Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

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

September 19, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 257-258: Sept 19, 2017

Episode 257 – Cambridge InsideOut: September 19, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 19, 2017 at 5:30pm. Topics: elections, endorsements, Harvard Square, Sept 18 Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 258 – Cambridge InsideOut: September 19, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 19, 2017 at 6:00pm. Guest: Cambridge School Committee candidate Piotr Mitros. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]
[Piotr Mitros Candidate Page]

September 4, 2017

Topics for Candidates for Cambridge School Committee – 2017

To: Candidates for Cambridge School Committee – 2017

As in the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 municipal elections, I am again maintaining the Cambridge Candidate Pages this year. During the last several elections, these pages received thousands of unique hits per day in the days leading up to the election. I expect at least as much activity this year. Entering a Cambridge candidate’s name in a search engine will usually direct people quickly to these pages – often more prominently than the candidate’s own website.Vote!

Based on a lot of great suggestions from CCJ readers, my revised (and expanded) list of topics for this year’s School Committee candidates is appended below. It’s a longer list than in previous years. You don’t have to write on all of these issues but I hope you will comment on most of them. Candidates may consolidate topics or expand to other topics. Please note that there are no “Yes or No” questions and there will be no ranking, endorsements, or anything like that on the Candidate Pages – just an opportunity for all candidates to reach voters in whatever way they see fit. There is no strict limit on the length of your responses, but I hope you will be concise and to the point.

Your responses will be posted on your own candidate page at http://vote.cambridgecivic.com. Your page will contain a photo (please provide one or an update of the existing one if you wish), a prominent link to your own web site (if you have one), and relevant contact information. You may also provide an updated photo for the gallery of all candidates if you wish. Links to CCTV videos and profiles in the Cambridge Chronicle will also be included as they become available. Please visit this site to see the current pages derived from material from the 2015 election and from material already sent by candidates. I am gradually removing material from the pages of continuing candidates and replacing it with links to the pages for that previous election.

You will have the opportunity to amend or expand your responses at any time up to Election Day.

School Committee Topics for 2017 Candidate Pages – Express your thoughts on most of these topic areas

1) Background [biographical, etc.]

2) Top Priorities [List about three -­ then elaborate below]

3) Top Challenges Facing the Cambridge Public Schools today

4) Innovation Agenda, Hybrid Middle School model

5) School Department Administration and Superintendent

6) School Department Budget and Oversight, Capital Needs

7) Achievement Gaps, Meeting the Needs of All Students

8) Meeting the Needs of Advanced Learners

9) Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies

10) Family engagement and communication

11) Standardized Testing

12) Role of the School Committee

13) Role of Teachers in shaping programs and influencing policies

14) Curriculum and Programs
a) Elementary School Grades
b) Middle School Grades
c) High School Grades
d) Language Immersion Programs
e) Extended day programs
f) Early childhood education
g) Social and emotional development

With rare exceptions, the only editing will be for spelling, punctuation, and minor grammatical errors.

In order to expeditiously post all the information, I urge you or someone from your campaign to submit your responses and related materials via e-mail to election2017@cambridgecivic.com, preferably in plain text and as soon as possible. I generally turn things around very quickly. If you must send materials via US Mail, send them to me at 366 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139. Again, responses can be amended any time up to Election Day, Nov 7, 2017.

Robert Winters, Cambridge Civic Journal, 617-661-9230

Cambridge Candidates Pages – http://vote.cambridgecivic.com
Cambridge Civic Journal – http://rwinters.com
CCJ Forum – http://cambridgecivic.com

Topics for Candidates for Cambridge City Council – 2017

To: Candidates for Cambridge City Council – 2017

As in the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 municipal elections, I am again maintaining the Cambridge Candidate Pages this year. During the last several elections, these pages received thousands of unique hits per day in the days leading up to the election. I expect at least as much activity this year. Entering a Cambridge candidate’s name in a search engine will usually direct people quickly to these pages – often more prominently than the candidate’s own website.Vote!

Based on a lot of great suggestions from CCJ readers, my revised (and expanded) list of topics for this year’s City Council candidates is appended below. It’s a long list – longer than in previous years, so my suggestion is to choose about 10 topic areas and write whatever you wish on those topics. You may also choose to write something on all or most of the topics if you wish. Please note that there are no “Yes or No” questions and there will be no ranking, endorsements, or anything like that on the Candidate Pages – just an opportunity for all candidates to reach voters in whatever way they see fit. There is no strict limit on the length of your responses, but I hope you will be concise and to the point.

Your responses will be posted on your own candidate page at http://vote.cambridgecivic.com. Your page will contain a photo (please provide one or an update of the existing one if you wish), a prominent link to your own web site (if you have one), and relevant contact information. You may also provide an updated photo for the gallery of all candidates if you wish. Links to CCTV videos and profiles in the Cambridge Chronicle will also be included as they become available. Please visit this site to see the current pages derived from material from the 2015 election and from material already sent by candidates. I am gradually removing material from the pages of continuing candidates and replacing it with links to the pages for that previous election.

You will have the opportunity to amend or expand your responses at any time up to Election Day.

The suggested topics for this year are as follows – Express your thoughts on at least 10 topic areas

1) Background [biographical, etc.]

2) Top Priorities [List about three and elaborate below]

3) Land Use, Planning, Zoning, Density, Envision Cambridge [this may include specific ideas regarding particular neighborhoods and major city squares]

4) Housing (in general) and Affordable Housing (in particular) – priorities, plans, proposals

5) Economic Development and Commerce, Retail Viability and Affordability

6) Income Inequality, Economic Opportunity

7) Human Services Programs; Youth Programs; Senior Programs

8) Human Rights, Civic Unity, Diversity

9) Energy, Waste Reduction, Recycling, the Environment, and Public Health

10) Infrastructure: Water & Sewer; Climate-related issues and planning, Resiliency; Municipal Broadband

11) Traffic, Parking, Transportation, Cycling and Pedestrian Issues

12) Open Space, Parks, and Recreation

13) Municipal Finance (budget, assessments, property taxes, etc.)

14) Quality of Life, Noise, Public Safety, Accommodation of People with Disabilities

15) Civic Participation, Structure and Function of City Council and its committees

16) Government and Elections, Plan E Charter, City Manager

17) Relations and Collaboration between Cambridge, neighboring municipalities, the Commonwealth, regional and federal agencies (e.g. in regard to transportation projects, housing, etc.)

18) University Relations – Responsibilities, Collaboration

19) Arts and Public Celebrations

20) Cambridge Public Schools

With rare exceptions, the only editing will be for spelling, punctuation, and minor grammatical errors.

In order to expeditiously post all the information, I urge you or someone from your campaign to submit your responses and related materials via e-mail to election2017@cambridgecivic.com, preferably in plain text and as soon as possible. I generally turn things around very quickly. If you must send materials via US Mail, send them to me at 366 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139. Again, responses can be amended any time up to Election Day, Nov 7, 2017.

Robert Winters, Cambridge Civic Journal, 617-661-9230

Cambridge Candidates Pages – http://vote.cambridgecivic.com
Cambridge Civic Journal – http://rwinters.com
CCJ Forum – http://cambridgecivic.com

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]

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