Time for Spring: Council Updates


Spring will spring this weekend, and with two full years of Covid behind us, the hope is that we can continue to open up and have in person gatherings – while being aware and taking appropriate safety measures. The state and city Covid response has led to a lifting of mask mandates and continued encouragement to be vaccinated and vigilant as future variants make their way into this country.

For the city, the most important news is that our leadership profile for the City Manager is out!  Please think of any good manager, innovative leader who you know, and encourage them to apply. The leadership profile is clear that we are encouraging non-traditional candidates – meaning those who are not in city government… a stellar manager of a non profit or a company should apply. The job description also highlights that we want a manager willing and able to make positive change, who will develop a culture of respect and collaboration. We’re also looking for someone who understands that the city needs some updating – e.g. why in heck do we have a “Personnel Department” when most forward thinking, high -performing  organizations use different terms – Human Resources, People Operations, Talent Management…

Our city has enormous potential and with the right candidate, we can make progress on addressing the climate crisis and providing true innovation in many areas – municipal broadband for starters….. Seriously – send the link to everyone you know who might know someone. If you know anyone who needs encouragement to apply, call me and I will personally call them. I have asked my graduate school – Yale School of Management – since many alums are excellent managers and have great diverse experience (one alum is Governor of Connecticut!). Those of you with ties to similar programs, spread the word. Harvard Kennedy School, HBS, Tuck, policy schools – it is a DREAM job.

I took a few days off for a family vacation last week while my colleagues were in DC at a conference – I missed the conference but was glad to get away with family. Being in Miami Beach reminded me of just how critical our climate crisis work is… the entire city will be under water even sooner than Boston/Cambridge ….so let’s ramp up our efforts!  I came across some incredible creatures on the beach… blue is beautiful in nature… but this blue was scary…

I am continuing to work on many issues – please reach out with suggestions, comments, ideas and concerns.

Happy spring!


Last Week’s Update:
CMA 2022 #47 – Cycling Safety Ordinance Implementation – The bike lane issue has continued to roil the city.  I am glad that at the last meeting the City Council voted to endorse the extension by a few months of the timeline for the Porter Square bike lanes in order to ensure a more thoughtful solution.  I continue to support bike lanes and a better managed process for dealing with the loss of parking.  We do need to transition to a less car-centric culture and we need to be as sensitive to the needs of residents who cycle and walk as those who need to drive. 

Health & Environment Committee Meeting on BEUDO – We continue to have productive meetings regarding the proposed BEUDO amendments. In February, the Ordinance Committee convened to discuss the proposed amendments, hearing presentations from both CDD and Councillor Zondervan and I. To recap, the main difference between these two proposals is timeline and intensity: our proposal asks for net zero by 2035 in line with City Council 2017 goals, with no exemptions for labs, whereas the CDD proposal allows for a much lengthier periods –  net zero by 2050 and allows alternative compliance opportunities for labs.  With existing labs able to be all electric and the climate crisis worsening, I believe the push for a faster timeline is exactly what Cambridge needs to do. The Ordinance Committee decided to refer this item to the Health & Environment Committee, and this meeting took place on March 8th. Here, we heard each proposal again, answered questions from councillors, and heard public comment. We heard from climate activists, community members, building developers, and more. Some expressed concerns about our proposal; mainly, that the timeline was too aggressive and that labs should be exempt and whether the electric grid has the capacity to provide for the increased demand.  I have since reached out to everyone who expressed these concerns and am meeting with them to address them directly. In next steps, the amendments will be referred back to Ordinance, where there will be another discussion between the committee.

Planning Board Meeting on Alewife Quad Zoning Petition – On March 8th, I presented the zoning proposal regarding the moratorium on lab development in the Alewife Quad area to the Planning Board. I emphasized that this moratorium is not to halt development, but to spur zoning. We have been discussing potential zoning changes in Alewife for the past 40 years – it is time to have concrete plans in place. The majority of the Planning Board was in favor of the proposal, with a few questions. First, some proposed possible amendments to the time frame, changing it from a two-year moratorium to one year. They also asked whether any existing buildings should be exempted. Then, it was referred to the Ordinance Committee.

Ordinance Committee Meeting on Alewife Quad Zoning Petition – The Ordinance Committee convened in response to the reference from the Planning Board to discuss the Alewife quad moratorium. The councillors had the same questions as the Planning Board – regarding the time frame and existing buildings – but many councillors seemed in favor. The Committee adjourned without taking any action, and next steps are setting another ordinance meeting, which I hope will take place soon. 

This Week’s Update:
POR 2022 #43 – Alewife Overlay District Zoning Proposal Working Group – In response to the Ordinance Committee meeting on the Alewife Quad Zoning petition, Councillor Toner, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Mallon, and I have proposed that the Community Development Department convene an Alewife Overlay District Zoning Proposal Working Group. The community, property owners, businesses, developers, City staff and the City Council have all expressed their interest in drafting and enacting zoning for the Alewife area that meets the expressed goals of Envision Alewife, among other things. Especially with recent development in the area, this Working Group should be convened as fast as possible so zoning can be established for the area. And, this order is not meant to be in place of the zoning moratorium – it is meant to spur the process from the zoning moratorium. 

POR 2022 #45 – Idling Issue at BB&N School – I proposed this policy order in response to requests from several neighbors in the area around the BB&N school. At the start and end of the school day, cars often fill the streets near BB&N with parents waiting to drop off or pick up their children. Neighbors who reside in this area have noted several issues, including idling beyond the five-minute legal limit, stalled traffic, blocked driveways, and a forced one-way path up Buckingham Street toward Concord where drivers face the risk of coming head-to-head with a vehicle trying to bypass the pickup line. The City’s police and traffic and parking departments have worked to alleviate the idling which has had some limited success, but a more permanent solution needs to be developed. Other independent schools in Cambridge have worked to address this issue, and I hope that we can stop the idling around this school.  This is why I have requested that the City Manager work with city departments and school staff to provide a solution to this issue, such as a tiered drop-off system, a parking area for parents, or more drop-off and pick-up locations.

Other City News:

Mothers Out Front is hosting a community meeting – see below:

Sacrifice Zones
What They Are and What We Can Do
A Cambridge Mothers Out Front Community Meeting
* Please join us on March 22nd! *
A sacrifice zone is a community that has historically borne an overload of pollution and industrial toxins. You may live in, work in, or travel through one every day.

Please join us at a virtual community meeting on Tuesday, March 22, from 6 to 7:15 pm to learn more and take action. 

We are delighted to be welcoming state senator Pat Jehlen, who will be telling us about her bill addressing transportation pollution and how we can support it. We’ll also be joined by Ellin Reisner from the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP), talking about her group’s work and community impacts from transportation pollution along I-93.  And we’ll watch the short documentary The Sacrifice Zone, about one community’s fight for environmental justice.

Come listen, learn, and engage! RSVP to us here.
Cambridge Mothers Out Front

A reminder that you can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested: https://pattynolan.org/news/

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