Council Updates – and a celebration of Juneteenth

This morning (6/19) outside City Hall

Hi all,

This morning, the City Council raised the Juneteenth flag in front of City Hall, commemorating the day that word of emancipation reached Texas, the last state to receive notice of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two years earlier. As with much social history, the question of what constitutes a complete end to slavery in America is complicated. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in the Confederate states, not states under Union control. Some of those Union states did abolish slavery before the end of the Civil War, but for others freedom did not come until December 18, 1865, the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (which per last week’s email recommending “Thirteenth”, the Netflix documentary, the “freedom” won was far from true justice or equality). We know the work to address the ills of slavery and racism is far from over. And when we reflect upon the abolition of slavery and our country’s original sin, we must not picture President Lincoln or the 37th Congress, but the many slaves who fought for their own freedom. Freedom in this country is rooted in the abolitionist movement, and without that centuries-long struggle, our notion of human equality and ‘justice for all’ would not be where it is today. Juneteenth serves as recognition of that struggle and as a reminder of all the work we still have to do. 

Note that we are still working on the idea of Black Lives Matter signs for Cambridge – those of you who responded, thank you and stay tuned.  

With hope,

Patty

Council Agenda Overview

  • City Manager Agenda #132 – I wrote about this in last week’s email, but I wanted to give an update after asking the City Manager about it on the floor. While the language in the communication may have been subject to interpretation, I made sure to get it on record that the City Manager is committed to funding a feasibility study for municipal broadband. This is a major victory! And would not have happened without persistent work – the study was first recommended and requested by the City Council in 2016.  Getting the study funded was one of my top issues on the campaign trail and I am thrilled that it will happen. 
  • PO #133 – The order to redistribute the increase in funding from the police department to social services was amended, after which it passed unanimously. I was, and still am, proud to have supported the order in its initial form, but the compromise that was reached is a start. While the Council disagreed on what actions to take, we all committed to continue working together to address systemic racism in Cambridge and beyond. Some of us wanted to see more, but the compromise that was reached and voted on unanimously shows how much is possible. $2.5 million will be reallocated from the police department to fund positions in housing and human services, early education, and other departments a year earlier than expected. You can read about the Council debate here (and if you did not get a chance to read about how we got to this point during the June 10th discussion you can do so here). 

This week’s agenda:

  • PO#142 Civil Service – The question of whether the city should exit the Civil Service system, as many towns and cities have already done, is an issue I have been wanting to work on since my time on School Committee, and the current conversation around diversity in our Police Department makes this even more pressing.……also on the agenda is a PO regarding transparency of union contracts. And getting a report on expenditures and equipment inventory from the police department – both of which I support.   
  • PO #143 Fossil Fuel resolution – This policy order does not directly affect Cambridge, due to our city’s operations, however it is important to take a stand – so I am happy to co-sponsor.   
  • PO#144 Grand Junction – The Allston Multimodal project – a massive undertaking that will begin in a few years – has a few important implications for Cambridge. One of them is the potential for adding a second track on the Grand Junction line, which currently is only one track for freight cars but could eventually be a way to connect North Station to Cambridge and beyond via commuter rail. The current plans for the bike/pedestrian path being built by the city next to the tracks leave space for a second track to be added in the future. This policy order would put the council on record supporting a second track being added during the Multimodal Project.  
  • Last but not least….CRLS has named this year’s SUPER SENIORS and I sponsored with Mayor Siddiqui and Councillor McGovern, a resolution to congratulate each one.
  • Breaking news! DCR will be closing Memorial Drive on Saturday’s as well as Sundays beginning TOMORROW! Moving forward, we will have the whole weekend (11am to 7pm both days) to take advantage of Riverbend Park in it’s true form: as a park! It is supposed to be a beautiful weekend, so take advantage! While the original Policy Order that I co-sponsored asked for even more closures (closing the entirety of Mem drive in Cambridge), we are headed in the right direction and it is evident how popular the initial closures have been. The other shared streets have been delayed by about a week but hopefully these will be open within a few days as well. 
  • Deadline TOMORROW: Applications to the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program are due tomorrow, June 19th! Cambridge students 14 years of age and older are eligible to apply for this opportunity. 
  • Beginning Monday, June 22nd, the Department of Human Service Programs will offer free Online/Offline Summer 2020 Programming to Cambridge youth in grades K-8. 
  • City of Cambridge Departments are beginning to offer in person services by appointment. Get Department information here.
  • Parking meters and regulations are now in effect and will be reinforced.
  • City buildings are (slowly) reopening. Here is a list of City services available during the phased reopening.
  • The Recycling Center’s Household Hazardous Waste Day is on June 27th. Please view the safety guidelines to access these services. 
  • The Main Library is now offering contactless holds pickup! Read more here.
  • Dog parks and tennis courts have reopened in Cambridge! The parks remain closed, though as I mentioned last week I have been pushing for their reopening as soon as possible, since I believe they can be opened now safely as many communities have done.  It is not my – or the Council’s – decision. In an abundance of caution, I understand that the city will not open playgrounds for another week at least.  
  • COVID testing in Cambridge – see testing sites here.

Events of interest: There are many Juneteenth and Black Lives Matter events in the area.  Both live and virtual.  Locally, the Boston Globe highlighted 12 events including a virtual poetry reading tonight at Cambridge’s fantastic Porter Square Books. And tonight in Harvard Square Stand Out Against Racism 5-7 pm.  One of my favorite groups, Sweet Honey in the Rock, is doing a virtual concert tonight in honor of Juneteenth and to fundraise for the wonderful Equal Justice Initiative.  

And in the “change does happen and the young will lead us” news we all need:  the true story of a 12 year old black boy whose plaintive song about wanting to grow up and live has led to a contract with Warner Brothers.  Listen and reflect on why the song was written, and the dark truth it depicts. 

If you are able to, please give!

Here are a few local efforts in need of support:

 

I also encourage you to donate to the following organizations that are engaging in racial justice work: