Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 9, 2019

Items of Interest on the June 10, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Items of Interest on the June 10, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City Hall 2019This is something of a table-setting month – clearing out some lingering business and refocusing on some matters that are sure to be wedge issues in the municipal election – housing, bikes, campaign contributions, neighborhood flash-points. Resolving the details of the "Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance" will apparently continue at least through July and perhaps longer.

Perhaps the most significant piece of business is this 6:30pm hearing:
6:30pm   The City Council will conduct a public hearing to discuss the petition filed by Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 40 section O petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

It is likely that a vote will be taken at this meeting to establish the Business Improvement District. It seems to have broad support and may even get a unanimous vote.

Here are a few other notable items for this week:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Future of Mobility Implementation Blueprint Technical Advisory Group. The Advisory Group is expected to meet up to six times between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020: Yonah Freemark, David Keith, Steven Miller, Kathryn Carlson, Melissa Chan, Christopher Tassone, Roy Russell, Raymond Hayhurst, Ruth Allen, Jane Gould, David Block-Schachter, Zef Vataj, Will Dickson, Stephen Russell, James Cater, Bruce Kaplan, Megan Aki, Ilya Sinelnikov, Cambridge Housing Authority Rep (TBD). [Future of Mobility RFP]

This process is worth watching in that it is both necessary and potentially over-reaching. For some years now the City has been carrying out the goals of the Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance by promoting transportation modes (and infrastructure) as alternatives to motor vehicles. Independently, things like ride-hail services (like Uber and Lyft) and electric scooters have appeared and grown in popularity. Also, there are a lot more electric vehicles now on the road and how to charge them is a growing concern, especially for those without parking on premises. Autonomous (driverless) vehicles may be the next wave. This "Future of Mobility" process is apparently supposed to gaze into the crystal ball and make predictions and plans for how all these pieces can fit coherently together. Recommendations growing from this process might not all be about how to accommodate these new modes – they might also lead to restrictions on existing modes. In recent years there has been a trend of City plans being developed, blessed by compliant advisory committees, and then waved through by a City Council which rarely spends time considering any potential negative consequences of the latest "progressive" policy. Indeed, the RFP makes quite clear that this is not to be a "visioning exercise" by the advisory group, but rather a source of feedback for a process in which City staff has already stated very specifically in the RFP the models from which the hired consultant must work. The end product is likely to be at least as much about regulation and restriction as it will be about accommodation.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-15, regarding a report on who is purchasing buildings in Cambridge.

This is interesting information – though it’s not so easy to peer behind the curtain and identify what parties make up some of the LLCs (limited liability corporations), e.g. Invesco for several properties in the Alewife Quadrangle, or what the plans are for some of these properties. It’s also not clear what the City Council will do or even could do with this information.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $50,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account to support the cable television license renewal process.

Here we go again. The United States Congress thoroughly gutted the ability of municipalities to negotiate much of anything in local Cable TV franchises. We will once again be hearing about PEG (public access, educational, and governmental) since these are the only things that can be discussed. What really makes this whole process rather pathetic is that much of the revenue generated by these franchises now comes from Internet access and there is no legal requirement that any of that revenue should support the PEG needs.


Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to work with the local taxi industry and other interested parties to prepare a Home Rule Petition for the City Council to submit to the State Legislature that would address Cambridge-specific issues and give the City Council the ability to ensure TNCs operate in a safe and responsible manner.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and other regional partners such as the Central Transportation Planning Staff to explore the feasibility of partnering with a local research institution to conduct a study that determines how many ride-hail vehicles are on the roads during both on and off-peak times and their impacts on congestion and safety.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

Perhaps the "Future of Mobility" consultants will have something to say about this, but my sense is that the proposal for a Home Rule Petition is likely more about protection of taxi medallion owners than it is about safety. As for the Order asking to bring in an army of traffic counters, I encourage anyone standing on a street corner or waiting for a bus to count the percentage of Uber/Lyft vehicles passing by at various times throughout the day. [Hint: It’s a lot.]


Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to establish a working committee to review the monuments, memorials, and markers throughout Cambridge to determine whether any of these commemorate those who were linked to the slave trade or engaged in other similarly shameful acts and to determine which individuals should be newly recognized with a monument, memorial, or marker.   Councillor Simmons

I just hope that there is a distinction made between those whose sole claim to fame was infamous (like rebel generals) vs. those who did great things but who engaged in bad practices that happened to be legal at the time. Erasing history is not the same as learning from it.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to meet with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Department of Public Works, and the property owners and management of the Fresh Pond Mall to identify additional traffic-calming and safety features and to discuss with the mall owner the potential for creating a formal street connection between Terminal Road and New Street.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

This is a long overdue conversation. Greater connectivity with enhanced safety would be a good thing in this entire area (especially if only those of us who live here know the secret connections).


Order #6. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the appropriate departments to televise and record the City Clerk interview meeting on June 17, 2019, starting at 2:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane, transmitting memorandum from Vice Mayor Devereux regarding a special public meeting for the City Clerk interviews.

The City Clerk position is one of only three for which the City Council is the appointing authority under the Plan E Charter. The other two are the City Manager and the City Auditor. I have no idea who has applied for the position or who the four finalists are, but I really hope the person hired is someone who really understands the city deeply and who can also be an asset to the City Council. The truth is that the City Clerk prepares City Council agendas very much like a playwright where the actors (the councillors) can freely improvise within the script. Also, the Council-related duties are only a fraction of the many essential responsibilities of the City Clerk’s Office.


Order #8. That the proposed Special Permit Criteria amendments to Article 19 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance (as attached) be referred to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

Committee Reports #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on May 22, 2019 to discuss with Eversource any plans it has for meeting the anticipated electricity needs of Cambridge businesses and residents by expanding capacity on land it owns throughout the City, with a focus on sites in East Cambridge (Kendall Square and Fulkerson Street).

It would appear that this zoning proposal and the Eversource matter on Fulkerson Street are inextricably linked. It’s a bit disturbing when zoning is used as a reactionary tool. Perhaps a better approach would be to require (with appropriate enabling legislation, if necessary) that all major utilities provide short- and long-term infrastructure improvement plans that address such things as capacity, maintenance of the existing infrastructure, and planning for emerging needs such as local solar generation and charging locations for electric vehicles (just to name a few). Conflating this with zoning seems a bit wrong-headed. It’s reminiscent of how the Parking Freeze was used to block commercial development – even environmentally sound commercial development – under the guise of environmental protection.


Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to draft for discussion several ordinances to reduce or prohibit campaign donations from donors seeking to enter into a contract, seeking approval for a special permit or up-zoning, seeking to acquire real estate from the city, or seeking financial assistance from the city.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

It’s an election year. Some version of this proposal happens like clockwork every two years. The only thing that makes it interesting this year is how much money is now coming from people with a financial interest in the "100% Affordable Housing" Overlay proposal that would potentially deliver properties to various "non-profit" housing developers by allowing them to do things that others can only dream of. Any candidate-endorsing organization that receives contributions from these sources (and yes, I do mean ABC specifically) should be subject to the same restrictions as individual candidates. All of this is likely academic since the November election will likely be a memory by the time any action is taken on this proposal, if ever – so it’s really just posturing at this point.

Committee Reports #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 1, 2019 to discuss a petition to amend the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.16 entitled “Noise Control” by deleting sections 8.16.081-8.16.087 to prohibit the use of leaf blowers.

My proposal: Enact a Total Ban on Leaf Blowers only after loud sound systems in motor vehicles are banned. But seriously, don’t you think we put far too much effort into banning things? When did Cambridge give up on making an effort to convince people to use better practices? Sometimes we really do seem to be The Village of Control Freaks.

Committee Reports #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on May 21, 2019 to discuss the “City of Cambridge getting to Net Zero Action Plan: Fiscal year 2018 progress report” and to receive a general update on the Net Zero Action Plan.

