Updates: Preparing for the Blizzard!

Happy January – and an impending Snowmageddon. The city has declared a snow emergency and has opened warming centers for those in need.  Check in on your neighbors and make sure you have what you need for the next couple of days. 

If you have a sled or skis or snowshoes and enjoy the snow, get ready for a fabulous Sunday – when all  hills large and small  will likely be alive with the sounds of happy snow play.  This week I tried out the Little Pond next to Fresh Pond – where skating at your own risk happens. It was wonderful to be skating, albeit wobbly, in the open. With climate change, frozen ponds in our area happen with less frequency.  

This past week the city held a zoom meeting on the developing plans for the next stage of the bicycle lane changes to Mass. Ave – this one in Porter Square. The passions run high – cyclists are excited and happy to see the extension of a network of bike lanes and other residents and small business owners are very concerned that the way this project is being proposed will adversely affect them. I am working to encourage more flexibility in how the lanes are implemented – and I know that many in the cycling community are also working to see if there are ways to ensure that the project is implemented without the most severe adverse impact with loss of parking.  

Great news from the state!  a project I worked on for a long time is at the next stage: part of the Armory on Concord Avenue near the Tobin/Vassal Lane School construction project is now free for the city to purchase. The part the state has freed for purchase is only a small part of the land, but at least it is something that will help the project planning.  It will be used to supplement open space, or for easing transit. I am thrilled this small parcel will be brought back to the city, and still wish the entire parcel would revert to city ownership (the city transferred the parcel to the state in exchange for some land in East Cambridge decades ago).  

This weekend, while you are hunkered down, or after playing in the snow on Sunday, there is the first of many public forums on the City Manager search.  This Sunday at 4 is one sponsored by the Cambridge Residents Alliance, and upcoming forums and focus groups are being planned by the City Council in conjunction with the search firm we’ve hired to oversee the process, (Randi Frank and Associates) and with two local firms helping with community engagement – CoUrbanize and Cortico.  Vice Mayor Mallon held a meeting of Government Operations this week and we confirmed the timeline for the search. Hiring the next City Manager will be an important part of my and the council’s work over the next five months. Exciting times!

Stay healthy, stay aware that Covid is still prevalent and challenging, and the storm this weekend will likely be wild and wooly… hope you  stay warm and dry!


This Week’s Update:

City Manager’s Agenda:
CMA 2022 #10 – Charter Changes: The City Manager has provided a reply regarding proposed amendments to the Municipal Code to comply with the recent charter changes. City Solicitor Nancy E. Glowa has also provided the proposed amendments for the Council to consider. Specifically, to be ordained is an annual review of the City Manager’s performance and the commission of a special committee to review the city charger every 10 years. I am excited that this process is moving along, and the discussion of how we might improve our city’s governance will be the charge of the commission.

CMA 2022 #13 and CMA 2022 #14 — both about Bike Lanes: The City Manager has provided a reply to two policy orders that were passed a few weeks ago regarding the bike lane installation on Massachusetts Ave. Staff will answer questions asked in both policy orders. Notably, the city staff has approved the creation of a Cycling Safety Ordinance Advisory Group, composed of various community members, to discuss the installation of bike lanes throughout the city.

Policy Orders:
There are only three new policy orders this week – none of which should be controversial – and one from last week about the golf course:

POR 2022 #13 : That the City Council go on record recognizing February 2022 as Black History Month in the City of Cambridge.

POR 2022 #14 : Wage Theft Ordinance (Ordinance #2022-3).

POR 2022 #15 : That the City Council and School Committee hold a joint virtual roundtable on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 to discuss priorities for the FY23 Budget.

POR 2022 #9 – Golf Course Reuse: During the most recent Council meeting, Councillor Toner exercised his charter right in regards to this policy order — it will now be up for discussion next Monday. 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. The PO caused a lot of concern among the golfing community.  That is understandable – since the course has provided so many people with a wonderful resource.  However, that does not in my opinion mean that we should not have a discussion on that parcel of land.  It was almost a hundred years ago — February 23, 1932 —  that the city petitioned the state to allow for that land, which is next to our water supply reservoir, to be used for golf.  It seems reasonable to ask whether there are additional uses – open space – allowing all residents to use it, for example, that should be considered now in 2022.  I want to clarify that the policy order proposed no specific use or change.  It states that there are many city needs, and proposes that there be a discussion of possible uses.  If after that discussion it seems worthwhile to explore additional or other uses, then a full community process would follow.  And any report from the city would not cost any money – it is simply meant to ask how many users of the golf course are residents versus non residents.  That report is very easy to generate.  The central question is one many Cambridge residents who don’t play golf ask: is having that 75 acres of land restricted to only golfers for most of the year appropriate?

Future meetings:
An ordinance committee meeting is scheduled for February 9 on one of the potentially most impactful ways we can address our city’s climate crisis: amendments to the BEUDO [Building Energy Use & Disclosure Ordinance].  Stay tuned.

Other City News:

Brattle Square Florist will stay open! In December, the Brattle Square Florist shop announced they would be closing due to the pandemic, economic conditions, and the physical drain on the owner of running the shop. However, after an outpouring of support and sadness from the community, manager Stephen Zedros has decided to take over, keeping the shop open. Stephen is the great-grandchild of the original founders, who opened the store over 100 years ago. Visit the shop in Harvard square for a beautiful bloom of flowers or healthy houseplants! 

Gas Stoves Leak Methane: If you have a natural gas stove in your kitchen, it may leak methane even when turned off. In fact, a Stanford study shows that about 80% of methane emissions from stoves happen when the range is turned off. One scientist noted that, “Simply owning a natural gas stove and having natural gas pipes and fittings in your home leads to more emissions over 24 hours than the amount emitted while the burners are on.”

In addition to contributing to global warming, this can contribute to major health issues for those that live in the home. Many cities, such as Seattle, Berkeley, and New York City have passed bans to prevent gas hookups in new buildings. I will push for Cambridge to pass a similar ban soon. In the meantime, reach out to a licensed professional if you are worried about gas leaks in your home. 

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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