Staying safe, and sane, and engaged – it is possible!

The DeCordova, in Lincoln! 


First, please know that if you are feeling out of sorts, depressed, lonely, or just sick of Covid19 and restrictions, you are not alone. And if you need someone to talk with, please reach out for help. This time of year, even under normal circumstances, can be difficult for many without a full life of connections and caring. In this world we live in now, throwing so much in the way of connections, it can seem overwhelming.  Even if I don’t know you well, feel free to call me.  857-270-0256. And Samaritans is an excellent local resource. Call or text 24/7 (877) 870-HOPE (4673).

I am feeling the weight of not being able to travel, or even gather with more than my close family. As much as we love each other, we would all rather not be sooooo together ALL the time. Thanksgiving will be quite different this year – and with the national political scene continuing to produce stress and anxiety, it will be a challenge to feel relaxed.

One way I am coping is trying to go out and enjoy some local spots…not only Harvard Square, Central Square, our library, etc… but DeCordova – which always lightens my spirit. Members of the Trustees get in for free. My favorite of their outdoor sculptures are whimsical and creative… from the kitchen tower to the curtain made of cello bowstrings to the tall scream echoing our common angst. Highly recommended.

More people knew the answer to last week’s question than any other… or maybe being inside led more people to respond. Answer: Hedy Lamarr was an actress and bombshell beauty who also held a patent for frequency hopping technology – a precursor to today’s WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth technology. A documentary on her from 2018 explains the challenges of being a glamorous woman who is also a stellar scientist.

For a random non-political note: I just finished reading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.. And was reminded of how wonderful it was to NOT be glued to a screen doom-scrolling (a new word for me). And to escape into the world of words. Send suggestions for books you found wonderful writing and worthwhile escapes…could find its way to my book club. And, use your local Little Free Library! If you live in Cambridgeport, your area does not have many – contact me for how to set one up….. I love ours and using others. 

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving, however zoom it is – and heads up – I may not get out a newsletter next week in case you rely on these missives to get you through the week.  


Council Updates:

Gas Labels

The long-awaited gas labels about the impact of fossil fuel use on the climate crisis are due to be rolled out in Cambridge by year-end! Every cigarette package has warning labels – it is only right that gas pumps do too. I happily voted for this ordinance my first month on Council. Nothing happened, and then with Covid, the city stopped any work on items like this one.  The folks from Think Beyond the Pump contacted me – and I pushed the city to get the labels done. Happy to report that the city has promised deployment before year-end – and Cambridge will be the first city to have such labels – hopefully not the last.  Check out this news segment on the effort and see how I look in a gas pump…. 

Special Meeting of the Council, Monday, November 23rd, 3:00pm

This special meeting was called by the Mayor to provide an opportunity for the Council to ask questions directly to health experts and scientists. 

It has been frustrating over the past eight months to have little to no access to the Expert Advisory Panel meetings. We are so lucky to live in Cambridge during this pandemic (and always) because we have many of the top experts on this pandemic right here in our city, and some of them have volunteered their time to provide advice. The Manager and his staff have been vocal about listening to the experts, but the Council and the public have had no way of knowing what was actually discussed and where the various initiatives originated from. As cases continue to rise and the positivity rate creeps up, I am grateful that the Mayor is providing the Council with the opportunity to ask questions and get information directly from the experts here in Cambridge. I expect that we will all learn a lot and use that information in our deliberations on the policy order asking for coordination with nearby cities on potential closures. If we did have some additional closures – which I expect would at most affect indoor dining, gyms, and casinos (in other cities, obviously) – the policy order asks for financial assistance to businesses that might be affected.  

City Council Agenda

Below are some of the agenda items of interest and the policy orders that I co-sponsored. See the full agenda for tonight’s meeting here.

Charter-right from last week:

Closing Memorial Drive on weekends

Unfortunately, this Policy Order was charter-righted, along with another order asking the Manager to consult with the other Metro-Mayors on closing down businesses. We need to remember that this COVID is airborne, and most dangerous when inside for prolonged periods of time. There is no concrete evidence that COVID is spread outdoors when people are keeping more than six feet away and not in prolonged contact. I have been advocating for opening outdoor space up since March, to allow people to be outside and exercise without the need for being near others. As an example, if people are walking and jogging near JFK bridge, they will likely pass within 6 feet of others. On days when we have opened up Riverbend Park (closing Memorial Drive to cars), it is much easier to keep a distance. I have consulted with experts on this very issue and have not heard any reason why we should not do this. I proposed that the city ask DCR to consider extending Riverbend Park the length of Memorial Drive – which seems like an appropriate way to ensure the availability of safe outdoor space to more residents. 

Policy Orders:

PO #4: Strengthening the bonds of neighborhood groups

This policy order came about due to an incident during one neighborhood meeting – which resulted in a board resignation and some turmoil. The order acknowledges the hard work and incredible dedication of those involved with neighborhood groups – and seeks to go on record that intolerant language or behavior is not supported and provides a way for the city to support any neighborhood group seeking to be more inclusive and open. Contrary to the chronicle article – it is not an attack on neighborhood groups – far from it. It is an attempt to offer groups who might benefit some support in being more representative of the neighborhood.

PO #5: Appropriating initial funds for charter review

This order asks the Manager to appropriate $10,000 for the Collins Center to produce an overview of what the paths look like in Cambridge with regards to charter review. It is not diving into an actual review, which would be a bigger project, since Cambridge has not reviewed its charter in nearly 80 years. This is simply the first step: a series of interviews with individual councilors to understand what they understand about the limitations and the positives of the current charter, combined with a look at how the Cambridge charter compares to the charter in other cities. Many cities – in fact, it is uncommon that we do not – have a review process baked into their charter so that they are constantly tweaking and updating their most important document. Somerville just started a review process as well. This small appropriation is an important first step towards understanding what it will take to do a deep dive. 

City Updates!

– Next week is Small Business Saturday! I think we should start early and make this Saturday Small LOCAL Business Saturday also. Our favorite local businesses need our support now more than ever, so while you are buying food and gifts for the holiday season, please do it at one of the many amazing small business options we have here in Cambridge. Check out the full list of open places here!

– A new, affordable 40-unit apartment building in Cambridge is now accepting applications for rental units, which will be filled through a lottery process. Get more information and apply today!

– Testing is available! Even if the appointment slots are booked, you can keep checking since more are being added, or show up without an appointment. The results come back within 48 hours, which is amazing! However, getting one negative test should not give you a false sense of security. After being exposed to COVID, it can take up to five days for it to show up on a test, so if you got tested on the fourth day, the results could come back negative with you about to start being contagious. The CDC has asked people not to travel from Thanksgiving, but if you must, get tested twice, three days apart. Cambridge residents have access to testing 7 days a week at the following locations:

  • Sundays and Thursdays: 11-7pm at Cambridgeside (drive-through testing only)

  • Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays: 12-8pm at 50 Church Street

  • Wednesdays: 10am-6pm at 2254 Massachusetts Avenue (St. John the Evangelist Church)

  • Saturdays: 11am-7pm at the Pisani Center.

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

Saturn is known for its rings. But there is another astonishing fact about it that would please Poseidon. What? 

First to email with the correct answer wins!

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