Craig Kelley

Craig Kelley
2003 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
6 St. Gerard Terrace
Cambridge MA 02140

Contact information:
Tel: 354-8353

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Now forty-one years old, Craig has seen enough of the world to know that Cambridge is the place he and his wife, Hope, want to live and where they want to raise their two boys, Robbie (6) and Cooper (4). The quiet, friendly neighborhoods, dynamic schools, bustling shopping areas, wonderful parks, super libraries and great people have earned Cambridge a special place in Craig's heart.

Born in Wellesley, Craig went to the University of Rochester on a NROTC scholarship, where he made Dean's list, received a BA in History and won the NROTC leadership award. After college, Craig served in the Marine Corps for four and a half years, seeing such faraway places as the Southern California desert, the Philippines and Malaysia. It was during these travels, that Craig first became interested in environmental issues, realizing that reducing abject poverty would decrease the likelihood of military conflict in developing nations. Less than four weeks after resigning his Marine Corps commission, Craig was knocking on doors for Greenpeace.

From Greenpeace, Craig moved on to Boston College Law School, where he served as Chair of the Environmental Law Society. Craig graduated cum laude in 1993 and earned the Susan B. Desmaris award for Public Service Achievement and Leadership for his work on environmental issues at school.

Following law school, Craig became an environmental consultant, married Hope (whom he met while she was biking with a cast on her leg) and, eventually, moved from a Porter Square apartment to a small house in North Cambridge. He has served as the Chair or Vice-chair of the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee since 1996, was instrumental in founding the Alewife Neighbors, Inc. and played a major part in revitalizing the Sierra Club's Boston Inner City Outings program. Over the past several years, Craig has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve the Alewife floodplain, promote environmental issues and develop affordable housing throughout Cambridge. He has testified repeatedly on neighborhood concerns before the Board of Zoning Appeals, the License Commission, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, the City Council and the School Committee.

Craig is a regular contributor to a variety of journals and papers, including the Cambridge Chronicle, the Massachusetts Sierran, The Ride (a bicycle magazine) and The Word (a Marine Corps Reserve magazine).

In addition to his neighborhood activities, Craig currently serves on the Maria L. Baldwin School Advisory Council and on the Board of the Sierra Club's Greater Boston Group. Besides playing with his wife and children, Craig enjoys canoeing, entertaining, cycling, hiking, reading and writing.

Cambridge needs a comprehensive affordable-housing policy

Few things are as important as providing housing for Cambridge residents who can’t afford it. But the city must do a better job of ensuring that government-subsidized housing is also decent, desirable housing—not simply housing of last resort.

As your Councillor, I will work to:

  • Set specific, measurable affordable-housing goals and create policies that avoid economic and social segregation
  • Develop a clear, balanced affordable-housing policy that promotes appropriate siting, respects neighborhood zoning, and restores growth policies, land-use planning, and public interest as considerations (rather than the current approach—”As much as possible, as dense as possible”—favored by the City).

Quality of Life:
I will be a voice for all Cambridge Neighborhoods. Poorly designed, overly dense and unwelcome development has become the norm, with large, new developments overwhelming the infrastructure of our streets and sewer systems. The fault of a congested over-developed municipality rests squarely on the shoulder of incumbent councilors. They make the policy, and the City Manager implements it. What we see around us is what the current City Council has mandated. I will seek to change this. As your Councilor I will work to:

  • Commission a full and independent assessment of the City's infrastructure
  • Create Council/citizen panels for performance reviews of appointed boards
  • Mandate one Council meeting per year to be held in each neighborhood
  • Propose and support zoning changes to mitigate development pressures

Municipal Finance & Government:
City Council Service is a Privilege City Councilors must recognize that they serve the public. Councilors cannot, ever, take the public for granted. As your Councilor, I will:

  • Pay attention during the Council's Public Comment period
  • Work to create more representative Public Boards and Committee
  • Support Citizen efforts to get honest, prompt and complete responses from City Hall

Environment and Public Health:
With only 6.2 square miles of land, Cambridge is a city where even the smallest things can have a huge impact on our immediate environment and our public health. Whether it’s the City’s viewing its open space as “free” when it comes to situating City projects, traffic spewing fumes into air that already fails EPA health levels or industrial and city property that is laden with hazardous pollutants, we need a City government that can competently address these concerns.

As a neighborhood advocate, a member of the local Sierra Club’s Executive Committee and a professional environmental author, lecturer and consultant, I have repeatedly argued that the City’s open space is not “free.” Whether it is a park or a community garden, our green space is precious and must be valued accordingly in any city decision. Once this land is built on- be it for housing, health care or educational uses- it will never be available as open space again. The City must give the value to this open space that it warrants.

When it comes to traffic, it is important that we minimize the exhaust from cars and trucks idling at our intersections and clogging our streets. First and foremost, we must get people out of their cars, making public transportation a more attractive alternative to the people who live and work in our town. The best way to do that is to limit the parking spaces at the millions of square feet of commercial development planned for many parts of Cambridge in the near future. The City Council could set a wonderful example by eliminating its reserved parking spots behind City Hall. Once our elected officials start relying on mass transit, it seems very likely we’ll see an improvement in transit service. Almost as important is to get the MBTA and other bus companies to use cleaner burning fuels and, during non-rush hours, to use smaller busses.

We all must also remember that Cambridge is a City with a very industrial history. Working with others, I helped obtain tens of thousands of dollars to help monitor remediation work at the contaminated W.R. Grace site in North Cambridge. Alongside other neighborhood advocates, against the will of the City, I helped prove that not only was the Grace site contaminated with asbestos, but so was nearby City-owned playing fields. As a result of this discovery, and lots of hard work by the neighborhood and former Councilor Triantafillou, Cambridge now has an asbestos protection ordinance that will help minimize the public’s exposure to this dangerous fiber.

My history of environmental protection and public health advocacy in a myriad of fashions is equal to anyone’s.

Land Use, Planning, Development, and Transportation:
As the Chair of my local neighborhood group for most of the past 8 years, I have seen firsthand how neighborhoods get squeezed by a variety of development forces. All too often, these forces, whether they are municipal or commercial, are in the position of having professional engineers, consultants and other hired “experts” push their agendas while the local residents simply have their personal experiences and common sense. Unfortunately, the City pays far too little attention to the valuable information these residents bring to the table.

The City must listen to its residents. The people who live in our neighborhoods know more about traffic patterns parking problems, density issues and how important the local Laundromat is than any panel of City-hired experts. Cambridge residents know that people will bike around town when it really is safe to do so, not simply because the City painted some lines on a few roads. Locals know that large housing developments with only one parking space per unit will make it tougher to find parking on nearby streets. Our fellow citizens understand that the City Manager has appointed the members of the Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals, so there is no amazement (although there is considerable angst) at the zoning relief these boards give to well-funded developers.

As a Councilor I will push hard for neighborhood voices to be respected at City Hall. I will urge my fellow Councilors to lead by example, by biking or taking public transit to City Hall instead of parking in the reserved spaces behind the building. I will ask the Council to take back its power to appoint the members of the Planning Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

And most of all, I will try, as hard as I can, to make my peers understand that our neighborhoods are fragile and the City must support them in every way it possibly can, whether it be underwriting the rent of a small corner store or minimizing auto-dependent development throughout our City.

University Relations:
Cambridge owes much of its current status to the abundance of fine colleges and universities within its borders. MIT and Harvard are two of the City’s largest employers and both, along with Lesley and other schools, offer a variety of amenities to all Cambridge residents.

That being said, the power of these universities to change our City with their massive development plans is very intimidating. Whether it be Harvard wanting to build on the Charles River or Lesley looking to expand over the Porter Square MBTA tracks, far too many parts of Cambridge face university expansion threats that are extremely disquieting.

While there is no perfect solution, the City should continue to work on getting universities to be taxed as the corporations they essentially are. When it comes to constructing dorms or research labs, local universities are more like well-funded developers than they are benign non-profits and they should be taxed as such. Similarly, the boarding room fees paid by these large universities, which operate thousands and thousands of rooming units in Cambridge, are absurdly low. Cambridge could gain roughly nine million dollars in revenue, and scrap the scrounging for the relatively small PILOT contributions, simply by altering the permit fee. Finally, land owned by, or coveted by, these universities should be zoned to protect local neighborhoods just as if any other developer were interesting in building there.

Interagency ‘favors’ should continue as is. For example, the universities provide assistant teachers for our schools. Cambridge allows street closures for university events. This arrangement is not exactly a quid pro quo, but simply a reflection of the belief that we co-exist and should do our best to accommodate and help each other. These aspects of Cambridge’s relationship with its universities should continue even as we explore ways to ensure that these institutions of higher learning are fulfilling their own civic responsibilities.

Civic participation:
Cambridge government at all levels, and especially at City Council, should do more to encourage Civic Participation.

