Denise Simmons, photo by Stephen Maclone

Denise Simmons
2017 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
188 Harvard Street #4B
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-491-7435
Twitter: @E_DeniseSimmons

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Denise Simmons
P.O. Box 390602
Cambridge, MA 02139

Background and Experience in Public Service
I am currently serving my 8th term on the City Council, my second term as Mayor, and I continue working hard to be a thoughtful, collaborative public servant who fights to ensure that every voice is heard in the discussions and debates that shape our community. I am humbly asking for your #1 vote on November 7 to continue my service on the City Council.

I am a proud wife, a mother, a grandmother, a small business owner, and public service is something that is just ingrained in me. I grew up in this community, and I care very much about what kind of Cambridge we will be leaving to our grandchildren, and to our grandchildren's children. That is what first led me toward public service, when I served as Executive Director of the Civic Unity Committee in the 1980s. In the 1990s, I served on the School Committee, and, since 2002, I have been honored to hold a seat on the City Council.

Cambridge has undergone significant changes, and faced great challenges, over the past two decades. We are a community that is imbued with a deep, rich history, yet we are also evolving toward a future in which our biotech sector is drawing the greatest minds from all over the planet. Our challenge now is to determine how to strike the appropriate balance in preserving our rich history – and holding on to the families that have been so essential to our character for generations – while acknowledging that all healthy cities grow, change, and evoolve with the times. I very much wish to continue tackling these challenges head on, with my colleagues on the Council and with people throughout the community. Together, we have already accomplished many great things – and the work is faar from over.

The City Council must continue looking at policies that promote creating more affordable units, and through my work as Co-Chair of the Housing Committee this term, I have built upon our success last term in tripling the linkage fees that commercial developers must pay toward affordable housing with an effective doubling of the Inclusionary rate – which now requires developers of apartment buildings to set aside 20 percent of their units as permanently affordable. These two actions combined are expected to bring in millions of new dollars, and hundreds of new affordable units, in the coming years; this will mean a larger number of long term Cambridge residents will be able to remain in their home city. Having successfully won these battles, the next items I'm turning my attention to are strengthening tenant protections, working to change the eligibility criteria for the City's Inclusionary housing that will allow those who had been priced out of Cambridge to return here, creating a Housing Ombudsman position in the municipal government, and creating the state's first ever LGBTQ-Friendly housing project.

The City Council must also continue working to maintain reasonable development. I have joined my colleagues in trying to find ways to implement the K2C2 recommendations, which provided us with a good framework for how to best reinvigorate Central Square and Kendall Square. Last term, I sought to move us closer to this objective by supporting the Normandy-Twining project which will bring 60 new affordable units to Central Square; this term, I successfully led the City to take the blighted, vacant Vail Court by eminent domain so that we can develop affordable housing in this prime location.

I have also helped numerous constituents navigate through the housing search process over the years. I have learned many important things about this process just by virtue of doing the work so often, and that is why I have compiled a list of important items to know and released an Affordable Housing Search Guide for people throughout the City, which is available on the Mayor's website. This housing search guide has links to the various housing agencies in Cambridge and Greater Boston, contact information for housing and legal advocates, and lists of important questions to ask during the process of signing up for housing. I strongly encourage anyone who is at any stage of the housing search to download this guide, or to contact my office for a copy.

I remain committed to fostering a more vibrant, more robust local economy. To that end, I have been meeting regularly with the heads of the neighborhood business associations in order to hear about ways in which the City can be more proactive in addressing their concerns. I have worked to bring the business community, the members of the interfaith community, the bicycling community, and City planners into the same room so that we can work collaboratively on ways to make our streets safer, and more bicycle-friendly, without making them inhospitable to local businesses as a result. This is still very much a work in process, but the important thing is that we are all in the same room, sharing ideas and information, working on solutions together.

During this term, I held Cambridge Small Business Week networking events in 2016 and 2017 at Le Meridien-MIT to highlight some of our unsung small businesses, to recognize the wonderful flavor they each bring to this community, and to bring our business community together for a nice evening of mixing, mingling, and networking. I am already looking forward to growing this event in 2018 and beyond.

I have also been working to strengthen our local job training and job placement programs. I worked to bring officials from Cambridge and Boston together, to help establish links between our Office of Workforce Development and Boston's "Building Pathways" program, which is a fantastic entryway into the local building trades. I also worked with the City Manager to implement a strong Wage Theft executive order, which is protecting our most vulnerable employees from having unscrupulous employees cheat them out of wages earned.

Last but certainly not least, this term I convened experts from the worlds of business, academia, and government to form a Women's Pay Equity Committee to help ensure that women working for and in the City of Cambridge are paid comparable to what their male colleagues are making, and that women have the same advancement opportunities as men. Furthermore, we have been able to entice over two dozen (and counting) "Early Adopters" for the Wage Equity law that will be going into effect statewide in the summer of 2018.

Civic Unity
Another of my top priorities remains continuing my work around Civic Unity and issues of fairness and diversity. In addition to leading a number of public rallies in support of our great diversity and our inclusive nature (and against the hate and bigotry we have seen across the country this year), I have led the City toward looking inward at our own policies, practices, and procedures to learn where our blind spots might be, and to determine how to better practice what we preach in terms of equal treatment and equal opportunity for all members of our workforce.

I have been leading my colleagues on the Council, the City's administrators, and the public through some difficult, but important, discussions about best employment practices and policies. We have discussed areas where the City has not done a good enough job in the past, and areas where we must work to improve in the future. Cambridge prides itself in being a beacon of tolerance and a community that draws strength from its great diversity. The City, as an employer, must also adhere to those ideals, and I certainly hope to be leading these most important discussions and meetings in the coming year.

This term, I have also held a number of Town Hall meetings, focusing on everything from the LGBTQ Community in the Age of Trump, to a forum for Tenants in Cambridge, to a forum on the intersection of Race, Class, Gender, and Cultural Identity in the City. These have all been energetic and thought-provoking discussions in which the citizens of Cambridge came in and spoke their minds, informing City leaders about ways in which we can and must be more sensitive, more inclusive, and more responsive to their concerns. I have consistently looked for ways to help bring more people to the table to get involved, be more engaged, and to be heard in the conversations that shape our community, and the Town Hall meetings continue to be a fantastic forum for this.

Energy, the Environment, and Public Health
I was proud to vote in favor of establishing the Net Zero Task Force. I support the goals of this task force, I believe it is imperative that Cambridge works to limit our ecological footprint as best we can, and I want Cambridge to be a shining example to other communities on how a thriving city can incorporate these environmentally-necessary ideas into its guiding framework. I have continued speaking out about the need for more communities to look to clean energy, and I was among the many mayors nationwide to loudly speak out and deplore President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation
Unquestionably, one of the hot button issues this term has been the establishment of a network of separated bicycle lanes throughout the City. I am fully in favor of moves to make our streets safer – safer for bicyclists, safer for pedestrianns, and safer for motorists. Separated bicycle lanes are an idea whose time has come, and we cannot afford to stick with business as usual in terms of how we look at our streets and our traffic patterns. Unfortunately, I feel the City has not done an adequate job of pulling in the various stakeholders in working to establish the bicycle lanes, and we have seen heated public debates pitting bicyclists against motorists, young against old, the able-bodied against the mobility-impaired, and so forth. These streets belong to everyone, and only by hearing from all sides, actually listening to one another, and working to understand what our various needs and concerns are will we arrive at creating safer streets that truly work for us all. To that end, I have convened a working group that features representatives of all these different perspectives, in an effort to figure out how the City can move forward with creating safer streets that truly work for everybody.

I have also convened an ongoing discussion between transportation officials and City planners from Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, and our neighboring communities so that we can better share information about regional transit issues that impact us all. These conversations are intended to help us all make wiser decisions, and to work with our neighbors, in dealing with what is truly a regional concern.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
As Novartis, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and MIT all sought to expand their footprints in the City, I held numerous meetings with the planners and developers over the past few years. There were many concerns I had with the plans that they shared with me – among them, I felt that the visionns they each had of "open space" were uninviting, unrealistic, and unworkable in terms of allowing access and ease-of-use to neighborhood residents. It is not enough to bring me a sketch of a new building with some patches of green grass included – I have been insisting that these developers truly look at the neighborhoods they're building in, look at the needs of the people already there, and come back with a concept that is warm, inviting, and respectful of the longtime residents. Due to my continued insistence in these discussions, we ultimately received something that will truly benefit the neighborhoods, and that will give people a little patch of nature in the middle of our fine city.

