Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

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 2, 2019

Dealing the Dope – June 3, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:09 pm

Dealing the Dope – June 3, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Reefer MadnessIt’s possible that the City Council might at this meeting settle on the final patronage rules for which "social equity" or "economic empowerment" applicants get preference in opening up marijuana outlets in Cambridge. The Acapulco Gold Rush is definitely in full swing with all sorts of applicants trying to get in on the ground floor of this lucrative cash business. So maybe they’ll finalize the Special Rules for Special People at this meeting or perhaps that will come later this month. In any case, here a few things on the agenda that might interest me:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $2,000 from the General Fund Reserves Other Ordinary Maintenance Account to the General Fund Women’s Commission Department Other Ordinary Maintenance which will be used to cover the cost of the first phase of the Mapping Feminist Cambridge Project which will focus on Inman Square.

I participated in a "Women’s History Tour of Cambridge" walk in August 2017 hosted by the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women. [Info] You can download a PDF for several different walks: Area IVCambridgeportRiverside and CambridgeportMid-Cambridge.

On a related note, Tim Devin from Somerville has been leading a series of walks on the topic of Mapping Utopia – a history of some of the counter-cultural activities that went on in and around Cambridge around the 1960s. He has another one coming up on July 13 starting in Inman Square. On a previous walk I was finally able to learn many of the details of the Trout Fishing in America school that was on Prospect Street at one time.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 19-33 and 19-34, regarding bicycle count data.

It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from this graphical data due to such factors as weather and construction, but my sense is that although bicycle use in Cambridge rapidly grew over the last 15 years there does seem to be some leveling off – not surprising when you factor in New England weather and various convenience factors. This data doesn’t really show it but I would say that Councillor Kelley’s frequent comments on the growth of other (non-bicycle) mobility devices are now starting to ring out loud and clear.

Communications from Peter Valentine:
#2: requesting that the City Council send a letter to President Donald Trump that at this delicate time of elections on serious matters that he not start a war with Iran.
#3: regarding the birth of the immortality of the United States of America.
#5: regarding his support for the death penalty for killing a police officer.
#6: regarding using the City Hall building for all of the people and not just for one groups’ concerns.
#12: regarding immortality.

Peter has apparently been very busy lately.

Resolution #2. Retirement of Mark McCabe from the Animal Commission.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley

Alas, one more outstanding City employee who became a good friend is taking leave for new adventures. I will really miss seeing Mark around my neighborhood!


Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor, Inspectional Services Department and the Community Development Department to determine whether it is possible to reduce or eliminate Building Permit Fees for 100% affordable housing development projects, through an exemption or other means and investigate what types of real estate tax abatements are possible for 100% affordable housing moving forward.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone, Mayor McGovern

Order #6. That the City Manager work with the Community Development Department to set up a series of informational and interactive Affordable Housing Overlay workshops in a variety of neighborhoods to give residents the chance to foster a productive and informational dialogue with City staff.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui, Co-Chairs of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 16, 2019 to continue discussion on the Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut toward replacing private residential property with "social housing" continues. I’m sure the potential beneficiaries of the proposed double standards will be busing in lots of supporters to pack the upcoming Planning Board and Ordinance Committee meetings. I find Order #3 especially amusing. If the authors did a little research they’d learn that once deed restrictions are established on a residential property the taxable value of the property plummets. In many cases these properties produce only the legal minimum in real estate taxes. Every such deed restriction shifts the residential tax burden further onto the remaining privately-owned residential properties (unless the City presses for additional commercial development to make up the difference).


Order #5. 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.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons

Note: The proposed Home Rule Petition comes from the Cambridge Taxi Drivers Owner Association. Is this about safety or protectionism for the taxi medallion owners?


Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the timeline and process for the creation of a stakeholder group to conduct the Cambridge Net Zero Action Plan review, as well as any other details on the process by which the quinquennial review will be conducted in 2020.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

Order #9. Request for Draft Language Related to the Net Zero Action Plan.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux

My sense is that if you need some building work done and you don’t want to pay enormously more for that work, you may want to get that work done sooner than later even if you have every intention of increasing your energy efficiency. Unless there are generous grant programs coming to cover some of the costs, new requirements may well cost you a small fortune. Your elected officials don’t trust you to exercise good judgment.


Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Public Works, the Community Development Department, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation on the feasibility of implementing suggested restoration projects in the area surrounding Jerry’s Pond, in order to make the Pond more accessible and inviting to the community.   Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Actual restoration of Jerry’s Pond as an aesthetic or recreational resource is highly unlikely, but at least they could dress up the surrounding area. Don’t expect it to be accessible any time soon.

Order #11. That the City Manager hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to obtain data from Eversource on electrical demand projections by year until at least 2030, including a breakdown of commercial vs residential demand growth, as well as a ten year historical look back.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

So what happens if, as I suspect, Eversource comes back with accurate projections that electrical demand will continue to increase significantly, especially if people choose to migrate away from fossil fuels? Will everyone then embrace the need for more power capacity and additional substations?

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chairs of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 23, 2019 to discuss the Zero Waste Master Plan and ways to reduce single use plastics in Cambridge.

The recycling landscape is ever-changing with or without bans of bags or straws or plastics or anything else. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Right.


Unfinished Business #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED]

Committee Report #4. 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 May 9, 2019 to continue discussion on a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code by adding a new Chapter 5.50 entitled “Cannabis Business Permitting” Ordinance.

So, are they ready to pick the winners in the Acapulco Gold Invitational Tournament? It’s remarkable how politically connected some of the applicants are. When it comes to making money, some things never change. – Robert Winters

May 15, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 395-396: May 14, 2019

Episode 395 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 14, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 14, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Devereux announcement to not seek reelection; election-related matters, modifying the ballot, new candidates; candy and cannabis and Central Square. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 396 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 14, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 14, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: School Committee controversies and dysfunction; wrapping up the budget; Transportation planning vs. “quick build” for Mass. Ave.; controversy for political gain; State seal controversy; civic opportunities. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 1, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 391-392: April 30, 2019

Episode 391 – Cambridge InsideOut: Apr 30, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Apr 30, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Affordable Housing Overlay proposal; broken zoning; the value of building market rate housing; luxury housing that isn’t; virtue signalling and politics. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 392 – Cambridge InsideOut: Apr 30, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Apr 30, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Retail vacancies – right and wrong solutions; problematic zoning; amateur cannabis regulation; Freakonomics. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 28, 2019

Amateur Hour – Items of interest at the April 29, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:49 pm

Amateur Hour – Items of interest at the April 29, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Amateur HourThe Nine will meet at the appointed hour on Monday to go through the usual ritualistic motions and possibly assist in the proliferation of cannabis retailers as they redefine Cambridge retail. Soon they’ll take up the question of how to replace existing privately-owned residential housing with "social housing" where you have to apply to a City department to access the new dense-pack housing units. Honestly, I don’t even know these councillors any more.

Here are some items that may get some attention (or not) – with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $24,000 from the General Fund City Clerk Salary and Wages account to the General Fund City Clerk Other Ordinary Maintenance account to pay for costs associated with required legal advertising for legal notices, hearings and petitions through the end of the fiscal year.

A few years ago the Massachusetts Legislature considered a bill that would have replaced the requirement that legal notices be placed in "a paper of general circulation" with alternatives like web listings. I don’t know whatever became of that proposal but I imagine it would have removed one of the more significant revenue streams for local newspapers.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Council Order No. O-10 of Apr 22, 2019 regarding questions related to the draft Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance posed in Communication and Reports from Other City Officers No. 2 of Apr 22, 2019. [Solicitor’s Responses]

I hope the councillors pay attention to the advice of the City Solicitor – because watching them write regulations about things they don’t understand is like watching kids play on the monkey bars in the school playground. Maybe they should draft an Affordable Cannabis Overlay next.

Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-127, regarding draft zoning for urban farming; Awaiting Report Item Number 19-23, regarding allowing lodging houses in Residential A1, A2 and B Zoning Districts; and Awaiting Report Item Number 19-28, regarding a timetable for updating retail and small business components of the zoning table of uses.

Unfinished Business #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [On or after Apr 22, 2019 the question comes on passage to be ordained]

See above.

Unfinished Business #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 Mar 27, 2019 to discuss a zoning petition filed by Melissa and Christopher Grippo et al to amend the Zoning Ordinance by adding at the end of section 5.30.11 a sentence that reads: “notwithstanding the foregoing, in Industry B District, a hotel use (Section 4.31.2) shall be governed by the section number (4.0) for purposes of determining the maximum ratio of floor area to lot area. [On or after Apr 22, 2019 the question comes on passage to be ordained]

Order #2. City Council endorsement of Fossil Free Divest Harvard.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #1. 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 Apr 3, 2019 to discuss the zoning petition filed by Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridge Side Galleria Trust to add a new Section 13.100 to Article 13 and to amend the zoning map to add a new PUD-8 District Overlay.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2019 to discuss Applications and Petitions # 4 of Mar 4, 2019, submitted by the Cambridge Taxi Drivers Owners Association on whether additional regulations on Transit Network Companies (TNC) could be implemented in Cambridge.

The medallion owners thought they had an exclusive cartel and they got burned by Transit Network Companies who exploit marginally competent drivers for fun and big profits. How’s that disruption working for you?

Committee Report #3. 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 Mar 20, 2019 to discuss the Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Lotsa people talking and nobody listening – solving problems symbolically, not actually. This is what democracy looks like? – Robert Winters

April 22, 2019

Living on a Budget (A Big Budget) – April 22, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Living on a Budget (A Big Budget) – April 22, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

As the councillors play their fiddles and cannabis outlets poke up through the ground like spring crocuses, the Manager will deliver the FY2020 Budget on Monday. Two departmental budgets appear to have vanished – General Services and Weights & Measures. The full budget details won’t be available until the actual meeting, but the summaries are available now.

Here are some agenda items that piqued my interest (grouped as appropriate). The agenda is pretty full on its own, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum:

Budget Season!Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the FY2020 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

The Bottom Line is that the total proposed FY2020 Budget is $665,550,940. That’s up 6.9% over last year’s FY2019 budget of $622,477,255. You may want to take a longer view at the multi-year comparisons.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a memorandum regarding the School Department FY20 Budget. [At the Regular Meeting of Apr 2, 2019, the School Committee voted that the General Fund Budget of the Cambridge Public Schools be adopted in the sum of $201,770,255 for FY20.]

That’s a 5.6% increase over last year’s School Department budget.

Manager’s Agenda #2 through 9: The Annual Big Loan Orders (appropriation and authorization to borrow) for:

#2 – $800,000 to provide funds for various Schools for repairs to entrance doors, upgrade of energy management software, replacement of analog phone system with the voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and the replacement of an emergency generator.

#3 – $22,000,000 to provide funds for the construction of improvements at the Fire Station Headquarters Building located at 491 Broadway.

#4 – $4,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

#5 – $20,500,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the Alewife area.

#6 – $4,000,000 to provide design and construction of Eliot Street between JFK St. and Brattle St. which is a continuation of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza and Surface Enhancement project.

#7 – $10,000,000 to provide funds for the construction of improvements at City Hall.

#8 – $3,000,000 to provide funds for the Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan.

#9 – $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and reconstruction of the Tobin School building.

In addition to the Operating Budget, the City also each year seeks authorization to borrow significant amounts for various capital projects (presumably at very favorable interest rates thanks to our multiple AAA bond ratings). This year’s loan authorizations total $74,300,000.


Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Grand Junction Multi-use Path Design Project Working Group: Joseph Aiello, Rebecca Bowie, Christopher Cassa, Carlone Lowenthal, Bill McAvinney, Sarabrent McCoy, Miguel Perez-Luna, Jose-Luis Rojas, Dalila Salcedo, Katrina Sousa, Florence Toussaint, Jason Alves, Nicholas Dard, Tom Evans, Amy Flax, Kathryn Lachelt Brown, Tony Lechuga, Brad Pillen, Michelle Lower, Diana Prideaux-Brune, Robert Ricchi and John Sanzone.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-9, requesting that the City determine what facilities, parking changes, and other improvements to the pavement conditions are possible to make Cambridge’s stretch of Webster Avenue a complete street.


Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the City Council Zoning Petition to amend Section 4.22 "Accessory Apartments," following further staff review and improvements to petition language.

Committee Report #2. 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 Apr 2, 2019 to continue discussion on a petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge in section 4.22 to allow for a special permit for the alteration of a single, two-family or accessory structure in existence as of January 2019 to provide one accessory apartment, if appropriate conditions are met.


Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 18-144 regarding a report on eviction data, and 19-10, regarding a report sharing information to assist in analyzing displacement.

Communications & Reports #5. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Mar 19, 2019 meeting minutes.


Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-127, regarding draft zoning for urban farming; Awaiting Report Item Number 19-23, regarding allowing lodging houses in Residential A1, A2 and B Zoning Districts; and Awaiting Report Item Number 19-28, regarding a timetable for updating retail and small business components of the zoning table of uses.

Manager’s Agenda #20. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-37, regarding the possibility of expanding the City of Boston’s intergenerational housing pilot to Cambridge.


Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Central Square Business Improvement District (BID).

Applications & Petitions #2. A petition was filed by Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 400, petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

Communications & Reports #4. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from the Assessors Department, transmitting certification regarding the petition from Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 40O, petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

This has been discussed for over two decades and it has finally arrived. I should really buy someone a beer (or better yet they should buy me a beer). Special gratitude goes out to Michael Monestime, Executive Director of the Central Square Business Association for bringing this from theory to reality. Additional gratitude goes out to all the Central Square property owners for believing that the future can be better with a little cooperation and vision.


Charter Right #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a memorandum regarding the update on the search process to hire a new City Clerk to replace Donna Lopez when she retires.

Order #9. Appointment of Paula Crane as Interim City Clerk in the event that a City Clerk has not been named in time to begin service on June 1, 2019.   Vice Mayor Devereux


Unfinished Business #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [ON OR AFTER APR 22, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED] [Attachment A][Attachment B]

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 Apr 11, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code to add a new Chapter 5.50 entitled “Cannabis Business Permitting”.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cannabis Business Ordinance Follow Up Inquiry.

Communications & Reports #6. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding proposed amendments to the Cannabis Business Ordinance.

Perhaps the 2018-2019 City Council will one day be remembered for making Cambridge the Cannabis Capital of Massachusetts. I suppose they had to do something to look busy.


Order #1. City Council support for H.692 extending voting rights to certain noncitizens.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Order #5. City Council support of the EMPOWER Act (H.720/S.389: An Act ensuring municipal participation of the widest eligible range).   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Order #6. City Council support of H.78: A proposal for a legislative amendment to the constitution to provide for no excuse absentee voting.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Variations of these pop up every few years – generally when some politicians are desperate for attention. Of the three Orders listed above the only one that has merit (and a lot of merit) is the one calling for "no excuse absentee voting". This will require a state constitutional amendment to make it so, but this is by far the best way to increase flexibility in when registered voters can cast their ballots.

In my view citizenship equals the right to vote to elect your government. Non-citizens are welcome to be residents and to pay taxes and receive services, but voting to determine the government should be for actual citizens of the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the City of Cambridge. As for lowering the voting age to 16 or 17, my feeling is that you have to draw the line somewhere, and maybe that line is somewhat arbitrary, but age 18 seems about right. Even if there was a strong movement to adjust that age downward, such a change would have to be uniform across the Commonwealth or across the country. It should not vary from town to town. Fundamentally, it’s just populist horse pucky.


