1.The City of Cambridge received $65M+ in fiscal recovery funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. Although the Treasury Department provided some guidelines, the City has significant discretion in how to use the funding. If elected, what will you do to ensure that the residents most harmed by the pandemic, and the nonprofit organizations that work to support and empower them, will be prioritized to receive these funds and be an authentic part of the decision making process?
The City has stated that grants to Cambridge non-profit organizations to provide enhanced and continued services to residents impacted by the pandemic and grants to Cambridge non-profit organizations for operating costs for limited duration (3 or 6 months) to offset pandemic related losses would qualify as appropriate uses. I also hope we can use the funds to set up a guaranteed income like Cambridge RISE. In these decisions around grants, the nonprofit community and residents should contribute their ideas and suggestions around what “enhanced and continued services” look like and which specific operating costs they would want to be prioritized. I have suggested that like the City of Boston, we launch a community engagement process. Residents there have been able to participate through completing an initial survey, joining an issue-based community meeting and visiting the equitable recovery website. We must adopt thoughtful, evidence-based, equity-oriented approaches to using these substantial one-time funds in partnership with the nonprofit community and residents.
2. The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies recently reported that nationally nonprofits lost 1.6M jobs between March-May 2020. What policies would you advocate for to hasten the recovery of Cambridge nonprofits and increase their capacity to serve Cambridge?
We can reimagine our community benefits ordinance to start. I advocated to use those funds for COVID-19 Emergency & Recovery Grants in the Summer of 2020. We need to keep prioritizing simplicity, expediency, and equity and flexibility of funding as we recover, and our policies must reflect those themes. As part of the ordinance, we must do another needs assessment. Considering the pandemic, needs have changed. Hearing directly how the City could help our Cambridge nonprofit would be important. I will advocate for grants and amending the ordinance with nonprofit input.
3. The Anti-Aid Amendment of the Massachusetts State Constitution prohibits municipalities from directly distributing funds raised through taxation to nonprofits, with the exception of contracts for specific goods or services. This creates many challenges including but not limited to: use of cost reimbursement contracts, that can increase the administrative burden and in some cases cause cash-flow issues for organizations, limiting the amount of funds available to support individual organizations, constraining creativity in funding models, and creating an incentive for the City of Cambridge to implement its own programs rather than more significantly investing in nonprofits already running well established programs in the community. Although the City of Cambridge does not have the authority to abolish the Anti-Aid Amendment, it has some discretion in how broadly to apply it. If elected, what would you do to limit the negative impacts of the anti-aid amendment in order to maximize the resources that Cambridge nonprofits represent?
I’ve had to work around the Anti-Aid Amendment after raising funds for the Mayor’s COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund and Cambridge RISE. One of the goals of the guaranteed income program is to show that should use public funds to go directly to individuals and families. In the same vein, I think our goal should be using public funds to go directly to nonprofits, and one idea that has been discussed, which I support is for the City Council to have a broad funding priority of alleviating poverty. Poverty is not a personal failure—it is a policy failure, and I am a willing advocate to figure out ways we strengthen the nonprofit sector.
4. The recent Cambridge Community Foundation Equity and Innovation Cities report paints a stark picture of a Cambridge that has experienced both significant prosperity during the last decade, as well as deep and fast growing income inequality along racial lines. What do you believe would need to change for the City of Cambridge to become the anti-racist community it aspires to be?
We need to study problems less and instead take action-oriented steps toward policy solutions. For example, we knew before the pandemic kids did not have internet at home or devices, but we made the choice. We were quick to buy laptops and fund hotspots when we switched to remote learning. Often, our residents and nonprofit community have the solutions, and we need to do a better job listening. For the next city manager, I think it will be important to have someone who is diverse in many ways, including race, gender, and experience. We will have an opportunity to choose someone who can partner with the City Council on becoming an anti-racist community. I am also excited about the language access justice work the Family Policy Council has been doing the last term. This work is critical in furthering our goals to becoming anti-racist.
5. How do you propose creating a more inclusive approach to current community engagement strategies that research has shown overwhelmingly favor the wealthy? What ideas do you have to both increase the diversity of participants on City of Cambridge boards and committees, and make those governing bodies more inclusive and welcoming to all?
The City completed a survey in August 2019 following a Civic Unity Committee Hearing to ascertain information about who served on the City’s Boards and Commissions. Of the 266 responses, 73% were white individuals, and 30.8 percent were 65 and older. Since then, the City has sought to diversify its boards and commissions. Some of the themes that came up in the survey were to 1) Improve recruitment: making it easier to apply, making formation more widely available, and make boards/commissions more diverse and providing support for members like food, childcare, and a stipend. I think support for members in the form of a stipend particularly would go a long way. This term we have been advocating for such support and I will continue to. I also think it is important to have as many events as possible in the community, which is my office partnered with the Cambridge Public Schools to launch community resource fairs for the last year and a half, where nonprofit organizations could be a part of.
6. How would you describe the role of Cambridge nonprofits in meeting the needs of Cambridge residents and advancing equity in our City? What do you believe is the ideal way for City councilors to engage with local nonprofits in service of achieving these goals?
If it wasn't for Cambridge nonprofits, the City would struggle to meet the needs of Cambridge residents. In this last term, the nonprofit community has been tremendously helpful-I’ve partnered with many nonprofits during this difficult time. I view the nonprofit community as partners in the City and the ideal way for City councilors to engage with local nonprofits is to listen and be helpful. Having worked as a legal aid attorney at a nonprofit, I also put myself in the shoes of staff at nonprofits. The last almost 4 years, I have been able to advocate for more funding for nonprofits working in variety of areas, including legal aid.
7. Is there anything that we haven’t asked that you would like to share with the Cambridge nonprofit community?
It is been great to partner with the nonprofit community during this difficult time. Thank you for everything you do.