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A fourth-generation Cambridge resident running for his third term on the Council, Marc McGovern currently serves as Vice Mayor for the city. McGovern cites providing more affordable housing, combatting poverty, and working towards economic justice as the most pressing issues facing Cambridge. On the Council, McGovern leads the Finance, Human Services and Veterans, Civic Unity, and Housing Committees. Before his time on the City Council, McGovern served four terms on the Cambridge School Committee and was a social worker. If re-elected, McGovern says he hopes to encourage more city property acquisitions and navigate the changing politics of President Donald Trump's administration in order to best serve Cambridge's most vulnerable residents.
THE HARVARD CRIMSON: What are some of the biggest issues facing the Cambridge City Council?
MARC MCGOVERN: Affordable housing is a top issue facing the city. We also have a lot of folks in our city, low-income and middle-income folks, who are really struggling, not just with housing, but paying for childcare and just the high cost of living here in Cambridge. Cambridge actually has a higher poverty rate than the state average; this is something people don’t know. So I would say issues surrounding affordable housing, economic justice, are probably the biggest issues facing our city right now; that includes everything from poverty to opioid addiction.
THC: What do you think that Cambridge should do to help provide more affordable housing to its residents? Are there any particular programs that you might think would be helpful?
MM: I was co-chair of the housing committee with Mayor E. Denise Simmons, and we just took the lead on raising the inclusionary zoning percentage to 20 percent, which is going to yield hundreds and hundreds of units of housing. We also tripled the linkage fee, which is amount of money that commercial developers have to pay to city that we then use to preserve and create affordable housing. Mayor Simmons and I did that.
Moving forward, I think the city’s inclusionary zoning isn’t going to solve the problem tomorrow. Something the city needs to continue to do is be more aggressive in obtaining property. When property is purchased by a for-profit developer, there’s only certain things that the city can do; but when the city owns the property, we have much more flexibility. We have to continue to acquire property, which is difficult in the city. We also have to preserve affordable housing. We have a number of affordable housing developments that in the next few years could be losing their affordability status because the agreements that keep them affordable are ending.
There are people running for Council that think that if you don’t build any housing, people will stop moving here, and I think that’s not correct. People want to live in Cambridge. It’s a very desirable place to live, because of our jobs and our schools and our low crime rate, and our reputation—all the reasons people love it here.
THC: Moving to national politics, how do you think that Cambridge should respond to President Donald Trump’s policies, in the last few months and going forward?
MM: Well, I’ve done a lot of work on this. One of the first things I did after the election was to file a policy order rededicating Cambridge as a sanctuary city. I was not going to let Trump bully us into walking away from our values. And in that order, I also asked the City Manager to start planning for any funding cuts that might come our way from the administration. So we’re already trying to strategize how we maintain the level of service if Trump carries through with many of the promises he’s been making.
THC: How do you think that Cambridge should balance the need for more bike lanes and concerns from residents who think that those bike lanes are taking up more parking space on the roads?
MM: Here's what I say to people: Bikes aren’t going anywhere. Cars aren’t going anywhere. Pedestrians aren’t going anywhere. And our roads were not built for the volume or the multiple modes of transportation that we see in use. And so everybody's going to have to sacrifice. I’ve said to bike supporters: you’re not going to get a bike lane on every street. But we should create a network of bike lanes that allow cyclists to get around the community safely. To people who are concerned about parking, I say: you’re going to lose parking because our streets need to be safe for everybody. Cars don’t own the streets. We need to think differently about how we share our streets. And it goes for everybody. Drivers break the rules, pedestrians break the rules, cyclists break the rules. We all have an impact. We need more education, we have to be more patient with each other, and we have to understand that there are limitations in what we can do if we’re going to make our streets safer. Everybody has to be part of that solution.
THC: How do you think that Cambridge should regulate the use and distribution of recreational marijuana, especially in light of its recent legalization at the state level?
MM: I wrote the ordinance around medical marijuana for Cambridge. And I think that we really need to see the regulations the state’s going to put in place, and then how do we work with those. So for example, a medical marijuana dispensary can’t be within 500 feet of any place that children congregate. Now in Cambridge, we have so many small parks, so many playgrounds, so many schools, that really limits the places where a medical marijuana dispensary could open. I mean, you can’t throw a tennis ball without hitting a playground or a school in this city. So if the state comes down with similar kinds of guidelines, that’s going to limit what we can do. We want to create zoning where we have opportunity for non-medical marijuana shops to open in Cambridge, but I'm not sure I want them lining Mass. Ave. either. It’s a little tough to say at this point, because I want to be thoughtful about it. Until we get recommendations from the state, it’ll be hard for us to say what the limitations will be.
I think both questions—medical marijuana and recreational marijuana—passed overwhelmingly in Cambridge. I think it's something that the residents have spoken about, that it’s something they support, and I think we should follow through with that.