Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 29, 2014

Speaking of elections….

Filed under: 2014 Election,Cambridge,elections — Robert Winters @ 10:55 am

Today’s Quiz Question: How many Cambridge voters have voted in every city-wide election since 1997 (including municipal elections, primaries, state elections, special (city-wide) elections, and federal elections)?

I just updated my mega-database of Cambridge registered voters (66,327 currently), street listing, and voter history files dating back to 1997. Any other questions you’d like to ask? This post will be expanded accordingly.

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 4.     Where do I vote?


Vote!

2014 State Election Candidates (Cambridge only)

Senator in Congress

EDWARD J. MARKEY, 7 Townsend St., Malden, DEMOCRATIC
BRIAN J. HERR, 31 Elizabeth Rd., Hopkinton, REPUBLICAN

Governor/Lieutenant Governor

BAKER and POLITO, REPUBLICAN
COAKLEY and KERRIGAN, DEMOCRATIC
FALCHUK and JENNINGS, UNITED INDEPENDENT PARTY
LIVELY and SAUNDERS, INDEPENDENT
McCORMICK and POST, INDEPENDENT

Attorney General

MAURA HEALEY, 40 Winthrop St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC
JOHN B. MILLER, 40 Westland Ave., Winchester, REPUBLICAN

Secretary of State

WILLIAM FRANCIS GALVIN, 46 Lake St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC
DAVID D’ARCANGELO, 183 Bainbridge St., Malden, REPUBLICAN
DANIEL L. FACTOR, 11 Davis Rd., Acton, GREEN-RAINBOW

Treasurer

DEBORAH B. GOLDBERG, 37 Hyslop Rd., Brookline, DEMOCRATIC
MICHAEL JAMES HEFFERNAN, 244 Grove St., Wellesley, REPUBLICAN
IAN T. JACKSON, 232 Highland Ave., Arlington, GREEN-RAINBOW

Auditor

SUZANNE M. BUMP, 409 North Plain Rd., Great Barrington, DEMOCRATIC
PATRICIA S. SAINT AUBIN, 6 Shady Way, Norfolk, REPUBLICAN
MK MERELICE, 22 White Pl., Brookline, GREEN-RAINBOW

Representative in Congress

FIFTH DISTRICT
KATHERINE M. CLARK, 64 Prospect St., Melrose, DEMOCRATIC

SEVENTH DISTRICT
MICHAEL E. CAPUANO, 172 Central St., Somerville, DEMOCRATIC

Councillor

SIXTH DISTRICT
TERRENCE W. KENNEDY, 3 Stafford Rd., Lynnfield, DEMOCRATIC
VINCENT LAWRENCE DIXON, 60 Lake St., Winchester, REPUBLICAN

Senator in General Court

SECOND MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
PATRICIA D. JEHLEN, 67 Dane St., Somerville, DEMOCRATIC
ROBERT L. CAPPUCCI, JR., 71 Evans St., Medford, REPUBLICAN

MIDDLESEX & SUFFOLK DISTRICT
SAL N. DiDOMENICO, 125 Clarence St., Everett, DEMOCRATIC

FIRST SUFFOLK & MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
ANTHONY W. PETRUCCELLI, 101 Gladstone St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC

Representative in General Court

TWENTY-FOURTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
DAVID M. ROGERS, 18 Richard Ave., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC

TWENTY-FIFTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
MARJORIE C. DECKER, 61 Walden St., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC

TWENTY-SIXTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
TIMOTHY J. TOOMEY, JR., 88 6th St., Cambridge, DEMOCRATIC
THOMAS MICHAEL VASCONCELOS, 63 Oak St., Somerville, INDEPENDENT

TWENTY-NINTH MIDDLESEX DISTRICT
JONATHAN HECHT, 159 Russell Ave., Watertown, DEMOCRATIC

EIGHTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT
JAY D. LIVINGSTONE, 19 Revere St., Boston, DEMOCRATIC

District Attorney

NORTHERN DISTRICT
MARIAN T. RYAN, 8 Bradford Rd., Belmont, DEMOCRATIC

Register of Probate

MIDDLESEX COUNTY
TARA E. DeCRISTOFARO, 36 Terrace Rd., Medford, DEMOCRATIC
JOHN W. LAMBERT, SR., 5 Beverly Rd., Natick, REPUBLICAN

Ballot questions

Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing

Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law

Question 3: Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming

Question 4: Earned Sick Time for Employees

Question 5 (Twenty-Fourth Middlesex District Only): Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?

October 27, 2014

From Evacuation Plans to Traffic Calming – Notable Items on the October 27 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:06 pm

From Evacuation Plans to Traffic Calming – Notable Items on the October 27 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Evacuation!Here’s a grab bag of interesting items.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-82, regarding a report on the feasibility of preparing a climate change checklist and evacuation plan for residents.

Everyone can appreciate the need to know how to "get out of Dodge" in the event of a serious emergency, but it’s interesting how the motivation has shifted over the years from "nuclear attack" to "climate change". It’s worth noting that the motivating City Council order was specifically about climate change but the Manager’s response wisely refers to general emergency preparedness "utilizing an all-hazards approach."

