Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 23, 2015

Cambridge InsideOut – Episodes 99 and 100: Looking Back at the 2014-15 Cambridge City Council

Looking Back at the 2014-15 Cambridge City Council

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 99 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 100 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 22, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

December 21, 2015

Last Call – Dec 21, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:37 am

Last Call – Dec 21, 2015 Cambridge City Council meeting highlights

This is the last meeting of the 2014-2015 Cambridge City Council. The new term begins with the Inaugural Meeting on Monday, January 4 at 10:00am in the Sullivan Chamber of City Hall. Here are a few notable items for this last meeting of the term grouped by topic:

2015 to 2016Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, regarding two commitment letters received from Boston Properties relative to the 88 Ames Street project.

Unfinished Business #8. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 3, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 21, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 13, 2015. Petition expires Dec 22, 2015.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting modifications to MXD Zoning Petition and Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan Amendment.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and Executive Director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to provide a better economic analysis of the MXD District in Kendall as it would compare to a more typical land acquisition and development deal and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

Essentially every modification requested by the City Council in regard to this has been successfully negotiated, so it’s difficult to see any rational basis for not ordaining this proposed zoning amendment on Dec 21. Letters from the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the current incarnation of the East Cambridge Planning Team seek delay solely for the sake of delay. We’ll see if the tail wags the dog on Monday evening. The petition expires Dec 22.

[Update: The petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square both passed on 7-2 votes with Councillors Kelley and Toomey voting in the negative. There was also an additional commitment from Boston Properties to have a minimum of 20% of the housing be made available for homeownership.]

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to continue discussions on a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the Planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District. The majority of the PUD-KS District is occupied by the Volpe Transportation Systems Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The zoning petition associated with the Volpe Center property seems not ready for prime time. The petition has a Feb 8 expiration date, so it could still be acted on during January or, more likely, be re-filed.


Manager’s Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-120, regarding a report on the Alewife Bridge/Platform project.

Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an appropriation of $190,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will be used to pay for completion of the feasibility study and preliminary design of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Fitchburg Line commuter rail tracks to link the Alewife Triangle and the Alewife Quadrangle.

This would be a far better proposal if it allowed full vehicular access over the proposed bridge – not just bikes and pedestrians. Without a 2nd means of egress, the Alewife Triangle is just a giant cul-de-sac with insufficient means to enter and exit the area. A full-service bridge would unite the Triangle and Quadrangle as was originally proposed in the Fishbook (Alewife Urban Design Study, 1979). This would improve both areas significantly.


Unfinished Business #9. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to discuss the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 21, 2015.
[Update: This was ordained on an 8-1 vote with Councillor Kelley voting in the negative.]

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Marc C. McGovern, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearing held on Dec 10, 2015 to discuss the financial aspects of Community Benefits.

Manager’s Agenda #15. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, the appropriation of $250,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for conceptual and schematic design for proposed improvements to Point Park, at the intersection of Broadway and Main Street in Kendall Square. The funds were given to the City as a part of a 2012 agreement between the City and Boston Properties, LP.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $2,000,000 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for the design and construction of a new public open space along Galileo Galilei Way and bounded by Binney Street, Broadway, and the Grand Junction railroad tracks, as part of a 2012 agreement with Boston Properties.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $8,336,980 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used for the construction of two new public open spaces in the eastern Cambridge/Kendall Square area: Rogers Street Park on Rogers Street between Second Street and Third Street, and Triangle Park, between First Street, Binney Street, and Land Boulevard.

Manager’s Agenda #18. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a transfer in the amount of $3,728,500 associated with the MIT PUD-5 Zoning, Ordinance #1355 ($3,500,000) and Education First’s agreement for the North Point Building project, Ordinance #1337 ($228,500) from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Community Benefits Stabilization Fund which will be used to provide financial support to non-profit charitable community benefits organizations serving Cambridge residents determined by a process established by the City.

Manager’s Agenda #19. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $112,100 from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures account which will be used to remove stormwater (inflow) from the sewer system to offset the new sewer flows associated with the development at 22 Water Street.

