Support for City Council candidates


Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 7, 2017) is Election Day.  While there are a number of reasonable choices for City Council, here are the five candidates I most support, and why.

First, the why – some priorities to consider in the next City Council term:

  1. Continue to reclaim Place through complete streets design standards, transit/bicycle infrastructure expansion, parks/ecological corridors, and mixed-use density.
  2. Advance working relationships with MIT and Harvard, corporate and nonprofit players, and major developers.
  3. Build on our socially-inclusive values, ensure high-quality city services, and increase access to economic and educational opportunities.
  4. Maintain civility and cordiality while encouraging pointed, detailed policy discussions.

My perspective on Cambridge issues can be found on my 2015 City Council candidate platform page, and my blog.

Here are the candidates I most support to diligently, eagerly, and thoughtfully carry out the important policy work around housing and development, transportation, ecology and open space, and socioeconomic inclusivity. These candidates stand out as exceptionally hard-working, thoughtful, articulate, nuanced, and detail-oriented.

  • Marc McGovern (incumbent)
  • Jan Devereux (incumbent)
  • Alanna Mallon
  • Sam Gebru
  • Adriane Musgrave

These are the five candidates for City Council I think it’s most crucial to elect tomorrow.

I personally know most of the candidates in this year’s especially large field of twenty-six, and feel that I have a good sense of most candidates’ policy instincts and wherewithal. All six of the incumbents are fine candidates for reelection, and there are several newcomers who would serve the city well. The above is not meant to take away from the determination, values, and clear sense of work ethic among other worthy candidates (e.g. Sean Tierney, E. Denise Simmons, Craig Kelley, Tim Toomey, Vatsady Sivongxay, Dennis Carlone, Sumbul, Quinton, Nadya etc.).

For School Committee, I support Emily Dexter, Jake Crutchfield, Patty Nolan, Piotr Mitros, Manikka Bowman, Elechi Kadete, and Will MacArthur.

Support for City Council candidates

City Council Ordinance Committee meeting public comments, October 3, 2017

I’m speaking as a member and cofounder of the Friends of the Grand Junction Path, in general acknowledgement and support of MIT’s commitment to working with the city, and this generous commitment to fund the design and construction of parts of the Grand Junction Path.

I would urge us to change the focus of the metric away from the simple monetary contribution and, even staying within the same agreed upon budget, instead hold both MIT and the City responsible for committing to specific geographic aims for path construction within a specific timeframe.

A couple of reasons for this. First, I think we want more than a least-resistance level of participation from MIT. It’s a real opportunity to include the wide array of talent and perspective from within the Institute, to make the Grand Junction Path something ultimately more innovative in design and approach – also, to increase the level of ownership and sense of place, with regard to the uniqueness of this corridor as relates to MIT and its students, faculty, and community. Second, to make this a more collaborative project and vision beyond the landownership in question, and keep and include MIT at the table for the completion north to Somerville and joining the Somerville Community Path, and south to the Charles River Paths on the Boston side.

Further, I would request the convening of a focused transit study group including the City, MIT, and the MBTA, and perhaps a spin-off of the Allston Task Force, specifically to identify the most feasible way to begin light rail service in the short-term between West Station, Kendall Square, and North Station, as well as eventually beyond to Somerville, Chelsea, and the Airport, all via the Grand Junction railroad.

These are important results that should come out of the Volpe rezoning process, and it goes without saying the benefits that the utilization of the Grand Junction brings to MIT, Kendall Square, and the City of Cambridge, as well as regional connectivity, and, moreover, the necessity of utilization of the corridor – for walking, biking, and transit – in order to make the intensity of development in Allston and Cambridge, and points beyond throughout the urban core, to make these places even functional as we add thousands of jobs, residents, and daily trips in a concentrated way – and with little to no other means of conveyance between and among them really identifiable – not to mention enjoyable, communal, and thriving.

Now to speak a little to overall site plan and design, a few suggestions on context (and some of this goes off of Councilor Kelly’s comment about MIT not necessarily just doing what any developer could do): 1, the historic Broad Canal (which brings to mind questions of water/climate change resilience infrastructurally, and, perhaps, ecology), 2, the presence and prominence of biotech specifically along Binney Street and perhaps consistency with that when arranging the site, 3, Third Square (which may not have been ideally designed from the beginning, but we might deal with some sense of the relation of that element more than just treating it as a black hole on the map), 4, the sense of this being a unique, large, contiguous parcel, and being continually mindful of not just integrating with the grid so to speak, but what can be done monumentally (interesting and even iconic architecture) and the seemingly somewhat diminished concept of a grand-scale open space, 5, the very particular history of this site for the last four or five decades as a place for transportation research – and so transportation planning in and around the site ought to be innovative and a hallmark rather than simply meeting parking requirements and making vague bus route shifts, and 6, being acutely mindful about reflecting the soul of MIT itself, which among its peers is quite distinctly global, and maintains, through careful effort and allegiance to values, a notable and pronounced socioeconomic diversity.

More at

City Council Ordinance Committee meeting public comments, October 3, 2017

Cambridge 2018 Property Tax Rates

The Fiscal Year 2018 Property Tax rate for residential property in Cambridge will be $6.29 per $1,000 in assessed value.

This is a decrease from $6.49 in Fiscal Year 2017 and $6.99 in Fiscal Year 2016.

The City Manager’s September tax newsletter can be downloaded here (pdf). The newsletter contains a breakdown of (among others) Cambridge tax policy, city revenues and expenditures, the city’s biggest taxpayers (MIT pays 13% of Cambridge’s taxes), residential exemptions, and side-by-side comparisons of tax bills for Cambridge and surrounding towns (numbers from FY2017):

From the City Manager’s letter (pdf) regarding the tax levy increase for 2018, here is a chart showing the change in median assessed value for properties in Cambridge from 2017…

…and a comparison of median assessed values vs. median sales prices by property class, which is a common area of confusion for buyers/owners, with one general point to keep in mind being that they’re different, for a number of reasons, and assessed values aren’t relevant for determining present market value/what one should pay for a property (a topic for another time):

More information on Cambridge taxes, billing, assessments, and taxpayer assistance here.

Cambridge 2018 Property Tax Rates