For starters, participation on City Boards and Committees should be expanded beyond the current core group from which the City Manager picks his members. As an example, I have applied to be on roughly a dozen city boards or committees, from the Library Committee to the Board of Zoning Appeals to the Police Review Advisory Board. For reasons he won’t explain to me, the City Manager has refused to appoint me to any of them, despite the fact that vacancies frequently exist for weeks if not months, many of the same people serve on multiple boards and my credentials are as impressive as anyone’s. Sadly, my experience in this matter is not unique. It appears that the Manager wants to control public input on these bodies and the long-term effect of his efforts to control is that the general public has begun to view these public forums as little more than local ‘dog and pony’ shows. The City Council should insist that the Manager alter his appointment practices to include a wider variety of neighborhood voices.

A second, and very easy, thing the City Council should do is to modify its rules to allow anyone to show up at City Council to talk about any item, whether or not it is on the Council’s agenda. I would also suggest that any Councilor be allowed to waive the Council rules three times per meeting to allow two additional people to speak beyond the current three minute limit. And while the public is speaking, the Councilors should be in their seats, paying attention, not in the room next door eating dinner. Few things discourage civic participation more than taking the time to go to City Hall to speak at a Council meeting only to find just one or two, if that many, of the Councilors are paying the slightest attention to what the public is saying.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the City Council and all City officials should avoid using harsh or hurtful language in public. Insulting or belittling citizens who are simply voicing their opinions is harmful to the public dialogue. Opinions can, and should, be expressed clearly, but there is no need to be offensive when doing so.

Cambridge Public Schools:
A Good School System is the Heart of a Healthy City

As anyone concerned about the Cambridge Public School system understands, we need to ensure that the much-touted "Excellent Education in Every Classroom" is a reality in every school. To that end, we need clearly defined, quantifiable, and well-designed goals, plus effective supervision and adequate funding, or CPS risks becoming a school system of last resort, used primarily by those who cannot afford private school and are unable to move elsewhere.

The plan for excellent education must be more than simply merging or closing schools, cutting teachers and support staff, and redesigning the high school. In particular, there must be proper implementation of the recently approved K-8 re-organization plan or there can be little doubt that Cambridge’s public schools will continue to shed lower-grade students at a rate that will cripple the entire system.

My wife, Hope, and I have been thrilled with virtually every aspect of our son’s public school education thus far, (Robbie attends the Baldwin School), but it is clear that many students, especially those in the higher grades, need the Cambridge Public School system to challenge them more. It is equally clear that many other CPS students are not succeeding academically. This "performance gap" threatens to overwhelm our schools and needs immediate attention through a planning process that is based on sound educational policies--not spreadsheet politics!


  • Determine our academic needs--Then FUND A PLAN to meet those needs.
        While it's hard to argue that the Cambridge Public School system needs more than the roughly $17,000 per student it currently spends each year, it's just as hard to determine exactly how much our public school system does need to teach our students well. We must decide how we will best educate our children, then obtain and disburse the necessary funds to accomplish that goal.
  • Engage lower-performing students and their families in the academic environment.
        The importance of motivating students to excel in the classroom cannot be overstated, yet too many students, for a variety of reasons, fall by the academic wayside. CPS, and all of Cambridge, must develop and fund new ways to help these children achieve the academic success, which is such a crucial foundation for their success in later life.
  • Identify where the Cambridge Public School system is spending its money.
        At its heart, the recent K through 8 re-organization was driven by budget considerations. Yet, since virtually no one understands how our public school system spends its money now, it is impossible to figure out how to spend it more wisely in the future.
        Even when leveled for Special Education needs and students for whom English is not the primary language (two oft-cited reasons for Cambridge's massive expenditures), the Cambridge Public School system spends far more on overhead than similar municipalities. As a first step in effectively managing its finances, our public school system should justify every position and contract on which it spends money to a board of parents, teachers, staff and students.


  • Bring my first-hand knowledge of the Cambridge Public Schools, as a Public School parent and active member of the school community, to the Council. When the City Council gets involved in Public School issues, it needs a member who understands the impact of the Council's actions on the education of our children.
  • Work to ensure that the City Council passes a budget that provides our Public Schools with the funds they need to educate our children to reach their highest personal potentials.
  • Promote healthy neighborhoods, through zoning reform, appropriate affordable housing creation and child-friendly streets--neighborhoods that will support a vibrant school system.

For more information on my positions, please visit my website at

Cambridge Candidates