When it rains it pours. After being batted around for much of the last decade, the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance appears to be ready for ordination, and with it comes a flood of expenditures utilizing funds generated from a range of commercial developments. It’s interesting that this culmination comes at the last meeting of this City Council term.


Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-138, regarding a report on the feasibility of having a comprehensive housing plan as part of an early action item of the citywide planning process.

The Housing Division of the Community Development and other parties have been involved in this issue for a long time and will continue to be very actively involved during the entirety of the upcoming citywide planning process. It was never clear what the expectations were as a "early action item" and it seems abundantly clear that this will be perhaps the single most dominant issue throughout the whole process.

Manager’s Agenda #26. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-32, regarding a report on the economic analysis for Central Square.

I don’t think there are any great revelations here. If anything, this report simply underscores many of the things said and learned during the Mass & Main petition process. Specifically, the Woodworth report emphasizes how difficult it is to get "family-size" affordable units into a project at an assumed height of about 12 floors. It also makes abundantly clear that building lab space or something comparably profitable is economically advantageous compared to residential projects, and that at 12 floors and a 4.0 FAR the only way to generate family-size affordable residential units is to have that profitable lab space subsidize it. Nobody ever claimed that the C2 recommendations got everything exactly correct. The whole purpose of analysis like this is to get a more accurate sense of the economic realities and necessary incentives to get the desirable outcomes outlined in the C2 report.

Put all this into the Mass & Main context. Mass & Main showed that you can get some of the desirable outcomes if you allow a little more height and density. Can anyone now reasonably question that the only way to get a workable residential project (no lab) with an acceptable number of affordable units was to allow a building greater than 12 stories? This also makes pretty clear that there really was an economic basis for wanting to build lab space and that there was great wisdom in taking the necessary votes to get a residential project instead.

I find most of the assumptions in this analysis to be reasonable. I might perhaps question the assumption that "family-size" (3 bedroom) requires an average of 1300 sq. ft. The floors of most Cambridge triple-deckers are less than 1300 sq. ft. and many families lived well within those apartments.

Personally, I have never bought into the argument that it is so vitally important to build many "family-size" apartments into new residential buildings in all locations. The most plentiful source of those family-size units has long been in existing multi-family housing much of which has been lost to overpriced condominium conversion over the last decade or so. One of the main arguments for building new housing – with or without a high fraction of "affordable units" or family-size units – is to absorb some of the demand that is otherwise removing existing housing units from affordability. That said, I understand that there actually is a demand for such family-size units in Kendall Square (Ames Street, for example) and there’s plenty of lab/office revenue to support its provision.


Unfinished Business #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 16, 2015.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 14, 2015 to continue discussion on the proposed amendments to the Municipal Code Chapter 2.121 entitled "Living Wage Ordinance."

The proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance still doesn’t seem ripe for ordination, but that won’t necessarily stop this City Council from once again ordaining something prematurely. The most telling statement in the committee report is this: "Mr. Rossi noted that it is his job to give his professional advice. He can do a better job for citizens and he disagrees with this proposal."
[Update: This was ordained unanimously.]


Unfinished Business #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 18, 2015 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to amend Article 6.000 to create a new Section 6.24 Car-sharing Provision that will create a definition and general provisions for Car-sharing and will allow the limited use of parking spaces. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 28, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 27, 2015. Petition expires Feb 16, 2016.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 19, 2015 to discuss a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett III, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by amending Article 2.000 ("Definitions") and Article 4.000, Section 4.22 ("Accessory Apartment"). The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 28, 2015. Planning Board Hearing held Oct 27, 2015. Petition expires Feb 17, 2016.

Either of these zoning petitions could be ordained with possible amendments at this meeting, but both petitions have expiration dates in mid-February and are not so time sensitive. [I believe that zoning petitions are governed by state law and do not expire at the end of a City Council term.] There is also still a report due from the Inspectional Services Dept. on some aspects of the Barrett Petition. [A brief preliminary report from Inspectional Services arrived as a late addition to the City Manager’s Agenda.]


