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Introduction: Hello, my name is Quinton Zondervan and I am serving my first term on the Cambridge City Council. As an immigrant and person of color, I am very concerned about the direction our country is headed in. I am the only candidate in this race endorsed by 350 Mass Action, Sunrise Boston, and Sierra Club Massachusetts, in recognition of my decades-long work on a just transition to 100% renewable energy and on adapting to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. I do not accept contributions from real estate developers or other special interests with business before the council, because I want the voters to know that I’m working for you, not for the developers.
My Story: I grew up in Suriname, a small country in South America that was taken over by a military dictator when I was ten years old. I witnessed the destruction of the press and the killing of prominent citizens. One day, when I was using a machete to cut bamboo to make a kite, a soldier came up to me, pointed a gun to my belly, and asked me if I wanted to die. Soon after, my dad sent me ahead to the United States, where as a teenager I spent a few months living in the small forward cabin of my grandfather’s boat, which I shared with my uncle and his family. When my family finally joined me, my dad’s work permit fell through, and I had to help out with odd jobs after school so we could make ends meet. I taught myself to speak American English, did well in school, and eventually realized my dream of attending MIT. My wife and I bought a home in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood in 2004. We raised two children who attended the King Open and Cambridge Street Upper School, and the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. As a result of my life experiences, I deeply cherish the democracy and freedom we have here in the United States of America.
Climate Activist: I served on the Climate Protection Action Committee (CPAC) for nine years, and as chair for 3 years. CPAC advises the Cambridge city manager on climate change policy and response. My advocacy on the committee led to the city’s climate vulnerability study, which was finally completed in 2017. As Committee Chair, I led the group in establishing 2020 climate goals for the city, which have guided the city’s activities in areas such as renewable energy procurement.
In 2011 I took on the leadership of Green Cambridge and served as president and chair of the board for six years. During my tenure we launched an annual solar discount program, installed hundreds of rain barrels in our community for free, and created a small communal farm in the East Cambridge neighborhood that has just completed its third growing season.
In 2013, I co-authored the net zero zoning petition and served on the task force created by the city in response. The resulting net zero action plan is one of the most comprehensive building emission reductions plans in the entire country, and other cities and towns across the state are adopting similar policies of their own.
In 2013 I co-founded the Climate Action Business Association (CABA), a nonprofit that works with local businesses to combat climate change through state level policy advocacy, focussed especially on putting a price on carbon. In 2015, I represented CABA and the American Sustainable Business Association as an official observer at the Paris Climate negotiations which led to the historic Paris Agreement. In 2017, CABA merged with Climate-XChange and now runs a nationwide network of state level advocacy groups working to put a price on carbon.
FIRST TERM ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
In my first term on the council, I’ve advanced several initiatives and policies to bring more equity to our neighborhoods and protect our most vulnerable residents. To continue this important work, I’m seeking reelection to the council and hope to build a stronger coalition to advance racial, economic and environmental justice in Cambridge.
I was the only Councillor who stood up for Carnival when it was canceled by the city on short notice. I worked with the organizers, including my friend Nicola Williams who is also a candidate for City Council, to hold a peace march and community meeting at the Union Baptist Church. Carnival is one of the only city festivals specifically focused on uplifting black and brown culture, and if re-elected I will insist that it happens in 2020 and beyond.
I partnered with Councillor Carlone to introduce the Welcoming Community Ordinance, which would make it the law for the Cambridge Police Department to serve the public without consideration of immigration status or citizenship. A benign interaction with the Cambridge Police or the courts should not be allowed to lead to deportation and separation for an immigrant family. As an immigrant whos family was served a deportation notice when we came here from Suriname to escape dictatorship and oppression, this work is deeply personal to me.
I took a stand and voted against the school budget, despite all the good it holds, because it fails to address the persistent racial achievement gap in our schools. It is unacceptable that our academic proficiency goals for black students are significantly below what they are for white students. We need to address the structural racism and root causes of inequity, starting with universal preschool.
I secured significant improvements to the parks of Wellington-Harrington and The Port. We planted 16 new trees at Greene-Rose Heritage Park, and repaired playground sprinklers at both Gannett-Warren Pals Park on Jefferson Street and the tot lot on Pine Street. The city even installed a trash can at that tot lot (there wasn’t one) and a brand new water fountain! Kids need trees and working sprinklers to stay cool during the hot summers and we need lots of trees to soak up excess water during heavy rains. With climate change continuing to worsen, this is more important than ever.
