Discretionary Budget

I submitted a PO so that innovative, resident-facing web projects, community engagement projects, and other urgent needs can be implemented by the City Council and City Manager more quickly. I think we shouldn't have to wait a year or more for the formal budget process and many others fear this will be used as a slush fund for the council—a fair point. In committee, I will propose that we keep the amount for this discretionary budget at less than 1% and that we set a procedure so that the money is used as a kind of internal innovation grant and for internal city efficiency changes, and not pet projects. The motion passed 5-3 with one absent. Here is how the votes broke down: Carlone – Yes; Chung – No; Kelly – No; Me – Yes; McGovern – Yes; Simmons – Yes; Toomey – No; Maher – Yes; Benzan – Absent.  

Discretionary Budget Policy Order

 

COUNCILLOR MAZEN

COUNCILLOR CARLONE

 

 

WHEREAS:    In order to serve residents in a more efficient, direct, and collaborative fashion, a discretionary budget would prove a worthwhile addition to the current budgeting process; and

 

WHEREAS:   Implementing discretionary budgeting processes would create a streamlined process for allocating funds “in the moment” around one-time priorities that enjoy consensus from the council, yet were not known during the original budgeting process; and

 

WHEREAS:   Cities such as New York, NY, Providence, Rhode Island, and Buffalo, NY, have successfully implemented Discretionary Budgeting processes to better serve their constituents, and catalyze a more diverse range of community initiatives and municipal projects; and

 

WHEREAS:   A yearly recurring discretionary budgeting process separate from free cash would allow for the funding of research, one time implementation, urgent technology initiatives, emergency safety measures, more comprehensive community responses to tragedy, and infrastructure improvements; and

 

WHEREAS:   “Free Cash” is misnomer and this body of cash ought to be maintained at an appropriate level since it helps support the City's credit rating and financial best practices; and

 

WHEREAS:   With detailed criteria and procedures—and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects—a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative; and

 

 

WHEREAS:   Discretionary budgeting processes can provide funding for innovative and cutting edge projects that are normally outside the scope of a yearlong budgeting process but are nonetheless urgently needed; now therefore be it

 

 

 

ORDERED:     That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget; and be it further

 

ORDERED:     That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter 

 

 

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Fab 11 and the Foundry Building

 

WHEREAS:   The Fab 10 conference in Barcelona was a forum featuring 250 Fab Labs (Fabrication Labs)— small-scale educational spaces, combining design thinking, hands-on STEAM curricula, manufacturing skills, and innovative technologies—from 40 countries around the world; and

WHEREAS:   One of the main attractions of the Fab 10 conference was the transformation of a space nearly 10,000 square feet in size into the worlds largest Fab Lab within the span of two weeks; and

WHEREAS:   The next Fab conference, Fab 11 will be hosted in The Boston Metropolitan Area in 2015, with the potential for Cambridge to be the lead host; and

WHEREAS:   The City of Cambridge is home to numerous maker spaces and Fab Labs and is a world-renowned center for innovation, technological development, and creative industry; and

WHEREAS:   The Foundry Building at 101 Rogers Street with a total area of more than 53,000 square feet presently lies vacant awaiting capital improvements, which have not been initiated; and

WHEREAS:   The Foundry Building would be an ideal space for a major installation of the Fab 11 conference in 2015; and

WHEREAS:   Including the Foundry Building in the Fab 11 conference gives the city an aggressive, but reasonable goal for applying a portion of the capital improvement budget so as to pass code for occupancy in the most basic sense, excluding any kind of build out; and

WHEREAS:   Corporate sponsors of Fab 11 are understood to be willing to donate expensive equipment used for Fab 10/11 to the City of Cambridge that could be used for future educational and community projects in the Foundry; now therefore be it

ORDERED:    That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with The Community Development Department and the Fab 11  planning committee in order to make the Foundry available for a major installation of the 2015 Fab Lab Conference, by passing inspection prior to August 2015; and be it further

ORDERED:     That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter

 

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Grown Up Playground Policy Order

WHEREAS:     Adult playgrounds are large scale creative installations, consisting of games, music venues, performance space, and interactive exhibits built in urban centers that are intended to foster community and provide a public space for area residents to interact; and

WHEREAS:     Cities such as Beijing, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston have installed Adult Playgrounds to community acclaim and widespread use at a reasonable cost; and

WHEREAS:     Adult Playgrounds have been proven to offer constructive entertainment to a wide variety of the community members, and offer a shared space to foster deeper social connections, often revitalizing underutilized park space; and

WHEREAS:     Artists, architects, performers and other creatives will have a space to create new works while fostering urban innovation in Cambridge; and the construction would be a creative, community effort; and

WHEREAS:     Adult Playgrounds often have exercise equipment and structures encouraging cardiovascular and aerobic exercise, that have been shown to have a directly positive influence on overall community health; and

WHEREAS:     The Lawn on D installation in Boston has proven to be an economic and cultural success since its opening in August, providing a platform for the artistic pursuits of the Greater Boston community; and

WHEREAS:     While Cambridge is already home to a fitness-oriented playground on Magazine Beach, the new adult playground aims to promote fitness, as well as provide a community space for residents of all backgrounds to congregate and play, with an emphasis on events and artistic expression; now therefore be it

ORDERED:     The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating an adult playground in Cambridge; and be it further

ORDERED:     The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter

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Human Services Portal Grant

COUNCILLOR MAZEN

WHEREAS:     The Patrick Administration developed the Community Innovation Challenge grant program in 2012, in order to encourage municipal innovation and regionalization efforts; and

WHEREAS:     In three years, the program has invested $10.25 million in 74 unique projects from over 240 municipalities across the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS:     Projects funded by the CIC program support the development of initiatives at the municipal level to encourage performance management best practices and utilize new technologies to improve accountability and increase transparency; and

WHEREAS:     The grant selection process is non-competitive and submitting multiple applications for a single municipality is encouraged; and

WHEREAS:     A completed CIC grant application for a Human Services Portal has been submitted with the cooperation of various city departments; and

WHEREAS:     The grant application has been completed with the support of members of the STEAM and Out of School Time working group, members of the Kids Council, and utilizing research prepared through a full day study with city employees and service providers; and

WHEREAS:     The support of the city council or legislative body for a given application will increase the likelihood of the Commonwealth funding a given project; and

WHEREAS:     Volunteers from Code for America and private institutions have pledged or considered pro-bono work time towards the project; now therefore be it

ORDERED:     That the Council go on record in support of the CIC grant application for a Human Services Portal submitted on October 10th, 2014; and be it further

ORDERED:     That the City Clerk be and hereby is requested to forward a suitably engrossed copy of this resolution to Tim Dodd the Program Manager of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance on behalf of the entire City Council.

...

 

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Piano in the Park Policy Order

COUNCILLOR MAZEN

WHEREAS:     In New York City’s Bryant Park, a street piano is maintained by public and private contributors such as Sam Ash, the Local 208 Musicians Union, the Jazz Center of New York and the Music Performance Trust Fund serving as an attraction to both tourists and lifelong residents; and

WHEREAS:     Cambridge and Boston have a significant professional music community that could be tapped for public performances; and

WHEREAS:     Schools such as Longy, Berklee, and the Boston Conservatory have talented students that could benefit from a slightly more formal street performing venue in Cambridge; and

WHEREAS:     Street pianos were placed throughout Cambridge and Boston as part of the Play Me, I’m Yours installation in 2013 to much acclaim and community support; and

WHEREAS:     Installing a street piano—especially with regularly scheduled performances by professional musicians—could enhance underutilized public spaces such as Carl Barron Plaza, University Park, and Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza; now therefore be it

ORDERED:     The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, and the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating and maintaining one or more street piano(s) in one or more parks and/or plazas in Cambridge; and be it further

ORDERED:     The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter.

 

 

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Bicycle Safety Moves Forward

Last week, I met with several city officials involved in the bicycle masterplanning process, including Cara Seiderman of the Community Development Department (leading the charge), the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department, our City Manager, and the Deputy City Manager. We delved into cycling issues and covered topics such as sidewalk bumpouts, examples of successful bicycle infrastructure, general bike safety, and more.

Recent statistics show Cambridge has seen a 237% increase in cycling over the past decade. This means the city needs to spend more time making investments in our cycling infrastructure—and retooling our policy approach—to make Cambridge as welcoming, accessible, and safe for cyclists as possible. Here are a few key aspects of the plan thus far:

  • The Safe Routes to School program will be taking on a part-time employee, who will be tasked with the design of safe cycling routes for children traveling to and from our public schools.

  • A draft heat map of safe streets for various skill levels of bikers will be released soon. The city and an upcoming MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) competition are both interested in my suggestion that we code a “route generator” app based upon the user’s destination, safety of streets along the route, comfort level of the user, and real time traffic/safety.

  • The city is segregating bike lanes from street traffic along key routes. This separation work is based on street width, parking layout, and other factors. Together with traffic calming measures, this draft bike master plan will be released for feedback in November. Two images of separated cycle tracks are seen below.

  • Community feedback on November’s draft bicycle plan will be critical. It is important that we raise awareness and organize cyclist, pedestrian, and driver advocacy groups together now in anticipation of this crossroads feedback opportunity.


Cycling Data Releases

In early November, available survey data and long term planning information will be posted on the CDDwebsite. I have also been informed that data on bicycle accidents in Cambridge will be available through theopen data portal very soon (this could be of use at the upcoming DUSP competition). As we move forward on this issue, please feel free to contact me at nmazen@cambridgema.gov with input, questions, concerns, etc.

 

Grand Junction Path

Last week, MIT released a long-awaited feasibility study on their stretch of the Grand Junction Path (GJP). The GJP is a shared-use path which will run from Allston, over the Charles River, through Cambridgeport, Central Square, Kendall Square, East Cambridge, and on to Somerville.

MIT’s stretch of the path, which includes some of the narrow, more challenging portions, has been determined feasible by the recently released study. The consultants that prepared the report have, however, determined that the City of Cambridge should be the leader for this project, which means the council and City Manager need to take action to build this path now.

Given the major development that will be occurring on the 140 vacant acres of Allston’s Beacon Park Yard, Cambridge needs to act now and ensure the tens of thousands of commuters drawn to and from this development are not drawing tens of thousands of cars through our residential neighborhoods. The GJP is the best tool in our arsenal for encouraging cycle and foot transportation to and from the Beacon Park Yard development and Kendall Square. We can’t afford to stall on this project any longer.

 

Related Links

http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/safety-statistics

http://files.meetup.com/1468133/Evidence%20on%20Why%20Bike-friendly.pdf

http://safetrec.berkeley.edu/newsletter/Spring04/JacobsenPaper.pdf

http://bikeleague.org/content/ridership-crashes-down-safety-numbers-minneapolis

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Exchanging Places Policy Order

COUNCILLOR MAZEN

 Whereas: Cambridge has a burgeoning cycling population, with bicyclists a consistent feature on the city’s main roads; and

 Whereas: Large trucks are an unavoidable hazard for cyclists, and many bicyclists do not know how to handle the danger presented by truck drivers while riding on main roads; and

 Whereas: A program like London’s Exchanging Places, where cyclists have the chance to sit in the cockpit of a large truck and see exactly what a truck driver sees while he or she is driving, would be a beneficial educational aid to bicyclists; and

 Whereas: Alex Epstein, an engineer at the Volpe Center who researches truck safety and was instrumental in Boston’s recent policy installing truck side-guards on vehicles as a pilot demo, touts this program as an effective educational resource; and

 Whereas: Crossrail Ltd, the London company behind the program, cites that in a recent survey of participants, 99% reported that after attending an Exchanging Places event they would change their cycling habits; and

 Whereas: It is clear that cyclists and truck drivers both have an equal right to the road, and therefore, educational measures will be an effective supplement to more mechanical bike safety initiatives such as truck side guards; now therefore be it

 Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Department of Traffic, Parking and Transportation, the Cambridge Police Department, and the Cambridge Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of hosting a program similar to the Exchanging Places program in London; and be it further

 Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter

 

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Living Will Phone App Policy Order

COUNCILLOR MAZEN

Whereas: A Living Will is an important legal document that specifies what actions should be taken in the event of terminal illness or indefinite life support; and

Whereas: A Living Will ensures that in the event of terminal illness or injury, the victim’s personal wishes regarding the removal of life support and the conduct of other difficult decisions become legally binding; and

Whereas: The process of obtaining the copy of a Living Will—if one has been drafted at all—from the courts in an emergency can be complicated and time consuming in a situation where any delay could have severe repercussions; and

Whereas: William Palin, a local Cambridge lawyer has used contemporary technology to create a free mobile app, PaperHealth, that is able to draft a legally binding Living Will on the user’s mobile phone; and

Whereas: Hospitals are already required to mention living wills during patient intake and implementation in area hospitals may fit neatly into existing intake procedures, thereby potentially bypassing bureaucratic red tape and court proceedings in the future; and

Whereas: Mr. Palin has made the initial release of PaperHealth tailored to Massachusetts, and is in talks with the Vermont Ethics Center and the Virginia Poverty Law Center to match the app to state by state medical and legal needs, a process that could easily be reapplied to Massachusetts; therefore be it

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Mr. Palin to determine the best way to implement PaperHealth in Massachusetts area hospitals; and be it further

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to council on this matter

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Youth Center Policy Order

Whereas: Cambridge Youth Centers offer diverse and high quality programs that promote leadership, athleticism, and youth development; and

 

Whereas: Youth Centers provide a safe-haven for teenagers to learn, grow socially, and develop positive social values outside the school day; and

 

Whereas: Youth centers provide an essential source of emotional and moral support for neighborhood especially in situations of abuse or neglect; and

 

Whereas: Youth centers despite being a community asset, may be underutilized by the the community in terms of programing and space; and

 

Whereas: Youth centers may be able to increase enrollment and engagement through a proactive program of outreach, mentorship and streetwork; and

 

Whereas: Underutilized youth center space could be a resource for other community and Out of School Time programming; now therefore be it

 

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the appropriate city departments to commision a study of Cambridge Youth Centers with a focus on use rates and underutilized space; and be it further

 

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to include strategies for recruitment and outreach—especially those that address low-use rates and programmatic additions—as part of the study; and be it further

 

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter.

 

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Galaxy: Earth Sphere Policy Order

Whereas: The Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain at the intersection of Main and Broadway has been a landmark in Kendall Square since its construction in 1989, when it was commissioned by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, MIT, MBTA, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and the City of Cambridge; and

 Whereas: The current property owners of the Galaxy: Earth Sphere are the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, who have assigned oversight to Boston Properties BXP; and

 Whereas: The Galaxy: Earth Sphere, despite its prominent location, has fallen into neglect over the last 20-plus years; and

 Whereas: Local artist Joe Davis designed and produced the sculpture, and oversaw final installation at the current Kendall Square location in Cambridge in 1989; and

 Whereas: The Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain was produced with the guidance of the late Otto Piene, Professor Emeritus of Visual Design at MIT; and

Whereas: There has been a lack of vital maintenance performed by the CRA and Boston Properties BXP creating a number of problems that now mar the sculpture and fountain; and

Whereas: While other sculptures and artistic pieces around the city have received significant refurbishment from the city, the Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain has received the bare minimum, and is thus in dire need of significant repair; now therefore be it

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with Joe Davis on the exact processes and repairs that would be necessary to restore the Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain to its original condition; and be it further

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the CRA, the Department of Public Works and Boston Properties BXP to determine the financial feasibility of the repair needed to the Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain; and be it further

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with Mr. Davis, the CRA, the Department of Public Works, and Boston Properties BXP and any relevant abutters or interested philanthropists to determine the best plan to restore the Galaxy: Earth Sphere sculpture and fountain to its original condition; and be it further

Ordered: The City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter.

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