Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 16, 2020

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – Feb 16, 2020

Free No Balance CharlieCards Available at City Hall Annex
Jan 30, 2020 – The City of Cambridge has partnered with the MBTA on their program to increase the availability of CharlieCards to residents who rely on public transportation.The City of Cambridge joins a growing list of organizations, cities, and towns partnering with the MBTA to increase access to CharlieCards.Central Square - Charlie Cards

“We’re pleased to see the continued expansion of this program, ensuring that more customers have access to lower fares through the re-loadable CharlieCard,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Thank you to the City of Cambridge for partnering with us in this growing effort that ultimately allows the MBTA to be even more accessible for our riders.”

“Cambridge continuously strives to support sustainable and affordable options for people to get around our city,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “By partnering with the MBTA on this program, we’re increasing our residents’ access to the public transit system and the fare savings that come with using a CharlieCard. I hope this program will encourage more people to consider riding the T.”

Under the program, free no balance CharlieCards are now available at the Community Development Department, on the 3rd floor of the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway.

Unlike CharlieTickets, CharlieCards are reusable plastic cards that can be routinely loaded with stored cash value or one-day, seven-day, or monthly passes. As a way to encourage use of CharlieCards, cardholders pay lower single-ride fares on bus and subway services than customers who pay cash or hold a CharlieTicket. CharlieCards also offer enhanced options for transfers over tickets and cash. Note: CharlieCards are not valid for use on the Commuter Rail though customers are encouraged to learn more about Commuter Rail fare products that include the mTicket.)

CharlieCard availability has historically been concentrated around major rapid-transit hubs. Similarly, fare vending machines are clustered around rapid-transit stations. Under this program, the MBTA continues to acknowledge that access to cards needs to increase, especially in communities with a higher reliance on buses.

The MBTA hopes to partner with nonprofit organizations or cities and towns to provide residents with CharlieCards, either blank or pre-loaded with a dollar amount for purchase. By providing easier access to CharlieCards, the T hopes to incentivize riders to use CharlieCards and fare vending machines throughout their travels, resulting in a savings of both time and money. Organizations and communities seeking to partner in this effort should contact MBTA Chief Customer Officer Danny Levy at For more information on CharlieCards, visit or connect with the T on Twitter @MBTA, Facebook /TheMBTA, or Instagram @theMBTA.

Cannabis Litigation
City SealFeb 14, 2020 – Today, the City Solicitor’s Office filed a Petition for Interlocutory Review to a Single Justice of the Appeals Court in the case Revolutionary Clinics II, Inc. v. the City of Cambridge. The plaintiff in that case has challenged the City’s Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance, specifically, the two year period in which only Economic Empowerment Applicants are eligible to receive a Cannabis Business Permit for a Cannabis Retail Store (the “two-year moratorium”). The City is seeking interlocutory relief from a Single Justice of the Appeals Court with regard to the Superior Court’s Jan 24, 2020 order on the Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction in this case (“Order”), which restrains and enjoins the City from enforcing the two-year moratorium and from taking any action to prevent the Plaintiff from immediately applying to convert its Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (“MTC”) to a co-located adult-use cannabis retail establishment and MTC. The City also filed a Notice of Appeal in the Superior Court preserving the City’s right to further appeal the Order to a panel of the Appeals Court. Additionally, the City filed an Emergency Motion for a Stay of the Court’s Order in the Superior Court. The Motion for a Stay requests that the Superior Court stay the Order pending the appeals.

Steps to Starting Your Own Business Workshop Feb 24
City SealFeb 14, 2020 – The City of Cambridge is holding a free workshop, Steps to Starting Your Own Business on Mon, Feb 24, from 5:30-7:30pm, at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor, Cambridge.

Participants will learn about the steps to starting a business, the specifics of starting one in Cambridge, and the risks and rewards. The workshop will also provide an overview of available resources.

This workshop is a pre-requisite for the 10 Week Business Planning Program March 9 – May 18, on Mondays from 5:30-8:00pm. This 10-week course educates eligible Cambridge entrepreneurs about financing, marketing techniques, business plan development, and honing a business pitch. It provides participants with one-on-one assistance, expert advice, and networking opportunities. The course is free to eligible Cambridge residents and business owners. To check your eligibility and apply, visit

For more information, visit To register, contact Rona Abrahams at 617-349-4637 or

Join us for Bike for Bites Winter Ride and Celebration!
Saturday, February 29, 8:30am-1:30pm     Meet at the Alewife T Station

Bikes for BitesJoin the Cambridge Bicycle Committee for Bike for Bites, the first annual Winter Bike Ride and Winter Biking Celebration! Brave the cold for this winter ride while stopping at Cambridge cafes to warm up and taste their treats.

We will meet at the Alewife T Station at 8:30am and depart at 9:00am. The ride will end at Lamplighter Brewery at roughly 11:00am for a winter biking celebration and meet-up. Free Bluebikes passes will be provided for anyone without a bicycle!

Interested in winter biking, but not yet ready to hit the streets? Come by Lamplighter between 11:00am and 1:30pm to meet other winter bicyclists and exchange tips!

The ride will be cancelled in the event of poor weather.

Cambridge Achieves 30 Percent Trash Reduction Milestone One Year Early
Feb 14, 2020 – In 2009, the City of Cambridge adopted a goal to reduce trash by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, using 2008 as a baseline. Subsequently, the Department of Public Works (DPW) launched new programs and educational campaigns over the past decade to encourage residents to reconsider what they toss in the trash.

Today, Cambridge officials announced that the 30% trash reduction goal was achieved one year early. In 2019, the City of Cambridge reduced its trash reduction numbers by 32%, to 15.6 pounds per week per household, compared to 22.8 pounds per week per household in 2008.

“By adding new programs that encourage diverting items from the waste stream and enhancing our existing recycling programs, we’ve been able to achieve this ambitious goal ahead of schedule,” said Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan. “I want to thank Cambridge residents and our Recycling Advisory Committee for their hard work in helping the city reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfill. It may take an extra minute or two to separate your items, but it’s worth the extra effort.”

Trash Graph

Cambridge achieved this goal by improving curbside recycling, encouraging reduce and reuse practices, and enhancing opportunities to divert hard-to-recycle items such as electronics and textiles. Among the most impactful programs was Cambridge’s curbside compost program which expanded citywide in 2018 as part of recommendations from the city’s Zero Waste Master Plan. The compost program is accessible to more than 32,000 households in Cambridge. The curbside compost program has reduced trash by 7% and has substantially reduced the net greenhouse gas emissions of our waste programs. It also costs the city less money to dispose of food waste in the compost program than in the trash.

The Zero Waste Master Plan, which was developed to assist the City in achieving goals of reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, also identified mattress recycling as a program that can help reduce trash. Launched in April 2019, the program has diverted more than 5,000 mattresses to date. Instead of going to a landfill, the mattresses are collected by UTEC (United Teen Equality Center), a nonprofit organization serving at-risk young adults, that picks up, deconstructs, and recycles mattresses. This new program reduced trash by 250,000 pounds in 2019.

Cambridge has also encouraged residents to utilize its Recycling Center, at 147 Hampshire Street, to drop off items that may be recycled, but cannot be collected curbside, such as electronics, plastic bags, and scrap metal.

“I’m incredibly proud of this achievement and the various efforts that DPW staff have deployed since 2009 that have contributed to the city meeting the 30% trash reduction goal ahead of schedule,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “This accomplishment highlights the city’s commitment to using data and evidence to drive strategic decisions to achieve goals set by the City Council. Without the help of our impassioned residents and the support of the City Council, this goal would not have been accomplished. I look forward to making strides outlined in our Zero Waste Master Plan to continue decreasing trash in Cambridge.”

“We’re thrilled that we could come together as a community to accomplish this goal,” said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “Reducing waste is one of several ways Cambridge is working to help reduce our impact on climate change.”

Residents are encouraged to visit CambridgeMA.Gov/Recycle to learn more about how they may collaborate with the city on reducing trash. Stay tuned for opportunities coming this spring to help celebrate this milestone.

Michael Orr at baler
Cambridge Recycling Director Michael Orr inspects sorted recycling bales
with Kate Riley, Public Works Community Relations Manager

Comment on DCR Mount Auburn St. Corridor Project
The Department of Conservation and Recreation is soliciting public comments on the Mount Auburn St. Corridor Project. Comments can be submitted online by visiting or by writing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114. Comments will be accepted through Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

For more information about the project, visit the project website at If you have question or concerns or would like to subscribe to a DCR project-specific or general information listserv, please email or call 617-626-4973.

City of Cambridge Tree Protection Ordinance Amendment Extended
Feb 13, 2020 – Effective Feb 10, 2019, the City Council has voted to extend the Tree Protection Ordinance Amendment requiring a permit to remove a “significant tree” on private property.

“Significant trees” have a trunk diameter of 8 inches or more (measured 4 feet above ground).

Permits will only be issued in the following circumstances:

  • The tree is dead or dangerous;
  • An emergency exists relative to public health, safety or welfare;
  • Removal of the tree is necessary to complete a significant utility infrastructure project;
  • Removing the tree may result in a healthier tree canopy;
  • The tree poses a significant risk to an adjacent existing structure.

In each of these cases, a completed Permit Application Form and all associated documentation must be submitted to be considered for a permit. In the event a tree had to be removed due to an emergency situation prior to receiving a permit, an application must be submitted retroactively.

The extension of this ordinance amendment is valid until Dec 31, 2020 or until an additional amendment is put in place, whichever comes first.

For complete permit requirements, please visit the online permitting system.

River Street Reconstruction – February 2020 Project Update
River Street ReconstructionWork on the River Street Reconstruction and Carl Barron Plaza project continues in many areas.

Working group meeting postponed to March
Given that many of the project work items are still in progress, the project team has postponed the next working group meeting to March 24. This will allow the project team to make substantial progress on design work. The information for this meeting is as follows:
Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 6:00pm-8:00pm, Doors open 5:45pm
Manning Apartments, 1st Floor Community Room, 237 Franklin Street

Public meeting planned for April
The project team is also working toward a public meeting in April to show the latest designs. This meeting will include corridor designs, traffic analysis, bus routings, and a few concepts for a redesigned Carl Barron Plaza. Stay tuned for updates on the topics and a save the date for this meeting.

Design updates – Carl Barron Plaza
Carl Barron Plaza is the public plaza space in front of Cambridge Savings Bank, Amazon, and the Holmes Building entrance. At the last meeting of the River Street Working Group in December, the working group came to consensus for looking at expanded plaza space. The main way to create a larger plaza is by changing bus routes and stop locations at the busway. The project team calls this new configuration the “Butterfly” design because of its butterfly shape. This design allows for more plaza space while keeping two well-used bus stops on the edges of an expanded plaza.

At the current time, the project team is creating a few distinct conceptual designs to bring to the public for comments. A specific design for the plaza is not yet selected.

To see some of the conceptual designs, view the slideshow from the last working group meeting.

Design updates – River Street corridor
Work to improve the design on the corridor continues. The project team is reviewing the River Street design at places where the street is narrow, evaluating daily use and maintenance. Some minor curb adjustments are expected.

At the same time, the project team is continuing to conduct detailed traffic analysis and modeling. This analysis and modeling will help the project team make sure that the new River Street will work for everybody no matter how they get around and will function to move people safely and efficiently.

The project team is also reviewing curbside access (loading, parking, etc.) along River Street. This review is to make sure that the River Street design meets curb access needs for people going to local businesses, residents, and visitors.

Exploring changes to bus routes and stop locations
We are discussing with the community and the MBTA shifting MBTA Route 64 from Magazine Street to River Street. Using River Street is a more direct route to Central Square. We are also discussing shifting Route 47 from Massachusetts Avenue to Green and Franklin Streets. Using Green and Franklin streets would allow for more plaza space at Carl Barron Plaza and make Route 47 more reliable.

The project team will share more information about these changes at upcoming project meetings. We are also planning to engage riders and the public in additional outreach efforts.

Work continues on public art on River Street
Ritsuko Taho is the artist for the River Street project. She is the original artist who created the “Multicultural Manifestos” artwork in Carl Barron Plaza. This artwork includes the “dream towers” and “dream wheels” in the plaza. The “Multicultural Manifestos” artwork will be removed from the plaza during the reconstruction process. The artist will then take elements of that work and create a new work that will be located in several places along the corridor. We hope to preview the new work at the next working group and public meeting.

Tell us how River Street works today on our questionnaire
The River Street Reconstruction project will renew infrastructure on and under River Street. This questionnaire’s goal is to hear what you feel and think about River Street today. By taking this questionnaire, you will help the project team think about how to design the street. We will also use your answers to compare what people think and feel before and after our reconstruction project.

This survey takes between 5 to 10 minutes. Take the River Street survey.

Project web page with meeting materials and other useful information.

For more information on this project or to be added to the project email list, please visit: If you have any questions about this project or upcoming meetings, contact the River Street Reconstruction team by e-mail at You may also contact Bill Deignan at or 617-349-4632.

