Our shared goals for Cambridge:
There’s a saying that women’s work is often unseen, and that’s also true in government, where the substantive progress I’ve made comes from the painstaking, non-glamorous, behind-the-scenes work of bringing stakeholders to the table and building relationships between residents, City leaders, local businesses, nonprofits, and community partners. The work I have done throughout my first two terms has had an immediate and positive impact on our community, and as your City Councillor, I’ve had the privilege of seeing both the best our City has to offer and the unfinished work we need to do to overcome the urgent challenges our community faces. If elected to a third term, I will continue to put in the hard work of bringing the community together, having difficult but productive conversations, thinking critically, and taking action to get results. Below are a set of policy goals that I share with our community, and will continue to work on in my third term:
In the nonprofit sector, we’re constantly evaluating our programs to determine if we’re truly serving the population we’ve targeted, that we’re meeting people where they are. I believe in the saying “don’t create programs for us, without us”, and to that end, I’ve spent much of my time on the Council in the community, volunteering with nonprofits and others on the front lines of serving our most vulnerable communities like Bay Cove/CASPAR, Y2Y in Harvard Square, and using these experiences to identify and remedy resource gaps while fighting for policy-level changes that ensure human services are delivered in a humane way.
- Children’s Savings Accounts: I worked to establish a program where the City will partner with a local financial institution to open a savings account for every kindergartener. Along with a financial literacy component, starting out with as little as $50 helps kids become 3x more likely to attend college or other postsecondary program and 4x more likely to graduate.
- Summer Food Site Expansion: Restrictive Federal regulations limit where our City is allowed to have food distribution sites, and too many kids are going hungry over the 10 week summer break. I worked with the City to fund our own independent sites so that all kids under 18 can have summer meals, located conveniently in their neighborhood parks, youth centers, or libraries.
- Universal Pre-K: We know that pre-k offers significant long-term educational benefits, but the prohibitive cost has created staggering racial and socioeconomic inequities in early childhood education. I will continue to push for universal pre-k because it will help ensure all kids can reap its benefits, while alleviating gendered wage gaps and helping working parents find accessible childcare as we adjust to the new normal.
- Alternative Public Safety Model: Due to resource gaps in our infrastructure, police officers have been forced to perform human service roles that they shouldn’t and aren’t trained to do. I started the conversation on a potential alternative public safety model where trained, trauma-informed social workers and clinicians would respond to certain 911 calls, like those dealing with homelessness, substance misuse, and mental health emergencies. I will continue to advocate for much-needed public safety reform to ensure public safety feels safe to everyone.
The housing crisis has become so acute that both low and middle income families are shouldering housing costs that are so high, they are going without other essentials like food, proper nutrition, and medical care. As someone who has spent more than 5 years in the nonprofit sector, I’ve seen this first hand when delivering food right into the homes of our elderly and disabled residents, who are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis. Even working class families like teachers, firefighters, and healthcare workers, who at one time could afford to live comfortably in Cambridge, are being rapidly displaced, and older, long-time residents who have watched their children grow up in Cambridge now have to watch them leave due to staggering housing costs.
- Zoning Reform: The basic function of zoning is to dictate land use, but our overly complicated and restrictive zoning has become a tool of exclusion and displacement. I strongly advocated for the Affordable Housing Overlay, working with non-profits to propose amendments that would maximize its impact, while incorporating community suggestions. Since being ordained last year, hundreds of affordable housing units are already in the pipeline thanks to the AHO, helping maintain the socioeconomic diversity of our community.
- Impacts of Racist Zoning: We need to recognize the racist history of zoning and the damage it’s done to communities of color. Redlining and bans on multi-family housing were intentional tools to shut families of color out of home-buying opportunities that build intergenerational wealth, and we must move forward on eliminating single-family only zoning.
- Focus on Transit-Oriented Development: They say that density without transportation is gridlock, but transportation without density is a missed opportunity. Building near transit allows us to create the desperately needed units to house our growing population, while also providing the environmental benefit of reducing single-car trips, because housing near transit reduces congestion and allows people to take public transit, walk, or bike to work and school.
- Expanding Middle Income Homeownership: I want to support our HomeBridge program with additional funding to make affordable homeownership a reality for more low and middle income residents. This program should also be updated to promote equity and wealth-building by allowing owners to pass their homes onto their children, and give sellers a higher return on their investment.
- Using Vacant Properties: Far too many City-owned properties have laid vacant for years, or have been used as underutilized as barren parking lots. When we prioritize parking over affordable housing, we prioritize housing for cars over housing for people, and we need to shift the mindset towards rapidly adding to our affordable housing stock while preventing displacement.
Central Square has always had a special place in my heart, and it also has a special place as our City’s heart, especially as the State designated Arts and Culture District in Cambridge. As someone who ran for office on the promise of taking action, I have truly enjoyed giving this neighborhood focused attention and working to implement long-time recommendations, some which have been sitting on the shelf for 30 years and languishing without an advocate. The Central Square Business Improvement District is a project that I initiated with a Policy Order, but it’s been followed by the hard work of bringing in stakeholders and garnering community buy-in. It’s also been dovetailed with my work chairing the Mayor’s Arts Task Force, where I have been privileged to work with community artists who are experts in both their crafts and ways in which the City can support their needs. I am excited to advocate and work towards implementing many of the recommendations, only a small sampling of which can be found below, from our final report during my next term.
