From December 2004 until December 2007, The Alewife newspaper covered the neighborhood of North Cambridge, Mass. It was a wonderful community of businesses, writers and photographers. The paper is no longer printed, but this Web site continues both as an archive and as an ongoing blog dedicated, mostly, to this humble little corner of the universe.
Our great friend City Councillor Sam Seidel sent over this chance to see the Democratic nominee:
This Thursday, October 16th, please join Barack Obama in Londonderry, where he will talk about his vision for creating the kind of change we need. Gates open at 10:00 AM at Mack's Apples at 230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, NH.
RSVP at: http://nh.barackoba ma.com/Londonderry
This event is free and open to the public. Free tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. __._,_.___
Our great friend City Councillor Sam Seidel passed this job opening along:
From: David Ortiz org>
Date: October 11, 2008 10:55:45 AM EDT
To: samseidel@aol. com
Subject: MassVOTE is Hiring
Reply-To: dortiz@massvote. org
MassVOTE's Young Civic Leaders Program is looking for a program assistant. Can you please share this with anyone who might be a good candidate.
The Program Assistant is responsible for assisting the Deputy Director in developing, implementing and evaluating the Young Civic leaders (YCL) program at MassVOTE. In addition, this person will also assist the Deputy Director with other programmatic and organizational activities.
The Program Assistant reports to the Deputy Director and is responsible for assisting with administering and implementing activities for the Young Civic Leaders program.
Organize youth trainings
* Set up educational fieldtrips
* Organize Get-Out-The-Vote events
* Evaluate youth school performance
* Create evaluation tools
* Develop and implement a year round calendar
* Build collaborations with other organizations serving youth
* Evaluate the effectiveness of the program
* Be present with youth on every Friday afternoon
* Work along with the Deputy Director on other YCL, CEI and other MassVOTE activities.
* Assist the Deputy Director with other programmatic matters
* High School Diploma and some College.
* Ability to work with youth.
* Experience working with youth.
* Ability to work on multiple projects.
* Good written and verbal communication skills.
* Commitment to social justice.
* Ability to develop relationships with diverse people and communities.
* Enjoy meeting new people.
* Familiarity with urban communities preferred.
* Strong work ethic, sense of humor, and integrity.
Position offers: Some benefits.
Pay: $13.00 an hour
Hours: 20-25 hours a week
In 1999, a small group of community leaders came together to close the participation gap between white, suburban areas and urban communities of color. Seven years later, MassVOTE's mission is simple: we work on a nonpartisan basis to increase voter registration, education, and participation in communities that have been historically left out, especially African American, Latino, and Asian American communities in Greater Boston. MassVOTE works to educate, organize, and empower neighbors to become powerful voices for justice.
About the Young Civic Leaders program
A second year program at MassVOTE, the Young Civic Leaders program looks to train, stipend, and supervise six at-risk high school youth ages 15-18 in a 10-month, transformational program to make them into promising civic leaders in communities of color. Young Civic Leaders develop professional and leadership skills. They learn how to conduct trainings and skits on voter education, registration, and mobilization, and present those trainings at Boston community nonprofits. They also recruit and help train other high school youth to become more civically active, register and vote in the up coming Elections, and poll workers in the city of Boston.
Please send cover letter, résumé, and references to:
David Ortiz, Deputy Director
18 Tremont St., Suite 608
Boston, MA 02108
Email: dortiz27@massvote. org
Email: jobs@massvote. org
Telephone: (617)542-8683 ext.204
It’s been an exciting and busy first five months on the City Council. I’d like to share with you some of the initiatives I have undertaken on the Council and update you on other important work being done in Cambridge.
SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND?
While it’s certainly been a welcome change from being a candidate to becoming an elected official, some of the things I enjoyed most about running for office continue to be favorite parts of my role now as councillor – namely the opportunity to sit down with fellow residents of Cambridge and hear what matters most to them. I hold “office hours” every Wednesday at Carberry’s Coffee House at 74 Prospect Street in Central Square from 8:30 – 9:30 am, and encourage you to drop by.
Would you like to hear about events in Cambridge via email? Get the City’s Weekly Newsletter, alerts on street cleanings, and city publications by signing up for Cambridge E-Line at www.cambridgema.gov/eline.
