Shaping the Future of Cambridge Together

+ Affordable Housing

Term One Achievements

As someone who grew up in Cambridge public housing, and would not be here without it, I am 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 both longtime families and newcomers can find affordable options. As Co-Chair of the Housing Committee, I have approached the affordability crisis with urgency and creativity, through three lenses: protection, preservation, and prevention.

Increased Legal Aid Funding:

A necessary step toward increasing tenant protections is ensuring that our City is well-resourced and able to meet the high demand for legal aid assistance. One of my early successes this term was in securing a critical funding increase to the city’s legal aid services, enabling Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS) to hire a new housing attorney, Jessica Drew. Her full-time role is to support those at risk for displacement and homelessness.

Initiating Eviction Data Collection:

In order to create tailored policy solutions to prevent tenant displacement, we need accurate eviction data. I pressed the Cambridge Community Development Department to improve its processes for collecting and interpreting eviction data, promoting transparency in commercial real estate transactions. I also co-sponsored policy orders to collect and analyze detailed eviction data. Our initial findings can be found here.

Preventing Tenant Displacement:

I am chairing the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement, which is charged with investigating the root causes of displacement—answering the question of where and why forced displacement is occurring—evaluating current policies, programs and practices, and developing bold alternatives where necessary, thereby addressing the imperative need for stronger, more immediate tenant protections. Its recommendations for policy change and resource allocation will provide critical guidance to the City Council and City Manager’s Office on mitigating the effects of housing instability on our City, and realizing the future of Cambridge as affordable, inclusive and desirable for all. The Task Force is also analyzing the impact of condo conversions on tenant displacement, and is investigating possible modes for strengthening tenant protections.

I also supported the City Manager’s development of a City Housing Liaison position. This role will support clients at risk of displacement; work with affordable housing providers, landlords and management companies to support stable tenancies; and serve as a point person for the city when there are threats of multiple-tenant evictions.

Preserving Existing Affordable Housing Stock:

Equally important is the preservation of existing affordable housing stock. For example, the affordability requirements of 505 units of the Fresh Pond Apartments are set to expire in December 2020. I’ve continued to promote transparent communication and move collaborative preservation measures forward.

I also advocated for greater funding to the Affordable Housing Trust through a local property transfer fee.

Ongoing Efforts

I will continue fighting to preserve and expand affordable housing by advocating for:

  • The creation of an Office of Housing Stability, because I believe the more structure we have around these issues, the better. It keeps them in our budgets and provides needed resources to residents.

  • Increasing Cambridge’s commercial linkage fee, which requires large new non-residential developments that receive special permits to build affordable housing or make contributions to the Affordable Housing Trust.

  • Adopting a local transfer tax on real estate transactions over a certain size with proceeds earmarked for affordable housing initiatives.

  • Negotiating with our universities to build affordable housing for their students.

+ Community Based Economic Growth

Term One Achievements

Our economy is growing, and our community has tremendous resources at its disposal. But, we can improve how these resources are deployed to better support small businesses and create new employment opportunities. In my experience as an attorney working for small businesses, I have seen the value of community development resources. As a city councillor, it is my responsibility to help eliminate the structural barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs finding success.

Incentive Zoning and Linkage Fees:

As Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, I advocated for initiating our next Incentive Zoning Study, currently underway. This study analyzes the impact of nonresidential development on affordable housing and makes a recommendation for a corresponding increase to our linkage fee. I pushed for this study to include a similar investigation of the impact on employment opportunities for residents - if the data shows a jobs linkage fee would be appropriate here as well, we then have the impetus to move new legislation.

The Committee has also recommended that the City update our table of commercial land uses. For reference, Cambridge underwent a comprehensive “commercial land use classification study” in 2015 that outlined a targeted approach to update our table of uses. At my urging, the City will be hiring additional zoning staff to move forward on updating the table of uses.

Support for Small Businesses:

I’ve worked to connect small business owners with legal supports and asked the city to better promote Small Business Saturday, an event helpful for measuring investment in our local economy. This year, the City will be actively supporting Small Business Saturday by launching a “Shop Cambridge” event, posting additional signage, creating a social media toolkit for local businesses, and promoting special events including a shopping contest on November 30th.

