Category: Cambridge Chronicle

Are text-a-thons the future of activism? Cambridge’s Activist Afternoons thinks so.

Boxes of pizza, an aroma of hot coffee and smiling people invested in their phones filled a Cambridge workplace in the heart of Central Square yesterday, but the gathering wasn’t purely social.

As millions of Americans across the country prepared for the midterm elections by reading up on issues and candidates, over 160 volunteers in Cambridge spent the evening before Election Day encouraging voter participation at a text-a-thon hosted by Activist Afternoons.

The gathering was one of many the group has hosted since it launched in the fall of 2017. The first of three around the state, Activist Afternoons hosts weekly events with a different menu of activities – often including meetings, activist training sessions, and text-a-thons – for the Cambridge community at Workbar, a membership-based coworking space on Prospect Street.

Hustling young people to the polls

The members of the five national and local organizations present at the Nov. 5 text-a-thon used Hustle – the texting platform used for Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 presidential election. For three hours they sent personalized messages to registered voters, reminding them to vote on issues, political parties and candidates this Election Day.

Daniel Curtis, community organizer at Activist Afternoons, said the goal of Monday night’s text-a-thon was to motivate or remind residents of Cambridge and others nationwide to participate, especially younger voters.

“The main objective of tonight is to get in contact with as many people as possible and encourage them to vote, ” said Curtis. “A general concern we have is that, historically, young people are the least likely to vote.”

During the 2014 midterm elections, only 17.1 percent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds showed up at the polls. That was less than half the turnout of the population at large – 41.9 percent of whom voted – according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Current Population Survey.

Curtis said he thinks a significant cause of low turnout among young people is the fact that they have never voted before.

The future of activism?

With Gen-Xers and younger generations representing 59 percent of American adults eligible to vote as of April 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, text-a-thon volunteers were hoping that the last-minute mobilization of younger voters has a serious effect on election results.

Among the clicking, tapping and chattering volunteers was state Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who opted to make calls rather than texting during the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. event.

“I couldn’t really figure out how to work the texting, so I went with calling,” laughed Livingstone.

Out of the five Democratic organizations represented at the text-a-thon, Livingstone chose to work with the Environmental Voter Project and Justice Democrats groups. He noted that one of the reasons Democratic organizations specifically tend to focus on mobilizing the younger generations is because they tend to be more worried about social issues and protecting the environment.

“Young people are more concerned about social and environmental issues,” said Livingstone, who represents parts of Cambridgeport as well as Boston. “The way we get the Democratic Party to where it needs to be is by convincing people to vote at events like this one.”

“Texting as a medium appeals to younger people and can easily reach tons of voters,” said Labandibar. “I think we will see more voters turn out as result of these texting events.”

Ian Anderson is a Boston University journalism student writing as part of a collaboration between the Cambridge Chronicle and BU News Service.

http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181106/are-text-a-thons-future-of-activism-cambridges-activist-afternoons-thinks-so

Worsening BU Bridge, rotary traffic causes headaches in Cambridgeport

By Diane McLaughlin / Cambridge@wickedlocal.com

Since August, traffic on the Boston University Bridge has worsened, leading to congestion in the Cambridge rotary, adjacent intersection and Cambridgeport streets. Because of a network of one-way streets, many residents say they have found themselves trapped in the neighborhood.

“I’m just trying to get out of my street,” said Nancy Wei, a Rockingham Street resident.

City and state officials have met twice this fall with the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) to address traffic problems. While some issues have been identified, neighbors at the most recent meeting stressed the need for further improvements.

Multiple agencies involved

More than 70 residents have emailed complaints to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] since the completion of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project in August, according to CNA members Walter McDonald and Carol O’Hare, who have reviewed the correspondence.

″[Traffic has] never been great in anyone’s memory, but it seems to be worse starting after the summer 2018,” said Joe Barr, director of the city of Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department.

Barr was one of several city and state officials who met with the CNA in September and again on Nov. 1 to address residents’ concerns. More than 40 people attended the latest meeting at the LBJ Apartments.

Along with the BU Bridge, neighbors are concerned about the lack of signs, traffic lights and lane markers for the rotary; drivers from Waverly Street who block the intersection; and a tree on Granite Street affecting cars approaching the intersection.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who represents Cambridgeport, told the CNA that multiple government agencies have jurisdiction over the areas experiencing these problems. These include: MassDOT, which operates the BU Bridge; city of Boston, which manages the traffic lights at the end of the bridge on Commonwealth Avenue; the state Department of Conservation and Recreation [DCR], which controls the rotary and traffic signals in Cambridge before the bridge; and the city of Cambridge, which manages the roads adjacent to the rotary – Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets.

“When there are multiple agencies that butt up against each other, like here, you often have all of the agencies running away,” Livingstone said. “But here … every agency is really invested in working together in trying to solve the problem.”

Traffic backup from BU Bridge

A key issue affecting Cambridgeport is the traffic backup on the BU Bridge, often extending around the rotary and blocking the intersection at Granite, Brookline and Waverly streets.

During the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project, lane adjustments were made to the BU Bridge. Now, most of the road from Cambridge to Boston is a single lane, with two lanes in the other direction.

Hamilton Street resident Stephen Kaiser said extending the single lane has made it more difficult for cars to access the adjacent lanes at Commonwealth Avenue, causing traffic to stretch into Cambridge.

Neil Boudreau, a traffic engineer with MassDOT, has worked since September to identify causes for the increased traffic congestion. He said adjusting the lanes again would cause more gridlock.

One problem on the BU Bridge has already been identified. In speaking with city of Boston officials, Boudreau learned that a traffic detection system was damaged during the bridge project. The system, which recognizes cars waiting at the traffic light, was fixed by the city of Boston Oct. 29, Boudreau said. He did not yet know the impact on bridge traffic.

The rotary and intersection

Another problem involves the rotary itself. The cars backed up into the intersection of Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets also affect drivers who want to head away from the bridge.

Wei, the Rockingham Street resident, said with the intersection blocked, cars cannot turn left from Granite Street onto Brookline Street, causing the Granite Street traffic to back up.

The network of one-way streets means Granite Street is the only way out for some neighbors. Several people at the CNA meeting said cars drive the wrong way on one-way streets to avoid the congestion.

Neighbors would like to see lane markings, signs and traffic lights for cars entering the rotary from Memorial Drive. For traffic approaching the rotary from Waverly Street, neighbors suggested signs advising cars not to block the intersection, with fines for offending drivers.

DCR could look at short-term solutions, including painting lines and putting up signs, Livingstone said. Long-term solutions for the rotary will be included in the third phase of DCR’s Memorial Drive project.

Tree preservation leads to reduced space

The blocked intersection is not the only problem affecting Granite Street.

To preserve a tree affecting sidewalk accessibility, the city of Cambridge routed the sidewalk into the street near the intersection, reducing the lane available for cars taking a right toward the rotary and contributing to congestion on Granite Street.

As a temporary solution, seven parking spaces on Granite Street have been eliminated starting Oct. 29, Barr said, allowing drivers to start lining up sooner for the left turn onto Brookline Street.

Barr said the city would continue to look at other solutions to address the intersection and surrounding streets.

Cambridge Chronicle: Cambridge’s Rep. Livingstone to hold January office hours

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, representing the 8th Suffolk District which includes Boston and parts of Cambridge, will be holding office hours to receive feedback, ideas, and suggestions on both local neighborhood issues and statewide policy priorities.

The schedule of office hours is as follows: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 7 at Thinking Cup, 85 Newbury St., Boston; 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 14 at Panificio Bistro and Bakery, 144 Charles St., Boston; 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 21 at J Pace & Son, 75 Blossom Court, Boston; and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 28 at 1369 Coffee House, 757 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.

For information: 617-722-2396.

Full story: http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20160104/NEWS/160109077