City Council Agenda Highlights (6/19/17)

The Cambridge City Council will hold its second to the last regular meeting before we break for the summer on Monday, June 19. This week’s agenda is short compared to last Monday’s, which took us over 5 hours to work through. The Sullivan Chamber in City Hall is not air conditioned (see Policy Order #8), and the room was uncomfortably warm after a day when the temperature reached the mid-90s.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Conflict of interest law for part-time property appraiser: This asks us to reclassify someone contracted as a part-time appraiser as a “special municipal employee” so that the contract does not trigger as many conflict of interest restrictions. Honestly it would help to have an example of why the current job classification as a municipal employee is not in the best interest of either the individual or the city. I will ask the manager for more clarification.

#3 $50K for consultant to Kendall Square Mobility Task Force: The money comes out of mitigation funds from Boston Properties’ residential tower under construction at 88 Ames St and will help us understand options for transit along the future Grand Junction multi-use path.

#4 HUD grant for affordable housing: This appropriates $522,490 from HUD’s HOME Program toward affordable housing.

#5 $50K for Mass Ave demonstration block sidewalk improvements: This money comes from mitigation funds paid by Lesley University in connection with its Overlay District rezoning a few years ago.

#6 $162.5K for stormwater management at North Point: This money comes from mitigation funds paid by Education First for its building at 8 Education Circle.

Applications & Petitions

#2 Petition for tennis courts and community center on Garden Street: A group of residents on the Garden Street side of Danehy Park have petitioned for some recreational improvements to a piece of park land near the Briston Arms apartment complex. It’s not clear exactly which portion of Danehy they mean since there is no map with the petition. They have greatly underestimated the cost of building, operating and maintaining tennis courts and a community center. This is a well-intentioned idea that is probably not possible for that location. However we should consider additional community uses when it rebuilds the Tobin School complex. As a former tournament tennis player, I would be interested to know how well utilized existing tennis courts are in the city. There is one in Maher Park behind Sancta Maria Hospital that seems little used. Without an instructional program to help more people learn to play the game, tennis courts may not attract as much use as other recreational facilities, and I would hesitate to pave open space or remove trees for this use.

Policy Orders

#2 Reducing idling and emissions: I sponsored this order to ask that we install computerized traffic signals on main corridors in order to improve flow and reduce idling and emissions. It has proven very hard to enforce the state’s 5-minute limit on the idling of parked cars, but if we can use signal technology to reduce congestion (and to keep cars moving at safe speeds), then we will reduce idling by cars “parked” in traffic.

#4 Food truck pilot for Danehy Park: I co-sponsored this order with Councillor Cheung to ask that we pilot a food truck program this summer in Danehy Park. We adopted a similar order in February but have not had any response. At last week’s Economic Development Committee hearing the staff alluded to a food truck program that is in the works but it is uncertain when it will be launched.

#6 Redevelopment of Episcopal Divinity School campus: Councillor Toomey is suggesting that the city purchase the 8-acre EDS campus on Brattle Street to construct low income, single occupancy housing. Most of the campus is on the National Historic Register and in the Old Cambridge Historic District, which would add to the challenge and expense of redeveloping such a site. I  feel a more likely and appropriate outcome is that the campus will continue to serve an institutional use for Lesley, which already has a presence there, or Harvard.

#7 Gun control policy resolution: Two NRA-backed Republican lawmakers in Washington have filed a bill (HR 38/S 446) that would allow residents of states where the concealed carry of handguns is legal to carry them in states like Massachusetts where it is. It would also nullify the Gun-Free School Zone Act, which makes carrying a gun in a K-12 school a federal crime and would allow concealed carry on federal land. This is an attempt to undermine strict gun control laws in states like ours. I sponsored this resolution to let our Congressional delegation know how strongly Cambridge feels about protecting a state’s right to enforce its own gun control laws.

#8 Air condition the Sullivan Chamber: As noted above, we met for over 5 hours during last Monday’s heat wave and the Sullivan Chamber was swampy. There are ceiling fans but they mostly blew our papers around.

Committee Reports

#1 Pet Shop Ordinance: The restrictions on the retail sale of animals, birds and reptiles, except those sourced from humane rescue or foster care organizations, is now close to being ordained, having been forwarded with a favorable recommendation. The law would take effect a year after passage and a working group would be formed for 18 months to oversee implementation in coordination with the two retail pet shops operating in Cambridge. It would not restrict sales from home breeders.

#2 Police Officer in City Hall and Central Square: The Public Safety Committee met to discuss our feelings about assigning a police officer to City Hall and what type of police presence is appropriate in Central Square. Having a uniformed officer on duty in City Hall came at the request of staff over the objections of some councillors who felt it could deter some members of the public from visiting City Hall. So long as the officer remains a friendly low-key presence in the hallways, not a security guard stationed at the front door, I do not object. As to the type of additional police presence that is most needed in Central Square, it seems as if it is not more traditional law enforcement, but greater community policing interventions with homeless and mentally ill persons to connect them with services, shelter or substance abuse treatment.

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 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