Activating Vacant Storefronts:

I’ve pushed for progress on the city’s Retail Strategic Plan and advocated for the establishment of a Vacant Storefront Database. Long-term storefront vacancies can negatively impact surrounding businesses. Tracking vacancy data, such as its prevalence by neighborhood and owner, can help us understand the depth of the problem and determine how the City can hold commercial property owners accountable. I submitted a policy order to develop a Vacant Storefront Registration Policy, which will incorporate feedback from our small business community. Our aim is to develop more targeted regulations, incentivize the activation of currently vacant storefronts, and keep our retail areas vibrant. The policy order can be found here.

Municipal Broadband:

Digital access is a matter of equity. While free internet options exist in several WiFi hotspots throughout Cambridge, these aren’t always available or convenient for students and working adults. I support the work of Upgrade Cambridge. To ensure that all Cambridge residents have affordable access to reliable, high-speed internet, I supported a policy order for a 12-month digital equity research initiative. The methodology is to study and analyze gaps affecting the City’s low-income or otherwise disadvantaged population in use of the broadband internet. The work that was done as part of the Broadband Task Force has provided the City with valuable data. The City will be focusing on an important topic included in the Task Force’s recommendation, namely digital equity. The City’s research will seek to better understand the gaps-including those related to broadband access, affordability, digital skills, and device ownership-that may be preventing all residents from making the most effective, meaningful use of broadband.

The results of this comprehensive study will be used to develop targeted and strategic recommendations to address the findings.

Cannabis Social Equity Ordinance:

In 2019, Cambridge voters mandated our city establish zoning for the cannabis industry. I’ve held numerous hearings on the issue, resulting in the establishment of a separate Cannabis Social Equity Ordinance. The City must develop a comprehensive and specific Social Equity Plan to ensure those who were disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs will benefit from the economic opportunity this emerging industry presents. This includes leveraging locally-owned companies and those owned by underrepresented groups, such as women and people of color.

Ongoing Efforts

To further support local business, I am committed to:

  • Starting a Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program.

  • Committing Cambridge to more subsidized ground floor retail in new developments.

  • Setting aside preference for local businesses in publicly owned buildings.

  • Developing an incubation space where local entrepreneurs can pay subsidized rental rates to help jump start their business.

  • Create a Legacy Business Registry and Preservation Fund to honor long-standing businesses in Cambridge.

+ Human Services and Education

Term One Achievements

Education is essential for the success of our youth, but there are several barriers that prevent our city’s young people from receiving a high-quality education. As Co-chair of the Human Services and Veterans Committee, a graduate of Cambridge Public Schools, and member of the Family Policy Council, championing issues important to families and children remains a cornerstone of my council work.

Childen's Savings Accounts:

The City has promised to develop a funding system to ensure that a Children’s Savings Account (CSA) will be an option for each kindergartener in the city. I first proposed CSAs in early 2018—these are long-term savings or investment accounts that provide incentives to help children ages 0-18, especially low-income children, build dedicated savings for post-secondary education. We will partner with a local bank and attach a financial literacy education as a key component. We must be fostering children’s expectations that they will attend postsecondary education at an early age and helping children and their families build savings for postsecondary education.

According to information from the Community Needs Assessment Report,

  • Cambridge has a higher household poverty rate than the state, at 14% vs. 12%.

  • About 18% of Cambridge children live in poverty, as compared to 15% statewide.

  • The poverty rate for families with children is higher in Cambridge than the state as well: at 15% in Cambridge vs. 13% statewide.

  • The numbers are even starker for families with children led by a woman alone: over 38% of these families in Cambridge live in poverty.

  • In 2014, about 43% of the population in Cambridge was considered financially insecure.

  • 73% of low-income CRLS graduates enrolled in college within six years after high school graduation compared with 80% of their higher income peers. 7% difference*

  • 31% of low-income CRLS graduates completed college within six years compared with 52% of their higher income peers. 21% difference*

Expanding Access to High Quality Preschool

I’ve been advocating for the City expanding its own preschool capacity by opening additional classrooms to better meet the needs of Cambridge families and advocating for more funding in scholarships ($1 million dollars) for low-income children to attend high quality community based preschools.

Ongoing Efforts

In addition, I’m fighting to:

  • Improve efforts to support English Language Learners.

  • Prioritize recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force.

+ Environmental Sustainability

Term One Achievements

Mitigating the effects of climate change and creating an environmentally sustainable city is a challenge that must be addressed head-on, through innovation and community organizing. I’m proud to have initiated the conversation on restoring one of Cambridge’s green spaces, and to have worked with my colleagues to promote climate resiliency.

