Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 13, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 275-276: Dec 12, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:14 am

Episode 275 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 12, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 12, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics: City Council recap, looking back at 2017. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 276 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 12, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 12, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: Looking back at 2017 and ahead to the next Council term. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

December 11, 2017

A Quick One – Featured Items on the Dec 11, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:22 am

A Quick One – Featured Items on the Dec 11, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere are a few of the more interesting agenda items:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a legal opinion relative to the City Manager’s authority to make Historical Commission appointments.

This one was never in doubt. Councillors really should learn about the Plan E Charter.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Harvard Square Kiosk.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $444,534.67 from the Hubway Capital Projects Equipment Fund to the Community Development Department Public Investment Fund Extraordinary Expenditures Account. These funds will be used for the purchase and expenses of Hubway bikeshare equipment. These funds represent the donor agreement revenues and will contribute to the purchase, installation and maintenance of approximately 10 additional stations and bicycles, pending identification of acceptable locations.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $489,780 associated with the Hubway Bike Share Equipment from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Extraordinary Expenditures account. These mitigation funds will be used for the purchase and expenses of Hubway bikeshare equipment.

That’s nearly a million dollars for Hubway.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-114, regarding a report on the plan for snow removal from the new bike infrastructure in the city.

Plow the streets from curb to curb. If any plastic posts get in the way, sharpen the blades on the snow plows.

Unfinished Business #8. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge on Beekeeping. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 6, 2017. Planning Board hearing held on Oct 3, 2017. Petition expires Jan 3, 2018.

It’s very possible this will be ordained at this meeting. – RW

December 6, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 273-274: Dec 5, 2017

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:48 am

Episode 273 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 5, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 5, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics: Dec 4 City Council meeting recap. Hosts Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 274 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 5, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 5, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: Dec 4 City Council meeting recap and advice for the next Mayor. Hosts Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

December 3, 2017

Running Down the Clock – Dec 4, 2017 City Council Agenda Highlights

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

Running Down the Clock – Dec 4, 2017 City Council Agenda Highlights

Running Down the ClockIt’s a pleasingly light agenda this week, and there are no more committee meetings scheduled this term. The Inaugural Meeting of the 2018-19 City Council will take place on New Years Day starting at 10:00am. In the meantime, here are a few items on this week’s agenda – with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Beekeeping Zoning Petition with proposed amendments to the petition.

Unfinished Business #8. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge on Beekeeping. The Question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 6, 2017. Planning Board hearing held on Oct 3, 2017. Petition expires Jan 3, 2018.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-118, regarding a report on an update on the City’s plan to expand the curbside composting program citywide.

Sundry communications on the closing of Petco and appeals to rescind the ban on non-rescue animal sales.

Resolution #1. Resolution on the death of Kathleen P. (Tracy) Carlisle.   Councillor Maher, Councillor Toomey

Kathy was my neighbor and a friend to all who knew her.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to mail the “Street Code” Booklet to all households in Cambridge as an educational outreach measure for road safety.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

There are a number of additions this otherwise decent booklet could use. For example, bicycles should be equipped not only with lights but with sufficiently bright lights that are not obscured by clothing, backpacks, or anything else. It’s stunning to see how many cyclists have dim lights or no lights at all. Batteries are not eternal. Dark clothing may be a great fashion statement, but it’s an invitation for disaster.

Order #3. That the City Manager request an investigation by the State Department of Public Utilities into the maintenance of the district energy system and ask appropriate officials from the State Department of Public Utilities to appear before the City Council to report on the state of repair of the district energy system in Cambridge and to discuss why there are no state regulations governing steam energy systems in Massachusetts when it is widely known that these operations create potential serious public health hazards and risks.   Councillor Maher, Councillor Toomey, Mayor Simmons

I’m not sure what this is about but it has an ominous tone to it.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 10, 2017 to discuss feedback on bike safety related issues, and to plan for future bike safety measures in the City of Cambridge.

This was a meeting designed to not listen to anything the Chair didn’t want to hear.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Vice Mayor Marc McGovern, transmitting Opioid Working Group Report.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #4. 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 7, 2017 for City Council.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #5. 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 7, 2017 for School Committee.

There is a minor error in the posted Final Official Results for the City Council election. The actual order of election was Simmons, Siddiqui, McGovern, Devereux, Zondervan, Mallon, Toomey, Carlone, Kelley. The posted document has Mallon and Zondervan in the reverse (incorrect) order. Additional information is posted on the CCJ Elections Page. – Robert Winters

November 13, 2017

Featured Items on the Nov 13, 2017 City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,campaign finance,elections — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:13 am

Featured Items on the Nov 13, 2017 City Council Agenda

City HallFor the moment at least, all six incumbents who ran to retain their seats seem to have been reelected. We’ll know for sure on Friday (Nov 17) unless the closeness of the results warrants a recount. In the meantime, here are a few items of interest on this week’s agenda.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $2,274,829 from Free Cash to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund. Funds appropriated to the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund will be used to fund specific projects which will require individual appropriations by the City Council for the related projects in the future.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to adopt the Alexandria Zoning Petition regarding Innovation Space in the PUD-3A and PUD-4C Districts.

