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Content from 2013 Candidate Page
Cambridge is a magnificent, world-class city and we have tremendous accomplishments for which we should be exceedingly proud. I have felt honored by the residents of Cambridge to be their voice on the Council. I hope you will agree with me that I am ready for a second term. With your vote and volunteer effort our campaign will succeed!
During my first term as your city Councillor, I have continued to be a neighborhood advocate. During this term, I have grown to understand how difficult it can be to make a difference in such a complex city, but I believe we can do even better with more input from knowledgeable citizens. We can have clean and safe streets, energy efficient buildings, good schools, flourishing gardens and open spaces. This is a city built by its people; we CAN keep our best and brightest in the community with competitive public education, job opportunities and affordable options for housing. Cambridge is a progressive city, leading the way in technology, medicine, education, energy and climate change initiatives. Doesn't it make sense to have all these reflected in our city government?
As your city councillor, I have kept things in perspective as I recommend improvements. I am open-minded and remain connected and responsive to the people, neighborhoods and communities of Cambridge. I have been bringing people together for decades to solve the old problems of our city in new ways and I continue to do that. I am better prepared after one term to use my passion, creativity and leadership to keep our neighborhoods vibrant, livable and affordable for decades to come.
I got my start in my civic life in Cambridge with Cambridge ECO (Environmental Citizen's Organization) in the late 1980's. I was also a driver in the start-up of the Cambridgeport School in 1990 when my oldest daughter entered kindergarten. My neighborhood activities have centered on crime reduction, rodent & litter control and community building. Through my prior involvements and in my first term, I've met many fascinating and dedicated people and I've learned more than I thought possible about city & government operations. I don't like to commiserate with people about their problems, I like to roll up my sleeves and solve them.
Top 3 Priorities
Traffic, Parking, and Transportation
Encouraging the major businesses in Cambridge to be our partners for adequate state funding for the MBTA will be a priority in my second term. Without a very well-functioning public transit system and the access for all it creates, our traffic could reach an even more frustrating level of gridlock. Some of the traffic is clearly related to the very high level of simultaneous street work but not all of it.
I think we need to be more aggressive at enforcing the rules of the road for motorists, bikers and pedestrians. For too long we have tolerated sloppy driving, biking and walking practices. The only way to effectively share the road is if people know the rules and obey them. When we mail the local motor vehicle tax bill, I will advocate for an insert about local initiatives such as TROMP, Livable Streets Alliance and Green Streets which are trying to change the culture of transportation in the city. I am in favor of a segment of driver's education in the High School to include bike rules as well.
Memorial Drive and Fresh Pond Parkway are roads that are not under our control despite being in Cambridge. I will work with DCR for Cambridge to gain better control of speed, signal timing and pedestrian safety on these roads. Our residents and visitors are [missing text]
Energy, the Environment and Public Health
In early October 2013, with the creation of a Net Zero Emissions Task Force, the City Council made reaching net zero emissions for large buildings a recognized policy goal of the city. Adopting a net zero emission requirement, as the United Kingdom has already done, will protect our environment and save on energy costs. I am proud to have been a part of this accomplishment, but we still have a lot of work to do for the goal to be achieved.
As the sponsor of the MIT net zero emissions amendment in April 2013, I was at the forefront of the movement to end reliance on fossil fuels in building operations. This change for all buildings will be difficult, but we need to make it to ensure our grandchildren and generations to come can continue to live in coastal cities such as Cambridge. Climate change will not only increase flooding, storm intensity and heat waves, but bring new disease vectors and more rodents. Establishing a net zero emissions goal and establishing a city-wide carbon budget will not only reduce our carbon footprint but also set an example for other cities to follow.
During my first term, as chair of the Environment Committee, I have had the opportunity to further an environmental and energy issues agenda. I have sponsored successful legislation to set the stage for community aggregation of electricity, and to explore divestment of city’s pension funds from fossil fuel companys. My policy orders have expanded bicycle safety, electric vehicle charging stations and Hubway Bike Sharing access.
In my next term, I hope to continue working to make Cambridge greener, more sustainable--more livable for future generations. It will be important to have a voice on the Council that continues to push for the implementation of a net zero emissions policy. I will explore using our watershed lands as solar farms where possible. I will also take the recommendations of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Task Force and implement them as rapidly as my colleagues and I can. These task forces are a start, but no matter how great their recommendations are, they will be meaningless without the right City Council to make them a reality. I hope you agree that I belong on that Council.
