The agenda for the Cambridge City Council’s meeting on Monday, January 22, 2018, is posted online. The meeting will be televised and live-streamed, as always. What follows is my summary of the most important items on this week’s agenda:
City Manager’s Agenda
#4 Election Commission Reimbursement: This appropriation is for $23,000 to the Election Commission to cover the costs of printing the 2017 Voter Guide, which was distributed to registered voters before this past municipal election. You may have received one in your mailbox. Was it helpful?
#5 Appointments to Commission for Persons with Disabilities: Two new members will serve 3-year terms, Valerie Pauline Hammond and Philbert Kongtcheu. Last week I attended the retirement party for Michael Muehe, who directed the Commission since its inception 23 years ago following the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many of his colleagues across departments gave heartfelt tributes to Michael for his work in helping the City become more accessible and welcoming to persons with disabilities. A new director has been hired and will start next month.
#7 Historical Commission Grant: This grant of $7,300 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council will help fund part-time archive assistants at the Historical Commission.
#8 Appropriation for Moving Public Safety Radio Equipment: This appropriation in the amount of $152,000 will provide funding to move existing public safety radio equipment from the Sullivan Courthouse. This equipment is currently located on the building, and needs to be moved prior to any redevelopment activity at the Courthouse. The equipment being moved includes seven radio channels and accompanying equipment, antennas, and microwave shots. It will take 4 months for the equipment to be moved in its entirety.
#10 Gore Street Infrastructure Project: This report comes in response to concerns and questions raised by the residents of Gore St about the ongoing excavation of their street and its impact on their homes, which include some of the oldest structures in Cambridge. The City, Eversource and DivcoWest (the developer of Cambridge Crossing, formerly known as NorthPoint) will be moving forward with construction on Gore Street between Monsignor O’Brien Highway and Warren Street. The work will include selective excavation and exploratory work this January and February. A new sewer main, water main and gas line will be installed beginning in March with work lasting through 2018. The City will then complete work to reconstruct the streets and sidewalks, and add street trees on Gore St. Divco would fund the street and sidewalk improvements. There will be a design process to discuss this in the fall. This memo contains a note from Kathy Watkins, City Engineer, on the background of the project, the permitting process and the street reconstruction; a letter from MWRA rejecting a request to connect to Prison Point; a community notice that will be distributed this week to residents with a construction update; and a notice that will be sent to property owners on Gore Street about how to obtain a pre-construction survey of their property. This discussion about construction mitigation will continue.
#11 Green Line Extension Contribution: This appropriation of $5 million will constitute the City’s first contribution to the Green Line Extension (GLX) project. This memo from the City Manager contains a fairly detailed history of the project, including what will be constructed. In order to see this project advance with a new Lechmere Station, Cambridge donated $25 million, half of which will come from DivcoWest, the developers of Cambridge Crossing (formerly NorthPoint).
#12 Planning Board Recommendation of the Kroon Petition: The Planning Board has “wholeheartedly” endorsed the goals and the following portions of the Kroon Petition: to amend the review criteria to include preserving and enhancing the vitality of the retail ecosystem and pedestrian streetscape; to increase the number of retail representatives on the Harvard Square Advisory Committee; to allow parking fund contributions to be used broadly to support transportation improvements; to install formula business regulations; to limit bank and office frontage; and to create a below-grade GFA exemption. The Board has recommended further study of the following: requiring residential use above 60 feet and instituting small store regulations. The Ordinance Committee will continue this discussion on 1/24 at 5:30pm at City Hall.
#1 Electric Vehicles: I sponsored this policy order to get an update on the City’s efforts related to electric vehicles. Specifically, this order asks for (1) staff to update the Council on efforts to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations, including a target number that could be sustained and suggested locations for chargers; (2) staff to determine the feasibility of appropriately placing electric vehicle chargers on residential streets where there is need demonstrated by residents through a thoughtful community process; (3) staff to update the Council on the possibility of city fleet replacement to electric vehicles when possible; (4) for there to be increased outreach and education on the available rebates and tax credits for purchasing an electric vehicle and the cost-savings accompanied with electric vehicles; (5) for staff to look into requiring developers to include a greater number of electric vehicle charging stations in new or substantially renovated multi-unit buildings.
