Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 21, 2016

Navigating the Post-Apocalypse in the Peoples Republic – Nov 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council Preview

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:05 am

Navigating the Post-Apocalypse in the Peoples Republic – Nov 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council Preview

Peoples RepublicWhile the Orange Emperor prepares to assume the throne, Cambridge responds with symbolic acts of virtual warfare. I expect that the next two months will be dominated by discussions of Sanctuary Cities and declarations of our municipal virtue.

Here are the City Council agenda items that seem most noteworthy:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an update on the drought conditions.

The drought persists, but things appear to be less dire than they seemed a month ago. The reservoirs are slowing gaining water and we have been able to use Cambridge water to some degree, so the cost of purchasing MWRA water is less than was projected.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to various projects and initiatives related to the City’s Bicycle Safety Work Plan.

City staff seem to be approaching this more thoughtfully than the "my way or the highway" approach suggested in recent City Council orders. For example, there is a substantial analysis of the pros and cons of completely revising the good plans already developed for Huron Avenue. Based on that analysis and the impacts associated with making major changes to the design at this point in construction, City staff does not plan to modify the layout of Huron Avenue.

There definitely are some modifications to street configuration and on-street parking that can be made for greater bicycle safety, but this is best done in conjunction with a thoughtful process involving all stakeholders – and not with the banging of drums. It is worth noting that at a recent City Council committee meeting on a possible increase in the cost of a resident parking permit, one councillor clearly stated that she hoped that by jacking the sticker price up sufficiently high it would lead to enough people giving up their vehicles so that parking could be eliminated from most or all of Broadway, Cambridge Street, Hampshire Street and Massachusetts Avenue. She especially liked that Uber vehicles would more easily be able to pick up passengers on these streets. Public process may be time-consuming, but it’s far preferable to a dictatorial City Council.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the zoning amendments with recommended changes to the Inclusionary Housing Provisions.

Presumably, the zoning amendment process will now commence with referral to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee. It will be interesting to see if the shifting economic forecasts associated with changes in Washington, D.C. will affect the view of how viable the proposed 20% Inclusionary Zoning percentage might be.

Charter Right #1. The City Manager confer with the City Solicitor on the possibility of allowing non-citizen Cambridge residents to vote in municipal elections without a home-rule petition. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Cheung on Nov 7, 2016.]

Perhaps the juxtaposition of this with the Sanctuary City discussion may give this a boost, but I still think that individual cities and towns should not be setting their own policies in matters such as this. For a hundred years the standard has been that Citizenship = "Right to Vote", and a lot of us agree with that definition. I will again add that just about everyone is a citizen of some country and they likely still retain those voting rights even if they currently reside in Cambridge.

Order #3. That all Awaiting Report items on the Awaiting Report List on Nov 7, 2016 be placed on file.   Councillor Cheung

Perhaps most of the slate should be wiped clean, but maybe councillors should be afforded the privilege of selecting a few or the more substantial requests for retention on the list. While they’re at it, we could also use a little Fall Cleaning of some of the items that are On the Table collecting dust and going nowhere. The City Clerk will, I’m sure, appreciate the gesture.


Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to commit to funding any and all programs that may be in jeopardy should the federal funds affect the viability of these programs.   Councillor Cheung, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Kelley

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to forward a letter to Cambridge organizations and City Departments regarding the status of our Sanctuary/Trust Act City and what this means for working non-citizens and the resources available.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen
[References1985 Sanctuary City resolution    2006 Sanctuary City resolution    Joint Statement by City Manager & Mayor Simmons]

Order #8. Nov 28th Roundtable/Working Meeting be changed to discuss Cambridge remaining a Sanctuary City.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

As an exercise, let’s separate out the substance of these Sanctuary City resolutions from all the other statements of conditions, causes, and virtue.

The essential clauses of the 1985 resolution are:
"The City Council wishes to clarify its desire not to expend City resources, beyond the requirements of federal law, in voluntarily assisting or cooperating with investigations of alleged violations of immigration law by Salvadorean, Guatemalan or Haitian refugees, or in gathering or disseminating information on the citizenship status of those residing in the City of Cambridge"; and
"RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge not participate in any form in the compounding of injustice against refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti or in the federal government’s persecution of those, who in good faith, offer humanitarian assistance to the refugees"; and
"ORDERED: That the City Council declares it to be the policy of the City of Cambridge that, to the extent legally possible, no department or employee of the City of Cambridge will violate established or future sanctuaries by officially assisting or voluntarily cooperating with investigations or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, relating to alleged violations of immigration law by refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala or Haiti, or by those offering sanctuary"; and
"ORDERED: That no city employee or department, to the extent legally possible, will request information about or otherwise assist in the investigation of the citizenship status of any City resident, will disseminate information regarding the citizenship of a City resident, or condition the provision of City of Cambridge services or benefits on matters related to citizenship."

The 2006 resolution actually added little other than statements about how the Cambridge City Council at that time disagreed with a bill then working its way through the U.S. Congress.

Those were some pretty substantial statements in 1985, but they really aren’t all that severe. In a nutshell, they basically say that the City of Cambridge won’t carry out the work of the federal government in carrying out a policy with which the City of Cambridge has great disagreement. The federal government doesn’t round up people who have failed to pay parking tickets while in the City of Cambridge, so this is, in some respects, just a statement that we’ll do our jobs and the federal government can do their jobs.

What is insidious about the current situation is the threat of federal funds being withheld to any city choosing to not do the job of federal authorities. That’s almost like saying that we’re going to withhold your paycheck until you do your boss’s job in addition to your own. Cambridge residents pay federal taxes (sorry, you can’t claim the Peoples Republic of Cambridge as a sovereign state), so federal funding is really just a mechanism through which we get back some of our own money. What is most offensive is the manner in which the federal government attempts to micromanage local communities via the threat of withholding federal funds that they have extracted from residents of those same communities via taxation. This practice has been growing for years and is not particular to the latest dispute over Sanctuary Cities. Even President Obama threatened to withhold educational funds based on failure to reconfigure bathrooms, and there are plenty of other examples of federal authorities using taxation as a means of dictating policy.

So, the question I have is simply this: What aspects of Cambridge’s Sanctuary City resolutions are actually in violation of federal law? Indeed, the last statement of the 1985 resolution states quite clearly that "the provisions of this Resolution shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence or provision of this Resolution is declared by a court of component jurisdiction to be contrary to the Constitution of the United States or of the Commonwealth or the applicability thereof to any agency, person or circumstances is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of this Resolution and the applicability thereof to any other agency, person or circumstances shall not be affected thereby."


