Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 24, 2013

Members Needed for Cambridge’s “Getting to Net Zero” Task Force

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:50 am

Members Needed for Cambridge’s "Getting to Net Zero" Task Force

Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking volunteers to serve on a new "Getting to Net Zero" Task Force that will advise the City Manager on ways to advance the goal of putting Cambridge on the trajectory towards becoming a "net zero community," with focus on carbon emissions from building operations. This includes reducing energy use intensity of buildings and taking advantage of opportunities to harvest energy from renewable resources.

The Task Force will work collaboratively to examine strategies and develop recommendations that address the following topics:

· reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment
· improve energy efficiency and conservation in existing and new buildings
· support renewable energy generation both on- and off-site
· best practices to engage/educate users and influence occupant behavior

The City seeks individuals with a high degree of experience and expertise in these topics and demonstrated ability to work effectively on a team with diverse opinions to craft consensus solutions. The intention is to create a task force that includes subject matter experts in topics such as building design, construction and operation, development economics, energy efficiency, and renewable energy technology & policy, including the concept of Renewable Energy Certificates, as well as community advocates/residents, business/property owners/developer representatives, and representatives of local universities/the Cambridge Climate Compact.

The Task Force will work collaboratively to develop actionable recommendations that are comprehensive, practical and implementable and at the same time bold in their vision; these may include changes to City ordinances, zoning, policies and other directives. The work of the Task Force should continue to advance Cambridge’s role as a regional and national leader in addressing environmental issues.

It is expected that Committee appointments will be made by the City Manager before the end of the year. The group will meet at least monthly starting December 2013 and deliver final recommendations by December 2014.

To apply, please send a letter by Nov 12, 2013 describing your interest in the study and any experience you have working on similar issues to:

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

Toomey Highlights Work on Grand Junction Train Issues, Vision for Future Bike Path

Filed under: Cambridge,East Cambridge,transportation — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:48 am

Toomey Highlights Work on Grand Junction Train Issues, Vision for Future Bike Path

On Wednesday, City Councillor Tim Toomey released a new video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6jv5rJJPjk) highlighting his work on issues related to the Grand Junction Railroad in Cambridge. The Grand Junction, which traverses several Cambridge neighborhoods, has become a hot button issue in recent years with proposals for Commuter Rail trains and ethanol transport being considered at the state level. Toomey, who resides in East Cambridge several blocks from the tracks, has been a strong supporter of creating a mixed-use bike and pedestrian path in the Grand Junction’s right-of-way.

"Grand Junction is an incredible asset for our community," Toomey said Wednesday. "While it has an important regional significance, being the only rail link between the northern and southern halves of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, it is also essentially a large swath of undeveloped, lightly-used land in the heart of Cambridge. With the exception of Commuter Rail maintenance trains and a freight train that carries produce to Chelsea several times per week, the tracks are seldom used. It’s pretty clear that there are many outside of Cambridge that have an eye on it, but unfortunately their plans tend not to benefit abutters of the tracks in any way."

In 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began studying ways to use the Grand Junction Railroad for Commuter Rail service from Worcester to North Station. Their plans, which included more than twenty trains per day travelling at high speeds through six intersections in Cambridge and Somerville, were met with intense community skepticism and opposition. Councillor Toomey’s outspoken opposition helped force the state to more closely study the plan, and it was eventually shelved.

"That was a real victory for our community," said Toomey. "There is such a strong need for better public transportation in our state, but that was not the way to do it," Toomey said, adding that the Massachusetts Sierra Club joined in opposition to the state proposal. "By blocking that proposal, we kept Grand Junction open to uses that will provide tangible benefits to Cambridge residents."

In 2013, Toomey emerged as a leading voice in the fight to stop a Fortune 500 company’s plan to use railroads in Cambridge and Somerville to move millions of gallons of flammable ethanol each week. The plans included the possibility that Grand Junction could be used for trains carrying more than 60 tanker cars full of flammable chemicals. This proposal was met with intense community opposition not only in Cambridge, but in many of the surrounding communities. After a successful push by legislators at the State House, Global Partners, the petroleum company behind the proposal, backed down from their plans.

"Again, this was an immense victory for our neighborhood and the entire region, really," Toomey said. "An accident in a place like Cambridge or Somerville would have disastrous effects. While we have one of the best trained and best equipped fire departments in the entire country right here in Cambridge, an ethanol accident in an urban residential area would necessitate a regional response capability that just does not exist right now," Toomey said, adding that this was another plan that would have potentially precluded a positive community use for the Grand Junction Railroad.

