November News: Election Results and Council Updates

Double Rainbow over Huron Avenue


Happy November!  A double rainbow right near my house is a perfect sign for hope – which we all need in light of the dire messages from the climate COP26 gathering in Glasgow.

The results of the Cambridge election are in, and I will continue working for you next term. More information on the full results can be found on the city election website. In sum, Sumbul Siddiqui won by a large margin, I came in second followed by Denise Simmons, Dennis Carlone, Marc McGovern, Burhan Azeem (newcomer), Quinton Zondervan, Alanna Mallon, and Paul Toner (newcomer). On the School Committee, Ayesha Wilson, Fred Fantini, Akriti Bhambi (newcomer), Rachel Weinstein, Jose-Luis Rojas Villarreal, and David Weinstein won.  While I focus on our City of Cambridge for local politics, I was thrilled to see the historic win of Michelle Wu as Mayor of Boston, and to see Somerville elect their second woman mayor, Katjana Ballantyne. 

A key item I have worked on consistently is the issue of city charter reform – and this Tuesday voters resoundingly approved all three ballot questions (with margins of 69-79%!). This victory represents the first step to a full-scale review of our governing document. I am thrilled that voters chose accountability and change. I also note that there is trepidation – that giving the Council the authority to approve or reject appointments may lead to pushing for non-qualified people to serve on boards. While I understand that concern, I have faith that the Council will seek to have qualified people on all boards and commissions and that we as a group will seek to exercise our oversight responsibly.

This week marks a transition to colder weather, and soon a new Council term. I am still working on the issues that propel me, and hope to continue to make progress. I very much look forward to diving into the work of selecting a new city manager and working on a charter review commission. Plus, the ongoing work to get to municipal broadband and address the climate crisis continue to be high on my list.

Next week we do have a meeting, although next Thursday is Veterans Day. As the granddaughter and godchild of veterans, I salute veterans even as I criticize our military policy and actions. I may not have a newsletter next week as a result of the holiday. I will resume after that. 

Stay safe, get the vaccine booster if you qualify, enjoy the spectacular fall and hope for more democracy and compassion in our world.  I enjoyed Magazine Beach this past weekend – for the young and young at heart, the bridge has a math trail — explore!


Last Week’s Update

Policy Orders and Resolutions: 
POR 2021 #241 – Green Fleet Policy: The City’s Green Fleet Policy requires that all municipal departments requesting new vehicles identify three options and compare them on the basis of fuel economy and emissions. Heavy duty and certain public safety vehicles are exempt from this policy. Due to the dire nature of the climate crisis, I believe this policy is not aggressive enough. It only requires departments to compare and contrast different options; they are not obligated to choose the most fuel efficient, or even electric or hybrid vehicles. This is why I sponsored the policy order requesting that the City Manager ensure that the Climate Crisis Working Group include a recommendation and proposal to amend the Green Fleet Policy, and I am glad that it was unanimously adopted.

POR 2021 #240 – Support MIT Divest Campaign: Students and community members have been advocating for MIT to divest from fossil fuels for many years. Earlier this month, Harvard University and Boston University both announced plans to divest, leaving MIT lagging behind. MIT’s current climate action plan fails to meet the IPCC’s targets for emissions reduction. The City Council unanimously sponsored Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler’s policy order going on record in full support of MIT Divest’s campaign to divest MIT’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