Order #7. That the City Council go on record requesting that the Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee hold a hearing or hearings on the attached proposed surveillance ordinance, and that representatives of the ACLU be invited to this hearing or hearings to discuss the necessity of such an ordinance.   Mayor Simmons

I’m not exactly sure who wrote the text of this proposed surveillance ordinance, but I’m pretty sure he wears a tin foil hat.


On the Table #7. The City Manager coordinate with the Finance Department, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and community stakeholders to outline a proposed system of governance, management, and stakeholder engagement for the Foundry, to be discussed in a public forum with the Council and community. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Oct 31, 2016.]

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 6, 2016 to discuss the redevelopment of the Foundry Building.

The more I hear about this the better I feel about how the City and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority came to this point. It seems as though every piece of real estate for which the City Council has some control has become a political football in a game in which All Great Things ride on the outcome. The Foundry is, at the end of the day, just another building. The City has lots of buildings serving community purposes, including multiple Youth Centers and all of the Community Schools programs. While everybody stamps their feet about The Foundry, where is the fervor about all of these other City programs and facilities? Perhaps the best thing would be to start viewing The Foundry as just another asset in an enlarged inventory of facilities. Maybe then we could start thinking less selfishly and more holistically. When was the last time the City Council and the School Committee looked at the bigger picture and asked if we’re making the most of all of the City’s assets?

November 16, 2016

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! – November 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,recycling — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:05 am

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! – November 2016

recycling symbolCambridge Celebrates “America Recycles Day”
City Seeks New Members for Recycling Advisory Committee
New Recycling Director Michael Orr
Yard Waste Pickup Ends December 16
Reduce Waste This Holiday Season
Alternative Gift Giving


Cambridge Celebrates “America Recycles Day”

More? Less?The City of Cambridge is joining thousands of communities across the U.S. to celebrate "America Recycles Day," Tuesday November 15.

Residents are encouraged to stop by information tables to participate in activities and receive a reusable bag (designed by a Cambridge Rindge & Latin student!):

  • Tues, Nov 15, 11:30am-1:30pm – in front of Cambridge City Hall
  • Wed, Nov 16, 3pm-5pm – Brattle Sq. opposite Crema Café
  • Thurs, Nov 17, 8:30am-10:30am – in front of Cambridge Main Library

Thank you for helping to spread the word! For info on all that can be recycled visit here.


City Seeks New Members for Recycling Advisory Committee

Are you interested in protecting the climate, reducing waste, or engaging your community? If so, we encourage you to consider applying for the Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC). The City Manager is seeking residents, business owners, professionals, and others who are passionate about or whose goals overlap with waste reduction to apply for the RAC.

City SealThe RAC is a volunteer committee which provides advice, recommendations, and assistance to the Department of Public Works on recycling, composting, reuse, and waste reduction. It is a 3-year appointment and members are expected to attend monthly meetings (Sept-June). The deadline to apply is Friday December 2, 2016.

Recent accomplishments of the RAC:

  • Assisted in drafting the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance. RAC found that the Ordinance has resulted in 50-80% reduction in bag use and has helped business owners reduce costs.
  • Organized a reusable bag drive to collect more than 5000 reusable bags for low-income residents and seniors of Cambridge.
  • Recommended the City Manager send letters to Massachusetts State House in support of waste reduction legislation such as a bottle deposit bill and paint stewardship bill.
  • Volunteered at community events to talk to residents about recycling, waste reduction, and how to get rid of things right.

The incoming RAC members will be critical to helping Cambridge achieve our goal of reducing waste 30% by 2020, with 2008 as a baseline. If you’re interested in applying visit here for more information. Email Recycling Director Mike Orr at morr@cambridgema.gov with any questions.


New Recycling Director Michael Orr

Michael Orr with David MaherThe Department of Public Works promoted Mike Orr to Recycling Director on November 1, 2016.

Mike joined DPW in August 2015 as the Waste Reduction Program Manager. He was responsible for the curbside composting pilot, Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, and Polystyrene Ordinance. Mike previously worked at Lesley University as the Sustainability Coordinator. He also served as co-chair of the Cambridge Recycling Advisory Committee since 2013.

"I look forward to working with the community to achieve our goal of reducing waste 30% by 2020 by prioritizing food waste reduction and composting, increasing donation of durable goods, and ensuring residents get rid of things right," says Mike Orr.

You may reach Mike at morr@cambridgema.gov.


Yard Waste Pickup Ends December 16

  • Yard waste collection of leaves, grass and small twigs & branches ends the week of December 12-16, 2016 and begins again after April 1, 2017. For yard waste stickers, email us, call 617 349-4800, or stop by 147 Hampshire St during open hours.
  • Leaves may also be composted in your backyard along with food scraps.
  • Pumpkins may be put out as yard waste (or composted).

Reduce Waste This Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving and December holidays around the corner, we encourage residents to be mindful of their waste.

  • Please recycle as much as possible in your curbside toters. Aluminum foil and trays can be recycled after food has been removed. Paper gift wrap can be recycled.
  • Be like Michael Dukakis and leave no part of the turkey to waste. "Throwing out a turkey carcass is sinful. Absolutely sinful," Dukakis says.
  • After you followed Dukakis’ example, consider composting bones, paper towels, and other food waste at our 4 compost drop-off locations.

Alternative Gift Giving

In today’s culture of overabundance, we encourage residents to "think outside the Big Box" and consider more meaningful and sustainable gift ideas:

  • BuyMeOnce finds and promotes products that don’t break the bank, don’t break the planet… that don’t break at all! They also challenge manufacturers to break their habits and build stuff that really lasts.
  • SoKind Alternative Gift Registry provides ideas for alternatives to new material items and is a great way to communicate to your loved ones what you would value.

  • recycling symbolMissed recycling or trash? Please use Commonwealth Connect and report it online or via mobile app (iPhone / Android) or call DPW at 617-349-4800 by 12 noon the day after collection to make a request.
  • Need toters, brochures, labels, or posters? Email recycle@cambridgema.gov or fill out this form.
  • Following a weekday holiday, curbside trash, recycling, compost and yard waste collection is delayed one day. Check the 2016 collection schedule.

