City Council Updates, Budget Season, and More

My Classmates and me advocating for a greater commitment to the public sector


Happy May! I was completely energized by attending my graduate school reunion last weekend (35th! How is that possible?) My classmates are a huge part of who I am and the group was affirming and supportive – especially when I wondered if going from the vaunted job of McKinsey to local government was a good move (I recently realized my salary now as councillor is the same as when I first graduated and worked at McKinsey – in actual dollars, not inflation adjusted dollars…). Overwhelming affirmation from my classmates on my sector transition and gratitude that the public sector has people like me with a solid management background serving… AND I made the point publicly by asking the Dean of Yale School of Management (SOM) to celebrate and encourage more students and alums to go into the public sector. The above photo is me (typically NOT photogenic) with Dean Kerwin (center) and two other alums advocating for a deeper commitment to public service. Another highlight of the reunion was hearing from SOM alum and U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was incredibly pointed and moving in speaking about the need for the country to address public health crises including loneliness, mental health, and climate related issues – and how his education at SOM informs his work every day.

I got back in time for the last half hour of MayFair – a fabulous event hosted by the Harvard Square Business Association last Sunday, and it confirmed my belief that a great move would be to pedestrianize several blocks of Harvard Square. We need more public spaces for people instead of traffic! And while we work to have Riverbend Park open all weekend, let’s make a cafe/beer garden along the Cambridge portion of the river a reality…

This week we had the first two hearings of the City’s formal budget process. We had a Finance Committee meeting all day on Tuesday to review the budget for about half of the City’s departments. Then, on Wednesday night, we had a Finance Committee meeting to accept the School Department budget. As co-chair of the Finance Committee I have worked hard to improve transparency around the budget process. It’s not perfect, but I believe we took a step forward this cycle by meeting several times to discuss budget priorities with the full City Council over the past few months. More on the budget process below.

Below are some comments on a few top line items, some quick notes for Monday’s meeting, and a few events to check out. One policy order in particular COULD USE YOUR SUPPORT. I am asking the city to fund from our own funds a feasibility study on a networked geothermal district for Strawberry Hill. The U.S. Department of Energy chose other great proposals for their grant program, so we should self-fund ours. The work plan is done, the partners include Eversource and the Clean Energy Center, so let’s go! Please write to the Council and City Manager and ask for enthusiastic support of this pilot.


U.S. Surgeon General and Yale School of Management graduate, Dr. Vivek Murthy, in conversation with Professor Forman
Some pictures from MayFair in Harvard Square

City Council Updates

FY24 Budget Process
As I mentioned above, we are underway with the formal process for the FY24 budget. As co-chairs of the Finance Committee, Councillor Carlone and I have done some work with the City Manager’s office over the last few weeks to prepare for hearings. On Tuesday, we had our first hearing as part of the formal budget adoption. After discussing the budgets for over a dozen individual departments, we voted to send those budget proposals to the full City Council with a favorable recommendation. Every Councillor was given an opportunity to dig into the details of each department before voting. Budget season is unique because it’s a rare opportunity to have all department heads in the same room to ask important questions about day to day operations and yearly goals in a public forum. I had several questions for the different department heads, but the main theme I wanted to impress upon the City Manager and his team was in SMART goal-setting and accountability.

On Wednesday night, we heard from the Superintendent on the School Department budget. I had several questions for the School Department centered around Algebra for 8th graders and reading for 3rd graders and in the end I didn’t vote in favor of the school budget. The Council ultimately decided to vote to forward the School Department Budget to the full City Council 6-2-1, but I stand by my vote and my thinking. You can read more about my thoughts on the importance of Algebra for 8th graders in my OpEd in CambridgeDay.

The budget process will continue on Tuesday, May 16 at 10:00am when the Finance Committee will hear from the departments that we did not have a chance to hear from last Tuesday, including CDD, DPW, and others. For those of you who are interested in speaking during public comment – the format will be the same as last Tuesday: we will accept public comment at the beginning (10:00am), middle (approx. 1:00pm), and end (approx. 5:00pm) of the hearing to try to accommodate as many folks as possible.

AHO Amendments
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the Council voted on the AHO amendment proposal to increase heights and density along major corridors. I voted against the proposal along with Vice Mayor Mallon and Councillor Toner because I didn’t believe that the proposal was going to help our city and wasn’t the right way to address changing the AHO. In the end, the amendments passed 5-3-1. The next step for this process is for CDD to develop ordinance language based on the proposal. There may be opportunities to amend the language slightly in the Ordinance Committee, but we will have to see what the language looks like when we get it back from CDD in a few weeks (the Council asked for it by June 1).

Update on Afterschool Care
On Monday night we received an update from the Department of Human Service Programs on the status of afterschool care. I’m very glad we’re making progress, but I still believe it’s a disappointment that in a city with our resources and vision that we don’t have a place for every student – and transportation services to support that. The good news coming out of the update was that DHSP was able to make some headway in hiring, which will allow them to expand access in the coming year. There will be more updates to come, but this is a move in the right direction.

City Council Meeting - Monday, May 15, 2023

Geothermal System Pilot Program
Last summer, Cambridge applied for a grant through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) for their Community Geothermal Heating and Cooling Design and Deployment initiative to fund the design and eventual deployment of community-scale geothermal heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, when the winners of the grant program were announced last week, the Cambridge proposal, which was for a community geothermal pilot in Strawberry Hill, was not chosen. This week, I have submitted a policy order, along with my cosponsors, Mayor Siddiqui and Councillors Zondervan and Azeem, to fully fund that project using City funds. The proposal as submitted was under $600,000 and would allow Cambridge to take a great step to invest in and benefit from a geothermal system in Strawberry Hill. In fact, the NetZero Action Plan and CCWG Recommendations both specifically call for Cambridge to fund and implement district energy solutions like this community geothermal proposal. As I said earlier, I could use the support of some of you in the community on this policy order so that we can make this proposal a reality. If you have the time, please send a quick email to the City Council and the City Manager and ask to fund the geothermal system pilot.

Cambridge Suffragists – Streetcorner Dedication
I’m proud to put forward another streetcorner dedication request this week to honor two Suffragists who lived in Cambridge, Florence Luscomb and Grace Allen Johnson. This proposal comes from the work of my intern from CCSC, Jolie Jourdan, who spent time reaching out and speaking with historians from around Cambridge to inform the research behind the dedication request. Cambridge City Councillors are allowed to submit two streetcorner dedication requests each term and I wanted to use that privilege to honor two remarkable groups of women: suffragists in Cambridge and the women astronomers of the Harvard Observatory.

Local Events/Notes

Fuel Pump Warning Labels
In 2020, Cambridge became the first community in America to put health and environmental warning labels on fuel pumps at gas stations. The stickers are intended to remind drivers of the impact of using fossil fuels and hopefully consider non-polluting options. Similar to cigarette warning labels, the intent is public education. Now, other municipalities and states are considering labels. A UMASS study is seeking to understand how effective the warning labels are. Please take two minutes to fill out the survey below (It really is just 2 minutes). Please share with your networks!

Porchfest – Saturday, May 13
This Saturday, May 13, Somerville will be hosting its annual Porchfest. It’s a celebration of music and community, combined with supporting local businesses. The schedule and map will show you which bands are playing and where to go. It’s a great event every year and the weather looks great on Saturday!

CVC Volunteer Fair – Thursday, June 8th
The 2nd Annual Cambridge Volunteer Fair is on Thursday, June 8, from 12pm-1pm. It will be held on zoom and will be a time-efficient, round-robin of about 30 nonprofits that represent a richly diverse, local volunteering landscape. It’s a great way to get involved in and around Cambridge. It will be held entirely on zoom and it’s free to attend, but space is limited, so please register here.

Charter Review Committee
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing their work reviewing our city charter and to prepare their report for the city council. The CRC currently meets every other Tuesday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm and are actively seeking input from all members of the community. Their next regular meeting will be Tuesday, May 23, 2023 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. They have planned a public outreach gathering at The Foundry, on Tuesday, May 16 at 5:30pm where they are inviting all folks interested in discussing our form of government to enjoy conversation with members of the committee alongside food and refreshments. I would encourage anyone who cares about local government, is following the process, or is just learning about the charter to join them on May 16.  In the coming weeks and months, they will be planning more public outreach events. They have also been working to attend community group meetings to spread the word about their important work and get input from the community. If you are part of a community group and would like to invite a CRC member to your meeting to talk about the work and get involved, please reach out to them via email! I invite you to attend their meetings and events, engage with members of the committee, and discuss your vision for our City charter.  All the information as well as recordings of previous meetings can be found on their website. You can submit written comments at any time to be considered by the CRC by emailing:

COVID Boosters
The CDC recommends use of updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster shots for better protection against COVID-19 Omicron variants. The updated Moderna booster is authorized for people ages 6 years and older. The updated Pfizer booster is authorized for people ages 5 years and older. Children in this age group are eligible for the bivalent boosters if it has been at least two months since the completion of their primary series or booster vaccination. Please see the link below to learn more about getting the booster and find out where you can get yours.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for reading. If there are any topics you want me to cover in future newsletters, I’m always happy for the input! As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick ( , or me for any of your City Council needs.

You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested:

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