This Week’s Update:
City Manager’s Agenda
CMA 2021 #238 – BEUDO Proposed Amendments: The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) was enacted by the City Council in 2014, requiring that owners of larger buildings track and report annual energy use to the City and publicly disclose the data. As it stands, the ordinance does not require any energy efficiency standards, just that buildings disclose how much energy they use. The proposed amendments by the CDD, as requested by the City Council, set emissions reductions targets for the largest buildings that match or exceed the Commonwealth’s targets. These amendments will be further reviewed and discussed by the Climate Crisis Working Group, and ultimately voted on by the City Council.  I have not reviewed in depth, but upon my first review, I am glad the amendments have been proposed.  They represent a key important step in our fight against climate change. And they are inadequate to meet the challenge we face.  The timelines are too long and the requirements too weak.  I look forward to strengthening this ordinance when the council debates the amendments.  
Policy Orders and Resolutions
POR 2021 #246 – Alewife Quad Temporary Moratorium: In 1979, the City of Cambridge Community Development Department created the Alewife Revitalization plan, intended to fill the Fresh Pond – Alewife area with a mix of residential, business, and industrial structures. Forty years later, the 2019 Envision Alewife plan still visualizes Alewife as a mixed-use district, with development promoting the creation of good-paying, low barrier-to-entry jobs, and additional housing with no lab uses. However, over the past few months, a real estate investment firm has spent close to $400 million, purchasing 19 separate parcels in the Alewife “Quad” area to date. Since this firm is known for owning and developing real estate in the healthcare area (mostly laboratories), I have proposed that the Zoning Ordinance is amended to prohibit laboratory or office development within the Alewife Overlay district until December 31st, 2023, or until new Alewife District Zoning is ordained by the City Council.
POR 2021 #247: Upper Mass. Ave. Bike Lane Improvements: As many of you know, the bike lane plan on Massachusetts Avenue from Dudley Street to Alewife Brook Parkway is slated to begin construction within the next few weeks. The construction of protected bike lanes is crucial for cyclist safety and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions; I have consistently been a strong supporter of a network of safe bike lanes throughout the city. However, many residents have raised relevant concerns regarding the removal of the approximately 80 parking spots on Mass. Avenue. The current plan will remove these spots without designating any new handicapped spots for people with limited mobility. I have introduced a policy order asking the City Manager to deliver a report on how people who need accessible parking can access services on Mass. Ave. with the proposed plan. One idea to address these concerns is to use the bus lanes currently proposed for 15-minute loading zones during off peak hours to allow for 2-hour parking, which Boston has implemented on streets, marking bus lanes with time-limited parking, although not on streets with medians. These issues are important, AND it is important that construction of the bike lanes happens on time, which is why I have specified in the policy order that these reports allow for the implementation of the Cycling Safety Ordinance on the existing timeline. 

Other City News:
Playground opening  – from the City Manager’s office:
Universal Design Playground Opening Celebration Saturday, November 13, at 11:00 a.m.  Located at 75 Field Street, the 30,000 square foot play area is the first playground in Cambridge to fully incorporate Universal Design (UD) – the concept that all parts should be as usable as possible, without changes, by everyone. In addition to physical accessibility, UD takes sensory, cognitive, and emotional abilities into consideration to create an environment that is welcoming to all people to the greatest extent possible. Cambridge is known for the healthy, safe, and innovative designs of our parks and playgrounds. While many of Cambridge’s playgrounds include elements of UD, by constructing a playground that demonstrates UD principles in every feature, we are taking the City’s commitment to inclusivity further and reimagining how we think about built spaces.
Reminder: Road Closures and Traffic Impacts from Cambridge Half Marathon Sunday, November 7, from 7:00-10:00 a.m. Learn more

 Veterans Day Observance Event Nov. 11. The City of Cambridge and Cambridge Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) invite the public to attend its annual Veterans’ Day Observance on Thursday, November 11, 2021, at 11:00 a.m., at the Veterans’ World War I Monument near the main gate of the Cambridge Cemetery, 76 Coolidge Avenue. Veterans, Police, and Fire departments’ Color Guards will muster at the World War I monument.  

Upcoming COVID-19 and Flu Vaccination Clinics: The City of Cambridge, Cambridge Public Health Department and Cambridge Public Schools are hosting COVID-19 and flu clinics on Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, from 3:30-7:30 p.m., at the King Open School.  children ages 5-11 will be able to receive their first pediatric dose on Nov. 10 and their second dose on Dec. 1. The clinics will offer pediatric Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 and adult Pfizer vaccine for teens and adults, as well as free flu shots and FluMist.  More information.  

TRIVIA QUESTION: What records were broken with this election? 

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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