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 183-184: November 15, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:45 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 183 (Part 1)

The episode was broadcast on Tues, Nov 15, 2016 at 5:30pm. This was our first post-election program. We tried to stick mainly with local matters. We gave some election results for the various ballot questions and some thoughts on recent events, including the Veterans Day observance and the Oath of Office of new Cambridge City Manager Louis DePasquale. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 184 (Part 2)

The episode was broadcast on Tues, Nov 15, 2016 at 6:00pm. This was our first post-election program. We tried to stick mainly with local matters, including David Maher being chosen to head the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and his decision to not seek reelection in 2017. Topics also included the successful ballot question in Maine adopting Ranked Choice Voting for statewide elections and their state legislative seats. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

November 9, 2016

David Maher selected as next President and CEO of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce – will not seek re-election to City Council

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 6:47 pm

DAVID MAHER SELECTED AS NEXT PRESIDENT & CEO OF CAMBRIDGE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
  • Unanimous choice of the Chamber’s Board of Directors
  •Maher will not seek re-election to City Council

David MaherNov 9, 2016 – The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce today announced that David Maher, Cambridge City Councilor and former two term Mayor of Cambridge, has been selected to be the Chamber’s next President and Chief Executive Officer.

Maher was the unanimous selection of the Chamber’s Board of Directors who, after considering a pool of more than 100 candidates, determined that Maher has the unique leadership experience and vision to guide the Chamber. “We are thrilled to have David on board as President and CEO of the Chamber,” said Jay Kiely, Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. "His skills as a consensus builder, experience in the public and private sector and deep understanding of our city’s strengths and challenges, make him the perfect choice to lead the Chamber into the future.”

Maher will assume leadership of the Cambridge Chamber, one of the largest business organizations in New England, in early December. He will not seek re-election to the Cambridge City Council in 2017.

“I am honored to be selected to lead the Cambridge Chamber,” said Maher, who was elected nine times to the Cambridge City Council and served four years as Mayor. “I am deeply honored by all the support I have received from the citizens of Cambridge throughout my political career and proud of the work I have done as City Councilor and Mayor. I look forward to building on that support with the Chamber and this great City.”

Maher brings deep ties to Cambridge’s business, civic and political communities. In addition to serving as a City Councilor and Mayor, he also served as School Committee Member and School Committee Chair. Most recently, Maher oversaw the search and selection process for the City’s new City Manager and Superintendent of Schools.

In the private sector, Maher has also worked for over 20 years as Director of Development & Public Relations for Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, one of Cambridge’s oldest human service agencies and spearheaded an ambitious capital campaign to further the agency’s mission. Maher’s selection was applauded by local leaders. “With a dynamic public background and strong private sector experience, David will excel in this new role and enrich the partnerships at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce,” said Biogen Foundation Executive Director Chris Barr, who headed the search process for Chamber President.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with David on many important issues,” said Cambridge’s incoming City Manager Louis DePasquale. “Throughout his public career, he has always balanced the objectives of his constituents with the best interests of the City of Cambridge. His passion, commitment and love of Cambridge will serve him well in his new role.”

Maher, a graduate of Suffolk University, was born, raised and resides in the City.

November 6, 2016

On the Eve of Celebration or Disaster – Nov 7, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: 2016 election,Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:30 pm

On the Eve of Celebration or Disaster – Nov 7, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Question?With the Presidential election looming, it feels almost like the early 1960s when many people believed that nuclear annihilation was a real possibility. In contrast, the kerfuffles and excesses of the little fish in our City Council pond seem almost quaint. Here are a few items to distract you from the national picture:

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Lisa C. Peterson, Acting City Manager, requesting the City Council accept Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2016, “An Act Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government”, Sections 193 and 194 giving municipalities the authority to reduce speed limits on all ways other than state highways.

You may recall that not long ago the City Council hastily voted to reduce the speed limit to 20mph citywide. This led to a thoughtful response from the Dept. of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation recommending a citywide limit of 25mph with a lower speed limit for legitimate "safety zones" (as was the intent of the state enabling legislation). The City Council was also alerted at that time to the fact that any change had to wait until the new state law went into effect before adopting its provisions. That time has now arrived and we’ll shortly be seeing a 25mph limit in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and likely other places.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Lisa C. Peterson, Acting City Manager, relative to Council Order No. 15, dated Oct 31, 2016, regarding a Request for Proposal for consultant services related to the visioning, programming, governance, and re-purposing of the Harvard Square Kiosk as well as creating a Harvard Square Kiosk Working Group.

Charter Right #1. The City Manager coordinate with the Finance Department, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and community stakeholders to outline a proposed system of governance, management, and stakeholder engagement for the Foundry, to be discussed in a public forum with the Council and community. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Oct 31, 2016.]

Both of these agenda items concern efforts by the City Council to intervene in processes that have been long underway and thoughtfully planned and implemented. Residents, including councillors, can raise questions and make recommendations about the outcomes of these process, but intervening in contracts is probably not the best way to proceed. In the case of the Harvard Square Kiosk and the surrounding plaza, the City is simply hiring a firm to create a vision for the programming, operation and governance of the kiosk and plaza. That consultant will be working with City staff and a working group of stakeholders on this task. The City has agreed to allow more time for public input on its Request for Proposals and to possibly generate additional respondents.

In the Foundry matter, the City Council voted to allow the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to shepherd the process leading to the selection of bidder who promises to achieve both the programmatic and financial goals specified by both the City Council and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. Now some city councillors want to go back to the drawing board and change the goals in such a way that the City’s costs to operate this "gift" from Alexandria Real Estate will be substantially increased.

Order #2. That the City Council urge the City Manager to establish a deadline of Nov 1, 2017 for fully implementing the various street improvements and safety measures for increasing bicycle safety that were passed during the Oct 17, 2016 meeting.   Mayor Simmons

I hope that the interpretation of this Order is that whatever street improvements and safety measures are implemented are those that result from a thoughtful public process rather than in response to a blitzkrieg of pre-cooked solutions from activists.

Order #3. The City Manager confer with the City Solicitor on the possibility of allowing non-citizen Cambridge residents to vote in municipal elections without a home-rule petition.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

Every few years there’s some kind of movement to allow non-citizens to vote in Cambridge municipal elections. This Order makes statements like "non-citizens … are presently barred from formally voicing their opinions" that are clearly misleading. The Order also fails to note that any non-citizen living in Cambridge is a citizen of some country and generally is able to vote in those elections. Home rule petitions from Cambridge and elsewhere have been filed before and have not been approved. I certainly hope this is not approved either, but the Order also apparently seeks some kind of legal loophole that would allow non-citizen voting without any state approval. I seriously doubt if that is possible. In matters like voting it’s best to have uniformity across all cities and towns in Massachusetts in terms of eligibility to vote in all elections.

Order #4. That the City Manager request permission from the DCR to continue Sunday closings on Memorial Drive year-round, starting in early 2017, and to work with the Cambridge Police, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and Public Works Departments and any other staff to implement this plan, and to report back to the Council as soon as possible on the feasibility and schedule.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

I would rather see this expressed as a request to extend the season for this road closure rather than a year-round Sunday closure. There are consequences to these road closures, including increased traffic on other streets, and the costs should be weighed against the benefits (as well as the actual demand).

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report on behalf of Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 2, 2016 to discuss bicycle safety in Cambridge.

In reading this report I was glad to see that some City staff were taking a more thoughtful and measured approach than some city councillors. There is a lot of room for discussion and alternatives than just the blitzkrieg of orders introduced at the Oct 17 City Council meeting. I also hope that our elected officials can be educated about the difference between actual safety measures and politically expedient actions that don’t address the acual causes of cycling fatalities and injuries.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Councillor David P. Maher, transmitting the Proposed Employment Agreement between the City of Cambridge and Louis A. DePasquale.

It appears that Louis DePasquale’s first day of work in his new role as City Manager will be Monday, Nov 14, 2016 and his contract will extend through Jan 8, 2021.

The Municipal Situation in Cambridge (1904) – by Henry N. Wheeler

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,history — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:51 pm

Wheeler - 1904

The Good Government League of Cambridge
Bulletin No. 2
MAY, 1904

THE MUNICIPAL SITUATION IN CAMBRIDGE
A Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the National Municipal League at Chicago, April 28, 1904

BY
HENRY N. WHEELER
PRESIDENT OF THE LEAGUE

PRECEDED BY
A PROGRAM OF THE WORK OF THE LEAGUE FOR 1904


JUNE, 1904

Good Government League of Cambridge

PROGRAM OF WORK FOR THE SUMMER AND FALL OF NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR

1. Continuation of the work in behalf of the extension of the Merit System of Appointments to Heads of Departments.
This work has been vigorously pushed preparatory to securing favorable legislation from our next Slate Legislature.

In response to a request for the co-operation of our City Council a hearing was recently granted by a joint committee of the Board of Aldermen and Common Council, at which Messrs. Richard H. Dana, Alvin F. Sortwell, and Dr. Edward R. Cogswell made carefully prepared arguments in favor of the plan.

2. Continuation of the work of the Educational Committee in behalf of the better preparation for citizenship by our Public Schools.
Every public school in Cambridge has been visited by some member of this committee, and the sympathetic co-operation of the Masters has been secured. The School Committee has shown its interest in this work by emphasizing its importance and increasing the time allotted to the subject in its proposed new Course of Study.

In order to secure still further co-operation, the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Francis Cogswell, issued a call to all the public school teachers to meet the Educational Committee on May 25. This joint meeting was presided over by Mr. A.M. Howe, the Chairman of the Educational Committee, and was addressed by President Charles W. Eliot, who is a member of the Committee, and by Masters Grover, Billings, Bates and Morse. It was voted to invite the Superintendent of Schools to appoint a Committee of Masters and League Members to help carry on the work.

3. Revision of our City Charter.
A committee of ten (or more) citizens, made up principally of men who have had wide experience at City Hall, under the chairmanship of ex-Mayor Alvin F. Sortwell, will give special study to this subject and will report what changes, if any, should in their opinion be made in our City Charter.

4. The City Election of 1904.
On May 19, 1904, the Executive Committee voted to announce that shortly before the next municipal election it intends to furnish as complete and impartial information about all the candidates as it is able to obtain. When such information is full and sufficient, it intends to draw conclusions and designate any candidates whom it considers fit or unfit for office. When two or more candidates for the same office appear to be equally qualified, it will so state, and in case not enough information about a candidate can be obtained to enable the Committee to form a just conclusion, it will print only the facts without comment.

No material fact about a candidate which has any bearing on his fitness or unfitness for office will be suppressed, and all candidates will be treated alike. It will be the aim of the Executive Committee to give the information about candidates in clear and convenient form. The Secretary of the League will have charge of this work, as last year, and solicits the aid of all members.

Executive Committee.

HENRY N. WHEELER, Chairman.     ROBERT WALCOTT, Secretary.
JOSEPH H. BEALE, Jr. RICHARD HENRY DANA.
ALEXANDER H. BILL ARCHIBALD M. HOWE.
LOUIS R. COBB. EDMUND REARDON.
EDWARD R. COGSWELL WILLARD REED.
GEORGE HOWLAND COX. HUNTINGTON SAVILLE.
ALVIN F. SORTWELL.

THE MUNICIPAL SITUATION
IN CAMBRIDGE, MASS.

A PAPER READ AT THE TENTH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NATIONAL MUNICIPAL LEAGUE AT CHICAGO ON APRIL 28, 1904

BY
HENRY N. WHEELER
President of the Good Government League of Cambridge, Mass.

The Fort Hill Press
SAMUEL USHER
176 TO 184 HIGH STREET
BOSTON, MASS.


THE MUNICIPAL SITUATION IN CAMBRIDGE

Early Town History
A GLANCE at the early history of Cambridge reveals many similarities between the civic problems of the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries, and points out that most of the roots of the good and the evil in our institutions began their growth between two and three hundred years ago.

In Young’s "Chronicles” we read – in regard to the prevention of fire in dwellings in 1631, the year after New Towne, now Cambridge, began its existence: "For the prevention whereof in our new town . . . we have ordered that no man shall build his chimney with wood."

We are told that in 1632 the Court of Assistants imposed a tax of sixty pounds sterling upon "the several plantations within the lymitts of this pattent towards the making of a pallysadoe about the New Towne." The palisado has gone, but in place of it we have a parkway, for the construction and maintenance of which taxes are now imposed.

In 1639 Stephen Daye set up in Cambridge the first printing press in America north of Mexico, and the General Court enacted a law that no printing should be done in the colonies except in Cambridge. Mr. H. O. Houghton, the founder of the Riverside Press, used to say that the Daye Press died from lack of competition, and that it was not until this legislative ban was removed that the art of printing began to make progress in the colonies. The evil custom then begun of legislating for the benefit of individuals or corporations still exists.

We read that in 1645 "every family in each of the colonies gave to the college at Cambridge 12 pence, or a peck of corn, or its value in unadulterated wampumpeag"; and that the college in return exerted a powerful influence in forming the early character of the country. Our community is still contributing to the cause of education, and a committee of our Good Government League is trying to find out whether our contributions still tend to form character.

Mr. Fiske says: "We find that in 1652 the townsmen do grant liberty to Andrew Belcher to sell bread and beer for entertainment of strangers and the good of the town." This same Belcher family continues to sell bread in Cambridge, but whether it may sell beer is a question in reply to which the voters now say Yes or No each year.

