Council updates – summer sweltering stay sheltering

Garden Street this morning

All:

Happy Summer! This will be a summer unlike any I (and likely you) have ever experienced. With the pandemic still raging in parts of the world, alongside the mass movement to address systemic racism, we have work to do as a country, state, city and human being. We are lucky to live in Massachusetts, a state that has worked to lower the COVID crisis, and Cambridge, where cases have continued to fall. However, our city and state still have more cases per capita than most states, and we must continue to follow guidelines of wearing masks, washing hands, and limiting large gatherings.

On the good news front: Memorial Drive Riverbend Park is open on BOTH Saturdays and Sundays for the foreseeable future. Take advantage of the extra space. And TODAY the city has started to implement the “shared streets” plan. The idea is to identify streets across the city where traffic is slower (not nonexistent traffic – just vehicles needing local access at reduced speeds) and people can walk and bike more safely with more distance. The sense is that we will learn as we go. Drivers will have to adjust expectations, and it may take a while for all of us to understand how best to have the city be more multi-modal friendly. See the shared streets and give feedback here.

Enjoying the outdoors – with a limited number of people – will get us through this summer. I plan to explore the many parks and nature places throughout the region. If you have a favorite that might be lesser known, please let me know and I can send a list in a future newsletter. One beach favorite of mine, a little over an hour away: Demarest Lloyd State Park in Dartmouth MA -if you go, get raw milk and/or ice cream at the nearby Paskamansett Farms. And walk along the Mass. Audubon Allen’s Pond, also nearby.

Below is an overview of Monday’s agenda as well as upcoming committee hearings and some City-wide updates. Reach out with any questions.

With hope,

Patty

Council Agenda Overview

To watch the meetings or to sign up to speak during public comment, click here.
You can also email your comments to council@cambridgema.gov to be included in the record.

The first few policy orders below were late orders from last week – which all got charter righted by Councilor Zondervan. In general, unless there is a time-based urgency, I oppose late policy orders since I believe the Council and the community need time to reflect and review orders before adoption. I am glad the six late orders were put off until next week, so we all have time to consider them. 

  • PO #146 – Police Department inventory: This order, which I support, asks for an itemized statement of all materials, tools, and property owned by the Cambridge Police Department. This list should already exist (Chapter 2.52 Section 090 of the Cambridge municipal code calls for it to be provided to the City Manager each June), so this is a matter of transparency. The list would help the Council and public understand what exactly is in the possession of the Cambridge Police, since there has been confusion about what category this vehicle falls under and if these specialty impact weapons are actually owned by the CPD. 
  • PO #149 – An order which I am excited to see and fully support asks the city to explore a 911 emergency system structured differently to include referral to social workers, not only traditional police personnel, along the lines of the Eugene Oregon CAHOOTS program. Since reading about this program in a Boston Globe article about ways to restructure policing, I have advocated that Cambridge explore doing the same. Our police department does some admirable work, and we can learn from others – the Eugene, Oregon program has been in place since 1989.  
  • PO #156 – Summer library: This order, which I co-sponsored, asks for an expansion of the current library re-opening with the specific goal of providing more books to students. We are still working on how to support and distribute books to families throughout Cambridge – stay tuned as we work to figure out the best way to accomplish this. (Note: you can now get books through the main library by requesting online.)
  • PO #161 – Golf course: I have proposed a policy order, co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Mallon and Councillors Zondervan and Carlone, asking the city manager to determine the feasibility of identifying one evening or day per week that the Fresh Pond Golf Course can be open to the public for general use. The golf course is the largest amount of open space we have in Cambridge and right now only around 30 people are able to use it at any given time. I believe that it would be prudent and equitable to open that space up to residents for additional uses at least one day a week, especially during a pandemic which makes staying distanced imperative. AND, if you have never visited it, you have missed out on an extraordinary treat.
  • PO #163 – COVID Testing in preparation for school: This order by Mayor Siddiqui which I was happy to co-sponsor asks for more available testing across the city foreseeing an increased need as schools anticipate reopening. The challenge of schools for the fall – as with summer programming – is great. And the more we can make sure families and students and staff can get tested the better. 

Committee Hearings:

Committee hearings are back for the first time since the pandemic hit. Yesterday was the first, scheduled last minute, for the Human Services committee to receive updates on the plan for summer programming in the city.  We heard about the challenges facing the city, which are real. And, I along with my colleagues pushed for clear accountability, for attention to efficacy, for measurable goals, inclusion of all families, and monitoring for results.  

The upcoming committee hearings are as follows:

  • July 1: The Public Safety Committee will meet at 10AM on July 1 to discuss the Cambridge Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and related matters.

  • July 7: The Ordinance Committee will meet on July 7, 2020 at 5pm to conduct a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Cycling Safety Ordinance.

  • July 8: The Ordinance Committee will meet on July 8, 2020 at 5pm to conduct a public hearing on a petition to add an Affordable Housing Ordinance to the City’s Zoning Ordinances. 

  • July 15: (I am chair of this committee) The Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee will meet to discuss the timeline, scope, and budget of the Tobin/Vassal Lane School Project, including updates on the Armory property, and how it fits into the long-term plan for all school buildings in the City to accommodate expected enrollment changes over the next 10 to 20 years and to receive an update on the legislative office plans. 

  • This Saturday! The Recycling Center’s Household Hazardous Waste Day is on June 27th. Please view the safety guidelines to access these services. 
  • Earlier this week, Cambridge Public Library’s Summer Reading Program launched. The challenges, prizes and fun last throughout the summer until August 28, 2020. 
  • Mark your calendars, because street cleaning parking restrictions will be enforced beginning July 1st!
  • Beginning Monday, June 22nd, the Department of Human Service Programs will offer free Online/Offline Summer 2020 Programming to Cambridge youth in grades K-8. 

  • Parking meters and regulations are now in effect and will be reinforced.

  • City buildings are (slowly) reopening. Here is a list of City services available during the phased reopening.

  • The Main Library is now offering contactless holds pickup! Read more here.

  • COVID testing in Cambridge – see testing sites here.
  • Outside dining has begun! See all the streets that it is happening on here

Parks are open on Monday!

The official info from the City is below:

The City of Cambridge announced that the City’s basketball courts, playgrounds, tot lots, and water play structures will reopen for public use on Monday, June 29. As the Public Works Department works to get water turned on at all locations, there may be some delays before all water play structures are fully operational.
  
Those utilizing City of Cambridge playgrounds, tot lots, and water play structures should adhere to the following:
  • Do not visit playgrounds, tot lots, or water play structures if you feel sick.
  • Wash hands before and after use.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from others at all times. 
  • Wear face coverings at all times when you cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from others.
  • Children should be monitored at all times to ensure they are maintaining proper distancing and wearing face coverings.
  • Seek alternative facilities if the area is too crowded or wait outside the area until social distancing is possible.
  • While the City will regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, this will not be done on a daily basis.
  • Please use play structures and other common surfaces at your own discretion.
Those utilizing City of Cambridge basketball courts should adhere to the following:
  • Wash hands before and after play.
  • No pick-up games or scrimmages.
  • Open for non-contact drills only.
  • Wait outside court until others leave.
  • No congregating outside courts.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from others at all times.
  • Wear face coverings at all times when you cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from others.
Parks, community gardens, and fields remain open for passive use. No congregating, group activities, or game playing is allowed. The Gold Star Pool remains closed while under construction with a tentative completion date of mid-August.The public is reminded to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently when outside their homes.

Film and music

Local treasures:  The Cambridge Art Center hosts a national contest DO IT YOUR DAMN SELF which invites young (teen) filmmakers to submit their personal films.  The range of topics is far-reaching, and often intense.  And always rewarding. Peruse the virtual screening this year.  

Favorite music video of the week: I’ve been in love with the Dixie Chicks since I heard “Not Ready to Make Nice” and now with their new release as The Chicks (forgoing the Dixie part) March, I’m head over heels.

If you are able to, please give!

Here are a few local efforts in need of support:

 

I also encourage you to donate to the following organizations that are engaging in racial justice work: