Council Updates: Work continues as we hope for progress

All,

Whatever/however you celebrate, it is nice that this time of year has a number of ways we celebrate with light and candles. We bought Advent Calendars this year locally – one from EHChocolatier with a shop just down the street from our house and one from The Happy Chocolatier – both provide daily welcome reminders that treats are a nice indulgence. And with the hannukiah that our family lights to celebrate Hannukah, (above) I always smile at the whimsy – and am reminded of the wonder of creative fun artists who help us through good times and bad times. The solstice will see the closest alignment of Saturn and Jupiter in hundreds of years – bundle up and look for them in the night sky. And this weekend, find a dark spot to enjoy Geminid meteor showers.   

As news sources across the country are reporting, the covid numbers are troubling and the economic pain is real. Food insecurity is rising and many residents across the city, state, and country are hurting. For whatever purchases you make, buy local and buy direct (from restaurants if you are ordering take out). And if you can, there are many organizations working to provide basic necessities for those suffering the most. The Cambridge Mayor’s Relief Fund is still accepting donations, the East End House has a drive to provide for children, La Collaborativa in Chelsea is swamped with need. And the area families benefit each year from Globe Santa – and as someone who has pledged to support newspapers I always give something to them. 

Stay safe, and as sane as you can in these truly crazy times…. Visit friends and family you don’t live with only outside and stay masked.

Patty

Danehy Park was a dump before it was converted to our biggest park

Recap on 12/9 Jerry’s Pond Committee Hearing

I was happy with the successful NLTP Committee Hearing this week, furthering the conversation and taking another step towards the vision of an accessible space for community access. I reached out to many of the stakeholders before the meeting so we could have a truly collaborative meeting and I was thrilled so many were able to join – councilors, city staff, FPRA, Friends of Jerry’s Pond, Reservoir Church, Fresh Pond Apartments, Alewife Study Group, Alewife Neighbors, and others were all in attendance. IQHQ was also represented by their lawyer, Anthony Galluccio, who spoke briefly about their intention of working with the community. IQHQ will be having initial conversations with the city over the next few weeks. 

The success of the meeting was showing that the community is united and is looking at IQHQ to be a partner in the saga of reclaiming Jerry’s Pond as a community asset. And yet, we also know that the outreach has to continue and improve. Many of the residents living right across the street don’t have reliable internet – [plug for municipal broadband goes here….] – but Eric Gruenebaum of Friend’s of Jerry’s Pond (and lifelong Cambridge resident) has hired a young, dynamic student who lives in the Fresh Pond Apartments and is very interested in working on this issue to engage the community and get feedback. He is still raising money and if you are able to, making a contribution would go a long way! Please let me know if you are able to and I will put you in touch with Eric. 

I look forward to continuing these discussions, hearing about the plans IQHQ is developing for the site, and working for a public amenity on the site. The owners will be hosting a community meeting to discuss their plans on January 21 from 6:30 – 8 pm. I am not sure how far advanced the plans will be, however I know they want community involvement.  

As the pictures show, we know that we can turn unused, hazardous parts of our city into amenities. The final result of Jerry’s Pond won’t be a playground or playing fields like Danehy, since there are playing fields and playgrounds right there.  It should be a space that the thousands of residents in the Fresh Pond Apartments and thousands more in North Cambridge can access – green space that provides fresh air and natural beauty to those who seek it. If we work together and keep up the pressure, I believe we can make it happen. 

City Council Agenda

Full Agenda here

Sign up for public comment here, or email your thoughts to council@cambridgema.gov

Purchasing goods compliant with US environmental and labor standards 

This item on the City Manager’s Agenda is in response to a PO I filed in October asking for an opinion from the Solicitor on all goods that Cambridge purchases be compliant with USA labor and environmental standards. The recommendation from the Solicitor is that enacting such an ordinance would be difficult and problematic, as there are state laws dictating how procurement processes are meant to work. These laws are meant to protect from favoritism and corruption, but in the same way that we can purchase a higher quality good if we see fit (even if it is more expensive), I believe we could choose the item made under environmental and labor standards as well. In fact, I have learned from conversations with the purchasing department and other city staff that many departments are already doing this. Whenever they have the option, they choose the environmentally sound option. An ordinance would simply ensure that whenever the option is available, it is an automatic choice for us to use proper labor and environmental standards. I believe that tax-payer dollars should only be used to purchase goods that are environmentally friendly and made by people getting a living wage. And the Globe Magazine published my letter in response to an article about making buying decisions based on principles – a position I strongly support. I will continue to work on how to make the vision happen.

Single-family and two-family zoning

I introduced this PO to look at the need for single and two-family zoning in certain neighborhoods in Cambridge which are currently restricted to ONLY single families or two families. These types of policies have origins in exclusionary zoning and we should decide if they still have a place in our zoning code. If it passed, this PO would call the NLTP Committee and the Housing Committee to hold a joint meeting with city staff and community members to discuss potential changes to our ordinance. I am looking forward to moving this process forward and possibly getting rid of this part of our zoning. Before we propose changes, we should understand the concerns and issues that may arise if we were to enact such a change.

City Updates

2072 Mass Ave – There has been a lot of discussion about some upcoming development proposals.  One before the Planning Board and the Board of Zoning Appeal for a proposed affordable housing development at the corner of Walden Street and Massachusetts Ave.  I haven’t fully studied the proposal – I am reading communications from those supporting it as is and those wanting some changes.  I will be reaching out to more people so I can take a stand.    Another proposal is for an upzoning in the Alewife area – a very large development that will dramatically affect that area of the city.  We have an Ordinance Meeting on it next week and I have a number of questions about the proposal.  Look for more on that as the plans are presented and we review reports from the city and various bodies on that petition. 

Shop local! As I wrote about last week, the Popportunity Market at Starlight Square is still open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-5pm! It is a great place to do your holiday shopping and remind yourself that despite this dark year, we still live in a vibrant and creative community. Here is a full list of places to support while shopping and buying locally

Winter Clothing Drive! The Mayor, Cambridge Community Development Department, the Thrifting Project and the Glocal Challenge are hosting a winter clothing drive tomorrow. This Saturday, December 12th outside of CRLS from 10am-4pm, you can donate lightly worn and clean winter clothing. All donations will benefit The Spot in Cambridge.

Testing testing testing! You can get tested in minutes any day of the week, even if you do not have an appointment. See all of the locations and sign up for a slot if you are able to (but do not let it deter you if there are no slots open). There will be no testing on December 23rd, 24th, 25th, and January 1st. 

And finally, question of the day ($15 gift card on the line):

Hanukkah started last night – I often reflect on some things I only learned as an adult, and only because I was in an environment that was conducive to a broader perspective. One fact was that 1492 is not only the year of the start of colonization of the Americas. It was also the year Jews in much of Europe faced a choice: convert to Christianity (and we might not kill you); leave the country; or be killed. Recent genomic evidence has led to the discovery of many folks in different parts of the world having genetic ties to European Jews.…. So the trivia question: What percent of Latin American’s urban population have Jewish roots?

(this time, any correct answer in the first 24 hours will be in a lottery for the $15 local gift certificate)

Answer to last week’s question which President made Thanksgiving a national holiday: While we know that the “traditional” story told about Thanksgiving is inaccurate and erases the genocide of Native Americans from history, the creation of the holiday and its intended purpose was also different than you might expect. President Lincoln named Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, in the middle and most brutal months of the Civil War, to encourage people to be thankful despite the death and despair the Union was enduring.