Council adopts Bring Your Own Bag ordinance

The city council voted 8-1 this evening to pass the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, making Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use, plastic checkout bags and completing an effort that began when the city first started studying the issue in 2007.

The legislation also makes Cambridge the first city in the Commonwealth to require that retailers charge a fee for paper bags. Retailers will get to keep the fee, and it has been suggested that this will not only encourage the use of renewable bags, but also help offset costs associated with making the switch away from plastic.

Acting in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, Councillor Carlone led his colleagues through a series of votes to reconcile differences between two versions of the pending legislation on March 12. The outcome of that committee meeting was featured in this Boston Globe report.

After bringing the matter forward for a vote this evening, Councillor Carlone joined with his colleagues in acknowledging all of the city officials, environmental advocates, and Cambridge residents who have been working to advance this legislation for the past eight years, including State Representative Marjorie Decker, former Mayor Henrietta Davis and many others.

On a separate motion, the council also voted to request that the City Manager purchase 10,000 reusable bags for seniors and low-income residents. Students at CRLS will be asked to create a logo for the bags.

The text of the "Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance" is posted below...

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City Council to vote on Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance

Screen_shot_2015-03-30_at_9.28.23_AM.pngThe Cambridge City Council is likely to vote on the plastic bag ban at tomorrow night's meeting at the CRLS Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway. The meeting will begin with public comment at 5:30 pm.

If adopted, the "Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance" would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use, plastic checkout bags, completing a process that began when the city first started studying the issue in 2007.

The legislation would also make Cambridge the first city in the Commonwealth to require that retailers charge a fee for paper bags. Retailers would get to keep the fee, and it has been suggested that this will not only encourage the use of renewable bags, but also help retailers offset costs associated with making the switch away from plastic.

Acting in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, Councillor Dennis Carlone led his colleagues through a series of votes to reconcile differences between two versions of the pending legislation on March 12. The outcome of that committee meeting was featured in this Boston Globe report.

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Ordinance Committee votes to advance "Bring Your Own Bag" law to ban plastic checkout bags

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On Thursday evening, the city council's Ordinance Committee voted unanimously to forward a strong version of the proposed ban on plastic checkout bags to the full council with a positive recommendation.

It is now expected that this reconciled version, renamed the "Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance," will come before the council for a final vote in a matter of weeks. If adopted, it would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use, plastic checkout bags, completing a process that began when the city first started studying the issue in 2007.

Acting in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, Councillor Carlone led his colleagues through a series of votes to reconcile differences between two versions of the pending legislation; here are some of the highlights from the meeting:

  • Amendment Number 4, which sought to create an exemption for take-out food restaurants, failed on a vote of 1 in favor and 4 against.
  • Amendment Number 5, which would have relaxed the definition of a "reusable" plastic bag, also failed, by a vote of 2 in favor and 3 against. As it stands, the proposed ordinance states that a plastic bag must have a minimum thickness of 3.0 mils to qualify as reusable. A similar definition is used in Newton, Newburyport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Marblehead.
  • Amendment Number 6 was adopted, allowing for compostable plastic bags that meet ASTMD6400 standards and are approved by the Commissioner of Public Works.
  • Amendment Number 8A was also adopted; this amendment requires that retail establishments charge a fee for any paper bags or compostable bags that are provided at the point of sale. This would make Cambridge the first municipality in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to require that retailers charge a fee for paper bags. However, the City does not plan to collect this fee. Instead, retailers will keep it.

 Here are materials from Thursday's meeting...

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Plastic bag ban amendments to be considered March 12

The ordinance committee will meet on Thursday, March 12, to once again take up the matter of the plastic bag ban. The meeting will be held at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. If approved, this would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use plastic checkout bags.

I want to say thank you to the hundreds of residents who wrote to the council in support of the plastic bag ban back in December. After seven years of study, and with leadership from former city councillor (now state representative) Marjorie Decker, the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance was advanced out of committee and "passed to a second reading" by the city council last February.

But in response to concerns that were raised by the council last April, an alternate version of the bill was introduced in October. This version added some promising new elements (such as a fee for paper bags, Amendment #8, which I support), but according to the Massachusetts Sierra Club, it also opened the door to possible loopholes (by weakening the definition of what qualifies as a "reusable" plastic bag, for example; see Amendment #5).

