City Council Agenda Highlights (5/21/18) (2 Responses)

The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, May 21, 2018, at 5:30pm. At this meeting we will vote on the FY19 Budget. The agenda is online. We will not meet the following Monday (Memorial Day).

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 YWCA Family Shelter HUD Grant: This final $150K allocation brings the total HUD grants allocated to the YWCA’s shelter for homeless families to $509K in FY18. The family shelter, which houses ten women and their children, recently moved into newly renovated quarters at 859 Mass Ave (corner of Clinton Street.)

#2 Funding for ADA accessible boat landing at Magazine Beach: An appropriation of $44K from Free Cash will be used to close to close a gap between the estimated cost and the low bid contract to create an accessible kayak and canoe dock as part of DCR’s Phase II improvements to the park. The dock also received $25K in Community Preservation Act funding. The total cost is $236K.

#3 Urban Agriculture Initiative Next Steps: Since we passed the Beekeeping Ordinance last year, we have been waiting for a report on when a hen-keeping ordinance and related health regulations would be drafted. However the staff has elected to put hens on the back burner for now, and chosen to focus instead on ways to encourage urban farming activities such as rooftop gardens, community gardening, CSA pick-ups, farms stands and soil safety regulations. This only an update memo; there are no recommendations as yet to review. The process began several years ago and is moving very slowly.

#4 Inman Square Open Space Transfer Rule Petition: The final design to reconfigure the Inman Square intersection to make it safer necessitates “bending” Hampshire Street so that the road would turn across part of Vellucci Plaza, which is legally designated as open space. A new public open space of identical size would be created on the other side of Hampshire Street and both spaces would be re-landscaped. Any change to open space requires a vote by the City Council to send a home rule petition to the state legislature for their approval. While I recognize that some feel strongly about preserving Vellucci Plaza just as it is, I support this change. Multiple designs have been presented and debated over the past two-plus years, and I think this one does the best job of balancing all the different considerations and constraints. I will advocate for planting larger-than-usual trees in Inman Square to reduce the canopy loss in the short-term. In addition trees will be added to the municipal parking lot on Springfield St.

#5 Procurement Process for Foundry Building Renovation: This memo explains an alternative to the typical “design-bid-build” procurement process called “Construction Manager at Risk” (CRAM). The city manager thinks CRAM is more appropriate for the complex Foundry project and is asking the Council’s permission to use it.

#6 River Festival Funding: An appropriation of $20K will go toward sound equipment and tents for the annual River Festival, whose total budget is $95K. Revenue from corporate sponsorships was somewhat less than anticipated this year. The Cambridge Arts River Festival is June 2 and will again take place along the East Cambridge riverfront (near the Sonesta Hotel and the Cambridgeside mall).

Policy Orders

#1 Cured in Place Plastic Pipe for Water: I sponsored this order to support our Water Board’s request that CIPP not be used for any drinking water pipes until the Water Board has had the opportunity to review the literature study currently underway (the study was initiated at the Water Board’s request). The Board and many residents have voiced concerns that CIPP could have long-term health risks that may not be fully known despite assurances from the plastic pipe industry that it is safe for drinking water.

#3 Reduced Property Tax Rate for Small Businesses: I co-sponsored the mayor’s order to consider lowering the property tax rate for small businesses. Currently the commercial tax rate of $14.81 per thousand is the same across the board. Commercial property owners account for almost 2/3 of our total tax revenue. With rising assessments, the burden on small businesses is considerable despite the fact that the rate itself fell 8/1% between FY17 and FY18.

#4 Summer Fridays on City Hall Lawn: I co-sponsored the mayor’s order to consider offering activities and allowing food trucks outside City Hall on Friday afternoons in the summer as a way of activating the space. City Hall closes at noon on Fridays, and people naturally congregate on the lawn when the weather is nice. It would be fun to offer more reasons for people of all ages to linger.

#5 Collection Data on Housing Evictions: At last week’s Housing Committee hearing we expressed a desire to collect data on evictions to help the Council and staff better understand the scale and nature of the challenge in stemming displacement. This order from the committee chairs formalizes the request to create a system that could help us track evictions, whether they are processed through Housing Court for at-fault or happen “naturally” as a result of building gut-renovations and sudden, steep rent increases.

#6 Addressing Housing Discrimination: At last week’s Housing Committee hearing we also expressed a desire to know more about how the challenges our Human Rights Commission faces in enforcing the Fair Housing Ordinance. One area of concern is the incidence of discrimination by landlords who illegally deny housing to Section 8 voucher holders.

#7 Expanding Curbside Composting to Small Business and Non Profits: I co-sponsored the mayor’s order to explore whether it would be possible to offer curbside compost collection to small businesses and non-profits as a way of helping them help us meet our sustainable waste reduction goals and reducing their costs. We do plan to expand the program to larger residential buildings next year so our ability to find a place to send an even greater volume of organic waste may be limited.

Committee Reports

There are reports on the three Finance Committee hearings we held this month on portions of the FY19 Budget (General Fund, Water Fund and Public Investment). We will be voting at this meeting on four FY19 loan requests totaling $88,150,000 (they are listed on the Unfinished Business section of the agenda).

Communications from City Officers

Storage for Homeless persons: Councillor Kelley is sharing some research his office did on possible ways to offer storage to people experiencing homelessness. A few other larger cities have storage centers with lockers or small bins where homeless people can safeguard valuables and important documents while they are in transition. There are about 517 homeless people in Cambridge. Finding any unused, low-cost space in Cambridge is always challenging, but creating storage areas for this relatively small number of people could be feasible especially if we dispersed it across various facilities (both public and private).

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. A new online system for signing up for public comment was recently launched, and it goes live on the Friday morning before the Monday meeting. Here is the link. You also may call 617-349-4280 on the Monday of the meeting from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign up when you arrive at City Hall by going to the City Council office after 5:00pm and using the public computer terminal on the desk by the door. Regardless of how you sign up you should do so before 6:00 pm on Monday. 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 and on the City’s YouTube site. 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