Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 5, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 359-360: Dec 4, 2018

Episode 359 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Publicly funded municipal election campaigns and PR elections; refranchising of Cable TV and the future. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 360 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Early days of Cable TV, Grand Junction updates, Davis Sq. changes, flat roof zoning, accessory dwelling unit zoning, City housing policy = social ownership. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

December 3, 2018

First Look at the Dec 3, 2018 City Council Agenda

First Look at the Dec 3, 2018 City Council Agenda

Here are a few agenda items that I found either interesting or infuriating:City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $120,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Executive Department Other Ordinary Maintenance account to support the cable television license renewal process.

The only thing I’ll say on this is to note just how little leverage we have in any of this. It’s not just that Comcast is the only game in town. Just as bad is the fact that the United States Congress some time ago gutted the previous regulations governing the granting of Cable TV franchises by municipalities. The only thing we can even discuss/bargain is PEG – public access, educational programming, and government programming – and we can’t even do much with those. We can’t even discuss what stations should be in the basic Cable TV package.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative grant in the amount of $78,300 to the Public Investment Fund Water Extraordinary Expenditures account which will support Phase I of the Cambridge Water Supply Resilience project.

I’m always interested in hearing about what new projects are planned for protecting and improving Cambridge water whether or not it’s related to "resiliency".

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-79, regarding a report on the Grand Junction Overlay District.

Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an agreement with the Cambridge Housing Authority to take an easement and accepting the conveyance of a 2nd easement for the purpose of constructing a multi-use path along the Grand Junction Railway and to provide grant funding to assist in closing the funding gap for the Millers River Redevelopment Project by paying for part of the demolition of the community center building, reconstruction of a new community building, renovation of 15 housing units and the creation of permanent affordability restrictions for these units.

Applications & Petitions #2. A Zoning Petition has been received from Joseph T. Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. Transmitting a proposed amended to the zoning ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District adjacent to the Grand Junction railroad right-of-way between Binney and Cambridge Streets.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. In any case, it’s nice to see some tangible progress on this project that we first proposed as part of the Green Ribbon Open Space Committee about two decades ago. I’m still curious how it would connect with the Somerville Community Path..

Order #5. Somerville’s Davis Square Neighborhood Plan.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor DevereuxPlan for Davis Square

Check out the draft of the Davis Square Neighborhood Plan. Many of us still remember when a railroad ran through the middle of Davis Square. Anyway, what we do affects Somerville and vice-versa. Envision That.

Order #6. Marijuana Public Consumption.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons

Pretty soon the whole city is going to smell like Woodstock – only at 20X the potency.

Order #7. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, the proposed amendments to Article 5.000 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan

Flat Roof Zoning returns for another try. You know – Up On The Roof.

Order #8. Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning Petition.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Will this again get lost in the shuffle? I know a guy who can help with the amendments.

Order #11. Inclusionary Tenants’ Association.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

Order #12. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the IT Department and Granicus to create a more inclusive city website, including an Open Meeting Portal registration form that does not require the use of gendered pronouns, salutations or titles.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon

Oh, the horror.

Order #13. Legal Opinion on Portland’s Relocation Assistance Ordinance.   Councillor Zondervan

The relentless campaign to reimpose rent control piecemeal continues like death by a thousand cuts. Last year’s jewel was the "Right of First Refusal" that fortunately never saw daylight. Now this. Though the order asks for a legal opinion on whether Cambridge can impose such a financial requirement, it should be obvious to any sentient city councillor that they cannot do so without authority from the Commonwealth.

Committee Report #4. 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 Oct 3, 2018 to discuss a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program and Policy Order #10 from June 25, 2018.

While I agree that this potentially lucrative business should not be dominated by the usual high-rolling entrepreneurs and that economic opportunity should be spread far and wide, I find unconvincing (to say the least) the notion that anyone should be provided an advantage based on ethnic identity.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 14, 2018 to discuss the Policy Order adopted regarding Cambridge publicly financed Municipal Election Program and the Cambridge Municipal People’s Pledge Program.

I wish I had been able to attend this meeting because I could go on for hours on this topic. For starters, I am not at all convinced that money is any longer the limiting factor in municipal elections. I will also note that most or all of the proposals floated seem pretty obviously chosen to advantage political friends or to disadvantage political opponents – even though the case is always framed in terms of "leveling the playing field". I have in previous discussions of these matters also pointed out how publicly financed municipal campaigns might perversely work in the context of proportional representation and organized candidate slates. This is conveniently overlooked by proponents. If there are future meetings on this topic, please try not to schedule them when I’m in the classroom teaching because I would really like to take a few people to school on this topic.

Committee Report #7. 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 Nov 15, 2018 to continue discussions on the petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance as it relates to cannabis uses.

Trees and marijuana. That’s what this City Council will be remembered for. – Robert Winters

November 28, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 357-358: Nov 27, 2018

Episode 357 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 27, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 27, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Late semester musings; Nov 26 City Council meeting – trees, curb cuts, councillor coddling, municipal facility upgrades, urban agriculture, outdoor lighting; Van Morrison and Astral Weeks. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 358 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 27, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 27, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Voter histories, targeting voters, publicly financed campaigns, age distribution of voters 2012-2018, voter turnout, supervoters, #1 voter fealty. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

November 13, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 353-354: Nov 13, 2018

Episode 353 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 13, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 13, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: More Central Square murals, Taste of the BID; Elections – local, state, federal – recounts & runoffs; Ranked Choice Voting in Maine. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 354 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 13, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 13, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Field trip following Cambridge organics recycling; Ranked Choice Voting; some PR history, and a comparison of the Cambridge PR election system and a proposed alternative. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 25, 2018

Bridging the Divide – Items of Interest on the Feb 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 7:49 pm

Bridging the Divide – Items of Interest on the Feb 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here are some of the more interesting items on this week’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the United States with AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies.

This has become an annual tradition, and it’s still something we should celebrate.


Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for the City Council vote to approve the use of the new voting equipment and to discontinue the use of the existing voting equipment effective immediately.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from Deputy City Clerk, Paula Crane, transmitting a report for a City Council public hearing held on Tues, Feb 20, 2018 for the purpose of the City Council and the public to view the new voting equipment purchased by the Election Commission.

We first used the current AccuVote machines for the Sept 1996 State Primary, and they were a huge improvement over the punchcard system we used prior to that. It was necessary then to have some custom programming done so that the same scanners could also be used for the municipal PR elections, and that will again have to take place with the new ImageCast machines. That’s just for creating the ballot data text files. The election tabulation will continue to be done the same we’ve been doing it. In addition to firming up our system for our own sake, it’s worth noting that with Ranked Choice Voting being advocated in Massachusetts and elsewhere (though not necessarily PR), what we do in Cambridge may be helpful down the road in other places.


Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Hovey & Markham Cottages as follows: 2A. Property located at 40 Cottage Street; and 2B. Property located at 44 Cottage Street.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, whether a building is landmark-worthy should depend only on the building and not on its owners or occupants.

Update: The City Council landmarked only one of the two properties (44 Cottage Street) and sent the other (40 Cottage Street) to Unfinished Business even though the landmarking only makes sense as the pair of buildings. Apparently, these councillors believe that landmarking is a function of whether they like the property owner or not (and whether they supported you politically).


Resolution #24. Congratulations and thanks to William B. "Bill" King on the occasion of his retirement.   Mayor McGovern

Suffice to say that I have great respect for all who voluntarily serve on City boards and commissions out of a sense of civic duty rather than single-issue advocacy. Bill King is one of those people who has consistently defined over many years what it means to be a great citizen.


Communications #7. Sundry e-mails received on support of the protected bike lanes, relative to Policy Order #4 of Feb 12, 2018 Council Meeting. Copies are on file for review in the City Clerk’s office.

I generally ignore all emails that are the product of a coordinated campaign with a list of "talking points", but I did happen to read one of these sundry emails that stated "You will see no slander in comments from the people who support the new infrastructure." I am reminded of the statement "Fortunately time takes care of old people for us" stated by one particular idiot who didn’t appreciate the criticism by older people of the Cambridge Street configuration.

PSFormer Mayor Alice Wolf submitted a late communication at the previous meeting with specific objections to the current configuration of Cambridge Street and the suggestion that a better configuration should be found. The Cambridge Bicycle Committee was created from her initiative, so let’s put to rest the claim that criticism of this configuration is a fringe phenomenon of "the anti-bike people".

Order #2. That the City Manager and the Mayor’s Office are requested to direct the new bicycle lane working group, once it has been convened, to hold a series of “listening sessions” at the senior buildings throughout Cambridge in order to ensure that our senior residents, who might otherwise be unable to attend the various hearings to weigh in on this issue, will have adequate opportunities to have their voices heard on an issue that could have an outsized impact upon them.   Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern

Wouldn’t it be great if "Vision Zero" didn’t always mean "Listen Zero" when it comes to public feedback and other points of view? I will try to be optimistic. Then again there’s this:

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-16, regarding a report on Inman Square construction.

Synopsis: The City is very interested in your ideas about the color of the sidewalk and what varieties of flowers should be planted in the vicinity of the planned reconfiguration of Inman Square that is not subject to any compromise, discussion, or alternative perspectives.


Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with relevant City departments to create additional Safety Zones for safer streets.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

I agree with this Order, but not just in the situation of "proximity to land-uses serving vulnerable populations". Some streets warrant lower speed limits simply because there is fast-moving traffic directly adjacent to a narrow sidewalk, e.g. westbound on Putnam Ave. When Prospect St. used to have an additional lane with neither a buffer nor parking it was very dangerous, especially close to Central Square. On-street parking can, in fact, be very effective in traffic calming – even moreso when speed limits are reduced.

Blue Heron BridgeOrder #7. That the City Manager is requested to consult with City staff on the feasibility of initiating a formal transit study and action plan of the Alewife area in response to unanimous concerns of the Envision Alewife Working Group regarding the need for a pedestrian/bicycle/shuttle bridge from the Quadrangle area along Concord Avenue across the railroad tracks to the Triangle area on Cambridgepark Drive and a commuter rail stop which would be critical to create neighborhoods that are safe and healthy for residents and businesses.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone

It would be great if the City and our various government representatives could find a way to make this happen, but not in the absence of either a new commuter rail stop or shuttle service or both. It will be very difficult to sell this proposal simply as a pedestrian and bicycle amenity (as has often been done), so I’m glad to see this phrased as it is. Contained in this letter is also one point of view that there should be a grade crossing of the railroad tracks (or underpass or bridge) at the western end of Cambridgepark Drive. You’ll never see a new grade crossing approved there, and an underpass is unrealistic. As for a bridge option, it’s only realistic to imagine one new bridge over the tracks and (even though I may like it there) all the proposals I’ve seen in the last few decades don’t have it that far west. The letter also suggests a pedestrian bridge over the Little River. Except for the usual difficulties associated with building anything near a waterway, that bridge would be relatively easy to build and inexpensive. See picture (Blue Heron Bridge over the Charles River between Newton and Watertown – Wikipedia).

Update: City Manager Louis DePasquale hinted at the possibility of some movement but gave no specifics. Everybody is intrigued about what he was driving at.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to draft language for a home rule petition for a Cambridge Right of First Refusal Legislation.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

It’s curious that the authors of this Order chose not to specify what form of "Right of First Refusal bill" they want. There are good reasons why House Bill 3017 never made it out of committee. Do the authors simply want the City Solicitor to provide language that’s the same as H.3017 or do they want a Home Rule Petition that is fundamentally different? It would be nice if the focus was primarily on providing options for long-term tenants rather than on creating a framework for ensuring that private property in select neighborhoods is transferred to public/quasi-public ownership.

Update: Councillor Simmons exercised her Charter Right on this vacuous Order. This Order brought out more people during Public Comment than everything else on the agenda.

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to develop a timeline for the next Incentive Zoning Nexus Study.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

The current version of the Incentive Zoning provisions was ordained on Sept 28, 2015. That ordinance has the following provision: "The City shall initiate a reevaluation of the Housing Contribution Rate and any other aspect of these Incentive Zoning Provisions at an interval of no less than three (3) years from the time the rate was last amended by the City Council." That’s what a nexus study is, so I suppose this Order is right on schedule. – Robert Winters

December 1, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 271-272: Nov 28, 2017

Episode 271 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 28, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 29, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topic: 2017 Election Data Binge (Part 1). Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 272 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 28, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 29, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topic: 2017 Election Data Binge (Part 1), including a round-by-round description of how fractional transfer would have played out in this year’s City Council election. We also reveal who would replace each member of the City Council and School Committee in the event of a vacancy. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

November 14, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 269-270: Nov 14, 2017

Episode 269 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 14, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 14, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topic: Post-Election Notes – Part 1. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 270 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 14, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 14, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topic: Post-Election Notes – Part 2. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

November 13, 2017

2017 Cambridge Election Results – Bar Graphs

Filed under: 2017 election,Cambridge,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 9:08 am

City Council Unofficial Election Results (Wed, Nov 8, PDF, 2 pgs.)
Elected (in order of election): Simmons, Siddiqui, McGovern, Devereux, Zondervan, Mallon, Toomey, Carlone, Kelley

School Committee Unofficial Election Results (Wed, Nov 8, PDF, 1 pg.)
Elected: Nolan, Bowman, Dexter, Fantini, Kelley, Kimbrough

In addition to the spreadsheets, you may also be interested in seeing this displayed graphically, e.g. with bar graphs. If you click on either of these you’ll find a bar at the bottom that will enable you to click through the rounds one-by-one to watch how the transfers proceed.

2017CouncilCounts
2017SchoolCounts
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