Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 6, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 127-128: April 5, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut,planning — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:53 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 127 (Part 1)

Episode 127 – Cambridge InsideOut. This episode was broadcast on April 5, 2016 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. In tonight’s episodes we spoke about Envision Cambridge and a variety of other current civic affairs. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 128 (Part 2)

Episode 128 – Cambridge InsideOut (Part 2). This episode was broadcast on April 5, 2016 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. In tonight’s episodes we spoke about Envision Cambridge and a variety of other current civic affairs. [On YouTube]

April 4, 2016

No Foolin’ – Coming up at the April 4, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:48 am

No Foolin’ – Coming up at the April 4, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Every once in a while, reality can be like an April Fools joke on an April Fools joke. As I was preparing to post my annual April Fools Edition of the Cambridge Civic Journal, along came Order #1 on this agenda. See below.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and other relevant City departments to consider the pending State legislation and pending legislation in the City of Boston and any other actions that would allow Cambridge to institute municipal lobbying regulations. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Kelley on Mar 21, 2016.]

As I stated in advance of the previous meeting, this is a "solution" in search of a problem. Modeled on a similar proposal being explored in Boston, this Order would require that "lobbyists … file twice-yearly reports declaring campaign contributions, the names of their clients, policies that they tried to influence or that they advocated on behalf of, compensation received from clients, and dates of lobbying communications." Who exactly are we talking about here? Is this specifically targeting property owners and their representatives who bring forward zoning petitions or file Special Permit applications? Would this also apply to people employed by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the government relations people associated with the city’s major universities? Would representatives of hotel worker unions or the Sierra Club have to register and provide a log of all their activities? Why not also require anyone with a financial interest in the outcome of any City administration or City Council action to register and to provide detailed records of all of their interactions? What exactly is the problem that this measure seeks to cure? Should a residents organization registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit also then be required to divulge all of their contributions and expenditures if they exceed the minimum threshold?

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to update the City Council on the effects of the removal of sidewalk vaults in Central Square. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Kelley on Mar 21, 2016.]

Once again, this is just one of many things that continue to need attention in Central Square. See page 24 of the Central Square Action Plan (1987) which states; "Even upon completion of the MBTA project there will be many areas without trees or greenery because of the extensive vault and utility system that lies beneath the sidewalks. Improvement and maintenance of these improvements to Central Square’s physical image, both public and private, is essential to gain consumer confidence and interest." Next time you walk through Central Square, take note of the broken sidewalk pavement, the missing, sunken, or heaving bricks (especially neat the T entrances), the number of dead or dying trees, and the tree wells that serve little function other than trip hazards.

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from the Riverside Neighborhood Protective Zoning Proposal to amend the Zoning Map and the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by changing the current zoning designation for the parcels within the Putnam Avenue-Franklin Street and River Street boundaries from C-1 to C zoning.

Though I may need a registered municipal lobbyist to help me read and understand the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance, as near as I can tell this would reduce the permitted Floor/Area Ratio (FAR) from 0.75 to 0.6 (compare to 0.5 for Res A districts), increase the minimum lot area from 1500 sq. ft. to 1800 sq. ft., and increase the minimum ratio of private open space from 30% to 36%. The biggest question I have is what fraction of residential properties in Riverside that might now be legally conforming to the Code would be made nonconforming. Would this change make it all but impossible for homeowners to make even modest changes to their buildings without have to expend a lot of time on money seeking a variance (that they might likely not even get)?

Resolution #7. Resolution on the death of Peter Sheinfeld.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Maher, Mayor Simmons

Peter has been a friend for many years. This was an entirely unexpected death – here one day gone the next. Peter had a constellation of friends as eclectic as Peter’s many interests. I’ll have more to say elsewhere – especially when some of the people who have known Peter over the years get together soon to exchange recollections.

Order #1. That the City Council go on record asking the Massachusetts State Legislature to review the symbolism of the Official Seal of Massachusetts to determine whether it may be perpetuating or promoting hurtful symbolism.   Mayor Simmons

Great Seal of MassachusettsI had just put the finishing touches on an April Fools joke about the City of Cambridge changing its City seal to obliterate any and all references to anything more controversial than Winnie the Pooh when I saw this City Council order on this week’s agenda. Is this what the future holds – that every historical reference has to be sanitized? This has become ridiculous. I’m sure somebody will be offended no matter what.

In any case, here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject: "The seal was adopted by the Provincial Congress on Dec 13, 1780. The shield depicts an Algonquian Native American with bow and arrow; the arrow is pointed downward, signifying peace. A white star with five points appears next to the figure’s head. A blue ribbon (blue, signifying the Blue Hills of Quincy, Canton and Milton) surrounds the shield, bearing the state motto "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" This comes from the Book of Mottoes in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Denmark; written about 1659 by Algernon Sydney, English soldier and politician. It was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress and the literal translation is, "With a sword, she seeks quiet peace under liberty." Although the looser English translation more commonly used is, "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." Above the shield is the state military crest: a bent arm holding a broadsword aloft. The sword has its blade up, to remind that it was through the American Revolution that independence was won."

Go ahead. Be offended. Get a life.

Order #3. That the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance in 5.23 Height Exceptions Proposal for Converting Flat Concave Roofs for Green Uses be referred to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor McGovern

This seems to be a reintroduction of something Councillor Kelley had pushed in the last City Council term. There is certainly some merit in the goal.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to take steps necessary to impose a moratorium, to include the possibility of the City Council implementing a zoning change, on the permitting of all new restaurants where a wood-fired oven is used as a significant method of food preparation.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

I can’t say that a moratorium is warranted here, but one thing I will say is that in this age when "mixed-use districts" are being encouraged is that there doesn’t seem to nearly enough attention paid to what the reasonable standards and expectations should be for places (like mine) where businesses and residents are crowded together. Perhaps it’s not enough to just hope that the Cambridge License Commission will ensure that everyone gets along.

This specific Order is about emissions from restaurants (I’m interested in which ones in particular triggered the Order), but there’s not a whole lot to be found in the Zoning Ordinance addressing the reality that some businesses that might operate late into the night in the middle of Central Square or Harvard Square might not be a welcome addition to a more neighborhood-scale mixed use district. This is something I got to thinking about a few years ago during the MIT/Kendall rezoning. Many people came out advocating for more housing (generally a great thing) but there was little attention paid to whether that housing should be located in the busiest location in Kendall Square or perhaps, more appropriately, with at least some small separation from all the activity. I suppose you could argue that tall buildings provide such separation but maybe being a short walk away is preferred.

Sorry for the digression, but I do think that the issue of well-functioning mixed-use districts that don’t drive people crazy is a topic that needs more discussion.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to initiate a process to add high-capacity dedicated motor scooter and motorcycle on-street parking within dense commercial areas, taking care to coordinate with local residents, businesses, and business associations.   Councillor Mazen

The City already does this during the warmer weather months for bikes, so why not? If the City is already OK with removing a few parking spaces in favor of bike parking, allowing for scooters and maybe creating smaller spaces for motorcycles seems worth considering. We’re already seeing some of these scooters parked on sidewalks. On a related matter, we could really use a purge of all the derelict bicycles that are occupying the various bike posts and bike racks around the city.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Department of Public Works, the City Arborist and any other relevant City departments to discuss the feasibility of an education campaign that would be available to all property owners through tax bills and other sources to educate residents about watering street trees near their property, refilling Gator Bags, and other tips for caring for street trees and the possibility of implementing an "Adopt-a-Tree" program.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

There’s already a really good program in place for this. It’s called: "Just Do It." Seriously, if there’s a street tree near your house that needs a little love, just adopt it and start taking care of it. Nobody from the City is going to haul you into court for doing so, and the costs are small enough that you hardly need a tax abatement to cover them. I’ve been pruning and watering trees in my neighborhood for years. The core message in this Order is that people just need a little more information and initiative – and that’s worth it. If you do the math you’ll quickly realize that when it comes to basic neighborhood maintenance (including keeping storm drains clear), there’s no way it can get done if you expect others to do it. So….. Just Do It.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to investigate the possibility of allowing local businesses to voluntarily donate collected bag fees to non-profit organizations, the newly designed Community Benefits Fund, or the Cambridge Non-Profit Coalition.   Councillor Cheung

The language is curious, don’t you think? Do we really have to take legislative action to allow local businesses to make voluntary donations to non-profit organizations? Perhaps it would be appropriate to change "allow" to "encourage" and provide some suggestions for where the fees might be directed.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with the number of parking spaces in the City of Cambridge as well as the number of cars registered in the city.   Councillor Cheung

I would like to see this information, but the aggregate totals have little value. It would be much better if this could perhaps also be done by neighborhood or other some convenient divisions.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to develop a timeline for the implementation of the C2 non-zoning recommendations.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

While many of us appreciate the intention here, it needs to be pointed out that those non-zoning recommendations are just recommendations and some of them are pretty general and not necessarily in a form that can or should be implemented. The C2 recommendations were to be further refined with the help of the Central Square Advisory Committee, but that process could use a little more attention (and a little spark).

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to ban all taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina due to the recently passed discriminatory legislation against the LGBTQ community.   Councillor Toomey

The specific legislation is kind of backwards, but one core aspect of the North Carolina law is not so different than how we do things in Massachusetts. I’m not talking about bathrooms here, but rather the principle that some things are best done uniformly throughout a state and some things can and should be determined at the discretion of individual cities and towns. In Massachusetts there are many things that can only be enacted via Home Rule legislation.

