The agenda for the Cambridge City Council meeting on Monday. February 6, 2017, is on the Open Meeting Portal. What follows is a summary of the key items. Prior to our regular 5:30pm start, we will hold a Unity Rally on the steps of City Hall, beginning at 4:30pm. Those who attended the State of the City addresses on Wednesday night heard resounding reaffirmations from both the mayor and city manager that Cambridge is committed to remaining a sanctuary city and a place where immigrants of all origins and religions are welcomed, respected and trusted.
City Manager’s Agenda (note the Executive Department’s attractive new letterhead)
#1 Alewife Sewer Separation funding: This items asks us to approve an appropriation of about $3.71M from an MWRA grant to fund a portion of the costs of construction change orders and additional engineering costs of the multi-year sewer separation project in West Cambridge. The one-page memo notes that: 1) the Huron A contract is 100% complete ($18.2M cost); 2) the Huron B contract is 85% complete ($36.6M out of $42.9M); 3) the Concord Ave contract is 80% complete ($23M of $28M); 4) the Concord Lane/New St contract is 80% complete ($2.9M of $3.7M). This totals $92.8M. Without knowing that this memo would be on the agenda I placed a policy order on the agenda (#4), asking for a more detailing accounting of the costs in comparison to original budget and for a firm completion schedule of the remaining work as well as a community meeting to update residents. It has now been just over four years and everyone is eager for the end of detours, digging and disruption.
#2 Response to Appleton St one-way question: This memo comes in response to my question of whether making Appleton Street one-way would alleviate some of the traffic difficulties residents and merchants have complained of. The staff feel that if the street became one-way it should run the full length of the street (rather than making only the last block nearer Huron one-way) to avoid confusion. As to which direction it could run as a one-way street, the fire department strongly supports one-way going from Huron to Brattle. The staff say that making the street one-way would reduce the congestion associated with the narrow opening at Huron, but might prompt people to drive faster. Based on the negative reaction this policy order inspired when I submitted it, I suspect that most residents may prefer to keep the status quo. Traffic counts and a survey of residents and merchants will take place before any decision is made. I do hope that stricter parking enforcement can deter people from parking illegally near the intersection at Huron in front of the fire hydrant as well as at the bus stop on Huron itself.
#3 Safety improvements at Cameron Ave and Mass Ave.: This memo responds to concerns about pedestrian safety crossing Mass Ave. at Cameron Ave., where Cedar St and the community path merge. Some new signage has been posted and an improved crossing with signals for bikes is being constructed.
#4 Appointments to the GBLT (soon to be officially renamed the LGBTQ+) Commission: Six new members have been appointed and three members reappointed.
#5 Loan for renovation of Russell Field and Graham and Parks School field surfaces: The requested loan amount is $2.3M. There are no details about the type of surfaces to be used. Families at Graham and Parks have asked that no crumb rubber be used due to health concerns. Russell Field is already artificial turf and was last renovated in 2006.
#6 Loan for Cambridgeport sewer separation projec: The requested loan amount is $1.1M.
#7 Loan for street and sidewalk reconstruction: The requested loan amount is $1M.
#2 Aberdeen Bus Shelter: I will bring this back up for discussion after its being charter-righted last week. A great many residents feel strongly that this location is inappropriate for a shelter with lighted ads, and I agree. This would be the only location citywide where such a shelter is placed on a street with only single and two-family homes (zoned Res B) and with no adjacent institutional or commercial uses. I understand that the City will receive help with snow removal and maintenance in exchange for allowing a third party vendor to sell ads but one size does not fit all in deciding where this tradeoff is appropriate.
#10 Citywide Medical Marijuana zoning: We will vote on this petition to allow medical marijuana dispensaries by Planning Board Special Permit in Business and Industrial districts citywide, rather than restricting them to the three areas currently zoned as medical marijuana overlays districts. Any dispensary approved by the Planning Board would still be subject to all the same regulations and guidelines for security and esthetics as currently required in the three overlay districts including the requirement that no dispensary be within 500′ of a school, playground or place where children commonly congregate. In addition no dispensary may be within 1500′ of another dispensary.
#1 Dog license fee waived for seniors?: A senior citizen with two un-neutered dogs wrote to us recently to say that the license fees ($30/yr/dog) are a hardship to her. I don’t know that this is a widespread problem, and I would hesitate to make policy based on one individual’s situation. In general I feel it is weak policy to waive fees based on age alone. I would also note that the fee is only $10/yr when a dog is neutered/spayed, as all rescue dogs are required to be upon adoption. The greater cost of owning a dog, similar to that of owning a car, is in keeping the dog healthy and fueled. The resident parking permit fee is waived for people over 65 but perhaps we should consider waiving it based on income rather than age.
#2 Signs announcing 25mph speed limits at city limits: This order asks for signs at major entry points announcing our new 25mph speed limit and electronic signs to increase driver awareness of bikes.
#3 Go easy on road salt: This order, which I co-sponsored with Councillor Kelley, asks for more judicious use of salt on streets and sidewalks to spare dogs’ paws and vegetation.
#4 West Cambridge sewer separation costs and schedule: I sponsored this order to ask for a full accounting of where we stand on costs versus budget and a schedule for completing this massive project, which was originally supposed to be complete in 2016, but which will continue well into 2017 (see CMA #1 above). I also would like DPW to schedule a community meeting to brief residents on the remaining work and the completion schedule and to take stock of what can be learned from this project about project management and communication and applied to future ones.
#5 Windsor Street traffic safety: This order asks whether a portion of Windsor St should become one-way to reduce the likelihood of crashes.
#6 Update on the Surveillance Ordinance: This order asks where we stand on a draft ordinance to oversee the use of police surveillance technology, a civil liberties best practice recommended by the ACLU.
#7 Resident parking supply and demand data: I sponsored this order along with Councillor Mazen to ask that data on resident parking supply and demand be placed on the City’s Open Data GIS system. Specifically we would like to know the number of on-street spaces designated as resident-permit-only, the number of off-street resident spaces (eg those in residential driveways and garages), and the number of vehicles registered to residents. Having this data geo-located would help us make better policy decisions.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at email@example.com. 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