Sept 30 - The Cambridge Planning Board tonight voted unanimously to grant the Special Permits for the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment.

A Taxing Situation - September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes

Property Tax AssessmentsShort agenda this week. Quite likely the most discussed items will be the Orders from last week that were delayed via Charter Right. There's also the formality of tax classification that will be the subject of a 6:30pm hearing.

Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2015. [Manager's letter]

The essentials:

  • The FY15 property tax levy of $341,445,455 reflects a $12,900,510 or 3.93% increase from FY14. The increase in the levy of 3.93% is also well below the five-year average annual increase of 4.92%.
  • The FY15 adopted operating budget increased by 2.91%.
  • The FY15 residential tax rate will be $7.82 per thousand dollars of value, which is a decrease of $0.56, or –6.68% from FY14.
  • The commercial tax rate will be $19.29, which is a decrease of $1.15, or –5.63% from FY14.
  • This recommendation includes the use of $14.65 million in reserve accounts to lower the property tax levy: $2.0 million from overlay surplus and $12.65 million in Free Cash. The certified Free Cash amount of $160.5 million is the highest amount in the City’s history and represents an $18.3 million increase over last year.
  • Approximately 72% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY15 tax bill. In addition, another 13% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100 and $250. Therefore, a total of 85% of the residential taxpayers will see no increase or an increase of less than $250.
  • As a result of market activity in calendar year 2013, which is the basis of the FY15 property assessment, total residential property values increased by 11.53%. Total commercial property values also increased by 11.15%.
  • For FY15, the total assessed value of taxable property in the City equals $30,143,180,521, a 10.98% increase over FY14 values.
  • For FY15, the City was able to increase its levy limit by approximately $29.4 million, to $475.4 million. Approximately $18.2 million of this increase was due to new construction.

Charter Right #1. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Five of Sept 22, 2014.]

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Six of Sept 22, 2014.]

Both of these Orders from last week are helpful. There's nothing especially complex about these proposals. As in the case of a current zoning petition that would make expiration dates for zoning petitions consistent with state law, the most useful proposals are usually pretty obvious and the only question is why it takes so long for city councillors to propose them. Much of this is just good housekeeping.

Charter Right #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Fourteen of Sept 22, 2014.]

Please see comments from last week. If there is one new ordinance I'd love to see in Cambridge, it would be an ordinance mandating the reduction of visual clutter from regulatory signs. You can barely walk twenty feet along many Cambridge streets without encountering another such sign. Enough! - Robert Winters

Comments?


Domestic Violence Vigil
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - Starts at 6pm
Cambridge City Hall 795 Massachusetts Ave.

Domestic Violence Vigil

Join us in remembering those lost to domestic violence in 2014. If you or someone you know needs help, call SAFELINK 877-785-2020. Please view the cambridgepublichealth.org website for more Domestic Violence Awareness Month Activities in October. [Flyer (PDF)]


CCTV Announces Launch of Cambridge News Survey

News SurveyHow do Cambridge residents get their local news? What is the correlation between an interest in local news and civic engagement? These are some of the questions Cambridge Community Television hopes to answer as it launches the Cambridge News Survey on September 16, 2014. The survey is an important element of CCTV’s program planning as it focuses on keeping its organization among the leading community media centers in the US.

“It is our organization’s belief that access to information is crucial to empower communities,” CCTV Executive Director Susan Fleischmann said. “Studies by the Knight Foundation have found that democracy thrives when communities are informed and involved, and that accurate and thoughtful journalism engages people and strengthens democracy.”

The Cambridge News Survey is available through September 30 online at http://svy.mk/1lF9MFE; hard copies may be filled out at any branch of the Cambridge Public Library, the North Cambridge and Central Square Senior Centers, City Hall, Saint Anthony’s Church and at CCTV in Central Square. Cambridge residents are encouraged to participate, and will be entered into a raffle for a Kindle. Survey results will be published in early November.

CCTV is the community media center serving Cambridge. CCTV operates three community cable channels and robust youth media and citizen journalism programs, offers classes in media production and access to equipment and facilities, operates an art gallery, and more. For information, call 617-661-6900 or visit us at cctvcambridge.org.

Interesting Items on the September 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Here's a sample of what's on this week's relatively brief agenda.

Order #3. That the Government Operations, Rules & Claims committee is requested to hold a meeting to discuss changing the terms used in Council "Orders" to more accurately reflect their message.   Councillor Kelley

Perhaps Councillor Kelley is interpreting "Order" as might be expected as a former member of the United States Marine Corps. Perhaps the more appropriate interpretation is like when you order from a menu. If this were done verbally, the conversation might go something like this:

Councillor: Excuse me, sir, but may I have fries with that cheeseburger?
City Manager: Thank you for your Order, councillor, but we're all out of fries. Would like like some cole slaw instead?

OR, as it often goes:

Councillor: What do you recommend?
City Manager: The Alewife with lemon pepper is good.
Councillor: I'll Order that!

Order #5. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of conducting a series of walks through Alewife for the purpose of better knowing the area in preparation for the Dec 1, 2014 roundtable discussion about city-wide planning   Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

These are the kinds of Orders many of us have been waiting to see now that time-wasting distractions like the Carlone Petition have been put to bed. Order #6, in particular, proposes a specific procedural change that could help prevent some of the misunderstandings that have been associated with various development proposals.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget.   Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone

This smells like trouble. My prediction is that if such a "discretionary budget" is established with which city councillors can vote to fund projects outside of the usual budget process, there will be pressure to grow the budget steadily every year so that councillors can fund extracurricular projects outside of city management. I'm particularly intrigued by the squishiness of the Whereas statement that "With detailed criteria and procedures - and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects - a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative." Does anyone seriously believe that such an agreed upon culture will rule the day and that personal projects would be de-emphasized? Anyone ever hear of The Foundry?

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant state-level authorities regarding the potential for enhanced pedestrian safety measures along Memorial Drive in the vicinity of the MIT Sailing Pavilion.   Councillor Carlone

This is a pretty good Order. If one were to make a list of roads and locations in Cambridge that are especially treacherous, that list should include quite a few places along Memorial Drive that are dangerous not only for pedestrians crossing the road but also for motor vehicle operators who park alongside vehicles moving at speeds well in excess of the posted speed limits. I would also put most of Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway on my list of dangerous roads for pedestrians.

