City Council Updates!

Hi all,

Buy local, treat yourself and support struggling restaurants that are the heart and soul of many neighborhoods – it matters! Above is the personal, handwritten card we got with our take out order from Gustavo’s Cuban Kitchen. Plus the food was scrumptious and by picking it up, I knew the restaurant would keep the whole tab, instead of a third party delivery service (something I’ve been working on – see a quote here!).

Whether you celebrate Mother’s Day or May or just the coming of spring – treat yourself with outdoor activity – Cambridge abounds in wonderful sites… and if you were lucky enough to get some Mother’s Day socks you can rock them in your gallivanting around town….while you enjoy treats from Burdick’s, EHChocolatier, Cardullo’s. And since Gov. Baker has allowed florists to open, my Amaryllis will soon start gracing our kitchen window. All reasons to smile!

This week I’m merging the good news and city council news. I am sure we all have enough emails, so I’ll return to sending one instead of two each week. If there is something urgent, I will send another. Thank you to everyone who has replied with inspiring efforts and wonderful moments from around our community – please continue to do so!


Updates from last week's meeting

  • I worked with the Vice Mayor to find out how the city can provide books to both students and residents while the library remains closed. Along with Mayor Siddiqui, we filed a policy order and we are expecting to hear back from the City Manager in the near future. We know how critically important books are, especially now with students on screens for school, for socializing, and for many other uses – having books available provides an alternative. 
  • I voted in favor of a policy order from Councillor Simmons encouraging the city to do all it can to ensure the safety of construction workers as more sites start up again. Note that the Governor’s order is clear that a municipality could not stop construction entirely due to the COVID-19 emergency – something many didn’t understand.  I strongly support worker safety and want us to follow protocols that are established to prevent transmission of COVID-19.  And, we need to adhere to state guidelines, which means we could not stop all construction. 

Tonight's Council Agenda Overview

  • City Manager’s Agenda #98: Cambridge should be able to weather this pandemic financially due to our strong commercial tax base and the fact that our main industries – anchored by biotech and higher education institutions which are in strong financial health – are very likely to be able to survive this pandemic.  As a result, the city is able to continue services.  Future years may have financial difficulties depending on state and national economic situation. In ordinary times, the Council would have started budget discussions, but these are not ordinary times, and the budget that was in preparation and close to being presented in February had to be adjusted for COVID-19.  The City Manager has put the budget appropriations for recommended expenditures for next fiscal year on our agenda, which will be discussed starting next week in budget hearings. 
  • Policy Order #105: This order I am sponsoring calls for the City to update the council on efforts to provide outdoor space to small businesses this summer. Many people have proposed that we use this emergency to re-think how we use the public amenity of open space that is our streets and sidewalks.  With traffic way down, which may continue past the pandemic, we need to be creative and innovative in approaching our cityscape. Whether it is additional space on sidewalks or in the street, we need to prepare for restaurants to open up with lower capacity – by providing additional seating outdoors, the city can help make up some of what will be lost.
  • An order I filed with Councillors Sobrinho-Wheeler and Zondervan on masks/face coverings will be discussed.  Look on my website for thoughts on this issue (to be updated later today).  The summary: The use of masks/face coverings is an important part of flattening the curve and preventing transmission.  Enclosed spaces, indoors,  it is especially important to wear a mask – whether in an office setting or a large multi-unit building or public transit.  The evidence to date shows that transmission does not occur outdoors without prolonged exposure.  Yet Cambridge’s current mask ordinance allows for no masks INDOORS if there is distancing, and mandates masks at all times outdoors even with distancing. That makes no sense from a medical perspective. In any case, the city must follow the state rules, which mandates masks inside in many places, and outside when distancing is not possible.  Thus, our order will be amended to acknowledge that, while also asking for lower fines than the $300 excessive fine and ensure that enforcement is not disproportionately against people of color, young people, or our vulnerable homeless population.  

Good News from around the City!

Food for Free Cambridge
Since this crisis started, Food For Free has expanded from serving a few hundred Cambridge residents to a few thousand. Each week, over 10 thousand pounds of food get delivered to Cambridge residents. And recently, Food For Free announced their efforts are expanding into Everett, Chelsea, Revere, and Waltham to help support communities being hit hardest by the pandemic. 
They can always use more help! Here is the link to sign up to drop off food – there are still shifts open tomorrow! And here is a Communication on tonight’s council meeting agenda from the Vice Mayor outlining all that Food For Free has accomplished. 

Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund
The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund has distributed over $1 million to 694 Cambridge residents and families financially impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The application is still open for those in need – and you can still donate! 

More room to walk or jog

As many of you know, I have been advocating for over a month now for the city to close streets around the city to non-essential traffic so people have more room to get outside while keeping proper distance. The council has passed multiple orders but the City Manager and the Chief Public Health Officer do not want to “encourage block parties.” Although we were one of the first cities in the country after the pandemic to pass orders of this nature, it has now been a month, and major cities across the country have implemented street closures with great success (Seattle has already decided to make them permanent). 

The sliver of good news is that I asked the City manager at the meeting last Monday to take down the signs on the golf course that prohibit walkers and let people take advantage of that space. He agreed, and as of Wednesday it is now open for people to walk and jog on. Take advantage of it!  However, now that the state has authorized the opening of golf courses, people in Cambridge who use our golf course want us to open it to golfers, which would or could mean closing it to pedestrians.  I want golfers to be able to golf – AND I want walkers and cyclists to be able to safely walk and cycle across the city.  I want the city manager to open the golf course when he agrees to open Memorial Drive to walkers and cyclists. 

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