Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 9, 2019

Items of Interest on the June 10, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Items of Interest on the June 10, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City Hall 2019This is something of a table-setting month – clearing out some lingering business and refocusing on some matters that are sure to be wedge issues in the municipal election – housing, bikes, campaign contributions, neighborhood flash-points. Resolving the details of the "Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance" will apparently continue at least through July and perhaps longer.

Perhaps the most significant piece of business is this 6:30pm hearing:
6:30pm   The City Council will conduct a public hearing to discuss the petition filed by Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 40 section O petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

It is likely that a vote will be taken at this meeting to establish the Business Improvement District. It seems to have broad support and may even get a unanimous vote.

Here are a few other notable items for this week:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Future of Mobility Implementation Blueprint Technical Advisory Group. The Advisory Group is expected to meet up to six times between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020: Yonah Freemark, David Keith, Steven Miller, Kathryn Carlson, Melissa Chan, Christopher Tassone, Roy Russell, Raymond Hayhurst, Ruth Allen, Jane Gould, David Block-Schachter, Zef Vataj, Will Dickson, Stephen Russell, James Cater, Bruce Kaplan, Megan Aki, Ilya Sinelnikov, Cambridge Housing Authority Rep (TBD). [Future of Mobility RFP]

This process is worth watching in that it is both necessary and potentially over-reaching. For some years now the City has been carrying out the goals of the Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance by promoting transportation modes (and infrastructure) as alternatives to motor vehicles. Independently, things like ride-hail services (like Uber and Lyft) and electric scooters have appeared and grown in popularity. Also, there are a lot more electric vehicles now on the road and how to charge them is a growing concern, especially for those without parking on premises. Autonomous (driverless) vehicles may be the next wave. This "Future of Mobility" process is apparently supposed to gaze into the crystal ball and make predictions and plans for how all these pieces can fit coherently together. Recommendations growing from this process might not all be about how to accommodate these new modes – they might also lead to restrictions on existing modes. In recent years there has been a trend of City plans being developed, blessed by compliant advisory committees, and then waved through by a City Council which rarely spends time considering any potential negative consequences of the latest "progressive" policy. Indeed, the RFP makes quite clear that this is not to be a "visioning exercise" by the advisory group, but rather a source of feedback for a process in which City staff has already stated very specifically in the RFP the models from which the hired consultant must work. The end product is likely to be at least as much about regulation and restriction as it will be about accommodation.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-15, regarding a report on who is purchasing buildings in Cambridge.

This is interesting information – though it’s not so easy to peer behind the curtain and identify what parties make up some of the LLCs (limited liability corporations), e.g. Invesco for several properties in the Alewife Quadrangle, or what the plans are for some of these properties. It’s also not clear what the City Council will do or even could do with this information.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $50,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account to support the cable television license renewal process.

Here we go again. The United States Congress thoroughly gutted the ability of municipalities to negotiate much of anything in local Cable TV franchises. We will once again be hearing about PEG (public access, educational, and governmental) since these are the only things that can be discussed. What really makes this whole process rather pathetic is that much of the revenue generated by these franchises now comes from Internet access and there is no legal requirement that any of that revenue should support the PEG needs.


Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to work with the local taxi industry and other interested parties to prepare a Home Rule Petition for the City Council to submit to the State Legislature that would address Cambridge-specific issues and give the City Council the ability to ensure TNCs operate in a safe and responsible manner.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and other regional partners such as the Central Transportation Planning Staff to explore the feasibility of partnering with a local research institution to conduct a study that determines how many ride-hail vehicles are on the roads during both on and off-peak times and their impacts on congestion and safety.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

Perhaps the "Future of Mobility" consultants will have something to say about this, but my sense is that the proposal for a Home Rule Petition is likely more about protection of taxi medallion owners than it is about safety. As for the Order asking to bring in an army of traffic counters, I encourage anyone standing on a street corner or waiting for a bus to count the percentage of Uber/Lyft vehicles passing by at various times throughout the day. [Hint: It’s a lot.]


Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to establish a working committee to review the monuments, memorials, and markers throughout Cambridge to determine whether any of these commemorate those who were linked to the slave trade or engaged in other similarly shameful acts and to determine which individuals should be newly recognized with a monument, memorial, or marker.   Councillor Simmons

I just hope that there is a distinction made between those whose sole claim to fame was infamous (like rebel generals) vs. those who did great things but who engaged in bad practices that happened to be legal at the time. Erasing history is not the same as learning from it.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to meet with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Department of Public Works, and the property owners and management of the Fresh Pond Mall to identify additional traffic-calming and safety features and to discuss with the mall owner the potential for creating a formal street connection between Terminal Road and New Street.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

This is a long overdue conversation. Greater connectivity with enhanced safety would be a good thing in this entire area (especially if only those of us who live here know the secret connections).


Order #6. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the appropriate departments to televise and record the City Clerk interview meeting on June 17, 2019, starting at 2:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Interim City Clerk Paula M. Crane, transmitting memorandum from Vice Mayor Devereux regarding a special public meeting for the City Clerk interviews.

The City Clerk position is one of only three for which the City Council is the appointing authority under the Plan E Charter. The other two are the City Manager and the City Auditor. I have no idea who has applied for the position or who the four finalists are, but I really hope the person hired is someone who really understands the city deeply and who can also be an asset to the City Council. The truth is that the City Clerk prepares City Council agendas very much like a playwright where the actors (the councillors) can freely improvise within the script. Also, the Council-related duties are only a fraction of the many essential responsibilities of the City Clerk’s Office.


Order #8. That the proposed Special Permit Criteria amendments to Article 19 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance (as attached) be referred to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

Committee Reports #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on May 22, 2019 to discuss with Eversource any plans it has for meeting the anticipated electricity needs of Cambridge businesses and residents by expanding capacity on land it owns throughout the City, with a focus on sites in East Cambridge (Kendall Square and Fulkerson Street).

It would appear that this zoning proposal and the Eversource matter on Fulkerson Street are inextricably linked. It’s a bit disturbing when zoning is used as a reactionary tool. Perhaps a better approach would be to require (with appropriate enabling legislation, if necessary) that all major utilities provide short- and long-term infrastructure improvement plans that address such things as capacity, maintenance of the existing infrastructure, and planning for emerging needs such as local solar generation and charging locations for electric vehicles (just to name a few). Conflating this with zoning seems a bit wrong-headed. It’s reminiscent of how the Parking Freeze was used to block commercial development – even environmentally sound commercial development – under the guise of environmental protection.


Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to draft for discussion several ordinances to reduce or prohibit campaign donations from donors seeking to enter into a contract, seeking approval for a special permit or up-zoning, seeking to acquire real estate from the city, or seeking financial assistance from the city.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

It’s an election year. Some version of this proposal happens like clockwork every two years. The only thing that makes it interesting this year is how much money is now coming from people with a financial interest in the "100% Affordable Housing" Overlay proposal that would potentially deliver properties to various "non-profit" housing developers by allowing them to do things that others can only dream of. Any candidate-endorsing organization that receives contributions from these sources (and yes, I do mean ABC specifically) should be subject to the same restrictions as individual candidates. All of this is likely academic since the November election will likely be a memory by the time any action is taken on this proposal, if ever – so it’s really just posturing at this point.

Committee Reports #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 1, 2019 to discuss a petition to amend the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.16 entitled “Noise Control” by deleting sections 8.16.081-8.16.087 to prohibit the use of leaf blowers.

My proposal: Enact a Total Ban on Leaf Blowers only after loud sound systems in motor vehicles are banned. But seriously, don’t you think we put far too much effort into banning things? When did Cambridge give up on making an effort to convince people to use better practices? Sometimes we really do seem to be The Village of Control Freaks.

Committee Reports #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on May 21, 2019 to discuss the “City of Cambridge getting to Net Zero Action Plan: Fiscal year 2018 progress report” and to receive a general update on the Net Zero Action Plan.

