Council Updates, Happy Spring, And Come See “Rain Dance” (read for details)

Come see "Rain Dance," a production of the North Cambridge Family Opera!


Happy Spring. There wasn’t much to show for our “winter” this year, but the warm weather of spring is still a happy respite. One sign of spring here in Cambridge is the sight of turkeys around the city – I spotted the one below on my ride home from City Hall last week.

Happy Women’s History Month. There are a lot of great city sponsored events and a lot of local women-owned businesses that you should consider supporting. Last weekend, on International Women’s Day, I was thrilled to participate in a “Dance Flash Mob” for reproductive justice. Dozens of us danced in the middle of South Station.

This weekend is the opening of the 2024 North Cambridge Family Opera show. There are 8 shows, this and next Saturday and Sunday. It is a fabulous, inclusive, awesome community theater group, AND I perform as a water buffalo in one of the casts. It’s a highly entertaining show. Your ticket to entry is a suggested donation of $15 for adults, $7 for kids, but please come and bring the whole family and just donate what you can – price should not be a barrier for this kind of fun. It is definitely fun for all ages: the lyrics are sophisticated enough for adults to appreciate and the antics are zany enough for kids to love. I sincerely hope you will consider coming with your friends to support a great community event (more info below).

Last night I was happy to attend the March meeting of the Cambridge Climate Committee (CCC). The CCC is an advisory committee to assist with planning and addressing the climate crisis. The Committee meets monthly and periodically develops recommendations to the City Manager, who was also in attendance last night. One of the most important roles of the CCC is to review the Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) annually. This review is currently underway. The city is due to deliver the annual report to the City Council this spring and I will be holding a Health and Environment Committee meeting to go over the annual report. This kind of consistent oversight is essential to avoid delays and missed deadlines within NZAP and to ensure that we are meeting our goals.

As chair of the Health and Environment Committee I have several important meetings coming up that I will announce as they get closer, but include regional infrastructure projects related to climate resiliency, the annual NZAP review, an update on our Green Jobs Ordinance, BEUDO, and others. As co-chair of the Finance Committee, my co-chair Councillor Pickett and I will be leading the council through the FY25 budget process. We announced our first few meeting dates here, but have more plans throughout the year to work towards increased transparency and accountability throughout the city budget.

Below are some comments on a few top line items 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.


A wonderful show of support for reproductive justice

Council Updates

Local-Option Transfer Fee
At a recent council meeting I sponsored a policy order which asked the council to support statewide legislation that would allow Cambridge to implement a transfer fee on large real estate transactions. This PO builds on previous work of the council, who have supported a transfer fee in the past. There was a unanimous policy order in March of 2023 supporting a transfer fee, and back in 2020 the council unanimously passed a Home Rule Petition which asked for a Real Estate Transfer Fee. We all know that housing affordability is a complicated issue and that no one solution will be a silver bullet, and it’s important to acknowledge that funding for affordable housing is an important part of the larger puzzle and a real estate transfer fee can help with that. It’s not the only solution we can investigate, but I think it can be a powerful one. This legislation would allow local control for municipalities to decide to implement a transfer fee that reflects the reality of the markets within their own city. The local option would allow us and any other city to set a fee rate between 0.5% and 2% of sale price, only for sales over $1 million or the county median sales price, whichever is greater – and that sets the floor for how low we can go in terms of adding fees onto a sale price. Local municipalities would be able to determine a higher threshold as well – for example, in Cambridge, it may be more appropriate to set $2 or $3 or $5  million as the threshold, given rising housing prices and the reality of the market in Cambridge. There are other questions about how we could scale those fees to avoid pricing cliffs, and also questions about exactly what the funds collected could be used for, but those are all questions which we will have to consider if this bill passes and we are given the option. I would hope that we can agree that it would be good to have an option and make the determination for ourselves. We could also provide for exemptions for certain instances like larger multi-family units or affordable units or even first-sales, not to discourage development. I was happy the policy order passed and I hope the state bill will go through as well.

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Review
This report, which we received at our last council meeting, contains the long-awaited review of the fatal shooting of Arif Sayed Faisal on January 4, 2023 and a full review of the Cambridge Police Department’s policies, procedures, training, and protocols. There is a lot to unpack in the report and there will be a Public Safety Committee meeting on April 2 to discuss in much more detail, but broadly, we will be reviewing all the recommendations and notes in detail with the police department and the city manager. There are highlights in the report that commend the Cambridge Police Department as one of the best in the nation and reaffirm some of their best practices, but there are also troubling instances in the report that suggest that the department’s training failed to protect Faisal, noting specifically, a supposed “21 foot rule” being cited numerous times during interviews, even though this rule is specifically rejected as part of the most up-to-date ICAT training. Overall, the report lists over a dozen critical changes that CPD will have the opportunity to implement as we continue to grapple with the tragic events of January 4.