"I think the fact that our community has had to fight back against destructive uses of these tracks twice in as many years highlights the urgency of building the rail trail," said Toomey, referring to a proposal to use unused space next to the Grand Junction railroad tracks to construct a mixed-use bike path. "This corridor passes through Kendall Square, where we have seen enormous growth in the numbers of people who bike and walk to work as opposed to driving cars," said Toomey. "The rail trail would offer a safer place for people to commute and recreate. The demand is already there."

In a video released on Wednesday, which can be found on Toomey’s website, the City Councillor describes work he has done to bring the rail trail closer to construction, including his work to include the path in the East Cambridge Open Space Planning Study and secure $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"More and more people are realizing just how much sense this project makes," Toomey said. "Just as we have been successful in opposing problematic proposals in the past, I firmly believe we can be successful if we support the rail trail with the same intensity."

Note: This was taken from a press release.

October 23, 2013

Episode 14 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Jesse Kansen-Benanav

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 5:32 pm

Episode 14 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Jesse Kansen-Benanav. This aired on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:00pm.

Episode 13 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Jesse Kansen-Benanav

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 5:31 pm

Episode 13 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Jesse Kansen-Benanav. This aired on Oct 22, 2013 at 5:30pm.

October 21, 2013

Another Monday – Oct 21, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:52 am

Another Monday – Oct 21, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

As Election Day draws near, the business of the City continues. Here are a few items of interest:

The City Manager’s Agenda features 10 responses to the 34 items on "Awaiting Report". I’m sure the city councillors will do their best to grow the list back again with what are often questionable requests that could be more easily answered in person.

Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-34, regarding appointing a task force to further examine the Connolly Petition.

It’s been entertaining to watch the spin associated with this whole matter. The bottom line is that few people disagree with the concept of encouraging highly energy efficient building construction, and the response from the City Manager reflects this. However, the Connolly Petition was, in fact, a zoning petition that would have mandated that any new development over a modest size not only meet energy efficiency standards (which many new buildings already do), but also that any energy needs that cannot be met on-site instead be purchased from a restricted list of suppliers and/or supplemented by the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs). The petition also specifically mandated that this should apply to every tenant in the new buildings. [Note – I have repeatedly suggested that this goes well beyond what can be legally mandated via zoning.]

On the substance of the Connolly Petition, the majority of the City Council disagreed with the petition as drafted. This has been made clear in responses in candidate forums and in statements in the Cambridge Chronicle. Most challengers in this year’s election have also made clear that they could not support the petition as drafted. The Mayor and City Manager convened a forum of experts a few weeks ago at the Cambridge Public Library and these experts generally disagreed with the substance of the Connolly Petition. The establishment of this task force can only be viewed as a way to craft an alternative that could actually be supported – and not in any way as what Mr. Connolly is now calling "a huge win for the hundreds of residents who signed on to our online petition." This is delusional at best.

My sense is that this task force will likely focus not only on new construction (which, let’s face it, is what many of the petitioners wanted to block), but on developing policies and programs applicable to all Cambridge buildings. If this can "re-energize" some of the initial efforts of the Cambridge Energy Alliance and tap into grant money to help homeowners and other property owners to make their buildings more energy efficient, then this will be an outcome we can all support. The Connolly Petition was a lemon, but the City administration will make some lemonade.

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been filed by Christopher H. Lutz, et al. requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Map of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by rezoning an area on the northern border of Richdale Avenue from Upland Road to Walden Street from its C1-A designation to residential C-1.

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been filed by John Chun, et al. requesting the City Council amend the Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge in the entire district currently zoned Residence B located in the Cambridge Highlands neighborhood, situated north of Concord Avenue, south of and adjacent to the Blair Pond Reservation, and east of and adjacent to the municipal boundary with the Town of Belmont by deleting the designation Residence B and substituting therefore a designation of Residence A-2.

Order #5. That the City Council go on record re-filing a petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Section 17.20 to increase the setback requirement abutting Linear Park and to clarify form and density language with the residential neighborhood.   Councillor Maher