I have continued to fight against displacement caused in large part by our ad-hoc approach to growth and planning. Developments like Mass + Main drive up rents in the neighborhood, displacing vulnerable families that have lived here for decades. The city’s own analysis shows that black and brown families in The Port are being displaced and replaced by wealthier, mostly white, residents. I support strong tenant protections, including limits on rent increases under just cause eviction, and I proudly stood with members of the Alliance of Cambridge Tenants and elected officials from around the region at a recent rally in support of legislation from our State Rep. Mike Connolly that would give us the tools we need to address the affordability crisis and create stability for renters. If re-elected, I will continue to stand up to developers who encroach on the neighborhood with expensive housing and high-end commercial space that isn’t meant for the people who actually live here.
I continue to lead the fight against Eversource’s proposed substation in East Cambridge across from the Kennedy-Longfellow School. We failed to plan for impacts to our electrical grid when we began building out Kendall Square with power-hungry lab and office buildings years ago, and it isn’t right to now impose a 150-foot tall substation (with disruptive tendrils in all directions) on the residential neighborhood next door. I introduced a zoning petition with Councillor Carlone that would require the Planning Board to consider impacts on electrical and gas infrastructure when issuing special permits for large new buildings. By taking a strong stand against this substation and refusing to grant any new upzonings in Eastern Cambridge until this issue is resolved, we got Eversource and the large property owners in Kendall Square to the negotiating table, and hopefully, they will find a more suitable location closer to the buildings that require the excess power.
I partnered with Councillor Siddiqui to secure equity in the emerging recreational cannabis retail industry. Prohibition and the war on drugs have been nothing but an excuse to lock up black and brown people, but now, thanks to the law we put in place, those who have been disproportionately impacted will have exclusive access to open retail stores in Cambridge for the first two years
Cambridge should become the first net-zero city in the world! We pride ourselves on being the innovation capital of the world, and there is no more urgent problem that requires our leadership than responding to the climate crisis. We need to do so with urgency and with justice, and that means creating a Green New Deal for Cambridge, creating jobs that help solve the climate crisis rather than making it worse.
We already face a huge and expensive challenge in retrofitting our existing building stock, and it makes no sense to worsen that problem by adding more buildings that burn fracked gas. That is why I introduced a ban on natural gas hook-ups in new construction this fall. The city has already built several net-zero ready buildings, including two schools, a branch library, a women’s shelter and an administrative building. It is past time that we require private developers to reach the same net-zero ready standard through energy efficiency and local renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal and air-source heating and cooling.
When the gas workers of USW 12003 went on strike last year, I stood with them in solidarity because a just transition away from fossil fuel infrastructure must include opportunities for the unions that power our current system. In addition, the big lab and commercial polluters must steadily reduce their energy use and increase the portion of that energy that comes from renewable sources. We can’t manage what we don’t measure, so I’m pushing the city to annually track our progress and set achievable goals. The most recent citywide greenhouse gas inventory was done in 2012, and while a new report was promised in 2018, it never materialized. This fall I chaired two committee hearings to advance annual emissions tracking and annual reduction goals policies.
Trees sequester carbon and protect us from the worst impacts of climate change, including the extreme heat and flooding that we know are coming our way. However, data shows our canopy has shrunk by 20% over the last decade. Even worse, the canopy tends to be thinnest where our most vulnerable community members live. I convinced the City Manager to hire an additional arborist and triple the tree planting budget, with a sharp focus on planting around urban heat islands in vulnerable neighborhoods -- including 14 new trees in Greene-Rose Heritage Park in The Port. But we can’t get there with new planting alone, and I’ve worked to strengthen protections for existing mature trees, including a one-year moratorium on cutting large trees. The effort to put longer-term tree canopy protections in place will stretch into next term since the tree task force’s final report has yet to be published. As part of this effort, I will introduce an amendment to the tree protection ordinance so that it applies to affordable housing construction projects. We must ensure that a healthy tree canopy is available to all Cambridge residents.
I have been advocating for climate adaptation since 2008. The results of the climate vulnerability study are clear, but our community is not moving fast enough to prepare for the changes that are already happening. Buildings are being constructed in the Alewife floodplain, where future tenants will be exposed to serious flooding risks. Public housing tenants and seniors continue to go without air conditioning even as the risk of heat waves rises. And most of us barely know our neighbors, making us even more vulnerable. We still have a lot of work to do to build a more resilient community in the face of climate change. Earlier this term I supported the climate safety zoning petition, but it was aggressively voted down by a majority of the council.
HOUSING: WE NEED TENANT PROTECTIONS
Housing affordability is a pressing and omnipresent concern for most residents. Renters across the city live in fear of an arbitrary rent increase or eviction, and too many are permanently displaced every year. This status quo is simply unacceptable, and the council has failed to act for too many years.
