Simply put, we need to do a better job of walking our talk about being a progressive and leading city. We need to demonstrate integrity and to hold ourselves accountable. How is it that our incredible city is lagging in a surprising number of areas when we are one of the richest cities in the Commonwealth, which is one of the richest states in the country? We pride ourselves on leadership yet other cities often manage to achieve important goals before us.
We have not met the climate goals that we ourselves established, far less achieved zero municipal greenhouse gas emissions. Our city councilors take Harvard to task for failure to divest from the fossil fuel industry, yet have not insisted that the city take that same step.
Turning to development, how is it that the city failed to request a preschool as part of the Volpe development? Early childhood education and quality preschool for all are high priority citywide goals; yet in discussing one of the largest developments in our city’s history, city leaders did not introduce an early education center (like the award-winning model facility next door in Somerville) as part of the package of community benefits negotiated. Another major missed opportunity: The Alewife Quad area is under intense development pressure by private developers. How is it that the city did not buy a 25,000 SF site, which was on the market for a year, for a school that we will soon need? That, despite the fact that more than two years ago the School Committee unanimously passed an order (which I authored) to include in the Envision work exploring a school specifically for that area. Good governance would have meant this priority was not forgotten and this opportunity seized.
We need leaders who work hard, follow up, remember priorities, and focus on accountability. I have a well-deserved reputation for all four; and if I am on City Council I’ll remember the City’s priorities and ask these types of questions.
Together, let’s work hard, use best practices, and relentlessly focus on progress. And collaborate; the reason for some of the more sustainable elements of CRLS is the work of a group that I brought together from the school district, MIT and the state Green School Building task force. That approach — focusing on priorities and collaborating with others — is the approach I would bring to the council if elected.
What will I work on if elected?
- Demand that the city implement Phase II of the Community Broadband study
- Ensure that any major new development requiring significant special permit or variances be approached about early education as one of the community benefits to be negotiated
- Divest all city funds from fossil fuel companies
- Divest all city funds from for-profit prison companies
If elected, I will push the city, state and country to do more to mitigate this disaster. I have been a climate activist since my youth, and one reason I am running for City Council is to have greater positive impact addressing the climate crisis. The best way Cambridge can help is to be an example, and proof-point, by implementing as many of the Green New Deal’s proposed actions as possible – eliminating use of fossil fuel by our city’s buildings, requiring city vehicles to be electric AND to source all electricity from 100% renewable sources, using community preservation dollars to fund renewable energy projects on low income homeowners’ residences, and divesting from fossil fuels in all of the City’s investment pools. If elected, I will advocate for each of these actions – all of which the city could undertake.
My vision is using energy conservation combined with wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to power the world. I want my kids (I have two – one in college and one just graduated),yours, and our children’s children’s children, to have a healthy global ecosystem in which to live. And that is not certain. The planet is literally drowning – in heat (and countless other human impacts, too, like the glut of waste plastic in our environment). There are potentially disastrous implications for public health, especially for poor people across the globe, and none of us are safe. Half our city is built on former swamps or flood plains; we already have challenges related to flooding. Heat is becoming an increasingly important issue here, as the frequency of heat waves increases, a climate change impact that’s related to the nature and amount of development combined with loss of tree canopy. The threats to livability will get worse with continued use of fossil fuels. Keep it in the ground has to be a mantra, a mandate and a consideration for every policy decision taken at every level. There is enough oil and gas already in storage to destroy the planet – we will literally kill ourselves off if we burn it all. No other issue will matter – immigrant policy, affordable housing, bike safety, education; all are important issues and yet nothing else matters if we fry our planet.
I support, and will promote and work towards, having Cambridge pass a policy to reduce,and ultimately eliminate, our dependence on fossil fuels. We start by following Berkeley California’s lead – to require all new construction to be fossil fuel free. That would be a huge step forward; it would face resistance and ridicule, yet we must do it. It is only new construction – and it is feasible today. Naysayers have already accused me of not caring about existing residents who can’t afford the transition away from fossil fuels; but remember, THE POLICY WOULD BE FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION ONLY. Still, that is not enough. We need to subsidize residents to make the shift away from fossil fuels, starting with all low income families using oil. Here’s an idea for everyone, though: the city could pilot a program where any homeowner transitioning off oil to electricity will have access to an interest-free loan to pay for the transition, due only upon sale of the property. We just also work for dramatic reductions in energy use – which is possible if we relentlessly promote best practice. For example, why not buy and have high school students install and customize programmable thermostats in every home and teach homeowners how to use them? That is one of the best, and least expensive, ways to reduce energy use.
