Cambridge Citizens Coalition
This is CCC's first City Council Candidate Forum. Come and hear their views on key issues facing the city. CCC expects to have agreements from ALL the Candidates we support as part of our endorsements not to accept money from developers or others doing business with the city.
At this point, we should contemplate questions about our recent zoning experience. There are
many political questions, but let me list some questions of substance about the zoning and what
we were told or not told.
* Why did such a radical transformation of City zoning need to apply
city-wide? It should have been phased in a section at a time, rather than
one massive lump that went down in flames.
* Why were we given only one alternative to consider and not a choice of
options? Regardless of our views and hopes on the housing question, the
only choice we had was the CDD "discussion draft" which contained only one
huge option -- why no choice?
* Why did City Council meetings on the Overlay Zoning go on for weeks
without distribution of even the CDD discussion draft? Why was the Final
report on Envision not distributed until weeks later?
* Why did the Envision report not include results of the special study of
Alewife -- what had gone wrong and what needed to be done?
* Why was there no comprehensive study of transportation -- traffic and
transit, especially for the Alewife area? Why was there no discussion of
the existing peak hour traffic congestion at Alewife?
* Why was there no master plan for energy? The Envision report said the
City could do an energy study, but no one did it. Now we are in a crisis
situation at Kendall Square, with massive amounts of new development
projected in the coming decade, yet insufficient electricity capacity from
Eversource to handle the new energy loads : why did the city not make a plan
to anticipate this problem?
* What sections of the Envision report need to be done all over, in order to
provide planning guidance for the City in the future?
* Why was there no AHO alternative which could have followed the SPOA
proposals, to build on the existing housing supply in Cambridge, with
addition and subdivision of units? Would such an alternative result in
significantly lower subsidies?
* There was no limit on AHO subsidies. The sky is the limit. Advocates
presented only one calculation of a sample AHO unit with rental and subsidy
-- and the subsidy was over $380,000 per unit. How cost-efficient was any
such cost proposal? What would be the subsidy if costs of new housing rise
to $600,000 or higher per unit, as real estate trends indicate?
* Advocates could never agree on a number of new AHO units per year we would
get. Why could we get no better numbers on new AHO units that a variation
from as low as 30 to as high as 100 units a year ?
* How did an original discussion draft contain no FAR limits for AHO at all,
and then after extensive rewriting result in FARs being reinserted, but
allowing four times the FAR density for AHO? Where is the gradualism in a
quadrupling of density?
* Why did no one explain what form-based zoning is, and how it has been
advocated by Smart Growth groups, even as they have renamed it "form based
codes" rather than "form-based zoning" ? Is AHO the first step towards
getting rid of zoning?
* Why was there no comparison of the city-wide need for affordable housing
and how many units would be provided by AHO?
* Why were issues of aesthetics, bulk, and impacts on established
neighborhoods not shown in greater detail and with better visual methods?
Why was the Fire Department not consulted on the reduced setbacks?
* Why was the plan aimed only at moderate- and middle-income zoning, and why
did it totally ignore low-income households and elderly on fixed income?
* Why did the plan propose radical changes to open space, tree canopy and
* Why was no program of housing conservation proposed, to preserve the
affordable housing we now have?
* How did such a poor-quality proposal as Overlay zoning become such a focus
of housing planning for the City? Why did the $3 million Envision plan fail
so badly? How about rewriting the Envision report to make it useful as a
plan, and have the report approved (with public hearings) by the Planning
Board and/or the City Council?
* Why would anyone seek to refile either the original Overlay zoning
petition or its extensively revised version? Should we instead agree to
rewrite the whole thing and begin with the SPOA proposal to "create
smaller-sized units in existing buildings"?
These are the questions I have so far, and I am looking for answers.
Note: Stephen Kaiser is a member of CCC's Advisory Research Team
Cambridge Citizens Coalition is pleased to announce its expanded Board membership and core Advisory and Research Team members. The Board has a strong footing in our local neighborhood group leadership. Professionals of various backgrounds and activists representing the broad sweep of Cambridge's diverse residents and residential areas were core criteria in our selection. Our diversity and ongoing activism in key issues impacting both our neighborhoods and the city as a whole brings to our efforts a variety of experiences and expertise making this group far stronger than the sum of our individual parts.
CCC BOARD DEMOGRAPHICS
Demographics: The CCC’s Board currently comprises 23 members. 11 are women and 6 are members of historically under-represented groups (African, African American, Asian, and Latin American) with a cross-section of ages. We were born on five continents - Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.
Education: We have attended a broad array of local educational institutions – Babson College, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern - and others both in the U.S. and abroad. We studied a wide variety of subjects – from economics to software design, from art history to biochemistry.
Our careers have included, among others: administrator, attorney, author, company founder, consultant, documentary filmmaker, economist, energy advisor, foundation director, graduate student, high school teacher, investor, landscape architect, psychoanalyst, psychologist, professor, realtor, rock musician, scientist, social worker, software designer, and talent consultant.
Our homes represent the diverse spectrum of our city’s neighborhoods, including Agassiz, Cambridgeport, East Cambridge, Fresh Pond, Huron, Harvard Square, Mid-Cambridge, MIT/Port, North Cambridge, Riverside, West Cambridge). Our residences range from condos, to multiple family structures, to rental apartments, to single family domiciles.
Our local volunteer work and activism include, among other things, Audubon, Condo association activities Little League coaching, local and regional non-profit Boards, local and regional school boards, local zoning initiatives, Museum of Science, neighborhood association leadership, preservation and restoration efforts, publishing a kid’s newspaper, recycling projects, and veteran’s affairs.
THE CCC BOARD MEMBER BACKGROUNDS
Catalina Arboleda (Mid-Cambridge). A psychologist, and native of Colombia, Catalina came to Cambridge as a Harvard Undergraduate. She is active on her Mid-Cambridge condo-board and travels frequently internationally.
Joel Bard, J.D. (Agassiz) is an authority in municipal law specializing in land use and environmental control, historic preservation, wetlands protection, affordable housing, and telecommunications. He has served as town counsel in several MA towns and has been involved in both Metropolitan Area Planning Council and Cambridge community issues such as the New Charles River Basin project.
Suzanne Preston Blier (Harvard Square). An art and architectural historian specializing in Africa, a subject she teaches at Harvard and writes about frequently. Building on efforts to save the Kiosk, she helped to found the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association and the Cambridge Citizens Coalition. She has worked on local architectural preservation, zoning, and other issues. CCC President.
Robert Camacho (Fresh Pond). Bob was a member of Warner Brothers rock group Swallow, later building a career in corporate training and software sales, most recently with Bose Corp, where he was a software test writer/developer for Bose Wave radio DVD player. A Vietnam war vet, today he volunteers as a musician at area VA Centers.
Lynn Cetrulo (Fresh Pond). Lynn grew up in Michigan and has been a Cambridge resident since 1971. She is both a psychiatrist social worker and a lay psychoanalyst, affiliated with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and has a private practice in Cambridge. She has served, and continues to serve on a number of non- profit boards and is a member of The Cambridge Club.
Elizabeth Gilmore (West Cambridge). Past chair, UNICEF New England and the Guidance Center; Elizabeth is also the Founder and former Executive Director of Greentimes, an education newsletter for 50,000 urban public school kids. Current Boards of Cambridge Homes, Mass Audubon, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Peter Glick (Huron). Investor and Entrepreneur with a special interest in clinical diagnostics. Former Executive Chairman of Dynastic Technologies and. Of Magellan Diagnostics; He holds a degree from the Sloan School at MIT and sits on the Board of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, where he serves as treasurer. CCC Vice President
Charles Hinds (East Cambridge) Commercial Realtor and President Hinds Associates. Previously with Group Boston Real Estate, and before then a Software developer and manager. Chuck, who holds a Computer Science M.A. is President of the East Cambridge Planning Team and has been addressing development and preservation concerns. CCC Treasurer and President Elect.
Elizabeth Gombosi (Mid-Cambridge). Elizabeth is the presiding officer of Kinhaven Music School Board in Weston, VT. She was the Associate Director (ret.) Archaeological Exploration of Sardis and has long been involved with the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association where she currently serves as Membership Secretary. CCC Vice President
Paola Grandi (Mid-Cambridge). A scientist who is Italian by birth, Paola lead oncology-focused biopharmaceutical companies and co-founded Oncorus. She has taught in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, her research sponsored by the NIH/NCI grants. Now a graduate student at Babson College, with a son in Cambridge public school. She is deeply committed to re-cycling and sustainability.
Eric Grunebaum ( North Cambridge). Eric is a Principal at Cambridge Energy Advisors, and has consulted on and developing solar and energy efficiency projects. He is also a broker in clean energy impact investments. An activist in restoring Jerry’s Pond on Rindge Ave. he is also a filmmaker, whose works include The Last Mountain, a feature documentary on coal and clean energy in West Virginia.
Gilberte Houbart (Huron). Of French and Colombian Background, Gilberte came to Cambridge to attend graduate school at MIT in media arts and sciences. She is a software designer and currently serves as Director of Product Design at Salsify, where she heads the 350 person design team. She has . recently joined the Board of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association where she serves as Clerk.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Houghteling. A long-time volunteer, Betsy served for 12 years as Overseer and Trustee of the Museum of Science. She also has worked on political campaigns and for education non-profits. During the Dukakis administration she was Director of Communications for the Department of Revenue. A Kennedy School graduate, she and her husband enjoy being a “host family” for international students. CCC Clerk.
Katiti Kironde (North Cambridge). Katiti launched a career as fashion designer with an eponymous clothing line in the years after becoming the first African model on a women’s magazine cover (Glamour) while a Harvard Student. She and her husband who raised their children in Cambridge, founded the Kironde Education and Health Fund (KEHF) in her native Uganda.
Annette LaMond (West Cambridge). A Ph.D. in economics, Annette is an author, editor, and consultant, whose research has ranged from industry regulation to Cambridge women's history. A longtime member of the Cambridge Plant & Garden Club, she has advocated for public planting projects throughout the city. She is currently leading a neighborhood campaign to improve traffic safety.
Christopher Mackin (Harvard Square) – Chris, long-time renter in Cambridge, is Founder and President of Ownership Associates, Inc. based in Cambridge and a special advisor to American Working Capital LLC. He teaches part time at Rutgers University. He serves on the Board of the Harvard Square Neighborhood. Association.
Christopher Matthews (East Cambridge). Chris is Associate Principal and design leader at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape Architects and lecturer in landscape architecture (GSD). Recent landscape projects:the Walden Pond Visitors’ Center, Cambridge Crossing & Alexandria Center in East Cambridge. East Cambridge Planning Team Board.
Walter McDonald (Cambridgeport). Walter was Associate Director at the North Bennett Street School (a post-secondary Boston trade and craft school), where he hired and supervised instructors and oversaw curriculum. Previously he taught history in high schools in Waltham and Tanzania and later was Director of Financial Aid at UMass Boston.
Beverly Mire (Harvard Square). Bev, a long-time renter in the Square, is a journalist and youth media specialist. She has worked with teens at Cambridge Educational Access TV. She was assistant director education for MIT/Terrascope Youth Radio and sits on the Board of Cambridge Community Television.
Rafi Mohammed (East Cambridge). Rafi, an economist (Cornell Ph.D.), founded Culture of Profit LLC which consults with businesses to help develop pricing strategy. He has authored several books on this subject, and is a frequent commentator in print media, public policy commissions and television. He previously worked at the FCC.
