On Open Space in Cambridge, MA and Con Games?
Bob La Trémouille reports:
What would you say about a “community leader” faced with an issue of use of open space in his neighborhood, about which the following applies?
a. The city has destroyed the best park in the neighborhood TWICE.
b. First they destroyed something like thirty out of 40 one hundred year old trees, promising they would provide perhaps 50 saplings as “replacements” in a nearby, inferior location.
c. The city has just destroyed the 50 replacements.
d. The “leader"’s constituents want protection for the pittance of open space which has not been destroyed yet.
e. In the key meeting, this “leader” introduces his wife.
f. His wife was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit which obtained ON APPEAL a preliminary injunction against the destruction of the original park with its hundred year old trees. It is next to impossible to get injunctions on appeal.
g. The judge eventually allowed destruction of the park and most of the hundred year old trees based on his interpretation of a state statute protecting parks.
h. At the key meeting, the “community leader” suppresses providing his constituents with the the judge’s decision on the meaning of the statute protecting parks in the case in which his wife was lead plaintiff.
i. Instead the “community leader” bullies his organization to obey the “legal opinion” of the attorney for the city government which destroyed the hundred year old park and just destroyed the supposed replacement trees.
j. The “legal opinion” quoted by the “community leader” certainly seems to be exactly the opposite of the clear language of the statute and the opposite of the judge’s opinion concerning the exact same open space.
k. The “legal opinion” would have the constituents chase their tails for a few years.
l. Cambridge Pols have a long record of getting well meaning people to chase their tails.
m. The “community leader” orders that the “opinion” of the city solicitor be obeyed and posted on the neighborhood association website.
n. The “community leader” orders that the court decision WHICH HIS WIFE GOT, be ignored and not be posted on the website.
o. The “community leader” is the head of a group with a long record of Cambridge Pols control.
p. The Cambridge Pols have a long record of getting constituents to chase their tails.
q. Is it any wonder that Cambridge is so terrible on environmental matters?
2. The bitter details:
a. Fake groups dominated by the Cambridge Pols.
The front organizations controlled by the Cambridge Pols and through them, by the City of Cambridge, date back to the 1970's.
In my opinion, the worst, as far as getting damage to their OWN supposed causes, has long been the “Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association.”
This sort of group commonly “appears” when a developer has a project and the group purports to represent the neighborhood with regard to the project.
A very tiny group then selects a slightly larger coordinating group. They all join together to stomp people who are really concerned about the supposed cause of the group.
It is possible to get things done in such a group BUT you commonly have to beat the people who dominate it. The technical name for such a group is “company union.”
b. Some of my experience with the Mid-Cambridge group.
I have downzoned about 85% of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Central Squares in Cambridge working with various groups and I have downzoned many other parts of Cambridge.
The purpose of the downzonings has been to protect sidewalk level open space, to protect housing and to minimize the environmental impact of excessively commercial development. Office uses generate three times the vehicular traffic as residential uses, and retail uses generate nine time the vehicular traffic as residential uses. Cambridge has approximately twice the jobs it needs for its population.
Cambridge Pols have been consistently on the wrong side of the Massachusetts Avenue downzonings and have done severe harm, commonly with outrageous lies. The key to these flat out lies has been to troop [people] into a meeting PEOPLE who will vouch for frequently outrageous nonsense.
I, however, have more than once beaten the Cambridge Pols and gotten support of this group.
(1) The La Trémouille Petition.
In 1980, the first zoning petition on Mass. Ave., the petition was written by a committee appointed by the Mid- Cambridge group, and the committee did what it was appointed to do on the downzoning petition it wrote.
The Cambridge Pols tried to bully the committee into turning the downzoning proposal into an upzoning. When the committee would not violate its orders from the group, theCambridge Pols then ran around claiming to represent the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association not only with no vote of the association but also pushing those goals which conflicted with the vote that formed the committee.
We finally forced another vote of the Mid-Cambridge group. We won again. HOWEVER, since we spent so much time fighting the bastards, their rogue effort destroyed the important parts of the initiative. This initiative changed zoning in the middle portion of Mass. Ave.
(2) The Natalie Ward Petition.
In 1989, we achieved a major downzoning of East Harvard Square.
After we had made the key agreements with members of the Cambridge City Council the Cambridge Pols spoke to the neighborhood group which was doing the work with the key lie:
You have made your deal with the City Council, now you have to deal with the Planning Board.
A flat out lie, but it bullied major concessions out of the petitioners.
In spite of the backstabbing, this downzoning forced the Inn at Harvard building on Harvard. Harvard wanted a building 72% larger and built to the lotline.
(3) The Anderson Petition.
In 1998, the Anderson Petition downzoned that portion of Massachusetts Avenue nearest Cambridge City Hall. This area had been in the original La Trémouille petition and had been lost because of the malfeasance of the Cambridge Pols. We got the same residential zoning we achieved in East Harvard Square with ciutywide improvements to reflect lessons learned from the Inn at Harvard building. We provide clear protection for adjacent owners and for trees on the site.
c. The latest outrage.
I attended a meeting of the Mid Cambridge Neighborhood Association on Wednesday, May 21, 2008. I spoke quite a bit. My biggest regret is that I was not belligerent enough. There were at least three terrible actions. Key was the behavior of the chair and his buddies. I will only report on one of the outrages right now.
Key in the Cambridge Pol group structure is a small core controlled by an even smaller group. The small core does the wishes of the smaller group. The small core is selected by the smaller group. Such sub groups commonly make it impossible to get Cambridge Pol groups to work for the supposed goals of the group.
That Wednesday the bad guys, as usual, were well organized, knew what they wanted and did not give a damn about reality.
d. Open space at the Public Library / High School site.
(1) The history.
Destruction of Library Park located between the Public Library and Cambridge Street could have been the reason why the Mid-Cambridge group was created in the mid-70's. The average member would have no knowledge of these machinations. The ones with knowledge would be the city employees who got their buddies to form a group.
Very promptly as these things go, after the group was created, the key organizers worked for the destruction of the best park in the neighborhood.
They promised a “better” park.
Better than a park dominated by 30 to 40 one hundred year old trees, creating an excellent visual connection between the two major streets of the neighborhood, exceeded in quality only by the Cambridge Common as a city neighborhood park?
The Cambridge Pols got their “improvement” with serious harm to the neighborhood and the destruction of irreplaceable beauty.
Part of the deal was a large number of trees in front of the Public Library building. The city, with help from Cambridge Pols, destroyed those trees last year.
(2) The bad guy’s forced decision this time.
Now, decent people want some sort of guarantees that the little which has not been destroyed of their park will not be destroyed. They want the park protected as a park. The Cambridge Pols came up with the usual bizarre solution.
They say they have an opinion from the Cambridge City Solicitor saying that they have to get permission from the legislature to protect parks.
The Cambridge City Solicitor is the same guy who, a couple of years ago, told the Election Commission that they do not have to obey the OBVIOUSLY APPLICABLE Jack E. Robinson decision.
Blatant lawlessness is not unusual in Cambridge government. There frequently is seen in Cambridge the mentality:
If you want me to obey that very clear law, sue me.
This could stem back to the city solicitor situation. So the Cambridge City Solicitor told the good guys to chase their tails.
The relevant statute is Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 45, section 5, which reads:
"Land taken for or held as a park under this chapter shall be forever kept open and maintained as a public park, and no building which exceeds six hundred square feet in area on the group shall be erected on a common or park dedicated to the use of the public without leave of the [state legislature]. . ."
The statute says “no building shall be erected on a common or park dedicated to the use of the public without leave of the [state legislature].”
The City Solicitor, according to the Cambridge Pols, says exactly the opposite from the very clear wording of the statute: protection is not legal without leave of the [state legislature].
So the Cambridge City Solicitor’s “opinion” is exactly the opposite of the law.
So the Cambridge Pols are passing this nonsense on to their victims as gospel.
(3) Legal history on that site.
In the 70's, I represented a 10 taxpayer group which fought against the destruction of that park. The case was sufficiently strong that I obtained a preliminary injunction ON APPEAL. Getting a preliminary injunction on appeal is, for all practical purposes, impossible. But I had a good case. I got it on appeal.
(a) The gift in trust.
We primarily based the suit on the terms under which the property was given to the city by a major donor who gave the city a very significant part of its key buildings. The City of Cambridge has contempt for the terms of gifts if Cambridge can evade the terms of gifts. The donor gave the property for use as a library.
He specifically said he did not want the property used for ordinary city purposes such as a school building. The donor gave the adjacent property for use as a school building. He also gave the city its city hall.
Trouble was that, after the suit was filed, the state Supreme Court came down with a charitable trust decision which was not fully thought out. The decision seemed to wipe out the distinction between two lines of cases to our severe detriment. A decision in the 80's clarified the situation. That decision in the 80's confirmed the legal rationale for our original filing, but when we got to court, we were going to have to appeal to get what we wanted. We needed to win on other grounds and to appeal to clarify the trust decision.
(b) General Laws, chapter 45, section 5.
We tried the case on General Laws, chapter 45, section 5. The judge, under chapter 45, section 5, found that our magnificent park was not a park but library grounds. There was no contention whatsoever that the nonsense currently being handed by the Cambridge City Solicitor had an relation to anything.
In the current situation, all that is necessary is for the City of Cambridge to say that the City of Cambridge is using the property as a park and has been using the property as a park since 1968. PERIOD. According to the Cambridge Pols, the City Solicitor says protection of open space cannot be achieved without vote of the State Legislature.
(4) City Solicitor’s Opinion being placed on website.
The chair announced that his organization was putting this bizarre piece of paper on their website as an example of The Truth. Earlier in the meeting, the chair introduced his wife. I commented that his wife was my lead plaintiff. The chair was not at all impressed with the idea that I suggested: put the judge’s decision in the 1970s case on the website. The case’s lead plaintiff is now the chair’s wife. Reality is not the sort of thing that concerns the Cambridge Pols.
The Cambridge Pols do not want the decision in ““Carmean v. Cambridge”” on their website. The Cambridge Pols have no interest whatsoever in a COURT DECISION DECIDING HOW THE SITE SHOULD BE USED.
The Cambridge Pols want to publicize an apparent piece of nonsense which conflicts with the court decision and with the clear statutory language, the “legal opinion” for the attorney for their most destructive enemy.
Note, however, that I have never seen this “Legal Opinion,” this piece of nonsense. I have only heard the con job presented to the group as to its contents.
3. More to Come.
I have written enough for now.
I will proceed later.