Order #1. That all items pending before the City Council and not acted upon by the end of the 2014-2015 Legislative Session be placed in the files of the City Clerk, without prejudice provided that those proposed ordinances which have been passed to a second reading, advertised and listed on the Calendar under "Unfinished Business" during the 2014-2015 City Council term, along with any other pending matters on the Calendar listed as "Unfinished Business," shall be forwarded to the next City Council and further provided that any items pending in committee may, at the discretion of the committee, be forwarded to the next City Council.   Mayor Maher

This is the traditional "clean slate" order at the end of every City Council term that makes clear that most items still in committee, on the Calendar, and listed under Awaiting Report expire with the end of the Council term unless forwarded by the respective committee Chairs to the new City Council.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to direct Inspectional Services to work with businesses in Central Square to clean unwanted graffiti on area buildings.   Councillor McGovern

In truth, this problem goes well beyond just the graffiti, though some of the spectacular examples of negligent Central Square property owners should get special and immediate attention. I would also prefer that people refer to this as vandalism rather than suggest some inherent artistic value.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the appropriate departments to give recognized community groups the ability to present alongside or directly after city staff, on the record and as part of the presentation agenda during meetings of the Ordinance Committee.   Councillor Mazen

This is a spectacularly misguided order. Its intent appears to be to confer special standing upon specific self-proclaimed entities. There is absolutely nothing today that prevents any resident from testifying at an Ordinance Committee meeting and any group of residents can petition the Chair to present as a group if this makes the testimony more efficient. Who exactly is to decide what constitutes a "recognized community group?" Should this Order pass, I will personally start circulating petitions creating a half dozen "community groups" in order to reserve the right to have a place on the presentation agenda of every meeting of the Ordinance Committee. Perhaps the sponsor of this Order only means to reserve this privilege for organizations that have endorsed his candidacy.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, regarding the work the Housing Committee has conducted throughout the course of the term and recommendations what the Housing Committee and the City Council will continue to work on in the coming term.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, to briefly reflect upon the work the Civic Unity Committee has conducted throughout the course of the term and issue some recommendations what the Civic Unity Committee, the City Council, and the City Administration will continue to work on in the coming term.

This is something new – a city councillor writing up summary statements at the end of a City Council term of the work of her committees. I think this should be standard procedure in the future. Way to go, Councillor Simmons! – Robert Winters

December 6, 2015

Runnin’ Down the Clock – December 7, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:10 pm

Runnin’ Down the Clock – December 7, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

December 7Here are a few nuggets for this Day of Infamy. I’ll leave the comments to others this time.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with suggested modifications the PUD-KS (Volpe Site) Rezoning Petition.

Manager’s Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority/MXD Rezoning Petition in the revised version dated Nov 4, 2015, with suggested clarifications.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 19, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 3, 2015 to continue discussion on the petition filed by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to amend the Zoning Ordinance in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan area (KSURP) and to amend the current zoning for the MXD District in Kendall Square to reflect the proposed changes to the plan.

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-94, regarding a report on a list of parking stickers issued to each development in the past ten years.

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the Community Benefits Ordinance.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2015 to discuss the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Nicole Murati Ferrer, Esq. as Chair of the License Commission, effective Jan 11, 2016.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant City staffers to determine the feasibility of establishing City-financed "gap vouchers," similar to those being considered by the City of Waltham, and to consider whether additional measures such as establishing standalone City-issued housing vouchers could be established.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel and report back to the City Council on what specific steps will be implemented in the coming year to ensure that the City’s Boards and Commissions adequately reflect the rich diversity of the City, and to ensure that a greater level of citizen outreach and engagement by these entities is pursued.   Councillor Simmons

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Finance Department to establish a parallel fund to the fund proposed in the Community Benefits Ordinance and to confer with the Finance Director to ensure that the parallel fund will be able to accept money from private entities and that it will spend the collected money in a similar manner to the Community Benefits Fund   Councillor Cheung

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 19, 2015 to discuss a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett III, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by amending Article 2.000 ("Definitions") and Article 4.000, Section 4.22 ("Accessory Apartment").

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Tanya L. Ford, Executive Director, Cambridge Election Commission, transmitting the Final Official Results from the Municipal Election held on Tues, Nov 3, 2015 for City Council.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Tanya L. Ford, Executive Director, Cambridge Election Commission, transmitting the Final Official Results from the Municipal Election held on Tues, Nov 3, 2015 for School Committee.

November 22, 2015

Notable Floatables on the Nov 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:42 pm

Notable Floatables on the Nov 23, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

These items have floated to the top of my barrel this week:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Coolidge Place Land Disposition Report, pursuant to Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the Planning Board recommendation favoring the Coolidge Plan Land Disposition.

In a rational world, this would be a routine minor land disposition. This was a well-known component of the Mass&Main zoning package that was passed by the City Council last spring but, just like curb cut approvals, these can sometimes become opportunities for continued efforts to block projects or extract additional concessions. Honestly, this was all settled in May and the exchange of this passageway for a far better one (plus cash) should be a slam dunk. Perhaps we can get a player to be named later in the trade. The hearing starts at 7:00pm.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to further study the Barrett, et al Zoning Petition.

This petition has already had one pass at the Planning Board (Oct 27) and at the Ordinance Committee (Nov 19). Parts of the proposal will likely be kicked down the road as part of the citywide planning exercises, but some could be acted upon sooner. At the heart of the petition is the basic concept of allowing residential property owners to make better use of existing, underutilized space in their buildings for additional rental housing. People already do this under the radar all over Cambridge.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt with changes the Carsharing Zoning Petition (refiled).

The Planning Board remains convinced that this is generally a good thing but that there should be a registration mechanism to allow the City to monitor how expanded carsharing on residential properties evolves and if any problems arise.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the purchase of the premises numbered 0 Winter Street, Assessor’s parcel #165-21-1, in the Town of Lincoln ("the Property") consisting of 54.35 acres of undeveloped land for the purposes of protecting the City’s drinking water supply and for land conservation.

Watershed protection is one of those unseen and underappreciated things the City does. This is money well spent.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-85, regarding a report on the feasibility of having the City purchase the buildings on Harvard Street and Harding Street.

The short version is:  No Deal.

Unfinished Business #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to proposed amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 16, 2015.

I’m not so sure this is ready to rock and roll, but that hasn’t stopped this City Council in other votes during the last two years. Why let legal enforcibility or economic viability get in the way of a popular vote?

Communications #3. A communication was received from Kim Courtney, regarding Xavier Dietrich’s Open Meeting Law Complaint against the Board of Zoning Appeal and Chair Constantine Alexander.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a response to the Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich, 955 Massachusetts Avenue #259, Cambridge, regarding the Minutes of the City Council meeting of Aug 10, 2015.

Mosquitoes are annoying pests, but you have to at least respect their need for nutrition. I have yet to see any basis for respect for this not-so-dynamic duo of Courtney/Dietrich whose sole reason for being is to be an annoyance. Perhaps they should open a whine bar.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back on the feasibility of making a comprehensive housing plan an early action item of the pending citywide planning process.   Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen

Sound great just as long as "comprehensive" doesn’t translate into "build nothing that doesn’t sit well with our political supporters."