Manager’s Agenda #14. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report 16-86, regarding a report on which public campaign finance options are legal for municipal elections in Cambridge; and Awaiting Report 17-84, regarding potential plans and options, responsive to community concerns, for creating a program of tax revenue financing for candidates running for City Council and School Committee in the City of Cambridge.

This is a topic that deserves a lot more discussion than was ever permitted in either the NLTP Committee (no idea why it would even be discussed as part of "neighborhood and long-term planning" or "public facilities" or "arts and celebrations") or the Government Operations Committee. It’s not something Cambridge could even do without approval from the State Legislature and it’s not at all clear that such approval would be forthcoming. In addition, there has been no indication of what scale of funding would be asked – and that’s important in light of the fact that the total campaign expendtitures for the recent City Council election now totals about $600,000 and climbing. The correlation between campaign spending and electoral results is also not at all clear. The cost per #1 vote as of today among successful City Council campaigns runs from a low of $9.75 to a high of $33.50 (these numbers will rise).

It’s also worth noting that MANY Cambridge voters are now consulting the Cambridge Candidate Pages and other resources to learn about candidates, and that costs NOTHING. Indeed the number of visitors to the Cambridge Candidate Pages last week went like this: Nov 4: 1,082; Nov 5: 1699; Nov 6: 6,632; Nov 7 (Election Day): 11,058; Nov 8: 3,584; Nov 9: 941. That’s a lot of visits for an election that had about 22,600 voters, and the Cambridge Candidate Pages aren’t even linked from any City website.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to appoint a Transportation Task Force to develop a large and comprehensive street safety and education plan that speaks to the needs of bicyclist, motorists, and pedestrians, and that can be easily disseminated and understood by all citizens. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Oct 30, 2017]

At this point I’m leaning toward the belief that we should transition toward a single Transportation Board that has subcommittees for transit, motor vehicles, bicycling, and pedestrians. Single issue advocacy has become King and ideas like balance and collaboration among stakeholders has become all but lost. It’s become militant with single-issue advocates using social media to pack any and all meetings. I gave up going to these meetings. It’s become just Bad Political Theater at this point and, contrary to claims of relative safety, it’s really all about turf – establish a beachhead and then defend it even against reasonable criticism.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City departments and report back to the City Council with an update on the City’s plans to expand the curbside composting program citywide.   Councillor Cheung

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 12, 2017 to discuss a Zoning Petition filed by Christopher D. Smith, et al., to create a new Section 13.913 Graduate Student Housing Production Requirement. This petition would require new graduate housing to be built in conjunction with the development of commercial uses in the proposed Planned Unit Development 7 District as well as a phasing plan to implement graduate housing development.

Everyone agrees with the idea that MIT and other universities should provide adequate housing options for their students. As we saw with the recent Volpe Petition, this has been acknowledged by MIT and they are planning accordingly. This Smith Petition, on the other hand, is not only moot but misdirected. – Robert Winters

October 31, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 267-268: Oct 31, 2017

Episode 267 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 31, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 31, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics: The upcoming Nov 7, 2017 municipal election. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 268 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 31, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 31, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: The upcoming Nov 7, 2017 municipal election. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 30, 2017

Wishin’ & Hopin’ & Thinkin’ & Prayin’ – Oct 30, 2017 City Council meeting agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 am

Wishin’ & Hopin’ & Thinkin’ & Prayin’ – Oct 30, 2017 City Council meeting agenda

City HallWith the 2017 municipal election just a week away and the Volpe Petition settled last week, it’s doubtful that more than a handful of people are even paying attention to this meeting. Here are the items that piqued my interest:

Charter Right #1. Right of first refusal 2 [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Cheung on Oct 23, 2017]

This was one of three interrelated Orders submitted last week. The first, Oct 23 Order #6, was a statement of support for House Bill 3017 that would give tenants the Right of First Refusal in the event that a property is put on the market for sale. The second, Oct 23 Order #7, is a proposed Condominium Conversion Ordinance that would, among other provisions, also grant a right of first refusal to existing tenants. Both of these Orders were referred to the Housing Committee. The third, Oct 23 Order #8, calls for Home Rule legislation to adopt a local Right of First Refusal Ordinance in Cambridge independent of any action the State may or may not take. Order #7 and Order #8 both appeared as Late Orders at the Oct 23 meeting.

Personally, I believe any longtime-owner-occupied property should be exempt from any such proposed regulation. Such homeowners may choose to offer long-term tenants a chance to own, but that should be their choice and not a government mandate.

