Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 23, 2019

Anxiously Waiting for Summer Recess – and Nomination Papers – June 24, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:22 pm

Anxiously Waiting for Summer Recess – and Nomination Papers – June 24, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

Dance Party (photo cropped from Press Release)This will be the last meeting until the Midsummer Meeting in late July. Committee meetings will continue here and there. Dance Party at City Hall this Friday. Candidates can pick up nomination papers for the municipal election starting next Monday (July 1). Here’s my first pass at the tastier items on the meeting menu:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $150,000 from excess FY19 parking fund revenue to the Public Investment Traffic and Parking Department Extraordinary Expenditures account, to establish 20 Mile Per Hour (MPH) Safety Zones on primarily local access streets across the City.

Sooner or later the argument will be made that 15mph is even safer. And so on. In truth, 20mph makes a lot of sense of some streets, but there are plenty of other streets where 20mph or even 25mph feels like an unnecessary crawl. Then again, with traffic congestion worse (by design), it’s all academic since you might rarely break 20mph anyway.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board not to adopt the New Street Overlay District Zoning Petition.

That’s two strikes. They apparently tried to sweeten the petition this time by including some subsidized housing in the mix, i.e. Let’s Make A Deal. This doesn’t have the votes to pass. Will there be a third attempt?

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]

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding Establishing the Equitable Regulation of the Cannabis Industry in the City of Cambridge.

The cannabis train keeps on rolling (slowly) along. The voters approved it but the really wacky part of this is the way some councillors are trying to microscopically tailor the language of the Permitting Ordinance in order to effectively select who will get the greatest advantage in obtaining a permit to operate a cannabis retail store and even how much shelf space will be allocated to what products.

Communications #2. A communication was received from Gregg Moree, 25 Fairfield Street, regarding several issues he needs the Cambridge Police Department’s help rectifying.

If ever there was something in writing that should disqualify a City Council candidate, perhaps this is it. I won’t bother to link to the text. This man is an embarrassment.

Resolution #1. Resolution on the death of Professor Ifeanyi Menkiti.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Kelley

I remember riding the MIT-Wellesley Exchange Bus with Professor Menkiti when I worked at Wellesley College. Farewell, sir.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to draft a zoning amendment that will count a portion of a new or substantially renovated building’s rooftop mechanicals (excluding solar installations) toward its allowed height and/or FAR.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

This isn’t the first time this matter has been addressed. There was the Citywide Rezoning Petition (Sept 2000) that considered issues of bulk and height related to rooftop mechanical equipment (among other things). There was also a zoning petition on this topic introduced in August 2003 and ordained Nov 3, 2003. This followed the Rooftop Mechanicals Task Force Recommendations of June 2003 which also looked at visual and acoustic issues. This new proposal appears to be primarily about height and density and the fact that some of these installations today are much larger than in days of yore.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and the City Hall building staff to identify a suitable location other than the Sullivan Chamber where the state flag may be displayed in compliance with state law.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

We may soon need a "trigger alert" read at the start of every City Council meeting so that nobody is offended or traumatized by symbols or fabric or furniture or floor coverings. This Order actually symbolizes the distracted priorities of some councillors.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, Assessor’s Office, and the City Solicitor’s Office on developing a Vacant Storefront Registration Policy.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Collecting data and developing a database of such vacancies may be useful information, but the real question comes down to how that information will be used. There was a previous Order a couple of years ago that would have taxed such properties into oblivion. A far more thoughtful approach would be to provide incentives and guidance to get most of these properties back into active use – the carrot, not the stick.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to explain how Newport Construction was selected to work on the Inman Square redesign despite the serious allegations pending against them in Somerville.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone

Apparently the chosen contractor cut some trees down in Somerville. In the case of Inman Square, the City beat them to it.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Finance and Department of Human Services to explore options for incorporating additional line items in the FY20 Budget to allocate supplemental funds for legal aid services, housing stabilization and tenant education and organizing to prevent displacement and address its ramifications on Cambridge residents and families.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

These are basically all good ideas aimed at addressing things at a scale that actually matters, i.e. helping individuals rather than a wholesale policy change such as the proposed "100% Affordable Housing Overlay District" that seeks to move privately-owned residential property into public and quasi-public hands by allowing some select property developers to operate under radically different rules than other property owners.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes for the meeting of the ninth and last meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task.  [Links to all Task Force reports]

While the intention of this Task Force is laudable, some of the comments and recommendations of its members cross way over into the political, i.e. echoes of the Sanders campaign and the Occupy phenomenon of a few years back. Former and new City Council candidates have not hesitated to shower fellow Task Force members with self-serving stump speeches. I’m sure some good actions will grow out of this Task Force and a place like Central Square will be better for it, but I hope that delivering personal or political benefits to outspoken Task Force members should not be among the benefits. It’s right and proper that we should take a step back every few years and reconsider the various arts initiatives and institutions supported by the City to make sure they are delivering best outcomes for all the residents of the city. However, this really shouldn’t be driven by the discontinuation of one person’s arrangement with the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC) or the loss of a rehearsal space in the old EMF building in Cambridgeport. – Robert Winters

June 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 5, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 399-400: June 4, 2019

Episode 399 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 4, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 4, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: modifying the PR ballot, PR misconceptions, Ranked Choice Voting for Presidential primaries, Democratic realities, candidate updates, campaign finance, PR election strategizing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 400 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 4, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 4, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Reefer Madness; Mapping Feminist Cambridge, Mapping Utopia, walking tours; Mark McCabe retirement; TNCs and the taxi industry, liquor licences, AirBnB; Zero Waste and the evolution of recycling. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 10, 2019

AAA Inman Zero Waste Outstanding Dogs – Catching Up on the Cambridge News (March 10, 2019)

Zero Wast CambridgeZero Waste Master Plan Draft open for comment

For more than a year, the City has been developing a Zero Waste Master Plan. The City is seeking your feedback on the Draft Plan and the six Appendices. Visit CambridgeMA.Gov/ZWMP to review and submit comments until March 15, 2019. The final Zero Waste Master Plan will be made public by April 4.

Feb 28 – The City of Cambridge has embarked on a path to Zero Waste to build upon its current waste management system and programs. The development of a Zero Waste Master Plan (ZWMP) and strategy is intended to assist with achieving the City’s goals of reducing waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The public is invited to review a draft version of this plan and send comments through March 15, 2019, to

The recommendations developed for the ZWMP will help support the Department of Public Works’ (DPW) guiding principles of providing high-quality public services, protecting and supporting the health of employees and the public, and managing costs and reducing trash. Learn more about how the City’s 25,000 tons of trash, recycling and composting is sorted – what’s landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted – in Appendix 1 of the Zero Waste Master Plan.

The Zero Waste Master Plan (ZWMP) will guide the City in:
• Meeting trash reduction goals of 30% reduction by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050 from 2008 waste levels.
• Maintaining high quality public services to manage waste disposal
• Maximize operational efficiency
• Protecting employee health and safety
• Evaluating costs for managing waste
• Exploring the impact of waste reduction on GHG emission goals

The ZWMP will also coordinate with the efforts of the citywide comprehensive plan, Envision Cambridge.

For more information, visit

Upcoming Waste Events
Fri. 3/15: Last day to comment on Draft Zero Waste Master Plan.
Mon. 3/25: MassRecycle Summit, Sheraton Hotel Framingham.
Thurs. 4/4: New recycling program begins–TBA in March.
Sat. 4/6: Hazardous Waste Day for Cambridge residents, near 125 Munroe St.
Sat 5/18: Fix-It Clinic at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway.

All Cambridge Dog Licenses Expire March 31, 2019

Dog LicenseState law requires that all dogs over 6 months have a current dog license. The dog license period in Cambridge, MA runs from April 1 of the current year until March 31 of the following year.

Cambridge residents can apply for or renew their dog’s license online or download the paper application to renew via mail or in person, following instructions on the respective form.

In order to obtain a dog license, you will need:

  • A rabies vaccination certificate with an expiration date or copy of medical records with rabies expiration date;
  • Proof of spay or neuter (if not shown before), actual surgery certificate or if noted on Rabies/Medical History;
  • FEES: Spayed Female/Neutered Male ($10); Un-Spayed Female/Un-Neutered Male ($30)
  • If licensing by mail, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope;
  • Please make check or money order payable to City of Cambridge, or payments can also be made in cash. Credit cards are not accepted in the office, but can be used for online renewals.

The Cambridge Animal Commission is located at 344 Broadway and its hours of operation are: Monday – Friday, 8:30am-7pm.

For more information, please contact Cambridge Animal Commission at 617-349-4076 or

City of Cambridge Announces Inman Square Loyalty Program
The Program Encourages Patrons to Support Local Inman Square Businesses During Construction

The Cambridge Community Development Department will launch the Inman Square Loyalty Program on Friday, March 1. The Loyalty Program is designed to encourage Cambridge residents, employees, and visitors to continue supporting local businesses in the Inman Square business district during the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project construction period. Those who participate in the Inman Square Loyalty Program will be entered in a monthly raffle.

To participate in the Inman Square Loyalty Program:

  • Pick up an Inman Square Loyalty Card at participating Inman Square businesses.
  • Make six purchases at participating businesses each month and get your Loyalty Card stamped after each transaction.
  • Return your completed Loyalty Card to drop boxes located throughout Inman Square.

The Community Development Department will select two winners at the end of each month through a raffle drawing. Winners will receive a $50.00 gift certificate to an Inman Square business of their choice. Customers are limited to submitting one completed Loyalty Card per month.

“Our local businesses are an important part of our community and I am pleased that we are piloting this new program to help encourage residents and visitors to continue patronizing businesses during the upcoming construction project,” said Louis DePasquale, City Manager. “I appreciate the close collaboration between our City departments and the local business community to make this pilot a reality.”

“The pilot Inman Square Loyalty Program is part of our efforts to mitigate City construction-related impacts for local businesses,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “Inman Square is a vibrant part of Cambridge’s retail economy, and the program encourages people to continue enjoying its diverse dining and shopping options during construction.”

The Community Development Department, Department of Public Works, and City Manager’s Office are collaborating with the East Cambridge Business Association, the Inman Square Neighborhood Association, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and Cambridge Local First to provide additional resources and programming that will support local businesses during the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project.

“Supporting small business owners becomes even more important when they face construction projects,” said Jason Alves, Director of East Cambridge Business Association. “The Inman Square Loyalty Program will help remind people of the positive impact they can have on their community each and every time they make a decision to spend their dollars locally. It will be great to see the community get behind our businesses and win some prizes that will further support those impacted.”Inman Square Intersection

To learn more about upcoming events and resources related to Inman Square construction mitigation efforts, visit

Project Update

Residents, and business owners and staff are invited to stop by a Coffee Talk to meet with City staff and contractors and ask questions related to current and upcoming construction in Inman Square.

Thursday, March 14th

Olé Restaurant
11 Springfield St.

Additional Coffee Talks will be held monthly throughout the project at different times and locations to accommodate as many interested neighbors as possible.

If you have questions or concerns about the Inman Square project, you may contact Kate Riley, DPW Community Relations Manager at (617) 349-4870 or More information about the project in general, as well as the December 2018 Construction Update newsletter can be found at

FoundryCalling all Cambridge Neighbors!
Cambridge FOUNDRY

In 2021, a new center for the arts and STEM will open at 101 Rogers Street. The Foundry building is a historic building reuse project that will allow the Cambridge community to enjoy performances, be creative and make things, and attend workshops to learn new skills.

Join the Foundry Consortium at Abigail’s Restaurant over coffee and scones for our first discussion about what you would like to see happening at the Foundry.

Saturday, March 16, 2019
Abigail’s Restaurant
291 Third Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Please RSVP by Friday, March 15, 2019. If you know someone who would be interested in joining us, please forward this email or download our flyer.

Cambridge Awarded AAA Ratings
Nations three major credit rating agencies affirm City’s status for 20th year

March 4, 2019 – The City of Cambridge has retained its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the U.S. to earn AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. Each year since 1999, the city has received these ratings from Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

“I want to acknowledge the City Council’s leadership for adopting and maintaining sound fiscal policies, and city department heads and staff for their commitment to prudently managing their budgets and programs,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “One of the many factors contributing to the city receiving these ratings is our strong and dedicated team.”

The AAA ratings are in conjunction with the city’s sale of $90.6 million in General Obligation bonds. These sales will finance capital projects such as King Open and Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex, sewer reconstruction, street and sidewalk reconstruction, and other municipal and school building design and renovations.

Over the last 20 years, the AAA rating has enabled the city to finance a variety of major capital projects at very favorable rates that, in turn, result in savings to taxpayers.

As the city undertakes a significant increase in debt issuance over the next few years to fund it’s school rebuilding program, the AAA rating will play a significant role in enabling the city to secure the most favorable interest rates. This is especially important as the city embarks on funding its third school project (Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper Schools) with an estimated cost of $250 million. Overall, including the Tobin School project, the city is projected to spend a total of $505 million for the three school projects. In addition, the bonding schedule includes significant obligations for renovations to Fire Headquarters and other city buildings.

“We take a long-term approach to our fiscal planning, and our fiscal strategies and management practices have real impacts on Cambridge taxpayers,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “We’ve built significant reserves, which in part serve as the city’s insurance policy, and our financial success is only possible because of the collaboration that occurs between the City Council and the city administration.”

Below are excerpts from the Rating Agencies reports. (Download Full Reports)

Moody’s Investors Service
Cambridge, Massachusetts (Aaa stable) benefits from a sizeable and diverse tax base that continues to grow significantly year over year. The city’s economy is driven largely by the presence of Harvard University (Aaa stable) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Aaa stable) and the impressive research and development sector. The city’s financial position is strong with very healthy liquidity and reserves that are maintained by strong fiscal management. Both the debt burden and long term liabilities for pension and OPEB are conservatively managed and will remain manageable over the near term.

Credit strengths cited include:

  • Large and diverse tax base anchored by institutional presences and robust commercial sector;
  • Healthy financial position guided by formal policies;
  • Strong fiscal management;
  • Ample operating flexibility with excess levy capacity under Proposition 2½; and
  • Expected to fully fund pension liability by 2026

Fitch Ratings
The city’s ‘AAA’ GO bond rating and Issuer Default Rating (IDR) reflect Fitch Ratings’ expectation for Cambridge to maintain a high level of financial flexibility through economic cycles, consistent with a history of strong operating performance and budget controls. The ratings further reflect the city’s wealthy and growing property tax base, moderate expenditure growth and its demonstrated ability to reduce expenditures during economic downturns.

Fitch expects long-term liabilities to remain low based on the city’s manageable capital needs, rapid principal amortization, continued growth in economic resources and a practice of fully funding actuarially determined pension contributions.

Standard & Poor’s Corporation
The rating reflects our opinion of Cambridge’s extremely strong property tax base that continues to grow within the Boston metropolitan statistical area (MSA), supporting continued positive budgetary performance that has led to improved reserves. The city has a favorable debt profile with the ability to absorb additional debt plans.

Key factors cited include management’s:

  • Conservative revenue and expenditure assumptions in the budgeting process that focus on five years of historical information;
  • Quarterly reports on budget-to-actual results and investments to the city’s finance and investment committees, respectively;
  • Long-term financial plan with credible assumptions;
  • Five-year capital plan with identified funding sources, which it is expanding to include a municipal-facilities-improvement plan;
  • Robust debt and investment policy it reviews at least annually to demonstrate adherence; and
  • Reserve policy that requires maintaining a minimum 15% of expenditures.

Nominations Sought for Outstanding City of Cambridge Employee Awards

March 8, 2019 – Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking nominations for the 2019 Outstanding City Employee Awards program which recognizes employees for exemplary performance and contributions that go above and beyond job requirements.

Cambridge city government is made up of dedicated employees who strive to provide a high level of quality services to all its citizens. The annual awards ceremony provides a special opportunity to give extra recognition to a few exemplary individuals who will be recognized at a special awards ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2019.

The Outstanding City Employee Awards are designed to recognize contributions that are above and beyond job requirements. Criteria for determining outstanding performance include:

  • Demonstrated strong leadership and a high level of commitment to the city and its residents.
  • Demonstrated outstanding customer service to the public and/or fellow employees.
  • Developed an innovative or creative solution to a problem.
  • Made superior contribution to the success of a project, completing work on time and within budget.
  • Donated significant time to activities that benefit the Cambridge community. Encouraged and valued community involvement.
  • Demonstrated an exceptional ability to work in a multicultural organization.
  • Consistently contributed to better city operations.

All City employees are eligible for nomination. Anyone who lives or works in Cambridge may nominate one or more city employees for recognition. Individuals are not limited as to how many employees s/he chooses to nominate, but must submit a separate Nomination Form or letter for each employee. An employee may not nominate her or his own supervisor or department head for recognition.

Nominations are due by Friday, April 12, 2019 and can be submitted online. Alternatively, a signed nomination letter may also be submitted in person to the Personnel Department, Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor, via fax to 617-349-4312, or email to

For more information, see this story in the news section of the city’s website,, or contact Maryellen Carvello at or 617-349-4300.

February 6, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 371-372: Feb 5, 2019

Episode 371 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 5, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 5, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Patriots; Trees, continued; Eversource & Infrastructure; Assessing Upzoning; 20mph speed limit sign deluge. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 372 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 5, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 5, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Cannabis tax; Al Vellucci; Young’uns and Commissions; Board of Fun. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 29, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 369-370: Jan 29, 2019

Episode 369 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Proposed moratorium on tree removals; Jan 28 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 370 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 29, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 29, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Bottled water; value of upzoning; public funding for municipal elections (again); Jan 29 City Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 17, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 345-346: Oct 16, 2018

Episode 345 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 16, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 16, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Baseball, Oct 15 Council meeting, Inman Square, Subsidized Housing Overlay controversy, Envision Cambridge. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 346 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 16, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 16, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Zero Waste Report, urban design & retail (creating active storefronts), Central Square, upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 15, 2018

Notable items on the Oct 15, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:07 am

Notable items on the Oct 15, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at the interesting stuff up for discussion at this week’s meeting:

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $160,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account which will fund an expansion of free food programming for Cambridge youth.

Expanded Free Breakfast & Lunch in Cambridge schools and pre-schools courtesy of Mother Cambridge.

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5,000,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures Account to support the completion of the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding Inman Square Redesign Project.

There are some who still feel that the plan needs revision (including Councillor Kelley), but the judge isn’t going to look at the twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-76, regarding a report on Linkage fee as part of the Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.

Another study coming. At least this time there will also be effort expended to measure the impact of new nonresidential development on employment opportunities for Cambridge residents (could there be a positive impact?). Currently any linkage fees exacted from new development go toward subsidized housing. Some might argue that the greatest deficiency in how these nexus studies and associated linkage fees work is that they do little to address the lack of access for existing residents to jobs in all these new bright shiny buildings, and building additional subsidized housing without such access to employment isn’t necessarily the best strategy.

Charter Right #1. That the Envision Cambridge draft recommendations should be reviewed by the entire City Council in respective committees.

As I have said previously, handing a laundry list of suggestions from Envision Cambridge working committees to each of the City Council committees hardly seems like the best path toward comprehensive planning (you know – the Master Plan). Maybe they just want the Faster Plan.

Order #1. That the City Manager confer with the City Solicitor’s Office on the legal question and the feasibility of placing a condition in public bidding documents prohibiting municipal contractors from displaying any signage—other than company markers and contact information—on vehicles.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

Though I don’t know for sure (really, I do), I believe this Order came about because somebody snapped a picture of a cement truck that had "Make America Great Again" on it.

Order #4. That the Chairs of the Ordinance Committee schedule a hearing on Tree Protections and the Chairs of the Health & Environment Committee schedule public hearings on Tree Protections and the preliminary results from the Ordinance Committee hearing.   Councillor Zondervan

I may just have to take down sooner than later that problematic ash tree in my yard that’s leaning on my roof. Otherwise, if a new ordinance is passed I may need a lawyer and an additional check.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to investigate the queries posed by the Economic and University Relations Committee for a City-Based Cannabis Social Equity Program.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Cast me out from the community, if you will, but I simply cannot wrap my head around a policy that gives preferential treatment to relatives of people convicted of drug-related crimes. Ensuring that the new dope industry provides economic opportunity broadly, i.e. "social equity", is one thing, but getting nailed for dealing dope under previous laws should not provide an advantage over those who lived within the law.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 27, 2018 to discuss Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut continues. I spoke my mind on this subject at the most recent meeting of the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group (which really should be renamed the "Subsidized Housing Working Group" based on the fact that they never addressed housing generally). As I have stated repeatedly, it’s certainly true that people want housing to be affordable in the sense that a typical person or family can find a place to buy or rent within their budget, but this is not the same as advocating for a dramatic increase in subsidized housing (of which Cambridge already has a significant amount when you add up all the Housing Authority properties, Inclusionary housing units, etc.). Indeed, I think an argument can be made that the singular focus on subsidized housing may be contributing to the non-affordability of housing generally. The best affordable housing program ever conceived was the proliferation of multi-family housing, and that involved no government subsidy at all.

Better ideas would be to permit multi-family housing in all zones, adjust allowable densities to better reflect the existing built environment, and work regionally to increase the overall housing stock. As I stated at the very first meeting of the Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee, constructing many housing units in Somerville’s Union Square, in Everett, in Allston, and elsewhere will do more toward making housing more affordable in Cambridge than anything. Only when people have options can they make rational economic choices. It is the shortage of available better options that allows housing costs in Cambridge to rise unchecked.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 12, 2018 to discuss Storefront Vacancies Best Practices.

Though I suppose I like the idea of "pop up" art in vacant storefronts, it’s a poor substitute for actual retail. On a related matter, current state law requires all new marijuana stores to obscure the views into these establishments (kinda like a speakeasy in the prohibition era). The crappy response has been to propose putting artsy stuff in the front windows. There are better approaches. My proposal is to create arcade-like shallow retail operations on these frontages. How about a hot dog vendor? A newsstand (if anyone still buys newspapers/magazines)? Maybe just a simple water bottle filling station. How about just creating a recessed area with an awning where a local vendor can sell hats, scarves, or trinkets? There are plenty of other good ideas. I would make the same proposal for other "formula businesses" to create active, low-cost, retail opportunities. – Robert Winters

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