The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, June 18, 2018, at 5:30pm (see full agenda). It is the second-to-the-last regular meeting of the first half of this term. We will have one special summer meeting (July 30) and then will resume our regular Monday meetings the week after Labor Day.
City Manager’s Agenda
This manager’s agenda this week includes a plethora of budgetary transfers, grant appropriations and miscellaneous expenditures, which is typical since we are nearing the end of the City’s fiscal year. I won’t itemize them all, but taken as a whole they reflect the City’s deep commitment to funding programs to address community needs from affordable housing to hunger to education and to serve children, teens, veterans and seniors as well as disabled and homeless persons.
#3 Speed Enforcement on Windsor St: This memo describes the police department’s outreach to drivers of MBTA and school buses to remind them to stay within the posted speed limit (25mph). Monitoring and enforcement continue on Windsor Street.
#9 Update on City IT Initiatives: This memo comes in reply to a policy order I sponsored last year, asking for an update on the City’s new website and our online permitting systems. Now over a year old, the new website has already undergone some design changes. Several departments, including high-traffic ones like DPW, Library, ISD and Police, still are in the process of transitioning to the new look and navigation. Updates will continue into 2019. Given the short lifecycle of websites these days, the rollout seems a bit slow. Separately, a new online permit application system called Viewpoint Cloud, is now in use by the License Commission and soon will be used by ISD, DPW and Fire, which currently use the EnerGov system.
#25 New Climate Protection Action Committee members: Congratulations to the nine newly appointed members of CPAC. We are fortunate to have such depth of talent willing to serve on this on this very important committee.
#26 Harvard Square Bus Tunnel Reconstruction: This memo relays the frustrating news from the MBTA that the bus tunnel reconstruction project has been postponed until summer 2019 — a full year after it was first scheduled. The condition of the tunnels is deplorable — take a close look at them next time you ride a bus to Harvard Square.
#27 School Budget Surplus: The request to transfer a surplus $425K from the School Department’s General Fund back to the City’s Public Investment Fund to pay for improvements to wireless service in school buildings and other school facility repairs caught the School Committee by surprise at their recent meeting. I understand their concerns but the amount will still be spent on school needs.
There are several resolutions for people who will receive awards at the City’s annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, which takes place at City Hall from 4:15-5:30pm on Monday. Please join us for the reception and ceremony.
#1 More Big Belly Trash and Recycling Bins: I co-sponsored this order to ask to consider buying more Big Belly solar compacting bins for the business districts, where the old-fashioned open-top bins are often inadequate for the volume of trash produced. The Big Bellys cost about $5K fo a pair but they don’t need to be emptied as often and the cost can be offset, if desired, by advertising on their sides.
#2 Fire House Facilities: The question of a plan and a budget to modernize our fire houses comes up on a regular basis, and here it is again. We have one of the state’s most highly rated department’s in terms of performance, training and equipment, yet our firefighters work out of buildings that are antiquated.
#3 Map of Public Restrooms: I sponsored this order after reading about Boston’s new interactive map of public restrooms. I hope we can offer one, too. It would be useful to tourists and residents alike. A mobile app would be even more useful.
#4 Reducing Gun Violence: This order asks the Police Department to step up its efforts to address the recent increase in gun violence, which is concentrated in The Port and Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods.
#5 Youth Town Hall: This is a good suggestion to hold a town hall meeting to hear from our younger residents.
#6 Berkshire and Bristol St Traffic Calming: Both these streets run one way and they meet in a T intersection.
#7 Young Adult Civic Unity Committee: We have a Citizens Committee on Civic Unity composed of 12 residents that has been meeting since 2014. I don’t have a clear idea of their work and there are no minutes posted online past Sept. 2016. This order suggests forming another civic unity committee composed of younger people. We also have a Council Civic Unity Committee that has met once this term to discuss the diversity of boards and commissions. The Council’s Civic Unity Committee did not meet in 2017. I do wonder about a proliferation of overlapping committees. Inter-generational conversations might do more to promote civic unity.
#8 Family Engagement Value Statement: This endorses the recently developed values statement that will guide relationships and partnerships between families and city providers: “Children and teens thrive when policy makers, schools, and city and community organizations partner with families to actively support children’s learning, development, and well-being. It is our shared responsibility to engage each other in meaningful and culturally respectful ways. This effort is continuous across a child’s life from birth to adulthood and carried out everywhere they learn and grow.”
#9 Tune into Hearing on Electric Vehicles: I’m requesting that my July 24 Transportation Committee hearing be video-recorded and televised. The hearing was originally scheduled for this month but had to be postponed to a summer date that may make attendance harder for some. An additional $9M to fund EV incentives was included in the Environmental Bond Bill recently passed by the House.
#10 Increased Funding for Legal Aid Services: At last week’s Housing Committee meeting we discussed the need for additional housing attorneys to assist residents being evicted or displaced. The City has a contract with Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services to assist with the City’s Multi Service Center staff. This order asks that we increase the size of the contract in FY20 to be able to serve more residents.
#11 Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing: We discussed peer-to-peer car sharing at length during a recent Transportation Committee hearing (see the committee report on this agenda) and the consensus was that there are no explicit restrictions in our parking or zoning regulations that limit its use. However Councillor Kelley, who uses peer-to-peer services himself, wants absolute clarity. I don’t think this is a top priority for our staff.
#12 Plant More Park Trees: This is one of three orders from Councillor Zondervan related to expanding and protecting our imperiled urban canopy. I co-sponsored this request to look for opportunities to plant more trees in our public parks especially those in areas where the tree canopy is less abundant.
#13 Hearings for Public Tree Removals: Our current tree ordinance requires a public hearing prior to the removal of a street tree but does not include park trees. I co-sponsored this order to extend the same protections to all city-owned trees. To note this would not include trees located in parks controlled by the state like Alewife Reservation, the Charles River parklands, and Magazine Beach Park.
#14 Permits for Private Tree Removals: Last term I chaired a committee hearing where we discussed possible changes to our tree ordinance to recognize trees on private property as a community asset with a public value worth protecting. The current tree ordinance, adopted in 2004, does require large development projects to submit a tree plan for either replacing any significant trees removed or paying into the City’s tree replacement fund. Some cities extend such protections to private trees that are not part of a major development while exempting small residential properties and invasive species. The newly formed Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force will be working with the Conservation Law Foundation to review our entire tree ordinance and recommend ways to strengthen it. These recommendations are expected by early 2019 (Feb.-Mar.) at which point they will come to the Council’s Ordinance Committee to consider and potentially adopt. Councillor Zondervan wants to amend the ordinance in the interim to require that all property owners wishing to remove a significant tree (one at least 8″ in diameter at 4′ above the ground) apply for a permit from the arborist. The only exemptions would be for public housing and emergency removals. (The proposed amendment does not say whether educational institutions would have to come to the City each time they want to remove a tree.) There would be no hearing, no payment into the tree fund and no requirement to replace the tree. To me, this seems like creating paperwork without doing anything to actually prevent tree loss. While I strongly support stronger regulations for tree removals, I would prefer to wait for the recommendations from the task force, which will reflect their research, data collection and public outreach and education. The Ordinance Committee has much other unfinished work this year — marijuana zoning most urgently. The Climate Safety Petition that is before the Ordinance Committee this summer would incentivize tree planting.
There are 3 committee reports covering new types of car- and ride-sharing, adult-use cannabis, and the role and duties of the police officer assigned to City Hall.
Communications from City Officers
#2 Councillor Zondervan has submitted a list of good suggestions for tree policies that the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force may want to consider.
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. There is an online system for signing up for public comment that goes live on the Friday morning before each 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 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 and on the City’s YouTube site. 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