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A Cambridge resident for nearly 50 years, Dan Lenke has worked as a home contractor and owner and manager of a moving company, in addition to launching a food co-op in Cambridge. One of Lenke’s biggest concerns is protecting Cantabrigians from being forced out of the city by unaffordable housing. His platform calls for regulating development in Cambridge, pushing for a Cambridge-specific car service to decrease traffic, and increasing the efficiency of Cambridge’s internet by making it a public utility. Lenke raised his three children in Cambridge, and now has four grandchildren.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
THE HARVARD CRIMSON: What do you think are the most important issues facing the Cambridge City Council?
DAN LENKE: I feel that the Council’s objective must be to make Cambridge for Cantabrigians. They’re being forced out. By the hundreds, by the thousands. I can see all that’s valuable in life is people. And that means nothing if we don’t respect people. And that’s the job of the City Council: to work with each other, because we’re different, and to work with all the resources of the city, of which there are multiple, and to work with universities, and to learn from other cities. To see that the people in the city are well-served. Number one is that they don’t get kicked out for a different scheme, which excludes the value of natural social nurturing.
THC: Are you working with any other candidates, formally or informally, during the campaign?
DL: I would like to, but I haven’t taken the time—and none of the others seem to have a moment. We’re all fully out to try to work this campaign. But I certainly will if elected. I absolutely will ask every other current candidate now, to work with me, to make this a better city, as they have all brought themselves forward to do, with their wonderful, unique, capacities and insights. But there’s a question you might ask—I just said I didn’t find time to interact with the other candidates, as I would like to, so how am I going to do that in the future when I’m five times as busy? I’m going to ask people in the city to work with other people. I’m even going to dedicate a portion of my salary to hiring Cantabrigians to work toward common goals, among them will be communication, listening, interacting, getting things done. There are many wonderful, competent, alert people in Cambridge, who want to see a change, and who need to see a change, but who haven’t connected with a city councillor, who is somebody who can facilitate that. So I would be able to connect them and follow up. I’ll bring them together, so we can do anything. If I show other people, if I give them permission, yes, we can do this.
THC: Why should Cantabrigians vote for you over other candidates?
DL: They shouldn’t vote for me over other candidates. They should vote for me because they will be surprisingly, properly, and fully rewarded for doing so, by the effectiveness that I will daily bring about.
THC: What do you think Cambridge should be doing to provide affordable housing to its residents?
DL: That’s a term that’s miscast and misconstrued: affordable. Let’s break down affordable. Affordable to whom? To the working people? People who do not have a college education are being squeezed out of Cambridge almost as quickly as can be counted. The people who lived here for generations are gone and are leaving. They can’t afford it. We have no plan in Cambridge to actually bring about affordable housing. We have plans that intend toward that, such as 20 percent affordable housing in new buildings. But the rents called affordable are not, to the working people. And they may not be distributed as we wish them to be. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who are waiting for housing, who will never get it in Cambridge. Places that are just blocks of housing, they’re not pleasant to live in. In Cambridge right now, we have a number of housing projects, like Roosevelt Towers. It’s not pleasant to live in. It’s affordable, in fact, it’s subsidized, but it’s not a happy place to live. So what we’re offering is not what we say we’re offering. We’re losing our diversity in Cambridge. When we have different people, it’s better.
THC: What should Cambridge do to fix that?
DL: First, we recognize that there is a problem. The first order of business is for the Council to determine exactly what we’re going to do. And throw various ventures that may be potentially beneficial, like the 20 percent affordable housing proposal. If we analyze, we see that it will not keep the people here that are living here. It can’t do it. Or raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Everyone’s on board with that, including yours truly. But $15 an hour is not enough to live in Cambridge. I suggested we take a census, at the last forum, of all the people who are at risk in Cambridge, because they’re all people. If we don’t define, identify each person who’s living in Cambridge, we won’t be able to help them.