Order #3. City Council support of the efforts of the Harvard Graduate Student Union and urging the Harvard administration to commit to refrain from legal or other action that would delay graduate employees’ right to choose collective bargaining, to refrain from efforts to influence research assistants and teaching assistants in their decision to vote on HGSU-UAW, and to commit to commence good-faith negotiations for a contract immediately upon confirmation of a majority vote by research assistants and teaching assistance in favor of HGSU-UAW as their union.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

Volpe Tower?Like many others, I was once upon a time a graduate student upon whom many responsibilities were heaped for a fixed stipend – so much so that it interfered with my own studies. [Well, at least they gave me an award for all my good work!] That said, I can’t completely get behind the idea that this should be the subject of collective bargaining in the same way that a long-term job might be. The bottom line is that graduate students should not be put in the position where their graduate studies are unreasonably extended due to underpaid commitments within their respective academic departments. This is a larger issue that has to be addressed at universities everywhere along with the often abysmal pay scales and heavy workloads for adjunct faculty (the dirty little secret of colleges across the USA, including some very prestigious ones). What we should really work toward is appropriate workloads for graduate students that enhance their ability to work in the future at full-time jobs – tenured or otherwise – at reasonable pay scales. Graduate school work is ultimately just temporary employment.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development with the vision of including within the Master Plan and Alewife Study a plan for the relocation of the DPW facilities.   Councillor Toomey

Let me guess – the semi-suburbans of West Cambridge will want to host a relocated DPW Yard at their end of town about as much as they would welcome the CASPAR wet shelter, a methadone clinic, or any of the many social service agencies now in the Central Square area. Where would you move the DPW Yard?

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to coordinate with the Election Commission in order to operate at least 5 early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period and that the City Manager and Election Commission confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings.   Councillor Mazen

This is a solution in search of a problem. Is it really a hardship when there is scheduled to be a 11 day early voting period in addition to normal Election Day voting? Councillor Mazen has concluded that the voters of Cambridge are so completely incapable of finding their way to Inman Street that there is the need to have "5 separate early polling locations, for the entire day, for the entirety of the 11 day early voting period". But that’s not all – he also proposes that the Election Commission "confer further as to the feasibility of operating a greater number of early polling locations, and issue a report detailing their findings". This translates into staffing for a minimum of 440 hours (plus security considerations) for something that is almost certainly unnecessary. I could see perhaps having a 2nd location open for a portion of a few days as an added convenience, but the scale of this Order makes no sense whatsoever.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from and Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 12, 2015 to discuss a petition by the Planning Board to amend Section 13.10 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance so as to change the development controls applicable in the planned Unit Development at Kendall Square (PUD-KS) Overlay Zoning District. The majority of the PUD-KS District is occupied by the Volpe Transportation Systems Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There’s another Ordinance Committee hearing on this topic scheduled for Tues, Dec 1. The trend of late is to load up the proposed zoning with so many constraints (affordable housing, open space, etc.) that the only way for anything to be financially feasible would be to permit building heights on the order of twice the scale of anything currently in Cambridge. Then everyone will complain about the heights. – Robert Winters

November 13, 2015

Final Official Election Results – Cambridge 2015 Municipal Election

Final Official Election Results (Nov 13, 2015) – including all ballots

City Council (in order of election)
Nadeem Mazen
Denise Simmons
David Maher
Jan Devereux
Tim Toomey
Craig Kelley
Leland Cheung
Marc McGovern
Dennis Carlone

Incumbent Dennis Benzan is defeated

Vote!School Committee (in order of election)
Patty Nolan
Fred Fantini
Richard Harding
Kathleen Kelly
Manikka Bowman
Emily Dexter

Incumbent Fran Cronin is defeated

Full Final Official Election Results (Nov 13, 2015) – City Council & School Committee

City Council #1 Vote Distribution by Ward/Precinct (PDF)

School Committee #1 Vote Distribution by Ward/Precinct (PDF)

Alternate measures of Popularity – 2015 City Council Election (PDF)

Unofficial Election Results (Nov 4, 2015) – including all auxiliary ballots

City Council (in order of election)
Nadeem Mazen
Denise Simmons
David Maher
Jan Devereux
Tim Toomey
Leland Cheung
Craig Kelley
Marc McGovern
Dennis Carlone

Incumbent Dennis Benzan is defeated

School Committee (in order of election)
Patty Nolan
Fred Fantini
Richard Harding
Kathleen Kelly
Manikka Bowman
Emily Dexter

