Council Updates: A Busy May Ahead


It’s May – it’s a full month and it’s spring — almost summer, given this weekend’s weather. The news alternates between hopeful (unemployment is down, people are able to gather outside) and devastating (murders fueled by hate in Buffalo, wild fires fueled by climate crisis). Always breathe and don’t despair, or the bad side wins. This weekend, I attended the rally for reproductive rights on the Boston common – and it was both uplifting (energized by the people there) and disquieting (to realize that reproductive rights are almost certainly going to be taken away by the Supreme Court). I was also at Mayfair yesterday in Harvard Square – in person events are coming back and it was great to see great music, vendors, and a pedestrianized Square.

Last week was packed with all day budget meetings and all day City Manager search meetings. Both of those important endeavors continue. Budget hearings are tomorrow, and the City Manager search moves into the next phase by the end of this week, with finalists being announced.

Don’t forget to check your trash bin size! 75% of residents threw away less than 25 gallons of waste as of 2018, and since then we’ve added textile curbside recycling and had more experience with compost curbside. Most residents, except those in large buildings of more than 6 units, will be given 45 gallon bin equivalents unless they request smaller ones. I requested a 35 gallon one, since our space for the bin is better suited for that size, and our current bin is only 32 gallons. Most weeks we don’t even fill it! For those occasional times (move-outs?) when there is more trash, you’ll just need to put it out the morning of, if it does not fit into a bin.

Also note that Covid numbers are going up in Cambridge and Massachusetts. I will be wearing a mask indoors until the numbers get better. Masks are not required, but with the current transmission rates, I will do my part to keep others and myself safe.

Today’s newsletter is a bit short – since it’s been so busy. Please always communicate any thoughts or concerns. I will do my best to answer.



Last Week’s Update:
There was no meeting last week, although we did have budget hearings. I asked a number of questions on a number of budget areas. For the School Department budget, I had sent some questions ahead of time to help inform my understanding of the school department’s use of resources. None of the questions or data I requested was received, so I voted “Present” on the budget. I appreciate that there is a lot to celebrate in the CPS budget – more attention to social emotional needs of students, an expansion of summer support for students, a new organizational structure to bring more clarity to roles. And yet, there are ongoing issues that remain frustrating – for example, in the area of addressing the needs of advanced learners, the district has gone backwards from the progress made ten years ago. My questions to the School Committee are copied below. I was promised the data soon, which will inform me on whether I can support the CPS budget when the Council votes. 

Thanks for proactively asking if we had questions in preparation for the CPS budget hearing. My questions, which are relevant to my understanding of how well the funding resources are being used, are below. 

  1. Eighth grade algebra has been a topic since Bob Moses started The Algebra Project here in Cambridge 40 years ago. What is the percentage, preferably by sending school, of 8th grade students from CPS schools starting their high school year who have successfully completed Algebra 1? What is the percent of students who enter CRLS from non-CPS schools who start their high school year having successfully completed Algebra 1? 
  2. The goal for more than a decade has been proficiency in reading and writing (ELA) for every grade 3 student. Going by MCAS, CPS is doing better than the state – which is good news. And yet every student is not meeting that critical benchmark. What is the plan to get all third graders to proficiency in reading? 
  3. What is this year’s data on school choice – the K choices for this year’s lottery? And what has been done in response to the directive to bring programmatic change to help even out school choices, bring more stability and implement the full plan? 
  4. How has the Level Up program been evaluated? 
  5. How is the level of engagement and mental health of students assessed?

This Week’s Update:
POR 2022 #94 – Toxin Free Schools: I submitted this policy order, along with Mayor Siddiqui and Vice Mayor Mallon, after I read a recent article in the Boston Globe that details the dangers of toxic chemicals used in building materials, particularly in schools. Certain building materials can have all sorts of toxic chemicals that we are not aware of, which can cause adverse health effects including cancer, hormone disruption, and other health problems. The Massachusetts Building Authority has started a project t0 encourage school districts and companies to only contract with manufacturers who agree to remove several classes of chemicals from their materials. In this policy order, I ask that the City Manager work with staff to ensure that every material used in construction projects is as safe, healthy, and free of potential toxins, and ensure that all construction and manufacturing vendors commit to disclosing all ingredients and using non-toxic materials.

POR 2022 #93 – Terminal Road Connection: As part of many peoples’ vision to invigorate the Alewife Quad area, it has been suggested that a connection at Terminal Road could alleviate some traffic congestion and make the area more walkable. This could offer immediate relief to bikes and pedestrians going to the Alewife T, Danehy Park, shopping areas, and more. Members of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance have met with the City advocating for a connection to be built. Additionally, the Terminal Road connection will also come up within the context of the Alewife Quad Working group, so it would be prudent to investigate this issue. For these reasons, I put forth this policy order, along with Councillors Zondervan and Carlone. 

Other City News:
Looking for ways to volunteer? Check out this complete list of Cambridge Volunteer opportunity, from environmental work to social services.

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