I really hope that "Getting to Net Zero" doesn’t translate into a $3,000 repair in a residential building costing $30,000 or more in order to meet any new requirements. – 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]

May 21, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 397-398: May 21, 2019

Episode 397 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 21, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 21, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: FY2020 Budget adoption; Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC) questions; Constellation Center future; Foundry; and the Cambridge Health Alliance. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 398 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 21, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 21, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Bike Ride; modifying the PR ballot; some PR election facts; curb cuts; Cambridge River Arts Festival; paradigm shifts and the achievement gap in the Cambridge Public Schools. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 15, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 395-396: May 14, 2019

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

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


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

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

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 22, 2019

Living on a Budget (A Big Budget) – April 22, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Living on a Budget (A Big Budget) – April 22, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

As the councillors play their fiddles and cannabis outlets poke up through the ground like spring crocuses, the Manager will deliver the FY2020 Budget on Monday. Two departmental budgets appear to have vanished – General Services and Weights & Measures. The full budget details won’t be available until the actual meeting, but the summaries are available now.

Here are some agenda items that piqued my interest (grouped as appropriate). The agenda is pretty full on its own, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum:

Budget Season!Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the FY2020 submitted budget and appropriation orders.

The Bottom Line is that the total proposed FY2020 Budget is $665,550,940. That’s up 6.9% over last year’s FY2019 budget of $622,477,255. You may want to take a longer view at the multi-year comparisons.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a memorandum regarding the School Department FY20 Budget. [At the Regular Meeting of Apr 2, 2019, the School Committee voted that the General Fund Budget of the Cambridge Public Schools be adopted in the sum of $201,770,255 for FY20.]

That’s a 5.6% increase over last year’s School Department budget.

Manager’s Agenda #2 through 9: The Annual Big Loan Orders (appropriation and authorization to borrow) for:

#2 – $800,000 to provide funds for various Schools for repairs to entrance doors, upgrade of energy management software, replacement of analog phone system with the voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and the replacement of an emergency generator.

#3 – $22,000,000 to provide funds for the construction of improvements at the Fire Station Headquarters Building located at 491 Broadway.

#4 – $4,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

#5 – $20,500,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the Alewife area.

#6 – $4,000,000 to provide design and construction of Eliot Street between JFK St. and Brattle St. which is a continuation of the Harvard Square Kiosk and Plaza and Surface Enhancement project.

#7 – $10,000,000 to provide funds for the construction of improvements at City Hall.

#8 – $3,000,000 to provide funds for the Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan.

#9 – $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and reconstruction of the Tobin School building.

In addition to the Operating Budget, the City also each year seeks authorization to borrow significant amounts for various capital projects (presumably at very favorable interest rates thanks to our multiple AAA bond ratings). This year’s loan authorizations total $74,300,000.


Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Grand Junction Multi-use Path Design Project Working Group: Joseph Aiello, Rebecca Bowie, Christopher Cassa, Carlone Lowenthal, Bill McAvinney, Sarabrent McCoy, Miguel Perez-Luna, Jose-Luis Rojas, Dalila Salcedo, Katrina Sousa, Florence Toussaint, Jason Alves, Nicholas Dard, Tom Evans, Amy Flax, Kathryn Lachelt Brown, Tony Lechuga, Brad Pillen, Michelle Lower, Diana Prideaux-Brune, Robert Ricchi and John Sanzone.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-9, requesting that the City determine what facilities, parking changes, and other improvements to the pavement conditions are possible to make Cambridge’s stretch of Webster Avenue a complete street.


Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the City Council Zoning Petition to amend Section 4.22 "Accessory Apartments," following further staff review and improvements to petition language.

Committee Report #2. 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 Apr 2, 2019 to continue discussion on a petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge in section 4.22 to allow for a special permit for the alteration of a single, two-family or accessory structure in existence as of January 2019 to provide one accessory apartment, if appropriate conditions are met.


Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 18-144 regarding a report on eviction data, and 19-10, regarding a report sharing information to assist in analyzing displacement.

Communications & Reports #5. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Mar 19, 2019 meeting minutes.


Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-127, regarding draft zoning for urban farming; Awaiting Report Item Number 19-23, regarding allowing lodging houses in Residential A1, A2 and B Zoning Districts; and Awaiting Report Item Number 19-28, regarding a timetable for updating retail and small business components of the zoning table of uses.

Manager’s Agenda #20. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-37, regarding the possibility of expanding the City of Boston’s intergenerational housing pilot to Cambridge.


Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Central Square Business Improvement District (BID).

Applications & Petitions #2. A petition was filed by Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 400, petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

Communications & Reports #4. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from the Assessors Department, transmitting certification regarding the petition from Kenneth S. Barron, 614 Massachusetts Avenue, et al property owners, pursuant to MGL Chapter 40O, petitioning that a Business Improvement District (BID) be established for the Central Square Business Improvement District.

This has been discussed for over two decades and it has finally arrived. I should really buy someone a beer (or better yet they should buy me a beer). Special gratitude goes out to Michael Monestime, Executive Director of the Central Square Business Association for bringing this from theory to reality. Additional gratitude goes out to all the Central Square property owners for believing that the future can be better with a little cooperation and vision.


Charter Right #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a memorandum regarding the update on the search process to hire a new City Clerk to replace Donna Lopez when she retires.

Order #9. Appointment of Paula Crane as Interim City Clerk in the event that a City Clerk has not been named in time to begin service on June 1, 2019.   Vice Mayor Devereux


Unfinished Business #5. 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] [Attachment A][Attachment B]

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 Apr 11, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code to add a new Chapter 5.50 entitled “Cannabis Business Permitting”.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cannabis Business Ordinance Follow Up Inquiry.

Communications & Reports #6. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding proposed amendments to the Cannabis Business Ordinance.

Perhaps the 2018-2019 City Council will one day be remembered for making Cambridge the Cannabis Capital of Massachusetts. I suppose they had to do something to look busy.


Order #1. City Council support for H.692 extending voting rights to certain noncitizens.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Order #5. City Council support of the EMPOWER Act (H.720/S.389: An Act ensuring municipal participation of the widest eligible range).   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Order #6. City Council support of H.78: A proposal for a legislative amendment to the constitution to provide for no excuse absentee voting.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Variations of these pop up every few years – generally when some politicians are desperate for attention. Of the three Orders listed above the only one that has merit (and a lot of merit) is the one calling for "no excuse absentee voting". This will require a state constitutional amendment to make it so, but this is by far the best way to increase flexibility in when registered voters can cast their ballots.

In my view citizenship equals the right to vote to elect your government. Non-citizens are welcome to be residents and to pay taxes and receive services, but voting to determine the government should be for actual citizens of the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the City of Cambridge. As for lowering the voting age to 16 or 17, my feeling is that you have to draw the line somewhere, and maybe that line is somewhat arbitrary, but age 18 seems about right. Even if there was a strong movement to adjust that age downward, such a change would have to be uniform across the Commonwealth or across the country. It should not vary from town to town. Fundamentally, it’s just populist horse pucky.


Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update from Eversource and any other relevant City departments regarding the finance, health and safety, building design and the long-term electricity needs that was requested by the City Council before the construction of a substation on Fulkerson Street in East Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Order #3. That the City Council go on record in opposition to the site owned by Eversource on Fulkerson Street to have a substation and that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to urge Eversource to reconsider its acquisition of the property.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

I have my own issues with Eversource, but from these Orders you would almost think that nobody in East Cambridge or Kendall Square uses electricity or that the demand is dropping. (It isn’t.)


Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding CPSD, the Achievement Gap, and a Review of 8th Grade Math MCAS Results.

Various iterations of the Cambridge School Committee and the Cambridge School Department have been talking and talking about "The Achievement Gap" for decades, and all that talk has accomplished little. Perhaps at some point they should readjust their focus on simply doing the best possible job teaching and motivating students and just let the chips fall where they may. I suppose, however, that this is just not the way we do things in Cambridge. – Robert Winters

March 31, 2019

Preview – April 1, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Preview – April 1, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

City Hall in RedThese days I don’t know whether to watch or simply look away as this City Council behaves in ways that sow the seeds of doubt in even the most ardent supporters of the Plan E Charter like me. As much as I believe in proportional representation (PR) and Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) I find myself asking the simple question: Proportional to what? I am seriously doubting if I have any representation at all, and there isn’t all that much promise among the emerging new candidates, some of whom are just waiting to feed at the trough of the latest iteration of political action committees (PACs). I sincerely hope that some new candidates emerge who actually understand the ins and outs of Cambridge and who are not just ready to ride the latest round of hot button single issues. So far most of the new candidates look like they were printed on a 3D-printer at the Bernie Sanders clone factory.

