Highlights of this week’s Council agenda:
At this meeting it is anticipated that we will vote to formally adopt the FY17 operating budget, public investment fund, and water fund and to approve several loan requests and appropriations that appear under Unfinished Business.
#1 Hearing on leaf blower use: The Health and Environment Committee, which I chair, will hold a hearing on the negative impacts of leaf blowers and whether existing regulations and enforcement policies could be strengthened. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21 from 2-4 pm, and my order asks that it be televised and live-streamed.
#3 Funding for Grand Junction Path with sale of adjacent property? The One Kendall Square complex, which borders the Grand Junction Rail where a future multi-use path is planned, is for sale. Divco West acquired it 2 years ago and is seeking to sell it for a rumored $700M (about $300M above what it put into the property). This order asks about a contribution to the path. I don’t know if one was promised as part of a prior agreement. Divco West is the majority owner of North Point, which the path also benefits, and will be sharing the city’s $25M contribution to the Green Life Extension.
#4 Truck traffic endangering cyclists and pedestrians: This was probably prompted by a recent crash involving a large truck turning at Mass Ave and Sidney St. It’s more of a cri de coeur than a policy order, since there is no recommended policy change or action, so while no one would disagree that large trucks pose a safety issue the solution continues to elude us: equipping all trucks with side guards, improving road design and adding bike traffic signals and protected turning lanes, better driver and cyclist education, and more caution all around.
#5 Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2: The city is joining the #WearOrange movement against gun violence. A gun buy-back day has been scheduled for June 11. There have been several gun-related incidents, including gunshots last weekend in a parking lot in Central Square and a shooting on Harvard St earlier this month.
#6 More public notice of building demolitions: I sponsored this order to improve the Historical Commission’s public noticing procedures for proposed building demolitions. A poster similar to what is required for variance and special permit hearings and notice to neighborhood organizations would help ensure that residents are more broadly aware when potentially significant buildings may be demolished.
#7 Affordable Housing for Artists: This order seeks to stem the displacement of artists by devising a system to create a new priority category in the city’s inclusionary housing program for artists who meet to-be-developed “certification” standards. Boston and Somerville have programs that certify and prioritize working artists in certain developments and buildings. I like the idea, and wonder whether writers, dancers and musicians (and other low-wage creative practitioners) are included in the definition of “artists”?
Changes to liquor licensing regulations: I filed to reconsider the order we adopted a couple of weeks ago related to the process by which the License Commission proposes to change its rules. I submitted a detailed explanation of my concerns in a communication to my colleagues on the agenda.
City Manager’s Agenda:
#2, #3, #4, #5 #6, #21 & #22: Appointments to Boards and Commissions. New and reappointed members of the Human Rights Commission, the Arts Council Advisory Board, Public Art Commission, the Family Policy Council, the Harvard Square Advisory Board, the Board of Zoning Appeal, and the Police Review Board. I’m pleased to see that the Harvard Square Advisory Board will now include a youth voice with the appointment of Cambridge native and Harvard student, Maximillan Frank. One priority I have in mind for our next city manager is setting consistent and higher expectations for transparency, accountability, and diverse participation across all boards and commissions.
#9 Funding for new programming on Channel 22-CityView: The manager is requesting $25K for a new collaboration with CCTV. The item offers no details what this new programming on the city’s cable channel would cover. I’m curious.
#10 Hiring a facilitator for Council’s goal-setting: The City Council has not updated its policy goals since 2011, and we will be meeting in early June to begin the process of updating them and the manager is asking for $10.5K for a facilitator. This summer the city will conduct its 2016 biannual citizen survey, which also informs our goals.
#12 & #13 Funding job training, civics education and ESOL programs for immigrants: These are two of the many programs designed to help the city’s approximately 18K non-citizen residents. Last week we held a committee hearing on non-citizen representation and resources. The city is in the process of forming of a new Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship and is considering non-citizen suffrage and holding an Immigrants Day event.
#16 & #17 Mitigation funds allocated to creating middle-income housing: Mitigation funds totaling about $780K from two major commercial developments near Kendall Sq (Novartis and 300 Mass Ave/Takeda) are being placed in a fund to support middle income housing in those surrounding areas. This sounds good but I’d like a little more detail about the actual programs.
#23 Executive session to discuss taking former Chamber of Commerce building by eminent domain: The Chamber recently vacated its office building at 859 Mass Ave (on the corner of Clinton St). The building is in need of substantial renovation, but its location makes it attractive as expansion space for municipal departments that have outgrown their current quarters. There’s a little more detail in this Cambridge Day article.
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). To submit written comments, please email email@example.com and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next regular Council meeting.
City Council meetings are televised on Channel 22-CityView 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