Council Agenda Highlights (1/25/16) (4 Responses)

The January 25 City Council agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. Apart from a reconsideration filed to bring the car-sharing ordinance back for a second vote (see my prior post reaffirming my support for the car-sharing ordinance), the agenda includes these items of note:

Policy Orders:

#3 Tool Library: Tool libraries are part of the emerging sharing economy, giving residents access to expensive and bulky tools they may wish to use from time to time but cannot afford to purchase and/or don’t have room to store. There’s one in Somerville (Parts and Crafts), which also offers workshops for all ages. As Cambridge seeks to boost hands-on STEAM education and maker spaces gain popularity among millennial DIYers, a tool library seems well suited to our interests. Who knows, it might even find a home in the renovated Foundry building. This is an order that I co-sponsored with Councillors Mazen and Carlone.

#6 Electronic Display for Public Comment: The three minutes allowed for public comment go by quickly for speakers, and it’s sometimes hard to hear their names. Councillors Carlone and Mazen co-sponsored this order to install an electronic display in Sullivan Chamber at City Hall to help facilitate public comment. I would not want to see anything too garish in the Sullivan Chamber, and if there’s a timer I hope it wouldn’t make speakers even more anxious.

#8 Power Needs Assessments for New Developments: Several large projects have been delayed by unanticipated utility infrastructure needs. Most recently the design of the public garden behind the Porter Square Hotel had to be changed at the last minute to accommodate two large transformers that had not been foreseen when the project was permitted. I co-sponsored this order with Councillor Cheung to require that a power needs assessment become part of the special permit process.

#9 Budget Update and Priorities: The City Manager and the Finance Department are in the midst of their annual budget process but by the time budget hearings are held later this spring there will be little room for Council input. This order which I co-sponsored with Councillors Carlone and Mazen (who name was by accident left off the agenda) asks for two finance committee hearings in February to review priorities with the manager and budget staff. Note: the Finance Committee chair is a committee composed of all 9 councillors. Typically the Council’s agreed-upon goals would inform budget priorities but the goals have not been updated since 2011 and are so broadly written as to be of little use in evaluating budget tradeoffs.

Sidewalk Sign Board Applications:

There are requests from 3 businesses to display A-frame signs on sidewalks. Newly opened, Spindler Confections is a boutique candy maker on a stretch of Mass Ave in North Cambridge where foot traffic is relatively light and a sidewalk sign could be helpful to a small independent business without impeding pedestrians. Fitness Together is a health club outside Inman Square whose front entrance is set far back from Hampshire St at the rear of its parking lot. This is an area where foot traffic is light and a sidewalk sign would make the club more visible without unduly impeding pedestrians. I am skeptical about allowing Capital One bank and its 360 cafe to post a sign board at 24 JFK St in Harvard Square, where space for pedestrians is scant and foot traffic is very heavy. The bank would like the sign to be posted from 7am to 11 pm, 7 days a week.

Other Items:

Policy Order #1 asks the Council to go on record in support of MA House Bill 3933, which is a constitutional amendment to impose an additional 4% tax on incomes of over $1m. Since this order comes from Councillor (and State Rep) Tim Toomey, see his blog for the background and rationale. The projected $1.9m in revenue would fund public education and transit and transportation infrastructure, pressing needs.

Policy Order #2 is already moot. Cambridge Housing Authority secured its tax-exempt bond financing for the Manning Apartments renovation. See Cambridge Day coverage for details and breathe a big sigh of relief that MassDevelopment approved the bonds in time to meet HUD’s deadline.

Policy Order #7 asks Cambridge to go on record in support of the MBTA’s Green Line Extension with no station cuts. A lot is riding on Gov. Baker pulling a rabbit out of a hat to save the GLX — our environment and regional economy depend on it. I’m pretty sure he isn’t waiting for a suitably engrossed copy of this council resolution to start working his magic.

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    Jan Devereux
    City Councillor
    Cambridge, MA