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update from Eversource and any other relevant City departments regarding the finance, health and safety, building design and the long-term electricity needs that was requested by the City Council before the construction of a substation on Fulkerson Street in East Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Order #3. That the City Council go on record in opposition to the site owned by Eversource on Fulkerson Street to have a substation and that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to urge Eversource to reconsider its acquisition of the property.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

I have my own issues with Eversource, but from these Orders you would almost think that nobody in East Cambridge or Kendall Square uses electricity or that the demand is dropping. (It isn’t.)


Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding CPSD, the Achievement Gap, and a Review of 8th Grade Math MCAS Results.

Various iterations of the Cambridge School Committee and the Cambridge School Department have been talking and talking about "The Achievement Gap" for decades, and all that talk has accomplished little. Perhaps at some point they should readjust their focus on simply doing the best possible job teaching and motivating students and just let the chips fall where they may. I suppose, however, that this is just not the way we do things in Cambridge. – Robert Winters

December 19, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 363-364: Dec 18, 2018

Episode 363 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 18, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 18, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: One Way Zoning; Housing Choice Initiative; Suburban Zoning and Subsidized Housing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 364 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 18, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 18, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Housing, continued; Cannabis Retail Ordained; City Clerk Donna Lopez to retire in May; Plan E in Lowell. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 16, 2018

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:50 pm

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe boys and girls return to the playground this week. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for FY2019.

80% housing, 10% open space, 10% historic preservation – same as every year. Not negotiable.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommended appointment of the following person as a member of the Cambridge Housing Authority for a term of 5 years: Elaine DeRosa

I cannot think of a better choice for this important appointment.

Committee Report #3. 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 Wed, June 20, 2019 to discuss the potential for a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program, focusing on ways to reduce barriers to entry in the commercial Cannabis industry.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Cannabis Zoning Petition with suggested revisions and additional considerations.

I’m a little curious about this: "Board members suggested further study of whether mobile facilities could be allowed, given that a mobile facility operating on a temporary basis might provide lower barriers to entry for small businesses that cannot afford typical retail rents." Are they talking about pot trucks to go along with the food trucks? When I was a kid there was a Good Humor Man who got caught selling dope out of his ice cream truck. Nowadays they’d just call that economic empowerment.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following persons as a members of the Library Board of Trustees: Karen Kosko, Patricia Payne and Nancy Woods.

Excellent appointments all around.

Applications & Petitions #3. An application was received from the Office of the Mayor McGovern requesting permission for a temporary banner across Massachusetts Avenue in front of City Hall promoting the Indigenous Peoples’ Day from Oct 3, 2018 thru Oct 15, 2018.

Most people just celebrate this as Day Off. No banner necessary.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Frances (DeGuglielmo) Tingle.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

Resolution #6. Retirement of Attorney David Sullivan from the Massachusetts State Senate.   Mayor McGovern

Resolution #29. Retirement of William"Bill" Dwyer from the Department of Public Works.   Mayor McGovern

One thing not everyone knows is that the Department of Public Works is a community with many people who work for decades, sometimes their entire working life, within DPW. Retirements of people like Bill Dwyer are a very big deal indeed.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department to establish a Senior Living Overlay District at the current site of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility to encourage and incentivize redevelopment specifically for continuum of care services.   Councillor Mallon

I think we’re starting to get a bit too prescriptive with Cambridge zoning, especially with the introduction of "overlay districts" for every imaginable use. Many of us would like to see opportunities for senior living or a place where artists can flourish. We would also like places to buy affordable groceries. Is the creation of an overlay district to dictate one use while preventing other potential good uses the right way to go? It’s one thing to classify land use as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., but how far down should this categorization go?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments and relevant housing partners to aggressively attempt to obtain, or help others obtain, the Santa Maria property for purposes of affordable housing.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern

Whatever happened to the idea of a relocated Public Works Yard? I’m not necessarily recommending this, but putting DPW on Concord Ave. and building mixed-income housing on the current DPW site isn’t a crazy idea.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner to increase enforcement of the Bike Lane Bill to keep our bicycle infrastructure free and unobstructed.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Does this apply to Really Bad Bicycle Infrastructure (RBBI)?

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the tax status, zoning history, and sale of The Constellation Center’s Parcel C in Kendall Square.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey

Anyone who has followed this knew this Order would eventually come. That will be an interesting and likely fruitless journey down the road of Retroactive Zoning & Tax Classification. Looking forward would make a lot more sense, but I’m sure I’ll find the history interesting.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development Division to regularly update the vacant property database as well as review the strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report and report back on the feasibility of implementing these recommendations.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I testified recently at a follow-up meeting of this committee about the potential unintended consequences of encouraging "pop up" businesses to occupy vacant spaces at (presumably) much lower rents than nearby businesses. I can easily see a seasonable "pop up" store showing up and stealing all the holiday business away from an existing business. The temporary filling of a vacant store could then lead to another vacancy.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to provide a legal opinion on a Motion to Rescind.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #14. That the City Council rescind its vote of July 30, 2018 failing to send the climate safety (Brown, et al) petition to a second reading, thereby taking no action on the petition.   Councillor Zondervan

Our petulant Councillor Zondervan continues to stomp his feet in protest over the failure of the Nakagawa-Brown petition to be passed to a 2nd Reading. First he tried to file reconsideration, and now he wants to go for the legislative equivalent of annulment. I am not a lawyer (IANAL) and I have no prior knowledge of anyone ever looking to do pull a "Motion to Rescind" on a prior vote, but consider the ramifications of such a thing. A local legislature votes on a zoning matter (one way or another) and the matter is finalized. A property owner then happily goes to the bank to secure financing now that the road has been cleared. Then a month or so later the local legislature comes back and cries "Do Over" like that annoying kid who didn’t like the fact that the other kids prevailed in the ball game.

Committee Report #5. 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 Aug 13, 2018 to discuss revisions to the proposed Municipal Code amendment to create a new chapter 12.22 entitled “Surveillance Technology Ordinance;” said revisions were submitted to the City Council on June 25, 2018.

The interesting aspect of this (at least to me) is the legal separation of authority under the City Charter. The City Council may be the body that sets general policies, but can you imagine the ensuing chaos of having the Cambridge City Council micromanaging how the Cambridge Police Department conducts its day-to-day operations or how it responds to an emergency situation? It’s one thing to set parameters and maintain a dialogue, but police investigations should not be arbitrarily constrained by people trained more in politics than in police work.

Committee Report #6. 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 July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.”

I attended this meeting. My impression is that we have several elected officials who have never seen a fee increase or a tax increase that they didn’t embrace and celebrate. The simplest way to understand fees is to make clear the distinction with taxes. A fee pays for a service, and the money raised has to support that service. It’s not just another revenue source like a tax that can be used for whatever pet project a councillor wants to support. Personally, I find the notion of renewing a parking sticker every year a bit ridiculous. We accept it only because we’re familiar with the routine (and the long lines for some). A much better system would be to pay a one-time fee for a sticker that’s good for as long as you own the vehicle and still live in Cambridge. It would be easy to encode the sticker for easy verification against City databases. The only people waiting on lines would then be for new residents or new vehicles.

Committee Report #8. 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 Aug 8, 2018 to discuss City Council petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Article 5.000 as it relates to rainwater and flat roofs.

As an owner of a triple-decker with a flat roof, I completely understand the concerns about clogged drains and why someone might seek an alternative design. The ideas in this zoning petition have merit. The only issue should be how to ensure that one person’s cure is not another person’s cause of trouble, i.e. rainwater being diverted to an unwelcome place. – Robert Winters

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