Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 193-194: December 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 193 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on December 27, 2016 at 5:30pm. The theme of this show was a “Look Back at 2016”. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 194 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 27, 2016 at 6:00pm. In this episode we continued our “Look Back at 2016” blended with a “Look Ahead at 2017”, including the names of some of the new candidates expected to run for City Council in 2017. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in this episode]

November 6, 2016

The Municipal Situation in Cambridge (1904) – by Henry N. Wheeler

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,history — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:51 pm

Wheeler - 1904

The Good Government League of Cambridge
Bulletin No. 2
MAY, 1904

A Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the National Municipal League at Chicago, April 28, 1904



JUNE, 1904

Good Government League of Cambridge


1. Continuation of the work in behalf of the extension of the Merit System of Appointments to Heads of Departments.
This work has been vigorously pushed preparatory to securing favorable legislation from our next Slate Legislature.

In response to a request for the co-operation of our City Council a hearing was recently granted by a joint committee of the Board of Aldermen and Common Council, at which Messrs. Richard H. Dana, Alvin F. Sortwell, and Dr. Edward R. Cogswell made carefully prepared arguments in favor of the plan.

2. Continuation of the work of the Educational Committee in behalf of the better preparation for citizenship by our Public Schools.
Every public school in Cambridge has been visited by some member of this committee, and the sympathetic co-operation of the Masters has been secured. The School Committee has shown its interest in this work by emphasizing its importance and increasing the time allotted to the subject in its proposed new Course of Study.

In order to secure still further co-operation, the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Francis Cogswell, issued a call to all the public school teachers to meet the Educational Committee on May 25. This joint meeting was presided over by Mr. A.M. Howe, the Chairman of the Educational Committee, and was addressed by President Charles W. Eliot, who is a member of the Committee, and by Masters Grover, Billings, Bates and Morse. It was voted to invite the Superintendent of Schools to appoint a Committee of Masters and League Members to help carry on the work.

3. Revision of our City Charter.
A committee of ten (or more) citizens, made up principally of men who have had wide experience at City Hall, under the chairmanship of ex-Mayor Alvin F. Sortwell, will give special study to this subject and will report what changes, if any, should in their opinion be made in our City Charter.

4. The City Election of 1904.
On May 19, 1904, the Executive Committee voted to announce that shortly before the next municipal election it intends to furnish as complete and impartial information about all the candidates as it is able to obtain. When such information is full and sufficient, it intends to draw conclusions and designate any candidates whom it considers fit or unfit for office. When two or more candidates for the same office appear to be equally qualified, it will so state, and in case not enough information about a candidate can be obtained to enable the Committee to form a just conclusion, it will print only the facts without comment.

No material fact about a candidate which has any bearing on his fitness or unfitness for office will be suppressed, and all candidates will be treated alike. It will be the aim of the Executive Committee to give the information about candidates in clear and convenient form. The Secretary of the League will have charge of this work, as last year, and solicits the aid of all members.

Executive Committee.

HENRY N. WHEELER, Chairman.     ROBERT WALCOTT, Secretary.



President of the Good Government League of Cambridge, Mass.

The Fort Hill Press


Early Town History
A GLANCE at the early history of Cambridge reveals many similarities between the civic problems of the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries, and points out that most of the roots of the good and the evil in our institutions began their growth between two and three hundred years ago.

In Young’s "Chronicles” we read – in regard to the prevention of fire in dwellings in 1631, the year after New Towne, now Cambridge, began its existence: "For the prevention whereof in our new town . . . we have ordered that no man shall build his chimney with wood."

We are told that in 1632 the Court of Assistants imposed a tax of sixty pounds sterling upon "the several plantations within the lymitts of this pattent towards the making of a pallysadoe about the New Towne." The palisado has gone, but in place of it we have a parkway, for the construction and maintenance of which taxes are now imposed.

In 1639 Stephen Daye set up in Cambridge the first printing press in America north of Mexico, and the General Court enacted a law that no printing should be done in the colonies except in Cambridge. Mr. H. O. Houghton, the founder of the Riverside Press, used to say that the Daye Press died from lack of competition, and that it was not until this legislative ban was removed that the art of printing began to make progress in the colonies. The evil custom then begun of legislating for the benefit of individuals or corporations still exists.

We read that in 1645 "every family in each of the colonies gave to the college at Cambridge 12 pence, or a peck of corn, or its value in unadulterated wampumpeag"; and that the college in return exerted a powerful influence in forming the early character of the country. Our community is still contributing to the cause of education, and a committee of our Good Government League is trying to find out whether our contributions still tend to form character.

Mr. Fiske says: "We find that in 1652 the townsmen do grant liberty to Andrew Belcher to sell bread and beer for entertainment of strangers and the good of the town." This same Belcher family continues to sell bread in Cambridge, but whether it may sell beer is a question in reply to which the voters now say Yes or No each year.

In 1655 President Dunster of Harvard was censured by the magistrates and dismissed from office for what was styled his damnable heresy, that infant baptism was unscriptural. "The magistrates" no longer have control over a Harvard president, but only a few years ago a president of a nearby university was led to move farther West on account of his views on the silver question.

Cambridge becomes a City
In March, 1846, Cambridge became a city, but she did not adopt then, and has not yet adopted, the scientific, businesslike, and economical methods of work which characterize the private business of her own citizens, and which have been long in vogue in the cities of Great Britain and Continental Europe. Cambridge has probably suffered less, however, from remissness in these directions than has any other American city, and we who live in Cambridge believe that on the whole she has done more for her people than has any other American city, and that Cambridge is the best city in the world to live in, to rear a family in, and to die in.

Public Spirit
The salvation of our city has been the fact that she has always had among her citizens an unusually large number of able, public-spirited men, of knowledge, common sense, and experience, who, whenever occasion has demanded it, have given generously of their time, strength, and money. That they have not been better represented in our City Council is the fault of our municipal system; that they have initiated improvements which our city has been glad to adopt, and that they have served long and faithfully on committees and commissions which are not subject to the fickle changes of annual elections, is well known. Let me cite a few illustrations.

