Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 6, 2019

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – June 6, 2019

Celebrate Fresh Pond Day Saturday, June 15

Fresh Pond sunsetJoin the Cambridge Water Department at its annual Fresh Pond Day on Saturday, June 15, from 11am–3pm, to celebrate Fresh Pond Reservation. Fresh Pond Reservation is truly Cambridge’s green gem – an urban wild that protects Fresh Pond, Cambridge’s in-city drinking water reservoir. Fresh Pond Day serves as an annual community tribute to this unique Reservation that is a vital natural resource, an invaluable sanctuary for wildlife, and a beloved recreational escape in the city. This event is free and open to all; all dogs must be leashed.

Fresh Pond Day events will be at and around the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. Use of public transit and bicycles to get to the event is strongly encouraged. Bus routes 72, 74, 75, 78; & Alewife T are all nearby. Visitors arriving by car are asked to park at the Tobin School on 197 Vassal Lane.

Fresh Pond Day 2018Events Schedule
11:00am-2:00pm   Learn to Stilt Walk
11:00am-3:00pm   Open House of the Water Treatment Plant
11:00am-2:15pm   Live Music from Allston Rock Records
2:30pm-3:00pm   Global Water Dance Performance
11:00am-3:00pm   Free bike tune-ups and bike rodeo; learn about pond life animals with Nature Knowledge for Kids; Junior Ranger badge activities; learn how to fix a leak

Peruse our community tables to learn more from various city departments and local organizations involved in sustainability and outdoor recreation.

Please note that rain or extreme weather cancels this event. For more information, visit www.cambridgema.gov/freshpondday or contact Ranger Tim at 617-349-6489, tpuopolo@cambridgeMA.gov.


Future of First Street Garage Community Meeting, June 19

The City of Cambridge is holding a community meeting on Wednesday, June 19 at 6:30pm at the Kennedy-Longfellow School, 158 Spring St., Cambridge to provide the community with an update on the status of the proposed disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 unassigned parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor area intended for retail use in the City-owned First Street Garage property located at 55 First Street.City Seal

The meeting will include a summary of the LMP GP Holdings LLC’s disposition proposal received by the city and an update on the First Street Area Parking Planning Study commissioned by the city’s Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation in connection with the proposed disposition. The city is seeking the public’s input on the proposed leasehold disposition of 420 unassigned parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail space in the First Street Garage.

You can learn more or sign-up for email updates about the First Street Garage at CambridgeMA.gov/FirstStreetGarage.

Following the June 19 community meeting, public hearings will be conducted at the Planning Board and City Council in accordance with the provisions of the city’s disposition ordinance, Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code. A City Council vote will be required in order to approve of the proposed disposition of the leasehold interest. State law (G. L. Chapter 30B) also requires that when public land or property is disposed of, proposals must be solicited from interested buyers prior to selecting a buyer. The city issued a Request for Proposals pertaining to the proposed leasehold interest, and conditionally awarded the proposed leasehold interest to LMP GP Holdings LLC subject to the process that must be conducted pursuant to the disposition ordinance and the vote of the City Council on the proposed disposition.

For additional information, please contact Lee Gianetti, Director of Communications, at 617-349-3317 or lgianetti@cambridgema.gov.


Cambridge Open Archives

Dive into the tangled history of Cambridge politics and social activism at 7 local archives from June 24-28, 2019.

Archivists at each site will share treasures from their collections – photographs, art, posters, letters – that tell complex and unique stories about dynamic politicians and dedicated activists; fights over highways and development schemes; a strong mayor vs. Plan E.

See what an archive is, find out what archivists do all day, and see how you can use these resources to learn more about your family and community.

This year’s participating archives:

MIT Museum

The Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library

Harvard Semitic Museum

Harvard Art Museums Archives

Cambridge Historical Commission

Cambridge Historical Society

Mount Auburn Cemetery

REGISTRATION OPENS MAY 31

Info here: http://www.cambridgema.gov/openarchives

This event is free but registration is required.

Questions? 617-349-4070 or chcarchives@cambridgema.gov


City of Cambridge Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day June 8

The second Household Hazardous Waste collection day of 2019 will take place on Saturday, June 8, from 9:00am-1:00pm, at Danehy Park, Field St lot (enter at Field & Fern St). This event is free and open to Cambridge residents (proof of Cambridge residency required).

Proper disposal of materials helps protect public health and environment. A list of accepted items can be found at CambridgeMA.gov/hazardouswaste.

Not sure how to dispose of items properly? Download the “Zero Waste Cambridge” app for iPhone/Android or visit CambridgeMA.gov/TheWorks to use the “Get Rid of It Right” search tool.

Accepted Items:
Batteries: Vehicle & Non-Alkaline
Car Fluids: Antifreeze, Brake, Engine Degreaser, Transmission
Car Tires (max four per household)
Chemicals: Cleaners, Glues, Removers, Photography & Swimming PoolCity Seal
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Mercury Items: Thermometers & Thermostats
Paints: Oil-Based & Latex
Poisons: Insecticides, Pesticides & Weed Killers
Prescription Medicines (also accepted year-round at Police Dept. 125 Sixth St)
Propane Cylinders (20 lbs. or less only)
Waste Fuels: Antifreeze, Gasoline, Kerosene, Sterno & Motor Oil (motor oil accepted year-round)

Items NOT Accepted:
NO Alkaline Batteries
NO Ammunition, Fireworks & Explosives (call Fire Dept. at 617-349-3300)
NO Asbestos (requires proper disposal)
NO Bleach or Ammonia
NO Commercial/Industrial Waste
NO Construction Debris
NO Empty Aerosol Cans
NO Compressed Gas Cylinders
NO Infectious or Biological Waste
NO Radioactive Waste
NO Smoke Detectors
NO Syringes (call Health Department at 617-665-3848)


Come help us celebrate the 40th Annual Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, June 9th, 2019, from 12:00-5:00pm rain or shine! The Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is the oldest dragon boat festival in North America, founded in 1979.

Dragon BoatsLocated by John W. Weeks Foot Bridge on the Charles River between JFK Avenue and Western Avenue, this year’s festival will feature a record 76 teams, with over 1500 paddlers, from all over Massachusetts, New England the US and Canada, competing in ten categories designated with special races and medals for the Colleges including Financial Institutions, Corporate, Health Care, College, Chinese University Alumni, Women’s, Club, Community and Recreational and Cancer Survivors Divisions.

Spectators will be able to watch brightly colored, 39 foot, Hong Kong style dragon boats as they race on a 500-meter course up the Charles River from the Western Avenue Bridge to the Weeks Footbridge.

The Dragon Boat Races start in the early morning and the cultural programs and festival will begin at 12 Noon. All programs are free and family friendly for visitors. Sponsors, founders, dignitaries and committee members will dot the eyes of the dragon head on each boat in a traditional Eye-dotting Ceremony. This is an ancient Chinese ceremony that is believed to enable the dragon to soar with the utmost power. The Eye-dotting Ceremony will take place at Noon at the docks on Boston side with the accompaniment of a traditional Chinese waist drum dance that will progress over the John W. Weeks Footbridge to open the festival.

The Eye-dotting Ceremony will be followed by cultural programs, demonstrations and performances in the festival tent on the Cambridge side. There will be traditional Chinese music, Chinese Yoyo performance, Filipino, Chinese and Indian Dance performances, Korean Tae Kwon-Do presentation, as well as returning favorites such as Dragon and Lion Dances, Chinese martial arts and traditional Japanese Taiko drumming.

This year there is a special treat that cannot be missed. A special delegation from Longquan China, seven celadon masters with UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status, will demonstrate the making of this ancient ceramic art. This group has also donated a new Dragon Boat to our fleet.

We will bring to visitors interactive cultural demonstrations. Join in a Taiji demonstration on the banks of Charles by Storrow Drive, try your own lion dance with Gunkwok Lion Dance Troupe or give square-dancing a try.

Visitors young and old will find fun, inspiration and cultural engagement with beautiful hands-on Chinese arts and crafts. Come also to sample various Asian foods featuring Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and more lining the side of Memorial Drive.

The Boston Dragon Boat Festival is sponsored in part by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, State Street, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Eastern Bank and South Cove Community Health Center, Greater Boston Chinese Culture Association, Cambridge Arts Council, Longquan China and Boston Dragon Boat Festival Committee.

Traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (late May to mid June on the solar calendar), the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE). A political leader of State of Chu, Qu Yuan is recognized as China’s first distinguished poet. Qu Yuan lost the king’s favor and was banished from his home state of Chu because of his opposition to the prevalent policy of compromise to the powerful state of Qin. In exile, he wrote the poem, “Encountering Sorrow,” which shows a great loyalty to his state and its people. In 278 BCE, Qu Yuan learned the news that Chu had been conquered by Qin. Heart broken, he drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. The people of Chu rushed to the river to rescue him. Too late to save Qu Yuan, they splashed furiously and threw zong-zi (traditional rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) into the river as a sacrifice to his spirit and to keep the fish away from his body.

Today, Dragon Boat Festivals and races are popular around the world. The first Dragon Boat Festival in the United States was held in Boston in 1979, the first in North America. It is now the largest Asian cultural festival in New England. The Boston festival is used as a vehicle to promote Asian cultures and dragon boat racing, as well as to bring diverse communities together in Boston and the surrounding areas. Every year, more than 20,000 people lined the banks of the Charles to enjoy the festivities and performances.

Website https://www.bostondragonboat.org

Dragon Boats


Friday, June 28

5:30pm   Tom Magliozzi Commemorative Plaque Dedication "Hahvahd Squayah"  (DeGuglielmo Plaza, 27 Brattle Street)

Following the unveiling of the plaque, Ray Magliozzi will be on hand to say a few words, along with Car Talk producer Doug Berman, and other Cambridge dignitaries. Denise Jillson, executive director for the Harvard Square Business Association said, “We invite folks to come for the commemoration and stay for dinner and an after-party. A complimentary Italian supper of pasta and meatballs will be served family-style on red and white checkered table cloths for as long as it lasts. In true Magliozzi fashion, dancing is encouraged and hip-swinging, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music will be provided by the Blue Suede Boppers! A festive beer garden sponsored by the Beat Brew Hall will add to the celebration. Brattle Street, between Eliot and Church will be closed for the event.  A vintage ’56 Chevy (Tom’s favorite vehicle) will be on hand for viewing and photo-ops and for those who dare, an open mic will be available for sharing favorite Car Talk stories!”

7:00pm-11:00pm   City Dance Party  (Mass Ave. – from Prospect St. to Lee St.) will be Closed to Traffic (6pm to midnight) but Open for Dancing!)


City Dance Party, Friday, June 28 7-11pm

Mass Ave. will be Closed to Traffic but Open for Dancing!

Join thousands of Cambridge residents and visitors who will gather on Massachusetts Avenue in front of Cambridge City Hall (795 Massachusetts Ave.) for the city’s annual Dance Party Friday, June 28, from 7-11pm. This event is free and open to the public. Take MBTA Red Line to Central Square and a short walk to City Hall!

The annual dance extravaganza with DJ spun music is a special opportunity for the entire Cambridge community to celebrate summer. After dark, colorful lights will be launched, adding to the magic of the evening.

Originally conceived in 1996 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of Cambridge, the Dance Party returns each year attracting young and old to join in the festivities! The event is free and open to the public.

TRAFFIC IMPACTS: Massachusetts Avenue will be closed to traffic, from Prospect St. to Lee St. from approximately 6pm – Midnight. MBTA #1 Bus Line will reroute between Central Square and Harvard Square from approximately 6pm – Midnight and there will be no stop at City Hall.

For more information, contact Maryellen Carvello at 617-349-4301 or mcarvello@cambridgema.gov.

City Dance Party - photo by Kyle Klein


March 25, 2019

A Few Items of Interest – March 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:13 am

A Few Items of Interest – March 25, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeIt is getting more difficult every week to watch and listen to this City Council, but here are a few things that have at least some interest::

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-114, regarding bicycle signage on Brattle Street.

The City’s transportation planners acknowledged that they did at one point consider restoring the one-way section of Brattle Street to two-way operation at reduced speed, but they chose instead to go with only the segregated two-way bike lane. The problems associated with this configuration are many, especially at the Brattle Square end, and all the signage in the world will not cure them.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations for the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2019 and ending Mar 31, 2020. [Manager’s Letter] [Order]

Continuing the pattern of the last several years, there will be no increase in the water rate, but there will be a 7% increase in the sewer rate yielding an overall 5.2% increase in the water/sewer combined rate.

  Annual
Consumption*
FY19
Water Rate
FY20
Proposed
Water Rate
FY19
Sewer
Rate
FY20 Proposed
Sewer Rate
Block 1 0 – 40 CcF $3.02 $3.02 $11.00 $11.77
Block 2 41 – 400 CcF $3.24 $3.24 $11.63 $12.44
Block 3 401 – 2,000 CcF $3.44 $3.44 $12.49 $13.36
Block 4 2,001 – 10,000 CcF $3.65 $3.65 $13.45 $14.39
Block 5 Over 10,000 CcF $3.96 $3.96 $14.30 $15.30

*All rates are per CcF. CcF is an abbreviation of 100 cubic feet. One CcF is approximately 750 gallons.

Charter Right #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the bi-annual City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey for 2018. [Manager’s message] [aggregate responses] [longer report]

Ripe for misinterpretation.

Applications & Petitions #2. A Zoning Petition has been received from Hemenway & Barnes LLP. on behalf of Verizon New England Inc., seeking to amend the Zoning Map to certain provisions of Article 20 of the Zoning Ordinance to allow the creation of a "Ware Street Innovation Space" Overlay District. Note that Ware Street is the only property affected by this petition.

This seems like a good idea for this seriously anomalous old telephone switching building on Ware Street, but it does seem odd that this change is being proposed via zoning petition rather than by seeking a variance. I expect we will again have to be tutored on what is and what is not considered "spot zoning".

Order #6. That a Roundtable meeting be scheduled for Tues, Apr 9, 2019, at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, for the purpose of discussing the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay proposal.   Mayor McGovern

This aberrant "Overlay" proposal that would trash all expectations associated with zoning districts across the city continues like a runaway train. The whole concept is based on a perversion of zoning that says that certain parties may play by one set of rules while others must play by a different set of rules. Zoning is really all about managing expectations, and if this proposal passes all such expectations will change whenever a property changes hands. If you think that the maximum height and density in an area will shape what can be built, you will have to abandon that expectation and accept the fact that you will no longer have a right to even object. Furthermore, if you have issues with this proposal expect to have your reputation trashed as easy as ABC. There are good cases to be made for allowing some additional density where it makes sense, but those are not before this City Council.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City staff to examine the need and possibility of implementing the Pilot Displacement Preference program in Cambridge, especially when new housing is constructed in an existing neighborhood where displacement is occurring.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

There may be some worthwhile ideas embedded within, but the bottom line is that this City Council apparently doesn’t believe that people can sort things out without their intervention, and that the composition of neighborhoods in Cambridge, Boston, and elsewhere should never change.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to double the annual funding (from the FY19 Adopted Budget) over the next 3 to 5 years to reach a combined total minimum of $30 million per year (plus any additional use of “Free Cash”) in the areas of Affordable housing construction, tree canopy, Preschool enrollment scholarships/space, Central Square revitalization and Cultural Arts District and the arts in general.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

Take note of the fact that part of the sales pitch for the "Overlay" proposal is that it would yield only modest changes based on available funding. In advertising this is known as the "soft sell". This Order asks that this funding be dramatically increased. Furthermore, there are also proposals pending for a Real Estate Transfer Tax that could potentially lead to even more dramatic increases. The "Overlay" proposal would permanently lock in place a mechanism by which privately-owned residential property will be transitioned to "social ownership" and a future where access to much of the city’s housing will be done via application to the local government.

Deed restrictions on such housing translate into the fact that they pay only the bare legal minimum in real estate taxes, so that tax burden will be transferred to the remaining unregulated housing. The remedy for that may well be to significantly increase commercial development. I will be very surprised if any of the current group of councillors even discuss these long-term effects. They really should scrap the whole concept and start from scratch. – Robert Winters

February 19, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 373-374: Feb 19, 2019

Episode 373 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 19, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 19, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Putnam Ave. fire; Cambridge Fire Department (Thank You!); death of Paula Sharaga; Feb 11 City Council meeting; infrastructure. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 374 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 19, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 19, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Infrastructure – water, sewer, electric; Tree Ordinance & proposed Moratorium; Robert’s Rules & The Joy of Walking Out. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 10, 2019

February Falderol – Feb 11, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda and OMFUG

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:37 pm

February Falderol – Feb 11, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda and OMFUG

In between bemoaning divine trees at Harvard and ordaining a Tree Tribunal, here are a few mundane Monday items up for City Council consideration:

Water MainManager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-08, regarding the Craigie Street Water Main break.

This is the kind of topic-specific response I especially like. For example: "The Cambridge water transmission and distribution system consists of about 185 miles of underground pipe, 4,450 valves and 1,800 hydrants (the “Water System”). All these pipes and appurtenances are documented in the City’s GIS system. Each water main is defined by its age (date installed), material, size and whether it is cement lined or not." And this: "CWD has replaced, repaired or added over 2,730 valves in the Water System since 1980 and has also formalized a valve exercising program." And this: "CWD has replaced/rehabilitated or improved about 43 miles of pipe within the Water System since 1992." And this: "In the 50’s and 60’s, all of the large transmission mains were cement lined. In the 90’s, about 9,500 feet of pipe were cement lined as well."

Cambridge residents should really try to get a basic idea of what it takes to keep the most basic elements of their city functioning – things like water, sewer, electric supply, natural gas infrastructure, roadways as well as things like rubbish disposal and recycling. Call it civic education.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-111, regarding a report on TNC vehicles blocking travel lanes.

TNC stands for "Transportation Network Company", a relatively new term necessitated by the advent of entities like Uber and Lyft that do all they can to distinguish themselves from the (regulated) taxi industry. By their account, they’re just referral services that connect customers to drivers. One big difference is that there is built-in accountability for taxis, e.g., you could lose your right to operate as penalty for frequent or egregious violations. In contrast, many TNC drivers are just people with a license to drive with no special requirements for either customer service, geographical knowledge of an area, or expertise in lawful driving. Bending and breaking rules are common. This response from Police Commissioner Bard is primarily about short-term blocking of bike lanes for pickup/dropoff of passengers. Designated curb space for this purpose would help, and some existing taxi zones should be re-purposed for this. I don’t personally buy the notion that brief stops in bike lanes endanger either cyclists or pedestrians, but it is an inconvenience and the prevalence of these TNC vehicles warrants better allocation of space. However, congested areas with competing needs will never operate like a Swiss watch and it’s foolish to believe they ever will. Everybody has to give a little.

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 Jan 9, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection” to amend section 8.66.40 entitled “Applicability” and by adding a new section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for other projects.” [THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER FEB 18, 2019.]

It will be interesting to see if any actual wisdom emerges from the Feb 14 hearing on this (which some hasty councillors wanted to prevent). This has never been as simple as "Thou Shalt Not Cut That Tree No Matter What", and property owners deserve some flexibility in managing their property. Even if a tree is not currently dead, diseased, or dangerous there are situations when removal is still the best long-term option, especially if the removal may lead to better-situated, healthier trees thriving in the long term.

Applications & Petitions #1. A Zoning Petition has been received from Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridge Side Galeria Associates trust to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by adding a new Section 13.100 to Article 13.00 of the Zoning Ordinance and to amend the Zoning Map to add a new PUD-8 District overlay that certain area (which includes parcels and portions of ways and streets) labeled as "PUD-8 district".

It would be premature to comment much about this, but I definitely will look forward to a revitalized First Street, greater permeability through the site, and more diverse uses (including some housing), and improved architecture. I’m looking forward to hearing what the Planning Board and Councillor Carlone (who was involved in the original planning and development of the site) have to say as this petition makes its way through the hearings.

Order #1. That the City Council go on record reaffirming its support of the homeless issues bills awaiting action in the House and Senate, and entreats its elected delegation in both bodies to actively work on moving these measures out of their respective committees on toward adoption.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons

Order #2. City Council support of legislation that protects children.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons

Order #7. That the City Council go on record in support of an “Act relative to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program” and an “Act to ensure right to counsel in eviction proceedings".   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

These three Orders encompass support for a range of proposals that shouldn’t be particularly controversial.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the Apr 23, 2018 Policy Order seeking additional funding for affordable housing concerns.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

This Order really should be understood in the context of other housing-related proposals currently being considered. These include the "Overlay" proposal to facilitate the transfer of private property to public or quasi-public ownership, support for a real estate transfer tax either via Home Rule or enabling legislation at the state level to fund this property transfer, and other initiatives. The City’s policy seems to be centered on transferring as much privately-owned property into public or quasi-public ownership as possible. I’m not so sure that this is a very good long-term policy in spite of any short- or medium-term housing affordability issues.

Order #9. That Rule 39, "Rules of Travel" under the “Rules of the City Council” hereby be amended to be titled "Rules of Travel and Other Council-Related Expenditures."   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Toomey

The basic idea here is that some councillors want more flexibility in funds available to them for hosting constituents and similar purposes. Do they realize that this is the reason there is a City Council office with a budget and staff? When has it not been the case that a city councillor could simply ask the staff to make arrangements for such get-togethers?

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Jan 29, 2018 meeting minutes.

It will be interesting to see if this task force actually focuses on practical ways to address these difficulties.

Awaiting Report: 5 from 2016, 2 from 2017, 56 from 2018 (8 resolved this week), and 16 from 2019 (1 resolved this week).

That’s a total of 79 items awaiting a response with 9 of them addressed in this agenda. That’s better than most weeks. It really is ridiculous to be dragging along items from so long ago without a response. If there really is neither the need nor the willingness to act on some of these, a simple response to the effect of "Not now, Councillors" would be better than leaving so many of these things to moulder. Seriously, is anyone still all that fired up to modify zoning to restrict restaurants where a wood-fired oven is used? If the City would just come back with a very basic proposal for an Outdoor Lighting Ordinance, we could scratch a couple more items off the list. It’s a lot easier to respond to a shorter list. – Robert Winters

January 16, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 367-368: Jan 15, 2019

Episode 367 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 15, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 15, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Notable retirements; recap of Jan 14 City Council meeting and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 368 – Cambridge InsideOut: Jan 15, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Jan 15, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: How Big is Too Big?; table-setting for the election year. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

January 12, 2019

What’s Coming Up at the Jan 14, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting?

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:16 pm

What’s Coming Up at the Jan 14, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting?

Calendar - Jan 14, 2019Here’s my take on the interesting stuff this week:

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-126, regarding the River Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Project.

The basics: The outreach and design processes will occur throughout 2019 and into early 2020. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020. $34 million has already been appropriated for the design and construction of sewer and drainage infrastructure improvements and surface enhancements on River Street between Memorial Drive and Central Square, including Carl Barron Plaza.

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-120, regarding the focus of Envision Cambridge goals during community presentations.

If you read the infographic and fact sheet that’s meant "to clarify the 100% affordable housing overlay concept and address any misconceptions related to its potential implementation or impact" it becomes abundantly clear that the Community Development Department has already made its decisions and is now in the process of conducting an advertising campaign to sell it (even though it has received dismal reviews in most venues where it was presented – for good reasons).

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-97, regarding a report on updating vacant property database and reviewing strategies presented in the Storefront Vacancies Best Practices Report.

I just hope people understand that popup/activation/placemaking or art displays in vacant storefronts is a pretty lame substitute for the real thing. This is really about finding a new economic equilibrium between retail demand and the costs associated with occupying commercial space – and you can’t blame it all on Amazon. My own admittedly naive view is that for multi-story buildings with ground floor retail, that retail space should be re-conceived as something akin to the utilities in the basement – an essential part of the building that should not necessarily be viewed as a primary revenue-generator for the property. Let the upper floors pick up some of the tab.

Resolution #10. Retirement of Timothy MacDonald from the Water Department.   Mayor McGovern

Resolution #12. Retirement of Robert Reardon from the Assessing Department.   Mayor McGovern

Tim MacDonaldThis is a double-whammy for me personally. I have known Tim MacDonald for over 30 years – ever since I served on a Water & Sewer Advisory Committee appointed by then-Mayor Al Vellucci. Tim served as Manager of Water Operations and Director of Water Operations. Blessed with a sense of humor and good nature to go along with his experience and expertise, Tim has long been one of the greatest assets of the Water Department.

Robert Reardon may be one of the most qualified people in his field in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He’s also one of my all-time favorite people in City Hall. He could write a book on the political history of Cambridge. Maybe he should now that he’ll have time on his hands. I don’t know whether to congratulate him or to beg him to reconsider.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to compile a report outlining how a prolonged Federal Government shut-down may impact the people of Cambridge.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Siddiqui

There are two sides to this inquiry. First, how will the lack of federal services and funds (for things like housing vouchers) affect residents who need those services and how many residents are affected? Second, how many residents of Cambridge have been furloughed from federal jobs? I’ll add that banks, landlords, utilities, etc. should really step up and grant time extensions on bills and maybe even extend low or zero-interest loans in lieu of paychecks since (I hope) we all know this can’t go on for too much longer.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Managing Director of the Water Department on whether the department is monitoring aged pipelines to prevent unexpected breaks and if information on the age of the pipes is readily available.   Councillor Toomey

This provides an appropriate follow-up to last week’s Order on the age and maintenance of the city’s water mains.

Order #5. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee hold a public hearing to explore the feasibility of Transit X and their potential to provide an affordable, equitable, safe, practical, congestion-reducing, and eco-friendly public transportation solution for our community.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

There was a guy going around maybe a year ago trying to sell people on this idea of mini-monorails running all over the city. It still seems a bit like something from a Fritz Lang film.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and the City’s legal services providers on establishing a system of information-sharing and/ or alternative method for making available that data which may be of beneficial use to the City in analyzing displacement.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Carlone

Analysis is good, but please don’t unfairly punish small-scale owner-occupant landlords who are just trying to manage their modest investment. I grow increasingly suspicious every week of the City Council’s intentions. The Order provides a list of 46 outcomes of an eviction proceeding and not once does it make reference to an eviction being fairly carried out for justifiable reasons.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to explore the feasibility of designing the next iteration of the Cambridge Community Electricity program.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui

If City intervention can land me a better deal on electricity, I’m all in. Otherwise, no thanks. – 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]

April 20, 2017

Sheet of ice draws praise from bicycle advocates

Snowmelt drains across "protected" bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

Snowmelt drains across “protected” bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

OK, spring is around the corner, so I’m a bit late with this post. But the issue I describe here will occur every year, at least until global warming puts an end to snows or converts central Cambridge into an extension of Boston Harbor.

The headline of the February 17 Boston Globe article with this picture is “Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists”.

The shiny area in the bikeway is meltwater from said snowbank. When the temperature drops below freezing, the meltwater becomes a sheet of black ice. This problem is unavoidable with a street-level barrier-separated bikeway. I discussed it at length years ago in connection with the 9th Avenue bikeway in Manhattan, a bikeway which, on the other hand, I have some nice things to say about.

Neither Steve Annear, author of the article, nor anyone quoted in it, makes any mention of the black-ice problem.

From the article: “’I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,’ Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.” Ari usually ranges widely, imaginatively and thoughtfully in discussing transportation improvements his blog. I usually agree with him, but not in this case.

The article cites Joe Barr, of the City of Cambridge:

Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.

“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.

And Richard Fries, Executive Director of Massbike, commented: “It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.”

Segregation promotes a sense of entitlement on the part of the majority group –in this case, motorists. How do I explain to horn-honking motorists that I have to ride in “their” travel lane, now narrowed to make room for the barrier, to avoid crashing on a sheet of black ice?

Or for that matter, to progress at my usual 15 miles per hour so I’m not stuck behind a cluster of bicyclists who are traveling at 8 miles per hour?

Or to avoid being right-hooked and crushed under the back wheels by a right-turning truck at Douglass Street?

Or that the rear-end collisions that this installation protects against are vanishingly rare on urban streets?

Or that parallel Harvard Street, Green Street and Franklin Street would serve admirably as low-stress through bicycle routes, if the city made the right kind of improvements?

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