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-48, regarding the appointment of the Central Square Action Team strategies that will help Central Square capitalize on and enhance its designation as a Cultural District.

This is a good move for Central Square and its current "Cultural District" designation. Overdependence on one or two people from the Central Square Business Association was not sustainable. Now there will be a lot more stakeholders who can steer things in good directions and exercise greater creativity.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on Participatory Budgeting in Cambridge.

I am interested in this experiment but I’m also very skeptical. Putting cash ($500,000 to start) on the table when there are potentially competing interest groups can be risky business. Years have passed and people are still debating what should go into the Foundry building that was given to the City. I can easily imagine a scenario where one interest group packs a few meetings demanding that their pet project be funded. It’s also very problematic that few, if any, of the "neighborhood organizations" in Cambridge are especially representative of their respective neighborhoods. The devil will be in the details. The City will hold an information session on Tues, Oct 28 from 6:00-7:30pm at the Citywide Senior Center for community members who are interested in serving on the Steering Committee (SC) or learning how to otherwise get involved with PB in Cambridge. I hope that more than just the usual suspects attend this meeting.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-45, regarding the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance.

This communication gives revised language for a "Checkout Bag Ordinance." The key requirement would be that "Retail Establishments which provide Recyclable Paper Bags or Compostable Plastic Bags shall charge for each such bag provided not less than an amount established by Regulations promulgated by the (Public Works) Commissioner. This Checkout Bag charge shall be retained by the Retail Establishment." Note that the fee would be for any checkout bag that is not deemed "reusable" including paper bags. There are some provisions for short-term exemptions. The penalty would be "not more than $300 for each violation and each day a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense."

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-84, regarding the Planning Board process.

There are a number of sensible improvements that can and should be made, but why on Earth must everything in Cambridge be turned into a process that takes anywhere from a half year to several years to complete? Does this really produce a better product in most cases?

Communication #3. A communication was received from Patrick W. Barrett III, 41A Pleasant Street, regarding the policy order on Lots #5 and #6 of Oct 20, 2014.

The main point I take from this letter is that a long planning process for Central Square took place a couple of years ago that led to numerous specific recommendations. Our new "activist" City Council has done nothing with that report other than to cherry-pick particular ideas that match the personal politics of specific councillors. In terms of the bigger picture, the City Council has shown great expertise in sitting on its hands.

Communication #4. A communication was received from Peter Valentine transmitting information on sitting.

See above remark.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to commission a study of Cambridge Youth Centers with a focus on use rates and underutilized space.   Councillor Mazen

Though I gladly welcome some correction on this, my observation over the years has been that some of the City’s youth centers have been created as much for political reasons as for practical need. We all hope that these centers are well utilized, but past reports have shown this to not always be the case. Now that people are talking about STEM, STEAM, the Foundry Building, pre-K and various other possible initiatives, it’s definitely time to honestly assess what already exists and to see how everything can be made to work effectively for everyone. This is a good Order.

Order #2. The City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, and the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating and maintaining one or more street piano(s) in one or more parks and/or plazas in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

It was fun having the piano in Lafayette Square a few years ago and we could use more public pianos, miniature golf, and other good stuff. Often the best initiatives are the simplest ones.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Police Department, the Fire Department, and other appropriate City departments to review the negative impacts, if any, of street-narrowing initiatives.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Kelley and Councillor McGovern

This Order strikes at the heart of the zealotry exhibited by some City staff who are on a mission to make the landscape as hostile as possible toward motor vehicle operators. Calming traffic is a good thing, but when all flexibility in the roadway is eliminated all it can take is one vehicle to break down or a minor fender-bender and traffic can be brought to a standstill. The "road diet" advocates are, in my humble opinion, ignorant of the realities of actual road usage, especially in winter conditions.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the appropriate City departments to install a raised intersection and traffic-calming measures in front of Cadbury Commons on Sherman Street.   Councillor Cheung

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to investigate the status of the Masse Hardware Company sites located at 243 Walden Street and 253 Walden Street and, if available, consider acquiring one or both sites for mixed-income affordable housing of a suitable scale and report back to the Council regarding findings.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor McGovern

These two Orders appear to directly respond to the housing development proposed for the Masse properties on two corners of the intersection of Walden and Sherman Streets. It is also worth noting that Orders such as #17 nowadays make reference to "middle-income affordable housing" rather than just "affordable housing." This seems to acknowledge the political reality that those who object to proposed housing developments may not be too keen about replacing those proposed high-priced condos with a low-income housing.

Committee Reports #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee for a public hearing held on Oct 8, 2014 to review the City Council’s most recent goals and to make recommendations for the FY16 Goals; said goals to include a goal relating to City-wide planning.

I could say much about this meeting that was supposed to be about all of the City Council’s major goals. One city councillor used this meeting to repeatedly press for the single, overly specific goal of hiring a "STEAM coordinator." That seemed to entirely miss the point of the meeting. One of the more positive goals expressed was for the re-invigoration of philanthropy as a means of funding various initiatives. With some of the big companies locating especially in Kendall Square, that goal could potentially be very consequential. – Robert Winters

October 20, 2014

Preview of the Oct 20, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:34 pm

Preview of the Oct 20, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Here are a few items on this week’s Agenda that seem interesting and worthy of comment.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-36, regarding a report on the feasibility of offering residents an online option to complete the City’s annual census.

