Featuring last month's policy orders and community events PLUS a look ahead to my first committee hearing as chair and our March office hours
March Office Hours
Many people have requested weekend office hours, so I will be holding hours from 11-1 PM on Saturday, March 24 at Workbar (45 Prospect St). Come learn about what I have been working on recently, and we can discuss anything else you'd like. You can RSVP on Facebook or just send an email to let us know you are coming.
Public Hearing on Digital Access
I will chair my first committee hearing on March 22 from 4-6 PMon the topic of digital access. This is a fundamental equity issue in our city, and we need to make sure every single Cantabrigian has access to affordable, fast, and secure internet at home. At the hearing, we will get a better sense of the scope of the problem in our city and what recent efforts the city has undertaken and is considering. From there, we will explore possible ways forward. This committee hearing will include the opportunity for public comment, so come express your thoughts on this important issue.
MIT Community Climate Conversations
I attended this gathering at the MIT Museum, at which members of the MIT community gave 90-second presentations on their initiatives to address climate change. (Pictured: Debra Wise from the Central Square Theatre warmed up the crowd with theatrical sketches). The evening was a fantastic blend of theatre arts, climate action, and innovation!
It was wonderful to meet the producers of the documentary Chasing Coral, Linda and David Cornfield. The film, which won an audience award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival,chronic les the struggle to document coral bleaching, a global phenomenon linked to climate change. They hope the movie inspires more people to take action, as it did with the unwitting protagonist, Zach, who went from being a camera technician and coral nerd at the start of filming to coral educator and activist teaching young people about the importance of saving the world's coral reefs.
Black History Month Celebration
I attended the Black History Month Celebration at City Hall which featured renowned Gullah Geechee storyteller, Ms. Theresa Hilliard. Through song and storytelling, Ms. Hilliard shared with us the fascinating history of her culture, which still lives on in the islands off the coast of South Carolina. Her ancestors worked the early rice plantations on the islands, and formed a unique culture and language based on their original African culture and an English patois that shares a lot of rhythm and sounds with the West-Indian patois of Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. The Gullah language also includes African words, including some that are shared with the creole language I grew up speaking in Suriname, called Sranan Tongo. In particular, she used the word "bakra" which also means "white person" in our language. It was a beautiful and vivid reminder of the connections between all the African diaspora, particularly those of us descended from African slaves abducted to the Americas. Her dress too reminded me of the "kotomisis" the African ladies wear in Suriname. In Cambridge we celebrate all cultures, and it's one of the many things I love about our fair city.
Now in effect: lower speed limits!
The speed limit is now 20 MPH in all 5 of the major squares (Kendall, Central, Inman, Harvard, and Porter). Please take extra care to make sure you are following the new speed limits, and consider going even slower whenever possible for safety's sake!
February's Policy Orders
Jerry's Pond- I cosponsored Councillor Siddiqui's policy order which asks the City to apply for a Targeted Brownfields Assessment Grant offered by the EPA. Jerry's Pond was once a swimming hole until it became a toxic waste dump, and the area needs a major cleanup. The grant would include a comprehensive site assessment, an outline of cleanup options and costs, and community outreach. The thousands of affordable housing residents living nearby deserve a green space in the neighborhood, and I was glad to support this important environmental justice effort.
Tenant's Right of First Refusal- I cosponsored both of Councillor Carlone's policy orders on the concept of tenant's right of first refusal. Unfortunately, this attempt to have a conversation around tenant protection in Cambridge failed to gain traction, with the small property owners vehemently shouting it down. If we want to reduce displacement of people who want to stay in Cambridge to zero, which should be our goal, we will need to have this conversation at some point.
Polystyrene Ban Update- I cosponsored Vice Mayor Devereux's policy order which asks the City Manager to report on the success of the polystyrene ban, including implementation, enforcement, and remaining concerns among the business community. Evaluating our recent progress is an important next step in determining how we can further reduce our contribution to plastic waste. While plastics certainly have brought many benefits (e.g. medical applications), they are polluting our oceans and severely affecting marine life. We are definitely overdoing it, especially with single-use items like plastic utensils and straws. It's time to stop.
Inman Square - I sponsored multiple policy orders on the upcoming Inman Square construction, asking the City Manager and Staff for better communication with residents and a clear timeline as there are still many important decision points coming up for the intersection redesign project, including at least one Council vote. In general, we should not be cutting down mature trees to build roads, and this project is potentially an important turning point in Cambridge's history. Regardless of what happens here, we should not be presented with this choice ever again. We need trees more than ever in the age of climate change, and they (urban trees) need us.
Housing Court- I cosponsored Councillor Carlone's policy order, asking the City Manager to look into the possibility of bringing a housing court back to Cambridge. This is an important equity concern for people in Cambridge, as the court's current location (Route 16 in Medford) is out of reach for many lower-income residents.
Digital Access- I sponsored a policy order asking the City Manager to look into ways of increasing digital access throughout the city. On the campaign trail, I heard quite a bit about how bad Comcast is as our primary ISP in Cambridge, and the deep concern in our community for the racial, social and economic inequity in digital access. Without access to the new digital economy, and the many opportunities offered by the internet, income inequality and displacement continue to grow exponentially. I believe everyone should have access to affordable, secure, and fast internet access in their home. Comcast's low-income offering does not even meet the federal definition of broadband internet. This conversation has been going on for a very long time in Cambridge, and it is time to actually make some progress. I look forward to chairing my first committee hearing on this very topic, March 22 at 4 pm at City Hall!
Death of Vanu Bose- I submitted a resolution commemorating the life of Vanu Bose, who was my friend and fellow MIT grad student in the 1990s. I will always remember him smiling as he ran onto the field to join us in a game of intramural soccer, or happily explaining his ideas around "software radio" to anyone who would listen. Shortly before he died he directed his company, Vanu, Inc. to deploy solar-powered cell phone equipment to Puerto Rico to aid in the recovery from last year's devastating hurricanes. He used his innovative technology to help people find their missing relatives after the storm. Vanu was a great innovator with an endless dedication to making the world a better place. He will be sorely missed.
Congratulating kids who are taking action on climate change- I submitted a resolution congratulating two Cambridge 4th graders for taking action on climate change. These kids were awarded a grant and will use the funds to inspire their peers to join the struggle by making small changes in their everyday lives. Kudos and a heartfelt thank you to them, they give us all hope!
Improving the Council livestream- I cosponsored a policy order from Councillor Simmons asking the City Manager to look into further improving the video livestreaming of council meetings and consider the possibility of streaming on YouTube or another high-bandwidth streaming site. Our constituents deserve better!
Additional safety zones- I sponsored a policy order asking the City Manager to move quickly to create more 20 MPH safety zones in Cambridge. The major squares are a start, but there are many other areas of the city that should have a lower speed limit. This is an important opportunity to improve the safety of our roads by reducing vehicular speeds and better enforcing our traffic laws.
Get In Touch!
I hope that you will reach out to let me know your thoughts on matters before the council or otherwise of importance to you. My council office number is 617-349-9479 and my email is [email protected]. You can also reach out to my aide, Dan Totten, at [email protected]. We love to hear from constituents. Be sure to follow our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages for regular updates!
Clockwise from top left: Inman Square Redesign Plans as laid out by city staff at a community meeting, including impact on existing trees; Lena Horne stamp revealed at Black History Month Celebration at City Hall; February was a record-setting month- 72 degrees in Cambridge in-between two 100 year storms; 40 Cottage Street as seen from the road, the owners are committed to preserving the historical character while improving the energy efficiency of their home.