True Colors, 100 in office for the new council...

True Colors, 100 in office for the new council...

Two competing policy order show the Council's true colors...

We are approaching the 100 days in office for the new city council and it’s true colors are being revealed. And as the old saying goes the more things change the more they stay the same.

This Monday on the 7th of April, two orders are in front of the council regarding a Master Plan. One order, order #14, by councilors Carlone/Mazen/Simons and one by councilors Maher/Benzan/McGovern, order #15. The order are very distinctive in tone and content and should be read by everyone.

On the one hand we have the Maher/Benzan/McGovern order, order #15, which is paternalistic at best and useless at worse and should be withdrawn. On the other we have the Carlone/Mazen/Simons, order #14 which is well thought out and cognitive of the community and should be adopted by the affirmative vote of all city councilors.

On the one hand we have order #15 which demonstrate the ‘we know best’ condescending ways of the city. On the other we have order #14 which wants to create a sensible approach to growth, inclusive of the neighborhoods and the community at large.

On the one hand we have order #15 which talks of ‘values of inclusion’ but requires exclusionary actions. On the other we have order #14 which recognizes problems and requires actions engaging the community as part of the solution.

But rather than just giving you my take on these orders, I think it is extremely important to read them, paying close attention to the tone as well as to the content:

ORDER #14, Carlone/Mazen/Simons, Vote YES:

ORDER #15, Maher/Benzan/McGovern, Vote NO:

And for the sake of completeness, I’m also including, here bellow, the answers, to Master Plan related questions, of Mr. Benzan and McGovern which were part of the election questionnaires of a Better Cambridge and Cambridge Resident alliance. Mr Maher never bothered to answer the questionnaire of either organization, he doesn’t want to be on record on sensitive issues.

Let your voice be heard:
Show up Monday April 7th 2014 @5:30p at City Council, and speak your mind. You can call Liza Paden at (617) 349-4260 to register to speak or sign up when you show up.
Email to the city council,, let them know what you think.

In response to the questionnaire of Cambridge Residents Alliance (
Question: Do you support our position that Cambridge needs a comprehensive master plan/city-wide planning that accurately assesses and analyzes the combined total impact of all major up-zoning proposals, see 9A above; do you agree that any discussions flowing out of this assessment and analysis must be completely transparent and community-centric?

-Councilor McGovern
Answer: Yes. I think we are a small city and what happens in one neighborhood impacts what happens in other neighborhoods. There is a way to have this discussion and consider these impacts without stopping development altogether.
How are they now leading us. By publicly insulting us. It’s just unbelievable. I would therefore encourage all resident to show up at the city council on Monday, April 7th, 2014, and let Mayor Maher, Vice Mayor Benzan, and councilor McGovern know that we’re not stupid. We understand the decision making processes of the city and feel insulted by the order. We also understand that it is not enough to have ‘values of inclusion’, you must apply them. And the current order, like the city processes, is paternalistic, condescending, and therefore exclusionary. We therefore request the order be withdrawn. And if this is not enough remind them that we are voters and we have memory.

In response to the questionnaire of A Better Cambridge (

Question: Do you agree that in order to support diversity and meet the housing needs of sustainable growth in Cambridge, increased density may be necessary? If elected, what specific policies or initiatives will you support to achieve sustainable urban growth and to increase low and moderate income housing for all populations, including families?

-Vice Mayor Benzan
Answer: Yes, I believe that it may be necessary to increase density in Cambridge to accommodate the growing needs for housing. However, no decisions should be made prior to a comprehensive survey of all buildable lots in Cambridge. If elected, I support a master planning process that works to combine the content of existing plans with an overarching plan for development that works to improve the quality of Cambridge’s built environment and preserve the human scale of the city’s neighborhoods and commercial districts. Currently, Cambridge has several plans - including the Eastern Cambridge Planning Study and Concord Alewife Planning Study - that can be used as building blocks for creating a larger citywide plan that contains a cohesive set of goals for development that guide future studies and planning.

-Councilor McGorvern
Answer: If we are going to make a dent in the housing crisis in Cambridge we need to increase the supply of housing, which means increased density. I would favor ongoing conversation with all relevant stakeholders into how much density is feasible. We should work with the universities around their graduate housing, look at building on city owned land (such as the parking lots in Central), increasing the inclusionary zoning and funding for the affordable housing trust. I don't claim to have all the answers which is why I believe in ongoing conversation with experts and stakeholders as to our best course of action.
and follows with

Question: In your opinion, do public planning processes in Cambridge support open and constructive engagement between stakeholders? If elected, how will you help ensure transparent and mutually respectful planning for the future of Cambridge?

-Vice Mayor Benzan
Answer: I believe that we can improve the public planning process in Cambridge to be more inclusive of community members. A concerted effort needs to be made between neighborhood organizations, residents of Cambridge, and the City Council to ensure that all proposals are subject to an open public planning process. 
To ensure transparent and mutually respectful planning, I believe that it is important to engage with the community through regular meetings, to contact community residents via mail, email, and telephone regarding proposals for their neighborhoods, and to ensure that we do not rush proposals through the Council without making a sincere effort to reach residents first.

-Councilor McGorvern
Answer: My training as a social worker, working every day to solve complex problems and bringing people together who don't always agree, are skills that will be very helpful in creating constructive engagement between stakeholders. As a member of the School Committee I have led many of these discussions, I have organized community meetings, I have brought stakeholders to the table for meaningful conversation. This is not new to me. I think true leadership is being able to have difficult conversations and taking a stand on issues despite public pressure. I have a long record of taking difficult votes and being open and honest about why I am voting a certain way. I don't hide from challenging conversations. I think our elected leaders have not always lead "open and constructive engagement". I will.