This is a welcome option that will hopefully streamline the census and save on postage. Ideally, the City could avoid mailing out the form to those residents who have already completed it online.

Applications & Petitions #3. A petition was received from Alvin Helfeld, et al., 417 Concord Avenue, requesting the Fern Street remodeling plan be reevaluated so that parking is allowed on the left side of the street.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with City project and traffic planners to see if a compromise can be reached which will allow parking on one side of Fern Street while accomplishing City efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.   Mayor Maher and Councillor McGovern

Fern Street Plan

In addition to complaints about the loss of parking in the planned design for Fern St., City officials also plan to force bicycles off the street and onto the sidewalk. This is apparently a nondebatable issue. It’s one thing to safely accommodate children by allowing sufficient space on sidewalks away from business zones, but narrowing road lanes to force other cyclists off the road is both wrong-headed and hostile. At least in this case there appears to be about 15 ft. of road width that might safely accommodate both a motor vehicle and a bicycle sharing the lane. Otherwise a cyclist has no choice but to be forced onto the sidewalk. We would all like to see an interesting and artistic plan for this street, but the current plan still needs work.

Fern Street cross section

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Finance to discuss the feasibility of introducing a Home Rule Petition requesting an increase to the residential exemption.   Councillor Toomey

Somerville has already done this. The standard used to be that the City Council could exempt up to 20% of the assessed value of an owner-occupied home from the local property tax. In 2003 the state legislature amended this to permit up to a 30% exemption, and the City of Cambridge has chosen to do this since then. Since the tax levy is independent of this, the net effect (for owner-occupied homes) is to shift the tax burden onto higher-valued homes. In FY15, the break-even assessed value in Cambridge is approximately $1,282,800. Somerville’s home rule petition was approved and increased the allowable exemption to 35%. It seems certain that a similar petition from Cambridge would also be approved if the City Council chose to pursue this option.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and the City Solicitor with the intent of producing language for an affordable housing overlay district to be considered by the City Council.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #20. The City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of collaborating with partners like the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA), and/or companies in the private and public sector to achieve the desired development objectives in a manner most cost-effective to the City and that ensures the City will retain a high degree of control over the ultimate outcome of the City-owned Lots 5 and 6.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Order #5 doesn’t specify whether this "affordable housing overlay district" would be in one or more specific areas or if it would be city-wide (in which case it would be silly to call it an overlay district since it would a city-wide change to the Zoning Ordinance). Coupled with Order #20, one gets the impression that the intention here may be to simply designate some parts of the city as areas where only families whose combined income is below a certain threshold are welcome. This is the antithesis of the more thoughtful inclusionary zoning that creates an incentive for more economically integrated "affordable" housing units, especially in new higher density housing proximate to transit. The required percentage of inclusionary units can and should be debated and possibly increased, but inclusion beats the alternative of economic segregation. It should also be emphasized that Central Square and environs, in particular, should not be the sole location for such a proposed overlay district.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back on possible next steps to advance the creation of the Grand Junction Multi Use Path on City and CRA-controlled property identified as Phase 1 in the Grand Junction Feasibility Study.   Councillor Toomey

The timing of this Order follows the recent release of MIT’s study on its share of this corridor.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to take all steps to ensure that the owner of the property on the Belmont-owned portion of the Silver Maple Forest is informed of the opposition to the use of Cambridge land is used for this project.   Councillor McGovern, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

Yeah, I’m sure the property owner is completely oblivious to the nearly decade-long series of challenges to the proposed project and the fact that building on the Cambridge portion of this parcel is unwelcome. Did the sponsors of this Order read the following statement from the City Manager in his report last month?: "The project is located within the Little River watershed, which is 8.16 square miles and the larger Mystic River watershed, which is 76 square miles. The project area represents approximately 0.3% of the total Little River watershed and 0.03% of the Mystic River watershed. The project will provide a conservation easement on a total of 7.95 acres, including all of the 2.6 acres in Cambridge."

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Affordable Housing Trust to investigate the status of the Tokyo restaurant site on Fresh Pond Parkway and if available, consider acquiring this site and report back to the Council regarding findings.   Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Benzan and Mayor Maher

When I read Orders like this one, I am reminded of the efforts over 20 years ago by some city councillors to create a "Land Bank" consisting of every undeveloped City-owned parcel, no matter how small, that might possibly be available for "affordable housing" development. The plan was hatched with absolutely no regard to the sentiments of existing residents. In fact, included in that plan was the possibility of repurposing a building and part of the playground in Corporal Burns Park on Banks St. as affordable housing. Thankfully that plan went down in flames. Building new housing in the Greater Boston area, including "affordable housing," is essential, but we should also be wary of efforts to identify every single available parcel for this single purpose. Large housing developments are perfect for the including of affordable housing units and a good case can be made for increasing the required percentage of inclusionary housing units in those projects. The Tokyo restaurant site may or may not be a good site for the Affordable Housing Trust to acquire (though it’s likely unavailable), but all such proposals have to be considered in the context of their surroundings. It would not be wise to create an atmosphere where residents see the City as an invasion force. In the long term that would likely be counterproductive.

Order #14. That the following amendment to the Zoning Ordinance be referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for hearing and report: That the areas bounded by Garden, Walden and Sherman Streets and the park currently zoned Business A be rezoned to Residence C-1 to be consistent with the surrounding area.   Councillor Cheung

This is interesting in that the site where Masse’s Hardware and its warehouse existed for many years remains zoned in recognition of its previous commercial use even though the abutting neighborhood, including the site of Paddy’s Lunch across the street, is zoned as Residence C-1. This proposed amendment would uniformize the zoning. The result would be that fewer housing units could be built there by removing the anomalous zoning that now exists which allows for higher densities. This is not a site that’s close to transit, so the case for "smart growth" and higher density housing really is not applicable here. That said, it’s unfortunate that zoning proposals are so often reactive than proactive.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of hosting a Cambridge Challenge Competition for Transportation that offers a prize to the resident or group of residents that come up with the best viable solution to solve our greatest traffic issues.   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Mazen

This could be an interesting exercise. I especially like seeing some of the "out of the box" thinking that can result from these kinds of exercises. Don’t be too shocked if some of the proposals include monorails, personal flying machines, or quantum tunnelling. This is Cambridge, after all. Among the entries, I’m sure, will be some creative and viable concepts. Hopefully not all of them will be shot down by residents fearful of change. My own fear is that City insiders will use the exercise to justify forcing more cyclists off the roads and onto the sidewalks.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating an adult playground in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

I though Cambridge was an adult playground. (It is for me.)

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Personnel Director and City Solicitor to determine if a point system similar to the system that awards preferences to Cambridge residents for Affordable Housing units can be used in the hiring process thereby providing a local preference for Cambridge residents when applying for positions within the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

The potential flaw in proposals like this is that it presumes that anyone wishing to work for the City of Cambridge can afford to live in the City of Cambridge. Thankfully there’s no residency requirement being proposed. We all would like to see more Cambridge residents getting Cambridge jobs, but if every city and town chose to make this too rigid a rule this would create more problems than solutions. A little incentive may good, but not too much.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 30, 2014 with the Community Development Department to provide updates on inclusionary zoning, linkage, the Nexus Study, the three expiring use buildings (Briston Arms, the Close Building and Fresh Pond Apartments) that the City is working to preserve and preferences for affordable housing waitlists.

As many wise people have pointed out, it’s far more cost effective to preserve existing affordable housing than it is to build new affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Trust and the Community Development Department have made the preservation of these expiring-use buildings a high priority. The Nexus Study and possible revisions to the linkage fees from new commercial development are long overdue. The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance may also need revision, but everyone needs to understand that requiring additional inclusionary units also likely means permitting additional density. That’s most likely a good trade-off. One idea that I hope is explored is the idea of a stepped increase in the percentage of inclusionary units required for larger housing developments. – Robert Winters

October 15, 2014

Catching up on the Cambridge News (Sept-Oct 2014)

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 5:08 pm

Catching up on the News (from September-October 2014 press releases and other sources)

Topping Off the King School - Sept 18, 2014Cambridge Celebrates First Municipal Building Targeting Net Zero Energy

City officials celebrated a major construction milestone at a topping off ceremony September 18 of the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School at 100 Putnam Avenue, Cambridge. Designed by Perkins Eastman, the innovative school, which is targeting Net Zero Energy, is scheduled to open in time for the 2015-2016 school year.

The 169,000 sq. ft. school and the 18,200 sq. ft. parking structure will contain all new facilities and equipment for its classrooms, a library, auditorium, gymnasium, community rooms and new outdoor play space. The building will accommodate 740 students and 125 staff in a JK-5 Lower School and an Upper School for grades 6-8. Expressly designed to be a center of its community, the school will include a 40-student preschool and robust community school and afterschool programs.

The new building is projected to have an Energy Use Intensity 60% less than typical educational buildings in New England and will save energy through proper orientation, pervasive natural light in almost every space, and high-performance roof and wall assemblies. In addition to user-specific energy-saving measures, the school will offset energy demands by producing energy through photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof and south-facing facades.

Topping Off the King School - Sept 18, 2014The design for the new school was driven by the idea of the school as a community, with the Lower School and the Upper School operating as distinct “neighborhoods” connected by an internal thoroughfare, named King Street, from which the shared community spaces are accessed. In support of extending learning into the environment, an important feature of a 21st century school, the school will include a City Sprouts garden, a preschool playground, a teacher’s patio, a courtyard garden featuring an indoor/outdoor performance space and roof terraces.

This school building will be unlike any building the city has seen before,” said City Manager Richard C. Rossi, adding that it is also the first city building expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification. “This is a solid investment we are making in the children of Cambridge. When the school, as well as street and sidewalk improvements to the area are completed, we believe it will be the envy of the community and a beautiful new amenity for the faculty, the students, the parents and the neighborhood.”


Cambridgeport School receives $500,000 from Cambridge Preservation Act (CPA) funds for new Playground
School playground will get much needed update to better serve younger student population.

On Monday, September 15th, the Cambridge City Council followed the Community Preservation Act Committee’s recommendation and voted to allocate $500,000 of Cambridge Preservation Act (CPA) funds to redesign and renovate the Cambridgeport School Playground. In April of this year, Cambridgeport Principal Katie Charner-Laird reached out to Mayor David P. Maher to request an updated playground that was more appropriate for the schools younger demographic. Mayor Maher moved swiftly, asking that the City Manager Richard C. Rossi, and the Department of Public Works look into the possibility of using CPA funds to update the playground. Mayor Maher stated “with the creation of the Innovation Agenda, the Cambridgeport School went from a K-8th grade to a K-5th grade school which meant that the playground was not age appropriate. My office was able to work with the City to quickly rectify the situation and secure an appropriate amount of funding for a project like this.”

With a series of meetings in the Cambridgeport School library, Mayor Maher, co-chair of the School Committee Fred Fantini, City Manager Rich Rossi and Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson were able to meet with parents and staff to better understand their community’s needs and move forward with some interim measures as well as start the CPA request process.

From those meetings the Cambridgeport School parents became fully engaged with the process and collected over 250 signatures from parents, neighbors and staff with an online petition to the CPA to request their support of allocating the funds to the playground.

Cambridgeport parent Elizabeth Liss initiated the petition which was presented at the CPA August meeting. Ms. Liss stated, “As a Cambridgeport School parent I am thrilled to learn that the City has allocated funds to rebuild our playground. The space is a vital part of our school and the community it serves, and it is gratifying to know that the voices of parents and neighbors were heard and respected. A huge thanks to Mayor Maher and Principal Charner-Laird and Community Preservation Act Committee members for coming together in a positive way.

Cambridgeport Principal Katie Charner-Laird is thrilled that her school will be the recipient of these funds, “Cambridgeport families are so grateful that the city has taken on this project of renovating the playground. Our student body shifted in age pretty dramatically a few years ago, and now more than half of our students are under the age of six.” says Charner-Laird, “The current playground is outdated and also isn’t designed for younger children. We are all excited to engage in a community process to help design a playground that works for everyone. A playground is a true gift of childhood, and we thank all who worked so hard to bring this particular playground into the spotlight.

I look forward to working with the community to make the Cambridgeport School playground an amazing place for its students. We have a great model with the Haggerty School redesign that we can use to help inform the process.” Says Cambridge School Committee co-chair Fred Fantini, “Cambridge does a wonderful job responding to its citizens and their needs and this project is no exception.


Sept 30, 2014The Cambridge Planning Board tonight voted unanimously to grant the Special Permits for the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment. [Cambridge Chronicle story by Sara Feijo]

Alewife development gets the OK; Developer and city still at odds over parking

Oct 7, 2014 – The Cambridge Planning Board approved unanimously a series of special permits to convert the parking lot at 88 Cambridgepark Drive in North Cambridge into a large mixed-use complex. [Cambridge Chronicle story by Sara Feijo]


Voter Registration and Absentee Ballots for the State Election, November 4, 2014

The State Election will be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. For Cambridge residents not already registered, the last day to register to vote is Wednesday, October 15, 2014 until 8:00pm. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7:00am until 8:00pm.

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 3, 2014 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 office will also be open for Absentee Voting on Friday, October 31st from 8:30am until 5:00pm and on Saturday, November 1st from 9:00am until 5:00pm.

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.


Corinne Espinoza Appointed as Cambridge Community Center Interim Executive Director

Oct 13, 2014 – The Cambridge Community Center (CCC) has appointed Corinne Espinoza, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., as Interim Executive Director.

Corinne EspinozaEspinoza is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the CWD Harvard Leadership Development Program, and brings with her two decades of professional and volunteer experience. Her professional competencies include accounting and finance, change management, process improvement, project management, administration, hiring, staff development, and building management and procurement.

She is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Prior to assuming her new position, Corinne served as a member of the Board of Directors at the Community Center, where she was also a member of the organization’s Budget and Finance Committee.

"I care deeply for the Cambridge Community Center and I am thrilled to serve as Interim Executive Director," says Espinoza. "Thanks to years of involvement with the CCC, I know the importance of the resources it provides to this community. This is an opportunity to dedicate myself to work that engages my mind, heart and spirit," she says.

"As a member of our Board of Directors, Corinne has been a dedicated and passionate voice in support of the CCC for many years. She has proven to be a strong asset and I look forward to her continued contributions in her new leadership role," said Lindsey Thorne-Bingham, President, CCC Board of Directors.

Located in the Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge, between Central Square and Memorial Drive, the Cambridge Community Center has been serving the community for more than 85 years. Today its mission is to promote community cooperation and unity, and empower youth, individuals and families by offering social, cultural, educational, and recreational activities. Find out more at www.cambridgecc.org/.


