Happy Hopeful January!
It’s officially mid-January. A year since Biden took office, and a week of activities related to celebrating Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy. I participated in several (all virtual remote) events on racial justice and the unfinished work of the movement of which MLK was part – for justice, peace and fairness. The conversations were moving, meaningful and reminders that we need to continue our work.
I also participated in the awards of the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) at which our own Mothers Out Front received the Civic Award. Their work on the green roofs ordinance amendment here in Cambridge was stellar and I was glad to cheer them on – as much as one can in a zoom…
It’s January – and we are in New England, so enjoying winter is a part of our lives. I skated at the Kendall Square Rink – and loved being in the city and outdoors… not that my skating is stellar, but at least I did make it around a few times. I hope you continue to go outdoors – the pandemic is still here, the depression of not seeing people still palpable – and the outdoors provides a healthy antidote to feeling cooped up literally and figuratively. I also enjoyed (the exhibit just ended) the quilt exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts… I love textile art and was wowed by the range of visual expression in the quilts. For a wonderful podcast on a quilting group some of whose work was featured in the exhibit, listen to Gee’s Bend Quilting Workshop by BBC.
Below is a quick recap of some items from the January 7 meeting, and ones for next Monday’s meeting.
As ever, the Covid news is ever present – the number of cases went up dramatically and just as dramatically declined. The sewage and other data suggest this particular Omicron Covid variant is running its course. Still, getting Covid is something we should try to prevent, even as we acknowledge we will need to adjust to an ongoing coronavirus for the likely long term… Get vaccinated, follow health guidance, and trust science – and we will get through this challenge. City Covid stats and info are always available on the city website. And the state has good data also.
Please send thoughts and ideas for my work – I am always open to suggestions.
Last Week's Update:
POR 2021 #246 – Alewife Quad Temporary Moratorium: As you may know, in November the City Council passed a policy order I had submitted with Mayor Siddiqui and Councillor McGovern to instate a temporary memorandum on development of new lab or office space in the Alewife Overlay District. Due to certain legal requirements, we had to submit it again — along with Councillor Azeem. I am happy to report that the order was once again referred to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board, this time unanimously. And the Planning Board meeting has been set for March 8.
POR 2021 #267 – Cycling Safety Ordinance Implementation Advisory Committee and POR 2021 #277 – City Manager Meetings Regarding Bike Lanes: After being carried over from last term, both these policy orders were unanimously adopted as amended. The intent of the original policy orders was not to delay or stop implementation of the Cycling Safety Ordinance, but to improve a process that was not inclusive. We have heard from many people in the community that they would like more discussion and communication regarding the bike lanes, including we heard from several people directly involved with the BIPOC small business task force, who advised us that we should pass the orders. The amendments to these policy orders ensure that key stakeholders will have input on the communication and implementation of bike lane designs, while not delaying the timeline set by the Cycling Safety Ordinance.
This Week’s Update:
CMA 2022#9 – Net Zero Action Plan Report: The city will present the Cambridge Net Zero Action Plan 2021 Update and Executive Summary. This update “consolidates actions to focus resources on the most effective strategies, integrates administrative actions into the implementation plan, and adds new actions to address embodied carbon from buildings and off-site renewable energy supply.” While there has been some progress made in terms of decreasing municipal emissions, city-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased in most sectors. What is especially concerning is the lack of progress during the first five years (now seven) of the Net Zero Action Plan. After all, the plan is an ACTION plan, yet the first plan is now being characterized as laying the groundwork for action – since the first action plan yielded essentially no progress in lowering emissions. We must do more and be more effective. Many NZAP actions are delayed or the deadlines have been pushed further and further back. The Climate Crisis Working Group will soon release recommendations for actions the city can take to have an impact on Cambridge’s climate impact.
POR 2022 #9 – Golf Course Reuse: The Fresh Pond Golf Course in West Cambridge is the largest open space in Cambridge and has been enjoyed as a welcome green space for decades. However, golf participation nationwide has declined, and Cambridge continues to seek space to meet many different community needs including open space, tree canopy, DPW operations, affordable housing, and other uses. This is why this policy order, which I submitted with Councillors Carlone, Zondervan and Azeem, proposes that the council hold a hearing, and review a report from the City Manager. That report would be after conferring with appropriate city departments to determine whether the best use for this land is still a golf course, or whether the course could be made smaller (6-hole or par 3), leaving the rest of the land available for use by the general public.
CMA 2012 #238: BEUDO Proposed Amendments: The City will be presenting the proposed amendments to the Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance, as well as a response from City Solicitor Nancy Glowa. 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. While I am glad the amendments have been proposed, they are inadequate to meet the challenge we face. The timelines are too long and the requirements too weak. I believe that the ordinance should aim to reach net zero by 2035, not 2050 – in fact, in 2017, the Council passed a resolution calling for the city to reach net zero buildings and transportation by 2035. And, the alternative baseline years needlessly complicates the ordinance – we can make it simpler and more effective.
Other City News:
Cambridge City Calendar: Make sure to check out all the city-offered programs for January at this link!
Meeting to hire new City Manager: As you know, the manager has the majority of power in Cambridge’s current system of government, so it is vitally important to hire a good manager. The City Council is working with a search firm on hiring the new manager before the current manager leaves in July 2022. The goal of the town hall is to hear what residents would like to see in a new city manager. We will ask residents to name issues that they want the new manager to address and characteristics they want the new manager to have. The forum will be held virtually. Please mark your calendar now and register here.
Memorial Drive Reconfiguration: The state has brought back plans to reconstruct Memorial Drive to improve bike and pedestrian paths along the Charles River. Under this plan, Memorial Drive would go from four lanes to two, with widened pedestrian and bike paths on either side. Eleven mature trees are slated to be removed, but all have been described as being in poor health, and fifty new trees will be planted. There will be parking removal, a curb cut, and the addition of new viewing platforms and vistas.