Eminent Public Servants
On a list of those who have served as members of our School Committee may be found: Alexander Agassiz; Prof. Francis Bowen; W. S. Chaplin, now chancellor of Washington and Lee University ; Prof. F. J. Child; Prof. Ephraim Emerton; Pres. C. C. Felton; Prof. W. W. Goodwin; Prof. A. B. Hart; Col. T. W. Higginson; Miss A. M. Longfellow; Rev. Alexander McKenzie; Prof. Charles Eliot Norton; Rev. Fr. John O’Brien; Dr. A. P. Peabody; Horace E. Scudder; Prof. F. W. Taussig; and Dr. Morrill Wyman. With these and others notable as scholars and teachers have served also some of the ablest business men of our city.

For twenty-five consecutive years the late Chester W. Kingsley, one of our ablest and most esteemed citizens, served on our Water Board, of which he was the chairman for fourteen years. For thirty-seven consecutive years Mr. George S. Saunders served faithfully and well as a cemetery commissioner. His brother, Charles H. Saunders, served twenty-five years as a commissioner of our Sinking Fund. Mr. George H. Cox has served continuously on our Park Commission since its formation eleven years ago, and has just accepted a reappointment for three years. These are only a few of the many instances that might be quoted of long, able, and faithful public service.

Some of the Fruits of Public Spirit
The following are some of the progressive movements for the public good that were initiated, and maintained in their beginnings, by public-spirited citizens:

In 1648 and 1669 the first two schoolhouses in Cambridge were built and conducted at private expense.

In 1888 our Manual Training School was founded by our fellow-citizen, F. H. Rindge, who also paid all its running expenses up to 1900, when it was taken over by our city.

For eleven years before they came under the care of our School Committee, free kindergartens were maintained by Mrs. Quincy Shaw and other Cambridge women.

Vacation schools were conducted by private subscription before the city was ready to assume the burden of maintaining them.

The Cambridge Public Library was also started through private munificence.

We are sometimes told that Cambridge is ruled by its aristocrats; if this be so then the aristocrats of Cambridge are the public-spirited men and women whose names will be found on the subscription lists and lists of workers of those movements which I have referred to, and of other similar movements that are still maintained by private support. The following are some of the private organizations supported by our citizens for the public good:

The Associated Charities, organized in 1881. In addition to its regular work it has exterminated the tramp nuisance; it has done away with the chattel mortgage evil, which was making nearly five hundred of our poor families pay from fifty to one hundred and twenty per cent a year on small loans; it has established nine stamp savings stations for children, which show a record of over seven thousand depositors; and it has aided in almost every other charitable work done in the city.

The Prospect Union and the Social Union: These organizations have supplied numerous courses of instruction, principally by Harvard students, at nominal rates to hundreds of working people each year.

The East End Christian Union, with library, gymnasium, bath-rooms, workshops, etc.

The Avon Home for Destitute Children.

The Cambridge Hospital, at an annual expense of over $20,000.

The Holy Ghost Hospital, recently aided by the united efforts of many of the women of Cambridge.

Perhaps the best illustration of co-operative work is the No-License movement, which has resulted in a ”No" vote for eighteen years in succession. Among the ablest workers in this cause may be mentioned Rev. D. N. Beach and Rev. Fr. Thomas Scully.

Good work was done in the winter of 1902-3, throughout the scarcity-of-coal period, by the Citizens’ Fuel Committee. It at once restored confidence to frightened citizens, and, while it urged them to look out for themselves so far as possible, and did not become a relief committee, it was able to deliver coal promptly in small quantities to every applicant. Among the workers on this committee were John H. Corcoran, J. H. H. McNamee (then Mayor), A. M. Howe, President C. W. Eliot, and Bishop William Lawrence.

The Politics of the City
Although the adoption of a city charter in 1846 produced the usual result, namely, the introduction of national politics into municipal affairs, we find that as early as 1854 there was a meeting of citizens who believed that party politics should not be a test of qualification for municipal offices. It was not until 1866, however, that all municipal nominations began to be made on a non-partisan basis; and this state of affairs continued until the fall campaign of 1901.

The Library Hall Association
Of the origin of the association we glean the following information from a report of Mr. George G. Wright.

In 1889, after the nomination by caucuses of many unfit candidates for office, there was a meeting, in the rooms formerly occupied by the Public Library, of those opposed to such candidates. A new list of candidates endorsed at this meeting was presented to the voters, under the title of " The Library Hall Candidates." After a hard contest the objectionable candidates were defeated, and all but four of the forty-three Library Hall candidates were elected. This meeting led to the formation of the Library Hall Association.

The objects of the association are shown by the following extract from its by-laws:

The purposes of this Association shall be to secure the nomination and election of proper candidates for municipal offices; to procure the punishment of all persons who may be guilty of election frauds, maladministration of office, or misappropriation of public funds; to advocate and promote a public service based upon character and capability only; and to promote intelligent discussion of municipal affairs by the publication and distribution of reliable information in relation thereto."

During the first eleven years of its life over eighty-eight per cent of its endorsements were ratified at the polls. Candidates for office who were members received no more consideration than those who were not, and in many cases the association endorsed candidates who were not members in preference to those who were. Its action in one case resulted in the election of a candidate for Mayor who was not a member and the defeat of another who had been a member of its own Executive Committee the same year.

For several years Library Hall prepared and published a record of the acts of each member of the City Council, including attendance at meetings. It nipped in the bud the beginnings of corruption by calling public attention to the excessive number of car tickets used at the city’s expense by some of the members of the City Council, and the use by members of the labor patronage of public service corporations.

Members of the Executive Committee attended the meetings of the City Council, and made reports on what they saw and heard.

The Library Hall Association became at length so large that its method of endorsing candidates was thought unsatisfactory. It was claimed that it was impossible at a single meeting of three hundred or more members to discuss the merits and demerits of candidates thoroughly enough to ensure a vote for the best men. It therefore decided to change its method of work and to intrust the management of its business to a committee, and to change its name to the Good Government League of Cambridge. This decision was hastened by the appearance, in the fall of 1901, of the Democratic party in city affairs, and, in 1902, of a regular Non-Partisan party in opposition to it. In the fall elections of 1901 and 1902 the Democrats were successful, and were therefore in power in 1902 and in 1903; in the fall of 1903 the Non-Partisans won.

While the partisan party in Cambridge calls itself the Democratic party, it might more properly be called the Opposition party. It was formed to oppose those whom it regarded as in control at City Hall, and to secure control for itself. That its politics were local rather than national would appear from the fact that its leader at first advised against choosing its present name. Some Republicans were induced to join its ranks, and many Democrats refrained from doing so. The present Non-Partisan Mayor is a Democrat; the first leader of the Non-Partisan party was a Democrat; and a large minority of the Executive Committee of Library Hall which failed to endorse any of the so-called Democratic candidates for office in 1901 were Democrats. That partisanship is not believed in by all its members is shown by the fact that one of its ablest supporters recently said in a public speech that non-partisanship in its true sense is an ideal form of government. His reason for becoming a partisan being his belief that the present non-partisan administration is not representative of true non-partisan ideals.

The contest between the Democratic and Non-Partisan parties is a bitter struggle for power. This struggle consumes annually months of time and thousands of dollars. From the nature of the case there is little time or strength left for the perfection of a system by the aid of which the business of the city may be best performed. Even the public-spirited citizens who have accomplished the good results I have spoken of have not yet waked up to the necessity of constructing proper municipal machinery.

The American Municipal Idea
We are told by some of our good citizens that the American idea regards municipal offices as honors to be given first to one good man and then to another, and demands a city government in which three men must be hired to do the work of two. De Tocqueville is quoted in support of this idea, although his observations were made in 1831, when there were only 26 cities in the entire United States and the urban population was less than 7 in a 100, whereas, in 1900, there were 517 cities and the urban population was over 32 in 100. Supposing De Tocqueville to have been right in his conclusions, should we be so non-progressive in municipal affairs as to be willing to be governed to-day by an 1830 idea, when Cambridge, for example, had a population of 6,072 against nearly 100,000 now, when her streets were unlighted and thorough sewerage was unknown, when there were only three policemen, and when the tax rate was $2.26 on a total valuation less than the present annual outgo? We are also told that it is nonsense to compare a city government which has to do with moral and social as well as financial needs with a money-making business corporation. These two ideas – the one that in city work two thirds of a man must count as a whole man, and the other that work for an individual is business, while work for a community of individuals is not business – form the capital stock of the demoralized and demoralizing, place-hunting, graft-seeking elements of our population.*

[* The city statistician of Chicago tells me that owing to the excellent civil service rules in vogue there, a city employé makes a better return for the wages he gets than does the employé of a private corporation.]

Let us rather regard the American idea of to-day as that progressive idea· which has achieved success in innumerable private undertakings and which can and should be applied to municipal affairs.

Our City Charter
This progressive idea, however, has not yet found its way into our city charter. Our charter says that "all officers of the city not elected by the qualified voters shall be resident citizens of the city of Cambridge." What private institution or private business of Cambridge would ever hamper itself by such an unAmerican suicidal requirement as this? In 1864 one of our citizens went abroad and brought back with him the best workmen he could find, and largely by their aid built up a business which to-day pays heavy taxes to the city and supports hundreds of our most respectable citizens. President Eliot has drawn his professors from all parts of the world; had he not been allowed to do this, would he have increased the number of Harvard’s students from 1,059 to 4,328 in the thirty-five years that he has been president?

In the same section with this demoralizing requirement, power is given to the Mayor, subject to the confirmation of the Aldermen, elected at the same time with himself, to make appointments to salaried offices without any provision being made for ascertaining their fitness for the work which they are to perform. In regard to a Mayor’s appointments being "subject to confirmation by the Board of Aldermen," Dr. Albert Shaw says: " The Council’s power of rejecting appointees nominated by the Mayor very considerably diminishes his responsibility for the proper exercise of the appointing power …. The relation between the two cannot at best be other than that of a shifting, unprofitable and illogical compromise." One of the best mayors we ever had once said to me, " I would have removed Mr. A., who was incompetent, if I could have gotten the Aldermen to sustain me." This means that the party will of an unpartisan Board of Aldermen was a block to efficient service.

All of these charter provisions make for partisanship: First, a Mayor cannot appoint the best man if he lives outside the city limits; second, he is not required to apply any test of fitness; and third, he must appoint only those who can get the votes of Aldermen, who naturally and honestly perhaps feel that they represent constituencies.

Our charter also requires that the Mayor and City Council shall be elected annually. They are elected in December; they are inducted into office in January, and a month later, without experience, except in the case of re-elections, and usually without knowledge of such matters, they pass on a city budget which calls for the expenditure of over $3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. Is it an American business principle for a corporation to intrust matters of such importance to a set of workers of one month’s standing? We are told that it takes a Mayor or member of the City Council five months to learn even the routine of his office, and that if he is to retain his position he must devote four months to the work of securing his re-election. This leaves him the three vacation months, often partly spent by him away from home, in which to attend comparatively unhampered to the requirements of his oath of office.

Our city charter also calls for a two-chambered City Council, a requirement which only adds to the inefficiency already so well provided for.

Our city charter by its division of power among the three branches of the city government deprives each branch of a proper sense of responsibility and puts stumbling-blocks in the way of progress. Last year vacancies in the Overseers of the Poor were not filled for months because the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council could not decide whether to act conjointly or concurrently. This month a two-thirds vote of the Common Council, for a much-needed water loan, could not be obtained because some of the Councilmen, though favoring the loan, would not vote for it without a guarantee that only Cambridge citizens should be employed by the Water Board. This obstruction has already cost the city thousands of dollars, through a rise in the cost of material, and has made more imminent a feared water famine. Should the required guarantee be given the added cost for labor alone would amount to $150,000, or from thirty to forty per cent. This illustrates the evils of a division of power and the ability of a misguided minority of a useless third branch of our city government, regardless of their oaths of office, to sacrifice the needs of all our citizens to the chance of getting positions for a few of them, which sound business policy might require the Water Board to give to others.

Can it be a matter of surprise that under our present charter many of our best and most experienced men, who are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel and to sink their hands deep down into their pockets in behalf of a specific municipal improvement, are unwilling to become candidates for the Common Council or Board of Aldermen? Instead of securing, as we should in a community like ours, men the market value of whose business ability and experience is high, – as high, for example, as that of solicitors of municipal concessions with whom they carry on an unequal contest, – we get men whose average market value is low. While excellent young men sometimes become members, they almost always retire as soon as they have acquired ability and experience enough to warrant private citizens in intrusting them with matters of importance. We want such men, but we want them after they have gained some experience in affairs rather than before.