One of the first orders of business for the Council was the election of a mayor. I was delighted to see Denise Simmons elected as our new leader. I have enjoyed working with her on issues like early childhood education, the environment and quality of life in our city’s neighborhoods. Given her additional role as chair of the School Committee, Mayor Simmons’ previous experience as a committee member serves us well as that body works to define and support best practice and policy in our schools.
I also am serving on a number of Council committees, including being the chair of the Housing and the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committees, and I look forward to leading the work in these two critical areas.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
I’ve been duly impressed with the work being done in the city’s Department of Human Service Programs, the Cambridge Housing Authority’s Workforce Development Program, the Community Learning Center, and the School Department. I have come to more fully understand and appreciate the broad scope and high quality of the services offered in Cambridge. I’ve also learned that it is absolutely critical to the health and well being of children to receive adequate support and enrichment beginning at birth and throughout the first years of life.
One of the key issues currently being discussed in the Cambridge Public Schools is the achievement gap, and one way to address this disparity is to prepare children to enter school ready to learn. This means a commitment to working with providers and families to ensure that there is a seamless system of care in place to meet this goal.
In March, Councillor Kelley and I submitted a Council Order to take a step in this direction, by asking the mayor to convene a joint meeting between the City Council and the School Committee to review programs and services in the city to see how they might be better linked. That meeting took place at the end of May and will form the basis of this important ongoing discussion. Also, meetings in June and July of the Human Services committee, led by Councilor Ken Reeves, will focus on early childhood education and family service programs.
City Councillor Sam Seidel will maintain Wednesday morning "office hours" at Central Square's Carberry's coffee shop at 74 Prospect St. from 8:30 to 9:30.
Seidel said he encourages citizens to stop by and express their concerns about the city to him. For those who cannot make it on Wednesday mornings, Seidel can be reached at (617) 547-1067 or email@example.com.
City Councillor Sam Seidel has the following order on Monday's City Council agenda:
Recent arrests for drug dealing by City employees during work hours using city-owned vehicles has heightened concerns over criminal activity in the City of Cambridge; now therefore be it
That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on policies and procedures in place to prevent employees from engaging in illegal activities while in the employment of the City of Cambridge.
[A founding member of Progressive Democrats of Cambridge, Sam Seidel begins his freshman term on the city council in January. His Web site is samseidel.org.]
This column has become much easier to write in some ways.
My recent election to the Cambridge City Council has shifted my life from a relatively comfortable third gear, into a much more animated fifth gear, with only a slight pause for Thanksgiving in between.
While fifth gear does mean I am driving at a considerably higher rate of speed down the highway, it also means I see a lot more than I did in third gear.
I am working hard to process this all, while making sure that the car stays on the road.
The first choice that the Council makes is over the mayor, and while I have not yet publicly announced my choice for the mayor, here is where I’m at with it as of this writing:
1. There is no question that I am embarked on a learning curve right now. I just don’t know how steep. In that sense, I want a Council that can define some basic goals for the two-year term, and can work together to further them. I do believe that by finding effective ways of collaborating on some clearly defined goals, we can begin to rebuild a trust, and reinvigorate our public discussion. My areas of interest are in the environment and in our young.
That is simply where my journey will start. It will range much further afield. But I do believe it to be true that there is a need to reengage the voters of the city of Cambridge, about their future, and their city.
2. The schools, of course, are very important. Our city’s schools do many many wonderful things, and in many ways reflect what is best about this community. But they can be a source of concern by parents across the district. Understandably.
What could be a more precious investment than a child’s education?
While the recent School Committee election seemed to develop into a litmus test around the superintendent, I do not use a simple “yes” or “no” in helping me make my decision. I think we need someone who can help us work through many complex issues together, always keeping a focus on the future for our children.
Of course, once the mayor’s race is decided, it will be time to get to work for real. Last week, I had the chance to hear State Sen. Steven A. Tolman, D, North Cambridge, Tolman talk about substance abuse and our newest Cambridge state senator Anthony D. Galluccio, D, North Cambridge, talk about our young people, and public housing.
There are many challenges facing our community, even in Cambridge. Some of these problems are very gritty and will require time, patience and persistence to relieve. They will require both public officials and the public to participate. The senators made that clear in their talk.
Sam Seidel, a columnist for The Alewife, thanked his campaign team and volunteers with the following statement:
As many of you know, last night I was elected to the Cambridge City Council.
