Final Council Meeting – RISE program, charter reform, and more

Happy solstice, summer, and school year-end!

EXCITING that the green roofs zoning ordinance is in effect and projects are now required to include vegetative roofs. The first projects – including MIT’s (see picture above) – will likely ask for a special permit to pay for a green roof elsewhere instead of putting in the roof – which is to be expected since their plans were well developed before the ordinance passed. I am hopeful that over the next couple of years we will see more commitment to try bio-solar. To have green vegetative roofs with solar panels on top – the best of sustainability.

I am in New York City, picking up our daughter from college (very proud of her – persevering through her last year with remote classes…). I am always amazed by how NYC works – I lived there in my 20s and the city has improved many elements of living. There are miles upon miles of bike lanes, there are spaces set aside on streets for public use, and the creative joyful parks and endlessly varied skyline never cease to amaze. An especially wonderful place I visited between packing up the college room was The Little Island – created in the Hudson River where old piers stood – providing an amphitheater, gardens of green and flowers, and quirky spaces to explore and enjoy the city. I am hoping the vision for more use of the Charles River and support for Magazine Beach and the Memorial Drive redesign will bring similar “wow” to Cambridge/Boston.

This past week saw the departure of longtime Public Health Officer Claude Jacob, who is leaving to head up the San Antonio TX public health office. And I visited a number of sites in the city preparing for summer programs. Sadly this week was NOT the usual annual dance party week, which was canceled until 2022. Luckily there will be plenty of opportunities to gather outside – from the Starlight Square offerings and pop-up performances across the city. This fall, Dance for World Community, and the Cambridge Carnaval are scheduled to return – keep an eye out. And keep using the outdoor spaces discovered and enjoyed during the past year – we don’t need a pandemic to be outside and use our parks and public spaces.

After Monday’s meeting, the council will not have a full regular business meeting for a month. There will still be committee meetings during July, although the number taper off as city staff and others take a well-deserved break – especially after this year. I plan to have regular newsletters but may not be sending them weekly. As always, please contact me with any issues or concerns or ideas or thoughts or questions.



Items charter righted at last meeting: 

There were a number of items charter righted (delayed) at last week’s Council meeting, including PO #142, a home rule petition that would send three charter reform measures to the ballot this November. And PO #143, an order I submitted asking the manager to reconsider the plan to cut down three, old-growth oak trees at Tobin that are outside of the building footprint. I hope they both pass – and that both move forward with haste. Two other orders are also back on the agenda – an order to explore reparations and approval of the $65 million in funds the city is scheduled to receive from the federal government relief packages. Both of these orders are critically important and I look forward to discussion on them. I hope the council moves forward with a reparations discussion and that we collaboratively work with the city administration for shared responsibility on allocating the federal relief funds.  

City Manager’s Agenda:

CMA #4 – Central Square Street Closure Pilots – The Manager is definitely saying in this report that he is not open to closing down a section of Mass Ave in Central Square for dining and pedestrian access. I wish that the city could be more proactive with street closures as many neighboring cities have been during the pandemic, and I will continue to work on the Harvard Square street closure pilots that I have written about here in the past. 

CMA #5 – Mosquito Management – This agenda item is in response to an order I submitted last month on the mosquito management program that the state uses to protect against EEE. Many were concerned after learning that the pesticide that the state uses is Anvil 10+10 in a recent Globe article. However, the public health department is saying that they do not believe adjustments to the management program are necessary since Anvil 10+10 was not used in 2019 or 2020, and they believe our water sources are safe from any ground spraying that is taking place. 

Policy Orders

PO #2 – Supporting Free Fare Buses Pilot – My State Senator Patricia Jehlen recently introduced SD.2340, An Act Relative to Fare Free Buses, which would establish a year long MBTA Fare Free Bus Pilot for at least twenty bus routes experiencing high ridership. Cambridge has multiple bus routes that are on the top twenty bus routes that service low-income populations (including the number 1 bus, which has one of the highest ridership levels in the entire system), and this bill would be a great way to promote transit and make it more accessible. 

PO #7 – Condominium construction permits – this policy order that I am co-sponsoring asks the City Solicitor to prepare an ordinance that allows individual condominium owners the ability to obtain a City construction permit to repair known structural and other safety violations even without a majority of the building’s condominium owners’ vote of approval. Currently, a majority of condominium owners must approve of any construction and maintenance done to the building. Even in cases where there is known structural damage, if a majority does not approve construction, the city cannot issue permits. Hopefully, the Solicitor can draft an ordinance on this matter and the Council can move forward with discussion. 

PO #8 – Stipends for multi-member bodies – There have been numerous conversations about increasing diversity on boards and commissions. This policy order requests that the city manager work with members of the Finance and Personnel Departments to review other cities’ stipend models as well as the average time commitment for Cambridge’s various member multi-member bodies. It is difficult to attract a diverse, talented pool of applicants when being a member is a huge time commitment with no compensation. Our multi-member bodies should reflect our cities population, but the current set-up makes that difficult. 

Upcoming hearings: 

Government Operations Committee on City Manager Search – June 29, 11am – this hearing was pushed back from earlier in June, but I am glad that we are moving forward with the search process. The current manager’s contract ends on July 5th, 2022, which gives the Council one year to conduct a search. This is ample time to find a range of qualified candidates, and I want to ensure that the process does not get delayed.

Human Services Committee on after-school programming – June 30, 11am – this hearing is to get more information about the after-school programming that will be available in the fall (read more about a recent update below). 

City Updates:

Cambridge RISE applications open TODAY! RISE is an amazing program that aims to address the growing economic divide and racial inequities in Cambridge, while also maintaining its diverse population and continuing to be a place families thrive. Find out all of the information necessary to apply here

Carl Barron Plaza redesign: Earlier this week, the City presented ideas for the Carl Barron Plaza redesign. You can see them here. There is a place to share thoughts and feedback if you would like to – please weigh in while the feedback period is open! 

Afterschool Childcare Programs Update: After hearing many concerns from parents, the Council has asked multiple times for the manager to expand afterschool services and communicate with parents. Some good news on that front: the Department of Human Service Programs recently informed all families who were enrolled in its afterschool childcare programs that all of the classrooms will be opening for the 2021/2022 school year. The enrollment process will open in Summer 2021, and DHSP will prioritize children who were enrolled in afterschool programs as of March 13, 2020 (prior to closures due to COVID-19), who are still Cambridge residents, and who will be in grades JK-5. DHSP will then enroll children who are moving up from DHSP Preschools, followed by children who are currently on our waitlist for Afterschool Programs. Families will be contacted by email with more information regarding the enrollment process by the end of July. The Department will also be providing more information about its plans for the Community Schools at the upcoming Human Services Committee meeting next week.   

Pilot of Pavement Surface Treatment – This pilot of resurfacing a city parking lot to reduce heat island effect is only one of about 100 things the city needs to be doing. The Springfield St. Parking Lot has been resurfaced with a light colored pavement coating that improves solar reflectivity and lowers absorption of heat from the sun. We know that planting trees and expanding green space are the most effective ways to reduce heat island effect – resurfacing lots is another tool in this fight. 

Cambridge Glocal Challenge – This fantastic program continues this summer through The MSYEP with a focus on urban forestry: How might we educate and engage the Cambridge community so they participate in the nurture and care of our urban forest? This new challenge will launch as we continue to implement the winning proposals from last year. Anyone interested in participating should let the Mayor’s Program know that they would like to be placed on Team CDD. Those not participating in the Mayor’s Program may contact Jennifer Lawrence, to participate in the Challenge and earn community service hours.

Trivia question:

Which two Cambridge ice cream shops were named the two best in all of Massachusetts, according to Food & Wine Magazine? And what are your favorites in Cambridge?

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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