Happy mid-Summer! I hope you have been enjoying it. I took a day away and spent a night at Tolland state park – even snagged a waterfront site! Being outdoors and unplugged for a day was wonderful…and a performance of dance under trees at Jacob’s Pillow reaffirmed that arts are critical to our well-being. Thanks to an EV charging station at the town hall in Becket, I was confident that we could get back home without needing to stop to charge up. Range anxiety prevents a lot of people from buying an EV – but that is changing, and soon it should not be an issue at all for trips of a few hundred miles….
Covid continues to rule our lives and upend our plans. And yet, if you are vaccinated, the chances of getting covid (or getting very sick if you do) are far lower. Cambridge just expanded testing to three days a week, after demands for testing went back up significantly as more people are seeking tests due to the virulence of the Delta variant. Recent guidance is for masking indoors if you are immunocompromised even if you are vaccinated. The summer has proven more challenging than expected due to the resurgence and breakthrough infections. Get help and support if you are feeling low – as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka bravely and clearly reminded us, there is only goodness in acknowledging hurt and mental health needs deserve to be addressed.
Next Monday is our summer meeting – the only full regular business meeting in July and August. There have been many other meetings in July, to continue in the fall. Meetings I’ve attended (albeit mostly remote) include several on the city manager search process, bike infrastructure, community alternatives to police response, climate initiatives, and campaign finance reform proposals. And there have been several meetings convened in response to the recent gun violence in the city. I listened with a broken heart to the testimonies in a meeting convened to hear from the community about the shootings. Our city, and other cities, are experiencing a rise in violence and fear and guns. We must do better in providing support, and solutions. A recent piece by My Brothers Keeper is one example of how people in our community in direct touch with folks close to this issue are urging action. I stand with my colleagues and the city leadership and the residents as a whole in sympathy and with resolve that I will do what I can to support any efforts that can change the trajectory of this recent spike.
There is a lot on the agenda – and a lot going on that is outside of the agenda. Thanks to the newly formed Climate Crisis Working Group, which the mayor has announced and appointed me the chair, over the next few months, I will be immersed even more than usual in climate work – the urgency made all the more obvious with the smoke from fires in Idaho and Oregon making Cambridge air unhealthy a few days ago.
As always, please send thoughts, questions, and ideas my way. On any topic or in any arena!
P.S. Go US Women’s National Soccer Team!! This morning’s win in a penalty shootout made my day (so far).
Communication #2 – Regarding the AG’s ruling on charter amendments: This communication outlines the response from the AG’s office about putting the charter amendment ballot questions that I introduced on November’s ballot in Cambridge. I am thrilled that the response was affirmative – we were confident that this year-long process would play in our favor, but getting the confirmation in writing from Maura Healey herself is still exciting. Three questions on better governance and a regular review will be on the ballot in November! I cannot overemphasize how important these changes are – I believe the very fact that we are proposing some changes is a sign of positive change.
Communication #3 – Regarding the formation of a Climate Crisis Working Group: I am excited to announce that I will be co-chairing a climate crisis working group! The city is a leader in the fight against climate change but we can and must do more. We are falling behind our own goals and do not have a clear path to meet them. This working group will bring together experts in Cambridge and beyond to chart out the specific policy steps that are needed to meet our climate goals.
PO #4 – Addressing increased gun violence: the recent spree of gun violence in Cambridge and the surrounding area is devastating, and this policy order notes that both short and long-term solutions are needed to address it. Making sure that the young people in our city are cared for so that we have no more gun-related incidents this year is paramount; but we also must focus on the deeper, underlying issues that make it hard for at-risk youth in Cambridge to avoid a culture of gun violence. This policy order asks the manager for a range of services and plans to address this crisis.
PO #5 – Restaurant Revitalization Act: as I have written about time and time again, our local restaurants are still struggling. This hit that restaurants took over the last 16 months will not be made up for quickly – we must continue to support and provide funding. And remember to avoid delivery apps at all costs! I worked on a fee cap last year, a lifeline to many restaurants, and yet we are now learning that even with the state law, some companies sought to avoid the cap. Luckily our vigilant AG Healey is suing the company for flouting the law! These companies are built on the backs of our local restaurants and yet they will still try every way possible to maximize their profits – while not providing the best services – and some will even break the law in an attempt to profit. This policy order is in support of the Restaurant Revitalization Act – I hope congress can get its act together and pass additional funding as soon as possible.
PO #6 – Trees as essential infrastructure: it cannot be overstated how important a good tree canopy is to fighting the heat island effect, protecting against flooding, and keeping our air clean. Wherever we have large trees, especially on city property, we must treat them as essential infrastructure that should be worked around. That clearly did not happen for the Tobin project. The city’s own Urban Forestry Master Plan states unequivocally that trees should be protected – yet we the city have failed to do that in a number of projects recently. We must not position protecting trees as counter to building houses or renovating schools. It is the goal of this policy order to ensure that for any project that the city undertakes, protecting the tree canopy is non-negotiable. We are too far into the climate crisis to be destroying one of our best defense systems with every construction project we undertake.
PO #7 – Zoning for labs and research facilities: Councillor Carlone has drafted a memo asking CDD to produce zoning language to restrict where laboratories can be built. There are numerous reasons why we should be keeping labs away from residential areas and this memo outlines where we could restrict that type of building. Give the memo a read and let me know your thoughts!
PO #8 – Jerry’s Pond: It has been almost exactly one year since the site was sold to IQHQ, and I believe that we have made great strides toward a vision that will benefit all. IQHQ has been a good partner in this process – they are not asking for an upzoning, so the city has little leverage to demand specifics when it comes to revitalizing the Jerry’s Pond site. However, IQHQ has been receptive to working with the community and I believe that we are close to the finish line. This policy order asks for the city to chip in and helps ensure that there is funding available for the improvements that the community wants. Rindge Ave in its current state leaves a lot to be desired – very narrow, no bike facilities, very few trees – and the vision laid out by the community would be a huge improvement. I am looking forward to forging ahead and helping that vision be realized.
PO #9 – restitution for the war on drugs: I was happy to work on this policy order – along with another PO about reparations that is currently on the table – with Councillors Zondervan and Simmons. Cambridge should be one of the first cities in the country to lead on restitution for the war on drugs. As our cannabis industry takes off, a portion of that money should go towards helping residents who were harmed by the criminalization of cannabis in the last few decades.
PO #10 – 100% vaccinated city staff: cities across the country along with the federal government are now mandating vaccines for staff or have them be subject to weekly testing. Cambridge should do the same and should model what we hope all employers do – get everyone vaccinated. I introduced this policy order asking the manager for a plan to get city staff to 100% vaccinated. With city buildings open and no mask mandate, it is imperative we take every step possible to keep staff and residents safe and I believe this is an important one.
Since the last Council meeting, the City has lost a number of wonderful residents: The legendary Robert “Bob” Moses, who was a leader in the civil rights movement and a pioneer of math literacy in Cambridge and across the country; Priscilla McMillan, a world-renowned journalist who worked tirelessly to improve and protect Harvard Square; and Robert R. “LB” Favreau, III who was loved by his friends and the Cambridge community. This City is full of incredible people, and it is a privilege to get to recognize their lives as a City Council through resolutions.
Participatory Budgeting: Tomorrow is the last day to submit your ideas for how to spend $1 million dollars! Get in your ideas and then stay tuned for the voting process later this fall.
Let Trans* Athletes Play, Sunday, August 1, 11am: With over 100 anti-transgender bills nationwide, it is more evident than ever we need to organize and create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, and normalize the fact that transgender people belong in all spaces, especially sports. This event is a space for LGBTQ+ youth (especially transgender athletes) to play sports and games with their friends, and to protest the anti-trans bills. The event will feature sports, games, a protest featuring several trans athletes, sign making, merchandise, snacks, and much more.
Screen on the Green Family Movie Night, Wednesday, August 4, 7:15 p.m. Greene-Rose Heritage Park: Enjoy family-friendly entertainment and the Disney-Pixar movie The Lion King on a theater-size screen. Rain site location will be at the Moses Youth Center. View the 2021 Screen on the Green Schedule.
Celebrating National Black Business Month: Join the City of Cambridge in celebrating National Black Business Month this August. National Black Business Month recognizes the importance of Black and Brown businesses to local communities and to the national economy. Events, workshops, and networking opportunities will be held throughout the month to provide resources to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs. Community members may join the celebration by supporting Black-owned businesses and other entrepreneurs during this month and beyond.
Who was Squaw Sachem and why should we all learn about her? And what street/building/monument should we name after her?