There’s a lot to report from Term 1! As an active member of 9 of the 11 total Council committees, I maintained visibility to most issues that came before the City. Of those nine committees, I served as chair/co-chair on three: the Housing Committee, Economic Development and University Relations Committee, and Human Services and Veterans Committee. I’m extremely proud to have taken a leadership position on the issues relating to those three committees, including tenant protections, economic and workforce development, and social services.
With your help, I've learned how to be an effective advocate, collaborator, and ally for you and our neighbors. Please continue reading to learn about the initiatives and policies I’ve supported, and pledge to continue to support if re-elected in 2019.
Protection, Preservation, and Prevention
As Co-Chair of the Housing Committee, I have approached the affordability crisis through three lenses: protection, preservation, and prevention. One of my early successes was securing critical funding for the city’s legal aid services, which enabled Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS) to hire a new housing attorney, Jessica Drew. Her full-time role is to support those at risk of displacement and homelessness. I believe increasing tenant protections requires our City to be well-resourced, and will prioritize similar measures going forward.
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.
In 2019, I chaired 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. I will continue to advocate for 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.
Addition housing highlights:
I 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.
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 advocated for greater funding to the Affordable Housing Trust through a local property transfer fee.
Economic and Workforce Develoment
Cambridge has an amazing amount of resources at its disposal, but we can improve how those resources are deployed. Many of the residents I work with face employment challenges because they are veterans, seniors, or formerly incarcerated. I have been a strong and consistent advocate for the comprehensive and continued evaluation of all workforce development programs, because I believe to better serve the needs of our residents we must have a clear understanding of what strategies are working vs. not. Our planning must be informed by data.
I proposed a workforce consortium to help formalize on-going evaluation, which I hope will be in development in 2019. It would facilitate regular communication and transparency across the variety of Workforce Development service providers.
Incentive Zoning & Retail Strategic Plan
Workforce and economic development are intrinsically linked, but we don’t often connect the two. This term, as Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, I initiated the current Incentive Zoning Study, which analyzes the impact of nonresidential development on affordable housing and makes a recommendation for a corresponding increase to our linkage fee.
Not only that, 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 impetus to move new legislation.
Additionally, I have:
Worked to connect small business owners with legal supports
Advocated for the city to better promote Small Business Saturday, an event helpful for measuring investment in our local economy
Supported the city’s Retail Strategic Plan and advocated for the establishment of a Vacant Storefront Database
Specifically, I advocated for a vacant property registration ordinance, implemented in numerous cities and towns across the country, which requires owners of vacant commercial properties to submit information to a registry and pay an annual fee for each year that the property remains vacant. We have many properties that have been vacant for 2+ years.
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.
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. I pledge to support a comprehensive and specific Social Equity Plan that ensures 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.
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. Some key successes include:
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.
Advocating for the City expanding its own preschool capacity by opening additional classrooms to better need the needs of Cambridge families and advocaying for more funding in scholarships for low-income children to attend high quality community based preschools.
Helped organize two successful “Warm Hearts for Warm Feet” sock drive. Thanks to your generosity, we donated over 4,000 wool socks to our homeless residents in partnership with CASPAR and Bay Cove Human Services.
In the fall of 2019, I will help organize a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) clinic with the Department of Human Services for residents who may be eligible to seal with records.
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. Here are some of the ways
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.
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. Last year, I was honored to organize the event 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.
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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.