Council Updates – schools opening, Margaret Fuller, office hours

Margaret Fuller of Cambridge (read more below)

All:

Monday is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History month. Women’s history and women’s contributions, as with Black history and contributions, should not be relegated to one day or month. And yet, I do welcome the extra attention paid during this time to important history. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to learn and to expand your knowledge… or share your knowledge.  

Students were welcomed back to school this week and I have already heard from many families that their kids are thrilled. And I have heard that many are still concerned that even though the students are in-person much of the teaching is still via screen. Which is definitely sub-optimal. I acknowledge that there is trepidation about that step, and I have long maintained that we can open schools safely. And we should have done it long ago. I hope that the district explores how to ensure that learning continues and students are given opportunities to get back on track – whether through intensive summer programs, accelerated and expanded tutoring, or other ways to address the educational losses of the pandemic. Starting on March 11th, Massachusetts will expand vaccine eligibility at mass vaccination sites to include preK-12 educators and staff. This is a big step and I am happy that teachers are being prioritized. 

I have also gotten questions about people getting rides to vaccines: Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is offering free transportation for residents to nearby COVID-19 vaccination sites. You can register for a ride by calling 617-628-2601 or emailing info@eldercare.org. Please pass this information along to anyone who may need it. 

Office hours: I’ll be holding two sessions this week to discuss the CCF development in Alewife. I wrote a newsletter about my concerns a few weeks ago, and I want to hear directly from you. If you have questions, thoughts, or concerns, please drop in and chat during either time: Sunday (3/7) from 10:30am-11:30am, and Tuesday (3/9) from 6pm-7pm. I’m looking forward to a good discussion. Respond to this email for the zoom link. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Patty

CMA #8 Green Roofs Petition

This item was referred to the Council with an unfavorable recommendation from the planning board. While the board was supportive of the idea, they thought the language needed work and that any ordinance should give options for meeting the city’s environmental objectives. I understand some of the concerns the Planning Board articulated. And I disagree with the recommendation. I believe that we should work to change the language of the ordinance to address some of the concerns and still move forward to implement it as soon as possible. 

On the table – Acoustic music licenses

This item was tabled two weeks ago to get a response from the City Solicitor. It seems as though everyone involved – the license commission, the police commissioner, the council – wants to make it easier and cheaper for businesses to acquire acoustic music licenses. It initially seemed like this would require a home rule, but the commission recently said this would further complicate the process and advised the council against it. I am hoping that we can resolve this matter with a solution that makes it easy and accessible for small businesses to acquire these permits. Read this Cambridge Day article to learn more. 

PO#2 Waiving Business Fees 

I submitted this policy order after speaking with a local business owner who happens to also run a business in Somerville. He explained to me that all FY21 business fees had been waived in Somerville, and asked me why Cambridge hadn’t done the same. We did reduce some fees and provided funding in a number of ways. However, there are businesses who may not have known about or been able to access the small business support programs, and a fee of even a few hundred dollars can be tough to pay. The city is in strong financial standing, and if Somerville is able to waive fees and go the extra step for small businesses, we can and should as well. Salem also waived fees last year and there may be other cities as well. I believe that copying good ideas from other places is good governance – hence this PO. I am glad that Councillor Carlone, Mayor Siddiqui and Vice Mayor Mallon who have all been championing the idea that the city do even more for small businesses are sponsors as well. 

PO#3 Honoring Covid Victims

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year, but this policy order asks the City Manager to direct the appropriate staff to place 121 miniature white flags on City Hall lawn on Sunday, March 14, 2021 through Saturday, March 20, 2021 to commemorate the 121 Cambridge lives lost to COVID-19. This is a temporary memorial while the process for a permanent memorial continues. 

NLTP Hearing on Neighborhood Groups

Last night, I was thrilled that 60 people (including group leaders, councillors, and city staff) gathered remotely to discuss the successes and challenges of neighborhood groups. 15 groups were represented and were able to share ideas and best practices. I have often heard that groups often do not feel heard or supported by the city. And we acknowledge that there are often tensions in groups, among groups, and with groups and the city. 

