Council Updates, City Budget, Pride Month, And More

Adopt a tree! Every green spot on the map is a tree waiting for adoption. Learn how to adopt one of your own below.


Happy Pride Month! There are many events in June, so please see below for a sampling, and make sure you continue to keep your eye on the City of Cambridge webpage as well as Cambridge Day to keep up with local events. This week I attended the inaugural CLIMATECH conference and was energized and excited to hear from so many great speakers about the climate work in the state. From the governor, to cabinet members, to important institutional players, hearing from so many community leaders speak about statewide climate work deepened my commitment to work on these issues.

Last night I attended the CRLS graduation and was happy to see the excitement of the graduates, their families, and all the staff. I was also able to attend the city’s scholarship event this week, which is a great community-sponsored gift to about 80 students, one of whom was my intern this spring from Community Charter School of Cambridge. Congratulations, Ashley! And also last week I attended the 2024 City Preservation Awards ceremony. I offered  opening remarks to celebrate a number of important projects and individual awards. Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, Charles Sullivan, gave a summary of each project. And the citizen awards were for great projects – check them out. Last week, I filed a resolution congratulating Director Sullivan for being awarded the Tsongas Award for his extensive preservation work in Massachusetts.

ADOPT A TREE! As the photo above shows, there are a lot of public trees in Cambridge in need of care, and residents can help by adopting one or more near their homes. I’ve adopted one just outside my home on Huron Avenue, and water it throughout the summer, but as you can see, there are  thousands of trees that need care. Adopting a tree is easy, and all it takes is a watering can (or an old milk jug!). Young trees especially need to be watered regularly in the summer, especially during times of drought. A few gallons a week of water can make the difference in a young tree’s life and can provide decades worth of shade and environmental benefits. Learn how to be an Urban Forest Friend, and consider signing up for the city’s monthly newsletter. Take a look at the map, walk around your block and find a tree that works for you and help improve our urban forest.

The City Council meeting on Monday night saw the passage of our Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which with capital expenditures is OVER ONE BILLION DOLLARS! The budget goes into effect on July 1. Along with the budget, the Council appropriated several loan orders for various projects, including street and sidewalk construction, municipal facilities improvements, park design and construction, school building upgrades, Water Treatment Plant equipment upgrades, and sewer reconstruction projects. Additionally, the Council appropriated additional money for the construction of the Fire Station Headquarters Building at 491 Broadway. That project is one I have questioned on costs (read the Cambridge Day article) and remain unconvinced that we shouldn’t have approached the project differently, including considering selling the site, and building a new headquarters elsewhere. The project cost now stands at $77 million, which does include a new electric substation, but still that is an astonishing amount of money for a relatively small building.

The entire budget, as well as these capital appropriations, represent huge sums of money and also a high level of service provided to the community. We are learning and seeing how deferred maintenance of many buildings, schools, and other municipal facilities, have led us into a hugely expensive time of new building construction and excessive renovation costs. The past poor management is something the current City Manager is addressing. I fully support him, and am distressed that such expenditures limit our ability to take on other projects. We also have essential investments in water and sewer infrastructure, which allow the City to maintain safe and clean waterways. Ongoing work on sewer separation and sewer reconstruction will also impact our climate resiliency efforts. I do believe that this spending is necessary, which is why I voted for it, but it is now the responsibility of the Council as well as City administration to make sure that these funds are allocated effectively. And we learn from the past to do a better job of maintaining buildings (more on that below).

Although I voted to approve the loan orders, which allow city staff to begin their capital planning, the Council and the community need to be involved as funds begin to be allocated to individual projects. Many of these projects have not been discussed fully with the City Council and need to be. I have talked often about budget accountability and I work to bring in data to push back on costly price tags. As noted, despite the rationale presented for the increased construction costs on the Fire Station Headquarters, I believe that going forward we absolutely need to limit drastic overages like the ones on this project. On the operating budget, I have worked towards accountability by pushing for SMART goals and benchmarking. On the capital budget, I have also focused on benchmarking and project comparison with neighboring communities. We cannot continue to spend more without additional benefits and that message needs to be received throughout the administration. In addition to capital project spending, the budget represents the high level of service the City is able to provide, and as a Council, we have high expectations for that service. We should try and ensure that service continues and yet we may need to temper expectations and projects as macroeconomic trends may limit our financial flexibility in the next few years. As I’ve said, I would encourage anyone who is interested to take some time to dig through the FY25 Budget Book and individual department budgets, and take a look at the goals embedded within the departments.

There are MANY events coming up in June. I encourage you to get out and support the many endeavors our community hosts. Some are below, others you can find in the city newsletter. Dance for World Community is tomorrow. It’s a fantastic and joyful event that is free to all – watching, joining, enjoying – I plan to be there for part of the day! Plenty more to do in the coming weeks, so please see a sampling of some local events below.

Below are some comments on a few top line items from the last week and a few quick notes for Monday’s meeting. If you have questions or comments on these or anything else I’ve been working on, please feel free to reach out at any time.


Governor Maura Healey and Linda Henry of the Boston Globe at the inaugural CLIMATECH conference
Congratulations to the newest class of CRLS graduates

City Council Meeting - Monday, June 10, 2024

Youth Center Fees
Last week I cosponsored a policy order that sought to address the drastic increases in the Cambridge Youth Center tuition rates. Cambridge Day published an article outlining some of the details of the debate. On Monday night, we will be discussing the City Manager’s response. I have concerns about the drastic cost increase and the lack of proper notice regarding the large change. I think the community deserves a clear explanation and we will be discussing the proposal and any potential changes on Monday night. Last week when we originally discussed the policy order, I further amended the policy order to ask staff to consider phasing in the increased costs over time instead of a one-year increase like we have seen. Based on the City Manager’s response, that appears to be the case now. While the rationale presented is clear, and higher income residents should pay more – it is never a good thing to surprise people with huge increases for vital services like child care. I appreciate the phasing in over two years – yet I also wonder if a 3-year phase in would be better. We will discuss the programming costs in more detail with city staff on Monday night. My children are no longer school age, but speaking from experience, I would have been shocked to see this kind of cost increase without explanation. I understand the concerns of the many parents who have reached out about the cost increase and hopefully we will have a better understanding of the details on Monday and we can work towards a resolution.

Mass Ave Construction Delay
Last week there was a policy order which seeks to delay a repaving project along two blocks of Massachusetts Avenue, west of City Hall. Mayor Simmons exercised her charter right on the policy order, so we will be considering it on Monday night. Bike lanes are already in place along this section of Mass Ave, and this order asks to delay repaving to avoid coinciding with outdoor dining season. I do not support  delaying this repaving project. Businesses and residents alike deal with disruptions due to regular city construction, and I believe that we should be working consistently, in all areas of the city, to mitigate negative impacts due to construction, and I trust DPW to continue that work. I also think it’s important to note that the timing of construction schedules and outdoor dining are nearly identical, as the winter impacts construction to the same degree as outdoor dining. I will not be supporting this proposal to delay.

Cycling Safety Ordinance Annual Report
On our agenda Monday we have the 4th annual Cycling Safety Ordinance (CSO) Annual Report. This annual report is required as part of the ordinance to outline installation progress and outstanding work. This report is an important benchmark for a few reasons: it allows us to review year-over-year progress in installing separated bike lanes, it breaks down overall progress into individual projects, which can be easier to analyze, and it outlines installation planning for the upcoming construction year (i.e. this spring, summer, and fall). I think it’s important to note that this annual report has improved from year to year, and  there are still important benchmarks that need to be included in future years. This year, at the urging of the Council, the annual report includes information about parking loss for individual projects. I support the CSO and the goals of reducing single-occupancy vehicle travel, and I believe we need to be honest with the community about what that means for drivers. In every case it means fewer metered or resident parking spaces. Each installation project is different and will require unique solutions, but to ignore that reality does a disservice to the community – and we all need to be honest about concerns if we are going to work through CSO implementation as a community. This kind of information about parking loss was not included in previous iterations of this report. Where this report still needs to improve, is on cost implications. The report acknowledges that more information on installation costs will be coming later in the year, which is good, but we should have had that information much earlier. I look forward to digging into the details of the annual report with the full Council.

Municipal Facilities Improvement Plan
When discussing the budget earlier, I made the point that it is essential to invest in, and maintain, our municipal buildings over time so that we can avoid costly repairs or reconstruction down the road. In 2018, the City developed a municipal facilities improvement plan (MFIP) which sought to correct issues of deferred maintenance by reprioritizing investment in year-to-year maintenance. Well, a lot has changed since 2018 and construction costs have skyrocketed in recent years, so this kind of planning process is needed now more than ever. This week I am cosponsoring a policy order with Councillors Pickett and Toner which asks the City Manager to provide an update for the MFIP with more accurate cost estimates. One additional note is that the MFIP is intrinsically tied to our climate work and planning for BEUDO-required emissions reductions. Having this up to date cost information is essential for responsible capital planning.

Supporting Local News
I cosponsored, along with Councillors Azeem and Pickett, a policy order which asks the City Manager to conduct a pilot program to support local news organizations. Local news is an essential part of our democracy and I believe it is in the public interest to ensure we maintain a vibrant local news ecosystem. Around the country we have seen countless local news organizations shutter, to the detriment of our political system. This policy order does not mean the city would control local news – the idea is to emulate what other municipalities have done and help cover the costs of internships or fellowships for non-profit news organizations. We do need a legal opinion on the idea as well. In Cambridge, we are lucky to have a few great local outlets that do good reporting, but that isn’t always guaranteed. I think this pilot program has the potential to support several local organizations and help maintain robust local news sources for the community, for a relatively low investment.

Municipal Broadband
On Wednesday, June 12, from 2:00pm – 4:00pm the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee will be meeting to discuss municipal broadband. Digital equity and municipally-owned broadband are issues I have been focused on since before my time on Council and have become all the more important in the years since COVID. In Cambridge, many residents find themselves cost burdened by a Comcast monopoly on essential internet services. The internet is an essential utility for everyone in our community and I believe we need to start investing in it in order to better provide for all our residents. Places that have done these projects have found more reliable, affordable, and faster internet options for residents. Next  Century Cities works on this issue. Last term we discussed a feasibility study for municipally-owned broadband and considered a few different operating structures. It will cost money and will require a significant public-private partnership, but I do believe these kinds of investments are important and can protect residents’ essential utility service as well as provide cost benefits to residents through competition. Please write to the council and support municipal broadband – it is an investment we can afford and we should have.

Local Events/Notes

CARE Community Cookout
On Friday, June 7, from 12:00pm-2:00pm, the newly formed Community Safety Department is hosting a Community Cookout at Starlight (84 Bishop Allen Drive). All community members are invited to join for some free food, music, games, and meet with community leaders from the Community Safety Department, ACCESS, the Central Square BID, and First Step. For more information about the new Community Safety Department, check out their website here.

14th Annual Dance for World Community Festival
On Saturday, June 8, come out to Harvard Square for the Dance for World Community Festival. Dance for World Community (DWC) is a partnership-based initiative that amplifies the connective power of dance to unify and strengthen our local communities. Created by José Mateo Ballet Theatre in 2008, Dance for World Community recognizes dance as a vastly underutilized medium not only for personal development but also for creating stronger community cohesion and raising awareness about social issues that matter to all communities around the world.

Do It Your Damn Self!!
The 27th Annual Do It Your Damn Self!! Youth Film Festival is this weekend, Friday and Saturday. The Cambridge Community Art Center organizes the longest running youth-produced film festival in the country and the festival brings together hundreds of youth and adults to public screenings and panels across the region. The showings are free, but registration is recommended. Sign up for the Friday screening here and the Saturday screenings here. To learn more, check out the Community Art Center or the DIYDS page.

35th Annual Cambridge Pride Brunch
On Saturday, June 8, from 9:00am-11:00am, join the Office of Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the Cambridge LGBTQ+ Commission for the 35th Annual Cambridge Pride Brunch. This event will feature a delicious brunch, an award ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations who have uplifted the LGBTQ+ community, face painting, and family activities. A shuttle will be available to transport some participants to Boston Pride Parade after the event concludes. No registration required.

Family Bike Ride River Ride
On Saturday June 8th at 11:00am, join for a Family Bike Ride from Healey School in Somerville all the way to Everett to enjoy the Everett Community Transportation Fair. The ride will be along the Mystic and Malden Rivers on great separated bike facilities. The ride is curated for safety, with minimal auto crossings. Consider joining the ride and attending the Everett Community Transportation Fair (below).

Everett Community Transportation Fair
In nearby Everett, consider attending the first ever Everett Community Transportation Fair on Saturday, June 8, from 11:00am-3:00pm at 7 Acre Park in Everett. This special event will offer free and fun activities for all, including a guided 3-mile bike tour (free Bluebikes are available all day), to the site of the future bike/pedestrian bridge to Somerville; a 2 – 5K fun run/walk; bike, scooter, wheelchair, and helmet decorating with reflective art and other fun things; and kids bike/scooter parade. Come learn how to put your bike on a bus rack, take a guided bike tour, learn about new bus routes, and enjoy free food trucks at a great community event.

Second Annual Le Grand Prix Elmendorf du Pain
Come to East Cambridge this Sunday, June 9, from 12:00pm-4:00pm for a Parisian style street fair at the Second Annual Le Grand Prix Elmendorf du Pain. What’s more French than the storied baguette? The festival will include an eclectic selection of French-inspired  food vendors as well as a selection of local artists and vendors. There will be live music and a generally festive atmosphere. The bread competition will be judged right there at the festival. The event will be on Cambridge Street at 8th Street and will include vendors from a dozen local businesses. Stop by to enjoy live music, French-inspired foods, and wine by the glass!

Zero Waste Master Plan 2.0 Kickoff Community Event
On Wednesday, June 12, from 5:30pm-7:30pm at the King Open School (830 Cambridge Street), the City is hosting a community event to talk about trash, recycling, compost, and other waste programs as they begin to develop the next iteration of the Zero Waste Master Plan. The Zero Waste Plan 2.0 will have ambitious goals for trash reduction, rodent control, trash disposal services and costs, and will have impacts on our climate goals. The kick-off event will have free food, free compost bags, kids’ activities, and fun ways to provide feedback to the City on our waste systems. And take a minute to join DPW’s monthly mailing list to learn more about recycling and waste reduction. It’s a great resource and a fun read!

Bollywood Night
Join Bollywood Night hosted by Councillor Siddiqui and Mayor Simmons on Wednesday, June 12, from 6:00pm-8:00pm at Starlight Square (84 Bishop Allen Drive). Join the City of Cambridge for music, henna, food, performances, and a dance lesson!

Cambridge Arts River Festival
Next Saturday, June 15, from 11:00am to 6:00pm, join Cambridge Arts for the annual River Festival. The festival takes place along the banks of the Charles River along Memorial Drive between JFK Street and Western Avenue. Free admission for all ages. There will be six stages of live music, theater, dance, and poetry. There will be interactive art-making and a great collection of food vendors and shops. And join early to be a part of the Mermaid Promenade that kicks off River Festival. All are welcome to join in the parade. The promenade will be a participatory community spectacle featuring mermaids, mermen, water creatures, a marching band, dragon dancers, and giant puppets. Just line up in costume and/or with props at Winthrop Park at Winthrop Street and JFK Street by 11:15am.

Juneteenth Parade and Celebration
On Wednesday, June 19, please join the Cambridge Families of Color Coalition, Paragon Society, and the City of Cambridge for the 2023 Juneteenth Freedom Parade, departing from Cambridge City Hall at 10:00am and will concluding with a community celebration at Riverside Press Park, 393 River Street (at Memorial Drive). BIPOC members of the community are especially encouraged to walk in the parade though all are welcome to participate. Please arrive at Cambridge City Hall by 9:00am. Activities include a DJ, kids entertainment, and vendors.

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:

Scroll to Top