Meanwhile, these agenda items stand out:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from City Engineer Katherine Watkins, to eliminate and rename certain streets in the Northpoint/Cambridge Crossing area.

I have a mild fascination with the naming (and renaming) of streets. I like these recommendations, especially the theme represented by streets named for Harriet A. Jacobs and Gertrude Wright Morgan. For those who don’t already know, there’s a very strong theme in Cambridgeport based on the War of 1812. You can look it up.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $300,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account which will support the expansion of the curbside organics program to 13+ unit households in FY20 and be used for the purchase of collection bins and outreach efforts.

It will surprise no one to learn that I’m happy to see this, but beyond organics collection there are some troubling realities in recycling these days. American investment in materials recovery (new technology, better processing facilities, and better end markets) has to increase now that we can no longer count on dumping our low quality recycled materials in places like China. Cambridge residents may also soon have to learn to be a bit more thoughtful in how they handle their recyclable waste. Ease of disposal is nice but quality markets for recyclable materials is nicer.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-61 regarding a report on commissioning a public art piece, statue or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment.

I am very glad to see this moving along. Please give consideration to Central Square as a potentially ideal location for such public art.

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-12, regarding a report on legality and constitutionality of the proposed "Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal Election Program" and the "Cambridge Municipal Election People’s Pledge", and Awaiting Report Item Number 18-136 regarding a report on submitting a proposal that candidates would agree to not accept donations from persons outside of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [Legal Opinion]

Our City Solicitor really does her homework when researching these questions. Even if there is some merit in public financing of local campaigns (and I am not yet convinced), I have never known the proponents to consider all the consequences and potential problems associated with their proposals.

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-01, regarding a report on the recently adopted regulations of the short-term rental revenue and the necessary steps to impose and access the revenue from the excise and community impact fees. [Legal Opinion] [Chart of Taxes]

Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [Draft Ordinance]

I’ll leave these to the wisdom of councillors or the lack thereof.

Unfinished Business #5. 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 Feb 27, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title Twelve entitled “Streets, Sidewalks and Public Places” by adding a new Chapter 12.22 entitled “Cycling Safety Ordinance” ON OR AFTER APR 8, 2019 THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED

I have no doubt that this will be ordained even though I seriously disagree with the concept of mandating road design by ordinance.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of retired Cambridge Police Officer Edward "Eddie" Burke.   Councillor Toomey

One of the great things about living in Cambridge for a long time (even if you weren’t born here) is that you get to know a lot of people in the Cambridge Police Department, the Cambridge Fire Department, and the Department of Public Works. This also means that you share in the heartbreak when people you’ve come to know pass away. My condolences go to Eddie’s entire extended family.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate departments to provide more information and analysis as it relates to the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay District.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I am glad at least some city councillors are asking questions about this. I served on the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group that supposedly recommended this proposal, and I asked many questions and raised many concerns about this from the first moment the proposal was presented. I attended every meeting and spoke at every one of them. I was resolutely ignored, and not because my concerns were off the mark. The outcome had been determined when the appointments were made and before the committee ever met.

Some things can be amended to make them better. Other things need to be discarded so that something better can be found. This entire concept should be discarded. Has anyone considered the possibility that Inclusionary Zoning was a pretty good idea and that maybe you should just be happy with that?

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to ensure that the Housing Committee hearing scheduled for Apr 25, 2019 be televised and livestreamed, to ensure that as many people as possible will have the opportunity to view this hearing.   Councillor Simmons

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to ensure that the Housing Committee hearing scheduled for Apr 16, 2019 be televised and livestreamed.   Councillor Simmons

These meetings have been little more than Bad Theater – more of a competition between mailing lists of those wishing to pack the meetings than anything substantive.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and MassDOT staff, as well as with representatives of the communities through which the Minuteman Bikeway passes, to review infrastructure designs and investigate ways, to include speed limits, enforcement, striping, construction projects, signage and education efforts, to maximize safety for all users of these regional bike-related amenities.   Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

This Order follows the recent head-on bicycle collision that fatally injured an Arlington man. Sure, put up signs and lay down paint and maybe bolt some plastic poles to the ground, but this still comes down to people learning to travel responsibly. This goes beyond hardware and regulations.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to televise and record the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee hearing scheduled for Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:00pm.   Vice Mayor Devereux

The purpose of this public hearing is to discuss the logistics and feasibility of implementing early voting in City Elections and to discuss the possibility of pursuing a Home Rule petition to lower the voting age to City elections to 16 years old. As to the former, it may have a marginal benefit but it will likely come at a considerable cost. Furthermore, there’s a chance it will somewhat bias the municipal election toward areas where early voting sites are located. As for lowering the voting age for municipal elections to 16 years old, my belief is that the minimum voting age should be the same across the entire Commonwealth and not vary from town to town. If you want to make the case for this, try to convince the state legislature to do it statewide or pursue other matters.

Order #12. That the City Council go on record in enthusiastic support of H.2865, “An Act to Establish a Net Zero Energy Stretch Code.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Even if every single suggestion in such a revised code is a good idea, there is little doubt that the costs to anyone doing a renovation will be substantial. Perhaps a lot of people will choose to adhere to stricter standards because of the long-term savings, but I have never been a big fan of absolute mandates except for the purpose of safety. – Robert Winters

March 20, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 381-382: March 19, 2019

Episode 381 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate update and some PR notes; counting bikes, proposed Cycling Safety Ordinance; the misuse of surveys; and Better Buses? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 382 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Plan E and the City Auditor; nominations for Outstanding City Employee awards; Faux Retail; Cambridgeside Galeria Re-Envisioned. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 24, 2019

Not So Great Expectations – Feb 25, 2019 City Council Agenda

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:57 pm

Not So Great Expectations – Feb 25, 2019 City Council Agenda

Great ExpectationsPerhaps the biggest draw for this meeting will be the anticipated vote on a proposed moratorium on property owners removing any tree above a certain diameter without City permission and an onerous fine. Though I understand there may be some amendments, the current proposal would allow the removal of only "dead, diseased, or dangerous" trees. The background motivation is that some Big Developers removed some trees, so therefore every small property owner must be penalized or prevented from making difficult choices about how to manage their property. I’m still hoping that some wisdom may emerge from this hopelessly politicized travesty, but I expect to be disappointed. I suppose I should start getting used to it because this group of nine city councillors may continue to disappoint as the year progresses as they set the stage for the November municipal election. The script is basically to declare an emergency and then use it to justify loss of freedom and flexibility. Sound familiar? Here are the relevant items:

Unfinished Business #5. 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 Jan 9, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection” to amend section 8.66.40 entitled “Applicability” and by adding a new section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for other projects.” THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER FEB 18, 2019.

Committee Report #1. 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 Feb 14, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal code to amend Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection”: in section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for Other Significant Tree Removals”.


Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-105, regarding the feasibility of placing a condition in the public bidding documents prohibiting municipal contractors from displaying any signage other than company makers and contact information on vehicles. [City Solicitor’s Response]

If you recall, this requested legal analysis stems from that rather shallow reaction by some city councillors some months ago to a construction vehicle that carried a political message not to their liking. The City Solicitor’s response confirms what everyone surely must have known when this Order was filed. Free speech may not always be what you want to hear, but it is protected. That’s what has long been Great about America.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $600,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures, to be used for shoreline and landscape improvements at Magazine Beach.

This continues to be one of the most refreshing collaborations in recent memory between local residents, their City and State government, and the Mass. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation (DCR). There will, of course, be hundreds of pages of gibberish filed by our local "Goose Guy" accusing all parties of every sort of malfeasance. Free speech, you know.

Applications & Petitions #4. A Zoning Petition has been received from the residents of the City of Cambridge requesting that the City Council amend Chapter 8.16 "Noise Control" of the Cambridge Municipal Code. [They are proposing an outright ban on leaf blowers.]

I suppose regulating leaf blowers just wasn’t enough for some people. It’s got to be a ban. There is a Cambridge subculture that really must be modeling their behavior on Boston’s old Watch & Ward Society. Will books be next on the list of Things to be Banned? I’m already expecting to have the future Climate Police one day impound by gas-fired boiler and the internal combustion engine from my VW Bus. Please don’t tell them that I also eat meat.