Order #20. City Council support of State Senate Bill S. 1022 which would allow municipalities in Massachusetts to set their own minimum wage without contest.   Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

Here’s a perfect illustration of the dilemma of who should have authority in enacting a law – the city or the state. Personally, I feel that minimum wage laws are appropriately determined at the federal level and at the state level – and NOT at the municipal level. The same was true about the smoking ban and it’s also true for standards on voting. Uniformity across municipal boundaries is generally a good idea. If you want to adjust the minimum wage, talk to your state legislators and maybe suggest different zones in the state, but don’t have different standards in every city and town.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 11, 2016 to discuss the continued employment of City Manager Richard Rossi beyond June 30, 2016 and to initiate negotiations for a successor employment contract and any other related business put forth.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 23, 2016 to discuss the development of the process for the selection of a new City Manager.

The process has begun and the next meeting is Wed, Apr 6. I just hope everyone can stay on task and not try to cure all ills when they should be focusing on hiring a person. I also really hope we can identify someone (soon) who can not only manager a city with a large budget but who also already has great familiarity with Cambridge and its people.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting the determination on an Open Meeting Law Complaint of Kim Courtney dated Oct 28, 2015, amended on Jan 5, 2016.

There really does come a point when the filing of complaints rises to the level of harassment. I’m glad this pointless complaint has been dismissed, but it’s a shame that time and money had to be wasted on the changing of these particular diapers.

April 1, 2016

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – April 1, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 3:05 am

Vision Zero Policy approved by Cambridge City Council
Goal is to Eliminate all Motor Vehicles by 2020

The Cambridge City Council adopted on March 21 the long-anticipated "Vision Zero" policy. Originally conceived as a plan to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities through better road design, the ever-so-progressive Cambridge City Council decided to take things a step further by banning motor vehicles outright. No need to crush the cars just yet, however, since the absolute prohibition won’t go into effect until March of 2020.

There are, to be sure, some transitions that must take place before Cambridge can become truly a Vision Zero city and an example to other cities wanting to battle climate change in the worst way. Perhaps the greatest challenges are in rubbish/recycling collection and emergency services like police and fire protection, but these challenges also provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Patrick Wardell announced that CHA is already well on its way toward Vision Zero. They have begun training and recruitment for very athletic persons to operate their new fleet of human-powered pedambulances.

It won’t be an all-bicycle future of course. To handle some of the heavier tasks, we’ll be seeing a lot more horses in the streets of Cambridge.

New Fire Apparatus
New Fire Apparatus

The Cambridge Fire Department embraced the initiative. "In addition to the environmental and nostalgia benefits, maintaining the horses will create jobs," said Fire Chief Gerald Reardon. "We have to think of the future even as we embrace the past."

Several new condo developments along New Street and elsewhere to be converted to stables. "We feel that horse-drawn vehicles are a sustainable solution to all delivery needs." Danehy Park will be converted to hayfields.

"The road apples left by horses will be an essential part of the citywide composting program," said DPW Commissioner Owen O’Riordan.

Meanwhile, the City’s Department of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation has been drafting new specifications for "cycle tracks" to require a minimal 10 foot width. "Our plan all along has been to eventually execute a complete mode shift. At some point motor vehicles will be moved to the cycle tracks while cyclists take over the roadways. "This should provide ample accommodation for motor vehicles during the interim years before the banning of all motor vehicles within city limits," said Traffic Director Joseph Barr.

New Fire Apparatus

Street Cleaning/Towing to be Eliminated in Cambridge
New technology renders the old street sweeping program obsolete

Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi today announced that the dreaded  morning call of "No Parking on the Even/Odd Side of the Street or your car will be tagged and towed" will soon be forever silenced. The City recently signed a contract with the iRobot company to deliver their next generation street-scale Road-Roomba device for cleaning city streets.

"There simply is no longer the need to tow away cars when the Road-Roomba can easily go under them," said Rossi. The fleet of Road-Roombas are expected to work through the night leaving city streets clean enough to eat off of in time for breakfast.

The City will, however, continue to tag vehicles. "We need the revenue to pay for the purchase and servicing of the Road-Roomba fleet," said City Finance Director Louis DePasquale.

Charles River Dam to be Breached to Allow Enhanced Passage of Diadromous Fish

After years of avoiding the issue, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) yesterday announced that after a century of use the Charles River Dam will be breached to allow the Charles River to once again become tidal and removing this hindrance to fish migration upstream.

Portions of The Port and Cambridgeport to be cleared to make way for restored Charles River Estuary. Schooners will also be returning to the river during high tide, and to make way for their return and the regrowth of the maritime economy, several elements of the historic East Cambridge canal network will be restored.

Councillor Tim Toomey expressed great excitement over the possibility of the extension of the Broad Canal and the "daylighting" of the long-gone Portland Street Canal to allow navigation completely encircling East Cambridge.

"I was a great advocate of the Grand Junction Multi-Use Path," said Toomey, "but this takes "multi-use" to a whole new level." Bikes and pedestrians will soon be able to travel alongside the newly restored waterway while navigating their way around horses and mules pulling barges along the restored canal.

Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, announced that the development of more detailed plans will now be made Action Item #2 for the Envision Cambridge group after they settle all issues relating to the Alewife area of Cambridge.

Cambridge City Seal to Change

Ever since Cambridge became a city in 1846, the official seal of the City of Cambridge designed by Edward Everett for the newly incorporated city has featured Gore Hall – named in honor of Christopher Gore (1758-1827), a Federalist politician, former Governor of Massachusetts and a Harvard alum. In addition to establishing a successful law practice in Boston, Gore built a fortune by purchasing Revolutionary government debts at a discount and receiving full value for them from the government.

Apparently, such wheeling and dealing at the expense of taxpayers has not escaped the attention of the local "Feel The Bern Collective" which has been staging daily protests at City Hall demanding "real change" under their "Occupy City Hall" banner. They had declared their intention of occupying City Hall until such time as the City removed all references to the infamous Gore name from the City seal. By their estimate, had Christopher Gore operated today he would have been worth billions. "The day of government bailouts and welfare for billionaires must end," said Occupy City Hall leader Namaste Populi.

City officials are expected to approve the change to the City seal on Monday. Though final designs are now only preliminary, it is believed that the new City seal will prominently feature images of the Charles River White Geese grazing on the lawn of City Hall.

A Big Win for Transparency and Voting on Beacon Hill

The woefully outdated concept of the "secret ballot" finally gave way to the modern era earlier this week. The Massachusetts State Legislature passed a bill that would assure full public disclosure of each voter’s ballot.

"No longer will voters be able to hide behind this ‘shield of secrecy’", said Rep. Teague, main sponsor of the bill.

Tanya Ford, Executive Director of the Cambridge Election Commission, had spoken at committee hearings in vehement opposition to the bill. "I suppose I’m just an old-fashioned 20th Century gal", said Ford, "but I’m still not convinced that such openness is in the best interest of good government. Ford also objected to a related bill that would move most elections to the Facebook platform.

The ballots of each Cambridge voter will be accessible via the City’s Open Data Portal. “We’re all about transparency,” said an unnamed City official who asked not to identified.

Proposal to establish permanent non-voting Cambridge City Council seats for Harvard and MIT

Hot on the heels of a proposal to appoint a non-voting, non-citizen representative to the City Council, there is a proposal on this coming Monday’s meeting agenda to add two additional non-voting members to the City Council – one each for Harvard and MIT. The history of Harvard and Cambridge have been intertwined ever since both were established in the 1630s, and it’s a mystery why Harvard has not been granted official representation until nearly 400 years later.

The case for MIT representation has been somewhat more difficult, but with the centennial of MIT’s move to Cambridge coming up next month this seemed like the right time to establish MIT as an official part of City government. Harvard President Drew Faust and MIT President Rafael Reif issued a joint statement of appreciation of this gesture. In their statement they stated that "though we are not being granted an actual vote, we will continue to let our endowment speak for itself."

Lesley University, the new kid on the block relatively speaking, was not at all pleased by their being overlooked. "Sure, this cannot be viewed as ‘taxation without representation’ since we don’t pay taxes," said Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore. "We get that. We’ll just have to buy up more properties in the hope of one day getting our own seat on the Council."

Short List for Next City Manager

Almost immediately after City Manager Richard C. Rossi announced his intention to not seek a contract extension beyond June 2016 the rumors of a possible successor began to fly. Government Operations Committee Chair David Maher made the point clearly that navigating the requirements of the Open Meeting Law while maintaining the confidentiality of currently employed candidates was next to impossible.

"We may still be able to do this through the help of an experience independent vendor," said Maher, "but we’re all but resigned to the fact that we will have to seek candidates from the pool of those currently unemployed."

Maher added that familiarity with the City of Cambridge is a big plus when considering candidates. Maher said that while he cannot reveal the names currently on the short list for candidates to be the next City Manager, "we are looking seriously at perennial City Council candidate James Williamson. He’s a Cambridge resident (a big plus) and we understand that he has been available for some time."

Fluoridation of Cambridge Water to be Enhanced with Choice of Flavorings

In response to repeated City Council Orders questioning the City’s use of fluoridation in the municipal water supply, the Cambridge Water Department tooks steps to win over the city’s residents regarding fluoridation. Water Department Managing Director Sam Corda unveiled plans to provide residents some choice not about whether or not to fluoridate but in the choice of several new fun flavors!

Each can be switched on remotely via an iPhone app developed by the IT staff at the Cambridge Water Department. Though the selection is expected to grow as more flavors become available, starting this summer Cambridge residents will be able to choose from three flavors: FluoroCherry,
FluoroCola, or FluoroLemonyTwist. [Seriously, you have to try the FluoroLemonyTwist. It’s delicious – and great for your teeth!]

March 29, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 125-126: March 29, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:45 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 125 (Part 1)

Episode 125 – Cambridge InsideOut: This episode was broadcast on Tues, March 29, 2016 at 5:30pm. In this episode we spoke of the untimely death of Cambridge Election Commissioner Peter Sheinfeld as well as updates on some other civic matters. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Note: Peter Sheinfeld’s last pre-recorded “Rockin’ At Night” radio show on WRCA (1330 AM) will play this Friday, April 1, 2016 from 11:00pm to midnight.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 126 (Part 2)

Episode 126 – Cambridge InsideOut: This episode was broadcast on March 29, 2016 at 6:00pm. Primary topics were upcoming events and some outdoors opportunities available through AMC Local Walks/Hikes. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

March 22, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 123-124: Mar 22, 2016

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:29 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 123 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 22, 2016 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. The main topics in this episode were the recent Division 1 State Championship of the Cambridge Falcons (CRLS Boys Basketball) and some other civic news. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 124 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 22, 2016 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. The prominent topics were primarily things discussed at the Cambridge City Council meeting the night before. [On YouTube]

March 21, 2016

Cambridge Works Transitional Jobs Program Gives Residents A Helping Hand

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:20 am

Cambridge Works Transitional Jobs Program Gives Residents A Helping Hand

Mar 21, 2016 – Cambridge Works, the City’s transitional jobs program for younger residents (age 18-35) who haven’t been able to get or keep jobs, celebrated its 16th graduating class during a special ceremony March 17 at Cambridge City Hall. The highly successful program provides a temporary job with the City of Cambridge, and/or other partner employers, while also offering intensive case management, soft skills development and job search assistance to help participants secure an unsubsidized job upon program completion. Cambridge Works is coordinated through the Office of Workforce Development for the Department of Human Services Program (DHSP).

For many participants of Cambridge Works, the job skills they learn, the experience they earn, and the support they receive from the staff and their peers can be life changing, affording them a much needed second chance in many cases. As part of the Cambridge Works ceremony, the staff speak about each of the participants and then the graduates themselves are given the opportunity to share their story and individual struggles, and most discuss how they overcame their particular challenges with the help of this program and the support of the staff.

“For many of you, this was the first step in your journey to employment,” said Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson. “We encourage you to stay in touch with the staff because they want to support you and see you succeed. And congratulations to some of you who have already received job offers.”

Transitional Jobs Coordinator Mike Merullo expressed his thanks to the Employer work sites and supervisors, adding that they are a major part of “what makes Cambridge Works work.”

Following the distribution of certificates, Mayor E. Denise Simmons congratulated the group, telling them how moved she was by their stories and addressed each graduate with a personal message.

“It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or how you got here, but where you are going,” said Simmons. “Cambridge Works has helped you obtain the skills you need to help you succeed and this city is standing behind you.”

Master of Ceremonies Richard Harding, Cambridge Public Health Department added his thanks to the city administration and City Council for believing that this program could make a difference and helped Cambridge residents in the unique way that it has for the past 16 years.

Cambridge Works Graduates with Cambridge city staff and officials
Cambridge Works Graduates with Cambridge City staff and officials

Happy Spring! – Coming up at the March 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:23 am

Happy Spring! Coming up at the March 21, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!

Here are a few items that aroused my interest:

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Peter L. Cohen, et al., Zoning Petition, with a recommendation that the issue be incorporated into a broader study.

Not much to say about this except that the Planning Board recommends that "the issue of parking location may be best studied as part of the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process." There are some who would like to freeze all new construction until that process is complete (which is silly), but there are lots of issues major and minor that can be made part of that discussion without bringing the city to a screeching halt.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Complete Streets Policy and Council Order.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the adoption of a Policy Order committing Vision Zero, a set of goals of eliminating transportation fatalities and serious injuries.

I don’t think anyone can argue against the general concept of safer streets that accommodate all modes of travel. My only concern here is that there needs to be some understanding that there is no universal agreement on how best to accomplish this. Some people will not be satisfied until all cyclists are removed from the roadways under the dogma that creating segregated facilities is the only safe way to accommodate cyclists. Many of us disagree strongly with that assumption except where there is a great differential in relative speeds of cyclists and motor vehicles, e.g. along most DCR parkways. I certainly hope that in accepting these reports there is no implied endorsement of segregated cycling facilities in all or even most circumstances.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2016 and ending Mar 31, 2017.

The Bottom Line: Another 0% increase in the water consumption block rate and a 3.2% increase in the sewer use block rate, resulting in a 2.4% increase in the combined rate for the period beginning Apr 1, 2016 and ending Mar 31, 2017. This is the sixth consecutive year that the City has been able to produce a 0% increase in the water rate.

Resolution #1. Congratulations to the CRLS Boys Basketball Team on their hard-earned semifinals victory and best wishes in the upcoming State Championship games against St. John’s Shrewsbury.   Councillor Toomey, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

You can add the Division 1 State Championship to the resolution. The Cambridge Falcons (CRLS Boys Basketball) won the state title Saturday night against St. John’s, 66-51.

Resolution #2. Retirement of Susan Flannery from the Cambridge Public Library.   Mayor Simmons

We have been blessed with Susan Flannery as Director of the Cambridge Public Library for over two decades. Enjoy your retirement! The Order declares March 30 as Susan Flannery Day in the City of Cambridge. Celebrate by reading a book!

Resolution #3. That the City Council declare Apr 9, 2016 to be Tom Lehrer Day in the City of Cambridge.   Mayor Simmons

Yet another fine example of how mathematicians can be good at more than just mathematics. The Resolution declares April 9 to be Tom Lehrer Day in the City of Cambridge. Coincidentally, that’s also the anniversary of my own mathematics doctoral defense – a personal holiday of sorts. I think I have all of Tom Lehrer’s records.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update to the City Council as to what steps may have already been undertaken to examine the question of the legality of tying the Living Wage Ordinance to the Linkage Ordinance, what additional measures must be taken in order to obtain a definitive answer, and what the timeline for this process is projected to be.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

It’s not entirely clear what is intended here, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea to intermingle policies regarding what can be built in Cambridge and how developers or commercial tenants should pay their workers. To the best of my understanding, there are also no requirements about hiring union workers in the zoning code, and only the Commonwealth and the federal government have the authority to determine any minimum wage or living wage.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and other relevant City departments to consider the pending State legislation and pending legislation in the City of Boston and any other actions that would allow Cambridge to institute municipal lobbying regulations.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen

Not only is this unnecessary given the limited authority of city councillors under the Plan E Charter, it also reads like an accusation from three city councillors directed at their colleagues. All campaign contributions are now easily accessible public records. There is no need for any additional layer of bureaucracy. This is a "solution" in search of a problem.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Managing Director of the Cambridge Water Department for the purpose of creating an online database of lead service lines similar to the one created by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and to disseminate information to residents about the Cambridge Water Department’s free quality testing and lead service pipe replacement services.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Water Department to create an informational web page that will provide plumbing infrastructure installation tips for residents, commercial customers, and contractors in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Unlike other cities across the country, the City of Cambridge has been way ahead of the game in terms of testing and replacement of lead services. My house is a good example. I replaced my old service in conjunction with an emergency repair by the Water Department some years ago, and my building has been one of the City’s lead and copper testing sites for nearly three decades. We are definitely not Flint, Michigan.

Order #7. That the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Committee and the Civic Unity Committee hold a joint hearing to determine the feasibility of facilitating the appointment of an “Non-Citizen Representative” to the City Council.   Councillor Mazen, Mayor Simmons

This is a ridiculous proposal. There has never been a day in the history of Cambridge when a non-citizen couldn’t bring concerns to any of the elected city councillors with every expectation that those concerns would be addressed. All five items proposed are already available to any member of the public – citizen or not. It is also abundantly clear that the appropriate City Council Committee for the substance of this Order would be the Government Operations Committee – and neither of the two committees specified in the Order.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to update the City Council on the effects of the removal of sidewalk vaults in Central Square.   Councillor Cheung

For those not in the know, the continued presence of hollow sidewalks, a.k.a. sidewalk vaults or area ways, in Central Square is one of the main reasons why the sidewalks routinely fail and are difficult to maintain. Eliminating these area ways is not cheap and the financial burden primarily rests with the property owners. At the very least the City could require that these be remedied as a precondition for any City grant programs or zoning relief. This is just one of many things that continue to need attention in Central Square. – Robert Winters

Catching Up on the Cambridge News (Mar 21, 2016)

Filed under: Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:44 am

Cambridge Takes Steps to Protect Workers from Wage Theft
Cambridge City Manager Issues Executive Order on Wage Theft Prevention

On Monday, March 14, 2016, City Manager Richard C. Rossi signed an Executive Order establishing certification requirements for vendors bidding on City contracts. The measure seeks to prevent wage theft, which is the improper withholding of payment from employees and the failure to pay employees according to required schedules. Wage theft most often involves employers paying less than the minimum, contracted, or prevailing wage, not paying for all hours worked, and not paying overtime for hours exceeding 40 per week, but wage theft can take many forms—employers may never send the final paycheck, or may misclassify workers as independent contractors.

“This Executive Order is a clear indication of Cambridge’s continuing commitment to wage justice,” said City Manager Richard C. Rossi. “The provisions put into effect today provide the City the protections that are needed to ensure that we are dealing with quality contractors. We have created a simple and fair process for both the City and for our contractors.”

Under the Executive Order vendors bidding on City contracts will be required to certify their compliance with federal and state wage law with the City, and if the vendors have previous violations, disclose them, and provide a wage bond for the duration of the contract. These measures strengthen the City’s ability to hire vendors that treat their employees fairly.

Labor advocates from the Greater Boston Labor Council and Community Labor United worked with City leaders to bring this issue forward. “Cambridge is taking great leadership for workers’ rights,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Director of Community Labor United and Vice President of the Greater Boston Labor Council. “By taking this action, the City of Cambridge is sending a clear message to all employers: wage theft in Cambridge will not be tolerated. We applaud the leaders of this city for doing what is right for workers.”

The Executive Order also prohibits City departments from contracting with debarred vendors for the period of their debarment. This will help to ensure that City resources are not used to support those vendors debarred for wage law violations.

The Executive Order is effective for all contracts resulting from requests for proposals or invitation for bids that become publically available on or after March 14, 2016. Cambridge joins the City of Boston in requiring this type of certification and wage bond.

Wage Theft Executive Order
Photo: Arthur Goldberg, Deputy City Solicitor for the City of Cambridge; Amy Witts, Purchasing Agent for the City of Cambridge;
Lindsay McCluskey, Organizer for Greater Boston Labor Council, and Darlene Lombos, Executive Director of Community
Labor United and Vice President of the Greater Boston Labor Council and, of course, Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi

Health & Human Services Job Fair March 30

Mar 14, 2016 – The Cambridge Office of Workforce Development is sponsoring a free Health & Human Services Job Fair Wed, Mar 30, from 11:00am-1:00pm, at Central Square Library, 45 Pearl Street, Cambridge. Take the MBTA Red Line or #1 Bus to Central Square.

Prospective job applicants are urged to research companies in advance and apply for positions online.

Participating organizations include:

little hand Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership little hand Riverside Community Care
little hand Fenway Health & AIDS Action Committee little hand Perkins School for the Blind
little hand Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health    little hand The Edinburg Center
little hand Spaulding Hospital / Cambridge little hand Cambridge Health Alliance
little hand Always Here Home Care little hand Nurtury
little hand Franciscan Hospital for Children little hand United South End Settlements

For more information, call 617-349-6259 or email Josh Foley at

Voter Registration and Absentee Ballots for the Special State Primary, April 12th

Vote!The Special State Primary will be held on Tues, Apr 12, 2016 ONLY in Wards/Precincts 2-2, 2-3, 4-1, 4-3, 5-1, 5-2 & 5-3 for the office of State Senator for Massachusetts First Suffolk & Middlesex Senate District to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Anthony Petruccelli. For Cambridge residents not already registered, the last day to register to vote for the election is Wed, Mar 23, 2016 until 8:00pm. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7:00am until 8:00pm.

If you are a voter in Wards/Precincts 2-2, 2-3, 4-1, 4-3, 5-1, 5-2 & 5-3, please contact the Cambridge Election Commission office to find out when the Absentee Ballots will be available for the Special State Primary. Any voter who is unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to physical disability, religious belief, or absence from the City may request an Absentee Ballot from the Commission. The deadline to apply for an Absentee Ballot is Monday, April 11, 2016 at noon. Absentee Ballots may be mailed to voters, or such voters may choose to vote at the Commission office during regular city office hours: Monday, 8:30am-8:00pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Friday, 8:30am-Noon. The office will also be open for Absentee Voting on Fri, Apr 8 until 5:00pm.

For any additional information, please visit the Cambridge Election Commission office at 51 Inman Street, call (617-349-4361) or visit our website at

BYOBCambridge Residents Encouraged to Bring Reusable Bags when Shopping
Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance goes into effect on March 31, 2016

Mar 14, 2016 – The City of Cambridge seeks to reduce the number of plastic and paper bags being used, discarded, littered, burned, and buried.  The Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Ordinance, effective March 31, 2016, encourages the use of reusable bags at all retail establishments in Cambridge.

The purpose of the Ordinance is to reduce the use of disposable checkout bags by retail establishments to protect the marine environment, advance solid waste reduction, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect waterways. The Ordinance seeks to promote the use of reusable checkout bags. Residents may donate reusable bags at City Hall, Public Works, or the North Cambridge Senior Center as part of DPW’s Reusable Bag Drive to help low income and elderly residents receive bags. Bags exempt from the Ordinance include produce bags, laundry, dry-cleaner and newspaper bags, and bags used to wrap meat or frozen foods.

