City Council Agenda Highlights (5/2/16)

The agenda for the Cambridge City Council meeting on Monday, May 2nd is posted on the city’s Open Meeting Portal. It is a relatively short agenda but the next two weeks will be busy with budget hearings. See more details on the budget hearings in a separate post.

Save the date: Our May 16th meeting will be a televised Roundtable to hear an update by the Envision Cambridge planning team. It will start at 5:30pm following the annual city scholarship awards ceremony at City Hall. I’m pleased that my high school intern Ishrat Aishee is one of the scholarship recipients. A resident of East Cambridge, Ishrat attends Community Charter School of Cambridge and will go to Barnard College in the fall.

City Manager Agenda:

#2 & #3 Support for Homeless Families and Tenants at Risk of Eviction: A state DHCD grant of $156.5K is being allocated to the YWCA, which has been providing shelter and services for 6 homeless families. Other grants totaling $166.7K will fund the city’s Support for Tenants at Risk (STAR) program, which provides legal and other services to prevent low-income tenants from becoming homeless. In the current housing market these services are more in demand than ever.

#4 Low Income Heating Assistance Program: A federal grant of $95.9K will help 695 low-income Cambridge families with home heating costs.

#5 & #6 Two playgrounds to be reconstructed: A total of $1.64M is being allocated from Free Cash to fund the redesign and reconstruction of the Clarendon Ave and Morse School playgrounds. The playgrounds also received $260K each in Community Preservation Act (Open Space) funding, bringing the total to be spent on playgrounds to $2.16M.

Policy Orders:

#1 Riverside Health Center Building Re-Use: The former Riverside community health clinic on Western Ave was closed in 2009 when the Cambridge Health Alliance consolidated its operations. The order asks for an update on the building, which is supposed to be transferred back to the city for a TBD re-use.

#2 Sandwich Board Sign Policy Review: At last week’s meeting we again debated the policy goals and criteria for permitting sandwich board signs on sidewalks. I sponsored this order to send the question to the Economic Development Committee, which I chair, for more discussion. If every business feels it needs a sandwich board to compete with its neighbors, our sidewalks may soon become an obstacle course. We need to strike a better balance between the needs of businesses to augment existing signage and those of pedestrians. Our population is growing and we are encouraging people to walk and bike; we need to save space for people and bike parking and benches.

#3 Cambridgeport School Playground Repairs Status: Repairs and replacement of some playground equipment were announced a year ago, and the work was supposed to be completed by last fall, but appears stalled. The order asks for an update.

#4 City Voter Guide: The idea for the city to publish and distribute a guide for municipal elections grew out of some community organizing work of Councillor Nadeem Mazen, who sponsored the order. I’m one of the co-sponsors along with the Mayor and Vice Mayor. With over 30 candidates for City Council and School Committee and a proportional representation voting system that confuses even some with advanced degrees, it would be very helpful if residents received information on all the candidates from an objective source. Translated versions would be available, too.

Committee Reports:

#1 Cambridge Housing Authority Update: This committee report includes a presentation and many statistics on the CHA’s capital investment program known as RAD, which is pouring hundreds of millions into updating facilities and improving energy efficiency in our aging public housing stock. Every dollar invested by the city and CHA is leveraged with $8.66 in private equity and debt. Major construction projects in multiple buildings has strained an already tight market for affordable units. Wait lists for CHA units have been closed, and some CHA tenants have had to be temporarily relocated during construction. About half of Section 8 tenants with mobile vouchers are housed in the city’s inclusionary housing units.

Communications from Government Officers:

#1 Kendall Sq Urban Renewal Plan Amendment Approved: A letter from the state’s undersecretary of housing approves the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s plan to include more housing (including more affordable housing) and retail as well as incubator space in Boston Properties’ “MXD” projects that will add about 1M square feet in Kendall Sq over the next decade.

Public Comment and Viewing Meetings:

Public comment begins at 5:30 pm. Each person is allowed to speak for 3 minutes on any agenda item except for communications from other members of the public. You may call 617-349-4280 on Monday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign in when you arrive (before 6:00 pm). If you submit written public comments, please email council@cambridgema.gov and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at dlopez@cambridgema.gov. Your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next regular Council meeting.

City Council meetings are televised on CCTV Channel 22 and live streamed on the City Council’s website. Recorded versions of all Council meetings may be found on the city’s Open Meeting Portal.

 

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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA