Happy September! Happy back to school for parents, families, and students of all ages. Even though I don’t have anyone in my immediate family going back to school this year, I always find September as a bit of a clock-reset.
I hope your summers have been restorative. I have kept busy as we look ahead to resuming weekly Council meetings, starting next Monday. This week has been eventful. Our new City Manager officially started full time; city meetings on a range of issues, proposals, and topics have started up after an August hiatus; and state, national, and world news were all momentous.
On Thursday, I was at the state house to support Environment Massachusetts in the launch of their new campaign urging the state to set a goal of 10 gigawatts (equivalent to one million roofs) of solar in Massachusetts by 2030. We’re at 4 gigawatts now and need to ramp up the installation of this feasible, affordable clean energy option.
This morning I helped cut the ribbon on the newest business to open up in Harvard Square – a local outlet of bubble tea chain GongCha. It was especially fun to witness the lion dance – a traditional way to bestow good luck on a new enterprise.
And last night I co-hosted with Mayor Siddiqui a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Cambridge Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA) which was meaningful and educational. Stop by City Hall to see a display on their history. As the mother of two children who are one-quarter Armenian, the history of the country is close to home. The founding of CYSCA in a cold war era to help promote peace between Soviet Union and USA cities was especially poignant to hear about in light of today’s situation with Russia and Ukraine.
Below are some comments on a few top line items including the new City Manager, an update on Cambridge water quality, new COVID booster guidelines, a forum on the building energy use disclosure ordinance (BEUDO), and more.
The 28th Cambridge Carnival International is this weekend and it promises to be an exciting event, so if you’re free on Sunday, come out to enjoy the parade! Somerville also has some great outdoor events this weekend and Boston’s Newbury Street will be open only to pedestrians on Sunday – a model for what I hope to see in Cambridge soon. And next weekend, I hope to see you at Danehy Park Family Day next Saturday, September 17
As always, please take care of yourself and enjoy something every day. We are in the midst of some of the most beautiful weeks to live in New England, so try to take advantage of the nice weather.
New City Manager
I am excited to officially welcome our new City Manager, Yi-an Huang. While his onboarding process has been in the works for a month now, as of this week, he officially steps into the role. I was happy to learn a lot about City Manager Huang during the hiring process and I have all the faith in the world that he’s the right person for the job. I have already heard from many people in the community that they sense that his leadership will be a positive change in our city. He is committed to building on our strengths and to acknowledging and working to change our areas of weakness. One positive sign is that he is attacking the long list of awaiting reports from the City council – many requests having languished, ignored for many months, and in some cases years. If you have the pleasure of seeing him around town, please be sure to say hello!
Cambridge Water Quality Update
As many of you are aware, the Cambridge Water Department recently sent out a notice indicating that Cambridge would be switching to Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) water for the remainder of 2022 due to PFAS levels in City water.
PFAS refers to a group of human-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment that are often referred to as “forever” chemicals. I have heard from many of you over the last two weeks with concerns about the water quality of Cambridge. PFAS, and water quality generally, has long been high on my list of concerns in Cambridge. These are both issues that I brought up with Managing Director Sam Corda during our meeting last month, and since we were notified about the change I am scheduling a Health and Environment Committee meeting to discuss PFAS and water quality of our city’s water supply. A policy order sponsored by Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Mallon, Councillor Azeem, and I on this issue is on the docket for Monday’s City Council meeting.
The larger issue of longer-term use of MWRA water and the quality of Cambridge current water supply is an issue about which many people have expressed many concerns. In the meantime, we hope the City is doing everything in its power to accurately and effectively communicate the situation to Cambridge.
COVID Booster Update
On September 1, 2022, the CDC recommended 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 18 years and older. The updated Pfizer booster is authorized for people ages 12 years and older. In the coming weeks, CDC expects to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for other pediatric groups. Please see the link below to learn more about getting the booster.
The City is hosting a forum next Thursday September 15 at 6:30pm to discuss proposed changes to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance. In 2014, the City Council passed the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO), which requires large buildings (50+ units for residential or over 25,000 square feet for commercial) to report their energy use to the City. The City Council is now proposing amendments to BEUDO that would require those buildings to reduce their carbon emissions over time. It would also require all new buildings to be Net Zero starting in 2025.
Bottom line? This is an essential step in combating climate change. 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in Cambridge come from buildings, and the proposed amendments to the ordinance address just that. As a city, our climate goals have not been achieved. We want to be environmental leaders and need to continue to fight aggressively. I believe we need to accelerate the switch off of fossil fuel and should have goals that are far ahead of the world – hence my support for a date of 2035 for the largest buildings in the city to be fossil fuel free. We can do it.
If you’re wondering how these changes may affect you, or are interested in the City’s plans to combat climate change through building emissions, please listen in on Thursday evening to hear from City staff and ask questions.
Cambridge Birth Center Policy Order
Following up on an issue dear to my heart, as someone who used midwives in my own births, I have submitted a policy order with Mayor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, and Vice Mayor Mallon for Monday’s City Council meeting asking that Cambridge Health Alliance reopen the Cambridge Birth Center for deliveries.
Research shows that care provided in community birth settings can make a concrete difference in improving maternity care quality and producing better outcomes, including for People of Color. For more information on this topic, reach out to people working to expand access to birth centers. This Policy Order is only about Cambridge’s own birth center. In the future, I hope the state will work to expand such centers throughout the Commonwealth.
Free Passes for High School Students and MBTA Closures Reminder
The City is providing free M7 passes for all public high school students in Cambridge! After advocacy by many over the years, most recently by the young people on the Kids Council, the City Council and School Committee supported their request for free passes for all students, regardless of income. I advocated for all students – including charter school students, who are in public schools and far higher percent of low income students and Black and Hispanic/Latinx than CRLS students. I have also asked that all students – including those attending independent and parochial high schools be treated the same. If we are giving wealthy families whose children attend CRLS passes, why not offer them to all students – many families struggle to pay for tuition outside of public schools and I have long held that many of those families opt out of public school only because we have failed them.
Another reminder that the MBTA has closed the Orange Line and part of the Green Line between August 19 and September 18. You should expect significant travel delays and major traffic throughout the area. You should plan to budget extra time for all your trips, no matter how you travel.
Once again, during these closures anyone can sign up for a free 30-day Bluebike pass from August 19 until September 18. Use the link below to learn more and sign up.
Also to note, the commuter rail is free in Zones 1A, 1, and 2 if you show a Charlie Card/ticket.
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! With regular City Council meetings resuming on Monday, we have a lot coming up, so stay engaged. As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick, or me for any of your City Council needs.