Cambridge Black History Month Celebration February 26
Feb 10, 2020 – In celebration of Black History Month, the City of Cambridge Employees’ Committee on Diversity will hold a reception featuring art by local black artists, the unveiling of the 2020 Black History Month postage stamp, and a presentation by Dr. Manisha Sinha on black womens’ roles in the suffrage movement Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 5-7:30pm, at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.

The evening will also include remarks by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale.

Manisha Sinha is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University for this academic year.

A leading authority on the history of slavery and abolition and the Civil War and Reconstruction, Dr. Sinha was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina, which was named one of the 10 best books on slavery in Politico in 2015 and recently featured in The New York Times’ 1619 Project. She is also the author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (2016) which won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and was long listed for the National Book Award for Non Fiction. In 2016, she was named one of the top 25 women in higher education by the journal Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

This talk will illuminate the forgotten origins of the women’s suffrage movement in the abolition movement and reconsider the break between abolitionists and some feminists after the Civil War. It will show how the Reconstruction constitutional amendments opened a path to women’s suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment. Despite black disfranchisement, the Nineteenth Amendment eventually paved the way for black women to emerge as the most progressive voting block in American politics.

[Event Flyer] [Event Program]

Renew Your Resident Parking Permit for 2020 Now to Avoid Delays Later
Feb 7, 2020 – The renewal season for 2020 Resident/Visitor Parking Permits for the City of Cambridge is in process from Jan 2 – Mar 31, 2020. Please note that 2019 Resident and Visitor Permits are valid through Mar 31, 2020.

Residents who have a current Resident or Visitor Parking Permit have the option of renewing their permit(s) online at Online applications can take up to three weeks for processing and delivery, so please plan accordingly, keeping in mind the March 31 expiration date for 2019 permits.

Permits can also be renewed by mail using the application available at or in person during regular hours at the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, 344 Broadway, Cambridge, Monday: 8:30am-8:00pm, Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5:00pm, Friday: 8:30am-12:00pm.

The featured photo on the 2020 Permit is of Little Fresh Pond by Judy Silvan.

For more information, visit

Little Fresh Pond by Judy Silvan

City of Cambridge to Celebrate Five Year Anniversary of Domestic & Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative Feb 26
Feb 5, 2020 – The City of Cambridge and its community partners will celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative (DGBVPI) Wed, Feb 26, from 4-6pm, at the Cambridge Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include welcome remarks from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, Deputy City Manager Lisa C. Peterson, State Representative Marjorie Decker, and Transition House’s Community Liaison Shameka Gregory. Light refreshments will be served.

The theme of the event – Many Partnerships, One Initiative – will include a showcase of the major projects and work the DGBVPI has accomplished to prevent and respond to domestic and gender-based violence in Cambridge. This will include a “speed meeting” poster session, where members of the community can walk around and engage in conversations with local community partners and service providers about:

  • Cambridge Police Department’s trauma-informed law enforcement initiative and training;
  • Examining racial justice within the Initiative’s Steering Committee;
  • Training, protocol development, advocacy, and supportive housing through the Cambridge Housing Authority and Transition House partnership;
  • Creation of The Sexual Assault Response Team, a collaboration between the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and Cambridge Police to better coordinate citywide response to sexual assault;
  • Educating and engaging youth to promote healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence;
  • Engaging men in prevention efforts, including the work of Mending Cambridge, a group of men in the city dedicated to taking an active role in preventing domestic and gender-based violence;
  • Community outreach through the Community Engagement Team;
  • Preventing elder abuse through Transition House’s advocacy and services; and
  • Citywide trainings on domestic violence prevention and response.

Katherine Triantafillou - Domestic Violence Free ZoneCambridge has a long history of domestic violence prevention, including the historic resolution to declare the city as a Domestic Violence Free Zone in 1994. Building on this groundbreaking effort and with leadership from State Representative Marjorie Decker (then Cambridge City Councillor), in 2011, the city hosted a Domestic violence summit to stimulate interest in revitalizing Cambridge’s work to prevent domestic violence and undertook a 21 Days of Questions/365 Days of Action Campaign to engage the Cambridge community on questions they had about domestic violence. The campaign led to the official establishment of the Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative.

“Since its creation, the Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative has been engaging and mobilizing the entire Cambridge community to prevent and bring attention to domestic and gender-based violence,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “Under the leadership of Elizabeth Speakman, the Initiative’s coordinator, Cambridge has emerged as a leader in providing training and building collaborations to ensure we are creating and fostering compassionate and supportive environments for survivors.”

