2023 Candidate for Cambridge City Council
1. Experience with Cambridge nonprofits. Do you have work or volunteer experience with Cambridge nonprofits?
Yes. For about 10 years, I was involved with the Charles River Conservancy, first as an advisory board member, board member, Finance committee chair and Board chair. Most recently, I have been involved with a start up NFP called Cambridge Streets for All, an educational and advocacy group, started by residents and businesses to improve the Cycling Safety Ordinance implementation. I was also a founding board member of a pet therapy group, Caring Canines. While it was not based in Cambridge, we frequently visited Cambridge locations such as Sancta Maria Nursing Facility and the Sheila Russell Community Center.
2. Valuing nonprofit expertise. Cambridge nonprofits deliver programs and services across a wide range of missions, from early education and youth development, to affordable housing production and management, arts and culture exposure and education, food security, environmental preservation, civic engagement (or community involvement), and much more. As a result, nonprofit leaders and staff are often well positioned to advise the City on program policies related to their clients and consumers. Will you use your position on the City Council to ensure that the City incorporates the voice and expertise of nonprofit leaders into planning around current City priorities?
Yes. I know first hand the very important role not for profit organizations play in building community and strengthening the fabric of our community. I value the richness they add to the lives of residents through the services they provide and the opportunity for residents of all ages to participate in their activities. One of my key commitments is to ensure the voices of all residents and organizations are incorporated into the Council's priorities and policy development. There are formal ways for not for profits voices to be heard such as participating in relevant City Council Committee meetings. I will be planning channels for my direct outreach in to the community and will always be willing to speak with constituents about particular issues and bring their voices back to the council.
3. Limiting application of Anti-Aid Amendment. With the exception of contracts for services, the Anti-Aid Amendment of the MA Constitution prohibits municipalities from directly distributing funds raised through taxation to nonprofits. While the City provides financial support to nonprofits through contracting, this approach increased administrative burdens, can cause cash-flow issues due to payment delays, and limits creativity in developing new funding opportunities. It also can create an incentive for the City to start new initiatives rather than invest in programs already well established in the community. Will you use your position on the City Council to limit the application of the Anti-Aid Amendment to tax generated revenue only, in order to maximize the resources available to Cambridge nonprofits?
I don't know. Contracts and payments are part of the City Managers portfolio as you know. The City councils role is therefore limited. The issue could be raised through the Community Benefits Advisory Committee (CBAC) as other not for profits must also have this same challenge. I believe Ellen Semonoff sits on the Committee. She reports to the City Manager and could bring this issue to his attention in that way. There is also a Human Services and Veterans Committee of the City Council. Ms Semonoff may already be a regular participant in that City Council committee and that might be another route for this to be raised to the City Council.
4. Attending to nonprofit workforce challenges. According to CNC's December 2022 survey of Cambridge nonprofits, (70%) reported open positions and over a third (36%) said they lacked the funding to fill them, comprising their ability to meet service demands. Do you believe the City Council can play a role in helping nonprofits recruit and retain high quality staff?
I don't know. The Community Benefits Advisory Committee as mentioned above would be one vehicle for raising this issue. And, following what is mentioned above, it could become a topic the City Council becomes aware of.
5. ARPA investments in nonprofits. While Cambridge nonprofits are grateful for the City committing millions of ARPA dollars to local organizations, concerns have been raised both about the slow pace of releasing funds into the community and a lack of information being shared broadly regarding their progress. Will you use your position on the City Council to expedite this process and ensure there is greater transparency going forward?
Yes. The Council can ask the City Manager for a status report on the distribution of the ARPA dollars to local organizations. As part of that report, the City Council can raise the questions from above and ask the City Manager how a quicker release and better information flow can be achieved. I hope this issue is also being discussed as part of the CBAC meetings.