Progressive Activist, Attorney Mike Connolly Officially Declares Candidacy for State Representative

Mike_Connolly_Headshot.jpgToday, progressive activist, attorney, and community organizer Mike Connolly declared his candidacy for State Representative in the 26th Middlesex District, which includes parts of Cambridge and Somerville.

Connolly announced that he has officially qualified for the Democratic Primary ballot on Thursday, September 8th, after submitting nearly three times the required number of nomination signatures to the state’s Elections Division last week.

“I am running for State Representative because I believe we need passionate new leadership to advance a progressive agenda in Cambridge and Somerville and across the Commonwealth,” explained Connolly.

“Our campaign is bringing people together to advocate for broader investments in affordable housing, public transportation, early education, after school programs, and other critical services, including programs to address the opioid and heroin epidemics,” Connolly added.

The 26th Middlesex seat has been held by incumbent State Rep. Tim Toomey since 1993. This will be the first contested primary in the district since 2004.

Earlier this month, over 100 people attended Connolly’s campaign kickoff party at Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery and More in Central Square.

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Highlights from our campaign kickoff party at Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery and More!

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CENTRAL SQUARE, CAMBRIDGE — An overflow crowd of more than 100 friends and supporters attended Mike Connolly's campaign kickoff party at Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery and More last Thursday.

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"Cambridge and Somerville are both great places to live," said Connolly, who lives on Harding Street with his wife Kacy and is seeking the Democratic nomination for State Representative in the 26th Middlesex district.

"And what's amazing is how committed we all are to doing even more to ensure that our communities remain affordable and accessible to people from all walks of life."

As State Representative, Connolly pledged that he would "work for broader investments in affordable housing, public transportation, early education and after school programs, and social services, including programs to address the heroin and opioid epidemics."

"My commitment to the community and to these issues stems from my own personal background," Connolly explained.  

Raised by a single mother in public housing, Connolly benefited from a Head Start program and spent time in foster care before attending Duke University on a football scholarship. After that, he graduated from Boston College Law School and became an attorney, and over the past five years, he has worked closely with community leaders in Cambridge and Somerville.

In 2013, Connolly organized a grassroots campaign to focus Cambridge officials on a "net zero" carbon emissions plan that has since become a model for others in the Commonwealth. He was then hired to work as a legislative aide in Cambridge City Hall, where he drafted policy for affordable housing, public open space, community paths, renewable energy, and clean elections.

Lawrence Lessig: "Mike has truly inspired me..."

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Connolly was introduced by Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard University, who said "Mike stood out as an inspiration" because of his efforts to advance the cause of clean elections and his work as an advocate in the community.

"In the ten years that I have been working to reform the political system, few people who are running for office have actually inspired me, but through his work on countless issues on the local level, and with a clear focus on the need for political reform, I can say that Mike is one of the few who have truly inspired me and given me hope for the future of our democracy," Lessig said.

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Join us on Saturday for "Solving Transit and Traffic Problems" community forum

330transitInvite.jpegFor the past few months, I have been working with members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Mass. Budget For All coalition to organize a public forum on transportation issues in Cambridge and Somerville. The event is being co-sponsored by Green Cambridge, 350Mass. Transit Group, and the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance.

"Solving Transit and Traffic Issues in the Cambridge Corridor" will be held this Saturday, April 30th, from 2 to 5 pm at the Cambridge Senior Center (806 Mass. Ave in Central Square). Everyone is invited to join us for conversation, light refreshments, and opportunities for input on a topic that is vital to our future.

The event will feature presentations and discussion with Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmonsstate Senator Pat JehlenCambridge City Councilors Dennis Carlone and Jan Devereux, as well as some of the best and brightest advocates in the field of transit, such as Rafael Mares (Conservation Law Foundation), Steven Miller (Livable Streets), Ellin Reisner (Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership), Kirstie Pecci (MassPIRG), John Attanucci (MIT Transportation Group), and many others.