- Implementing Arts Task Force Recommendations: The 23 members of the Arts Task Force have been focused on the ways in which the City can help our arts community thrive. I look forward to continuing my advocacy work on the Council to implement zoning recommendations such as creating a use category for arts, diversifying and reforming our public art process, and streamlining the permitting process for artist facilities and arts events.
- Increasing Arts Funding: I’ve worked to secure an additional $4 million in arts funding through the hotel/motel taxes and Tobin School reconstruction project, as well as short and long-term grants to support artists and arts organizations during this pandemic. The Arts have provided us with much-needed stress relief during the past year, and I will continue to explore both public and private revenue streams that will ensure the Arts are well funded and truly valued.
- Ensuring BID Deliverables: The Central Square BID should ensure that the neighborhood is “clean, safe, and welcome” to all those who live, work, and visit. Since Central is also our arts and culture district, the BID has a unique opportunity to enhance these assets as well. As the BID begins operations, I will remain a strong partner in ensuring it lives up to these values by serving as a connector between residents, business owners, artists, and social service organizations, and City government.
- Central Square Library: Central Square is home to many unhoused residents, who often use the Central Square Branch Library to access the Internet, escape the summer heat, and more. To ensure these vulnerable residents’ needs are being met, I advocated for hiring a social worker for the Central Square Library to ensure they’re connected to resources that can help get them onto a path towards long-term housing. The Central Square Branch is also in a unique, transit-oriented location, with tall buildings nearby. As we revamp its interior, we should consider building affordable housing on top of the Library to add to the City’s affordable housing stock.
If the Greater Boston Area is in the midst of a housing crisis, we are on our way to a transit crisis, and these issues are deeply intertwined. Aside from big picture solutions like increasing transit oriented development, funding and fixing the MBTA, and reducing single car trips, we need to focus on solutions that we can implement right here in Cambridge to achieve our transit goals. Over the past terms, our City has had major gains and even became a national leader when we implemented our cycling safety ordinance to require the construction of protected bike lanes during routine road work, and we need to continue these initiatives to ensure that our streets are safe for all, not just cars. At the same time, we need to broaden our definition of what we call “safe streets” and approach this problem with an equity lens. In some neighborhoods, this means protected bike lanes and advocating for four way stops, but in other neighborhoods, safety means being able to sit on your front porch without a fear of gun violence or go to a park that’s free of hypodermic needles. Considering all of these safety lenses means that our streets can become safer and walkable for everyone in our City.
- Protected Bike Network: I was a proud co-sponsor of the amendment to the Cycling Safety Ordinance, which instituted a timeline for the City to build 22.6 miles of separated, protected bike lanes in major transit corridors. I would like to continue these concentrated and targeted efforts to identify additional areas in need of upgraded infrastructure to create a connected network of protected bike lanes.
- Fare-Free Bus Pilot: Public transit is a lifeline for so many residents, but fares prevent many vulnerable community members from accessing it. I’ve advocated for a City-run fare-free bus pilot, while supporting similar state-level efforts to promote transit justice and align with our environmental goals.
- Truck Safety Ordinance: When large trucks travel in our narrow city streets, vulnerable road users are put at risk. I advocated for a Truck Safety Ordinance requiring all City contractors to install safety features on their vehicles to decrease crashes and enhance safety when they do occur.
- Installing Speed Cushions: Speed cushions drastically slow the speed of passenger cars, but have cutouts designed specifically for buses and emergency vehicles so that they may pass unimpeded. Especially in neighborhoods that have a high rate of passenger vehicle traffic, speed cushions could be an effective traffic calming measure, and an alternative to installing traffic signals or four-way stops.
- Low Income Bike Program: We need to make sure our bike infrastructure is for everyone, regardless of income level. This term I partnered with a new, local non-profit called Cambridge Bike Give Back which takes donated bikes, repairs them and pairs them with residents who cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike. I helped them access free space at the CambridgeSide, which is enabling them to expand this work, and deepen their impact in Cambridge, especially in the Port neighborhood.
Our City is on the cutting edge of environmental policy and we have the resources to implement them, but we run into roadblocks when environmental policy doesn’t take into account the life experiences and needs of all of our residents, particularly across age and income levels. There is a perceived conflict between social justice and environmental advocacy that is often fundamental to our discussions about environmental policy, but it doesn’t have to be this way, and this conflict shouldn’t be a reason to prevent progress on critical environmental initiatives.
- Bridging the “Conflict”: Our community has learned a lot from hosting town hall meetings led by experts on racial justice and anti-bias training, and I think we can do the same with environmental policy. Organizations like the Barr Foundation have been doing great work in facilitating a dialogue between social justice advocates and environmental policy makers, and Cambridge would benefit from their input so that we can make environmental policy that is both effective and thoughtful.
- Small Business Composting: Plate waste is a major environmental hazard, releasing greenhouse gases as it decomposes, and as it piles up in landfills, trash removal costs pile up for small businesses. I advocated for a small business composting pilot that will serve 100 local restaurants, helping us tackle food waste with the urgency that climate change demands.
- Stimulate tree canopy growth by expanding “back of sidewalk” trees program: The City of Cambridge has been looking for ways to increase its tree canopy on city owned land (street trees, public parks etc.) however we have a real opportunity to increase the tree canopy by working with homeowners to plant trees on their property, just behind the sidewalk line. I will work to expand this program, as well as helping to effectively market it for maximum participation.
- Smart Energy: We need to meet our energy needs, but not at the expense of the community’s well being. I’m in favor of lower-scale energy systems, such as micro-grids, which are neighborhood based, increase control of energy generation, and expand our capacities for renewable energy.
To make good policy that truly serves a community, you have to spend time in that community responding to their needs. Over the course of this term I’ve remained in close contact with the local business associations to understand their challenges and how we as a city can work to address them. I’ve spent entire days, like on Small Business Saturday, visiting with small, local businesses and talking to both their operators and employees about their needs. We’ve done small, but meaningful things like develop a small business recycling program that have reduced costs on our struggling small retail businesses, but I feel that the City can take additional, significant steps to reduce barriers to operate businesses.
- Updating the Zoning Table of Uses: The table of uses hasn’t been updated since the 1960s, which has prevented small experienced-based businesses, which are thriving, from opening because of the high cost of getting a variance. Small business owners can’t pay rent and permitting fees while losing revenue because they aren’t allowed to open, so I’ve been a strong advocate for fast-tracking this project and making Cambridge an easier place to do business.
- COVID Grants: When public health concerns forced businesses to close, I spearheaded efforts to administer grants and 0% interest loans to local businesses to help them stay afloat during uncertain times. Our small businesses keep our commercial squares vibrant, so I’ll continue to push for long-term financial support for them as we enter economic recovery and the new normal.
- Promoting Equity: With a budget of over $1 billion annually, the City infuses a significant amount of money into our local economy, and if we want to close racial and gendered wealth gaps, we need to ensure that diverse businesses aren’t being shut out of these opportunities. I pushed for a Spending Disparity Study to uncover any potential disparities in who the City awards contracts from, that will begin later this year. If biases are occurring, I’ll use the data collected to advocate for a sheltered market program, where a certain set of City contracts will be set aside for diverse businesses.
- Alleviating License & Permit Fees: License and permit fees were decreased by 40% during the pandemic, and if we want to see a reactivated Main Street, we should extend these reductions while alleviating other fees. Some fees present a costly burden, while others, like the $10 milk fee, feel nitpicky considering Cambridge’s strong financial position, and removing these hurdles while streamlining the application process for licenses and permits will eliminate barriers to entry for small businesses.
We need to be actively looking at ways to provide pathways for Cambridge residents 18-24, commonly known as “opportunity youth,” into alternative careers such as the building trades and public service positions. These careers provide living-wage jobs with excellent benefits, and many opportunities are already right in our community. We live in a society where post-secondary success is almost always defined as attending a four year college or university, but as someone who has spent many years working and mentoring kids in our technical arts high school, I know first hand that building trades, culinary arts, and public safety careers not only provide opportunities for young people to remain in our community, but to continue giving back in meaningful ways. When we talk about alternative pathways for our youth, it’s important to approach with an equity lens. Too many high-paying careers in public safety and the trades have been traditionally off limits to women, minorities, and other underserved communities. We cannot just open the door to alternative pathways, we need to make sure that they are welcoming to everyone in our community by actively recruiting them, and I want to continue that diversity work in my next term.
- Building Trades: I have been working closely with our local building trades over my first term to work on ways to get our residents working on the many building projects happening all over Cambridge, so they can participate in this tremendous growth. I have been working on a partnership with the Boston Building Trades to develop a program that is focused on recruiting and training women and minorities, as well as other local Cambridge residents, to join training programs for unions.
- Police & Fire Cadet Programs: I was a leader on this initiative that allows 18-23 year olds, who are not going to college but not yet eligible for the Police Academy, to join the police force as a cadet and get paid work experience until they are eligible for the Academy. It’s targeted at enrolling Cambridge kids from underrepresented neighborhoods and demographics, and the Fire Department is preparing to implement a similar program this fall to diversify their force. I would also like to expand these programs so that residents who enter the Cadet program can simultaneously enroll at a partnering higher education institution, and work towards a degree in criminal justice or related fields.
- Workforce Development Outreach: In Philadelphia, businesses partner with the local Police Department to table in and canvass around neighborhoods to reach youth looking for employment opportunities. This model has proven so successful in Philadelphia that they’ve already expanded, and I want to bring it here to Cambridge. We are a City at the forefront of community policing, and adding this workforce development component would close a gap in services and serve a direct need in our most vulnerable communities.