Order #1. That the regular City Council Meeting scheduled for Mon, Nov 6, 2017 be changed to a Roundtable/Working Meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Housing Policy that was forwarded to the Housing Committee on Sept 18, 2017.   Mayor Simmons

Honestly, few if any of the six councillors who are seeking reelection will be focused on this topic or any other topic unrelated to their reelection, and that’s perfectly understandable.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City Departments to develop a document explaining how to ride a bike safely in Cambridge, and post in visible locations, on every Hubway station in the city.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

That’s a document I may wish to write. I would make it a multi-part project with several sections: (1) How to Drive Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere); (2) How to Bike Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere); and (3) How to Walk Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere). The City’s answer to all of these questions during the past year generally involved white plastic posts, minimal public process, and segregation. Judicious use of green paint on the pavement in Inman Square, in contrast, has done more to enhance safety than any of the "demonstration projects" or future proposals to relocate cyclists onto busy sidewalks.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to convene a Comprehensive Arts Working Group, comprised of people from across the broad spectrum of ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds in our community, in order to begin drafting a Comprehensive Arts Planning Framework that shall help better incorporate the Arts into City planning and update the City Council on progress made toward appointing the members of this working group by the final City Council meeting of this term.   Mayor Simmons

Art by committee is unlikely to inspire anyone, but it would be good to give more thought to the aesthetics of new and reinvented urban spaces from the very start along with the function of those spaces. I don’t mind all the murals, but we could do a lot better than just murals. – Robert Winters

October 22, 2017

Countdown – Preview of Oct 23, 2017 Cambridge City Council Meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:37 pm

Countdown – Preview of Oct 23, 2017 Cambridge City Council Meeting

CountdownThe municipal election campaigns are heading into the home stretch right alongside the disposition of the MIT Volpe Zoning Petition. The Volpe vote is expected next week (Oct 30) and Election Day is Tues, Nov 7. Here are the items I found most interesting on the agenda:

Update: The MIT Volpe Petition was ordained as amended on an 8-0-1 vote with Councillor Carlone voting PRESENT. The associated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining MIT’s commitments was also approved on the same 8-0-1 vote.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a communication from the Planning Board relative to the Christopher D. Smith, et al., zoning petition regarding graduate student housing production associated with development in the proposed PUD-7 district.

I will simply say that any zoning petition that is only applicable to one specific owner/developer (as opposed to the property – independent of ownership) should not be approved. The underlying goal of universities providing more housing and more affordability for its students is great – and necessary, but lobbying for that goal should not be done via a zoning petition. It’s worth noting that MIT is now proactively addressing this need for additional housing, especially for graduate students. It’s also worth emphasizing that not all graduate students want to live in campus housing.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to information in response to discussion at the Ordinance Committee hearing of Oct 17, 2017 regarding the Volpe Petition.

Unfinished Business #7. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 13.90 to Article 13.000 and amend the Zoning Map to add new PUD-7 District. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Oct 16, 2017. Planning Board hearings held July 25, 2017 and Sept 12, 2017. Petition expires Oct 31, 2017.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 3, 2017 to continue discussion on a zoning petition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create a new Planned Unit Development Overlay District (PUD-7) over the area known as the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center site in Kendall Square; said discussion to include the Planning Board and Community Development’s response to the petition and staff recommendations as to changes and remaining issues to resolve and any other matter that comes before the committee.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 17, 2017 hearing to continue discussion on a zoning petition by MIT to create a new Planned Unit Development Overlay district (PUD-7) over the area known as the Volpe National Transportation systems Center site in Kendall Square; said discussion to focus on a final review of the zoning, review of the Design Guidelines and review of the Letter of Commitment.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting the Letter of Commitment from Massachusetts Institute of Technology relating to the amended zoning petition for PUD-7 District for the Volpe Transportation Center Site.

I won’t go into all the details here, but there are many reasons to support the MIT Volpe Petition (as currently amended and coupled with the proposed Memorandum of Understanding) and few reasons to oppose it. That said, this is coming before the City Council a week before Election Day, and there may be some political reasons that one or two councillors may manufacture in order to justify voting against it just to appeal to a particular constituency. In contrast, both co-chairs of the Ordinance Committee (Councillors Carlone and Cheung) deserve a lot of credit for moving this forward and shaping it along the way. MIT officials and those associated with the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo) also deserve praise for addressing so many of the requested changes and benefits from a range of stakeholders while still maintaining their fiduciary responsibilities. I don’t think the City could have had a better partner in this than MIT.


Order #1. That the City Manager is advised that ensuring the safety of cyclists at intersections is of critical importance to the Council, and providing for that safety will require a review of the causes and response to these two listed collisions, as well as other collisions and near collisions.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Devereux

There have been more than two such collisions, and the number of near misses is much higher. There are places where separated facilities make sense, but what the City did to Cambridge Street is ludicrous and I fear that they may repeat this error elsewhere unless there is some kind of intervention.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with Commissioner of the Department of Public Works to update the City Council on the plan for snow removal relating to the new infrastructure in Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

In this, I believe global warming may be an essential part of the City’s future plans for minimizing snow impacts on their poorly conceived road reconfigurations. If it does snow, some streets may simply become impassable for motor vehicles and for bicyclists. Where will they pile the snow? My guess is that they’ll just ban all parking on some streets until springtime even for relatively minor snow events. – Robert Winters

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