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Nicola Williams — a Jamaican immigrant, local business owner, and activist — began her local advocacy more than 20 years ago on an anti-smoking campaign, but this year she’s looking to take her city involvement a step further: running for Cambridge City Council.
Williams is running on a platform focused on affordable housing, an issue that has impacted her throughout her 31 years in Cambridge and that remains as salient as ever for local residents today.
“I lived in a rent-control unit 25 years ago — where I am now— in Harvard Square, and my rents increased by 50 percent,” she said. “I get the analysis and organize my building.”
Williams eventually realized that it was cheaper if the building’s tenants purchased the structure instead of renting apartments. She convinced her neighbors to take that step and alleviate some of their financial burden.
Still, she said the city of Cambridge has not prioritized housing reforms that help all its residents.
“I’m very concerned that we’ve become a city of have and have nots,” Williams said. “There’s not an opportunity for many people given the policies or the lack of policies of good housing in our cities.”
Williams said that the city’s current affordable housing proposal fail to sufficiently address residents’ needs. She has, for example, opposed the city’s 100 percent affordable housing overlay plan.
“The housing policies they're coming out are perpetuating poverty and keeping poor people poor,” she said. “It’s not giving an opportunity for people to transition to be homeowners, so that their housing can be stabilized.”
Williams also said it is critical for Cambridge to provide universal pre-kindergarten options, as opposed to the city’s current system, which she called unaffordable to some residents.
Williams has received endorsements from local groups including Our Revolution Cambridge and the Harvard College Democrats.
Sean McFarland, a coordinating committee member for Our Revolution Cambridge, wrote in an email that the group endorsed Williams because of her reputation for supporting her neighbors and pursuing advocacy work in Cambridge.
“Williams is a true Cambridge treasure, and by choosing to step up and run, she's given us a one of a kind chance to vote for someone of her caliber and unique perspective to join our city council,” he said. “I've heard nothing but good things from the many neighbors whose lives she has touched and her passion for re-aligning city government with its intended purpose of serving ‘we the people’ would be a tremendous asset for current and future Cambridge residents alike.”
The Harvard College Democrats chose Williams as their sole city council endorsement for the 2019 election in October. The College Democrats declined to comment on their endorsement.
Williams said that, ultimately, she hopes her advocacy record will help woo voters come Tuesday.
“I'm results driven. I've proven myself in my work. Out of all the existing and potential candidates, I'm the one who has created the most jobs, and I truly am committed and believe in this,” she said. “I care about my community and I’ve invested a lot of time in this community. And I'm willing to continue to do that for Cambridge for all.”
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