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“Keeping it real for Cambridge”

 

 
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Why I’m Running
for City Council

I love Cambridge and I love living in Cambridge. I moved here eight years ago for school and never left. Beyond the local shopping, vibrant culture, and natural beauty, my favorite aspect of Cambridge is its diversity. When you see someone —no matter their race, gender expression, or hair color— you know they belong without question. I know I belong.

We as a city are facing many pressing issues — resident displacement, climate change, social inequity. The best time to act was last century. We are at a critical point where failure to act will result in the loss of many things that make our city great. Despite the need for action now, the city at large is in a deadlock trying to decide which problem is most urgent. In my view, they’re inseparable. We should build affordable housing, but it won’t be equitably built in a floodplain or without green spaces. We could replace a city block with a park, but that would displace those who would enjoy it. Many of us want the same thing - a thriving and diverse community. I want to help bridge our gaps so we can get there together.

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Digital Equity

The Internet has become an essential part of life, needed to do things as simple as applying for a job or paying the bills. The Comcast monopoly keeps prices high and quality low. As many as 50% of low income households do not have broadband internet. Many rely on insecure and unreliable wifi hotspots, including at fast food restaurants where some children have even been seen doing their homework. A city-owned fiber optic network could lower prices, enforce net neutrality, protect privacy, and give access to all regardless of ability to pay.

Solutions:

  • Reboot the city’s back-burnered effort to bring municipal broadband to every home

  • Provide quality service to every household regardless of ability to pay

  • Bust Comcast’s monopoly and redirect their profits to the community


Housing Equity

One of the greatest injustices in our nation’s history was the systematic exclusion of some racial and ethnic groups from home ownership, preventing those families from growing wealth. My own grandparents were “redlined” in Washington, D.C. as I’m sure many others were in Cambridge. In our city today, many pay less for a mortgage than their next door neighbors pay in rent. Many renters want to own their homes and could afford the monthly payments, but haven’t been able to save for a down payment. No one should be excluded from true housing stability because they live paycheck to paycheck.

Solutions:

  • Increase housing stability and wealth equity by promoting home ownership

  • Make home ownership affordable by subsidizing down payments

  • Loosen restrictions on city’s existing subsidy program

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Displacement

Community members who have lived here for decades are having their homes sold out from under them because of unbridled land speculation and greed. Apartments are being converted to so-called luxury condos at prices many long-time Cambridge residents cannot afford. Remaining in your home should be a right, not a luxury. The state of Oregon has adopted strong tenant protections including rent increase caps. We should do the same. Keeping our long-time residents in their homes is a priority to me.

Individuals aren’t the only community members being displaced. Our local stores, ones that have been here for decades, are being kicked out for national chains, private offices, or just being left vacant. Tenant protections should cover our local businesses as well.

Solutions:

  • Strengthen tenant protections

  • Require just causes eviction protections

  • Adopt right to renew lease with rent increases capped at 7% per year plus inflation

  • Prohibition of formula business and private offices from the first floor in commercial districts


Affordability

Like it or not, our population is growing and if we don’t provide incentives for affordable housing, only the privileged will benefit from that growth. We need thoughtful changes to our zoning to promote affordable housing. Many parts of the city, like Inman Square where I live, are zoned such that many existing buildings could not legally be built today. New buildings could be allowed to match sizes of neighboring ones in exchange for building 100% affordable housing. In areas with many single family homes, large homes can be divided and converted into affordable units. No design review is required if the outside of the building doesn’t change. I’m also a personal fan of town houses. I think they will provide additional homes while looking good and architecturally fitting in with the neighborhood.

Solutions:

  • Change 20% affordable housing requirement threshold from 10 to 5 units

  • Allow conversion of existing single family homes to multi-unit buildings for 100% affordable

  • Use Cambridge-specific metrics to determine income thresholds instead of the metro-area’s

  • Ensure that affordable housing is quality housing and not just a concrete cube


 

Check out my proposal for a 100% affordable housing zoning overlay

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Climate Change

Climate change is happening fast and it’s going to hit Cambridge hard. We are a coastal city near sea level. Our Superstorm Sandys are coming, so switching to renewable energy sources is no longer good enough. All new infrastructure needs to be climate change ready so it doesn’t get flooded like the Seaport last year. The city has completed a two part climate change vulnerability assessment (part 1 and part 2) in which they concluded we should, “develop strategies to protect our most affected assets, systems, and population.” Opponents of last year’s Climate Safety citizen petition argued that it would hurt affordable housing projects. I say there’s nothing affordable about losing everything you own in a flood. When my uncle lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, he left New Orleans and swore to never go back. No one should be subjected to that because of poor planning.

Solutions:

  • Renew push to convert city to 100% renewables

  • Provide more municipal electric vehicle charge stations

  • Require new commercial buildings to either be solar or green roof-ready

  • Design new infrastructure with current and future floodplains in mind


Trees

Yes, I’m taking up a section to talk about trees. Trees do more than look beautiful or drop leaves on the yard or even get in the way. In addition to providing oxygen, trees clean the air and keep the ground cool, which is of increasing importance with climate change. Trees protect against flooding and help keep the city cooler by as much as 10ºF. They grow by absorbing light and carbon dioxide, creating more shade and offsetting carbon emissions. This will play a critical part in breaking up fatal heat islands. They help make the city a pleasant place to live, work, and play instead of feeling barren and desolate. Trees aren’t a luxury, yet neighborhoods with lowest income residents tend to have the least number of trees. We need them in every neighborhood, for as someone from the community told me, “poor people like trees, too.”

Solutions:

  • Increase restrictions on both public and private tree removal

  • Require more and larger trees to be planted as part of any large construction project

  • Focus on planting trees in future heat islands

  • Ensure all residents have access to tree benefits

 
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