The root causes of the crisis we face include the 1994 repeal of rent control and the city’s commercial development boom, both of which have led to massive displacement and instability for our most vulnerable residents. In just the last six years, median household income in The Port has risen by $20,000 as the neighborhood has gotten 10% whiter and 8% less black, while all other demographic groups have stayed relatively stable. If these trends continue, the neighborhood will soon no longer be majority-minority, as traditional communities of color are ripped apart and replaced with higher-income earning, mostly white residents.
Market-based tweaks like raising the inclusionary zoning percentage, increasing commercial linkage fees, or even the recent affordable housing overlay do not meaningfully address the crisis at the scale that is needed. Even if we reach our goal to build 100 units of new affordable housing per year, we won’t build enough housing fast enough to keep up with the 19,000 person waiting list for affordable housing in Cambridge. This year Councillor Carlone and I negotiated with the City Manager to add enough funding to our affordable housing construction budget to reach our goal. While we definitely need to continue to explore ways to add more affordable housing, our primary focus should be on tenant protections to stop displacement in its tracks and give renters the housing stability they deserve.
Cambridge should join Somerville and Boston in banging at the doors of the statehouse with as many home rule petitions as it takes to get the outcome we need for our renters. That is why earlier this term, I was one of just three councillors to vote for moving ahead with a discussion of Tenant Right of First Refusal, which gives tenants the first opportunity to buy when a house goes on the market. It’s hard to believe that this concept was killed by the majority before it could even be discussed.
Our options for protecting renters are not completely blocked at the state level; in this term alone Somerville was able to strengthen protections for those facing eviction due to condo conversion AND pass a law requiring that landlords provide tenants facing eviction with a list of resources and their rights. While I greatly appreciate and respect the hard work that went into this year’s tenant protections task force, we are still awaiting the final report. The Cambridge City Council had an opportunity to strengthen the Condo Conversion Ordinance back in 2000, but it was killed on a 4-5 vote then, and we’ve yet to try it again!
The rent control law that existed in Cambridge prior to the 1994 statewide ban was far from perfect, but ultimately effective in accomplishing the goal of providing stability to renters and protecting them from eviction. The flip-of-the-switch outright repeal was absolutely devastating and that aftermath has spiraled out of control into the affordability crisis we see today. Nobody is saying we should go back to 1994, but it is time to implement a 21st century version of rent control that learns from the past and finds a way to give renters the protection they deserve without completely handcuffing property owners. California and Oregon recently passed statewide laws capping rent increases at 5% and 7% plus inflation, respectively, and we need similar protections in Cambridge as well. Renters also need stronger protection from arbitrary evictions, and more notice when an eviction does occur. The current requirement of 30 days notice is simply not enough time for most people to come up with the money it takes to find a new place to live in a competitive market.
I am one of the only councillors to publicly support Rep Connolly’s “Housing for All” agenda which is truly a visionary approach to addressing the affordability crisis at the state level. The six bills:
SAFER and SUSTAINABLE TRANSIT:
My transit priorities are improving safety for our most vulnerable road users and encouraging a just transition away from cars as quickly as possible. Too many of our friends and neighbors are being killed as we bend over backwards to prioritize the convenience of personal motor vehicles over everything else. We need to become serious about reallocating road space to make walking, biking, and public transit safer and more efficient for everyone. The city has not moved fast enough in this direction, and it is inexcusable. I am also a strong advocate for improvements to our public transit at the state level, including making it free for all riders.
Protected Bike Lanes NOW (link)
I’ve been a bicycle commuter in Cambridge for over twenty-five years and it is remarkable how little progress we’ve made on bicycle safety in that time. Cambridge has only two substantial cycle tracks, Vassar Street and Western Ave. Major thoroughfares like Hampshire Street still have door zone bike lanes, just like they did when I was doored as a grad student (on Hampshire). Even though a majority of the council committed during the 2017 campaign to a rollout of four miles per year, only one major project has been completed and no more than 1 mile of protected infrastructure was built this entire term. The City Manager is out of step with the council and the people on this issue, and it is putting lives at stake. I am proud to have supported the first in the nation Bicycle Safety Ordinance which will require protected bike lanes whenever major road work is done on streets included in the city’s bicycle plan, but we have already seen the City Manager use that ordinance to justify the delay of a requested quick build lane in Central Square. In other cases, the City Manager has rejected necessary tradeoffs with car storage, for example, on Webster Ave. Next term I look forward to an updated bicycle plan and a stronger effort to fulfill our commitment to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
I will advocate to install protected bike lanes along the entire length of Mass Ave as soon as possible and to complete capital improvements and quick-build projectson Hampshire, Webster, Broadway, and in Porter Square. We must connect and expand protected bike lanes to ensure that riders are not exposed to heavy-duty traffic. These improvements must include bus transit priority and pedestrian safety.
Reforming Rideshare and the Gig Economy
We need to take on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft that offer artificially cheap service on the backs of their workers, clogging our streets, bike lanes, and air with traffic and pollution. We can address the congestion while raising additional revenue for public transit improvements by implementing a surcharge on rides to, from, and through the city during peak travel times. Congestion pricing in various forms has been used successfully in large cities around the world including Singapore and London, and it is now being implemented in New York City. It works by shifting some rush hour street traffic to off-peak periods or to other transit modes altogether, improving efficiency and air quality. Cambridge passengers should be exempt, and the companies should not be permitted to deduct the fee from driver paychecks. We also need to push for state-level reform that ensures all rideshare drivers (and indeed, all workers) are paid at least a living wage for their work. By shortchanging their workers and operating at a significant loss, these companies are able to undercut public transit and taxis, worsening traffic and pollution. Ultimately, I believe we should make our public transit free for all riders, and we should ensure that rideshare drivers earn a living wage.
Next steps: I will file a home rule petition that would allow Cambridge to assess a congestion pricing fee on rideshare trips. I will also work with state legislators to push for universally free public transit, and to demand that rideshare companies pay their workers a living wage.
Car Free Sundays in the Major Squares
The major squares of Cambridge should be car-free on Sundays, especially in the summer. Moving in that direction would improve safety and encourage more cycling, walking, and public transit at immense benefit to local businesses. In order for this to be a success we will have to work with all stakeholders including neighborhood and business associations, and we will of course need to make accommodations for people with disabilities, emergency situations, and unavoidable deliveries. Our planning, traffic and public safety departments need to research solutions to these challenges that other cities around the world have come up with as they transition away from cars (I happen to have been born in Amsterdam, which is aiming to become a car free city), so we can ensure unique needs are met before any changes are made. A section of Memorial Drive is already car-free on Sundays between April and November, at great benefit to everyone in our city.
Next steps: I co-sponsored a recent policy order asking the City Manager to begin this work in Harvard Square in time for the summer of 2020. I will continue to meet with stakeholders and city staff to make sure we can begin the transition towards car free Sundays in all the major squares, starting with Harvard Square in the summer of 2020.
Memorial Drive Redesign
Vice Mayor Devereux and I have worked with various environmental & transit advocacy groups to form the Memorial Drive Alliance, a grassroots coalition pushing for a safer, more accessible parkway as part of DCR’s upcoming redesign of Memorial Drive from the BU Rotary to the Eliot Bridge. The community path along this stretch is one of the most cherished and widely used open spaces in the city, but anyone who uses it knows it is very treacherous. Spanning just four feet wide in some areas, the path forces a diverse array of users into constant conflict: bicycle commuters, casual cyclists, pedestrians, families with strollers, joggers, seniors, people with disabilities, and more. The path is cracked, poorly demarcated, and located inches away from what is effectively a four-lane highway. There are also several unmarked and unprotected intersections that force users into dangerous conflicts with motor vehicles.
As part of this project the Alliance would like to see a reduction in motor vehicle lanes, safe bicycle infrastructure, separated paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and mature tree preservation. This project needs to prioritize the safety and comfort of all park users without sacrificing any mature trees, including the iconic sycamores, which would not survive any expansion or major disturbance of the road bed because of their sensitive root systems. We will need a road diet (fewer motor vehicle lanes) to accomplish these priorities given the significant space constraints and safety concerns of the current configuration. One case study looked at over 100 locations that had experienced vehicular capacity reduction either intentionally or through a disaster and found not a single instance of long-term traffic chaos or prolonged gridlock resulting from such a change. This is remarkable and understandably hard to fathom, but we can choose a safer, more accessible parkland for all without making traffic any worse than current conditions. The best way to get people out of gas-guzzling vehicles and improve congestion is to actually make it safe and convenient to use alternative transit modes.
The city has very little control over the fate of this project, as the state owns the land, but our advocacy through the Alliance has gotten the attention of DCR and our State Representatives, and we will continue to push for these objectives. So far I’ve advocated for an expanded process, met with various state and local officials, and put the city council on record in support of our efforts.
Next steps: I will continue working with the Memorial Drive Alliance to advocate for a park with fewer vehicle lanes, safe bicycle infrastructure, separated paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and mature tree preservation.
High-Frequency Municipal Transit
The city should look into a municipal transit network on high demand routes. A municipal shuttle network could be free, electric, and trackless. Our public transit is broken and we cannot wait for the MBTA to prioritize and fund system improvements. The recent “Better Bus Project” was a revenue-neutral disaster that ultimately worsened conditions for riders on some routes right on top of a systemwide fare hike! Meanwhile the 68 bus is over capacity and children from The Port who rely on it are often late to school. Things are heading entirely in the wrong direction, and we don’t have time to wait: free and reliable public transit is within the city’s reach. We could partner with other municipalities to expand the network even further and make connections that don’t currently exist.
Next steps: I will continue to advocate for this approach as the city deepens its mobility planning efforts. And I will work with local transit and mobility advocates to organize and build momentum around this idea, because ultimately it will only happen if the people demand it.
As we encourage people to move out of their cars, we also need to electrify the motor vehicles that remain on our roads as fast as possible. I worked with Vice Mayor Devereux to secure 7 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at public garages throughout the city. The city has also agreed to my request to pilot the installation of publicly accessible EV chargers on residential streets, which is important because many residents who are interested in switching to an electric vehicle for necessary commuting cannot install their own charger due to space or financial constraints. I’ve also worked on a Right to Charge Ordinance with Vice Mayor Deveruex, modeled after legislation first introduced in Boston by City Councillor Michelle Wu. This would prevent condominium or homeowner associations from objecting or banning individual property owners from installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Governor Baker has already approved Boston’s legislation, so I anticipate that ours will move forward as well. Finally, we need to electrify our municipal fleet as rapidly as possible. I have successfully advocated with the city to begin leasing new vehicles instead of outright purchasing them, so that we can keep up with this rapidly-evolving technology.
Next steps: I will continue to advocate for more publicly accessible charging stations in parallel to improving transit and incentivizing people to move away from cars altogether. I will also continue insisting that we electrify our municipal fleet as rapidly as possible.
Safe and Just Micromobility Expansion
Dockless electric bikes and scooters have become very popular and companies would like to offer such services on Cambridge streets. Though I don’t see these devices as a panacea to our transit woes, I am highly supportive of piloting them in Cambridge. As we move forward though, we need to be careful of companies that rely on the “gig economy”. These companies often skirt labor and wage laws by classifying their employees as independent contractors, even though many of them are effectively working more than full time. In many cases workers do not even take home the minimum wage, let alone a living wage. Job training is minimal, and the bar is so low to fill an important role like maintenance technician that I question the safety of the product, which sees quite a bit of wear and tear.
One alternative to freewheeling Silicon Valley startups experimenting on our streets is to use the City’s own bikeshare system, BlueBikes, to explore these transit options. Consumers having to use multiple apps, each with their own set of rules, is not conducive to successful deployment of this technology. It makes sense to use our municipally-owned infrastructure to pilot new approaches and technologies in a safe and controlled manner. Using Bluebikes also avoids the pitfalls of the “gig economy” and already operates a regional network which is critical to the success of these new modes. The Bluebikes operator, Motivate, has already implemented electric bike and dockless solutions in other systems it operates, including Citi Bike in New York City. Adding a scooter option doesn’t seem like a big stretch, once the state law has been updated to allow it.
Regardless of how we move forward, here are some concerns I have that need to be addressed as part of any pilot:
Next steps: I will continue to advocate with the City for a micromobility pilot through blue bikes next summer.
I am a champion for pedestrian safety. I pushed hard to lower the speed limit to 20 MPH citywide, a change that will roll out over the next few months. The chicanes on Cambridge Street lowered average speeds by 6 MPH, and I would like to see this type of design implemented wherever possible. We should also look at slowing traffic by reducing lanes wherever possible, with Binney Street being a great example. Our current laws enshrine car dominance. Until we admit that, and commit to changing it, we will continue to kill pedestrians on our streets every year, and blame them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Large trucks are dangerous and truck design needs to be more tailored to the urban environment to reduce the risk of collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. We need to minimize when and how often they are permitted to drive in Cambridge. Sideguards are now required on municipal trucks, but we need to change the state law to require that all trucks have sideguards. Cambridge should work with Boston in at least three areas to advance safety:
Next steps: I will continue to push back against federal efforts to allow increased truck size, and advocate for universal requirements that trucks install side guards to avoid worst-case scenarios if there is an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist.
CCTV candidate video (2019)
|Page last updated Monday, November 4, 2019 5:42 PM||Cambridge Candidates|