It is August – hoping that vacation rates increase and plans for the fall – especially for schools – will be for in-person learning and working. And hoping that the challenging news (gun violence, climate, economic distress) spur us to act instead of despair.
The uptick in gun violence in Cambridge is heartbreaking. Two of our Cambridge youth have died from guns this year, and we have had numerous injuries and near misses reported. Families are scared to leave their homes and let kids play outside. We must come together as a community and do everything we can to address this problem – it will take an effort from all of us. The Council voted unanimously in favor of a policy order on Monday that requested both short and long-term strategies to reduce the violence, and now it is on us to start implementing. Additionally, next Tuesday, August 10th, at 5pm, the Human Services and Civic Unity committees are holding a joint meeting to discuss measures the city should be taking to address the increase in gun violence. I look forward to a solutions-oriented discussion.
The city faces many challenges, and we are fortunate to have additional resources to address them. Now we need to focus on using those resources in smart and effective ways. At our last meeting, the council accepted a number of grants – millions of dollars – that will allow us to strengthen services. Over the coming year, we will need to decide how best to use those resources. As ever I am committed and focused on monitoring and assessing all our programs and spending for impact.
I am enjoying some local restaurants – incentivized by the Taste Cambridge/Somerville passport program (picture below) sponsored by the Chambers of Commerce. Having street space dedicated to our small businesses is a huge win and must continue. Enjoy, patronize. and spend $ locally.
Updates from last week’s meetings:
The Public Safety committee meeting was focused on the HEART proposal, an exciting initiative that is spearheaded by The Black Response. The city has been working to include HEART in its planning for alternative emergency response. The plan is moving forward – and I hope that the initiative will be able to be in pilot form starting this fall. Today’s Boston Globe had a front-page article on Mayor Janey moving ahead with using social workers instead of police officers in some emergency response situations – which is along the lines of what Cambridge is exploring. I am glad to see a number of cities and towns doing this since we all need to re-imagine policing if we are to address the systemic issues. And as always, I want Cambridge to be a leader when it comes to smart, effective, and just policy.
At the last meeting, we passed several policy orders related to the recent disturbing gun violence. We put off the policy order asking that trees be considered essential infrastructure – so that will be discussed at our next regular meeting, which is Sept. 13. The renaming of the Agassiz Neighborhood to the Baldwin Neighborhood was approved – I had asked for some more time before voting since some neighbors were surprised by the plan and had not been involved. I enthusiastically supported it – and am thrilled that we are celebrating a stellar woman role model. The two policy orders related to restitution/reparations were tabled, which means we are holding off on discussion in order to allow for more community input before we vote on them. The policy order I sponsored with Mayor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Mallon, and Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler on getting city staff (including school department staff) 100% vaccinated passed unanimously and I hope to get a report on that soon.
City Manager search hearing – Government operations committee – August 11th, 5:30pm: Following a committee hearing on the search process this week, the government ops committee will meet again to continue the discussion. I am pleased with the number of hearings we have held – four up to this point – since hiring a city manager is the single most important job of the council. And the process we undergo will determine the strength of the candidate we hire. I have been pushing for a few pieces of the search process that I believe are important:
That the entire council have a vote on the search decisions (only 5 members sit on the government ops committee)
That we ensure no internal candidate is elevated early on, as I have seen in previous searches how that can dissuade outside candidates from applying
That we are aggressive in disseminating the job opening and encouraging candidates from across the country to apply – this should not be a city manager search in just the Greater Boston area
Elimination of single and two-family zoning – NLTP and Housing committees – August 24th, 1:00pm: multiple zoning petitions written by citizens were introduced over the last year and neither moved forward. These petitions often get caught up in political battles (fraught with misinformation), and I decided to work with Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler to hold a series of NLTP+Housing committees hearings to discuss pieces of each petition. One piece that we have heard a lot about has been the single- and two-family only zoning that exists in Cambridge. While Cambridge is not Minneapolis (zoned for 70% single-family only), there are good reasons to look closely at the exclusionary aspects of our zoning code. Personally, I believe that the most potential exists in our corridors and around our transit hubs. Mass Ave from Harvard to Central and Central to Kendall has a zoning envelope that can hold far more units than currently exist, and I want us to focus our energy there. For this upcoming hearing, I am also looking forward to discussing the merits of eliminating single- and two-family zoning.
Remember to wear your masks! Official guidance, as of today in Cambridge, is that it is recommended that you wear a mask while inside. And a reminder that not all masks are created equal. Here is some advice from Jill Crittenden, who was the chair of Cambridge’s expert advisory panel:
The particle size is the same for all variants as I understand it. Jamie can provide expert input, but I think it is important to filter out a higher percentage of the delta variant since it is more likely to take hold (bind receptor) when you are exposed to it. Here is the last document that I shared with links to wear to purchase high-filtration masks: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19ALMpBfdOBm2lWV40cFzxUok_nHIAeb8/view?usp=sharing
Choose ones that have earloops and are sized for your face. The boat-shaped style fits most people more snugly than the bifold (KN95 are bifold, most but not all KF94 are boat-shaped).
RECESS! – a great event that provides programming to youth in Cambridge. This program is free, safe, and in-person, designed specifically for and with Cambridge’s middle schoolers to provide new and engaging experiences as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. RECESS! is brought to the community through a collaboration of Mayors office, CPS, the Middle School Network, Friday Night Hype, and the City of Cambridge. Continuing through Thursday, August 12th, the RECESS! program runs from 12–4pm on Mondays through Thursdays. You can still register here to participate!
Yoga on the Lawn with Cap Aguilar – Main Library – 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Saturday, August 7, 2021: this is a free event that looks wonderful. Here is the description: Join Cap Aguilar (she/they) for weekly yoga classes on the lawn at the Main Branch! Each class will be 90 minutes, where we will explore movement, mindfulness, and breathing practices for 75 minutes followed by 15 minutes for reflective journaling and/or conversation. Register here.
Glocal Challenge Finals: Join us for the Glocal Challenge Finals Thursday, August 12, from 12-3 p.m. at Starlight Square. Public voting will take place from 12-2 p.m. and the final pitches will take place at 2 p.m. on the main stage. Help us celebrate these amazing teens and their work this summer. Register for tickets here
Cambridge Community Port Pride Day will take place on Saturday, August 14, at 11 a.m., at Clement Morgan Park, 60 Columbia St. Rain date is August 28. Residents should expect street closures around the park. In addition to the annual basketball tournament and Designer Bingo, this year’s event will also include the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mobile clinic and a job fair with employers offering on-the- spot interviews and making potential job offers. Additional information and local resources will also be available.
Celebrating National Black Business Month: Continue to celebrate National Black Business Month! National Black Business Month recognizes the importance of Black and Brown businesses to local communities and to the national economy. Events, workshops, and networking opportunities will be held throughout the month to provide resources to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs. Community members may join the celebration by supporting Black-owned businesses and other entrepreneurs during this month and beyond.
Last week’s quesetion: Who was Squaw Sachem and why should we all learn about her? And what street/building/monument should we name after her?
Read about Squaw Sachem here. What would be an appropriate memorial? Send ideas!