“We are proud that the City of Cambridge is so fully committed to preventing domestic and gender-based violence and ensuring survivors can get support when they need it,” said Elizabeth Speakman, Coordinator of the Initiative. “This event will recognize the tremendous work of our community partners and the city leadership, while imagining what is possible in the future and hopefully inspiring other communities.”

For more information, contact Elizabeth Speakman,

About the Cambridge Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative
The Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative (DGBVPI) engages and mobilizes Cambridge’s communities, agencies, and city departments to change attitudes, behaviors, policies, and practices to prevent and bring attention to domestic and gender-based violence.

In collaboration with community leaders, local agencies, and interested citizens, the DGBVPI develops and provides accessible, safe, and relevant strategies and resources to prevent and respond to domestic violence in Cambridge. Services include training, consultation, building collaborations across various sectors in Cambridge, and coordination of systems of change in order to ensure compassionate and supportive environments for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence across the city.

April 8, 2019

For What It’s Worth – Select Items on the April 8, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

For What It’s Worth – Select Items on the April 8, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

These agenda items seem marginally interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $1,280,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Library Extraordinary Expenditure account to support the creation of a new STEAM creativity zone, The Hive, at the Cambridge Public Library.

I have been a mathematics teacher for decades and currently have many future engineers in my MIT classroom, so of course I think this is a great step forward. On the other hand, I am also mindful that when computers became standard in households and we were supposedly entering a "paperless society", inkjet printers proliferated and more paper was wasted than ever before. On the other hand, digital media killed off much of print media – less paper I suppose, but overall maybe not the best thing. Right now, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) is all the rage (as it should be), but will STEAM initiatives actually accomplish the desired goals or will we just have another facility or program that’s not well-utilized? It’s all in the details and implementation. Is mathematics proficiency in the Cambridge Public Schools really where it should be? Will this initiative help? I sure hope so.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Human Services to develop a plan for implementation of a City-Wide Workforce Development Consortium.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Simmons

The goal behind this order may well be the single most important goal expressed during the otherwise uninspired "Envision Cambridge" exercise. Matching people growing up in Cambridge to the economic opportunities all around us matters more than all the virtue-signaling, intrusive other initiatives that have been thrust to the forefront. Earning a good income will open more doors and provide economic security than anything else. This obviously requires people to be qualified for those jobs. See above. Wishful thinking is not empowerment.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to compile a full accounting of streets, schools, and public buildings that may be named in honor of those who have ties to the American slave trade, and to work towards renaming all of these streets, schools, and buildings as soon as possible.   Councillor Simmons

I just want to know what the new names will be for Jefferson Park and Jefferson Street.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works to provide an update on the small business recycling program pilot indicating any recalibration or reconsideration of the proposed program that may be necessary and any plans for expansion.   Councillor Toomey

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works to provide an update on the feasibility study of expanding curbside composting program to small businesses and non-profits by the end of 2019.   Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon

I will once again remind everyone that Councillor Toomey has the longest record for supporting recycling initiatives in the history of Cambridge, and he practices what he preaches.

MBTA Red LineOrder #9. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to review whether the MBTA is out of compliance with the amended MBTA/BCIL settlement agreement through the delay in completion of the elevator replacement and concurrent hazardous condition of the stairwells related to Central Square.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

Each major T Station should have a dedicated stationmaster who advocates for the needs of their respective stations. Instead, we get red-jacketed "ambassadors" who spend more time chatting with each other than assisting passengers. The problem with the MBTA is their own bureaucracy. Bureaucrats should try paying more attention to bricks and stairs and elevators and all the other things that passengers deal with every day. This is not rocket science.

Order #18. That the City Council go on record in support of the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW’s demands for a fair contract now, with fair wages, benefits and a fair and neutral procedure for adjudicating workplace harassment and discrimination.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

I think some people have the mistaken perspective that being a graduate student is a career. Fairness yes, but in perspective. Get your degree and move on.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Co-Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Mar 5, 2019 to continue discussions on the Affordable Housing Overlay District.

