Cambridge InsideOut - August 9, 2016
1) Continued Recap of Aug 1, 2016 Cambridge City Council (Midsummer) meeting
Manager's Agenda #37. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the request that the City Council move to Executive Session.
Manager's Agenda #38. Transmitting Communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the transfer of $42,655 within statutory accounts of the Public Investment Fund Community Development Extraordinary Expenditure account to complete the purchase of two parcels from the B&M Corporation for the purpose of creating a future multi-use path and greenway.
These items are about making the necessary purchases to complete the Cambridge-owned portion of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway along the now-abandoned railroad right-of-way. This will be a nice off-road addition when it's finally complete a few years from now.
Applications & Petitions #3. An application was received from Pill Hardware, requesting permission for a display of merchandise in front of the premises numbered 748 Massachusetts Avenue.
Whenever I hear people talk about preserving the "funkiness" of Central Square, I want to remind people that before Central Square was "funky" it was an incredibly vital shopping district. It's really worth looking back at some of the available "Perceptual Form of the City" photos from over 50 years ago. This application to allow the display of mechandise on the sidewalk in front of Pill Hardware reminded me of one of those old photos. It's also a scene you can see today in Inman Square. The image shown is actually the frontage where the Mass & Main project is planned. This is the kind of thing some of us would love to see in some form as Central Square rediscovers its past and defines its future. It doesn't have to be just overpriced bars and restaurants.
Update: Action on this application was postponed via Charter Right by Councillor Devereux.
Inclusionary Housing Committee Reports:
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 31, 2016 to continue discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study with community feedback from the May 18, 2016 hearing being shared and discussed with consultant David Paul Rosen & Associates.
Committee Report #11. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons and Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on July 11, 2016 to continue the discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and the Affordable Housing Trust’s recommendations to the City Council.
Committee Report #12. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on May 18, 2016 to discuss the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and will focus on receiving feedback from the community.
Some revisions to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance seem inevitable later this year, but the economic foundations in the study still seem (to me) to be a bit shaky, especially the idea of increasing the net affordable housing percentage from 11.6% to 20% without any allowance for additional density. My first concern is that if the requirement is too high then it may be more economically advantageous to build something other than housing, e.g. labs. My other concern is that since zoning changes require a two-thirds vote for ordination there might never be the political will to actually lower the requirement even if the economics warrant a decrease. It would be better if there was some way to index the requirement based on current economics.
Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 28, 2016 to discuss the parameters for a potential zoning proposal that includes the Volpe Transportation System Center.
The Volpe zoning dilemma is unique in that it is contrained not only by the funding mechanism for a new Volpe building and the need to ensure that a developer might actually be able to deliver a development without financial loss, but also by a range of competing interests from residents for housing and open space. This may not even be a solvable problem even though the potential benefits could be enormous.
Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Nadeem Mazen, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee, for a public hearing held on June 23, 2016 to discuss the formation of a special working group that will be tasked with developing a framework for the continued stewardship, curatorship and oversight of the Out of Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square.
Post-Meeting Update: Several people showed up during Public Comment on this issue. The theme of many of them was that there has been insufficient public input into the decisions relating to future plans for kiosk and its vicinity. [Some disagreed.] It's worth noting that the appearance of the kiosk has not been frozen in time. Current proposals to make the structure more transparent actually have historic precedent from the days before Out of Town News obscured much of the exterior. Here are some images:
Committee Report #8. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on June 29, 2016 to receive an update regarding the City Manager's Search in the Focus Groups that took place and the development of the draft profile.
I'm taking bets now on whether the City Council will successfully meet its proposed September 26 date for selecting the next City Manager. Even if they do make a decision by then, it's likely that there will still be a period of time before the new City Manager can take the reins (unless it's an internal candidate).
2) Outdoor Lighting Ordinance
Manager's Agenda #5 (June 20). A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to recommendations from the Outdoor Lighting Task Force that address the potential detrimental impact of outdoor lighting and propose solutions that diminish existing problems and address problems that may be created by new development. [Report][Proposed Ordinance (HTML)]
The Task Force was appointed Dec 2, 2013 and was originally expected to complete its report and draft Ordinance by Spring 2014. It clearly took a lot longer than that with many different iterations of the proposed Ordinance. It's worth noting that the Ordinance will apply not only to new construction but to all properties in Cambridge with several years to bring all properties into compliance with the Ordinance.
There is currently a campaign by some activists to oppose this proposed ordinance in its current form. The core of their argument seems to be that it would permit the king of lighting that was installed on the new Zinc apartment buildings in North Point (and which has been turned off for now by decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals).
3) Updates on State Rep. and State Senate races, including Wed, June 8 Candidate Forum with Pat Jehlen and Leland Cheung (Second Middlesex)
Sen. Pat Jehlen vs. Councillor Leland Cheung (Second Middlesex - Senate)
Sen. Sal DiDomenico (Middlesex and Suffolk - Senate)
Sen. Joseph A. Boncore (First Suffolk and Middlesex - Senate)
Rep. Timothy Toomey vs. Mike Connolly (26th Middlesex - House)
Rep. Marjorie Decker vs. Leslie R. Phillips (25th Middlesex - House)
Rep. Jay Livingstone vs. Keith R. Anderson (8th Suffolk - House)
Rep. Jonathan Hecht (29th Middlesex - House)
Rep. David Rogers (24th Middlesex - House)
Note: There are no Republican, no Green-Rainbow, and no United Independent Party challengers for any of these seats.
Where Do I Vote?
4) Local minimum wage?
Order #1 (June 13). That the Mayor convene a Task Force charged with establishing recommendations for the City Council on what the ideal minimum wage in Cambridge should be, and how to best implement this increase without creating unintended consequences in Cambridge or elsewhere. Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mazen, Councillor Toomey
I suppose one could argue that the Community Advisory Board on the Living Wage has already been working on this, but what's wrong with a little redundancy? In any case, it has already been established that the City Council does not have the authority to impose a citywide minimum wage. That could change if the state legislature chose to grant such authority, but there are plenty of good reasons why it would be better to maintain a uniform statewide minimum wage in addition to the federal minimum wage.
A more general discussion may be in order on just what things are appropriate for local control and which things are best left to the state legislature.
5) Free Food! - or political organizing
Order #12 (June 20). The City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to organize regular suppers on the second Saturday of each month, starting on the 13th of August, with free food for the Cambridge community in open public spaces throughout the various Cambridge neighborhoods. Councillor Mazen
Who pays for all the free food?
6) National politics - Highlights from the Democratic National Convention and where things go from here.
Hillary Is Poised to Make the ‘Impossible Possible’ — for Herself and for Women in America
Commission On Presidential Debates - sites and dates for 2016 general election debates
First presidential debate:
Monday, September 26, 2016
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
The debate will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Vice presidential debate:
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Longwood University, Farmville, VA
The debate will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Second presidential debate:
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by the moderator based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
Third presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate.
All debates will be moderated by a single individual and will run from 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time without commercial breaks. As always, the moderators alone will select the questions to be asked, which are not known to the CPD or to the candidates. The moderators will have the ability both to extend the segments and to ensure that the candidates have equal speaking time. While the focus will properly be on the candidates, the moderator will regulate the conversation so that thoughtful and substantive exchanges occur. The CPD is in discussion with technology and civic groups that will provide data to the moderators to assist them in identifying the subjects that are most important to the public.
This year’s debates will build on the successful 2012 debate formats which introduced longer segments, allowing the candidates to focus on critical issues. “The CPD has a simple mission, to ensure that presidential debates help the public learn about the positions of the leading candidates for president and vice president,” CPD Co-Chairs Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry said. “These formats will allow an in-depth exploration of the major topics in this year’s election.”
In the fall of 2015, the CPD announced the dates and venues and its 2016 Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria. Under the criteria, in addition to being constitutionally eligible, candidates must:
5:30-7:30pm Cambridge Bicycle Committee Meeting (4th Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)
5:30pm Cambridge Election Commission meeting (1st Floor Meeting Room, 51 Inman St.)
1. Assistant Director's Report
2. Commissioners' Reports
III. PUBLIC COMMENT
IV. ACTION AGENDA
1. Election Commission Policies
2. State Primary, September 8, 2016
1. Early Voting for November 8, 2016 State/Presidential Election
5:30pm The City Council's Housing Committee will conduct a public hearing to continue the public discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and the Affordable Housing Trusts’ recommendations to the City Council. (Sullivan Chamber)
7:00pm Planning Board meeting (2nd Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)
3:00pm The City Council's Ordinance Committee and Health & Environment Committee will conduct a joint public hearing on a zoning petition by the City Council to amend Article 22.000 by creating a new Section 22.80 Urban Agriculture, “to establish zoning regulations for the operation and establishment of Urban Agriculture activities and also to provide framework for the siting, upkeep, and any modification of Urban Agriculture activity that address public safety and minimizes impacts on residents in the City of Cambridge.” This hearing to be televised. (Sullivan Chamber)
5:30pm Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board Meeting (Police Station, 125 Sixth St., First Floor Community Room)
[Meeting Agenda and supporting materials]
6:00pm The City Council's Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee and Civic Unity Committee will conduct a joint public hearing to discuss improving voter turnout for municipal elections in Cambridge through voter reward options. (Sullivan Chamber)
5:30pm The City Council's Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss different models for campaign finance reform and publicly-funded municipal elections in Cambridge. (Sullivan Chamber)
3:00pm The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a zoning petition by Healthy Pharms, Inc., to amend Section 20.700 Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts by creating an additional Medical Marijuana Overlay District (MMD-4). The new MMD-4 District would be coterminous with the Business B and Office 3 Districts that are within the Harvard Square Overlay District. The petition would also establish as criteria specific to the MMD-4 District that permissible dispensaries must be retail only (with no cultivation), must be set back from the sidewalk by a minimum of 15 feet and be appropriately shielded from public view, must be less than 10,000 square feet in size, are preferably located in areas with access to pedestrian and public transportation, and may be 250 feet, instead of the standard 500 feet, distant from a school, daycare center, preschool or afterschool facility or any facility in which children commonly congregate, or closer only if it is determined by the Planning Board to be sufficiently buffered such that users will not be adversely impacted by the operation of the dispensary. This hearing to be televised. (Sullivan Chamber)
7:00pm Planning Board meeting (2nd Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)
5:30-7:30pm Transit Advisory Committee meeting (Room 117, MIT Building E25 (E25-117))
6:00-8:00pm Cambridge Historical Commission Meeting (Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave.)
5:30pm City Council meeting (Sullivan Chamber)