3/9/20 Update from Councillor Nolan

Hi All!  

No Council meeting this week, as most of us are in Washington DC for the National League of Cities conference. I arrived yesterday – International Women’s Day – and headed for the Belmont-Paul house, a national park service monument of Equal Rights.  A good reminder of the long fight to achieve equality for women. Who remembers that the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced just a few years after women’s suffrage was passed in 1920? [And we still don’t have an ERA}.  

This morning we heard from an EPA administrator and from former speaker Paul Ryan.  As much as I support working with everyone, and the issues of cities transcends partisanship and political parties, I found it difficult to listen.  The EPA used to do a lot of excellent work in conjunction with local officials to help address serious problems. Lately, however, those bipartisan legislative hallmarks that transformed our country have been gutted, and our country is sliding backwards. And Paul Ryan spoke of wanting to address deep poverty, yet the tax bill he pushed has led to an increased federal deficit, lower taxes on the very wealthy, little repatriation of the massive corporate profits, and now the huge deficits are used to defend a possible shredding of the safety net. I listened, but did not applaud.  

Often at conferences, Cambridge is already ahead of the curve – largely thanks to our financial resources and history of inclusion.  And yet, there is much to learn from other localities. The workshop I attended this morning on voter engagement gave me several ideas for increasing our own cities’ efforts – so already I have learned. 

Even while we are down in DC, the city has been working diligently on a number of issues, including a focus on preparing for the coronavirus (see more below). The schools have issued communication and I have encouraged the city to spread the word on what it is doing- since there has been ongoing work to coordinate a response.  We should not panic, and yet we should be vigilant.  

I will be holding office hours regularly – starting this week (sign up at the bottom of the email).  Next week, depending on how travel advisories go, I plan to take a short vacation with my family during college break week  – so will be out of touch for a few days. Hope you remember to take care of yourself and your families in these challenging and stressful times.  I know that many of us are still reeling from the national Democratic presidential primaries – which have been disappointing to many. I am trying to stay focused on the issues that desperately need addressing, starting with the climate crisis. As always, send thoughts and ideas my way.


Council Meeting Recap

Last week’s meeting was fairly light – here are a few items of note:

Agenda Item #6:

ORDERED: That the City Council appropriate $15,000,000 from Free Cash to the Affordable Housing Trust to assist in preserving affordability of units at Fresh Pond Apartments located at 362 and 364 Rindge Avenue.

Unfinished Business #4: 
A Zoning Petition has been received from Suzanne P. Blier regarding Harvard Square Zoning Petition. [PASSED TO A SECOND READING ON FEB 18, 2020, TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER MAR 2, 2020 (deadline is Mar 10, 2020)].
Ordained 9-0

  • This thoughtful petition came about due to an inclusive process with stakeholders from the large array of groups and people engaged with Harvard Square development. That process resulted in a petition that the various groups agree will be positive for the Square, and bring some welcome rationality to the zoning of the area. I am happy that it passed unanimously. 


Below are some of the updates that the council has received. I have been actively pushing for the City Manager and the health department to communicate with residents as much as possible – it is vital that we keep everyone informed and updated. You can follow updates from the health department here: http://cambridgepublichealth.org/services/diseases-conditions/coronavirus.php

  • On Friday, March 6, Governor Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference with the following updates:

    • 1 confirmed case of COVID-19; 7 presumptive

    • 5 of the presumptive cases are linked to Biogen (see below Risk Section)

    • These are all contact cases — not community spread

  • School Closings in MA:

    • On March 6, Wellesley closed 2 schools after a parent tested positive for COVID-19 (contact transmission- Biogen)

    • All Plymouth schools were closed on March 6 (contact transmission-Italy school trip)


  • At this time, the risk to people in Cambridge is low unless they have recently traveled to any of the countries identified by the CDC. Other groups at elevated risk of exposure are residents who have recently visited areas of the U.S. where there is ongoing community spread of the virus, health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients, and close contacts of people with COVID-19.

  • Biogen: On Thursday, March 5, The Boston Globe and other media outlets reported that three Biogen employees who attended a management meeting with about 175 co-workers over two days last week at a Boston hotel have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to a spokesperson.

  • Biogen has tracked all staff who are potential contacts with the three staff who attended the internal company meeting (none of them are Cambridge site employees) and they are instituting 14-day self-isolation.

  • They are identifying all public surfaces and cleaning daily (maybe twice a day).

  • All Cambridge campus buildings are open.

    (Please reach out to me or the City Manager’s office with any questions or concerns)


Thurs, Mar 12 – City Manager’s contract: 

5:30pm – Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee will meet to continue discussion on extending the contract of City Manager Louis A. DePasquale beyond January 2021.  (Sullivan Chamber – televised)

  • I will send out updates on the hearings regarding the City Manager’s contract. As I noted before the first hearing, choosing a City Manager and holding them accountable is one of the Council’s most important responsibilities – this is a process that I will be extremely diligent about. 

Thurs, Mar 26 – My first committee hearing! 

10:00am – The Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee (which I am the chair of) will conduct a public hearing to discuss the timeline, scope, and budget of the Tobin/Vassal Lane School Project and how it fits onto the long term plan for all school buildings in the City to accommodate expected enrollment changes of the next 10 to 20 years and to receive an update on the legislative office plans.  (Sullivan Chamber – televised)

Office Hours: 

Moving forward, I will have office hours every week that I am able to, with the times and locations in my weekly email. This week:

Wednesday (3/11) from 4pm to 5pm at City Hall (Sophie Conference room, 2nd floor)

Friday (3/13) from 12pm to 1pm at Sarah’s Market (200 Concord Ave)

Please email mscarlett@cambridgema.gov to RSVP so your time slot is guaranteed.
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