As an Epidemiologist, I understand the current health issues including infectious disease, obesity and environmental asthma. I will seek improvements in biosafety standards, air quality standards, emergency preparedness, food quality and walkability that will contribute to healthier communities for current and future generations. My education in Public Health and my experience as an epidemiologist gives me a valid voice and gets my issues addressed. I was also the first Councillor to call for a ban on the use of nicotinoid- based insecticides because of the hazards they pose to bees.
In my first term I worked with the National League of Cities to bring a discount prescription drug card to the residents of Cambridge. You can get a card at City Hall or for more information: http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/news/article.php?id=133. Saving average 23% of regular retail costs and cover pet prescriptions too.
Quality of Life
Another issue which affects quality of life in our fair city are dogs. We do have pooper scooper and leash ordinances and they need to be enforced much more rigorously. In order to accommodate the activity and socializing needs of urban dogs, I am in favor of having one more enclosed, off-leash dog park in the city and some shared off leash spaces but only in the early morning hours.
Each of the Squares of Cambridge must have recycling containers and trash receptacles and I will advocate for each restaurant and business which encourages smoking to have smoking butts.
A small but significant suggestion to reduce the alcohol problem in Central Square is to ban all 'nip' bottles, enforce the anti-intoxication ordinances already in place and not increase the number of package store licenses in Central and Inman Squares. I have brought policy forward to ban the sale of ‘nip’ bottles but I did not get support of my colleagues. In my second term, I will continue to work on improvements to Central Square environment.
I led my neighborhood in getting the litter and refuse ordinance changed and I was instrumental in having an interdepartmental Rodent Task Force formed in Cambridge. I was one of the three citizen appointees to this task force and we created the dumpster ordinance, updated the DPW rodent website & brochure for property owners and streamlined the rodent reporting systems. With the ongoing road construction, mild winters and available food sources in the city, we still have work to do to starve the Cambridge rodent population but we do see progress.
Because overall city revenues from state, federal and other grant sources have been declining over the past few years, the city has been using 'free cash' to balance the budget. Last fiscal year we used more than $10M to balance our municipal budget and even reduced the commercial and residential tax rate slightly. This was essentially a tax subsidy and it benefited the largest tax payers in the city – MIT, BioMed Realty Trust and Boston Property – the most. Instead of continuing to balance the budget with ‘free’ cash and keep the surplus cash in accounts earning less than 1.5%, I propose we use this cash to designate a revolving loan fund for residential and small business energy conservation & renewable energy measures. This will create local jobs, save money otherwise spent on utilities and cut our carbon footprint. Another possibility is to implement PACE in Cambridge – a property assessed clean energy fund. I also proposed that another set aside be made for affordable housing. The city could buy property and convert it to affordable and middle income housing by partnering with local housing non-profits.
There are enormous financial, intellectual and advisory resources in Cambridge, a hub of high-tech and biotech companies and world renown Universities. I believe encouraging businesses (and of course the Universities) to stay and provide good jobs for trained residents is critical for the city to thrive. Encouraging residents to shop at local businesses keeps the city's economy stable and helps current businesses. I know that to balance the needs of businesses, residents and universities is tricky. It is a delicate and complex process which will require careful oversight and willingness to make tough decisions as the economy recovers.
Government and Elections
The Plan E form of government requires a strong city manager and an equally strong city council. The City Manager is in charge of running a city with almost 3000 employees and a budget of more than half a billion dollars! Someone who can handle tough negotiation with the likes of Harvard, MIT, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, Novartis and the City of Boston is absolutely required and we had that in Mr Healy and now in Mr Rossi, his former Deputy. However, over the past decade of their tenure in the city, the businesses and universities have shaped the city rather than the other way around. The city now responds to requests for changes rather than executing on a plan for changes.
The residents of Cambridge have elected a body of city councillors who are the only guiding balance for the City Manager. With the new leadership of Mr Rossi, it is my opinion that the council has the opportunity to continue to oversee a tightly run city, but also to correct some of the previous issues in personnel matters. As your city councillor I will remain diligent about the details of city management and guide the manager in a transparent way that is best for all residents and city employees.
One aspect of our government, the election of a mayor is challenging for many voters to accept. I propose that the newly elected council agree to work together to have a mayor chosen by our January 1st Inauguration. The Mayor assigns Committee chairs and memberships and we can’t get started with that work until new positions are assigned. There is too much work to do in any given term to hold up the work of the Council.
Human Services Programs
I strongly believe we need to support expanded adult education in the city. This is a proven way to increase skills of adults for better paying jobs and help parents assist their kids in school. We can help break the existing cycle of poverty with stellar public school education and job skill training for adults.
The library is a shared resource which needs to be open for longer hours on the weekend and during the summer. The argument that overtime for librarians and custodial staff make expanded hours prohibitively expensive is not acceptable one.
Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
I love Cambridge's parks, and so do my grandsons. They offer kids a safe, healthy place to play and adults a place to take a break from hectic lives. Protecting our parks and other open space is essential to maintaining a thriving community where families will want to live. That's why I fought to end the delays in the opening of Cambridgeport's 3 renovated parks. And why I worked to keep Novartis's courtyard spaces and Kendall Square Rooftop garden open to the public and voted to contribute city funding to help with the state's improvements to Magazine Beach and the historic Powerhouse.
But it's not just about parks. Trees make every neighborhood healthier (and cooler in the summer!), so I took the lead in increasing funding for the city's street trees, ensuring they are better taken care of and can continue to provide shade, oxygen, and a beautiful city for years to come. And protecting our watershed lands in other cities, which I advocated strongly for, will allow us to better protect our precious water supply. And advocating for protection of the Belmont Uplands to keep severe flooding at bay in North Cambridge and maintain scarce habitat. All together, these changes, and those I plan to make in my next term, will make Cambridge a cleaner, healthier, more desirable place to raise our children and grandchildren.
In my next term, I will:
The Arts in Cambridge
I will propose that another donated parcel in Cambridge, a vacant lot on Cherry Street, be converted to affordable artist live/work space with retail art gallery and performance space on the first floor.
Living in the Area Four Neighborhood, I am much more familiar with MIT-City relations. It is important to differentiate between MIT and MIT Investment Company (MITICo). The later has rapidly requested permitting for several massive office or R&D buildings in Cambridgeport, Area Four, Kendall and Central Squares. It is far more profitable for them to build non-residential; structures and this is creating local jobs (great news) but swinging the job-housing balance too far away from housing (bad news). The commercial revenue is appreciated by the city – but we are increasing the revenue at the expense of residents who live nearby.
I will seek a requirement that all university garages be available for overnight parking during a snow emergency. We need to make it easier for the DPW to remove snow quickly and I believe the situation will only become more urgent as the climate continues to change.
I believe that MIT should build additional dorms for on-campus graduate and post-doc housing. This will free up some of the rental housing stock for people who live in Cambridge. In theory it could help bring down rental prices, reduce traffic and perhaps even increase municipal voter participation!
One accomplishment from this term that I am very proud of is discovering the loss of promised affordable units by Forest City developers during discussions about proposed new developments. After much deliberation we sent a strong message about our commitment as a city: 1) we ensured that more affordable units will be built, and 2) we publicly held the developers to their earlier agreements.
I also have been very vocal in the planning process with MIT in that they need to build more housing for students, who are otherwise pushed into residential neighborhoods, thereby increasing rents.
In my next term, I will continue to make affordable housing of all kinds a priority in the city. Some projects on my to-do list are:
1) focus on the current inclusionary zoning language. Through inclusionary zoning, developers need to set aside units or money to provide units of affordable housing. We currently require developers (building 10 or more units) to include affordability provisions. This creates a strange incentive for developers to build no more than 9 units. We can develop a pro-rated system in which there isn't an on-off switch. There are several other changes that we can make to loosen requirements and in turn make adding affordable units to new developments an easier task.
2) incentivize, through zoning, more mixed income housing units of all sizes in large developments. It's exciting to have a surge of units in the Kendall Square area for young high-tech professionals, but these professionals will eventually want the space for their families that many long-standing residents desire. We need more units of various sizes to accommodate our new, returning and longer-term residents.
3) broaden the use and impact of the Affordable Housing Trust (AHT), a repository of developers' deposits from the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance and the Community Preservation Act (CPA) Funds. The charter of the AHT says that its funds are allowed to be used for all levels of affordable housing, although in practice it has been used almost entirely for the lowest income units. Let's expand the Trust's impact and transparency and help the working class and struggling middle class.
For many decades, Cambridge has been home to multi-generational families and immigrants of all income levels, to college, graduate and elementary students, to academic institutions, to young entrepreneurs and large corporations and small businesses. We are fortunate to be in a period where industry and development are excited to build here. Let's use that position of strength and make sure to keep our eyes on the prize--to provide a home for the wonderful mix of people that is Cambridge.
Leadership /Policy Experience
Environment and the Transportation Committee, Chairperson
• Massachusetts Municipal Assoc. Policy Committee on Municipal & Regional Administration, Member
Selected Civic Activities
CCTV candidate video (2015)
|Page last updated Wednesday, October 7, 2015 8:04 PM||Cambridge Candidates|