City Council Agenda Highlights (5/8/17)

The agenda for the Cambridge City Council meeting on Monday, May 8th is posted online. It is another short agenda so my summary is brief. Budget hearings continue this week on Tuesday, May 9 at 6pm (school budget) and Wednesday, May 10 at 9am (Day 2 of city departmental budgets).

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Reappointment of Kathy Born to Redevelopment Authority. Any appointment to the CRA requires a hearing of the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee. This may give us an opportunity to discuss the new plan for renovating and repurposing the Foundry, which the CRA is overseeing. The CRA next meets on 5/17.

#2 Funding for O’Connell Library Pocket Park Renovation: The East Cambridge Open Space Trust will fund a delightful new pocket park to enhance this small library on 6th St. Funding received from the Trust is $283K. The park also received CPA funding in 2016.

#3 Bond refinancing: The City Manager is seeking our okay to refund prior bond issues in order to refinance at lower rates for a potential savings up to $2M. The bond recall and reissue would take place later this month, assuming market conditions remain favorable.

Applications and Petitions:

#1 Harding Petition Withdrawn: The petitioners, which include School Committee member Richard Harding, negotiated with the Mass + Main developer for some mitigation benefits for the Elks Lodge, which abuts part of the project, and so have withdrawn their downzoning petition.

Policy Orders:

#1 What can we learn from Bridj? I sponsored this order to ask that the City contact the founder of Bridj to explore if there is any potential for a future collaboration and what can be learned. Bridj was a popular Boston-based start-up that offered on-demand bus service to fill gaps in routes not well served by the MBTA. Unfortunately Bridj folded recently, after a funding deal with an automaker fell through. As Cambridge explores way to improve transit, it seems helpful to understand the particular challenges Bridj faced.

#2 Resolution to support the Safe Communities Act: This bill aims to protect the civil rights and due process of immigrants and Muslims. Here is the ACLU’s overview of the proposed legislation. Sen. Jamie Eldridge is the lead sponsor.

#4 We shouldn’t pay twice for gas leaks: Natural gas leaks already carry an environmental cost, but we shouldn’t have to pay for leaks on our utility bills, too. This is a resolution to support state legislation (another bill sponsored by Jamie Eldridge) to prevent consumers from being charged for gas leaks. It’s supported by Mothers Out Front, which has been advocating for finding and fixing gas leaks.

#5 Consider traffic signal at Walden and Raymond intersection: This is currently a 4-way stop, but the intersection’s proximity to Raymond Park and the volume of traffic on Walden has always posed safety concerns for people crossing.

#6 Fostering more charitable giving in Cambridge: This idea grew out of a recent committee hearing on the Community Needs Assessment Report, which showed stark and growing inequities in income and opportunity concentrated in several neighborhoods of Cambridge and with a high correlation to race. During the hearing we discussed the urgent need to significantly increase corporate and individual charitable giving to local nonprofits, which I compared to launching a “Local First” campaign for philanthropy. Councillor Mazen is proposing public-private initiative with a $50M goal.

Committee Reports:

#1 MBTA passes for low-income CRLS students: We are sending a favorable recommendation through the Mayor to the School Committee to consider subsidizing free MBTA passes to all CRLS students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

#2 Vacant and abandoned buildings ordinance: We generally supported the goal of deterring land-banking by imposing a fee on vacant and abandoned buildings, but left this in committee to give the staff time to refine the language of the ordinance and to plan a workable enforcement system.

#3 Tree policies: I chaired a Health and Environment Committee hearing on our efforts to protect and enhance our public trees. Starting this fall, a to-be-formed tree task force will work with a consultant to develop a master plan for the urban canopy. We also have launched the Adopt a Tree program. I made a motion to receive a report on the number of empty tree wells citywide and a schedule for when they will be replanted.

Public Comment and Viewing Meetings:

Public comment begins at 5:30 pm. Each person is allowed to speak for up to 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 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 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