Council updates – another busy week!

Happy February!

A whirlwind of a week – our council meeting was moved to Wednesday, an ordinance meeting last night about one of the most exciting zoning petitions presented to the council, and then another council meeting on Monday. Below are a few items from the Council Agenda, some information on the vaccine rollout, and opportunities to volunteer in the city this week.

There are many initiatives being planned, and the council is entering a period of numerous zoning changes being proposed and debated. All of that work continues alongside ongoing work to address the pandemic impact – which continues to upend public health, economics for small businesses and households and individuals and our city, and our mental health.

In the coming months, I plan to continue to work on addressing covid (a lot of information below on the vaccines) and continue to work to address the climate crisis, the sense of belonging in the community, and justice issues.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, masked up, dream of post-vaccination days, and please let me know any good news…. I could use some uplift. As always, let me know if you have questions, concerns, or issues that I can be helpful with.

Patty

Vaccine information

Massachusetts is currently in Phase 2, and there are some positive signs that despite the lackluster start, the vaccine rollout will begin to pick up speed. At this moment, everyone in Phase 1 and individuals 75 years of age and older are eligible. The next parts of phase 2 will be distributed as follows: individuals 65 years of age and older, individuals with 2 or more comorbidities, early education and K-12 workers, transit, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers, and individuals with 1 comorbidity. This eligibility questionnaire can provide specific information on when you are eligible. Additionally, the city has been working hard to ensure that seniors have access to up to date information and can easily sign up for COVID vaccine appointments. The Cambridge Community Corps will be going to all senior buildings to register residents, address concerns, and administer vaccinations. 

Here is a list of FAQ’s from the Mayor’s office:

How much does the vaccine cost?

Nothing! Booking an appointment does not require payment or a credit card number to book online. Beware of scams asking for this information.

Why doesn’t Cambridge have a vaccination site?

Massachusetts is experiencing a severe vaccine shortage. Because of this, the State is triaging its limited vaccine supply with a greater allocation to larger mass vaccination sites and smaller allocations to smaller cities and towns. The State is capping vaccine requests from local health departments at 100 doses a week through February. We are working with the State and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to launch a site as soon as we begin receiving a larger allocation of vaccines.

How many doses of the COVID vaccine did Cambridge receive?

The Cambridge Public Health Department received a total of 1,500 doses to conduct vaccination clinics for eligible priority groups under Phase 1. To date, over 80% of the vaccines have been administrated to our City’s first responders, health care workers, and clients and staff at area shelters. Vaccination for Phase 1 will continue.

Will additional appointment slots open up at the mass vaccination sites?

The Governor has stated that 120,000 new appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations will be made available next week, including 55,000 at the state’s 4 mass vaccination sites. Additionally, about 30 additional pharmacy sites will open next week with 21,000 appointments as a result of the Retail Pharmacy Program.

When will teachers be able to receive the vaccine?

Teachers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in the third priority group of Phase 2. The Cambridge Public Health Department is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to receive a larger vaccine supply in order to set up a specific CPS staff vaccination site. If approved, we will be able to vaccinate about 3,000 CPS staff and educators at CPS. If denied, teachers will still be able to receive the vaccine at the mass vaccination sites listed above. 

Where are the COVID vaccination sites located?

There are many locations available to specific groups within Phase II as well as mass vaccination sites. Some are listed above, but this map also provides the closest location for eligible recipients to receive their COVID vaccine.

If I’m 75 years old and can’t drive, is there anyone to help me get to a vaccination site?

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is offering free transportation for local seniors to get to nearby COVID-19 vaccination sites. To register for a ride, call 617-628-2601 or email info@eldercare.org. 

How do I make an appointment?

If your primary care doctor is at CHA or Beth Israel Lahey, contact them to schedule your appointment. You can also make an appointment online or schedule an appointment at Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium directly through CVSWalgreens, or CICHealth.

Is there vaccine information available in other languages?

Yes. Information in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Bengali, Amharic, Arabic and Chinese are available here

What if my question isn’t included here?

The City of Cambridge has a dedicated COVID vaccine webpage with additional FAQs and regularly updated information.

Council Agenda

Full Agenda Here
Sign up for public comment here

City Manager Agenda item #14 – I charter righted this item last week because I did not believe the response from the City Solicitor was sufficient. This is what I wrote to the Solicitor in an attempt to get a clearer answer on Monday:

This agenda item (a response to an earlier policy order) stated that the 7 affordable units in the proposal (15% affordable) stem from Article 11, section 11.203 of the ordinance, does not directly answer the question from PO #265; namely, shouldn’t all developments and requests for special permits be required to follow all zoning at the time of the extension? The order states that projects seeking extensions should be required to follow standards – inclusionary, environmental, and any others –  in place at the time of the extension. In the response, it is asserted that it is legal to NOT ask for additional affordable units. The question posed is different: what the council should know is how we CAN ask for adherence to existing zoning. This opens the possibility of asking for more.

There is also the question of whether granting three separate one-year extensions is legal. The zoning code states that permits expire except if construction doesn’t start for good cause, how is it possible that extensionS are granted? And if granted for longer than the initial two years of any permit, wouldn’t it make sense that multiple extensions are counter to the intent of our special permit ordinance guidelines which require construction to start within two years?

PO #23 – Hostile architecture – I charter righted an item seeking to eliminate all “hostile architecture” from city outdoor spaces. The term refers to concerns that much of public space includes some elements that are expressly meant to make it difficult for people to lie down and sleep – which many in the unhoused community see as unwelcoming. I also heard from people that some of the elements such as armrests can be helpful to those with mobility issues and that we should mindful as we address this issue of all residents – and include folks who are senior, disabled, and young families – in the discussions. Since the hour was late, instead of debating the changes on the floor I thought it best to work on more inclusive language to present at the next meeting. The changes I am proposing are simply to include acknowledgment of the needs of all residents.  

PO #26 – Universal School Meals – One of the wonderful things in our city is that Cambridge several years ago made sure that all students regardless of income could access meals without the stigma of anyone knowing who was on a subsidized plan. And under Mayor Marc McGovern, meals were provided free to folks who were on reduced lunch, as opposed to free lunch status. This order supports similar efforts at the national level. No one, including of course children, should go hungry.  

PO #27 – Support for Lifting Our Kids Out of Deep Poverty – So much of the support that we know people need comes from the state and federal government. The state has programs that offer cash grants to low-income families through Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), and to disabled or elderly residents through Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). A 10% increase was implemented earlier this year in response to the pandemic, but Governor Baker’s proposed FY2022 budget would eliminate that increase. This is not the time to pull back our support – Cambridge is restricted in our ability to respond to the pandemic by state law, and programs like these are vital to our most vulnerable residents. 

PO #28 – Redesigning “I Voted” stickers – there are numerous languages spoken in Cambridge, and as we continue our efforts to increase voter turnout, ensuring there are materials in all languages is an important step. 

Ordinance meeting on Green Roofs:

Mothers Out Front has worked steadfastly to develop a petition with a mandate for green roofs wherever possible – both literally green as in vegetation and green as in solar panels – on new developments ad major renovations.  As was pointed out in the hearing, Cambridge has had a green roof ordinance for a decade, allowing such structures.  And it has been entirely ineffective at getting green roofs built – so if we want more green roofs, we need to do something different.  I am fully supportive of this mandate – I do not want us to continue with only voluntary measures.  And, the petition stayed in committee – which may be confusing – but it seemed to be the best way to ensure eventual passage.  There are some changes that need to be made to make it as effective and useful and legal an ordinance as possible.  By keeping the petition in committee, we can review such changes and pass to the full council language that can be adopted without the need for further changes.  I know that Ordinance co-chairs Dennis Carlone and Marc McGovern are also fully supportive and will do all they can to ensure timely passage of this exciting petition. 

Volunteering at The Spot

There are a number of open sign-ups to help out at The Spot. Many people have donated clothing, shoes, and other goods to The Spot, and now the space needs some love. The main need is organizing the space and packing bags of clothing for families who have requested certain items. Sign up here!

Trivia question:

Fresh Pond was used as a commercial ice plant in the early 1800s. Ice was cut up and shipped in sawdust for the purposes of refrigeration. What is the furthest place that ice from Fresh Pond was shipped to?

Answer from last week:  Charles Sumner (seen below) – who was beaten for his abolitionist views, and was a strong leader in ending slavery AND the statue is in Cambridge only because of explicit sexism in the selection committee…..Read for more on why it’s great here.