We are told that partisanship is the source of all that is bad in municipal affairs, but the root of our municipal evils lies deeper than partisanship; it lies in our unsound, unbusinesslike, demoralizing municipal system, which produces and fosters partisanship even in a party which honestly tries to be non-partisan.

If neither of the existing municipal parties can be induced to take up the question of reform in our system, then let us have a third party with a platform which will challenge the common sense, intelligence, and public spirit of our people.

Our present system, however, instead of being a source of despondency is a source of hope, for it is so unsound, so unbusinesslike, so unscientific, so sure to produce unbearable inefficiency and high taxes, that the public spirit of Cambridge, the Cambridge idea as it is sometimes called, will surely come to the rescue. The business principles in vogue in our private affairs and in the municipal affairs of foreign cities can and will be introduced into the management of the affairs of American cities. Dr. Shaw tells us in regard to filling offices in Great Britain: " It is usual to advertise for a vacancy …. If a chief of police is wanted for a town, even of a moderate size, there are likely to be applicants by the score or hundred from all parts of the United Kingdom." A reference to the experience of France and Germany would only confirm the thought that it is not at all impossible to establish a system of appointment by which merit shall be the only "pull." Such a system neither cheats the public nor degrades the wage-earner.

The Good Government League of Cambridge
While the objects of the Good Government League are the same as those of its predecessor, the Library Hall Association, it has devoted itself principally during the past year to the promotion of a study and discussion of questions relating to the improvement of our municipal system. Its first recommendation favored the extension of the Merit System to the appointment of heads of departments. In behalf of this recommendation, Mr. R. H. Dana, a member of the Executive Committee of the League, prepared a paper which the League has published as one of its bulletins. This paper was read and discussed at the last annual meeting of the National Civil Service Reform League, and the subject has been discussed in Cambridge whenever an opportunity has presented itself. It is hoped that the legislation necessary to bring about this reform will be secured from our next State Legislature.

A line of work which has for its aim the better preparation for citizenship by our public schools is being carried on by a committee of the League, of which President C. W. Eliot is a member. Every public school in Cambridge has been visited by some member of this committee; these visits of inquiry have, it is believed, already lead to an increased interest in the subject on the part of teachers and pupils, and the interest of the Librarian of the Public Library has been secured in the direction of obtaining and bringing to the attention of teachers and pupils the best books on the subject. When the report of the committee is presented, it will surely contain helpful suggestions.

The work referred to above was under way at the time of the annual meeting of the League in Sanders Theatre, on February 7, 1904. At this meeting addresses were made by President Eliot, Mayor Daly, Edmund Reardon, and R. H. Dana of Cambridge, and R. Fulton Cutting of New York, and the annual report of the League was presented in which the following suggestions for future work are to be found:

1. The continuation of the work already begun in regard to the extension of the Merit System and to securing a better preparation for citizenship by our public schools.

2. An early study and discussion of the question of lengthening the terms of office of the Mayor and members of the City Council.

3. A study of the advisability of a single chambered City Council.

4. A careful study of the relationship between the city and the public service corporations which use its streets, whether the use of our streets for private gain should not be paid for at the same rates that the city would have to pay for a similar use of private property; and whether the city should ever grant irrevocable rights to the use of its property.

5. A study of our city charter with a view to finding out what changes should be made in it, that the management of our city affairs may become more economical, more businesslike, and more efficient.

Most of these suggestions have already been taken up.

Mr. Louis D. Brandeis of Boston recently delivered to members of the League and others a most helpful address on "The Legal Rights of Public Service Corporations in Our Streets," which will be published shortly as one of the League’s bulletins, and a meeting has been held at which the question of lengthening the terms of service of the Mayor and Aldermen was discussed.

Among other lines of work may be mentioned a public protest from the Executive Committee against the hold up of the water loan, to which I have referred, and the publication of impartial information about candidates for office just previous to the last city election.

More stress has been laid upon measures than upon men, because an improvement in our system is a permanent change for the better and tends to produce good men, while a contest over men alone has to be fought over again every year.

I feel that in closing I should quote the following passage from the by-laws of the Good Government League:

"All publications and recommendations shall be over the signatures of the members of the committee issuing such information or making such recommendations."

It will be seen therefore that since this paper bears only my own signature neither the League nor its Executive Committee is in any way responsible for any of the heresies to be found in it.


September 28, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 171-172: September 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 171 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 5:30pm. The main topic was the upcoming vote to hire the next Cambridge City Manager. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 172 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 6:00pm. [On YouTube]

September 18, 2016

Choice Items on the September 19, 2016 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

Choice Items on the September 19, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeHere are the items that struck me as most interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-73 and Council Order Number 4 (of Sept 12, 2016), regarding lowering speed limits in the City.

In short, the City Council jumped the gun last week. For starters, the City Council must first vote to accept those sections of the new state law that would give them the authority to lower local speed limits. They cannot even do this until Nov 7. The intention of City traffic officials was to lower the speed limit on City-owned roads to 25mph, and this communication makes quite clear that a 20mph speed limit would be a challenge to enforce – to say the least. I challenge anyone driving in Cambridge to maintain a consistent speed of 20mph or less while driving in Cambridge. It’s not unreasonable on a relatively narrow street that’s parked on both sides, but it borders on the absurd on many other streets. A limit of 25mph is doable, but not 20mph. That lower limit should be reserved for locations where it actually makes sense.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a report from Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan, regarding the Polystyrene Ordinance implementation. [Report]

One more example of how the City Council likes to take steps that they think will make them look "progressive" without actually thinking through the possible consequences. Few people would dispute the parts of this Ordinance that deals with expanded polystyrene (EPS), i.e. "Styrofoam". The issue is with other polystyrene products like straws, cups, lids and utensils. The available alternatives – bioplastic compostable products – decompose at much slower rates than are acceptable at any of the facilities that accept organic waste from the City of Cambridge. These materials will be rejected at these facilities. Public policy has to be based on more than just wishful thinking. I was at the committee meeting when these other materials were abruptly added to the proposed ordinance without so much as a conversation.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to CPA [Community Preservation Act]. [Report]

As always, it’s 80% for affordable housing projects ($6,880,000 plus $1,280,000 in state matching funds), 10% for open space acquisition ($860,000 plus $160,000 in state matching funds), and 10% for historic preservation projects ($860,000 plus $1,280,000 in state matching funds). Additional fund balances will also be expended toward these three areas.

