Reflecting on our charter, need for change….and please save water!


As a lifelong feminist, I am indebted to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That she profoundly affected our country is an understatement.  I heard her speak at Radcliffe Day several years ago and was amazed at her energy and whip-smart retorts and deep compassion – which were clear even from a podium in a tent filled with people.  Of her many quotes, a favorite is: “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)?’ and my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

No City Council meeting on Monday due to Yom Kippur…. I will be offline for the day.  As a lapsed Catholic married to a Jew, I love the period of reflection and remembrance the high holidays bring.  The message is very much aligned with the folk masses I attended throughout my childhood and into early adulthood.  However you participate in spirituality, may this time be one of self-care and thinking of tikkum olam.  A better world.  

City Hall is currently lit up with purple at night.  This month it is recognizing recovery awareness.  In the past, purple has represented domestic violence awareness and suicide prevention. I have relatives and friends who have struggled with addiction.  Our city (and country and world) have lost too many to addiction.  I lost a close friend to suicide in college.  Our son lost one of his best friends from CRLS three years ago today.  Whether it is about struggling with recovery, concern over domestic violence, or self-harm:  Ask. Talk. Don’t be hesitant to be direct with anyone you know in pain. It can help. 

Below is a summary of issues that have been discussed and a few items from this week’s meeting and projects for the future.  As ever, please communicate your thoughts.  And for the question of the day – read to the end.  If you’re the first to answer correctly, you get a $15 gift certificate to a local place.


Save Water – not only California is in drought!

In Massachusetts, we are hearing warnings about our drought getting worse. We have been in “severe drought” for over a month now.  In July, my policy order asked the city to report on lessons learned from the 2016 drought and advise residents to start saving water.  In 2016 we had to spend millions buying water from the MWRA – and I believe we could have saved some of that money and some water had we asked residents to be more conscious.  Most of us don’t have yards, but we do take showers (right?) and we do wash dishes and clothes  – we could save water daily.  The city has yet to put out a call to save water – but I won’t stop advocating for that responsible action.  Please do what you can.  

Cambridge’s 80 year old charter: time for a check up

As many of you know, a special meeting of the council to discuss charter reform was held on Wednesday, following a policy order that I sponsored on July 27th. The meeting was productive and informative, and I was excited that a majority of the council expressed interest in updating our charter to reflect the modern, progressive nature of Cambridge. You can see the agenda, presentation, and video of the meeting here

Note that the idea of a charter review and change has been discussed for many decades.  Even if you believe our form of government works well, it is good governance to review it.  And too many people in Cambridge, myself included, believe we could improve upon our form of government.  Remember, the charter that governs us is used by almost no other city AND was voted in by a narrow margin at a time of rampant patronage and corruption.  That type of patronage is now illegal – which means we might consider whether we still need the form of government whose main purpose was to stem that corruption. AND Cambridge is a markedly different city now.  In 1950 95% of residents were white and 87% of households were families, now 63% are white and now 39% of households are families.  Time for us to consider a governance structure that better meets our needs.

Additionally, if you have QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS about a charter review, please submit them here. This will help me create an FAQ about the process and answer people’s questions. 

Tobin/Vassal Lane project

Unfortunately, the meeting to discuss updates to the Tobin school project coincided with the charter meeting this Wednesday so I was unable to attend. However, from what I have heard and through talking to city staff working on it, I still see some red flags with moving forward with the project. However, the final designs have not been decided and I have continued to push for appropriate traffic studies to inform the end result. Not to mention, advocating for a slice of the armory property has proved challenging – I have worked with the city manager and deputy city manager, along with members of our state delegation.  And I remain concerned about some of the concerns raised over building a new building based on pre-pandemic educational models. AND spending so much money on a school – far more than any other high quality complex school that other cities are building. We have many other school buildings in desperate need of upgrades and I will continue to advocate that we spend less on this project so we can maintain other buildings.  

Here is the presentation the city and engineers did (30 minutes) to kick off the meeting – the rest of the time was filled with questions and discussion. 


Recap from Monday’s meeting (9/21):

As I wrote about in last week’s email, I filed for reconsideration after a 1am vote on a contract that no one had seen. If you did not get a chance to read the communication I submitted, you can do so here. My motion to reconsider failed, which means there was not a second vote on the matter. The Cambridge Day wrote a thorough piece about the discussion on Monday if you are interested in reading a full recap.

PO #188 – Harvard Square street closures

The PO that I sponsored on walking streets in Harvard Square passed unanimously after being charter righted by Councilor Simmons the week before. I hope the city is able to move forward quickly with a pilot while the weather is still nice, so we can determine what the best long-term streetscape in the square will look like.  There were some changes made to the order – however, the intent of the order – to dramatically re-imagine Harvard Square and transform some streets into a pedestrian areas open to cyclists and walkers – remained intact.  Read the Cambridge Day article for more information.  

PO #204 – Outdoor dining extension

I was happy to co-sponsor this PO asking for an extension of outdoor dining, to do everything we can to help our local restaurants in the coming months. It includes looking into heat lamps and other options to keep patrons warm while they safely dine outdoors.


Tuesday September 29; noon

There will be a special meeting of the City Council for an update from the City Manager and staff on Covid19.  No agenda from the council. 

Still time to submit ideas! This initiative is a great way to have direct input on the dollars the city spends. Tell us how you would spend $500,000 on capital projects to improve the community by September 30th!

And finally, the question of the day ($15 gift card on the line):
Why is the year 1924 significant for voting rights in our country?  
Bonus: What is the relationship with Tlingit?
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