Henrietta Davis

Henrietta Davis
2003 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
120 Chestnut Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-547-0877 (home)
website: www.henriettadavis.org 
e-mail: henrietta@henriettadavis.org (campaign)
       hdavis@cambridgema.gov (for City Council business)

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  • Vice Mayor: 2002-2003; Chair, Health and Environment Committee; Public Safety Committee; and Vice Chair, University Relations Committee
  • City Councillor, 1996-present
  • Member, Cambridge School Committee, 1988-1995
  • Administrator, Agassiz Preschool, 1985-1994
  • Freelance journalist: Time, Life, Money and National Public Radio , 1975-1985
  • Social worker and community planner, 1967-1974


  • Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, MPA, 1997
  • Harvard Law School Negotiation Workshop, 1995
  • Boston College School of Social Work, Master of Social Planning, 1972
  • University of Rochester, B.A., in English Literature 1967

    I will work for more affordable housing. As a city, we have a good record in developing such housing for our low-income families. Now, I will continue that work and also promote housing that will allow our middle-class families to remain in the city-- and to attract new families.

    The City Council and the city staff have worked together, setting housing as the number one priority of the city. I've worked with my fellow councillors to create many incentives to build or preserve housing, to increase overall the supply of affordable housing using many different strategies.
Through my newsletter, published three times yearly, I’ve supplied information that has enabled new homeowners to find housing using our first-time homebuyer program. I introduced a measure, now under consideration, to use an inclusionary zoning tool to promote the building of additional middle-income housing. I also promoted newly adopted zoning that makes it possible to build housing anywhere in the city. I’m proud to say that city efforts have led to over 6000 affordable units built or preserved, 16% of all housing. I support our efforts in every way I can.

Quality of Life:
    I will continue my vigilance as new "quality of life" problems – such as the proliferation of cell phone antennas -- arise. I will continue to enable citizens to be able to reach city government to get things fixed, trees planted, and noise levels turned down.

    Because quality of life issues are so important to people living in a city I have made this a focus of my council work. Through my efforts, the city will acquire and maintain its own street lights so we can make sure ourselves that there are no more dark, unlit streets. I’ve called for stronger regulations on the placement of cell phone antennas. Through my efforts, the city is addressing noise arising from mechanical devices on old and new buildings. I'm proud that I obtained regulations to tow cars whose alarms were going off without stopping.
    Also related to quality of life is the opportunity to get around the city without using a car. Read more about that under the section on land use planning and transportation.

Municipal Finance & Government:
    I plan to assure that an agreement is reached with MIT so that a payment in lieu of taxes is guaranteed in the future. Also, that an agreement is reached about properties that come off the tax rolls--so that taxes will continue to be paid on those properties at a rate that goes up with inflation. I will work so that our City Council goals, particularly for neighborhood preservation, are better reflected in our budget.

    The City of Cambridge is doing very well financially especially when compared to other cities and towns in Massachusetts. Our current situation is a result of good management by our City Manager and his staff, and also a result of growth that we experience because we are at the hub of biotech research. What I have done is firstly to support the City Manager and his staff, and secondly to work to balance development in the community--which benefits the tax base -- with the impact of that development on the quality of life in the city. I have consistently voted to downzone the city in order to protect neighborhoods and assure the city's livability. In addition, in order to improve our resources for housing, historic preservation and open space, I advocated for the passage of the Community Preservation Act, which has returned to the city $10,309,646 since its passage.

Environment and Public Health:  
    I believe we need more effort to achieve a cleaner environment. For the next two years we need to implement "green" purchasing by all city departments. We also need to strengthen zoning to promote the development of more high performance "green" buildings throughout the city. I will also press for the full implementation of the city's climate protection plan.

    Together with health-care professionals and environmental activists, we are making our city a healthier place to live and work. I am proud to have taken the lead in winning City Council approval of a smoking ban in all bars and restaurants. I brought together the parties necessary to get a majority Council vote. As chair of the Health and Environment Committee, I’ve led the movement to promote the goal for all new city buildings -- government and private alike – to be built as high-performing green buildings. We’ve already made a start at the 57 Inman St. City Hall Annex. In addition, I led the Council to adopt goals for city purchasing of environmentally friendly products. I'm proud to say that I facilitated an agreement between the city, Harvard and MIT to reach a 40% recycling goal by 2005, heading toward 60% for the entire city by 2010.
    I led the Council in passing a Climate Protection Plan and I also serve as the city's legislative liaison to the Cities for Climate Protection, a group of more than 300 cities worldwide that are taking action against global warming and forging a path for others to follow.
    I also promoted the installation of energy efficient LED traffic lights, saving thousands of dollars for the city and benefiting the environment at the same time.
    Henrietta's answers to Sierra Club questions 
    Henrietta's speech at the Candidate Environmental Forum September 20, 2003 

    I am passionate about making this city safe for people of all ages to walk and bicycle. I will continue that work by focusing on ways that bicyclists can make their way through the city on continuous safe routes.

    For six years, I was the chair of the city council's Traffic and Transportation Committee advocating for alternative modes of transportation to the private automobile. Together with transportation planners from the city, I've worked to make this an easier place for people of all ages to get around. We pushed for the posting of route and schedule information at T bus stops... and they’re going up, route by route, throughout the city. I’ve also gotten the city to install more shelters at bus stops. I’m committed to working for shuttle service for the new public library and helped to start the EZ Ride Shuttle from Cambridge to North Station. I was an early and enthusiastic backer of the Zipcar program, which gives drivers an alternative to owning their own cars... and I’m proposing that city agencies develop a “ride-sharing” program for workers.
    Two years ago, I became the chair of the Public Safety Committee, so that I could press for a city-wide traffic safety program. That program, called Points for Safety, will protect bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. For that, I have secured a commitment from the Police Department to increase the enforcement of laws against red-light running. In cooperation with the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, I'm spearheading a campaign to educate drivers and passengers to look for bicyclists before opening car doors. Also, there will be an emphasis on stopping for pedestrians in crosswalk by both motorists and bicyclists. By working with bicycle and pedestrian activists and the Police Department, we will make our streets safer.

Land Use, Planning, and Development: 
    Our neighborhoods are the building blocks of our city. I will continue to press for planning and zoning that assures that the city protects its neighborhoods. And I will actively support the neighborhood plans developed by hard working citizen committees.

    With committed neighborhood activists, we are protecting neighborhoods and preserving open space. I’ve secured city staff to assist the Agassiz neighborhood on working with Harvard on its plans for future growth and called for a study of Mass Ave from Porter Square to Harvard Square to avert overdevelopment in that corridor. I’ve called for the implementation of neighborhood study plans, created by the hard work of citizen committees. Their recommendations must result in action. I’ve led the effort to preserve a valuable white maple forest, at the Cambridge-Belmont line and adjacent to the Alewife reservation, that is threatened by a proposed commercial development. I’ve sponsored zoning protections for all MDC park land and city open space. We must do all we can to protect all the open space we have.

University Relations:
    There is so much to be done in this area. I will press for better planning by the city to set out appropriate expectations for growth by universities and appropriate protections for neighborhoods. I will work towards firmer cooperative ventures in housing, education and the environment.

    As Vice Chair of the University Relations committee I have worked to create a positive and constructive relationship with our neighboring universities. Rather than focusing only on the difficult parts of that relationship, I have promoted cooperation, asking for the universities' help with schools, for example. We have been working in five areas: city finances, planning and development, schools, housing and the environment.
    Cooperative work is ongoing relative to the environment and a new commitment to a 40% recycling rate by Harvard, MIT, the city government and Cambridge Hospital is a good example of that. I pressed for a commitment from MIT on its in lieu of tax payments and on taking property off the tax rolls. The universities should also assist and plan together with us for future housing needs in the community.
    The universities intend to grow! The vitality of the universities adds to the vitality of the city if it's not overdone. If the city can plan its own future, clearly setting limits of development, university growth will be less contentious. I've won support from the City Council for a planning study of Mass Ave between Porter and Harvard Squares which should set out the expectation for future growth limits on Lesley University and Harvard University in that corridor. Other efforts, including passage of downzoning in Riverside to protect that neighborhood which I will be a part of in the next few weeks, are crucial.

Civic participation:
    I will press for more public information about boards and commissions so that people can apply to join them. I will continue to supply information to the public, because information is power.

    I've worked together with citizens by providing information and responding to concerns. I've produced a newsletter three times a year, whether it's election season or not, to give a heads-up about the issues we all care about. Also, I distributed a “Useful Numbers” card for easy access to city offices. There are little things that make a difference, such as making sure that meeting notices and other information are displayed at city buildings. I also encouraged the use of a special telephoning system called reverse 911 to call people for street-cleaning and crime alerts. Finally, I welcome feedback from you by phone and email about your concerns!

Children and Cambridge Public Schools:
    After years of turmoil, we must restore confidence in our school system. As a first step, I will work with our three universities -- Harvard, MIT and Lesley -- to secure their help in teaching math, science and technology to our young people.
    The consolidation of elementary schools from 15 down to 13 has created changes in the way that children and adults make use of human service department programs. It has also meant that the buildings, Graham & Parks and Longfellow School buildings are now vacant.
    I will work to assure that there is a reasonable planning process about the re-use of those buildings. Since some human service programs were relocated, it makes sense to assess what happened to people who were using them. Are they still being served? This is an issue that needs immediate attention.

    I served for eight years on the School Committee, prior to serving on the City Council. I have consistently advocated for excellent public schools. Together with parents and city councillors, I am working to strengthen our schools and helping our children to be smart, healthy, and to have fun, too. As Vice Chair of the University Relations Committee, I’ve secured the support of our neighbor universities to promise to help our schools. As co-chair of the Healthy Children Task Force, I’m leading and supporting programs to combat obesity. We are working with all schools and families to educate them in preventing and reducing obesity through healthy eating and physical activity. As a founder of the Cambridge Walks program, I am promoting “Walk Your Child to School” day. With the help of others on the Healthy Children Task Force and the school department, we’ve secured funding for mental health services at every elementary school.

For more information or copies of my past newsletters, go to www.henriettadavis.org

Cambridge Candidates