I really hope that "Getting to Net Zero" doesn’t translate into a $3,000 repair in a residential building costing $30,000 or more in order to meet any new requirements. – Robert Winters

June 5, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 399-400: June 4, 2019

Episode 399 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 4, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 4, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: modifying the PR ballot, PR misconceptions, Ranked Choice Voting for Presidential primaries, Democratic realities, candidate updates, campaign finance, PR election strategizing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 400 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 4, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 4, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Reefer Madness; Mapping Feminist Cambridge, Mapping Utopia, walking tours; Mark McCabe retirement; TNCs and the taxi industry, liquor licences, AirBnB; Zero Waste and the evolution of recycling. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

June 3, 2019

2019 Cambridge City Council Campaign Bank Reports

The following table shows the summary bank reports for potential 2019 Cambridge City Council candidates. Not all of those listed will actually be candidates in 2019 and there may be others not listed here. You can sort by any of the fields shown by clicking on the field name – one click ascending and second click descending.

CandidateFromToStartReceiptsExpendBalanceAs OfNotes
ABC PAC05/16/1806/15/190.0013759.165313.558445.6106/17/19Political Action Committee
Azeem, Burhan05/07/1905/31/190.003926.542136.681789.8606/03/19new candidate, May 7
Carlone, Dennis2/1/1805/31/1910088.580.00447.009641.5806/04/19
Franklin, Charles3/5/1906/15/190.0010780.754195.716585.0406/17/19new candidate, Mar 5
Kelley, Craig2/1/1806/15/194951.651057.621464.834544.4406/17/19
Mallon, Alanna2/1/1805/31/195380.4514043.845243.9414180.3506/03/19seeking reelection, refund deducted
McGovern, Marc2/1/1805/31/196376.1749786.5925189.5930973.1706/04/19$600 refund deducted
Moree, Gregg2/1/1812/31/180.000.000.000.0006/11/19will be a candidate, June 11
Musgrave, Adriane2/1/1805/31/19474.6719689.373023.2317140.8106/03/19announced
Nolan, Patty06/11/1906/11/190.000.000.000.0006/11/19new candidate, June 11
Siddiqui, Sumbul2/1/1806/15/199334.058844.175283.7212894.5006/17/19seeking reelection
Simmons, Denise2/1/1806/15/197595.501206.586105.862696.2206/17/19
Simon, Ben03/16/1906/15/190.005557.40712.804844.6006/17/19new candidate, Apr 2
Sobrinho-Wheeler, Jivan C.3/11/1906/15/190.009927.627092.892834.7306/17/19new candidate, Mar 11
Toner, Paul2/1/1805/31/19165.537919.014727.713356.8306/04/19$7866.59 error subtracted out
Toomey, Tim2/1/1806/15/1925024.4917128.1534997.717154.9306/17/19includes $15,000 loan repayment
Williams, Nicola A.3/12/1906/15/190.0010204.877899.032305.8406/17/19new candidate, Mar 12
Zondervan, Quinton2/1/1806/15/191279.6614977.043938.0812318.6206/17/19seeking reelection
Summaries of potential 2019 City Council campaign bank reports. Adjustments to the totals have been made to reflect returned donations and other factors.

Campaign Finance Reports – 2019 City Council (updated June 4, 1:22pm)

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January 29, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 369-370: Jan 29, 2019

Episode 369 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Proposed moratorium on tree removals; Jan 28 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 370 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Bottled water; value of upzoning; public funding for municipal elections (again); Jan 29 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 28, 2019

Picking through the pieces of the Jan 28, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Picking through the pieces of the Jan 28, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

It's a twister!Here’s my initial selection of the agenda items that either I find interesting or which are sure to bring out a crowd:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $175,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures account to fund a Climate Change Resilience Analysis which will focus on zoning recommendations.

Another $175,000 for a Climate Change Resilience Analysis? Didn’t we do this not so long ago?

Applications & Petitions #4. A Zoning Petition Has been received from Melissa Grippo and Christian Grippo, et al, requesting the City Council to vote to amend Section 5.30.11 of the Zoning Ordinance by adding the following sentence at the end of that section: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the Industry B District, a hotel use (Section 4.31.2), shall be governed by the second number (4.0) for purposes of determining the Maximum Ratio of Floor Area to Lot Area.”

I don’t know nuthin’ about it, but there’s now another zoning petition in the queue.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to review the City’s communications and emergency response policies and protocols related to flooding resulting from infrastructure failures.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley

Order #2. City Council support for I-90 Hybrid Plan with request for further review.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

BIG projects can be fun because when the scale of spending is large it creates opportunities to do some creative things around the edges of the necessary stuff. Envision that.

Order #5. City Council support of HD2395: An act to further provide a rental arrearage program.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

This is the kind of idea I can get behind – assisting people to get through a bad patch with some transitional assistance. It makes a lot more sense than some of the other proposals that have been floating around over the past year.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City departments to conduct a formal and professional financial assessment of the additional value created for the owner/petitioner by up-zonings for developments of more than 50,000 square feet.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

I suspect the motivation behind this is not just information-gathering. It sure seems like a prelude to extracting more "community benefit" money out of proposed developments – or maybe just creating a political basis for not granting zoning relief at all. Naively, I would still like to believe that zoning should be based on good planning rather than on who’s going to share the spoils.


Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 9, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection” to amend section 8.66.40 entitled “Applicability” and by adding a new section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for other projects.”

Order #7. That the tree protection ordinance amendment discussed at the Ordinance Committee hearing held on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 and referenced in Committee Report #3 of Jan 28, 2019 be further amended per additional language.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

Basically, the sponsors want to enact a one-year moratorium on tree "removal permits" (where have we heard that phrase before) except for dead, diseased, or dangerous trees. This doesn’t seem to allow any discretion at all to property owners, and it treats ordinary small-scale homeowners just as harshly as those big evil developers. If you violate this prohibition they’ll make you pay into a tree replacement fund. I’m sure this committee report and order will bring out the troops to public comment, but there are some serious problems with this proposal.

Beyond the simple fact that there has not been proper legal notice (a moratorium is a lot stricter than a requirement to seek approval by the City Arborist), it also completely disrespects the rights of property owners to manage their own property. Furthermore, it would appear that the required payment for violating the moratorium will likely be well in excess of the cost of the tree removal. Most property owners would probably be OK with a reasonable ordinance that would dissuade them from wholesale deforestation of their property, but I seriously doubt whether there would be support for an ordinance that removed all discretion. Most property owners actually remove trees reluctantly and they certainly don’t want to have to appear before the Tree Tribunal whenever they are faced with such a decision.

This is a municipal election year and it’s pretty clear that some people are trying to make tree protection a defining issue for the upcoming election. So let me dabble in a little political calculus for you. There are two, maybe three city councillors who stand to gain politically by being the tree champions. The councillors who will be collecting those #1 Votes are the ones who already have them from those voters who are rallying around this moratorium proposal. Any other councillors will be getting a #3 at best, and those preferences will count for nothing. On the other hand, there are a lot of homeowners – and that includes a lot of environmentally-conscious homeowners – who will not be particularly keen about having their hands tied even though they probably won’t be reaching for the axe anytime during the next 12 months.

Every week it seems like the current City Council shows just how little faith they have in the people who elect them.

UPDATE: The City Council passed to a 2nd Reading the proposed revision to the Tree Ordinance included in the Committee Report (as amended in the report). Though there was spirited public comment favoring Order #7 – the proposed moratorium and punitive fines ($300/day) for removing a significant tree, the City Council voted 5-4 to send that proposal to the Ordinance Committee for an actual hearing and possible revision. This was really the only reasonable course of action, but Councillors Zondervan and Devereux apparently feel that discretionary tree removal, even by a homeowner, is the moral equivalent of murder. Councillors Kelley, Mallon, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor McGovern voted in favor of due process; while Councillors Carlone, Devereux, Siddiqui, and Zondervan would have preferred immediate action without any public notice. There has never been any hearing where this punitive moratorium was on the agenda and where property owners could address their concerns. Councillors Zondervan and Devereux made it quite clear that they believe that informing people after a law is passed constitutes adequate notice. Democracy, representation, and due process apparently mean little to these councillors. – RW


Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor, in consultation with the Election Commission, to report back on the legality and constitutionality of the proposed “Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal Election Program” and the “Cambridge Municipal Election People’s Pledge.”   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley

Though I would like to see the legal opinion on these ideas, I still think they are ill-conceived for Cambridge municipal elections.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 29, 2018 to discuss Urban Form Recommendations from the Community Development Department.

Speaking of municipal elections….

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Nov 28, 2018 to discuss the proposed Affordable Housing Overlay District and on the first annual Inclusionary Zoning report.

Here’s an idea – Let the City’s policy be simply to maintain the subsidized housing stock that already exists and add to it via Inclusionary Zoning. We’re already way ahead of the game compared to almost every other city or town in Massachusetts.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes from the 4th meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force from Jan 10, 2019.

These Arts Task Force minutes sometimes read like the psychiatrist’s notes at a wacky therapy session. How does that make you feel? – RW

December 15, 2018

Cambridge School Committee 2017 Campaign Finance Summaries and $/Vote

Cambridge School Committee 2017 Campaign Finance Summaries

CandidateFromToStartReceiptsExpendBalanceLiabilities#1 Votes$/VoteNotes
Bowman, Mannika1/1/1612/31/17$2,005.37$17,169.72$15,578.13$3,596.96$0.002768$5.63
Cronin, Fran1/1/1612/31/17$3,095.36$24,806.00$26,687.34$1,214.02$0.001572$16.98
Crutchfield, Jacob1/1/161/17/18$41.07$5,931.00$5,972.07$0.00$0.001039$5.75dissolution
Dexter, Emily1/1/1612/31/17$2,575.32$2,695.00$5,118.58$151.74$4,655.382378$2.15
Fantini, Fred1/1/1612/31/17$5,475.07$8,425.00$9,716.06$4,184.01$14,695.992728$3.56
Kadete, Elechi1/1/1612/31/17$48.48$7,274.00$7,173.08$149.40$0.00846$8.48
Kelly, Kathleen1/1/1612/31/17$5,687.05$13,295.00$7,809.39$11,172.66$3,000.001882$4.15
Kimbrough, Laurance1/1/1712/31/17$0.00$10,325.94$9,766.90$559.04$0.001856$5.26
MacArthur, Will11/4/1612/31/17$0.00$5,492.43$4,264.87$1,227.56$0.00795$5.36
Mitros, Piotr1/1/1712/31/17$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00511$0.00dissolution
Nolan, Patty1/1/1612/31/17$80.24$9,415.00$9,393.97$101.27$8,850.003458$2.72
Weinstein, David1/1/1612/31/17$1,604.03$3,395.00$4,488.26$510.77$0.00797$5.63
School Committee Campaign Finance 2017 - updated Dec 15, 2018

The receipts and expenses shown cover the period from Jan 1, 2016 through Dec 31, 2017.

You can access the full reports here.

Vote!

December 5, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 359-360: Dec 4, 2018

Episode 359 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Publicly funded municipal election campaigns and PR elections; refranchising of Cable TV and the future. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 360 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Early days of Cable TV, Grand Junction updates, Davis Sq. changes, flat roof zoning, accessory dwelling unit zoning, City housing policy = social ownership. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

December 3, 2018

First Look at the Dec 3, 2018 City Council Agenda

First Look at the Dec 3, 2018 City Council Agenda

Here are a few agenda items that I found either interesting or infuriating:City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $120,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account to support the cable television license renewal process.

The only thing I’ll say on this is to note just how little leverage we have in any of this. It’s not just that Comcast is the only game in town. Just as bad is the fact that the United States Congress some time ago gutted the previous regulations governing the granting of Cable TV franchises by municipalities. The only thing we can even discuss/bargain is PEG – public access, educational programming, and government programming – and we can’t even do much with those. We can’t even discuss what stations should be in the basic Cable TV package.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative grant in the amount of $78,300 to the Public Investment Fund Water Extraordinary Expenditures account which will support Phase I of the Cambridge Water Supply Resilience project.

I’m always interested in hearing about what new projects are planned for protecting and improving Cambridge water whether or not it’s related to "resiliency".

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-79, regarding a report on the Grand Junction Overlay District.

Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an agreement with the Cambridge Housing Authority to take an easement and accepting the conveyance of a 2nd easement for the purpose of constructing a multi-use path along the Grand Junction Railway and to provide grant funding to assist in closing the funding gap for the Millers River Redevelopment Project by paying for part of the demolition of the community center building, reconstruction of a new community building, renovation of 15 housing units and the creation of permanent affordability restrictions for these units.

Applications & Petitions #2. A Zoning Petition has been received from Joseph T. Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. Transmitting a proposed amended to the zoning ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District adjacent to the Grand Junction railroad right-of-way between Binney and Cambridge Streets.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. In any case, it’s nice to see some tangible progress on this project that we first proposed as part of the Green Ribbon Open Space Committee about two decades ago. I’m still curious how it would connect with the Somerville Community Path..

Order #5. Somerville’s Davis Square Neighborhood Plan.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor DevereuxPlan for Davis Square

Check out the draft of the Davis Square Neighborhood Plan. Many of us still remember when a railroad ran through the middle of Davis Square. Anyway, what we do affects Somerville and vice-versa. Envision That.

Order #6. Marijuana Public Consumption.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons

Pretty soon the whole city is going to smell like Woodstock – only at 20X the potency.

Order #7. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, the proposed amendments to Article 5.000 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan

Flat Roof Zoning returns for another try. You know – Up On The Roof.

Order #8. Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning Petition.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Will this again get lost in the shuffle? I know a guy who can help with the amendments.

Order #11. Inclusionary Tenants’ Association.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

Order #12. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the IT Department and Granicus to create a more inclusive city website, including an Open Meeting Portal registration form that does not require the use of gendered pronouns, salutations or titles.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

Oh, the horror.

Order #13. Legal Opinion on Portland’s Relocation Assistance Ordinance.   Councillor Zondervan

The relentless campaign to reimpose rent control piecemeal continues like death by a thousand cuts. Last year’s jewel was the "Right of First Refusal" that fortunately never saw daylight. Now this. Though the order asks for a legal opinion on whether Cambridge can impose such a financial requirement, it should be obvious to any sentient city councillor that they cannot do so without authority from the Commonwealth.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 3, 2018 to discuss a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program and Policy Order #10 from June 25, 2018.

While I agree that this potentially lucrative business should not be dominated by the usual high-rolling entrepreneurs and that economic opportunity should be spread far and wide, I find unconvincing (to say the least) the notion that anyone should be provided an advantage based on ethnic identity.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 14, 2018 to discuss the Policy Order adopted regarding Cambridge publicly financed Municipal Election Program and the Cambridge Municipal People’s Pledge Program.

I wish I had been able to attend this meeting because I could go on for hours on this topic. For starters, I am not at all convinced that money is any longer the limiting factor in municipal elections. I will also note that most or all of the proposals floated seem pretty obviously chosen to advantage political friends or to disadvantage political opponents – even though the case is always framed in terms of "leveling the playing field". I have in previous discussions of these matters also pointed out how publicly financed municipal campaigns might perversely work in the context of proportional representation and organized candidate slates. This is conveniently overlooked by proponents. If there are future meetings on this topic, please try not to schedule them when I’m in the classroom teaching because I would really like to take a few people to school on this topic.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 15, 2018 to continue discussions on the petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance as it relates to cannabis uses.

Trees and marijuana. That’s what this City Council will be remembered for. – Robert Winters

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