Shippen Page. J.D. (West Cambridge). Shippen’s law practice includes the areas of estate planning, residential real estate, and mediation. He chairs the Board of the Cambridge Public Library Foundation, as well as the Advisory Council of Revels. He is Emeriti Director of Cambridge Neighbors and is an honorary member of the Ward 9 Democratic Committee.
Phil Wellons, J.D. (Riverside). Phil specializes in international financial markets, transactions, and comparative political strategies, as a lawyer and faculty member. He was Deputy Director of the Program on International Financial Systems, working in the Zambian finance ministry, and as international consultation on five continents. Locally he has participated in several zoning initiatives.
William Julius Wilson, Honorary (MIT/Port). Geyser University Professor Emeritus at Harvard, Bill has written extensively on issues of race, class, and poverty. The holder of a National Medal of Science, among many other honors, his many books, have transformed the way that we see key issues of societal imbalances today.
CCC ADVISORY, RESEARCH, AND DESIGN REVIEW GROUP
CCC'S CORE INTEREST AREAS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING
A strange thing happened at both the Planning Board and City Council public discussions of the Garage question at the heart of the Sullivan Court House Debate. In both settings, the PRO-Leggett-Mcall speakers were massed together at the front of the long speaker's list ahead of the opponents, forcing the latter (of nearly equal number) to speak after a very long wait. This is very different from how both meetings are usually run, where speakers from both sides are more evenly dispersed. Strategic control of community speaker sign-ups seems to have been a key factor in this. How was this done? At the City Council meeting, citizens were not allowed to use the call-in sign up as usually happens for City Council discussions, but instead were told there would be separate special sign up available from 5:30 on. Alas, there was no sign up available then. And even when the Mayor announced the sheets would be brought out at 6 PM, the sheets were not on the table where they usually are, and indeed, they were no where to be found, despite several inquiries into the Council Office. Instead a group of Leggett-McCall allies had taken the sheets to the other side of the hall filling out the pages with their supporters. It was stated that some supporters were even able to get ahold of an online sign-in means by way of a special URL set up. (The Mayor denied this, but there clearly was manipulation. Few knew even if their attempt to sign up had worked. And, as we signed up, we were asked whether we were PRO or AGAINST the plan, suggesting that this data also may have been used in selecting who could speak when. They Mayor was clearly reading off of multiple lists throughout the night.
Hundreds signed up to speak, but the order in which they were allowed to speak was clearly being manipulated through various means. This resulted in a completely off-balance parade of speakers before the Council on this key issue. Many of those opposed to the Leggett-McCall proposal were forced to wait until late into the night to speak, while those in favor were able to speak at the outset and then head home to their families. This is hardly fair, nor is it what the City should be allowing to happen clearly to the benefit of developers.
Ironically who showed up to speak, or rather, those who were allowed to speak at a reasonable time, is also being used by proponents of this plan. Indeed yesterday, the Communications Director of ABC AF posted a map showing where the speakers came from, arguing that only nearby residents should be taken seriously. Alas, many speakers who opposed this simply did not have the time to wait until close to mid-night to let their voices be heard. Nor did the Council provide us with a copy of all the letters, pro and against, so we could see for ourselves. Below is a map posted on twitter by ABC AF showing where those speaker who were able to stay for this meeting and speak reside.
What does Leggatt-McCall think? Well clearly they see this as a city-wide issue. They have sent the SECOND very expensive full color large postcard to every resident of Cambridge to try to win voters city-wide to their cause.
This IS a Citywide issue - see the message on the flier above! Indeed as this advertisement points out. Why would the city choose to give away public land for more administrative offices - for a teaspoon of additional affordable housing (22 units), removing needed public parking? Clearly this kind of action would not be part of any city-wide plan, had Cambridge allowed Utile to undertake an actual Citywide plan as part of the expensive Envision planning process. There is an easy compromise plan that should be considered now.
$45 million is the estimated cost of tearing down the Courthouse building. Divide this cost between the city, the state and the developer ($15 million each). Then provide this developer with roughly half the land for its use (at a cost reduced by their share of the removal of the building) and use the other half to build affordable housing with ground floor commercial space and other amenities. Parking could be underground for both.
Sometimes members the pro-developer ABC-AF group have sought to undermine community members who speak at Planning Board, CHC, City Council and other meetings by insisting that we do not represent the community as a whole because most people who have to work or take care of children are not able to attend. In this case, however, these same proponents are suggesting that if you do not live near to the Court House you should not have a voice in this matter. To the contrary, speakers at Monday night's meeting began to take notice of some of these issues. One speaker noted that many of those in favor lived in a building owned by the developer; another speaker requested that before any Councillor voted on an issue they must state if they had received developer funding. What we are lacking on this - and many other issues coming before Council - is transparency, planning, and valued input from local neighborhood groups.
There appears to be too little time nowadays to get even the most important things done – or at least done as well as we would like. So addressing how to have the greatest impact while wasting the least time doing it is incredibly important.
How to influence the Cambridge City Council is a puzzle I have wrestled with for over 60 years. Speaking at preliminary Council hearings goes a long way to help recruit support from other residents and Councilors both. But my major realization is that written communications submitted in advance of Council hearings have ten times the impact of last-minute speeches or letters put in the basket during public comment on the night the issue comes to a final vote.
That said, it is tempting to feel that speaking at final hearings - or even attending them – is simply a waste of time, given that 99% of Councilors’ minds seem to have been made up 99% of the time before they even set foot in the Sullivan Chamber for the final vote. Not so - to be seen in the chamber on voting night (and ideally to be heard, in case you weren’t noticed in the crowd) sends the vital signal that every Councilor’s vote will be noticed and remembered - and that you back your views by coming to monitor the procedure in person. That level of commitment is always noticed – and strengthens the impact of your future letters on future issues as well. Pleasant as it is to watch the final vote in the comfort of home on live TV or play it later from the Open Meeting Portal, “being there” makes a big difference in the long run – occasionally perhaps even in the short run.
As to the most effective content of letters to the Council, the “100% Affordable Housing Overlay" (AHO) battle has been a valuable lesson. Proponents concentrated from the outset on the one vague, emotional claim that Cambridge has a housing crisis so extreme that it justifies overriding every other consideration, and any opposition whatever is therefore deplorable. Those of us seeking a more balanced remedy detailed our most important objectives and proposed constructive ways to achieve them. Big difference.
Defeat of the AHO has unleashed an avalanche of deplorable statements from the proponents, again labeling all AHO opponents as deplorable. No change there. Our response must just be to reassert the key objectives of balanced remedies and resume the fight to get them adopted. That entails letters of gratitude and continuing persuasion to Councilors Carlone, Devereux, Kelley and Zondervan who defeated the AHO, all possible support for Carlone, Kelley and Zondervan in their re-election campaigns, and diligent efforts to identify and support all new Council candidates who share our commitment to a balanced program for a more livable Cambridge for all.
City Councilor Dennis Carlone –former architect and urban planner – points out that Cambridge has some 30 housing proposals pending. But the City put forward the woefully unbalanced Affordable Housing Overlay petition as its only offer to deal with our complex housing needs, and fought every effort to overcome its many major flaws.
We need to find far better solutions, and that requires campaigning for and electing a new City Council with the wisdom and courage to implement them.
Author Francis (Fritz) Donovan is a Cambridge Attorney and President of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association
We plan to publish the names of the Cambridge Citizens Coalition Board Members shortly on our website but here is some information on what (or rather who) one can anticipate to find here. A key criteria has been diversity in order that our Board convey the broad geographic spread of the city. We also were looking for people who have been active as leaders and participants in various domains as well as people who think broadly and deeply about issues and enjoy working as a community to achieve larger goals. As we grow in the years ahead we hope to maintain and further expand on our diversity of back grounds, settings, and interests.
Demographics: CCC’s Board currently comprises circa 21 members (we are waiting to hear from several more). All are local activists and leaders. Nine are women and five are members of historically under-represented groups (African, African American, Asian, and Latin American) with a cross-section of ages. We were born on five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America).
Education: We have attended a broad array of local educational institutions – Babson College, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern - as well as others both in the U.S. and abroad. We studied a wide variety of subjects –from economics to software design, from art history to biochemistry.
Our careers have included, among others: administrator, attorney, author, company founder, consultant, documentary filmmaker, economist, energy advisor, foundation director, graduate student, high school teacher, investor, landscape architect, psychologist, professor, realtor, rock musician, scientist, software designer, and talent consultant.
Our residences are throughout Cambridge and represent the diverse spectrum of our city’s neighborhoods, among these: Cambridge Highlands, Cambridgeport, East Cambridge, Fresh Pond, Huron, Harvard Square, Mid-Cambridge, MIT/The Port, North Cambridge, Porter Square, Riverside, and West Cambridge. Our homes range from condos, to multiple family structures, to rental apartments, to single family residences.
Our local volunteer work and activism include, among other things, little league coaching, local and regional non-profit Boards, local and regional school boards, local zoning initiatives, neighborhood association leadership, publishing a kids’ newspaper, preservation and restoration efforts, recycling projects, and condo association activities.
We also have created two separate advisory groups comprising various specialists.
1) Our Research and Advisory Committee
2) Our Architectural and Design Review Committee
The names of these individuals will be published shortly when our Board of Directors is published.
We have a small group of officers - a President, Treasurer, Clerk and Vice President. We also have named a President-Elect and have in place a timely order of succession. In addition we have in place a process by which new members are brought onto the Board as well as a line of succession within the leadership structure. We have decided that CCC will be a membership organization, with annual dues of $50.00, a cost can be readily decreased in cases of hardship.
CCC is a young organization, and still growing, and we will work together on our key shared goals of accountability, good government, and transparency, as well as a larger community engagement in the workings of the city. This is a primary issue of CCC as a whole, alongside other critical concerns, comprising six main areas of engagement:
1.Accountability, Transparency & Good Government
2.Affordable Housing, Displacement, and Gentrification
2. Community, Equity & Neighborhood Engagement
4. Environment, Green Issues, Sustainability
4. Planning, Infrastructure, Smart Growth, and Design
6. Public Programs, Arts, and Education
Cambridge has surpassed state mandated affordable housing goals. Yet we can, by making smart choices, do more to . create equitable and sustainable housing choices. Among the possibilities explored in progressive cities or advocated by progressive politicians elsewhere are the following:
*Create a Cambridge Housing Trust Fund - create an alternative housing production system through a non-profit that will acquire properties through purchase, donations, or bequests to serve this purpose, advanced in part through city tax rebatements, housing subsidies, and other means. Invite property owners to commit a percentage of appreciation of their homes/property to this Cambridge Land Trust. Help set up a program so seniors can deed homes & continue to live here.
*Tax credits for renters
*Create a housing investment at birth (baby bonds): By 18, children born into lower-income families would have nearly $50,000 to invest in a down-payment on a home.
*City financing to remodel to create low income accessory dwelling units and multi-family homes.
*7% rent stabilization for tenants who meet income criteria in buildings owned by persons or entities who have more than 4 rental units.
*Require new property owners to notify the city of tenant names and contact information; Provide legal representation for people facing lease termination or eviction.
*House the city homeless and provide aid.
*Build new mixed low and middle income affordable housing on city property (parking lots, vacant areas, above libraries and municipal buildings.
*Create a Mutual Housing Association (e.g. Housing Coops) to help individuals to buy property to live in with others.
*Starting a program of Home sharing: Both HUD and Habitat for Humanity have supported these.
*Provide a path to home ownership for low and middle income tenants with city-funded down payments.
*End restrictive zoning that precludes multiple family units (currently 7% of Cambridge housing.
*Lobby to Allocate state funding bonuses for transportation and other funding for cities (like Cambridge) that have already met state affordable housing goals.
*Acquire shared interest affordable housing (for artists, teachers, social workers, others.
*Limit tax benefits to one home per family.
*Tax any vacancies in housing and commercial properties that exceed three months per year.
*Improve public transportation. Streets are clogged with traffic and little action is anticipated in the near future. Neither the city nor the state have added more public transportation. This much change.
*Curate commercial and residential areas in order to provide needed amenities for local residents - from grocery stores and laundry facilities to parks and health facilities.
*Modernize city infrastructure. With the city's recent large scale growth the city infrastructure is under duress. In December 2018, just before Christmas, a Civil War era water main in West Cambridge broke flooding basements and causing millions of dollars in damage - none of it covered by the city. In East Cambridge, the large increases in labs and other commercial developments has introduced a crisis in electricity capacity, and pressure to address brought new concerns to this hard hit neighborhood to accept a massive towering electric substation next to a local primary school to help address capacity. The city needs to integrate neighborhood needs and concerns into growth plans.
It was well after mid-night when the Cambridge citywide up-zoning proposal known as the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay which would have brought between ZERO and 40 new units more of affordable housing to the city was voted to be tabled. This proposal removed all related (current) citizen rights of appeal AND removed the current oversight role of the Planning Board in all related design decisions in a plan that allowed (indeed) encouraged the removal of city open spaces and mature trees and the addition of massive box-like economically segregated housing projects citywide. Now on to the hard work of making sure we elect a FAR better City Council. With all your help we can do that too. We - the public and the Councillors who sought key amendments of this petition that were rejected by the majority won (survived) this round, but it is not a time for celebration but instead to work harder to bring a viable plan for affordable housing.
Cambridge residents are being polled by an anonymous group for views on current city councillors, issues facing the city, and their positions on the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) coming up for a vote. Who is paying for this poll? And, equally importantly, what questions is it asking? And why?
Poll is coming from a telephone number in Marshfield , Ma.
Here are the questions
*as best transcribed and recalled live at the time.
I. What are your views on current city councillors?
Answer possibilities: favorable unfavorable, unsure, don’t know.
*Note this poll includes Jan Devereux who is not running for reelection - which is strange.
II What issue concerns you the most currently in the city?
* Note that the term "affordable housing" means many different things. We all support more affordable housing,
but to some this means rent control, to others it means renter protections, to still others it means building more
market rate housing, to still others it means adding more inclusionary housing. None of this is spelled out here.
**note too, that there is nothing in this poll on climate change or the environment, infrastructure or planning. Why?
III What do you think about the work that has been done to improve the city squares?
*Note: there is nothing here on Harvard Square, Porter Square, Kendall, or even recent city-approved
development projects in East Cambridge, Alewife and elsewhere.
IV What is your view of City Council
*Note: there is nothing in here asking our views of the "City" (the City Manager - who is coming up for
reappointment next term.
**Note too: there is nothing in this poll about approval of the city's Community Development Department that is
behind the deeply flawed Affordable Housing Overlay proposal,
V Are you aware or the Affordable Housing Overlay
*Note: good question, but will the poll-takers actually share the results with the public?
VI The Affordable Housing Overlay will enable the city to build 100% affordable housing throughout the city by changing some of the restrictions currently in place (rough transcription).
Do you support it?
Do you oppose?
*Note: the AHO is very complex, why do they not ask separately if we oppose or support individual elements of the
proposal, like four stories everywhere, seven stories on the corridors, "as of right" (taking away current citizen legal appeal, or the change in design standards and review oversight.
IX Education level
In the end key questions remain about who commissioned this poll (an expensive endeavor): is it one of the current city councillors who supports the AHO? Is it a political PAC supporting the AHO (A Better Cambridge most notably)? Was it the City of Cambridge? Who ever it was, they did NOT provide any information of who has paid for this political message/poll? Why did they leave out critical other issues and concerns in the city?