Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 2, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 223-224: May 2, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 223 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 2, 2017 at 5:30pm. The main topic was the 2017 municipal election and some recent developments in the field of candidates. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 224 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 2, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: FY2018 Budget Hearings, Ranked Choice Voting in Cambridge and elsewhere. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 30, 2017

May Day at City Hall – Noteworthy agenda items for the May 1, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:30 pm

May Day at City Hall – Noteworthy agenda items for the May 1, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

The real action this week commences Tuesday at 9:00am with the first of the two FY2018 City Budget Hearings. Here’s the lineup for the May 2 hearing:

Mayor’s Office
Executive – Leadership
Employees’ Committee on Diversity
Domestic & Gender Based Violence Prevention Initiative
Equity and Inclusion
Public Information Office
Tourism
City Council
City Clerk
Law
Finance Admin.    
Budget
Personnel
Assessing
Purchasing
Auditing
Treasury/Revenue
Information Technology    
Employee Benefits
General Services
Election Commission
Public Celebrations
Reserve
Animal Commission
Fire Department
Police Department
Traffic, Parking & Transportation
Inspectional Services
License Commission
Weights & Measures
Electrical
Emergency Communications

May Day!Here are a few items from the City Council meeting’s relatively brief agenda that caught my eye:

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $240,000 of Virtual Net Metering (VNM) credits to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account to cover invoices related to the VNM agreement for the photovoltaic project known as “Summer Street Solar.”

As the communication states: "Under the agreement the City will receive monthly checks from Eversource representing the value of the credits and will pay the solar developer 85% of the credits received. Checks will be deposited into a revenue account. … The City executed this and other virtual net metering agreements as part of the strategy our energy broker recommended to help finance the procurement of 100% renewable energy. … The 2008 Massachusetts Green Communities Act created incentives for solar developers to work with municipal entities to develop projects. The municipality executes an agreement with a solar developer to purchase the entire output of a commercial scale solar array at a set price per kWh and then effectively sells the entire output of the array to the utility in return for net metering credits equal to a higher price per kWh. … The City has signed five VNM contracts for close to 6 megawatts of solar, including, most recently, rooftop arrays at Alewife MBTA and the route 128 MBTA facility in Westwood.

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Arvilla Sarazen.   Councillor Toomey, Mayor Simmons

I was saddened to see this notice of the death of Arvilla Sarazen. I have crossed paths with Arvilla countless times over the years – in East Cambridge, at events of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee, at the Cambridge Senior Center where she often worked at the front desk, and elsewhere.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the necessary stakeholders to determine the practicality of buying the Tokyo site and converting it into affordable housing units.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux

Let’s not forget that this idea was first introduced at the Oct 20, 2014 City Council meeting. What has happened since then? Is the property actually for sale now or is this just wishful thinking?

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor E. Dennis Simmons, regarding Policy Order #13 from Apr 24, 2017 Meeting.

This communication illustrates Mayor Simmons’ capacity to look at a broad range of possible consequences of the vote on an Order that most of her colleagues probably barely read before giving it their stamp of approval. As the Mayor clearly states, "I very much believe that taking steps to move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 is a laudable goal, and communities across the globe need to be taking more aggressive and coordinated actions to protect our environment." She continues, "That said, I believe that the City Council must be more mindful in how we work toward this goal. It would be irresponsible of us as a governing body to create policies in service of any specific goal without pausing to contemplate and acknowledge the impacts they may have on various aspects of our community. There is always the danger of doing the right thing the wrong way, and we must be mindful of the fact that enacting policies too broadly can potentially create negative unintended consequences for segments of our community. In this case, I am specifically thinking about the impact that Policy Order #13 may have upon the small business community of Cambridge, and upon individual homeowners."

The current City Council has repeatedly shown a tendency to vote for populist measures that appeal to whatever group can mobilize people to show up at City Hall. Whether these city councillors actually read and understand what they are voting for – especially any broader consequences and the impact on homeowners and small businesses – remains to be seen. – Robert Winters

April 25, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 221-222: April 25, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 221 (Part 1)

This program was broadcast on Apr 25, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics were drawn from the Apr 24 Cambridge City Council meeting, including the FY2018 Budget and the proposed Surveillance Ordinance. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 222 (Part 2)

This program was broadcast on Apr 25, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics include the Envision Cambridge Working Groups and general concerns about long-term planning. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 24, 2017

It’s Budget Season – Featured Items on the April 24, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:33 am

It’s Budget Season – Featured Items on the April 24, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Budget Season!Here’s a look at some of the more interesting items on this week’s agenda.

The Budget

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the FY2018 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $20,000,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport neighborhood, and the Port neighborhood.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $4,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,000,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including roof repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at an elementary school.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation and authorization to borrow $5,000,000 to provide funds for the Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan.

The Budget Hearings are scheduled for Tues, May 2 and Wed, May 10 at 9:00am for the FY2018 City Department Budgets and for Tues, May 9 at 6:00pm for the FY2018 School Department Budget.


Appointments

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as member of the Community Preservation Act Committee for a term of five years, effective Apr 24, 2017: Anna Aldric and David Kale

Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Recycling Advisory Committee for a term of two years, effective Apr 24, 2017: New Appointments: Ilana Bebchick, Joel Dashnaw, David Frank, Martha Henry, Susy Jones, Liz Marr, Michael Papas, Anne Sherman, Matthew St. Onge, Quinten Steenhuis, Kristen Watkins Reappointments: Keith Cialino, Debby Galef, Rob Gogan, Debby Knight, Janet Mosley, Laura Nichols, Meera Singh and Mary Verhage

Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Envision Cambridge Focus Area Working Groups on Economy, Housing, Climate and the Environment, and Mobility. The Focus Area Working Groups are tasked with developing recommendations on topic-specific goals, strategies, and targets and indicators.


Items of interest to those who live in fear of being watched

Manager’s Agenda #29. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a notification of a request from MIT to perform a test installation of a range of sensor technology along Massachusetts Avenue between Vassar Street and Lansdowne Street, in proximity to the MIT campus.

Manager’s Agenda #30. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-15, Council Order Number 7 of 11/21/6 and Council Order Number 2 of 3/27/17, regarding an update on language in a proposed surveillance technology ordinance.

Tin foil hats may be ordered on eBay here. They can also be ordered on Amazon.


Zoning Stuff

Manager’s Agenda #20. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Harding, et al Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #6. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge in Article 8.000 entitled "Nonconformity" by deleting Section 8.23 in its entirety and substitute a new Section 8.23. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Apr 17, 2017. Planning Board hearing held Mar 21, 2017. Petition expires June 27, 2017.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 6, 2017 to discuss a petition by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Article 20.50 entitled “Harvard Square Overlay and Harvard Square Historic District” by adding a new Section 20.54.7 Exempting rooftop spaces from FAR.

I expect the "Nonconformity" zoning amendment will be ordained at this meeting. The proposal to make it easier to open active roof decks in the Harvard Square area remains in committee, and the combatants have entered the ring.


Airbnb and related stuff

Communication #10. A communication was received from Rebecca Rutenberg, Chief Operating Officer, The Novus Group, transmitting the Airbnb -Cambridge Housing Report.

Communication #15. A communication was received from Caitlin O’Neill, Director of Public Policy, Sonder, 271 Cambridge Street, regarding model language for professional short-term providers.

Order #5. Proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance creating a regulatory framework to ensure the City’s short-term rentals are legal, safe, and fair.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 4, 2017 to conduct a general discussion on short-term rental uses throughout the City.

It’s very important that this matter be resolved soon, but I have yet to see a completely coherent proposal that provides flexibility for homeowners but which does not overreach. As for the investors who are intentionally buying up multifamily houses so that they can run them as Airbnb profit-makers rather than as homes for actual people, I wish you all frontier justice. To those who paid far too much for your buildings and who now argue that the only way they can make ends meet is to rake in gobs of Airbnb cash, I say "Caveat Emptor". You should have bought a place in Malden.


Brief snippets of wisdom

Communication #8. A communication was received from Peter Valentine, regarding the reason humans don’t need robots. [“The reason humans don’t need robots is that humans can be any kind of robot they want, and the reason for that is that they possess within themselves the ultimate chip, which is The Creator of All of Existence.” True or not true.” – Peter Valentine, 4/6/2017]


Birds, bees, flowers, trees, parks, and gardens

Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-17, regarding a report on a Tree Task Force to protect the Urban Canopy.

Order #1. That the City of Cambridge partner with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Cambridge Neighborhood Association to revitalize Magazine Beach.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Conservation Commission and report back with a status update of the Community Garden program.   Councillor Devereux

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department to present zoning regulations that allow urban agriculture to the City Council as soon as possible so that an Ordinance Committee hearing can be scheduled.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to hold a community meeting to discuss the lighting design proposed for the path, steps being taken to make the lighting appropriate for the natural context of the Reservation, and steps being taken to make Greenway path safe and useful during evening commuting hours.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux

I could go on at length on a number of these matters – the great efforts of Cathie Zusy and others with Magazine Beach, some very short-sighted rules pushed by the City on community gardens under its jurisdiction, the absurd delay in adopting at least something on urban agriculture, and some of the overstated fears expressed regarding lighting on the proposed Fresh Pond Greenway – but perhaps another time. I’m sure there will be plenty of comment.


Minimal substance, but sure to draw comments

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to ban all City employees from using City funds on services provided by United Airlines when alternatives exist.   Councillor Cheung, Mayor Simmons

Order #10. That the City Manager, in instances where there is no significant additional cost defined in regulations, or conflict with law, is requested to refrain from entering into new or amended contracts to purchase professional, technical, scientific or financial services, goods, construction labor and materials or other services, or supplies from businesses that enter into contracts to provide such services, goods, materials or supplies to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux

I really despise Orders like these. In the former, an airline screws up and promises to do better, so the City Council wants to ban the use of City funds on that airline. Plenty of companies screw up at one time or another. Should they all be boycotted? As for the latter, that Trump wall is perhaps the single most stupid proposal I have ever heard from a U.S. President, but asking the City Manager to filter all contracts based on this criterion is just as stupid.


Obscure but curiously interesting

Order #9. That the Public Safety Committee begin a public discussion of potential methods of regulating an internet-based delivery system that makes any part of any road a possible loading platform in a way that allows such uses to continue without putting other users of Cambridge’s roads in danger or unreasonably obstructing traffic.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux

Now that I have read this Order carefully, it appears that the genesis of this Order is the belief that cyclists are incapable of any wisdom or road sense. This Order wants to encourage delivery vehicles, taxis and similar services to temporarily park in the middle of full travel lanes rather than pull to the curb. The authors apparently believe it is better for cyclists to pass vehicles on the right where active loading and unloading of cargo and passengers is taking place. This is lunacy. My guess it passes without debate.


Good intentions that will likely turn that $30K roof repair into a $150K roof repair

Order #13. Urge the Cambridge Legislative Delegation in the State Legislature to do everything in its power to bring Massachusetts closer to 100% renewable energy by 2035, and ensure that the benefits of renewable energy are realized by Massachusetts residents from all walks of life and supporting a goal of using 100% clean and renewable energy in Cambridge, including in building energy use and transportation, by 2035.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

Who could argue with the rosy future painted by this Order? Well, at some point these matters do eventually get translated into things like stretch building codes and super-stretch building codes, and then one day when you just want to fix that leak in your roof and a City inspector informs you that in order to meet the new code your choice is to fix the roof in secret over the weekend without a permit or pay five times the cost in order to meet all the new standards. When that day comes, I do hope that our legislative do-gooders are as generous with their grant money as they are with their mandates. The devil is always in the details. – Robert Winters

March 19, 2017

Springtime in Cambridge: Featured Mar 20, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda Items

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:51 pm

Springtime in Cambridge: Featured Mar 20, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda Items

It's SpringHere’s a sampler of items of potential interest at the March 20 Cambridge City Council meeting. Happy spring! (It’ll be warm again before you know it.)

On the Table #5. That the City Manager is requested to establish the requirement that all appointments to the City’s commissions, advisory committees, and task forces reflect the City’s diversity and that the Civic Unity Committee is asked to sign off on all such appointments going forward. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Order #8 of Feb 27, 2017. Tabled on a motion by Councillor Cheung on a voice vote of 8 members on Mar 6, 2017.]

Perhaps they’ll settle this on Monday. As I’ve stated before, the goal is laudable but you cannot give veto power over City Manager appointments to a committee.

Unfinished Business #6. An amendment to the Municipal Code Ordinance that Title 8 entitled “Health and Safety” be amended in Chapter 8.28 entitled “Restriction on Youth Access to Tobacco Products and in Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places” by amending 8.28.050 entitled “ Definitions for Prohibition of Smoking in Workplaces” by adding a new definition. [The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Mar 20, 2017.]

I’m sure a few of the smoking risk denial crowd will be there to testify against this. They should take a walk on Berkshire St. beforehand.

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from the Friends of Observatory Hill Village, to establish the Observatory Hill Village Overlay District. (1000+ additional signatures for this zoning petition are on file in the City Clerk’s Office.)

The language of the petition seems reasonable enough, but I’m always curious about what recent activities in an area lead to the decision to submit a petition for a change in the zoning. Are back yards being built over? Are new buildings being built that bear no relationship to the existing buildings. Just curious.


Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from Latoyea Hawkins Cockrill, et a., to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to regulate short-term rental uses throughout the City.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 1, 2017 to draft language for short-term rental regulations to be forwarded to the Ordinance Committee.

These two have to be discussed together, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this petition and the soon-to-be City Council petition on the same topic are processed concurrently. There has been some discussion on the neighborhood listservs that the Cockrill Petition is really being submitted by AirBnB to counter the proposal coming out of the City Council that would normalize short-term rentals but restrict it to owner-occupied properties. I expect there will be a lot of public comment on this one.


Communications #3. A communication was received from Peter Valentine, 37 Brookline Street, transmitting thanks for seeing the true totality of what he does, reducing complicated things to their simplest level.

In a strange way, I have to agree with Peter.

Resolution #2. Congratulations to the CRLS Boys Basketball Team on their Division 1 (North) Championship.   Councillor Toomey

Now we can add a 2nd straight State Championship to that. The CRLS Falcons won the championship game on Saturday night by a score of 70-43 over Franklin High School.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments on the feasibility of installing a hitting tunnel at Danehy Park for youth and high school sports.   Councillor Toomey

I’ve been badgering Kendall Square developers for years about putting a miniature golf course there. A batting cage would also be nice. Show us how Innovative you really are.

Order #5. Recognize the efforts of AIDS Action Cambridge, the SIFMA Now Coalition, and First Church in Cambridge to promote greater awareness about the ongoing opiate epidemic crisis, and their collective efforts to increase access to effective treatment throughout Cambridge.   Mayor Simmons

Further comment is unnecessary. This is important.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 14, 2017 to discuss the Retail Strategic Plan and similar issues related to the retail environment in Cambridge.

This report seems short on specifics, but apparently the process leading to a Retail Strategic Plan for Cambridge business districts still has a way to go. In any case, it’s not always the City plans that govern the eventual outcomes. There are many hands stirring these pots and zoning alone cannot predetermine outcomes.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 25, 2017 to discuss the City’s Fiscal Year 2018 Operating and Capital Budget.

The Manager and staff provided the context, and the councillors provided the wish lists. Tune in early May for the Budget Hearings.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 28, 2017 to conduct an additional hearing to discuss a petition by the City Council to amend provisions of the Zoning Ordinance as it related to Inclusionary Housing, including the insertion of new definitions in Article 2.000 and the substitution of revised zoning text for the current text to Sections 11.200 through 11.206.

This is the meatiest item on the agenda. It is presumed that the petition will be passed to a 2nd Reading with the 20% net inclusionary housing mandate and other changes. The sticky point is whether the Council wants to jettison legal reasoning and retroactively impose the same requirements on Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) that have already received Special Permits. It may be politically popular to impose requirements that are certain to be challenged and likely to be invalidated by the courts but, hey, enjoy your Revolution. Then educate yourselves about long-term planning and financing of large-scale developments. – Robert Winters

February 6, 2017

On tap at the February 6, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:41 am

On tap at the February 6, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Patriots - Super Bowl ChampionsHere are some items of possible interest this Monday. Budget Season is on the horizon. More importantly, pitchers and catchers report February 13 and position players on February 16. Even more importantly, wasn’t that come-from-behind Patriots victory in the Super Bowl just spectacular?

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of of $3,709,949 in funds from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Grant to the Public Works Public Investment Fund Extraordinary Expenditures account for the Alewife Sewer Separation Program.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works to set and meet a firm 2017 deadline for fully completing all remaining parts of the Huron A, Huron B, and Concord Avenue contracts, provide a full accounting of all costs (to-date and future) compared to the original contracts and budgets and schedule a community meeting as soon as possible to update the public on the schedule and budget for completing the project, as well as a complete list of all remaining punch list items for each of the contract areas.   Councillor Devereux

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,300,000 to provide funds for the design, drainage, and installation of new field surfaces at Russell Field and the Graham and Parks School.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,100,000 to provide funds for the construction of sewer separation, storm water management, and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the Cambridgeport Neighborhood.

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

Call me an infrastructure geek, but I just love this kind of stuff – how all the systems of a city run from water supply to sewerage to electric service and everything else that goes on unseen and underappreciated (until something goes wrong).

Charter Right #8 (Order #3 of Jan 23, 2017). That the City Manager is requested to hire an independent consultant who shall assess the efficiency and effectiveness of how all City Departments conduct their work, who will begin implementing whatever necessary adjustments are deemed to be necessary, and who will report back to the City Manager and the City Council on his or her progress in regular monthly intervals. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Jan 23, 2017. Placed On Table on motion of Mayor Simmons on Jan 30, 2017.]

My understanding is that better language was being worked out and this item should be voted on Monday. Most importantly, any consultant hired by the City should advise the City Manager, but it’s still entirely the Manager’s decision how to structure City departments. As I mentioned last week, this may also be a good time to look at the structure of all the City’s volunteer Boards and Commissions, and maybe the City Council should also give some thought toward how its subcommittees function (or not function).

Unfinished Business #10. A proposed amendment to the Ordinance entitled "Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge" to insert in Article 11.00 a new Section 11.800 Medical Marijuana. [The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 6, 2017. Planning Board hearings were held Nov 1, 2016 and Jan 3, 2017. Petition expires Feb 7, 2017.]

The deadline is here, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City staff to make available the City’s GIS system data regarding the total number of parking spaces designated as resident-permit only by street address, the total number of residential off-street parking spaces by street address, and the total number of cars registered in Cambridge by street address.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen

Councillors Devereux and Mazen are gathering data to make the case for removing parking on several major streets, including Broadway, Cambridge St., Hampshire St., and Mass. Ave. in order to remove bicycles from the roadway. They have apparently neglected to inquire about parking for schools, City buildings, churches, day care facilities, funeral homes, and all businesses. They also neglected to inquire about parking needs by times of day. I’m sure it was just an oversight. And pigs can fly. – Robert Winters

December 14, 2016

Participatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:50 pm

Participatory BudgetingParticipatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Please join us tonight from 6-7 p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall when we announce this year’s winning Participatory Budgeting (PB) projects!

Over 4,700 residents voted last week in the City’s third PB process. Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It’s residents making real decisions about real money. Find out how the $700,000 will be spent on projects to improve Cambridge! http://pb.cambridgema.gov/

Past winning PB projects include 100 new street trees, a public toilet in Central Square, water bottle fill stations, painted bike lanes, bilingual books for kids, bicycle repair stations, and many others. What projects will win this time? You decide!

For more information, please visit pb.cambridgema.gov or contact Budget Office staff at pb@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4270. See you at the PB polls!

The Winners!

Solar Power Shines! ($260,000)

Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000)

Solar-Powered Real-Time Bus Tracker Displays ($150,000)

Kinetic Energy Tiles ($50,000)

Hydration Stations in Four Locations! ($37,000)

Upgrade the Moore Youth Center ($80,000)

Cambridge Street Art Trail ($25,000)

The total budget for these 7 winners is $706,000

PB Winners 2016

May 23, 2016

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 2:42 pm

Budget Adoption Night – Highlights of the May 23, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Budgets: FY2005-FY2017The main order of business for this meeting is the vote to adopt the FY2017 Budget and related loan authorizations. There is, however, nothing to debate. Rarely are there any changes to the City Manager’s proposed budget, so this usually amounts to a sequence of well-deserved thank-yous to City staff and the Chair of the Finance Committee for jobs well done. In addition to the committee reports relative to the Budget, there are a few other items of potential interest:

Relative to proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Devereux filed reconsideration of the vote taken at the City Council meeting of May 9, 2016 on Policy Order #2 as amended that the Public Safety Committee conduct a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the current liquor license regulations and the City Council policy goals on liquor licenses, economic development, the impact on neighborhoods and local business and that the License Commission refrain from any liquor license regulations changes until said hearing before the Public Safety Committee.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor Jan Devereux, explaining why reconsideration was filed on the order adopted on May 9th pertaining to proposed changes to the city’s liquor licensing regulations.

I will not pretend to understand all of the reasons for the License Commission’s proposal to revise some of these regulations. Many date to an earlier time and some do not align with current state laws/regulations – hence the need for revision. On the other hand, one could also argue that the state laws and regulation could use some revision as well. For example, the current Cambridge practice of permitting sidewalk dining where the pedestrian way bisects the restaurant and the seating is apparently a no-no. Does anyone seriously believe it would be good to change this? State law also requires any outside dining that includes alcoholic beverages to be essentially enclosed in a steel cage. That’s idiotic – but that’s the law. [On an unrelated matter, if the legislature feels to compelled to address the matter of who may enter a given bathroom, don’t you think they should also address the need to simply HAVE a public bathroom in areas where people may feel the need to use one. Isn’t this a civil right?]

I found it interesting that it is not permissible for any licensed establishment to offer or deliver any free alcoholic drinks to any person or group of persons. Where I came from it was very common that after buying a few beers at a bar the bartender would "buy you back one" and, most likely, see a bigger tip later as a result. We even had one sentimental bartender who would sometimes send a free pitcher to your table if you played "Good Night Irene" on the jukebox (he was a widower whose wife’s name was Irene). All this generosity and sentimentality is apparently illegal here in the Land of the Puritans.

Regarding the issue of "cap areas" and artificial limits on pouring licenses, this limited supply seems guaranteed to just drive up the value of a transferable license with no concurrent public good. It seems preferable that the License Commission should simply exercise good judgment of a case-by-case basis (assuming that revocation of licenses remains an available option for chronic or egregious offenders).

Regarding the notion that there may never have been a legal basis on which the City Council could (and did) delegate to the License Commission some regulatory authority, I shudder to think how things would be otherwise. A sizable fraction of City Council business would be consumed by this, and I can easily imagine Public Comment being dominated by patrons and potential patrons of various bars and nightclubs.

I continue to marvel at how basic maintenance-level legislation often evades the state legislature – simple corrections for ordinary purposes. Why does it remain so difficult to adjust the funding formulas for charter schools? Why can’t we have a more rational way of filling legislative vacancies? How about making a few modifications to the Open Meeting Law to address the problem of frivilous complaints? If the legislature can devote time to who can use which bathroom, then surely they can take up some of these other matters.


Relative to the vote to approve the FY2017 Budget:

Unfinished Business #5-11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow:

#5: $17,350,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport Neighborhood, and areas in Harvard Square as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

#6: $5,000,000 to provide funds for a Comprehensive Facilities Improvement Plan.

#7: $2,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

#8: $149,600,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including construction for the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex, building envelope repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at the Amigos School.

#9: $150,000 to provide funds for the purchase and installation of mechanical components to ensure the operational integrity of the elevator at the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.

#10: $4,000,000 to provide funds for the renovations of the Out of Town News Kiosk Building and adjacent plaza area in Harvard Square.

#11: $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and construction of a multi-use path/greenway along the eastern Grand Junction railroad right of way from Broadway to the city line.

That’s a total of $188,100,000 in Loan Orders – dominated by the cost of construction of the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 5, 2016, May 12, 2016 and May 10, 2016 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $538,608,450.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Water fund Budget in the amount of $13,969,210.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 12, 2016 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Budget in the amount of $16,890,570.

These are the three traditional Finance Committee reports associated with the Budget approval.


Relative to City Manager appointments to City Boards & Commissions:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Human Rights Commission for a term of three years, effective May 23, 2016: Olinda Marshall and Chara Itoka

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following members to the Cambridge Arts Council Advisory Board for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: Luis Edgardo Cotto, Lori Lander and Stella Aguirre McGregor.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following members to the Cambridge Public Art Commission for a term of three years, effective June 1, 2016: David De Celis and Dina Deitsch.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Coordinating Council for Children, Youth and Families (aka Family Policy Council) for the 2016-17 term: Tony Clark.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Harvard Square Advisory Board for a term of two years, effective May 23, 2016: Bridget Dinsmore and Maximillan Frank.

Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a full member of the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals for a term of 5 years, effective May 23, 2016: Patrick Tedesco.

Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Police Review & Advisory Board for a term of five years, effective May 23, 2016: Ted Robitaille.

Many appointments to Cambridge Civic University – no tuition required. Being an active member of a City volunteer board provides a great civic education as well as an opportunity to fully participate as a resident.


Other matters on the City Manager’s Agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $10,500 from the General Fund City Council Travel and Training account to the General Fund City Council Other Ordinary Maintenance account for the facilitation of a goal setting session on June 8.

I hope and expect that this is a public meeting, but I’ll be happy to just watch without comment.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $404,505 associated with Forest City’s 300 Massachusetts Avenue building project (Ordinance #1354) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $375,000 associated with Novartis’ Special District 15 (opposite the NECCO Building; Ordinance #1338) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Grant Fund Community Development Other Ordinary Maintenance which will be used to support middle income housing programs for Cambridge residents with consideration of neighborhoods impacted by development.

Every little bit helps.

Manager’s Agenda #23. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting the City Council move to Executive Session for an update on the potential acquisition of property located at 859 Massachusetts Avenue by eminent domain.

This has been the home of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce since the 1970s and any eminent domain action will be what is known as a "friendly taking". I’m not sure what City functions might end up there. There’s a neat photo of the ribbon-cutting when the Chamber first moved there.


Notable City Council Orders & Resolutions:

Resolution #3. Urge all Cantabrigians to pause on Memorial Day, and every day, to remember and pay tribute to our nation’s defenders, living and deceased, for their service and devotion to country.   Vice Mayor McGovern

With every passing year I find myself feeling more and more grateful to all the veterans who have served.

Order #5. That the City Council formally go on record declaring June 2, 2016 to be Gun Violence Awareness Day, and in encouraging all Cambridge residents to work proactively and collaboratively in preventing this shameful epidemic of violence to continue.   Mayor Simmons

Cambridge has seen its own share of gun violence during the last few years with several murders still unsolved (or at least unprosecuted for lack of witnesses coming forward to help make a solid case for prosecutors).

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to collaborate with the Cambridge Arts Council to create a process for Artist Certification to ensure that applicants are full-time/career practicing artists and is requested to prioritize the placement of artists in the Inclusionary Housing Program by assigning artists who have been certified by the Cambridge Arts Council one additional point in the Rental Application Pool.   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Cheung

This is not the first time there has been a City Council Order like this, and I remain unconvinced that this is a wise idea. It is never a good idea to play favorites like this. If we want to give preferential treatment to artists, what about the thousands of others who work traditional labor-intensive jobs at less than a living wage? Do child-care workers deserve less that artists? I can assure you that there are also many adjunct faculty who have annual incomes comparable to starving artists. Don’t they count as much as artists? Perhaps everyone should just declare themselves to be performance artists and fill out the appropriate application form at the Cambridge Arts Council. – Robert Winters

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