I would first like to thank each of you. Without your support, time, friendship, and vote, this would have never been possible.
I’m happy to have won the election. I would like to congratulate my fellow councilors and also the challengers. It was a well-fought campaign, and I was privileged to take part.
It took a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. I enjoyed meeting voters throughout Cambridge and learning more about our great city and its people.
Now that it’s over, I’ll prepare to take office in January, representing you, and working on the issues I’ve been talking about on the campaign trail since the summer: early childhood education, housing options, and the environment.
Also, next week we will be having a victory party. We’ll fill you in on details soon.
I hope you will stay in touch, and contact me to let me know your concerns and your thoughts as we enter the next stage together.
Crime is a concern to us all. Whether we experience a break-in or some form of street harrassment or worse yet violence, it impacts us deeply.
It unsettles our daily life, and can fill us with fear and concern. We have a right to feel safe in our communities.
It is small comfort to know that Cambridge saw its lowest crime rate in 40 years in 2006 and had over 50 percent fewer crimes than it had in 1982.
When you’re feeling under threat, it’s hard to see the world any other way.
Last week, the mayor’s Crime Task Force met in City Hall to hear people’s concerns about crime in the city. North Cambridge was highly represented in the group.
They worry that their situation is slipping out of control. One resident described the criminal behavior as “pathological”, distinguishing it from crime that stems out of need.
Police crime statistics indicate that North Cambridge saw more criminal activity on the whole in 2003, though drug incidents were higher in 2006. Nevertheless, perception can in some cases be reality. Security is not just what the statistics tell you. It is how you feel.
Concerns about crime are shaped by some basic societal issues, including class and race.
This point was made very clearly by some participants at the mayor’s Task Force. To paraphrase the thought: Just because they don’t look like you or act like you doesn’t mean that they’re up to no good. It just means that they don’t look like you or act like you.
Building bridges across these divides is of critical importance for everyone, because to wrongly accuse a person based on a prejudice is to commit a wrong.
When the City Council candidates were asked to address issues of crime in a recent forum, I stated that the challenge of crime reduction and prevention is not a question of lack of budgetary resources. My view is that we need a three-pronged approach:
First, flow resources to the geographic area of heightened crime activity. People have a right to feel safe, and I believe quick responses and a heightened police presence can disrupt bad patterns of behavior, and make it difficult for criminal activity to take root (I am thinking particularly of drug activity, which I believe leads to more serious issues).
Second, build back a fabric of community that will resist encroachment by people wanting or willing to commit crimes. Be inclusive in this effort, including police and community leaders, the schools and other institutions, and include the young people. Young people know and understand what’s happening out on the streets a lot better than most adults. They pick up on signals and nuances that most adults will miss.
Third, reinforce a fundamental commitment to people. All people want to be treated with respect, no matter where they’re coming from. What we demand from ourselves, others must demand from us. We have a right to insist on a basic common respect, a respect which we will practice ourselves. We can respond to behaviors “outside the boundaries” through interdiction and enforcement. But we cannot deny to anyone a fundamental right to have hopes and dreams and aspirations, and we should expect that they are very much like our own.
The policing part of this equation is in many ways easier. Police are trained for the work they do, and they are paid and authorized to do it. The community building part of this work is harder, because we must work to build trust and understanding across social and economic gaps that divide us.
Both have a place in this puzzle, and we must share the challenge to see that both are done responsibly and well.
[Sam Seidel is a founding member of Progressive Democrats of Cambridge, now merged with the local Democracy in America, to form PDC-DFA. Seidel is a candidate for city council and professional urban planner.]
One veteran City Councillor, Michael Sullivan, has already stepped down from the body.
Another, Anthony Galluccio, having won the primary is making an uncontested bid for the state senate seat left vacant by Jarrett Barrios, who resigned to head up the Blue Cross Foundation.
Assuming Galluccio leaves the city council after 13 years, the departure of these two men from the Council will be felt for some time.
Their combined years of experience, their understanding of the city’s government and their dedication to the issues that impact this community have been real.
They each represented not only broad sections of this city, but also a type of governance that is good for a local council.
A councillor should be the people’s connection to the government and be their representative in City Hall. Paying attention to what’s happening, answering questions and helping to sort things out when the bureaucracy gets confusing or seems arbitrary.
It’s a point my friend Jack Cobb made to me, and it’s a very good one.
