Council updates- let’s divest from fossil fuels and private prisons!

All, 

Happy Earth Week/Day/Month/Year!  

I am working on a number of climate-related issues at the moment, and this week I am excited to introduce a policy order calling for the city to divest from fossil fuels and private prisons! The City Council has discussed the divestment of our pension fund multiple times, and as this policy order states, while municipalities wait for permission from the state to divest pension funds, I believe it is critical that we divest funds that we have direct control over – from both fossil fuels and private prisons. We love to think of ourselves as progressive leaders, and yet I believe there is so much more we can and should be doing – especially on climate. Last year, 12 major cities announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels. We must pass this policy order on Monday and push the manager to do so as soon as possible, or we risk being in the latter half of progressive cities to make this important and unequivocal statement that no taxpayer dollars will go towards fossil fuels. 

There is a simultaneous and parallel movement to divest from private prisons as well. I believe an industry that profits from mass incarceration is not one that Cambridge should have any association with. Private prisons have been reported to have worse conditions and more reports of inhumane treatment than federally run prisons. And a 2012 Supreme Court case ruled that inmates in private prisons, where a disproportionate number of inmates are Black, are not afforded the same rights as federally-run prisons and are barred from bringing lawsuits against prison guards if their rights are violated. Again, we must divest and make it clear that Cambridge will not put its money in any fund or bank that is investing in this industry. There is already a precedent of Divestment here – we were one of the first cities in the country to divest from the South African Apartheid state. 

The national news this week provided some hope… And a reminder of how far we have to go.  The verdict in the Chauvin trial was a relief – and yet the very fact that it was not certain proved just how unjust our justice system can be. And, as with Walter Scott, had someone not happened to film the entire episode, a guilty verdict likely would not have occurred. Similarly, heartening news on the climate goals were tempered by realism. The commitment by Pres. Biden and the proclamation by Gov. Baker on Earth Day set strong standards – yet we have a long way to go and have hard work and some life-changing actions to take if we are to meet the commitments.

Please let me know what you think of these issues or other issues I should address. Please spread the word about the newsletters, stay safe, get vaccinated, take care of yourself, and check in on friends and family.

Patty

Unfinished business:

Green Roofs Petition: This was passed to a second reading and will be ordained (or voted down) on Monday. As I wrote about last week, other councillors made amendments last meeting that I believe water down the petition far past what Cambridge needs – giving developers an out to not build green roofs. I plan on doing everything I can to reverse those amendments and passing the petition in the strongest form possible.  

Policy orders:

PO #1 – Divestment from fossil fuels and private prisons – As I wrote about above, this is an important and necessary step and I look forward to passing it on Monday. 

PO #3 – Homeownership opportunities – This policy order calls for the Manager to finance the construction of affordable homeownership units by issuing bonds worth at least $500 million, and for the units to be made available preferentially to first-generation, first time home buyers who grew up in Cambridge. I am thrilled to see this item on the agenda and will be supporting it.  I believe we need to be creative about addressing ongoing opportunity and wealth gaps and addressing systemic racism. This order seeks to do both by using our financial strength in a positive way.  

PO #7 – Expanding parental leave – I am happy to co-sponsor this policy order on expanding parental leave to include those who have experienced a loss of pregnancy. Under current policy, employees dealing with the loss of a pregnancy due to miscarriage or termination would have to utilize bereavement, vacation, or sick time to receive the care and time they need to heal, and other cities, including Boston, are looking at changing this definition. I look forward to Cambridge doing so as well. 

City Updates

Digital Equity Report: The City released a report this week on Digital Equity in Cambridge: Data and Strategic Recommendations, which provides an understanding of the problems and gaps preventing Cambridge residents from accessing high-speed internet and connectivity. I hope to have a piece published on this issue soon I will send out. My brief thoughts: It is wonderful that the report was done – it is unfortunate that the study which was requested and approved in 2018 took so long to start and as a result was then delayed by the pandemic. It is true that the pandemic highlighted the disparities in broadband access and the essential nature of broadband for all residents and organizations and businesses.  We need to address the digital divide – we have been working on it for more than a decade. And we need to explore municipal broadband, which is a great way to address digital equity.  However, we should not wait for the broadband study to address the issues highlighted in the report. We can continue to work on those issues now, and we need to be serious about establishing a city-owned municipal broadband network. 

Curbside composting returns on May 17! – I am happy that composting is returning next month. If you need a bin, contact the city here.  And with landfill space dwindling and compostables still a large percent of what is in our trash bins, let’s get the city on track to meet our trash reduction goals by composting everything that is compostable…. If in doubt about what to do with something – check out the city’s Get Rid of It Right tool.

Tree Protection Ordinance : On Wednesday, April 28 at 5:30  the council will hold an ordinance committee meeting on the Tree Protection Ordinance. As I have written before, trees are an essential part of our infrastructure and should be treated as such. And with a shrinking tree canopy, we are exacerbating the environmental justice issues in the city and our public health.  This revised ordinance seeks to address the loss of trees.  

Mask mandate: I have received several questions about the outdoor mask mandate.  There have been several articles summarizing the science – that when people are outdoors and not in prolonged contact in close proximity with others there is very little, if any, risk of covid19 transmission. That is good news, and many states have been rescinding outdoor mask mandates for those circumstances (think running or walking or biking) If you have followed me, you know, I have advocated for a long time for us not to have an OUTDOOR mask requirement. Indoors yes, outdoors no. Glad the science is clear – however, the current mandate is statewide. Until Gov. Baker lifts it, we need to follow it. I have advocated that when the statewide mandate is lifted the city follow it. The decision will be the city manager’s.  

Events

Science in the City – Happening now!  – Tune in to some great conversations from now until 4:30pm. Everything from reducing food waste, to achieving net-zero, to a “wildlife in Cambridge” discussion. 

CPL Crafts Night – 4/26, 6pm – Join for a special paint night that celebrates portraiture of Black women with local artist Ayana Mack! Ayana creates bright and texture-rich work to enrich communities and uplift individuals. Motivated by her personal experiences, Black culture, and self-love, she shares crucial messages through art while inspiring others to discover their passion. 

22nd Annual Cambridge Poetry Competition – entries due April 30th – Open to all K-8 students in Cambridge. Poems will be judged for interesting content and creativity as well as consistent and imaginative style. Winning poems will be displayed publicly and may be published online.

Music series – supported by the Cambridge Arts Council….Let’s support the arts and open up spaces for music!

Film Festival at Lesley – Throughout this weekend – a film festival with three short films on interesting topics. 

Trivia

The answer to last week’s question on why might Elizabeth Taylor have been happy reading the news…. On April 10, 2021, Rachael Blackmore won England’s grueling Grand National horse race that is thrilling to watch. It was the first time a female jockey won the race….As for Elizabeth Taylor? She was just 12 years old in 1944 when she starred in the movie National Velvet, about a horse fanatic girl who disguises herself as a boy and rides her horse to a win in the Grand National…A Hollywood dream finally came true…

This week’s trivia question: Massachusetts recently passed a law committing the state to reduce our Green House Gas [GHG] Emissions by 50% by 2030. Biden announced a commitment that the USA would reduce our GHG emissions by 50% by 2030…. Seems like the same goal, but there is a  key difference. What is it and why does it matter? And for extra credit: how MUCH does it matter?

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