Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 7, 2019

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Here’s this week’s sampler of things interesting and/or infuriating (grouped as appropriate):

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the City Council zoning petition to amend Article 19.000 of the Zoning Ordinance regarding utility and infrastructure impacts of large development projects that require a Project Review Special Permit.

Order #8. Public Utilities’ Planning and public meetings.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

The Planning Board basically said in recommending against this petition that though they would like Project Review Special Permit applicants to provide information about energy needs, etc., they don’t believe it’s in their purview "to make findings with regard to infrastructure that is managed by state-regulated public utilities over which neither the City nor the developer have control." They also expressed concern that the proposed changes might prevent development projects that could otherwise improve existing infrastructure (as mitigation). The Board did acknowledge the value of receiving information on the overall impact of a particular project on the energy system and the cumulative impacts of new development but did not support precluding projects strictly on the basis of such information.

The context of this proposal is the proposed Eversource substation on Fulkerson St. and the fact that with new development comes the need for such facilities – unless you are of the belief that all new buildings can be built honestly "net zero". The fact is that most, perhaps all, buildings that are advertised as "net zero" still require energy off the grid. The "net zero" identification is achieved by creative accounting, i.e. by purchasing energy from renewable sources and by buying of energy credits. This doesn’t eliminate the need for the infrastructure to deliver the energy.

Order #8 seeks "to institute regularly scheduled, public conversations between the Planning Board and public utility representatives from Eversource, the Water Department, Comcast, Verizon, and any other appropriate entities, in order to keep the City and the public informed." That’s a good idea regardless how one feels about this specific zoning petition.


Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2020.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding not using excess balances to lower the tax levy.

The FY20 property tax levy based on the approved FY20 Budget is $438,128,694, an increase of $28,318,833 or 6.9% from FY19. For comparison sake, the current national inflation rate is 1.7%. The FY20 Adopted Operating Budget increased by 5.7% over the FY19 Adjusted Budget. The FY19 levy was 5.3% over FY18.

The FY20 residential tax rate will be $5.75 per thousand dollars of value, subject to Department of Revenue approval – a decrease of $0.19 or -3.2% from FY19. The commercial tax rate will be $12.68 – a decrease of $1.03 or -7.5% from FY19. However, before you pop the champagne corks to celebrate the lower tax rate, note that assessed values continue to soar. Total residential property values increased by 9.9%, and total commercial property values increased by 15.6%, so the median tax bills (including the residential exemption) will all be jumping – 8.9% for single-family homes, 7.4% for two-families, 6.0% for three-families, and just the tiniest of increase of 2.8% for condominiums.

I find it interesting and somewhat alarming that at City Council candidate forums some incumbents and challengers continue to celebrate how flush with cash we are and that we should be substantially increasing spending. As the noted letter indicates this also appears to be the sentiment of the major players with endorsing organizations like ABC. There was even one candidate at a forum last night who proposed that the City simply buy up all residential housing in Cambridge and turn it into "social housing". At the signpost up ahead, The Twilight Zone.


Charter Right #6. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to determine whether it would be possible to allow a permitted area for serving alcoholic beverages on Danehy Park property during special community-wide events.

As I said when this was introduced – great idea, and consistent with policies that the DCR has adopted for some of its parks.


Unfinished Business #12. A Zoning Petition has been received from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. et al proposing a Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District [Ordination Comes on or after Oct 7, 2019]

Communications #39. A communication was received from Joseph T. Maguire, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. regarding Amended Zoning Petition for Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

Alexandria is asking that the petition be allowed to expire so that it can be re-filed. This matter is also intertwined with the Eversource substation matter.


Applications & Petitions #2. An application was received from &Pizza, requesting permission for a sandwich board sign in front of the premises numbered 3 Brattle Street with a start date of Dec 1, 2019 thru Mar 31, 2020 and a start time of 11:00am and a end time of 11:00pm.