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Paula Sharaga.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

I knew Paula and considered her one of the most likable politically active people I have met in years. I don’t have the words to say just how much of a tragedy this was and how much of a shock it was to hear the news of her death while she was bicycling in the Fenway area.

Resolution #7. Appreciation for Red Mitchell.   Councillor Simmons

I want to join with Councillor Simmons in this appreciation. Red is a wonderful guy and a scholar of history. He and I will have to one day soon take a trip down to the Adams Homestead in Quincy, MA to indulge our shared interests.

Order #1. City Council opposition to MBTA Fare Increase Proposal.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

I was looking for the clause in this Order with suggestions for other funding mechanisms for the MBTA. I’ll keep looking. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department on a process for establishing a formal, thorough review of the City’s Affordable Home Ownership programs, incorporating a plan for obtaining and analyzing substantial quantitative data inclusive of all types of units.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

I suppose the requested information may prove interesting, but the whole concept strikes me as somewhat artificial. If you don’t really have the freedom to do with your property as you see fit (within the bounds of applicable zoning), is it really yours?

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City department to discuss the feasibility of allowing small businesses to host live acoustic music performances without a license, and if feasible, present the City Council with a proposal to allow such performances.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

The requirement of a license simply gives the City (and abutters) some recourse in the event that problems or abuses arise. Perhaps a better idea would be to establish a very simple and very inexpensive (maybe even free) licensing procedure for acoustic music performances. Maybe even have it be an over-the-counter transaction where you simply pick up the list of expectations with the license and we simply trust that they’ll be followed.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments to amend the Zoning Ordinance “Table of Uses” to allow for lodging houses in Residential A1, A2, and B Zoning Districts and to determine what tax incentives could be utilized to assist in the conversion of single-family/multi-family houses into lodging houses.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern

I think this could be a good thing that might provide some housing opportunities. The truth is that some people in these districts have been taking in boarders for ages. No whistle, no foul. I don’t see the harm even if the whole building is given over to such a use – as long as a resident manager is required to live in the building and keep an eye on things. This idea is a lot better than some other proposals currently being considered, e.g. the "Affordable Housing Overlay".

Order #9. City Council support of retirement fund fossil fuel divestment bill.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

There is something unsettling about city councillors dictating conditions on how public employees’ pension money should be invested. I can certainly understand the City Council appealing to a retirement board to factor in the potentially negative consequences of their investment choices, but instructing them where they can and cannot invest those funds is a bit of an overreach. How would the City Council feel if the Retirement Board made recommendations about City Council salary and benefits?

Order #10. That the City Manager provide the City Council with information that is offered to limited equity condominium owners regarding the ability to recoup extraordinary repair and maintenance costs, the procedure that is in place to inform purchasers of existing or possible construction and maintenance issues that may result in higher-than expected condo fees, and the possibility of allowing roommates to cover unexpected expenses.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

In an ideal world, limited equity condominium arrangements should be independent of City agencies. The fact that this Order is being filed only highlights the shortcomings of having the City play an oversized role in the affairs of such buildings. If questions of "the ability of owners of limited equity condominiums to recoup extraordinary repair and maintenance costs" even have to be asked, then maybe the real question should be about the sustainability of this kind of housing model. The order also asks about "the possibility of allowing limited equity owners to have roommates to allow them to cover these sorts of unexpected expenses". If you don’t have the right to take in roommates to help cover your expenses, then you don’t really own anything. This is more like "pretend ownership".

Order #13. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Economic Development Department on expediting zoning based on the 2015 Commercial Land Use Classification Study and exploring the feasibility of hiring more zoning planners.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I still fail to see why this has taken so long. When we reach the point where a City Council order is filed suggesting how a City department should be managed and how many people should be hired, then something has gone terribly wrong. I haven’t seen any City Council orders lately offering managerial advice to the Department of Public Works or the Department of Human Service Programs.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to provide the City Council with information regarding accessory dwelling units.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui

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 Feb 5, 2019 to discuss the petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Section 4.22 to allow for a special permit for the alteration of a single, two-family or accessory structure in existence as of January 2019.

I think there are definitely more opportunities out there for accessory dwelling units as a good way to provide housing and flexibility. The recent hearing on this topic seemed to produce more questions than answers. This Order is an attempt to address some of the questions raised. – Robert Winters

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