I have also been party to ongoing discussions about plans to renovate all or part of Magazine Beach, and I have voted in favor of funding for stabilizing the Powder House there. I recognize the importance of open space, of families having a place to get away from the pressures and stress of the City – even when they cannot actually, physically, leave the City. I will continue to work with all interested parties in seeing how we can preserve the open space that we currently have, and how to best utilize that for all.

Public Safety
Cambridge is fortunate in that we are much safer than many other cities – but no city is completely immune to violence. This is why, in the lead up to the summer months, I have regularly convened what I call "Safe Streets, Safe City" meetings featuring City officials, the Police, business owners, members of the interfaith community, and other stakeholders to determine what steps we should be taking to reduce the possibility of violence erupting during the summer months. These meetings have yielded good ideas and strengthened the information-sharing between critical community partners, and I was pleased to see a summer that was largely peaceful in Cambridge.

However, we do know that Central Square, in particular, continues to be an ongoing concern in terms of panhandling, public intoxication, and pockets of violence occasionally erupting. This is why I have been pushing the City to establish a permanent Cambridge Police substation in or near Carl Barron Plaza, as I and many others believe the more visible police presence could work to deter criminal activity and other undesirable behavior. I remain frustrated that the City has not yet followed through on this action, even though the City Council has voted in favor of it, and I will not stop pushing for this until we see this police outpost established.

I am also mindful of the fact that the various social service programs across the City, which provide essential services, are perpetually underfunded (and I was proud to lead the charge in urging the City to help fund Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, which is so critical to providing legal assistance to many of our most vulnerable residents). We must continue offering services to the most fragile members of our community, and that means supporting these important programs as much as possible. We have some extraordinary social services providers in Cambridge, and we must also recognize the extraordinary work that our Cambridge Police patrol officers in Central Square and Harvard Square do on a regular basis, reaching out to chronically homeless individuals in an effort to connect them with the appropriate social services.

My Vision of Central Square Over The Coming Decade
When the various developers initially came in with their proposals for newer, grander buildings, talking about all the jobs they'd bring to the area and the new vibrancy they'd bring to the area, I have pushed back and said: I want a commitment to create more affordable housing, and I want money to help preserve the affordable housing already in place; I want commitments that Cambridge residents are going to be put to work constructing these buildings, and working in the business they ultimately house; I want financial commitments for job training programs for our residents; I want a commitment that you will work to bring in affordable street-level businesses – local and independentt if possible – and not high-end boutiques that are too expensive for most of us; I want open-space created that is going to truly serve the community; and I want these businesses to respect and factor in the views and concerns of the neighbors who are already living there. I have had many, many discussions with the various developers, and I helped get us a much better deal.

I do believe that, ultimately, Central Square is undergoing an exciting period of change and evolution. There is a vibrancy and excitement to this neighborhood that is unlike any other part of Cambridge, and I think that vibrancy is only going to flourish in the years to come. I am excited to see how Central Square will continue to evolve, and I am committed to making sure that the developers, the longtime residents, the existing business owners, and the newer people who come in to the area are all regularly meeting, sharing information, fostering relationships, and working together to make Central Square a place we can all take ownership of.

Children and Public Education
As Chair of the School Committee this term, I have launched or laid the groundwork for a number of exciting new initiatives, including the Get In Line Program, which is geared towards assisting our community's most vulnerable families with navigating the vast array of services and systems throughout the City of Cambridge; the Brotherhood Program, which is geared toward supporting a selected cohort of young men with social, emotional, and academic needs as they work their way toward high school graduation; the Mayor's Page Program, which seeks to get our young adults more engaged in the municipal legislative process by having them play an active role in City Council meetings; and Exiting CLRS, a new program that conducts a methodical series of exit interviews with all graduating seniors and their parents in order to gauge their educational experiences during their time in our public schools. Each of these programs represents a new effort to further the goal of giving all of our children the best possible foundation we can, and I have been very pleased with these initial efforts.

