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Twenty-Two to Vie for City Council Seats in November

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall.

Championing issues from immigrant rights to affordable housing to the environment, 22 candidates have officially declared their candidacy for Cambridge City Council, the city’s election commission announced Friday.

In a field with 8 incumbents and 14 challengers, candidates have already seized on key issues facing Cambridge residents and sought to differentiate themselves from the field by highlighting their backgrounds and experience.

Nicola A. Williams, a local entrepreneur, said she is planning to put diversity at the forefront of her campaign and draw on her experience as a “job creator” if elected in November.

“As an immigrant, a person of color — of Caribbean descent — I bring a different perspective,” she said. “I feel that diversity through a different lens will be very important to my role as a City Councilor. I think being an environmentalist, a small business owner, a grassroots job creator that focuses on mission driven work — I feel that will make a difference.”

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Patricia “Patty” M. Nolan ’80, a seventh term Cambridge School Committee member, said she is looking to make the jump to City Council because she wants a “seat at the table.” She said she would apply research and data analysis to policy decisions if elected in November.

“We really need an approach in the city that is more comprehensive, data focused, research based and more thoughtful in terms of its inclusion of a range of perspectives,” she said. “I feel like the city has not done as much as it could have, so I thought, I really want to be involved.”

One issue sure to be at the center of this campaign season is the city’s ongoing debate concerning affordable housing. Last month, the City Council debated and heard public testimony about a proposal to zone the entire city for affordable housing projects. The proposal has been billed as an effort to help affordable housing developers to compete with for-profit developers through incentives to build residential units across the city.

Adriane B. Musgrave — a second time challenger who ran in the 2017 election — said affordable housing is the most important issue the city faces. She said housing costs and accessibility were one of the reasons she decided to run.

“With the booming economy that we have, the problem is that many people are left out of the opportunity of living in Cambridge,” she said. “Going forward, there's a risk that many more people will be left out of this.”

Though many candidates are in favor of the affordable housing proposal, however, support is not unanimous. Derek A. Kopon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said he is among many residents “concerned” with the City Council’s process for considering the proposal.

“It seems to me like the way that it's being performed is kind of bizarre and kind of overtly political, almost like it's being rushed through on kind of a timeline to kind of bring it to a vote right before the election,” he said.

In addition to challenger candidates, nearly every current councilor is also looking to hold onto their seats.

Mayor Marc C. McGovern will seek his fourth term on the council after serving his first term as mayor. He said he wants to continue the work the city has done on issues like voting rights and affordable housing.

“It is important that cities take the lead on these important social and economic justice issues,” McGovern said. “I feel that I have done that. I want to continue to do that. And that's why I hope to be able to come back to the City Council so that I can continue moving Cambridge to being a socially and economically just community wanted to be.”

In an interview, incumbent Alanna M. Mallon sought to shed light on the work she’s done over the course of her first term on the City Council, saying most of it “goes unseen”

“I have been able to get a lot of these things done working tirelessly and collaboratively, behind the scenes, bringing people together, really understanding deeply where the issues are,” she said.

Notably absent from the declared candidates is current Vice-Mayor Jan Devereux. Devereux announced in May that she would not seek re-election for a third term on the council, describing the decision as “personal, not political.”

Candidate will vie for nine seats on the City Council during the election Nov. 5. Members are elected at-large through a proportional representation system, where voters rank the candidates on the ballot according to preference, using a system dating back to over seventy five years.

The official list of candidates to appear on the ballot will be determined Aug. 17, as candidates have until Aug. 16 to withdraw, according to Lesley Waxman, assistant director of the Cambridge Election Commission.

— Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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