Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 27, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 293-294: Feb 27, 2018

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

Episode 293 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 27, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 27, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Feb 26 City Council meeting; new voting machines; Right of First Refusal; Bill Nobel; rent control. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 294 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 27, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 27, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Feb 26 City Council meeting; bridges at Alewife; Fishbook; connectivity; and the future of transportation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 25, 2018

Bridging the Divide – Items of Interest on the Feb 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 7:49 pm

Bridging the Divide – Items of Interest on the Feb 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here are some of the more interesting items on this week’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the United States with AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies.

This has become an annual tradition, and it’s still something we should celebrate.


Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for the City Council vote to approve the use of the new voting equipment and to discontinue the use of the existing voting equipment effective immediately.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from Deputy City Clerk, Paula Crane, transmitting a report for a City Council public hearing held on Tues, Feb 20, 2018 for the purpose of the City Council and the public to view the new voting equipment purchased by the Election Commission.

We first used the current AccuVote machines for the Sept 1996 State Primary, and they were a huge improvement over the punchcard system we used prior to that. It was necessary then to have some custom programming done so that the same scanners could also be used for the municipal PR elections, and that will again have to take place with the new ImageCast machines. That’s just for creating the ballot data text files. The election tabulation will continue to be done the same we’ve been doing it. In addition to firming up our system for our own sake, it’s worth noting that with Ranked Choice Voting being advocated in Massachusetts and elsewhere (though not necessarily PR), what we do in Cambridge may be helpful down the road in other places.


Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Hovey & Markham Cottages as follows: 2A. Property located at 40 Cottage Street; and 2B. Property located at 44 Cottage Street.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, whether a building is landmark-worthy should depend only on the building and not on its owners or occupants.

Update: The City Council landmarked only one of the two properties (44 Cottage Street) and sent the other (40 Cottage Street) to Unfinished Business even though the landmarking only makes sense as the pair of buildings. Apparently, these councillors believe that landmarking is a function of whether they like the property owner or not (and whether they supported you politically).


Resolution #24. Congratulations and thanks to William B. "Bill" King on the occasion of his retirement.   Mayor McGovern

Suffice to say that I have great respect for all who voluntarily serve on City boards and commissions out of a sense of civic duty rather than single-issue advocacy. Bill King is one of those people who has consistently defined over many years what it means to be a great citizen.


Communications #7. Sundry e-mails received on support of the protected bike lanes, relative to Policy Order #4 of Feb 12, 2018 Council Meeting. Copies are on file for review in the City Clerk’s office.

I generally ignore all emails that are the product of a coordinated campaign with a list of "talking points", but I did happen to read one of these sundry emails that stated "You will see no slander in comments from the people who support the new infrastructure." I am reminded of the statement "Fortunately time takes care of old people for us" stated by one particular idiot who didn’t appreciate the criticism by older people of the Cambridge Street configuration.

PSFormer Mayor Alice Wolf submitted a late communication at the previous meeting with specific objections to the current configuration of Cambridge Street and the suggestion that a better configuration should be found. The Cambridge Bicycle Committee was created from her initiative, so let’s put to rest the claim that criticism of this configuration is a fringe phenomenon of "the anti-bike people".

Order #2. That the City Manager and the Mayor’s Office are requested to direct the new bicycle lane working group, once it has been convened, to hold a series of “listening sessions” at the senior buildings throughout Cambridge in order to ensure that our senior residents, who might otherwise be unable to attend the various hearings to weigh in on this issue, will have adequate opportunities to have their voices heard on an issue that could have an outsized impact upon them.   Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern

Wouldn’t it be great if "Vision Zero" didn’t always mean "Listen Zero" when it comes to public feedback and other points of view? I will try to be optimistic. Then again there’s this:

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-16, regarding a report on Inman Square construction.

Synopsis: The City is very interested in your ideas about the color of the sidewalk and what varieties of flowers should be planted in the vicinity of the planned reconfiguration of Inman Square that is not subject to any compromise, discussion, or alternative perspectives.


Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with relevant City departments to create additional Safety Zones for safer streets.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

I agree with this Order, but not just in the situation of "proximity to land-uses serving vulnerable populations". Some streets warrant lower speed limits simply because there is fast-moving traffic directly adjacent to a narrow sidewalk, e.g. westbound on Putnam Ave. When Prospect St. used to have an additional lane with neither a buffer nor parking it was very dangerous, especially close to Central Square. On-street parking can, in fact, be very effective in traffic calming – even moreso when speed limits are reduced.

Blue Heron BridgeOrder #7. That the City Manager is requested to consult with City staff on the feasibility of initiating a formal transit study and action plan of the Alewife area in response to unanimous concerns of the Envision Alewife Working Group regarding the need for a pedestrian/bicycle/shuttle bridge from the Quadrangle area along Concord Avenue across the railroad tracks to the Triangle area on Cambridgepark Drive and a commuter rail stop which would be critical to create neighborhoods that are safe and healthy for residents and businesses.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone

It would be great if the City and our various government representatives could find a way to make this happen, but not in the absence of either a new commuter rail stop or shuttle service or both. It will be very difficult to sell this proposal simply as a pedestrian and bicycle amenity (as has often been done), so I’m glad to see this phrased as it is. Contained in this letter is also one point of view that there should be a grade crossing of the railroad tracks (or underpass or bridge) at the western end of Cambridgepark Drive. You’ll never see a new grade crossing approved there, and an underpass is unrealistic. As for a bridge option, it’s only realistic to imagine one new bridge over the tracks and (even though I may like it there) all the proposals I’ve seen in the last few decades don’t have it that far west. The letter also suggests a pedestrian bridge over the Little River. Except for the usual difficulties associated with building anything near a waterway, that bridge would be relatively easy to build and inexpensive. See picture (Blue Heron Bridge over the Charles River between Newton and Watertown – Wikipedia).

Update: City Manager Louis DePasquale hinted at the possibility of some movement but gave no specifics. Everybody is intrigued about what he was driving at.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to draft language for a home rule petition for a Cambridge Right of First Refusal Legislation.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

It’s curious that the authors of this Order chose not to specify what form of "Right of First Refusal bill" they want. There are good reasons why House Bill 3017 never made it out of committee. Do the authors simply want the City Solicitor to provide language that’s the same as H.3017 or do they want a Home Rule Petition that is fundamentally different? It would be nice if the focus was primarily on providing options for long-term tenants rather than on creating a framework for ensuring that private property in select neighborhoods is transferred to public/quasi-public ownership.

Update: Councillor Simmons exercised her Charter Right on this vacuous Order. This Order brought out more people during Public Comment than everything else on the agenda.

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to develop a timeline for the next Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

The current version of the Incentive Zoning provisions was ordained on Sept 28, 2015. That ordinance has the following provision: "The City shall initiate a reevaluation of the Housing Contribution Rate and any other aspect of these Incentive Zoning Provisions at an interval of no less than three (3) years from the time the rate was last amended by the City Council." That’s what a nexus study is, so I suppose this Order is right on schedule. – Robert Winters

February 5, 2018

Coming up at the Feb 5, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:49 pm

Coming up at the Feb 5, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallHere’s my first pass (and Gronkowski didn’t pull this one down either) at the interesting agenda items with the usual brilliant/annoying observations.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to inquire whether the Community Development Department will apply for the Targeted Brownfields Assessment Grant regarding Jerry’s Pond.   Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley

Many people may have forgotten this by now but there were once plans to enhance that whole area – not only by making Jerry’s Pond an available resource but also doing, dare I say, some development in the vicinity of the MBTA headhouse east of the parkway and within the fenced-in area associated with the W.R. Grace site on the north side of the path. First it was the threat of naphthalene in the soil, and then asbestos. I will never believe that permanently fencing in a contaminated site near a T station is preferable to cleaning it up and turning it into a resource rather than a liability.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City Department to gain a sense of who is purchasing buildings in Cambridge.   Councillor Simmons

I think this will be very interesting information, and not only because I’d like to see just how much property Gerald Chan now owns in Cambridge. At least he lives nearby. The greater problem is that in an uncertain world there’s a lot more financial security in Cambridge real estate than in either pork bellies or Chinese financial markets. This reality is not always compatible with the quaint old notion of buying property either because you want a place to live or you need a place to operate your business. Cambridge property has in many ways become primarily a place to store wealth. Barring some new form of gold rush elsewhere I don’t see this changing any time soon.

Order #6. That the City Manager explore the possibility of an "ALL WALK" pedestrian signal at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street, and River Street.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

As appealing as this may seem, the traffic volumes on these streets may dictate otherwise. The greatest problem is the conflict between pedestrians crossing Mass. Ave. and right-turning vehicles from River Street onto Mass. Ave. There used to be a "slip lane" there, but that was even more hazardous for pedestrians. The real problem, in my opinion, is that many drivers and pedestrians don’t have a clue about how to balance assertiveness and courtesy. I’m reminded of a small book from about 35 years ago called "The Boston Driver’s Handbook: Wild in the Streets" that really said it all, especially the Cambridge tradition of acting aloof when crossing in Harvard Square.

I often think about writing a story on "How to Be a Pedestrian in Cambridge" complete with a guide to hand gestures and best ways to stop vehicles with just a look. These lessons will, of course, be lost on habitual cell phone users.

Order #7. City Council support of Representative Provost and the Cambridge Legislative Delegation’s efforts to pass a Right of First Refusal Bill, with an amendment for cities to provide final implementation modifications as needed.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Please explain how this will apply to a multi-family homeowner who wishes to do a formal sale to family members or close friends for a price well below what is dictated by the market. – Robert Winters

January 3, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 279-280: Jan 2, 2018

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:35 am

Episode 279 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 2, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast Jan 2, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main topics were the 2018 Inaugurations of the Cambridge City Council and School Committee and the Election of Mayor Marc McGovern. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 280 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 2, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast Jan 2, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topic was a discussion of some of the more challenging priorities for the new 2018-2019 City Council. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 13, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 233-234: June 13, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:13 pm

Episode 233 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 13, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 13, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics: civic updates, electricity aggregation program, new municipal election candidates, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans and Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 234 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 13, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 13, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: City Council wrapup, short-term rentals, liquor licenses. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 6, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 231-232: June 6, 2017

Episode 231 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 6, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 6, 2017 at 5:30pm. The main topic was the June 5 City Council Roundtable meeting on Envision Cambridge – Alewife. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Episode 232 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 6, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 6, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: a) Envision Cambridge Roundtable; b) Mass. Democratic party platform; c) short-term rental regulation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 29, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 67-68: More News Around Town (June 24, 2014)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:47 am

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 67

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 67 featured some highlights of a recent City Council Roundtable meeting on Climate Change Mitigation and Preparedness Planning. This episode was broadcast on June 24, 2014 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Related:
Presentation at City Council June 23, 2014 Roundtable meeting on City’s Climate Mitigation and Preparedness Planning
City website on Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
Interactive Hurricane Inundation Maps (Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security)

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 68

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 68 touched on a variety of current hot topics in Cambridge and featured some highlights of a recent meeting regarding traffic and related issues in the Fresh Pond/Alewife area. This episode broadcast on June 24, 2014 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

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.

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