Cambridge InsideOut - May 16, 2017

Guest Co-Host again this week - Patrick Barrett (Judy returns May 23)Robert and Judy

Potential Topics:

1) 2017 Candidates     Cambridge Candidate Pages

Shapes of the campaign season to come

2) Candidate slates, political organizations, role of local media in the election.

3) Civic Updates and Opportunities

4) Budget Hearings wrapped up and ready for a May 22 vote

5) May 15 City Council meeting

6) May 8 City Council meeting

7) May Day at City Hall

8) The AirBnB Question

9) Central Square - everything you wanted to know and then some

10) Cambridge real estate, vacant properties, land-banking, etc.

11) Civic Infrastructure

12) Civic Calendar

Continuing Question: How will the turmoil in national politics trickle down to the local level and, in particular, how might it influence the Cambridge municipal election?

Speculation: After over a century of non-partisan Cambridge elections (a major tenet of "The Cambridge Idea" dating back to the late 1800s), there are indications that "Our Revolution", the Bernie Sanders-driven national entity and effectively an emergent political party separate from the Democratic Party, may back candidates in the 2017 Cambridge municipal election.

Looking Ahead (revised May 13)

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

City Council Candidate Birthdate Age address Notes
Timothy J. Toomey 6/7/1953 64 88 6th St., 02141 incumbent, first elected in 1989, unclear if seeking reelection
E. Denise Simmons 10/2/1951 66 188 Harvard St. #4B, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2001
Craig Kelley 9/18/1962 55 6 Saint Gerard Terr. #2, 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2005
Leland Cheung 2/11/1978 39 157 Garden St., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2009
Dennis Carlone 5/7/1947 70 9 Washington St. #6, 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Marc McGovern 12/21/1968 48 15 Pleasant St., 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Jan Devereux 5/13/1959 58 255 Lakeview Ave., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Dennis Benzan 1/25/1972 45 1 Pine St., 02139 served 2014-15, may seek reelection
Paul Toner 4/28/1966 51 24 Newman St., 02140 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Quinton Zondervan 9/15/1970 47 235 Cardinal Madeiros Ave., 02141 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Alanna Marie Mallon 12/6/1970 46 3 Maple Ave., 02139 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Ronald Benjamin 1/5/1971 46 172 Cushing St., 02138 announced, registered with OCPF
Vatsady Sivongxay 2/20/1982 35 59 Kirkland St. #2, 02138 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Olivia D'Ambrosio 9/13/1983 34 270 3rd Street #305, 02142 announced, registered with OCPF
Sean Tierney 3/10/1985 32 12 Prince St. #6, 02139 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Adriane Musgrave (new) 10/14/1985 32 5 Newport Rd. #1, 02140 not yet announced, but registered with OCPF
Sumbul Siddiqui 2/10/1988 29 530 Windsor Street, 02141 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Sam Gebru 11/20/1991 25 812 Memorial Dr., 02139 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Nadya Teresa Okamoto 2/11/1998 19 Canaday Hall B44, 22 Harvard Yard, 02138 announced, registered with OCPF, actively fundraising
Nathan Taylor Thompson 10/12/1985 32 31 Tremont Street $#3, 02139 not announced, registered with OCPF
Nadeem Mazen 9/20/1983 34 720 Mass. Ave. #4, 02139 has informed colleagues that he will not seek reelection
James Williamson 1/13/1951 66 1000 Jackson Pl., 02140 perennial candidate
Gary Mello 5/24/1953 64 324 Franklin St. #2, 02139 ran several times
Ilan Levy 11/1/1967 50 148 Spring St. 02141 ran in 2015, seems to be planning to do it again
Andrew King 4/17/1986 31 40 Essex St., 02139 conflicting reports on whether or not a candidate
Romaine Waite 6/7/1991 26 60 Lawn St. #5, 02138 not announced, but may try again
School Committee Candidate Birthdate Age address Notes
Fred Fantini 6/8/1949 68 4 Canal Park #203, 02141 incumbent, first elected in 1981
Richard Harding 10/16/1972 45 189 Windsor St. #1, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2001
Patty Nolan 8/28/1957 60 184 Huron Ave., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2005
Kathleen Kelly 3/8/1960 57 17 Marie Ave. #1, 02139 incumbent, first elected in 2013
Emily Dexter 3/16/1957 60 9 Fenno St., 02138 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Mannika Bowman 11/27/1979 37 134 Reed St., 02140 incumbent, first elected in 2015
Will MacArthur 5/24/1998 19 18 Shea Rd., 02140 definitely running for School Committee
Fran Albin Cronin 2/14/1952 65 1 Kimball Ln., 02140 planning to seek reelection
Jake Crutchfield 3/31/1987 30 281 River St. #1, 01239 speculation that he may run again
Elechi Kadete 9/30/1989 28 10 Laurel St., 02139 will likely not run again this year
David J. Weinstein 12/10/1972 44 45 S. Normandy Ave., 02138 ran in 2015, possibility for 2017

