the long lines for some). A much better system would be to pay a one-time fee for a sticker that’s good for as long as you own the vehicle and still live in Cambridge. It would be easy to encode the sticker for easy verification against City databases. The only people waiting on lines would then be for new residents or new vehicles.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on June 12, 2018 to discuss the housing ombudsman position, receive a detailed update regarding the timeline and plan for the affordable housing overlay district, an update on the inclusionary housing report, and the map of all affordable housing in the city.

I get the sense that not many Cambridge residents know what exactly is being proposed in the current plan for a citywide "affordable housing overlay district". I’ll provide a few more details shortly, but the basic idea is that your city councillors want to give builders of subsidized housing the right to to build up to four times the density as any other property owner with some setback requirements waived and little or no public process permitted. – RW

September 19, 2018

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Sept 19, 2018)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 9:50 pm

Members Sought for New River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Design Project Working Group

Sept 19, 2018 – The City of Cambridge is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Working Group to help guide the River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Design Project. The group will advise City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and his staff on key issues related to the planning and design for this important project, which has three main components:City Seal

  • River Street subsurface: Replace aging utility infrastructure so that critical utility services can continue to be provided to the community, and enhance the ability of the sewer and drainage systems to handle large storm events, in a sustainable manner, in an era of climate change;
  • River Street surface: Create a streetscape design that enables people to travel safely and comfortably by various modes, while enhancing the neighborhood context, meeting environmental goals, and supporting local businesses;
  • Carl Barron Plaza: Redesign the major public open space of Central Square, including considerations of public art, fixed and/or unfixed furniture, circulation, access, plantings, and landscaping.

The working group will consist of 12-15 members who will meet monthly for a period of 9-12 months, starting late fall 2018. The group will include residents, business, and institutional representatives and subject matter experts and who will work with city staff and a consultant to develop design principles and alternative design options. The process will culminate in a final design for River Street and Carl Barron Plaza, which will proceed into construction.

Individuals with interest in the River Street corridor, Central Square/Carl Barron Plaza, experience or expertise in relevant topics — transportation, accessibility, urban design and placemaking, landscape architecture, green infrastructure — and a demonstrated ability to work effectively with diverse viewpoints to craft consensus solutions are encouraged to apply. Meetings of the Working Group will be open to the public.

For additional questions about the new Working Group, contact Jerry Friedman, Supervising Engineer, Department of Public Works at 617-349-9720 or jfriedman@cambridgema.gov.

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at www.cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and résumé or summary of applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, October 12, 2018.


Cambridge City Manager Seeks Members for Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship – deadline extended

City SealSept 18, 2018 – Cambridge City Manager Louis DePasquale is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship (CIRC). The Commission consists of 11 volunteer members, who are appointed by the City Manager, following an application and interview process. The term of the appointment is three years. Commissioners are expected to be knowledgeable about immigrant rights and citizenship and must be residents of Cambridge. It is desirable for this Commission to be fully representative of the diverse Cambridge community.

Cambridge welcomes immigrants and wants to encourage their success and access to opportunity and advancement in this country. It will be a goal of this Commission to get the message of welcome out, through collaboration with organizations that already provide services and outreach to our immigrant community. The Commission will act as a centralizing organization in Cambridge, to address immigrant rights and citizenship issues through providing information, referral, guidance, coordination and technical assistance to other public agencies and private persons, organizations and institutions engaged in activities and programs intended to support immigrant rights and citizenship.

Commissioners are expected to work with other members of the Commission and staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Ordinance (CMC Chapter 2.123).

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at www.cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and résumé or summary of applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline for submitting applications is not yet determined.

September 18, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 339-340: Sept 18, 2018

Episode 339 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 18, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 18, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: 3rd CD recount result, the case for Ranked Choice Voting, recycling updates, electric scooters, retail and vacant storefronts. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 340 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 18, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 18, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Sept 17 City Council meeting, Inman Sq. configuration to move ahead, rainwater and flat roof zoning petition, Envision Cambridge updates (Affordable Housing Overlay, Super-Inclusionary Zoning, Environment Performance Incentive proposals), and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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