Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 8, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 365-366: Jan 8, 2019

Episode 365 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 8, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 8, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: History; Political Trichotomy; Trees; Infrastructure & Inundation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 366 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 8, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 8, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Significant passings; arts funding and earmarking; proposed Home Rule petition for a real estate transfer tax; and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 6, 2019

Kicking Off the New Year – Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:42 pm

Kicking Off the New Year – Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council meetingThe beginning of a municipal election year often features some table-setting, i.e. framing some of the issues that are bound to play out as we work our way to the November election. If bike lanes were the AOC of 2017, then trees, battles over density, and the next round of challenges to property ownership are taking the early lead in the 2019 rhetorical derby. Here are some of the agenda items that drew my attention this week.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Bob Richards.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

Bob passed away on December 19. He has been a long-time friend and neighbor, one of the founders of the Antrim Street Block Party – the longest in the city, a CRLS teacher, and a dependable ally on the Ward 6 Democratic Committee. The phrase "he will be missed" is often said, but I will really miss the frequent conversations Bob and I have had over many years – and not all about politics.

Order #1. Creating Gender X on Cambridge Birth Certificates.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

I have lived in Cambridge now for over 40 years and can honestly say that I identify as a True Cantabrigian. I have even been accepted by many native Cantabrigians as something more than a carpetbagger. That said, my birth certificate identifies me as a New Yorker. I would like the option to have my birth certificate revised to better reflect my current identity.

Order #4. Accessing revenue generated from new short-term rental legislation.   Mayor McGovern

This is a timely Order now that the Commonwealth passed short-term rental legislation late in the previous session.


Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes of the meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

Order #5. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council and Department of Finance to allocate a percentage of hotel/motel tax revenue and adult use cannabis tax revenue to the arts in the FY20 budget.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

Order #6. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council, Traffic and Parking Department, Community Development Department, and Central Square Advisory Committee to establish the Central Square Improvement Fund and allocate no less than 25% of funds generated to the arts.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

Order #7. That the City Manager work with the Cambridge Arts Council and Community Development Department to make the appropriate updates to the City’s 1% for arts ordinance.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

As a long-time booster for Central Square, I suppose I should be thrilled with these Orders – and I am, but with reservations. I dislike the whole idea of earmarking revenues generated from specific activities for the exclusive use of very specific purposes – even if these purposes are things I support. Why should revenue generated by the cannabis industry be dedicated for arts purposes rather than early childhood education (just to give one example)? Why should 25% or more of a proposed Central Square Improvement Fund be dedicated toward arts projects? This is reminiscent of the whole Foundry Kerfuffle where some councillors felt that this building should be dedicated toward very specific arts-related purposes but other councillors had different priorities.

There is something of a "cutting the line" in all this – proposing specific earmarking before other priorities have been considered. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this, e.g. there have been and continue to be proposals to earmark revenue for the purpose of buying up residential buildings and properties solely for use as subsidized housing. Priorities do change from year to year.

As for the One Percent for the Arts Ordinance, some revision may be in order, especially in regard to the rather harsh division between the commissioning of outside artists and the artistic talents of some of the people actually building publicly-funded projects. However, the rather simple math is that because a fixed percentage of the project funding is to be dedicated toward artistic components of a project, then as projects become more expensive the money dedicated for art rises proportionately.


Order #8. Support Green New Deal.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

Translation: This Order proposes to reject the plans proposed by the new House Democratic Leadership (Nancy Pelosi and Co.) in favor of a proposal from a newly elected member of Congress (AOC-NY). The Order also suggests corruption among Ms. Pelosi’s leadership team ("will include legislators who have accepted contributions from or who have themselves made significant investments in the fossil fuel industry"). Please, councillors, edit out some of the WHEREAS’s before voting on this symbolic Order.

Order #9. Water Mains Age and Maintenance Update.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern

The requested report is one I will definitely look forward to reading. Yes, I am an Infrastructure Geek. It says so on my birth certificate.

Order #10. City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to prepare a draft Home Rule petition for a Real Estate Transfer fee.   Councillor Carlone, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Insofar as this might cool down speculative investment in Cambridge real estate, I might be supportive. I do not, however, agree that any revenue generated should be dedicated exclusively toward the acquisition of property to be turned into subsidized housing. [See above remarks re: earmarking.] There is, however, a larger issue. Last year opened with a "Right of First Refusal" proposal to lay a heavy hand on who would have first preference in purchasing residential property put up for sale. Last year ended with the non-support of a state initiative re: housing growth and changes in the threshold for certain zoning changes based on concerns that there should be greater tenant protections (which often translates into greater restrictions on property owners). Councillor Siddiqui at one meeting referred to about 150 additional measures that could be considered in this vein. It is not at all surprising that property owners become concerned about all this – including many landlords who might otherwise be supportive of some of these proposals.

Here’s a suggestion: How about the City Council make a Declaration to the effect that "The City Council shall pass no law infringing on the rights of small property owners to engage in the ordinary business of renting their property in accordance with general laws." If small property owners were not (justifiably) fearful that their local City Council was planning to make their lives especially difficult, they might be a lot more supportive of proposals floated by the Council.

Order #12. Amendment to the Municipal Code to create a new Chapter entitled "Cycling Safety Ordinance".   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Translation: This Order proposes to mandate via Ordinance that whatever the aspirational Cambridge Bicycle Plan (or any plan superseding it) says, then the City must implement those plans on any City-owned street under the City’s Five-Year Sidewalk and Street Reconstruction Plan unless there are extraordinary reasons for not doing so. It’s amazing how wish lists becoming mandates [see Envision] has become the foundation for How We Do Planning in Cambridge.

Order #13. Volpe Project Updates.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I will look forward to hearing more about this. As the Order points out: "As a federal facility, the new Volpe Center will not be subject to the zoning or special permit requirements set out in the PUD-7 Zoning District that the City Council created in October 2017."

Order #14. Major Public Building Projects Selection Committee Representation.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

We are once again nibbling away at the edges of the Plan E Charter. This Order proposes that there be "at least one City Councillor on the Selection Committee for any major public building project." In short, the Order wants to have an elected councillor involved in the awarding of City contracts. Red Flag.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Zondervan and Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chairs of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Dec 4, 2018 to discuss reviewing the preliminary LiDAR-based canopy study results from Apr 1, 2018 and to discuss potential reasons for the precipitous decline in our tree canopy and any other related matter.

There is a related campaign being floated to declare a Moratorium on the cutting of any tree on private property above a relatively low caliper except for reasons of safety. I actually do have very good reasons to cut down a significant tree in my yard, so give me at least a week’s warning before you declare any Moratorium so I can take care of things. – Robert Winters, Native Cantabrigian

December 19, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 363-364: Dec 18, 2018

Episode 363 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 18, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 18, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: One Way Zoning; Housing Choice Initiative; Suburban Zoning and Subsidized Housing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 364 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 18, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 18, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Housing, continued; Cannabis Retail Ordained; City Clerk Donna Lopez to retire in May; Plan E in Lowell. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 16, 2018

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:50 pm

Pre-Fall – Select menu items from the Sept 17, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe boys and girls return to the playground this week. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for FY2019.

80% housing, 10% open space, 10% historic preservation – same as every year. Not negotiable.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommended appointment of the following person as a member of the Cambridge Housing Authority for a term of 5 years: Elaine DeRosa

I cannot think of a better choice for this important appointment.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Wed, June 20, 2019 to discuss the potential for a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program, focusing on ways to reduce barriers to entry in the commercial Cannabis industry.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Cannabis Zoning Petition with suggested revisions and additional considerations.

I’m a little curious about this: "Board members suggested further study of whether mobile facilities could be allowed, given that a mobile facility operating on a temporary basis might provide lower barriers to entry for small businesses that cannot afford typical retail rents." Are they talking about pot trucks to go along with the food trucks? When I was a kid there was a Good Humor Man who got caught selling dope out of his ice cream truck. Nowadays they’d just call that economic empowerment.

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the reappointment of the following persons as a members of the Library Board of Trustees: Karen Kosko, Patricia Payne and Nancy Woods.

Excellent appointments all around.

Applications & Petitions #3. An application was received from the Office of the Mayor McGovern requesting permission for a temporary banner across Massachusetts Avenue in front of City Hall promoting the Indigenous Peoples’ Day from Oct 3, 2018 thru Oct 15, 2018.