This focus on the daily issues of the city is important, because these daily concerns help to shape the “quality of life” in a community.
At the same time, a community needs to take time out to look at the bigger picture too. Cambridge is in just such a time.
With the tremendous rise in housing prices, the rise in median incomes, the shrinking of the school population and a growing elderly population, the city is facing a new and different future than what it was looking at 20 years ago.
A few months ago, I asked in this column if Cambridge politics was dead. I do not know if readers took this question to heart. I certainly did.
I have come to believe more and more that the underlying question in this city is not an issue of specific city services, or the city manager, or even the property tax rate. The underlying question in this community its identity in a new era.
I do believe that Cambridge has transitioned into a new era. The rise in housing prices over the past two decades has altered the “look and feel” of Cambridge irrevocably.
Every longtime resident knows this, and many lament the shift. It plays itself out in large ways (try buying a house here), and in incidental ways (lack of street life in Harvard Square).
Schools are a perennial issue, and rightly so. But Cambridge’s small school population (5,600 students according to a recent Boston Globe article) may be a harbinger of another shift in this community. We have an aging population that is in need of its own set of services.
Meanwhile, in the schools, we are seeing a trend that should give us pause. The schools are pursuing the important goal of diversity by using socioeconomic indicators rather than race.
The result according to The Globe is that racial imbalance in the schools has gone up since the plan was implemented, from less than 40 percent of the schools imbalanced in 2002 to almost 60 percent today.
On June 27, I announced my run for the Cambridge City Council. This is what I said:
In the two years since I ran for City Council in 2005, I've had the chance to think about what the real challenges to this community are. What we need now is a new language for our politics, a language that emphasizes what we can do rather than simply what is not being done, a language that even speaks about what we ought to do, to make our community whole and stronger.
I envision this as a recommitment to one Cambridge, a city that we all are a part of, and one which we all participate in.
We face many daunting challenges. We continue to be a community of richer and poorer. We know this. Our new creation of affrodable housing will not cover this gap. Our environmental ethic forces us to face new challenges that cannot be solved by technology alone, but will require a change in attitude about how we use the resources we have, and how we share them. Our schools are a source of pride but also frustrate us.
Our challenges in this city are the challenges of an urban community in the 21st century. We must not analyze our way to indifference, assuming that someone else will solve this problem for us, if only we find some money in the budget, or some bright graduate student to take on the task.
We must recommit ourselves to taking on that part in that challenge and being part of that solution that makes our whole community better and stronger.
Perhaps the best word for this is partnership. A partnership recognizes the individuality of both people, but understands that by working together, so much more can be done.
Memorial Day Weekend has offered us the chance to reflect and recharge our batteries before the long hot summer.
With soldiers continuing to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, the importance of honoring the dead
becomes clearer, and the holiday changes from being just another long weekend to a time of real significance, even if most Cantabridgians are removed from the fighting and those doing it.
Cambridge, of course, scheduled a Peace Day in early June, to juxtapose against the war-related Memorial Day holiday.
Since the Vietnam War we have learned to revere peace without blaming soldiers for decisions made by politicians.
On a lighter note, Memorial Day is also the start of summer, and that means that it’s the political season again.
Usually, an odd-year election in Cambridge is a City Council race. Not this year. Two other major races will be determined by the end of summer.
The first is the vacancy left by Senator Robert Travaglini, whose district covers parts of East Cambridge. When candidates Anthony Petrucelli and Dan Rizzo came to Cambridge to talk about their campaigns, a major concern among Cambridge voters was: will you come and see us once you’ve been elected. Travaglini was known for his lack of interest in the Cambridge side of the district, and people don’t want a repeat of that.
I agree with them. The best outcome would have been a run by our own Tim Toomey, but he decided against it.
Whoever does end up getting that seat, they’ve made promises to Cambridge, and there are a whole bunch of people who expect them to keep it.
The second, of course, is the departure of Cambridge’s own Jarrett Barrios, who will be leaving the state senate to head up the Blue Cross Foundation. Barrios’s departure sets the wheels in motion, because there is more than one Cambridge elected official who has publicly indicated a desire for higher office. The guessing game has already begun as to which city councillor will take this chance.
Cambridge spends more than almost every other community in the Commonwealth on the education of our kids.