#2 Space Savers: The City Council received numerous concerns from residents about space savers being used throughout Cambridge during the last significant snow event. This is a perennial problem, even though space savers are illegal. DPW sends crews out to remove space savers when they have the resources to do so, but I sponsored this policy order to ask that a zero-tolerance policy be enforced and that a category be added to SeeClickFix to simplify the reporting procedure for residents to report remaining space savers.
#3 Support for the Continuance of Temporary Protected Status: The City of Cambridge is reaffirming its support of the Temporary Protected Status program, of which there are 6,058 members in Massachusetts. We stand with our neighbors from Haiti, El Salvador, and those from other countries who are unjustly under attack by Washington.
#4 Support for the New York City climate lawsuit: I co-sponsored this policy order with Councillor Zondervan to express the City Council’s support for a lawsuit filed by New York City against the five largest publicly traded oil companies. These companies have ignored, denied and obscured the impacts of climate change and the role that burning fossil fuels has played. Thank you to NYC Mayor DeBlasio for his leadership on this.
#5 Snow Removal: I co-sponsored this policy order with Councillor Zondervan and Mayor McGovern, which asks about ways to improve our snow removal efforts in light of the reality that climate change will bring more severe and frequent snow storms. This order asks for the City to look into what can be done to improve our snow response for significant storms, including improving the City’s capabilities, enforcement of the public’s responsibilities, and for the City to ensure that parking spaces for people with disabilities are cleared as quickly as possible.
#6 Update on sales of Sira (formerly Sage) Naturals Medical Marijuana Dispensary: This order from Councillor Mallon asks for information about the sales volume and and customer demographics of the Sira Naturals dispensary located at 1001 Mass Ave. The order incorrectly states that the business has been operating since 2007; in fact, I believe it opened in early 2017, or late 2016 (the clerk can correct the typo in the date). One other dispensary has since opened (in Harvard Sq.), and at least two more will be opening this year (in Alewife and Inman Sq).
Communications from City Officers & Committee Reports
I submitted both a Communication and a Committee Report related to the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee meeting that I chaired on 1/16. I am grateful to Mayor McGovern for appointing me to chair this committee, and for the other members of the Committee (Councillors Kelley and Mallon) and to the other colleagues who attended (Councillors Zondervan and Simmons) for their participation. The Committee Report includes the minutes of the public meeting, the 2016 version of the rules, and the proposed changes to the rules (proposed changes are underlined). The Communication I submitted reflects a summary of the most significant changes that we discussed. The full Council will discuss these changes on Monday. The heftiest matters that we will be debating are two changes I suggested: increasing the quorums of all committees to a majority of the committee, and making the Housing Committee a committee of the whole (increasing it from 5 to 9 members). I believe that increasing quorums will improve the quality of committee work by making attendance more of a priority. Making the Housing Committee a committee of the whole will allow all 9 councillors to participate and to cast votes in the critical housing policy discussions that are one of the Council’s highest priorities. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to continuing this discussion with my colleagues. In a policy order Councillor Simmons asks that the rules be clearly communicated to members of the public.
Mayor McGovern sent us a summary of last week’s School Committee meeting. These reports will be made regularly to improve communication between the Council and School Committee. This is a great idea, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the School Committee. There are two school budget sub-committee hearings coming up (Sat. 1/20 from 10:30am-12:30pm and Tues., 1/23 from 3:30-5:30pm). See Complete schedule of School Committee meetings.
Following a meeting last term of the Public Safety Committee, Councillor Kelley wrote a memo outlining some possible objectives for re-drafting a proposed Municipal Surveillance Ordinance. Defining “surveillance” and what technology will be included will be key. I expect the Ordinance Committee, which Councillor Kelley co-chairs this term, will take this up.
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 by going to the City Council office and using the public computer terminal on the desk by the door (you must sign up before 6:00 pm on Monday). A new online system for signing up for public comment was recently launched. You still have to wait until Monday at 9:00 am to sign up online, though. Here is the link. 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. 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