Most people just celebrate this as Day Off. No banner necessary.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Frances (DeGuglielmo) Tingle.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

Resolution #6. Retirement of Attorney David Sullivan from the Massachusetts State Senate.   Mayor McGovern

Resolution #29. Retirement of William"Bill" Dwyer from the Department of Public Works.   Mayor McGovern

One thing not everyone knows is that the Department of Public Works is a community with many people who work for decades, sometimes their entire working life, within DPW. Retirements of people like Bill Dwyer are a very big deal indeed.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department to establish a Senior Living Overlay District at the current site of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility to encourage and incentivize redevelopment specifically for continuum of care services.   Councillor Mallon

I think we’re starting to get a bit too prescriptive with Cambridge zoning, especially with the introduction of "overlay districts" for every imaginable use. Many of us would like to see opportunities for senior living or a place where artists can flourish. We would also like places to buy affordable groceries. Is the creation of an overlay district to dictate one use while preventing other potential good uses the right way to go? It’s one thing to classify land use as residential, commercial, industrial, etc., but how far down should this categorization go?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments and relevant housing partners to aggressively attempt to obtain, or help others obtain, the Santa Maria property for purposes of affordable housing.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern

Whatever happened to the idea of a relocated Public Works Yard? I’m not necessarily recommending this, but putting DPW on Concord Ave. and building mixed-income housing on the current DPW site isn’t a crazy idea.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Commissioner to increase enforcement of the Bike Lane Bill to keep our bicycle infrastructure free and unobstructed.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Does this apply to Really Bad Bicycle Infrastructure (RBBI)?

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the tax status, zoning history, and sale of The Constellation Center’s Parcel C in Kendall Square.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey

Anyone who has followed this knew this Order would eventually come. That will be an interesting and likely fruitless journey down the road of Retroactive Zoning & Tax Classification. Looking forward would make a lot more sense, but I’m sure I’ll find the history interesting.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development Division to regularly update the vacant property database as well as review the strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report and report back on the feasibility of implementing these recommendations.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I testified recently at a follow-up meeting of this committee about the potential unintended consequences of encouraging "pop up" businesses to occupy vacant spaces at (presumably) much lower rents than nearby businesses. I can easily see a seasonable "pop up" store showing up and stealing all the holiday business away from an existing business. The temporary filling of a vacant store could then lead to another vacancy.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to provide a legal opinion on a Motion to Rescind.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #14. That the City Council rescind its vote of July 30, 2018 failing to send the climate safety (Brown, et al) petition to a second reading, thereby taking no action on the petition.   Councillor Zondervan

Our petulant Councillor Zondervan continues to stomp his feet in protest over the failure of the Nakagawa-Brown petition to be passed to a 2nd Reading. First he tried to file reconsideration, and now he wants to go for the legislative equivalent of annulment. I am not a lawyer (IANAL) and I have no prior knowledge of anyone ever looking to do pull a "Motion to Rescind" on a prior vote, but consider the ramifications of such a thing. A local legislature votes on a zoning matter (one way or another) and the matter is finalized. A property owner then happily goes to the bank to secure financing now that the road has been cleared. Then a month or so later the local legislature comes back and cries "Do Over" like that annoying kid who didn’t like the fact that the other kids prevailed in the ball game.

Committee Report #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 Aug 13, 2018 to discuss revisions to the proposed Municipal Code amendment to create a new chapter 12.22 entitled “Surveillance Technology Ordinance;” said revisions were submitted to the City Council on June 25, 2018.

The interesting aspect of this (at least to me) is the legal separation of authority under the City Charter. The City Council may be the body that sets general policies, but can you imagine the ensuing chaos of having the Cambridge City Council micromanaging how the Cambridge Police Department conducts its day-to-day operations or how it responds to an emergency situation? It’s one thing to set parameters and maintain a dialogue, but police investigations should not be arbitrarily constrained by people trained more in politics than in police work.

Committee Report #6. 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 July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.”

I attended this meeting. My impression is that we have several elected officials who have never seen a fee increase or a tax increase that they didn’t embrace and celebrate. The simplest way to understand fees is to make clear the distinction with taxes. A fee pays for a service, and the money raised has to support that service. It’s not just another revenue source like a tax that can be used for whatever pet project a councillor wants to support. Personally, I find the notion of renewing a parking sticker every year a bit ridiculous. We accept it only because we’re familiar with the routine (and the long lines for some). A much better system would be to pay a one-time fee for a sticker that’s good for as long as you own the vehicle and still live in Cambridge. It would be easy to encode the sticker for easy verification against City databases. The only people waiting on lines would then be for new residents or new vehicles.

Committee Report #8. 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 Aug 8, 2018 to discuss City Council petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Article 5.000 as it relates to rainwater and flat roofs.

As an owner of a triple-decker with a flat roof, I completely understand the concerns about clogged drains and why someone might seek an alternative design. The ideas in this zoning petition have merit. The only issue should be how to ensure that one person’s cure is not another person’s cause of trouble, i.e. rainwater being diverted to an unwelcome place. – Robert Winters

April 3, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 301-302: April 3, 2018

Episode 301 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 3, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on April 3, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main Topics: Loss of space for musicians/artists at EMF building on Brookline St. and possible solutions. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 302 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 3, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on April 3, 2018 at 6:00pm. Main Topics: first week of citywide compost collection; Economic Development Committee meeting on retail strategy, Harvard Square; upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

August 29, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 253-254: August 29, 2017

Episode 253 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 29, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 29, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics included Hurricane Harvey and resiliency of cities, the Volpe Petition and a related new petition. Hosts Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 254 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 29, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Aug 29, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics included some history of the Plan E Charter and some of the realities of PR elections. Hosts Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 16, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 227-228: May 16, 2017

Episode 227 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 16, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on May 16, 2017 at 5:30pm. Our guest co-host again was Patrick Barrett. In this program we had a free-wheeling discussion about Cambridge politics and especially the municipal election. We delved into the individual candidates during the 2nd half hour. Robert Winters was the other host. [On YouTube]


Episode 228 – Cambridge InsideOut: May 16, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on May 16, 2017 at 6:00pm. Our guest co-host again was Patrick Barrett. In this program we took a look at all the current City Council candidates, their political bases, and their viability. Robert Winters was the other host. [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 29, 2016

Louis A. DePasquale Selected as Next Cambridge City Manager

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:32 pm

Cambridge City Council votes to make an offer of employment

September 29, 2016 – The Cambridge City Council voted unanimously to make an offer of employment to Louis A. DePasquale as the next City Manager at a special meeting held on Thursday, September 29, 2016. Mr. DePasquale will succeed City Manager Richard C. Rossi who is retiring on September 30, 2016. The appointment of Mr. DePasquale is contingent on successful contract negotiations. He is currently the City’s Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs.

The City Council also voted to appoint Deputy City Manager Lisa C. Peterson as Acting City Manager effective October 1, 2016. She will serve as Acting City Manager until Mr. DePasquale is appointed.

Additional information on the Cambridge City Manager search process can be found at: www.cambridgema.gov/citymanagersearch

Louis A. DePasquale was appointed Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs in 2002 after serving as the City’s Budget Director for twenty years. As Assistant City Manager, Mr. DePasquale is responsible for setting financial policy direction for the City; planning, implementing and overseeing the City’s operating and capital finances; and managing the City’s investment, debt service, and reserve policies. In his current role, he also oversees the management of eight City departments, is a member of the City’s senior management team, and has been actively involved in major City policy and programmatic initiatives.

Mr. DePasquale currently serves as the Finance Chair of the Board of Trustees of Cambridge Health Alliance, an appointed member of the Neville Communities, Inc. Board, and as member of the Cambridge Community Preservation Act Committee and the Cambridge Family Policy Council. Louis is a lifelong Cambridge resident and is married to Cheryl DePasquale and has two children, Kristen DePasquale and Louis DePasquale, both of Medford. He has been a coach in the Cambridge Youth Baseball Programs for 35 years. He received a Bachelor of Science from Boston State College and a Masters of Public Administration from Northeastern University.

Louis A. DePasquale


The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge


Special Cambridge City Council meeting – Sept 29, 2016

ORDERS
1. Offer of employment as City Manager to Louis A. DePasquale.   Councillor Toomey
Adopted 9-0

2. Appointment of Lisa C. Peterson as Acting City Manager   Mayor Simmons
Adopted 9-0

3. City enter into a contract with Elizabeth Valerio and John Foskett.   Councillor Maher
Adopted 9-0

TEXT OF ORDERS
O-1     Sept 29, 2016  Adopted 9-0
COUNCILLOR TOOMEY
ORDERED: That the City Council make an offer of employment as City Manager to Louis A. DePasquale, conditioned upon the successful negotiations of a contract with terms agreeable to both parties.

O-2     Sept 29, 2016  Adopted 9-0
MAYOR SIMMONS
ORDERED: That the City Council appoint Lisa C. Peterson as Acting City Manager commencing on Oct 1, 2016 and continuing until a new City Manager is appointed and that during her appointment as Acting City Manager that she be compensated with a weekly stipend of $1,000.00 in addition to her regular salary.

O-3     Sept 29, 2016  Adopted 9-0
COUNCILLOR MAHER
ORDERED: That the City Council request that the City enter into a contract with Elizabeth Valerio and John Foskett of the Deutsch, Williams Firm to advise the City Council in negotiating a contract with the prospective City Manager.

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