Thursday, June 20, 2024

These are just some of the municipal meetings and civic events for the coming week. More are on the City Calendar and in the city’s Open Meetings Portal.


Algebra for middle schoolers gets a roundtable School Committee roundtable Tuesday (Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay)

Unarmed crisis response update

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. The council gets an update on the city’s unarmed Community Safety Department – now the Care Team, for “Community Assistance, Response and Engagement” – and its plans to be fully staffed “by this summer” and in office space by June, interim director Liz Speakman said. That space is at 689 Massachusetts Ave.acquired less than a year ago as municipal offices – between City Hall and Central Square, which will help keep its two teams of three busy during response times 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. A draft $300,000 contract to become a vendor and partner went to the citizen-run Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team on March 20, but discussions have continued right up though Thursday. Duties for the new department range from welfare checks and handling people who are drunken in public to a range of mental health crisis levels; Heart’s contract focuses on crisis response, conflict resolution, mutual aid, aftercare and “community cohesion.” Councillors will also hear about the police department’s long-delayed online Procedural Justice Dashboard, now expected to go live Aug. 15 with periodic data uploads on traffic stops, arrests and citations issued, but with hopes it will “evolve into a more dynamic and robust website with additional features, data and information.”

An update on after-school care, meanwhile, describes frustration in trying to expand capacity to serve more kids: Plans to expand capacity by 100-plus seats failed due to “the continued challenge with staffing” despite the Department of Human Service Programs hiring 52 staffers in 2022. Yet in serving 42 percent of JK-5 students, Cambridge far surpasses the state average of 27 percent and national average of 18 percent, said Ellen Semonoff, assistant city manager of Human Services. Plans for the fall are to add 170 seats by expanding at seven sites with 13 new staff, but “this plan hinges on our ability to recruit and hire.”

Staff looking at the effects of the city’s cannabis businesses – three medical dispensaries opened since 2013 and four adult-use shops since 2019, with 15 more retailers and two couriers in the permitting and licensing process – find that “anticipated levels of reported police incidents, customer queueing problems, traffic and/or parking congestion and public health incidents have not materialized.” The recommendation is to drop the special permit process for the businesses unless they plan to manufacture in addition to sell product. It would save applicants four months and $35,000.

Councillors will be asked by the city manager for $14.4 million for property between Inman Square and Somerville’s Union Square for the Department of Public Works (and another $1 million to get the former light-industrial land in shape) but have their own request: That the city look into whether Lesley University property newly on sale is right for municipal ownership. Changes to Affordable Housing Overlay zoning are due for revived debate too after being set aside last week.

The council meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Digging into proposed budget

Finance Committee, 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday. This committee run by city councillors Dennis Carlone and Patty Nolan runs a hearing on a proposed $881.8 million city budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Charter review gets meta

Charter Review Committee, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The group has been exploring in depth crucial questions about the balance of power between the mayor, city manager and city councillors. Now it’s wondering about its own threshold for decision-making, such as whether to approve recommendations with votes of a simple or two-thirds majority. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Algebra in middle schools

School Committee roundtable, 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The committee talks about the district’s math curriculum and instructional practices, including the issue of Algebra I instruction in the eighth grade. The committee meets in the Dr. Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge. Televised and watchable online.

City-line voter challenges

Election Commission, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Settling the case of whether a former city councillor was legally a Cambridge voter – because his home straddles the Somerville city line – was just the beginning. Commissioners have other potential voter registration challenges to think about on border properties. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

School Department budget hearing

Finance Committee, 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Dennis Carlone and Patty Nolan runs a hearing on the proposed education budget of $245 million for the 2024 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Alewife zoning Q&A session

Alewife Zoning Working Group, 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Denver company Healthpeak inspired the creation of this working group by quickly spending an estimated $616 million to amass some three dozen acres for life-sciences uses. After a monthslong process, the group takes questions and comments on the draft zoning it came up with for defining the area’s future. The group meets at 68 Moulton St., Cambridge Highlands. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Cambridge-Yerevan membership

Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association 37th Anniversary Membership Meeting, 7 p.m. Wednesday. A brief annual business meeting for members and those interested in becoming members with guest speaker Luke Bruffee and a reception at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research Vartan Gregorian Building, 395 Concord Ave., Belmont.

Renewing Comcast’s cable license

Cable television public hearing, 1 p.m. Thursday. Should the city renew the cable television license of Comcast, our monopoly provider? Members of the public are invited to talk about the city’s future community cable-related needs and whether Comcast is in compliance with its current license. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.