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In 2014, Marc was the first freshman City Councillor in a decade to be named Chair of the Finance Committee. In that role, Marc worked with the city administration to develop and pass a budget that not only kept property taxes low but added many new services and programs to a city that already does so much and helped communicate the nearly half billion dollar city budget to the Council and the community at large.
Marc has dedicated this term to better understanding the problem of poverty in Cambridge. As Chair of the Human Services and Veterans' Committee and Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Income Insecurity, Marc is holding a series of meetings focused on poverty, hunger, and the real cost of living in Cambridge to better learn the effect that these issues have on our community and in what ways we can provide improved coverage of services. As a member of the Housing Committee, Marc is tackling the affordable housing crisis in Cambridge by sponsoring a number of policy orders to create more affordable housing in our city.
Marc is always willing to meet with anyone who wishes to share his or her thoughts and concerns regarding Cambridge. To reach Marc, please email him at email@example.com, or call 617-349-4264 to schedule a meeting.
Land Use, Planning, Zoning, Density
There are some who believe that the best way to manage this growth is to not provide additional housing and hope that people will stop wanting to live in Cambridge. Unfortunately, that is unlikely. What we have seen instead is that as the industry in Cambridge has changed, and there are more people earning more money, this lack of housing stock has led to skyrocketing rental and housing costs.
We need to find a way to balance the increasing desire of people who want to live in Cambridge with our limited space. To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is. I don’t think anyone knows. What I do know is that balance is important and if we don’t provide additional density, particularly around transit hubs, then rental and housing prices will continue to rise. With that said, there is a limit to what our infrastructure can support and we must always be cognizant of the livability of our neighborhoods.
I was proud to vote for a city-wide master plan that will tackle many of these questions and am excited that this process will soon be taking off at full speed.
Economic Development and Commerce
Another issue facing our community is the challenge of operating a small business in Cambridge. With high rents and more and more people ordering items online, many small businesses are finding it hard to succeed. As the Finance Chair this term, I worked with City leaders to ensure that funding was available for various programs that support small businesses.
Some folks have worried that building more housing will increase rents. The data, in fact, suggests the opposite. In the ten years following the loss of rent control, Cambridge lost close to 10% of our rental stock to condominium conversion, dropping the number of rental units available. During that time, the monthly rent of a one bedroom apartment rose from $913 in 1996 to $1,600 by 2006, an increase of 75%. From 2010 to the start of 2013 the city added 800 units of housing. During that time the price of a one bedroom apartment rose from $1,725 to $2,500, an increase of 45%. From 2013 to May 2015, the city added 1,300 units of additional housing. The price of 1bedroom went from $2,500 to $2,300 per month, a decrease of 8%. There is no question that rents are still outrageously high, but what these figures show is that when we take housing stock away, prices go up, when we add housing stock, prices go down. Building housing works.
The Greater Boston Housing Report Card, written by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, states: "Our own statistical analysis indicates that when the rental vacancy rate has fallen below 5.5 percent, landlords are able to extract higher rents. Facing little inventory, renters are forced to compete for a limited number of available units. Low vacancy rates are good for landlords but anathema for renters." It goes on to say, "Only by creating sufficient supply to meet demand - and producing appropriate housing for the changing demography of the region - can we hope to moderate prices and rents." Building more housing in and of itself won't solve this problem, but not building housing will only make things worse.
My approach to dealing with this issue is to fight it on many fronts:
Energy, the Environment, and Public Health
Regarding Public Health, I was very proud of taking the lead on updating and strengthening our Tobacco Ordinance. Not only did we ban smoking in public parks and outdoor seating in restaurants, we also raised the age to purchase all tobacco products to 21 years old. This move earned praise from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and now the state is moving forward to raise the age to 21.
Traffic, Parking, and Transportation
That can be due to many reasons. One is commuter traffic. Many people from the suburbs travel to or through Cambridge to get to work. We need to work together to expand the Red Line into Arlington and Lexington. Another reason is that the City has made very specific decisions that has deliberately created traffic. Over the past decade the City has widened sidewalks, added bike lanes, added raised crosswalks, bump outs and street lights. These are all positive for increasing bike and pedestrian safety, however, they lead to slowing down cars and creating congestion.
We need to continue to support other modes of transportation by making it safer to bike in the city, requiring developers to provide Zip Car or other care sharing memberships to their residents, and looking at ways to improve the public transportation system.
Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
When considering open space around larger developments, such as in Kendall Square, I would like to see open space that is usable and inviting to the community. Much of the open space in our more industrial areas look more like front lawns for the building and not places where people feel invited to enjoy. Kendall Square specifically is changing from a purely commerce driven area to a mixed neighborhood of commercial and residential. The open space in this area needs to reflect this change.
Municipal Finance (budget, assessments, property taxes, etc.)
Some of the highlights from this budget include 12 new full-time positions including a Net Zero Planner, a Housing Planner, an Organics Recycling Manager, a Public Works Landscape Administrator, a DHSP Community Engagement Team Leader, a S.T.E.A.M. Coordinator, a Parking Control Officer, a Licensed Social Worker for Police, and new IT positions. These positions come from policy initiatives set by the City Council and the community and represent a commitment to expanding the incredible services the city already provides.
In addition, the city will allocate another $10 million tax dollars under the Community Preservation Act to create and preserve affordable housing; bringing the total since 2005 to $115 million, which has led to the creation of more than 1,000 units of affordable housing and the preservation of 1,100 units, helping to keep low- and moderate-income residents in our city.
The capital budget also represents a city committed to its residents. As the new Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Putnam Ave Upper School building prepares to open this September, the city will embark on construction of a new campus for the King Open Elementary School and the Cambridge Street Upper School, which will also include renovations to the public library and public swimming pool. While other communities struggle with school buildings that are falling apart, Cambridge is able to move forward without State funding on these projects because of our financial stability and AAA bond rating.
One of the most exciting projects in this budget process was the Participatory Budgeting Process. Thanks to its introduction from Councilor Leland Cheung last term, and the hard work of those in the Finance Department, we were able to initiate a citywide outreach campaign to involve the community in directly deciding how to spend just over $500,000. This process resulted in 380 ideas that were whittled down to 20 and then to the 6 winners, which included a public toilet in Central Square, 100 new trees in certain areas of the city, 20 new computers for the Community Learning Center, six free, public Wi-Fi locations, eight bike repair stations and 300 bilingual books for children learning English. This process was so successful that the city has committed to continuing again next year.
Our ability to be bold and responsible in our fiscal decisions have placed us in a position where we can continue to serve our residents in incredible ways, while building for the future.
Quality of Life and Public Safety
In addition to streets and sidewalks, noise has been a hot topic. I co-sponsored two orders with Councillor Kelley about noise in Cambridge: one, also supported by Councillor Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan, regarding airplane noise issues, and the other regarding the capacity of the City to address and analyze noise complaints.
As a social worker for 20 years, I firmly believe in funding prevention and intervention programs. If we maximize our education, our job opportunities, our human services programs, and our community outreach, we will resolve many of the public safety issues facing our city. We have a police force and a police commissioner who value community policing and building relationships with residents. That puts us far ahead of other municipalities. I will continue to work with the police department to continue our community policing efforts.
I would like to see additional social workers and community workers on our streets, engaging with our young people and helping them feel connected to our city. I will continue to support human services programs that provide our youth with places to go, continuing education, and job training to help them get back on track. Overall, Cambridge is a safe city and we need to build on our success.
I joined Councillors Simmons and Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan, requesting the City Manager work with relevant departments to develop a process to complete a new city plan to address homelessness in our community. I also co-sponsored an order with Councillor Leland Cheung requesting the City Manager advocate for the creation of tax credits specifically geared toward incentivizing the creation and support of transitional housing and services.
In addition, as Chair of the Human Services and Veteran’s Committee, I have held several meetings of various stakeholders to discuss how best to support our homeless population. These conversations led to a process beginning in September 2015 to develop a comprehensive city plan to eradicate homelessness.
Poverty and Income Insecurity:
The Income Insecurity Commission, Chaired by myself and co-shared by Councillor Denise Simmons and composed of city staff, non-profit leaders, and community members, met ten times over several months to grapple with how income insecurity impacts our residents, what the city is doing to support those in need, and what gaps exist in city and non-profit services that should be addressed. The Commission then identified several areas that were most critical: Housing; Hunger; Wages and Employment; and Job Training and Education. We formed subcommittees to research several questions: what is the impact of being income insecure in these areas, what city services are available, what city services are missing, what recommendations should be made to address these areas in regards to each topic. We compiled city demographics on what it takes for persons to live in Cambridge service-free and then broke those numbers down by subgroups to give us a more accurate picture of how many in our community are truly struggling. In addition, we conducted focus groups at senior housing and public housing developments, as well as an online survey that yielded just under 400 responses.