2017 Cambridge Candidate Pages

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

Campaign Finance Summaries - City Council 2017 (updated May 16)
Candidate From To Start Receipts Expend Balance As Of
Benjamin, Ronald 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 9.00 161.32 331.39 (161.07) 16-May-17
Benzan, Dennis 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 2097.45 62.40 1541.24 618.61 16-May-17
Carlone, Dennis 1-Jan-17 30-Apr-17 17827.87 2572.34 437.56 19962.65 4-May-17
Cheung, Leland 1-Jan-17 30-Apr-17 90880.32 0.00 7405.50 83474.82 5-May-17
D'Ambrosio, Olivia 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 122.75 5250.31 1994.80 3378.26 16-May-17
Devereux, Jan 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 8715.10 13722.25 1980.72 20456.63 16-May-17
Gebru, Sam 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 0.00 20318.00 18293.32 2024.68 16-May-17
Kelley, Craig 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 2231.84 230.52 445.00 2017.36 16-May-17
Mallon, Alanna 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 100.00 22620.00 4169.43 18550.57 16-May-17
McGovern, Marc 1-Jan-17 30-Apr-17 14966.66 4317.04 5822.45 13461.25 1-May-17
Musgrave, Adriane 1-Jan-17 1-Jan-17 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1-May-17
Okamoto, Nadya 16-Mar-17 15-May-17 0.00 1925.56 106.91 1818.65 16-May-17
Siddiqui, Sumbul 16-Feb-17 15-May-17 0.00 11635.60 815.78 10819.82 16-May-17
Simmons, Denise 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 10179.79 6748.35 4725.91 12202.23 16-May-17
Sivongxay, Vatsady 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 0.00 15776.93 6362.15 9414.78 16-May-17
Thompson, N. Taylor 1-Mar-17 15-May-17 0.00 5.00 156.25 (151.25) 16-May-17
Tierney, Sean 1-Feb-17 15-May-17 0.00 6379.23 2350.76 4028.47 16-May-17
Toner, Paul 16-Feb-17 30-Apr-17 0.00 7194.98 3231.12 3963.86 5-May-17
Toomey, Tim 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 4069.67 24898.68 6479.87 22488.48 16-May-17
Zondervan, Quinton 1-Jan-17 15-May-17 3510.00 9762.29 8757.28 4515.01 16-May-17

Campaign Finance Reports - 2017 City Council (updated May 7)

Campaign Contributions (2017) - Total Receipts and Cambridge Receipts
(updated May 16)
Candidate ID Total Receipts Cambridge Receipts Percent Cambridge
D'Ambrosio, Olivia 16520 $5,000.00 $5,000.00 100%
Kelley, Craig 14104 $240.00 $240.00 100%
Devereux, Jan 16062 $12,638.50 $11,818.50 94%
Carlone, Dennis 15680 $2,572.34 $2,350.00 91%
Zondervan, Quinton 16516 $9,150.83 $5,021.00 55%
Mallon, Alanna 16530 $21,095.00 $11,435.00 54%
Toner, Paul 16576 $25,414.81 $13,700.00 54%
Toomey, Tim 12222 $24,898.68 $13,303.68 53%
Tierney, Sean 16559 $6,379.23 $2,900.00 45%
Simmons, Denise 13783 $6,748.35 $3,000.00 44%
McGovern, Marc 15589 $5,342.04 $2,360.50 44%
Siddiqui, Sumbul 16556 $11,566.00 $4,625.00 40%
Sivongxay, Vatsady 16528 $15,776.93 $3,580.00 23%
Benjamin, Ronald 16493 $96.99 $20.00 21%
Gebru, Sam 16531 $20,058.00 $3,805.00 19%
Okamoto, Nadya 16596 $1,925.56 $100.00 5%
Thompson, N. Taylor 16578 $5.00 $0.00 0%
Benzan, Dennis 15568 $0.00 $0.00 -
Cheung, Leland 14923 $0.00 $0.00 -
Musgrave, Adriane 16657 $0.00 $0.00 -

