The last two weeks in the city have seen continued reaction to the fatal shooting by police of Arif Sayed Faisal. There have been several protests, a community meeting and two days ago a special meeting of the City Council focused on understanding police policies and protocols. The community has been expressing grief, anger, and frustration over the death. Everyone wants answers – and those answers will not be given quickly. An investigation into the shooting by the District Attorney – overseen by a judge who will be selected by the courts – is underway and will take time. The process was explained at the community meeting. The inquest process can take time, and I was glad to hear that it is done since a judge can be picked who has less – hopefully no – ties to the officers involved. This process helps with independence. However, without video footage, we may never know what happened. The police do not have body cams, and we do not yet know if there are any other videos available of the incident.
At the special meeting, questions on protocol, on how an alternative response might have worked, on use of force, and on the release of names were all asked. The meeting was recessed after three hours, and additional questions will be addressed at the continuation, likely next week. All meetings are available to watch.
Other items of note are this week’s celebration and events related to Martin Luther King, Jr. of which there were many. The day of service was well attended and the annual ribbons of valentine’s day cards at city hall, personally made by residents of all ages and to be delivered to seniors across the city is a delight to behold. Next time you are near city hall, pop into the main lobby and take a look. It brings a smile and heartwarming joy to see… And next weekend is a day-long conference on Bob Moses legacy – open to virtual registration. I have always reflected in my school related work on the sadness of the unfulfilled dream of Bob and Janet Moses as I contemplate (and tear out my hair, proverbially) why our school district continues to accept the results we see for students.
Below are some comments on a few top line items and a few quick notes for next Monday’s meeting.
Charter Review Committee Public Forum
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing their work reviewing our city charter and to prepare their report for the city council. The CRC currently meets every other Tuesday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm and are actively seeking input from all members of the community. Their next meeting is this Tuesday, January 30, 2023, at 5:30pm. They are planning two public forum events as well – the first is on January 24, 2023 from 6-8pm at the Main Cambridge Public Library and on February 4, 2023 from 6-8pm via zoom. I invite you to attend these events, engage with members of the committee, and discuss your vision for our City charter. All the information as well as recordings of previous meetings can be found on their website. Further, you can submit written comments at any time to be considered by the CRC by emailing:
City Council Updates
NetZero Action Plan Update
I am pleased to report that we passed the completed NetZero Action Plan Update (NZAP) on the City Manager’s agenda, finally, after a LLLOOONNNGGG wait. As noted in my last newsletter, NZAP is the City’s roadmap to combat the climate crisis. It is now officially part of the city’s roadmap to climate action. We are far behind on all our past goals. The inclusion of SMART goals and accelerated timelines for action has come after a long push to have more accountability baked into our policies. Now we have to implement the plan.
Specialized Stretch Code
Last week I sponsored a policy order to formally adopt the new Specialized Stretch Code for new construction and substantial renovations. I was disappointed we were not able to pass the order last week, but I am hopeful that it will pass this week and reaffirm our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the time since our last meeting, two local municipalities, Brookline and Watertown, have led the way by adopting the new specialized stretch code. I will continue to work to see Cambridge as a climate leader and this week, that means passing my policy order to adopt the new specialized stretch code. The code is a state building code with an option for municipalities to opt-in.
As I noted previously, for years, activists across the state and champions in the state legislature have worked to establish a way for the state building code to be updated to include fossil fuel free construction – since that is the ONLY path to us making progress on reducing emission pollution and contributing to effective climate action. An intense push over the last two years resulted in the finalization of a building code that municipalities can choose to adopt – that does not require true zero carbon or even net zero, but is still a huge improvement over the current stretch code. Cambridge was the first city to adopt the current stretch code in 2010, and I hope we are among the first to adopt the updated version, called Specialized Opt-In Stretch Code. As the policy order notes, this code has been publicly discussed multiple times over the last few years, and at a council committee meeting in November, we discussed adopting it as soon as possible. The city’s Climate Committee also urges adoption as soon as possible – which is now. Note that for the fossil fuel ban, a separate process is in place and that cannot be adopted yet since the state has yet to formalize the procedures. I hope the council passes the policy order Monday – please let the council know your thoughts on this important issue. It would be effective as of July 1 if we pass the order, which leaves time for us to confirm to the community what the city has been advocating for years – that the new stretch code is in line with all of the city’s work and goals on climate.
Limited Services Pregnancy Centers [LSPC] – Deceptive Advertising Ordinance
The ordinance prohibiting deceptive advertising by limited service pregnancy centers passed at our last council meeting. Interestingly, there were several comments from people asking us to support these centers and not suppress their free speech. I was a strong supporter of the ordinance and am grateful that Vice Mayor Mallon and Councillor Zondervan took up this issue and made sure we passed the ordinance. While there are no LSPCs currently in Cambridge, this ordinance would not prevent them from opening. It WOULD prevent them from pretending to offer all pregnancy services and providing inaccurate information about all options. These centers are explicitly set up to persuade pregnant women to not have an abortion. I am adamantly pro-choice: if anyone wants to give birth, they should be supported in that decision. If anyone wants an abortion, they should have access. Centers like Planned Parenthood provide accurate comprehensive information while LSPCs do not. And LSPCs are not subject to privacy laws since they are not health care facilities.
Doug Brown Petition
There was a petition on the agenda last week signed by one homeowner that seeks to accomplish a goal I have worked on for a long time: ending single family and two family only zones and allowing more units to be built. Apparently this petition was the first time that a single signature was submitted with a petition – which legal counsel advised us was possible under state law. I am excited about some of what the petition seeks to do – and it is very simple, which I think is always preferable to a highly complex zoning change. I look forward to the discussion in the Ordinance Committee, and even if there are additional changes we should consider, I hope we pass a version of this change soon.
City Council Meeting – Monday, January 23, 2023
Towing for Street Cleaning
In response to a previous policy order I cosponsored, the City Manager is proposing that we try a pilot to not tow at first offense for leaving cars on the street for street cleaning. I am thrilled that the city is willing to try a new approach. It is a sign of a willingness to learn from other cities’ innovative programs. I recognize that some residents worry this change would mean streets would not be cleaned. That is NOT the intent. The intent is to keep the streets clear on street cleaning days, and see if the prospect of a ticket – with an increased cost – is enough to keep the streets clear enough to clean. And, if the pilot program does not allow street cleaning to the extent needed to keep our streets clean, we will reassess. I note that B&B Towing company has registered a complaint that their company might not be able to stay in Cambridge if we stop our daily towing. I accept the risk that the company may leave Cambridge if this continues. If we can keep streets clean and save residents substantial money, I support the change.
Peter Valentine House Policy Order
As noted in last week’s newsletter, we have received a lot of emails about 37 Brookline Street becoming a center for community arts, or an affordable artist living space. And on next week’s agenda is a policy order asking the city to consider the request to buy the house and renovate it as a community art center. I have reviewed the latest proposal by the leaders of this effort. My initial worry is that any development would necessitate a full elevator which would cost millions and a center would likely incur operating costs in the millions has been allayed by reviewing the latest proposal. The current favored proposal for an SRO for artists with affordable rents of about $700/room with a shared kitchen and baths could lead to the need for relatively small ongoing subsidies. That is only if the building is purchased and renovated by outside funds for about $3.5-4 million. It would be great if it was a community effort. It will still require an investment… and the organizers are working hard to make it happen. I maintain my position that I love the idea and am willing to consider it, AND believe any funding must be viewed in a comprehensive way to understand what other uses of those funds should be considered before any decision is made. I am also glad to note that a number of artist related places are being considered – at the Mid East place, the opening of ManRay nightclub, and Arrow Street in Harvard Square space. I appreciate that many parts of our community, including the Cambridge Community Foundation and others are seeking to actively support the arts.
Cannabis related Policy Order
There is a policy order related to better supporting cannabis operators that came out of a meeting we had last week on the status of cannabis in Cambridge. Our city was one of the first to have strong ordinances to support equity operators and at the meeting I appreciated hearing what the process is, what barriers still exist, and how we might do better.
The CDC recommends use of updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster shots for better protection against COVID-19 Omicron variants. The updated Moderna booster is authorized for people ages 6 years and older. The updated Pfizer booster is authorized for people ages 5 years and older. Children in this age group are eligible for the bivalent boosters if it has been at least two months since the completion of their primary series or booster vaccination. Please see the links below to learn more about getting the booster and find out where you can get yours.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
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Thank you to everyone for reading. If there are any topics you want me to cover in future newsletters, I’m always happy for the input! As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick (firstname.lastname@example.org) , or me for any of your City Council needs.
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