Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 21, 2015

Last Call – Dec 21, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:37 am

Last Call – Dec 21, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting highlights

This is the last meeting of the 2014-2015 Cambridge City Council. The new term begins with the Inaugural Meeting on Monday, January 4 at 10:00am in the Sullivan Chamber of City Hall. Here are a few notable items for this last meeting of the term grouped by topic:

2015 to 2016Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, regarding two commitment letters received from Boston Properties relative to the 88 Ames Street project.

Unfinished Business #8. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 3, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 21, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 13, 2015. Petition expires Dec 22, 2015.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting modifications to MXD Zoning Petition and Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan Amendment.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and Executive Director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to provide a better economic analysis of the MXD District in Kendall as it would compare to a more typical land acquisition and development deal and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

Essentially every modification requested by the City Council in regard to this has been successfully negotiated, so it’s difficult to see any rational basis for not ordaining this proposed zoning amendment on Dec 21. Letters from the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the current incarnation of the East Cambridge Planning Team seek delay solely for the sake of delay. We’ll see if the tail wags the dog on Monday evening. The petition expires Dec 22.

[Update: The petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square both passed on 7-2 votes with Councillors Kelley and Toomey voting in the negative. There was also an additional commitment from Boston Properties to have a minimum of 20% of the housing be made available for homeownership.]

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to continue discussions on a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the Planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District. The majority of the PUD-KS District is occupied by the Volpe Transportation Systems Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The zoning petition associated with the Volpe Center property seems not ready for prime time. The petition has a Feb 8 expiration date, so it could still be acted on during January or, more likely, be re-filed.


Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-120, regarding a report on the Alewife Bridge/Platform project.

Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an appropriation of $190,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will be used to pay for completion of the feasibility study and preliminary design of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Fitchburg Line commuter rail tracks to link the Alewife Triangle and the Alewife Quadrangle.

This would be a far better proposal if it allowed full vehicular access over the proposed bridge – not just bikes and pedestrians. Without a 2nd means of egress, the Alewife Triangle is just a giant cul-de-sac with insufficient means to enter and exit the area. A full-service bridge would unite the Triangle and Quadrangle as was originally proposed in the Fishbook (Alewife Urban Design Study, 1979). This would improve both areas significantly.


Unfinished Business #9. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to discuss the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 21, 2015.
[Update: This was ordained on an 8-1 vote with Councillor Kelley voting in the negative.]

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on Dec 10, 2015 to discuss the financial aspects of Community Benefits.

Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, the appropriation of $250,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for conceptual and schematic design for proposed improvements to Point Park, at the intersection of Broadway and Main Street in Kendall Square. The funds were given to the City as a part of a 2012 agreement between the City and Boston Properties, LP.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $2,000,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for the design and construction of a new public open space along Galileo Galilei Way and bounded by Binney Street, Broadway, and the Grand Junction railroad tracks, as part of a 2012 agreement with Boston Properties.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $8,336,980 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for the construction of two new public open spaces in the eastern Cambridge/Kendall Square area: Rogers Street Park on Rogers Street between Second Street and Third Street, and Triangle Park, between First Street, Binney Street, and Land Boulevard.

Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a transfer in the amount of $3,728,500 associated with the MIT PUD-5 Zoning, Ordinance #1355 ($3,500,000) and Education First’s agreement for the North Point Building project, Ordinance #1337 ($228,500) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Community Benefits Stabilization Fund which will be used to provide financial support to non-profit charitable community benefits organizations serving Cambridge residents determined by a process established by the City.

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $112,100 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used to remove stormwater (inflow) from the sewer system to offset the new sewer flows associated with the development at 22 Water Street.

When it rains it pours. After being batted around for much of the last decade, the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance appears to be ready for ordination, and with it comes a flood of expenditures utilizing funds generated from a range of commercial developments. It’s interesting that this culmination comes at the last meeting of this City Council term.


Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-138, regarding a report on the feasibility of having a comprehensive housing plan as part of an early action item of the citywide planning process.

The Housing Division of the Community Development and other parties have been involved in this issue for a long time and will continue to be very actively involved during the entirety of the upcoming citywide planning process. It was never clear what the expectations were as a "early action item" and it seems abundantly clear that this will be perhaps the single most dominant issue throughout the whole process.

Manager’s Agenda #26. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-32, regarding a report on the economic analysis for Central Square.

I don’t think there are any great revelations here. If anything, this report simply underscores many of the things said and learned during the Mass & Main petition process. Specifically, the Woodworth report emphasizes how difficult it is to get "family-size" affordable units into a project at an assumed height of about 12 floors. It also makes abundantly clear that building lab space or something comparably profitable is economically advantageous compared to residential projects, and that at 12 floors and a 4.0 FAR the only way to generate family-size affordable residential units is to have that profitable lab space subsidize it. Nobody ever claimed that the C2 recommendations got everything exactly correct. The whole purpose of analysis like this is to get a more accurate sense of the economic realities and necessary incentives to get the desirable outcomes outlined in the C2 report.

Put all this into the Mass & Main context. Mass & Main showed that you can get some of the desirable outcomes if you allow a little more height and density. Can anyone now reasonably question that the only way to get a workable residential project (no lab) with an acceptable number of affordable units was to allow a building greater than 12 stories? This also makes pretty clear that there really was an economic basis for wanting to build lab space and that there was great wisdom in taking the necessary votes to get a residential project instead.

I find most of the assumptions in this analysis to be reasonable. I might perhaps question the assumption that "family-size" (3 bedroom) requires an average of 1300 sq. ft. The floors of most Cambridge triple-deckers are less than 1300 sq. ft. and many families lived well within those apartments.

Personally, I have never bought into the argument that it is so vitally important to build many "family-size" apartments into new residential buildings in all locations. The most plentiful source of those family-size units has long been in existing multi-family housing much of which has been lost to overpriced condominium conversion over the last decade or so. One of the main arguments for building new housing – with or without a high fraction of "affordable units" or family-size units – is to absorb some of the demand that is otherwise removing existing housing units from affordability. That said, I understand that there actually is a demand for such family-size units in Kendall Square (Ames Street, for example) and there’s plenty of lab/office revenue to support its provision.


Unfinished Business #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 16, 2015.

Committee Report #5. 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 Dec 14, 2015 to continue discussion on the proposed amendments to the Municipal Code Chapter 2.121 entitled "Living Wage Ordinance."

The proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance still doesn’t seem ripe for ordination, but that won’t necessarily stop this City Council from once again ordaining something prematurely. The most telling statement in the committee report is this: "Mr. Rossi noted that it is his job to give his professional advice. He can do a better job for citizens and he disagrees with this proposal."
[Update: This was ordained unanimously.]


Unfinished Business #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 18, 2015 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to amend Article 6.000 to create a new Section 6.24 Car-sharing Provision that will create a definition and general provisions for Car-sharing and will allow the limited use of parking spaces. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 28, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 27, 2015. Petition expires Feb 16, 2016.

Unfinished Business #7. 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 19, 2015 to discuss a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett III, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by amending Article 2.000 ("Definitions") and Article 4.000, Section 4.22 ("Accessory Apartment"). The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 28, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 27, 2015. Petition expires Feb 17, 2016.

Either of these zoning petitions could be ordained with possible amendments at this meeting, but both petitions have expiration dates in mid-February and are not so time sensitive. [I believe that zoning petitions are governed by state law and do not expire at the end of a City Council term.] There is also still a report due from the Inspectional Services Dept. on some aspects of the Barrett Petition. [A brief preliminary report from Inspectional Services arrived as a late addition to the City Manager’s Agenda.]


