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Sukia Akiba, a first time candidate running for Cambridge City Council, said she plans to use her knowledge of the city to address the problems she said have changed the Cambridge she once knew.
Akiba, who grew up in Nigeria, traveled to Cambridge throughout her childhood to visit her grandparents. Akiba’s extended family has lived in Cambridge for roughly 50 years. Now, as a resident of Cambridge and as the mother of two young boys, Akiba said she feels a responsibility to help her community.
“The things that once made our city special are now gone,” Akiba said. “It is less diverse. We see developments coming up left and right, and yet there is no affordable housing.”
Throughout her campaign, Akiba has spent time knocking on doors, calling local residents, and meeting people on the street. While she does not have prior political experience, she said that she intends to use her background in global health policy to step into the political arena and create a grassroots movement.
Since regulating real estate developers is a central issue of her campaign, Akiba said she refuses to accept donations from developers. She said she also takes issue with developers building infrastructure in an unsustainable way, even though Cambridge has the technology and budget for environmentally friendly projects. Akiba said she plans to mandate that developers construct green buildings.
“Our buildings are not being built sustainably. Eighty-five percent of our emissions come from buildings running on gas and electricity,” Akiba said.
In addition to her focus on environmental issues, Akiba sahe she also wants to prioritize education. Cambridge does not have universal preschool, something that Akiba hopes to change if elected.
“You would think that Cambridge being the home of Harvard and MIT, we would take education more seriously,” Akiba said. “We have the budget for universal [pre-kindergarten] but people are not prioritizing it.”
While Akiba’s primary platforms center on these issues, she also spoke of other initiatives. Akiba said she wants to improve mental health programs, provide housing for the city’s population of people experiencing homelessness, and allocate more resources toward low income neighborhoods. Akiba also said that those elected this year will likely pick the next City Manager, whom she hopes will be a person of color or a woman.
“Politicians say the same things,” Akiba said. “I may not be as rehearsed or as polished as them, [but] my feelings are genuine. We talk a good talk in Cambridge. It’s time for someone to do something.”
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