Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 1, 2015

April 1 Cambridge News

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

April 1 Cambridge News

City Unveils Climate Change Opportunity Assessment

Mystic-AlewifeApril 1 – After several years of research the City of Cambridge at long last has revealed its assessment of what may be in store in the decades to come – and it’s exciting!

DPW Commissioner Owen O’Riorden summarized the report as follows: "We started out with the idea of producing a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in order to prepare for rising sea levels, extreme weather, and higher temperatures. Our highest priority was to determine what changes in infrastructure might be necessary to prevent catastrophe. Then at some point we simply realized we were looking at this all wrong. We began to see that one man’s catastrophe was another man’s opportunity."

City Manager Richard Rossi noted how a 10 foot rise in sea level plus the natural rise and fall of the tides could be used to provide clean energy at virtually no cost. "Here we were worrying ourselves silly about the ocean spilling over the Charles River Dam and the Amelia Earhart Dam. Then we realized the enormous hydroelectric potential of this new clean, renewable natural resource. Sure, we may have to sacrifice a neighborhood or two, but just think about how many electric cars we’ll now be able to power at virtually no cost. That’s the kind of traffic congestion we can all get excited about – really sustainable transportation."

Tremendous job growth is expected in such diverse fields as climate control, dam and levee construction, hydroelectric power, and a whole range of seafaring jobs from captain to bilge pumping.


Fresh Pond to host yacht club at site of Water Treatment Plant

Thurston Howell III and Lovey
FPRA’s visionary leaders plan for a bright future

With rising sea levels come all sorts of new possibilities and creative ideas. One especially exciting proposal in the City’s Capital Plan is the expansion of the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Plant to include new docks extending into Fresh Pond to support the newly formed Fresh Pond Yacht Club. Construction costs will be covered by recently enhanced Participatory Budget funds. With the over-topping of the Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River, members of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA) quickly realized the potential to transform the Alewife Brook into a new inland waterway. From the FPRA press release:

"We were getting so worked up about housing on New Street and the prospect of being inundated by hundreds of new residents that we failed to see the exciting possibilities that can come with true inundation. No longer will we have to travel to our second homes on the Cape. We will now be able to just bring our yachts to Cambridge via the new Mystic/Alewife Inland Waterway!"


Growing the Local Economy – Our Silver Maple Lumber Future

Lovers of great quality furniture were thrilled to learn of a new start-up at the western frontier of Cambridge. Recent logging operations in the Silver Maple Forest yielded a bonanza of high quality Silver Maple lumber that’s now being milled and used in the production of some truly great furniture.

Cut Maple
From protester to entrepreneur – one woman’s road from anger to opportunity!

Leading this venture is Sue Woodson of Cambridge Highlands. "Last year I was out in the streets protesting the clear-cutting of the forest and cooling my heels in a detention facility," said Ms. Woodson. "Now I’m the CEO of a furniture manufacturing company. I could never have predicted this!"

Lumber
Freshly milled Silver Maple lumber

Here are some samples from the new Cambridge Silver Maple Furniture Company catalog:

Furniture! Furniture!
Furniture! Guitar!

Buy Local! We even make silver maple guitars!


Lovin’ Local Campaign Misinterpreted – Love-Ins Break out all over Cambridge

Thurston Howell III and Lovey
Love-In Local

It began as a well-intentioned effort by Cambridge Local First, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Division of the Community Development Department to give a boost to businesses hit hard by the recent tough winter. Game cards were issued for local consumers to fill in as they patronized a range of local businesses. An unfortunate misprint on the card, however, led to unintended consequences as participants thought this was the Love-In Local Campaign, and began participating with great gusto!

Said one aging hippie, "We haven’t seen this much Free Love in Cambridge in over 40 years! My old lady and I hope this becomes an annual tradition! It’s like the Sixties all over again!"

Millennials were also caught up in the campaign. Taking time out from their "Code for America" activities, they allowed themselves to be swept up in the excitement. "I even wrote an app for the event," texted one young hipster. His card sadly remained empty.

Love In LocalSome especially randy residents were so motivated to quickly fill in their Love-In Local game cards that they filled them up on the first day and came back for more game cards. City officials debated whether to print more cards or call off the campaign. Even Public Health officials were getting concerned.

"Sure, we’re lovin’ all the Love-Ins now taking place all over town," said Iram Farooq, Acting Asst. City Manager for Community Development , "but we have some concerns about the effect on the local economy. Many people are taking time off from work and even when they show up at work they’re getting just a little too cozy with their co-workers."


New "Creator Space" Comes to Central Square – open 6 days/week followed by Day of Rest

Thurston Howell III and Lovey
Creator Space© – now open in Central Square

Recent trends in the creation of "maker spaces" and similar components of "creative class’ economics reached a new zenith with the surprise arrival last week of the new Creator Space in Central Square. Previously located in Providence, plans for the new space can best be described as having almost biblical proportions. This is not a single purpose operation. Initial plans call for dedicating each Day of the week to very specific and distinct purposes.

On Mondays, for example, entrepreneurs specializing in heaven and earth-based manufacturing as well as all things relating to lighting will dominate the space.

Tuesdays will be for sorting and inventory control – primarily separating heavenly bodies ("firmament") from water-based products.

Wednesdays will be for land-based technologies, land reclamation, and biological engineering, e.g. grass, fruit trees, and the like.

Thursdays will be dedicated to solar products and various lunar and cosmological technologies.

In partnership with several seaport companies, it is expected that Fridays will be dedicated to the design and manufacture of various aquatic and airborne products or, as the company likes to joke, "fish and fowl".

Rather than take off for the whole weekend, Creator Space will dedicate every Saturday to a variety of animal and human-based technologies. It is expected that 3D printers will be utilized in creating duplicates in the image of The Creator.

On Sundays, Creator Space will be closed for a welcome Day of Rest.


Luxury Overlay District proposed

Luxury Overlay DistrictA group of residents living in and around Brattle Street have submitted a zoning petition to the City Council requesting that a "Luxury Overlay District" be created that encompasses Brattle Street between Mason Street and the Cambridge/Watertown city line. In a letter accompanying the petition, the residents note that their lawns would be considered spacious parks in some neighborhoods and the only parking problems that they have is the expense of plowing long driveways. "It is time to give back to our City," the letter continues, "While some neighborhoods reject gentrification, we will take on that burden, and welcome billionaires with open arms."


Robert Healy to move back to Cambridge – files organization papers to run for Cambridge City Council

Robert Healy #1After a successful career in city management, former Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy recently announced plans to move from Lowell back to North Cambridge in order to seek a City Council seat. This is where his roots are and he expects to have a strong neighborhood base on which to build his campaign. "I think I may have the Danehy vote all locked up," said Healy. "Various other candidates have courted that constituency with some success over the last twenty years, but these are really my people." Healy plans to open his campaign headquarters at Norris St. and Mass. Ave.

"Ever since I turned over the keys to the city to the current administration, I’ve been just itching to get back to show some of these newbies on the City Council a thing or two." Asked what special talents he may have to offer as a city councillor, Healy said "I think I’d be pretty good as Chair of the Finance Committee, but I do want to remind everyone that ‘I don’t do zoning‘." He added "and don’t forget to vote Healy #1 this November."


Cambridge Election Commission Endorses Mandatory Voting

Vote!In a surprise move last week, the Cambridge Election Commission took a hint from President Obama and proposed that all Cambridge residents who are eligible to vote will henceforth be required to exercise their franchise at every election. "We just got sick and tired of low voter turnout," said Commissioner Ethridge King. "If people want to live here, drive on our streets, play on our playgrounds, and send their kids to our schools, then the least they can do is show up to vote." Penalties for failing to go to the polls may include loss of parking sticker or being required to run for public office.

