Cambridge City Council to consider "We the People Act" policy resolution

duties-of-congress.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order resolution in support of the We the People Act, calling on the United States Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's notorious decision in the Citizens United case. Councillor Carlone is pleased to be joined by Councillor Nadeem Mazen as a co-sponsor of this order.

The We the People Act was recently introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature by state senator Jamie Eldridge and state representative Cory Atkins. The measure is also supported by Greater Boston Move To Amend, MassVote, and Mass. Senior Action in Cambridge, among others.

This isn't the first time that the Cambridge City Council has called on the state legislature to encourage Congress to take action to overturn Citizens United -- and if adopted, the We the People Act won't be the first time that the legislature has indeed supported such action -- but unlike previous efforts, the We the People Act adds a significant new dimension: if Congress fails to act within six months, then the We the People Act will also serve as a formal call for a Constitutional Convention. Vermont, California, and Illinois have already taken this major step toward reform. Will Massachusetts be next?

According to Sara Brady at MassVote:

Our Commonwealth should be at the forefront of this fight. It's a long road to 2/3rds of states calling for an amendment and a convention but this problem is too big to ignore. And in fact, even the act of calling for a convention can help encourage Congress to take action on their own -- this is how the 17th Amendment, which lead to the direct election of U.S. Senators, came about.

Residents wishing to offer support for this measure are encouraged to attend the city council meeting on Monday, February 23, at 5:30 pm in the CRLS Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway. You may sign up for public comment by calling the city council office (617.349.4280) on Monday, February 23, between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm, or just show up at 459 Broadway between the hours of 5:30 and 6:00 pm (and add your name to the public comment list). Be sure to note that you wish to speak about Policy Order #17, the We the People Act. Alternatively, you may email the full council at council@cambridgema.gov and be sure to include the City Clerk, dlopez@cambridgema.gov.

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

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Dennis Carlone joins with Mothers Out Front to call on the City to switch to 100% Renewable Energy

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Working together with Mothers Out Front, Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order that aims to switch the City of Cambridge from 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 notorious Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone proposal would bring oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to the United States and has been described as "game over" for the environment by noted scientist Jim Hansen. 

With this policy order, Councillor Carlone is asking the City to terminate its business relationship with TransCanada.

"Let's end our dealings with TransCanada," Councillor Carlone said in an email to residents. "The same logic that applies to the fossil fuel divestment campaign applies here -- if TransCanada is going to continue with its business of extracting oil from tar sands, then we shouldn't be buying our electricity from them," he added.

Of course, if the order is adopted, a new supplier of municipal electricity will have to be identified. To that end, Councillor Carlone is calling on the City to switch to a supplier that relies on 100% renewable energy. Two years ago, Palo Alto took a similar leap, adopting a Carbon Neutral Electric Plan that now has the city running carbon free.

The idea for the policy order was sparked by Councillor Carlone's recent meetings with Mothers Out Front, a promising new climate advocacy group that traces its roots to Cambridge. In the picture seen above, Councillor Carlone met with local members of Mothers Out Front and celebrated the fact that he recently switched to 100% renewable power for his own home. Mothers Out Front is now encouraging all Cambridge City Councillors to make the switch as well.

Residents interested in speaking on this proposal are encouraged to attend public comment at Monday's council meeting, which will be held in a special location, the CRLS Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway. [UPDATE: Monday's meeting has been postponed until Thursday, Jan. 29 due to the snow emergency. Same procedures for offering public comment will apply on Thursday.] Public comment starts at 5:30 pm, and the deadline for adding your name to the list of speakers is 6 pm. You may also call the city council office between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm (617.349.4280) to ask to be put on the speaker's list. Be sure to say you want to talk about Policy Order #18. Alternatively, you may also email the full council at council@cambridgema.gov and be sure to include the City Clerk at dlopez@cambridgema.gov.

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

 

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Effort to launch citywide Master Plan named "Best of 2014"

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As the City of Cambridge moves forward with the process of creating a citywide plan to better guide future development, Cambridge Day has recognized the "citizen power" and "council follow-through" that sparked the new planning process as among the "Best of Cambridge in 2014."

To read the full column, which includes other local highlights from the past twelve months, click here: http://www.cambridgeday.com/2015/01/01/the-best-of-cambridge-in-2014/

Since taking office last year, Councillor Dennis Carlone has been working with his colleagues, city staff, and neighborhood leaders to help initiate the new planning process. The first phase of the project, Cambridge Conversations, was intensive effort for open-ended discussions to hear concerns, thoughts, and ideas about the citywide plan. Working with an independent consultant, Kathryn Madden of Madden Planning Group, the substance of these discussions was used to help shape the Strategic Recommendations for a Citywide Plan.

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Councillor Carlone to introduce resolution in support of Mayors for Peace anti-nuke efforts

FullSizeRender_(4).jpgThis evening, Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone will introduce a policy order resolution to endorse the national and international efforts of Mayors for Peace to reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe.

Nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States still maintains thousands of active nuclear warheads, with hundreds of missiles on hair-trigger alert. Nuclear warheads are also thought to be on alert in Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, France, Britain, and China. The intentional (or accidental) launching of any of these weapons could lead to unprecedented carnage and massive casualties to innocent civilians around the world.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was intended to promote full nuclear disarmament, but according to experts and advocates, the United States is currently embarking on a program to upgrade existing warheads and build new submarines, bombers and delivery systems, at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years (that's roughly $10,000 per American household).

This April, delegations from around the world will converge on the United Nations in New York City for the quinquennial review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Officials will also be joined by delegates from cities and towns across the United States.

Members of the public wishing to speak in support of the non-proliferation order are welcome to attend tonight's city council meeting, to be held at the CRLS Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway. To speak on this topic, plan to arrive between 5:30 and 6 pm and add your name to the public comment list. Alternatively, people may share their thoughts by emailing the full city council (council@cambridgema.gov) and copying the city clerk (dlopez@cambridgema.gov).

Councillor Carlone wishes to thank Councillors E. Denise Simmons and Nadeem Mazen for joining him as co-sponsors of this resolution. Thanks as well to Cambridge resident Jonathan King for providing background material for this blog post. The full text of the policy order appears below...

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Update on the Plastic Bag Ban

I want to say thank you to the hundreds of residents who flooded City Hall with emails in the run up to Monday's debate on the proposed ban on single-use plastic carryout bags in Cambridge, Mass.

To make a long story short, a number of my colleagues expressed their willingness to join with me in taking action to pass the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance on Monday night, but after much discussion, the council voted to accept a motion by the Vice Mayor to refer the matter back to the Ordinance Committee, in the hopes that we may reach a stronger consensus.

The next hearing on this matter is now scheduled for February 11 at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber.

The outcome of Monday's meeting was summarized in this post by the Massachusetts Sierra Club; additional commentary on the plastic bag ban appears here in BostInno.

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Councillor Dennis Carlone calls for a vote to ban plastic bags in Cambridge

Dennis_Carlone_Plastic_Bag_Ban_Cambridge_city_council_letter.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone is joining with sustainability advocates and local members of the Massachusetts Sierra Club and calling for a vote on the city's Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. If adopted, it would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban plastic bags.

In a letter addressed to his city council colleagues, Carlone explained that the plastic bag ban will serve "to protect our waterways, reduce waste, and protect the marine environment." Carlone continued:

Plastic checkout bags should be outlawed because they are typically made from a polyethylene that is not biodegradable. Instead, the bags break into small pieces, called microplastics, which are consumed by animals and litter the ground. The bags have been shown to release toxins into the soil and water, threatening the food chain and presenting a serious danger to both humans and animals.

Work on Cambridge's plastic bag ban started in 2007, when the City Council asked the City Manager to "to investigate banning disposable plastic bags..."

Seven years later, the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance appeared to be on its way to passage in late 2013, when it was advanced out of committee and forwarded to the 2014-15 city council with a favorable recommendation, thanks to the leadership of former City Councillor and current State Representative Marjorie Decker.

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East Cambridge residents file suit against Planning Board, Courthouse developer

Residents have filed a lawsuit in Land Court to challenge the Planning Board's decision to grant special permits for the redevelopment of the former Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse at 40 Thorndike Street in East Cambridge.

The complaint – which was filed today by lead plaintiff Michael Hawley, noted architect Graham Gund, and other abutters – alleges that the Planning Board's decision to grant special permits to developer Legatt McCall was "arbitrary and capricious," "an abuse of discretion," and "in excess of the Board's authority."

While attending the National League of Cities conference in Austin, Texas this afternoon, Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone issued the following statement in support of East Cambridge residents:

I stand with residents who are challenging the decision in the Sullivan Courthouse matter. Large-scale redevelopment always requires tradeoffs, but a decision of this magnitude ought to be subject to an inclusive process that is characterized by transparency, democratic accountability, and meaningful compromise. As it stands, the lack of process in this matter renders the outcome morally wrong.

Since taking office earlier this year, Councillor Carlone has been working with residents who do not think the Courthouse should be converted to a 20-story commercial office tower.

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Council votes to advance Carlone's call for Safe Truck program

The Cambridge City Council voted 8-0 this evening to approve Councillor Dennis Carlone's motion to advance the concept of a "Safer Truck" program.

As a result, City Manager Richard C. Rossi is requested "to work with all relevant City Staff, safety experts, and bicycle and pedestrian advocates to consider the possibility of deploying truck side guards across all city-owned and city-leased trucks."

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Councillor Carlone, who serves as Chair of the council's Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, also submitted this report from an October 22 hearing that featured discussion related to side guards and the city's pilot program of installing protective gear on certain trucks.

Last month, the City of Boston became the first in the nation to require side guards on all city-owned and city-leased trucks. While such measures are new to the United States, side guards have been mandatory in Europe for many years and have been credited with saving lives.

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Update on Planning Board reform efforts

Tonight, the Planning Board will meet to review its procedures and listen to public comment on ideas for improving the special permit process. The meeting will take place at 7 pm at City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway.

Building on the efforts of Nancy Ryan and other concerned residents – I focused on the issue of Planning Board reform this summer when I introduced a proposal to enable the city council to temporarily exercise its oversight authority on certain Project Review Special Permit decisions for the duration of the Citywide Master Plan process.

The council ultimately voted to quash debate on the so-called "Carlone, et al. petition," which would have effectively provided a mechanism for reshaping the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment as well as other large projects in the Fresh Pond / Alewife area. Nevertheless, one of the positive outcomes of the petition was that it helped bring Planning Board issues to the forefront.

Over the course of the summer, we learned that the Planning Board had been operating with vacancies and expired terms, and we heard from residents who expressed a myriad of concerns regarding communication, notice, and procedure. We also learned that for large development projects, the Board has never denied a Project Review Special Permit.

As a council, we voted in July to create an Advisory Committee to address these issues. The committee was supposed to be formed this fall – but last night, the City Manager informed the council that he would convene a focus group instead.

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Councillor Carlone looks to expand Hubway access for low-income residents

57BF429229064D0F99D2D6F06F9804ED.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order to create a subsidized Hubway program for low-income Cambridge residents. 

"The City of Cambridge has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's best cities for biking, but as we continue to develop our multi-modal transit infrastructure, we ought to look at ways of expanding access to the Hubway program in an equitable fashion," Councillor Carlone said.

Indeed, just this week, the Boston Globe lauded the fact that the number of bicycle miles traveled in Cambridge is up some 237% since 2004. And with new bike paths and innovative safety technology now in the works, it's clear that we are fostering a culture that promotes biking and other sustainable transit options. We even have traffic signals just for bikes!

But in recent days, neighborhood leaders have contacted Councillor Carlone asking whether we could establish a program similar to Boston's subsidized Hubway membership for low-income residents. The Boston program offers deep discounts and other benefits for people who otherwise may not be able to afford a Hubway membership.

The Cambridge city council moved to explore the idea of a subsidized Hubway program in late 2012, but in a subsequent memorandum from city staff, the concept was deemed "as yet unproven." The memo further noted that, "ridership in lower-income communities has been shown to be constrained by cultural and perceptual, as well as physical barriers that are generally unrelated to cost."

However, the City of Boston recently presented this report from Boston Bikes, which shows that under the direction of Nicole Freedman, their subsidized bike share program has succeeded at engaging low-income residents while also expanding access to underserved populations. Bostonians who participate in the program also report that they are now getting more exercise.

A standard Hubway membership costs $85 per year if paid upfront – but that figure rises to $240 per year if paid in monthly increments. While such costs may not seem prohibitive for many Cantabridgians, the Poverty in Cambridge report that "stunned" councilors earlier this year suggests that a subsidized Hubway program could go a long way toward expanding access to all Cambridge residents.

Councillors Denise Simmons, Leland Chueng, and Nadeem Mazen have signed-on as co-sponsors of the order, which will appear as agenda item O-10 during Monday's council meeting in the Attles meeting room at CRLS, 459 Broadway. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm, and members of the public arriving prior to 6 pm are welcome to speak for up to three minutes during public comment. The full text of the order is posted below...

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