We're about to go through another phase of Community Preservation Act (CPA) allocations, which will pour more state money into affordable housing, open space and historic preservation (over $1 million for open space alone). The city just partnered with the Kendall Foundation to spend $70 million on building energy efficiency upgrades, a first for any city in the nation.
The police department (along with the new commissioner Robert Hass) are planning a new state-of-the-art headquarters facility. Meanwhile, the $66 million improvements to the library is finally under way. Dollars are not what we lack.
Does all this money mean that we really haven't got a reason to care about what the local elected bodies are doing? Have our politics diminished as our comfort has increased?
It seems that way. Sure, there is the burning issue of off -leash dogs at Fresh Pond. As someone who walks his dog at Fresh Pond, and as someone who also cares about water and habitat resources in the city, I have a double interest in this question. But when Tim Toomey remarks that the dog medallion proposal turned out more people to a Council meeting than he could remember in quite some time, it makes you wonder.
The swirling rumor that Massachusetts Senate president Robert Travaglini is planning on leaving his seat for the private sector has led the press to ask Cambridge state representative Tim Toomey whether he would think about running for the vacated seat, when and if that should happen.
Toomey’s statement that he would “seriously consider” the run is worth noting, given Toomey’s general inclination to avoid anything that might be mistaken for hyperbole. Whether Toomey could mount the type of campaign needed to win in the expansive (and expensive) district that corkscrews from Revere down through Cambridge into Boston is unknown, especially since this would take him outside his strong base in eastern Cambridge, a base that came through for him in 2003 when he successful fought off an organized and well-financed challenge. The financial scope of a bid to replace Travaglini would be huge. Sam Seidel
Still, Toomey no doubt enjoys his current double perch as state legislator and vice mayor of the City of Cambridge. It gives him a capacity to deliver that few state legislators can match. One such example: The recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling forcing the developers of the massive Northpoint development in East Cambridge to revisit their environmental permitting has given Toomey a chance to push for an underground tunnel diverting automobiles away from the new T station that will be built.
The development, described as a “city within a city”, will result in thousands of new residential units. A new tunnel pushing cars underground would create a pedestrian-oriented zone linking up the renovated Lechmere T stop and the Cambridgeside Galleria area.
City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio was exactly right when he said that the citizens of Cambridge should take a time out and consider what kind of city it wants to be. One of the city’s top officials is preparing to step down. The time couldn’t be better.
Police Commissioner Ronnie Watson, after 10 years on the job, will be handing over the reins as top cop, perhaps as early as the end of this year.
His decade on the job witnessed a decline in violent crime in the city.
Indeed, the most recent Cambridge Police Report states that first quarter crime totals for 2006 are at their lowest point in 30 years, and overall are down from one year ago.
His successor will inherit this legacy, and many issues as well, including a recent rash of shootings in the Area IV neighborhood.
The choice of the new commissioner will say a lot about this city. Will, for example, the new commissioner be promoted from within the ranks of the Cambridge Police Force, or will it be a candidate parachuting in from outside? Commissioner Watson is on record as saying he thinks his successor should come from within the force. Watson had a career on the Chicago police before arriving in Cambridge. People say that Cambridge has a certain rhythm to it. A commissioner who comes in understanding the uniqueness of the city will make a smoother transition to the challenges of the city.
We won’t (and shouldn’t) have comparisons other cities’ problems, such as the comparison Mayor Ken Reeves’ made earlier this year between Cambridge gangs to Detroit gangs. Roy Bercaw, a community activist who has many opinions on many things, distributed an email earlier this month calling for public participation in the choosing of the next Commissioner.
In Bercaw’s estimation, if Harvard University can involve students in the choosing of the next president of their 370-year-old institution, then the city of Cambridge can do the same for its police department. The City Council is of course the first stop on citizen input.
Alewife columnist Sam Seidel posts this on his Web site samseidel.org:
Fusion Voting in MA -- An idea whose time has come.
A yes vote on Ballot Question 2 will allow a candidate for office to receive the nomination of more than one political party.
Here's the language:
This proposed law would allow candidates for public office to be
nominated by more than one political party or political designation, to
have their names appear on the ballot once for each nomination, and to
have their votes counted separately for each nomination but then added
together to determine the winner of the election.
Fusion voting has long been in place in New York State. It allows
for third (and fourth) parties to have a voice in choosing candidates,
without diluting election majorities.
