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Seeking Third Council Term, Vice Mayor Mallon Points to Anti-Poverty Track Record

By Courtesy of Alanna Mallon
By Caroline E. Curran and Julia García-Galindo, Contributing Writers

Alanna M. Mallon, Cambridge vice mayor and third-term candidate for the City Council, describes herself as a “committed and passionate leader,” who does not just “sit behind a desk at City Hall,” but actively engages with residents to create policies that improve their lives.

Mallon, a self-proclaimed “anti-poverty advocate,” is running to defend her seat on the council. In an interview, Mallon pointed to her track record expanding employment opportunities, increasing affordable housing, and rolling out a basic-income pilot program.

Born and raised in Brockton, Mass., Mallon entered public service in Cambridge in 2013, when she founded the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program to provide food-insecure children with meals outside of school.

In 2015, while working in the mayor’s office as the education liaison, she said she mulled running for elected office to get to the root of systemic issues.

“I started to think, ‘I could just put food into kids’ backpacks for the rest of my life, or I could run for office and really start working on those deep structural issues that cause hunger,’” she said. “Working on issues of safe, affordable housing, workforce development, and closing those economic gaps has been a real priority for me on the council, and it was what drove me to run.”

Mallon said she is particularly proud of her efforts to help pass the Affordable Housing Overlay, which the council passed in October 2020 to support the development of affordable housing in Cambridge.

Mallon described how her original interest in combating hunger led her to advocate for affordable housing.

“If people are overly rent burdened, they are making tough choices around whether to pay their rent or put food on their table,” she said. “So affordable housing and creating and maintaining affordable housing has been a huge issue for me.”

To create more inclusive opportunities for young people in the city, Mallon said she worked with the Cambridge police and fire departments to launch cadet programs, and supports Building Pathways, which helps train low-income residents in the Boston area for jobs in the construction industry.

To tackle income inequality, Mallon worked with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Councilor Marc C. McGovern to launch a basic income pilot program in April, which provides 120 eligible low-income families $500 per month for 18 months. Cambridge is the second city in Massachusetts to experiment with a guaranteed income program.

While Mallon’s campaign this year resembles her previous council bids in 2017 and 2019, in 2021, the city is recovering from the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Noting the moment, Mallon said her fight against inequality is more important than ever before.

“We saw during the pandemic how close to the edge so many of our residents are, and how it became a public health risk to have so many residents be housing insecure, to be food insecure, to be working multiple jobs,” she said. “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to really close some of those gaps that exacerbate public health crises.”

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