My City Council Work

I HAVE SPENT THE LAST TERM WORKING TIRELESSLY ON BEHALF OF MY FELLOW CANTABRIGIANS.

Here are some of the policy issues that I worked on in my first year as a City Councillor. By focusing full-term on my council work — and maintaining a near-perfect attendance record for committee hearings — I have had a very productive term.

  • Municipal Lobbying and Government Transparency: I proposed regulations to shine a light on municipal lobbying in Cambridge. I strongly believe that the public should know who is advocating on behalf of policies that the Council is considering and that lobbyists should be required to disclose their contacts with councillors. However, some of my colleagues have been reluctant to discuss this and it has sat in the Government Operations Committee for over a year without a hearing scheduled.
    • I have fought for improvements to the audiovisual capabilities of the Sullivan Chamber in City Hall, where the Council meets, and the Citywide Senior Center, where the Zoning Board and Historical Commission meet. Cambridge’s reputation as a hub for innovation and technological advancement gives us no excuse for sub-par AV equipment. We must expand, not obfuscate, civic engagement.
    • I fought to televise the Council committee hearings pertaining to the search for the new City Manager upon the retirement of Rich Rossi in 2016. The hiring of a City Manager is the Council’s most important responsibility, and I thought it critical that the public be able to easily view and participate in this process.
  • Civic Engagement: I partnered with a colleague on two orders to increase voter participation in municipal elections, which often see low-turnout. These orders supported early voting in municipal elections and a voter guide to explain our complex Proportional Representation system.
  • Environment:
    • Trees: The Heath & Environment Committee, which I chair, has discussed ways to expand protections for trees on private property, which account for a significant portion of our tree canopy. I also sponsored a policy to provide educational materials to residents about watering street trees and filling gator bags near their property, to underscore that we all share stewardship of this valuable resource. I have asked for the creation of a Tree Task Force to collaborate on ways to better protect the health of our urban tree canopy. We have been experiencing a severe drought, and I have worked with our Water Department protect trees, while also conserving water.
    • Leaf Blowers: After hearing from residents about the dangerous health and environmental impacts of power-blowing on our gardens, public parks, and playgrounds, I held two committee hearings to review the City’s policy towards leaf blower use. As a result the City is piloting electric equipment, has enhanced its training programs and enforcement, and will begin using all-electric equipment in two parks.
  • Safety for Cyclists, Vehicles, and Pedestrians: I have asked for the City to review several intersections that are dangerous and confusing for users of all modes, including:
    • Sparks St. and Mt. Auburn St. and the Sparks St., Brattle St., Craigie St. intersections.
    • Renaming Cambridgepark Place (to Steel Place) to ease confusion over its proximity to Cambridgepark Drive.
    • Inman Square: the City has studied the intersection and staff are working with a broad array of stakeholders to redesign the intersection to prioritize bike safety and easier pedestrian crossings.
    • Mt. Auburn Corridor Study: I was a member of the stakeholder committee on a study the State is doing of Fresh Pond Parkway to improve safety and connections for all users, including giving priority to MBTA buses.
    • I sponsored a policy order to create several new “pop-up” pilot protected bike lanes along several different streets in the City. These were overwhelmingly popular with cyclists, and more will be installed this year.
  • Public Health: I sponsored an order to create additional drop-off locations for prescription medications, so that residents can safely dispose of unwanted medications, as our state grapples with a stunning opioid crisis. Improperly disposed medications are one piece of the problem, and our Public Health Department is reviewing and safety procedures to locate additional sites. I also have made public health a key focus in our discussions about further restricting leaf blowers.
  • Historic Preservation: I worked with our Historical Commission to make several changes to the way the City approaches historic preservation of significant buildings. 
    • We now require any demolition project to post notices on the property to advertise the demolition hearing, so that neighbors are aware and can participate.
    • I led the City Council in supporting initiating a Landmark Study of the Abbott Building in Harvard Square and the Harvard Square Kiosk, which are both historically and culturally significant.
    • I sponsored an order to ask the the Conservation District Guidelines of Harvard Square be reviewed, so as to better protect buildings with historic and cultural significance.
    • I have opposed the Equity One redevelopment of the Abbot Building (aka Curious George building) and the demolition of the Corcoran Building (Urban Outfitters) in Harvard Square
    • I co-sponsored an order to prod the owner of the long-empty Harvard Square Theater to speed up its renovation and to include an active public use in the redevelopment.
  • Sign Clutter: I have worked to reduce the proliferation of non-conforming commercial signage and to tighten up our regulations for sandwich board signs that sometimes clutter up sidewalks. While sandwich boards can be a helpful advertising vehicle for small businesses, they can present a hazard to pedestrians, especially those in wheelchairs or with visual impairments.
  • Outdoor Lighting: I have supported restrictions on garish rooftop and facade lighting that mar our nighttime skyline. Excessive light pollution is a known health risk.
  • Local independent retail: I have been a strong advocate for policies that support the local merchants who are struggling to survive in a fast-changing retail ecosystem. I supported the creation of a Formula Business District in Central Square and would like to see that extended to other neighborhood business districts.
  • Short-term rentals (Airbnb): I have been a strong and consistent advocate for restricting short-term rentals to homes that are the primary residence of the host, or to a single owner-adjacent unit in the same building. Otherwise we commercialize our neighborhoods and diminish the limited supply of housing for people who want to live here full-time.