It was a very busy week in City Council as we try to get as much as we can done before the holidays and new year. We have had an array of committee meetings and have been moving quickly to accomplish a lot. At this time of year many appeals come from organizations for help – give if you can. Cambridge Volunteer Clearinghouse is one deserving group that coordinates volunteers for a wide array of organizations. CVC could use your support. Give your time – Sign up for a volunteer shift which can be one time or ongoing. And/or give your money – and CVC will put it to good use leveraging volunteers.
This morning I was at the Cambridge Works graduation – where Mayor Siddiqui welcomed and congratulated all graduates. The program is an example of Cambridge’s stellar services – this one is a transitional jobs program for residents 18-35 who need support obtaining a job.
I enjoyed CRLS’ play last week: 9-5 which is such a great story and always fun to return to CRLS and the fabulous offerings of the Visual and Performing Arts department. I also ventured outside of Cambridge (!) for inspiration and recreation…. In Boston I went to a great event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 9-5 movement – where I met a founder and saw the newly renovated City Hall plaza portion with an awesome playground. See the trivia question this month related to the 50th anniversary. And read the book if you’re interested in labor and feminist history – an easy read. I also went to Union Square Somerville to hear a few women-led bands – including one led by a high school classmate (go Black Knights of Stamford High) – and on the way I stopped in at the MIT Museum, where I got my FREE membership which all Cambridge residents can get. Check it out if you are ever near Kendall Square. I look forward to the continued blossoming of Kendall Square with more venues and spaces for community connections.
Below are some comments on a few top line items including some comments on some items from the last two City Council meetings and a few quick notes for this Monday’s meeting.
Tonight and this weekend, check out the various holiday events. CX Crossing has a light display, Mt. Auburn cemetery has a light and sound show I hope to see (tickets cost money and are available online). Various outlets have local crafts and gifts – and I am expecting to stock up on treats from a range of local bakeries and confectioners (including my absolute favorite chocolatier – EHChocolatier which is all of one block from my house). Hanukkah starts this Sunday night – so I’ll be making latkes over the next week and we just bought a Christmas tree at Bonny’s (support your local garden store if you want a tree and aren’t going to cut your own at a tree farm!). We’ve heard from public health officials to continue to be careful – hospitals are filling up and a range of flu and other illnesses are afflicting many residents.
Participatory Budget Results
The City announced the results of the Participatory Budgeting Process this week. I was happy to see that several of the projects chosen were related to planting and protecting our trees in Cambridge. There was also a large grant for electric vehicle charging stations. Increasing our publicly available charging infrastructure will be essential to decarbonizing the vehicles in our city. See all of the winning projects and learn more about them below.
Participatory Budgeting Winning Projects
City Council Updates
First I wanted to touch base on a few items from the last two City Council Meetings before hitting on a few notes for the next meeting this Monday, December 19.
One of the more controversial issues of the Dec. 5 council meeting was regarding the City Manager’s Communication informing the council of his intention to request the closure of Riverbend Park for the remaining two Saturdays of the year, which DCR agreed to. As a sponsor of several orders to open up Memorial Drive as parkland more than the statutorily required minimum, I hope for more permanent expansion of the drive as parkland, not parkway for cars…. For this decision, although I was disappointed in the manner of delivery, I was willing to accept the City Manager’s decision as it only affected two Saturdays in December, a time when usage is way down. Riverbend Park will continue to remain open on Sundays through this weekend. This issue does bring to light the ever-needed improvement in communications from the City. As we go forward into 2023 it’s important that we have clear expectations for how the City will deal with Riverbend Park throughout the new year. I’m committed to working with the City and DCR to ensure we have expanded access to Riverbend Park in the new year. I also want to work to improve the park and increase participation in this great resource, year round.
PO on No Towing
For a long time I have been supportive of us exploring the idea of ending towing of cars. NOT to end street cleaning – but to try different incentives and a fine and fee structure that will yield the same results without the towing that happens. Councillor Simmons used her charter right to allow us some extra time to rework the policy order. The question is whether we can still have enough cars moved to do the street cleaning by ticketing cars and not towing. Somerville has a policy of escalating fines and then towing as a last resort – something Cambridge could try.
Open Space Roundtable
In lieu of our regularly scheduled council meeting, last week we had a council roundtable discussion with city staff to talk about the city’s Open Space policy. How we use public space is one of the essential responsibilities of a city. We want the city to be an inviting and accessible place for all people and the physical space of the city should reflect that. We use our open space to construct parks, enhance community engagement, and maintain and expand our tree canopy. Cambridge has a rather small land-area (just over 7 square miles), so we need to be creative to provide for the needs and desires of a growing population. I found the presentation from the city compelling and I look forward to working with the city to make sure our public spaces reflect our needs to provide access, provide climate resilience, protect public health, and build community in Cambridge.
Budget Info – Finance Meeting
As co-chair of the Finance Committee, Councillor Carlone and I held a meeting yesterday to discuss the City Council’s budget priorities and to discuss how to incorporate those priorities into the FY24 budget ahead of the FY24 budget cycle. In working with the City Manager in advance of the City’s budget proposal, we called the meeting to take a more proactive role in the budget process than in recent years. We had a broad ranging discussion about our priorities as councillors and our agenda as a city. This meeting was the first step of the budget process and we will certainly need to have more conversation to make sure that we use our budget to create a city that reflects our values and commitments. I am looking forward to working intimately with my fellow councillors and the City Manager as we continue work through the budget process. A draft of the combined priorities was discussed – along with some additional thoughts councillors had.
One part of our budget conversation I’m committed to pushing the City to expand after-school programs for all Cambridge children. I have been asking for expanded after-school availability for years and remain frustrated and confused that it hasn’t happened yet. I also think that we should be coordinating after-school programs with schools so that all child needs are met – academic, recreational, and social. This year, as co-chair of the Finance Committee, I have been pushing for more transparency in the budget to understand more intimately how we can implement this agenda item as soon as possible. Thank you to all the parents and residents who reached out to call out this institutional failure and to advocate for Cambridge families.
City Council Meeting – Monday, December 19, 2022
Tree Planting Policy Order
I was very excited to sponsor a policy order this week with Mayor Siddiqui and Councillors Zondervan and Toner focussing on providing an update to our tree canopy projections. After working with dedicated members of the community and city officials, and in conjunction with my previous policy order, I believe this new order will do a great deal to put added pressure on the city to not only deliver a comprehensive report on the UFMP in the spring, but also to deliver the important data on tree canopy projections as soon as possible. I think the combined effect of the two orders will provide both depth and urgency to the issue. I want immediate action, but I also want a comprehensive analysis. This strategy will hopefully get us both.
From the CPAC to the CCC
The City Manager has approved the name change of the Climate ProtectionAction Committee (CPAC), which will now be called the Cambridge Climate Committee. While this may seem like a small change, the committee, formerly known as CPAC, is an essential piece of our climate work here in Cambridge. They were formed out of the Climate Protection Plan of 2002 and work as an advisory committee that oversees the City’s climate agenda and provides recommendations as the City works to lead the fight against climate change. Their recommendations have been essential to informing my own work as a Councillor. I look forward to the Climate Committee’s strategic plan and hope to include the committee in my climate focus in the new year.
Charter Review Committee
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing their work reviewing our city charter and to prepare their report for the city council. This week, Mayor Siddiqui and I sent a letter to our fellow councillors, updating them on the work of the CRC. At a recent meeting, after thoughtful discussion and deliberation, the CRC took a preliminary vote to recommend drafting new language for the Cambridge City Charter. That recommendation is based on best practice, and the vote was unanimous. The vote to draft a new charter was done with the understanding and knowledge that a new charter could, if desired, maintain every element of the current charter. Starting fresh with a new charter means that the charter would no longer use Plan E, a form of charter no longer allowed in the Commonwealth The CRC currently meets every other Tuesday from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm and are actively seeking input from all members of the community. Their next meeting is this Tuesday, December 20, 2022, at 5:30pm. 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 CharterReviewCommittee@Cambridgema.gov.
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
COVID-19 Vaccine Finder
Last issue: Where was Bird Pond?
Correct answer: Where Corcoran Park Housing Development and Lawn Street are now. At the Cambridge/Belmont border south of Fresh Pond.
This issue trivia question:
How does Cambridge figure in the 9-5 movement — not the movie, but the movement?
Gift card for correct answer (if more than one, random draw will determine winner)
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 (email@example.com) or me for any of your City Council needs.
You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested: https://pattynolan.org/news/