Featuring recent policy orders and community events!
Photo by Charles Teague of trees recently cut down in the Alewife area.
June 14: Rally to Preserve our Tree Canopy
Please join us this Thursday, June 14, on the steps of city hall for a rally in support of preserving our tree canopy. The speaking program will begin at 5:30! RSVP on Facebook.
At the June 18 City Council meeting, I will be introducing three policy orders designed to protect our fragile tree canopy while the city's newly formed Urban Forest Masterplan Task Force deliberates. I advocated for this task force and I look forward to their final recommendation, but we cannot afford to wait before taking action.
The most recent data available shows that from 2009-2014, there was a 7% decline in Cambridge's canopy (from 30% coverage to 28% coverage of our land area). This is an alarming loss and the destruction has almost certainly continued over the last 4 years (a 2018-based study is under way). We rely on our trees for many things including psychosomatic well being, shade, clean air, better stormwater management, and protection from the urban heat island effect.
The policy orders are to: 1) require a permit for cutting trees on private property, 2) require a hearing for cutting all trees on public property, and 3) plant even more trees. I'm also sending a list of ideas to the tree task force.
Inman Square Redesign Project
Last week I voted in support of moving forward with the Inman Square redesign project. This was not an easy decision for me, as many people still have concerns and objections to this project, and of course it will in the near term contribute to our canopy loss. On the other hand, there were no viable alternatives left before us to improve the safety of the intersection for all users, especially our most vulnerable road users, bicyclists and pedestrians. You can watch and read my full remarks on Facebook.
Net Zero Committee Hearing
I chaired a Health & Environment Committee hearing on the city's Net Zero Action Plan, which I advocated for starting in 2013. The plan was adopted by the City Council in 2015, and good progress has been made since then. We should expect proposed zoning for solar requirements, set-back relief for adding insulation, and updates to our green building ordinance in the coming months. While these changes are taking longer than hoped, they will be well integrated with state regulations, and both the city and private developers have moved ahead in the interim with net zero construction and proposals. The full committee report is available on the city's website.
Adult-Use Cannabis Committee Hearing
I recently chaired a Neighborhood & Long Term Planning; Arts and Celebrations committee hearing to continue the discussion on adult-use cannabis sales in Cambridge. Even though the state will allow retail stores to open their doors as soon as July 1, Cambridge won't see any stores until the Council approves zoning. While it is tempting to leave the regulatory options as wide open as possible, minimal regulations also means reduced opportunities for insuring equitable outcomes. No restrictions could mean, for example, that existing medical establishments quickly and completely dominate the new adult use market, excluding potential new businesses. By imposing buffer zones and limiting the number of establishments within an area, we can potentially place equity requirements so that women and minority owned businesses have a fair chance at competing in this new market. Over time we can always reduce these restrictions if the market is growing, is balanced, and more establishments are needed. The full committee report is not yet available, but you can watch a recording of the hearing on the City's website.
Dialogue around Gun Violence
Sadly, we are experiencing an uptick in gun violence in the Port & Wellington-Harrington neighborhoods, while horrific tragedies continue to occur all around our country. I attended the community conversation sponsored by the Mayor, and as a resident of the neighborhood I hope these important conversations continue, and that we can find more effective ways to get guns off our streets. I also attended a panel discussion on school shootings that included high school students from Cambridge as well as the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The students were very inspiring, and fully acknowledge the racial disparity in how we have responded to gun violence, long neglecting it in black communities in our country, and now, finally, taking some small steps because it is happening in more affluent white communities. Their vision, passion for equity, and understanding of the severity of this problem give me hope for the future, even as we struggle with increased gun violence in the present.
Recent Policy Orders
LiDAR Tree Canopy Study- I submitted a policy order asking the City Manager to complete our next tree canopy survey before the end of this year, and to consider conducting future studies more often. LIDAR, a 3-dimensional imaging technology, allows us to measure different aspects of our cityscape, including the tree canopy. The 2018 data has been collected by airplane flyover, and is being analyzed by an expert team at the University of Vermont. The most recent analysis shows that from 2009-2014, there was a 7% decline in our city's tree canopy. Unfortunately we expect further tree loss to be documented by the 2018 analysis.
CIPP Plastic Lined Water Pipes- Many of Cambridge's ductile iron cement lined water pipes need to be replaced or repaired in the next few years, and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) is being considered as a more cost effective method. However, this method uses a plastic resin that is "cured in place", which raises concerns about potential leaching of plastic compounds into our drinking water. There isn't much longitudinal data available about the health impacts of plastic lined pipes, and I do not support our city moving in this direction. A small section of pipe in Kendall Square was repaired using this method, further raising concerns. I cosponsored Vice Mayor Devereux's policy order on this topic, and the City Manager has committed to doing a research study before making any commitments on this important public health issue.
MBTA Bus Equity- The MBTA is initiating its Better Bus Project, which gives us a rare opportunity to improve service where needed. I co-sponsored Vice Mayor Devereux's policy order asking the City Manager to ensure feedback from our high school students is included. The 68 bus, which services CRLS students from The Port, runs infrequently and unreliably in comparison to buses that service other parts of town. We need to make sure this and other injustices are corrected as part of the MBTA's new Bus Service Plan.
Closing the Digital Divide- One of my top priorities has been to restart the conversation about closing the digital divide in our city. I submitted a policy order asking the City Manager to develop a plan to take action on this issue, because internet access is a necessity, not a luxury, and everyone should have digital access just like they have electricity and heat. Please read my op-ed to learn more about the policy order and why it is so urgent we make progress to close the digital divide in our city.
Residential Parking Permit Fees- I submitted a policy order asking the Ordinance Committee to consider raising the parking permit fee. Thanks to my advocacy, the annual fee was raised from $8 to $20 in 2011, and then to $25 in 2013 (where it currently stands). Somerville charges $40 annually. My proposal would raise the fee to $35 in 2020 and $40 by 2022. It also includes a hardship waiver for residents who demonstrate a significant financial hardship.
I-90 Interchange- I cosponsored Vice Mayor Devereux's policy order asking the City Manager to communicate to MassDOT concerns of the Cambridge community as it relates to the upcoming I-90 interchange redesign, including noise, impact on parklands, and access to and from Cambridge. A huge thanks to former Mayor Henrietta Davis for all her work on this issue.
Improving Gannett-Warren Pals Park- Based on concerns brought forward by the neighborhood, I submitted a policy order asking the City Manager to make improvements to Gannett-Warren Pals Park, located just up the street from where I live in Wellington-Harrington. Neighborhood parks may be small, but they are crucial to the residents that live nearby, so we can't forget about them!
Speeding on Clinton Street- After a bad crash, more than 40 residents of Clinton Street signed a petition asking the city to implement additional traffic-calming measures. I submitted a policy order putting the council on record in support of that request. Clinton Street is often used as a cut-through from Harvard Street to Mass Ave, and we need to make sure the residents feel safe.
Activate City Hall Front Lawn- I was excited to cosponsor Mayor McGovern's policy order calling on the city to activate the front lawn of City Hall with games, food trucks, and other forms of entertainment. This is one way to build neighborhood resilience, by creating opportunities for people to come together. Boston has implemented a similar program to much success- and puppies!
Get In Touch!
I hope that you will reach out to let me know your thoughts on matters before the council or otherwise of importance to you. My council office number is 617-349-9479 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to my aide, Dan Totten, at email@example.com. I meet with constituents about issues big and small nearly every day. Be sure to follow our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages for regular updates!
Support Local Artists!
Ruby Rose Fox is an incredible artist and human being who I have gotten to know over the past few months through the EMF saga. I especially love the Gifted Voices program she started, which connects low income children in the area to mentors and voice lessons so they can realize their potential. Now, her new album is coming out and along with it she is premiering a one-woman show on June 22. Please consider attending this show; it promises to be a hit! RSVP on Facebook.
1. With my State Senator, Sal DiDomenico, at the State Democratic Nominating Convention. I am proud to support Bob Massie for Governor!
2. Congrats to the CRLS class of 2018, which includes my daughter, Jahnavi.
3. Hearing from the incredible Justice Ismail Laher at the Cambridge Community Iftar. Ramadan Mubarak!
4. Posing with other elected officials at the affordable housing rally.