Weekly Council Updates! (5/15)


For some good clean fun – in just a few hours, join the CSV pajama party – at 5:30 – 7 pm it’s a Facebook event and it is not a fundraiser, although there IS a fundraiser going on in which you are encouraged to participate.

Even though we can’t have garden parties, and the various garden viewings like the library’s secret gardens of Cambridge are on hold, we can enjoy the profusion of flowers popping up all over. Tip: The Longfellow House on Brattle Street is not open, but the grounds are – it belongs to us, since it is a national park site- and the lilacs all over the grounds smell delicious. If you go, walk behind the house to the delightful little formal garden.  Worth a visit, stay distant from other visitors and think about the history made there…  Please send me your favorite corner of Cambridge to witness the wonders of spring. I am doing a lot more walking about town and would appreciate your tips for a favorite place.  

Speaking being outside – here is a chance to take action! Many of you have followed my efforts to close streets around the city during the pandemic to allow for safe exercise while distancing – including but not limited to memorial drive. The council has voted to do so, but the City Manager has not listened, even as cities across the country (and the world!) are opening up streets to pedestrians. Cambridge Bike Safety is organizing a petition to put more pressure on the city – PLEASE SIGN HERE!

Read below for updates on the council agenda this Monday and resources from the city. As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns. 


Council Agenda Overview

City Manager’s Agenda:

CMA #99: Requesting the appropriation of $150,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Human Service Programs Other Ordinary Maintenance account to support the continued operation of Food for Free services during the COVID-19 crisis.

It is great that the city has been able to support Food for Free during the pandemic. The number of families in the community that are food insecure has risen dramatically and I am grateful for the work Food for Free is doing to expand their operations with financial help from the city.  And anyone can sign up to help – my aide Michael Scarlett has volunteered with FFF many times – shoot him an email if you want the inside scoop on what is involved (mscarlett@cambridgema.gov).

CMA #102: Requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $237,000,000 to provide funds for the design and construction of the Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper School.

I fully support our schools and our buildings.  On this project, I will be asking whether we might save some money in order to ensure that we have funds available for desperately needed upgrades and repairs and renovations to other older school buildings.  There are many buildings across the district that need some upgrades.  I am glad that we are approaching this project with a longer term perspective – since it anticipate more room for students in upper grades and in preschool.  We need to expand capacity in our middle grades and city preschools.  

Additionally, I have continued working with the City Manager, our state delegation, and others to get the city to acquire the Armory space adjacent to the Tobin. It requires a number of people working in concert and I have been pushing hard to make it happen. It won’t be easy, especially given the shift in priorities due to COVID-19, but I am going to keep pushing. 


Policy orders that I am sponsoring and co-sponsoring this week:

PO #111 – Creating an Arts Recovery Advisory Committee

Artists are such an important part of what makes Cambridge unique and we need to do whatever we can to help our artists get back on their feet. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the Arts community and forming a committee to provide insight on how the City can best support the Arts in the coming months is an important first step. 

PO #112 – Strong support of Bill HD. 5054 relative to restaurant delivery commissions during the COVID-19 state of emergency

This is a follow up to a policy order I sponsored three weeks ago, asking for the City Manager to work with the solicitor to cap delivery fees that third party services are charging local restaurants. Since the council passed that policy order unanimously, a similar bill (HD 5054) has been introduced in the state house – this PO will show the councils support for that bill. 

PO #113 – An update on digital equity and ensuring reliable internet citywide 

We all see how this pandemic has amplified the disparities in our city, our country, and our world. As a meme about the current situation summarizes:  We are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat, if we have a boat at all. As with food (in)security, housing (in)security, job (in)security, people are experiencing this crisis very differently.  The city and school district have worked hard to ensure digital access for residents and students – yet the digital divide still exists.  This order asks for updates on the work being done to address the digital divide and updates on an order I previously filed on municipal broadband.  

PO #114 – Vote by Mail

No more critical or sacred responsibility exists in a democracy above the right to freely and easily exercise your right to vote. In this era, it is clear that we need to move quickly to having universal vote by mail. Mayor Siddiqui has been a leader in this effort, and joined 21 other mayors in Massachusetts asking for vote by mail. This order would put the council on record as asking our city to look into the possibility and support state and national efforts.  Oregon was the first state in the country to establish exclusively vote by mail – in 1998. One of my sisters who served as majority leader in the Oregon legislature, confirms that their system has served them well and allowed for more residents to vote safely.    

PO #115 – Editing the emergency order to include the necessity of wearing masks inside public places and multi-unit apartments

I’ve written a lot about masks. I continue to believe that masks are not necessary when outside and distant from people – the science supports this perspective. However, I was outvoted at the last meeting seeking to have outside mask use required only when distancing is not possible – per the state mandate. On requiring masks INSIDE, I also follow the science, and transmission happens inside when ventilation is not open, and lingering particles can be picked up by people.  This order, co-sponsored by Councillor McGovern, seeks to have Cambridge require masks indoors in workplaces and common areas of large residential buildings even when there may be more than six feet between people. Currently, Cambridge states that masks/face coverings are not required in those situations, which makes no sense to me. 

Good News from around the City!

Left On Pearl
Feminist activism is still evolving as we confront new challenges brought on by COVID-19. The pandemic is exposing inequalities while disproportionately affecting those who historically have had little visibility, voice, or protection. ‘LEFT ON PEARL’ is a documentary about a highly significant but little-known event in the history of the women’s liberation movement, the 1971 takeover and occupation of a Harvard University-owned building by hundreds of Boston area women. Join me in attending a virtual screening and discussion with the filmmakers on May 27th at 7pm! Register here!

Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund
The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund has raised over $3 million and distributed over $1 million to residents and families financially impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The application is open until TONIGHT for those in need – and you can still donate! 

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