Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

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

June 4, 2018

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Inman Square — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 3:11 am

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council returns Monday for another crack at the Vellucci Park matter. The rhetoric will likely go something like this: (1) "You have to save the trees to save the planet" – even though you could define the word ‘negligible’ by this and many other Cambridge initiatives on that front; or (2) "You have to enthusiastically support the proposed reconfiguration because it removes bicycles from the roadway" (even though it was our 4th choice out of 4 proposed designs); or (3) "If you disagree with our position you support the murder of innocents." Cambridge rhetoric can be a bit overwhelming at times. I just think we could do better if the whole process wasn’t driven by the obsessive falsehoods that only motor vehicles should be allowed to safely use Cambridge roadways and that the only safe place for a bicycle is on the sidewalk.

Anyway, here are a few items that may be of interest at this meeting:

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy.

I believe the City Manager gave a perfectly good response to this at the previous meeting, so I’ll be surprised if there’s anything else that needs to be said this week. My only curiosity lies with the question of whether the Water Board or the Water Department makes the decision if they disagree.

Charter Right #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

This requires 6 votes and it’s not at all clear that the votes are there. There are various reasons why some councillors might disapprove, and it’s not all about whether a few honey locusts get turned into mulch or if a roomy new Ganja Plaza is established adjacent to the new Cannabis Quickie Mart. At the very least, I’d like to see some more current statistics on traffic safety in Inman Square since the bike stripes appeared in the Square. It may be that $60 worth of paint makes for a better solution than $6 million and a year of disruption. The Public Comment should be entertaining, especially in counting all the permutations of the Talking Points sent out by the various advocacy groups who tutor people what to say and how to be as dramatic as possible.

Result: The Home Rule Petition was approved 6-3 (Carlone, Devereux, Mallon, Siddiqui, Zondervan, McGovern – YES; Kelley, Simmons, Toomey – NO)

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Mayor McGovern, transmitting amendments to Policy Order #3 of May 21, 2018 regarding the creation of a structured tax rate system for FY20.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, any change will require a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition, but there are some good reasons to crack open that Can of Worms. Some Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by the combination of rising rents (which include the real estate taxes) and shifting consumer habits. Tax changes may help, but there are other factors as well. Maybe we could consider exempting a portion of ground floor retail space like we do with the residential exemption.

Order #1. Issues to be resolved on the I-90 Interchange Project.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I have no dog in this race, but I’m eager to see the transformation of this area.

Order #3. Advancing Homelessness Issues Docket.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This Order is almost like an Index of the good initiatives now being considered at the State Legislature.

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and any other relevant departments to explore starting a Citizens’ Academy in Cambridge.   Councillor Mallon

I like this idea! Remember – indoctrination is not the same as education and encouragement. Show people how things work and where the on ramps are located, and then let them define how they want to exercise their citizenship.

Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Women’s Commission, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Community Development Department to commission a public art piece, statue, or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

I agree 100%. We already have a lot of establishments celebrating the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment. – Robert Winters

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