Council Updates, City Manager Search and Climate Action Come Alive


February is here! Black History Month – when there are many events and activities to ensure that we broaden our understanding of history. As with Women’s History (next month), the reason for this calling out of Black History is because history has underreported, neglected, ignored, and dismissed the contributions of African American/Black/BIPOC people … and too often still does. Our understanding of history is ever evolving and being enriched by scholarship adding to the full story. If you haven’t already, and even if you have, I highly recommend the Black Heritage Trail.

The winter weather has brought joy (the hills of Cambridge, small and large, were alive last weekend with all forms of sledding) and frustration (unshoveled crosswalks, canceled events and flights). Covid data is tough to decipher – is it waning? Are we masking too much? Does masking prevent outbreaks? Will new variants be unending? Will life ever get back to normal? What is normal these days? I don’t have answers, and I share the concern and frustration and remind myself that it’s still helpful to walk outside at least once every day. Try reaching out to a friend – isolation and loneliness from a life lived through our screens cannot be healthy long term.

As for Council and the city, below are a few items on Monday’s agenda of interest and importance. PLEASE urge the Council to take action on all climate related issues – below is more information on these items.

For the next few months, the most important work in the City Council will be the City Manager search. Additionally, there will be ongoing work around economic recovery, addressing the climate crisis, and continuing work on affordable housing. The national and international news are challenging to absorb – yet important to note. The Olympics (starting today!) are a case in point: salute, recognize, and cheer on the athletes, and acknowledge that the diplomatic boycott due to the Chinese human rights record mutes our enthusiasm for the Games. Locally, I will cheer on my favorite team: the Harvard Women’s Hockey team. Go to a game if you can – front row seats to watch stellar world class athletes for $5 or $10 (ask for the Cambridge discount and you just might get it to any home game).

I will be spending much of the weekend in our basement, cleaning up after a leaky pipe dropped water on a bunch of stuff… trying to see it as a sign that my plan to declutter the basement during Covid should finally be implemented.

Hope you can enjoy the snow, that it is not tooooo icy, and that you send thoughts and comments my way – on Council business, city happenings, or anything I should know.


Last Week’s Update:

POR 2022 #9 – Golf Course Reuse: Last week, the Council voted on the policy order I proposed asking for investigation into potential alternate uses for the Fresh Pond Golf Course land. The policy order proposed no specific use or change — it stated that there are many city needs, and proposed that there be a discussion of possible uses. After an outpouring of support for the municipal golf course by Cambridge residents, Councillor Toner proposed an amendment to the order, requesting that the City review if other outdoor uses could be incorporated into golf operations without interfering with its current and primary purpose as a golf course. This version ultimately passed unanimously, and I am excited to read the report when it becomes available.

This Week’s Update:
COF 2022 #18 – BEUDO Amendment Proposal:  As you may know, I believe that the current proposed amendments to the Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance are not sufficient or aggressive enough to help Cambridge reach our climate goals. For this reason, Councillor Zondervan and I have submitted to the Council substitute amendments that we believe will make a real impact in reducing building emissions. These amendments are in line with the suggestions from the Climate Crisis Working Group, the Climate Protection Action Committee, and members of the Net Zero Action 5-year Review Task Force. They are also a response to the urging of many community groups with deep interest and understanding of Cambridge’s goals including Mothers Out Front, Green Cambridge, and 350MA Cambridge-Somerville node. Finally, these amendments are in line with the longstanding and key city goal of reducing emissions from buildings, mentioned in the Climate Action Plan in 2002. The amendments are feasible and would put Cambridge in a position to be a climate leader.

COF 2022 #17 – Reintroducing the Green New Deal for Cambridge: Councillor Zondervan is re-introducing a Green New Deal Zoning Petition after it was discussed last year. The new petition consists of three parts: an Emissions Accounting Zoning Petition, a Green Jobs Ordinance, and amendments to BEUDO. The climate crisis is an emergency and should be treated as such – a key reason why I fully support all of these proposals, and I am looking forward to discussing them with the Council. 
POR 2022 : 17 – Special Permit Proposed Language: On December 13, 2021, the City Council  unanimously passed a policy order regarding the incentivization of fossil fuel free construction through the special permit process. Through the special permit process, this ordinance change would incentivize developers to construct without fossil fuel infrastructure while simultaneously encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. The policy order asked for city staff to propose zoning language no later than February 1, 2022. Although the Council has not received any word back by the requested date, the climate crisis is urgent, buildings are going up in the city and we should be doing all we can to accelerate the move to fossil fuel freedom. Councillor Carlone and I are bringing the draft ordinance language to the Council to be referred to the Ordinance Committee. This language can of course be amended whenever we hear back from City staff, but  we cannot afford to wait. Many buildings are being constructed now using harmful fossil fuel infrastructure, and the longer we wait, the more emissions will continue to be released.  We also recognize that the state is working on a net zero stretch energy code – which if finalized will render this special permit proposal moot. Though this would be welcome, since we cannot be certain of when the state code will be ready, we wanted to move forward with this proposal. 

POR 2022 #24 – Parking Minimums: Councillor Azeem introduced this policy order requesting that the City Manager and staff examine the Zoning Ordinance and provide amendment language for consideration by the City Council to remove all references to parking minimums. In addition, the policy order requests language regarding parking maximums.  This conversation will be challenging – we live in a city where many rely on cars and in a world where cars are a huge part of the problem of climate change and livability.  It’s a good time to have the discussion in a comprehensive manner.  

Danehy Park on Snowmaggden Day, with our son Joshua hurtling down the hill at the front of the toboggan

Other City News:
Remember that the city has many resources for people during winter, from warming centers to help with snow removal. Cambridge also has a range of notification alerts residents can sign up to receive – for parking, snow emergency, etc. Additionally, although not perfect, SeeClickFix allows any resident to file a report on any issue. 

City Manager Search Updates:
The most important decision of the council term will be hiring a new City Manager. The search has been underway for months – finalizing a proposal to hire a search firm, outlining the timeline, and deciding on process. The current stage is community input.  It’s important that we hear from you, so visit the  City Manager Search Website to share your thoughts, find upcoming events, and learn about the process.

The Trivia Question is back!
In what part of Boston did half of the city’s Black population of 2000 live in the 19th century?

You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested:

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