Main Street Water Main Lining, Tues, Oct 14 through Thurs, Oct 16 – Night Work

On Tuesday, October 14, crews will begin the process of lining the water main on Main St. from Ames St. to Wadsworth St. The work is being performed at night due to the necessary water shutdowns associated with the lining operation. All impacted properties have been notified.

On Tuesday evening, crews will line the main from Ames St to the Kendall MBTA Station. Ames St. at Main St. will be closed on Tuesday starting at 8pm, and will reopen once crews clear intersection. On Wednesday evening, October 15, crews will line the main from the Kendall MBTA station to Wadsworth St. (Ames St. will be open during this phase). We expect the operation to take two nights to complete, however crews may be onsite Thursday evening if necessary. Work hours on Tuesday and Wednesday will be 6pm to 6am. We don’t anticipate the lining to be noise intensive, however there will be noise from the generators onsite and crews will need to utilize additional lighting.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns regarding this work.

Kelly Dunn
Community Relations Manager, Cambridge Department of Public Works
147 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
T: 617-349-4870 F: 617-349-4814
www.cambridgema.gov/theworks


Affordable Rental and Homeownership Programs Information Session – Monday, October 20

The City of Cambridge will be holding a series of free, Walk-In Informational Sessions on affordable rental and homeownership programs at different locations in the coming months. The next session will be held Monday, Oct 20, from 6-8pm, at the Putnam Gardens Community Room, 64 Magee St., Cambridge. Housing personnel from the Community Development Department will be available to discuss the city’s affordable rental and homeownership programs.

For more information, please contact us at 617-349-4622.


Bicycle and Pedestrian Committees Seeking New Members

Are you interested in transportation infrastructure, education, and safety? The City of Cambridge invites interested persons to apply to become members of the Bicycle or Pedestrian Committees.

City of Cambridge sealBicycle Committee
This committee works to improve conditions for bicyclists in the City of Cambridge and to promote bicycling as a means of transportation. Activities include organizing and participating in public events, such as biannual community bike rides; reviewing plans for road construction; commenting on proposed development projects; creating promotional materials to encourage bicycling in the city; and working with City departments on network planning. This committee generally meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway.

Pedestrian Committee
This committee works to promote walking and to help create a more comfortable, safe, and pleasant environment for walking in Cambridge. It advises on the design of roadway projects and policies related to traffic calming, traffic signals, and sidewalk design. It also identifies intersections and other locations where it is difficult to walk, makes suggestions about proposed development projects as they affect people on foot, and undertakes other activities to promote walking. The committee creates and leads fun walking tours for the public. This committee generally meets on the fourth Thursday of each month from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. (November and December meetings are on the third Thursday.)

How to Apply
Applications are sought from dedicated individuals who live or work in Cambridge. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings as well as engage in projects outside of regular meetings. To apply, please prepare a cover letter indicating which committee you are interested in, a description of your interest in the topic, and any specific issues you would like to contribute time to working on. Please be sure to include your home mailing address, phone number, and email. Send your application to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
c/o Diane Bongiorno
Community Development Department
344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
Email: dbongiorno@cambridgema.gov

Application Deadline – Friday, October 31, 2014
Appointments are made by the City Manager and are for two years of service. For more information, call 617/349-4600.

September 29, 2014

A Taxing Situation – September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:36 am

A Taxing Situation – September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes

Property Tax AssessmentsShort agenda this week. Quite likely the most discussed items will be the Orders from last week that were delayed via Charter Right. There’s also the formality of tax classification that will be the subject of a 6:30pm hearing.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2015. [Manager’s letter]

The essentials:

  • The FY15 property tax levy of $341,445,455 reflects a $12,900,510 or 3.93% increase from FY14. The increase in the levy of 3.93% is also well below the five-year average annual increase of 4.92%.
  • The FY15 adopted operating budget increased by 2.91%.
  • The FY15 residential tax rate will be $7.82 per thousand dollars of value, which is a decrease of $0.56, or –6.68% from FY14.
  • The commercial tax rate will be $19.29, which is a decrease of $1.15, or –5.63% from FY14.
  • This recommendation includes the use of $14.65 million in reserve accounts to lower the property tax levy: $2.0 million from overlay surplus and $12.65 million in Free Cash. The certified Free Cash amount of $160.5 million is the highest amount in the City’s history and represents an $18.3 million increase over last year.
  • Approximately 72% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY15 tax bill. In addition, another 13% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100 and $250. Therefore, a total of 85% of the residential taxpayers will see no increase or an increase of less than $250.
  • As a result of market activity in calendar year 2013, which is the basis of the FY15 property assessment, total residential property values increased by 11.53%. Total commercial property values also increased by 11.15%.
  • For FY15, the total assessed value of taxable property in the City equals $30,143,180,521, a 10.98% increase over FY14 values.
  • For FY15, the City was able to increase its levy limit by approximately $29.4 million, to $475.4 million. Approximately $18.2 million of this increase was due to new construction.

Charter Right #1. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Five of Sept 22, 2014.]

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Six of Sept 22, 2014.]

