2023 Candidate for Cambridge City Council
1. Experience with Cambridge nonprofits. Do you have work or volunteer experience with Cambridge nonprofits?
Yes. I created the nonprofit Cambridge Recycling, Inc. for the purpose of buying and selling backyard compost bins at or below cost. I was the "Compost Guru" for Cambridge and did much of the distribution of bins myself - all as a volunteer. For many years our Public Works Department referred all compost-related inquiries to me.
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. During my involvement in local civic affairs spanning 30+ years it has been very clear that much of the service delivery of services to Cambridge residents is done in partnership with nonprofit agencies and others. This is a great model for providing essential services in an economically efficient manner.
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. The Anti-Aid Amendment is part of the state constitution, so I am hesitant to state unequivocally that I would limit its application. Cambridge has done a great job in directing revenue not derived directly from property taxes toward nonprofit service providers and I hope they continue to do so, e.g. through the Community Benefits Advisory Committee.
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?
Yes. Though it is not specified in the City Charter, an important role of city councilors is to exercise leadership in a variety of ways, and one such way is to promote citizen involvement in a wide range of endeavors. [This is why I have been promoting in City boards and commissions for many years.] I would happily act as a cheerleader in promoting our local nonprofits as worthwhile undertakings either as employed staff or as volunteers. Funding, of course, is still somewhat constrained through the Anti-Aid Amendment, but Cambridge also has a lot of people and companies with the means to financially support our nonprofits, but you do have to ask them to do so - and elected councilors can do that.
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. Of course the answer is Yes, but I also want to make sure that funds allocated under ARPA are directed toward things for which ARPA intended. Fortunately, many of those needs fit under the nonprofit umbrella.