Cleaning Up Jerry’s Pond:

Since opening the conversation on the revitalization of Jerry’s Pond and the surrounding contaminated “brownfield” area, I’ve engaged the city in action-oriented discussion around plans for future use and remediation of the area. Although GCP, the owners of the parcels in question, has said it has no further plans for Jerry’s Pond, I remain committed to taking steps to clean and improve the area.

Mattress Recycling:

This year, the City partnered with UTEC, a nonprofit organization serving proven-risk young adults, to provide free weekly curbside mattress and box spring recycling services. The executive director of UTEC reached out to me in 2018 when he began speaking to our public works department, and I helped push for support of the partnership. Approximately 100 tons of mattresses are trashed in Cambridge each year, taking up a massive amount of space in landfills compared to other waste. This initiative supports the city’s goals of reducing waste.

Electric Vehicles:

I have co-sponsored policy initiatives supporting a community Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy. I will ensure that the EV Strategy recommendations prioritize equitable access to EV opportunities and EV charging for all Cambridge residents, regardless of their neighborhood.

Ongoing Efforts

We can always deepen our commitment to climate justice. I’ll continue supporting:

  • A requirement that all new developments construct rooftop gardens or install solar panels.

  • A partnership with Mothers Out Front to green urban rooftops.

  • Steps to increase our tree canopy and create necessary tree protections.

+ Equity in Workforce Development

Term One Achievements

Cambridge has a host of workforce development programs and economic opportunity initiatives across industries, and yet many residents still lack secure employment - including veterans, seniors and residents who have been formerly incarcerated. It is critical we provide opportunities for residents of all backgrounds and skill levels to access jobs that pay a living wage in Cambridge.

Continuing Evaluation:

Our services, programs and policies must be directly informed by data, and I’ve been a strong and consistent advocate for comprehensive and continued evaluation. A thorough process for evaluation will help illuminate present gaps and areas for growth and serve to guide the city in developing more targeted strategies to improve access and outreach.

Creating a Workforce Consortium:

Another key is in improving communication across the city’s programs and service providers, and one of my goals for this year is to develop a workforce consortium, a practical tool to assist in facilitating regular communication and transparency across the variety of Workforce Development service providers in the city.

The Work Force Development Program:

Pushed for more funding for Cambridge Housing Authority’s Work Force Development Program, which has helped low-income students to broaden their horizons and to create their own pathways to educational and economic success for over 25 years.

Developing a CORI Clinic:

This fall, I will help organize a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) clinic with the Department of Human Services to assist residents who may be eligible to seal their records.

+ Building Civic Engagement

Term One Achievements

At a time of national uncertainty, we must become stronger locally. There is no better way to strengthen our communities than to talk to and learn from each other. In my first term, I got creative about how to initiate those conversations.

Cambridge Digs DEEP: Community-Wide Conversations on Race, Equity, Power & Privilege

On November 28, over 150 attendees gathered at the Fletcher Maynard Academy for the first event of Cambridge Digs DEEP, a series of community conversations on race, equity, power, and privilege. In the months since, many of you have joined the community forums and workshops addressing implicit bias, micro- and macro-aggressions, and the diversity of the Cambridge experience. I look forward to continuing the essential work of looking critically at our community and ourselves, while engaging across difference to learn and grow together. More information on the series can be found here.

Government Alliance on Race & Equity

The Cambridge City Administration recently became a member of the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE), a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. GARE emphasizes institutional transformation, and supports the development of new policies and programs to close the racial opportunity gap.

Through the Arts - UNVEILED: A One-Woman Play

In 2018, I sponsored Chicago-based actor, artist, playwright and activist Rohina Malik’s performance at CRLS’ Fitzgerald Theatre this fall. She gave not one, but two performances of her moving one-woman play, “Unveiled,” first performing for the students at CRLS and later that evening for an audience of over 400 community members. Her talk-back engaged the audience in a conversation of how activism can take the stage through storytelling.

Cambridge Community Iftar

Over the last 2 years, the Community Iftar has become a beautiful Cambridge tradition. Every year, City Hall hosts the Cambridge Muslim community at sunset to break the fast, and invites people from all faiths to learn about Ramadan. I’ve been honored to organize the event in 2018 and 2019 and invite community leaders from the Muslim community I am deeply proud to be a part of and represent.

Coffee & Pizza Office Hours

I have had regular “office hours” each month at local businesses around the city. In addition, I have had office hours at the Fresh Pond Apartments, where I grew up.

Digital Communications

Over 1,000 people subscribe to my weekly newsletter. I do my best to recap everything I am involved in every week. Readers know they can get lengthy, but I appreciate you all reading and sharing your thoughts in your replies. To subscribe, click here.

In addition to my newsletter, I co-host a weekly podcast, Women Are Here, at CCTV with my friend and fellow City Councillor, Alanna Mallon. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can listen here.

+ Bike and Pedestrian Safety

Term One Achievements

Protecting bicycle and pedestrian safety is of the utmost importance in Cambridge. By investing in our infrastructure, and making sure that all road users are aware of their role in preventing accidents, we can improve the safety of our streets and intersections.

Promoting Bicycle Use and Protecting Cyclist Safety:

Bicycle use promotes the health of our residents, and is a key component of creating an environmentally sustainable Cambridge. During my first term, I worked to improve our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. To increase bicycle ridership and decrease motor vehicle speed, I supported the “Cycling Safety Ordinance.” To improve the connectedness of existing bike lanes, I co-sponsored policy orders to explore options for creating a formal street connection between Terminal Road and New Street, to support the implementation of protected bike lanes on Webster Ave, Museum Way, O’Brien Highway, and Craigie Bridge, and to create a pedestrian/bicycle shuttle bridge connecting Concord Avenue to the Triangle area on Cambridgepark Drive. I also I co-sponsored a policy order to identify whether a Bluebikes station may be located near Rafferty Park, a centrally located green space within the Alewife Quad, providing Bluebikes riders traveling between the Alewife Quad and Cambridge Highlands neighborhoods with a place to pick up and drop off bikes. Additionally, I co-sponsored a policy order to identify traffic-calming and safety features for the Fresh Pond Mall area as the current conditions in the lot compromise pedestrian and bicyclist safety by failing to clearly separate where vehicles should travel and where to expect pedestrians and cyclists moving safely. I support the rapid implementation of a citywide network of protected bike lanes as described in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan, and have taken the Cambridge Bicycle Pledge

Pedestrian Safety:

To protect pedestrians in congested areas, I joined my colleagues in installing a pedestrian Super LPI at the intersection of Mass Ave, Prospect St., and Western Ave to give pedestrians a 10-15 head start on traffic. Traffic and Parking is also re-evaluating safety measures at the intersections of Prospect and Broadway and Prospect and Hampshire. To protect pedestrians at these intersections during morning rush hour, two officers were stationed between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, and are making daily reports on pedestrian safety.

Ongoing Efforts:

  • Pushing to distribute city pamphlets regarding safety at all bicycle shops in Cambridge.

  • Incorporating bicycle “traffic lights,” like those on Western Avenue, to other separated lanes in order to limit cyclists’ speed and decrease the number of collisions with pedestrians.

  • Supporting a light and helmet giveaway program at schools and community centers. The high cost of bicycle accessories can scare away many cyclists from investing in these safety measures, putting cyclists in greater danger of injury.

  • Implementing a Bikes For All Giveaway program for young people and adults. Cambridge can hundreds of low in families who have children ages 4-8 in need of a working bike and a helmet.

+ Investing in the Arts

Term One Achievements

The arts give us a unique opportunity to connect across differences and tell the stories that matter. By investing in our local creative economy, we can support the artists who make our community vibrant. As an attorney who has represented both artists and makerspaces in Massachusetts, I know we can better support the artists who live and work in Cambridge.

Removing Financial Barriers for Performers:

Many artists are struggling in our current political and economic climate. The City Council successfully pushed to eliminate fees for street performers, making this platform accessible to all artists in our community.

Ongoing Efforts

I’ll keep pushing to create a more vibrant creative economy in Cambridge by:

  • Supporting the work of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

  • Working with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to coordinate a free legal workshop on “legal issues that artists businesses” for Cambridge residents.

  • Filling vacant commercial and under-used public spaces with temporary installations and pop-up shops.

  • Creating space for artists and innovators in City-owned buildings, such as the Foundry Buildings on Rogers Street and the Out-of-Town News Kiosk in Harvard Square.