Council updates: extreme weather, Covid and hiring redux


It’s mid-August and a possible hurricane is on the way. Heed warnings and stay safe on Sunday and Monday. I’ve been busy – I attended the sobering event for residents who have lost loved ones to violence in Danehy Park last weekend and managed to catch several street musicians playing in Harvard Square. I highly recommend walking the city – not only glorious open spaces but our urban spaces as well. I completed my Taste of Cambridge/Somerville – a plan to encourage people to eat at local restaurants…which I intend to keep doing. And I have been catching up on resident concerns – about construction noise, rodent sightings, construction projects, trees, violence, bike lanes, small business closures, covid, masks, vaccines…If you have ideas, comments, concerns, please communicate them.  

A lot to take in and a lot for us to consider – with extreme weather, humanitarian crises in many places, and the resurgence of Covid. At every level of government, decisions are being made that are consequential. One area that has been at the forefront of my mind is the need for us to do all we can to get more people vaccinated. Cambridge and Massachusetts are pretty good – but not as good as we need to be to beat the Delta variant of Covid19. To that end, I file a policy order at the last meeting asking for a plan for 100% vaccination of all city staff, including schools. I spoke with several small businesses last week who require their staff to be vaccinated – the city should do the same. If you want to work for the city, be vaccinated. School committee member Rachel Weinstein and I joined forces to advocate for that idea in an op-ed in the Chronicle and a letter in the Boston Globe. I was thrilled to see Gov. Baker require vaccines for all state employees, and Commissioner Riley is asking that he be allowed to require masks for all school students and staff throughout the commonwealth.  

Good news for the city: Superintendent Christine Elow has been appointed acting Commissioner of the Police Department. Born and raised in Cambridge, Commissioner Elow brings a depth of experience and compassion to an impossible job. I look forward to working with her and celebrate that she is the first woman in the position.

On the personal front: a change in my office is imminent. My aide, Michael Scarlett, is moving to the Mayor’s office to serve as Chief of Staff after next week. Which means I am looking for a replacement to start as soon as possible. If you know anyone who may be a good candidate, please let me know. It is a great job – although I can only promise employment through the end of the year. If I get re-elected I will continue to have an aide, but if I don’t the position will disappear. We are already reviewing applications from people, and hope to hire someone soon – so don’t delay in sending along names of good candidates. 

Below are updates on some of my work and city events and initiatives.


Climate crisis working group:

I am thrilled to be preparing for the start of the Climate Crisis Working Group. Our first meeting is September 1st, and we have been gathering thoughts and ideas from climate-minded residents to discuss with the group. If you have any ideas, let me know!

The need for this working group is simple: we are falling behind our own goals and do not have a clear path to meet them. The working group will bring together experts in Cambridge and beyond to chart out the specific policy steps that are needed to meet our climate goals. We need to start by being honest with ourselves that Cambridge must be doing more to meet the moment. In fact, if we do not get our act together, we will not be on track to hit the 2030 benchmark that the state has mandated of a 50% GHG reduction from 1990 levels. I want the working group to push the envelope and ensure Camrbridge is the climate leader we all want it to be. 

City Manager search: 

The process of looking for our next city manager has begun and I am very excited. The RFP for the search process was just released and can be found here. We have had several committee meetings about this important search and I look forward to the process. Already, I encourage you to think about who you’d recommend to serve on the search committee AND if you know stellar visionary leaders in any arena who might be appropriate candidates, let me know and let them know the process has started and a new manager will be in place in less than a year.  

Upcoming hearings:

Joint meeting of Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee and Housing Committee on the elimination of single and two-family only zoning, August 24th, 1pm: This is a follow-up on a joint NLTP+Housing committee hearing I chaired in the spring to discuss the merits of eliminating single and two-family only zoning in Cambridge. How to get rid of exclusionary zoning with a racist history is a question that cities across the country are asking right now. And in each case, there is a different answer. Cambridge, where 7% of the housing stock is in single-family only zones, is not the same as Minneapolis, where 70% was zoned for single family until recently. The last hearing was productive and informative and I believe this one will be too. I look forward to learning more from CDD and continuing to push for smart and practical zoning reform. Please send thoughts and questions! 

Housing Committee on the proposed Condo Conversion Ordinance, August 30th, 11am: In June, the Council passed a policy order calling for a Housing committee hearing on condo conversion and for city staff to advise on language for a potential ordinance. Massachusetts law allows, by a 2/3rd vote of local legislative bodies, local ordinances regulating condominium conversion that are stronger than the statewide law. A number of cities and towns have their own version, and Cambridge tried and failed to pass a stronger version in 2001. I am glad that we are looking into adopting a conversion ordinance again. 

For those hearing the devastating news out of Afghanistan and Haiti and wanting to help, here are great organizations that you can give to:

The Haiti Initiative (SUD) is a small grassroots project run by Cambridge residents working with grassroots organizations, NGOs, and rural municipal governments in southern Haiti to inform the larger public about climate change and disaster preparedness. Description of the group here: We do this work by organizing delegations to Haiti, organizing donation drives, and coordinating climate change conferences in Haiti. In the Boston-area, we are growing the number of first generation African-descended West Indian Americans who are concerned about climate change in the Caribbean. 

Women for Afghan Women: This non-profit organization has been fighting for the rights of Afghan women for 20 years. Today, they are trying to help the women’s rights activists they work with throughout the country who are in extreme danger from the Taliban. 

CARE: One of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations, CARE has a long history of helping people in Afghanistan. In recent weeks, there has been a huge increase in the demand for emergency aid as many families have fled the Taliban. 

City updates and events

Testing is now available 3 days a week for Covid

  • SUNDAYS: Free PCR Tests are offered on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at 50 Church Street
  • MONDAYS: Free PCR tests are offered on Mondays from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., at CambridgeSide Mall, 2nd Floor, above the Food Court
  • THURSDAYS: Free PCR tests are offered on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., at CambridgeSide Mall, 2nd Floor, above the Food Court

Vaccines are available through a number of places – and soon boosters will be available for seniors and immunocompromised people 

Cambridge Works: the City’s transitional jobs program, Cambridge Works, is accepting applications for the program cycle that begins in mid-September. Applicants must be between the ages of 18-35, without a college degree, and need work experience in order to secure a full-time job. The program, offered by DHSP’s Office of Workforce Development, provides a 3-month paid internship, support from a case manager, weekly job-readiness classes, and job placement assistance.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day: Saturday, August 21. The City of Cambridge will hold its next Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Day for 2021 on Saturday, August 21, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., at 65 Waverly Street. To access the event, please enter from Brookline Street.

Two More Bluebikes Mindful Mondays: Ride for Free! To shine a light on the benefits of mindfulness, health and wellness during National Wellness Month, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is offering complimentary Bluebikes rides on “Mindful Mondays” throughout August. Riders can access free trips from Bluebikes stations across the system’s 11 municipalities, including 3 new stations in Cambridge (955 Mass. Ave.; Concord Ave. at Spinelli Place; and New Street by Danehy Park). Download and open the Bluebikes app on a mobile device and select “Adventure Pass,” using the appropriate code for remaining Mondays in August:

  • BlueCrossMindful0823

  • BlueCrossMindful0830

Each code will unlock one free Adventure Pass, which includes unlimited two-hour rides for a 24-hour period. 

Monarch Butterfly Release Celebration: The seventh annual monarch butterfly release celebration organized by Cambridge Water Department will be held Sunday, September 5, from 2:00-3:30 p.m., at the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway. See the butterflies up close, learn about their migration, complete the free activity booklet for a Jr. Ranger badge, and enjoy kids’ crafts. The release will begin at approximately 2:45 p.m. in the adjacent meadow of Kingsley Park at Fresh Pond. This raise-and-release project combines volunteer stewardship and public education activities at Fresh Pond Reservation to encourage a monarch population in the city. 

Pet Parade in the Park: Friday, August 27, at 3 p.m. All are welcome to bring their well-behaved pet(s) to our community pet parade. Dress them up as your favorite literary character or anything you would like, show them off, and meet other pet lovers. Share the joy pets bring to our lives and celebrate the end of our Summer Reading program. All ages. No registration required.

Yoga on the Lawn with Cap Aguilar: Saturday, August 28, 10 – 11:30 a.m. Take this opportunity to practice ways to embody elements of yoga philosophy (non-harm, truthfulness, and self-inquiry to name a few). Explore movement, mindfulness, and breathing practices for 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for reflective journaling and/or conversation. Registration is required.

A reminder that you can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested:

Scroll to Top