Happy Spring, everyone! Want something to do this weekend? Go see “The Cutlass Crew” at the Peabody School. Shows are Saturday (3:00 PM and 7:00 PM) and Sunday (1:00 PM and 5:00 PM). Why? Because the show is fun, sweet, charming, AND about women pirates! I was going to be part of it, but my schedule prevented participation. The North Cambridge Family Opera is a fabulous community treasure and one of many nonprofits that make me feel lucky to live in Cambridge. Plus, it’s pay what you can: suggested donation is $6 for kids and $12 for adults. It’s a show that promises to be a delight for all ages – the lyrics please both kids and adults. I hope to see you there. I will be at a show both days.
There was no City Council meeting this week because several councillors and I were in Washington, D.C. at a National League of Cities conference. As is often the case, I was inspired by hearing from folks around the country. I loved hearing from some national figures in large general sessions, including FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden, several Cabinet Secretaries, and effective municipal leaders. We are all struggling with housing, jobs, opioids, the impact of the climate crisis, and it is good to learn from other municipalities around the country. I connected with a couple of cities doing municipal broadband and will be following up as Cambridge explores how we can move forward. I also got to use the bikeshare and experience the joy of a city with wide sidewalks and roads, a luxury that Cambridge does not have. AND the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, so I hopped on a bike and rode along the Tidal Basin. As always, I found myself inspired riding along the Mall.
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Harvard Observatory. I met with the Director of the Institute, the Director of the Observatory, and the Curator of the Glass Plates, all of whom were generous with their time and ideas. We discussed ways the Observatory can become more involved with the community. My wonderful interns, my husband (who was the Planetarium Director for many years), and I got a tour of the historic telescope, which was the largest in the world when it was installed! It’s a fabulous place and the site of some historic accomplishments by women “computers”. Women were hired to do astronomical calculations since their labor was cheap. Several of the Cambridge women we researched made absolutely foundational contributions to the field of astronomy. Stay tuned for a dedication I will be proposing in the near future.
Below are some comments on a few top line items and a few quick notes for Monday’s meeting.
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!
New EV Charging Stations
Cambridge Water Department is adding three additional spots to its parking lot next week to accommodate three new EV Charging Stations. I am constantly pushing the city to make more EV charging stations available to folks who live and work in Cambridge, so I’m pleased with this work being done. There is still more work to do to make EV driving more accessible.
2nd Annual Hospitality Fair at the Job Connector by MIT
On April 8th, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, the Job Connector will be hosting a hospitality hiring fair at 792 Main Street. This is a great way for residents to network and connect with local businesses. Businesses like The Lexington, La Fabrica, Formaggio, and more will be there to connect with folks looking for first jobs, immediate employment, or just practicing interviewing skills. Encourage anyone you know looking for work to sign up.
City Council Updates
Cambridge Police Department
At the last meeting, we discussed several agenda items related to the Cambridge Police Department, including a report on the status of obtaining body cameras for police officers. This is a thorough update and I appreciated the nuanced conversation. We heard during the Finance Committee meeting on March 23 several details of the upcoming budget proposal, but there will be more discussion to come in future Finance Committee meetings dedicated to the FY24 budget. Commissioner Elow and her team gave a brief presentation on their upcoming budget proposal and how our budget compares to other cities, per our request. This kind of hearing was long overdue, and my Finance co-chair Councillor Carlone and I are committed to improving transparency and ensuring council input into all facets of the budget process.
Two weeks ago, I cosponsored a policy order calling for the funding of a community response program called HEART. This program does great work and I hope this will act to solidify our commitment to community response efforts that aren’t solely tied to police work. We can and should commit ourselves to non-violent intervention and community safety and I think this is a great step. I exercised my charter right during floor debate on the policy order in order to have a few more conversations with city staff and HEART. Since then I have had the opportunity to understand the perspectives of some of the stakeholders. I was happy to amend the order and even happier that we were able to garner support from much of the council. I am committed to a strong contract for HEART that allows them to utilize their growing skill sets and improve our community response efforts.
Like many residents, I was very disappointed with the BZA decision not to renew Starlight Square for a fourth season. Thank you to those of you who reached out to share your support of Starlight. I agree that the city should find a way to ensure that type of space is OPEN – and is able to provide the wonderful array of events and opportunities it has provided. I know that some neighbors have expressed concern about ongoing noise and disruption. I believe that the accommodations made along with some additional changes could address those concerns adequately. And that we can and should be encouraging the programming Starlite supports. Thanks to my fellow Councillors and community members who helped in passing the policy order asking the City Manager to work to provide support for Starlight. I look forward to working to ensure that Starlight will be a fixture in our community for years to come.
City Council Meeting - Monday, April 3, 2023
Two weeks ago, I cosponsored a policy order with Councillors Toner, Simmons, and Carlone to address concerns over the new Garden Street traffic pattern. Councillor Zondervan exercised his charter right to allow for more time for debate. Related, the City Manager has a detailed report on this week’s agenda outlining the City’s plans for Garden street. I am looking forward to unpacking the details of this report with the City Manager and his team. I still feel there is merit in the changes I have proposed and I hope to hear more about the City’s considerations when developing their report.
Free Menstrual Products at the Cambridge Public Library
This week I was happy to cosponsor Vice Mayor Mallon’s policy order along with Mayor Siddiqui requesting free menstrual products to be placed in restrooms in all Cambridge Public Library branches. Thank you to the folks from the Cambridge Youth Council (CYC) who worked to advocate for this essential healthcare service. It was wonderful to meet with the CYC in Washington DC at the conference – our young people learned a lot and enjoyed the opportunity the city provided.
IPCC Climate Change Report
Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finalized the Synthesis Report for their Sixth Assessment Report. Their reports attempt to summarize the state of knowledge of climate change, its widespread impacts and risks, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The long and the short of it is that we, as a world, as a country, as a state, and as a city have a lot more work to do in order to prevent irreversible effects of climate change. The report states that in order for the world to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it is up to rich countries like the United States to get to net-zero by 2040, which means Cambridge can and should be doing everything we can to get there by 2035. Councillor Zondervan submitted a letter to the council this week summarizing some of the content around rising global temperatures. The data and the report are clear: we need to take action immediately. This report and the information therein informs everything I do in the council.
A policy order is on the agenda to push for something I have worked on for years: ensuring that every student in Cambridge has access to after school programs. I have advocated and pushed for many years for the city to fully serve all families, including in afterschool. It was a lifeline for our family when my kids were little and both I and my spouse worked full time. We should ensure all families have the coverage they need for their children.
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. The CRC met with the full City Council last week to give us an update on their work and to request a five month extension to complete their work. We will be discussing their proposed extension on Monday at the City Council meeting. Their next regular meeting will be Tuesday, April 11, 2023 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. 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. Further, you can submit written comments at any time to be considered by the CRC by emailing: CharterReviewCommittee@Cambridgema.gov.
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 links below to learn more about getting the booster and find out where you can get yours.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) , or me for any of your City Council needs.
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