Reimagining emergency response and other challenging work ahead


I hope you are enjoying the changes to our city and state – with the declaration that the state of emergency will end June 15, we are about to enter a new phase. We can build on some of the lessons learned – how we can use streets better – and we have to build back better – public transit is underutilized and needs our love.  

I am excited to be cosponsoring the HEART proposal on the agenda next week, written by The Black Response. The proposal, which took close to a year to write, is the result of an impressive and collaborative process. The Black Response worked with and received input from mental health and domestic violence service providers, housing justice advocates, impacted community members, young people, youth workers, researchers, and educators. While the proposal is not expected to be implemented tomorrow, it is a great starting point and I hope that the City and community can work together over the next few months to flush out the details and implement this proposal.  

On Wednesday, I attended the reopening of Starlight Square (seen above). This project is the result of an inspiring collaboration of so many groups – being at the event was wonderful. Hearing from the Cambridge Community Foundation, the Wagner Foundation, the City Manager, the BID Director, the head of the Mass. Cultural Council was great – each speaker was wonderful. And then several local artists – spoken word, rappers, musicians -performed.  Definitely go there… and dine at a restaurant somewhere in Cambridge before and after. Check out all the upcoming events here

I will be honest, as always. It has been a rough week due to aftermath of the council orders on Israel/Palestine. The personal attacks on me seeking a delay on the discussion (more below) are hard to take. I will keep doing my best to be respectful, listen, and take a stand based on my values and convictions. I hope you support that approach in me – and others.

Hoping to see people in person soon!


PS: There has been continuing positive news on the Covid front over the last few weeks. Cambridge remains a low risk, green-level community for COVID-19 transmission, according to the state’s interactive data dashboard. Cambridge’s 7-day moving average of cases per 100,000 residents remains under 3 cases, and our percent positivity for COVID-19 tests is 0.11%. As of May 18, 68% of Cambridge residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and 52% of residents were fully vaccinated, according to the state’s weekly COVID-19 Municipality Vaccination Report. To help get that number even higher, the City of Cambridge Pandemic Collaborative will be offering a vaccine clinic this Sunday, May 23rd at Cambridgeside Mall with the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine. This clinic is free and open to all people 18 years of age and older who live and work in Cambridge. No appointment is required, and you do not need insurance, an ID, or a social security number to get the vaccine! Please spread the word to anyone you know who has not yet received their shot. 

The resolution and policy order from last week related to Israel/palestine are on the agenda – since I exercised my charter right (which puts off discussion until the next meeting). There are strong feelings on all sides of this issue, and all sides of these items. As I wrote last week, I have concerns about both, especially the policy order. I charter righted the order out of respect for members in our community celebrating Shavuot – a Jewish holiday. For that action I am being criticized by some  – yet I would have done the same for any other policy order a group of Cantabridgians asked to put off due to a religious holiday. I do have concerns about the order as written and believe we should take time to consider the wording. It is disheartening that even in supposedly inclusive Cambridge we are not bringing any nuance to discussion of complexity such as Israel and Palestine. I am hoping that the council can agree that if we are going to take a stand it will be to condemn violence on both sides, and call out the Israeli government for its occupation and expansion of settlements. The inclusion of HP as the only company mentioned, when Cambridge has no contract with HP, lends credence to the belief that this order is a proxy for taking a stand on the Boycott Divest Sanction movement – which is confirmed by the call to action that explicitly references this policy order as Cambridge endorsing BDS. The hundreds of emails on both sides of the BDS issue are proof that whether intended or not, this order will be seen worldwide as putting the city on record for BDS, even though it is not explicitly named in the policy order. I hope that we do not end up taking a stand on BDS. I agree that we should look at all our purchases – in fact my policy order from last year sought to do exactly that. We should build on that work, not single out one country or one vendor. 

CMA #9 – US Department of Agriculture Grant: This grant provides the city with nearly half a million dollars to provide nutritious meals to Cambridge youth over the summer while schools are closed. We have many families in Cambridge that are food insecure and programs like this are necessary to ensure food is getting to our youth. 

PO #3 – Cambridge HEART Proposal: As I wrote above, this policy order asks the manager to review the HEART proposal for an alternate response team and work with community members before implementation. The nationwide discussion on how to re-imagine policing had led many cities to look into programs that seek to change the way we approach public safety. CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon is a national model many point to – a successful program started decades ago. They have endorsed this proposal.   

Harvard Square street closure pilots – I am chairing a Neighborhood and Long Term planning on Wednesday, May 26th at 10am to discuss our options for closing streets in Harvard Square to improve pedestrian access and create more space for people to enjoy in the Square. I have written about this quite a bit over the last year and I think there is a lot of potential for both Harvard and Central Square to run pilot street closures. As we come out of the pandemic, we have a chance for people to return to new and improved public spaces. I am excited about the potential and I look forward to bringing voices together on Wednesday for a roundtable-type discussion for people to share their ideas.

Special Meeting on Charter Reform – Directly after the NLTP hearing on Wednesday, the Council will meet at noon to review the results of the Collins Center memo. I have been working with the Collins Center for over a year now on the various ways that Cambridge could change its outdated charter. Last fall, I introduced a policy order asking to hire the Collins Center to do a review – this meeting will be to discuss the findings. Please read the memo – it presents some very exciting options for modifying our charter. I believe the city governance would be improved by a better balance of power and more democracy in the city’s structure. Send your thoughts and questions on this vitally important issue.


Free Shred Day – May 22nd from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m: The Cambridge Consumers’ Council will be helping residents safely dispose of unwanted records at a free document Shred Day in front of Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. This event will be held rain or shine for Cambridge residents only.

Ride for Black Lives, May 22nd, 11:30am – Join the Ride for Black Lives in Cambridge at the Greene-Rose Park. I am not sure what the ride route is but you can get updates here

Hiking While Black: Accessibility and Culture, Monday, May 24 at 6:30 pm – Join community member and advocate for spending time outdoors Michelle Holmes. Michelle is a physician and epidemiologist who believes in the healing power of nature. She will be sharing her stories from the trail and how we can support in making hiking trails more welcoming and accessible to communities of color.

Voices for Justice: Ta-Nehisi Coates in Conversation with Callie Crossley, Tuesday, May 25, 7:30pm –  the Voices for Justice series continues with author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Callie Crossley of WGBH Boston’s Under the Radar. Registration is required.

Mid-Mass Ave Safety Improvement Project Meeting, May 26, 6pm – The Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department will host a joint meeting in collaboration with the Community Development and Public Works departments on the Mid-Mass Ave Safety Improvement Project. During the meeting, staff will provide an update on the plans for the project and invite the community to ask questions. 

Who Knows Cambridge?, May 26th, 7pm: The Mayor is hosting “Who Knows Cambridge?,” a game show where Contestants will compete in three rounds of 10 questions each, and then a final round with one question where they can wager their points. You can register here and see a past show here.

Voices of Youth Activists, Thursday, May 27, at 6 pm –  Join five Cambridge teens as they discuss their inspiring social justice activism work with the CRLS Black Student Union, the Student Prison Abolition Coalition, the Cambridge Youth Council and CRLS Project 10 East. The panel will be moderated by Ivanna Solano, co-founder of Love Your Magic.

Trivia Question:

Last week’s question:  Where will you find 11 new acres of public and green space in Cambridge? Answer: Cambridge Crossing – check it out here.

This week: what year did Maria L. Baldwin become principal of the then-named Agassiz School, and now the Baldwin School?

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

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