Anarchists and Libertarians were equally outraged at what they see as an infringement of their inalienable right to live freely outside of the political process. They are planning demonstrations at the polls on Election Day and are threatening to lie down in the doorways of polling precincts with their arms chained together inside traditional ballot boxes. "Apathy is our right," said former Occupy activist Wanda "Lightfoot" Macnair. "We choose to vote not with our fingers, but with our feet."


New Mayoral Election Method Debated

Musical ChairsIn response to the friction that happens ever two years as city councillors engage in horse trading over the question of who should be elected Mayor, the Government Operations Committee met last week and proposed a novel method sure to satisfy the concerns of even the most hardened opponents of the Plan E Charter. Councillor Toomey’s proposal calls for the arrangement of 8 chairs in the center of the Sullivan Chamber on Inauguration Day. Music will then be played at the direction of the City Clerk who will secretly signal that the music be stopped without warning. At that moment, councillors will seat themselves. Whoever fails to be seated will then be eliminated from mayoral contention. This will be followed by the removal of one more chair. The music will then play again as the remaining 8 councillors circle around the remaining 7 chairs. Once again, at the discretion of the City Clerk, the music will suddenly stop, councillors will make every effort to be seated and the one not seated will be removed from contention. This series of musical runoffs will continue until the last person seated is declared Mayor for the next two years.

Election reform advocates from around the country are very supportive of the proposed change in election method. "Especially in the case of a city using proportional representation to elect its City Council, this method is remarkably fair," said Rob Richie of Fairvote. Other cities will no doubt want to follow Cambridge’s lead.


MBTA Announces Meigs Elevated Railway Service to Central Square and Beyond

Meigs Elevated Railway

The City’s Transit Advisory Committee, working in concert with the MBTA and the Cambridge Historical Commission, have announced plans for new kinda-rapid transit service to Central Square with the option of extending service further west in the future. On the drawing board for more than a century, the Meigs Elevated Railway will add desperately needed capacity to supplement the Red Line. "Several cranky neighborhood activists have been complaining about "Crush Hour on the Red Line", but offered few suggestions for improvement. MBTA analysts decided that it was just too difficult to safely move that many people underground and concluded that the time-tested concept of elevated railway service is an old idea that’s about to become new again.

Meigs Elevated Railway PlaqueCambridge stops are planned for Kendall Square, the new "Village in Lafayette Square", and the western end of Central Square where City Hall now stands.

On a related note, plans are being drafted to relocate City Hall to Hilliard Street in order to make way for the new Central Square station on the Meigs Elevated Railway.

Historical Commission Executive Director Charles Sullivan conceded, "The Rindge gifts have had their day in the sun. While we remain grateful for the remarkable gifts from Frederick Hastings Rindge to the City of Cambridge, including City Hall, it’s time to make way for grander visions." Sullivan added, "Sometimes history is simply overrated."

Regarding the relocation of City Hall, City Manager Richard Rossi added, "People from Hilliard Street have been trying to run the City government for years. We see this as a bold move toward more open government."

"It’s what we always wanted," said Gladys and Priscilla, two long-time residents of Hilliard Street. "Sure, we were able to pull strings behind the scenes for decades through various front organizations, but it will be so much simpler when it’s in our own front yard."


Cambridge City Council Flip-Flops on Olympics 2024
McGovern to compete in Greco-Roman Wrestling

Marc McGovernWhen news broke a few months ago about plans to host the 2024 Olympics in Boston and neighboring cities, Cambridge city councillors were none too pleased about not being consulted or involved in any way in the Olympic bid. They even passed a resolution opposing the Boston bid. Concerns were raised about the financial risks associated with the Olympic Games, the impact on housing and transportation, and especially on the ability of Cambridge residents to access their second homes on the Cape and elsewhere.

Well, now the Council is whistling a different tune. The tide began to turn when Councillor Marc McGovern announced his intention to compete in the Greco-Roman wrestling event. "I’ll definitely have home field advantage," said McGovern.

It’s not yet clear if any other elected officials are planning to compete. Councillor Kelley did, however, state that, "If they finally get around to making chess an Olympic sport, then I’m all in."

Several members of the City administration also expressed interest in competing. Any potential Olympians currently employed by the City of Cambridge are asked to contact Recreation Director Paul Ryder for details on what steps are necessary to become qualified. Olympic officials have quietly let it be known that they’ll let pretty much any local official or City employee compete if it will help bring the Olympics to the Greater Boston area.

April 1, 2013

April 1 Cambridge News

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:01 am

Healy Changes Mind – To Remain as City Manager through 2020

Robert HealyRichard RossiRossi cries foul. Will challenge Healy to settle matter via baseball contest.

"Don’t get me wrong." said Rossi. "Bob has been a great city manager. I’m sure he has a few good seasons left in him, but I can hit with power and can also run the bases."

Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs Louis Depasquale will serve as umpire. "I don’t take sides," said Depasquale, "except when it involves the New York Yankees." It has been reported that both sides are making offers to former Budget Director and long-ball hitter David Kale to return in time for the game.

City Councillor and State Representative Marjorie Decker is still undecided whether she will sign on with the Healy or the Rossi team. Said Decker, "I’ve been going to bat for both of these guys for years." Meanwhile, Councillor Kelley has announced that he will refuse to attend the contest. "I’ve been voting No for a decade. Why should I switch now?" said Kelley.


Casinos to Replace Pharma in Kendall

Gambling"We must have been on drugs," said industry representative Viagra Q. Zantax.

DiceMIT/Kendall Petition amended to add gambing as allowed use in PUD-5 district.
House Speaker DeLeo Vows to Fight Plan

"Why anyone would locate a casino outside of Saugus or Winthrop is beyond me," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. " I could see Revere, maybe, but no way Cambridge." Cambridge’s Economic Development Division (CDD) is working with the Tourism Board to develop a slogan for this new addition to Cambridge’s diverse economy. "We wanted to use ‘whatever happens in Cambridge stays in Cambridge‘ as our slogan, but Nevada officials have informed us that the phrase is owned by a desert town in Nevada not far from Hoover Dam."


City Faces Lawsuit over Roundtables

RoundtableA Cambridge resident has filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court seeking an emergency injunction to end meetings that the Cambridge City Council has dubbed "roundtable" meetings. According to the Council, roundtable meetings allow a more relaxed give-and-take. While these meetings are public, neither public comment nor television broadcasts are possible. Tom Stohlman, a previous candidate for the Council who has tangled with them over interpretations of the Open Meeting law, said that he was seeking injunctive relief because the Council had gone too far. "The Council has the right to make its own rules, but it doesn’t have the right to make new meanings for old words," Stohlman said. "There’s nothing round about these roundtable meetings.

"The tables are set up in almost a square, and the tables themselves are rounded rectangles." Stohlman, an architect by training, said that the misrepresentation of meeting geometry was a betrayal of the public trust and a symptom of a deeper distrust between the Council and Cambridge residents. Mayor Henrietta Davis, who chairs the City Council, declined comment on Stohlman’s suit, but noted that, in our litigious society, these sort of suits were, in her words, "the shape of things to come."


Late Changes to MIT/Kendall Zoning Petition

Miniature Golf KendallIn response to overwhelming pressure from the MIT and East Cambridge communities, MIT officials today announced their intention to include miniature golf as an allowed use in the proposed PUD-5 District. "It’s an essential part of the innovation ecosystem for this area," said Steve Marsh, Managing Director of Real Estate, MIT Investment Management Corporation – MITIMCo. "We realize this is only a start. We are now working with MIT’s Mechanical Engineering faculty to develop what will likely be one of the greatest rollercoasters ever conceived. We had plans to build a Go-Kart track, but City officials informed us that this would violate the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance." When informed that the Go-Kart Rally might require the zoning petition to be again re-filed, MIT Executive Vice President Israel Ruiz said, "No way we want to do that. We feel that miniature golf will fulfill the shared goals of MIT, the Kendall Square Association, and the City’s Planning Board. It’s entirely consistent with the recommendations of the K2C2 Committee."

Future plans include water skiing on the Charles River. "If this doesn’t connect the people of East Cambridge and our Kendall Square entrepreneurs to the river, I don’t know what will," said Marsh. Even former MIT Director of Campus Planning Bob Simha agrees with the concept. "It’s consistent with the 1965 plans for the eastern end of the MIT campus."

MIT Graduate Student Association President Brian Spatocco also expressed excitement: "Sure, we were looking for more graduate student housing, but this is gonna be AWESOME!" The petition is expected to come to a vote on April 8.


Central Square Urban Renewal District Created

Felafel TowersCambridge Redevelopment Authority to Oversee Clearing of Buildings
and Kickstarting of New Development

Plans include replacing Moody’s Falafel Palace with a 300 ft. tall slender residential tower. "With the new microhousing units", said City urban design specialist Roger Boothe, "we should be able to accommodate at least 4-5 units per floor. We estimate about 1200 units with this property alone." When asked about other possible development in the area, recently appointed CRA Executive Director Tom Evans said, "The sky’s the limit."

Residential Towers proposed
Two Towers have been proposed for Massachusetts Avenue at both the eastern and western ends of Central Square. The tentative name for the western tower is Minas Tirith which will feature 7 distinct levels consistent with the bulk control plane requirements of the zoning code. The eastern tower will be known as Minas Morgul and will feature 24-hour concierge service. Her name is Shelob and she promises that you’ll sleep well for all eternity in these new residences.


Cambridge Historical Commission recommends landmark status for Central Square MacDonalds

Historical Commission Executive Director Charles Sullivan presented the detailed report of the Commission last week. He noted the important cultural asset that this property represents. "The latter half of the 20th Century was, in large part, defined by the explosive growth of the fast food industry. Many of the historical remnants of this storied history are rapidly vanishing as new cafes and fancy-ass restaurants are displacing these community institutions." Sullivan continued, "I shudder at the thought that one day there will be no more golden arches to be found except along highways. It’s the cities that always suffer." The report recommends that in the event that the MacDonalds cannot be saved in the face of extraordinary development pressure, the golden arches could still be incorporated into the facade of any new building. "We must respect the past even as we welcome the future."


City Discovers Master Plan – It’s the Zoning Ordinance!

Members of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods and its alter-ego group, the Cambridge Residents Alliance, issued a statement upon the announcement of the discovery of the document. "Who knew?" said ACN cameraman Charles Teague. "We were looking far and wide, high and low for the City’s master plan, and there it was all the time!" Said Assistant City Manager Brian Murphy (CDD), "We thought we had done a pretty good job with the department’s website redesign, but I guess a few documents just fell through the cracks. It may be that we filed it under ‘zoning’ instead of ‘master plan’ where it should have been. We promise to immediately rectify this unfortunate confusion."


City to Propose Ban on Fossil Fuels

Pursuant to City Council Order #14 of April 1, 2013, Cambridge hopes to pass a local ordinance banning the use of fossil fuels "for all purposes not to include leaf blowers." The proposed ban came as a surprise to no one. "We have long been aware of the threat of climate change," said Councillor Minka vanBeuzekom, chief sponsor of the ban. "If we don’t start this process here in Cambridge, the relentless march toward extreme weather and disappearing shorelines will continue unabated." Major oil companies have stated their intention to seek an injunction to the ordinance if it should be ordained, but they’re not the only parties lining up to protest the ban. Robert "Red" Fawcett of Fawcett Oil Co. was quoted saying, "What about local businesses like mine? If we can’t sell oil, what are we supposed to do? Fill our tanker trucks with Nantucket Nectars? We may have to go back to selling Hay & Grain."

Rat RaceA legitimate question is, of course, how people will heat their homes in the absence of fossil fuels. While some have proposed solar panels heavily subsidized by the City’s unlimited wealth, Councillor vanBeuzekom had a more novel plan. "Rat power," she said. We can harness the rodent power of Cambridge by installing batteries of ‘hamster wheels’ in each home and put these rodents to work!" Speculators have already taken out permits to open new industrial pet food supply outlets to keep up with the expected demand for rodent chow. "Shares in the Ralston-Purina company soared in anticipation of the proposed ban.

"I’m more than happy to volunteer as wrangler for this new four-legged workforce," said vanBeuzekom. "We should start by removing all the rat baits now distributed around the city. We need to maintain a healthy workforce." The alternative is to use people for power generation, but they’re far more expensive to keep.


The Consolidation Plan

The City will announce this week plans to consolidate its many boards and commissions. Some expected that the Peace Commission, Human Rights Commission, and a variety of other boards might be joined into a single "mega-board" to deal with complaints from disgruntled citizens. Instead, the Board of Zoning Appeals will merge with the Planning Board. Chair Hugh Russell said, "This will be a great step forward in streamlining government." He added, "We’ll be able to incorporate all the exceptions as part of the plan."

recycling symbolFuture plans include folding the Licensing Commission into the Planning/BZA commission as well. The Recycling Advisory Committee will merge with the Police Review Advisory Board (PRAB). While current PRAB Director Brian Corr worried that the additional focus on recycling might delay investigation of police misconduct, Recycling Advisory Committee members expressed excitement at the fact that they will now have subpoena power. "There will no longer be the need to beg citizens to comply with recycling regulations," said long-time member Robert Winters. "We’ll now be able to just haul their asses before the Board."


MIT to Refocus its Mission

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an institution in Boston and Cambridge since the days of the Civil War, announced today that it would retool as a training school for the hotel/motel industry. "We have for far too long focused on technological innovation," said MIT President Rafael Reif. "It’s time we focused on the people. Like no other institution, we have the capacity to engineer ways to deliver comfortable accommodations to travelers around the globe." In acknowledgement of the many financial contributions toward this exciting new initiative, it was announced that Killian Court will be renamed "Marriott Plaza." Protests are already planned. In addition, the large dome at 77 Massachusetts Avenue will be substantially altered to better reflect the hospitality industry. Several designs now being considered by a faculty advisory committee are shown below.

MIT Hiway House
Sign planned for 77 Massachusetts Avenue
 
MIT El Rancho


Neon 2
Signs



Neon 1
Signage planned for the new Kendall Square Hotel Innovation Cluster

Mathematics Department officials were excited. Said an unnamed department spokesperson, "The Differential Equations course (18.03) was getting kind of tired with its inhomogeneous nth order linear differential equations and Laplace transforms. Now we can do something really transformative. Opportunities like this grow neither on trees nor along rural highways."

Harvard University to Fold

In response to the announcement that MIT had already developed extensive plans to refocus its mission on the hospitality industry, Harvard announced yesterday that it would be closing at the end of the current academic year. "We’ve had a great 377 year run," said Harvard President Drew Faust. "But discretion truly is the better part of valor. We have no need to spill our crimson blood in a battle with MIT. With the sale of our extensive real estate holdings, we’ll make out like bandits." The Harvard Board of Overseers has yet to comment on the proposed closure, but rumors suggest that they may dedicate the remaining endowment funds toward the rapidly expanding gaming industry.


Williamson to Get Job

James Williamson, long-time public commenter, announced yesterday his intention to seek employment. "I’ve had a long and storied career in the commenting industry, but the lack of a paycheck has limited my ability to do many things." While thanking City, State, and Federal authorities for housing him all these years, Williamson said, "It’s time to give back to the community."


City Council Announces Retirement Plans

In a group statement, the nine incumbents announced, "We’ve had a good run, but there’s got to be more to life than just public service."

There is no word yet from incumbent School Committee members.

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