The Net Zero plan for Cambridge includes many good ideas. Yet the timetable is not aggressive enough. We must change the incentives to install solar and to retrofit existing building faster. Any time a permit is pulled for work and upgrades are needed for fire safety, let’s also mandate upgrades for energy efficiency. Other policy ideas I promote include an analysis of GHG emissions impact in making City purchasing decisions. Every item bought by the city, state or federal government has emissions associated with it; we need have a specific plan to have not only Net Zero in our energy use, but Net Zero in our purchasing. In line with that vision, we need to strengthen education so people better understand their choices and impact on the future.
Many people refer to the climate crisis – in fact I was part of a group that successfully lobbied to get the Cambridge City Council to declare a climate emergency – TEN YEARS AGO! But are we acting as though it is a true emergency? NO. We must.
Here in Cambridge, one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world, we are behind in reaching our goals for reducing GHG emissions. AND WE DON’T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT to the wider community. Why do I call out these facts? The city’s history of talking a good game on climate is stellar – mostly due to push from citizens and climate activists, some excellent work within our City’s departments, and all-too-rare effort from the city’s leadership. We’re viewed as leaders, and keep winning awards – we adopted a climate action plan and set up an advisory committee in 2003. (My husband has served on that committee for over a decade – as the person responsible for bringing the first urban wind turbine test lab and exhibit to life, on the roof of the Museum of Science, he was tapped to be involved in climate issues). Cambridge had a wonderfully comprehensive discussion of the science in a citywide climate emergency congress in 2009, which I helped with and attended. And another one a few years ago. We have city staff dedicated to sustainability and a community of active residents working full time and hundreds of volunteer hours to push for more. We performed a climate vulnerability assessment and have a Net Zero Action Plan.
AND YET: the city data dashboard on sustainability is not up to date and even the city’s own emissions goals, which the city 100% controls, are not being met. https://sustainabilitydashboard.cambridgema.gov/government-ghg-emissions/
When you don’t keep your data up to date, doesn’t is suggest it is not important? Or that the data is not being used? Worse, some of the elements are shown as “on track” yet the actual data show we are WAY behind on meeting targets. For example, the municipal use shows a goal of cutting energy use in half from 2012-2020. It’s 2019. Where is the data? The municipal GHG emissions chart shows higher use in 2015 than 2012. The goals for city solar are listed as “on track” yet the city likely won’t meet even 20% of the 60,000 kw goal for 2020. It’s 2019.
I have advocated that all new pipelines be stopped. I have testified about it, and I support the efforts here in Massachusetts to stop the expansion of new pipelines. The reality is that the climate crisis will affect disproportionately low income people. And since unfortunately race and class are linked, that means communities of color will suffer the most. I have worked within our school district to expand our curriculum to include more comprehensive and holistic understanding of how the climate changes are tied to income inequality, wealth, power, and health.
A specific way I see that the City Council addressing the influence of fossil fuels is to work divest the city’s pension funds, and all city monies, from fossil fuel companies. It is deeply ironic to me that local politicians have called on Harvard to divest from fossil fuels and yet accept the idea that they cannot control whether the city itself divests. I am a Harvard alum, and have publicly supported the push for Harvard’s divestment from fossil fuels. As a City Councilor, I would push hard for divestment from fossil fuels of all city funds. I simply do not believe that we can’t do it. I’m aware of the City’s fiduciary responsibility for high returns, and I’m also aware that research shows that divesting from fossil fuel companies does not compromise financial returns. Further, in the long term, it’s is clear that fossil fuels represent a terrible investment financially and socially.
On a personal note: Why I am so passionate about the climate crisis? Here’s a bit more on my background on this issue:
I have been an environmental activist ever since I can remember. All my life environmental activism has been a part of my identity. My parents took our family – my five sisters and me – to Washington DC for the first Earth Day in 1970 (I was 12). I grew up with a strong sense of the importance of nature, the planet, and our responsibility to be stewards of the Earth. In additional to the usual – mostly biking, constantly seeking ways to reduce our energy use at home, nagging every place I’ve worked to be more sustainable – I have a long track record of activism and effectiveness.
I was Vice-President for New England Businesses for Social Responsibility in the early 1990’s, one of the very first organizations to work with business to be socially and environmentally responsible. NEBSR promoted the idea that making money should never be the sole goal – and a company could do well financially by doing good socially. I ran an environmental company for several years – a composting toilet company (YES!); our entire mission was to save water and recycle human waste back into the soil as nutrients instead of literally flushing it into clean drinking water where pathogens multiply and it gets mixed with toxic chemicals from other sources. I worked for Green Century, whose mutual funds provide investors with investment options that are environmentally screened.
I have been a champion of environmental sustainability during my years serving in elected office on the Cambridge School Committee. I brought and championed many initiatives to the school district, including composting for all our school cafeterias, recycling competitions for all students, chilled beam ultra-efficient cooling systems to our high school renovation, cogeneration to our recreation pool facility (so huge amounts of energy we would otherwise have wasted could be used to heat the pool), and constant reminders in all we do that we to think about environmental impact. I’m currently helping an initiative to have all high school classes incorporate the climate crisis into their teaching – not only science classes, but math, history, English, art, etc.
I have volunteered with several groups that work on addressing the climate crisis – from helping weatherize homes through HEET (ask me about insulating rim joists, how to install – and program – programmable thermostats, what a blower door test shows, and how much LED fixtures save…) to volunteering with Mothers Out Front (an ally to Sunrise) to serving on the board (and as Treasurer) of the Green Streets Initiative – which successfully gets people to use their car less and reduce their emissions footprint through positive reinforcement. Through that work I have promoted the transition off fossil fuels.
In my volunteering on political campaigns, a key question for me is where the candidate stands on the climate crisis. I will not work for someone who denies the science – which honestly is not difficult since I am a Democrat. But since I have made calls and written postcards for candidates across the country, I make sure prioritize the strongest environmental champions.
Some fun relevant facts about me: I am probably the only candidate to reuse campaign signs on a massive scale – including this year, when instead of buying new signs, I’m using custom bumper stickers to cover the words “School Committee” on the old signs with “City Council” (and add some new colors, too).
Ten years ago, our family did the “Energy Smackdown” program, where we competed against other families to lower our carbon footprint. That was a big deal in raising our two children and likely why our daughter chose this fall to do her semester abroad on a program focused on climate issues.
When our son had his bar mitzvah in 2009 (I am not Jewish, but my husband is and our kids were raised with a sense of their Jewish identity in a progressive secular place) I organized the event (which was for 12 kids all at once) to be the organization’s first-ever zero waste event. And then did the same two years later for our daughter’s.
I was criticized for a letter I wrote about how disappointing it was that Senator Ted Kennedy, amazing in many respects, was responsible for holding back the Cape Wind project when Massachusetts could have had the first offshore wind project years many years ago. I don’t hold back, and I speak truth to power. And that’s what’s needed right now: Speaking truth to power, and taking action. Share your thoughts
Community: It is something people seek and say they value. How can our city foster community? We can do a better job listening to neighborhood groups. Often groups come together, are energized about a particular issue, and then get discouraged when they feel the City doesn’t listen. Everyone knows their views may not prevail. But no one should feel they were listened to, or their input not taken into account. And today, too many residents feel that way. I wonder if the city council should have neighborhood ambassadors – each councilor assigned to go to a few specific groups’ meeting on a regular basis to make sure all groups have at least one councilor visit at least once a year. I would love to hear ideas from residents and neighborhood groups on how to foster community, and then to enact some of them!
Too many people in Cambridge feel disconnected from the city, especially folks who don’t feel a part of the development bursting all over and are caught in the middle of, but not benefiting from, the current economic boom. People like me who live in a 2-family house they could never afford if they were looking to buy a place now – where do we all fit? Is Kendall Square the defining part of the city? What happened to the feeling of a neighborhood? Each neighborhood has its special community gathering spot – whether a square, cluster of stores, or a cafe, hair salon, church, or gym. How can we foster a sense of connectedness and belonging? I am eager to try, and hope others in the city and on the Council are, too. Share your thoughts
Livable, Welcoming City
This priority area for me centers on a relentless focus on the arts, inclusion, diversity, accessible affordable public transit, supporting multi-modal forms of transit, and sustainable development.
What I will work on if elected:
- Patty is a habitual bicyclist around Cambridge and occasionally goes much further (most recently from Buffalo to Syracuse). She has also pledged to work toward a comprehensive bicycle safety plan. We need safe travel for all modes of transit across the city. Our bicycle plan envisions a network of routes through the city to allow people to feel safe traveling by bicycle and walking. When implemented, it will encourage more people to use various forms of transit and reduce dependence on automobiles. Even as Cambridge residents use cars less, they will continue to be a part of the picture; we can enhance the safety of bikers and walkers even with cars on our streets. We need to treat the needs of pedestrians and cyclists as seriously as we do those of drivers of cars. And we must foster a culture where cyclists, drivers and pedestrians all act responsibly and considerately.
- Much of the automotive traffic in Cambridge is from folks passing through the city or commuting into the city for work. From the Alewife area to Kendall Square and increasingly to Porter, Inman, Central and Harvard Squares, for much of the day our streets are more like a parking lots than smoothly operating transit infrastructure. We can prioritize this issue, but cannot solve our traffic problems on our own; we must work with the state to explore ways to reduce tie-ups.
- Public transportation is key to reducing our traffic congestion – and mitigating the associated increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Red Line needs more frequent service with greater capacity. Buses need to bring people through Cambridge without needing to transfer at Harvard or Central Square. Bus lanes need to be expanded and used wherever possible to speed up travel times.
- As in many areas, our city thrives due to its amazing range of offerings, including in the arts. From music to community opera to children’s theater, to art classes to dance, our city offers many opportunities for residents of all ages. However, we can do more; my model is European cities, which fund the arts more extensively than in this country and in Cambridge. I’ll work to ensure that recent increases in support for the arts continue, and for more residents to know about and take advantage of opportunities.
- We celebrate our linguistic diversity, yet do not always think of ensuring that our various communities are aware of and have access to our offerings. As one next step, we can and should have more ways to translate information and activities into different languages.
- Nationally, awareness is on the rise about how race and ethnicity shape one’s lived experience. lead to differences in opportunity, different senses of being welcomed, and different perspectives on so many facets of life. The Cambridge Digs Deep work over the last year in both the school district and the city helped raise awareness and open up conversation about privilege and the damage that’s done often unintentionally by people with privilege. It put this important topic on the table in a new way and offered a valuable and useful framework for us all to dig deeper into our own impact. I support continued exploration of the many ways, large and small, that those of us like me who don’t face racial discrimination can contribute positively and face the challenge with out defensiveness.
Everyone knows there is a crisis in affordable housing. Cambridge has become a city where only very wealthy people can afford to buy or, increasingly, rent unless they qualify for subsidies. Progress IS possible, though, and has been made through inclusionary zoning percent increases, higher linkage fees, and section 8 rent changes based on zip codes. What’s next in addressing this critical issue?
The issues and proposed solutions are complex. And even the most well-intended policies can have unintended and problematic consequences. They all involve trade-offs that demand careful — and transparent — consideration. We must be thoughtful and thorough in assessing proposals such as the affordable housing overlay and its alternatives to understand their likely effectiveness, economic efficiency, and secondary impacts. Only then can we make sound decisions — informed by a full range of policy options and with an understanding of the trade-offs between them — to effectively address one of the City’s, and Patty’s, highest priorities. Take a look at Patty’s August 6 Cambridge Chronicle piece to learn about her developing understanding of, and current thoughts about, the overlay and the process that has led to it. Then share your thoughts
On School Committee I have been a passionate and effective advocate for higher expectations, bold goals, engaged classrooms and more programs like Montessori and bilingual immersion that close achievement gaps and are highly desirable to families. The City Council role’s in education relates to overall budget, building – where we need to build more schools – and expanding preschools, afterschools and summer program with an eye on quality and joy. Share your thoughts