Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 3, 2015

Cambridge City Council Campaign Receipts: 2013 – 2014

Cambridge City Council Campaign Receipts: 2013 – 2014
(candidates exceeding 500 #1 votes in Nov 2013 election)

Ranked by Percent Receipts from Cambridge

Candidate Receipts Cambridge Percent
Kelley, Craig $11,441.00 $10,591.00 92.6%
Leslie, Logan $26,232.53 $22,745.00 86.7%
Carlone, Dennis $45,410.00 $37,506.00 82.6%
vanBeuzekom, Minka $31,757.70 $22,762.00 71.7%
Seidel, Sam $22,245.82 $15,362.00 69.1%
Cheung, Leland $344,288.91 $189,654.92 55.1%
Smith, Jefferson $39,940.00 $20,140.00 50.4%
McGovern, Marc $60,438.13 $29,294.00 48.5%
Simmons, Denise $41,809.92 $19,763.28 47.3%
Maher, David $85,918.30 $40,454.00 47.1%
Benzan, Dennis $67,096.00 $31,471.00 46.9%
Toomey, Tim $65,152.14 $25,507.80 39.2%
Mazen, Nadeem $61,962.14 $18,157.96 29.3%
Reeves, Ken $54,464.03 $15,493.88 28.4%

Ranked by Percent Receipts from Real Estate Interests

Candidate Receipts Real Estate Percent
Maher, David $85,918.30 $27,300.00 31.8%
Reeves, Ken $54,464.03 $16,875.00 31.0%
McGovern, Marc $60,438.13 $16,942.61 28.0%
Simmons, Denise $41,809.92 $9,650.00 23.1%
Toomey, Tim $65,152.14 $11,350.00 17.4%
Cheung, Leland $344,288.91 $30,350.00 8.8%
Kelley, Craig $11,441.00 $400.00 3.5%
vanBeuzekom, Minka $31,757.70 $850.00 2.7%
Seidel, Sam $22,245.82 $200.00 0.9%
Benzan, Dennis $67,096.00 $500.00 0.7%
Carlone, Dennis $45,410.00 $200.00 0.4%
Mazen, Nadeem $61,962.14 $0.00 0.0%
Smith, Jefferson $39,940.00 $0.00 0.0%
Leslie, Logan $26,232.53 $0.00 0.0%

Note 1: The totals for Leland Cheung include all money raised for his campaign for Lt. Governor, including $118,981.92 from the candidate.

Note 2: The reports for Nadeem Mazen contain many errors – wrong dates, many missing addresses, etc. The data has been corrected to the best of this writer’s ability and patience.

Note 3: The totals above include money loaned or given by the candidates. Since they are all Cambridge residents this greatly affects the totals and the percentages coming from Cambridge addresses.

Note 4: In some cases, candidate loans have since been repaid. The data shown has not been adjusted for this.

Note 5: Some additional receipts for 2014 may still be recorded. The tables may be updated to reflect this.

Note 6: The individual campaign contribution limit of $500 per year has been raised to $1000 per year starting in 2015.

Candidates listed alphabetically including total receipts, receipts from Cambridge addresses,
receipts from political action committees (PAC), receipts from identifiable real estate interests (RE),
percent from candidate (loan or donated), percent receipts from Cambridge,
percent receipts from PACs, percent receipts from identifiable real estate interests

Candidate Total Receipts Cambridge PAC RE Loan % Cambridge % PAC % RE
Benzan, Dennis $67,096.00 $31,471.00 $2,450.00 $500.00 $4,100.00 46.9% 3.7% 0.7%
Carlone, Dennis $45,410.00 $37,506.00 $480.00 $200.00 $16,000.00 82.6% 1.1% 0.4%
Cheung, Leland $344,288.91 $189,654.92 $7,850.00 $30,350.00 $118,981.92 55.1% 2.3% 8.8%
Kelley, Craig $11,441.00 $10,591.00 $0.00 $400.00 $25.00 92.6% 0.0% 3.5%
Leslie, Logan $26,232.53 $22,745.00 $1,000.00 $0.00 $15,325.00 86.7% 3.8% 0.0%
Maher, David $85,918.30 $40,454.00 $6,100.00 $27,300.00 $0.00 47.1% 7.1% 31.8%
Mazen, Nadeem $61,962.14 $18,157.96 $1,100.00 $0.00 $7,750.00 29.3% 1.8% 0.0%
McGovern, Marc $60,438.13 $29,294.00 $6,100.00 $16,942.61 $2,949.80 48.5% 10.1% 28.0%
Reeves, Ken $54,464.03 $15,493.88 $6,950.00 $16,875.00 $0.00 28.4% 12.8% 31.0%
Seidel, Sam $22,245.82 $15,362.00 $250.00 $200.00 $2,001.00 69.1% 1.1% 0.9%
Simmons, Denise $41,809.92 $19,763.28 $5,550.00 $9,650.00 $0.00 47.3% 13.3% 23.1%
Smith, Jefferson $39,940.00 $20,140.00 $3,475.00 $0.00 $17,220.00 50.4% 8.7% 0.0%
Toomey, Tim $65,152.14 $25,507.80 $9,225.00 $11,350.00 $0.00 39.2% 14.2% 17.4%
vanBeuzekom, Minka $31,757.70 $22,762.00 $500.00 $850.00 $7,500.00 71.7% 1.6% 2.7%

January 1, 2015

Mario Cuomo (June 15, 1932 – January 1, 2015) – Mirrors

Filed under: Deaths — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 8:38 pm

Mario Cuomo - Mirrors
from the November 1985 "Mad as Hell" Issue of the National Lampoon
Mario Cuomo
June 15, 1932 – January 1, 2015

December 30, 2014

Another Pause Button for the Plastic Bag Bill

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,elections,planning — Sharanya Srinivasan @ 3:39 pm

It seems that the fate of plastic bags in the City of Cambridge is suspended in limbo. Multiple iterations of a Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance have been ferried in and out of City Council hearings since 2007, but without a resounding “Aye!” After successive rounds of discussion and drafting, then-councilor Marjorie Decker introduced her “Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance” in July 2013. This required retail establishments to distribute either recyclable paper bags or reusable checkout bags to customers. The law was never called to vote because of Decker’s departure to the state legislature, and the arrival of four newly elected councilors. So Decker’s ordinance went back on the revision merry-go-round, resulting in an amended version of the 2013 bill titled the “Checkout Bag Ordinance of the City of Cambridge”. The revised amendment package, proposed on October 27, was placed before the council in December 2014. However, a scattered consensus and interpolation of additional amendments has resulted in the postponement of a vote to February 2015.

In its conception, the plastic bag bill functions to counteract the “single use, throwaway” culture of city life, which contributes to global climate change, and degradation of the natural environment through littering and waste production. Both versions of the ordinance promote the distribution of recyclable or reusable bags by retail establishments in Cambridge. So, why does the plastic bag issue keep getting recycled in hearings? One reason is the discordant opinions on the severity of the bill. Decker’s original version was undoubtedly more stringent in its enforcement. It defined “recyclable paper bag” as a 100% recyclable bag that contains at least 40% post-consumer recycled content; the amended version simply defined it as a 100% recyclable bag, and also permitted the usage of compostable plastic bags. The revised Checkout Bag Ordinance also permits the city’s Public Works Commissioner exemption powers under circumstances of “undue hardship” to retailers, for up to 2 years. In contrast, Decker’s 2013 ordinance only granted 6 month exemptions. Given that the plastic bag restrictions are broadly imposed upon retail establishments, including restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores, thus extending the regulatory reach of the bill, dissent on the bill’s severity is unsurprising. Additionally, new amendments continue to facilitate debate, and by extension, indecision! New addenda proposed in the December 2014 hearing include an amendment to exempt church events from the regulations and to establish an oversight committee for businesses to directly appeal restrictions.

The newer Checkout Bag Ordinance is more balanced, and more likely to appeal to the greater Cambridge community. More importantly, tweaks and revisions can be identified in a more targeted and effective manner once the ordinance has been passed by the council. The plastic bag ordinance has been tethered in legislative limbo for long enough. Hopefully, it will be brought to reality in 2015.