The juggernaut continues even as my respect for city councillors plummets. A bad proposal is still a bad proposal even if you believe "we have to do something." – Robert Winters

February 27, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 375-376: Feb 26, 2019

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:18 am

Episode 375 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 26, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 26, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Tree Removal Moratorium vote and politics; proposal for a total ban on all leaf blowers. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

Episode 376 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 26, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 26, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Trucks & Free Speech; proposed MBTA fare increase, tradeoffs, Uber/Lyft; The Return of Lodging Houses?; home ownership & responsibility; acoustic music licensing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 26, 2017

End of the March – Interesting Items on the March 27, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:45 pm

End of the March – Interesting Items on the March 27, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

First Sign of SpringHere’s my take on this week’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Harvard Square Kiosk Working Group, effective Mar 27, 2017: Abra Berkowitz, Robyn Culbertson, Ankita Deshpande, Timothy Hyde, Janet Si-Ming Lee, Sarah Rosenkrantz, Daniel Andrew Schofield-Bodt, Kenneth Taylor, John DiGiovanni, Bertil JeanChronberg, Frank Kramer, Peter Kroon, Sohail Nasir, Abhishek Syal, Thomas Lucey and Mary Flynn

This is shaping up like a classic turf war and I hope these appointees can get beyond that. Personally, I would just like to see an active use for the Kiosk that’s not all about the tourists – a place where the locals want to gather. My ideal would be something like Sullivan’s at Castle Island in South Boston, but I don’t suppose the Old Cambridge crowd could ever tolerate that much humanity.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the requirements of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) that the City Council adopt an order for the Statement of Interest Form to be submitted to MSBA no later than Apr 7, 2017 for the Tobin and Vassal Lane Upper School located at 197 Vassal Lane.

The Putnam Avenue School is done and the King Open and Cambridge Street Upper Schools are now under construction. This Statement of Interest concerns the next major renovation or replacement – the Tobin and Vassal Lane Upper School. Let’s hope there’s some state grant money available to help pay for the project.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a proposed ordinance related to the growth and maintenance of “Running Bamboo”.

Alternatively, we could import pandas. City officials are just so resistant to creative solutions.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 16-64 and 17-9, regarding trash and recycling pick up for small businesses.

"DPW is proposing to expand the municipal recycling pick-up program on a trial basis to small businesses beginning in the spring/summer of 2018. It is proposed that this program will be made available to all small businesses throughout the City on a once per week basis, and will help reduce the cost to businesses in eliminating the need for them to contract with outside vendors as well as enabling the City to further increase the quantity of material diverted from the waste stream in the City. Funds are included in the FY18 budget to initiate the program."

Manager’s Agenda #14. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $1,000,000 from the Water Fund Other Ordinary Maintenance account to the Public Investment Fund Water Extraordinary Expenditures account to fund the replacement of water meters and meter transmitter units (MTUs).

Contained in the message is the following piece of good news: "In October 2016, the Council approved an appropriation to use $3.6 million from the Water Fund’s Fund Balance to purchase water from the MWRA to ensure an adequate supply of water to meet the needs of the community. The severity of the drought has lessened and the usable capacity in our reservoir system has stabilized. The City has not had to use MWRA water since the beginning of December and has only expended $1.6 million."

Manager’s Agenda #15. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations for the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2017 and ending Mar 31, 2018.

According to the Manager’s report, the average triple-decker uses about 122 CCF of water per year. My triple-decker apparently uses nearly twice that and we’re generally pretty conscientious about water use. This past year I paid over $2850 and the report says the average for a triple-decker was $1590. Either something is amiss with the plumbing or the Manager’s figures or my water meter is reading a lot higher than it should. Actually, I just checked my records and it appears that the higher readings coincide with when the new meter was installed. Time to call the Water Department, I guess.

Order #1. City Council go on record urging the Governor to resist reducing funding for The Ride.   Mayor Simmons

It’s stunning just how backwards things are in this state and, in particular, the Boston Metropolitan Area when it comes to public transportation. I don’t doubt that there are some efficiencies to be had with The Ride and other services, but this hardly seems the place to close a budget gap.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Acting Police Commissioner with a view toward piloting a Cambridge Police outpost located in Carl Barron Plaza, to be ready for operation by Summer 2017.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

What should really happen is for the City and the MBTA and a Central Square property owner to create a multi-function site that can house a police substation, an MBTA facility for bus drivers and other personnel, an information center, a public bathroom, and maybe even a newsstand. That, of course, would take coordination, so I won’t hold my breath.

