Cambridge InsideOut - June 19, 2018

Robert and Judy5:30pm Guests: City Councillors Alanna Mallon & Sumbul Siddiqui

Possible Topics:

1) The podcast - Women Are Here

2) Expectations & realities of being a city councillor

6:00pm program:

Possible Topics:

3) June 18 City Council meeting

4) Envision Cambridge - Updates, including June 11 City Council Roundtable

5) June 4 City Council meeting

6) The Triviality of SeeClickFix

7) News, Upcoming Events, etc.

8) Civic Calendar

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 (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 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

Ash treeCommunications & 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


Envision CambridgeEnvision Cambridge Updates - Working Group Draft Recommendations

Economy Working Group Draft Recommendations

Housing Working Group Draft Recommendations

Mobility Working Group Draft Recommendations

Climate & Environment Working Group Draft Recommendations

Urban Form Draft Recommendations

Community Wellbeing Draft Recommendations

First Look at the June 4, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallThe 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


How to Read Cambridge - Lesson 1

So there's a public meeting on Thursday, May 3 regarding what is called the "South Massachusetts Avenue Corridor Safety Improvements Project". The meeting will take place from 6:00pm to 8:30pm at MIT, Room 2-190 (182 Memorial Drive, Simons Building). The essentials from the meeting notice are:

"To improve safety and reliability for users of the street, the City of Cambridge is evaluating 'quick build' changes to Massachusetts Avenue from Sidney Street to Memorial Drive with an emphasis on increasing the comfort and convenience of people walking, biking and riding buses. This project supports the City’s Vision Zero goal to reduce and eliminate serious injuries/fatalities from crashes, as well as City policies that promote the use of sustainable ways to travel in Cambridge."

The Offending MarkHaving seen a few notices and having attended more than my share of meetings, allow me to interpret. When the public notice uses the word "comfort" or the phrase "comfort index", that's code for "separated bike lanes", i.e. PVC plastic posts bolted to the road, and I can pretty much guarantee that regardless whether this gives any safety improvement or if it creates significant traffic problems, the entire matter is nonnegotiable. The purpose of the meeting is to tell you what has already been decided, and the only public input that might have any effect will be in regard to aesthetic matters (color of the posts) and whether or not even more parking spaces should be removed to compensate for any potential hazards at intersections or reduced visibility.

This project will likely not be nearly as controversial as what was done to Cambridge Street or Brattle Street (due to the scarcity of residents along this stretch of Mass. Ave.), but I imagine there could be some concerns from the businesses since it's likely that most or all parking may soon disappear. Perhaps the only real question at this point is whether all of the parking disappears or if traffic is reduced to one lane each way for the whole stretch (which may well result in traffic being backed up during some hours along the entire stretch). One things is virtually certain – if you don't think that segregated bike lanes are a good idea here, you may as well stay home because nobody will hear you. - RW

The Triviality of SeeClickFix

Not a day goes by without a flurry of SeeClickFix (Commonwealth Connects) requests for matters ranging from dangerous to absurdly trivial. In addition to the ridiculous complaints about armored vehicles parking in a bike lane (because the cyclists wants the driver to carry sacks of money to a loading zone a block away) or a flatbed truck queued up at a construction site (and they want him to do what? - keep circling around the block with many tons of steel on a long, wide vehicle?) to matters so trivial that it could make your head spin. For example, I saw one this morning from 23 Clinton Street where the complainant says: "Can you please remove white mark left on brick sidewalk by parking dept?" Perhaps I should file a string of complaints about the large hot top temporary patch on my sidewalk left by NStar (before they became Eversource) that's now been there for most of the past decade plus a medley of various painted markings from Traffic & Parking, the Dig Safe folks, etc. Let's also not forget those 02138 sensitive souls who lost their minds over the color of their NEW sidewalk having a shade that didn't quite match their ideal. Good grief!

Cambridge Housing Authority Board Vacancy

City SealJune 6, 2018 – City Manager Louis DePasquale is seeking to fill a vacancy on the Cambridge Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Established under state law in 1935, Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) provides long-term rental housing and rental assistance to more than 7,700 low-income families, elders, and disabled individuals through its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs. It has an annual budget of $121 million and since 2015 has completed over $230 million in capital investment and construction contracts with another $300 million plus planned over the next 3-5 years as CHA revitalizes all the public housing in Cambridge.

CHA also invests in Cambridge families and provides enhanced support to 12% of the city population. By tailoring its approach to focus on policy innovation and family economic opportunities, CHA is able to meet its mission to develop and manage safe, good quality, affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in a manner which promotes citizenship, community and self-reliance in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

A five-member Board of Commissioners governs CHA. One member is appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts and the remaining four members are appointed by the Cambridge City Manager and confirmed by the Cambridge City Council. By law, the Board must include a housing authority resident and a representative of labor unions; both of these positions are currently filled. All Board members must be residents of Cambridge.

The CHA Board oversees the Agency's overall direction and approves all significant contract awards, budget decisions, formal submissions to state and federal funding agencies, planning and reporting documents, all major policy decisions, and many other important matters. Commissioners also serve as board members on CHA’s three non-profit affiliates. The Board sets policy but is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

CHA’s Board of Commissioners meets regularly on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, at 5:30 p.m., at the Agency’s office, 362 Green St., 3rd floor, Cambridge. Additionally, the board may occasionally meet for special meetings as needed.

The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, July 6, 2018. Applications can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at 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.

June Programs (and Beyond) at Fresh Pond Reservation

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

Woodland Restoration Area Gardening
Dates: Tuesdays, between 9:30am and 1:00pm
Place: Meets at the Woodland Habitat (Northeast Sector)
    Join other stewardship-minded volunteers in caretaking the native plant restoration area next to Lusitania Meadow, and learn about the diversity of native plant life! We seek dedicated participants who enjoy camaraderie and hard work that includes weeding, pruning, planting, watering new plantings, hauling wood chips and moving logs. Please email if you would like to come, and for more information.
Fresh Air Walks
Dates: Wednesdays, 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Place: Meets at the Ranger Station, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
    These casual walks, led by Ranger Tim, will encompass Fresh Pond and take an informal look at each week in nature, life, and the city. Come alone or bring your co-workers! Rain or shine. Questions? Contact:
Fresh Pond Stewards
Dates: Thursdays, 10:00am to 12:00 noon
Place: Meets at the volunteer trailer near the front of the Water Treatment Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway.
    Join our weed-warrior crew! We are Fresh Pond citizens dedicated to keeping invasive plants at bay for the benefit of wildlife, water and humans alike. No experience or long-term commitment necessary! All tools are provided; sturdy shoes, pants, long-sleeves and a water bottle are strongly recommended. Meets at the volunteer trailer in the lower parking lot. Contact for more information.
Summer Solstice Bird Walk
Date: Friday, June 22, 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Place: Register for parking and meeting location and to receive notice of cancellation due to weather
    If you can’t bear to get up at dawn to look at birds, this evening walk is for you! Just as people take advantage of the longest days of the year to continue their outdoor activities, so do birds: They spend the extra hours of daylight foraging for food for their hungry babies. Led by Nancy Guppy. Beginning birders are welcome. We have binoculars to lend and will show you how to use them. Register with Catherine Pedemonti at
Nature Walk
Date: Saturday, June 23, 10:00am to 11:30am
Place: Meets at Gazebo near Maher Park, 650 Concord Ave.
    Join us for a walk through our urban wild. We will explore together the flora and fauna of the Reservation, noting bloom and berry; birds and bugs; and beyond! Feel free to bring binoculars, field guides, a hand lens, journal, camera... or just bring yourself! Beginners are welcome, as are children. Feel free to contact Catherine Pedemonti at with any questions.
Early Summer Scavenger Hunt: Looking for Life in and Around a Small Pond
Date: Saturday, June 23, 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Place: Meets at Black’s Nook
    This is a drop-in style program, come any time between 1 and 2pm to join rangers in exploring the life in and around Black’s Nook at the official start of summer. Every age can benefit from this guided discovery! Bring binoculars and magnifying glasses if you have them.
The Owlet Debriefed
Date: Saturday, June 30, 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Place: Meets at the Water Treatment Plant, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
    Maybe you’ve heard the news about Cambridge’s most famous baby bird—the owlet. After a season of intrigue, danger, and drama, all worked out for the best in the natural world. You’re invited to Fresh Pond to hear the story from beginning to end about what truly went on here and how we can balance our curiosity with the needs of the wild. For more information, contact Ranger Tim at

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

Would you like to join Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation? Membership is $10 and can be paid online or sent to 31 Mt. Pleasant St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

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

Upcoming Programs


Central FleaTues, June 19

3:00pm   The City Council's Public Safety Committee will conduct a public hearing to review the whole licensing and permitting process and to discuss ways to make it more efficient.  (Ackermann Room)

Wed, June 20

4:00pm   The City Council's Economic Development & University Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the potential for a City-based Cannabis Social Equity Program, focusing on ways to reduce barriers to entry in the commercial Cannabis industry, particularly for women and minority-owned businesses; review best equity practices from other states; and promote sustainable, socially and economically reparative practices in the commercial Cannabis industry in Cambridge.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Thurs, June 21

7:00-9:00pm   Porter Square Neighbors Association meeting  (Lesley University Hall, 1815 Mass Ave.)

What do you know about the History of Porter Square? The guest speaker will be Charlie Sullivan, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission.

Sat, June 23

9:30am   Bikes and Bricks! An Architectural Tour of Cambridge  (meet at Cambridge Public Library Main Branch)

Ride departs at 10:00am. Join the Cambridge Bicycle Committee for a leisurely, family-friendly ride through the streets of Cambridge as part of the city's annual Bike Month activities. The theme of this spring's bike tour is an exploration of architecture in Cambridge, passing sites associated with famous and historically interesting architecture. We will start at the Cambridge Public Library Main Branch and ride for about two hours (see route below). We'll be escorted by the Cambridge Police Department's Bike Patrol. The ride will end back at the library with a light lunch.

Stata Center

Mon, June 25

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, June 26

3:30pm   The City Council's Public Safety Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the City's Cyber Security Policy.  (Ackermann Room)

Wed, June 27

5:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the Zoning petition received from Douglas Brown et al to amend the zoning in Section 20.70 Flood Overlay district and the creation of a new Section 22.80 – Green Factor. This hearing is to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, July 24

1:00pm   The City Council's Transportation and Public Utilities Committee will conduct a public hearing to receive a follow-up on a response received from the City Manager on May 14, 2018 regarding electric vehicles and the originating Policy Order #6 adopted Jan 29, 2018.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, July 30

5:30pm   City Council Special Midsummer meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)