As I said at the start of the meeting yesterday: The goal of this meeting is to better understand what resources the city could provide. And, as noted in the policy order, one of the hopes is to share best practices in DEI efforts. Some neighborhood groups have seen a lot of success in their outreach and DEI efforts, if there are some practices to share that would be helpful for all of us. These efforts were not the only focus of the meeting. The policy order was broad in asking for the committee to “host a meeting to discuss ways to strengthen community bonds and understand whether the city could better support groups” and the PO asked that the agenda include how groups “might want to learn from each other and share as best practice in any areas – recruitment, outreach, engagement, etc,” and “share success as well as challenges.” This was an opportunity to hear from each other, listen to each other, and to elicit ideas and suggestions for improving how the city supports neighborhood groups.  

The meeting went well, although the discussion could have continued for hours. I look forward to furthering this conversation down the road. Unfortunately, a video of the hearing is not yet available due to a technical problem at city hall, but I will be sure to send it out when it is uploaded to the site.

Events

Women’s history month: (just a tiny sampling- do explore and tell me more to include next week)

There are many exciting events – check out the Cambridge Women’s Commission’s calendar with upcoming ones – from a movie Left on Pearl (a must-see for Cantanbridgians and feminists) to discussion on community organizing, race and the women’s movement, celebrating the 50th birthday of the Women’s Center – you will find something to enjoy! And if you bear to miss our City Council meeting on Monday March 8, tune in to Secretary Madeleine Albright’s talk The future of Diplomacy is Female

Community Land Trust: Tomorrow, Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler is hosting an event about creating a potential tool to address the affordable housing crisis. The event is called “Starting the conversation on a Cambridge Community Land Trust,” and it’ll take place this Saturday, March 6 from 11am-12:30pm via Zoom. Speakers will talk about the role a CLT could play in taking housing off the speculative market and creating permanently affordable homes in Cambridge. Click here for some information on a community land trust.

City Updates

Outdoor seating at restaurants:

I am happy that the city has announced it will continue to make permits available for outdoor seating so that restaurants can provide additional seating as the weather gets warmer. 

Cambridge Public Library Hires Licensed Social Worker:

Cambridge Public Library announces the appointment of the Library’s first ever Licensed Social Worker, Marie Mathieu. Marie has great experience and will be an asset to the library. This is thanks to many residents who pushed the city and the council to ensure funding for FY21. 

New Resident/Visitor Permit Expiration Date and Extension of Resident Permit Renewals: 

The Traffic, Parking, + Transportation Department has extended the validity of all 2020 Resident and Visitor Parking Permits. The new expiration date is May 31, 2021. If you have not already done so, you can submit your renewal application here. Due to COVID-19, we have experienced delays in processing and mailing, so please allow 5 – 7 weeks for delivery.  Note I am still waiting for mine – which I submitted almost 7 weeks ago…. So I will certainly be pushing the city if I don’t get it soon!

DPW doing great work:

Good news – Cambridge DPW was featured in a WBUR story on road salt and the harm it can do to the environment. As we know, often the environmentally smart thing to do is also the financially smart thing to do, and I am thrilled that Cambridge is saving money and saving runoff with this initiative.

Thanks for those of you who send in a snow story…. This week let’s continue – please send in a name of a shero of yours – with 1-3 sentences of WHY you picked her. Extra credit if they have a connection to Cambridge. Random pick from entries will win a $15 local gift card. And, I will name one of mine  –  one of the most august and awesome women, of daunting intellect, audacity and impact, with a strong Cambridge connection: Margaret Fuller. Had she been a man, I believe she would be as well known as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson combined. Although she died at sea with her family and her body was never recovered, there is a marker at Mt Auburn Cemetery where the rest of her family is buried.