With two versions of the bag ban before us at the very same time, I felt that the best way to proceed would be to focus on preserving the original bill and while also scheduling a meeting to consider the alternate version as a series of itemized amendments. Tomorrow, we will meet as a body to consider some 13 proposed amendments to the original bill.

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How much housing does Cambridge need by the year 2030?

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As the city council considers a proposal from Normandy Real Estate Partners and Twining Properties to construct a high-end residential tower at the intersection of Columbia Street, Mass Ave, and Main Street (pictured above), many residents are asking the question: How much housing does Cambridge need by the year 2030?

The Citywide Master Plan is expected to provide an answer, but for now, I asked my legislative aide to contact the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to get their latest estimates and projections.

According to the Director of Data Services for MAPC, it is projected that Cambridge will need to produce between 3,100 and 6,200 additional units of housing during the 20-year period starting in 2010 and ending in 2030. An explanation of the basis for the projection, along with details on two different growth scenarios, is available here on the MAPC website. Scroll down to page 5 to see specific recommendations for our city.

While the MAPC analysis calls for up to 6,200 new units in Cambridge by 2030, it's also worth pointing out that in just the past year, some 2,450 units of new housing were either completed or in construction across the city, according to the Community Development Department's 2014 Year In Review. Taken together, these numbers indicate that Cambridge is making real progress toward MAPC's 2030 goal.

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Cambridge City Council votes to reject study of campaign finance reform

The city council voted on February 20 to reject a motion requesting that the City Manager work with campaign finance reform advocates to examine the potential for establishing a system of publicly financed municipal elections in Cambridge.

The motion was based on a policy order that was introduced last year by Councillors Nadeem Mazen and Dennis Carlone. Their original order was referred to the Government Operations, Rules, and Claims committee, which met earlier this year to hear testimony from campaign finance reform advocates (including Ron Fein, Legal Director for Free Speech for People, and local members of Represent.Us). The committee report from this hearing was placed on file.

Ultimately, three councillors voted in favor of having the City do a study of public financing (including Councillor Carlone), but four councillors opposed the motion, with one voting "present" and one absent. An account of this 3-4-1-1 vote is featured on the front page of this week's Cambridge Chronicle, see: "Cambridge City Council rejects study of public campaign funding."

This evening, the council entertained a motion by Councillor Mazen to reconsider the February 20 vote. However, the motion for reconsideration failed, with Councillors Carlone and Mazen being the only members to support continued debate on the matter.

The full text of the original policy order is posted below...

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With support from Mothers Out Front, Council adopts Renewable Energy order and moves to dump TransCanada

President Obama's veto to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline isn't the only bad news for the TransCanada Corporation these days. Late last week, the Cambridge City Council voted to send the energy giant a rebuke of its own.

On Friday morning, the council unanimously approved a policy order sponsored by Dennis Carlone, aiming to get the City to switch to a new supplier of electricity for all municipal operations. Presently, the City obtains its electricity from TransCanada, the same corporate entity behind Keystone XL, the notorious pipeline project that has been described as "game over" for the planet by noted scientist James Hansen.

With the approval of this order, the City Manager is now requested to terminate the City's relationship with TransCanada. Instead, the City will look to identify a new supplier to provide up to 100% renewable energy for all municipal operations.

This policy order was the product of a series of discussions that Councillor Carlone had with members of Mothers Out Front, a promising new advocacy group that formed in Cambridge and is now expanding to other municipalities and states. Additional information about this order was posted to Councillor Carlone's blog last month, click here for that report. And posted above is a video featuring powerful public testimony and council discussion on the matter.

The council is also looking to explore the potential for a utility aggregation program to further advance the City's goal of becoming a net zero community. To follow up on this topic, Councillor Carlone has scheduled a meeting of the Public Utilities committee for Wednesday, March 4rd, in the Lombardi Building, which is next to City Hall. More information about that hearing is available here.

The full text of the policy order is posted below...

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City Council to hold "Special Regular Meeting" tomorrow, Feb. 20

The Mayor has scheduled a special regular meeting of the city council for tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 20, at 9 am. The meeting will allow us to work through the backlog of items from meetings that were cancelled due to this month's historic snowfall. The meeting will be held in the CRLS Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway and is expected to start with public comment. Anything that we do not get tomorrow is expected to be carried over to the regular meeting scheduled for 5:30 pm, Monday, Feb. 23.

The complete agenda is available here on the council's website. Here are some of the policy orders that I have sponsored or co-sponsored on tomorrow's agenda:

Order #18 aims to get the City to switch from using a conventional blend of fossil fuel-based electricity to 100% renewable energy for all municipal operations (i.e. city buildings, schools, street lights, etc.). Presently, the City's electric power is supplied via a contract with TransCanada, the corporate entity behind the Keystone XL Pipeline. After meeting with members of Mothers Out Front, I was inspired to switch my own electricity to 100% renewable — and we drafted this policy order to ask the City to do the same. Full text of the policy order and background material is posted here on my blog.

Order #29 seeks to preserve a long-awaited opportunity to create a large public park as part of the pending redevelopment of the Volpe Center in Kendall Square. This issue is very important to East Cambridge residents — and has implications for the city as a whole. More information can be found in this recent New York Times report, and also, here on my blog.

Order #16 calls on the City to be fully transparent in our dealings with Boston 2024, the private-entity that unilaterally put us in the running to host the 2024 Olympic Games. This order also looks to protect the ability of City Staff to offer their professional opinions on matters relating to the Olympics, and in addition, it supports efforts to put the question of the 2024 Games to a popular vote. There's more about this policy order (which was inspired by Cambridge resident Saul Tannenbaum) here in Boston Magazine: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2015/01/22/cambridge-policy-order-2024-olympics/

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Councillor Carlone calls for preservation of Open Space in Kendall Square

Volpe_Open_Space_Carlone_K2.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order that seeks to preserve a long-awaited opportunity to create a public park as part of the redevelopment of the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Kendall Square.

For many years, Cambridge residents have been told that continued growth in Kendall Square would someday be offset by a significant provision of open space on the Volpe site. The only thing that was unknown was when, exactly, the U.S. General Services Administration would move to consider proposals for the 14-acre parcel, which currently includes a large surface parking lot.

Then last August, the federal government posted an RFI to begin the process of redeveloping the Volpe site. And in December, city planners unveiled an initial zoning scheme — one that would reduce the future amount of public open space on the site, from a 7.5 acres (as originally planned), to just 2.5 acres. In a memo to the Planning Board, it was suggested that the 7.5-acre park might "constrain development opportunities" on the site.

In response to the proposed zoning, members of the East Cambridge Planning Team voted unanimously last month to oppose the loss of the public park. "The greater the number of people working and living in that area, the more important open space becomes," their letter to the Planning Board says.

Meanwhile, according to the Boston Globe, major real estate developers are eager to bid on what has been described as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to add to the growth of the life sciences industry in Kendall Square.

The above image was produced as part of the city's K2C2 planning study and depicts a conceptual rendering for a large public park on the northern edge of the Volpe parcel. While helping lead that study in 2012, planner David Dixon stated that "the proposed park at the Volpe site is going to be the heart of Kendall Square before too long."

Councillor Carlone's order was on the agenda for this evening's city council meeting, which has now been cancelled due to the snowstorm. This order is now expected to be discussed at the council's next regular meeting on Monday, February 23, at 5:30 pm in the CRLS/Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway.

The full text of the policy order appears below...

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Plastic bag ban amendments to be considered February 11 (Rescheduled for March 12)

The ordinance committee will meet on Wednesday, February 11, to continue work on the plastic bag ban. The hearing will be held at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. [Note: This meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 12 at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber]

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I want to say thank you once again to the hundreds of residents who wrote to the council in support of the plastic bag ban last month. After seven years of study, and with leadership from former city councillor (now state representative) Marjorie Decker, the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance was advanced out of committee and "passed to a second reading" by the city council last year.

But in response to concerns that were raised by the council, an alternate version of the bill was introduced in October. This version added some promising new elements (such as a fee for paper bags), but according to the Massachusetts Sierra Club, it also opened the door to possible loopholes (by weakening the definition of what qualifies as a "reusable" plastic bag, for example).

With two versions of the bag ban before us at the very same time, I concluded that the most constructive way to proceed would be to preserve the original bill and consider the alternate version as a series of amendments. On February 11, we will meet as a body to vote on each of 13 proposed amendments to the original bill.

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