December 15, 2014

Closing Out the Year – Dec 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:09 pm

Closing Out the Year – Dec 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

New Year Ahead!This will be the last City Council meeting for the year. Here are a few items that piqued my interest:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Board of Zoning Appeal, effective Dec 15, 2014:
Reappointments: Thomas Scott, Douglas Myers, Slater W. Anderson, Andrea A. Hickey
New Appointments: George Best, Jim Monteverde, Alison Hammer

The rejuvenation of the City’s boards and commissions continues. The application deadlines for several other boards expired recently and we should see additional appointments with the new year. It’s worth noting that there are other current opportunities for citizen involvement, including the new Participatory Budget Pilot Program. Next year will also bring out lots of participants in the Citywide Comprehensive Planning process. Next year will also be a municipal election year, so if you have ever considered candidacy, this is probably the time to start thinking more seriously about it.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Teague, et al Zoning Petition.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 12, 2014 to discuss the zoning petition filed by Charles D. Teague, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to clarify the existing ordinance so that said ordinance can be enforced: to (1) align the zoning amendment expiration date in the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to be the same as state law; (2) align the Special Permit criteria with adjudicated state law; and (3) require that the master plan be followed whereas following the master plan is optional under state law.

There were three parts to this petition. The first part called for a technical correction in the expiration dates for zoning petitions and was noncontroversial – a simple correction that the City Council should have addressed more than a year ago when they were first alerted to the discrepancy by the City Solicitor. The Planning Board endorsed this correction. The second and third parts of the petition were soundly rejected by the Planning Board for a variety of reasons and presumably the City Council will see things similarly. Additional comments may be found here. Mr. Teague is becoming something of a serial petitioner who generates far more heat than light.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the results of the bi-annual City of Cambridge Citizen Telephone Survey for 2014.

As the Manager’s communication notes: "Affordable housing/housing was reported as the ‘single most important issue facing the City of Cambridge today’ by 18% of respondents in this year’s survey. This is up from 8% in 2012 and replaces education (10%) as the most important issue identified. Traffic/bikes, a new issue this year, was also identified as the ‘most important issue’ by 10% of survey respondents. Other new issues raised in the 2014 survey include development/overdevelopment (3%), construction (2%), climate change (2%), and parking (1%)."

Statistical surveys are not always so easy to interpret, but one thing I’ve always noted in these bi-annual surveys is the disconnect between the priorities of the activist community and the priorities of the residents at large. A big challenge as we enter into the Citywide Comprehensive Planning process will be to promote participation by people representing the whole city and not just those who have the spare time (and the fervor) to go to meetings. It’s also very likely that priorities are not uniform across the city. In some locations traffic congestion will be a far greater issue than the affordability of housing, while in other locations the opposite will be the case. The activists will promote the view that the city is going to hell in a handbasket yet the surveys consistently indicate general satisfaction. So it goes.

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the revised ordinance titled "Checkout Bag Ordinance", the related regulations and application for exemption. [Attachments]

Unfinished Business #10. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing held on Dec 19, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on an amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.67 entitled relating to Plastic Bag Reduction. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 24, 2014.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone regarding the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance.

Councillor Carlone has expressed interest in having this matter voted at this meeting. Several points are worth noting. First, a significant number of Cambridge residents do most of their shopping outside of Cambridge due to access and affordability (can you say "Market Basket") , so a City ordinance will likely have limited effect. Second, it’s so simple for people to bring their own durable bags for their regular shopping and it’s bewildering that many people continue to come home with unnecessary plastic bags. Third, there are differences between the originally proposed "Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance" and the modified "Checkout Bag Ordinance" with related regulations forwarded by City staff. On balance, the latter is the preferred alternative. Above all, there should have been (and hopefully soon will be) a lot more promotion of reusable bags in addition to the enactment of prohibitions and penalties.

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the C.F. Hathaway & Sons Bakery at 15-33 Richdale Avenue, received from Executive Director of the Historical Commission Charles Sullivan.

I’ll simply once again express my gratitude to the Cambridge Historical Commission for all their research and excellent publications. They’re all keepers.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an update on the Foundry Building process, including the City’s plans to collaborate with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (the "CRA") to redevelop the Foundry building in a way that meets the vision and objectives expressed by the City Council and the community.

It’s been interesting witnessing the dynamic between the practical and financial necessities of carrying out a project like this and the desires of interested parties to gain some measure of control. In a way it’s like a microcosm of the difference between managed government and highly politicized government. All things considered, I’ll take the former.

Resolution #2. The Cambridge City Council go on record commending the STEAM Working Group, the STEAM Summit Steering Committee, and the STEAM Summit presenters and thanking all of the attendees for supporting the Economic Development & University Relations and the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebrations committees’ initiative to take actionable steps toward creating a better, more prosperous future for learners of all ages.   Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor Mazen

While I applaud the effort, especially the sincere desires of Vice Mayor Benzan for whom this has consistently been a high priority, as an educator I find myself somewhat skeptical of the outcomes. I have seen so many iterations of "the next big thing" in education – the New Math, technology in the classroom, a parade of new curriculum promising to cure all ills, differentiated instruction, flipped classrooms and more. In the end it will always come down to the personal connection between teachers and students. In some respects this latest initiative is reminiscent of the days of trade schools and "manual training" – what was old is new again. I really do hope that great things come of this latest installment, especially insofar as there’s such a pressing need to connect all young residents to the economic opportunities necessary for social mobility that are available locally. [Did that sound too lofty coming from me?] In any case, good luck!

If there’s one thing I wish would have happened it would be to have a collaboration between mathematics people from all levels of education in Cambridge (elementary schools through Harvard and MIT) getting together to develop a comprehensive view and plan to make the greatest impact outside of the context of City Council subcommittees. Perhaps there are still some opportunities for such a collaboration.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to initiate a program to deploy body cameras for police.   Councillor Cheung

Order #2. That the Civic Unity Committee schedule a meeting to discuss the local impact and ramifications of these recent events upon Cambridge and the City Manager is requested to ensure that the appropriate City personnel are available to participate in this meeting, and to ensure that proper notice goes out to the community to ensure that those who wish to attend and take part in this conversation can do so.   Councillor Simmons

As others have pointed out, there would be a huge contradiction between forbidding surveillance cameras on city streets while installing them on every police officer. It would be worthwhile to at least have the hardware available for optional use by police in appropriate situations. Regarding Order #2, I do hope that a discussion of street obstructions is part of the agenda. Freedom of speech and the right to obstruct (either roadways or abortion clinics) are not interchangeable. Rallies and marches are as American as apple pie, but people still have a right to go about their business. – Robert Winters

Comments?

December 8, 2014

The Central Square Olympics – Dec 8, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,cycling — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 2:30 pm

The Central Square Olympics – Dec 8, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Central Square Olympics!After a year or two of thumb twiddling, moratorium threats, and Master Plan myth-making, things are starting to perk up again in Central Square. At the previous meeting, the Twining/Normany zoning petition arrived to reignite the conversation. In response to City Council inaction, that petition now seeks to amend the zoning in a very small (though still important) portion of Central Square to allow greater heights in exchange for the provision of new housing, additional retail and more. Some aspects of the petition reflect goals expressed in the prior C2 recommendations. Many of us now wonder how we came to this point where initiatives by residents, the City Council, and the City administration were left to gather dust, and a zoning petition from a private developer was necessary to get things moving again. At tonight’s meeting we now also have a Council Order calling for a hearing and finally some movement on the moth-balled C2 plan and recommendations. It’s just a hearing, mind you, without any actual zoning proposal.

Order #6. That the Ordinance Committee schedule a hearing to discuss the C2 plan and recommendations and that the Community Development Department be prepared to present any changes or recommendations to this plan and that members of the C2 Committee be invited to attend.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor McGovern and Vice Mayor Benzan

There is, of course, a decent chance that nothing will come of any of this. The municipal election year is quickly approaching and our wonderfully progressive councillors dare not tread any path that might irritate their potential supporters. Besides, don’t you know that we have to produce a Master Plan before doing anything whatsoever? Well, that’s what at least some moratorium-lovin’ reactivists would have you believe. In contrast, it’s great watching the City of Somerville charge forward with Union Square plans and other projects. Perhaps we should create a sister city relationship with our northern neighbor.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on how all the Citywide Planning efforts will impact staff workload, and any capacity considerations the City Council should take into account when contemplating these or other initiatives.   Councillor Cheung

Yes, but perhaps we should add a clause to the order specifically addressing the City Council workload which apparently must be very, very burdensome. [Please pardon the sarcasm.] See above paragraph. That said, it will be most unfortunate if the upcoming Citywide Planning effort ends up being largely an exercise in staff-intensive hand-holding leading nowhere.

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-107, regarding a report on next steps to advance the creation of the Grand Junction Multi-use Path.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff and members of the public to determine what, if any, changes should be made to the Harvard Square "Super Crosswalk" complex, to include the bike crossing at Church Street   Councillor Kelley

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to evaluate, through the up-coming winter, any opportunities to expand the use of off-street snow removal equipment, with particular attention to the concerns of wheelchair access, essential pedestrian routes, and off-grade cycle tracks.   Councillor Cheung

I’m grouping these three items together because they all have some relationship to bicycle use in Cambridge. The proposed Grand Junction Path is a great initiative in that it provides an amenity over and above the existing road network. There are a lot of people who enjoy such amenities for recreation and, in this case, the new route may actually provide a useful transportation connection between MIT, East Cambridge, and Cambridgeport and (hopefully) housing opportunities in Allston, Somerville, and beyond.

On the other hand, as evidenced by last week’s Bicycle Network Plan open house, some City staff remain hopelessly naive about actual cycling in Cambridge (and elsewhere). They see the segregation of cyclists off the road as the preferred alternative. The images they show of streets like Vassar Street show nothing but sunny days and no conflicts with vehicles or pedestrians. The reality that those of us see daily is quite different – a less-safe roadway narrowed to the point where there remains very little room for cyclists to safely share, ice and snow and blocked entries in the winter, significant conflicts with pedestrians (and wrong-way cyclists), and trucks and taxis with no other option than to park on the sidewalk. The north side of Concord Avenue near Fresh Pond is even worse. The segregationists would like to replicate this design on Magazine Street. Even worse, the plan for Massachusetts Avenue from MIT to Harvard appears to favor wedging cyclists into a narrow corridor between parked cars and the curb with countless obstructions and conflicts. This will likely also involve the narrowing of road lanes to the point where road cyclists will be endangered and the inevitable double-parked car will bring traffic to a standstill.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Saul Tannenbaum, 16 Cottage Street transmitting five reasons why hosting the Olympics is a terrible idea.

Order #11. That the Council go on record in opposition to any bid to host the Olympics that does not begin with broad community discussion and deliberation, including stakeholders from surrounding communities that would be impacted were the Olympics to be held in Boston.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor Kelley

There are differing opinions on the value of hosting the Olympics. One concern I have is that the people of the Greater Boston area tend to be a bit on the parochial side and they’re likely to resent all these outsiders. There’s also some legitimate concern about the illegitimacy of the process of procuring the Olympics. There’s a chance that some improvements in transportation infrastructure could come of it all, but there are no guarantees. I’m personally skeptical about the substitution of planning for a multi-week event for actual long-term planning for decades to come.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a draft framework for a Community Benefits and Mitigation Plan no later than Jan 26, 2015.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Cheung, Vice Mayor Benzan and Councillor McGovern

This is a can that has been kicked down the road for several years now. Every new project, especially those that require zoning changes, seems to come with its own roll-your-own ideas about community benefits and mitigation. We can do better. – Robert Winters

November 24, 2014

In the Pipeline – Coming up at the Nov 24, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:48 am

In the Pipeline – Coming up at the Nov 24, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

6 inch water main - MWRA
6 inch water main – MWRA

The City Council was supposed to tour the Alewife area this morning to learn the things that all of them should already have known for some time. Perhaps the rain gave them a reprieve. Meanwhile, here are some things on tonight’s menu:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-132, regarding a report on monitoring aged pipelines to prevent unexpected breaks.

One of the realities of older cities is that some of the infrastructure has been in place for many decades and maybe even for a century or more. The Water Department used to have on display some of the water pipes that were excavated when replaced. They were so occluded that you couldn’t believe water could even pass through them. It’s not just the water pipes, of course. There are still plenty of "direct bury" electrical lines that are not in conduit, and blocks and neighborhoods that often operate at full capacity and beyond just begging for a failure. The gas line to my house recently had to be re-lined due to low pressure from the street. When they excavated, they found that the century-old gas line was so degraded and perforated that the packed earth was all that was keeping gas in the line. Renewing old cities is a neverending task.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Calendar Item Number 2, dated June 16, 2014, regarding the legality and feasibility of instituting a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage ordinance.

