City Council Agenda Highlights (11/7/16)

The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, November 7 at 5:30pm at City Hall. The agenda is posted online. My summary of the key items follows. Next week’s meeting will be a roundtable to hear an update on the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process.

City Manager Contract: The most important item on this week’s agenda is the contract with Finance Director Louis DePasquale, whom we chose in September to succeed Rich Rossi as city manager. The terms of the contract were negotiated by attorneys representing the City Council and Mr. DePasquale, based on a framework that the Council determined in two executive session meetings. Assuming we vote to accept the proposed contract, Mr. De Pasquale would begin his duties on November 14, 2016, for a term ending on January 8, 2021. His salary would start at $292,500 and increase annually by 2.5%. The full text of the proposed contract, which Mr. DePasquale has already signed, appears at the end of the agenda under “Communications and Reports from City Officers.” It must be voted upon and signed by all councillors at Monday’s hearing.

City Manager’s Agenda: 

#1, #2 & #7: Reappointments to Boards and Commissions: Congratulations and thanks for continued service to: Marjorie Saunders, Susan Yanow and Phyllis Bretholtz (Commission on the Status of Women); Sabrina Selk (Human Rights Commission); Aliyah Gray and Diane Charyk Norris (Arts Council Advisory Board). Note: There are still vacancies on three boards and commissions: Human Rights, Conservation Commission and Recycling Advisory.

#3 Reimbursing Filing Fees for Successfully Contested Civil Traffic Tickets: Sorry, the City has no authority to ask the Registry of Motor Vehicles to reimburse these fees. This is a matter for our state legislators to take up.

#5 Cambridge Arts Creative Marketplace Grant: A $19,250 state grant will support exhibitions, audience development and the Community Supported Art program. Read more about the Creative Marketplace.

#6 Rindge Field Mural Restoration: There is a detailed report with photos by the City’s director of art conservation on the deteriorating state of the mural, which was painted in 2004 by three teenage Eagle Scouts painted with latex paint directly on the back of the concrete bleachers on the Rindge baseball field facing Pemberton St. There is extensive water damage and the conservator recommends recreating the mural on wooden panels. The City will determine whether the original artists are interested and available to undertake this project and make a budget.

#8 Temporary Jobs Program for the Homeless: A policy order asked about creating short-term employment opportunities for homeless people. The response is that a lottery program already exists for temporary seasonal work at the Dept. of Public Works. Anyone can enter the lottery and most who do are assigned 9 weeks of work at the DPW. The Human Service Dept. will increase its outreach to homeless shelters to raise awareness about these jobs. I wonder if there are opportunities to occasionally help with other city projects like delivering flyers door-to-door for community outreach.

#9 Pilot of Feminine Hygiene Products in Public Restrooms: Recently I met with a Harvard freshman who was homeless for two years and later launched an advocacy organization for menstrual equity. (She gave a TED Talk in Portland on her experience and her mission.) Subsequently I asked the city manager about an unanswered policy from earlier this year to place feminine hygiene products in public restrooms. I response the manager has agreed to pilot program to products in all five youth centers, the Multi Service Center and at City Hall through June 2017. The cost of the pilot will be about $20K. The School Committee is also working on expanding distribution of these products, which are currently available upon request from school nurses and high school deans, and at the Teen Health Center. I think that having to ask an adult can be uncomfortable and may reinforce the stigma on menstruation.

#10 Reduced Speed Limits Coming Soon: On Monday a new state law takes effect, giving cities the right to set and enforce lower speed limits. The soonest we can begin doing so is December 8, following the required three weeks of public notice. The speed limit on streets that meet the state’s definition of “thickly settled or business districts” will be lowered from 30mph to 25mph (that’s the majority of streets in the city). Selected other streets will become “safety zones” with a 20mph limit. We will need to install new signs and undertake a public education campaign.

#11 Kiosk Consultant RFP Extended for Harvard Sq Kiosk: Last week I submitted a late policy order that asked for greater public participation and broader outreach about the consulting contract to work with the to-be-named Kiosk Working Group on the vision, program, governance and future use of the news kiosk. I felt that the RFP had been released with a very short deadline and without consultation with the Council or the many members of the public who have been expressed concern about a lack of transparency and perceived conflicts of interest throughout this process. In response the City has extended the deadline for applications and will place the draft RFP on the CDD’s project webpage for public comment for three weeks. There is also a call for applications to serve on the Harvard Square Kiosk Working Group; if you are interested send a letter of interest to the city manager by December 2.

Charter Righted Order on the Calendar:

#1 Foundry Redevelopment: Last week I was one of the four co-sponsors of this order to re-boot the RFP process to select a team to redevelop of the Foundry. The order asked for a greater financial commitment from the City to ensure that the majority — ideally the entirety — of its space would be publicly available for community-oriented, non-profit STEAM uses. Regardless of how we vote on this order (and I hope at least one other councillor will support it), the East Cambridge Planning Team will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, November 9 at 7pm to give the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority a chance to present its vision and to hear again from residents. The CRA holds a 50-year lease on the building and will select a sub-lessee to redevelop, program, and operate the space.

Applications and Petitions:

#1 Masse Hardware Curb Cut: After being shuttered for three years, it looks as if the former Masse hardware store is finally moving closer to being converted into six units with six parking spaces. The new driveway wraps around the building (cars enter on Walden and exit on Sherman) requires a new curb cut on Walden St. This is unrelated to a larger development planned for across the street where the Masse parking lot and storage warehouse were. Residents will not have an easy time entering and exiting their driveway during rush hours when traffic can be backed up on both street but at least it’s only six cars.

Policy Orders:

#1 Safety Improvements for the Sparks-Brattle-Craigie intersection: I sponsored this order to ask what can be done to streamline this notoriously confusing 3-way intersection and make it safer to navigate especially for the increasing number of cyclists using Sparks as a key connector and pedestrians, many of them children going to BB&N during the morning rush hour. Also cyclists have been complaining that cars turning right onto Brattle regularly crowd into the bike lane. It’s been a mess as long as I can remember.

#2 Implementing bike safety measures: This order from the mayor suggests postponing until next November implementation of the various interim bike safety measures that we voted for unanimously two weeks ago. I feel this could send a mixed message to the staff about the urgency of these measures, which we discussed again at a committee hearing last week. The committee report includes five motions that will be up for a vote on Monday (see below).

#3 Voting for Non-Citizen Residents: Cambridge has a sizable immigrant community (28% of our population in 2014) that is largely disenfranchised (61% are not citizens). This order asks that we file a home rule petition to allow non-citizen residents to vote in municipal elections. These residents work, pay taxes, and contribute to our community in myriad ways. Many have children in our schools. Foreign students and tourists would not be allowed to vote as non-citizens. I support this initiative.

#4 Extend Memorial Drive Sunday Closings Year-Round: I sponsored this order to make Memorial Drive a recreational asset every Sunday. The Sunday closings started 40 years ago and many residents have asked why they end on the second Sunday of November and do not resume until that last Sunday of April. A similar order was submitted in March 2012 and never got a response from the manager. I hope for a better outcome this time around.

Committee Reports

#1 Bike Safety: I attended last week’s committee hearing on measures to improve bike facilities and safety. Public comment reiterated the urgent need for protected bike lanes. (Unfortunately we ran out of time to hear from the dozens of bike advocates who attended. Two-hour hearings are inadequate for this topic.) Inman Square’s traffic flow will be redesigned and reconfigured, with construction targeted to begin next fall. Turning movements and signaling in Porter Square also are under study for changes next year. The staff’s powerpoint presentation that is attached with the committee report lists what else is under consideration. At the end of the meeting Councillor Mazen and I made five motions (listed at the end of the committee report) that will come up for a vote at Monday’s meeting. He and I were the only councillors who attended the whole committee hearing, and we do not know whether our colleagues will support these motions.

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 and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at 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