Member Sought to Fill Vacancies on Central Square/Harvard Square Advisory Committees

May 8, 2017 – City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking to fill vacancies on the Central Square and the Harvard Square Advisory Committees.City Seal

Central Square Advisory Committee

The Central Square Advisory Committee works to review all major development actions in the Central Square Overlay District and monitors progress of the non-zoning recommendations of the K2C2 Study relevant to Central Square. Members represent a cross section of stakeholders, which includes residents from abutting neighborhoods and representatives of Central Square’s business community. The Committee meets as needed to advise non-zoning recommendations, to undertake all Large Project Reviews, and to review and comment on all Board of Zoning Appeal variances and special permits within the Overlay District. At this time, a resident of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood is being sought to fill a vacancy. This appointment, to be made by the City Manager, will serve a term of three years that will expire on June 15, 2020, with the option to renew. The Committee meets, at minimum, every two months with additional meetings scheduled as required based on project review needs. For more information, contact Wendell T. Joseph at 617-349-9462 or, or visit the committee’s webpage at

Harvard Square Advisory Committee

The Harvard Square Advisory Committee works to review all major development actions in the Harvard Square Overlay District. Members represent a cross section of stakeholders, which includes residents from abutting neighborhoods, real estate and/or development professionals, property owners, and an institutional property owner. The Committee meets as needed to undertake all Large Project Reviews and to review all Board of Zoning Appeal variances and special permits within the Overlay District. At this time, a resident of the Riverside Neighborhood is being sought to fill a vacancy. This appointment, to be made by the City Manager, will be to serve the remainder of a term that expires on April 23, 2018, with the option to renew. For more information, contact Liza Paden at 617-349-4647 or, or visit the Harvard Square Advisory Committee webpage at

Applications to serve on either of these committees can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at and selecting the respective committee(s) of interest. A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline to submit an application for both committees is May 31, 2017.

Participatory Budgeting is back!

Cambridge's fourth PB process is about to begin. This time, we will collect ideas in June and July about how YOU would spend $800,000 on one-time capital projects to improve the community. Winning projects from past PB cycles include kinetic energy tiles, solar panels for the Main Library roof, bike repair stations, a freezer van for prepared food rescue, water bottle fill stations, and many others.City Seal

Join the PB4 Outreach Committee!

We are looking for volunteers to serve on the PB4 Outreach Committee to help ensure that our 2017 PB process engages as many community members as possible. This is a great way to become a community leader, meet new neighbors, and give people a voice in their government. The first Outreach Committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 from 6-7:30pm at the Central Square Library. Food will be provided at meetings and each volunteer will receive a PB T-shirt. See the schedule and sign up here by May 12!

Winning Project Updates

You can follow the progress of winning PB projects on our website. All 100 trees from the first cycle were planted last fall, 7 of the 8 bike repair stations have been installed, and Public Works has identified a preferred location for the Central Square public toilet and is working to mitigate underground conflicts.

Projects from the second cycle are moving along as well: green bike lanes have been painted in Inman Square, Human Services is moving forward with the freezer van purchase, and the School Department is purchasing new chairs, desks, and other furniture for the Amigos School and CRLS.

As for the winning projects from the third cycle, the $706,000 for these projects will become available on July 1, 2017. We'll post updates as work on these projects begins.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Thank you for continuing to support Participatory Budgeting in Cambridge!

The Cambridge Budget Team
Cambridge City Hall

Cambridge Launches 2017 Participatory Budgeting Cycle
Volunteers Sought to Serve on PB Outreach Committee

The City of Cambridge will launch its fourth Participatory Budgeting (PB) cycle from June-December 2017. Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.

For this next process, the City will set aside $800,000 for capital projects to improve the community. Winning projects from past PB cycles include a public toilet in Central Square, bike repair stations, a freezer van for prepared food rescue, water bottle fill stations, bilingual books for children learning English, and many others.

We are seeking volunteers to serve on the PB Outreach Committee to help ensure that the PB process engages as many community members as possible.

Outreach Committee members will serve throughout the PB4 cycle (May-December 2017) by:Participatory Budgeting

The Outreach Committee schedule is as follows:

Outreach Committee members will work closely with Budget Office staff to make PB4 the most successful cycle yet. Food will be provided at Outreach Committee meetings and each volunteer will receive a PB T-shirt.

For more information about the PB process or if you are interested in serving on the PB Cambridge Outreach Committee, visit or contact Justin Casanova-Davis and Michelle Monsegur in the Budget Office at or 617-349-4270. The deadline to apply is May 12, 2017.

Interesting Items on the May 15, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here are a few choice items on this week's menu:Yeah, it's Robert's birthday

Charter Right #1. A communication was received from Councillor Craig A. Kelley, apologizing to his Colleagues, City Manager and City Staff for not attending tonight's meeting in order to attend a conference on climate change adaptation and expressing his thoughts and apology for the events at the Budget Hearing. [Charter Right exercised by Mayor Simmons on May 8, 2017.]

Let's get this one all clear up front. The issue here is that one city councillor (Mazen) acted abusively toward City employees during a recent Budget Hearing and used a malcontent resident's letter as cover to justify his inquisition. Last week's (May 8) City Council meeting ended with a heated interchange resulting from Mayor Simmons' defense of City employees which upset the super-sized ego of the offending councillor. The story should probably end there since nobody wants the drama to continue. There is an Order on this week's agenda (#7 - see below) that may represent some sort of resolution of this matter.

My hope is that one positive outcome of this kerfuffle is that councillors might get a better grip on what constitutes decent behavior toward City employees and of what is appropriate under the City Charter (which spells out quite clearly that if a city councillor wants to take issue with a department or any individual employee he or she should deal with the matter through the City Manager). If a councillor wants to propose any policy changes, that's what City Council orders are for, and they require a majority vote - though, quite frankly, city councillors often vote for policy orders without challenge or discussion out of a misplaced sense of courtesy toward their colleagues. If a matter is referred to a City Council committee for further discussion, it is incumbent on the sponsor(s) of the Order to convince his or her colleagues about the merit of the proposal. In the case of proposals involving elections (such as paying people to vote or using public money to subsidize City Council election campaigns), a convincing case was never made for those proposals.

Applications & Petitions #3. A petition was received from Cambridge Arts Council requesting eleven temporary banners to be hung on light poles along the north bound traffic lane side of First Street between Binney and Cambridge Streets, announcing the Cambridge Arts River Festival on Sat, June 3, 2017 from 11:00am to 6:00pm along the East Cambridge Waterfront in Lechmere Canal Park and in the DCR parklands adjacent to Cambridge Parkway.

Applications & Petitions #4. An application was received from Cambridge Arts Council requesting permission for two temporary banners across Massachusetts Avenue at City Hall and across JFK Street at Mount Auburn Street announcing the Hong Kong Boston Dragon Boat Festival on Sun, June 11th.

I highlight these only to remind everyone of the many attractions that occur during the months of May and June. The Riverfest worked out pretty well in the Lechmere Canal area last year, though many of us still would like to see it eventually return upstream to the area near the Weeks Footbridge.

Resolution #7. Resolution on the death of Harold J. Aseph III.   Councillor Maher, Councillor Toomey

Just read this. It's one of the most thoughtfully and beautifully written death resolutions I've ever seen from the City Council. [It was written by Fran Cronin.]

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of installing one or more park benches around the Fresh Pond Reservation for the benefit of Cambridge residents, particularly senior citizens who would benefit from such conveniences.   Mayor Simmons

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate staff about providing some appropriate seating on the grassy hill at Kingsley Park.   Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern

These would be welcome additions - and not just for senior citizens.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the School Department, Human Resources, and any other relevant City departments to determine what it would look like financially and logistically for the new Tobin School to house half of Cambridge’s 3 and 4 year olds with the goal of providing universal pre-k split between the Tobin School and another school to be redesigned in the near future.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Devereux

I'm interested to see what the cost implications of this might be. It will likely be quite expensive. Having looked at what parents with good incomes shell out for the two pre-K schools and a day-care facility on my (very short) block in Cambridge, I'm sure some of those people would love to have a "public option". It could be the only affordable option for people of lower income.

Update: Councillor Carlone (wisely) suggested that it would be preferable if any pre-K options were diversified in the sense that they should be smaller groupings spread throughout the city rather than be concentrated into one or two school buildings.

Order #4. That a Standing Committee made up of three School Committee members, three City Councillors the Superintendent, the City Manager, as well as other members to be determined, be established to meet monthly to discuss issues pertinent to the School Department and the City and to improve communication between the School Committee and City Council.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

The City Council should think long and hard about the wisdom of this. It could go either way in terms of resolving conflicts or creating conflicts between these two elected bodies. I could easily see this becoming a place where some city councillors try to steer things that are really meant to be decided by the School Committee and the School Department. On the other hand, there are some matters such as community schools and after-school programming, that falls under the Department of Human Services Programs even though they take place in public school buildings and which the City Council clearly has some policy-making role. They may want to reconsider the plan of meeting monthly. That seems too frequent. Quarterly (and as needed) would be more than enough. Even then it would be meeting more frequently than half of the other City Council committees.

Update: Councillor Kelley floated the idea that perhaps there should be a charter change that "combines the School Committee and the City Council". This, of course, can only be interpreted as a suggestion that the School Committee be eliminated and its functions turned over to a subcommittee of the City Council. I am eager to hear how School Committee members feel about the idea.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments with a view in mind for a city-wide expansion of the piloted North Massachusetts Avenue and Kendall Square store frontage limitations, entrepreneurial co-working space, and local retail zoning regulations.   Councillor Cheung

A current topic of discussion in the Envision Cambridge process is "Corridors", i.e. main thoroughfares in the city, including most retail locations. I doubt whether a single city-wide standard is appropriate, but some of these "corridors" could use a little reinvention.

Update: Councillor Mazen expressed his desire that an co-working space be subsidized - either from taxes or through some kind of nebulous "inclusionary" requirement. This, I suppose, would then require some City department to decide who will be eligible for this subsidized space - and the slow shift toward government control continues. Councillor Devereux suggested that this needs more study in concert with the ongoing Retail Strategic Plan. Councillor Carlone suggested that this proposal should be put on hold for now and that it is becoming clear that retail can no longer be supported everywhere.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Mayor’s Office, the City Clerk’s Office, and the Finance Chair to establish a framework for periodic Roundtables throughout each term that will provide City Councillors opportunities to invite different Department Heads in for open, unrestricted discussions on topics of interest to the City Councillors.   Mayor Simmons, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mazen

This was exactly the intention of the City Council when Roundtable meetings were first established - way back around 1999. The City Council unearths its own history. As for "unrestricted discussions", I do hope that this does not include inquisitions and/or browbeating of department heads or other City employees. - Robert Winters

Update: Though most councillors seemed generally supportive of the idea, Councillor Devereux suggested that rather than do this as City Council Roundtable meetings they should be done within meetings of the Finance Committee which would allow public comment. Mayor Simmons explained that the idea was to have a more general discussion - not just about finance-related matters. Councillor Devereux wanted some clarification of what the expectations would be noting that Roundtable meetings with City departments often center around some kind of formal presentation followed by questions and discussion.

Councillor Carlone won the wisdom prize by proposing that such freewheeling discussions with City departments take place within existing City Council committees whose focus aligns with the particular department - and not just the Finance Committee. In fact, many years ago most of the City Council committees aligned almost exactly with City departments. It might be a good idea to move back closer to that system so that City Council discussion could be better aligned with what City government actually does.

At the very least, we can probably do with much shorter PowerPoint presentations at City Council Roundtables and more freewheeling informal discussion. That was the original idea when Roundtable meetings were established nearly two decades ago. - RW


Noteworthy Agenda Items from the May 8, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

May 8, 2017 Cambridge City Council meetingHere are the agenda items this week that I found interesting:

Manager's Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the recommended appointment of Kathleen L. Born as a member of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for a term of five years.

The appointment of Kathy Born to the CRA by Bob Healy in 2012 was an inspired choice, and City Manager Louis DePasquale continues the inspiration. One correction to the manager's message is that Kathy actually served four terms on the Cambridge City Council. She was first elected in 1993 and served from 1994 through 2001 including one term as Vice Mayor.

There are only two Boards which the City Manager appoints that are subject to City Council approval - the Cambridge Housing Authority and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, so this appointment must formally be passed to the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Etcetera Committee before going to the City Council for confirmation (which as assured).

Applications & Petitions #1. A communication was received from Richard Harding, et al., 189 Windsor Street, transmitting notification to withdraw their zoning petition.

Contrary to the statement in this petition, there were actually 17 registered Cambridge voters who signed the original petition. If 5 of them submit a letter to withdraw the petition, even if these are the authors of the petition, that still leaves 12 registered voters who have not written to ask that the petition be withdrawn - 2 more than the minimum requirement. I believe this means that the original petition remains intact. It's a moot point, however. The petitioners have extracted their desired pound of flesh out of the developer and that's really what this petition was all about.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City’s transportation planning staff to reach out to Bridj’s Founder and Chief Executive Matthew George to discuss whether there are opportunities for collaboration in meeting the needs of Cambridge residents for more flexible transit.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen

This would make for an interesting way to navigate around the municipal procurement regulations. Though I'm sure this company may have something to offer, the City would have to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) or similar device to ALL possible bidders. Those who call the shots at Bridj could then submit a proposal and possibly sign a contract. The real question is whether the City has an identified need around which an RFP could be written. It's not the role of the City to approach private companies asking if there's anything the City can do to keep them afloat.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to create a permanent office or public-private initiative for the purpose of fostering charitable giving in Cambridge and to work with non-profits to study the local charitable giving landscape, measuring the estimated maximum charitable carrying capacity of the city.   Councillor Mazen

This is a good intention, but perhaps the more important goal should be to promote existing charitable giving organizations like the Cambridge Community Foundation rather than creating new City administrative positions.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 19, 2017 to discuss a zoning petition by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge by creating a new Section 11.900 Maintenance and Security of Vacant or Abandoned Buildings. The proposed zoning would require that any building that is deemed to be vacant or abandoned for longer than 90 days shall be registered with the Inspectional Services Department, shall be secured and maintained so that it does not exhibit any evidence of vacancy, and shall pay an annual registration fee.

The basic premise of this initiative seems to be to come down hard on any property owner who leaves a property vacant for too long - either due to land-banking, wanting to flip a property for a tidy profit, or because of a dysfunctional property owner. I have serious concerns about the confiscatory nature of the original proposal that actually sought to extract the entire assessed value of a vacant property by means of fees in only two years. That is clearly a regulatory taking and it would never stand up to a court challenge. It's also an obnoxious example of government overreach. I assume the language will be modified to make this merely combative and confrontational rather than confiscatory.

Nobody likes having important properties (such as the Harvard Square Cinema) sitting vacant for years, but the best way to get good results is still to open up a conversation with the property owner. It would be better if parties other than City officials or elected councillors had those conversations.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Councillor Craig A. Kelley, apologizing to his Colleagues, City Manager and City Staff for not attending tonight's meeting in order to attend a conference on climate change adaptation and expressing his thoughts and apology for the events at the Budget Hearing.

I greatly appreciate Councillor Kelley's calling out the unforgivable misbehavior of one obnoxious soon-to-be-former city councillor at last week's Budget Hearings. - Robert Winters

The Budget Hearings continue this week on Tues, May 9 at 6:00pm (School Department Budget) and on Wed, May 10 at 9:00am (City Budget). The budget is available online at:   [Complete schedule with Budget Book references]   [multi-year comparisons]

Wednesday's departments are as follows (the underlined ones are the ones that have been pulled (so far) by councillors for discussion).

Cambridge Health Alliance    
Public Works
Community Development
Historical Commission
Peace Commission / Police Review & Advisory Board    
Cable TV
Debt Service
Human Services
Women’s Commission
Human Rights Commission    
Veterans Services
Cherry Sheet
City Overview
Finacial Summaries
Public Investment
* Date changes for individual departments may occur. The public is invited to attend and be heard.
These hearings will be cablecast live on Municipal Television.


May Day at City Hall - Noteworthy agenda items for the May 1, 2017 Cambridge City Council meeting

The real action this week commences Tuesday at 9:00am with the first of the two FY2018 City Budget Hearings. Here's the lineup for the May 2 hearing:

Mayor’s Office
Executive - Leadership
Employees’ Committee on Diversity
Domestic & Gender Based Violence Prevention Initiative
Equity and Inclusion
Public Information Office
City Council
City Clerk
Finance Admin.    
Information Technology    
Employee Benefits
General Services
Election Commission
Public Celebrations
Animal Commission
Fire Department
Police Department
Traffic, Parking & Transportation
Inspectional Services
License Commission
Weights & Measures
Emergency Communications

May Day!Here are a few items from the City Council meeting's relatively brief agenda that caught my eye:

Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $240,000 of Virtual Net Metering (VNM) credits to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account to cover invoices related to the VNM agreement for the photovoltaic project known as “Summer Street Solar.”

As the communication states: "Under the agreement the City will receive monthly checks from Eversource representing the value of the credits and will pay the solar developer 85% of the credits received. Checks will be deposited into a revenue account. ... The City executed this and other virtual net metering agreements as part of the strategy our energy broker recommended to help finance the procurement of 100% renewable energy. ... The 2008 Massachusetts Green Communities Act created incentives for solar developers to work with municipal entities to develop projects. The municipality executes an agreement with a solar developer to purchase the entire output of a commercial scale solar array at a set price per kWh and then effectively sells the entire output of the array to the utility in return for net metering credits equal to a higher price per kWh. ... The City has signed five VNM contracts for close to 6 megawatts of solar, including, most recently, rooftop arrays at Alewife MBTA and the route 128 MBTA facility in Westwood.

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Arvilla Sarazen.   Councillor Toomey, Mayor Simmons

I was saddened to see this notice of the death of Arvilla Sarazen. I have crossed paths with Arvilla countless times over the years - in East Cambridge, at events of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee, at the Cambridge Senior Center where she often worked at the front desk, and elsewhere.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the necessary stakeholders to determine the practicality of buying the Tokyo site and converting it into affordable housing units.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux

Let's not forget that this idea was first introduced at the Oct 20, 2014 City Council meeting. What has happened since then? Is the property actually for sale now or is this just wishful thinking?

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor E. Dennis Simmons, regarding Policy Order #13 from Apr 24, 2017 Meeting.

This communication illustrates Mayor Simmons' capacity to look at a broad range of possible consequences of the vote on an Order that most of her colleagues probably barely read before giving it their stamp of approval. As the Mayor clearly states, "I very much believe that taking steps to move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 is a laudable goal, and communities across the globe need to be taking more aggressive and coordinated actions to protect our environment." She continues, "That said, I believe that the City Council must be more mindful in how we work toward this goal. It would be irresponsible of us as a governing body to create policies in service of any specific goal without pausing to contemplate and acknowledge the impacts they may have on various aspects of our community. There is always the danger of doing the right thing the wrong way, and we must be mindful of the fact that enacting policies too broadly can potentially create negative unintended consequences for segments of our community. In this case, I am specifically thinking about the impact that Policy Order #13 may have upon the small business community of Cambridge, and upon individual homeowners."

The current City Council has repeatedly shown a tendency to vote for populist measures that appeal to whatever group can mobilize people to show up at City Hall. Whether these city councillors actually read and understand what they are voting for - especially any broader consequences and the impact on homeowners and small businesses - remains to be seen. - Robert Winters


Civic Infrastructure (from Dec 1, 2015)

Civic landscape today dominated by single-issue advocacy and neighborhood groups that often do not represent their neighborhoods. Common pattern is that some dominant characters eventually drive out other participants rendering the group a narrow agenda-driven entity. Some groups (PSNA, Agassiz-Baldwin) generally have a better focus such as (a) children (Agassiz), or (b) cooperation with the local business community (PSNA).

Groups like the Cambridge Residents Alliance are dominated by zoning and, arguably, efforts to slow or stop new development - residential or commercial/office/lab. The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance is of this type (in addition to serving as a launching point for a City Council candidacy).

For the Cambridge Schools there are also advocacy groups (Special Ed and others), but not necessarily a general forum for broader discussion.

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

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

Purposes: This association is formed for the following purposes:

These are pretty good founding principles for a civic organization.

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

CCA Origin

The Advent of PR in Cambridge - by David Goode


Tues, May 16

3:30pm   The City Council's Housing Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss tenant protections, anti-displacement policies, and Inclusionary Housing tenant selection policies; the Committee will also discuss any updates received from the CHA, including a report on the issuance of CHA Housing Choice Vouchers to public housing applicants.  (Sullivan Chamber)

6:30pm   Planning Board meeting  (2nd Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

General Business

1. Update from the Community Development Department

2. Adoption of Planning Board meeting transcripts

Public Hearing

6:30pm   Kristin Mahon, et al., Petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating a new Section 20.x00 Observatory Hill Village Overlay District. The new Overlay District would generally cover the existing Business A-1 District from the intersection of Concord and Huron Avenues and extend along Concord Avenue to the intersection of Concord Avenue and Walden Street, and is proposed to modify the underlying Business A-1 zoning provisions. The purpose of the overlay district is to (a) to protect and promote the existing retail, service and residential ecosystem, (b) to create a more harmonious and consistent village image for development in the district and adjacent areas, to encourage good building design and site development which enhances the pedestrian amenities in the district, (c) to ensure that changes in the district are compatible with the scale, character and close proximity of the abutting neighborhoods, (d) to encourage the retention of existing buildings of historic value and uses which serve the abutting neighborhoods, and (e) to discourage new development inappropriate in both scale and design.

Note: 20.x03 Applicability. The Observatory Hill Village Overlay District shall be an overlay district on the zoning map established by Section 3.20. Existing* street addresses include 181-299 and 186-298 Concord Avenue, the northwest property line of 147 to 175 and 152 to 184 Huron Avenue, 21 to 25 Manassas Avenue, and 297 to 379 and 363 to 380 Walden Street.

Wed, May 17

3:30pm   The City Council's Economic Development and University Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss updates and data collected thus far for the Retail Strategic Plan, and other matters pertaining to the Study.  (Sullivan Chamber)

6:00-8:00pm   Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee meeting  (4th Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

Thurs, May 18

3:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a zoning petition from the Friends of Observatory Hill Village, to establish the Observatory Hill Village Overlay District. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

6:00-8:00pm   Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group meeting  (Central Square Senior Center)

Mon, May 22

9:30am   The City Council's Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the following: the creation of a section in the agenda entitled “General Council Discussion;” to discuss identifying a suitable location site to dedicate to honoring Representative Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. commitment to the City; and to discuss identifying an appropriate building to dedicate to Richard C. Rossi’s decades of service to Cambridge.  (Ackermann Room)

5:30pm   City Council meeting - and Budget Adoption  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, May 23

3:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed Municipal Code amendment to Title 8 entitled “Health and Safety” by adding a new Chapter 8.69 entitled “Running Bamboo Ordinance.”  (Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, May 24

3:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the zoning petition filed by Latoyea Hawkins Cockrill, et al. to regulate short-term rental uses throughout the City. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, May 30

4:30pm   The City Council's Public Safety Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the role of police officers in the community, the installation of a police substation in Central Square and the stationing of a uniformed police officer in City Hall.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, May 31

3:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss City Council proposed zoning amendments to create a new chapter to regulate short-term rentals. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Thurs, June 1

5:30pm   The City Council's Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the open data portal, an update from the open data review board, and future opportunities for open data in Cambridge.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, June 5

5:30pm   City Council Roundtable/Working Meeting to discuss Envision Cambridge citywide, including the Alewife planning. No public comment. No votes will be taken. Meeting will not be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, June 6

3:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title 6 entitled ”Animals” to insert a new Chapter 6.20 entitled “Restrictions on the sale of Animals in Pet Shops.”  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, June 12

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, June 13

4:00pm   The City Council's Public Safety Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the various forms and mediums of communication between residents and the city, to include Commonwealth Connects, and how the Council may prioritize critical issues for data collection and reporting, also the Committee will discuss Order #11 of Oct 31, 2016 regarding the creation of a Commonwealth Connects category for residents negatively impacted by short-term rental activity; Order #8 of Apr 24, 2017 regarding creating a report system for mosquito harborage; and also bicycle-safety related incidents that would not generate a crash-report.  (Ackermann Room)

Wed, June 14

8:00am-9:30am   Recycling Advisory Committee  (Sullivan Chamber, City Hall)

2:00pm   The City Council's Human Services and Veterans Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the current opioid crisis on a state and local level, and what programs and plans exist to combat this epidemic.  (Sullivan Chamber)

4:30pm   The City Council's Economic Development and University Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the final recommendations from Larisa Ortiz Associates in regards to the Retail Strategic Plan, as well as policy and programmatic opportunities related to the retail environment in Cambridge.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, June 19

5:00pm   Special Presentation - A Celebration of Cambridge Volunteers  (Sullivan Chamber)

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, June 21

1:00pm   The City Council's Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the next steps for the Foundry Building including: financing, community benefit, non-profit ecosystem, and community engagement.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, June 26

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, July 12

6:00-8:00pm   Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee meeting  (Citywide Senior Center, 806 Mass. Ave.)

Discussion topic: community interaction

Mon, Aug 7

5:30pm   Special (Midsummer) City Council meeting  (Dr. Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, CRLS, 459 Broadway)

Wed, Aug 23

6:00-8:00pm   Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee meeting  (4th Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

Discussion topic: corridor visioning and analysis