In addition to the offerings at our public schools, there are also numerous extra-curricular activities in Cambridge designed to cultivate young minds. One of my proudest achievements has been growing the Girls Only Leadership Development Program, which I started during my first term as Mayor and which has steadily grown through my collaboration with the YWCA Cambridge. The GOLD Program is a bi-monthly program which teaches life and leadership skills to help guide participants on a path toward future success. This program is free for 8th grade girls from across Cambridge, who meet and learn from a diverse cast of strong, local female business, political, and civic leaders. Meeting topics for the program included high school and college preparation; preparing for different career paths; learning proper social etiquette for formal settings; learning about appropriate online and smartphone etiquette; dressing for success; and learning about the benefits of civic engagement and the importance of networking.

Closing Thoughts
Of course, I cannot look back upon this term without reflecting upon the 10-alarm fire last December that displaced over 150 people from their homes in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood. While any fire that results in the loss of housing and precious family mementos is a tragedy, this was an event in which so many people – from the Fire Department, to the Police, to the City employees, to the more than 20 City and State agencies – truly came together in an unprecedented llevel of collaboration and coordination. Before the fire was out, I had worked with the City Manager and our Finance Department to set up a Mayor's Fire Relief Fund, which would go on to collect and disperse more than $1 million to the impacted families. In an unprecedented move, we also converted City Hall into a Fire Triage Center, with dozens of City departments, community partners, and relief organizations setting up shop and helping the fire victims cut through the red tape and get the services they needed to get back on their feet. City employees practically lived inside City Hall and put their own lives on hold for the first half of December in an extraordinary team effort to help our friends and neighbors. Within three weeks of this fire's devastation, the majority of the displaced individuals had been connected with long-term housing and other resources, this was truly Cambridge at its finest, and I could not be prouder to be part of this team. This is why I am passionate about this job, this is why I continue to want to work hard for my community, and this is why I am running for reelection to the City Council.

I thank everyone for reading this page and educating yourselves on the issues in this election. I also invite you to follow my daily activity on Facebook (Denise Simmons) and Twitter (@E_DeniseSimmons), and again, I am humbly asking for your #1 Vote on Tuesday, November 7.


On Thursday, July 13, Mayor E. Denise Simmons will officially kick off her campaign for re-election to the Cambridge City Council. The event, which shall be held at WeWork (located at 625 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge) from 6pm – 8pm, is being sponsored by a number of prominent public servants, including Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, Congressman Mike Capuano, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, State Senator Jay Livingstone, former Mayor Henrietta Davis, and former Vice Mayor Sam Seidel, among others. Mayor Simmons is currently serving her second term as Mayor, and her 8th term on the City Council, and she states that her passion for doing this work continues to keep the job fresh and exciting.

“I’ve had the honor and the privilege to serve on the City Council since 2002,” states Mayor Simmons, adding: “over the past 8 terms, I’ve learned how to truly be an effective public servant, how to help my constituents with finding employment and housing, and how to make our government more responsive and more inclusive to a greater number of people. I’ve grown so much during my time on the council, and I truly love having the opportunity to help so many people in this role.” Among the highlights of the 2015-2017 term, Mayor Simmons cites her work as Co-Chair of the Housing Committee, helping to steer the City Council toward updating the Inclusionary Ordinance to double the amount of affordable housing that must be built by developers doing business in the City.

“For almost two decades, the Inclusionary rate effectively stood at 11.5 percent, and I am proud of the fact that we have just increased that to 20 percent. This – combined with our tripling of the linkage rates that commercial developers must pay into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund – is going to make a dramatic difference increasing the amount of affordable housing in our city, and will help so many Cambridge residents who otherwise might have been forced out of their community. I am tremendously proud of the work we’ve done,” says Mayor Simmons.

Mayor Simmons also points to the tremendous collaborative effort between the City, the Red Cross, and numerous City partners in the aftermath of the devastating fire in the Wellington-Harrington Neighborhood in December 2016 as one the defining moments of this council term.

“Before the fires were even out, we had the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund online and accepting donations, and the people of Cambridge raised over $1 million to help their neighbors. I was working with the City Manager, the various Department Heads, and numerous volunteer organizations day and night at City Hall throughout December to help relocate over 150 individuals displaced by the fire, and our combined work demonstrated what this City is capable of when we pull together.”

Mayor Simmons is hoping to continue her work and advocacy for the people of Cambridge in the next term, and she looks forward to the spirited campaign season in the coming months. Those seeking more information about her work and her campaign are encouraged to visit, and to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates about her work. Her re-election kick-off is open to all.

CCTV candidate video (2017)

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Page last updated Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1:12 PM Cambridge Candidates