This Commission uses the term “Income Insecurity” as opposed to “Poverty”. We define Income security as the amount of money it takes for a person or persons to meet their basic needs without government assistance. The choice of terms is important. Many municipal, state, and federal programs use the federal definition of poverty to determine who qualifies for support services, but those numbers do not adequately address the situation in Cambridge. There are many who earn more than the poverty guidelines but still struggle to pay bills and may be in need of assistance.
As startling as the results of the City’s poverty study are, the results of the Income Insecurity Commission’s work is even more so. We found that the gap between those who can meet their needs and those who struggle is even wider than we thought. For Cambridge to be the socially just community we want it to be, we need to address this gap with more urgency. For example, the Federal Poverty Guidelines says a family is in poverty if they earn less than $24,250 annually. In Cambridge, a family of 4 needs to earn $108,800 per year to be not face income insecurity.
While we have made numerous recommendations in this report, the overarching recommendation is that we, as a city and as city leaders, need to make addressing income insecurity a goal by providing the proper resources and attention it deserves. Cambridge is a wonderful city with many wonderful programs and initiatives. We are not, however, immune to the increasing economic divide that is ravaging our country. With the people, finances and determination Cambridge possesses as a municipality and as a community, we will be able to tackle this issue in ways other municipalities cannot.
I would like to thank all of those who participated in creating this report, who attended our focus groups and who filled out the online survey. I would also like to thank all the support staff, including Annie Nagle from my office who was instrumental in the completion of this report. Finally, I would like to extend great thanks to Mayor David Maher and his office for recognizing this as an important issue and appointing this Commission.
Please go to: http://www2.cambridgema.gov/CityOfCambridge_Content/documents/Income%20Insecurity%20Report%209.24.2015.pdf to view the entire report.
Early Childhood Education:
As a result, the City Manager appointed the Early Childhood Task Force to develop a set of recommendations to ensure that all Cambridge children receive high quality early education and care. Members of the task force include City and School staff, parents, and community-based providers of family and center based childcare, pre-school, mental health and health services. During the past year, the task force, working with national experts in the early childhood field examined best practices and current research, including learning about regional and national models of successful comprehensive systems of early childhood education and care. The Task Force gathered and analyzed data about early education and care programs and services currently available in Cambridge through focus groups and surveys of Cambridge-based providers. There were also focus groups with parents, teachers, principals and other providers. Based on the research, focus groups and survey data, the task force identified principles to guide the development of recommendations:
The task force will develop specific recommendations for a multi-year strategic plan for building a comprehensive system of early education and care in Cambridge in a meaningful and sustainable way. The strategic plan will likely include recommendations that address affordability and access to services, program quality, family engagement and support, access to information, and on-going leadership and management of the system.
I have co-sponsored three orders further supporting workers. In March, I joined with Councillor Mazen and Councillor Cheung in expressing support for the contract faculty at Lesley University and in April, I joined Councillors Simmons, Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan in supporting the American Postal Workers' Union, and Councillors Simmons and Cheung in urging representatives of Hines Construction and Callahan Construction to meet with representatives of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and the Building & Construction Trades Council to address labor issues.
I have also been a very vocal supporter and participant in the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Thank you for visiting my page and thank you to Robert Winters for his efforts to bring information to the people of Cambridge. It is difficult to believe that I am halfway through my first term on the Cambridge City Council. It feels like just yesterday we were making phone calls, knocking on doors and holding signs. This first year has been very busy. Here are a few things I have been working on:
In addition to these and other important issues, it has been my promise to serve in a respectful, collaborative, and consensus building manner. I have spent my first term building positive relationships with my colleagues and city staff, placing me in a position to move forward important issues for our community. As proud as I am of the work done thus far, I am running for re-election because there is still so much more to do. Cambridge is a wonderful city but we must never become complacent; we must continue to address issues of affordability, social justice, climate change and safe and supportive communities.
I thank you very much for your support. As honored and inspired as I am to continue this work, without your assistance it would be impossible. As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with questions, concerns or just to say “hello,” and please visit www.marcmcgovern.com for more information. Thank you again.
CCTV candidate video (2015)
|Page last updated Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:59 PM||Cambridge Candidates|