Resolution #2. Thanks to City Manager Richard Rossi for his 45 years of service to the City of Cambridge and best wishes for a truly happy and joyful retirement.   Mayor Simmons

Having known Rich Rossi for 27 years of those 45 years of service, I join in wishing Richie all the best in his many years of blissful retirement. I have known very few people who are as expert at getting things done as Rich Rossi. The people of Cambridge owe him a world class "thank you".

Tues, Sept 20

6:00pm-9:00pm   Meet the Finalists Forum  (Fitzgerald Theater, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School)

The City Council’s Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee, is inviting the public to a Meet the Finalists forum on Tues, Sept 20, 2016, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm in the Fitzgerald Theater located in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. This forum is an opportunity for the public to meet the three finalist vying to succeed outgoing City Manager Richard C. Rossi. The meeting will be broadcast live on the City’s Municipal Cable Channel, 22-CityView.

Wed, Sept 21

5:30pm   Special City Council Meeting to publicly interview finalists for the position of City Manager, the City Council may meet in Executive Session to conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with the prospective City Manager or to conduct contract negotiations with the prospective City Manager.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Vote on the selection of the next City Manager expected week of Sept 26 (possibly Thurs, Sept 29).

I have watched this process evolve from the beginning and have kept a safe distance throughout. Now that we have three candidates before us it will be interesting to see if the 9 city councillors can reach consensus (and a majority vote) on one of these three excellent candidates (Jay Ash, Louis DePasquale, and Paul Fetherston). It will also be interesting to watch how the activists may try to influence the decision and how they will respond when a decision is made. If the City Council can actually come to some kind of unanimous or near-unanimous agreement on this most important decision, it may signal their ability to thoughtfully and cooperatively decide on other matters of significance. Hope springs eternal. – Robert Winters

September 15, 2016

Preliminary Screening Committee Announces City Manager Finalists

Preliminary Screening Committee Announces City Manager Finalists
Schedule for Public forums and meetings announced

City SealSeptember 15, 2016 – Today, City Councillor David P. Maher and City of Cambridge Personnel Director Sheila Keady Rawson, co-chairs of the Cambridge City Manager Preliminary Screening Committee (PSC), announced the names of the three finalist candidates being forwarded to the entire City Council for consideration. The PSC’s decision was unanimous.

The three finalists are:

Jay AshRobert “Jay” Ash Jr. – Mr. Ash is currently the Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Previously, he served in a variety of roles in the City of Chelsea, including fourteen years as City Manager. Mr. Ash also served as a legislative aide to Representative Richard Voke. He is a graduate of Clark University.

Louis DePasqualeLouis A. DePasquale – Mr. DePasquale is the City’s Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs in Cambridge. Prior to taking on that assignment, he was the City’s Budget Director, and also worked in other capacities in the City’s Budget and Treasury Departments. Mr. DePasquale is a graduate of Boston State College and received his MPA from Northeastern University.

Paul FetherstonPaul J. Fetherston – Mr. Fetherston is currently the Assistant City Manager in Asheville, NC. He has previously served as Deputy City Manager in Boulder, CO, and has held a variety municipal management positions in Connecticut. He is a graduate of Trinity College, CT, and received his J.D. from Western New England School of Law.

Note: Photos from Commonwealth of Massachusetts, NEREJ, and City of Asheville

A “Meet the Finalists” forum will be held on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, from 6:00-9:00pm., in the Fitzgerald Auditorium at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway, where members of the public will have an opportunity to meet and hear each finalist’s vision for the City and answer questions. On Wednesday, September 21, beginning at 5:30pm, in the Sullivan Chamber at Cambridge City Hall, the City Council will conduct public interviews with the three finalists.

The City Council is expected to vote to appoint the next City Manager during a Special City Council Meeting on Thursday, September 29. Each meeting will be broadcast on 22-Cityview (the municipal cable channel) and can also be livestreamed online at www.CambridgeMA.GOV. Those attending the “Meet the Finalists” forum and the City Council’s public interviews will be provided the opportunity to give written feedback to the City Council.

The PSC was appointed by Mayor E. Denise Simmons and was comprised of 15 community members reflecting citywide constituencies, and four City Council members. GovHR USA, the professional consulting firm hired to assist with the recruitment and hiring process, presented candidates for the committee’s review. According to Joellen Earl, CEO of GovHR USA, the Cambridge position attracted a diverse group of 55 candidates. The PSC conducted an in-depth review of 15 candidates, 27% of which were women or persons of color. The PSC ultimately offered interviews to 8 candidates. The interviews were held on September 12 and 13.

“This was a comprehensive well organized process to review and screen City Manager candidates for submission to the City Council,” said committee member Elaine DeRosa. “This was the first time that the City initiated a national search for the City Manager’s position. The committee worked hard to complete its task. I was honored to be a part of the process.”

The PSC members included resident representatives Peter Traversy, Elaine Thorne, and Laura Booth; large business representative Jay Kiely; small business representative Patrick Magee; Cambridge Public School representative Richard Harding; public safety representative Gerald Reardon; a person with demonstrated knowledge of municipal finance representative Fred Fantini; health and human services/public health representative Claude Jacob; person with knowledge of city planning/urban development representative Susan Schlesinger; higher education/institutional partner representative Kevin Casey; public art and/or recreational representative Ellen Semonoff; affordable housing advocate Susan Connelly; nonprofit community representative Elaine DeRosa; advocate for the quality of our community’s civic and social well-being representative Reverend Lorraine Thornhill; and City Councillors Leland Cheung, David Maher, Nadeem Mazen, and Timothy Toomey.