The City Solicitor’s analysis is an interesting read. The bottom line is this: "Although no Massachusetts court has analyzed the legality of a minimum wage ordinance, based on cases that have analyzed local legislation of the landlord-tenant "civil relationship," it appears that a minimum wage ordinance would lie outside of the City’s authority under the Massachusetts Constitution."

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Cambridge Conversations final report, Strategic Recommendations for a Citywide Plan.

The more interesting process will be the comprehensive planning process that will soon commence. Hopefully that will be as productive as the one that took place in 1992 leading up to the Growth Policy Document: "Toward a Sustainable Future" that still stands at the core of the current "master plan" for the city. My greatest concern is that this could degenerate into an arena where competing factions spend more time lobbying for their predetermined positions that they do cooperatively sketching out balanced plans for te good of the city. The fact that this will get underway at the same time that municipal election campaigns are being organized will likely further pollute the waters.

One of the things I found interesting about the "Cambridge Conversations" process is how fundamentally different many of the public comments were from much of what now occupies the activist sphere. There is generally a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the way the city has evolved in recent years and the fact that so many people want to live here is proof of this. This is not so surprising in that most established neighborhoods have largely been unaffected by recent growth – except for the escalating cost of housing. Most of the growth has taken place in areas that were formerly industrial – consistent with established plans.

Quite a few people, including me, identified the lack of coordinated regional planning as a concern – especially transportation planning. My guess is that the stickiest point next year will revolve around housing. Everybody will say how important affordable housing is, but the battle lines will be drawn between those who support additional housing development in Cambridge and the region vs. those who want to severely restrict new housing with the possible exception of subsidized low- and moderate-income housing.

The best outcome next year will be if the focus can be on "place making" in interesting and creative ways instead of just fighting over how much density or how high the buildings should be. People all over the country are moving back into cities, and figuring out how best to accommodate that trend and create great urban environments should be high on the priority list.

Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from Normandy Real Estate Partners and Twining Properties to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.

This is guaranteed to get a lot of attention in the coming months. Rather than prematurely argue the merits of the petition, I’ll simply say that this is a symptom of a serious problem with the current Cambridge City Council. An extensive planning process (K2C2) was completed about two years ago that culminated in recommendations for Kendall and Central Squares. The City Council has been in a state of paralysis since then. They are under no obligation to support all of the recommendations, but they certainly should be discussing them and proposing changes that can garner majority support. Instead, they have done nothing. So a property owner has to come forward with a zoning petition to jump-start the process.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with all relevant City Staff and Departments to examine the feasibility of posting advisory signage to broadly encourage a motor vehicle speed limit of 20 to 25 miles per hour on City streets.   Councillor Carlone

I really don’t think that traffic signage should be about "encouragement" other than the occasional "SLOW" sign. The City lacks the authority to arbitrarily establish speed limits, but there are some specific street types for which that authority should be sought. For example, a one-way street with parking on both sides and a relatively narrow travel lane should have no greater than a 25mph speed limit. Streets with bike lanes should be regulated in such a way that motor vehicle speeds in lanes adjacent to a bike lane should not be more than 15-20mph above typical bike speeds. There should also be much stricter enforcement of all traffic laws (and, yes, that includes cyclists).

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to assess the possibility of adding dedicated cycling infrastructure to Pearl Street as a part of the reconstruction process.   Councillor Cheung

Councillor Cheung’s order conveniently uses the phrase "dedicated cycling infrastructure" rather than "cycle track." Contradicting many of Councillor Cheung’s assertions is the Vassar Street example where traffic is now routinely choked, there is almost no safe space remaining in the roadway except to "take the lane," emergency vehicles now avoid the street for safety’s sake, and trucks routinely park on the sidewalk due to the extreme inflexibility of the road design. For a great example of cycle tracks in practice on Concord Ave., see cambridgecivic.com/?p=2285 and especially the video at vimeo.com/55394832.

It’s also an established fact that when parking is removed travel speeds increase. I’m sure the City would then decide to turn Pearl Street into an obstacle course of speed tables and raised intersections. What is the incentive for complicating the road in this way? Have there been many bike accidents along this road? In the map at youarehere.cc/p/bicycle-accidents/cambridge, all I see is darkness on Pearl Street – few, if any, reported accidents. In other words, this is a "solution" in search of a problem. The preferred alternative would be to do a complete repaving of the street with appropriate street markings. Kids can continue to ride legally on the sidewalks if they wish.

Order #5. The City Manager is requested to confer with the Election Commission and the appropriate City departments to determine a feasibility study and subsequent action plan, instituting suffrage for immigrants in Cambridge.   Councillor Mazen

This notion comes up every decade or so and thankfully has gone nowhere each time even when a home rule petition was able to squeak by before getting buried by the state legislature. We already have a suffrage mechanism for immigrants. It’s called citizenship. Many people, including me, feel that citizenship and the right to choose elected officials are indistinguishable. I would not want non-citizens electing my representatives – even in municipal elections.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to examine ways to streamline both the City’s process and the City’s technology for replying to Massachusetts Public Records Law requests and to examine how major cities’ open data and FOIA requests are handled, including options for a full time data management team including representatives of the City Clerk’s office, the City Solicitor’s office, and IT.   Councillor Mazen

The only question in this regard should be which information should be publicly available – not the cost or difficulty in obtaining it. It’s understandable that accessing some documents may require significant time and that there should be a cost associated with that, but this should not apply to the wide range of data that can be made publicly available with relative ease. – Robert Winters

November 21, 2014

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Nov 21)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:14 pm

Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities Vacancies

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) Advisory Board. Made up of 11 Members who serve three-year terms in a volunteer capacity, the CCPD Board meets on the second Thursday of every month at 5:30pm, at 51 Inman St., 2nd floor conference room, Cambridge.

CCPD seeks to build a Membership that reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the city, is cross-disability in nature and representative of the different geographical areas of the community. Members must be current residents of Cambridge.

CCPD works to maximize access to all aspects of Cambridge community life for individuals with disabilities, strives to raise awareness of disability matters, to eliminate discrimination, and to promote equal opportunity for people with all types of disabilities – physical, mental and sensory. CCPD Members are expected to work with other Members and CCPD staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the CCPD Ordinance (Cambridge Municipal Code, Chapter 2.96). CCPD Members are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in subcommittees and work on various short and/or long-term projects, as needed.

"It is really terrific to be part of the policy planning and decision-making chain, on behalf of people and families affected by disabilities,” said Bet MacArthur MSW LICSW, Member of the CCPD Board. “The Commission’s energy and attention to disability issues extends our influence far beyond our City operations — to state, regional, and even national levels — it’s fun to work so productively with a smart, positive group like the CCPD Board."

For more information, contact Kate Thurman, Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities at 617-349-4692 or ccpd@cambridgema.gov. Interested persons should submit a letter by Friday, Dec 5, 2014 describing their relevant experience and the kinds of disability-related issues or projects that interest them (along with a resume if possible) to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax: 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov


Members Sought for Cambridge GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Commission

City SealApplication Deadline Extended to Dec 8
City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking individuals to fill vacancies on the Cambridge GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Commission. Prospective Commissioners must either reside or work in Cambridge.

The mission of the Commission is to advocate for a culture of respect and to monitor progress toward equality of all persons with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Commission also monitors policies and practices that have a positive effect on the health, welfare and safety of all persons who live, visit or work in the City of Cambridge with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. For more information about the Commission, visit www.cambridgema.gov/glbt or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/Cambridge.GLBT.Commission.

The Commission normally meets on the 4th Thursday of each month and Commissioners are expected to volunteer some time outside of meetings for various projects.

A letter of interest and brief resumé should be sent via e-mail, mail or fax by Monday, Dec 8, 2014 to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax: 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov

November 10, 2014

STEM and Root – On the Agenda of the Nov 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,schools — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:24 pm

STEM and Root – On the Agenda of the Nov 10, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting

It’s a very short agenda this week. Here are a few items of interest with brief comments.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the License Commission to approve the jitney application of Groupzoom, Inc., d/b/a Bridj for a six month pilot program.

Bridj has been described as a cross between a bus and a taxi service. It’s a Cambridge-based company that ran into regulatory roadblocks several months ago when planning to launch its service in Cambridge. These are interesting times with the emergence of services like Uber and the widespread availability of applications for mobile communication devices that make services like Uber and Bridj possible. This recommendation from the Cambridge License Commission is for a six-month pilot program but it does seem like the future is upon us and we’ll be seeing a lot more services like this in the future. There was a day when omnibuses and trains were all run outside of government control. Could we be going Back to the Future?

