Cambridge council approves Pine Street semicentennial event

CAMBRIDGE — Sometimes things are not what they seem, and a shocking example of that happened at Monday night’s council meeting. Dion Banks and Kisha Petticolas were before the council asking for necessary permits to stage a public event called “Reflections on Pine: 50 Years after the Fire, a commemoration of the Civil Rights movement, Community and Change.” Co-founders of the sponsoring group, Eastern Shore Network for Change, Mr. Banks and Ms. Petticolas, have been preparing to launch the event on the weekend of July 24, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights movement in Cambridge. Council members seemed to approve the program of gospel music, speakers, walking tours, and witnesses. Also, food and drink would be available.

The group has the support of Governor Larry Hogan, the city’s Economic Department, Tourism, Library, Police Department and some churches. The council approved the event with a 3-2 vote, three “ayes,” one abstention, and one “no” vote. They got approval, but both Mr. Banks and Ms. Petticolas were shocked; the council members withholding approval were the two African -American commissioners, LaShon Foster and Donald Sydnor. As Ms. Petticolas and Mr. Banks exited the meeting, they expressed their surprise and dismay and said, “We have a lot of work to do.”

After the meeting I asked Commissioner Foster to explain her opposition. She replied, “I am not opposed. I think it’s great, but I think I have a conflict of interest and therefore abstained. I will call them and explain.” Then I questioned Commissioner Sydnor. His explanation was,”I am not opposed to the event but before I approve, I want to know how they will handle serving alcohol on Pine Street. I am waiting to see that before I give my approval.” So it was not a divisive reason or lack of support. Jumping to conclusions can lead to a bad sprain.

With considerably less drama, Cambridge Main Street got its permits for “Dank Day” on March 11. (“Dank” is the name of a brew.) The event will NOT close High Street or Race Street; rather,in deference to other merchants, it will close a portion of the 500 block of Gay Street. Cambridge Main Street is attempting to draw visitors to downtown Cambridge with an event on the same day that the Harriet Tubman Park opens.

Also approved by Council was the change in date of the Cambridge Power Boat Racing Association from May 27 and 28 to May 13 and 14.

The saga of the Retirement Rings came to a close as Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley presented Kenneth Malik, retired police chief, a traditional ring to commemorate his 40 years of service to the city, with 14 of those as police chief. Several years ago, a more frugal council voted down the rings, a move seen as insensitive by others who restored the tradition to Chief Malik and Ed Kinnamon, who received his a few weeks ago.

In other business, Oak Hill residents will be able to connect to the city water supply with no capital charge or installation, except for the meter. Caution: This offer is good only until July 1, 2018. The council also approved the appointment of Susan Morgan and George Vojtech to the Historic Preservation Committee.

And for public-spirited interested citizens, the commissioners are holding a public hearing on the Master Plan for Long Wharf. Here’s an opportunity to explore or share visions of Long Wharf, a real Cambridge gem. That’s Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. on Gay Street.

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