That’s three more zoning petitions in the queue.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel, City partners, and the Governor’s Office to develop a contingency plan to ensure that Cambridge residents who see part or all of their rent subsidized by federal funding will not see their housing jeopardized in the event of a future shutdown of the federal government.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Even though the shutdown of the federal government is over for the moment, this Order illustrates the dilemma that state and local officials face if and when we go through this again. Cambridge has long been supportive of public housing options within Cambridge, but much of this housing is funded by sources outside of Cambridge. If the flow of money is restricted, it cannot be easily replaced by local revenue sources. Vice Mayor Simmons’ order is specifically about the Section 8 program (rental vouchers), but the hard reality is that federal policies and Congressional dysfunction can quickly disrupt local housing options. The Order calls for a contingency plan, but the local options for response are limited.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves, Chair of the University Relations Committee, for a public meeting held on Dec 7, 2012 to tour Harvard University.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves, Chair of the University Relations Committee, for a public meeting held on Mar 5, 2013 to tour Lesley University.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves, Chair of the University Relations Committee, for a public meeting held on Apr 5, 2013 toured the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

I note these more for amusement than anything else. For a long time now I have noted on the City Council Committees page regarding the University Relations Committee: "No reports have been filed by this committee. Until such time as reports are filed, it will be assumed that this committee has not actually met." The committee has apparently met 8 times dating back 18 months (Apr 2012), but these are the first reports being filed. Perhaps we’ll see the other five reports on the eve of Election Day. – Robert Winters

October 16, 2013

Episode 12 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Alice Wolf (Part 2)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:27 pm

Episode 12 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Alice Wolf (Part 2). This aired on Oct 15, 2013 at 6:00pm.

Episode 11 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Alice Wolf (Part 1)

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:24 pm

Episode 11 of Cambridge InsideOut with guest Alice Wolf (Part 1). This aired on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:30pm.

October 15, 2013

Alewife Reservation Constructed Wetland Grand Opening Ceremony – Tuesday, October 15

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 8:42 am

Alewife Reservation Constructed Wetland Grand Opening Ceremony – Tuesday, October 15

Cambridge, MA – After a long and collaborative effort between the City of Cambridge’s Department of Public Works, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the three agencies are pleased to announce the grand opening of the Alewife Constructed Wetland just west of the Alewife T Station along the Alewife Greenway Extension multi-use path, Tuesday, Oct 15, from 2:00-5:00pm. (See more detailed directions below).

Alewife Restored Wetland (Aug 2012)
Alewife Reservation Constructed Wetland during restoration – August 2012

Alewife Constructed Wetland - Oct 2013
Alewife Reservation Constructed Wetland – October 2013

The 3.4-acre wetland is designed to store and treat stormwater runoff before it enters the Little River. The new wetland will slow down the flow of stormwater through contact with a series of marsh systems, allowing sediment to settle, and removing nutrients and pollutants from the water. Several types of habitats, ranging from emergent marsh to riparian woodland have been created to enrich and enhance the biodiversity that already exists in the Alewife Reservation. The wetland also provides recreational amenities, including a boardwalk and scenic overlooks, environmental education opportunities, an amphitheater designed with seating for a class of students, interpretive signage, and links to the Alewife Greenway Extension’s bike and pedestrian paths.

"This newly constructed wetland not only improves water quality in the Little River and Alewife Brook, but also provides a new and unique recreational and educational open space for the community to enjoy," said Richard C. Rossi, City Manager.

This project is funded by the City of Cambridge, MWRA and the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust through the Clean Water SRF program administered by MassDEP.

AlewifeWetland2013Oct15TalkingPoints

Please visit the City’s website to learn more about this innovative stormwater management project and new urban wild at www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/cityprojects.aspx (select Cambridge Park Drive Area Drainage Improvements and Stormwater Wetland Project).

Directions to Alewife Reservation Constructed Wetland:
Walking directions to the Basin Amphitheater via Alewife Greenway Extension:

From DCR Discovery Park Lot – 100 Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge


Exit DCR parking lot at driveway entrance.

• Turn LEFT out of parking lot going SOUTH to walking trail at the Corner of Acorn Park Dr., approx. 90 ft.

• Turn LEFT on walking trail going EAST to Alewife Station Access Rd., approx. 900 ft.

• Turn RIGHT on Alewife Station Access Rd. going SOUTH over the Little River to Alewife Greenway Extension, approx. 450 ft.

• Turn RIGHT on Alewife Greenway Extension going WEST to Basin Amphitheater, approx. 1300 ft.

From MBTA Alewife Station – Intersection of Alewife Brook Parkway and Cambridge Park Drive

• Exit Alewife Station to Alewife Station Access Rd.

• Turn RIGHT out of Alewife Station going NORTH under parking structure overpass, approx. 500 ft.

• Turn LEFT to cross Alewife Station Access Rd. going WEST to Alewife Greenway Extension, approx. 80 ft.

• Stay STRAIGHT on Alewife Greenway Extension going WEST to Basin Amphitheater, approx. 1300 ft.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: