Below are some of the issues I care most about:
As someone who grew up in Cambridge public housing, and would not be here without it, I will be a strong advocate for increasing affordable housing. This is one important way to preserve the racial and socio-economic diversity that makes Cambridge such a unique place to live. It is essential work if we want to ensure that Cambridge is a place where longtime families and newcomers can both find affordable options.
While the Cambridge City Council recently passed an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance for Inclusionary Housing, increasing the number of affordable units required in new Cambridge developments to 20%, the challenges of increasing and diversifying our city’s housing stock remain.
Ultimately, I want to help plan for sustainable development that prioritizes socio-economic diversity and affordable housing and addresses displacement and social equity. To do this, some of my ideas are:
Establish an Office of Housing Stability to help individuals find and maintain stable affordable housing.
Increase Cambridge’s commercial linkage fee (which requires large new non-residential developments that receive special permits to make contributions based on the size of the building to the Affordable Housing Trust or build the housing). You can read more about the city's nexus study here.
Adopt a local transfer tax on real estate transactions over a certain size with proceeds earmarked for affordable housing initiatives.
Add an additional 5% inclusionary zoning requirement for middle income households and families, including 2 and 3 bedroom units.
Work on a regional strategy with other cities and incentivize small landlords to maintain rents below market so that they receive a $1,500 tax credit for each unit rented in a 2-to-4-unit building.
Negotiate with our universities to build affordable housing for their students.
Negotiate with landlords and work for greater tenant protections to prevent no-fault evictions.
Develop a plan to preserve our expiring affordable housing stock.
Economic and Community Development
In my experience as an attorney working for small businesses, I have seen the value of community development resources. I believe it is a city’s and a councilor’s responsibility to help eliminate the structural barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs finding success.
I envision the Community Development Department offering entrepreneurs and small businesses more traditional and non-traditional finance opportunities, like partnering with local banks to offer a low-interest loan fund for new retail and restaurant venues. I also propose a small business retention program that would offer applicants grants, loans, and technical assistance. Similar models exist in cities like Lowell.
We can also start recognizing small businesses as historic assets similar to what San Francisco does with its Legacy Business Historic Preservation. Additionally, we must address the impact of construction on small businesses, offer more community education to new business owners, and form a site finder service that provides a database of commercial space available in Cambridge.
While there are provisions for subsidized ground floor retail in new developments like Mass and Main, we should continue to support local vendors and small shops. Projects like Bow Market in Union Square, Somerville prove that smaller footprints and shorter leases are attractive to entrepreneurs, city departments, and community groups.
Ultimately, I want to help support small businesses and enhance community development by advocating for affordable commercial space, and help foster stronger neighborhoods and empower community members to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. To do this, some of my ideas are:
Start a Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program
Commit Cambridge to more subsidized ground floor retail in new developments.
Set aside a preference for local businesses in publicly owned buildings since many cities invest in real estate of their own.
Commit Cambridge to more subsidized ground floor retail in new developments.
Develop an incubation space where local entrepreneurs can pay subsidized rental rates to help jump start their business.
Hold pop up or other special events that high light local businesses.
Create the Legacy Business Registry and Preservation Fund for businesses-honoring those longstanding businesses in Cambridge.
Enforce the City’s policies against vacant storefronts and consider implementing a vacant storefront registry similar to Arlington for large property owners who would be required to pay a fee to enter the registry once their storefront becomes vacant. The fee would be waived if the owner allowed public art to be displayed while the landlord looks for a new tenant.
Hold pop up or other special events that high light local business.
Cambridge has a population of over 110,000 people. 71,000 are registered voters, and yet only 16% voted in our last municipal election. What can we do as a city to increase turnout and improve overall civic engagement? We have successful models to point to. Both the Civic Innovation Challenge Inventory and the Participatory Budgeting process prove there is interest in community-led and championed initiatives. I believe engaging the wider community, especially people who have not historically voted, is inherently part of a councilor's job, and am prepared to think creatively about ways to make it part of my work, if elected.
Given our numbers, the lack of local participation should concern everyone. The vast majority of decisions that affect the lives of everyday Americans, Cantabrigians included, are made at the local level. In fact, all of the issues I've written about here are within the Council's purview to affect. It is absolutely essential that we all pay attention and participate.
When I think about civic engagement, I also think about campaign finance reform. We must identify ways to discuss campaign finance reform openly and enact policy that can serve as a model for other municipalities across the country.
Ultimately, I want to help promote broader civic engagement and improve the responsiveness of Cambridge City government to all community members. To do this, some of my ideas are:
Commit Cambridge to increasing voter turnout; publicly fund campaigns.
Bring City Council meetings to residents, by hosting them around the city (Rindge towers or at one of our many youth centers).
Film Commission meetings, making those meetings more accessible.
Supporting the Arts
Bike and Pedestrian Safety
Opioid Crisis and Homelessness
As an attorney who represents artists and also works with makerspaces in Massachusetts, I believe we can strengthen resources for artists who live and work in Cambridge. While Cambridge offers excellent resources, cities across Massachusetts and the United States have carved out special provisions that pertain to arts and culture uses.
I will work collaboratively with nonprofits and city departments to find ways to further support the local arts and creative economy. We can look to neighboring communities and other cities for inspiration. For example, some cities institute a City Artist residency program to integrate artists and creativity into the daily workings of a city including them in projects with parks, planning, public works, and libraries. In some cities, retailers and restaurateurs have created pop-up shops, filling vacant commercial and under-used public spaces with temporary shops in order to experiment with concepts and test new markets. The City of Cambridge must also affirm its commitment to the arts by setting aside space in City-owned buildings for Cambridge's artists and innovators. Opportunities such as the Foundry Building on Rogers Street, and even the Out-of-Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square could provide much-needed, flexible space for the expression of our City's creativity. Pairing more permanent spaces with rotating festivals, such as Cambridge Open Studios and Central Flea, will help our city's creative economy to grow.
I also want to help increase the intersectionality of Cambridge’s approach to environmental challenges, and particularly to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and keep Cambridge committed to thinking about environmental justice issues. To do this, some of my ideas are:
Clean up Jerry's pond
Increase outreach regarding net zero and implementing ideas of the Net Zero Task Force, making sure new municipal buildings are net zero by 2020. In Cambridge, 80% of our climate destroying emissions come from building energy use.
Offer a non-resident trash and recycling service
Examine the San Francisco Carbon Fund and evaluate what parallels may be drawn to the context of Cambridge. San Francisco passed an ordinance establishing the San Francisco Carbon Mitigation Program to mitigate and sequester carbon by:
Requiring City departments to pay Carbon Impact Payments—a 13% surcharge for each airline ticket purchased for staff.
Mandating San Francisco Department of Environment to grant those funds to government, nonprofit or business projects that reduce or offset polluting greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area.
Funding carbon offset projects like community gardens and tree plantings and funds projects to retain storm water, cool temperatures, filter air, and more.
Maintaining bicycle and pedestrian safety is of the utmost importance in Cambridge. I am encouraged by the City’s response’s to bike safety and the $2 million was set aside for Vision Zero street safety initiatives and $6 million for Inman Square improvements. I am also in favor of the following:
Incorporating bicycle “traffic lights," like those on Western Avenue, to other separated lanes. This could help limit cyclists’ speeds, and decrease the number of collisions with pedestrians.
Disseminating an information campaign at busy intersections to remind pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of their expectations to help prevent accidents.
Expanding bike sharing programs, like Hubway, to neighborhoods which are currently under-served by them, such as West Cambridge and Strawberry Hill.
Creating a light and helmet giveaway program at schools and community centers throughout the City as the high cost of bicycle accessories could scare away lower-income cyclists from investing in lights and proper helmets. This could limit the use of bicycles at night, or put bicyclists in greater danger of injury.
Requiring that commercial and residential developers seeking to cut their parking requirements contribute funds to a trust designed to enhance infrastructure for cyclists, pedestrians, and ride-sharing programs.
Above all, encouraging stakeholder engagement is key to ensuring the appropriate location and use of new bicycle lanes. I would ensure that CDD makes it a priority to meet with cyclists and non-cyclists alike to find optimal locations for these lanes which will actually be used and sustained. We must think about small businesses that could be adversely affected and designate loading sports in key areas when appropriate.
Combating opioid addiction and homelessness in Cambridge is an urgent concern. In 2013–2014 alone, opioid-related deaths occurred in two-thirds of the cities and towns in MA. And Cambridge has not escaped the tight grip of addiction and its tragic consequences. 33 people died in Cambridge from opioid overuse between 2011-2015. Moreover, opioid addiction is closely tied to the issue of homelessness in Cambridge, as it is a significant obstacle preventing homeless individuals from getting back on their feet. The issue of homelessness is also intimately tied to housing affordability, and I think that tackling them in tandem can help ameliorate both issues. Homelessness in Cambridge can be characterized in three broad categories: persons who are unsheltered, persons who are sheltered (staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing), and persons who are at risk of homelessness.
Some of my ideas to reduce opioid addiction include:
Improve access to treatment and recovery services.
Promote the use of overdose-reversing drugs.
Strengthen our understanding of the epidemic through better public health research, including epidemiological studies which inform us not only of where overdose occurs, but also of the members of our community who may be most vulnerable to addiction and overuse.
Leverage our city's expertise in pharmaceutical and medical research by:
Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction.
Advancing better, nonaddictive practices for pain management.
Concurrently, my ideas around combating homelessness include:
Implement a Housing First model adopted by many cities across the country. Housing First does not require people experiencing homelessness to address the all of their problems including behavioral health problems, or to graduate through a series of services programs before they can access housing. Housing First does not mandate participation in services either before obtaining housing or in order to retain housing.
Assist families with their core needs, whether they be child care, education, job training, rental assistance, medical care or substance abuse treatment. The groundbreaking “There’s a Better Way” program, which seeks to provide panhandlers with employment has proven to be an effective means of reaching out to those who are homeless and seeking employment.
Invest resources into programs that both prevent families from becoming homeless and shorten the time homeless families spend in shelters before obtaining stable living conditions.
Education is essential for the success of our youth, but there are unfortunately several barriers that prevent our city's young people from receiving a high-quality education. Cambridge spends $27,163 per student, but our students are not performing at levels that school systems who spend less are. We spend so much on education. I want to make sure we examine how existing funds could be used more effectively.
With that said, the Cambridge Early Childhood Task Force Report put forth recommendations in 2015 and a three-year timeline. We must push our City to implement these recommendations moving forward. Quality child care and early childhood education are proven investments in our children's futures. Therefore, I support the following:
Making high quality early education and care available to all working families
Vouchers for low income families to put toward child care
Increasing reimbursement rates to raise the wages of early educators
Establishing universal pre-kindergarten
Expanding preschool and after-school programs
Increasing the household income limit for the City of Cambridge's Department of Human Service Program tuition assistance program for after school and preschool programs in Cambridge
Subsidizing the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) financial assistance for childcare, so that the assistance provided to MA families making 50% or below the MA median income can include Cambridge families who make 50% or below the Cambridge median household income
In general, I am a big proponent of early education programs. My twin brother and I participated in Headstart before we started kindergarten in Cambridge. Our time at Headstart provided essential support that really prepared us to start our schooling in Cambridge. I support state funding to high quality early education and care programming.
The Foundation Budget Review Commission issued a report finding that the foundation budget, which serves as the basis for the chapter 70 system for state funding of local education, understates the amounts that local districts should be spending by at least $1 billion annually. To ensure sufficient funding to educate all of our children, I support:
Implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations raising taxes to expand and improve educational opportunity for all Massachusetts children
Expanding efforts to better support English Language Learners
Lowering class sizes (K-3)
Increasing local reimbursements for special education
As a product of the Cambridge Public School system that has had few educators of color, I also think our schools and students will benefit from recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force. We are a majority-minority school district, but less than 20% of our teachers are from under-represented populations. The City Council and School Committee must work together to implementation a plan that prioritizes recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force.