Council Updates, Cold Weather, Charter Review, and More

Join the zoom on Saturday night to meet with members of the Charter Review Committee and learn more about our charter review process!


First of all, tonight and into this weekend we are expecting extreme cold weather. The city has many resources available in terms of warming centers, overnight shelters, and essential safety information for residents. Please review the Extreme Cold Safety Information on the city’s website and be safe this weekend.

Since my last newsletter we have had several important committee meetings, which I will touch on below, including a meeting of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee to discuss BEUDO with business and institutional leaders and Eversource, and a Finance Committee meeting to discuss the City’s Capital Budget. On January 25, we had the continuation of a Special Meeting of the City Council to discuss the police shooting which continues to reverberate within the community. The council was able to ask many questions, but this is certainly not the end of the council’s work here, as you will see in next week’s agenda. There are several policy orders and city manager agenda items related to policing and community response in Cambridge, including the policy order I submitted with my Finance co-chair, Councillor Carlone, which indicates a Finance Committee meeting will be held to review the upcoming Police Budget proposal and specifically a budget proposal for body camera implementation. This week, the City Council held a joint meeting with the School Committee to discuss the School Committee Budget, which will officially be submitted in a few weeks.

Finally, this week I was moved to attend a funeral service for former Cambridge Mayor and state representative Alice Wolf. All who spoke, including state Representative Marjorie Decker gave beautiful, heartfelt tributes. For all who knew her or were touched by her, Alice Wolf’s passing is deeply sad. She was effective, compassionate, tenacious, kind and a fierce fighter for justice – never forgetting her family’s journey to the USA came about due to a complete stranger sponsoring their escape from Nazi Europe. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the world are the better for her having lived and worked and acted. CambridgeDay published a touching tribute to her political life in Cambridge, which spanned decades and impacted countless in the community. Senator Pat Jehlen is one among many local leaders who worked with Alice Wolf and appreciated her many accomplishments and approach to policy and working for justice.

Our City Manager and Mayor were named among the movers and shakers in the Asian American Pacific Islanders in the Boston area – Shirley Leung’s article named them a “powerful pair.” Councillor Burhan Azeem and the City Manager’s Chief of Staff B. Kimmerman were also recognized as emerging stars of the AAPI community! I am glad that Cambridge was so well represented in this important event.

Below are some comments on a few top line items and a few quick notes for next Monday’s meeting.


Local Events/Notes

Charter Review Committee Public Forum (zoom)
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing its 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. Their next meeting is this Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at 5:30pm. They also have a public forum event tomorrow night – Saturday, February 4, 2023 from 6-8pm via zoom. I invite you to attend the zoom forum, 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

February is Black History Month
There are a number of local events – the main library has an exhibit on Black Trailblazers, and there are a number of speakers around the city, in Boston, and beyond. Check out local listings – and visit any of many  museums, especially this cold weekend.

City Council Updates

School Committee Budget Meeting
On Monday night, the City Council held a joint roundtable meeting with the School Committee to discuss the upcoming budget proposal. I was happy to see that a goal from when I was on School Committee has finally been met: expectations for students are high across the board.  Emily Dexter, Laurance Kimbrough and I had tried to get the district’s goals on achievement to be equally high for all groups – and we couldn’t get 4 votes to pass that policy. Happy to see the current administration and School Committee embrace those goals! Consistent with my publicly stated priorities, I questioned why the goals for all 8th graders to successfully complete Algebra and all 3rd graders to be proficient readers were not front and center. I also noted a concern about the dip in middle school enrollment – suggesting that not all families are confident that the schools are delivering a quality education. The number of 6th graders is lower than 5th graders, then rises again for 9th graders – the families don’t leave the city; they leave for middle school. Fifteen years after the Innovation Agenda we should not see this dip – since the whole idea was to improve education. {disclosure: I voted for the plan, with concern, and the plan did not yield the desired benefits.}

Specialized Stretch Energy Code Adopted!
On January 23, the City Council adopted the specialized stretch energy code – which basically means that starting July 1 of this year, all new buildings and all substantial renovations will be required to either be all-electric or ready to become all-electric. The energy efficiency standards are also higher, which is necessary if we are to to meet our climate goals and have an electric grid that can handle the increased demand. Many groups have worked for years towards the goal of having a building code that is stringent and on getting Cambridge to adopt it. I am grateful to all the groups and people who got us to this moment and I was happy that the final vote was 7-1-1.

On January 24, the Economic Development and University Relations Committee held a continuation of the previous meeting on amendments to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO). We continue to work through concerns and questions about how to craft this update of the ordinance where we require reduction of fossil fuel use. Most property owners share the goal of wanting to contribute to the solution – and yet there are many concerns about cost and feasibility that still need to be answered. Those concerns are especially salient for condo owners and small property owners, many of whom did not know until recently that the ordinance, which was passed in 2014, applied to them. We will continue to work out the details of how best to get emission reductions in a thoughtful way, pushing for effective actual reductions, and be mindful of legitimate concerns – financial and technical – of property owners. I continue to support a 2035 timeline for all non-residential properties. Cambridge can take this meaningful step.

Finance Committee Meeting – Capital Budget
In an attempt to bring more transparency to the City’s budget process, my Finance co-chair, Councillor Carlone, and I held a committee meeting to review the City’s Capital Budget in anticipation of the FY24 budget proposal. The Capital Budget covers some large and long term expenditures that aren’t included in the City’s operational budget. This budget can cover items from sewer maintenance and improvement, tree planting and open space purchases, or large scale building improvements or purchases. The idea behind having this meeting early in the budget process is so that Council has an opportunity to weigh in and influence the budget before the official budget proposal in March. The meeting was helpful for the council and the community to understand how the capital budget fits into the overall financial picture of the city. And it was the first time such a hearing was held.

City Council Meeting – Monday, February 6, 2023

Police Department Related Items
The city and community continue to be concerned about the tragic killing of Sayed Faisal, and there has been ongoing discussion of how to respond. One response is that several policy orders and reports are on next week’s agenda. The city manager’s agenda includes a report from the Police Review and Advisory Board and an itemized property list of the police department. Policy Orders include: seeking an outside audit of our policies, having unarmed traffic enforcement (something I have advocated for years), less lethal options for police, and an assessment of mental health resources. I put in a policy order with Councillor Carlone about a meeting on the policy budget to include discussion of body cameras and there was a separate policy order by Councillor McGovern, Mayor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Mallon and Councillor Azeem asking for body cameras. The Globe published my letter on the body camera issue – know that the council hasn’t been the hold up.

Cambridge Community Electricity Aggregation
I have continued to push for better and better marketing for our electricity aggregation program. The city responded to a prior policy order with a commitment to do more aggressive marketing. Sign up if you haven’t for the 100% renewable energy option. It’s cheaper than the standard Eversource rate! AND, with Councillor Zondervan, Mayor Siddiqui and Vice Mayor Mallon, I am asking that the next iteration of the program have a default standard option of 100% renewable energy – something Mothers Out Front, the Climate Committee and the Climate Crisis Working Group have all endorsed.

Universal Pre-K
After YEARS of pushing, the city is poised to move to universal preschool for all 4 year-olds. There will be a Roundtable City Council School Committee meeting to hear about the progress on this issue on Tues. Feb. 14.

Recycling Advisory Committee
This week I met with some DPW staff to better understand our programs around our Zero Waste program, and the Urban Forest Master Plan. I’ll be setting up meetings on each of these topics in the coming months. On the agenda is a notice of reappointment to the Recycling Advisory Committee, whose work has been central to our city’s efforts in this area.

Cambridge Bike Safety Harvard Square Event
In an attempt to get folks accustomed to the Garden Street Bike Lanes, Cambridge Bike Safety will be holding a group ride this Sunday, February 5, at 11:00 am starting in the Common and ending up in Harvard Square, where there will be hot chocolate cider. If you can brave the cold on Sunday (which will be MUCH warmer than Saturday) come out, say hi, and take a ride.

COVID Boosters
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.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
COVID-19 Vaccine Finder

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:

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