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I'm active with my husband of four years, Anton Van Der Ven, in anti-war and immigrant rights organizing, and serve as state Membership Director of the Green-Rainbow Party. I hold a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, where I have researched improving the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells. I also worked on campaigns that won rape awareness programming in student orientation and extensions in availability and coverage of mental health services. I've instructed in women's full-contact self-defense classes. I was born in Buffalo, NY where my father worked in the steel industry and my mother focused on raising her five children. Despite my parents' desire to raise their children in one community, our family had to move to Maryland when the steel industry closed down in Buffalo. I moved to Southern California to attend college and arrived here in Cambridge in February of 1996 to attend MIT.
Housing is tied to environmental issues. For example when the city rehabs or builds new housing it should be built with 5.5? insulation instead of the traditional 3.5?. This would mean that the tenants would need less heat, so they would save money and would use less fuel and pollute less. Currently one third of the jobs in Cambridge do not pay enough to afford living in Cambridge. Housing in a market that is controlled will be affordable, enabling many more workers in our city to walk, bike and take the T to work which will in turn reduce traffic, parking pressure, and pollution.
Quality of Life:
Municipal Finance & Government:
We must be careful when shifting property taxes from residences to commercial property. We must keep in mind the needs of the small businesses we desperately need for job diversity and community stability. We should think about scrapping the property tax as the base for municipal finance. A city income tax would get around the problem of tax-exempt institutions, tap folks who don't live here but use our infrastructure to earn good incomes, and would be much cheaper to administer.
Environment and Public Health:
If our national government will not make systemic changes then we must make them at the local level. Public health is a regional and national issue. The Green-Rainbow Party supports the single-payer health insurance system: this is the only viable way to keep costs down while making coverage universal. The Green Rainbow Party also recognizes that clean air and water and safe food, workplaces, and homes are essential to public health.
Dedicating some streets to predominantly pedestrian and bicycle traffic will enable people to get out and exercise as they travel without having to take their life into their hands. There have been several deaths of cyclists and even one such death is already one too many. We need safe bike routes webbing out across our city. It will enable more community interaction and will reduce pollution through reducing the need for cars.
Land Use, Planning, Development, and Transportation:
The North Point project in East Cambridge is a typical example of how the city does exactly the wrong thing. It evicts the low-density blue collar employers. It creates high-density, high-income, traffic-multiplying uses. The only real justification is expected property tax revenues. Thus the city employs dozens of full time city planners who mostly don't plan anything. Their real job seems to be helping developers get their plans implemented over public objections.
I support the Carlson petition as absolutely essential to defend the beleaguered Riverside neighborhood.
I support increasing our subsidies to public transportation and encouraging walking and bicycling by making car-free streets that are for pedestrians, with exceptions for buses, loading vehicles, and vehicles for people with physical disabilities.
We need to recognize that large universities behave as corporate entities interested primarily in promoting the financial strength and reputation of their organization. These institutions are soulless corporations, not human beings and not ?neighbors.? We who treasure democracy and human rights must never let the interests of such ?stakeholders? outweigh the interests of the human community of citizens and residents. City Councilors should serve as the representatives of and advocates for the people of Cambridge. The struggle to have the Carlson Petition implemented is a case in point of too many of the Councilors putting the interests of Harvard, a 200 ton ?neighbor,? above the interests of the people they are supposed to represent.
I was appalled at the recent hearing on the emergency housing situation. Any number of our elected officials spoke at length about rent control being a losing battle. To them I would say that without struggle and political battle there would be no eight hour day, no end to slavery and no women voting. Think about this, anything worth fighting for has to be fought for. City government should expect this as the response of an involved citizenry and be proud of the fact that people who live here care enough to engage in the struggle.
Cambridge Public Schools:
Within the schools I am concerned about teacher morale and class and racial bias that prevents teachers from effectively serving the working class and minority students. Further, as more and more long time residents are economically forced from the city, the fabric of our community is being torn up. We depend on the sense of community and relationships across generations to help students and teachers feel they are part of a community that supports them. As a Green-Rainbow party member, I oppose, as my party does, the dismantling of bilingual education and the MCAS requirement for high school diplomas. We must resist all corporate threats to public schools, of which MCAS is only one. And we must be very cautious about relying too much on world class research institutions, such as MIT and Harvard, in offering help on primary and secondary education. You can count on a nice PR project being offered here or there in order to facilitate a zoning easement deal, but university education is not even the primary focus in these institutions - why should they be looked to for expertise in primary and secondary education?
I was raised Catholic, and while I do deeply respect the spiritual grounding of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and many other religious traditions that I have had the opportunity to learn about, I have never converted to another faith. I wear the hijab, a head covering that some Muslim women wear, in solidarity with these women who have been facing increased intimidation and attacks since 9/11. I believe that faith and practice of faith should never be coerced. Religious tolerance and freedom of expression are prerequisites for a democracy and I am saddened that religious tolerance has been under attack by the mainstream media and our federal government since 9/11. I can tell you the experience of being perceived as a Muslim has been a very eye-opening one for me, particularly in contrast to that of being perceived as a white Christian person.