It also means that voters can register "protest votes" without
throwing their vote behind candidates who will only act as spoilers
(think of Ralph Nader in 2000, and the dire consequences that has had
on our country's well-being).
It also encourages coalition building around candidates and around
ideas, a healthy outcome in a state where politics can seem very
stultified and foregone.
Fusion voting will activate the electorate, a good result. Yes on Question 2.
(Note: if you're on the mailing list for candidate Rand Wilson, you know he's been promoting it state-wide. Good for him.)
It's campaign season, and that means it's time to make my own endorsements. Here are a couple of them:
1. I endorse Will Brownsberger for state representative in the 24th Middlesex District.
2. I endorse Deval Patrick for governor.
Brownsberger's thoughtful politics represent his district well, and his well-researched approach to the challenges we face as a community will mean the track record established by retiring representative Anne Paulsen will not disappear from the State House. This is especially important with the advent of the multi-talented Democratic political phenom of 2006, Deval Patrick.
I believe Deval Patrick is going to out-perform Republican Kerry Healy over the next four weeks, and will take the governor's oath in January of next year. Patrick is himself a man of tremendous talent, as his primary campaign demonstrated. Healy must realize this, since she's already chosen the low road of a negative campaign, including the really offensive "pushing polling" being put out by her forces -- designed to sound like a poll, but really geared as a smear tactic against Patrick.
Whoever paid for this poll, whether it's the Healy campaign itself, or some third party supporting her, really shows their stripes by aiming to our most base qualities as human beings, and it's a shame that Kerry Healy has nothing else to offer.
Meanwhile, Patrick, like Brownsberger, speaks the language of progressive Democrats, and understands the frustration and disaffection many rank-and-file Dems feel toward the party poobahs. He has a commitment to re-energizing the party with new ideas -- and his voice will be welcome state-wide. Brownsberger can join Patrick ushering in a new era in the Commonwealth.
Alewife columnist and 2005 candidate for city council, Sam Seidel, discusses his experience with a anti-Deval Patrick push poll on his Web site samseidel.org.
The pollster started with a series of innocuous questions, and then, 10 minutes into the poll, began to ask a series of questions designed to "see if these impact your view of the candidates". All the questions asked concerned Deval Patrick. Unfortunately, the only one one I recall went to the effect: "If you knew that Deval Patrick had been referred to as a 'quota king' in one of his previous jobs, would this impact your view of the candidate?"
Seidel, a founding member of the Progressive Democrats of Cambridge, was the contributor referred to in a previous post. Now he is on the record with his full account.
The August hearing on the Community Preservation Act funding -- money that pays for many good projects in this city -- was a reminder that the public process leaves a lot to be desired in this city. The CPA, a state program that allows municipalities to get state matching funds on a local property tax surcharge, has been very generous to the City of Cambridge.
No doubt about that. The city has had $47 million to spend since 2002 on the three main areas that benefit from the Act: affordable housing; historic preservation and open space. Of these, the biggest recipient has been by far affordable housing, getting close to $38 million over the same period.
While it's hard to argue with cash on hand for programs the city desperately needs, a good turnout in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall in the waning days of August indicated that plenty of people wanted their voices heard before a final decision was taken.
As it turns out, many who showed up that night were there to protect the 80/10/10 split of the CPA funding. That's 80 percent for housing, 10 percent for historic preservation and 10 percent for open space. While the idea of local activism over an issue might have brought some nostalgia to those who remember when majorities actually mattered, this observer never felt there was much doubt as to the outcome of the recommendations put forward by the CPA committee. The spoils would be divvied up just as they had in past years, and the "public input" part of the program would at least give the public their opportunity to vent.
When I got up to speak, I brought up just this issue -- the process should be more open. It is impossible to come to a hearing, be handed a booklet prepared by the city, examine it's contents and develop an informed opinion about proposals you haven't had time to consider. It's public money that's being spent. It deserves to have some public input.
Sometimes events conspire to set the stage better than a person could wish. Such was the case in mid-July when Al Gore came to a Harvard Square bookstore to tout his new book “An Inconvenient Truth,” which hammers home the nail no longer in dispute – that we as humans are impacting our environment in ways that may be irreversible if we don't take this seriously and do something about it soon.
The possibility that global warming had in fact outpaced even Al Gore's predictions must have been on the minds of the many who wrapped themselves in a long curly-queue of a line stretching from Harvard Yard almost to the Harvard Lampoon building.
With temperatures in the mid-90s, and humidity off the scale, it was high tropics in Boston, and it was worrying.
Gore, of course, was gracious upon arrival. Like every other Important Person on this planet, he was whisked beyond the crush of people to his anointed place, but before he sat down he spoke briefly to the eight camera-wielding press types lined up to blind him with their flashbulbs.
The recent renovation to Porter Square allowed the city to host an opening ceremony in June complete with a street theater troupe, presentations by the mayor and the deputy city manager, as well as a brief speech by Sy Shapiro, after whose family the newly redone plaza gets its new name.
Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to win over the Boston Globe, which described the new design as "repellent", adding that the designer, Toshihiro Katayama, has created a "giant forbidding crosswalk" in what should have been quiet space in the cacophony of the traffic jumble that is Porter Square.
City Hall workers, especially those who've been thinking about and planning this project for the last fifteen years, can only throw up their hands and say "you can't win 'em all,” though no doubt such a resounding No from Cate McQuaid of the Globe had to land pretty hard on what's undoubtedly been a long, long process.
Bad reviews aside, we Cambridge residents should not mistake the
Porter Square refurbishing for anything less than it is – the first
piece of a rapid transformation of Massachusetts Avenue from Porter
Square to the Arlington line.
The first clue probably should have been the rumblings by the MBTA
to sell air rights over the commuter rail tracks approaching Porter
Square. Lesley University seemed interested, but there were lots of
questions. Last I'd heard, all plans are on hold. I'm guessing this
idea has not had its last hearing or telling.
Cambridge chronicle, Boston Globe, Capuano, Red Sox, Asian, escorts, bush, world cup, porn, apartments, real estate, David J. Lilley, coldwell banker, maxfield, prudential, space shuttle
Did you see that two of the top three firms in the state of Massachusetts are Cambridge-based firms? Did you also see that housing prices in Massachusetts are leveling off and that vacancy rates are rising? Have you seen that the proposed Cambridge City budget for Fiscal Year 2007 is $395 million, an increase of over $14.5 million from the previous year's city budget.
Cambridge's role as a a preeminent location for employers cannot be questioned. With two of the world's top universities framing Massachusetts Avenue a short walk from each other, the fact that a leading internet company (Akamai) and a leading life sciences company (Genzyme) are literally around the corner from each other and from MIT should come as no surprise. Akamai (whose cofounder Daniel Lewin was killed on one of the 9/11 planes) was ranked the very top company in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe in their recent assessment, the Globe 100.
To have neighbors like these is a good thing. Here is the leading edge of the economy, and these are the value-added jobs. Additionally, it almost certainly will continue to be a sector for job growth. Job growth is important because Massachusetts continues to lose population.
From 2000 to 2004, Massachusetts was second only to New York in its annual net loss of population according to the U.S. Census.
Because these companies sit at the high end of the economic spectrum, the city will continue to reap the rewards in terms of tax revenues – an important fact because Cambridge will continue to be a magnet for people at the other end of the economic spectrum, especially foreign immigrants, who are projected to continue choosing Cambridge as a destination.
With housing prices leveling off in the state, commercial tax revenue is important. Barry Bluestone, a professor at Northeastern says that tight housing markets produce runaway price increases. This is not surprising to anyone who has taken Econ 101. More interesting, however, is his assertion that sustained high prices eventually drive people and businesses away, which leads to higher vacancy rates in the housing market. If high levels of vacancy persist in the market for a long time, there can be a precipitous drop in home values.
That is why a warm market (perhaps room temperature?) is best – it maintains long-term stability, but does not move catastrophically either upward or downward.
I spent the morning on Earth Day 2006 with my hands deep in Juncus Effusus and Scirpus Atrovirens, pulling, digging, pushing. In some ways, there's nothing more satisfying that connecting with the Earth in such a direct and unambiguous way.
You're excused if you don't realize that these are Soft Rush and Green Bulrush respectively, and that they are wetland plants.
I was participating in a City effort to establish a wetland in Cambridge's Little Fresh Pond bordering the golf course to improve water quality and biodiversity in the area.
While I took great enjoyment and pride in my effort that Saturday morning, it does not take a genius to realize that my participation was at such a small scale when compared to the overall requirements we face in protecting and preserving our environment. Cambridge, of course, is well positioned to be a leader in this field, which they should strive to be. Leadership can take many forms. Undoubtedly, new ways of approaching old problems will be required. Sometimes policy changes are needed. Sometimes new technology makes the difference. Sometimes a better understanding of how environmental systems work is the key.
Many times it’s a combination of all of these.
Here are some areas that are of interest to me, either because we’re breaking new ground in our understanding, or because we should be: Bio-engineering: Efforts such as the creation of a wetland at Little Fresh Pond are interesting and ground-breaking, and they cause us to rethink how we treat that most precious of resources: water.
As the saying goes, "where there is water, there is life", and our understanding of how nature cleans and processes water is just developing. It will continue to develop so long as cities pursue bio-remediation techniques for this irreplaceable resource.
“We are deeply concerned by the pattern of underfunding of public housing over the past couple of years," Joshua Meehan of the Cambridge Housing Authority said to me as we talked on the phone the other day.
He explained to me that the CHA is preparing for a $400,000 cut in federal funding for capital projects, an 11.5 percent reduction. Capital projects are things like putting a new roof on, or replacing the boiler.
Although it is one of the best-managed housing authorities in the country, the CHA is going to have to defer maintenance and upgrades for its buildings.
That means structural upgrades for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Apartments and Millers River Apartments scheduled for the spring may have to be postponed.
“Not funding capital projects doesn’t mean they go away. In fact, it often means they become bigger problems in the future,” Meehan said, adding, “If this pattern continues, we will lose a valuable public asset.”
The situation is no better for the many human service organizations in Cambridge that receive money through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which is slated to be cut by 14 percent. If that drawdown happens, it will present a very tough challenge for the local commission that will have to decide which programs keep their funding, and which won’t.
Since it’s still early in the process, everybody’s waiting to see how these proposed cuts play out. But directors of Cambridge agencies are aware that next year, some person in need may have to be turned away because the resources aren’t available to support them.
Take the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House for example. Margaret Fuller, as it’s commonly called, has been helping young kids in Cambridge for 100 years. Stop by on weekday afternoon and you’ll see (and hear) just how much they do.
The Cambridge Public schools will continue to be the entry point for the children of many first-generation immigrants for some time to come and the pressure on the Cambridge school system to meet this challenge is not going to decrease any time soon. At least, this is one of the conclusions I draw from the recent study released by the Boston-based Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
Here's a little background: MAPC is trying to understand what our region is going to look like in the next 25 years as part of their plan, MetroFuture, which is trying to develop regional solutions to regional problems. They started by asking: what happens if the current trends in housing, in population, in jobs, holds steady over the next quarter century? And this is what they found:
• Overall, people are moving out of Massachusetts to other states. However, Massachusetts is seeing strong international immigration into the state.
• The skill levels of international immigrants vary considerably, from the highly educated to people with little formal education.
• International immigrants, especially those who arrived more recently, tend to cluster in cities, In 2000, over half of the 600,000 people born in another country were found in one of eight cities: Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, Quincy and Brockton.
• The job trends show that Cambridge will continue to grow as a place for work in one of the following areas: education and health services or professional and business services.
What does all this mean for Cambridge? It means that Cambridge will continue to grow as a white-collar town, with fewer opportunities for those who are not tapping into that part of the economy.
At the same time, Cambridge will continue to be a new home to
international immigrants...and while some of them will come here
specifically for the high-skilled, high wage jobs that exist here, many
of them will come with the hope of a new life but with few skills and
limited command of English.
The responsibility for educating the children of these immigrants with will fall largely to our public schools.
[Sam Seidel is a founding member of the Progressive Democrats of Cambridge and a 2005 candidate for city council.]
The 2006-07 Cambridge political season began when the new City Council was sworn in Jan. 2. With all the pomp and circumstance that befits the occasion, the Sullivan Chamber in City Hall was decked out in flowers and red carpet for the event, and councilors took their seats around the side of the room with one change – newest councilor Craig Kelley took up residence where ousted member David Maher used to be.
As a candidate in this last election, I stood in the gallery surveying the scene, and realized that the rituals surrounding the transfer of power are very important parts of the continuity of power. I must have been thinking of something important because the newly elected mayor Ken Reeves made note of this very point in his acceptance speech.
Speaking of the newly elected mayor, there was a moment of political interest and intrigue as the ballots for mayor were cast among the nine councilors.