Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 31, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 327-328: July 31, 2018

Episode 327 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 31, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 31, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics were drawn from the July 30 Cambridge City Council meeting, especially the disposition of the Nakagawa-Brown petition. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 328 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 31, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 31, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topics were drawn from the July 30 Cambridge City Council meeting, and other things from around town. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

July 30, 2018

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:30 am

Endless Summer – July 30, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe City Council’s one summertime Special Meeting is this Monday. The actual number of agenda items is not unusually high for a Midsummer meeting, but the 1001 page package of Council materials surely must have violated some City tree ordinance or another. The likely big draw will be the Nakagawa-Brown Petition (which goes by various other marketing names) – the latest in a multi-decade effort to slow new construction in Cambridge. There’s also a proposed ordinance for how to regulate marijuana sales in our emerging world of people neutralized by mind-numbing cellphones, apps that erode personal navigational abilities, and substances that dull your mind.

Here are the agenda items I found either interesting, refreshing, or ridiculous – with minimal comment:

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-57, regarding a report on launching a program during the summer months to activate the front lawn of City Hall in the afternoons with games.


Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the Douglas Brown, et al., Zoning Petition.

Order #13. That the City Manager, with input from Mayor McGovern and the City Council, is requested to appoint an advisory committee to work through resiliency elements raised during the Envision process and through the Brown petition and report back to the City Council, with the input of the appropriate City agencies and departments.   Councillor Toomey

Committee Report #3. 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 June 27, 2018 to discuss the Zoning petition received from Douglas Brown et al to amend the zoning Section 20.70 Flood Overlay district and creation of a new Section 22.80 – Green Factor.

An enormous number of letters of formal opposition to the Nakagawa-Brown Petition.

The protest letters may represent a sufficiently high percentage of the affected land area that a super-duper majority of 7 of 9 votes would be needed for this zoning amendment to pass. [If you need my 0.07 acres to cross the threshold, let me know.] That said, it probably couldn’t muster 5 votes and will likely be allowed to expire without coming to a vote. There may be a few ideas contained in the petition that could be useful if revised and brought up in a different context, e.g. incentives for better use of privately owned open space and/or recommendations for greater resiliency in building infrastructure. The worst aspect of this petition, in my humble opinion, is that it is being sold as a "climate safety petition" as if the goal was to protect people when it’s primarily about limiting growth (which is a perfectly rational goal, but just be honest about it). Some of its supporters have even gone so far as to suggest that failure to pass this would be "immoral".

By the way, it’s not just the possibility of derailing the renovations to the Miller’s River Apartments that makes this petition problematic, and a few nit-picky amendments to carve out exceptions won’t make it any better. This petition would throw an enormous percentage of the city’s buildings into nonconformity and could turn even the most basic building modifications into an expensive legal nightmare. There’s also an apparent belief that property owners are incapable of making rational economic choices, e.g. taking steps to minimize future costly damage due to heavy rains or storm surges. The petitioners have apparently decided that only they can ensure your personal safety.


Update: Based on concerns that this proposed zoning amendment would jeopardize funding for the Millers River renovations as well as other proposed affordable housing projects, the City Council chose to move the petition to a 2nd Reading for the purpose of having that vote fail (which it did on a 4-5 vote with Councillors Carlone, Devereux, Kelley, and Zondervan voting to pass to a 2nd Reading and Councillors Mallon, Siddiqui, Simmons, Toomey, and Mayor McGovern voting against passing to a 2nd Reading). This not only ends the life of this petition but also prevents its reintroduction for the next two years. After the vote, Councillor Toomey made a motion for "Suspension of the Rules for the purpose of Reconsideration hoping the same will not prevail" – a parliamentary move to finalize the vote. That first requires that the Rules be suspended which requires 6 votes, and it failed on a 5-4 vote with those who had voted against passing to a 2nd Reading voting for Suspension of the Rules. That leaves open the possibility that one aggrieved councillor may file for Reconsideration of the vote – a pointless gesture that would most likely lead to a hastily scheduled Special Meeting solely to vote on Reconsideration which would yield no change in the outcome – only delay. [PS – Councillor Zondervan turned out to be that aggrieved councillor who filed for Reconsideration. The only problem is that, as I suspected, under Robert’s Rules of Order (not this Robert) a member has to be on the prevailing side of a vote in order to be able to file for Reconsideration. In this case the prevailing side was the vote NOT to pass to a 2nd Reading, so Councillor Zondervan was ineligible.]

