Happy summer! I am loving that the mulberry season is over. We have one mulberry tree on our property and it drops berries for a couple of weeks, creating a squishy mess. I am loving our little garden this year. The picture of the thriving hosta in front of our house brings me joy… but notice the hostas in our side yard. Can you spot the culprit? Those hostas were also vibrant a few weeks ago, but alas, the bunnies in my yard have had their way with them…
The picture of the hosta is also one showing that I have a garage – where my EV is – the blue Chevy Bolt in the picture. The reason I wanted to include it is that I am aware that most residents aren’t lucky enough to have a garage or driveway, so if they buy an EV, how can they charge it? NOW, they can apply for a permit to charge across the sidewalk! Another first for Cambridge – we are the first city in Massachusetts to launch a pilot like this. More information on the pilot program below. I am very excited for this opportunity for more folks to take advantage of EV driving.
The city lost a legend recently. Saundra Graham, who paved the way for so many with her life of activism and pursuit of social justice passed away recently. She was given the honor of lying in state at City Hall on Monday. I discovered that my seat on the council was once her seat! The picture shows how that seat was honored during the viewing, and her relative stood guard. It was moving to see the outpouring of affection and the celebration of her life and legacy.
Although I am no longer on School Committee, I still care deeply about the schools and the students. This year I spoke out about a huge lapse that is distressing and deeply troubling: the reneging on the commitment to give every 8th grader the opportunity to successfully complete a full Algebra I course. This is something that many nearby places do: from Cambridge Friends School and Shady Hill to Brookline Public Schools. The Globe wrote an article about this issue. I encourage all of us who care about equity and excellence to demand that the district honor Janet and Bob Moses’s work by committing now to having every rising 6th grader have the opportunity to ace Algebra I before high school. That gives the district three years – definitely doable.
Summer is here! Sign up for alerts about shaving the peak. That means when the electrical grid is close to capacity, like yesterday, turn off or turn down all electricity for non-essential items. That can also lower demand enough that dirty sources of energy and electricity will not be needed. AND, you can always lower demand even on days like today which are not likely to be peak demand days…
The next regular meeting of the full council will not be until Monday, August 7. However, I am working through the summer – below are some updates on some continuing work as well as our schedule of committee meetings for the next few weeks. As always, please feel free to contact me about any city item at any time.
Below are some comments on a few top line items from the last couple weeks, a preview of some important committee meetings, and a few events to check out.
Electric Vehicle Charging
This week brought some fantastic news on EV ownership! A project I started last year to address EV charging anxiety succeeded. Starting now, Cambridge residents can apply for a permit to charge across (or above) the sidewalk. This pilot program will be the first of its kind in Massachusetts. Equity and environmental justice demand we support residents without driveways and promote more EV use across the city. I am very excited that this initiative is finally happening after a lot of pushing over the last year. The City announced the pilot program this week and permits will be available starting now. A note on implementation: I will propose eliminating the permit fee (which right now is $200) and providing subsidies to residents who need assistance to comply with permit requirements. I also want us eventually to be able to provide for Level 2 charging across sidewalks. For now, I am thrilled we are moving forward. For more info on the pilot see:
Harvard Square Pedestrianization
A project I have been working on and pushing forward over the last few years has been increasing pedestrianization in Harvard Square. I’ve been spending time in the Square since my college days at Harvard, so I know what a vibrant and exciting community exists there. It is beyond time we work to increase the vitality of the square, and consciously make a place for the community to gather through pedestrianization. The square has tons of events that bring in hundreds or thousands of people. Those events can and should continue. This idea is to have more permanent pedestrian spaces, along the lines of many European cities and cities like Burlington VT, Boulder CO, Montreal QC, and others. After spearheading several policy orders and working with City staff, we brought the discussion to the Harvard Square Advisory Committee. It has been frustrating – since Councillor Carlone says he worked on this idea a decade ago, and Vice Mayor Mallon led on a policy order before I was on council in 2019 to get a pilot program. The city was supposed to do a pilot of pedestrianization in 2021 and in 2022 and sadly those did not happen. Now, summer of 2023 is already here and we still don’t have the plan for a pilot. I am pushing for us to move quickly with a pilot and I have confidence that the pilot will demonstrate we should make pedestrianization of some streets permanent. It will take a community effort to radically rework the Square and it will take holistic community buy-in to make this dream become a reality, but it’s so important that we take advantage of this incredible area and this opportunity to rethink how the Square works. If we do it right, with community input, proper planning, and solid implementation, we can make an impact for decades to come and improve life in Harvard Square for people and businesses in Cambridge.
I want to take another opportunity to shout out passing amendments to the Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO), but also to correct the errors in the Globe article, which left out the work of City staff in crafting and developing BEUDO amendments. Not only did the Globe erase my leadership, and the Mayor’s, they also left out the essential work of CDD staff and mislabeled the ordinance, which has been on the books since 2014 and has been discussed as part of the City’s Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) since 2013. There was so much important work done over years and years to get this ordinance to where it is today. This legislation can be transformative for reducing building emissions and can be a model for cities around the country as we fight the effects of climate change. Thanks to all who spent time advocating and pushing to help us get the requirements passed. This isn’t the only step we can take and it’s not a silver bullet. I will continue to advocate and fight for reducing emissions citywide. For a decade, NZAP has called for decarbonization, green investment, and transformative change. Last year, as chair of the Health and Environment Committee, I worked to implement SMART goals within the plan so that we can hold ourselves accountable to continue the good work. Thank you again to all of you who have worked so hard with me on fighting the climate crisis here in Cambridge and around the world.
Alewife Zoning Updates
I have been working a lot over the last two years to revitalize and reimagine the “Alewife Quadrangle”. If you’ve been following my work, you’ll remember that over a year ago I led an effort to develop a development moratorium on new office and lab use in Alewife until the Council had an opportunity to enact new zoning. Over the course of the last year, the Alewife Zoning Working Group has been hard at work trying to come up with just that: new zoning that would create a unified vision for the neighborhood. CDD worked hard to take the recommendations from the working group and came up with a zoning proposal. We are now in a place where the Council can weigh in on that proposal. Overall, I am pleased with where the proposal ended up. I am very impressed with the effort and vision of the working group and I believe that this proposal represents a clear vision, filled with community input and compromise. There are several important distinctions to be made during the Council process however, and I have been in touch with City staff to begin to hammer those out. On Wednesday evening, July 19, at 5:30pm, the Ordinance Committee will meet to dig into the details of the proposal and discuss potential changes. From there, the Council will decide as a body on next steps. I’d like to take some time here as well to thank the members of the working group for all of their time and dedication to this process. It is very clear from the work that has been done that this group has put together a thoughtful and collaborative proposal that has the potential to dramatically improve Alewife for decades, and I am excited to work to make that a reality.
Cycling Safety Ordinance Business Impact Study
I have been working a lot over the past several months to try to improve the communication, implementation, and effectiveness of the Cycling Safety Ordinance (CSO) and about street improvements more broadly. I have submitted several policy orders to that effect and have recently spent a lot of time with City staff and residents to try to understand communication and implementation issues and to work to improve them. That work will continue. I believe in (and take advantage of!) using eco-friendly forms of transportation and I believe that transportation throughout the city can be greatly improved with robust bike and bus lanes and significant roadway improvements. Anyone who sees me riding around town or sees me in my bike helmet walking into City Hall every day knows that I am committed to rethinking transportation in the city. But I also know that infrastructure improvement needs to come with data-driven decision making about public safety on our roadways (for pedestrians, bikers, and drivers) and community engagement. Recently, I have seen the City struggle with both. The Council’s next step in examining the effectiveness of the CSO is a meeting of the Economic Development Committee on Thursday, July 20, at 3:00pm to discuss the update on CDD’s Economic Impact Study regarding the implementation of the CSO. This will be yet another opportunity to discuss data and strategy with City staff, which will hopefully lead to better communication and improvements across the board.
Cambridge Jazz Festival
On July 29 and 30 at Danehy Park, the Cambridge Jazz Foundation will be holding the 8th annual free Jazz Festival. It’s a great event featuring over 8 acts over two days. Check out the website to learn more!
Danehy Park Summer Concert Series
Cambridge Recreation in partnership with Club Passim, brings live, family-friendly folk and jazz music from a variety of local singers and songwriters to Danehy Park, 99 Sherman St. Every Tuesday evening through August 15, musicians take the stage near Danehy Park’s Sherman St. entrance and perform free concerts from 6-8pm. On July 18, enjoy family-friendly music from musician Kim Moberg. Learn more.
Screen on the Green Family Movie Night
Wednesday July 19, 7:15 p.m., Rindge Field: Enjoy family-friendly entertainment and the movie Minions: Rise of Gru. Rain site: Gately Youth Center (70 Rindge Ave.) View the Screen on the Green flier
Charter Review Committee
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing their work reviewing our city charter and to prepare their report for the city council. The CRC currently meets every other Tuesday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm and are actively seeking input from all members of the community. Their next regular meeting will be Tuesday, July 18, 2023 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. In the coming weeks and months, they will be planning more public outreach events. They have also been working to attend community group meetings to spread the word about their important work and get input from the community. If you are part of a community group and would like to invite a CRC member to your meeting to talk about the work and get involved, please reach out to them via email! I invite you to attend their meetings and events, engage with members of the committee, and discuss your vision for our City charter. All the information as well as recordings of previous meetings can be found on their website. Further, you can submit written comments at any time to be considered by the CRC by emailing CharterReviewCommittee@Cambridgema.gov.
Thank you to everyone for reading. If there are any topics you want me to cover in future newsletters, I’m always happy for the input! As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick (firstname.lastname@example.org) , or me for any of your City Council needs.
You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested: https://pattynolan.org/news/