Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 17, 2019

City Clerk Interviews; Squares and X’s and Ovals – June 17, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

City Clerk Interviews; Squares and X’s and Ovals – June 17, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

The City Council will be interviewing the 4 finalists for Cambridge City Clerk at a Special meeting starting at 2:30pm. From the Call of the Meeting: "The purpose of the meeting is to hold public interviews· for the four finalists for the position of City Clerk. The candidates are: Timothy Phelan, Jeanne M. Survell, Niko Vangjeli and Anthony Ivan Wilson ….. This special meeting may be adjourned prior to the commencement of the regular City Council meeting at 5:30. The regular City Council meeting of June 17, 2019 at 5:30pm will open with public comment and the public may comment on the City Clerk candidates among other matters on the agenda pursuant to the Rules of the City Council as amended. Following the conclusion of public comment, the City Council may recess to Executive Session to conduct a strategy session in preparation for contract negotiations with one or more City Clerk candidates. If a vote on the hiring of a City Clerk takes place, such vote would be taken in open session." [The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge]

Update – The City Council voted unanimously to choose Anthony Ivan Wilson as the next Cambridge City Clerk, pending contract negotiations.
[The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge]

When the Regular Meeting commences at 5:30pm the rest of the agenda will be relatively light, but here are a few notable items:

Order #1. City Council support of S.2213, An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

Tic Tac ToeOne curious consequence of this period of gender redefinition is that rather than introducing the alphabet soup of gender alternatives (actually it’s just X in addition to M and F), the Secretary of State’s Office apparently will no longer include the gender field in the registered voter database provided to candidates and others. It won’t be nearly as easy to do gender-targeted campaign mailings (though I suppose you can still sort by first name and make some assumptions). The Cambridge Election Commission recently voted to adopt this deletion.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff and report back to the City Council in greater detail as to why the construction cost estimates for the Inman Square redesign project were so inaccurately low, what steps are being taken to ensure that the project will not lead to further cost estimate overruns, how such inaccurate cost estimates will be avoided for all projects in the future and interim steps that are being taken to ensure maximum safety in this area.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons

The initial estimate was under $3 million which grew to $6 million when approved by the City Council. The successful bid came in at $7.9 million. I would still like some evidence that the desired benefits were not achieved or achievable with the simple addition of the green painted bike lanes now passing through Inman Square.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff and Eversource personnel to determine why the signals at Broadway and Elliott, which add an element of confusion to this intersection, were installed without Eversource’s being able to connect them to the grid in a more responsive manner.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern

As a resident of Broadway who had underground electric service until it failed and was never restored (temporary connections have been in place for nearly 5 years now – in my case an electric line screwed into a live tree and draped over a branch), this situation resonates with me. Convincing Eversource to maintain its existing assets remains an uphill battle. Apparently even the City of Cambridge shares this frustration. Last week a new zoning petition appeared that would allow the granting of a Special Permit for any new development project "only if it finds that the utility impacts of the project would not be significant". The problem is not so much what impacts a new project might have (since only then does Eversource carry out any upgrades), but rather in how Eversource maintains (or fails to maintain) its existing assets.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from former City Clerk, Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on May 28, 2019 to receive an update on the Election Commission’s discussion of potential changes to the ballots used for Municipal Elections that would limit voters to marking only up to 15 candidates.

The Election Commission unanimously approved this very modest change which greatly simplifies the ballot design with little or no effect on the election results in any round of the PR election tally. – Robert Winters

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)

Vote!

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 21, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 397-398: May 21, 2019

Episode 397 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 21, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 21, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: FY2020 Budget adoption; Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC) questions; Constellation Center future; Foundry; and the Cambridge Health Alliance. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 398 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 21, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 21, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Bike Ride; modifying the PR ballot; some PR election facts; curb cuts; Cambridge River Arts Festival; paradigm shifts and the achievement gap in the Cambridge Public Schools. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 20, 2019

Passing the Buck – May 20, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Passing the Buck – May 20, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Buck and DoeMove along people – nothing to see here. Well, maybe that hidden state flag. The FY2020 Budget is expected to be approved at this meeting after some fiddling and diddling over some late budget-related communications touching on who gets to be artistic at CMAC (Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center).

The pickings are slim this week:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, in response to requests for additional information made by the City Council Finance Committee during hearings on the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) City Budget.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 1, 2019 and May 7, 2019 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $638,060,155.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on May 7, 2019 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the Water Fund Budget in the amount of $12,833,295.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on May 7, 2019 relative to the Public Investment Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2020 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Fund Budget in the amount of $26,796,725.

First, expect all sorts of mutual congratulatory statements – it’s all part of the ritual and it happens every year. There may be some back and forth over the additional information, especially regarding CMAC, but after that expect all bucks to be passed.

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-93, regarding Parcel C (Constellation Center) in Kendall Square.

It’s hard to say whether there will be any push-back on this. Perhaps there will be some questions raised regarding the tax-exempt status of Parcel C for approximately 16 years during which the taxable value of all neighboring properties soared. It’s likely now all just water under the bridge, but it does raise some questions.

Applications & Petitions #1. A re-filing of a zoning petition has been received from Joseph T. Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. transmitting a proposed revised amendment to the zoning ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

It’s hard to say whether or not this proposal will fare better than the previous one given the increasingly hostile political context of the area when factoring in the controversies surrounding the nearby Eversource site and other proposals in East Cambridge. It should be possible for reasonable people to assess this proposal independent of these other matters.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Mar 28, 2019 to discuss Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut continues. It’s remarkable just how comfortable some people have become with double standards.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes for the meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force held on May 9, 2019.

Most of the ideas floated seem all well and good, but I am a bit skeptical about the idea of having a "City-owned arts facility, akin to the EMF building." There is often a fundamental conflict between governmental control and artistic freedom, and the result can often be mediocrity. There is also the problem of political patronage in deciding which artists should be granted money, jobs, and status. This report suggests that "the Task Force could continue on and become an adjudicator based on an equity rubric." This Task Force was appointed by the Mayor, by the way.

There is one suggestion contained in the meeting notes that reflects something I have been emphasizing for several years: "The Baptist church as an arts and culture space". The truth is that there are quite a few older church buildings in the neighborhoods abutting Central Square that would benefit from partnering with various charitable uses, including arts-related functions. Indeed, I have to wonder whether the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority has considered such possibilities as it discusses rescuing the building at 99 Bishop Allen Drive in order to preseve affordable space for the various nonprofit entities now housed there. Dwindling congregations, deferred maintenance, and charitable activities strongly suggest possible mutual solutions. – 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]

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