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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Connolly Launches Council Campaign by Calling for a Plan to Keep Cambridge Affordable for All Residents

CAMBRIDGE — Cambridge activist and attorney Mike Connolly launched his campaign for the City Council last week with a kickoff event at the Lilypad in Inman Square.

Speaking before a packed crowd of friends and supporters, Connolly called on the City of Cambridge to begin work on an affordable housing plan. “I am running to help lead the call for a comprehensive housing plan that keeps Cambridge affordable, sustainable, and livable for all residents,” Connolly said.

“As city councillor, I will work to preserve Cambridge’s progressive identity as a city that is open, accessible, and welcoming to people of all backgrounds and income-levels,” Connolly added.

Drawing on his personal experience of being raised by a single-mother in a government-subsidized public housing project, Connolly said that government has to play a more active role in keeping the city affordable, and he touted his experience working in City Hall and as the organizer of 2013’s net zero emissions petition campaign as examples of his own commitment to public service and the community.

The event was attended by more than 75 Cambridge residents, including City Councillors Dennis Carlone and Nadeem Mazen.

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