Here are a few items of interest.:
City Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a request from Leggat McCall Properties that the City of Cambridge consider the disposition by a long-term lease to Leggat McCall of four-hundred twenty (420) parking spaces and a portion of the ground floor retail space at the City-owned First Street Garage.
There are a number of good reasons to do this as outlined in the City Manager’s letter, but the devil is in the details and the City should not settle for just the promise of a grocery store and a better retail environment.
Charter Right #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the proposed zoning petition regarding Medical Marijuana Regulations. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on City Manager Agenda Number Nine of Sept 30, 2013.]
It’s pretty clear that these dispensaries will have to go somewhere and the proposed districts in NorthPoint and in the area of the Fresh Pond Shopping Center may be the best available option.
Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to review the permitting process and any zoning and building code barriers to greater adoption of solar energy. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number Fifteen of Sept 30, 2013.]
It’s hard to understand why Councillor Decker felt the need to delay this Order other than to continue her pointless sniping of her less favored colleagues. As I said last week, this Order is the kind of energy efficiency initiative that actually makes sense in that it addresses what all property owners could potentially choose to do to conserve energy and save money and makes so much more sense than mandating "net zero" buildings.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Director of the Information Technology Department and with any other relevant City staff and City partners to determine the feasibility of bringing free wireless internet access to Central Square, and to report back to the City Council on what must be done in order to make this a reality within the next year. Vice Mayor Simmons
This is a good idea – even if it means having to suffer even more hipsters playing with their apps on their razor-thin Macbooks and other devices. My personal choice would be to create several designated areas for hot dog stands.
Order #4. That the City Council go on record strongly urging the Cambridge Housing Authority to reopen the public decision about the smoking ban that is scheduled to go into effect on Aug 1, 2014, in order to allow for a more robust discussion and greater collaboration with all of those will be directly impacted by this policy change. Vice Mayor Simmons
You just gotta love the exceptionalism. We go through a huge battle to make bars and restaurants more healthy and pleasant by driving out the smokers, yet when the same standard is applied to public housing there’s outrage. I would never allow smoking inside my building, and I don’t think the City or the Cambridge Housing Authority should permit it either. What kind of "collaboration" does Councillor Simmons have in mind?
Order #6. That the Mayor is requested to form a new standing committee of the City Council — a Non-profit Relations Committee. Councillor vanBeuzekom
I have two objections to this proposal. First, the University Relations Committee is a relatively recent invention and it has never had a particularly heavy burden. If anything, incorporate this new focus into a modified "University and Nonprofit Relations Committee". My second objection the reference in the Order to any future Community Benefits Process. This could so easily become the committee assignment of choice due to the potential patronage benefits associated this any such process.
Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council the Assessing Department’s findings regarding the feasibility of granting small commercial properties a modest exemption on their real estate property taxes. Councillor vanBeuzekom
This law states: "With respect to each parcel of real property classified as class three, commercial, in each city or town certified by the commissioner to be assessing all property at its full and fair cash valuation, and at the option of the board of selectmen or mayor, with the approval of the city council, as the case may be, there shall be an exemption equal to not more than ten percent of the value of the parcel." This is an interesting idea in that it would potentially provide a small benefit to small businesses at the expense of larger businesses. I look forward to what the Assessor has to say about this idea.
Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to provide the City Council with a report on how the city planning team supports and encourages safe bicycle lane travel citywide Councillor vanBeuzekom
My only concern about this Order is that it’s almost exclusively about the blocking of bike lanes and, though cyclists may resent seeing vehicles stopped in those lanes, this is not an especially great hazard. As a daily cyclist, I’m far more concerned about problematic road surfaces and the idiocy exhibited by both cyclists and motor vehicle operators at intersections. If we are to take action against illegal parking, start by going after any driver who fails to park within a foot of the curb.
Order #10. That the City Manager, the Police Commissioner and their designees shall not activate or cause to be activated any security cameras, surveillance cameras, or any other video or audio recording, watching or listening devices or implement any policy relating to such cameras unless in either case there shall be held a prior affirmative vote of the majority of the City Council specifically authorizing the contemplated activation or implementation. Councillor Decker
I would like to see the authorization of a reasonable number of such cameras put to a vote of the City Council just so we can see which councillors are opposed to what most law enforcement officials see as a reasonable and very helpful tool for finding and prosecuting criminals. It would be especially nice if this could take place prior to November 5th so that I can further narrow the number of choices on my municipal ballot.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee, Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee and Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves, Chair of the Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee for a joint public meeting held on Aug 5, 2013 to discuss the future of the Foundry Building.
In spite of the previous report on this property and the recommendation to sell it, there is no way this will politically happen. What will be interesting is to see if there is any creative way to deliver some of the benefits people seem to want without having this be a huge, permanent financial burden on the taxpayers. – Robert Winters