City Council Agenda Highlights (2/5/18)

The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, February 5, 2018, at 5;30pm. The agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. Based on the number of items, I predict a short meeting. There is a new option for signing up online for public comment online, starting the Friday before the meeting (see below).

City Manager’s Agenda

#2 Funding for Community Schools: This $190K appropriation will cover program, contractor and transportation costs for the Community Schools, which are afterschool and summer programs that operate out of the elementary schools and are funded by the City’s Human Services Department. There are also school vacation day camps (February break is coming up!).

#3 Hitting tunnel at St. Peter’s Field in Danehy Park: This was something we asked for last term. It will cost $20K to install a new baseball batting tunnel on St Peter’s Field and to refurbish an older one for girls’ softball. St. Peter’s is the home field for both CRLS varsity teams.

Applications & Petitions:

#1 Banners for Food Truck Pilot: There will be banners announcing that we will be piloting food trucks in 3 new locations from April to October. The locations are City Hall, Sidney & Erie St and Cambridge Crossing. You can vote in a poll to choose which trucks will operate where.

#2 Banners for Home Compost Collection: There will be banners to announce the start of curbside compost collection on trash day during the first week of April. Program details and a green compost bin will be delivered to all households in buildings with 12 or fewer units.

Policy Orders

#1 Restoring Jerry’s Pond: I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of Councillor Siddiqui’s order asking our Community Development Department to apply for a Targeted Brownfields Assessment through the EPA to determine the extent of the industrial contamination in this former clay pit off Rindge Ave. In order to conduct the site evaluation EPA staff will need permission from the owner (GCP Applied Technologies, formerly part of WR Grace). Read more about the case for restoring Jerry’s Pond as a recreational amenity for North Cambridge.

#2 Roundtable with School Committee to discuss FY 19 School Budget: The mayor is proposing that we hold a Roundtable working meeting on Tuesday, February 13 at 5:30pm to discuss next year’s school budget with the School Committee.

#3 Research into Property Sales Trends: Councillor Simmons is asking the staff to research “sizable” real estate transactions to see if there are trends in the types of buyers. This would be nice to know but I don’t know how actionable the data will be from a policy standpoint. Toronto and Vancouver have imposed a tax on foreign buyers, but research in the US shows that almost 60% of non-resident buyers do not fall into the category of speculative, absentee investors that such a tax aims to deter.

#4 Rosa Parks Bus Decal: This order affirms our support for a bill in the state senate that asks the MBTA to affix a permanent decal or LED light honoring Rosa Parks on all its buses.

#5 Black History Month: There will be a number of events to celebrate BHM including the annual NAACP MLK breakfast on Sat., Feb. 10 with NYC Deputy Mayor Richard Buery as guest speaker (which Policy Resolution #9 encourages all to attend) and an open mic night at City Hall on Feb. 22. at 6pm. The Police Department as a photo essay on the history of African American CPD officers.

#6 All-WALK Signal at Mass Ave, Prospect and River?: This order asks that we consider stopping traffic in all directions at this busy intersection for an all-WALK phase of the signal. I will be interested to hear what the traffic staff say about the effect on vehicular movements including the many buses on those streets.

#7 Support for Right of First Refusal Bill in State House: I co-sponsored Councillor Carlone’s order to express the Council’s support for a Bill before the state’s Housing Committee (H3017) that would require a seller to provide a window of opportunity for tenants to purchase the property at fair market value. As drafted by Rep. Denise Provost and supported by members of the Cambridge delegation (Jehlen, Decker, Connolly and Rogers) the law would apply to non-owner-occupied buildings of 3 or more units, but it could be adapted by each city to reduce the burden on property owners. The bill’s worthy aim is to help stem tenant displacement. However, as written, it ignores some basic realities of real estate transactions work. It might be more feasible to require a month or two of advance notice to tenants (right of first offer) before a property is placed on the open market, rather than holding up a transaction for 3-6 months after the signing of a Purchase & Sale with a non-tenant buyer (at which time that buyer has already put down a deposit and applied for financing) while tenants try to assemble a counteroffer. The intent is good but the details need some work; if the state bill doesn’t get out of committee next week, it will die, and then Cambridge would need to file a home rule petition to adopt a local version.

#8 Repair Rufo Road: I had to google where this street is; it’s a short connector off McGrath Highway, running between Gold Star Mother’s Park and the Twin Cities shopping center in East Cambridge.

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. A new online system for signing up for public comment was recently launched, and it goes live on the Friday morning before the Monday meeting. Here is the link. You also may call 617-349-4280 on the Monday of the meeting from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign up when you arrive at City Hall by going to the City Council office after 5:00pm and using the public computer terminal on the desk by the door. Regardless of how you sign up you should do so before 6:00 pm on Monday. 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