Council Updates – and mask request


The news of the day and perhaps next week will be dominated by the President’s diagnosis of Covid19. The prime lesson: mask up, especially when indoors, and avoid large crowds with unmasked strangers. We can deal with this deadly disease – if we take it seriously and follow scientific and medical advice, neither of which the President did. And: do not let this news distract you from taking care of yourself, AND working towards your goals.

Speaking of masking up, a group in Cambridge has been working hard to ensure that all vulnerable populations in Cambridge have cloth masks. Masks that are made in Massachusetts by a company employing workers in need of a job. Masks that are not disposable single use masks that cost more overall AND clutter up landfills. Masks that are environmentally responsible and made to USA labor standards. I know we have all given so much. And this year political donations have dominated many people’s giving, including mine. I urge those of you who have the means to donate to this project. And if you have connections to companies who could do corporate sponsorship, please connect them with me or the project directly. We can do this, Cambridge! Protect our most vulnerable and show we truly care. Note the city has already provided a lot of funds – now matching private/corporate funds are desperately needed.

This week I took off Monday – one benefit of being married to a Jew is to participate in the tradition of using the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to reflect on the year gone by and loved ones who passed and resolve to act in concert with one’s values in the new year. Instead of Yom Kippur service on screen, our family went to the Berkshires. Hiking coupled with a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum whose small exhibit on the painting [Murders in Mississippi] he did for an article on the murders of civil rights workers Goodman Schwerner and Cheney, was wonderful. As was a delightful exhibit on cartoonist Lily Donnelly. We hiked in Monument Mountain reservation [picture] The vibrant colors of leaves were magical – and sobering, since the reason the leaves have turned so early is due to the drought. Which is due to climate change. And if you do visit the Berkshires, a special treat is W.E.B. DuBois.

Speaking of drought: the state declared a Level 2 drought on August 12. This week, 28% of the state is in extreme drought and another 54% in severe drought including our watershed. I have been advocating since July for the city to ask residents to conserve. Please do what you can to save water – EXCEPT keep watering our street trees. And please spread the word.

Stay safe, sane and hang in.


City Council Agenda

See full agenda here

City Manager’s Agenda:

CMA #1 – FY21 Tax Rate:  Cambridge is in a strong financial position. With an economy centered on higher education and bio-tech, our city is well positioned to come through this pandemic without having to cut services. The city finances are in good shape,and as a result the tax rate will lead to relatively stable tax bills for most residents. I also recognize that many  residents and some sectors, including the arts and restaurants and hotels, are suffering.  It is fortunate the city has been able to provide some help, and it is still challenging looking ahead for individuals in the city.

CMA #8 – Anti-racist Little Free Libraries: This item on the CMA comes a few months after a policy order that I was happy to co-sponsor in June. I am excited for the four little libraries to be placed around the city with anti-racist reading materials. Thank you to the library staff for working on this – looking forward to seeing it implemented! 

Policy Orders: 

PO #3 – Allston Multi-Modal ProjectThis massive project has been delayed a few times since 2017, and last month, the design process was pushed back to allow for the opportunity to receive more public comment. The Council has gone on record over the last couple years asking the Secretary of Transportation to take Cambridge’s needs into consideration during the design process, but this order is to specifically ask for a lane reduction on I-90 and an at-grade design. This is what the transit and community activists in Allston have been asking for but, despite their pleas, it is possible that both their requests are overlooked.

PO #4 (and 8) – Cannabis Delivery Ordinance and amendments to Municipal CodeThese two policy orders (which are different numbers because one relates to the zoning ordinance and one the municipal ordinance) are an exciting step for the local cannabis industry. I have been in contact with Economic Empowerment applicants who have said that an ordinance allowing for cannabis delivery to be operated out of Cambridge would greatly help their business and serve as a key connector for people unable to leave their home, especially under the current circumstances. I also hope that by allowing home delivery from Cambridge based businesses, we might mitigate the impact of retail recreational cannabis stores.  If people can order online and have it delivered from a local business, they will not need to go to a retail establishment. If these policy orders pass, they will go to the ordinance committee, where I expect discussion and amendments – but while there has been controversy around cannabis policy making over the last few years, through conversations with different people I expect this to be good for all parties involved. I am excited to be working on an ordinance that will help local, Economic Empowerment applicants in a big way.

PO #10 – Support for the Roe ActIt is important for the state to affirm the right of women to control their bodies.  Being able to have choice regarding pregnancy is essential for equal rights for women.  Period.  We need this bill since at the national level, the Supreme Court may well erode reproductive rights.

PO #11 – Supporting net zero stretch codeOur world is literally burning even as we burn fossil fuels.  This policy order goes on record to ask the state legislature to pass a net zero stretch code option for municipalities.  A decade ago the state included an energy stretch code to encourage building to more efficient standards.  It is time to allow a more aggressive approach.  If this passes the state, I hope Cambridge will be the first to adopt a net zero code. [We will have to act fast – Mayor Walsh is advocating for this change, signaling Boston will seek to enact it.]

PO #12 – Asking for updates on the transportation ordinance This policy order is self-explanatory – asking for action on updating the truck safety rules.  The city and the council and the community need to know how soon the updates to the transportation ordinance will be made, to ensure the safety of all folks cycling and walking.  

AHO The second and final vote on the Affordable Housing Overlay is on the agenda.  Nothing has changed my opinion that this policy is flawed and should not be ordained.  I note that there is a lot of attention to the fact that a number of recent existing affordable housing developments are wonderful additions to our city.  I agree – and all of them were built without the AHO, and improved as a result of neighborhood input.  We should keep building, in line with those great buildings – finch building, Frost Terrace, etc.

City Updates:

Face covering order amended – Nearly five months ago, in May of this year, while the pandemic was in its early stages, I was pushing for the city to be clear about mask usage and to promote science. Our initial mask order stated that anytime you were outside, you must have your mask on or be subject to a $300 fine. It also stated that inside – lobbies, elevators, take-out restaurants, etc – only if you were to come within 6 feet of someone else, should you put on your mask. This was completely backwards. I advocated for indoors, masks should be on at all times, and outdoors, if you distanced, you can have it off. Councillor McGovern and I got a policy order to that effect passed unanimously on  DATE??? The city’s face covering order was finally amended this week to include masks should be on inside at all times.  I am glad and know this change will protect residents.  The amended order also reverts back to the original policy of masks should be worn at all times outside as well –  a change which is counter to the science and WHO advice.  

Outdoor dining extended – I was happy to co-sponsor a policy order two weeks ago asking the manager to allow for extended outdoor dining to support our local businesses and continue to give people a safe way to enjoy a night out. City staff are working with businesses to create a plan for the colder months – heat lamps, blankets, and other ways to keep patrons warm are being discussed. 

Give feedback for the bicycle plan – Many of you know that Cambridge will be building a network of protected bike lanes over the next six years. There is no question that it is happening – the Council passed it as an ordinance – but the city is still asking for residents to provide thoughts and feedback to improve the plans. Please do so!

And finally, question of the day ($15 gift card on the line):

Question: where was this photo taken, and why should we care ?

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