In 1655 President Dunster of Harvard was censured by the magistrates and dismissed from office for what was styled his damnable heresy, that infant baptism was unscriptural. "The magistrates" no longer have control over a Harvard president, but only a few years ago a president of a nearby university was led to move farther West on account of his views on the silver question.

Cambridge becomes a City
In March, 1846, Cambridge became a city, but she did not adopt then, and has not yet adopted, the scientific, businesslike, and economical methods of work which characterize the private business of her own citizens, and which have been long in vogue in the cities of Great Britain and Continental Europe. Cambridge has probably suffered less, however, from remissness in these directions than has any other American city, and we who live in Cambridge believe that on the whole she has done more for her people than has any other American city, and that Cambridge is the best city in the world to live in, to rear a family in, and to die in.

Public Spirit
The salvation of our city has been the fact that she has always had among her citizens an unusually large number of able, public-spirited men, of knowledge, common sense, and experience, who, whenever occasion has demanded it, have given generously of their time, strength, and money. That they have not been better represented in our City Council is the fault of our municipal system; that they have initiated improvements which our city has been glad to adopt, and that they have served long and faithfully on committees and commissions which are not subject to the fickle changes of annual elections, is well known. Let me cite a few illustrations.

Eminent Public Servants
On a list of those who have served as members of our School Committee may be found: Alexander Agassiz; Prof. Francis Bowen; W. S. Chaplin, now chancellor of Washington and Lee University ; Prof. F. J. Child; Prof. Ephraim Emerton; Pres. C. C. Felton; Prof. W. W. Goodwin; Prof. A. B. Hart; Col. T. W. Higginson; Miss A. M. Longfellow; Rev. Alexander McKenzie; Prof. Charles Eliot Norton; Rev. Fr. John O’Brien; Dr. A. P. Peabody; Horace E. Scudder; Prof. F. W. Taussig; and Dr. Morrill Wyman. With these and others notable as scholars and teachers have served also some of the ablest business men of our city.

For twenty-five consecutive years the late Chester W. Kingsley, one of our ablest and most esteemed citizens, served on our Water Board, of which he was the chairman for fourteen years. For thirty-seven consecutive years Mr. George S. Saunders served faithfully and well as a cemetery commissioner. His brother, Charles H. Saunders, served twenty-five years as a commissioner of our Sinking Fund. Mr. George H. Cox has served continuously on our Park Commission since its formation eleven years ago, and has just accepted a reappointment for three years. These are only a few of the many instances that might be quoted of long, able, and faithful public service.

Some of the Fruits of Public Spirit
The following are some of the progressive movements for the public good that were initiated, and maintained in their beginnings, by public-spirited citizens:

In 1648 and 1669 the first two schoolhouses in Cambridge were built and conducted at private expense.

In 1888 our Manual Training School was founded by our fellow-citizen, F. H. Rindge, who also paid all its running expenses up to 1900, when it was taken over by our city.

For eleven years before they came under the care of our School Committee, free kindergartens were maintained by Mrs. Quincy Shaw and other Cambridge women.

Vacation schools were conducted by private subscription before the city was ready to assume the burden of maintaining them.

The Cambridge Public Library was also started through private munificence.

We are sometimes told that Cambridge is ruled by its aristocrats; if this be so then the aristocrats of Cambridge are the public-spirited men and women whose names will be found on the subscription lists and lists of workers of those movements which I have referred to, and of other similar movements that are still maintained by private support. The following are some of the private organizations supported by our citizens for the public good:

The Associated Charities, organized in 1881. In addition to its regular work it has exterminated the tramp nuisance; it has done away with the chattel mortgage evil, which was making nearly five hundred of our poor families pay from fifty to one hundred and twenty per cent a year on small loans; it has established nine stamp savings stations for children, which show a record of over seven thousand depositors; and it has aided in almost every other charitable work done in the city.

The Prospect Union and the Social Union: These organizations have supplied numerous courses of instruction, principally by Harvard students, at nominal rates to hundreds of working people each year.

The East End Christian Union, with library, gymnasium, bath-rooms, workshops, etc.

The Avon Home for Destitute Children.

The Cambridge Hospital, at an annual expense of over $20,000.

The Holy Ghost Hospital, recently aided by the united efforts of many of the women of Cambridge.

Perhaps the best illustration of co-operative work is the No-License movement, which has resulted in a ”No" vote for eighteen years in succession. Among the ablest workers in this cause may be mentioned Rev. D. N. Beach and Rev. Fr. Thomas Scully.

Good work was done in the winter of 1902-3, throughout the scarcity-of-coal period, by the Citizens’ Fuel Committee. It at once restored confidence to frightened citizens, and, while it urged them to look out for themselves so far as possible, and did not become a relief committee, it was able to deliver coal promptly in small quantities to every applicant. Among the workers on this committee were John H. Corcoran, J. H. H. McNamee (then Mayor), A. M. Howe, President C. W. Eliot, and Bishop William Lawrence.

The Politics of the City
Although the adoption of a city charter in 1846 produced the usual result, namely, the introduction of national politics into municipal affairs, we find that as early as 1854 there was a meeting of citizens who believed that party politics should not be a test of qualification for municipal offices. It was not until 1866, however, that all municipal nominations began to be made on a non-partisan basis; and this state of affairs continued until the fall campaign of 1901.

The Library Hall Association
Of the origin of the association we glean the following information from a report of Mr. George G. Wright.

In 1889, after the nomination by caucuses of many unfit candidates for office, there was a meeting, in the rooms formerly occupied by the Public Library, of those opposed to such candidates. A new list of candidates endorsed at this meeting was presented to the voters, under the title of " The Library Hall Candidates." After a hard contest the objectionable candidates were defeated, and all but four of the forty-three Library Hall candidates were elected. This meeting led to the formation of the Library Hall Association.

The objects of the association are shown by the following extract from its by-laws:

The purposes of this Association shall be to secure the nomination and election of proper candidates for municipal offices; to procure the punishment of all persons who may be guilty of election frauds, maladministration of office, or misappropriation of public funds; to advocate and promote a public service based upon character and capability only; and to promote intelligent discussion of municipal affairs by the publication and distribution of reliable information in relation thereto."

During the first eleven years of its life over eighty-eight per cent of its endorsements were ratified at the polls. Candidates for office who were members received no more consideration than those who were not, and in many cases the association endorsed candidates who were not members in preference to those who were. Its action in one case resulted in the election of a candidate for Mayor who was not a member and the defeat of another who had been a member of its own Executive Committee the same year.

