Council updates – Happy May Day!

Even Eloise the Ninja Cat took time to watch the historic speech on Wednesday with two women sitting behind the president for the first time


Happy May! May Day is traditionally a time to celebrate the contributions of Labor – which we should celebrate and support. And May Day in my college days meant watching dancers around a May Day pole along the Charles River… maybe next year. Mayday is also a distress signal – which we could use to indicate the pandemic (Covid, racism, inequality, climate). So – May Day Mayday!

As we all hope for an end to only having zoom and remote options, I was happy that this week “attending” our daughter’s college commencement turned out to be more moving and inspiring than I expected – even though it was entirely virtual. The ceremony managed to convey both the sadness and loss from the past 14 months for the students and the optimism and hope for a future world made better by the acts of these past challenging months. It is a metaphor for all of us – this year was so difficult at times and yet the spring awakening, the astonishing speed of vaccine development and the sense that we are addressing openly many of the inequities in our city, state, country and world give us hope.  

On “re-opening,” Cambridge has remained more cautious than the State and has often delayed moving to the next phase. Cambridge has seen lower numbers of cases and now high proportions of vaccinated residents, so we are now relaxing some restrictions. The City yesterday announced that it will advance to Phase IV, Step 1 (announced a few weeks ago by the Governor). Gathering limits in Cambridge for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 outdoors on May 6, 2021. Another shift that I have been advocating for is guidance on masks: effective today, April 30, the City will align with the State’s updated Face Coverings Order with regards to outdoor mask-wearing. Under the City’s amended order, masks or face coverings will not be required outside in public spaces when individuals are able to remain at 6 feet from others. Masks or face coverings are required at all times at indoor and outdoor venues and events, except when eating or drinking, and, in residential buildings of two or more units, masks are required prior to entering any common area. So keep a mask with you at all times – and enjoy the time you don’t need it while using it when you do!

I’ve been busy – hearing from small business owners at a Cambridge Local First meeting, and visiting Jerry’s Pond in anticipation of more work on how to transform this fenced-off space into a safe nature space that is a respite from busy streets and lives (join me at the annual Jerry’s Pond Clean-up on Sunday (5/2) at 2:45 pm!). I look forward to more weekends biking and walking on Memorial Drive, and hopefully hearing and watching performers as arts venues open up. I hope you are as hopeful as I am about the spring and getting back to living with our friends and families.


PO #2 – Enhancing safety on Memorial Drive: I am co-sponsoring this PO following a hit pedestrian last week near the Weeks Bridge, from which the victim was left in critical condition. While there are not yet details out about the accident, that section of Mem Drive is dangerous and cars often speed far above the 35MPH limit. I am excited that DCR has continued its planning – after a stop due to the pandemic – to reconfigure Memorial Drive and include bike lanes and more open space along much of the drive. 

PO #3 – EV-Ready Cambridge: I am happy to submit this order on making sure new buildings include infrastructure for the future this week as I work to have Cambridge match green policies other cities have implemented. While we work as a city and state to move away from car-dependency, it is clear that cars will still be a popular mode of transportation for the foreseeable future. For anyone purchasing a car right now (and for the next 14 years, before no new gas-powered cars can be sold), we want to do everything we can to make sure they are electric. One of the most-cited reasons for people not buying electric is access to chargers, and right now Cambridge does not have a policy on the books that mandates developers include EV chargers in any parking they are building. I have worked with CDD and Traffic and Parking to solve that by ensuring any large development building parking spaces has 25% with EV chargers and 100% EV ready (meaning the electrical panels are installed and there is adequate space to insert chargers).

PO #7 – Free the Vaccine resolution: I am happy to be co-sponsoring a resolution urging President Biden to put the US in full support of the WTO TRIPS waiver – and asking Moderna and Pfizer to withdraw their opposition to the granting of the waiver. While the US has been quickly vaccinating its population, it is our moral imperative to help poorer nations get access to the vaccine as quickly as possible. Furthermore, a failure to vaccinate the global population will allow the virus to continue mutating and developing resistance to existing vaccines.