Both of these Orders from last week are helpful. There’s nothing especially complex about these proposals. As in the case of a current zoning petition that would make expiration dates for zoning petitions consistent with state law, the most useful proposals are usually pretty obvious and the only question is why it takes so long for city councillors to propose them. Much of this is just good housekeeping.

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Fourteen of Sept 22, 2014.]

Please see comments from last week. If there is one new ordinance I’d love to see in Cambridge, it would be an ordinance mandating the reduction of visual clutter from regulatory signs. You can barely walk twenty feet along many Cambridge streets without encountering another such sign. Enough! – Robert Winters

September 23, 2014

CCTV Announces Launch of Cambridge News Survey

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:24 pm

CCTV Announces Launch of Cambridge News Survey

News SurveyHow do Cambridge residents get their local news? What is the correlation between an interest in local news and civic engagement? These are some of the questions Cambridge Community Television hopes to answer as it launches the Cambridge News Survey on September 16, 2014. The survey is an important element of CCTV’s program planning as it focuses on keeping its organization among the leading community media centers in the US.

“It is our organization’s belief that access to information is crucial to empower communities,” CCTV Executive Director Susan Fleischmann said. “Studies by the Knight Foundation have found that democracy thrives when communities are informed and involved, and that accurate and thoughtful journalism engages people and strengthens democracy.”

The Cambridge News Survey is available through September 30 online at http://svy.mk/1lF9MFE; hard copies may be filled out at any branch of the Cambridge Public Library, the North Cambridge and Central Square Senior Centers, City Hall, Saint Anthony’s Church and at CCTV in Central Square. Cambridge residents are encouraged to participate, and will be entered into a raffle for a Kindle. Survey results will be published in early November.

CCTV is the community media center serving Cambridge. CCTV operates three community cable channels and robust youth media and citizen journalism programs, offers classes in media production and access to equipment and facilities, operates an art gallery, and more. For information, call 617-661-6900 or visit us at cctvcambridge.org.

September 22, 2014

Interesting Items on the Sept 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:16 am

Interesting Items on the September 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s a sample of what’s on this week’s relatively brief agenda.

Order #3. That the Government Operations, Rules & Claims committee is requested to hold a meeting to discuss changing the terms used in Council "Orders" to more accurately reflect their message.   Councillor Kelley

Perhaps Councillor Kelley is interpreting "Order" as might be expected as a former member of the United States Marine Corps. Perhaps the more appropriate interpretation is like when you order from a menu. If this were done verbally, the conversation might go something like this:

Councillor: Excuse me, sir, but may I have fries with that cheeseburger?
City Manager: Thank you for your Order, councillor, but we’re all out of fries. Would like like some cole slaw instead?

OR, as it often goes:

Councillor: What do you recommend?
City Manager: The Alewife with lemon pepper is good.
Councillor: I’ll Order that!

Order #5. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of conducting a series of walks through Alewife for the purpose of better knowing the area in preparation for the Dec 1, 2014 roundtable discussion about city-wide planning   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

These are the kinds of Orders many of us have been waiting to see now that time-wasting distractions like the Carlone Petition have been put to bed. Order #6, in particular, proposes a specific procedural change that could help prevent some of the misunderstandings that have been associated with various development proposals.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

This smells like trouble. My prediction is that if such a "discretionary budget" is established with which city councillors can vote to fund projects outside of the usual budget process, there will be pressure to grow the budget steadily every year so that councillors can fund extracurricular projects outside of city management. I’m particularly intrigued by the squishiness of the Whereas statement that "With detailed criteria and procedures – and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects – a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative." Does anyone seriously believe that such an agreed upon culture will rule the day and that personal projects would be de-emphasized? Anyone ever hear of The Foundry?

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant state-level authorities regarding the potential for enhanced pedestrian safety measures along Memorial Drive in the vicinity of the MIT Sailing Pavilion.   Councillor Carlone

This is a pretty good Order. If one were to make a list of roads and locations in Cambridge that are especially treacherous, that list should include quite a few places along Memorial Drive that are dangerous not only for pedestrians crossing the road but also for motor vehicle operators who park alongside vehicles moving at speeds well in excess of the posted speed limits. I would also put most of Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway on my list of dangerous roads for pedestrians.

Don't bogart that joint, my friend.Order #14. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L.   Vice Mayor Benzan

I believe this Order may need a few more clauses, such as:
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Cambridge Arts Council to prepare a permanent archive for all of the hysterically funny graffiti that will continue to appear on or around these signs; and be it further
ORDERED: That a sufficient budget be allocated for the frequent replacement of said signs so that they may be freshly defaced with new jokes and funny pictures.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting information on the Timothy R. Flaherty, et al. zoning petition recommending referring to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for further hearings and reports.

So like, hey man, how did we miss the expiration date for the zoning petition to expand the area where the medical marijuana dispensary can be built? Bummer, man! – Robert Winters


Postscript: On Applications & Petitions #1, an application from Starbucks requesting permission for three benches in front of 1662 Mass. Ave., Councillor Carlone objected to the placement of the benches directly in front of the premises due to it not being ADA compliant. Though he perhaps didn’t explain his objection so clearly, his point was correct. The proposed placement of the benches abutting the building is right where a blind person would least expect them. Good call, councillor.