It was pointed out over and over at the meeting that most of the elements of the petition with any merit were already in discussion and being considered both within City departments and City task forces and as part of the Envision Cambridge process. – RW


Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a draft zoning petition concerning the regulation of cannabis establishments in the City of Cambridge in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-75. [Cannabis Zone Map]

My prediction: Legal marijuana shops will sell the expensive stuff and the riff raff will still buy from other sources. Also, let’s face it – so-called "medical marijuana dispensaries" were always intended to be a first step toward recreational pot shops. I hope they can at least bring back the Peter Max posters and lava lamps from the head shops of my youth.


Manager’s Agenda #26. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-14, regarding a report on applying for a Targeted Brownfields Assessment grant for Jerry’s Pond.


Three rambling and incoherent communications regarding Magazine Beach from the inevitable Robert LaTrémouille.

Five communications from the ever-colorful Peter Valentine – who always means well.


Resolution #7. Retirement of Ellen Shacter from the Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Resolution #18. Resolution on the death of George Teso.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #19. Resolution on the death of Richelle Robinson.   Councillor Simmons


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council for an update on the Grand Junction Overlay District in September.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with appropriate staff from the City, MassDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration, the MBTA and any other organization with jurisdiction over the Sherman Street train crossing and related train traffic with the goal of implementing whatever street and intersection changes are necessary to get this area re-designated a “quiet zone.”   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Toomey

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments on what attempts were made to discuss with Lesley University or the Episcopal Divinity School about purchasing the property for affordable housing development and the results of any such discussion.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City departments to establish an action plan to work with the City’s Community-Based Organizations to create a network of summertime evening programming to reduce the threat of violence in the City’s public spaces in 2019 and beyond.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to adopt a policy of replacing any failed 4000K LED streetlights with warmer alternatives as opportunities arise, and offering shielding/filtering upon request from nearby residents whenever possible.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

I want those LED lights that keep changing colors.

Order #15. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts, and Celebrations Committee hold a hearing before October to discuss the various events being planned for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018 and ways to properly observe the holiday in a way that promotes the culture, history, and diversity of Native American peoples during future years.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan

This Order really makes me yearn for a cannoli from the Cafe Roma Pastry Shop on Hanover Street in the North End.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff to determine the navigational editing capabilities of the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

I continue to marvel at just how quickly the ability of human beings to navigate or even know where they are has degenerated thanks to their "smart" phones and their "smart" cars.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to contract with an outside survey company to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of inclusionary tenants’ experiences, with a particular emphasis on biased practices.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Must be that video.

Committee Report #2. 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 May 15, 2018 to discuss the development of an Affordable Housing Overlay District plan.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Apr 10, 2018 to discuss the first annual report from the Community Development Department as called for in the updated Inclusionary Zoning ordinance.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 19, 2018 to review the whole licensing and permitting process and to discuss ways to make it more efficient.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on June 13, 2018 to was to receive an update on the Short-Term Rental Ordinance #1397.

Committee Report #7. 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 May 23, 2018 to discuss an Arts Overlay District ordinance that would achieve the goals of creating and preserving spaces for the arts in the Central Square Cultural District.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez City Clerk, transmitting a communication from Mayor Marc McGovern, appointing Councillor Mallon as chair to the newly formed Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts.

September 22, 2014

Interesting Items on the Sept 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 1:16 am

Interesting Items on the September 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here’s a sample of what’s on this week’s relatively brief agenda.

Order #3. That the Government Operations, Rules & Claims committee is requested to hold a meeting to discuss changing the terms used in Council "Orders" to more accurately reflect their message.   Councillor Kelley

Perhaps Councillor Kelley is interpreting "Order" as might be expected as a former member of the United States Marine Corps. Perhaps the more appropriate interpretation is like when you order from a menu. If this were done verbally, the conversation might go something like this:

Councillor: Excuse me, sir, but may I have fries with that cheeseburger?
City Manager: Thank you for your Order, councillor, but we’re all out of fries. Would like like some cole slaw instead?

OR, as it often goes:

Councillor: What do you recommend?
City Manager: The Alewife with lemon pepper is good.
Councillor: I’ll Order that!

Order #5. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of conducting a series of walks through Alewife for the purpose of better knowing the area in preparation for the Dec 1, 2014 roundtable discussion about city-wide planning   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

These are the kinds of Orders many of us have been waiting to see now that time-wasting distractions like the Carlone Petition have been put to bed. Order #6, in particular, proposes a specific procedural change that could help prevent some of the misunderstandings that have been associated with various development proposals.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

This smells like trouble. My prediction is that if such a "discretionary budget" is established with which city councillors can vote to fund projects outside of the usual budget process, there will be pressure to grow the budget steadily every year so that councillors can fund extracurricular projects outside of city management. I’m particularly intrigued by the squishiness of the Whereas statement that "With detailed criteria and procedures – and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects – a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative." Does anyone seriously believe that such an agreed upon culture will rule the day and that personal projects would be de-emphasized? Anyone ever hear of The Foundry?

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant state-level authorities regarding the potential for enhanced pedestrian safety measures along Memorial Drive in the vicinity of the MIT Sailing Pavilion.   Councillor Carlone

This is a pretty good Order. If one were to make a list of roads and locations in Cambridge that are especially treacherous, that list should include quite a few places along Memorial Drive that are dangerous not only for pedestrians crossing the road but also for motor vehicle operators who park alongside vehicles moving at speeds well in excess of the posted speed limits. I would also put most of Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway on my list of dangerous roads for pedestrians.

Don't bogart that joint, my friend.Order #14. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L.   Vice Mayor Benzan

I believe this Order may need a few more clauses, such as:
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Cambridge Arts Council to prepare a permanent archive for all of the hysterically funny graffiti that will continue to appear on or around these signs; and be it further
ORDERED: That a sufficient budget be allocated for the frequent replacement of said signs so that they may be freshly defaced with new jokes and funny pictures.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting information on the Timothy R. Flaherty, et al. zoning petition recommending referring to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for further hearings and reports.

So like, hey man, how did we miss the expiration date for the zoning petition to expand the area where the medical marijuana dispensary can be built? Bummer, man! – Robert Winters


Postscript: On Applications & Petitions #1, an application from Starbucks requesting permission for three benches in front of 1662 Mass. Ave., Councillor Carlone objected to the placement of the benches directly in front of the premises due to it not being ADA compliant. Though he perhaps didn’t explain his objection so clearly, his point was correct. The proposed placement of the benches abutting the building is right where a blind person would least expect them. Good call, councillor.

On Order #3, Councillor Kelley would like to change the term "Ordered" to "Requested" in the wording of City Council Orders. City Clerk Donna Lopez explained that the current wording is consistent with state law and City Council rules. Councillor Mazen opined that the word "Ordered" should be interpreted literally by the City Manager so that he would do exactly what the City Council dictated regardless of other considerations.

On Order #8, Councillor Mazen pushed the envelope even further in his argument for giving the City Council their own "discretionary budget" outside the management of the City administration. The central theme in his argument was that city councillors possess expertise in some areas beyond what City staff can comprehend. You have to love the hubris. This, by the way, is the same Councillor Mazen who several months ago stated, in response to issues raised about personal staff for councillors, that each city councillor should have "full staff". Apparently a single aide is not adequate to support the grand plans and brilliant vision of some individual councillors. Councillor Kelley was refreshing in noting that the proposed "discretionary budget" seemed more like a "City Council slush fund". The matter was referred to the Finance Committee for further discussion after most of the city councillors were dismissive of the proposal.

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