Mid-October Council Updates!

Proposed re-districiting in Cambridge – some concern about overlapping lines.


It’s mid-October, the leaves are changing color, and the weather is hopefully helping you feel positive! We gave a summary of the last meeting, so this week has a summary of some items on the agenda for Monday, comments on some issues that have come up, and some notices of interest.

This week we celebrated Indigenous People’s Day – a change made several years ago in Cambridge (I was the sponsor of the motion to change our school calendar when I was on School Committee). While the change was generally uncontroversial in Cambridge, it does cause some concern and disappointment from folks who see taking away Columbus day as somehow disrespectful of Italian Americans. Any time historical reckoning and learning challenges our thinking, there can be resistance and resentment. For Italian Americans, it is not clear at all that Columbus should be that symbol – Italy did not exist as a country in 1492, Columbus sailed under the Spanish monarchs, (in a year when all Jews in the area were killed or expelled), and he discovered the American continent for Europeans – many years after the Vikings. As a lover of history, I recognize that changing narratives can be difficult to accept and yet I know I have learned greatly from expanding my understanding of history. All to say: Happy Indigenous People’s Day. And we can always celebrate Italians – a few of my favorites would be Maria Montessori, Galileo and Artemisia Gentileschi.

Our COVID numbers are excellent – I have continued to support vaccine mandates. I have pushed the city to reach out to our young people who have the lowest vaccination rates so they can help get us to higher rates overall. I am grateful to the workers who continue to provide free COVID testing and accessible vaccines.

Elections are upon us – below is information about the process. There has been confusion about the ballot questions this year related to charter change. For more information, see the recent Cambridge Chronicle article and read the guide from the City. I wrote about this in the past, and may send out a special email on the questions.

There has also been a lot of concern – rightly so – about the rollout of Mass. Ave. bike lanes. I voted for the ordinance and yet I did not vote to eliminate all parking. I am disappointed in the City’s implementation of the plan and am working to make the process more responsive to the community. I will update you all as those discussions continue.

Please communicate questions concerns, advice.

Stay safe, enjoy outdoors,


POR 2021 #224 – Geothermal Microdistrict Pilot Program: In our last meeting of the Climate Crisis Working Group, I learned that Eversource is selecting locations for a geothermal energy pilot program. I was happy to introduce a resolution calling on the City Council to advocate that Cambridge will be a trial site for this program. Geothermal systems have the potential to replace delivered fuels and natural gas services, which can reduce an average residence’s carbon emissions by 60 percent. Cambridge has been a leader in setting aggressive climate goals, specifically in reducing emissions, but has had trouble meeting those goals – participation in this program would allow us to significantly reduce emissions while simultaneously alleviating the energy burden for consumers.

POR 2021 #225 – Support Uplift the Solar Energy Industry in Massachusetts Coalition: Uplift the Solar Energy Industry in Massachusetts Coalition is an organization committed to addressing the climate crisis while advancing economic development goals. The Coalition is raising public awareness regarding the urgency of the climate crisis and wide-ranging economic benefits of solar to individuals. I introduced a policy order, along with Councillor Zondervan, requesting the City Manager work with relevant City departments to support the Coalition and report back to the Council with findings. 

Applications and petitions
There are two petitions on the agenda which seek to amend the Affordable Housing Overlay. The first proposes a change in the setbacks language to such that overall and side year setbacks would not be “less than  50% of the base district formula.” The second petition proposes that the off-street minimum number of parking spaces be the same as the base zoning district.  

Residents near the Walden Square apartments – both those who live in the neighborhood and those in the development itself – have expressed concerns about a proposal to add 103 units with a building that changes the site dramatically, affecting the availability of parking and other issues. I look forward to the discussion of how these proposed changes might affect projects.

Updates on Meetings

I chaired two important meetings this week that continue my work on priorities for the City and Council.

At the NLTP meeting this Wednesday we discussed long term plans for the school buildings. I remain frustrated that the City does not have a long term plan covering our buildings. I had brought in someone from Newton last year who provided an excellent template they use – and asked that our school district do the same. That is not yet done – I will keep pushing. While I appreciate we build wonderful buildings, I also expressed concern that we take much more time (as in 4 years of construction instead of the more normal two years other districts take) and spend much more money. Watertown is building two new schools, net zero, for 1100+ students for $170 million.  We are planning spending $237 million for a new building, with two schools in it, net zero, for less than 1000 students. I simply don’t understand. We have the money – but meanwhile we have school buildings in desperate need of renovation and repair…. 

At the Climate Crisis Working Group (CCWG) meeting, we started to discuss the reasons for success in our efforts (mostly city efforts) as well as barriers that prevent us from meeting our goals as a community for emissions reductions. Stay informed by checking the CCWG webpage for documents and discussion items.   

Voting Information from the Election Commission

Cambridge Municipal Election Voting Options:

Early voting is available to all voters for the Municipal Election on Tuesday, November 2nd. Early voting is available by mail and in-person to all registered voters in Cambridge. However, you choose to vote, please be advised that once a voter casts an early voting ballot, the voter may no longer vote at the polls.

Voter Registration

For anyone wanting to vote early in-person, by mail, or by drop box, the first step is making sure you are registered. To check your voter registration status and to find information on how to register to vote, please go to www.registertovotema.com. You will need a license, or an I.D. issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to apply online. To be eligible to vote in the Municipal Election on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, you must register to vote or make changes to your voter registration by Wednesday, October 13, 2021. The office will be open until 8 p.m. on October 13, 2021.

The Election Commission is open to the public by walk-in or appointment. If you would like to schedule an appointment at, please go to https://calendly.com/cambridge-election-commission.

Early Voting by Mail

  1. Complete a Vote by Mail Application
  2. Vote when your ballot arrives
  3. Return your voted and sealed ballot to the Cambridge Election Commission by mail, ballot drop box, or in person. 
  4. You can check the status of your ballot at www.TrackMyBallotMA.com

The deadline to return a vote by mail ballot is November 2, 2021 at 8 p.m. to be counted.

The deadline to submit a Vote by Mail Application for a mailed ballot for the election is Wednesday, October 27, 2021 at 5 p.m. The Cambridge Election Commission recommends submitting this application no later than October 19th to ensure the timely delivery of your ballot.

Early Voting in Person

To vote in person, visit any one of the three (3) early voting locations offered in Cambridge during the period from Saturday, October 23, 2021 to Friday, October 29, 2021 for the Municipal Election. You must be a registered voter in Cambridge to vote at the early voting locations. Please refer to the City’s designated early voting schedule. The deadline to vote early in person is Friday, October 29, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Official Ballot Drop Box Locations:

Official ballot drop boxes will be available at the following six (6) locations for Cambridge voters beginning Friday, October 9, 2021 through Tuesday, November 2, 2021 at 8 p.m. The drop boxes will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

  1. City Hall – Near the back door of the building located at 795 Massachusetts Avenue
  2. Morse School – Near the front entrance of the building located at 40 Granite Street
  3. Cambridge Police Headquarters – Near the front of the building located at 125 6th Street
  4. Maria L. Baldwin School – Near the Oxford Street entrance of the building located at 28 Sacramento Street
  5. O’Neill Library – Adjacent to the entrance stairs of the building located at 70 Rindge Avenue
  6. Coffon Building – Near the front of the building located at 51 Inman Street

View Map of Drop Box Locations

Relocation of Some Polling Sites & Voting on Election Day:

Voting on Election Day will still be available for those who want to vote at the polls. Some polling sites were relocated for the upcoming Municipal Election on November 2, 2021. Your polling site location will be in the same ward and precinct or near your regular polling site for voter convenience and to minimize voter confusion. In the next few weeks, voters will receive an Early Voting Guide and a Voter Notification Card in the mail that will have information pertaining to where you vote, any relocated polling sites and other important election related information. Please refer to the voter information which will be mailed to you over the next few weeks. A list of wards/precincts and polling sites is available here, so you know where to go if you choose to vote on Election Day. The highlighted locations were relocated for the 2021 Municipal Election.

Voters are encouraged to wear a mask or face covering in the early voting locations and on Election Day at polling sites to help mitigate public health risks associated with COVID-19.

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/

Scroll to Top