Don't bogart that joint, my friend.Order #14. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L.   Vice Mayor Benzan

I believe this Order may need a few more clauses, such as:
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Cambridge Arts Council to prepare a permanent archive for all of the hysterically funny graffiti that will continue to appear on or around these signs; and be it further
ORDERED: That a sufficient budget be allocated for the frequent replacement of said signs so that they may be freshly defaced with new jokes and funny pictures.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting information on the Timothy R. Flaherty, et al. zoning petition recommending referring to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for further hearings and reports.

So like, hey man, how did we miss the expiration date for the zoning petition to expand the area where the medical marijuana dispensary can be built? Bummer, man! - Robert Winters


Postscript: On Applications & Petitions #1, an application from Starbucks requesting permission for three benches in front of 1662 Mass. Ave., Councillor Carlone objected to the placement of the benches directly in front of the premises due to it not being ADA compliant. Though he perhaps didn't explain his objection so clearly, his point was correct. The proposed placement of the benches abutting the building is right where a blind person would least expect them. Good call, councillor.

On Order #3, Councillor Kelley would like to change the term "Ordered" to "Requested" in the wording of City Council Orders. City Clerk Donna Lopez explained that the current wording is consistent with state law and City Council rules. Councillor Mazen opined that the word "Ordered" should be interpreted literally by the City Manager so that he would do exactly what the City Council dictated regardless of other considerations.

On Order #8, Councillor Mazen pushed the envelope even further in his argument for giving the City Council their own "discretionary budget" outside the management of the City administration. The central theme in his argument was that city councillors possess expertise in some areas beyond what City staff can comprehend. You have to love the hubris. This, by the way, is the same Councillor Mazen who several months ago stated, in response to issues raised about personal staff for councillors, that each city councillor should have "full staff". Apparently a single aide is not adequate to support the grand plans and brilliant vision of some individual councillors. Councillor Kelley was refreshing in noting that the proposed "discretionary budget" seemed more like a "City Council slush fund". The matter was referred to the Finance Committee for further discussion after most of the city councillors were dismissive of the proposal.

Comments?

Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women Vacancy

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women.

Commissioners support staff in their mission to create and promote programs that increase public awareness and understanding of multiple issues affecting women and girls, particularly marginalized women and girls, within the city; advocate to improve the quality of women’s and girls’ lives; and their work building coalitions and partnering with community organizations on these issues.

The Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women meets the first Wednesday of every month, from 6:30-8:00pm, at 51 Inman St., Cambridge, in the Women's Commission Conference Room, 2nd floor.

For more information, contact Kimberly Sansoucy, Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, at 617-349-4695 or ksansoucy@cambridgema.gov. Letters of interest, including resume and/or applicable experience, can be sent via mail, fax or e-mail by Friday, Oct 17, 2014 to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov


Cambridge Conservation Commission Vacancy

City SealCity Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking a Cambridge resident to fill a vacancy on the Cambridge Conservation Commission.

The Conservation Commission is responsible for administration of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA), a state law governing activities in and immediately adjacent to local wetlands, waterways and floodplains. The Commission holds two regularly scheduled public meetings each month to review permit applications under the WPA, issue permits and conduct other business related to the management of Cambridge’s natural resource areas.

The Conservation Commission consists of seven members appointed by the City Manager to serve three-year terms. Cambridge residents with expertise in landscape architecture, civil/environmental engineering, hydrology, ecology or law are encouraged to apply.

Please send a letter of interest and/or resume via e-mail, mail or fax by Friday, Oct 3, 2014 to:

Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Fax 617-349-4307
E-mail: citymanager@cambridgema.gov

Hello Recycling & Composting Neighbors! - September 2014

recycling symbol

Do the Right Thing with Furniture & Electronics
Free Film & Discussion: Power to the Pedals 9/16
Don’t Miss the Cambridge Repair Café! 9/27
Community Yard Sale 9/14 & 9/15
See Recycling in Action – Go on a Tour!

Do the Right Thing with Furniture & Electronics

Furniture in Good Condition: Plan ahead and arrange a free in-home pick up with the Coalition for the Homeless. Pickup appointments available on 9/2 or 9/3. Items must be clean and usable. Email pictures of your items to donations@mahomeless.org and include your address, phone number and put “Cambridge Pickup” in the subject line. They take kitchen tables & chairs, couches & sofa chairs, ottomans, hutches, end tables, coffee tables, bed frames, dressers, bookshelves, cabinets, rugs, lamps, dishes, pots & pans, and blankets & linens. Beginning this September, the Coalition will schedule pickups in Cambridge for the last Friday and first Monday of every month, except holidays. For more, visit CambridgeMA.Gov/Furniture.

Electronics:

  1. Bring to local retailers that take back electronics like Best Buy, Staples, RadioShack, and Apple!
  2. Get info about your curbside options click here, or
  3. Donate unwanted electronics at a free drop-off event this Saturday, August 30, 12-4 pm, Hayward Lot at MIT. Proyecto Chispa ("Project Spark") will collect and recycle the electronics for free and use  the proceeds to purchase new computers for needy children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Free Film & Discussion: Power to the Pedals 9/16

Tuesday, September 16 at 6pm at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Lecture Hall. Come watch Power to the Pedals: Culture of Change, a 30 minute documentary produced and directed by local filmmaker Bob Nesson and sponsored by Metro Pedal Power. This unique and inspiring story is about transportation, sustainability, and a passionate innovator. The film portrays the transformative vision and extraordinary efforts of Wenzday Jane of Metro Pedal Power, a woman whose mechanical skills and innovative actions are reshaping her community. Wenzday goes to the heart of the sustainability issue by offering solutions, and suggests that things don’t have to be the way they are. Raised in public housing, the discovery of the bicycle meant personal freedom and self-determination. She later developed a passion for mechanics and welding, and learned how to reshape the world around her. Now a self-taught innovator and revolutionary community leader, she heads an urban movement to replace trucks with cargo bicycles for local delivery, servicing public area recycling bins for the City of Cambridge, and agricultural distribution. She’s creating a more sustainable future by helping others discover the power of the pedal. Q&A with Bob Nesson, Wenzday Jane, and Ms. Randi Mail, Cambridge Recycling Director immediately following film.  For more, visit www.powertothepedals.org.

Don’t Miss the Cambridge Repair Café! 9/27

The Cambridge Repair Café is Saturday, September 27th from 10am-2pm at the Cambridge Community Center, 5 Callender St. Free and open to the public. What to do with a chair when a leg is loose? With a toaster that no longer works? Or a sweater with moth holes? Toss it? No way! You can repair it at Repair Café! Repair things together, receive expert advice, meet each other, be inspired, learn about how things work, and save money. If you know how to fix electrical appliances, musical instruments, jewelry, furniture, bikes and other household items and can volunteer your time and share your skills for 4 hours at the event, click here. thank you! This is a joint project of the Cambridge Public Works Department, Cambridge Recycling Advisory Committee, Cambridge Public Schools Office of Sustainability, Green Cambridge, Community Development Department, Cambridge Community Center, and more!

Community Yard Sale 9/14 & 9/15

Got stuff to give away? Want to enjoy a beautiful day? Either host or attend a yard sale with your neighbors from all across Boston, Cambridge and beyond on Saturday, September 14th, and Sunday, September 15th. Visit yardsale.greenovateboston.org.

See Recycling in Action – Go on a Tour!

Cambridge residents and City employees are invited to tour the Casella recycling facility in Charlestown on Wednesday, October 9 (afternoon) and Tuesday November 18 (morning). No children under 16. Tours last about 2 hours and involve walking on narrow catwalks and stairs, close to heavy equipment. You must be walk at a steady pace with a group. We meet at DPW and carpool, so please let us know if can drive and how many people you can take. Email recycle@cambridgema.gov to sign up and we’ll send you more info.


  • Missed recycling or trash? Please use iReport or call DPW at 617-349-4800 no later than 12 noon the day after collection to make a request. During winter, clear snow to curb so that collection crews can access your trash barrels and recycling toters and they are not behind snow banks. For more click here. Thank you!
  • Request for toters, brochures, stickers or posters? Use our online form.
  • "Like" the Cambridge DPW on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
  • During holidays weeks, trash, recycling and yard waste collection is delayed one day. Check the 2014 collection schedule online for full details.
  • Furniture in good condition? Schedule a free pick up from inside your home with the Coalition for the Homeless for the for the last Friday and the first Monday of every month, except holidays.. Items must be clean and usable. Someone’s gonna love your stuff.  Email pictures of your good-condition furniture to donations@mahomeless.org and include your address, phone number and put “Cambridge Pickup” in the subject line. They take kitchen tables & chairs, couches & sofa chairs, ottomans, hutches, end tables, coffee tables, bed frames, dressers, bookshelves, cabinets, rugs, lamps, dishes, pots & pans, and blankets & linens. Your donation helps low-income and formerly homeless families furnish their apartments at no cost to them. For more, visit CambridgeMA.Gov/Furniture.

Take the 50% recycling pledge today at www.cambridgema.gov/recycle and get a free sticker!
Recycle More. Trash Less.

On request.... here are some of the results from the recent Democratic primary. Only contested races are shown.
(No offense to our Republican friends, but there's really nothing to report until the General Election in November.)
There are still a few ballots to be included before the official results from the Secretary of State will be finalized and published.

Governor
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Martha Coakley 4591 36.7 37.3 228754 42.4
Steve Grossman 3236 25.9 26.3 196585 36.5
Donald Berwick 4473 35.8 36.3 113976 21.1
Write-ins 14 0.1 0.1    
Blanks 181 1.4      
Total 12495 100.0 100.0 539315 100.0
Lieutenant Governor
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Steve Kerrigan 1704 13.6 15.2 221583 50.8
Leland Cheung 8513 68.1 75.8 128352 29.4
Mike Lake 993 7.9 8.8 86037 19.7
Write-ins 24 0.2 1.2    
Blanks 1261 10.1      
Total 12495 100.0 100.0 435972 100.0
Attorney General
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Maura Healey 7712 61.7 65.5 321264 62.2
Warren Tolman 4049 32.4 34.4 194844 37.8
Write-ins 13 0.1 0.1    
Blanks 721 5.8      
Total 12495 100.0 100.0 516108 100.0
Treasurer
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Deborah Goldberg 5487 43.9 53.9 202077 42.7
Barry Finegold 2176 17.4 21.4 149188 31.5
Tom Conroy 2505 20.0 24.6 121802 25.7
Write-ins 18 0.1 0.2    
Blanks 2309 18.5      
Total 12495 100.0 100.0 473067 100.0
State Representative (25th Middlesex)
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Marjorie C. Decker 3546 72.6 83.2 72.6 83.2
Lesley R. Phillips 709 14.5 16.6 14.5 16.6
Write-ins 5 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Blanks 622 12.7   12.7  
Total 4882 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
District Attorney (Middlesex - Northern District)
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Marian T. Ryan 5199 41.6 48.6    
Michael A. Sullivan 5476 43.8 51.2    
Write-ins 30 0.2 0.3    
Blanks 1790 14.3      
Total 12495 100.0 100.0    
Rep. in Congress (5th District)
Candidate Cambridge Votes Cambridge % Cambridge %
w/o Blanks
Overall Votes Overall %
Katherine M. Clark 5633 78.2 89.6    
Sheldon Schwartz 646 9.0 10.3    
Write-ins 11 0.2 0.2    
Blanks 914 12.7      
Total 7204 100.0 100.0    

The Ides of September - Sept 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

This week's central agenda item is the vote to approve the appropriation of CPA funds.

80% for Affordable HousingManager's Agenda #8. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, requesting that the City Council formally appropriate/allocate the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as follows:

1A. 80% of the FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($6,240,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

1B. 10% of FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($780,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

1C. 10% of FY2015 CPA Local Fund revenues ($780,000) allocated to Open Space;

2A. 80% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($1,360,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust;

2B. 10% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($170,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

2C. 10% of FY2014 State Match revenues ($170,000) allocated to Open Space;

3A. 80% of the Fund Balance ($2,400,000) allocated to Affordable Housing and appropriated to the Affordable Housing Trust;

3B. 10% of the Fund Balance ($300,000) allocated to Historic Preservation;

3C. 10% of the Fund Balance ($300,000) allocated to Open Space;

4A. Appropriate ($10,000) from the Fund Balance for the cost of the Community Preservation Coalition Membership Dues.

Manager’s Letter     Full Report

The information is provided here only to highlight the City's continuing commitment to dedicating the maximum 80% of Community Preservation Act funds toward Affordable Housing initiatives and the minimum 10% each to Open Space Acquisition and to Historic Preservation. These are the only three permissible uses for CPA funds.

Applications & Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Charles D. Teague, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to clarify existing ordinance so that said ordinance can be enforced: align the zoning amendment expiration date in the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to be the same as state law, align the Special Permit criteria with adjudicated state law and require that the master plan be followed whereas following the master plan is optional under state law.