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Green Line Extension Public Meeting

Hundreds of local residents crowded into the Somerville Armory last night, all to voice support for the Green Line Extension project. It was the first of five meetings scheduled for the next two months to update the public on what is being done to get the 4.3-mile project back on track.

It has been some 26 years since the state agreed to complete the extension of the Green Line through Somerville as mitigation for the added traffic and pollution caused by the Big Dig. Governor Patrick celebrated the start of Phase 1 construction in 2012, but the project was thrust into limbo once again last year when it was revealed that costs could run up to $1B more that originally projected. 

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Last night's meeting featured presentations from MassDOT staff, followed by comments from State Senator Pat Jehlen, state Reps. Denise Provost and Christine Barber, many members of the Somerville Board of Alderman, and a long list of over 50 speakers at public comment.

"I know this is not where anybody wanted to be tonight," quipped Kate Fichter of MassDOT as she explained the format of the meeting to the 300 or so people in attendance, many of whom showed up early and waited in line for a seat.

And yet, the meeting was generally positive — with broad consensus that we all want the Green Line Extension to happen, mixed with resolve among residents and advocates that important elements of the project should not be sacrificed (such as the community path, service to Union Square, and completion of the project through Rt. 16 in Medford).

That said, interim project manager Jack Wright has indicated that cuts to the project will be "brutal," and last night, he made it clear that the presentation was "not a commitment" and that further cuts will be required; his team is currently focused on the following options:

  • Station Redesign
  • Vehicle Maintenance Facility Redesign
  • Community Path Reconsideration
  • Construction Worker Hour Limitations
  • Retaining and Sound Walls
  • Power and Signals

 

I was able to speak fairly early during public comment and made a few brief points...

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Party Papers

Today I went to the McCormack Building on Beacon Hill and "pulled papers" for the Democratic nomination for Representative in General Court (i.e. "State Representative") for the 26th Middlesex District, which includes all of Wards 1, 2-1, 3, and 6-1 in Cambridge, and all of Wards 1 and 2-1 in Somerville.

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Right now, I am focused on talking with voters and engaging my friends and supporters across the district. I look forward to making an announcement about the race later next month.


Letter: Thank you for the support

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As 2015 comes to an end, I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who supported my campaign for the Cambridge City Council this year. 

Running for public office is a real privilege, and my candidacy was made possible through the generous support and tireless efforts of many individuals. Overall, it was a positive experience, and I am grateful to everyone who helped me run in a very competitive race.

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Endorsed by Cambridge Day

In addition endorsements from the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Ward 6 Progressive Democrats, this evening Cambridge Day posted a ringing endorsement of Mike's candidacy:

If there is any challenger this year experienced enough and worthy of winning a council seat, it is Connolly, a lawyer and citizen activist who has already seen significant success from his organizing. So has the city, actually – it was Connolly who got the city’s net zero carbon emissions plan started, overcoming significant opposition and winning a true government process leading to implementation of efforts that will contribute to the global fight against disastrous climate change.

As a legislative aide to councillor Dennis Carlone, he has contributed significantly to driving the city’s agenda not just on net zero emissions, but on such issues as launching a citywide development master plan, getting improvements to Planning Board processes and raising the linkage fees charged to large real estate developers after the council had let the fee limp on far below market rates for more than a decade. It was his work that pointed out how far ahead Cambridge is on building the residential units called for by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and on the campaign trail he and former councillor Minka vanBeuzekom have driven new conversation about getting Cambridge a condo conversion fee that will give renters some protection if landlords opt to go the condominium route.

He has also been instrumental in focusing attention on the city’s missing Woodworth study, which could have added context to the conversation over the Normandy/Twining zoning granted in Central Square this year, but now will likely be an important component of conversation about the master plan guiding the city over the next two decades.

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Hope, possibility, and opportunity for everyone

For my husband, Cambridge City Council candidate Mike Connolly, the countdown to November 3rd, 2015 has been more than 20 years in the making.

Mike grew up in a public housing project in Norwood, Massachusetts, the only son of a single mother with health issues. I remember Mike's recounts about saving his high school pocket change to buy round trip tickets into Boston and then over to Cambridge on the subway. Even today, he recalls those trips clearly; how he was struck by the diversity of this city, a sense of community that he witnessed nowhere else. For him, Cambridge symbolized hope. Opportunity. The possibility of having a more vibrant place to call home.

But for Mike, myself, and so many residents like us, that vision for a life in Cambridge is becoming increasingly unattainable. We watch our friends, families, neighbors, and colleagues get pushed out due to unaffordability. We wonder if we're next.

With Tuesday’s election, we have the opportunity to preserve more of what makes our city great—ensuring that Cambridge stays affordable, diverse, and livable for all. Defined by its people; not its luxury developments.

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Connolly for Cambridge — detailed campaign platform

My background and reasons for running:

I am running for the Cambridge City Council to protect the affordability, sustainability, and livability of our neighborhoods and squares during this time of development boom, wealth inequality, housing affordability crisis, and climate vulnerability.

My commitment to social and economic justice and civic engagement stems from my life experiences. Raised in public housing by a single mother who struggled with health issues, I also spent time in foster care before earning a football scholarship to Duke University, where I graduated with a degree in computer science. After that, I worked my way through Boston College Law School, where I volunteered with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and was elected managing editor of the Third World Law Journal (also known as the Journal of Law and Social Justice). After graduation, I passed the bar exam and worked for a technology company. I am presently licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.

I never forgot where I came from, and I have spent the past five years working to serve the public interest, first as a part-time grassroots organizer and progressive activist (while working in the private sector), and later, as a city employee.

In 2013, I led the successful campaign for a "net zero" carbon emissions plan, and most recently, I worked in City Hall as a legislative aide, with a focus on planning, transportation, open space, environmental protection, and housing issues. I resigned from my position in late-July and decided to run for city council because I became convinced that city officials are too focused on accommodating high-end commercial and luxury housing development, without providing sufficient protections for today's renters and homeowners (and without addressing major quality of life impacts).

I respectfully ask for your #1 vote on Tuesday, November 3rd, so that I can join the city council and work with residents, city officials, and neighborhood leaders on a comprehensive plan to keep Cambridge affordable, sustainable, and livable for all.

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City Council to vote on "linkage fee" for affordable housing

The Cambridge City Council will vote on a long-awaited update to the affordable housing “linkage fee" at the next regular meeting on Monday, September 28.

Councillors are expected to approve an increase to the fee — but the debate over when and how much to raise the fee says a lot about the larger debate over development and displacement in Cambridge.

The linkage fee is a small, one-time tax on large, new commercial buildings; all of the proceeds come from big developers and go directly to the city's affordable housing trust fund.

Cambridge implemented the linkage program in 1988, but the city council has not updated the fee in more than fifteen years — this, despite Section 11.203.1 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance, which calls on the council to review and recalculate the fee every three (3) years, "based on a consideration of current economic trends" such as development activity, commercial rents per square foot, and housing costs, etc.

In 2002, noted housing economist Barry Bluestone recommended that the linkage fee be more than doubled (from $3.28/sq. ft. to $7.83/sq. ft.), but his proposal failed to make it out of an ordinance committee chaired by Councillor David Maher. Since that time, millions of dollars have been "left on the table," and our efforts to update the linkage fee have been delayed.

All city councillors now agree the linkage fee should be increased. However, there are two very different views on how much developers should be required to contribute for affordable housing.

Analysis from MIT says that the linkage fee would need to be set to $24.30/sq. ft. to compensate for the upward pressure on the Cambridge housing market that is caused by high-end commercial development.

But at next week's council meeting, members of the "Unity Slate" are expected to vote to give big developers a 50% discount by setting the fee at $12/sq. ft. Under this proposal, the fee would also rise $1/year for the next three years — but it would still come up well short of the actual impact of pending commericial development.

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