For several years Library Hall prepared and published a record of the acts of each member of the City Council, including attendance at meetings. It nipped in the bud the beginnings of corruption by calling public attention to the excessive number of car tickets used at the city’s expense by some of the members of the City Council, and the use by members of the labor patronage of public service corporations.

Members of the Executive Committee attended the meetings of the City Council, and made reports on what they saw and heard.

The Library Hall Association became at length so large that its method of endorsing candidates was thought unsatisfactory. It was claimed that it was impossible at a single meeting of three hundred or more members to discuss the merits and demerits of candidates thoroughly enough to ensure a vote for the best men. It therefore decided to change its method of work and to intrust the management of its business to a committee, and to change its name to the Good Government League of Cambridge. This decision was hastened by the appearance, in the fall of 1901, of the Democratic party in city affairs, and, in 1902, of a regular Non-Partisan party in opposition to it. In the fall elections of 1901 and 1902 the Democrats were successful, and were therefore in power in 1902 and in 1903; in the fall of 1903 the Non-Partisans won.

Partisanship
While the partisan party in Cambridge calls itself the Democratic party, it might more properly be called the Opposition party. It was formed to oppose those whom it regarded as in control at City Hall, and to secure control for itself. That its politics were local rather than national would appear from the fact that its leader at first advised against choosing its present name. Some Republicans were induced to join its ranks, and many Democrats refrained from doing so. The present Non-Partisan Mayor is a Democrat; the first leader of the Non-Partisan party was a Democrat; and a large minority of the Executive Committee of Library Hall which failed to endorse any of the so-called Democratic candidates for office in 1901 were Democrats. That partisanship is not believed in by all its members is shown by the fact that one of its ablest supporters recently said in a public speech that non-partisanship in its true sense is an ideal form of government. His reason for becoming a partisan being his belief that the present non-partisan administration is not representative of true non-partisan ideals.

The contest between the Democratic and Non-Partisan parties is a bitter struggle for power. This struggle consumes annually months of time and thousands of dollars. From the nature of the case there is little time or strength left for the perfection of a system by the aid of which the business of the city may be best performed. Even the public-spirited citizens who have accomplished the good results I have spoken of have not yet waked up to the necessity of constructing proper municipal machinery.

The American Municipal Idea
We are told by some of our good citizens that the American idea regards municipal offices as honors to be given first to one good man and then to another, and demands a city government in which three men must be hired to do the work of two. De Tocqueville is quoted in support of this idea, although his observations were made in 1831, when there were only 26 cities in the entire United States and the urban population was less than 7 in a 100, whereas, in 1900, there were 517 cities and the urban population was over 32 in 100. Supposing De Tocqueville to have been right in his conclusions, should we be so non-progressive in municipal affairs as to be willing to be governed to-day by an 1830 idea, when Cambridge, for example, had a population of 6,072 against nearly 100,000 now, when her streets were unlighted and thorough sewerage was unknown, when there were only three policemen, and when the tax rate was $2.26 on a total valuation less than the present annual outgo? We are also told that it is nonsense to compare a city government which has to do with moral and social as well as financial needs with a money-making business corporation. These two ideas – the one that in city work two thirds of a man must count as a whole man, and the other that work for an individual is business, while work for a community of individuals is not business – form the capital stock of the demoralized and demoralizing, place-hunting, graft-seeking elements of our population.*

[* The city statistician of Chicago tells me that owing to the excellent civil service rules in vogue there, a city employé makes a better return for the wages he gets than does the employé of a private corporation.]

Let us rather regard the American idea of to-day as that progressive idea· which has achieved success in innumerable private undertakings and which can and should be applied to municipal affairs.

Our City Charter
This progressive idea, however, has not yet found its way into our city charter. Our charter says that "all officers of the city not elected by the qualified voters shall be resident citizens of the city of Cambridge." What private institution or private business of Cambridge would ever hamper itself by such an unAmerican suicidal requirement as this? In 1864 one of our citizens went abroad and brought back with him the best workmen he could find, and largely by their aid built up a business which to-day pays heavy taxes to the city and supports hundreds of our most respectable citizens. President Eliot has drawn his professors from all parts of the world; had he not been allowed to do this, would he have increased the number of Harvard’s students from 1,059 to 4,328 in the thirty-five years that he has been president?

In the same section with this demoralizing requirement, power is given to the Mayor, subject to the confirmation of the Aldermen, elected at the same time with himself, to make appointments to salaried offices without any provision being made for ascertaining their fitness for the work which they are to perform. In regard to a Mayor’s appointments being "subject to confirmation by the Board of Aldermen," Dr. Albert Shaw says: " The Council’s power of rejecting appointees nominated by the Mayor very considerably diminishes his responsibility for the proper exercise of the appointing power …. The relation between the two cannot at best be other than that of a shifting, unprofitable and illogical compromise." One of the best mayors we ever had once said to me, " I would have removed Mr. A., who was incompetent, if I could have gotten the Aldermen to sustain me." This means that the party will of an unpartisan Board of Aldermen was a block to efficient service.

All of these charter provisions make for partisanship: First, a Mayor cannot appoint the best man if he lives outside the city limits; second, he is not required to apply any test of fitness; and third, he must appoint only those who can get the votes of Aldermen, who naturally and honestly perhaps feel that they represent constituencies.

Our charter also requires that the Mayor and City Council shall be elected annually. They are elected in December; they are inducted into office in January, and a month later, without experience, except in the case of re-elections, and usually without knowledge of such matters, they pass on a city budget which calls for the expenditure of over $3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. Is it an American business principle for a corporation to intrust matters of such importance to a set of workers of one month’s standing? We are told that it takes a Mayor or member of the City Council five months to learn even the routine of his office, and that if he is to retain his position he must devote four months to the work of securing his re-election. This leaves him the three vacation months, often partly spent by him away from home, in which to attend comparatively unhampered to the requirements of his oath of office.

Our city charter also calls for a two-chambered City Council, a requirement which only adds to the inefficiency already so well provided for.

Our city charter by its division of power among the three branches of the city government deprives each branch of a proper sense of responsibility and puts stumbling-blocks in the way of progress. Last year vacancies in the Overseers of the Poor were not filled for months because the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council could not decide whether to act conjointly or concurrently. This month a two-thirds vote of the Common Council, for a much-needed water loan, could not be obtained because some of the Councilmen, though favoring the loan, would not vote for it without a guarantee that only Cambridge citizens should be employed by the Water Board. This obstruction has already cost the city thousands of dollars, through a rise in the cost of material, and has made more imminent a feared water famine. Should the required guarantee be given the added cost for labor alone would amount to $150,000, or from thirty to forty per cent. This illustrates the evils of a division of power and the ability of a misguided minority of a useless third branch of our city government, regardless of their oaths of office, to sacrifice the needs of all our citizens to the chance of getting positions for a few of them, which sound business policy might require the Water Board to give to others.