Incumbent Fran Cronin is defeated

Full Unofficial Election Results (Nov 4, 2015) – City Council & School Committee
Preliminary Election Results (Nov 3, 2015) – not including auxiliary ballots

City Council (in order of election)
Nadeem Mazen
Denise Simmons
Jan Devereux
David Maher
Craig Kelley
Dennis Carlone
Leland Cheung
Tim Toomey
Marc McGovern

Incumbent Dennis Benzan is defeated

School Committee (in order of election)
Patty Nolan
Fred Fantini
Richard Harding
Kathleen Kelly
Manikka Bowman
Emily Dexter

Incumbent Fran Cronin is defeated

Full Preliminary Election Results (Nov 3, 2015) – City Council & School Committee

Note 1: On Tuesday night, Nov 3, the Election Commission announced the preliminary winners in the order of election.

Note 2: On Wednesday, Nov 4, hundreds of additional "auxiliary ballots" were scrutinized for voter intent and then included with the Tuesday ballots to determine the "Unofficial Results". This produced the same winners, though in the City Council race the order in which candidates were elected changed.

Note 3: On Friday, Nov 13, the Final Results were determined when a small number of overseas absentee ballots and provisional ballots were examined. This resulted in an additional 8 ballots for each of the City Council and School Committee races. The margins in both the City Council and School Committee elections were such that there was no realistic possibility that the candidates elected would change, though the order in which Craig Kelley (6th) and Leland Cheung (7th) were elected was reversed.



November 8, 2015

After the Storm – Nov 9, 2015 Cambridge City Council Agenda

After the Storm – Nov 9, 2015 Cambridge City Council Agenda

In Counting there is StrengthThe election results from this past week are now known and the theories are flying about why some candidates fared well and why others will say farewell. Most of this pseudoanalysis is just for entertainment purposes, but there are some basic political truths that continue to be self-evident. Most of all, local elections continue to be won or lost not so much on big issues and big money but rather on old-fashioned hand-to-hand retail-level politics. In particular, in a PR election it’s important to secure your political base whether that’s based on the positions you take, the favors you perform, the neighborhood you come from, or what you look like. It also remains the case that voter turnout is what secures the margins that give victory to some candidates and defeat to others. While others exchange theories, I’m just sitting here waiting for information on how many people voted in each precinct and how that affected the #1 vote totals of particular candidates. Until then, I’ll just allow myself to be entertained by the punditry of others.

The City Council returns on Monday with an agenda long on congratulations and short on substance. The real business took place last week. Here are a few items that may be of interest:

Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from Milford Medicinals, Inc., to amend the Cambridge Zoning Map to include 1001 Massachusetts Avenue in the MMD-1 Zoning Overlay.

The last 4 signatures on the petition were obviously done by the same person. Also, this proposal calls for a change to the existing zoning for a single address to permit a use that is inconsistent with the abutting district (at least in the sense that districts have already been established elsewhere for this proposed use). It may therefore be illegal spot zoning. More significantly, what exactly then was the purpose of the zoning change enacted on Dec 16, 2013 establishing zones where medical marijuana dispensaries may be located?

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to update condo conversion numbers from 2010.   Councillor Cheung

Is my triple-decker the last one left in Cambridge that hasn’t been converted into overpriced condominiums? I’m thinking of digging a perimeter moat filled with alligators that feed on real estate agents.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting modifications to the proposed MXD Zoning Petition and Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan Amendment.

This is really the only agenda item that seems remotely interesting. It’s a huge document (98 page PDF) that seems to promote all the right things, but you be the judge.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a response to the Subpoena Duces Tecum issued by the City Council on Oct 30, 2015 pursuant to Policy Order #27 adopted on Oct 19, 2015.

I pride myself on being well informed on most matters that come before the Cambridge City Council. This item may be the most cryptic agenda item I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I haven’t got a clue what it means.

That’s all for now, folks. I’m still just waiting patiently for those ward/precinct turnout and vote distribution numbers. I’m also eager to analyze the ballot data after the Final Election Results are determined this coming Friday the Thirteenth. – Robert Winters

November 4, 2015

Election Day Discussion – Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 87 and 88

Cambridge InsideOut this week focused on what to expect on election night (Nov 3).

