Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 12, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 423-424: Oct 8, 2019

Episode 423 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 8, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 8, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Tax rate hearing; property tax classification; residential exemption; tax levy; Harvard Square Zoning Petition; and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 424 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 8, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 8, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Energy (gas & electric) infrastructure and City Council proposals; other topics from Oct 7 Council meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 7, 2019

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Never Mind Choice – Let’s All Ban Together – Oct 7, 2019 City Council Highlights/Lowlights

Here’s this week’s sampler of things interesting and/or infuriating (grouped as appropriate):

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation not to adopt the City Council zoning petition to amend Article 19.000 of the Zoning Ordinance regarding utility and infrastructure impacts of large development projects that require a Project Review Special Permit.

Order #8. Public Utilities’ Planning and public meetings.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

The Planning Board basically said in recommending against this petition that though they would like Project Review Special Permit applicants to provide information about energy needs, etc., they don’t believe it’s in their purview "to make findings with regard to infrastructure that is managed by state-regulated public utilities over which neither the City nor the developer have control." They also expressed concern that the proposed changes might prevent development projects that could otherwise improve existing infrastructure (as mitigation). The Board did acknowledge the value of receiving information on the overall impact of a particular project on the energy system and the cumulative impacts of new development but did not support precluding projects strictly on the basis of such information.

The context of this proposal is the proposed Eversource substation on Fulkerson St. and the fact that with new development comes the need for such facilities – unless you are of the belief that all new buildings can be built honestly "net zero". The fact is that most, perhaps all, buildings that are advertised as "net zero" still require energy off the grid. The "net zero" identification is achieved by creative accounting, i.e. by purchasing energy from renewable sources and by buying of energy credits. This doesn’t eliminate the need for the infrastructure to deliver the energy.

Order #8 seeks "to institute regularly scheduled, public conversations between the Planning Board and public utility representatives from Eversource, the Water Department, Comcast, Verizon, and any other appropriate entities, in order to keep the City and the public informed." That’s a good idea regardless how one feels about this specific zoning petition.


Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2020.

Communications #1. A communication was received from Christopher Schmidt, regarding not using excess balances to lower the tax levy.

The FY20 property tax levy based on the approved FY20 Budget is $438,128,694, an increase of $28,318,833 or 6.9% from FY19. For comparison sake, the current national inflation rate is 1.7%. The FY20 Adopted Operating Budget increased by 5.7% over the FY19 Adjusted Budget. The FY19 levy was 5.3% over FY18.

The FY20 residential tax rate will be $5.75 per thousand dollars of value, subject to Department of Revenue approval – a decrease of $0.19 or -3.2% from FY19. The commercial tax rate will be $12.68 – a decrease of $1.03 or -7.5% from FY19. However, before you pop the champagne corks to celebrate the lower tax rate, note that assessed values continue to soar. Total residential property values increased by 9.9%, and total commercial property values increased by 15.6%, so the median tax bills (including the residential exemption) will all be jumping – 8.9% for single-family homes, 7.4% for two-families, 6.0% for three-families, and just the tiniest of increase of 2.8% for condominiums.

I find it interesting and somewhat alarming that at City Council candidate forums some incumbents and challengers continue to celebrate how flush with cash we are and that we should be substantially increasing spending. As the noted letter indicates this also appears to be the sentiment of the major players with endorsing organizations like ABC. There was even one candidate at a forum last night who proposed that the City simply buy up all residential housing in Cambridge and turn it into "social housing". At the signpost up ahead, The Twilight Zone.


Charter Right #6. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to determine whether it would be possible to allow a permitted area for serving alcoholic beverages on Danehy Park property during special community-wide events.

As I said when this was introduced – great idea, and consistent with policies that the DCR has adopted for some of its parks.


Unfinished Business #12. A Zoning Petition has been received from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. et al proposing a Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District [Ordination Comes on or after Oct 7, 2019]

Communications #39. A communication was received from Joseph T. Maguire, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. regarding Amended Zoning Petition for Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District.

Alexandria is asking that the petition be allowed to expire so that it can be re-filed. This matter is also intertwined with the Eversource substation matter.


Applications & Petitions #2. An application was received from &Pizza, requesting permission for a sandwich board sign in front of the premises numbered 3 Brattle Street with a start date of Dec 1, 2019 thru Mar 31, 2020 and a start time of 11:00am and a end time of 11:00pm.

Applications & Petitions #5. A Zoning Petition has been received from Suzanne P. Blier regarding Harvard Square Zoning Petition.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Harvard Square Business Association and the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association to determine the feasibility of closing some portion of Harvard Square to vehicular traffic on a select number of days during the summer of 2020 to have open market-style events.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

It is worth noting (and celebrating) that the freshly introduced Harvard Square Zoning Petition is the result of collaboration among residents and property owners who haven’t always been on speaking terms. Kudos once again to future Nobel Peace Prize nominee Patrick Barrett for helping this process along. We all want to see a Harvard Square revival – and not just for occasional one-day events. As for the sandwich board sign in front of &Pizza, I thought having one of the most prominent locations in the heart of Harvard Square would speak for itself – no extra signage required. I’ll add that really good pizza also speaks for itself.


Communications #2-6,12. Sundry communications re: "Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay".

Is anyone listening? Or are 5 councillors still biding their time in the hope that they can inflict this or worse on the city after January 1?

Communications #10. A communication was received from Gregg Moree, 25 Fairfield Street, regarding State Senator Sal DiDomenico clear evidence of him going to Florida without permission.

Unbelievable. Sometimes I feel that the requirement for candidacy should be something other than just 50 signatures.

Communications #13-36. Sundry communications re: support for bike lanes.

Basically all the same letter saying the same thing about how the priorities of one group of stakeholders outweigh all other considerations and there is one and only one way to make cycling safer.


Order #3. That the full City Council ask the City Solicitor to report back on the legal authority of the City to ban the use of natural gas in newly constructed buildings.   Councillor Zondervan

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor, Community Development, Public Works, Inspectional Services and any other related departments to review the proposed amendments regarding the prohibition of Natural Gas Infrastructure in New Buildings.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux

Committee Report #1. A report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chairs of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 25, 2019 regarding banning natural (fracked) gas infrastructure in Cambridge.

As I wrote elsewhere regarding candidates, some want to mandate change and remove choice. The better candidates want to encourage change and provide incentives. It’s a big difference. Some candidates think primarily in terms of bans and reducing options. Others believe in expanding choice and providing good alternatives from which to choose. I personally prefer using a gas stove. I also believe my natural gas heat is considerably less expensive than the electric alternative.


Relic of the Washington Elm
Circular box carved from a
piece of the Washington Elm
Washington Elm postcard

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Arts Council and the Department of Public Works, in conjunction with the Rindge School of Technical Arts, to determine the best re-use for the four honey locust logs from Inman Square to create public art for the community.   Councillor Zondervan

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Sept 17, 2019 to discuss the preserved Inman Square tree trunks and receive input from the public on possible future uses of the wood, which is a public resource.

This is perhaps one of the tiniest of agenda items, but I really like the idea of using the wood from identified trees either as public art or as mementos. I have a little circular box made from the famous Washington Elm that once stood at Garden and Mason Streets. I have other pieces of that tree as well.


Order #5. That the City Manager have appropriate city staff review the proposed Welcoming Community Ordinance.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Committee Report #3. A report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 2, 2019 at 3pm to discuss the Welcoming Community Ordinance.

This is basically just an updated version of the existing Sanctuary City resolution but in the form of an ordinance that specifically addresses how the Cambridge Police and other City departments should interact with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The City Solicitor expressed that Council should be careful when limiting a police officer’s discretion to enforce laws, and I agree completely. I do find merit in Sanctuary City principles in that I certainly don’t want people to stop reporting crimes or contacting the Fire Dept. or other services out of fear of being nailed for their immigration status.


Order #7. Fuel pump warning labels.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Sign, sign everywhere a sign blocking out the scenery breakin my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to allocate more funds in the FY21 budget to Inspectional Services to help combat the city-wide rodent issue and report back on the feasibility of providing monetary compensation to homeowners who have had to self-finance traps and what funds could be allocated in the future to help homeowners buy traps.   Councillor Toomey

What about those of us who live next to a building where the property owner (and tenants) don’t properly address their rodent infestation even after the City has been contacted, fines have been issued, and the problems persist? Getting reimbursed for partially addressing problems on an adjacent property that spills over onto your own property hardly seems like a solution.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Budget Department, the Assessor’s Department and the Community Development Department to consider directing a portion of future PILOT funds into the Affordable Housing Trust starting in FY21.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Earmarking funds in this way is generally a bad idea. Same goes for previous notions of dedicating cannabis-related funds toward purposes unrelated to its impacts. Priorities and needs change and restricting in-lieu-of-tax funds from universities to one purpose is short-sighted.

Order #15. That the City Council go on record in support of House Bill 3116, Senate Bill 2034, and the establishment of Governor Baker’s Low-speed Mobility Device Advisory Working Group as part of the Safe Driving Legislation, Senate Bill 7.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

This is a good idea and overdue. That said, if anyone thinks that electric scooters and skateboards are going to go a long way toward solving transportation needs, think again.

Order #16. Creating the Director of Arts and Culture Position.   Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Simmons

I have to seriously question the motivation for this Order. If some councillors have questions about how the Cambridge Arts Council prioritizes arts and cultural matters in the city, that’s a totally reasonable inquiry. If they believe that additional staff may be required, that’s also a reasonable thing to ask of the City Manager in the next Budget cycle. However, asking to create a highly specific "Director of Arts and Culture" position seems like these councillors are stepping way over the line into city management. Should the whole universe of how the City supports arts and culture be reviewed periodically? Absolutely, and the City Manager should regularly challenge the Arts Council and other City-supported entities (like CMAC) to be the best they can be. We currently have an especially good Executive Director of the Arts Council in Jason Weeks, and I fail to see how creating a separate and parallel position will in any way further any goals that may have been expressed as part of the recent Arts Task Force.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Economic Development division of the Community Development Department to retain a financial/economic analyst to conduct a confidential financial analysis of NED’s pro forma to inform the council in confidence on the value of the proposed upzoning.   Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

This may make sense in this specific case since the proponent has offered to provide this financial information, but I hope that we don’t go down the road of only approving projects after analyzing the books of the proponents. Ideally zoning should be about good planning and betterment for the city and not on how much profit is permissible in the long run.

Order #21. Proposed amendment to City Ordinance 1.12.040 regarding City Solicitor opinion on proposed ordinances.   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui

I don’t know if an ordinance change is necessarily warranted in this case, but it probably is a good idea to get the City Solicitor involved earlier in some of these matters rather than head down some roads leading to a dead end. – Robert Winters

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]

October 3, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 259-260: Oct 3, 2017

Episode 259 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 3, 2017 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 3, 2017 at 5:30pm. Guest: Manny Lusardi, Liaison for Immigrant Affairs (Vice-Mayor’s Office). Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]


Episode 260 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 3, 2017 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 3, 2017 at 6:00pm. Topics: Elections, Harvard Square, Volpe Petition, property taxes. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 29, 2014

A Taxing Situation – September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 10:36 am

A Taxing Situation – September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes

Property Tax AssessmentsShort agenda this week. Quite likely the most discussed items will be the Orders from last week that were delayed via Charter Right. There’s also the formality of tax classification that will be the subject of a 6:30pm hearing.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2015. [Manager’s letter]

The essentials:

  • The FY15 property tax levy of $341,445,455 reflects a $12,900,510 or 3.93% increase from FY14. The increase in the levy of 3.93% is also well below the five-year average annual increase of 4.92%.
  • The FY15 adopted operating budget increased by 2.91%.
  • The FY15 residential tax rate will be $7.82 per thousand dollars of value, which is a decrease of $0.56, or –6.68% from FY14.
  • The commercial tax rate will be $19.29, which is a decrease of $1.15, or –5.63% from FY14.
  • This recommendation includes the use of $14.65 million in reserve accounts to lower the property tax levy: $2.0 million from overlay surplus and $12.65 million in Free Cash. The certified Free Cash amount of $160.5 million is the highest amount in the City’s history and represents an $18.3 million increase over last year.
  • Approximately 72% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY15 tax bill. In addition, another 13% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100 and $250. Therefore, a total of 85% of the residential taxpayers will see no increase or an increase of less than $250.
  • As a result of market activity in calendar year 2013, which is the basis of the FY15 property assessment, total residential property values increased by 11.53%. Total commercial property values also increased by 11.15%.
  • For FY15, the total assessed value of taxable property in the City equals $30,143,180,521, a 10.98% increase over FY14 values.
  • For FY15, the City was able to increase its levy limit by approximately $29.4 million, to $475.4 million. Approximately $18.2 million of this increase was due to new construction.

Charter Right #1. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Five of Sept 22, 2014.]

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Six of Sept 22, 2014.]

Both of these Orders from last week are helpful. There’s nothing especially complex about these proposals. As in the case of a current zoning petition that would make expiration dates for zoning petitions consistent with state law, the most useful proposals are usually pretty obvious and the only question is why it takes so long for city councillors to propose them. Much of this is just good housekeeping.

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Fourteen of Sept 22, 2014.]

Please see comments from last week. If there is one new ordinance I’d love to see in Cambridge, it would be an ordinance mandating the reduction of visual clutter from regulatory signs. You can barely walk twenty feet along many Cambridge streets without encountering another such sign. Enough! – Robert Winters

September 26, 2011

The Taxman Cometh – Highlights of the Sept 26, 2011 City Council agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:43 am

The Taxman Cometh – Highlights of the Sept 26, 2011 City Council agenda

In addition to the Executive Session delayed from last week by the Charter Right of Councillor Seidel, the top item tonight is the public hearing and the usual series of City Council votes that will ultimately lead to the setting of the residential and commercial tax rates for the current fiscal year, FY11-12. As Mr. Healy likes to remind the Council in his remarks, the City does not technically set these tax rates. They merely take the votes that ultimately lead to the state Department of Revenue setting the rates.

It’s unclear whether the Executive Session (relating to the now-settled Monteiro case and two other pending milkings of Mother Cambridge) will take place early in the meeting or after all other business is dispensed with. Ultimately, the primary purpose of the session is to help Councillor Kelley determine what particular negatives should appear in his campaign literature. Anyway, the important item is this one:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek the Massachusetts Department of Revenue approval for the tax rate for FY2012:

A. Authorize the use of Free Cash of $11,300,000 to reduce the FY12 tax rate;

B. Authorize $2,000,000 in overlay surplus/revenues to be used for reducing the FY12 tax levy;

C. Authorize $5,150,000 from the Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget;

D. Authorize $632,470 from the School Debt Stabilization Fund to be used as a revenue source to the General Fund Budget;

E. Classify property into five classes;

F. Adopt the minimum residential factor of 56.2602%;

G. Approve the maximum residential exemption factor of 30% for owner-occupied homes;

H. Vote to double the normal value of the statutory exemptions;

I. Vote the FY12 exemption of $285.00 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17D;

J. Vote the FY12 asset limits of $56,695 allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 17E;

K. Vote the FY12 income and asset limits allowed under MGL Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause 41D as follows: Income limits of $23,442 for single and $35,163 for married; and asset limits of $46,883 for single and $64,464for married;

L. Vote the income limit for deferral of real estate taxes by elderly persons as determined by the Commissioner of Revenue for the purposes of MGL Chapter 62, Section 6, subsection (k) for a single person ($51,000) and for married ($77,000);

M. Vote to accept Clause 56 of G.L. c. 59, Section 5, which allows members of the Massachusetts National Guard or military reservists who are on active duty to obtain a reduction of all or part of their real and personal property taxes for any fiscal year they are serving in a foreign country.

Text of the City Manager’s message. The tax districts are shown below.

FY12 Tax Districts

Key Facts:

1) The final property tax levy for FY12 will be $299,090,641, an increase of 5.33%.

2) Based on a property tax levy of $299.1 million, the FY12 residential tax rate will be $8.48 per thousand dollars of value, which is an increase of $0.32, or 3.9% from FY11. The commercial tax rate will be $20.76, which is an increase of $0.86, or 4.3% from FY11. [These are upon final approval by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.] Both increases in the tax rate are less than FY11.

3) In FY12, commercial property owners will pay 65.4% of the property tax levy, the same share as in FY11. Consequently, residential property owners’ share of the FY12 tax levy is 34.6%, also the same as in FY11.

4) Approximately 63.9% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY12 tax bill. In addition, another 22.8% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100-$250. Therefore, a total of 86.7% of the residential taxpayers will see no increase or an increase of less than $250.

5) The Residential Exemption for the fiscal year will be $198,085 with a resulting tax savings of $1,679.76.

6) The changes in median assessed value and tax bill by property class are shown in the following table:

Change in the Median Value and Tax Bill by Property Class (includes Residential Exemption)
  FY11 Value FY11 Tax Bill FY12 Value FY12 Tax Bill Dollar Change Percent Change
Single Family $670,450 $3,870 $686,200 $4,139  $269  6.95%
Condominium $364,100 $1,370 $366,700 $1,430 $60  4.38% 
Two Family

$638,550

$3,609 $644,600 $3,786  $177  4.90%
Three Family $721,500 $4,286 $728,900 $4,501 $215 5.02%

These figures are not uniform throughout the city. Values and taxes vary greatly by neighborhood.

  • The median value of a single-family home ranges from a high of $2,448,500 in Tax District R10 (Brattle St. area) to a low of $403,500 in District R1 (everything east of Windsor St.).
  • The median value of a condo ranges from a high of $1,269,700 in District R10 to a low of $318,750 in District R4 (Harvard edge of Mid-Cambridge).
  • The median value of a two-family home ranges from a high of $1,915,800 in District R10 to a low of $449,600 in District R1.
  • The median value of a three-family home ranges from a high of $2,940,300 in District R10 to a low of $530,000 in District R9 (Fresh Pond south toward Mt. Auburn Cemetery).

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board not to adopt the Chestnut Hill Realty Zoning Petition.

This is the beast that refuses to die. The Planning Board panned it once, and now twice. The petition is all about shoehorning more apartments into below-grade, basement apartments so that the property owners (Chestnut Hill Realty) can make even more money. They first tried to call these "workforce housing" as if to suggest they were planning to house cooks and housekeepers in their overpriced new units. What makes the petition interesting is the fact that Chestnut Hill Realty has contributed handsomely to the political campaigns of several incumbent city councillors – typically giving maximum $500 donations from many principal players in the company and several members of their extended families. It’s always entertaining to watch the votes on these things.

Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Noel Johnson.   Vice Mayor Davis, Councillor Simmons

I salute a fellow member of the Central Square Advisory Committee from Pine Street in the Area 4 neighborhood. Rest in peace, Noel.

Resolution #5. Encourage residents to attend Cambridgeport History Day on Oct 1, 2011.   Vice Mayor Davis

This is something everyone should attend if in town that day. I’m scheduled to co-lead a history-themed bicycle ride that day from Charlestown to Lowell. October 1 must be a Big Day for historical explorations.

Resolution #12. Congratulations to The Dance Complex on its 20th anniversary.   Councillor Simmons

And especially to my good friend Rozann Kraus who has helped to guide the Dance Complex from its inception 20 years ago to today.

Order #5. Seeking intervention from Federal officials in keeping the Inman Square and MIT Post Offices open.   Mayor Maher

This Order is co-sponsored by all 9 city councillors, yet I have yet to see any analysis that suggests that either of these post office branches is necessary or even well-utilized.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sam Seidel and Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Co-Chairs of the Government Operations and Rules Committee for a public meeting held on Aug 29, 2011 to discuss policy development on community benefits as mitigation for zoning amendments and dedication of street corners.

Suffice to say that "community benefits" not directly related to burdens caused by new development (as a result of zoning changes) should never be characterized as "mitigation". A better term might be "extortion" or "pay to play". As I have said repeatedly (and apparently to the deaf ears of councillors determined to say yes to any and all new development resulting in more money to spread around to their favorite charities), this is a dangerous road to go down. The clear message is that if you are willing to pay to play, zoning for higher density is for sale. It is difficult to see what, if any, connection this has to rational planning for a better city. – RW

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