Can it be a matter of surprise that under our present charter many of our best and most experienced men, who are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel and to sink their hands deep down into their pockets in behalf of a specific municipal improvement, are unwilling to become candidates for the Common Council or Board of Aldermen? Instead of securing, as we should in a community like ours, men the market value of whose business ability and experience is high, – as high, for example, as that of solicitors of municipal concessions with whom they carry on an unequal contest, – we get men whose average market value is low. While excellent young men sometimes become members, they almost always retire as soon as they have acquired ability and experience enough to warrant private citizens in intrusting them with matters of importance. We want such men, but we want them after they have gained some experience in affairs rather than before.

We are told that partisanship is the source of all that is bad in municipal affairs, but the root of our municipal evils lies deeper than partisanship; it lies in our unsound, unbusinesslike, demoralizing municipal system, which produces and fosters partisanship even in a party which honestly tries to be non-partisan.

If neither of the existing municipal parties can be induced to take up the question of reform in our system, then let us have a third party with a platform which will challenge the common sense, intelligence, and public spirit of our people.

Our present system, however, instead of being a source of despondency is a source of hope, for it is so unsound, so unbusinesslike, so unscientific, so sure to produce unbearable inefficiency and high taxes, that the public spirit of Cambridge, the Cambridge idea as it is sometimes called, will surely come to the rescue. The business principles in vogue in our private affairs and in the municipal affairs of foreign cities can and will be introduced into the management of the affairs of American cities. Dr. Shaw tells us in regard to filling offices in Great Britain: " It is usual to advertise for a vacancy …. If a chief of police is wanted for a town, even of a moderate size, there are likely to be applicants by the score or hundred from all parts of the United Kingdom." A reference to the experience of France and Germany would only confirm the thought that it is not at all impossible to establish a system of appointment by which merit shall be the only "pull." Such a system neither cheats the public nor degrades the wage-earner.

The Good Government League of Cambridge
While the objects of the Good Government League are the same as those of its predecessor, the Library Hall Association, it has devoted itself principally during the past year to the promotion of a study and discussion of questions relating to the improvement of our municipal system. Its first recommendation favored the extension of the Merit System to the appointment of heads of departments. In behalf of this recommendation, Mr. R. H. Dana, a member of the Executive Committee of the League, prepared a paper which the League has published as one of its bulletins. This paper was read and discussed at the last annual meeting of the National Civil Service Reform League, and the subject has been discussed in Cambridge whenever an opportunity has presented itself. It is hoped that the legislation necessary to bring about this reform will be secured from our next State Legislature.

A line of work which has for its aim the better preparation for citizenship by our public schools is being carried on by a committee of the League, of which President C. W. Eliot is a member. Every public school in Cambridge has been visited by some member of this committee; these visits of inquiry have, it is believed, already lead to an increased interest in the subject on the part of teachers and pupils, and the interest of the Librarian of the Public Library has been secured in the direction of obtaining and bringing to the attention of teachers and pupils the best books on the subject. When the report of the committee is presented, it will surely contain helpful suggestions.

The work referred to above was under way at the time of the annual meeting of the League in Sanders Theatre, on February 7, 1904. At this meeting addresses were made by President Eliot, Mayor Daly, Edmund Reardon, and R. H. Dana of Cambridge, and R. Fulton Cutting of New York, and the annual report of the League was presented in which the following suggestions for future work are to be found:

1. The continuation of the work already begun in regard to the extension of the Merit System and to securing a better preparation for citizenship by our public schools.

2. An early study and discussion of the question of lengthening the terms of office of the Mayor and members of the City Council.

3. A study of the advisability of a single chambered City Council.

4. A careful study of the relationship between the city and the public service corporations which use its streets, whether the use of our streets for private gain should not be paid for at the same rates that the city would have to pay for a similar use of private property; and whether the city should ever grant irrevocable rights to the use of its property.

5. A study of our city charter with a view to finding out what changes should be made in it, that the management of our city affairs may become more economical, more businesslike, and more efficient.

Most of these suggestions have already been taken up.

Mr. Louis D. Brandeis of Boston recently delivered to members of the League and others a most helpful address on "The Legal Rights of Public Service Corporations in Our Streets," which will be published shortly as one of the League’s bulletins, and a meeting has been held at which the question of lengthening the terms of service of the Mayor and Aldermen was discussed.

Among other lines of work may be mentioned a public protest from the Executive Committee against the hold up of the water loan, to which I have referred, and the publication of impartial information about candidates for office just previous to the last city election.

More stress has been laid upon measures than upon men, because an improvement in our system is a permanent change for the better and tends to produce good men, while a contest over men alone has to be fought over again every year.

I feel that in closing I should quote the following passage from the by-laws of the Good Government League:

"All publications and recommendations shall be over the signatures of the members of the committee issuing such information or making such recommendations."

It will be seen therefore that since this paper bears only my own signature neither the League nor its Executive Committee is in any way responsible for any of the heresies to be found in it.

HENRY N. WHEELER.

November 1, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 181-182: November 1, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:49 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 181 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on November 1, 2016 at 5:30pm. Topics include a variety of matters discussed at the Oct 31, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 182 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on November 1, 2016 at 6:00pm. Topics include a variety of matters discussed at the Oct 31, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

October 30, 2016

Trick or Treat – October 31, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,cycling,transportation — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:53 pm

Trick or Treat – October 31, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Happy Halloween!The ghosts and goblins will descend on City Hall this Monday. Here are a few agenda items of possible interest:

Sundry communications advocating for the segregation of two-wheeled vehicles from other vehicles.

Order #10. That the City Council acknowledges that said residents and other users desire the City to immediately enact safety improvements to bicycle infrastructure, starting with separated bike lanes on all major city thoroughfares.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux

I have been bicycling in Cambridge for over 35 years without incident, so I continue to be surprised by statements that Cambridge roads are some kind of death trap. It’s simply not true. Is cycling in Cambridge absolutely safe? Of course not – nor is driving or navigating the streets as a pedestrian.

Most of us can easily identify particular intersections that really are fundamentally unsafe and have been for a long time. Chief on my list would be the Porter Square intersection, Inman Square, River Street coming from the river toward Central Square, much of the McGrath/O’Brien Highway, and the rotary at the BU Bridge. If I gave it some more thought, I’m sure I could come up with more.