Order #1. That all items pending before the City Council and not acted upon by the end of the 2014-2015 Legislative Session be placed in the files of the City Clerk, without prejudice provided that those proposed ordinances which have been passed to a second reading, advertised and listed on the Calendar under "Unfinished Business" during the 2014-2015 City Council term, along with any other pending matters on the Calendar listed as "Unfinished Business," shall be forwarded to the next City Council and further provided that any items pending in committee may, at the discretion of the committee, be forwarded to the next City Council.   Mayor Maher

This is the traditional "clean slate" order at the end of every City Council term that makes clear that most items still in committee, on the Calendar, and listed under Awaiting Report expire with the end of the Council term unless forwarded by the respective committee Chairs to the new City Council.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to direct Inspectional Services to work with businesses in Central Square to clean unwanted graffiti on area buildings.   Councillor McGovern

In truth, this problem goes well beyond just the graffiti, though some of the spectacular examples of negligent Central Square property owners should get special and immediate attention. I would also prefer that people refer to this as vandalism rather than suggest some inherent artistic value.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the appropriate departments to give recognized community groups the ability to present alongside or directly after city staff, on the record and as part of the presentation agenda during meetings of the Ordinance Committee.   Councillor Mazen

This is a spectacularly misguided order. Its intent appears to be to confer special standing upon specific self-proclaimed entities. There is absolutely nothing today that prevents any resident from testifying at an Ordinance Committee meeting and any group of residents can petition the Chair to present as a group if this makes the testimony more efficient. Who exactly is to decide what constitutes a "recognized community group?" Should this Order pass, I will personally start circulating petitions creating a half dozen "community groups" in order to reserve the right to have a place on the presentation agenda of every meeting of the Ordinance Committee. Perhaps the sponsor of this Order only means to reserve this privilege for organizations that have endorsed his candidacy.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, regarding the work the Housing Committee has conducted throughout the course of the term and recommendations what the Housing Committee and the City Council will continue to work on in the coming term.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, to briefly reflect upon the work the Civic Unity Committee has conducted throughout the course of the term and issue some recommendations what the Civic Unity Committee, the City Council, and the City Administration will continue to work on in the coming term.

This is something new – a city councillor writing up summary statements at the end of a City Council term of the work of her committees. I think this should be standard procedure in the future. Way to go, Councillor Simmons! – Robert Winters

December 16, 2015

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 97 and 98

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:04 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 97 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 15, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 98 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 15, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

December 9, 2015

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 95 and 96 with Patrick Barrett

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:00 am

Cambridge InsideOut this week featured a conversation with Patrick Barrett.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 95 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:30pm. Topics included current zoning petitions in Kendall Square and the municipal streamlining bill introduced by Governor Baker. Patrick Barrett is the guest. The host is Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 96 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 8, 2015 at 6:00pm. The main topics were the Barrett Petition and Central Square. Patrick Barrett is the guest. The host is Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

December 6, 2015

Runnin’ Down the Clock – December 7, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

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

Runnin’ Down the Clock – December 7, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

December 7Here are a few nuggets for this Day of Infamy. I’ll leave the comments to others this time.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with suggested modifications the PUD-KS (Volpe Site) Rezoning Petition.

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority/MXD Rezoning Petition in the revised version dated Nov 4, 2015, with suggested clarifications.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 19, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 3, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-94, regarding a report on a list of parking stickers issued to each development in the past ten years.

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the Community Benefits Ordinance.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to discuss the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Nicole Murati Ferrer, Esq. as Chair of the License Commission, effective Jan 11, 2016.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant City staffers to determine the feasibility of establishing City-financed "gap vouchers," similar to those being considered by the City of Waltham, and to consider whether additional measures such as establishing standalone City-issued housing vouchers could be established.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel and report back to the City Council on what specific steps will be implemented in the coming year to ensure that the City’s Boards and Commissions adequately reflect the rich diversity of the City, and to ensure that a greater level of citizen outreach and engagement by these entities is pursued.   Councillor Simmons

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Finance Department to establish a parallel fund to the fund proposed in the Community Benefits Ordinance and to confer with the Finance Director to ensure that the parallel fund will be able to accept money from private entities and that it will spend the collected money in a similar manner to the Community Benefits Fund   Councillor Cheung

Committee Report #5. 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 19, 2015 to discuss a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett III, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by amending Article 2.000 ("Definitions") and Article 4.000, Section 4.22 ("Accessory Apartment").

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Tanya L. Ford, Executive Director, Cambridge Election Commission, transmitting the Final Official Results from the Municipal Election held on Tues, Nov 3, 2015 for City Council.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Tanya L. Ford, Executive Director, Cambridge Election Commission, transmitting the Final Official Results from the Municipal Election held on Tues, Nov 3, 2015 for School Committee.

Who Voted in the 2015 Cambridge Municipal Election?

Filed under: 2013 Election,2014 Election,2015 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 3:17 am

Who Voted in the 2015 Cambridge Municipal Election?

For the November 2015 Municipal Election, there were 63,338 registered voters with identified birthdates. Their median age was 38.7. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 3, 2015) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters - 2015
Registered Voters – 2015

Of these registered voters, 17,885 voted in the 2015 municipal election. Their median age was 56.0. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 3, 2015) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters 2015
Registered Voters Who Voted in the 2015 Municipal Election


For the November 2014 State Election, there were 66,315 registered voters with identified birthdates. Their median age was 37.9. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 4, 2014) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters 2015
Registered Voters – 2014

Of these registered voters, 32,569 voted in the 2014 State Election. Their median age was 49.3. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 4, 2014) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters 2015
Registered Voters Who Voted in the 2014 State Election


For the November 2013 Municipal Election, there were 70,601 registered voters with identified birthdates. Their median age was 37.0. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 5, 2013) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters - 2015
Registered Voters – 2013

Of these registered voters, 17,800 voted in the 2013 Municipal Election. Their median age was 56.4. Here’s how their ages as of Election Day (Nov 5, 2013) were distributed (in 3-year intervals):

Registered Voters 2015
Registered Voters Who Voted in the 2013 Municipal Election


Changes from 2013 to 2015:

The total number of voters in the 2013 and 2015 Cambridge Municipal Elections were comparable, but there were some noticeable differences by age. Here’s a table showing some of this information:

age voted
2015
2015 pct.
turnout
voted
2014
2014 pct.
turnout
voted
2013
2013 pct.
turnout
2013 to 2015
change
18-20 205 15.5 392 21.6 291 12.4 –86
21-23 303 8.2 884 25.1 361 10.1 –58
24-26 666 12.4 1956 32.6 620 9.7 +46
27-29 878 12.8 2423 33.5 763 9.5 +115
30-32 787 12.6 2329 34.8 791 10.5 –4
33-35 841 17.3 1974 37.1 742 12.5 +99
36-38 797 21.7 1680 43.3 632 14.6 +165
39-41 709 24.1 1406 46.8 677 21.2 +32
42-44 741 30.3 1355 50.8 763 27.0 –22
45-47 786 32.8 1331 56.7 733 29.5 +53
48-50 759 35.4 1297 57.7 788 33.5 –29
51-53 855 38.6 1485 64.6 915 38.7 –60
54-56 931 42.2 1571 68.4 1050 42.9 –119
57-59 1086 46.5 1692 70.0 1095 45.4 –9
60-62 1067 45.1 1824 74.4 1200 47.5 –133
63-65 1171 50.0 1797 75.6 1229 50.8 –58
66-68 1219 53.0 1775 78.3 1172 53.1 +47
69-71 1035 56.0 1428 77.8 1015 57.1 +20
72-74 880 57.3 1108 79.5 738 59.0 +142
75-77 608 57.4 797 76.6 596 58.4 +12
78-80 500 57.7 638 76.3 460 55.8 +40
81-83 351 52.2 483 70.0 382 53.9 –31
84-86 285 47.9 402 66.7 321 54.3 –36
87-89 202 47.6 263 58.8 224 48.0 –22
90-92 137 42.5 163 51.3 139 41.1 –2
93-95 59 33.0 71 38.0 64 37.6 –5
96-98 17 22.7 29 39.2 27 30.3 –10
99-101 10 35.7 14 36.8 11 27.5 –1
102-104 0 0.0 2 16.7 0 0.0 0
105-107 0 0.0 0 0.0 1 25.0 –1
Total 17885 28.2 32569 49.1 17800 25.2 +85

2013 to 2015

December 1, 2015

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 93 and 94 – On Civic Infrastructure

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:38 pm

Cambridge InsideOut this week took a look at “civic infrastructure”.

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 93 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 1, 2015 at 5:30pm. Topics included Participatory Budgeting, the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, and mayoral speculation. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 94 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 1, 2015 at 6:00pm. The main topic was “civic infrastructure”. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

References materials for these shows

November 25, 2015

Morning Thoughts – Nov 25, 2015

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:06 am

Morning Thoughts

Vision Central SquareWed, Nov 25 – I walked through Central Square on my way to MIT this morning and finally reached the breaking point concerning the complete disregard of residents, business and property owners for the area. I removed posters (many outdated and some not) from most of the poles along the way – some many months old. If you operate a business or occupy offices in Central Square, would it be so much to ask for you to just give a shit about your surroundings? These are not things for which you should pass the buck to the Department of Public Works. Just clean up your act. You’re adults. Try acting like it.

Maybe it’s time for vigilante cleaning crews. From now on, whenever I have more than a few free moments, I will tear down every illegal poster I see anywhere in Central Square. If this means having one less person at your "Occupy Something" rally, then tough shit. You’re a parasite and we don’t need you. Maybe I’ll give a grace period for Yard Sales but, seriously, is it so much to ask you to take down the posters that you put up after your event is over?

How about the proprietors of the Middle East (wonderful people by all accounts) taking responsibility to remove all the stickers from the poles within several hundred feet of their clubs put there from the fans and members of the various bands who play at their clubs? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the people who operate The Dance Complex might hire somebody to remove the grafitti from their building? Don’t get me going about Morris Nagger and his perpetual negligence of the properties he and his family own in Central Square. Thanks, Morris, for bringing H-Mart to Central Square (we love you for it), but could you now start removing the enormous amount of graffiti that has been growing unabated on your buildings over the last decade?

If anyone would like to sit down with me and help write the Code of Conduct and How-To Guide for Living, Working, and Owning Property in Central Square, I’ll be accepting applications over the next few days. I’m not interested in waiting for others to do this. Email me at Robert@rwinters.com or call me at 617-661-9230. Once we’re clear about this basic stuff, we’ll take on some of the bigger issues. – Robert Winters

November 22, 2015

Notable Floatables on the Nov 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:42 pm

Notable Floatables on the Nov 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

These items have floated to the top of my barrel this week:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Coolidge Place Land Disposition Report, pursuant to Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Planning Board recommendation favoring the Coolidge Plan Land Disposition.

In a rational world, this would be a routine minor land disposition. This was a well-known component of the Mass&Main zoning package that was passed by the City Council last spring but, just like curb cut approvals, these can sometimes become opportunities for continued efforts to block projects or extract additional concessions. Honestly, this was all settled in May and the exchange of this passageway for a far better one (plus cash) should be a slam dunk. Perhaps we can get a player to be named later in the trade. The hearing starts at 7:00pm.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to further study the Barrett, et al Zoning Petition.

This petition has already had one pass at the Planning Board (Oct 27) and at the Ordinance Committee (Nov 19). Parts of the proposal will likely be kicked down the road as part of the citywide planning exercises, but some could be acted upon sooner. At the heart of the petition is the basic concept of allowing residential property owners to make better use of existing, underutilized space in their buildings for additional rental housing. People already do this under the radar all over Cambridge.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with changes the Carsharing Zoning Petition (refiled).

The Planning Board remains convinced that this is generally a good thing but that there should be a registration mechanism to allow the City to monitor how expanded carsharing on residential properties evolves and if any problems arise.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the purchase of the premises numbered 0 Winter Street, Assessor’s parcel #165-21-1, in the Town of Lincoln ("the Property") consisting of 54.35 acres of undeveloped land for the purposes of protecting the City’s drinking water supply and for land conservation.

Watershed protection is one of those unseen and underappreciated things the City does. This is money well spent.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-85, regarding a report on the feasibility of having the City purchase the buildings on Harvard Street and Harding Street.

The short version is:  No Deal.

Unfinished Business #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 16, 2015.

I’m not so sure this is ready to rock and roll, but that hasn’t stopped this City Council in other votes during the last two years. Why let legal enforcibility or economic viability get in the way of a popular vote?

Communications #3. A communication was received from Kim Courtney, regarding Xavier Dietrich’s Open Meeting Law Complaint against the Board of Zoning Appeal and Chair Constantine Alexander.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a response to the Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich, 955 Massachusetts Avenue #259, Cambridge, regarding the Minutes of the City Council meeting of Aug 10, 2015.

Mosquitoes are annoying pests, but you have to at least respect their need for nutrition. I have yet to see any basis for respect for this not-so-dynamic duo of Courtney/Dietrich whose sole reason for being is to be an annoyance. Perhaps they should open a whine bar.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back on the feasibility of making a comprehensive housing plan an early action item of the pending citywide planning process.   Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

Sound great just as long as "comprehensive" doesn’t translate into "build nothing that doesn’t sit well with our political supporters."

Order #3. City Council support of the efforts of the Harvard Graduate Student Union and urging the Harvard administration to commit to refrain from legal or other action that would delay graduate employees’ right to choose collective bargaining, to refrain from efforts to influence research assistants and teaching assistants in their decision to vote on HGSU-UAW, and to commit to commence good-faith negotiations for a contract immediately upon confirmation of a majority vote by research assistants and teaching assistance in favor of HGSU-UAW as their union.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

Volpe Tower?Like many others, I was once upon a time a graduate student upon whom many responsibilities were heaped for a fixed stipend – so much so that it interfered with my own studies. [Well, at least they gave me an award for all my good work!] That said, I can’t completely get behind the idea that this should be the subject of collective bargaining in the same way that a long-term job might be. The bottom line is that graduate students should not be put in the position where their graduate studies are unreasonably extended due to underpaid commitments within their respective academic departments. This is a larger issue that has to be addressed at universities everywhere along with the often abysmal pay scales and heavy workloads for adjunct faculty (the dirty little secret of colleges across the USA, including some very prestigious ones). What we should really work toward is appropriate workloads for graduate students that enhance their ability to work in the future at full-time jobs – tenured or otherwise – at reasonable pay scales. Graduate school work is ultimately just temporary employment.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development with the vision of including within the Master Plan and Alewife Study a plan for the relocation of the DPW facilities.   Councillor Toomey

Let me guess – the semi-suburbans of West Cambridge will want to host a relocated DPW Yard at their end of town about as much as they would welcome the CASPAR wet shelter, a methadone clinic, or any of the many social service agencies now in the Central Square area. Where would you move the DPW Yard?

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the Election Commission in order to operate at least 5 early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period and that the City Manager and Election Commission confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings.   Councillor Mazen

This is a solution in search of a problem. Is it really a hardship when there is scheduled to be a 11 day early voting period in addition to normal Election Day voting? Councillor Mazen has concluded that the voters of Cambridge are so completely incapable of finding their way to Inman Street that there is the need to have "5 separate early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period". But that’s not all – he also proposes that the Election Commission "confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings". This translates into staffing for a minimum of 440 hours (plus security considerations) for something that is almost certainly unnecessary. I could see perhaps having a 2nd location open for a portion of a few days as an added convenience, but the scale of this Order makes no sense whatsoever.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 12, 2015 to discuss a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District. The majority of the PUD-KS District is occupied by the Volpe Transportation Systems Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There’s another Ordinance Committee hearing on this topic scheduled for Tues, Dec 1. The trend of late is to load up the proposed zoning with so many constraints (affordable housing, open space, etc.) that the only way for anything to be financially feasible would be to permit building heights on the order of twice the scale of anything currently in Cambridge. Then everyone will complain about the heights. – Robert Winters

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