“This ordinance is important not only from the perspective of reducing damaging materials being discharged into our rivers and oceans,” said Cambridge Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan, “but we also hope it will be successful in changing people’s behavior to help improve the cleanliness of our streets and sidewalks and reduce the amount of waste in landfills.”

Cambridge businesses will no longer be able to provide single-use plastic bags, but may offer paper, reusable, or compostable bags to customers at a minimum cost of $0.10 per bag. Businesses must show this as the “Checkout Bag Charge” on the receipt and collect sales tax on each bag.

To avoid this charge, customers are encouraged to bring their own bag when they go shopping, out for food, to the pharmacy, and more.

Cambridge Public Works is continuing with successful outreach to businesses to inform and prepare them for the ordinance. Many businesses are excited to implement this ordinance to help the City with its waste reduction goals.

Learn more about the BYOB Ordinance and find helpful information for businesses and residents at

Cambridge Dog License Applications and Renewals Now Available Online

Mar 14, 2016 – Cambridge residents can now apply for or renew their dog’s license online. State law requires that all dogs over 6 months have a current dog license. The dog license period in Cambridge runs from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. The fee for a dog license for a spayed/neutered dog is $10, or $30 for a dog that is not spayed or neutered. Dog licenses are renewed annually. The fine for an unlicensed dog is $50. For more information visit,

In order to obtain a dog license, owners must have a current rabies vaccination. Dogs can be vaccinated at the veterinarian’s office, at clinics held at some pet stores, or low cost clinics held periodically. The next Rabies Vaccination Clinic in Cambridge will be held Sat, Apr 2, from 9-11am, at the Cambridge Department of Public Works. The fee is $15 per dog. Microchipping is also available for $20.

Dog licenses can be a ticket home if your dog is lost since the number on the tag can be traced back to the owner to hopefully help for a safe return. Microchipping can also provide added protection.

As with most municipalities, there is a leash law in the City of Cambridge that requires dogs to be on a leash at all times when off the owner’s property. Over the past several years the City of Cambridge has been continually working with residents to explore strategies for dogs to be off leash in city parks and open spaces. There are three approaches taken by the city to meet the demand for off leash space: dedicated off leash areas, shared use off leash areas, and shared use hours. For a list of areas, visit

In these off leash areas, dog owners must adhere to certain important regulations. The dog must be under voice control and within sight of the owner/keeper at all times when off leash and the dog must have a current Cambridge Dog License. There are other regulations and it is the responsibility of the person with the dog to be aware of these posted regulations. Additionally, either off leash or on leash, an owner/keeper must carry means for disposal to pick up and dispose of any feces left by the dog. The City of Cambridge does supply dog waste bags in some areas, but the responsibility to have a means of disposal is entirely on the owner/keeper.

Draft revisions to the Planning Board Rules and CDD Community Engagement Guidelines

The materials are available on the web and are scheduled to be discussed at the Planning Board meeting on March 22.

30th Annual Cambridge CityRun 5-Miler Road Race and 3-Mile Walk — Sunday, April 3, 2016
Reporting Time: 8:30-10:00am; Starting Time: 10:30am; Start/Finish: Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue

The scenic, flat, tree-lined course starts and finishes at the Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Ave. Two miles into the race, the course runs along the perimeter of the Fresh Pond Reservoir – away from cars and distraction. The chip-timed race has been Race measured and certified by the officials at the U.S.A.T.F.

Entry Fee: $30 on or before Saturday, March 19, $35 after.

Register online at Free Short-Sleeve shirt to the first 1,000 pre-entrants. Participants can also register in person at Marathon Sports, 1654 Mass. Ave., Cambridge.

On Sunday, April 3, interested participants can register at the event at the Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue, Cambridge from 8:30am-10:00am. The race and walk will start promptly at 10:30am.

RACE ROUTE: Depart from 695 Huron Ave., turn right on Grove, right on Blanchard, right Concord Avenue, right on Fresh Pond Parkway to right into Cambridge Water Department, right onto Fresh Pond Reservoir Loop, right onto Fresh Pond Parkway, right on to Huron Ave.

Cambridge Building Permit Information Session
Monday, April 11, 6-8pm at the Inspectional Services Department, 831 Mass. Ave.

Mar 16, 2016 – The City of Cambridge Inspectional Services Department is offering a free, informational Question & Answer session on renovations and construction requirements for Cambridge residents Monday, April 11, from 6-8pm, at the Inspectional Services Department, 831 Mass. Ave. Topics to be reviewed include:

  • How do I Apply for a Permit for Renovation?
  • When do I Need a Permit for Construction?
  • Questions to Ask Prospective Contractors
  • Should I have a Contract? What Should Contract Include?

Pre-registration is required via email to Martha Flynn, or by calling 617-349-6107. For more information, visit

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