I very much appreciate all input from all sources who have good concepts for how a difficult intersection like Porter Square could be made better. Some of those ideas may even be counter-intuitive, e.g. removing all the signals and other devices and forcing everyone to pass through with extreme caution. Even if you think that’s crazy, it’s still worthy of consideration – though it would definitely not be my chosen remedy. [Reference: woonerf, shared street]

What I really resent in some of the proposals introduced at the Cambridge City Council is their primary focus on "protected bike lanes" without any discussion of the many potential down sides of that proposal. They certainly don’t address the actual problem – dangerous intersections. Side paths make a lot of sense in places where there is a significant differential in speeds between motor vehicles and cyclists, e.g. along Memorial Drive. They also make a lot of sense along a twisting road where a faster moving vehicle might come up on a cyclist on a curve, especially if there is little or no shoulder. I don’t think they make a lot of sense on straight roads with moderate speeds.

Here are a few examples of what will likely happen if cyclists are channelled into a corridor between parked cars and the curb:

(a) Cyclists of varying speeds will have difficulty sorting themselves out since passing will be more difficult.

(b) Motor vehicles entering a road at an unsignalized intersection will have to block this "protected lane" just to be able to see the traffic before entering the intersection. Most pedestrians are already familiar with this and often have to decide between crossing in front of the car or behind the car. This will be much more problematic for bicycles moving at speeds greatly in excess of a pedestrian.

(c) Picking up and dropping off kids at the local school will become an adventure with significantly narrowed travel lanes and bicycles moving past on the passenger side. We have two Montessori schools on my block, a Cambridge public school across the street, and soon a day care center. Add the coffee shop to that and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Bicycle altercations along my street are few, if any. As I mentioned above, the primary danger is at difficult intersections with turning traffic.

(d) With significantly narrowed travel lanes, traffic congestion will soar in spite of any prophecies to the contrary. Locations where there is now room to maneuver around a turning vehicle will come to a standstill. I understand that this is what many of the "Complete Streets" advocates want to happen, but I really do hope there is at least some effort made to hear what others have to say.

(e) Pedestrians crossing a street will now be essentially crossing three streets and will have to take great caution – much more than they must now do.

(f) Faster moving cyclists will continue to use the regular travel lanes. Their speeds are not all that different than motor vehicles on many Cambridge streets, especially if there’s even moderate compliance with the lower speed limits that are proposed citywide. For these cyclists, there will be far less wiggle room for passing and they will often have little choice but to "take the lane".

(g) Based on all the conflicts that are introduced it is more than likely that advocates will conclude that the only way to make things work is to remove the parking altogether. I see this as almost inevitable. Some will rejoice at this, but many others will not. As has been pointed out very eloquently on this list, people do get older and their mobility may be reduced for this and other reasons. You cannot simply wish away the need for some (many) people to have access to a motor vehicle and to be able to park it at least somewhere near where they live. In my neighborhood many of the streets are almost fully parked much of the time.

(h) Snow events will bring everything to a standstill. In particular, the ideal practice of plowing streets most of the way to the curb will be far more difficult when streets are divided into multiple sections. As we all know, sometimes the only practical option is to not plow all the way to the curb since there’s need for that additional storage. What happens then? My guess is that winter cyclists will simply ride in the regular travel lanes which will now be far narrower than they are now.

If the City is absolutely set on trying out this idea, they should start with one road as a pilot and see what problems do or do not develop and evaluate the results honestly. I think it’s very important that any such evaluation be done by an objective party.

There were two important matters embedded in the torrent of City Council orders introduced two weeks ago – (1) addressing problematic intersections (like Porter Square); and (2) addressing the fundamental incompatibility between vulnerable users (including pedestrians and cyclists) and very large trucks with limited visibility.

I also feel that much more attention needs to be spent on identifying quieter alternatives for cyclists. In Medford, one of the most significant recommendations in their Bicycle Infrastructure Master Plan is the conversion of some streets to "bicycle boulevards" where cyclists are given very explicit priority without being segregated. That would be a good thing to do for a number of Cambridge streets.

PS – I have neither the time nor the inclination to write petitions or gather signatures on this topic. It’s easy to get signatures when you tell people that your way is the only way to achieve "safe streets". I believe that a lot more discussion needs to take place on this topic – and not in a hypercharged political atmosphere.

Order #2. That the Public Safety Committee hold a public hearing to hear about the various uses of drones in Cambridge and any concerns residents may have about them, with the goal of recommending guidelines for a municipal ordinance that would protect the public safety and the privacy of residents.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

Order #12. That the City Manager is request to confer with the City of Boston to include Cambridge in the autonomous vehicle initiative as a partner.   Councillor Mazen

It’s entertaining to see the juxtaposition of orders expressing concern for public safety from unmanned drones while eagerly embracing unmanned motor vehicles.

Order #5. That the City Council go on record in support of asking the Cambridge Historical Commission to initiate a landmark designation study process on the Harvard Square kiosk.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

The entire area is already landmarked, and nobody is even considering doing anything to the Kiosk other than restoring it to a state much closer to what it was when first built. That said, if double-landmarking gives you thrills, knock yourself out.

Order #8. The City Manager coordinate with the Finance Department, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and community stakeholders to outline a proposed system of governance, management, and stakeholder engagement, to be discussed in a public forum with the Council and community.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

Translation – Throw the baby out with the bathwater. The City Council voted on a process with their eyes wide open, but apparently some city councillors would prefer to maintain a heavy hand on all aspects of the management of this City asset.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 28, 2016 to discuss the ongoing drought and the impact on the Cambridge water supply, what restrictions on water use may be appropriate to consider and what public outreach is needed on water conservation measures.

Anything that helps educate residents about basic City infrastructure, especially something like drinking water and fire protection, is welcome. It continues to amaze me how many people, including civic activists and even city councillors, don’t understand some of the most basic things that we all take for granted every day.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 29, 2016 to discuss different models for campaign finance reform and publicly-funded municipal elections in Cambridge, and will focus on receiving feedback from the community.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 25, 2016 to discuss improving voter turnout for the municipal elections in Cambridge through voter reward options and will focus on receiving feedback from the community.

I gave testimony at both of these hearings. The "voter reward" idea is an absolute nonstarter. Campaign finance is a topic worthy of a lot of discussion, but most of what was presented at the hearing on that topic was at best underwhelming and misdirected.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, informing the City Council they may go into Executive Session on Monday to discuss on-going contract negotiations with the prospective City Manager.

I hope this gets settled at this meeting and that a contract is signed either this Monday or next.

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