Before the March - Items of Interest at the February 27, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

Time TravelIn between Resistance Rallies and Sanctuary Sessions, the Cambridge City Council occasionally meets to talk about Municipal Matters. Here are a few items that may be of interest to those not marching or carrying signs on Monday.

Manager's Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge retaining its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 35 municipalities in the United States with AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies.

It has become an annual tradition. Keep it up. People will complain anyway.

Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $48,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Finance (Personnel) Other Ordinary Maintenance account. This appropriation will be used to procure consultant services to assist in the hiring of a new Police Commissioner.

The public is invited to assist the City with the development of the leadership profile for the Police Commissioner search. Members of the public may participate in the process by attending one of the Citywide Public Forums or by providing written feedback. Two Citywide Public Forums, facilitated by PERF, are being held on:
  • Thursday, March 2, 2017, from 6-8pm, School Committee Room, CRLS, 459 Broadway
  • Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 10am–12pm, Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue.

Manager's Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a revised and annotated version of the Central Square Restoration Zoning Petition.

Unfinished Business #9. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for an additional public hearing held on Feb 2, 2017 to discuss the Central Square Restoration Zoning petition. [The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 27, 2017. Planning Board hearing held Nov 29, 2016. Petition expires Mar 1, 2017.]

This is the last chance to ordain this before its expiration date. It appears to have unanimous support, but there could still be a tweak or two before it's official. The real question is whether these very modest zoning changes will provide sufficient incentive for us to see actual positive changes in Central Square. In any case, this is a good start.

Applications & Petitions #3. A Zoning Petition has been received from the owner of the property at Third Street and Cambridge Street to amend the existing zoning at that location to authorize the construction of a 45 unit residential building with small scale retail on the ground floor and parking below grade.

Another day, another zoning petition. Actually, there are two additional City Council zoning petitions being introduced at this meeting – Order #17 and Order #20.

Resolution #2. Thanks to Luis Vasquez for his service to fathers in Cambridge.   Councillor Cheung

Luis Vasquez is one of the most decent people I have met in my nearly 40 years in Cambridge.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Mayor to make the Sullivan Chamber and the prior goal setting facilitator, or any professional facilitator, available on a weekly basis for half day or full day City Council goal setting sessions   Councillor Mazen, Councillor Devereux

This Order seems to suggest that City Council goal-setting is an extended exercise that goes on for days and days. In truth, it's just a snapshot of general priorities at a given time - and it has never taken all that much time to develop nor should it. Like a party platform, it just lays out some general goals and principles. It's a bit bewildering that they haven't completed this by now, but it's not like building Rome.

Order #7. City Council support of the 10-citizen petition recently presented to the Cambridge Historical Commission, asking for a tiered designation system and other amendments to the Harvard Square Conservation District guidelines and possibly to its boundaries.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen

Though this petition appears to be a response to the current specific redevelopment plans for the Abbot Building in Harvard Square, the idea contained in this petition is interesting and potentially worth pursuing. I suspect it would simply make official what likely already happens, i.e. the Cambridge Historical Commission evaluating buildings as possessing varying degrees of historical significance.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to establish the requirement that all appointments to the City's commissions, advisory committees, and task forces reflect the City's diversity and that the Civic Unity Committee is asked to sign off on all such appointments going forward.   Mayor Simmons

This is a laudable goal but the Order as written is a clear violation of state law. The City Manager is the appointing authority and this Order calls for making appointments to all boards and commissions contingent on approval of a City Council subcommittee. Another problem with this order is that the word "diversity" means a lot of things - and not just what people look like. Should there be mandatory diversity of viewpoint on all advisory committees? We could use a lot more diversity of viewpoint, but some of these boards do, in fact, act as advocates for a particular point of view. Perhaps this Order should be amended by replacing the word "requirement" with the word "goal" and by removing the proposal to give the Civic Unity Committee veto power over City Manager appointments.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update to the City Council on what progress has been made in meeting the goal of creating 1,000 new affordable units by the end of this decade.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern

As a rule, goals like this are far too constraining in the absence of other considerations. If this was to be accomplished via Inclusionary Zoning, this implies that the City should have a goal of producing over 8,600 new housing units per decade under current standards or 5,000 new housing units under the proposed new 20% standard. I don't wish to refer all such considerations to the Envision Cambridge process, but it is a valid long-term planning concern. In addition, housing growth (both "affordable" and in general) has to be accomplished in the whole region and not just in a few cities and towns within the region.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to work with relevant City Departments and industry leaders to generate a report on the potential growth of next-generation wireless technology in the City, to include: the expected footprint of citywide coverage from just one company and what market competition might produce; the integration of public and private infrastructure to support the network; what local standards the City might hope to maintain relative to aesthetics and safety; and how this new technology fits into our Broadband access plans.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Cheung

Though these are all valid concerns, including the proliferation of seemingly random (and sometimes noisy and ugly) structures perched atop utility poles and buildings, my guess is that when all is said and done the selection of broadcast channels will continue to suck and the cost of access to "premium" services like Red Sox games will continue to soar without limit.

Order #17. Amendments to the Zoning Map and Ordinance by creating a new Section 11.900 - Registration of Vacant/Abandoned Buildings; Maintenance and Security Requirements.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone

I'm eternally curious about the motivation of actions such as this one. Could this be related to the long-term vacancy of a place like the Harvard Square Cinema building? Or is this just a way to address long-term horror shows like the Vail Court property on Bishop Allen Drive without having to file a half dozen City Council orders and inviting lawsuits after an eminent domain taking? I do find it curious that this proposed zoning amendment would assess a monthly fee at a rate of 4.17 percent of the assessed value of the property on any property that is vacant more than 6 months. That's 50% of the assessed value per year. With rates like that this really starts to look like a regulatory taking of the property and it's doubtful that courts will look kindly on such a fee structure.

Order #18. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to ask the Volpe Working Group to consider how the GSA building will be integrated in with the rest of the site and to ask the independent design consultant to be more involved in the urban design process going forward.   Councillor Cheung

At the MIT meeting on this matter it was revealed that the Volpe replacement building would have to be located at the northwest corner of the Volpe site and that much of the open space associated with the future federal property could be integrated with the rest of the open space planned on the site. Details at and, in particular in this PDF slide presentation of the Feb 16, 2017 meeting.

Order #20. Proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinances regarding rooftop spaces in Central Square.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone

This seems like a sensible outgrowth of the discussion that grew out of the Central Square Restoration Petition which will hopefully be ordained by the time this Order comes up in the agenda. See you at the March. - Robert Winters


Cambridge Announces Public Forums on Police Commissioner Search
Public invited to contribute to the development of leadership profile

Cambridge Police DepartmentFeb 22, 2017 – The search process for hiring a new Police Commissioner in the City of Cambridge is underway. City Manager Louis A. DePasquale has hired the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a Washington, DC based non-profit that over the past decade has assisted with more than 75 executive searches, to assist with the development of the leadership profile, the recruitment of highly qualified candidates, and the applicant screening process.

City SealThe public is invited to assist the City with the development of the leadership profile for the Police Commissioner search. Members of the public may participate in the process by attending one of the Citywide Public Forums or by providing written feedback. Two Citywide Public Forums, facilitated by PERF, are being held on:
  • Thursday, March 2, 2017, from 6-8pm, School Committee Room, CRLS, 459 Broadway
  • Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 10am–12pm, Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue.

During these sessions, the public will be asked to discuss:
What are the leadership qualities that you want the Cambridge Police Commissioner to possess?
What are the challenges and opportunities that the next Police Commissioner will need to address?

Members of the public can send their written comments on these key questions, along with other any other relevant feedback, directly to PERF by emailing

In addition to the public forums, PERF will be conducting multiple interviews with various constituencies, including: school staff; business and university representatives; City employees; non-profit community; neighborhood associations; faith community; youth representatives; City board and commission members; and community agency partners. The collective feedback will assist with the development of the final recruitment profile.

The City anticipates candidate recruitment to commence in mid-March and interviews with candidates to take place in May. The selection and appointment of the Police Commissioner is made by the City Manager.

For more information about the public forums, please contact the City Manager’s Office at 617-349-4300.

Jimmy Tingle
Cambridge's own Jimmy Tingle



$300, $200 and $100 PRIZES



WHEN: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2017 @ 7:00PM








Check out the latest episodes of Cambridge InsideOut:

If you would like to be a guest (or co-host) one of these Tuesdays, let me know. - RW

Episode 209 (Feb 28, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: School Committee member Kathleen Kelly - budget and more
Episode 210 (Feb 28, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: civic opportunities, Feb 27 City Council highlights
Episode 207 (Feb 21, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: effect of national politics on the Cambridge municipal elections, the current minibond sale, and the recent update by MIT about plans for the Volpe site
Episode 208 (Feb 21, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Roundtable meeting of School Committee/City Council, municipal election candidates, Feb 13 City Council highlights, Inclusionary Zoning and Planned Unit Developments (PUDs)
Episode 205 (Feb 7, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: Patriots' win, events in DC, civic opportunities, partial recap of Feb 6 City Council meeting
Episode 206 (Feb 7, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Partial recap of Feb 6 City Council meeting, unfinished matters, roster of possible candidates for the 2017 Cambridge municipal election.
Episode 203 (Jan 31, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: National events, announcements, recap of Jan 30 City Council meeting
Episode 204 (Jan 31, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Recap of Jan 30 City Council meeting
Episode 201 (Jan 24, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: Women's March, Inaugural comments, Volpe site, Envision Cambridge
Episode 202 (Jan 24, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Jan 23 Council recap, Events
Episode 199 (Jan 17, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: Voter turnout 2016, Envision Cambridge, Village Green Preservation Society.
Episode 200 (Jan 17, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Campaign finance 2015, comments on 200th Anniversary show.
Episode 197 (Jan 10, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: Outdoor lighting, Central Square, Harvard Square, and emerging candidates for the 2017 municipal election
Episode 198 (Jan 10, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: Outdoor lighting, Central Square, Harvard Square, and emerging candidates for the 2017 municipal election
Episode 195 (Jan 3, 2017, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: civic infrastructure, slates, new candidates, etc.
Episode 196 (Jan 3, 2017, 6:00pm)
Topics: unfinished business
Episode 193 (Dec 27, 2016, 5:30pm) [materials]
Topics: Looking Back at 2016
Episode 194 (Dec 27, 2016, 6:00pm)
Topics: Looking Back at 2016 (continued); Looking Ahead to 2017 (including names of some new candidates)

Thurs, Feb 23

6:00pm   Black History Month Event - Bernice L. McFadden  (Main Library, Lecture Hall: 6:00pm dinner, 6:30 Program

Bernice L. Mcfadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. Her latest novel, The Book of Harlan, a Washington Post Notable Book of 2016, has been nominated for the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

This Black History Month event is sponsored by the Office of Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Cambridge Employees’ Committee on Diversity, and the Cambridge Public Library. For more information about Black History Month events in and around Cambridge, visit, or contact the Office Mayor E. Denise Simmons at 617-349-4321 or

Featured recent stories in the Cambridge Chronicle (the paper of record):

MIT's plans for Volpe site: mixed use, 1,000+ units (Feb 17, 2017 by James Sanna)

Council hits roadblock in effort to expand affordable housing (Feb 14, 2017 by Adam Sennott)Cambridge Chronicle

'Real momentum' on GLX, but questions remain (Feb 13, 2017 by Andy Metzger, State House News Service)

Residents rally resistance at town hall forum in Cambridge (Feb 9, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Council approves medical marijuana dispensary location rules (Feb 7, 2017 by Adam Sennott)

These are the ways Cambridge wants to rebuild Inman Square (Feb 7, 2017 by James Sanna)

School budget talks heat up in Cambridge (Feb 6, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Lawmakers expect to tackle millionaires tax this year (Feb 4, 2017 by Gerry Tuoti)

Members sought for new Community Benefits Advisory Committee (Feb 2, 2017)

Cambridge Community Foundation announces fall grants (Feb 2, 2017)

State of City: Mayor vows to push back against 'hateful national policies' (Feb 2, 2017 by Adam Sennott)

What's Cambridge doing to make city's streets safer? (Jan 30, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Police K9 Rumba won't retire with handler, will remain on the force (Jan 26, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Sharon school committee picks Cambridge administrator for superintendent (Jan 26, 2017 by Scott Calzolaio/Sharon Advocate Staff)

Cambridge, Somerville, Boston could lose grants in Trump's immigration crackdown (Jan 25, 2017 by Gerry Tuoti)

Report: Contractor 'sorry' for massive Cambridge fire (Jan 25, 2017 by Shaun Chaiyabhat / WCVB)

Cambridge invites residents to invest in city's infrastructure (Jan 24, 2017)

Final price tag for Volpe Center land revealed (Jan 18, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Cambridge seeking volunteers for City Manager's Advisory Committee (Jan 16, 2017)

T.T. The Bear's owner could lose $225k if license buyer can't be found (Jan 13, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Bikers, water officials clash over trails (Jan 13, 2017 by Gerry Tuoti)

Could advocates' merger boost Cambridge small businesses? (Jan 13, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Retired fire captain spends half-century documenting Cambridge's fire history (Jan 12, 2017 by Amy Saltzman)

Late Danvers coach Kevin Flynn follows the blueprint of his Matignon mentor (Jan 11, 2017 by Joe McConnell)

Councilors attack delays to Central Square revitalization (Jan 11, 2017 by Monica Jimenez)

Crimson Corner looks to relocate, owner says he was forced out (Jan 9, 2017 by James Sanna)

Pizzeria seeking to open in Crimson Corner space (Jan 6, 2017)

Councilors divided on aggressiveness of affordable housing push (Jan 6, 2017 by Bill Whelan)

Alanna Mallon, founder of Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program, announces run for City Council (Jan 4, 2017)

Cambridge Rindge girls basketball sets sights on another state tourney (Jan 4 by Wayne Gethers)

Employers warn $15 minimum wage would be costly (Jan 3, 2017 by Colin A. Young, State House News Service)

Stories written by Luis Vasquez for the Cambridge Chronicle

Looking Ahead

Possible City Council and School Committee candidates for 2017 (with age at time of election)

City Council Candidate Birthdate Age address Notes
Timothy J. Toomey 6/7/1953 64 88 6th St., 02141 incumbent, first elected in 1989, recently filed w/OCPF to change campaign acct. from state rep. to City Council
E. Denise Simmons 10/2/1951 66 188 Harvard St. #4B, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2001
Craig Kelley 9/18/1962 55 6 Saint Gerard Terr. #2, 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2005
Leland Cheung 2/11/1978 39 157 Garden St., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2009
Dennis Carlone 5/7/1947 70 9 Washington St. #6, 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Marc McGovern 12/21/1968 48 15 Pleasant St., 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Nadeem Mazen 9/20/1983 34 720 Mass. Ave. #4, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Jan Devereux 5/13/1959 58 255 Lakeview Ave., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Dennis Benzan 1/25/1972 45 1 Pine St., 02139 served 2014-15, likely to seek reelection
Paul Toner (new) 4/28/1966 51 24 Newman St., 02140 definitely running, not yet registered with OCPF
Quinton Zondervan 9/15/1970 47 235 Cardinal Madeiros Ave., 02141 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Alanna Marie Mallon 12/6/1970 46 3 Maple Ave., 02139 announced, registered with OCPF
Ronald Benjamin 1/5/1971 46 172 Cushing St., 02138 announced, registered with OCPF
Sean Tierney 3/10/1985 32 12 Prince St. #6, 02139 definitely running, registered with OCPF
Sam Gebru 11/20/1991 25 812 Memorial Dr., 02139 announced, registered with OCPF
Vatsady Sivongxay 2/20/1982 35 59 Kirkland St. #2, 02138 not yet announced, but registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Olivia D'Ambrosio 9/13/1983 34 270 3rd Street #305, 02142 not yet announced, but registered with OCPF
Sumbul Siddiqui (new) 2/10/1988 29 530 Windsor Street, 02141 not yet announced, but registered with OCPF
Theodora Marie Skeadas 8/16/1990 27 988 Memorial Drive #185, 02138 not yet announced, but registered with OCPF
James Williamson 1/13/1951 66 1000 Jackson Pl., 02140 perennial candidate
Ilan Levy 11/1/1967 50 148 Spring St. 02141 ran in 2015, seems to be planning to do it again
Andrew King 4/17/1986 31 40 Essex St., 02139 conflicting reports on whether or not a candidate
Romaine Waite 6/7/1991 26 60 Lawn St. #5, 02138 not announced, but may try again
School Committee Candidate Birthdate Age address Notes
Fred Fantini 6/8/1949 68 4 Canal Park #203, 02141 incumbent, first elected in 1981
Richard Harding 10/16/1972 45 189 Windsor St. #1, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2001, speculation he may run for City Council
Patty Nolan 8/28/1957 60 184 Huron Ave., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2005
Kathleen Kelly 3/8/1960 57 17 Marie Ave. #1, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Emily Dexter 3/16/1957 60 9 Fenno St., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Mannika Bowman 11/27/1979 37 134 Reed St., 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Will MacArthur 5/24/1998 19 18 Shea Rd., 02140 definitely running for School Committee

Feb 20 - There are others who are likely to be candidates but who have not yet chosen to be identified as such. Please let me know of other candidates. Not all of the individuals listed above may wish to be identified as candidates, and I will be more than happy to remove those names or reclassify their status (unless I am absolutely certain they will be running!). Anyone who has filed papers with OCPF (Office of Campaign & Political Finance) is assumed to be running for City Council. - RW

Monday the 13th - Featured Items on the Feb 13, 2017 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda

This is a very short agenda this week. Here are a few things of possible interest:

Manager's Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the revised and annotated version of the Central Square Restoration Zoning Petition.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for an additional public hearing held on Feb 2, 2017 to discuss the Central Square Restoration Zoning petition.

It is expected that the Central Square Restoration Zoning petition will be passed to a 2nd Reading at this meeting. This will put it in the queue for ordination at the Feb 27 meeting - hopefully by a unanimous vote.

Resolution #5. Wishing Ken Reeves a Happy Birthday.   Councillor Toomey

When Ken was on the Council it was a tradition to not only wish him a happy birthday on his Feb 8 birthday, but to also commemorate him for the entire month of February. It's nice to see Councillor Toomey continuing the tradition - at least for the day. Happy Birthday, Ken!

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Department of Public Works, the City Arborist, and any other appropriate City department to establish a Tree Task Force to better protect the urban canopy.   Councillor DevereuxAll Hail Marx and Lennon

This is the only City Council Order on the agenda this week. Perhaps such a task force could be established within the Public Planting Committee rather than duplicating effort. More generally, this is a good time to take a look at all of the City's various Boards, Commissions, Advisory Committees, and Task Forces to make sure that the right issues are being addressed, there is no duplication of effort, and that volunteer energy is being best utilized.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 12, 2017 to review City Ordinance 12.08.010 regarding sandwich board and A-frame signs.

The littlest issue had its day in committee. Most seemed to agree that some basic guidelines should be established and that the permitting of such signs should be done in the future by City staff without the need for City Council approval of every such sign. An ordinance change will be required to make it so. - Robert Winters


"Gerrymander" Born in Massachusetts: February 11, 1812

ON THIS DAY... 1812, a political monster -- the "Gerrymander" -- was born in the Massachusetts State House. Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill that created oddly-shaped voting districts in several parts of the state. The lines of these districts gave Gerry's party an advantage in the upcoming election. An artist added a head, wings, and claws to the strange shape that was the governor's new home district and declared it looked like a salamander. A quick-witted friend decided a better name was "Gerry-mander." Within a month, the image appeared as a cartoon in the local papers and gerrymander, later gerrymander [with a soft "g"], entered the language. The term has referred ever since to any deliberate redrawing of voting districts to influence the outcome of an election.


Patriots - Super Bowl ChampionsHere are some items of possible interest this Monday. Budget Season is on the horizon. More importantly, pitchers and catchers report February 13 and position players on February 16. Even more importantly, wasn't that come-from-behind Patriots victory in the Super Bowl just spectacular?

Manager's Agenda #1. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of of $3,709,949 in funds from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Grant to the Public Works Public Investment Fund Extraordinary Expenditures account for the Alewife Sewer Separation Program.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works to set and meet a firm 2017 deadline for fully completing all remaining parts of the Huron A, Huron B, and Concord Avenue contracts, provide a full accounting of all costs (to-date and future) compared to the original contracts and budgets and schedule a community meeting as soon as possible to update the public on the schedule and budget for completing the project, as well as a complete list of all remaining punch list items for each of the contract areas.   Councillor Devereux

Manager's Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,300,000 to provide funds for the design, drainage, and installation of new field surfaces at Russell Field and the Graham and Parks School.

Manager's Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,100,000 to provide funds for the construction of sewer separation, storm water management, and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the Cambridgeport Neighborhood.

Manager's Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.

Call me an infrastructure geek, but I just love this kind of stuff - how all the systems of a city run from water supply to sewerage to electric service and everything else that goes on unseen and underappreciated (until something goes wrong).

Charter Right #8 (Order #3 of Jan 23, 2017). That the City Manager is requested to hire an independent consultant who shall assess the efficiency and effectiveness of how all City Departments conduct their work, who will begin implementing whatever necessary adjustments are deemed to be necessary, and who will report back to the City Manager and the City Council on his or her progress in regular monthly intervals. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Jan 23, 2017. Placed On Table on motion of Mayor Simmons on Jan 30, 2017.]

My understanding is that better language was being worked out and this item should be voted on Monday. Most importantly, any consultant hired by the City should advise the City Manager, but it's still entirely the Manager's decision how to structure City departments. As I mentioned last week, this may also be a good time to look at the structure of all the City's volunteer Boards and Commissions, and maybe the City Council should also give some thought toward how its subcommittees function (or not function).

Unfinished Business #10. A proposed amendment to the Ordinance entitled "Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge" to insert in Article 11.00 a new Section 11.800 Medical Marijuana. [The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Feb 6, 2017. Planning Board hearings were held Nov 1, 2016 and Jan 3, 2017. Petition expires Feb 7, 2017.]

The deadline is here, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City staff to make available the City’s GIS system data regarding the total number of parking spaces designated as resident-permit only by street address, the total number of residential off-street parking spaces by street address, and the total number of cars registered in Cambridge by street address.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen

Councillors Devereux and Mazen are gathering data to make the case for removing parking on several major streets, including Broadway, Cambridge St., Hampshire St., and Mass. Ave. in order to remove bicycles from the roadway. They have apparently neglected to inquire about parking for schools, City buildings, churches, day care facilities, funeral homes, and all businesses. They also neglected to inquire about parking needs by times of day. I'm sure it was just an oversight. And pigs can fly. - Robert Winters


AMC Local Walks/Hikes - Come for a walk or hike with us.
AMC Local WalksSat, Feb 25. Hike Beautiful Billerica - Summit Fox Hill. 9:45am-noon. Meet at Fox Hill Cemetery parking lot by the flag pole, 130 Andover Road, Billerica. Easy two hour hike, offered through Billerica Recreation Department and sponsored by Friends of Billerica Recreation in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club, to explore Fox Hill. Focus on camaraderie and local history. Depending on wintry conditions, sturdy footwear, strap-on ice-grabbers or snowshoes recommended. Registration required. L Marlies Henderson. AMC Local WalksSun, Feb 26. Broadmoor Mass Audubon walk, Natick. 10:30am-12:30pm. Meet at the Visitors Center. Join us for a walk in this convenient (Natick on Route 16), yet expansive wildlife retreat, along the Charles River. Moderate pace, easy trails with some gentle hills and rocks. Bring water and snacks. No children or dogs. Heavy rain/snow cancels, but if snow on ground bring snowshoes or stabilizers depending on ground cover. Call Lisa if uncertain. See description for charges. [Directions] L Lisa Fleischman.
AMC Local WalksSat, Mar 4. Hike Beautiful Billerica - Two Brothers Rocks. 9:45am-12:30pm. Easy 2 ½ hour hike starts at 9:45 am. Offered through Billerica Recreation Department and sponsored by Friends of Billerica Recreation in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Meet at River View Restaurant for breakfast at 8am, or park later, across the bridge, at Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge parking lot off Nashua Road, Billerica. Great Meadows, Concord River, and Governor Dudley Park. Focus on camaraderie and local history. Depending on wintry conditions, sturdy footwear, strap-on ice-grabbers or snowshoes recommended. Registration required. L Marlies Henderson. AMC Local WalksSat, Mar 11. Hike Beautiful Billerica - Historic Middlesex Canal. 9:45am-noon. Easy 2 hour hike. Meet at 9:45am to start walking at 10am. Offered through Billerica Recreation Department and sponsored by Friends of Billerica Recreation in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Park across from the Faulkner Mill, by the Talbot dam (gazebo). Depending on conditions, explore the historic Middlesex Canal, north or south from the summit pond. Focus on camaraderie and local history. Depending on wintry conditions, sturdy footwear, strap-on ice-grabbers or snowshoes recommended. Registration required. L Marlies Henderson.
AMC Local WalksSat, Mar 11. World's End Reservation, Hingham. 5 mile hike/snowshoe, 9:00am-noon. Bring snack/water. From Rte. 3 exit 14, take Rte. 228N 6.5 mi., L on Rte. 3A 1.0mi. to rotary, R on Summer St. 0.5 mi. to light, L on Martin's Lane to entr. $6 fee for non-members of the Trustees of Reservations. Storm cancels. L Beth Mosias. AMC Local WalksSat, Mar 18. Hike Beautiful Billerica - Rangeway Forest. 9:45am-12:30pm. Easy 2 ½ hour hike, offered through Billerica Recreation Department and sponsored by Friends of Billerica Recreation in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club, to explore connectivity with Chelmsford Russel Mill Town Forest and a historic segment of the Middlesex Turnpike. Focus on camaraderie and local history. Depending on wintery conditions, sturdy footwear, strap-on ice-grabbers or snowshoes recommended. Registration required. L Marlies Henderson.
AMC Local WalksSun, Mar 19. Vivid Vistas, Groton. 1:00pm-3:00pm. Traverse the two highest points in Groton, both with open views. In between bagging 500 footers, see wild wetlands, beaver ponds, upland forests, and open meadows. Meet at Williams Barn (42.6264N, 71.5610W) on Chicopee Row. We'll carpool to the start, then hike back to Williams barn. About 2 hours, moderate pace. L Olin Lathrop. AMC Local WalksSat, Apr 1. Castle Island, South Boston. Fast-paced seven-mile scenic walk along ocean to Castle Island, 10:00am-1:30pm. Bring lunch and water. Meet inside JFK/UMass Red Line T station, upper level gates (no nearby parking). Storm cancels. No email after 3/31. No dogs; non-AMC members $1. L Beth Mosias.

One way to cope:


Feb 2 - Some days the Little Free Library at the intersection of Main Street and Ames Street is especially generous to me. Today's gift seems strangely relevant to the time at hand. Here's a little something from The Onion in 2001.

Renae Gray

Now Featuring.... Coming Attractions at the Jan 30, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

GroundhogWith Groundhog Day fast approaching, and in recognition of a really great movie, perhaps the City Council will find the wisdom (and the kindness toward the City Clerk) to dispense with On The Table Items #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8. I mean, seriously, the Nutcracker performances are over for 2016, so why is the matter of banners promoting the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker still on the agenda every week? This will take all of one minute to dispense with these zombies and allow the City Council move on to bigger and better things (as well as the usual lot of smaller and poorer things). Here are a few agenda items that seem either interesting, controversial, or just plain ridiculous:

Manager's Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an update on the Bicycle Safety Work Plan.

One conclusion that I draw from this report is that this plan is basically non-negotiable. On-street parking will soon be removed on major streets and any claims of "evaluation" are fiction. Politicians will henceforth be in charge of traffic engineering. Those who believe that bicycles belong on the sidewalk and not in the streets are now calling all the shots. Those of us who choose to ride in the street are now squeezed into narrower lanes and greater danger. I have yet to meet an MBTA bus driver who has anything good to say about Cambridge's plans. I only wish City officials would drop the pretense of calling these "temporary measures" while at the same time making them permanent as was recently done in the Special Permit conditions imposed on the Mass and Main development in Lafayette Square.

Manager's Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the comprehensive Needs Assessment Report relative to the Community Benefits Ordinance.

This has been long in coming. There is a need for a more rational process in determining how money derived from new developments will be distributed for projects and institutions for the public good. I still have some concerns about "mitigation as shakedown" and the possibility that not-so-great projects will be permitted to go forward as long as the developers sufficiently "sweeten the pot" with additional contributions. I would rather see good projects regardless of the mitigation.

Manager's Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the results of the biannual City of Cambridge Citizen Telephone Survey for 2016.

I have taught statistics courses, but I get no pleasure in reading statistical reports like these. All you really need to know is in the City Manager's cover letter. "Overall opinions of the City remain very positive. Citizens’ extreme satisfaction with overall performance of City government in Cambridge ... is a reflection on responsible, forward-thinking policies, and a capable and extremely dedicated workforce." "Affordable housing/housing was again identified as the ‘single most important issue facing the City of Cambridge today’." Enough said.

Manager's Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-110, regarding the Central Square Restoration Zoning Petition.

Most of this is old news, but it's good to have it summarized in this report. There is an important legal opinion from City Solicitor Nancy Glowa on the legality of the proposed Formula Business regulations in the petition. The rest of the petition is pretty solid and received accolades from the Planning Board, but we may have to live for now without the proposed change from the current Fast Food Cap to the more desirable Formula Business regulations. Then again, maybe we'll see some revised language at the Feb 2 hearing on the matter. In any case, the core provisions of this petition should pass - and soon.

Charter Right #1. A zoning petition has been received from Richard Harding, et al. to amend 20.800 titled the Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Sub district to reflect a more appropriate affordable housing contribution and height limitation for this zoning. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Toomey on Jan 23, 2017.]

This petition was rendered moot by the granting of the Special Permit for the Mass and Main and related developments this past Tuesday by the Planning Board. The votes aren't there to pass this petition anyway.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to hire an independent consultant who shall assess the efficiency and effectiveness of how all City Departments conduct their work, who will begin implementing whatever necessary adjustments are deemed to be necessary, and who will report back to the City Manager and the City Council on his or her progress in regular monthly intervals. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on Jan 23, 2017.]

The City Council should amend this Order to simply ask the City Manager to consider hiring a consultant to advise him on possible changes in the structure and function of City departments. While they're at it, the City Council and the City administration should take a good objective look at all of the City's volunteer Boards and Commissions to see if there are any efficiencies that can be made or if any of the ordinances that created some of these boards should be amended to better reflect today's needs and priorities.

Then the City Council should take a good hard look at its own operations. For example, wouldn't it work better if City Council aides were assigned to Council subcommittees rather than to individual councillors? Perhaps each Council subcommittee could also keep its own web page that tracks what each committee is doing, the status of any initiatives, and a record of all actions taken.

Resolution #2. Resolution on the death of Renae Gray.   Mayor Simmons

Renae was the first person to invite me (in 1991) to be on a board of a civic organization in Cambridge. She always brought positive energy to anything with which she was involved. This is a very significant loss to the civic fabric of the city.

Order #2. Amendment to Chapter 8.12.010 of the Municipal Code.   Councillor Cheung

This is almost like a mystery question. The Order basically just asks that the requirement that any gas station with self-serve pumps "have service bays and offer automotive repairs" be removed. On the face of it, this just seems like common sense since there are already self-serve gas stations in Cambridge where no repairs are made. But why is this revision being posed now? Is this just housekeeping or is there a service station that wants to do self-serve gas and get out of the repair business? It matters because self-serve stations usually come with bright lights, extended hours, and elaborate fire-suppression structures. That's a pretty big change from Goober's Fillin' Station.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the MBTA to install a shelter on Aberdeen Avenue without advertising or lighting comparable to what was originally there and to consult with City staff to develop a policy that prohibits advertising and illumination on bus shelters in residential areas citywide and as well as in the Parkway Overlay District.   Councillor Devereux

We probably all would rather see less advertising on bus shelters, Hubway stations, etc., but that is how the maintenance costs are covered. Perhaps they can just dim the lights and make the advertisements classier.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department, the Department of Public Works (DPW) and any other relevant City department and report back to the City Council on ways the City can help small businesses offset other costs, included but not limited to, the possibility of DPW picking up trash from these small businesses during their regular routes.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Cheung

This debate has gone on for at least 25 years. The truth is that DPW already does pick up trash from small businesses in some mixed-use buildings (like next door to me). If the City did choose to include more commercial customers, they would also have to include recycling services.

Communications and Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a response to an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by John Hawkinson alleging violation to attorney client privileged redactions of executive session minutes of the City Council for Aug 1, 2016, Oct 13, 2016 and the Oct 31, 2016.

While few will argue with the intent of the Open Meeting Law, there does come a point when complaints like these pass well into the realm of the ridiculous. In this particular case, these were Executive Session meetings specifically focused on contract negotiations. They are not subject to the Open Meeting Law and redaction in the minutes is permitted when appropriate, so no one should be surprised that much of the minutes were redacted. There are far more important things to worry about - even here in the Little Village of Cambridge. In any case, I wish the complainant would show a little more respect to the women who work in City government. Nobody appreciates being hounded while under threat of a negative "news" story that's barely distinguishable from a personal attack. - Robert Winters


City Announces First Minibond Issuance, Invites Residents to Directly Invest in Cambridge

City SealJan 23, 2017 – The City of Cambridge is pleased to announce that it intends to offer Cambridge residents the chance to invest directly in Cambridge infrastructure by purchasing minibonds. Minibonds enable residents to earn tax-exempt interest and invest for the future while supporting the Cambridge capital budget.

A minibond is similar to a traditional municipal bond in which investors loan money to a city or public agency for an agreed period of time, receive interest on the investment, and get their loan paid back when the bond matures. The City will use minibond proceeds to support capital projects such as school building renovations, municipal facility upgrades, and implementation of the Complete Streets plan.

All municipal bonds previously sold by the City were sold in denominations of $5,000 or more. Minibonds are different because residents can purchase them for as little as $1,000, making them more accessible than traditional municipal bonds for potential investors.

The City is working with Neighborly Securities* to issue the minibonds. Neighborly is not affiliated with the City of Cambridge in any way, other than as the broker-dealer for this sale of minibonds.

The City expects to sell up to $2 million of minibonds in its first minibond sale, which will take place from February 17-23, 2017. Each Cambridge resident may purchase up to 20 minibonds for a total possible investment of $20,000 (20 x $1,000/minibond). The interest rate on the 2017 minibonds will be determined on February 17, 2017 and interest will be paid semiannually. Principal on the 2017 minibonds will be paid in five years in 2022.

Minibonds will only be offered to investors following release of a Preliminary Official Statement of the City that will describe the terms of the minibonds and provide other financial information concerning the City. The City expects to issue a Preliminary Official Statement by February 13, 2017.

Residents who are interested in buying Cambridge minibonds will need to create an account through before the order period ends or purchase minibonds through their own broker. Once a minibond order is submitted through Neighborly, Neighborly’s investment team reviews it for approval and allocation. If the order is approved, minibonds will then be allotted and filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Neighborly representatives will be at Cambridge City Hall on Wednesday, February 15 from 6-8pm and Tuesday, February 21 from 6-8pm to provide assistance and discuss the minibond process.

For questions about setting up an account with Neighborly to purchase minibonds, please contact Neighborly at (866) 432-1170,, or

For general questions about Cambridge minibonds, please visit or contact the City’s Budget Office at or (617) 349-4270.

*Minibonds will only be ordered through Neighborly Securities, member FINRA, SIPC & registered with MSRB, pursuant to a preliminary and final official statement to be made available during the ordering period. This information does not constitute an order to sell or the solicitation of an order to buy any securities. You will be responsible for making your own independent investigation and appraisal of the risks, benefits, and suitability of any securities to be ordered and neither the City of Cambridge nor Neighborly Securities is making any recommendation or giving any investment advice.

Forward Fund 2017

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority announces the third year of the FORWARD FUND. This micro GRANT PROGRAM is intended to support civic improvement projects and creative physical interventions that better Cambridge's built environment for the benefit of all the city's residents, workers, and visitors by non-profit organizations, community groups, and small businesses throughout Cambridge, MA.

The theme for the 2017 program is to support projects that create, maintain, or enhance Connections within Cambridge.

We're awarding Civic Experimentation Capital Grants; and Community Infrastructure Capital Grants. The awards will range from $5,000 up to $25,000. Grant applicants should approach the theme for the program by promoting inclusive, collaborative, and a resourceful process.

For more information or to apply online click here.

Evenings with Experts 2017

First Wednesday of each month, February through May 2017, 7:00pm-8:30pm
A free public lecture series presented by Grow Native Massachusetts at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138
For more information, visit us at, or call 781-790-8921.
CEUs Available for each lecture: APLD (1.5 credits); NOFA-AOLCP (4 credits)

March 1 - The Art and Science of Growing Native Plants from Seed: Why, When, and How
Randi Eckel, Founder of Toadshade Wildflower Farm
    As we incorporate more native plants into our landscapes, there are so many good reasons to use plants propagated from seed. But wild plants have evolved with a dizzying array of mechanisms, including chemical-induced dormancy and mandatory cold stratification, to ensure that their seeds disperse, persevere, and germinate at just the right time under natural conditions. These mechanisms are not in place to frustrate would-be plant propagators, but must be understood by gardeners to successfully grow native plants from seed. Come for a far-reaching discussion of the issues surrounding seed collection, procurement, and propagation, with information that will encourage the novice and challenge the professional alike.
    Randi Eckel has been studying native plant seed propagation and plant-insect interactions for over thirty years. She is the founder of Toadshade Wildflower Farm, which supplies both seeds and plants of species native to eastern North America.

April 5 - How Native Plant Cultivars Affect Pollinators
Annie White, Ecological Landscape Designer & Adjunct Professor, UVM
    Initiatives to address pollinator decline are widespread and native plants are the preferred choice for pollinator habitat restoration. The growing demand for natives, coupled with a longstanding desire of horticulturalists for enhanced bloom, color, or other characteristics, has led to the increased selection and breeding of native cultivars. Although these cultivars are typically marketed for their ecological benefits, until now there have been no scientific studies to support or refute these claims. So are native cultivars as valuable in pollinator habitat gardens as the true native species? Annie White will help answer this question by sharing the results of four years of field data. Her research is groundbreaking and remarkable.
    Annie White is the founder of Nectar Landscape Design Studio and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Vermont. She earned her MS in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her recent PhD in Plant & Soil Science from the University of Vermont was focused on this exceptional new research on native plant cultivars.

May 3 - The Challenge of a Public Native Plant Garden: Maintenance, Interpretation and Compromise
Michael Hagen, Curator of the Native Plant Garden at the New York Botanical Garden
    The New York Botanical Garden’s new Native Plant Garden opened in 2013. Designed by Oehme van Sweden, it includes a diversity of microclimates on 3.5 acres of varied terrain with a planting plan of almost 100,000 native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses. Curator Michael Hagen will explain how this garden is successfully maintained, and their criteria for what constitutes “native” in species selection and the use of cultivars. This very public landscape presents native plants in a contemporary style, with an emphasis on aesthetics over recreating habitat. Michael will share his observations about how the public perceives and responds to the value of this native plant palette, along with ideas for inspiring others to “go native.”
    Michael Hagen is Curator of both the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden at NYBG. He previously served as Staff Horticulturist for over 11 years at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York and was Garden Manager at Rocky Hills in Mt. Kisco, a preservation project of the Garden Conservancy.

To the members of the MIT community:

MIT President Rafael ReifJan 18, 2017 – Last November, the federal government announced its plans to work with MIT to negotiate an "exchange" that would give us the right to own and develop a multi-acre site in the heart of Kendall Square: The Volpe parcel. Today, we signed the exchange agreement.

You can explore the details in the MIT News story and a 3Q with Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz.

With the contract finalized, I'm writing to share my excitement and explain why this initiative is so important for the long-term interests of MIT and of our Cambridge neighbors.

The Volpe site offers an opening that will not come again: 14 acres, mostly underdeveloped, nearly contiguous with our campus and in the thick of Kendall Square. When this parcel became available, it felt obvious to us that we should pursue this unique opportunity to work with the City and our Cambridge neighbors to help shape the future of the Kendall Square neighborhood, so that it would serve both MIT and the broader community.

From the entrepreneurial energy and culture of its hundreds of start-ups, to the research might and market reach of its major corporate players, Kendall Square is a vital source of opportunities, talent and resources to help the people of MIT deliver their ideas to the world. The emerging strengths of this ecosystem already offer powerful advantages to MIT; it is now clear that our future success depends on making sure that Kendall succeeds as a place – a place where people want to live, work and play, and a place that makes our city stronger, too.

It's important to understand that the agreement we signed today will be paid for entirely with MIT's investment funds, just as if it were a purchase of stocks or bonds; MIT's development on the site will serve as a long-term source of funds to support the Institute, just as with any income property MIT might own anywhere.

In effect, the Volpe project is simultaneously a way of generating future financial support for our mission, while enhancing an innovation ecosystem and neighborhood that support that mission, too.

Today's signing marks the latest step in a community-wide process that began four years ago. In that time, city and neighborhood leaders have developed a broad vision for how the Volpe site might be used, and MIT faculty and staff have worked with them closely to understand their priorities and values. As we begin detailed planning for the site, we are confident that we can develop it consistent with the vision that the City and the community outlined, so that Kendall Square can grow into a lively, distinctive neighborhood with an irresistible personality that is welcoming to all.

I am inspired by the possibilities, and I look forward to working with many of you as we work to shape the future of this remarkable place.

L. Rafael Reif

Cambridge Civic/Political Review 2016

March Programs at Fresh Pond Reservation

These events are FREE and open to the public. Children are welcome in the company of an adult.

Winter Nature Storytime
Dates: Fridays, March 3, 17, 31
Time: 10 to 11am
Location: Art Room at Neville Place, 650 Concord Ave.
    Join us for nature story time at Fresh Pond! Children and their caretakers are welcome to join us for some arts and crafts, followed by nature story time, and then a nature walk. Please come dressed to play outside! Feel free to contact Catherine Pedemonti at to RSVP or with any questions. Directions: Enter the back building and turn left. The art room is at the end of the hall on the first floor.

Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt
Date: Saturday, March 4th, 1-2:30pm
    It can be hard to tell trees apart in the wintertime without their leaves, but you can learn how to look for differences in buds, bark, and branching patterns. Join Ranger Jean for this outdoor scavenger hunt in the woods of Fresh Pond Reservation. We will then head inside to talk about what we found! No dogs please, (except people with disabilities and their service dogs). Be sure to come dressed for the outdoors. Please RSVP to for meeting location.

“Living with Coyotes” Presentation
Date: Thursday, March 9, 7:00 to 8:30pm
Location: Water Department, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
    Learn all about the most misunderstood and remarkable animal in North America! As Belmont’s Animal Control Officer and Massachusetts’ Representative for Project Coyote, John Maguranis has been able to get up close with these increasingly common animals. Join us for an evening of photos, data, and information about North America’s most adaptable carnivore. Topics include diet, behavior, tracking, hazing, pet and human safety, and much more.
Seasonal Walkabout at Lusitania Field
Date: Friday, March 17th, 10:30-11:30am
Place: Meets at Maher parking lot, 650 Concord Ave.
    We will monitor wildlife by sign, track, or presence, and make note of weather, state of plants, condition of water and other abiotic resources. On these monthly walks, help chart the seasonal changes of some of our most active wildlife spots, or simply come and enjoy the walk. Come dressed to be outdoors for the hour. Attend one or the series and develop your ability to take in more of the reservation. No dogs please (except people with disabilities and their service dogs). Extreme weather cancels. For more info or to RSVP, contact Ranger Jean at (508)-562-7605 or email
Fresh Pond Owl Prowl
Date: Monday, March 20th, 6-7pmZ
Place: Meets at Ranger Station, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
    Though they are seldom seen or heard, the Reservation has been known to host owls. It is no surprise that these nocturnal creatures are somewhat of a mystery to many visitors at Fresh Pond - by day, most are likely to be hiding or sleeping somewhere secure. Come to learn about the numerous adaptations owls have that make them so fascinating, and take an evening stroll to listen for evidence of any feathered friends nearby! Please RSVP to
Welcome Spring Bird Walk
Date: Saturday, March 25, 9-11am
Location: given upon registration
    Spring is here at last! The earliest migrating birds are arriving at the Reservation. They will either stay for the breeding season or rest and eat before continuing their journey northward. The new arrivals and year-round residents will soon be busy building nests and defending territories. We may see a variety of migrating waterfowl on the ponds as well as songbirds in trees. Beginners are welcome! We have binoculars to lend and will show you how to use them. To register and for meeting place, email Catherine Pedemonti at
Early Spring Tree Scavenger Hunt
Date: Sunday, March 26th, 1-2:30pm
    How do trees know when to leaf out in the spring? Join Ranger Jean for this outdoor scavenger hunt in the woods of Fresh Pond Reservation to learn how to look for differences in buds, bark, and branching patterns in early spring trees before they are fully leafed out. We will then head inside to talk about what we found! No dogs please. Be sure to come dressed for the outdoors. Please RSVP to for meeting location.
Reflecting on Fresh Pond: Art, Prose, and Poetry Share
Date: Saturday, April 1st, 1 to 3pm
Place: Neville Place, 650 Concord Ave.
    Fresh Pond Reservation means so much to so many of us. Whether your come here to hear the tinkle of ice against the shore, the call of returning birds or the squeal of children sledding in Kingsley Park, you may have been inspired to make a note in a journal, write a poem or song; or take a photo or make a drawing. We are calling people of ALL AGES and CREATIVE CAPACITIES to share your Reflections on Fresh Pond at an open mic. All mediums welcome – paint, print, a note scribbled on a napkin, photography, poems, a child’s drawing or performance of song or dance. Please RSVP to with a sentence or two describing your creative work(s). Start the sentence with “I was moved to make (my art) when I experienced (XXX) at Fresh Pond.” And go on from there. Come share your heartfelt experiences with others who are really touched when they walk the Pond and share the wonderment.

Unless otherwise specified, please contact Martine at 617-349-6489 or for any RSVPs or questions!

Would you like to join Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation? Membership in Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation costs only $10 per year ($5 for seniors and students, $15 for families). To join, fill out a membership form available in the Ranger Station information racks, e-mail, call 617-349-6489, or visit our website at to download a form.

Keep up to date on events at the Pond. Visit the Friends group website at to learn more about Friends group activities and the reservation and its inhabitants. Upcoming Programs

A Remembrance of Chip Norton, Watershed Manager for the Cambridge Water Department:

Central Square is a Grandma
Snaggle-toothed and silent
Dozing by a drafty window
In a faded cotton dress.
Her stories need no telling
Even the blind can read her features
In the roughness of her knuckles
Or the rattle of her sigh.
She danced ballet and scrubbed the floor
Raised children and taught them in school
And was a Patroness of the Arts
With big green rhinestone earrings.
She's been in clubs and fights and station wagons
Behind a desk and in the hospital
And life keeps moving into her
Like it does with old people.
When there's Greek music playing
Her feet will stamp and shuffle
And she'll always ask for seconds
When the catfish is fried just right
She may mumble Haitian stories
Or hum a Vietnamese lullaby
While she rolls her endless tortillas
And sips papaya punch.
She's old, as old as we will be
And who wants to be old?
Only old people like old people
We can try to make her young
We can fix her hair up pretty
But the hairpins pinch and scratch her
We can buy her a chrome-plated wheelchair
And push her out of the way.
She'll sleep when she takes her medicine
And she weighs almost nothing
But now her heart must go
There's money to be made.

Hilda Marshall
April 1987

Central Square is a Grandma



Poem "Central Square is a Grandma"
written by Hilda Marshall in April 1987

contributed by Judy Nathans
from her archives

Book Release - Building Old Cambridge by Susan E. Maycock and Charles M. Sullivan (published by MIT Press)

A Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the National Municipal League at Chicago, April 28, 1904



[original PDF]

Here's Something Worth Watching

Robert & Judy on Cambridge InsideOutCambridge InsideOut airs weekly every Tuesday at 5:30pm and 6:00pm with producers/hosts Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. We will have other guest hosts as well.

[complete list of shows - with links to YouTube videos of each]

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 207-208: Feb 21, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 205-206: Feb 7, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 203-204: Jan 31, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 201-202: Jan 24, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 199-200: Jan 17, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 197-198: Jan 10, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 195-196: Jan 3, 2017

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 193-194: Dec 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 191-192: Dec 20, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 189-190: Dec 6, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 187-188: Nov 29, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 185-186: Nov 22, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 183-184: Nov 15, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 181-182: Nov 1, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 179-180: Oct 25, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 177-178: Oct 18, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 175-176: Oct 11, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 173-174: Oct 4, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 171-172: Sept 27, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 169-170: Sept 13, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 167-168: Sept 6, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 63 and 64 with Glenn Koocher
We had a great time doing these shows with the man who invented the original Cambridge InsideOut - Glenn Koocher.

Cambridge InsideOut on CCTV during 2013-2014 featured co-hosts Susana Segat and Robert Winters.
Cambridge InsideOut on CCTV during 2015-2016 featured co-hosts Judy Nathans and Robert Winters.

MBTA Role in Jump-starting Development of the Cambridge Center Project Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989
By Thad Tercyak, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, Associate Director, 1968-1990

MAPC Study: 435,000 new housing units needed by 2040

A new report is estimating that the greater Boston area will need another 435,000 new housing units by 2040 to lure new workers and accommodate an aging population. [Reports available here]

Note: When comparing the peak population of Cambridge back in the 1950s (over 120,000) to what it is today (perhaps 107,000) it's important to keep in mind that families were typically much larger then. It's also the case that what people find acceptable in terms of living space and amenities has changed dramatically over six decades. This translates into considerably more "units" of housing (and higher density) in Cambridge if the population should rise to levels close to what they were in days of yore.

Open for Comments - CCJ Forum

Monday the 13th – Featured Items on the Feb 13, 2017 Cambridge City Council Meeting Agenda (Feb 13, 2017)

On tap at the February 6, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting (Feb 6, 2017)

Now Featuring…. Coming Attractions at the Jan 30, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting (Jan 29, 2017)

Coming up this Monday – Jan 23, 2017 Cambridge City Council agenda (Jan 22, 2017)

Members Sought for New City Manager’s Advisory Committee (Jan 16, 2017)

New Year at City Hall – Jan 9, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights (Jan 9, 2017)

Alanna Mallon Announces Run For Cambridge City Council (Jan 4, 2017)

Cambridge Civic/Political Review 2016 (Dec 28, 2016)

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! – December 2016 (updated Dec 21, 2016)

Closing Down an Unusual Year – Dec 19, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda Notes (Dec 19, 2016)

Central Square is a Grandma (Dec 17, 2016)

Participatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Speed Limit on Cambridge’s City-Owned Streets Being Reduced to 25 MPH (Dec 4, 2016)

Where did the Amanda Phillips crash happen? And why? (Dec 2, 2016 by John Allen)

A Peanut in Inman Square? (Dec 1, 2016 by John Allen)

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Dec 1, 2016)

David Maher selected as next President and CEO of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce – will not seek re-election to City Council (Nov 9, 2016)

The Municipal Situation in Cambridge (1904) – by Henry N. Wheeler (Nov 6, 2016)

Louis A. DePasquale Selected as Next Cambridge City Manager (Sept 29, 2016)

Floyd Freeman, Nov 7, 1915 – July 11, 2016, neighbor, friend, philosopher (July 16, 2016)

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – April 1, 2016 (April Fools Edition)

Sunday Morning Statistics – Who Voted in the Cambridge Presidential primary (by age) (posted Mar 20, 2016)

Campaign Finance – 2015 Cambridge City Council Candidates (last updated Feb 20, 2015 - updated periodically)

Cambridge School Committee 2015 Campaign Finance Summaries (Feb 6, 2016)

A Conversation with Tip O’Neill (1992) on Cambridge Inside Out (Jan 17, 2016)

Who Voted in the 2015 Cambridge Municipal Election? (Dec 6, 2015)

Final Official Election Results – Cambridge 2015 Municipal Election (Nov 13, 2015)

Flashback to March 1998 (Oct 12, 2015)

Who Votes in Cambridge? (July 9, 2015)

April 1 Cambridge News (Apr 1, 2015) - the April Fool's Day edition

Brian Murphy, 1964-2015 (Feb 5, 2015)

Age Distribution of Voters in Cambridge Elections: 2007-2014 (Jan 4, 2015)

MBTA Role in Cambridge Center Project – Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989 (Feb 13, 2014)

The Advent of PR in Cambridge (Nov 10, 2013)

Completing the Square (June 11, 2013)

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Six Pivotal Episodes (June 8, 2013)

April 1 Cambridge News (Apr 1, 2013) - the April Fool's Day edition

On becoming a True Cantabrigian (Dec 29, 2012)

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, Initial Years, 1963 to 1982 (July 12, 2012)

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area – Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (Apr 5, 2012)

“Cycle track”: a sidewalk by another name (posted Aug 11, 2010, letter of Paul Schimek)

The Advent of PR in Cambridge
originally published in the Cambridge Civic Journal on Feb 12, 1998

April 2, 2016 - Yet another fun April Fool's Day

April 2, 2015 - Another fun April Fool's Day

April 2, 2013 - Well, that was fun. Thanks to everyone for being such a sport on April Fool's Day.

Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 Recommendations (Nov 28, 2012)

Introduction: Memorandum from the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 on its Final Recommendations
Full Report (reformatted in HTML) Goals
Public Places to Build Community Public Places elements
Retail, Cultural and Non-Profit Diversity Housing
Connecting People to the Square Foster a Sustainable Future for Central Square
Leverage Future Private and Public Investments Definition of Central Square Districts
Zoning Recommendations Transfer of Development Rights
Transportation Recommendations Location Specific Issues

The Neverending Study of Central Square

Aug 11, 2012 - While preparing to write a series of essays on Central Square, I put together the following list of Central Square studies culled from a variety of sources. I have originals for most of these. If you know of any others, please let me know. - Robert Winters

Feb 1980 - CDD report entitled "Central Square - Commercial Area Revitalization District

June 1980 - CDD booklet entitled "Facade Improvements" with focus on Central Square

Apr 1983 - "Central Square Report" produced by City Council's Central Square Subcommittee (study began in 1980 or 1981)

1987 - A report produced in 1987 about a Subcommittee that allegedly built on the 1983 report (may be same as Central Square Action Plan)

Nov 1987 - Central Square Action Plan

1989 - Draft Central Square Development Guidelines

May 1993 - Results of the "Mayor's Forum on Central Square"

Oct 1993 - Report by the Committee to Promote and Enhance Central Square Now!

Aug 1994 - A Study of the Visual Images and Signage of Central Square (CDD)

May 1995 - Central Square Improvements Project, Master Plan Report

May 1995 - An Urban Design Plan for Central Square (executive summary)

May 2001 - Summary Notes from "A Conversation about Central Square"

Feb 2000 - The Gibbs Report, Central Square Commercial Market Study

Oct 2004 - Central Square, Cambridge - Rising Fortunes at a Regional Crossroads (Rekha Murthy)

Dec 2004 - Reviving a Traditional City - Central Square, Cambridge, gets a facelift (Rekha Murthy)

June 2005 - Street Media: Ambient Messages in an Urban Space - a photographic analysis of Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Rekha Murthy)

2009 - CDD Central Square Customer Intercept Survey Report

2011 - Central Square Market Profile

2011 - Red Ribbon Commission Study Report

2012 - Goody/Clancy report and recommendations

2013 - K2C2 Final Reports

K2C2 Final Reports Released

K2C2 areaThe final reports for Kendall Square and Central Square are now available for download. Zoning discussions based on the recommendations of the K2 and C2 Advisory Committees, which are encapsulated in these reports, will continue in 2014.

Community Development Department

Kendall Square Central Square Planning Study (K2C2)

Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013

Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013

Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013

Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013

This comprehensive planning effort guided by stakeholder advisory committees, City staff, and a team of multidisciplinary consultants led by Goody Clancy, developed a vision and master plan for Central Square, Kendall Square, and the area South of Main Street (including the Osborn Triangle) connecting the two squares. Both final reports are divided into two parts; in each case you will need to review both parts to read the entire report.


THE TASTY DINER of HARVARD SQUARE - A film by Federico Muchnik (33½ minutes)

FYI - Current Rules and Goals: Cambridge City Council & Cambridge School Committee

City Council Rules 2014-2015 (adopted January 7, 2014, amended Feb 10, 2014 to reflect current Council committees)

City Council Goals - FY2012-2013 (adopted Dec 13, 2011)

City Council Committees (for the current term)

School Committee Rules (adopted January 7, 2008)

School Committee Goals (adopted October 7, 2008)

June 7, 2009 - Once upon a time there was a civic organization in Cambridge known as the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA). It was formed in 1945 out of several organizations that had been existed through the 1930s and that had lobbied the state legislature to create the Plan E Charter option (1938) which featured a city manager form of government and proportional representation elections for city council and school committee. These reforms were central to model charter reform movements active in the United States from the early 1900s. The central theme of the CCA in its early days was "good government" in the sense of being anti-patronage and for professionally managed local government. This changed with the introduction of rent control at the end of the 1960s after which the CCA shifted leftward and became permanently lashed to the mast of the rent control vessel. Though the CCA still exists on paper (I believe), it rapidly declined after the statewide abolition of rent control (late 1994) and essentially disappeared a decade later (early 2005).

I bring up the ghost of the CCA today only to point out that when it was created it had some very admirable goals. Here's the original Mission Statement of the CCA:

These are pretty good founding principles for a civic organization and I'm tempted to say that some should be incorporated into the recently adopted City Council's Goals for FY2010 (adopted Feb 2, 2009). In fact, of the 22 current goals, the only one that comes close is: "An increased level of recruitment and opportunities for membership on boards and commissions." The current Council goals emphasize things like "fostering community" via block parties and such, though one has to wonder if the City should be promoting these activities or just getting out of the way so that people can foster community on their own. The goals also seem to put some emphasis on developing "successful nightlife campaigns" while mentioning nothing about promoting ordinary "daytime" economic activity that supports the everyday needs of residents.

One founding principle of the CCA that fell into disuse over the years is listed above as #3: To encourage and support the candidacy of men and women seeking election to public office and to support intelligent, wholesome leadership in public affairs. Indeed, I can personally testify to the fact that in its dying years the only reason the CCA made endorsements at all was because the CCA-endorsed incumbents wanted the benefit of having an advertised CCA slate of candidates that would help secure their reelection. There was precious little effort to recruit new candidates or to support them. Today, the benefits of incumbency are greater than ever. The cost of political campaigns have become absurdly high and most of the incumbents now have (City paid) staff who are inevitably political appointees who directly or indirectly assist in the reelection efforts of their bosses. The deck is increasingly stacked against challengers. Furthermore, the salary and benefits for elected councillors are now so sweet that it is unlikely that any of them would ever want to move on to another job.

With this background in mind, I would like to encourage all Cambridge residents to help level the playing field by finding out about this year's challengers for seats on the Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge School Committee. This is not meant as a dig against any particular incumbent as much as an appeal to support the challengers in what is a difficult and laudable effort. Please see the Cambridge Candidate Pages for the current list of expected candidates. Then use your own judgment - don't expect me or anyone else to do it for you.

Speaking of this year's municipal election, there are some activists who are now expending great effort to attack the City Manager and most of the current City Council. That is not nor has it ever been the intention of the Cambridge Civic Journal or its editor. Candidates are now being seduced by financial promises from one angry fellow with a Brattle Street address and a basketful of grudges. Former CCA Executive Board members from its darkest and most manipulative days are oozing up from the civic swamp trying to at last make good on their failed campaigns of the early 1990s to oust city manager Bob Healy.

It's entertaining to watch people who have primarily earned disrespect in their civic efforts try to capitalize on the recent Monteiro jury decision as a means of realizing their decades-old vendettas. Conveniently forgotten in their recent letters to Cambridge's "oldest weekly newspaper" are the many achievements of City Manager Bob Healy, the strong financial position of the City, and the recent 8-1 vote of confidence bestowed upon Mr. Healy in granting him a three year contract extension. Also missing in this testimony is the fact that virtually all affirmative action in the hiring of employees and department heads has taken place on Mr. Healy's watch. These letters also fail to divulge how long these writers have been carrying their jealousy and anger toward Mr. Healy for actually orchestrating progress in Cambridge while the best they could ever do is snipe from the sidelines. - Robert Winters

This Old Land of Cambridge - The true story of the geological history of Cambridge - by George Ehrenfried
Sadly, George passed away (Jan 5, 2010) at the age of 96. He led many a geology-themed hike with the AMC Local Walks/Hikes.

Selected City of Cambridge References:

Plan E Charter (Cambridge's city charter) Acts of 1921, Chapter 239 as amended (establishment of Cambridge Election Commission)

Mass. General Laws Chapter 54A (governing Cambridge's PR elections)

Pen Portraits of Prominent People - by Henry J. Mahoney Editor, Cambridge Sentinel - 1923

This book was published c. 1923 and features very witty one-page “pen portraits” (with photo) of prominent Cantabrigians of the day. I'll be adding names alphabetically as time permits. There are 182 portraits in the book.

It comes to mind that there may be some value in expanding these profiles to other prominent Cantabrigians who arrived on the scene after 1923, including prominent Cantabrigians of today. With this in mind, I extend the invitation to any and all who may wish to contribute their own “pen portraits” of Cambridge people. Contributions do not necessarily have to be in the style of Mr. Mahoney. Inclusion is, as always, subject to the erratic discretion of the editor.

Special thanks to Karen Welch for sending me the book. - RW

Political History of Cambridge in the 20th Century
written by Glenn Koocher, November 2004 -- edited by Robert Winters, July 2006
[An alternate edit of this essay will appear, along with many other valuable essays, in a
centennial volume to be published by the Cambridge Historical Society in 2007.

Which People's Republic
written by Bill Cunningham, 1999

Cambridge School Volunteers is looking for people who can give one to two hours per week to help students in the Cambridge Public Schools, grades K through 12. No experience necessary. Call 617-349-6794 or e-mail for more details.

Oliver Wendell Holmes – Morning Exercises of December 28, 1880
As recorded in the book 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of Cambridge (1881)

Robert Winters
Robert Winters, Editor
Cambridge Civic Journal
(about me - updated!!)
Philosophy of the CCJ Editor
The Cambridge Civic Journal is an independent newsletter of civic affairs in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is published as a public service by Central Square Publications. All items are written by Robert Winters unless otherwise noted. [Of course, I do sometimes forget.]

Thoughts for these times:
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal

''This is our fucking city, and nobody is gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.'' -- David Ortiz

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“The Number One thing I would emphasize is that journalists and bloggers would do well to see themselves as partners in the provision of information and that each can benefit greatly from the other. I’ve never seen this as a competition. It is especially true these days that local papers and young journalists are not very well-versed in the communities they serve. Much of the institutional memory has either died out or been bought out.” -- Robert Winters, mathematician and creator of the Cambridge Civic Journal, an online publication about Cambridge, MA (

Jorkin: “Come, come, Mr. Fezziwig, we’re good friends besides good men of business. We’re men of vision and progress. Why don’t you sell out while the going’s good? You’ll never get a better offer. It’s the age of the machine, and the factory, and the vested interests. We small traders are ancient history, Mr. Fezziwig.”

Fezziwig: “It’s not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business, Mr. Jorkin…. It’s to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved. No, I can’t see my way to selling out to the new vested interests, Mr. Jorkin. I’ll have to be loyal to the old ways and die out with them if needs must.”

Scrooge: “I think I know what Mr. Fezziwig means, sir.”

Jorkin: “Oh, you hate progress and money, too, do you?”

Scrooge: “I don't hate them, sir, but perhaps the machines aren’t such a good thing for mankind, after all.”

Memorable scene in "A Christmas Carol"

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