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 term 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 second 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 second 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, doing ride alongs with our police officers, fire fighters, and homeless outreach units, and meeting with leadership of our critical resources like CEOC and Transition House. As policy makers, we need to do the hard work of identifying gaps in services and ensuring that human services are delivered in a humane way.
- Children’s Savings Accounts: I’ve been working 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.
- Domestic Violence Survivors’ Grants: I worked with the City and a local domestic violence shelter to establish a micro-grant program in the amount of $50-$250. Covering small expenses helps survivors who are attempting to, or have recently left, abusive relationships and empowers them with a small amount of financial independence required to break the cycle of abuse.
- 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.
- Support for the Central Square Library: No matter who uses our library or why, everyone is entitled to a clean and safe environment, but too many residents don’t feel that way about the Central Square Library right now. I will advocate for upgrades to the library, hiring site-specific social workers to aid our vulnerable populations, and work with DPW staff to maintain cleanliness and work on the beautification of the grounds.
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, police officers, 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. We also need to recognize the racist history of zoning and the damage it’s done to communities of color. I support easing the cost and legal burdens for affordable and nonprofit developers to increase the supply of low and middle income units Citywide so that we can keep the socioeconomic diversity of our community and prevent displacement.
- 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.
- Ending Source of Income Discrimination: Every day I work with Section 8 voucher holders who tell me that they’ve been discriminated against based on their source of income, and we need to be stronger to combat this illegal practice that targets these vulnerable renters. I’ll work to set up a hotline that tenants can call as an immediate resource, and urge the City to take a more active role in communicating with real estate brokers and management companies as a deterrent to discrimination.
- Resources and Incentives for Landlords: Many landlords are open to renting to Section 8 voucher holders but don’t know how to navigate the extra steps. I want to ensure the CDD website and multiservice center include resources like an online portal about the benefits of renting to a Section 8 voucher holder, and designate a point-person to contact with questions. I am also in favor of incentives such as tax credits or help with property maintenance targeted at small property owners, who often own much needed family-sized units, that rent to Section 8 voucher holders.
- Expanding Middle Income Homeownership: I want to expand our Homebridge program and enhance it to look more like the 100 Homes program in Somerville - where the City purchases existing homes, usually multifamily, and sells units at limited equity rates back to residents. This allows us to preserve existing affordable housing, increase the rates of homeownership units among low and middle income families, and is a more immediate solution than waiting for the construction of new units to resell to residents.
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 only State designated Arts and Culture District. 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 already worked to secure an additional $4 million in arts funding through the hotel/motel taxes and Tobin School reconstruction project, but arts need more consistent funding in each annual budget. 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.
- Funding the Cultural District: Cultural districts are designated by the State, and for the first time this year, the designation is coming with $5,000 in State funding. This money is a start, but not enough to pay for beloved events like River Festival (over $100,00) and the Mural Project (over $140,000) which are staples of the Square. I have already secured over $100,000 in funding in this fiscal year, and will be an advocate for increased and sustained funding in the future.
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 term, our City has had major gains and even became a national leader when we implemented our cycling 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 would like to continue our concentrated and targeted efforts to identify the most highly used bike corridors and upgrade their infrastructure first. Key areas like Beacon St. connecting Hampshire St. to Inman Square, as well as a few hundred feet of Webster Ave. are still missing protected infrastructure. As one of the major transit corridors in our City, Mass Ave has a high volume of bicycle traffic, but only the Southern stretch to the river has protected bike infrastructure and a dedicated bus lane. I’ll continue to work with the cycling community to identify and fix these missed connections, including the entire stretch of Massachusetts Ave.
- Side Guards for City Contractors: DPW has put side guards up on all of their trucks to increase cyclist safety, but we should take this a step further and require all City contractors to equip their trucks with side guards as well. If we have large trucks doing work in our City, they should be required to adhere to the strictest safety standards.
- 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. I want to partner with the Cambridge Housing Authority and cycling advocacy organizations to fund access to bikes and clinics to assist with bike maintenance, repair, or even lessons for those who have yet to learn.
- Neighborhood Engagement and Programming: Safe streets begin with strong communities, and I want to work to continue last summer’s efforts in the Port neighborhood to provide diverse programming in the parks, encouraging our police officers to leave their cars and engage with the community, and organizing youth town halls to learn about neighborhood concerns. Organizations like the Community Art Center, Pentecostal Tabernacle Church, and the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House are key connectors in these communities that the City should continue to support in these efforts to create safe spaces for our residents, children and families.
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.
- Gray to Green Initiative: Vacant lots are underutilized as potential spaces for vital City initiatives, but they are also a strain on our environmental resources and major contributors to the urban heat island effect. We need to be more proactive about redeveloping vacant lots to unlock their full potential so that abandoned office buildings or hard surface lots can be transformed into energy efficient buildings with green space and tree canopy.
- 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 attended bi-weekly, and monthly meetings of 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.
- Business Fee Survey: The City should be taking a holistic look at which operating fees are outdated or overly-onerous. In a difficult retail climate combined with high rents, the City shouldn’t be erecting the additional barriers of unnecessary fees. I will advocate for CDD’s Economic Development Division to conduct a thorough survey of fees to see where we can eliminate or reduce them, a small reduction in revenue that would make a huge difference to business owners.
- Arts, Tourism, and Economic Development: I wanted to create vital connective tissue between 3 City departments that are the economic drivers of our city: CDD’s Economic Development Division, the Office of Tourism, and the Cambridge Arts Council. Each of these offices are a key support of the “3 legged-stool” that keeps our economy strong and healthy. The arts, tourism, and our small businesses rely on each other to thrive but don’t currently strategize effectively, and I’ve advocated that CDD convene these three departments in a monthly working group. Our small businesses are facing a tough retail climate, but all of them see sales rise during festivals and arts events, and the Office of Tourism can provide that “missing link” to bring in more visitors so that we’re supporting both arts and small business in an impactful way.
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 and 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 looking at implementing a similar program to diversify their force. I would also like to expand the program 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.