“The screening committee was an extremely diverse and well informed group representing a wide range of interests in Cambridge,” said committee member Susan Schlesinger. “The process was professionally conducted and we had a talented group of candidates to consider. “It was honor to participate with other Cambridge residents and I look forward to following the extensive process which will occur in the next few weeks to select the next City Manager.”

The initial interviews performed by the PSC were preceded by a series of community focus groups, public meetings, and surveys, leading to the development of a leadership profile used during the recruitment phase.

“It was an honor to serve on the City Manager’s Preliminary Screening Committee with people who are committed and passionate about the growth and well-being of the City,” said committee member Rev. Lorraine Thornhill. “The diversity of opinions that were expressed highlighted the incredible richness of resources that this City is known for.”

For additional information about the City Manager search process, please visit www.CambridgeMA.GOV/CityManagerSearch.

September 14, 2016

Cambridge City Manager Candidates will Share Their Vision and Answer Questions at Public Forum on Tues, Sept 20

City Manager Candidates will Share Their Vision and Answer Questions at Public Forum
Public Invited To Participate In Meet The Finalists Forum

City SealSept 14 – The City Council’s Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee, is inviting the public to a Meet the Finalists forum on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm in the Fitzgerald Theater located in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. This forum is an opportunity for the public to meet the three finalist vying to succeed outgoing City Manager Richard C. Rossi. The meeting will be broadcast live on the City’s Municipal Cable Channel, 22-CityView.

City Councillor David Maher, Chair of Committee that is leading the search process, said “During this forum, each finalist will present their vision for the City, answer questions, and meet members of the public. This is a great opportunity for the public to hear directly from the finalists selected by the Preliminary Screening Committee.”

A Preliminary Screening Committee, comprised of 15 community members reflecting citywide constituencies and four City Council members, has been interviewing the most qualified applicants and is recommending the three finalists to the City Council. The names of the finalists are expected to be released by Thursday, September 15, 2016.

The public can submit suggested candidate questions to the Committee until to noon on Monday, September 19. Based on the submissions received, GovHR USA, the professional recruiting consultant assisting the City Council with the hiring process, will generate questions based on the themes submitted by the public. Suggested questions can be emailed to

Following the formal presentation and question part of the program, the finalists will be on hand to answer individual questions from members of the public.

For additional information or questions about the Meet the Finalists forum, please contact Fran Cronin, at 617-349-4276 or For information on the City Manager Search Process, please visit www.CambridgeMA.GOV/CityManagerSearch.

Note: There’s also this Special City Council meeting the following day:

Wed, Sept 21

5:30pm   Special City Council Meeting to publicly interview finalists for the position of City Manager, the City Council may meet in Executive Session to conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with the prospective City Manager or to conduct contract negotiations with the prospective City Manager.  (Sullivan Chamber)

August 19, 2016

Preliminary Screening Committee for New City Manager Selected

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:29 am

Preliminary Screening Committee for New City Manager Selected

City SealAug 19, 2016 – The Mayor is pleased to announce the appointment of the following people to participate in the Preliminary Screening Committee for a new City Manager. We also extend our appreciation to the 50 people who submitted applicants and were generously willing to volunteer their time in support of our search efforts.

The Preliminary Screening Committee, comprised of 15 community members reflecting citywide constituencies and four City Council members, will be facilitated by our search firm GovHR USA. The purpose of the Committee will be to interview the most qualified applicants and determine the three finalists to present to the public and to the City Council for their vote.

The public will have opportunities to meet the three finalists and provide feedback prior to the nominating vote taken at a City Council meeting in late September.

The following provides a list of the Committee’s constituent members and a brief recap of their qualifying credentials.

Constituency Applicant Choice Bio
Resident representative Peter Traversy Peter is a resident of North Cambridge. He’s a small business owner and active in youth sports.
Resident representative Elaine Thorne Elaine is a Riverside resident and was a longtime Project Planner for the City of Cambridge with extensive experience working in all neighborhoods in our City. She is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Cambridge Community Center.
Resident representative Laura Booth Laura is a resident of the Port neighborhood. She’s a CPSD parent who brings extensive work experience in the local nonprofit community and is a longtime advocate for affordable housing. She has experience with senior level hiring.
Large Business representative Jay Kiely Jay currently serves as Chair of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. He is a senior level manager with Forest City and has been active in Cambridge’s civic, nonprofit, and corporate arenas.
Small Business representative Patrick Magee Patrick is a Wellington/ Harrington resident who owns and manages Atwood’s Tavern on 877 Cambridge Street. He is a founding member of ECBA and has served as President for the past five years.
CPS Representative Richard Harding Richard is a resident of the Port and has been a longtime elected member of the School Committee. He is Co-president of the Cambridge NAACP and served as a member of former Police Commissioner Haas’ Community Advisory Board. He’s been a leader in the Men of Color Task Force.
Public Safety representative Gerald Reardon Chief Reardon is a nationally recognized leader in Fire Safety. He has spent his entire professional career with the City of Cambridge Fire Department and the last 17 years as its Chief.
Person with demonstrated knowledge of municipal finance Fred Fantini Fred is an East Cambridge resident and served as Deputy Treasurer for the Town of Arlington for 35 years. He’s a former CCTV president; a longtime member of the Cambridge School Committee; and has experience with executive searches.
Health and Human Services/Public Health representative Claude Jacob Claude is Cambridge’s Chief Public Health Officer at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He’s also Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Association of County and City Health Officials and has experience with executive search hires.
Representative with knowledge of City Planning/Urban Development Susan Schlesinger Susan is a Cambridgeport resident and longtime advocate for affordable housing. She’s been an active member of the Affordable Housing Trust and with the Community Preservation Act Board. She has experience with high level executive searches.
Higher Education/Institutional partner Kevin Casey Kevin is Associate Vice President at Harvard University with oversight of nonprofit engagement, government relations and local economic development.
Public Art and/or Recreational representative Ellen Semonoff Ellen is a Mid-Cambridge resident and has longtime served as Cambridge’s Assistant City Manager for Human Services, which has oversight of the city’s recreation department. She’s the Chair of the Cambridge Public Health Committee and former Chair of the Cambridge Health Alliance. She has experience with high level executive searches.
Affordable Housing advocate Susan Connelly Susan is a North Cambridge resident and a CPSD parent. She has extensive experience working in the field of affordable housing and serves as Director of the Community Housing Initiatives at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and serves as Treasurer of the Cambridge Housing Authority Commissioner’s Board.
Nonprofit Community representative Elaine DeRosa Elaine is a Cambridgeport resident and has extensive experience working on behalf of low-income individuals and families serving as Executive Director of CEOC for past 28 years. She has committee experience working on city public policy, affordable housing, health care and delivery of community services issues.
Representative who advocates for the quality of our community’s civic and social well-being Reverend Lorraine Thornhill Rev. Lorraine Thornhill has served as Lead Pastor in the Port neighborhood for the past 19 years. She’s also Lead Chaplain, Cambridge Police Department; Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees Cambridge YWCA; Commissioner, City of Cambridge Human Services Department; and President, Cambridge Black Pastors Alliance.
City Council member Councillor Leland Cheung
City Council member Councillor David Maher
City Council member Councillor Nadeem Mazen
City Council member Councillor Timothy Toomey