PO #8 – Safe Streets fundingI submitted this order asking the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department to work with the City Manager to apply for this grant, which gives municipalities funding to implement shared and safe street initiatives, especially in high crash zones and in Environmental Justice communities. Our attempts last year at shared streets were muddled, and did not achieve the desired results.  I am hopeful that with the pandemic more under control, the need for outdoor safe space will make it clear that streets can and should be multi-modal spots for community, not only car storage and transit.  

Unfinished business – Green Roofs Petition: This is the last meeting that the petition will be before the Council before it expires, so we must vote it up or down on Monday. I was happy to amend it last week to ensure that commercial and lab developers would have to install a green roof (or vegetative roof with solar) OR pay for one elsewhere.  It is time that we required some specific actions to address the climate crisis from developers. I hope that it does not get further restricted before it passes – it is already far weaker than the original version: all affordable housing is entirely exempt. Only commercial and lab buildings have to do a green roof (with or without solar) or pay for one elsewhere. Other buildings can do a green roof OR solar or both. I believe it is reasonable that we as climate leaders have in place a requirement for vegetative roofs, which provide insulation, some stormwater mitigation, and if paired with solar increase efficiency of the panels.   

From last week’s meeting: 

Commercial composting pilot: I am excited that a policy I co-sponsored is being implemented – a pilot program to serve 100 small businesses in Cambridge. The initial proposal provides 100 small businesses with twice a week pickup of up to two 65-gallon receptacles, with the expectation that, if demand is there, the program will be expanded in years to come. 40% of all food in the US is wasted, much of it at restaurants, so this is an important way to cut down on waste in Cambridge while simultaneously making life easier for small businesses. You can read the report here to find out more about the composting program in Cambridge. And, those concerned about anaerobic digesting compared to ground based composting, read the EPA report on why it makes sense in this case. 

City updates:

Tobin and Vassal Lane Upper Schools Community Meeting (Thursday, May 6):Please join City staff for a virtual meeting to discuss the Tobin/VLUS Reconstruction Project. There have been concerns about moving students and staff into a smaller building during renovation – and I have asked the City Manager for a response. The Longfellow building is proposed as a swing space for the Tobin School and it is important the community knows how the school district and city are ensuring it is a safe and appropriate space next fall.  

Small business week! Join the City of Cambridge in celebrating National Small Business Week, May 2-8, 2021! I write all the time about small businesses and what more we can be doing to support them – next week try and do extra shopping at small businesses in Cambridge. The City will be hosting webinars and other events to provide resources to local small businesses and entrepreneurs, and to celebrate the importance of small businesses to Cambridge’s vibrant community. Events are open to Cambridge business owners, entrepreneurs and residents. For more information:

Tips for Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes: There have been recent reports of coyote sightings, including a few around Alewife that I have heard about. Here is what the City says – Coyotes are common in urban areas and the presence of a coyote alone is not cause for concern, as coyotes are naturally afraid of people. Help keep coyotes wild by scaring or threatening coyotes in your yard with loud noises, bright lights, or water sprayed from a hose. Coyotes that have become dependent on human-associated food can become habituated and exhibit bold behavior toward people. A habituated coyote does not run off when harassed or chased; approaches pets on a leash; and approaches and follows people. While seeing a coyote is not a reason to call 911 or Cambridge Animal Control, if they are displaying strange behavior or signs of being sick, injured, or rabid, please call 911, Cambridge Animal Control (617-349-4376), or the Massachusetts Environmental Police (1-800-632-8075). Learn more about preventing conflicts with coyotes. 

Trivia question:

To offset the current canopy loss that Cambridge is experiencing, how many 3″ caliper trees do we need to plan each year?

Last week’s trivia question: Massachusetts recently passed a law committing the state to reduce our Green House Gas [GHG] Emissions by 50% by 2030. Biden announced a commitment that the USA would reduce our GHG emissions by 50% by 2030…. Seems like the same goal, but there is a  key difference. What is it and why does it matter? And for extra credit: how MUCH does it matter?

ANSWER: Biden committed the USA to a reduction from baseline 2005. The commonwealth commitment is from baseline 1990. That matters, since emissions were much higher in 2005 than in 1990….Despite our efforts starting in 1990 to reduce emissions, they generally went up until about 2005.  So a reduction from a higher base will lead to a lower overall reduction. In either case, we need to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 (or 2040 according to many scientists)… The different starting points will lead to different slopes of the downward line for expected reductions. 

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

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