As to the first proposal regarding expiration dates of zoning petitions, this is a simple correction that the City Council should have addressed when they were first alerted to the discrepancy by the City Solicitor. I wrote here on July 29, 2013: "The ambiguity between zoning petition expiration dates can be simply resolved via a minor change in the Zoning Ordinance. It's baffling why no city councillor has yet proposed this solution."

The second proposal calls for changing the language in the Zoning Ordinance so that Special Permits "may be granted" rather than "will normally be granted" by the Planning Board if all the Special Permit criteria are met. This would be a major change from a relatively clear process with established criteria to an environment in which there may as well be no criteria at all.

The third proposal is actually pretty funny (as well as absurd). Mr. Teague was perhaps the single most outspoken person making the claim during last year's municipal election season that Cambridge had no master plan. Now he's saying that the very thing he said did not exist must now be followed to the letter. Even if Mr. Teague had a change of heart regarding his beliefs, it would perhaps be a good idea if he tried to understand the difference between planning principles and legally enforceable ordinances. It's an important difference.

Resolution #18. Declare Sept 21, 2014 as Gratitude Day in the City of Cambridge.   Mayor Maher

I am most grateful to Mayor Maher for this Resolution.

Order #4. Scheduling of Roundtable/Working Meetings on Oct 6, 2014 with the Affordable Housing Trust, Dec 1, 2014 to discuss city-wide planning including discussions with the Planning Board and Jan 12, 2015 to discuss city-wide planning including discussions with the Planning Board.   Mayor Maher

Order #5. That the Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee schedule a meeting to review the City Council's most recent goals and make recommendations for FY16 Goals to include the addition of a goal relating to City-Wide Planning.   Mayor Maher

It's worth noting that these steps addressing City-Wide Planning are taking place the week after the distraction of the Carlone Petition was finally eliminated. This is not to say that there won't be other zoning petitions forthcoming. In particular, it seems likely that those who wish to block the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment and those opposed to building housing in the Alewife area may yet have a few cards to play.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public meeting held on July 9, 2014 to discuss the Community Development Department's efforts to preserve expiring use buildings, and a discussion about inclusionary zoning and the Nexus study.

In the spirit of moving on to more important business, it's about time that these housing-related matters are fully addressed. In particular, an increase in the inclusionary zoning requirement will likely have to permit additional density to cover the cost of the additional "affordable" units. That will likely require some uncomfortable political choices. The preservation of expiring use buildings is now a top priority of the Affordable Housing Trust and the Housing Division of the Community Development Department. Suffice to say that the cost of preserving existing affordable housing units is generally far less than building new affordable housing units. - Robert Winters

Comments?

Back in Session - Notable Items on the Sept 8, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda

SeptemberSummer's over. Here are a few agenda items that caught my eye.

Manager's Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-72, regarding a report on evaluating parking around the Sullivan Courthouse.

There is little doubt that issues of traffic and parking will continue to be part of the discussion of the future use of the Courthouse building at 40 Thorndike St. A proper comparison should be between the previous active use as a courthouse/prison vs. the proposed uses for office/housing/retail. The availability of on-street resident parking and an analysis of the existing structured parking in the area are part of this discussion. This report addresses the former.

Manager's Agenda #13. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-80, regarding a report on fluoride in the City's water supply.

Read Saul Tannenbaum's take on this: https://www.cctvcambridge.org/WaterFluoridation

Manager's Agenda #14. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-75, regarding a report on possible options for preserving the Silver Maple Forest. [Letters from DPW Commissioner Owen O'Riordan and DCR Commissioner John Murray]

Most people, including the City Manager, feel that this area would be preferably preserved as open space but, as the report and the attached letters indicate, "it's complicated" and there are plenty of competing priorities when it comes to land acquisition.

Applications & Petitions #8. A zoning petition has been received from CJUF III Northpoint LLC to amend certain provision of the City of Cambridge Zoning Ordinance that govern the Planned Unit Development in the North Point Residence District to allow limited amounts of off-street retail parking.

This appears to address the need for sufficient parking to support retail uses planned for the North Point area. This is completely in line with the nearly universal desire for mixed use development in this area and elsewhere in the city.

Communications #7. A communication was received from Gerald Bergman, 82 Elm Street, regarding the ongoing debate about the Carlone Petition.

Most communications sent to the City Council in recent years have been boring repetitions of talking points pushed by various advocacy groups. Gerry Bergman's letter, in contrast, is a substantial appeal that greater attention be paid to the affordability of housing. Whether you agree or disagree with the points he makes, Gerry's letter offers detailed suggestions and is worth reading. Even if the affordability of housing is an issue that can only be meaningfully addressed regionally, it's important that Cambridge continue to hold up its part of that conversation.

Resolution #4. Resolution on the death of Peter A. Vellucci.   Councillor Toomey

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Mayor Emeritus Walter J. Sullivan.   Mayor Maher, Councillor Toomey and Councillor Simmons

I note these resolutions simply to once again note the loss of these two major Cambridge political figures on the same day in early August.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to issue a report to the City Council that details how many City jobs have been outsourced to outside vendors since 2010, how the decision is made to consider outsourcing a job that was originally an internal hire, how the outside vendors are chosen, what the benefits to the City are of outsourcing these jobs to outside vendors, and whether individuals working in these positions have the same job benefits and protections as those who work directly for the City have.   Councillor Simmons and Councillor McGovern

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to issue a report to the City Council that outlines what the City's hiring process is, whether Cambridge residents are given preference when applying for jobs, whether internal candidates are given preference over external candidates, and what the City's procedure is for encouraging employee advancement and professional development for current employees.   Councillor Simmons and Councillor McGovern

Both of these Orders seem like reasonable requests for clarification of policies regarding the hiring and advancement of City employees. They provide an interesting contrast with the discussions and resulting ordinance of 20 years ago that mandated residency for many City jobs. Whether or not you agreed with that short-lived ordinance (it was repealed a few months after ordination when a new City Council took office), the simple fact is that the high cost of housing in Cambridge creates a significant dilemma if the ideal is to have people who work in (and for) Cambridge also live in Cambridge.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with Community Development Department and report back to the City Council with a summary of previous recommendations for the Volpe Center site included in planning studies such as but not limited to, ECAPS, Neighborhood Planning Studies, K2, and efforts by the East Cambridge Planning Team and that the report summarize zoning and zoning overlays, and outline the development potential and limitation of this area.   Councillor Toomey

The future of the Volpe Transportation Center site in Kendall Square may well prove to be one of the major planning opportunities for the next few years if it does become available for redevelopment. Much of the housing recommendations in the K2 study were focused on the Volpe site and there have been indications that the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and the Community Development Department are eager to realize those recommendations in some form or another.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and any other appropriate City or State Departments to create a pedestrian stairway leading from the sidewalk on Alewife Brook Parkway to the Fresh Pond Mall parking lot.   Councillor McGovern

Though this seems like a perfectly reasonable idea that builds upon what people are already doing today, I expect that ADA requirements will drive up the cost and complexity of such an accommodation to the point where nothing happens.

Order #10. The City Manager report back to the City Council with an update on work underway to recommend changes to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, next steps to be taken by staff and the City Council toward the goal of amending the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to increase the ratio of required affordable units, and implications of such an increase so that the City Council can be prepared to take up changes to this important Ordinance.   Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan

This is a timely Order that acknowledges the fact that there will be trade-offs associated with any change in the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, e.g. the need to permit additional height and density in order to deliver the desired affordable housing units.

Order #12. The City Manager is requested to work with the City Clerk and the IT Department to create a searchable, sortable public online resource which clearly displays all policy orders that have come before the City Council, including also: each City Council member's voting record, information on the City Manager's progress on each order, any departmental notes related to any given order, and an estimated timeline related to any given order.   Councillor Mazen

For any consequential City Council Order, this is usually achieved by the inclusion of language in the Order requiring a report back from the City Manager. The inclusion of each councillor's voting record seems more politically motivated than anything else and, besides, most Orders pass unanimously. It is perhaps better to let the City Manager and the various City departments do their job of prioritizing and acting on City Council orders without unnecessary bookkeeping of every action taken and when. Then again, if micromanagement is your thing, then this Order is for you. For the most part, the City administration has been very responsive to City Council requests over the last few years even when juggling many such requests.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Chair of the Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee for a public hearing held on Aug 14, 2014 to review expenditures/allotments in reference to the City Council Travel and City Council Resolutions with possible amendments, the position of Deputy City Clerk and any other items that may properly come before the Committee.

The central recommendations of this report are that (a) individual councillors should get an increase in their annual allotments for job-related travel; (b) councillors should restrain themselves from submitting excessive numbers of resolutions; and (c) Paula Crane should be appointed as Deputy City Clerk. These are all good proposals. There was some discussion of placing a strict quota on how many resolutions each councillor could file, but it does seem that voluntary compliance is the better way to go with public shaming of any councillor who goes overboard.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on July 30, 2014 to discuss a zoning petition filed by Dennis Carlone, et al. requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to designate the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Aug 27, 2014 to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge to designate the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits.

These are the reports of the two Ordinance Committee hearings concerning the Carlone Petition which will hopefully be euthanized in short order. Even Councillor Carlone acknowledged that this was really about putting the brakes on at most three projects currently in the pipeline (Courthouse redevelopment, New Street housing, and Alewife Triangle housing). It will be in everyone's best interest if this petition is put to sleep and attention redirected toward the proposed citywide planning process. That said, the intense focus by some advocates on the Courthouse and other projects could lead to other zoning petitions in the coming weeks that are more site-specific.

One thing I'll say specifically about the second Ordinance Committee meeting on this topic was how effectively some of the more specious claims by some advocates (regarding the Alewife area and New Street) were refuted. Specifically, requirements for any new development in the Alewife area would produce greater flood storage capacity than now exists, and any "brownfield" aspects of proposed housing sites on New Street are subject to full review and required remediation. In short, redevelopment would yield cleaner sites and greater flood protection than doing nothing - in addition to any new housing that is provided. Then again, perhaps this is really all about traffic in the final analysis, and the fact that residential housing has minimal traffic impact is something people just don't want to hear.

UPDATE: The Carlone Petition was euthanized at the Sept 8 meeting. A motion to pass it to a 2nd Reading failed on a 3-5-1 vote with Councillors Carlone, Mazen, and Simmons voting YES; and Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillors Kelley, McGovern, Toomey, and Mayor Maher voting NO. Councillor Cheung was ABSENT.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a communication from Mayor David P. Maher announcing the formation of a Special Mayor's Commission to explore the issues surrounding poverty and its effects on our community and Councillor McGovern will chair this Commission.

Good idea, Mr. Mayor, and you chose the right Chair.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting copies of two Acts of 2014 signed by the Governor, An Act Authorizing the Department of Conservation and Recreation to Lease Certain Parkland in the City of Cambridge; and An Act Authorizing the Commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to Convey a certain parcel of land in the City of Cambridge.

I look forward to hearing a little more detail about the second of the two documents having to do with land conveyed in the North Point area (possibly for the proposed skate park). The first of these concerns the lease of the Powder House at Magazine Beach to the City of Cambridge. This opens up the possibility of an active use of this structure in conjunction with the great restoration work now underway. - Robert Winters

Comments?


Upcoming Civic Opportunities

Tues, Sept 30

3:00pm   The City Council's Housing Committee will conduct a public meeting with the Community Development Department to provide updates on inclusionary zoning, linkage, the Nexus Study, the three expiring use buildings (Briston Arms, the Close Building and Fresh Pond Apartments) that the City is working to preserve and preferences for affordable housing waitlists.  (831 Mass. Ave., Basement Conference Room)

7:00pm   Planning Board meeting  (Kennedy Longfellow Auditorium, 158 Spring Street, East Cambridge)

General Business

1. Update by Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.

Public Hearing

7:00pm   PB#288 – 40 Thorndike Street, Special Permits to convert the existing nonconforming Courthouse structure at 40 Thorndike Street to a mixed use office building containing ground floor retail uses, 24 dwelling units, and below grade parking. Special permits are sought pursuant to Section 19.20 Project Review, Section 8.22.2.a. Alteration of a Nonconforming Structure, Section 5.28.2 (et seq.), conversion of a Non-Residential Structure to Residential Use, and Section 10.40 General Special Permit Requirements. LMP GP Holdings, c/o Leggat McCall Properties, LLC is the applicant.

The purpose of this continued hearing is for the Planning Board to deliberate and discuss materials and information presented at the prior hearing held on July 29, 2014. The Planning Board may possibly entertain new public comment during or after its discussion. Written comment may be submitted to the Planning Board prior to the meeting by e-mail to lpaden@cambridgema.gov.

Wed, Oct 1

5:30pm   Cambridge Election Commission meeting.  (1st Floor Meeting Room, 51 Inman St.)

I. MINUTES

II. REPORTS

1. Executive Director’s Report

2. Assistant Director's Report

3. Commissioners' Reports

III. PUBLIC COMMENT

IV. ACTION AGENDA

Unfinished Business

1. 2014 State Primary - Tues, Sept 9 - Election Review

New Business

1. 2014 State Election – November 4, 2014

Mon, Oct 6

5:30pm   City Council Roundtable/Working Meeting with the Affordable Housing Trust.  (344 Broadway, Second Floor Conference Room)

Tues, Oct 7

7:00pm   Planning Board meeting  (2nd floor meeting room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

Wed, Oct 8

4:00pm   The City Council's Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee will conduct a public hearing to review the City Council's most recent goals and to make recommendations for FY16 Goals; said Goals to include a goal relating to City-wide Planning. (Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway)

Wed, Oct 15

5:30pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a zoning petition filed by CJUF III Northpoint LLC to amend certain provision of the City of Cambridge Zoning Ordinance that govern the Planned Unit Development in the North Point Residence District to allow limited amounts of off-street retail parking. This hearing to be televised.  (Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway)

Mon, Oct 20

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

Tues, Oct 21

7:00pm   Planning Board meeting  (2nd floor meeting room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

Wed, Oct 22

3:00pm   The City Council's Transportation and Public Utilities Committee will conduct a public hearing to examine the potential for deploying truck side guards across all city-owned trucks as part of a proposed "Safe Truck" program for testing innovative tools that will enhance protections for cyclists and pedestrians.  (831 Mass. Ave., Basement Conference Room)

Mon, Oct 27

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

Thurs, Oct 30

5:00pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.28 entitled "Restrictions on Youth Access and Sale of Tobacco Products and Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places." (Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway)


September Programs at Fresh Pond Reservation

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

A Remembrance of Chip Norton, Watershed Manager for the Cambridge Water Department:
http://www.friendsoffreshpond.org/calendar2014/photopages2014cal/jan14/p01-13-14chipnorton.htm
Kids’ Walks
Dates: Fridays from Sept 12 through Nov 21
Time: 10-11:30am
    for young kids and their parents/caretakers. Join CWD staff and volunteers for casual explorations and play in our urban wild! We meet at Maher Park (650 Concord Ave) through October 3. For the rest of Oct. and Nov. we meet at the Ranger Station (far side of the Water Dept building, 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy). Heavy rain or thunder cancels. Contact: Kirsten at (617) 349-6489, klindquist@cambridgema.gov.

Wake-Up and Weed!
Dates: Every Thursday (except Sept 4)
Time: 10am to 12noon
Place: Volunteer trailer in the lower parking lot in front of the Water Dept.
    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. For more information contact Kirsten at 617-349-6489 / klindquist@cambridgema.gov. No registration necessary.

Tours of the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Facility
Dates: Monday Evenings: Oct 6, Nov 3
Time: 6:00 to 7:30pm
Location: Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy
    The Cambridge Water Department is offering tours of the City's beautiful Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility. The program will include a virtual tour of the Cambridge water supply system, explaining the process by which water that falls as rain in the suburbs 10 miles west of Cambridge is transported to Fresh Pond and made into pure drinking water for our city. Come, and bring your questions. For more information and parking directions, contact Kirsten at (617) 349-6489 / klindquist@cambridgema.gov

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

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

The Fresh Pond Reservation Stewardship Program
Fresh Pond Reservation users are getting involved! The Cambridge Water Department's Fresh Pond Reservation Stewardship Program brings people together on a regular basis to monitor plants, conduct maintenance activities, and to learn about the ecology and history of the area. You can find out about projects that are being planned for this summer, including invasive plants removal, Purple Loosestrife nursery monitoring, bird box monitoring, and more. Call Kirsten Kindquist at 617-349 6489 or email klindquist@cambridgema.gov for more information.

Read the Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation Annual "Year in Review (2013)"

Grow Native Massachusetts is offering a series of free nature-related "Evenings with Experts" lectures at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Details are at www.grownativemass.org and grownativemass.org/programs/eveningswithexperts in particular. First Wednesdays of the Month, 7:00-8:30pm.

• Sign up for the City of Cambridge's informative "Recycling and Composting Newsletter" by e-mailing recycle@cambridgema.gov.

AMC Local Walks/Hikes - Come for a walk or hike with us.
AMC Local WalksSat, Oct 4. Acton Arboretum. Slow-paced nature walk in search of a variety of autumn fruits and wildflowers. The walk will focus on plant ID and natural history. 9:30am-12:30pm. From Concord rotary, take Rte 2 West 2.2 miles, Right on Taylor Road 0.7 miles to Arboretum on right. Arrive early, parking limited. (Note - sign faces opposite direction). Steady rain cancels. L Boot Boutwell. AMC Local WalksSat, Oct 4. Neponset River Greenway/Milton Hill. 5-mile walk along Neponset River to Hutchinson Field, 9:30am-12:15pm. Bring snack. Meet at Hallet Street entrance to Pope John Paul II Park. From Route 93N, take exit 11 (11B from Route 93S) to Granite Avenue, north over Neponset River, immediate right on Hilltop Street, right under bridge into parking lot. E-mail if severe weather. L Mike Tuohey.
AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 5. Blue Hills, Milton. Moderate-to-strenuous hike including Skyline Trail, 9:30am-2:30pm. Bring lunch/water/sturdy footwear. From I-93/Route 128 Exit 3, travel north for 0.5 mi. to the stop sign, turn right on Hillside St. Go 0.2 mi. to Houghton's Pond lot on right. Heavy rain cancels. L Henry Gardner. AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 5. Boston/Charlestown Harbor Walk. Visit scenic & historic sites on brisk 12-mi. walk along waterfront from Charlestown to Dorchester Heights, 9:00am. Stop for lunch in North End. Shorter options available. Meet at Kendall T sta., Cambridge. Rain cancels. Dogs OK. L Shelly Elzweig.
AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 12. Wollaston Beach, Quincy. Fast-paced 7-mi walk along Wollaston Beach, Marina Bay, Squantum, 9:00am-noon. Bring snack/water. From SE Expwy, exit 8(Quincy), take Furnace Brook Pkwy. 2.8mi, L onto Quincy Shore Dr. L at first light into lot. Storm cancels. L Beth Mosias. AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 12. Middlesex Fells, Winchester. Sheepfold Pkg. lot. Mod to stren. 6-7 mi. hike over many hills & rough terrain. 9:00am-2:00pm. Bring lunch, H2O, snacks. Rte. 93 S to exit 35. At stop sign, go L under highway. At next stop sign go R. At first set of lights turn R onto Rte. 28. Turn R into Sheepfold entrance. Rte. 93 N to exit 33 (Route 28). Sheepfold entrance is 2 miles up on the L. Cancel if rain. L Nelson Caraballo.
AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 12. Emerald Necklace, Boston. Enjoy our historical heritage, appreciate the wonder which is the Back Bay and learn more about Frederick Olmsted. We will walk about 6 miles at a moderate pace with stops to enjoy major sights but we should be done by 12:30pm. We will meet at the Arlington T stop, in front of Hermes at the corner of Boylston and Arlington at 9:30am. From the Commonwealth Mall to Park Drive to the Muddy River to Jamaica Pond and on to the Arboretum. Most of the Necklace will be covered. End at Forest Hills T on the Orange Line. We will cross 2 or 3 roads but otherwise be off the roads. L Eveline Weyl. AMC Local WalksSun, Oct 12. Williams Barn area, Groton. 1:00pm. New conservation land has been acquired and new trails built in this beautiful area. The exact route will be determined by the leader on the fly, but we are sure to see beaver ponds, eskers, streams, upland forest, and generally pretty New England woods. Meet in the Williams Barn parking area on Chicopee Row, 42.6265N 71.5610W. About 2 hours. L Olin Lathrop.

We're taking a few weeks off from Cambridge InsideOut. We're down a co-host and considering our options.

Recent Broadcasts of Cambridge InsideOut    [complete list of shows]

Aug 19 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 79 and 80 with Terry Smith

Cambridge InsideOutAug 5 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 77 and 78 with Patty Nolan

July 29 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 75 and 76 with Brian Corr

July 22 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 73 and 74 with Marc McGovern

July 15 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 71 and 72: News and Events, July 2014

July 1 - Transportation Safety w/guest Rozann Kraus

June 24 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 67-68: More News Around Town

June 17 - Tales from the Democratic Convention and other news from around town

June 10 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 63 and 64 with Glenn Koocher
We had a great time doing these shows with the man who invented the original Cambridge InsideOut - Glenn Koocher.

June 3 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 61 and 62 – News and Commentary

Watch Cambridge InsideOut on CCTV every Tuesday at 5:30pm and 6:00pm. The co-hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters.


Three Secret Gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Cambridge Selected to Compete for $5 Million Dollar Energy Efficiency Prize

Aug 12 - The City Cambridge was one of 52 communities across the country selected to advance to the quarterfinalist round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a $5 million incentive competition to reduce America’s energy consumption.

Cambridge has assembled a municipal team, outlined a plan and secured signed commitments of collaboration from NSTAR, MIT and HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team).

“Getting to the Quarterfinals is just the beginning, now the Cambridge community needs to generate real energy savings by upping everyone’s commitment to energy efficiency and solar,” said City Manager Richard C. Rossi.

Cambridge is motivated to succeed because it currently pays some of the highest energy prices in the country, so the next challenge is to motivate renters, landlords and homeowners to tackle energy efficiency and solar installations.  Significant energy efficiency strides are necessary for the Cambridge community to achieve net-zero for all energy use in buildings.

In total, over the two years of the GUEP competition, Cambridge and other participants have the potential to save more than $1 billion in total energy costs and cut millions of tons of CO2 emissions.

“The communities GUEP selected are leaders in energy efficiency who will develop innovative approaches that will inspire and enable others to follow in their footsteps,” said Dr. Francis Slakey, Founder and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize.

“Over the next few months, we will fine tune our energy efficiency plans and look for input and participation from the community through our school children, educational institutions, landlords, tenants and homeowners,” said Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.  “We welcome hearing from individuals who want to volunteer their time and energy to making Cambridge the home of energy innovation.”

To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition’s progress, visit www.guep.org, or follow the Prize on Twitter (@GUEnergyPrize).

About Georgetown University Energy Prize
The Georgetown University Energy Prize aims to rethink America’s energy use by harnessing the ingenuity and community spirit of towns and cities all across America. Over the course of a two-year period, the Prize will challenge small- to medium-size towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. To compete for the Prize, local governments, residents, utilities and others will need to work together to demonstrate success in sustainably reducing energy consumption. For more information, visit www.guep.org.


August 8 - I just returned from the wake for Walter J. Sullivan. Though the event is the death of a great man, this was a thoroughly joyful experience. So many people from all walks of life were there, including many people from political life past and present. It was like a walk down a half century and more of Cambridge history - and not the history of buildings and events. This is the history of the many long time families of Cambridge - and everybody knew Walter. - RW


A Really Bad Idea gets its first hearing

July 30 - I attended a City Council Ordinance Committee today on the topic of the Carlone Petition that would transfer much of the Special Permit granting authority from the Planning Board to the City Council for the next several years. This is perhaps the second worse zoning petition I've seen introduced over the last three decades. Though I had not intended to speak at the meeting, after hearing all the rubbish that was said during public comment, I really had to chime in with a little perspective. It's unfortunate that Councillor Toomey couldn't make the meeting (it was a very busy day at the State House) because as a city councillor since 1990 he would have been able to provide the kind of institutional memory that some of the new kids on the block simply don't possess. It is at times like this that I really miss Councillor Reeves who could usually be counted on to set the record straight.

One thing that some councillors forget, never knew, or perhaps just want to avoid is the whole idea behind devices like Special Permits, Overlay Districts, and Planned Unit Developments. There was a time when zoning was a lot more cut and dried. Districts were designated as Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and perhaps another category or two. There were also some mixed districts such as neighborhood-scale mixed retail and residential. (I live in such a district.) There were also established limits on height and density and setbacks appropriate to some districts, though there were also zones with no such limits. The zoning determined what you could build "as of right," and you did not have to go to the Planning Board or the City Council just as long as your plans did not exceed the prescribed limits. On some occasions you might have to seek a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals if you needed a little relief. It was all pretty simple.

Over time, the allowed heights and densities have been increased when there was a desire to attract new construction or, in more recent times, to "downzone" to lower heights and densities in response to demands for "liveable neighborhoods." The last few decades also saw the introduction of Overlay Districts and Planned Unit Developments as devices that would allow the Planning Board to have a little more flexibility as a means of extracting desirable outcomes. One device that was used in conjunction with these districts and, more recently, in some other districts, was the Special Permit process.

The basic (and very good) idea of the Special Permit process is this: Cap what can be built as of right (by lowering heights and densities), but allow a property owner/developer some additional height or density in exchange for providing certain carefully specified benefits. These constitute the Special Permit Criteria. It's really a form of gentle extortion for the public good. Better building design, publicly accessible open space, additional housing are examples of Special Permit criteria, and it's the City Council who votes on what criteria are specified in the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Board (in conjunction with City staff) is then charged with ensuring that the criteria are met, and the deal is pretty simple: Meet the criteria and you get the Special Permit.

It has to be emphasized that this is not a blank check. There are still limits on height and density for projects built under a Special Permit, and it's all laid out in the Zoning Code passed by the City Council. Fortunately, there's an expert Planning Board and City staff to sort out all the details. They don't have too much discretion to address "bigger issues" because that was never intended. The Planning Board are not the policy-makers. That task is left to the elected City Council and that's what they do when they amend the Zoning Ordinance. This includes modifying the Special Permit criteria depending on what incentives for the public good they decide might be extracted via the Special Permit process. Even in the disposition of proposed zoning amendments, whether those proposed by residents or by the Planning Board itself, the Board only makes recommendations to the City Council, and it's up to the City Council to adopt, amend, or reject the proposal.

Creating incentives for new housing via Special Permit in former industrial areas was an initiative of the City Council a little more than a decade ago. Not too much housing was produced at first, but in recent years the goal of new housing has been happening at a quicker pace. It's happening because the City Council wanted it to happen, and now newly-spawned groups such as the Cambridge Residents Alliance (CRA) and the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA) are howling in protest. Instead of proposing modification of the Special Permit incentives, we instead get the Carlone Petition (which, by the way, was also signed by Councillor Mazen). It will be a shock if it gets more than those two votes, and it requires six votes out of nine to pass. The best course of action for the City Council would be to discuss it briefly at the next Ordinance Committee meeting and then forward it to the full City Council with a negative recommendation. Then they can process it into the dumpster in September.

The Carlone Petition survives now only as a political organizing tool for Carlone (and Mazen), Carlone's supporters, and his paid City Council aide Mike Connolly who is receiving a City paycheck for what is fundamentally outside political activity with the CRA. [This, of course, was inevitable when these Council aide positions were established. Virtually all of these aides played significant roles in the elections of the people for whom they now work, and it's hard to imagine firing any one of them without inviting retaliation from the associated councillor.] The City Council could and should be tackling more significant matters, including adjustments to the Special Permit criteria if they feel the need. There were a lot of good ideas generated during the K2C2 process that are languishing on the back burner while time and effort is wasted on Carlone's Folly. Now would be a good time for some leadership from the other seven city councillors. - Robert Winters

2014 SUMMER/FALL EVENTS -- Magazine Beach Park

Magazine Beach Park is located on the Charles River at the foot of Magazine St., Cambridge, MA.

Plenty for all...this summer & fall

Sat & Sun, Oct 18-19
Head of Charles Regatta
8am-5pm | Fabulous vantage point for viewing and cheering world-class rowers in this iconic race.
Bring a picnic. FREE.
November
Cambridge Arts Exhibit
Magazine Beach Exhibit | Views of a Changing Public Resource. Cambridge Arts - Gallery 344, 344 Broadway. FREE.

For news & event updates: www.magazinebeach.org -- In case of rain, check event updates on our website.

June 9 - This week Cambridge received the Congress of New Urbanism Charter Award, regarded as the preeminent global award for excellence in urban design.

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

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

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

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


K2C2 Final Reports Released

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

Community Development Department

Kendall Square Central Square Planning Study (K2C2)

Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013

Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013

Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013

Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013

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

Comments?


Open for Comments - CCJ Forum

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Sept 19, 2014)

The Ides of September – Sept 15, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights (Sept 14, 2014)

Back in Session – Notable Items on the Sept 8, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda (Sept 8, 2014)

Cambridge Discovery Day Historical Tours – Saturday, Sept 20, 2014 (posted Sept 3, 2014)

Cambridge Challenges Somerville to the Ice Bucket (Aug 20, 2014)

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 79 and 80 with Terry Smith (Aug 19, 2014)

2013 Cambridge City Council Campaign Finance Receipts - Jan 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014 (updated Aug 16, 2014)

Campaign Finance – 2013 Cambridge City Council candidates (May 25, 2013, updated Aug 16, 2014)

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 77 and 78 with Patty Nolan (Aug 5, 2014)

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 75 and 76 with Brian Corr (July 29, 2014)

Mayor David Maher Announces Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Allston Street Fire (July 29, 2014)

Midsummer Night’s Distraction – July 28, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda (July 27, 2014)

Master Plans and Monkey Wrenches – June 30, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda (June 30, 2014)

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 63 and 64 with Glenn Koocher (June 10, 2014)

Master Plan Mythology and other Big Items on the Apr 7, 2014 City Council Agenda (Apr 7, 2014)

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

Cambridge School Committee 2013 Campaign Finance Summaries (Nov 3, 2013, updated Feb 8, 2014)

K2C2 Final Reports Released (Dec 31, 2013)

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

Completing the Square (June 11, 2013)

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

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

On becoming a True Cantabrigian (Dec 29, 2012)

Enjoying? the Concord Avenue "raised bike lanes" (Dec 3, 2012 by John Allen)

Cycle track disease is contagious! (Nov 14, 2012 by John Allen)

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

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

Specific issues with Western Avenue project (posted Nov 3, 2010 by John Allen)

Western Avenue proposal: ill-considered (posted Oct 27, 2010 by John Allen)

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

Comments on Cambridge’s Western Avenue project (posted June 22, 2010 by John Allen)

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


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

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

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

The Neverending Study of Central Square

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 1987 - Central Square Action Plan

1989 - Draft Central Square Development Guidelines

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

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

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

May 1995 - Central Square Improvements Project, Master Plan Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 - CDD Central Square Customer Intercept Survey Report

2011 - Central Square Market Profile

2011 - Red Ribbon Commission Study Report

2012 - Goody/Clancy report and recommendations

2013 - K2C2 Final Reports


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

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

City Council Rules 2010-2011 (adopted January 4, 2010 and amended April 5, 2010)

City Council Goals - FY2010-2011 (approved February 2, 2009)

City Council Committees (for the 2010-2010 term)


School Committee Rules (adopted January 7, 2008)

School Committee Goals (adopted October 7, 2008)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Selected City of Cambridge References:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Which People's Republic
written by Bill Cunningham, 1999


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memorable scene in "A Christmas Carol"



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