On Order #3, Councillor Kelley would like to change the term "Ordered" to "Requested" in the wording of City Council Orders. City Clerk Donna Lopez explained that the current wording is consistent with state law and City Council rules. Councillor Mazen opined that the word "Ordered" should be interpreted literally by the City Manager so that he would do exactly what the City Council dictated regardless of other considerations.

On Order #8, Councillor Mazen pushed the envelope even further in his argument for giving the City Council their own "discretionary budget" outside the management of the City administration. The central theme in his argument was that city councillors possess expertise in some areas beyond what City staff can comprehend. You have to love the hubris. This, by the way, is the same Councillor Mazen who several months ago stated, in response to issues raised about personal staff for councillors, that each city councillor should have "full staff". Apparently a single aide is not adequate to support the grand plans and brilliant vision of some individual councillors. Councillor Kelley was refreshing in noting that the proposed "discretionary budget" seemed more like a "City Council slush fund". The matter was referred to the Finance Committee for further discussion after most of the city councillors were dismissive of the proposal.

September 14, 2014

The Ides of September – Sept 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 7:57 pm

The Ides of September – Sept 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

This week’s central agenda item is the vote to approve the appropriation of CPA funds.

80% for Affordable HousingManager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting that the City Council formally appropriate/allocate the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as follows:

1A. 80% of the FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($6,240,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

1B. 10% of FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($780,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

1C. 10% of FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($780,000) allocated to Open Space;

2A. 80% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($1,360,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

2B. 10% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($170,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

2C. 10% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($170,000) allocated to Open Space;

3A. 80% of the Fund Balance ($2,400,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Affordable Housing Trust;

3B. 10% of the Fund Balance ($300,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

3C. 10% of the Fund Balance ($300,000) allocated to Open Space;

4A. Appropriate ($10,000) from the Fund Balance for the cost of the Community Preservation Coalition Membership Dues.

Manager’s Letter     Full Report

The information is provided here only to highlight the City’s continuing commitment to dedicating the maximum 80% of Community Preservation Act funds toward Affordable Housing initiatives and the minimum 10% each to Open Space Acquisition and to Historic Preservation. These are the only three permissible uses for CPA funds.

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Charles D. Teague, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to clarify existing ordinance so that said ordinance can be enforced: align the zoning amendment expiration date in the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to be the same as state law, align the Special Permit criteria with adjudicated state law and require that the master plan be followed whereas following the master plan is optional under state law.

As to the first proposal regarding expiration dates of zoning petitions, this is a simple correction that the City Council should have addressed when they were first alerted to the discrepancy by the City Solicitor. I wrote here on July 29, 2013: "The ambiguity between zoning petition expiration dates can be simply resolved via a minor change in the Zoning Ordinance. It’s baffling why no city councillor has yet proposed this solution."

The second proposal calls for changing the language in the Zoning Ordinance so that Special Permits "may be granted" rather than "will normally be granted" by the Planning Board if all the Special Permit criteria are met. This would be a major change from a relatively clear process with established criteria to an environment in which there may as well be no criteria at all.

The third proposal is actually pretty funny (as well as absurd). Mr. Teague was perhaps the single most outspoken person making the claim during last year’s municipal election season that Cambridge had no master plan. Now he’s saying that the very thing he said did not exist must now be followed to the letter. Even if Mr. Teague had a change of heart regarding his beliefs, it would perhaps be a good idea if he tried to understand the difference between planning principles and legally enforceable ordinances. It’s an important difference.

Resolution #18. Declare Sept 21, 2014 as Gratitude Day in the City of Cambridge.   Mayor Maher

I am most grateful to Mayor Maher for this Resolution.

Order #4. Scheduling of Roundtable/Working Meetings on Oct 6, 2014 with the Affordable Housing Trust, Dec 1, 2014 to discuss city-wide planning including discussions with the Planning Board and Jan 12, 2015 to discuss city-wide planning including discussions with the Planning Board.   Mayor Maher

Order #5. That the Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee schedule a meeting to review the City Council’s most recent goals and make recommendations for FY16 Goals to include the addition of a goal relating to City-Wide Planning.   Mayor Maher

It’s worth noting that these steps addressing City-Wide Planning are taking place the week after the distraction of the Carlone Petition was finally eliminated. This is not to say that there won’t be other zoning petitions forthcoming. In particular, it seems likely that those who wish to block the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment and those opposed to building housing in the Alewife area may yet have a few cards to play.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public meeting held on July 9, 2014 to discuss the Community Development Department’s efforts to preserve expiring use buildings, and a discussion about inclusionary zoning and the Nexus study.

In the spirit of moving on to more important business, it’s about time that these housing-related matters are fully addressed. In particular, an increase in the inclusionary zoning requirement will likely have to permit additional density to cover the cost of the additional "affordable" units. That will likely require some uncomfortable political choices. The preservation of expiring use buildings is now a top priority of the Affordable Housing Trust and the Housing Division of the Community Development Department. Suffice to say that the cost of preserving existing affordable housing units is generally far less than building new affordable housing units. – Robert Winters

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