Applications & Petitions #5. A Zoning Petition has been received from Suzanne P. Blier regarding Harvard Square Zoning Petition.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Harvard Square Business Association and the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association to determine the feasibility of closing some portion of Harvard Square to vehicular traffic on a select number of days during the summer of 2020 to have open market-style events.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

It is worth noting (and celebrating) that the freshly introduced Harvard Square Zoning Petition is the result of collaboration among residents and property owners who haven’t always been on speaking terms. Kudos once again to future Nobel Peace Prize nominee Patrick Barrett for helping this process along. We all want to see a Harvard Square revival – and not just for occasional one-day events. As for the sandwich board sign in front of &Pizza, I thought having one of the most prominent locations in the heart of Harvard Square would speak for itself – no extra signage required. I’ll add that really good pizza also speaks for itself.


Communications #2-6,12. Sundry communications re: "Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay".

Is anyone listening? Or are 5 councillors still biding their time in the hope that they can inflict this or worse on the city after January 1?

Communications #10. A communication was received from Gregg Moree, 25 Fairfield Street, regarding State Senator Sal DiDomenico clear evidence of him going to Florida without permission.

Unbelievable. Sometimes I feel that the requirement for candidacy should be something other than just 50 signatures.

Communications #13-36. Sundry communications re: support for bike lanes.

Basically all the same letter saying the same thing about how the priorities of one group of stakeholders outweigh all other considerations and there is one and only one way to make cycling safer.


Order #3. That the full City Council ask the City Solicitor to report back on the legal authority of the City to ban the use of natural gas in newly constructed buildings.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor, Community Development, Public Works, Inspectional Services and any other related departments to review the proposed amendments regarding the prohibition of Natural Gas Infrastructure in New Buildings.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux

Committee Report #1. 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 Sept 25, 2019 regarding banning natural (fracked) gas infrastructure in Cambridge.

As I wrote elsewhere regarding candidates, some want to mandate change and remove choice. The better candidates want to encourage change and provide incentives. It’s a big difference. Some candidates think primarily in terms of bans and reducing options. Others believe in expanding choice and providing good alternatives from which to choose. I personally prefer using a gas stove. I also believe my natural gas heat is considerably less expensive than the electric alternative.


Relic of the Washington Elm
Circular box carved from a
piece of the Washington Elm
Washington Elm postcard

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Arts Council and the Department of Public Works, in conjunction with the Rindge School of Technical Arts, to determine the best re-use for the four honey locust logs from Inman Square to create public art for the community.   Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 17, 2019 to discuss the preserved Inman Square tree trunks and receive input from the public on possible future uses of the wood, which is a public resource.

This is perhaps one of the tiniest of agenda items, but I really like the idea of using the wood from identified trees either as public art or as mementos. I have a little circular box made from the famous Washington Elm that once stood at Garden and Mason Streets. I have other pieces of that tree as well.


Order #5. That the City Manager have appropriate city staff review the proposed Welcoming Community Ordinance.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 2, 2019 at 3pm to discuss the Welcoming Community Ordinance.

This is basically just an updated version of the existing Sanctuary City resolution but in the form of an ordinance that specifically addresses how the Cambridge Police and other City departments should interact with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The City Solicitor expressed that Council should be careful when limiting a police officer’s discretion to enforce laws, and I agree completely. I do find merit in Sanctuary City principles in that I certainly don’t want people to stop reporting crimes or contacting the Fire Dept. or other services out of fear of being nailed for their immigration status.


Order #7. Fuel pump warning labels.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Sign, sign everywhere a sign blocking out the scenery breakin my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to allocate more funds in the FY21 budget to Inspectional Services to help combat the city-wide rodent issue and report back on the feasibility of providing monetary compensation to homeowners who have had to self-finance traps and what funds could be allocated in the future to help homeowners buy traps.   Councillor Toomey

What about those of us who live next to a building where the property owner (and tenants) don’t properly address their rodent infestation even after the City has been contacted, fines have been issued, and the problems persist? Getting reimbursed for partially addressing problems on an adjacent property that spills over onto your own property hardly seems like a solution.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Budget Department, the Assessor’s Department and the Community Development Department to consider directing a portion of future PILOT funds into the Affordable Housing Trust starting in FY21.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Earmarking funds in this way is generally a bad idea. Same goes for previous notions of dedicating cannabis-related funds toward purposes unrelated to its impacts. Priorities and needs change and restricting in-lieu-of-tax funds from universities to one purpose is short-sighted.

Order #15. That the City Council go on record in support of House Bill 3116, Senate Bill 2034, and the establishment of Governor Baker’s Low-speed Mobility Device Advisory Working Group as part of the Safe Driving Legislation, Senate Bill 7.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This is a good idea and overdue. That said, if anyone thinks that electric scooters and skateboards are going to go a long way toward solving transportation needs, think again.

Order #16. Creating the Director of Arts and Culture Position.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons

I have to seriously question the motivation for this Order. If some councillors have questions about how the Cambridge Arts Council prioritizes arts and cultural matters in the city, that’s a totally reasonable inquiry. If they believe that additional staff may be required, that’s also a reasonable thing to ask of the City Manager in the next Budget cycle. However, asking to create a highly specific "Director of Arts and Culture" position seems like these councillors are stepping way over the line into city management. Should the whole universe of how the City supports arts and culture be reviewed periodically? Absolutely, and the City Manager should regularly challenge the Arts Council and other City-supported entities (like CMAC) to be the best they can be. We currently have an especially good Executive Director of the Arts Council in Jason Weeks, and I fail to see how creating a separate and parallel position will in any way further any goals that may have been expressed as part of the recent Arts Task Force.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development division of the Community Development Department to retain a financial/economic analyst to conduct a confidential financial analysis of NED’s pro forma to inform the council in confidence on the value of the proposed upzoning.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

This may make sense in this specific case since the proponent has offered to provide this financial information, but I hope that we don’t go down the road of only approving projects after analyzing the books of the proponents. Ideally zoning should be about good planning and betterment for the city and not on how much profit is permissible in the long run.

Order #21. Proposed amendment to City Ordinance 1.12.040 regarding City Solicitor opinion on proposed ordinances.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui

I don’t know if an ordinance change is necessarily warranted in this case, but it probably is a good idea to get the City Solicitor involved earlier in some of these matters rather than head down some roads leading to a dead end. – Robert Winters

September 24, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 419-420: Sept 24, 2019

Episode 419 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 24, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 24, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Bow Tie Ride; supervoters; First St. Garage/Courthouse resolution; Cannabis Business Ordinance approved; beer gardens in City parks. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 420 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 24, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 24, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Road ahead for bike lanes on Mass. Ave.; resources to find out about candidates; Candidate Pages, CCTV videos, forums; sage advice; Follow the Money; campaign propaganda. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 16, 2019

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:24 pm

Featured Items on the Sept 16, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at what I think is the interesting stuff. See below for snarky comments and enduring wisdom.City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-56, regarding a report on the feasibility of constructing a quick-build complete streets project to provide separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, from Sidney Street to Putnam Avenue.

Perhaps the most important statement in the report is this: "It is also important to note that the continued success of Central Square as a vibrant and livable community hub for business, culture, and government relies on a delicate balance of different activities that go beyond transportation. Any planning related to complete streets and reconfiguring Central Square for the benefit of street users of all ages and abilities must take into account a broad range of factors and stakeholders, to avoid taking any actions that would change that balance in a negative way. We want to ensure that as we contemplate changes that serve our City goals related to promoting sustainable transportation and improving access to community resources and economic opportunities, we do not inadvertently make it more difficult to achieve other goals that we have related to Central Square."

I fully expect the velo-zealots will demand that only their concerns should be addressed and that all others should just get on board. Hopefully reason will prevail and we won’t have people boarding buses while cyclists weave through the line of passengers, or have every cyclist in town dialing up See-Click-Fix because somebody had to make a delivery and had no choice but to encroach on their turf.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-69, regarding a report on the timeline and process for the Net Zero Action Plan 5-Year Review.

We all want energy efficiency but I seriously hope that the mandates don’t come crashing down on reasonable people living in older homes.


Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #7. A communication was received from Anthony Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 26, 2019 to discuss a petition received from Self Storage Group, LLC to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating a New Street Overlay District. ON OR AFTER AUG 18, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON ORDINATION

Unfinished Business #12. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Vice Mayor Devereux, regarding proposed amendments to the New Street Overlay District zoning petition.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk, Anthony I. Wilson, transmitting a memorandum from Adams and Rafferty, James J. Rafferty, P.C. regarding proposed Amendments and a related letter of Commitment for consideration by the City Council concerning the New Street Overlay Zoning Petition. The proposed Amendments consist of the addition of Sections 20.96.5 and Sections 20.96.6.

I have no particular opinion on this zoning petition, but it is worth noting that the Planning Board gave it a negative recommendation. The other thing worth noting is that it seems like standard operation procedure nowadays in Cambridge that no matter what the proposal you just promise to throw in a few "affordable housing" units and you’re good to go. Maybe even a tree or two if you still need that extra vote.


On the Table #1. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 4 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Sept 3, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

I hope we never have to suffer through this again but it would be naive to think this is how it will play out. The ABC zealots are already attacking "those wealthy anti-housing people" as part of their election strategy. I personally feel this matter was tabled last week primarily so that its supporters and potential supporters could weather the November election and then ram it through afterwards without fear. The fact is that it remains a shabbily crafted attempt to rewrite all of Cambridge housing policy so that policy-makers don’t have to address the general issue of affordability of housing locally and regionally.

Unfinished Business #4. 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

The Ordinance Committee hearing on this that was recessed in chaos will reconvene this Wednesday as they once again try to decide the winners in the "Who Wants to be a Millionnaire" sweepstakes.

Unfinished Business #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the License Commission and City Solicitor’s office to drop all charges against UpperWest and its owners, to reconsider UpperWest’s package store application, and to issue a public apology to UpperWest and its owners.

Councillor Zondervan may finally have his chance to express his undying love for some of the least likable people anywhere.

Unfinished Business #9. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to obtain a legal opinion from the City Solicitor regarding the License Commission’s authority with regard to the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of liquor licenses in the City of Cambridge.

Go ask Nancy. I think she’ll know.

Unfinished Business #10. A Zoning Petition has been received from Ben LoVemere regarding that the City Council ordain the Zoning language set forth relative the Alewife Quadrangle Northwest Overlay District.

Unfinished Business #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board report with no positive or negative recommendations on the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #13. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner, the Cambridge Carnival Committee, and the community to organize an alternative event to take place in Cambridge on the Carnival’s rain date, that will allow vendors to sell their products and potentially recover at least some of the costs.

While I think this is a good idea, the fact that violence has followed this Carnival is not something that can be ignored, and I seriously doubt if the organizers will be compensating the City for the additional police presence.

Applications & Petitions #2. A petition was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding Upgrade Cambridge Municipal Broadband Petition.

Show me the books. Many of us would welcome additional options for Internet and TV service, but my greatest fear is that whatever technology is used to build such a network could become obsolete the day after it’s put in place.

Order #7. That the City Council urge the MBTA to take whatever emergency measures are necessary to fast-track repairs to the elevators in the Central Square and Harvard Square MBTA stations, and to share these plans with the City Council in a timely manner.   Councillor Simmons

You can add to this the work on the new entrance to City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway. It seems that the new construction standard is to do a week of work, walk away for three weeks, then rinse and repeat. Modest scale construction projects shouldn’t take an eternity to complete. – Robert Winters

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 15, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 395-396: May 14, 2019

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

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


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

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

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 12, 2019

Preview – May 13, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:34 pm

Preview – May 13, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

City HallHere are a few items that might be of interest (or not):

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-139, regarding the possibility of planting a tree at the corner of Inman Street and Massachusetts Avenue, directly in front of City Hall.

This responds to a City Council Order that sought to "make a statement" by planting a prominent tree in front of City Hall. There are, of course, other statements that might go along with that gesture. As the response notes: "the area on the east lawn in front of City Hall has become an increasingly popular with families and neighbors who enjoy the afternoon and evening sun. Finally, there are concerns that the planting of an additional tree in front of a landmark building would obscure the view of City Hall and detract from the restoration of the landscaping that occurred during the 2000s."

Active use is a statement. Historic preservation and restoration are also statements. I would say that our esteemed Public Works Commissioner has offered a rather perfect remedy to plant one tree at the corner and three along the Inman Street side of City Hall – an otherwise forgettable patch of lawn that could use some dressing up. I’m sure former Councillor Born (who spearheaded the restoration of the area in front of City Hall two decades ago) will approve.

Communications #1. Written Protest to the zoning petition filed by Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridgeside Galleria Associates Trust (c/o New England Development), to amend the Zoning Ordinance by adding a Section 13.100 that creates a new PUD-8 District and to amend the Zoning Map by adding the new PUD-8 District, which District would include the property located at 100 Cambridgeside Place (currently zoned in the Business A and PUD-4 Districts).

This degree of protest may well cause this petition to require 7 of 9 votes to pass – a steep hill to climb. Perhaps if the petition were amended to replace the Cambridgeside Galleria with 100% subsidized housing it would sail through. Perhaps a local socialist State Representative would even get on board since it would involve smashing capitalism. I expect we may simply see some alteration of the proposed development, e.g. some height reductions.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and Department of Public Works to determine what facilities, parking changes, and other improvements to the pavement conditions would be necessary and feasible to make Massachusetts Avenue a quick-build Complete Street between Sidney Street and Putnam Avenue.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Do elected officials even bother any more to confer with the various stakeholders, e.g. business owners, transit agencies and their passengers, delivery vehicles? Or does it all come down to sucking up to social media savvy interest groups in a municipal election year? At the very least I would have expected the City Council Order to look more holistically at the parallel streets as part of any plan for better accommodating all vehicles passing through this part of Cambridge.

Order #3. City Council support of special commission to recommend changes to the seal and motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor CarloneGreat Seal of Massachusetts

I’ll repeat what I wrote 3 years ago when this last came up: Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject: ‘The seal was adopted by the Provincial Congress on Dec 13, 1780. The shield depicts an Algonquian Native American with bow and arrow; the arrow is pointed downward, signifying peace. A white star with five points appears next to the figure’s head. A blue ribbon (blue, signifying the Blue Hills of Quincy, Canton and Milton) surrounds the shield, bearing the state motto "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" This comes from the Book of Mottoes in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Denmark; written about 1659 by Algernon Sydney, English soldier and politician. It was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress and the literal translation is, "With a sword, she seeks quiet peace under liberty." Although the looser English translation more commonly used is, "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." Above the shield is the state military crest: a bent arm holding a broadsword aloft. The sword has its blade up, to remind that it was through the American Revolution that independence was won."

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with relevant departments to explore establishing a partnership between the City of Cambridge and the MBTA to offer CharlieCards at certain public buildings throughout the city.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Better yet – consult with the MBTA to have ATM-like CharlieCard charging stations in stores everywhere so that people can put money on their cards before they board a bus or enter a T station. The availability of cards is the easy part.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Department of Public Works to work with the Recycling Advisory Committee and other stakeholders to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic items in Cambridge.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

One bit of advice — this time consider heeding the advice of the Advisory Committee and don’t make changes on the fly at a committee hearing. Even better, spend some time learning about the recycling industry – from recovery of materials through the end markets. Recycling is as much about practicality as it is about idealism, and getting out too far ahead of the curve can often be counterproductive.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Electrical Department, Department of Public Works, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and the Community Development Department to explore a pilot for Level 1 (110V) EV and Micromobility charging stations on street light poles throughout the city.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

I’m sure maintenance won’t be an issue nor will vandalism. Yeah, right.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 10, 2019 to discuss the possibility of pursuing a home rule petition to lower the voting age in City elections to 16 years old.

Trade in those diapers for ballots! Seriously, even though age thresholds are pretty arbitrary I have not yet heard a convincing argument in favor of this change. As one person at this hearing pointed out – if a 16-year old can vote can he/she also run as a candidate? Would he/she need parental permission to be a candidate? In any case, the age for voting eligibility should be the same throughout the Commonwealth, so if anyone is so hot about this issue they should talk directly to the State Legislature. – Robert Winters

April 24, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 389-390: April 23, 2019

Episode 389 – Cambridge InsideOut: Apr 23, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Apr 23, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: FY2020 Budget; Central Square Business Improvement District (BID) petition filed; cities reshaping themselves. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 390 – Cambridge InsideOut: Apr 23, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Apr 23, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Webster Ave. bike alternatives; Eversource substation and misperceptions of risk; Courthouse opportunistic politics; cannabis proliferation; no-excuse absentee voting, lowering voting age, and non-citizen voting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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