Central Square Lots Study
The City Manager’s Central Square Lots Study was delivered during our last meeting. I appreciate the report and hearing the City Manager’s perspective on how to work through long term planning for Central Square and I appreciate that this report did a lot to build upon previous efforts – we shouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel every time we consider an issue. We will certainly continue discussions on next steps for the short-term items, and a Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee meeting is being scheduled to dig into more of the details within the report. Unfortunately, much of the report was overshadowed by the news that Starlight Square has decided not to renew its current lease to continue operating in its existing location. That news came in great surprise to the Council, the City Manager, and many in the community – but I was grateful to hear the City Manager commit to working through issues with Starlight and the Central Square BID to ensure that Starlight continued to operate as a community resource for years to come. I appreciate all the work of Starlight and know that it was an invaluable resource for the community during COVID and I look forward to finding a more permanent solution and keeping alive the vision of a square within the square.

City Council Meeting - Monday, March 18, 2024

BEUDO and Climate Funding
This week I sponsored a policy order which asks the City Manager to come forward with recommendations for a package of financial and technical assistance programs to support decarbonization and clean energy projects for property owners of all types, especially those with limited resources, with an initial focus on work associated with BEUDO emissions reduction requirements. Regulating emissions of large buildings is the most impactful action we can take at the city level to avert the worst impacts of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emission pollution locally, which is why I worked with other councillors last term to pass amendments to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) to require emissions reductions from large buildings. Now we need to match those reductions requirements with the funding and technical support to make those reductions happen. The Cambridge Net Zero Action Plan identifies access to capital and financing as a key barrier preventing many building owners from completing energy upgrades and suggests: “it will be important to identify funding or financing vehicles that owners currently have access to, understand where there are gaps, and, if needed, create a support structure that links retrofit activities to capital.” The Climate Committee has also regularly asked for more resources to meet the city’s goals. Environmental justice and equity drive decisions on climate actions, which requires attention to the financial needs and capacity of all stakeholders including those in need of technical and financial assistance, and by providing access to funding and capital resources, Cambridge can incentivize decarbonization, reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide, and provide a model of equitable access to action against climate change. I look forward to working with the City Manager to make this technical and financial support system a reality.

Parking Permit Fees
After several discussions with Transportation staff and the Law Department, I am sponsoring a policy order to ask for formal recommendations to amend our parking permit fee structure. I held a committee meeting in December of last year to discuss options for amending parking fees and regulations throughout the City in order to further support the City’s goals of low carbon travel and since then, I have been working with the Law Department to understand the landscape of state law as it relates to implementing different fees. One important change will be to raise parking permitting fees to accurately reflect the real costs associated with the permitting system within the city. Currently the permit fee is $25 per year, but the permit program costs much more than that just to administer. I also want to make sure we continue to support the needs of low-income residents. The current parking permit fee structure only takes age into account, which is not an accurate predictor of financial security. By developing a low-income threshold, we could better reflect the needs of residents of all ages. And finally, I am asking the City Manager to develop a plan to raise the parking permit fees for larger vehicles that take up more space on the public right of way. Once the City Manager comes back with formal recommendations, we will discuss further, but I fully expect to implement some of these ideas for next year’s parking permit program.

Safety Net Family Shelter
On Monday we will be receiving an update from the City Manger on the Safety Net Family Shelter at the Registry of Deeds in East Cambridge. I am grateful that our community has stepped up to provide shelter and assistance to families, but of course it has not been easy and not without incredible and coordinated work of our city staff, our state delegation, and Governor Healey’s administrative team who are running similar overflow sites across the state.

Come see a great show this weekend at the North Cambridge Family Opera!

Local Events/Notes

North Cambridge Family Opera
As I mentioned above, I am so excited for the opening of the North Cambridge Family Opera this weekend. Please consider attending one of the performances below. It’s a great community event and a fun time for everyone. The shows will be at the Peabody School at 70 Rindge Ave. Tickets are included with a suggested donation of $7 for children and $15 for adults. Bold underlined shows are ones where you would see me stride angrily across the stage…

  • Saturday, March 16 at 3:00p and 7:00p
  • Sunday, March 17 at 1:00p and 5:00p
  • Saturday, March 23 at 3:00p and 7:00p
  • Sunday, March 24 at 1:00p and 5:00p

Cambridge Community Safety Department CARE Team
Starting a few weeks ago, the Community Safety Department’s CARE Team began responding to needle pickup calls in public spaces across Cambridge. Needle pickup calls are the first call types that the CARE Team is being dispatched to. For more information, click here.

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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