I was born in Cambridge and I've lived here all my life. The 2011 election is my first ever political race.
My top priorities
- Cap the city budget at 450 million dollars. This 5% reduction brings us back to spending at the 2010 level. The $22 million difference translates to $1000 for every single, multifamily, and condo in the city!
- Make the Cambridge Health Alliance the baseline insurer for all city employees. Instead of spending $55 million of city money on outside insurers, we'll keep the money in house, accomplish the above budget cut, reopen closed city clinics and rehire staff for the benefit of all residents.
- Transition to a new City Manager.
Quality of Life and Public Safety
Cambridge's enormous budget means that we have police, fire, and inspectional services any city would envy. 911 response is excellent and city departments are adequately funded for citizen concerns.
Traffic, Parking, and Transportation
Unfortunately, most residents are soured by their contacts with the city's parking department. There's a common perception that the agency is a patronage haven and staffing levels seem to prove it. Aggressive ticketing, increased fines and sticker fees, and a near zero appeal success rate lend to the belief that Cambridge's parking department is in business only to sustain its own growing costs. The solution is to replace the parking director and cap the department's budget at one third of its revenues. If Dorchester residents get their stickers for free, why don't we?
This city is swimming in money! There is no real effort to contain costs. Our annual budget follows a template set years ago. Each year spending and taxes escalate by the same acceptable percentages while the City Council and Manager try to convince residents that we are in such great shape through their efforts - not all the cash coming in.
Government and Elections
The 2011 election will be another snooze with low voter turnout. Hardly worth the money. I propose that the 2013 election should be the last odd year Municipal election, for a three year term, and successive elections concurrent with state and national votes. We'll get much greater voter participation and save money to boot.
Land Use, Planning, Zoning, and Density
Residents, not developers, should decide the appropriate layouts and densities in their neighborhoods. The city badly needs a master plan for expansion based on citizen inputs. After that plan is laid out we can call in the developers and new companies to fill in the holes.
Economic Development and Commerce
Everyone understands that a major roadblock to new job creation is the cost of employee health insurance. At $5 per employee per hour for health insurance, small businesses will never open. My proposal to make the Cambridge Health Alliance the baseline insurer for city employees will create an attractive, more reasonably priced healthcare option for private employers as well.
Human Services Programs
Cambridge Seniors should be disturbed by a shameful performance their Councilors exhibited at a recent Candidate's Forum in East Cambridge. Asked about a new Senior Center as the possible use for a newly acquired parcel known as the "foundry", councilors stood one by one and claimed that the cost to operate such a facility is prohibitive. At the same time, the city is quietly authorizing payment to private lot owners in the same neighborhood for reserved parking for city employees' personal vehicles. Maybe half a million either way - your Councilors have spoken. The new lot is reserved for employee convenience. The health and welfare of citizens is the paramount responsibility of elected officials. I remain the only candidate who declares the Cambridge Health Alliance my highest priority.
Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
Our continuing practice of dedicating most Community Preservation Funds (a surtax) to affordable housing ignores the equally important need to acquire as much of the city's remaining open space as we can. They won't be making any more! That space can wisely be used as new parks, housing, or other best choices. The MDC or DCR pool property at the bottom of Rindge Avenue is a great possibility for a whole new Cambridge Municipal Recreation and Athletic Center. The state might give it away…
Energy, the Environment, and Public Health
Cambridge's greatest environmental concern remains its reliance on the most vulnerable municipal water supply in Massachusetts. Most residents still don't understand that their drinking water is sourced from a watershed alongside the state's busiest highway. You can drive out Route 2 eight minutes and spit in it. We are a tanker rollover or chemical spill away from a switchover to MWRA water and the valves should remain that way. MWRA water is plentiful, cheap, and superior to our own. Quabbin sourced bubbly will always be a better choice than the Waltham product. The huge Water Works project we started fifteen years ago demonstrates how cost-no-object options can trump better judgment. FYI: You drank MWRA water for years during construction.
The hottest issue. Current policy is working to generate more unaffordable housing than ever. The city's inclusionary affordable housing scheme grants developers the variances and spot zoning changes to accommodate seven units that will sell for $400,000 or rent for $2500 monthly in exchange for one unit the city can let out for a third as much. A lousy deal all around. Of course, sections of the city remain immune to these projects while the same already overdense neighborhoods get even worse. The gap between rich and poor widens and Cambridge becomes ever closer to a childless city. There's no easy solution to Cambridge's affordable housing crisis - or any other city's.
Arts and Public Celebrations
Multicultural Celebrations and public art displays are wildly popular and deserve the City Council's full support.
Our best-in-the-world institutions are our greatest asset - they're why everyone wants to come here! The love-hate relationship we have with these schools has to involve residents' concerns as well as reasonable accommodations for mutual benefit. Harvard University's minimal cash payments to the city will not increase significantly as the school has little growing room left - hence Harvard's Allston expansion. Novartis will soon be paying more in taxes than Harvard. On the other hand, MIT and its associated development will provide ever greater revenue to the city. For the time being, I propose to set Main Street as the northern limit for MIT's near future development and mandate graduate student housing as the school's #1 building priority. However, I am very wary of the huge amounts of money flowing from Forest City, MIT's development company, to our present councilors. It's payola any way you look at it.
Many voters feel that their government is not transparent enough. Specifically, they cite the City Manager's contract and the whole Zucker-Monteiro shakedown -- still unfinished -- as backdoor dealing. I hope we've learned that full disclosure and open government is the only way to go.
Yup, we're spending more than anyone else. And with a concentration of students from public housing and a huge percentage who qualify for free school lunches that achievement gap will always be an issue. I have no desire to interfere with the School Committee's functions. From the City Council's standpoint, however, I don't believe that the mayor should automatically become School Committee Chairperson.
CCTV Candidate Video (2011)