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.
I am proud to be endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Ward 6 Progressive Democrats. Over the years, my efforts have also earned the support of campaign finance reform activist Lawrence Lessig, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, and world-famous environmentalist Bill McKibben.
Also, my campaign does not accept financial contributions from real estate developers because I believe such contributions create an unavoidable appearance of undue influence.
My top priority - housing affordability:
While working in City Hall, I performed research showing that nearly 7,000 units of new housing have been built or permitted in Cambridge in the past five years—a figure that outstrips even the most ambitious targets for "smart growth" by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The problem is that almost all of this new housing comes in the form of small, "luxury" units that are unsuitable for families and completely unaffordable to most Cambridge residents. These findings were also featured in Scout Cambridge, under the headline, "The Truth About Cambridge's Affordable Housing."
The centerpiece of my platform is a call for a comprehensive housing plan to keep Cambridge affordable for all of its current residents. Boston and Somerville recently completed housing plans, but Cambridge does not have any recent housing plan. A housing plan is important because it can enable us to do a better job of leveraging complex opportunities, forming public-private partnerships, and capturing more of the wealth that is being extracted from our community by the international speculators and Wall Street-backed corporate development firms.
Cambridge’s affordable housing plan shouldn’t be the product of any one individual. Rather, it should be the result of collaboration and a robust public process. All city councillors should be working together, along with city officials, neighborhood leaders, and independent experts to ensure the success of the process and the quality of the plan. The City of Cambridge recently embarked on a Citywide Planning process — this housing plan should be considered an “early action item” of that larger process.
At a minimum, our housing plan should include:
- Updates to the inclusionary zoning ordinance;
- Expanded opportunities for affordable middle-income housing units;
- Requirement that MIT provide affordable housing for its graduate students and post-doctoral fellows;
- Higher commercial development linkage fees ($24.30/square foot);
- A condominium conversion ordinance;
- A Tenants' Bill of Rights;
- Use of Affordable Housing Trust funds to fill the gaps in the Section 8 program;
- A tax on real estate speculation;
- Better use of city funds and city-owned land;
- Increased support for limited equity ownership and non-profit development opportunities;
- Independent financial analysis of pending development decisions;
- Increased support for the homeless population;
- Preservation of the city's existing stock of affordable housing.
My other priorities for Cambridge:
- Universal pre-kindergarten and affordable child care options for all families;
- Municipal broadband — putting an end the Comcast monopoly;
- Municipal aggregation — provide options for all residents to obtain clean, green electricity at a reduced price.
- Continued efforts to promote civic engagement and movement building;
- Continued leadership in support of the Citywide Planning process;
- Continued leadership in support of the Net Zero Action Plan;
- Continued leadership in support of the Grand Junction Multi-Use Path project, linking Somerville with East Cambridge, Area IV/ The Port, MIT, Central Square, Cambridgeport, and Allston;
- Support for implementing the recommendations of the city’s Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative;
- Support for racial justice and Black Lives Matter in Cambridge;
- Working to address residents’ concerns over light pollution, air pollution, and noise pollution (including aircraft noise);
- Support for local, independent, and affordable retail and service options for all Cambridge residents;
- Support for a $15 minimum wage;
- Support for paid family/medical leave;
- Support for the arts;
- Preservation and expansion of public open space, including support for the planned 7.5-acre park at the Volpe site in Kendall Square, and continued support for the Whittemore Avenue Community Garden in North Cambridge;
- Investments in transportation infrastructure, including a tax on Kendall Square real estate developers to fund upgrades to the MBTA's Red Line, improved bus service to the Longwood Medical Area, and the construction of a new commuter rail stop in the Alewife neighborhood.
More background information:
I have been engaged on issues that matter to Cambridge residents for a number of years now—other examples of my work can be found at a website I created to promote the "Connolly, et al. zoning petition" for a net zero carbon emissions standard, which ultimately led to the city's Net Zero Action Plan. Also, I launched a website as part of the effort to protect the Silver Maple Forest adjacent to the Alewife Reservation.
I am active with the Cambridge Residents Alliance, the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods (where I served as Secretary), and Green Cambridge (where I currently serve as a Member of the Board). In addition, I have been selected to represent Cambridge at the Massachusetts Democratic Party State Convention for each of the past three years, and I have also volunteered with HEET, the Home Energy Efficiency Team.
My wife Kacy and I live on Harding Street with our two cats, Bear and Oona. We are cyclists and are proud to be using 100% New England Wind Energy to power our apartment through an arrangement with Mass Energy Consumers Alliance (www.massenergy.org). We are also saving up for a place of our own and hope to someday raise a family here in Cambridge.
I would be delighted to answer any questions you might have about my candidacy or the campaign in general. Please send me an email at [email protected] and we can discuss what's on your mind. Thank you for taking the time to learn about my campaign.