Order #6. That the City of Cambridge opposes H.R. 482 and S. 103, and calls on its representatives in the House and Senate to vote against these bills, and to exert influence on other representatives to oppose these bills and support the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in all efforts to affirmatively further fair housing and collect data to assess the progress of fair housing initiatives and inclusiveness of its communities.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

In addition to the many positive effects of the Fair Housing Act, there is also the unintended consequence that efforts to more equitably locate some social-service types of housing throughout the city have actually been hindered by this Act. There is no legal way to prevent the over-concentration of such facilities in a place like Central Square.

Order #7. That the City Council agenda be altered to create a section in the agenda between public comment and the City Manager’s agenda entitled “General Council Discussion,” where Councillors would be able to bring their colleagues up-to-date on projects in which they are engaged or ask for updates about projects that other Councillors are working on, even if these issues do not appear on the Council’s agenda or have never been the subject of formal City Council attention.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux

In an ideal world, city councillors would actually be working on such projects collaboratively and in accordance with the Open Meeting Law via the various City Council subcommittees. If this were the case there would be no need to set aside a special time at City Council meetings to reveal what they’ve been doing out of public view.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 16, 2017 to discuss a zoning petition filed by Richard Harding, et al., to amend the Mass + Main Residential sub district and the Central Square Overlay District by amending Sections 20.307.8.1 (a) and (b) and 20.307.6.2 (a).

Even if someone has lingering objections to the Mass+Main project, this is an absurd way to go about expressing those objections long after that train left the station. – Robert Winters

May 5, 2016

Joint Statement of Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi Regarding the Green Line Extension

Filed under: Cambridge,MBTA — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 5:00 pm

Joint Statement of Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi Regarding the Green Line Extension

May 5, 2016

Somerville sealToday the Cities of Somerville and Cambridge Massachusetts are pleased to make this important announcement of our continued support for and commitment of new funds to bridge the funding gap that will allow the construction of the Green Line Extension Project (GLX) to move forward.

It is our understanding that MassDOT has completed its review of the GLX and developed a new cost estimate, and that on Monday, May 9, MassDOT will transmit information for review and evaluation by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors that includes a revised budget and plans and a statement of need for municipal governments hosting the GLX to contribute funding. Based on that understanding, we are prepared to make a recommendation that our municipalities assist the state in the funding solution for this project.

We would like to thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the interim design team for their swift but careful scrutiny of the project plans and budget, their commitment to the inclusion of public and municipal feedback, and their diligence in developing a new strategy for moving forward. Should the FMCB approve their expected recommendation to construct the GLX, residents of the Commonwealth will reap the benefits of the team’s critical effort for decades to come.

Cambridge sealIt is our understanding, however, that without firm financial commitments from our municipalities that the GLX could be canceled and the Commonwealth would forfeit not only its $996 million federal New Starts grant award, but an estimated $700 million in “sunk costs” of the state’s $996 million share of the project. Additionally, the fulfillment of the public needs that this project was designed to meet would remain unrealized.

The purpose of the GLX is to improve regional air quality as required by legally binding resolutions, reduce roadway congestion, encourage sustainable economic growth, and provide a convenient means of public transportation for Massachusetts residents, workers and visitors. To ensure that these needs and goals do not go unmet, the cities of Cambridge and Somerville intend to seek to expand their financial partnership with the Commonwealth to construct elements of the GLX program, subject to and contingent upon approval by the Cambridge City Council and the Somerville Board of Aldermen.

It should be noted that both the cities of Cambridge and Somerville have previously invested significant funds and resources in sunken costs in support of the GLX project, including the City of Somerville’s investment of more than $8 million for land acquisition and other infrastructure, that have relieved the Commonwealth of several specific required project costs. Similarly, the developers of the North Point area are investing tens of millions of dollars in improvements that support and enable the GLX to occur. Expanding this financial partnership is an extreme and unprecedented arrangement for a state infrastructure project. Despite the fact that our cities bear no responsibility for the cost overruns that brought the GLX to this moment of crisis, we will seek to support the Commonwealth by expanding our cost-sharing role. The Green Line is that important to our communities, our region, and our state.

It is our understanding that the new cost estimate for the GLX will retain core program elements including seven light rail transit stations including a spur to Union Square, a Vehicle Maintenance Facility, a Community Path, and related utility upgrades. With that clear understanding, it is our intention as Mayor of the City of Somerville and City Manager of Cambridge to recommend to the Somerville Board of Aldermen and the Cambridge City Council that our cities commit to underwriting project costs for specific, tangible elements that would deliver meaningful public safety and quality-of-life benefits for our residents.