August 1, 2016

Selected Agenda Items for the Aug 1, 2016 Cambridge City Council (Midsummer) meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:59 am

Selected Agenda Items for the Aug 1, 2016 Cambridge City Council (Midsummer) meeting

There are a lot of substantive matters on the agenda for this meeting – primarily on the City Manager’s Agenda and in a dozen City Council committee reports covering a range of topics. Here’s a sampler of some items that I found especially interesting. The meeting is taking place at the Attles Meeting Room at CRLS (where the School Committee usually meets).

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-43, regarding publishing a Cambridge Voter’s Guide to be distributed to each household in Cambridge a month before the 2017 municipal election.

Order #2. That the regular City Council meeting scheduled for Oct 24, 2016 be a Roundtable/Working meeting to discuss election issues with the Election Commission.   Mayor Simmons

My guess is that the best we can hope for on the City side will be an improved and expanded guide to PR voting, relevant dates, and a list of candidate names with addresses and possibly photos. Having assembled the Cambridge Candidate Pages for over a decade, I will attest to the fact that voters do want information about candidates, especially in the days immediately preceding the election, but asking the Election Commission (and inevitably the Law Department) to manage this will open a huge can of worms. It would be preferable to get local media outlets to work out a cooperative arrangement to make unbiased information available about municipal candidates. Better coordination of candidate forums would also be helpful, but that also is out of the hands of City officials.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of a $45,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection 604b Water Quality Management Planning Program, to be used to fund conceptual green street design plans for three public rights of ways, as well as guidance on green street implementation in space-constrained residential settings; with a focus on smaller scale reconstruction projects that are not part of larger utility reconstruction projects.

For those who haven’t yet seen some of the innovative stormwater management projects in West Cambridge and along Western Avenue, you should check them out. It would be great if more of these projects could be done on a smaller scale. If done right, street trees might actually have a chance to flourish.

Manager’s Agenda #14. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the "Friends of MAPOCO" Zoning Petition.

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 June 22, 2016 to discuss a petition by Peter B. Kroon, et al, also known as Friends of MAPOCO, to expand the requirements of the North Massachusetts Avenue Sub-district (Section 20.110) applicable generally within the portions of the Massachusetts Avenue Overlay District (MAOD) zoned Business A-2 (BA-2).

This zoning petition will likely now sail through to a 2nd Reading and eventual adoption as amended.

Manager’s Agenda #15. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to authorizing the Purchasing Agent to award a five (5) year, two (2) month contract to the successful proposer on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council Bike Share System RFP.

The idea is for Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, and Brookline to jointly put out a longer-term request for proposals in order to entice more vendors, hopefully allow for more consistency in service, and possibly get a better price.

Manager’s Agenda #29. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to pursuing the planning and development of a multi-use, bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the Grand Junction corridor that links East Cambridge, Kendall Square, MIT, and Cambridgeport, with potential connections into Boston and Somerville.

Manager’s Agenda #30. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Items Number 16-46 and 16-59, regarding the Grand Junction Greenway, including the status of construction, developer contributions, and the zoning overlay.

It’s nice to see the cooperation of the Mass. Dept. of Transportation in these efforts.

Manager’s Agenda #32. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-22, regarding the opposition to investment funds from the Retirement System.

Some of you may remember the extensive public testimony and countless communications on the topic of the Cambridge Retirement System divesting any funds from any entity that is in any way supporting the production or upgrading of nuclear weapons systems. As it turns out, this was a typical Cambridge tempest in a teapot. As this report states: "upon reviewing the summary, that the Fund’s investments in the production and/or upgrading of nuclear weapons systems is de minimis." I hope everyone at least had fun making their speeches and writing all those letters that all turned out to be about nothing.

Manager’s Agenda #33. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-54, regarding finding a long term solution to adding a dog park in East Cambridge by the end of 2016 and fencing in a temporary location for off leash use by the end of Summer, 2016.

Take note, politicos: There are a lot of Cambridge voters who really love their dogs and want places for them to run and play. Actually, there’s a lot more interest in dogs than in nuclear weapons divestment.

Manager’s Agenda #36. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the submission of the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include in the planned reconstruction (the “Project”) of the King Open / Cambridge Street Upper School and Community Complex (“KOCSUS”) the area that is presently occupied by the public swimming pool known as the Gold Star Pool (the “Gold Star Pool Site”) and to construct subsurface geothermal wells in a portion of Donnelly Field that lies directly along and adjacent to the current southerly boundary of the KOCSUS site (the “School Site”).

This is really a formality, but I always find it interesting which things require state authorization and which things do not.

Manager’s Agenda #37. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the request that the City Council move to Executive Session.

Manager’s Agenda #38. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $42,655 within statutory accounts of the Public Investment Fund Community Development Extraordinary Expenditure account to complete the purchase of two parcels from the B&M Corporation for the purpose of creating a future multi-use path and greenway.

These items are about making the necessary purchases to complete the Cambridge-owned portion of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway along the now-abandoned railroad right-of-way. This will be a nice off-road addition when it’s finally complete a few years from now.

Applications & Petitions #3. An application was received from Pill Hardware, requesting permission for a display of merchandise in front of the premises numbered 748 Massachusetts Avenue.

Central SquareWhenever I hear people talk about preserving the "funkiness" of Central Square, I want to remind people that before Central Square was "funky" it was an incredibly vital shopping district. It’s really worth looking back at some of the available "Perceptual Form of the City" photos from over 50 years ago. This application to allow the display of mechandise on the sidewalk in front of Pill Hardware reminded me of one of those old photos. It’s also a scene you can see today in Inman Square. The image shown is actually the frontage where the Mass & Main project is planned. This is the kind of thing some of us would love to see in some form as Central Square rediscovers its past and defines its future. It doesn’t have to be just overpriced bars and restaurants.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from William Noyes Webster Foundation, Inc. to amend the provisions of the Medical Marijuana District Section 20.700 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance and Map.

Order #11. City Council support to Commonwealth Alternative Care to operate a Registered Marijuana Dispensary at 61 Mooney Street pursuant to local zoning and permitting.   Councillor Cheung

It should pretty clear by now that the way the City Council is handling the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries in totally wrong. Will there be a new zoning petition every time one of these facilities is proposed?

Resolution #6. Congratulations to Patrick and Norma Jean Barrett on the birth of their daughter Gemma Evelyn Barrett.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #8. Congratulations to Jada Simmons and Toju Ononeme on their nuptials.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #11. Resolution on the retirement of James Cullinane from the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department.   Mayor Simmons

This is a triple celebration – a birth, a marriage, and a retirement. Cambridge feels like such a little village sometimes.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Commissioner of Public Works with the intention of reinstating trash and recycling pick up for small businesses.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Maher

This proposal has been made at various times over the last 25 years. A case can be made for this based on the fact that the commercial property tax rate is considerably higher than the residential tax rate and perhaps there should be some benefits to go along with the payment of those taxes. The additional cost and time could be significant, but perhaps there could at least be some accomodation for mixed residential/commercial buildings where the lines are often already intentionally blurred. [This happens, for example, right next door to me, and this has been the case for decades.]

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on how traffic laws pertaining to crosswalks are currently enforced throughout the City, whether there are any regions where the City has found motorists tend to ignore crosswalk laws, and whether there are additional methods of reporting violators, raising awareness of applicable laws, and enacting stricter laws to ultimately increase pedestrian safety.   Mayor Simmons

Traffic laws pertaining to crosswalks are enforced? That’s news to me. If we’re taking requests, how about let’s also start enforcing the requirement that motor vehicles must be parked less than a foot from the curb. That would make cycling safer. I never see that enforced.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Purchasing Department, the Community Development Department and any other appropriate departments to provide the City Council with an update on the status of the Classification of Commercial Land Use and Recommendations Study.   Councillor Devereux

This is included here only because I’m curious what’s behind it. [Read the Request for Proposals] The RFP says: "In short, the expected result of this study is a commercial land use classification system that makes sense in modern Cambridge, that would be understandable to all community members, and that would be able to effectively regulate commercial use types as they evolve. Based on the study recommendations, the City would determine how the zoning could be amended to fit the recommended system, through either targeted changes to the current ordinance or a more substantial restructuring of the Table of Use Regulations." Uh, OK.

Inclusionary Housing Committee Reports:
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 31, 2016 to continue discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study with community feedback from the May 18, 2016 hearing being shared and discussed with consultant David Paul Rosen & Associates.

Committee Report #11. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons and Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on July 11, 2016 to continue the discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and the Affordable Housing Trust’s recommendations to the City Council.

Committee Report #12. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 18, 2016 to discuss the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and will focus on receiving feedback from the community.

Some revisions to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance seem inevitable later this year, but the economic foundations in the study still seem (to me) to be a bit shaky, especially the idea of increasing the net affordable housing percentage from 11.6% to 20% without any allowance for additional density. My first concern is that if the requirement is too high then it may be more economically advantageous to build something other than housing, e.g. labs. My other concern is that since zoning changes require a two-thirds vote for ordination there might never be the political will to actually lower the requirement even if the economics warrant a decrease. It would be better if there was some way to index the requirement based on current economics.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 28, 2016 to discuss the parameters for a potential zoning proposal that includes the Volpe Transportation System Center.

The Volpe zoning dilemma is unique in that it is contrained not only by the funding mechanism for a new Volpe building and the need to ensure that a developer might actually be able to deliver a development without financial loss, but also by a range of competing interests from residents for housing and open space. This may not even be a solvable problem even though the potential benefits could be enormous.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee and Mayor E. Denise Simmons and Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the Housing Committee, for a joint public hearing held on July 19, 2016 to discuss the presence and impact of short-term rental units (Airbnb, FlipKey, VRBO, etc.) in Cambridge, and to hear suggestions from community members and operators on how best to address the challenges of this emerging market.

This was an incredibly informative hearing. My guess is that short-term rentals in owner-occupied buildings may get the blessing of the City Council but perhaps not so for residential properties that are effectively being operated as hotels by non-resident owner/investors. Another hearing on this topic is scheduled for Wednesday, August 3rd.

Committee Report #8. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on June 29, 2016 to receive an update regarding the City Manager’s Search in the Focus Groups that took place and the development of the draft profile.

I’m taking bets now on whether the City Council will successfully meet its proposed September 26 date for selecting the next City Manager. Even if they do make a decision by then, it’s likely that there will still be a period of time before the new City Manager can take the reins (unless it’s an internal candidate).

Committee Report #9. 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 June 23, 2016 to discuss the 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 businesses.

This was also an interesting hearing at which the rationale for these proposed changes was clarified.

Committee Report #10. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee and Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on July 19, 2016, to discuss safety issues as it relates to cyclist and pedestrians in Inman Square, and to hear suggestions from community members and on how best to address the safety challenges of this intersection.

This was a very well-attended meeting, especially by cyclists who were invited through various social media channels. The presentation by City officials was informative. The only down side was the manner in which attention to the safety of Inman Square was deflected by some, especially during public comment, toward other infrastructure proposals that have little to no bearing on the safety of this or any other Cambridge intersection. It was also interesting that numerous residents of Antrim Street were in attendence with concerns over the possiblity that one of the proposed realignment schemes might have the unintended consequence of redirecting more traffic onto Antrim Street.

Barring any emergencies, the next City Council meeting after this will be on September 12.

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