Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 19, 2018

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Sept 19, 2018)

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

Members Sought for New River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Design Project Working Group

Sept 19, 2018 – The City of Cambridge is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Working Group to help guide the River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Design Project. The group will advise City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and his staff on key issues related to the planning and design for this important project, which has three main components:City Seal

  • River Street subsurface: Replace aging utility infrastructure so that critical utility services can continue to be provided to the community, and enhance the ability of the sewer and drainage systems to handle large storm events, in a sustainable manner, in an era of climate change;
  • River Street surface: Create a streetscape design that enables people to travel safely and comfortably by various modes, while enhancing the neighborhood context, meeting environmental goals, and supporting local businesses;
  • Carl Barron Plaza: Redesign the major public open space of Central Square, including considerations of public art, fixed and/or unfixed furniture, circulation, access, plantings, and landscaping.

The working group will consist of 12-15 members who will meet monthly for a period of 9-12 months, starting late fall 2018. The group will include residents, business, and institutional representatives and subject matter experts and who will work with city staff and a consultant to develop design principles and alternative design options. The process will culminate in a final design for River Street and Carl Barron Plaza, which will proceed into construction.

Individuals with interest in the River Street corridor, Central Square/Carl Barron Plaza, experience or expertise in relevant topics — transportation, accessibility, urban design and placemaking, landscape architecture, green infrastructure — and a demonstrated ability to work effectively with diverse viewpoints to craft consensus solutions are encouraged to apply. Meetings of the Working Group will be open to the public.

For additional questions about the new Working Group, contact Jerry Friedman, Supervising Engineer, Department of Public Works at 617-349-9720 or jfriedman@cambridgema.gov.

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at www.cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and résumé or summary of applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, October 12, 2018.


Cambridge City Manager Seeks Members for Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship – deadline extended

City SealSept 18, 2018 – Cambridge City Manager Louis DePasquale is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship (CIRC). The Commission consists of 11 volunteer members, who are appointed by the City Manager, following an application and interview process. The term of the appointment is three years. Commissioners are expected to be knowledgeable about immigrant rights and citizenship and must be residents of Cambridge. It is desirable for this Commission to be fully representative of the diverse Cambridge community.

Cambridge welcomes immigrants and wants to encourage their success and access to opportunity and advancement in this country. It will be a goal of this Commission to get the message of welcome out, through collaboration with organizations that already provide services and outreach to our immigrant community. The Commission will act as a centralizing organization in Cambridge, to address immigrant rights and citizenship issues through providing information, referral, guidance, coordination and technical assistance to other public agencies and private persons, organizations and institutions engaged in activities and programs intended to support immigrant rights and citizenship.

Commissioners are expected to work with other members of the Commission and staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Ordinance (CMC Chapter 2.123).

Individuals interested in being considered should apply by using the city’s online application system at www.cambridgema.gov/apply. A cover letter and résumé or summary of applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline for submitting applications is not yet determined.

August 15, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 331-332: Aug 14, 2018

Episode 331 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 14, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 14, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: EMF landmark study, St. James housing, Brown Petition fallout, flat roofs, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 332 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 14, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 14, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: OldTime Baseball, Central Sq. murals, Surveillance Tech. Ordinance and Plan E Charter, civic opportunities, and upcoming primary. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 14, 2018

The Marcia Deihl bicycling fatality

Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley has obtained a copy of the crash reconstruction report in Marcia Deihl’s fatal collision with a truck on March 1, 2015, and posted the report online. I thank Mr. Kelley for performing this public service.

My understanding is that a Freedom of Information Act request was necessary to obtain a copy. That is not as it should be. The public needs to know the how and why of crashes, to avoid them and guide policy.

Quick summary: Deihl rode out of the driveway on Putnam Avenue from Whole Foods, collided with the front bumper of the truck, which was headed east in the lane closest to the driveway, and went under its front wheels. Here. You can see the ghost bike in the image. (It is before the driveway but the crash occurred at or after the driveway.)

Half-trigger warning: this post isn’t relaxing reading and neither is the report, but they don’t include any gruesome images, or except for the last few pages or the report, descriptions more graphic than what you have just read.

So, what about the report?

Unfortunately, the investigation leaves questions unanswered, which it might have answered. Only in the synopsis at the start of the report does the State Police investigator repeat part of the report of Cambridge Officer Sullivan who interviewed the truck driver at the scene. Sullivan’s report says that the driver “checked to his right but didn’t see anything but snow so he started to pull over. He stated as he was pulling over he started to put on his hazard lights. He felt a bump and thought he ran over a snow bank.” He also said that he was pulling over to park and then walk to a construction site to see if it was ready for the dumpster he was carrying.

The report doesn’t raise, or answer, the question whether the driver was looking ahead prior to pulling over, as he was approaching the driveway. There was also no discussion of the role that snowbanks might have played in blocking sight lines. You will probably recall that the winter of 2015 was the snowiest one ever recorded in the Boston area. 94.4 inches had fallen from Jan. 24 through Feb. 22, 2015.

Deihl pulled out of the driveway either just as the truck was passing, or she passed it. The initial point of impact was the front of the truck and — as identified by a GPS recorder in the truck — it was going only 5 mph at that point (slowing to a stop).

One thing that calls out to me in the report is the intensive examination of the truck but cursory examination of the bicycle (p. 12 of the PDF, p. 7 of the report). What if, for example, Deihl’s brakes had failed? Were the steel rims of Deihl’s old English three-speed bicycle wet? Steel rims are as slippery as ice when wet, and rim brakes barely work then. The temperature reached 30 F on the day of the crash, which occurred at 3 PM, but snowmelt might have wetted the rims. Or did the bicycle have a coaster brake, in which case wet rims wouldn’t have been an issue? Did Deihl skid on packed snow or ice? Also the autopsy report is rather perfunctory. Medical condition leading to loss of control? — last page of the PDF. “Bicyclist rideout” crashes like this one are rare after childhood, suggesting to me that something unusual went wrong.

The key to this crash would seem to be why Deihl came out of the driveway and collided with the truck, rather than stopping to let it pass. But the trucker also pulled over to the right — Deihl may have turned right assuming that the truck would clear her. — page 9 of the PDF.

Deihl was required under the law to yield to traffic in the street before entering it from a driveway. If she pulled out of the driveway ahead of the truck, the trucker could have prevented the crash as long as it was not too late for him to avoid the collision by braking or swerving. He was at fault if he failed to look. If Deihl was passing him on the right, she would have been close to the side of the truck and probably in its right-side blind spot. And sight lines may have been blocked by a snowbank.

It’s incredibly frustrating that:

  1. The investigator didn’t know what he is doing in a bicycle investigation (scenario repeated with the Anita Kurmann fatality in Boston later the same year);
  2. It took a FOIA request to see the report;
  3. Advocates use these tragedies to justify whatever pet projects they have. (Sideguards, says Alex Epstein. They would be irrelevant in this collision with the front of a truck: more about them here. Separate bike traffic from car traffic, says Pete Stidman. Just how would a sidepath have worked on a day when the street was lined with snowbanks is another valid question. Most likely, it would not have been usable. Comments by Epstein and Stidman are here. Neither of them had seen the report when they made their observations.)
  4. Advocates are avoiding adequately informing bicyclists about the hazards of trucks and how to avoid them.

Well, the advocates at the American Bicycling Education Association are an important exception. I am proud to be an instructor in its program. An animated graphic on safety around trucks is here and if you click on the title at the top of the page, you can find out how to sign up for a course (online or in person) which will cover that topic and much more.

I thank Paul Schimek for many of the observations in this post, and for drawing my attention to the availability of the crash report.

And again, I thank Craig Kelley for making the report available.

January 14, 2018

Civic Nerdiness

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 7:42 pm

Civic Nerdiness

Annual Documents SealThis week on Tuesday, Jan 16 at 2:30pm, the City Council’s Ad-Hoc Rules Committee will conduct a public hearing in the Sullivan Chamber to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules. This committee consists of Vice Mayor Devereux (Chair) and Councillors Mallon and Kelley; as well as Donna Lopez, City Clerk; Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor; Maryellen Carvello, Office manager to the City Manager, and Wil Durbin, Chief of Staff to the Mayor.

I suppose it must be the pinnacle of civic nerdiness to care about the City Council Rules, but the structure of the City Council subcommittees, their mission, the number of members on each committee, and what constitutes a quorum are actually contained within the City Council Rules. From this civic nerd’s point of view this actually is significant. In an ideal world the subcommittees should be where most of the detail work takes place. Unfortunately, it has sometimes been the case that these subcommittees become little more than discretionary devices for their respective Chairs where matters that sometimes have little to do with the purpose of the committee are pursued. In addition, there have been some topics in the last few years that didn’t really have a natural match to any of the existing City Council committees or which were taken up by what might be viewed as the wrong committee. For example, if there is a Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, why were matters relating to bicycle transportation handled within the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations Committee? [I would restructure the committees just to shorten the name of that one.]

It’s interesting to look at what the standing committees have been at various times in Cambridge history. Here are a few snapshots, including some recorded in the City’s Annual Documents (yes, I really do have these original books on my shelf):

Joint Committees: 1887
Accounts
Almshouse
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Fuel
Health
Lamps
Ordinances
Printing
Public Instruction
Public Property
Roads and Bridges
Rules and Orders
Water Supply

Standing Committees
of the Mayor and Alderman

Bonds
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Licenses
Police
Roads and Bridges
Sewers

Standing Committees
of the Common Council

Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances

Joint Committees: 1911-1912
Accounts
Assessor’s Department
City Engineering
City Home
Claims
Finance
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Legal Matters
Legislative Matters
Ordinances
Parks
Printing
Public Property
Public Instruction
Water Supply
Wires and Lamps

Standing Committees
of the Board of Alderman

Bonds
Cemeteries
Claims
Elections and Returns
Fire Department
Health
Highways
Licenses
Parks
Police
Rules and Orders
Sewers
Soldier’s Aid
Street Railways

Standing Committees of the Common Council
Bills in the Second Reading
Elections and Returns
Enrolled Ordinances
Rules and Orders

City Council Committees: 1938
Americanization and Education

Bonds

City Engineering

City Planning

Claims

Elections and Printing

Finance

Health

Industrial Development

Legislative Matters

Licenses

Military Affairs

Ordinances

Parks and Cemeteries

Public Celebrations

Public Property and Public Institutions

Public Safety

Public Service

Roads and Bridges

Rules and Orders

Soldier’s Aid

Water Supply

Wires and Lamps

City Council Committees: 1998
Cable TV and Communications

Civil and Human Rights

Claims

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Elder Affairs

Environment

Finance

Food Policy

Government Operations

Health and Hospitals

Housing and Community Development

Human Services and Youth

Ordinance

Public Safety

Public Service

Rules

Sister Cities

Traffic and Transportation

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2000
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long-term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2012
Cable TV, Telecommunications, and Public Utilities

Civic Unity

Claims

Community Health

Economic Development, Training, and Employment

Environment

Finance

Government Operations and Rules

Housing

Human Services

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning

Ordinance

Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Public Safety

Transportation, Traffic, and Parking

University Relations

Veterans

City Council Committees: 2016
Civic Unity

Economic Development and University Relations

Finance

Government Operations, Rules, and Claims

Health and Environment

Housing

Human Services and Veterans

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Art, and Celebrations

Ordinance

Public Safety

Transportation and Public Utilities

City Council Committees: 2018
?????

It’s likely that prior to the adoption of the Plan E Charter that went into effect in 1941 there was either the need or the desire for more oversight of City departments, and both the number and the nature of the City Council (and Board of Alderman) committees seem to reflect this. Some standing committees are essentially permanent (Ordinance, Finance), but others clearly change with the times and even with the desires of individual councillors. What should be the focus of City Council subcommittees for the 2018-2019 City Council term? Should they remain the same? Are there any priorities that warrant a redefinition of the Council subcommittees? Should we revive some committees from the long past?

If you have any ideas, come to the meeting Tuesday afternoon. – Robert Winters

November 4, 2017

Cambridge Candidate Pages – 2017

Cambridge Candidate Pages – 2017
http://vote.cambridgecivic.com

Vote!The biennial Cambridge municipal election is only a few days away – Tuesday, November 7. There are 26 candidates on the ballot for 9 seats on the Cambridge City Council, and 12 candidates on the ballot for 6 seats on the Cambridge School Committee.

In Cambridge’s proportional representation (PR) elections, you may vote for as many candidates as you please, but you must rank your choices. Give a #1 rank to your top choice, a #2 rank to your next choice, etc. Ranking additional candidates will not hurt your top choice(s). If you assign the same rank to more than one candidate, none of those candidates will receive your vote. To prevent this, incorrectly cast ballots will be rejected and returned to you for correction. This way every vote will count as intended.

Many Cambridge voters have not yet decided who should get their #1 vote in each of these races, and many more voters have not yet thought much about who will get their #2, #3, etc. votes.

Most of the candidates in this year’s election have provided detailed responses on a number of topics relevant to the offices they seek. Their individual Candidate Pages also provide contact information and links to their own websites. New information is added daily and will continue to be added right up until Election Day.

All of the individual Candidate Pages are accessed by clicking on each candidate’s picture in the photo gallery at http://vote.cambridgecivic.com. Additional election-related information is also provided at this site.

Please read as much as you can about all of the candidates and make informed choices.

Thanks,
Robert Winters
Cambridge Civic Journal


Cambridge Candidates Pages – http://vote.cambridgecivic.com
Cambridge Civic Journal – http://rwinters.com
CCJ Forum – http://cambridgecivic.com

September 25, 2017

Preview of Sept 25, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council,cycling — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:28 am

Preview of Sept 25, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallHere are the items that drew my attention this week:

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 17-55 and 17-64, regarding an update on Bicycle Lane Implementation and Outreach.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of 17 persons as a members of the Pedestrian Committee for a term of two years.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of 18 persons as a members of the Bicycle Committee for a term of two years.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of 20 persons as a members of the Transit Committee.

While I’m glad to see all of these appointments and reappointments to these volunteer committees, there is an important point that needs to be stated. These are ADVISORY committees. They consist of a lot of really dedicated people who put a lot of time and thought into their committee work, and we are grateful for their service. However, recommendations from these or any other advisory committees should never be the final word. City staff and ultimately the elected officials bear that responsibility, especially when a committee consists primarily, if not exclusively, of advocates for a single point of view. Do members of the Bicycle Committee take into account the needs of all residents and others who need to travel through the city? Do they factor in all four seasons? Are the needs of delivery vehicles taken into account? What happens when what is ideal for transit users is in conflict with a proposal from the Bicycle Committee? What happens when the needs of residents and local businesses conflict with the demands of a subset of cycling advocates?

I served on the Recycling Advisory Committee for two decades. During that time I always tried to evaluate any proposals from the point of view of all residents – and not just the most zealous recycling advocates. I’m not at all convinced that this is done in some of these other advisory committees. In fact, I honestly believe that anyone with a contrary view would never even be appointed to the Bicycle Committee.

One day the Envision Cambridge consultants, its associated Advisory Committee (of which I am a member), and City staff will issue its recommendations and hopefully lay out a workable vision for city planning for the near future and the long term. Should the City Council adopt those recommendations without debate? Will modifications to the plan be forbidden? Of course not. When the Recycling Advisory Committee offered recommendations they were rarely accepted without question.

Nonetheless, as Mr. Barr’s report spells out, the Cambridge Bicycle Plan "lays out a vision for where the City intends to implement bicycle facilities in the future". Did the Cambridge City Council ever really analyze that plan? Was any of it open to revision or negotiation? Or was it just accepted as a non-negotiable plan for the sake of political expedience? Does it address actual safety or is it primarily about "comfort", convenience, and "turf"? Most importantly, was any effort ever expended to balance the needs of all road users?

Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-30, regarding a report on partnering with DCR and the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association to revitalize Magazine Beach.

I’m grateful to all of the people who are helping to transform this space into something great.

Manager’s Agenda #14. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an amendment to the Foundry Demonstration Project Plan.

How many years has it been now?

Manager’s Agenda #15. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Community Preservation Act (CPA) recommendations for FY2018. [Attachments]

No surprises here – the legal maximum of 80% for subsidized/regulated housing, and the legal minimum of 10% each for open space acquisition and historic preservation.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Law Department, the Community Development Department, and any other appropriate City departments to update the City Council on what is being done to address the Council’s request for actions on vacant and abandoned buildings.   Councillor Devereux

There are plenty of good steps that can be taken, but the City Council needs to start by rethinking their earlier non-starter proposal that would have levied fines so steep that any court on the planet would recognize it as a regulatory taking. They can also try working with these property ownerts to bring about best outcomes.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Information Technology Department and other appropriate City personnel and report back to the City Council on the effectiveness of the SeeClickFix system.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

The system works well in some ways, but it really depends a lot on which department is responding. It has also degenerated in some ways into a vehicle for advocacy where some users flood the system just to push their point of view. – Robert Winters

July 13, 2017

Cambridge City Manager Announces New Police Commissioner

Branville G. Bard Jr. of Philadelphia, PA Selected

Branville G. BardJuly 13, 2017 – City Manager Louis A. DePasquale today announced that Branville G. Bard, Jr. has been selected as Cambridge’s Police Commissioner.

"I am pleased to appoint Mr. Bard as our next Police Commissioner. He has a proven track record and will be a strong leader for our 21st-century Police Department," City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said. "I am confident that under Mr. Bard’s leadership, the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) will continue growing its commitment to community policing, crime prevention, cultural awareness and sensitivity, department-wide equity and inclusiveness, procedural justice, and visionary, effective, and strong police leadership."

Bard currently serves as the Chief of Police and the Director of Public Safety for the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Police Department. Prior to this, he served in numerous positions for the Philadelphia Police Department, including Police Inspector, and Police Captain for the 22nd District. Bard holds a Doctorate in Public Administration from Valdosta State University. Bard’s contract is for 3 years with a starting salary of $210,125 ($205,000 base salary with a 2.5% cost of living increase that went into effect July 1). His first official day as Commissioner is August 21.

"It is a tremendous honor to be appointed as the next Commissioner of the Cambridge Police Department," Bard said. "This is a nationally regarded and accomplished department and I am committed to building on the success of CPD’s talented and established personnel, programs and collaborations."

"I am pleased that we were able to involve so many people in the Commissioner search process and that the public was able to hear directly from Mr. Bard during the process," City Manager DePasquale said "I hope the entire community will join me in welcoming incoming Commissioner Bard and I look forward to introducing him to the community in the coming months."

A full timeline of the process is available at http://camb.ma/BardTimeline. [Branville Bard’s resume]

February 21, 2017

Black ice blindness

Snowmelt drains across "protected" bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

Snowmelt drains across “protected” bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

The photo is of a stretch of barrier-separated bikeway recently installed on the north side of Massachusetts Avenue between Sidney Street and Douglass Street in Cambridge. The headline of the February 17, 2017 Boston Globe article with this picture is “Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists”.

But — the shiny area in the bikeway is meltwater from said snowbank. When the temperature drops, the water freezes into a sheet of black ice. The usual drainage techniques don’t work here because, if you will excuse me for belaboring the obvious, the “hero barrier’ is uphill and water runs downhill. I discussed bikeway drainage issues in more detail recently in a post on another blog and years ago in connection with the 9th Avenue bikeway in Manhattan. Just to make it clear, I do have  nice things to say about other features of the 9th Avenue bikeway.

Neither Steve Annear, author of the Globe article, nor anyone quoted in it, makes any mention of the black-ice problem. They are all enthusiastic about the snow-barrier.

From the article: “I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,” Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.

Ari is more than just a “local cyclist”. He widely, imaginatively and thoughtfully discusses transportation improvements his blog. I usually agree with him, except when he turns a blind eye to problems with barrier-separated on-street bikeways.

The article cites Joe Barr. Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation for the City of Cambridge:

Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.

“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.

And Richard Fries, Executive Director of the massachusretts Bicycle Coalition, commented:

It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.

Segregation promotes a sense of entitlement on the part of the majority group –in this case, motorists. How do I explain to horn-honking motorists that I have to ride my bicycle in “their” travel lane, now narrowed to make room for the barrier, to avoid crashing on a sheet of black ice?

Or for that matter, to travel at my usual 15 miles per hour so I’m not stuck behind a cluster of bicyclists who are traveling at 8 miles per hour?

Or to avoid being right-hooked and crushed under the back wheels by a right-turning truck where the bikeway ends at Douglass Street?

Just asking.

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