Outgoing City Council Candidates Focus on Housing Crisis and Voters’ Engagement in Reelection Campaigns | New
With 19 candidates vying for Cambridge City Council this fall, the eight incumbents vying for re-election are building on their experience and accomplishments at Town Hall to rally their support for another term.
With the exception of Councilor Timothy J. Toomey, who will step down after this term, the candidates for the post are Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Deputy Mayor Alanna M. Mallon and Councilors Dennis J. Carlone, Marc C. McGovern, Patricia Mr. “Patty” Nolan ’80, E. Denise Simmons, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Quinton Y. Zondervan.
Every two years, the nine seats of the council are elected in general. At the start of the term of office, the councilors elect from among themselves a mayor and a vice-mayor.
Several councilors said in interviews with The Crimson that they plan to highlight their work on affordable housing and income equality during this election cycle. Sobrinho-Wheeler noted rising house prices in Cambridge.
âWe have some of the most expensive accommodation in the country in Cambridge,â said Sobrinho-Wheeler. “It’s got really out of hand over the past two decades in particular.”
Nolan attributed the current housing situation to the great economic disparities that exist in Cambridge.
âThe reason we have an affordable housing crisis – and it sounds a bit simplistic but people, I don’t think, are talking about it as much – is that we have an income crisis,â she said. . âIf you could afford houses in Cambridge, the affordable housing crisis wouldn’t be here. “
Previously, the council put in place policies to try to make housing more affordable. Siddiqui discussed the recent preservation of 504 units in the Rindge Towers – an affordable housing complex – which risked being billed at market rates.
Siddiqui said the Rindge Tower units “will be affordable for the next 50 years” and she is “really proud of this accomplishment.”
Another housing effort passed during this term – and a hotly debated topic in the 2019 municipal elections – is affordable housing. The measure was passed in October 2020 after the city elected a qualified majority of AHO supporters in previous elections.
Councilors were divided over the city’s response to the pandemic. McGovern said the city “had” handled the pandemic well.
âOur positivity rates were consistently the lowest of any city in the state. We also had some of the highest test numbers, âhe said. “We have responded to the immediate needs of our homeless population by serving thousands of meals, providing public showers and toilets, opening shelters for gatherings and non-gatherings.”
Carlone said the city should have acted faster to provide assistance to small businesses and tenants.
âThe only thing we could have done differently is to help small businesses and people rent earlier than us,â he said. “We did, but it could have been, frankly, in the first month.”
Simmons defended the council’s response to the pandemic, but argued that emergency resources should continue after the pandemic ends.
âI don’t want to go back to normal,â Simmons said. “I want us to get back to better because we’ve now proven to ourselves – and the community – that we can do it if we choose to.”
Zondervan cited the low turnout in Cambridge municipal elections as a cause for concern.
âTraditionally, we see around 30% voter turnout in municipal elections in Cambridge,â he said. “And that’s a real shame because it means that the vast majority of voters are not engaged with our municipal elections and, therefore, our municipal government.”
To increase voter turnout, councilors said they plan to use strategies such as knocking on doors, using phone banking, sending letters and having conversations with voters.
Zondervan added that he wanted Cantabrians to understand the influence they have over their local government.
“My hope is to make them realize that we exist and to know what we are doing, and to let them know that they have a big role to play in how we are going to govern,” he said.
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