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Whitehead Institute, Nine Cambridge Center, to amend the Zoning Ordinance, Sections 14.32.1 and 14.32.2 to provide for an increment of 60,000 square feet of GFA to be allowed by special permit in a portion of the MXD District, in Section 14.70 by retitling "Special Provisions Applicable Within the Ames Street District" and by adding a new Section 14.72 "Special Provisions Applicable Outside the Ames Street District.

The proposal seems sound, but the fact that it does not propose to build housing (only contribute money toward that goal) might translate into some resistance. Not every site is appropriate for housing and this may be one such site. It also proposes to simply expand an existing structure. However, this petition should focus some attention on the bigger picture of adding housing in Kendall Square in locations such as the site of the Volpe Transportation Center down the street. I’m sure there will be some who will say that no changes should be approved until the "Master Plan" process is complete, but that really borders on the ridiculous in a district such as this.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Michael Brandon, 27 Seven Pines Avenue, regarding the Planning Board appointments.

Translation: Mr. Brandon is unhappy with the recent appointments to the Planning Board. His description of the appointments: "Despite the dedication, expertise, civic-mindedness, and good intentions of the board members, this same-as-it-ever-was, opaquely picked panel of powerless project tweakers is obviously designed and inherently destined to obey the administrative staff’s instructions and support the rampant, unplanned, uncoordinated, uncontrolled overdevelopment of the city’s neighborhoods and natural resources that continues to degrade the quality of residents’ lives." I beg to differ. The current Planning Board members and the new appointees are all great people whose interests align well with the great majority of Cambridge residents.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to locate the additional funding needed to move forward with the archiving and preservation of all City Council records in the Vault Phase II project.   Councillor Simmons

Cambridge is an historic city that should appropriately maintain all of its historic treasures – including the records of City Council proceedings. Whether or not this project can be completed in the current budget cycle, it does have to happen. The City has done a lot in this regard over the last decade or so, especially in conjunction with the opening of the new Main Library and its most excellent Cambridge Room.

STEM and rootCommittee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee and Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee for a joint public meeting held on Oct 28, 2014 for the STEAM working group and its subcommittees to discuss how best to present their research to the greater Cambridge community and for working group members to collectively put forth sound recommendations around: STEAM workforce development, the alignment of all stakeholders, access for all to the innovation economy, and partnerships that will speed the journey.

I have been looking over the committee reports on this for a while now and it’s hard for me to get a clear picture of what’s going on other than some "brainstorming," creating some kind of web portal, and creating a new "coordinator" job. Maybe this will all turn out great, but so far it seems more like a lot of politically-oriented people riding on board the current national STEM bandwagon. One might think from these reports that education and excitement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics has been thoroughly lacking in elementary and secondary schools in Cambridge. That’s not the case. There is, however, a gap between the world of MIT, Harvard, and a host of science and technology-oriented companies in Cambridge and many young Cambridge residents who could benefit from jobs and other opportunities in these schools, labs, and companies. I worry that advocacy relating to the Foundry Building as well as much of this other STEM/STEAM discussion may lead to enhanced opportunities for young people who were already going to find good opportunities anyway. Only time will tell if those who might otherwise have been left out will somehow get excited about the opportunities around them and get a head start on developing the kind of skills that will be necessary to access these opportunities.

Frankly, this isn’t something that should be bubbling up from a couple of City Council subcommittees. Efforts in this regard should really be growing out of a partnership between the Cambridge School Department, our great local universities, and some of the companies that have been locating in Cambridge during the last few decades. They have had some representation at these committee meetings, but it would be so much better if they were driving the initiative. Otherwise the whole initiative could just come and go with only an extra job left in its wake. The entire Cambridge School Department and all the other local schools have to be at the root of any lasting change.

I am old enough to remember President Kennedy’s exhortations on the importance of science and mathematics education in the era of the space program. So many young people, including me, drew inspiration from what was happening during those years. I don’t know what the modern-day equivalent inspiration might be, but that’s really what is needed in order to get people jazzed about mathematics, science, and related fields. – Robert Winters

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress