Pre-Vacation Convocation - Highlights from the June 25, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda
These tasty morsels are available for you to digest in the last regular meeting before the summer recess.
Manager's Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-33, regarding a report on supporting a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035.
Manager's Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-42, regarding Autonomous Vehicles testing.
These are included primarily for information. By the way, the prediction is that if and when autonomous vehicles become commonplace there will be considerably more vehicles on the roads at any given time, and tailgating will be the norm because, you know, sensors. There is also some concern that the use of public transportation may drop considerably.
Manager's Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-48, regarding a request for yield to Pedestrians signage in bike lanes.
Nothing special here except for the funny line: "We do not recommend installing post mounted signs, as they will add additional sign clutter to the roadside environment..." Nothing says clutter more than zig-zagging lines of upright PVC posts bolted to the roadway - and there's more coming - and it's not debatable.
Manager's Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-59, regarding a report on collecting data from the Human Rights Commission on housing-related activities including number of housing related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance.
Manager's Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed amendments to the two following ordinances: Chapter 2.76 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Human Rights Ordinance) and proposed amendments to Chapter 14.04 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the "Fair Housing Ordinance).
Again, mainly for information. It is curious to see just how much effort is required to change the word "gender" to the phrase "gender identity". Whatever.
Manager's Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a revised draft of the proposed Surveillance Technology Ordinance.
I drove down to MIT and then Harvard and then back home earlier today. I was probably recorded dozens of times along the way, and I will miraculously still sleep well tonight. By the way, I tip my hat to the various people who have surveillance cameras on the homes and businesses. They were really helpful in the Cambridge Police Department being able to quickly identify and arrest people involved in recent shootings in The Port and the Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.
Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from the Pizzuto Family Limited Partnership Cambridge Zoning Ordinance 20.900 and Zoning Map by added section entitled New Street Overlay District.
The Nakagawa-Brown petition was getting lonely. Now there are two zoning petitions in the queue.
Order #1. That the City Council refer proposed changes to Cambridge Zoning Article 5.000.Rainwater & Flat Roof Zoning to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board for hearing and report. Councillor Kelley, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan
Make that three.
Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, the Community Development Department, and any other relevant departments to conduct a much more thorough process of community engagement and outreach – particularly in regards to the senior community – prior to the establishment of any new bicycle lanes in the area of South Massachusetts Avenue. Councillor Simmons
This is a nice sentiment, but we have already learned that none of this is negotiable and reasonable alternatives won't be considered.
Order #4. That the zoning amendment to section 4.22 of the zoning code, with strikeouts and highlighting to identify proposed changes for discussion, be forwarded to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee for their review as a zoning solution to the challenges posed by current zoning constraints regarding accessory dwelling units. Councillor Kelley, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan
Make that four.
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Deputy City Manager for the Department of Human Service Programs and the Director of the Office of Workforce Development to establish and implement a dynamic new initiative that will seek to place Port residents (ages 18 and over) on paths to jobs with family-sustaining wages. Councillor Simmons
This is perhaps the single most intelligent policy order I've seen all year. It may also be the most difficult to implement, but it's worth it.
Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to ensure the new zoning regulations and table of land use, licensing and permitting process, Host Community Agreements, and Economic Development Department programming reflect best equity practices and ensure Cambridge residents benefit from the cannabis industry. Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon
I suppose we'll have to just disagree on whether we should "ensure that people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry" or just try to make sure there's a level playing field.
Order #11. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to include a Job Linkage fee to the list of topics being evaluated in the upcoming Incentive Zoning Nexus Study. Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Simmons
I can certainly understand prioritizing job creation using funds derived from the Incentive Zoning Linkage Fee, and how the next round of revision of those fees might rise with this goal in mind, but creating a separate fee seems unnecessary, overly restrictive, and legally questionable.
Committee Report #1. 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 June 7, 2018 to discuss amendments to the Street Performers Ordinance in section 12.16.170 in the Municipal Code. [June 26, 2017 message from City Manager] [Proposed Amendments] [Proposed Amendments with Kelley revisions]
Again - for information purposes. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten the context that led to the creation of the Street Performers Ordinance and why the buskers themselves were supportive of it at the time it was ordained. There really was a lot of competition among the performers at the time over location and volume, and this was a relatively benign way to regulate that competition.
Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding "Cannabis Use Equity".
Miraculously, people always seem to find a way to a solution. Is the suggestion here to set aside parts of public parks as "high zones"? If smoking pot in the street becomes legal I certainly hope the City Council and the Cambridge Police will look kindly on me walking down the avenue with a pint of Guinness.
Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Devereux , transmitting a memorandum regarding Policy Order #72 dated Mar 19, 2018 that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Election Commission regarding the possibility of instituting early voting in the 2019 municipal election and what actions would be required by the City Council to do so.
As much as I want to see more people opting to vote in municipal elections, I'm still unsure what problem this proposal is trying to solve. It's very easy to vote in municipal elections, there's rarely a line, and absentee voting is as easy as 1-2-3 (or as many rankings as you please).
Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Cybersecurity.
This is yet another interesting piece of work from Councillor Kelley and his assistant Mark Gutierrez. - Robert Winters
On Deck for the June 18, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting
Here are a few items of particular interest:
Manager's Agenda #6. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $50,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account for expenses associated with the introduction of commercial recycling expected in FY19.
As the Manager's note says, "The funds will be used for the purchase of recycling bins and outreach efforts associated with the launch of the program. It is expected that the program will begin in the fall of 2019 and will service up to 150 small businesses." A recent message from the City's Economic Development Division (CDD) invited businesses with 50 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees or less to apply for a lottery to be part of this pilot: "If selected for the Small Business Recycling Pilot, businesses will receive free collection of up to three 65-gallon carts of recyclables twice per week. Please fill out the Small Business Recycling Pilot lottery form at Tinyurl.com/SmallBizRecycle (deadline Aug 10) to be considered for this free service." There are preferences for various things: women or minority or Cambridge resident-owned, not a "formula business", primarily retail or restaurant.
Resolution #17. Retirement of Virginia "Ginnie" Kelley from the Election Commission. Mayor McGovern
It will surprise no one to learn that I have a special fondness for all of the people who work in the Cambridge Election Commission office, and that especially goes for Ginnie Kelley. Her combination of expertise, helpfulness, and especially her sense of humor always helped make my frequent visits to the office a pleasure.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works and the Community Development Department on acquiring Big Belly Solar trash cans to replace the current open top trash receptacles, with an emphasis on the business districts. Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
While the Big Belly units do hold a lot more and have the added advantage that they can be remotely monitored, the entry chute is the weak link. People frequently overstuff the chute and jam it and others then just cram the jam with more rubbish. They can often be found overflowing more than an open-top container. The design needs further revision to minimize/prevent jams. It may also be worth considering Big Bellies for recyclable materials, but these units don't come cheap.
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Police Commissioner to establish an aggressive new strategy to reduce the violence in the Port and Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods. Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon
Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting memorandum regarding Gun Violence in Cambridge.
The subject of this Order may well be the single most pressing current issue for those of us who live in the eastern half of the city. Cambridge political people love to invoke the word "emergency" to justify various policies and initiatives, e.g. "housing emergency" or "climate emergency", but the term is unevenly applied. A dramatic increase in gun violence, like a major fire, is an actual emergency that warrants immediate action and not just long-term policy changes. As the map in Councillor Kelley's memo indicates, this is a relatively localized problem - at least for now.
Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the City Solicitor, the Director of the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, and the Chair of the License Commission and any other relevant City department to determine the permitting and legality issues of Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing in the City of Cambridge. Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on June 5, 2018 to discuss car sharing.
The information requested in the Order should be interesting. I often wonder what the transportation landscape will be ten years from now. Private ownership of motor vehicles will likely drop considerably (and driverless vehicles may become common), but unless a miracle happens this likely won't lead to a dramatic increase in the use of transit (buses and trains) because of the inherent limitations of routes and capacity. The exception will likely be for longer trips. Weather, commuting distances, cargo limitations, convenience, and comfort will limit how many people eventually use the bicycle as their main transportation mode. Ease of access and lack of route limitations will likely lead more people to access their transportation by pressing a few buttons on their phones. We're already seeing significant increases in Uber and Lyft (often with unskilled/lawless drivers) as Zipcar (now a subsidiary of Avis) and other car-sharing options seem less attractive.
Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to identify additional opportunities to plant trees in public spaces throughout the city, particularly in underserved areas of the city, and present a timeline in which this will happen including any necessary fiscal appropriations, as a part of the broader effort to rebuild our declining tree canopy. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons
Nobody disagrees with this.
Order #13. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to notify the City Council whenever a city owned public tree (not considered a “street tree” under 87.3) must be removed for reason other than disease or threat to public safety, and that a public hearing be scheduled prior to its removal. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley
I'm not really sure what the intention of this Order is. If the City is redesigning a playground or restoring the Cambridge Common (recently completed), must the City require a hearing for each tree that is removed in addition to the extensive public outreach that projects like these invariably provide?
Order #14. That the proposed amendment to Chapter 8.66 entitled "Tree Protection" be amended in section 8.66.40 entitled "Applicability" and also by adding a new section 8.66.050 entitled "Procedure for Other Projects" be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a hearing to review and consider the attached proposed amendments. Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley
Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting memorandum regarding recommendations for the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force.
From the City's website: Tree Canopy in Cambridge, MA: 2009-2014 – Through high resolution imagery and LiDAR it was determined that a 2% decrease in tree canopy cover has occurred between 2009 and 2014..... Overall there has been little net change in tree canopy within Cambridge. The low amount of net change in tree canopy masks the dynamics that have occurred during the 2009-2014 time period. Over 200 acres of tree canopy were lost. Fortunately, this loss has been largely offset by new growth and tree plantings..... Although tree canopy change in the city of Cambridge has been relatively slow, it is important to note that significant changes in tree canopy do occur. The best way for a community to increase tree canopy is to maintain what it currently has. Existing tree canopy helps to support both natural growth and natural regeneration. Removals of tree canopy, particularly in large quantities, pose a threat to Cambridge’s green infrastructure.
Councillor Zondervan quibbles about the percentages quoted in the report. He argues that it's really a 6.7% decrease rather than a 2% decrease, but that's really just a choice of denominator. Both are valid perspectives. If a baseball player was batting .300 (that's baseball-ese for getting a hit 30% of the time), and his average dropped to .280, we'd say that he shaved 20 points off his average (now 28%) - a 2% drop. The Zondervan percentage would be 6.7% - a "batting emergency".
Regardless how you choose to measure canopy loss, the crux of the Order is a proposal to require property owners (and not just "the big guys") to seek and obtain a permit before removing any "significant" tree and fully documenting any such removal. It would be one thing if this was a notice requirement for such a removal which might precipitate a negotiation between a property owner and abutters, but this is a permit requirement. There is also no mention of who would have standing in any proceeding relating to the granting of a permit. Not to be alarmist, but some may remember the term "removal permit" from the days of rent control when, in fact, obtaining a removal permit was essentially impossible in the political climate of the day.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on May 15, 2018 to discuss the proposed Cambridge policy relating to the sale of adult-use cannabis.
The legalization of recreational marijuana is now the law of the land and the pot shops are coming soon, but characterizing this as a "social justice" issue with a proposal for a "City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program" to "promote sustainable, socially and economically reparative practices in the commercial Cannabis industry in Cambridge" borders on the ridiculous. - Robert Winters
First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda
The City Council returns Monday for another crack at the Vellucci Park matter. The rhetoric will likely go something like this: (1) "You have to save the trees to save the planet" - even though you could define the word 'negligible' by this and many other Cambridge initiatives on that front; or (2) "You have to enthusiastically support the proposed reconfiguration because it removes bicycles from the roadway" (even though it was our 4th choice out of 4 proposed designs); or (3) "If you disagree with our position you support the murder of innocents." Cambridge rhetoric can be a bit overwhelming at times. I just think we could do better if the whole process wasn't driven by the obsessive falsehoods that only motor vehicles should be allowed to safely use Cambridge roadways and that the only safe place for a bicycle is on the sidewalk.
Anyway, here are a few items that may be of interest at this meeting:
Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy.
I believe the City Manager gave a perfectly good response to this at the previous meeting, so I'll be surprised if there's anything else that needs to be said this week. My only curiosity lies with the question of whether the Water Board or the Water Department makes the decision if they disagree.
Charter Right #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).
This requires 6 votes and it's not at all clear that the votes are there. There are various reasons why some councillors might disapprove, and it's not all about whether a few honey locusts get turned into mulch or if a roomy new Ganja Plaza is established adjacent to the new Cannabis Quickie Mart. At the very least, I'd like to see some more current statistics on traffic safety in Inman Square since the bike stripes appeared in the Square. It may be that $60 worth of paint makes for a better solution than $6 million and a year of disruption. The Public Comment should be entertaining, especially in counting all the permutations of the Talking Points sent out by the various advocacy groups who tutor people what to say and how to be as dramatic as possible.
Result: The Home Rule Petition was approved 6-3 (Carlone, Devereux, Mallon, Siddiqui, Zondervan, McGovern - YES; Kelley, Simmons, Toomey - NO)
Charter Right #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses.
Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Mayor McGovern, transmitting amendments to Policy Order #3 of May 21, 2018 regarding the creation of a structured tax rate system for FY20.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, any change will require a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition, but there are some good reasons to crack open that Can of Worms. Some Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by the combination of rising rents (which include the real estate taxes) and shifting consumer habits. Tax changes may help, but there are other factors as well. Maybe we could consider exempting a portion of ground floor retail space like we do with the residential exemption.
Order #1. Issues to be resolved on the I-90 Interchange Project. Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone
I have no dog in this race, but I'm eager to see the transformation of this area.
Order #3. Advancing Homelessness Issues Docket. Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui
This Order is almost like an Index of the good initiatives now being considered at the State Legislature.
Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Community Development Department and any other relevant departments to explore starting a Citizens’ Academy in Cambridge. Councillor Mallon
I like this idea! Remember – indoctrination is not the same as education and encouragement. Show people how things work and where the on ramps are located, and then let them define how they want to exercise their citizenship.
Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Women’s Commission, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Community Development Department to commission a public art piece, statue, or memorial that would commemorate the dedication of women in Cambridge to passing the Nineteenth Amendment. Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui
I agree 100%. We already have a lot of establishments celebrating the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment. - Robert Winters
Rearranging the Deck Chairs - What's Up on the May 21, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda
Here are my selections from this week's menu:
Manager's Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $44,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures which will be used to assist the Department of Conservation & Recreation in constructing an ADA accessible canoe and kayak boat launch.
I remember back in 1999 when the City first partnered with MDC (now DCR) to invest $1,500,000 to upgrade Magazine Beach in exchange for priority in field scheduling. This satisfied what would otherwise have been a need identified in the Green Ribbon Open Space Report (2000) for access to a community park for the Cambridgeport neighborhood. Most of that investment went toward the fields and landscaping in the eastern part of Magazine Beach. The City's later investment (approx. $300,000 plus over $700,000 in matching funds and capital expenditures by DCR) has been focused on the western part, and a lot of credit for that goes to the Magazine Beach Partners (originally formed out of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association as the Friends of Magazine Beach) for spearheading the renovations of the old powder magazine and its vicinity. This is civic activism at its best.
Manager's Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-17, regarding the status and proposed next steps to advance the urban agriculture initiative.
The City already established regulations for the keeping of honeybees (Dec 2017) and will soon address hen-keeping (as opposed to henpecking), but this report is specific to "urban farming" whcih will include zoning recommendations affecting "the cultivation of agricultural products for public consumption". It does not affect home gardening. The zoning recommendations are expected in Fall 2018 and will require City Council approval, and soil safety regulation will be determined by the Commissioner of Public Health.
Manager's Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).
This agenda item will likely be the centerpiece of the meeting. There are a few points that warrant comment. First, the substance of this matter is the Home Rule Petition to the state legislature to swap existing designated open space for new "open space" in order to facilitate a realignment of the roadways. That has its own controversies, including different viewpoints regarding preservation of trees in the short and long term. The reconfiguration of the road is being supposedly done for the sake of safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle operators, but it is not at all clear that the proposed configuration (at considerable cost) will actually improve anything. The City routinely invokes the "Vision Zero" mantra to justify non-debatable changes in infrastructure with the assertion that all decisions are "data-driven", but at one recent meeting on this topic it was asserted by someone very close to the debate that there have been no accidents at all in Inman Square since the simple application of green paint to the roadway to better clarify the presence of cyclists as they pass through the intersection.
What seems quite clear in the proposed road reconfiguration is that it is centered on pushing all cyclists to use the sidewalk as they pass through the intersection (which many cyclists simply will not do - and for good reason). Will this result in fewer traffic incidents? Or will there be a spike in altercations between cyclists and pedestrians? Will cyclists who choose to use the roadway have their safety compromised? Personally, though I suppose there may be some room for improvement, my sense is that the "short term" fixes of painting the green lanes and restricting some turning movements have addressed most of the safety issues and that this next round of "improvements" may actually make things worse. The proposed changes seem more ideology-driven than data-driven. There is a lot to be said for intuitive and simple road design, and this is anything but that.
PS - It is stated in the report that "the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission approved the proposed Plaza design", but I heard from one member that this was only because their authority extends only to buildings and not to roadways, and since there are no buildings involved in either the land swap or the road design they didn't have standing in this matter.
Manager's Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to seek authorization from the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General (the “IG”) for the City to use the Construction Manager at Rick (“CMAR”) procurement and construction method (the “CMAR Method”) in connection with the redevelopment of the Foundry building.
How many years has it been now since we received this "gift" of the Foundry building?
Unfinished Business #1-4. Appropriation and Loan Authorization Orders for $5,000,000 (Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan); $650,000 (School building infrastructure projects, and a new boiler at CRLS); $61,500,000 (water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the The Port neighborhood, and the River Street neighborhood); and $21,000,000 (reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks).
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for public hearings held on May 1, 2018, May 8, 2018 and May 9, 2018 relative to the General Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the General Fund Budget in the amount of $597,219,385.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 8, 2018 relative to the Water Fund Budget for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the Water fund Budget in the amount of $13,973,855.
Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 8, 2018 relative to the Public Investment Fund for the City of Cambridge for Fiscal Year 2019 and recommending adoption of the Public Investment Budget in the amount of $17,267,995.
Objectively speaking, this really is the most significant agenda item, but there's really nothing left but the vote (and, of course, the usual round of gushy thank-you's by councillors to City staff and vice-versa).
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with a detailed accounting of locations, if any, where Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) and other plastic pipes currently exists in Cambridge, when it was installed, and why there was no public process for such a potentially hazardous change in water policy. Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui
There are several available methods for re-lining pipes as an alternative to replacement including Cured-In-Place Plastic Pipe (CIPP) which uses fitted mesh and epoxy. Some people, including members of the Water Board, have expressed concerns about this method based on possible leachate, but this seems to be more a function of quality control than of the material itself. The Order states that "all plastics leach chemicals" which may be true but is not helpful. People buy water and other beverages in plastic bottles all the time and those drinks are often in contact with their container far longer than municipal water is with those pipe sections that are lined with epoxy. In addition to the matter of real vs. perceived hazard, there's also an interesting question here of who really has the authority to make decisions like these - the Water Department or the volunteer Water Board. A century ago the Water Board had very broad authority, but it's not so clear today where that authority ends under the current form of City government.
Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to create a structured commercial tax rate system for FY20 that prioritizes lowering the tax rate for small businesses. Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons
Any such change would require either a general change in state law or a Home Rule Petition. The tax classification (residential, commercial, industrial, open space, and personal property) allows different rates (within prescribed limits) among these categories but there is no further refinement within any of the categories. This can translate into a hardship for a small "mom 'n pop" retail business since (at least for Cambridge) the commercial tax rate is nearly 2½ times the residential tax rate, and there is nothing analogous to the residential exemption (which is a fixed exemption that can yield very inequitable benefit). Personally, I think the state legislature should create enabling legislation to give cities and towns a bit more flexibility, but there is an understandable risk that this would simply result in the maximum benefit being shifted onto those who vote in the local elections regardless of the net public good. Much of Cambridge retail is being driven into oblivion by rising rents (which factor in the taxes to some degree) and shifting consumer habits (like, you know, Amazon). Tax relief may help some, but the problem is bigger than that.
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to work with the relevant City Departments to launch a program during the summer months to activate the Front Lawn of City Hall in the afternoon with games (such as cornhole boards), food trucks, and other forms of entertainment to engage a diverse age range of residents in recreation. Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Zondervan
Why not a ferris wheel and a zipline? I do like the fact that people are drawn to this space, but it is passive for a lot of them and they may not appreciate all the activity. Regarding food trucks, there would be a certain irony in having them within 100 or so feet of the License Commission offices (but that cryptic reference is something you'll have to ask me about). In any case, a hot dog vendor on the sidewalk would be a nice addition, though I suppose it would have to be a vegan alternative "not dog" vendor to gain approval (in which case forget I ever mentioned it).
Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to report back to the Housing Committee on how the City could establish a method of eviction data collection. Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Cambridge Human Rights Commission to report back on housing-related activities including number of housing-related investigations, number of housing-related cases successfully mediated, relationships with regional housing-related organizations, and successes and challenges of the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Simmons
My presumption is that these requests relate to the ongoing agenda of the City Council's Housing Committee, but these issues have also been discussed within the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group and elsewhere. My presumption is that the concern here is the Bad Behavior of Very Big Mean Landlords, but this is, after all, the People's Republic of Cambridge which, unfortunately, has at least some history of collateral damage against owners of rental property regardless of virtue.
Order #7. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Recycling Division of the Department of Public Works to study the feasibility of expanding the curbside composting program to small businesses and nonprofits in the City by the end of 2019. Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon
It's definitely worth looking into, but it's not so simple to determine what constitutes a small business deserving of the City's largess. For example, if a large office building houses 50 small businesses should the City pick up the tab (and the garbage) for the whole building? There is already a lot of ambiguity with mixed residential/commercial buildings all over the city. - Robert Winters
On the Agenda - May 14, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting
First... what's still Not On the Agenda (even though letters continue to pour in to the City Council commenting on this Non-Order): The HP Divest matter. Wherefore art thou? Perhaps it's with all the other missing Orders highlighting Bad Behavior (real or perceived) by governments around the world.
On the domestic front, there are these:
Manager's Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-13, regarding electric vehicles.
It's an interesting report and it seems like the City is using good sense in knowing when and under what circumstances vehicles should be changed over to all-electric or hybrid-electric. Nobody wants to see a fire engine or police car crap out in an emergency situation because its battery ran down. This report also brings to mind two competing philosophies when it comes to making changes to meet environmental or other goals - the Carrot or the Stick. Some (like me) prefer the carrot to encourage people to make changes, i.e. to provide incentives or offer a convincing argument to make a switch, e.g. to participate in curbside organics collection or to buy efficient vehicles or appliances. Others are all about the stick, e.g. changing the Zoning Ordinance to TELL people what they have to do to be righteous - or else. I have long felt that mandates are what people make when they fail to make a convincing case on the merits.
Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to develop a small business parking pilot that would allow temporary on-street employee parking during typical daytime operating hours. [Charter Right Exercised By Mayor McGovern.] Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons
I'm interested to see where this goes. People seem to have forgotten that there used to be a lot more unregulated spaces around the city, i.e. neither Resident Only nor sporting a parking meter. In fact, it has often been said by the folks at Traffic & Parking that parking meters are installed not for the revenue but rather to ensure sufficient turnover adjacent to businesses. I don't know that I believe them anymore. What I do remember is that an enormous number of unregulated spaces were changed to regulated spaces during the days of the Interim Parking Freeze because that was one way to get spaces in the Commercial Parking Bank that could be used in the permitting of new commercial development. The deal was that for every two spaces you regulated you could put one in The Bank. Prior to that there were unregulated spaces that were available to people who worked at local businesses or who taught in Cambridge schools. I'm sure some of the anti-vehicle zealots in the Community Development Department would set themselves on fire rather than agree to ease up on any parking restrictions, but simple deregulation of some spaces in some areas (while keeping some time restriction for nonresidents) might actually be a good way to resolve this dilemma.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council by June 11 with an updated schedule for resubmitting a revised draft of the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance that incorporates suggestions from the Light Cambridge Committee. Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
I was wondering when this would again be brought back into the spotlight. The original idea to tone down lights glaring through bedroom windows was worthwhile (even though it originally - and wrongly - appeared as a proposed zoning amendment rather as a municipal ordinance) before it got clogged up and bogged down by its own details. That and the desire of some people to clamp down on lighting in places where they have no business calling the shots. Indeed, there are some places, e.g. Central Square, that would benefit by the return of some pretty spectacular lighting.
Applications & Petitions #1. A petition was received from Sue Butler, et al, regarding concerns of excessive speed on Clinton Street in mid-Cambridge, requesting the City install three speed bumps or speed platforms along the length of Clinton Street.
Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to explore the possibility of improving road safety conditions on Clinton Street. Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
As near as I can tell, it took just one car getting clipped when backing out of a Clinton Street driveway to get this response. There must be some Very Special People living on Clinton Street. To borrow from the statement in this petition, I just want to point out that "there are small children and pets and elderly people" living on probably every street in Cambridge. Perhaps we all deserve to have "three speed bumps or speed platforms" installed along the lengths of all our streets.
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to complete a tree canopy study based on the April 2018 LiDAR data before the end of 2018, and to complete future LiDAR based studies as frequently as possible, but no more often than once a year. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Kelley
I do like seeing the data generated by these studies, but I also find it curious how trees have become the defining Cambridge political topic for 2018. From one bandwagon to another, I suppose. I am once again reminded that there are Carrot Councillors and Stick Councillors. Some will prefer to give you encouragement and incentives to preserve trees on your property, while the others will make you hire a lawyer and file a string of permit applications before taking action against your resident Ents. - Robert Winters
On the Agenda - May 7, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting
Another week, another nonappearance of the much-heralded "Divest HP" matter. Perhaps it will never appear - good riddance. As for actual agenda items, here are some:
Manager's Agenda #1. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of a supplemental appropriation of $125,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures account to support the revitalization of the Martin Luther King Plaza, the art components and enhance the primary entrance into the Central Square Branch Library.
While the improvements are appreciated, what would be even better is if an additional deck or two were added to the Green Street garage to compensate for future losses if and when housing (and more) is built on some of the area's surface parking lots. The whole facade of the library branch should also be reimagined. Today it appears to be little more than a public urinal and shelter for substance abusers. This would never be tolerated in Harvard Square, so why do we tolerate it in Central Square?
Charter Right #1. That the Ordinance Committee be and hereby is requested to review and consider the proposed amendment to §10.17.070-- “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers” for a hearing and report. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor McGovern on Apr 30, 2018]
When the lead sponsor of an Order calling for increases in Resident Permit fees responds to a Facebook comment that said "Ban cars" with a "Like", then I have to believe this isn't really about the revenue.
Communication #15. A communication was received from Steve Sands, 4 Buckingham Street, regarding Hewlett Packard Boycott.
I normally don't pay much attention to these sorts of things (except for the fun or it), but this gentleman captures the absurdity of the HP thing perfectly.
Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to develop a small business parking pilot that would allow temporary on-street employee parking during typical daytime operating hours. Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui
Oh my God! A reasonable viewpoint about compromise and reality.
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City staff to work with all Harvard Square stakeholders, including the Harvard Square Business Association, the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, abutting businesses, and Harvard University to actively engage the community in a design charrette process with a view in mind towards making Palmer Street a more active and inviting pedestrian walkway and public space. Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern
Great idea, and I would love to participate even though I don't fit into any of the named categories. Shared streets (woonerfs) are a great idea that seems to fail in the execution, e.g. Palmer Street, Blanche Street. I want to see both of those streets looking like a crowded street fair after all the trucks have made their deliveries. Palmer Street, in particular, is perhaps the street with the least motor vehicle traffic and it's in the middle of busy Harvard Square. It's interesting that nobody seemed to give a damn about Palmer Street until the Harvard Square Business Association tried to do something positive about it and caught grief for it.
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to develop a plan to achieve the above policy goals as it relates to the digital divide. Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Simmons
This week's "I want municipal broadband" Order. I would like to see an Order that asks for a Cable TV package that can get Red Sox games for less than $100/month.
Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Kelley, transmitting a memorandum regarding Bike Lanes, Street Use, and Micro-Mobility Challenges Facing Cambridge.
I really like reports like this from Councillor Kelley. Sometimes he seems like the only councillor who thinks broadly about transportation and the future. [Hint: It's not just about PVC plastic posts, segregation, and aggressive political lobbies claiming "turf".] - Robert Winters
Leaving April, Come What May - Spring Treats on the April 30, 2018 City Council Menu
Once again, the much-heralded "Divest HP" matter is NOT on this week's agenda, so if you want to get excited about this irrelevant initiative, come back in another week or so. Meanwhile, we close out April and look forward to the Lusty Month of May with the following featured treats:
Manager's Agenda #1. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a supplemental appropriation of $200,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Extraordinary Expenditures account to fund the abatement and demolition of Vail Court.
Mister DePasquale, Tear Down These Walls!
Manager's Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Blake & Knowles Foundry at 101 Rogers Street.
Manager's Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Cheney Read House at 135 Western Avenue.
These are highlighted because I really enjoy these histories and appreciate the work put in by the Historical Commission in producing them.
Charter Right #1. An application was received from the Harvard Square Business Association requesting permission for a temporary lighted banner across the Public Way located at 12 Palmer Street. [plus Communications #6,7,8,9,13]
Much Ado About Nothing. Objections from those who probably also disapprove of multi-colored Christmas lights as being too garish.
Resolution #1. Congratulations to the recipients of the Outstanding City Employee Awards. Mayor McGovern
This awards event is one of my favorite City events. The attendees are almost entirely City employees and their families, but it's an open event and really special.
Order #3. That the Ordinance Committee is requested to schedule a public hearing to consider the proposal put forward by the City Manager to amend Chapter 12.16, Section 12.16.170 of the Municipal Code, (the “Street Performers Ordinance”). Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
The proposed changes primarily involve easing up the fee structure for some street performers.
Order #4. Campaign Finance Reform. Councillor Toomey
I haven't yet seen a proposal for municipal election campaign reform that I can support and which is legal. I'm also not yet convinced that there's a need for this at the local level.
Order #5. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to provide a report on the history of Constellation Charitable Foundation's Parcel C in Kendall Square including tax status and other relevant information on the site. Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon
This is a timely Order. The City Council may want to consider some changes to the zoning for this site as well as ways to leverage the original intentions formulated nearly 20 years ago when what was then the ComEnergy site was developed by David Clem and Lyme Properties as Cambridge Research Park. A performing arts center may still be a good use to be integrated into the site by the next owner if the finances and zoning can be made to work.
Order #6. That the City Council go on record supporting the Mass Senior Action Agenda. Councillor Simmons
It's good common-sense legislation.
Order #8. That the Ordinance Committee be and hereby is requested to review and consider the proposed amendment to §10.17.070-- “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers” for a hearing and report. Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux
As near as I can tell, Councillor Zondervan's rationale behind his proposal to jack up the resident parking fee to $35 and then $40 is that Somerville charges $40. Some have argued that the fee should be nominal rather than either punitive (because motor vehicle operators are considered evil in Cambridge) or just another revenue generator. A $40 fee isn't going to convince many people to give up their vehicle, but many of us don't appreciate councillors raising fees simply because they can or because they get a rush out of the revenue paid by drivers being used to create obstructions to driving in the city.
Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to prioritize the installation of protected bike lanes and bicycle traffic signals in Porter Square. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
The proposed changes that were presented a couple of months ago were pretty good for all users, including cyclists.
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Chair Councillor E. Denise Simmons, of the Civic Unity Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 27, 2018 to discuss whether the City's Boards and Commissions adequately reflect the demographic makeup of the community.
Goals vs. Requirements - That is the question. I'll stick with goals.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 to discuss topics related to the MBTA bus service.
Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 28, 2018 to discuss Retail Strategic Plan.
I could say more about any of these committee reports, but for now they are provided here only for your reading pleasure. - Robert Winters
Budget Season Returns - Featured Attractions on the Apr 23, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda
On this week's agenda:
Manager's Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the FY19 submitted budget and appropriation orders.
The Bottom Line is that the total proposed FY2019 Budget is $622,477,255. That's up 5.3% over last year's FY2018 budget of $591,057,460. You may want to take a longer view at the multi-year comparisons. The largest budget increases are actually in the Executive Department (City Manager's Office) with a 21.1% one-year increase. The budget for the Mayor's Office jumped by 11%.
Manager's Agenda #2. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $5,000,000 to provide funds for the Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan.
Manager's Agenda #3. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $650,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects, and a new boiler at an Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $61,500,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the The Port neighborhood, and the River Street neighborhood.
Manager's Agenda #5. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $21,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.
In addition to the Operating Budget, the City also each year seeks authorization to borrow significant amounts for various capital projects (presumably at very favorable interest rates thanks to our multiple AAA bond ratings). This year's loan authorizations total $88,150,000.
Manager's Agenda #6. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a supplemental appropriation of $1,000,000 from Free Cash to the Public Works Public Investment Fund account to fund snowstorm related road repairs and capital equipment.
Manager's Agenda #7. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a supplemental appropriation of $2,475,000 from Free Cash to the Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account to fund snowstorm related expenses associated with snow plowing and snow removal contracts, salt, other materials, repair costs.
Winter doesn't come cheap. In addition to the amount already budgeted for FY2018, there are these $3,475,000 supplemental appropriations. You can See It and Click It, but it costs money to Fix it.
Manager's Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-23, relative to repairs to the Harvard Square Portland Loo and methods to prevent service interruptions in the future.
Whoever thought a bathroom would turn into a winter research project. I still think we should have found a way to integrate these bathrooms into existing buildings with actual heating systems.
Manager's Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a member of the Election Commission effective May 2, 2018 for a term of four years: Victoria Harris
Congratulations to Victoria Harris. Unlike some years, the City Manager had several qualified candidates from which to choose. Congratulations also go to outgoing Commissioner Polyxane Cobb who did an outstanding job during her time as an Election Commissioner.
Manager's Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as a members of the Arts Council Advisory Board for a term of three years, effective May 1, 2018: Olivia D'Ambrosio and Michael Monestime.
Two more outstanding appointments. I do, however, have to make one correction. Contrary to the narrative provided, Michael Monestime and his family now live in North Cambridge, a.k.a. the suburbs, though he's still our Man in Central Square.
Applications & Petitions #5. A Zoning Petition was received from Douglas Brown Et Al, regarding Zoning petition that aims to balance the future health and safety impacts of climate change.
Frankly, I don't know what to make of this petition. There was supposed to be a petition filed several weeks ago that went by the name "The Pause Petition" that sought to put all new construction in the Alewife area on hold. That proposed Moratorium was endorsed by the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee (NCSC), the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA), the Friends of Alewife Reservation (FAR), Green Cambridge, and the Cambridge Residents Alliance (CResA). It was met by a harsh response from the folks from A Better Cambridge (ABC) and others who saw it primarily as a mechanism to stop the building of new housing and, in particular, "affordable housing". Soon thereafter, the moratorium morphed into this new petition wrapped in green, i.e. "Zoning Amendments for a Flood and Heat Resilient Cambridge". Some parts are cribbed from the preliminary recommendations being developed for Alewife as part of the Envision Cambridge process, but there's little doubt that a significant goal of this petition is to make it a lot more difficult to build in some areas - particularly the Alewife area.
In addition, there is a very prescriptive 2nd half of this petition that seeks to introduce a "Green Factor" to rule over any new construction requiring a Project Review Special Permit under Section 19.23 of the Zoning Ordinance [50,000 gross sq. ft. or more in all applicable zoning districts - except Business A, Business A-1, or Business A-2 districts where the threshold is 20,000 gross sq. ft.]. This Green Factor "uses a value based system to prioritize landscape elements and site design that contributes to the reduction of stormwater runoff, the improvement of urban air quality, mitigation of the urban heat island effect, and improved well-being of residents and visitors." Without surveying all built properties in the city, I think it's a fair guess to say that very few of them would have a "Green Factor" that would satisfy the wishes of the petitioners. However, it's already the case that most new significant building proposals in Cambridge that go before the Planning Board go to great lengths to factor environmental benefits into their plans with the possible exception of those built in dense urban settings (such as the major Squares).
My sense is that this will play out politically in such a way that instead of the "Pause Petition" being spun as blocking housing, this new Petition will be spun as something only a climate-change-denier could oppose. But that's just politics. Personally, I think the petition should be divided into two separate petitions - one dealing with potentially flood-prone areas (and specifically parts of the Alewife area) and another that focuses specifically on the sustainability stuff citywide. I do think the "Green Factor" approach is overly prescriptive, but it would not be a bad outcome if a handbook of recommended standards grew out of this exercise - even if it was separate from the Zoning Ordinance.
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the Department of Public Works, and any other City departments to work with the MBTA to address the above listed necessary improvements to the Harvard Square Station Tunnels while they are being renovated. Vice Mayor Devereux
The "above listed improvements" involve temporary relocation of stops, minor schedule adjustments, increased foot traffic in Harvard Square, repaving of bus tunnel roadways, hopefully better lighting and seating in the bus tunnels, general repair and restoration, and maybe even restoration of some of the artwork. To this you can add the current T elevator work that's going on there (as well as in Central Square).
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate City staff to ensure that an additional commitment of $20 million from the City’s budget is devoted over the next five years toward the City’s efforts to preserve and create affordable housing units. Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui
As I often point out, the term "affordable housing" is a euphemism for regulated housing obtained by applying either to the Cambridge Housing Authority or similar agency. It is not the same as addressing the goal of affordability of housing in Cambridge and in the greater Boston area.
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to contact the Constellation Charitable Foundation to receive an update on plans for the Parcel C in Kendall Square and when development can be expected to begin. Councillor Toomey
Based on the press release last week, that's a question best addressed by whatever party buys the property. When that sale happens the Constellation Charitable Foundation will be out of the picture.
Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the appropriate City Staff, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Friends of Poorman’s Landing, and the East Cambridge Planning Team to ensure the timely repair of Poorman’s Landing. Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
In addition to the letter and the pages specific to Poorman's Landing, the recently published (Jan 2018) Cambridge Riverfront Plan is worth the read.
Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the City Solicitor to produce a report for use by the Housing Committee that contains information pertaining to the appropriate language for the creation of an Affordable Housing Overlay District. Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui
I repeat - The term "affordable housing" is a euphemism for regulated housing obtained by applying either to the Cambridge Housing Authority or similar agency. It is not the same as addressing the goal of affordability of housing in Cambridge and in the greater Boston area.
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Quinton Y. Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 22, 2018 to gain a better understanding of the extent of the City's digital divide and to explore possible ways to increase digital access.
I'm sure this will get a lot of play during the upcoming Budget Hearings, but the bottom line is still The Bottom Line - the related proposal that the City should build its own municipal broadband system is a very expensive proposition. Furthermore, the jury is still out on whether exposing the City to this financial risk is even a wise approach. Everybody wants alternatives to the Comcast monopoly, but there may be better ways to achieve this.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 21, 2018 to discuss the implementation of the Short-Term Rental Ordinance.
It doesn't help that AirBnB seems to be sending the message out to all of its "hosts" to join them in their lack of cooperation.
Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Quinton Y. Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 18, 2018, to discuss confirming the City's Manager's selection of Margaret Drury as a member of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA).
Slam dunk easy call on the reappointment of our most esteemed former City Clerk Margaret Drury to the revitalized Cambridge Redevelopment Authority.
Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a communication from Dosha E. Beard, Executive Secretary to the School Committee, transmitting a copy of an order from the School Committee recommending the FY19 General Fund Budget of the Cambridge Public Schools be adopted in the sum of $191,069,500.
This represents a pretty steady 31% of the City's Operating Budget (just in case you were wondering). - Robert Winters
Preview of April 2, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting
Here's my pass at this week's agenda:
Manager's Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-33, regarding a report on whether or not Chapter 4.25 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance applies to the Inman Square redesign project and therefore whether or not a report should be made to the Planning Board.
The upshot: "Vellucci Plaza was taken by the City for a purpose (public open space) protected by Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution ("Article 97"), and as such is subject to the protections of Article 97. Therefore, it is likely that if a road is constructed through a portion of Vellucci Plaza at its current site, legislative approval will be required [the State legislature, that is, and not just the City Council]. Although the construction of a roadway on land protected by Article 97 requires legislative approval, it does not require relief from the provisions of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance."
Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to compile a list of single family homes which could be purchased by the Affordable Housing Trust and converted to Single Room Occupancies or Housing Cooperatives.
And the train keeps a rollin'. Every week it's another proposal to transfer private property to public or quasi-public ownership. Is this really the ideal "vision" for the future? Will such acquisitions be uniform across the city or concentrated in just some neighborhoods?
Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to place a commemorative plaque at eye-level at the plaza in Harvard Square dedicated to former judge, Mayor, and City Manager Joseph DeGuglielmo so that it is more prominent to pedestrians. Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey
For you newcomers, Joseph A. DeGuglielmo, better known as "Joe DeGug", began his public career in 1938 as Assistant City Solicitor of Cambridge. He first ran and was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1945 and served 8 consecutive terms (1946-1963). He was elected every time he was a candidate and was chosen by his colleagues as Mayor for the 1952-53 term. Two years after leaving the City Council he was hired as City Manager in February 1966 and served through January 1968. In 1971, he was appointed an associate justice of the Boston Municipal Court by Governor Francis Sargent. He retired from the bench in 1978. He died in May 1983. His nephew is Jimmy Tingle - comic and now candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts.
Order #4. That the City Council encourage residents to be more conscious of their water consumption during the month of April, to take steps to reduce storm water runoff on their own property, to prevent polluted runoff from entering our water system, and to find time to engage with our natural areas. Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan
Being conscious of water consumption, reducing stormwater runoff, and engaging with our natural areas are clearly good things, but perhaps the message regarding the prevention of polluted runoff entering our water system is best directed to the inhabitants of Waltham, Weston, Lexington, and Lincoln where our primary water source is located.
Order #5. City Council support of House Bill 3857, “An Act providing tax relief for rent-burdened individuals and families." Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui
This bill would increase the rental deduction for the Mass. state income tax and index it for inflation. It would also restrict eligibility for the deduction to taxpayers who earn no more than 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Law Department, Community Development Department and any other appropriate City departments regarding the feasibility of requiring property owners to give the City written notice when a storefront becomes vacant, including plans for finding a new tenant and keeping the premises tidy and in compliance with all applicable codes to mitigate any negative effects or safety concerns on the neighborhood. Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon
This is a good intention that needs amendment. Property owners should not be required to inform the City the moment a storefront becomes vacant or be made to instantly submit future plans for tenancy. Perhaps the City Council could establish a time frame after which these steps might be required - somewhere between a few months and Gerald Chan time.
Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to notify the owners of the former Harvard Square Theater that the City Council has requested that they provide a firm schedule for when they will submit their application to the Cambridge Historical Commission and begin the public engagement process along with a projected timeline for the rest of the process through completion of the project, once the necessary permits are granted. Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
Speaking of Gerald Chan, whatever became of those good-looking plans for the transformation of the old Harvard Square Theater on Church Street? Tick tock tick tock......
Order #9. That the City Council go on record in opposition to the oppressive policies of Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Saudi Arabia. Councillor Zondervan
But they are letting women drive! Isn't that generous? Seriously, if we're going to single out repressive regimes that use religion and/or ideology to justify brutal repression, then let's start a list. It won't be a short list.
Order #10. City Council support of Massachusetts Resolve H. 4159: "Resolve creating a task force on sexual misconduct climate surveys for colleges and universities in Massachusetts." Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons
Good idea all around. You have to first measure the extent of a problem if you want to adequately address it.
Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to work with Trinity Property Management to give the nearly 200 tenants of the EMF building additional time beyond Apr 30, 2018 to find new space, considering the unique circumstances and outsized impact of this eviction. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone
This a completely reasonable Order, but ultimately the only way to preserve space for uses such as these is through ownership of the building. Begging for handouts from the City is not a solution. Haven't we produced a few nationally known artists who wouldn't mind being seen as heroes by swooping in, buying and outfitting a building or buildings for this purpose? Where are you Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck? Wasn't this your neighborhood? Maybe you guys can assemble a team. Give Mindy Kaling and John Malkovich and Sam Waterston and Jane Curtin a call. Maybe Lenny Clarke can pitch in a few bucks.
Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to allow autonomous vehicle (AV) testing in Cambridge provided certain conditions are met. Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux
Please, just don't. - Robert Winters
FYI - Current Rules and Goals: Cambridge City Council & Cambridge School Committee
City Council Rules 2016-2017 (adopted Feb 29, 20160
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)
Research Assistants? I don't think so...
May 2, 2006 – The Cambridge City Council voted 8-1 on May 1 in favor of giving themselves personal “research assistants.” Only Councillor Craig Kelley had the fortitude to raise any questions about the proposal. So it appears the proposal will sail through the Budget Hearings with barely a raised eyebrow. While I have raised the issue of the genesis of this proposal, the question of its merits and its implementation have not been addressed here. So, here are some observations, questions, and suggestions for our elected officials, City administration, and residents to consider:
1. There was a time when our elected officials enlisted citizens to assist them in research matters relating to public policy. Cambridge is perhaps the best city in the United States in which to find experts in almost any matter that the City Council (or School Committee) may need to better understand. There is a wealth of evidence over the last 65 years showing how citizens have worked with elected officials in the development of public policy. If the City Council feels burdened by the research needs of its committees, there is an enormous pool of talent available at no cost. Currently, the City Council makes very little use of this very available resource.
2. There was a time when councillors collaborated much more than they currently do in committee work and in the development of policies. A well-functioning City Council committee should delegate responsibilities so that each member masters certain facets of the tasks at hand and shares this knowledge with the rest of the committee. In effect, councillors serve as staff to each other. I would argue that it is better that elected officials educate themselves.
3. Are these jobs going to be publicly posted with a job description? Who will be doing the actual hiring? If Councillor Smith wants to hire Mr. Jones as personal staff, will the mayor have veto power over the hire? Does the Personnel Department have a role to play here or are these to be political hires? None of these details have been discussed publicly and they are important.
4. If these “research assistants” are to be hired, there should be policies and safeguards to ensure that they are not working on behalf of any councillor's political campaign. Otherwise, this proposal will have the effect of using taxpayer dollars to support the political campaigns of incumbent councillors. In fact, maybe it's time to consider a similar disqualification for staff in the Mayor's Office. A founding principle of Plan E government is the elimination of political patronage in favor of responsible, professional government. Some of us still believe in this ideal. At the very least, strong guidelines should be established for what is and is not permissible.
5. The existence of this proposal within the budget of the Mayor's Office is very strange indeed since it involves personnel for councillors, not the mayor. Should we not infer from this that the consensus of the councillors is that the City Council staff is not up to the task? If the job of councillor has changed so much, should there not be some discussion of revamping the Office of the City Council to better match the needs of the councillors? Why are these tasks being outsourced?
6. Some councillors have recently stated that the filing of City Council orders requesting information through the City Manager is not enough and that councillors would be better served by having their own staff to get this information. This strikes me as contrary to the intent of the Plan E Charter which dictates that all matters involving City personnel be directed through the Manager. One can easily imagine a scenario where each councillor has his or her personal staff contact City department heads for information rather than filing an Order as a body to get a common response. If the consensus is that the City Manager is being obstructive or extraordinarily slow in responding, shouldn't the City Council take more forceful action in holding the Manager accountable?
7. If the term “research assistant” is meant to be factual, then perhaps these RAs should be topic-specific so that we can have people who have some background or aptitude for the tasks at hand. If, for example, research in energy-related matters is what is needed, then someone with that knowledge would be ideal. Is any such protocol being discussed to ensure that the councillors and the taxpayers will get the best quality research for their tax dollars? I would hope that matters like scheduling and event planning will be handled by the City Council Office rather than by “research assistants.”
8. Several councillors have complained that e-mail has had a dramatic effect on the responsibilities of a city councillor due to the time consumption associated with responding to these messages. I don't doubt this. However, there are efficiencies that can make such tasks much easier. For example, if each councillor receives 100 e-mail messages on a particular topic, then rather than making 100 shallow replies, I would advise responding to ALL of the issues of substance raised by residents in a single, comprehensive message sent (using blind-carbon-copy) to all of the people who sent messages. Those of us in academics have been doing this for years. It's much more effective to craft comprehensive messages sent to the whole class rather than many nearly identical messages sent to individual students. There are MANY ways to be more effective in e-mail communication. Then again, if individual responses are seen as more valuable in securing potential votes in the next election, that's a choice each councillor must make on his or her own - independent of taxpayer-supported staff.
In summary, I am not questioning whether or not some changes in staffing are warranted. I am, however, asking that any such changes be done in the best interest of taxpayers and that City funds are never used to either directly or indirectly support the reelection efforts of elected officials. - RW, May 3, 2006
Jan 1998 - The vote for who was to be mayor went on for several weeks as Ken Reeves held out until there were 4 other votes for Katherine Triantafillou, an outcome sincerely supported by at most two councillors (Reeves and Triantafillou). The would-be mayor rounded up her supporters for the coronation. A congratulatory cake was ordered. As the vote occurred and there were momentarily 5 votes on the table for Triantafillou (Born, Davis, Duehay, Reeves, Triantafillou), Councillors Galluccio and Russell changed their votes to Duehay. Councillors Born, Davis, and Duehay then changed their votes to Duehay and Mayor Duehay was elected. Councillor Galluccio was then elected vice-mayor. Meanwhile, in the room next to the Council chamber, Alice Wolf aide and Triantafillou supporter Marjorie Decker exploded in anger and punched out the cake, police were called, and a grudge began that remains to this day.
Feb 1998 - Mayor Duehay made good on the deal by hiring Galluccio campaign worker Terry Smith to work in the Mayor's Office "to assist the mayor and vice mayor". This marked the first time (to my knowledge) that any councillor other than the mayor received personal staff (except for a brief experiment with interns some years earlier). Resentment grew among other councillors about the special treatment one councillor received in exchange for delivering the mayor's job.
1999 - Frank Duehay and Sheila Russell announced they would not seek reelection. Jim Braude, David Maher, and Marjorie Decker were subsequently elected to the City Council as incumbent Katherine Triantafillou was defeated, principally as a result of Marjorie Decker winning her seat.
2000 - After 1½ months without electing a mayor, Anthony Galluccio was able to secure 6 votes to become mayor (Braude, Davis, Galluccio, Maher, Sullivan, Toomey). David Maher was elected vice-mayor. Terry Smith became chief of staff of the Mayor's Office. David Maher did not request any personal staff. Kathy Born suggested during the Budget hearings that the idea of personal staff for councillors be referred to the Government Operations Committee. Ken Reeves said at this time, "I don't believe the vice-mayor needs the extra staffing and not us." Note that this was a reference to the previous administration (Duehay-Galluccio).
Around this time, the Government Operations Committee met to discuss the proposal for personal staff. The estimates given for City Council staff were: (1) $390,250 for a low-level, bare bones proposal; (2) $157,450 for 8 part-time staff with no benefits; (3) $72,300 for one legislative research assistant. Deputy City Manager Rich Rossi said personal staff was tried briefly about 10 years earlier with interns. Michael Sullivan voiced concern about keeping in touch personally with his constituents and wondered how he would find enough things for this person to do. Most of the councillors spoke in support of giving themselves personal staff. Kathy Born said that if she found her job to be too much, she could hire her own staff person, only she would have to pay for it out of after-tax money, unlike an employee of a business. She suggested higher Council pay with the option of paying for a staff person out of this additional pay. The option would remain for a councillor to act as a “full-time councillor” without staff. Jim Braude said that a councillor could lend his or her campaign the money for the staff person.
One week later, the City Manager proposed a 23% pay raise for city councillors and a change in the ordinance to allow for automatic increases so that they would never again have to vote to raise their own pay. The pay raise was approved and the question of personal staff disappeared for the rest of the Council term.
2001 - Kathy Born and Jim Braude chose not to seek reelection. Brian Murphy and Denise Simmons were elected to the City Council.
2002 - Michael Sullivan was elected mayor on Inauguration Day. Henrietta Davis was elected vice-mayor. Unlike the previous term, Henrietta Davis did request and receive personal staff as vice-mayor when Garrett Simonsen, Davis' election campaign manager, was hired to the Mayor's Office staff as her assistant. Indications are that he served more than just the vice-mayor.
2004 - Michael Sullivan was again elected mayor, only this time Marjorie Decker was elected vice-mayor. Garrett Simonsen became chief of staff of the Mayor's Office. Sullivan hired Kristin Franks (who had been Decker's campaign manager) as “assistant to the mayor and vice-mayor” but the indications were that she was working almost exclusively for Decker. By summer, Franks was gone and Nicole Bukowski, another Decker campaign worker, was hired as exclusive staff to Decker. For the remainder of the Council term, Bukowski waited hand and foot on Decker - and resentment among other councillors grew for the remainder of the Council term.
Late 2005 - Craig Kelley was elected to the City Council and incumbent David Maher was defeated. Speculation immediately began about who would be the next mayor. Some councillors reported that a plan was being discussed to give certain councillors personal staff as part of the vote-trading for electing the mayor.
Early 2006 - Ken Reeves was elected mayor and Tim Toomey vice-mayor. In a surprising turn of events, Bukowski continued to serve out of the Mayor's Office as personal staff to Councillor Decker - clearly a part of the deal to make Reeves mayor. Rumors circulated that there was a plan to assign some councillors additional committee chairs as justification for getting personal staff. When the committee chairs were announced, Councillor Decker (who, along with Councillor Galluccio, has maintained the worst record of committee attendance during her time on the Council) was surprisingly given four committees to chair. In contrast, Henrietta Davis (who has always been at or near the top in committee attendance) was given only one. This was seen by some as a way to justify Decker keeping her personal aide in exchange for her vote for mayor.
April 2006 - Ken Reeves submitted a budget for the Mayor's Office that is 54.3% higher than the previous year. The cause for the increase is a proposal for personal staff for all the remaining councillors at a recurring annual cost of about a quarter-million dollars. There was no public indication of any kind that such an extravagant plan was in the works. An order is on the May 1 City Council agenda (after the budget was already submitted on April 24 including the increase) formally calling for the major staff increase. The order is co-sponsored by Reeves, Toomey, Decker, Galluccio, Sullivan, and Davis. It is expected that, like every person hired to date as staff for the vice-mayor (and most of those on the mayor's staff), all of the new “research assistants” will be affiliated with the election campaigns of the officials they will serve. Curiously, these patronage hires will be occurring at a time when there are fewer major issues before the Council and when an unprecedented number of councillors are either serving in other elected positions or seeking election to other positions now or in the near future. - RW, April 28, 2006
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
One Ring to rule them all,
The nine Nazgūl arose as Sauron's most powerful servants in the Second Age of Middle-earth. It is said that three of the Nine were originally "Great Lords" of Nśmenor. They were all powerful mortal Men to whom Sauron each gave nine Rings of Power. These proved to be their undoing:
"Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thralldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron's. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgūl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death" (The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", 289).
The corrupting effect of the rings caused their bodily forms to fade over time until they had become wraiths entirely. Given visible form only through their attire, their original form was completely invisible to mortal eyes. The red reflection in their eyes could be plainly distinguished even in daylight, and in a rage they appeared in a hellish fire. They had many weapons, which included long swords of steel and flame, daggers with magical venomous properties and black maces of great strength.