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 87 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 3, 2015 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 88 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 3, 2015 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Full Unofficial Election Results (Nov 4, 2015) – City Council & School Committee

November 2, 2015

The Eve of Decision – Nov 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:04 am

The Eve of Decision – Nov 2, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda

The City Council meets this week on the eve of the November 3 municipal election. [Tune in to CCTV any time after 8:00pm Tuesday for the live Election Night broadcast hosted by Susana Segat and Robert Winters.] Here are a few items of interest that our nerve-wracked city councillors will be considering as their thoughts drift toward the following day:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 15-18, regarding a report on renaming the Area IV Youth Center as the “Dr. Robert and Janet Moses Youth Center.” [attachment]

It would be an even greater honor if "The Algebra Project" so closely associated with Dr. Robert Moses could be promoted and continue forevermore at the Youth Center soon to be renamed in honor of Dr. Robert and Janet Moses.

Applications & Petitions #3. A zoning petition has been received from the Friends of MAPOCO, to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by a new sub-district of the Massachusetts Avenue Overlay District along Massachusetts Avenue between Porter Square and Cambridge Common.

The delicious irony of this zoning petition filed on the eve of the municipal election is that one of the signers is Councillor Dennis “Not ’til there’s a Master Plan” Carlone.

Applications & Petitions #4. An application was received from the Boston Ballet, 19 Clarendon Street, Boston, requesting permission to hang twenty-three temporary banners on electrical poles on in Harvard Square. These banners will promote the Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The temporary banners will be hung from Nov 23 to Jan 4, 2016. Approval has been received from the Electrical Department.

One has to marvel at the plans of the Boston Ballet to hang "Nutcracker" banners directly in front of the Jose Mateo Ballet Theater in Cambridge which also stages its own annual performances of "The Nutcracker".


Resolution #7. Happy 100th Birthday wishes to Floyd Freeman.   Councillor Simmons

Floyd Freeman was my favorite neighbor for a quarter century on our block of Broadway – until the night his house burned down and he was forced to move closer to his son and daughter. Many a day I headed down the street on the way to somewhere and never made it because it was just so much more interesting to talk with Floyd. On November 7 he will turn 100 years old and is still playing music and is as sharp as ever. I won’t be able to make it to Detroit for his birthday celebration next weekend, but I plan to honor him in other ways. Happy birthday, Floyd. You really are the best.

Floyd & Robert
Happy birthday, Floyd!
This photo was taken at Floyd Freeman’s 90th birthday party ten years ago.


Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and other appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of establishing an online database of “problematic landlords” modeled upon the databases of Chicago and New York, to determine what the criteria for establishing this designation would be, and to report back to the City Council on when such a database could be up and running in a timely manner.   Councillor Simmons

Why stop there? Perhaps we should also draft a list of "problematic tenants" who nobody would ever want to live in their building. Shop owners could team up to draft a "problematic customer" list. It’s not unreasonable to want to have such lists and I’m sure there are people who would be more than happy to gather the data and pass judgment. However, it may not be the wisest choice for a municipality to do this except in the most egregious cases.

Communications #15. A communication was received from Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich, regarding a package store with an invalid liquor license.

Order #8. That the City Clerk, in consultation with the City Solicitor, draft a response regarding the attached Open Meeting Law complaint for the City Council’s consideration, so that the draft response may be considered and voted on by the City Council at its next regular business meeting of Nov 9, 2015.   Mayor Maher

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich, 955 Massachusetts Avenue #259, Cambridge, regarding the Minutes of the City Council meeting of Aug 10, 2015.

Perhaps it’s time to present Cambridge’s First Annual Dirty Diaper Award to this dynamic duo of litigious, misinformed, and thoroughly annoying wannabe City Council candidates. They can hang it on the wall of the wine bar they may one day open after their retirement from political life. – Robert Winters

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