Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 17, 2019

City Clerk Interviews; Squares and X’s and Ovals – June 17, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

City Clerk Interviews; Squares and X’s and Ovals – June 17, 2019 at the Cambridge City Council

The City Council will be interviewing the 4 finalists for Cambridge City Clerk at a Special meeting starting at 2:30pm. From the Call of the Meeting: "The purpose of the meeting is to hold public interviews· for the four finalists for the position of City Clerk. The candidates are: Timothy Phelan, Jeanne M. Survell, Niko Vangjeli and Anthony Ivan Wilson ….. This special meeting may be adjourned prior to the commencement of the regular City Council meeting at 5:30. The regular City Council meeting of June 17, 2019 at 5:30pm will open with public comment and the public may comment on the City Clerk candidates among other matters on the agenda pursuant to the Rules of the City Council as amended. Following the conclusion of public comment, the City Council may recess to Executive Session to conduct a strategy session in preparation for contract negotiations with one or more City Clerk candidates. If a vote on the hiring of a City Clerk takes place, such vote would be taken in open session." [The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge]

Update – The City Council voted unanimously to choose Anthony Ivan Wilson as the next Cambridge City Clerk, pending contract negotiations.
[The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge]

When the Regular Meeting commences at 5:30pm the rest of the agenda will be relatively light, but here are a few notable items:

Order #1. City Council support of S.2213, An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons

Tic Tac ToeOne curious consequence of this period of gender redefinition is that rather than introducing the alphabet soup of gender alternatives (actually it’s just X in addition to M and F), the Secretary of State’s Office apparently will no longer include the gender field in the registered voter database provided to candidates and others. It won’t be nearly as easy to do gender-targeted campaign mailings (though I suppose you can still sort by first name and make some assumptions). The Cambridge Election Commission recently voted to adopt this deletion.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff and report back to the City Council in greater detail as to why the construction cost estimates for the Inman Square redesign project were so inaccurately low, what steps are being taken to ensure that the project will not lead to further cost estimate overruns, how such inaccurate cost estimates will be avoided for all projects in the future and interim steps that are being taken to ensure maximum safety in this area.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons

The initial estimate was under $3 million which grew to $6 million when approved by the City Council. The successful bid came in at $7.9 million. I would still like some evidence that the desired benefits were not achieved or achievable with the simple addition of the green painted bike lanes now passing through Inman Square.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff and Eversource personnel to determine why the signals at Broadway and Elliott, which add an element of confusion to this intersection, were installed without Eversource’s being able to connect them to the grid in a more responsive manner.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern

As a resident of Broadway who had underground electric service until it failed and was never restored (temporary connections have been in place for nearly 5 years now – in my case an electric line screwed into a live tree and draped over a branch), this situation resonates with me. Convincing Eversource to maintain its existing assets remains an uphill battle. Apparently even the City of Cambridge shares this frustration. Last week a new zoning petition appeared that would allow the granting of a Special Permit for any new development project "only if it finds that the utility impacts of the project would not be significant". The problem is not so much what impacts a new project might have (since only then does Eversource carry out any upgrades), but rather in how Eversource maintains (or fails to maintain) its existing assets.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from former City Clerk, Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on May 28, 2019 to receive an update on the Election Commission’s discussion of potential changes to the ballots used for Municipal Elections that would limit voters to marking only up to 15 candidates.

The Election Commission unanimously approved this very modest change which greatly simplifies the ballot design with little or no effect on the election results in any round of the PR election tally. – Robert Winters

June 12, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 401-402: June 11, 2019

Episode 401 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 11, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on June 11, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Central Square Business Improvement District (BID) approved; evolving transportation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 402 – Cambridge InsideOut: June 11, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on June 11, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Candidate updates (before Patty Nolan announced), candidate requirements; big issues, candidate pages; zoning – infrastructure and obstruction, Eversource; echoes of the Parking Freeze. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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]

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 26, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 383-384: March 26, 2019

Episode 383 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 26, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 26, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topic: The Old Middlesex Canal. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 384 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 26, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 26, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Middlesex Canal; Mar 25 City Council meeting; Plan E and Proportional Representation – proportional to what? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 13, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 379-380: March 12, 2019

Episode 379 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Fresh Pond/Mt. Auburn walk invitation; Housing Overlay proposal and Housing Committee meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 380 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: New City Council candidates; national politics; PR election realities; Zero Waste Plan; upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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