After discussions with the state, the needed value of new financial participation in the GLX for the City of Somerville is projected to be $50 million and the value of the City of Cambridge’s contribution is projected at $25 million, including financial contributions from the North Point developers, to close the funding gap. Again, any contribution will be subject to Board and City Council approvals.

Furthermore, it is our intention to work, alongside MAPC, with Governor Baker’s administration and the cities’ state and federal delegations to seek legislative action on new and refined “value capture” tools capable of supporting new infrastructure investments around Massachusetts. In addition, we request that the Commonwealth establish a baseline tracking framework for future Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) state tax revenue accruals generated by transit-oriented development around the GLX, so as to not preclude a formal application to use eligible I-Cubed revenues to offset Cambridge’s and Somerville’s proposed municipal contribution, if they choose that option.

It is clear that the Commonwealth is shifting to a new paradigm for major transportation infrastructure investments. Across the nation, many states have established predictable and equitable frameworks for local value capture financing in state transportation projects. As we work toward that goal, Somerville and Cambridge will stand with the Commonwealth to advance the state of the art. We do so with the expectation that this is truly a new precedent for statewide policy, and that our communities will not be held to higher standards than other Massachusetts municipalities seeking state and federal financing for roadway, transit or other infrastructure projects.

Additional Comment from Massachusetts Area Planning Council:

“I want to congratulate the Cities of Cambridge and Somerville for making this unprecedented municipal commitment to help fund a critical state transportation project,” said Metropolitan Area Planning Council Executive Director Marc Draisen. “The Green Line Extension will have a significant, positive impact on our region in terms of jobs created and retained, new housing units created, and increased transit access for tens of thousands of residents. Cambridge and Somerville have shown a willingness to help invest in a project that will benefit themselves and their neighboring municipalities. We applaud them and MassDOT for working together to create this opportunity to advance this project.”

February 22, 2012

A Very Special Cambridge City Council Meeting – Feb 22, 2012

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,MBTA — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:20 pm

A Very Special Cambridge City Council Meeting – Feb 22, 2012
It’s Mayor Henrietta Davis and Vice Mayor Denise Simmons

Tonight The Nine shall meet to gather information and public testimony on the effects on Cambridge of the proposed MBTA cuts and fare increases and to develop a policy statement in preparation for the Feb 29 MBTA public hearing at the Senior Center City Hall. It is also expected that one or more additional mayoral ballots will take place at some point in the meeting. Perhaps MBTA also stands for "mayoral balloting tried again".

Today’s date coincides with the date two years ago when the previous mayoral impasse was broken and David Maher was elected mayor. Though I don’t recall the date in 1996 when Sheila Russell was finally elected mayor, I believe that impasse lasted longer. Since then, the dates were Jan 26, 1998 (Duehay, 3rd ballot), Feb 15, 2000 (Galluccio, 5th ballot), Jan 7, 2002 (Sullivan, 1st ballot), Jan 5, 2004 (Sullivan, 1st ballot), Jan 2, 2006 (Reeves, 1st ballot), Jan 14, 2008 (Simmons, 2nd ballot), and Feb 22, 2010 (Maher, 6th ballot). If this history is any indication, there’s a good chance this wuill be resolved tonight or at next Monday’s regular meeting. The 1948 mayoral marathon required 1,321 ballots before Michael J. Neville was elected mayor in late April.

It seems as though everyone who pays attention to the mayoral balloting has their own theory about what should happen or what might happen. I have my own theories as well. In fact, I have written out a scenario of how I believe this thing will ultimately play out. In the spirit of Werner Heisenberg, I won’t yet reveal my theory lest it influence the experiment. It will be revealed in 39 days. Hopefully, The Nine will have decided on The One by then. In the meantime, any mayoral ballots will be recorded at

The real substance of this meeting are the proposed MBTA fare increases and service cuts. It’s not clear how much leverage the Cambridge City Council or the City of Cambridge has in this, but some kind of coherent response is needed. A major focus in Cambridge over the last decade or so has been on transit-oriented development and shifting away from dependence on automobiles. It would be a major setback to have this derailed by disincentives to public transit use, especially when calculations indicate that increases in efficiency and a very modest increase in the gasoline tax could resolve this. The state legislature also has an obligation to unburden the MBTA of the debt caused by mitigation costs related to The Big Dig. However this is ultimately resolved, it’s important that future MBTA financing be primarily self-sustaining so that we won’t be faced with similar threats every few years. – Robert Winters

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: