Happy May! Last weekend I attended Somerville Open Studios – a lovely day to be outside, support local artists, and bike through a tiny part of Somerville. A goal is for Cambridge to match Somerville in their worthy initiatives – around the arts, installing bike lanes, and supporting small local businesses – all areas I think Cambridge does well in and could do better. And I attended Jerry’s Pond Clean-up, where we spoke about the vision for what Jerry’s Pond could be. It was a wonderful day and great to spend time with some people who I haven’t seen in person for a long, long time. I am hoping to spend some time outside this weekend as well, as we slowly and safely open up our city, our streets, and our businesses as the number of covid cases and hospitalizations continues to drop and give us hope.
The agenda for next week’s Council meeting is relatively short – and as always there is an overview below. This week, there were several major votes and it was an intense meeting – a quick recap of the votes below. I want to highlight a wonderful victory – the Green Roofs ordinance, which was in planning for two years, led by the fabulous Mothers Out Front, passed with the necessary 6 votes (and only 6). In the end, I am thrilled that the ordinance will now require vegetative roofs on all new large non-housing buildings, and require vegetative or solar roofs on ALL buildings over 25k sq/ft. It was disappointing that there was so much institutional opposition, and I am glad that the petition is now officially a city ordinance – I hope that those who opposed it will see the benefits of us passing it.
I also attended the Work Force zoom graduation – a program of the Cambridge Housing Authority to work with students living in CHA developments to support them through high school. My kids knew several participants when they were in CRLS, and I was happy to see the resilience, strength, and hopefulness of all the participants. Work Force is an effective program that helps families across the city. This month other programs will start to have ending ceremonies, and CRLS will have graduation next month, and all other schools in Cambridge are gearing up for year-end. And for summer programming, which I hope is robust, in light of the past year when too many students were not in school.
Next up: the city budget is out, and we will start council discussions on it. Please send your thoughts on what merits support and what might be changed in a budget of nearly three-quarters of a BILLION dollars! Let’s make our city even better!
CMA #13 – Cycle Safety Ordinance report – Many of you followed last year’s Cycle Safety Ordinance – this report is one of the first steps in that ordinance, laying out a plan and showing the progress. Here is a link to the report with nifty before and after slides.
PO #1 – Closing Mass Ave to cars in Central Square on weekend evenings: I am excited to be cosponsoring this petition calling for Mass Ave in Central Square to be closed to vehicles and open to foot traffic. I have been pushing for relocation of street space around the city to better serve pedestrians, cyclists, and businesses – and I believe this would be a big step towards creating a more vibrant Central Square on the weekends. We will see how conversations with the MBTA go and if they will be able to easily reroute bus routes during those times.
PO #2 – In support of House Bill 3559: this bill lays out a roadmap a standard for electrification and a plan to electrify all public transit in Massachusetts by 2030 prioritizes electrification in environmental justice communities, where air quality is already poor, and creates a roadmap for full electrification. Thank you to my State Rep Steve Owens for leading on this – I am glad he is leading on this (and glad that we have a transit guru for a state rep).
Resolution #8 – Recognizing May as AAPI Heritage Month: I am glad to be cosponsoring this resolution which both highlights the importance of celebrating the rich history, achievements and contributions of the AAPI community, and also raises awareness about the anti-AAPI hate that has occurred during the pandemic. We stand with the AAPI community.
Budget hearings: On Tuesday, budget hearings for the FY22 budget will begin. Here is the proposed budget from the City Manager. These hearings will be a chance for the public and the Council to hear the specifics, and for the Council to ask questions. I will be asking specifically about sustainability initiatives, funding for broadband and digital equity, Pre-K, the increased police budget, and more. If you have other questions and concerns, let me know and I will ask at the hearings next week. I will continue to update you as we learn more about the budget.
Last week’s meeting:
Three items that had been put off from prior meetings were discussed:
Legal counsel: There was controversy about this order for the council to have funding for legal research separate from the city’s legal counsel office. I have long supported this idea and was happy to vote in favor and was glad it passed, 7-2.
Homeownership: A request for the city to explore a bond of $500 million for homeownership opportunities passed and I was happy to support it. Additionally, a policy order to explore ways to improve our homeownership programs passed, and I was happy to support this one also. I have long advocated for us to do more to address the wealth gap and homeownership opportunities is one excellent way.
Police equipment: a substitute policy order, which I supported, passed and asked for reporting on the action being taken to demilitarize our police equipment.
EV Ready: I was very happy that my policy order, co-sponsored by Mayor Siddiqui and Councillor Carlone to have new parking spots be EV ready or EV chargers installed passed unanimously. I expect this initiative will begin to change the way parking garages are built in Cambridge almost immediately. While we want fewer cars, and I am working towards that goal, any cars on the road should be EV and we need the charging infrastructure for that transition.
2072 Mass Ave: The Planning Board approved a major project at 2072 Massachusetts Avenue – which will be a 9 story affordable housing project brought in under Chapter 40B of state law – which means no city council vote. I met with folks who supported the proposal as is and those who wanted some adjustments and changes. I came away concerned that the questions raised by many who had questions and objections, many of whom live in the adjacent affordable housing building, were not treated respectfully. As happens too often, I felt that legitimate concerns were dismissed as disguised knee-jerk anti-development cranks. I respected the concerns and wished they had been taken seriously, reviewed in-depth, and addressed. Instead, there are feelings of being dismissed and ignored – never a good thing in a city that seeks to be welcoming and inclusive. I hope future projects – no matter how they turn out or what decision ultimately gets made – can avoid the rancor this one engendered.
Vaccine clinic: Today! Walk-up J&J vaccines offered by the City – no appointment necessary! Please spread the word to anyone who you know who has not been vaccinated.
School superintendent: Last night, the School Committee voted to select Dr. Victoria Greer as the Interim Superintendent for Cambridge Public Schools. I worked with Dr. Greer when I was on School Committee and was impressed with her relentless focus on addressing the needs of all students. She was a rarity in CPS as someone who walked the talk of inclusion for special needs students AND understood that advanced learners needs are also important, and not addressing their needs was inequitable. I look forward to the district moving forward under her leadership.
Protecting against EEE: I have gotten questions about if Cambridge has considered opting out of the State program that sprays pesticides to control the mosquito population and protect against Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). I have worked with DPW and the Public Health Department on this question and here is the official response:
“The City participates in the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project (EMMCP) and is represented on the board of that Commission by CPHD staff. Through DPW and CPHD the City contracts with EMMCP to provide larviciding coverage to all public storm drains (appx 6,000), hand-held larviciding using a spray in a few isolated parkland areas (Danehy Park swale, Alewife Reservation, Fresh Pond). These applications are not adulticidal (like truck spraying), are highly targeted, and utilize bacteriological agents (BTI – Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) to limit mosquito development in the larval stage. Truck-based spraying is addressed within the West Nile Response Plan developed in 2001, but only as a last resort. Since September 2000 the City has not used truck-based ultrafine spray and has relied on preventive measures like larviciding and identification of standing water for treatment or elimination. State law allows individuals to request to be exempted from truck-based spraying, but only if the spraying is not deemed to be part of a critical public health response. Many suburban communities use these mosquito adulticides/insecticides for nuisance control, but Cambridge does not, so this State exemption is generally not applicable to our community.”
5 Year Sidewalk and Street Plan for 2021: The 5 Year Plan has been updated for 2021 and is now available to view here. The Plan outlines the streets that are anticipated for construction over the next 5 years and provides context for the overall program. Specific updates this year include the updated Cycling Safety Ordinance, Healthy Forest / Healthy City and the priority tree planting areas in the city.
Urban Cycling Basics for Kids Monday, May 10, at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 15 at 10 a.m: Learn how to take care of your bicycle and stay safe while riding this spring and summer. This virtual 30-minute workshop led by Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School students covers rules of the road and other urban cycling tips to introduce you (and your parents) to some of the important skills necessary for safe bicycling. Register here
Mindfulness & Compassion: Resilience Training for Challenging Times Monday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m: Certified mindfulness meditation teacher Yasemin Isler will introduce you to mindfulness and compassion and offer techniques that help cultivate presence and build resilience in everyday life. Previous meditation experience is not necessary. Register here
Voices for Justice: Isabel Wilkerson in Conversation with Callie Crossley, Tuesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m: Join Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, in Conversation with Callie Crossley of Under the Radar with Callie Crossley on WGBH. Isabel Wilkerson captivates audiences with her impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country and our current era of upheaval. Register here
Napsnacks: Haitian DjonDjon Quinoa, Saturday, May 15, at 1 p.m: The Library welcomes back “The Haitian Croissant” for another edition of Napsnacks. In celebration of Haitian Flag Day and the 1-year anniversary of her Youtube channel, the chef and blogger will demo and walk us through a remix of the traditional Haitian dish Diri DjonDjon (Black mushroom rice) with a quinoa alternative that is lower in carbs, packed with proteins and is DELICIOUS! Register here
Last week’s question: To offset the current canopy loss that Cambridge is experiencing, how many 3″ caliper trees do we need to plan each year? We would need to plant 4,300 trees, each year, and give them 20 years for the canopy to regrow.
This week’s question: how natural is the riverbank that defines the boundary between Cambridge and Boston?