Marc on the Issues
I have always loved animals, and since I've been on the City Council, I've been an advocate for animal rights and welfare, taking on the pet shop lobby and bad breeders and working for more parks for our city's dogs. In March 2016 my family and I adopted a rescue dog named Bunker, who, if not for a series of lucky breaks and the dedication of some extraordinary people, would have never had a happy ending. My work and advocacy for animals earned me the honor of being named the MSPCA’s 2016 Local Legislator of the Year. Since then, I’ve continued to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Greater Boston, and Cambridge in particular, has been one of the hottest real estate markets in the country for almost a decade. That has meant a regional housing crisis, with rapidly rising cost of housing, more evictions, and increased displacement. Cambridge has taken bold action to build more housing for those at all income levels, provide more resources for affordable housing, and give those facing displacement and eviction the support they need. Our city has done that with little financial help from the State or Federal government to solve this enormous challenge. For the last three terms, I have been working to shift the conversation about development from the divisive “winners/losers” narrative to one in which our community has goal-oriented, honest conversations about how development affects the community and how we can minimize the negative impacts. I have often stated, “I want developers to scream but not run away.” This approach has shown results, with 20% inclusionary zoning and more than tripling the amount of money commercial developers must pay the city for affordable housing. I was proud to lead on both of these efforts.
The Metro-Boston region is booming because of our strong job market, and those jobs are paying far more than the manufacturing jobs of the past. In short, people are moving to the area and housing production is not keeping pace. As long as our job market is strong and we are an attractive place to live, people are going to move here. And if we don’t supply more housing for them, then they will outbid those making less money for the housing stock that is already here. As challenging as it is, we must address this housing crisis regionally and we must build more housing.
When people think of Cambridge, they tend to think about our great universities, our thriving biotech industry, and progressive politics. It would be easy for people to think that everyone in Cambridge is thriving. Sadly, that is not the case. A city-commissioned study in 2014 showed that despite increased wealth in Cambridge, our poverty rate is well above the State average. Many people in our community are struggling to pay their rent, pay their bills, and put food on their tables.
Cambridge is taking action, including by providing all CPS students free breakfast and building more affordable housing. In addition, I worked with MIT, The Greater Boston Labor Council, and City Councillor Alanna Mallon to bring the Pathways program to Cambridge, which provides training for young adults so they can enter the trade unions, where they can earn as much as $50 per hour, helping them move out of poverty. But our city needs to do more, particularly to close the gap between where housing vouchers max out and where market rent begins by investing in "gap vouchers".
As a graduate of the Cambridge Public Schools, a parent of 2 current students and 2 graduates of CPS, and a 4 term Cambridge School Committee member, I have a deep knowledge of the CPS system and am deeply committed to public education. Over the last three terms, we’ve been able to take concrete steps to improve CPS, through providing free breakfast for all CPS students, increasing CPS funding for staff positions that allow our students to succeed, and starting a college savings program so all CPS students have the resources to go on to higher and further education.
We know, however, that our public schools do not work well for all of our students. Low income students, students of color and those with learning challenges, do not have the same outcomes as their peers. This is unacceptable anywhere, particularly in a city with our resources. One way to level the playing field is to ensure that all young people have access to an affordable, high quality early education experience, because the opportunity gap starts before children enter the Cambridge Public Schools.
While on the School Committee I co-chaired an early childhood education task force with our current State Representative Marjorie Decker, leading to additional funding for professional development and staffing of two social workers to work with both home day care providers and city programs so that we could address the social-emotional needs of our young people. Once on the City Council, I called for the creation of an Early Childhood Education Task Force, which to date, has provided additional professional development to strengthen programs, opened additional preschool classrooms run by the City and invested over 5 million dollars to offer scholarships to low income families.
As a father, I am terrified at the world my children will inherit. Over the past three terms I have worked to take action on the environment, working with my colleagues and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Mothers’ Out Front on issues, including banning single-use plastic bags, identifying gas leaks, moving Cambridge toward 100% renewable energy, creating a solar incentive program and expanding charging stations for electric vehicles. To cut down further on emissions in our city, we need to take more action on Smart Meters, public transit investment, and converting the city’s fleet to electric vehicles. The biggest action we need to tackle is clear — requiring new buildings to be more sustainable and look at how we retrofit and renovate current buildings — to start cutting down on the 80% of city emissions that come from our labs.
Despite a great deal of wealth in Cambridge, our homeless population continues to grow. I have spent much of my time on the Council working to combat this epidemic. We know that the best way to resolve homelessness is to build more homes, but that is complicated and takes time. Sadly, our homeless don’t have time. This is why I created the Metro Boston Homeless Summit, a series of meetings held between the cities of Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Medford and Malden to address homelessness on a regional basis.
We need short and long term goals. While we address our need for more housing, there are people cold tonight. People hungry tonight. People in need tonight. That is why I opened the city’s first warming center for the homeless, providing shelter to over 500 individuals during the winter months. It’s why, for the past 5 years, I have launched the Winter Warmth Drive, raising close to $100,000 to purchase blankets, socks and sleeping bags each year for our homeless friends and neighbors. One major obstacle for our homeless to access housing programs, is a lack of official documentation. So this year, I took concrete action, and started a program that provides funding and assistance for Cambridge’s homeless to obtain the documentation they need to access housing.
If we are going to move our homeless off the streets then we need a coordinated and shared effort. In addition to housing, Cambridge needs to take more action to help those struggling with substance use disorder by opening inpatient treatment beds and safe consumption sites.
Safe STREET INFRASTRUCTURE
The streets of Cambridge were not built for the volume and multiple modes of transportation we see today. Simply put, our streets are not safe enough for drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians. Earlier this year passed a law to require protected bike lanes when our city rebuilds streets, the first law of its kind in the country. We did that by building on the great work our city has done over the last six year, through initiatives such as the Safe Routes To School Program, Vision Zero, the Inman Square Redesign, and pop up bike lanes on Cambridge St. and Mass Ave. Now that the law is on the books, we need to continue building out that bike network, and create more ‘bus only’ lanes to move more people, more safely on our roads
As a social worker for the past 25 years, I have dedicated my life to fighting for social justice. In this time in our country’s history it is vital that cities and towns resist the hatred that is coming out of Washington D.C. Cambridge, although far ahead of other cities when it comes to being a welcoming and diverse community, still has work to do to ensure that every member of our community, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation is safe from discrimination and has an equal opportunity to succeed.
One of the first actions I took as Mayor was to create the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants, through a partnership with the Cambridge Community Foundation. Thus far we have raised close to $300,000 to provide pro bono legal assistance to low income immigrants who live and work in Cambridge. We have now partnered with Somerville and are expanding our efforts to help more of our immigrant community members. I also asked for a home rule petition to be filed to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. They pay taxes, send their children to our schools, are valuable members of our community and should have a voice in who represents them.
I have often said that Cambridge has race and class issues like every other community. To address these social justice issues, I launched Cambridge Digs DEEP with City Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui. We brought in Dr. Darnisa Amante, a leader in addressing issues of race and class, to lead a series of community conversations to address racism and classism in our city. We cannot make progress if we are afraid to confront these issues in our community and within ourselves.