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From Bartender to City Council Candidate, Joe McGuirk Hopes to Bring Fresh Voice

By Thomas Maisonneuve
By Julia García-Galindo and Ella L. Jones, Contributing Writers

After working as a bartender in Cambridge for more than 30 years, first-time candidate Joe McGuirk is hoping to bring some economic diversity to the Cambridge City Council.

McGuirk was raised by a working-class family and has been a part of the service industry for more than three decades. This past year, he was unemployed for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result, he said his platform focuses on affordable housing, blue-collar workers, and bringing working class issues to the forefront of the council’s business.

He argued that while Cambridge may be a very progressive city, issues like housing showcase that decisions are still made by those with more “economic might.”

“I'm kind of tired of hearing that we're champions of housing and watching Cambridge become one of the most expensive cities to live in the country,” McGuirk said.

To McGuirk, this is a personal issue, he said. Over the years, he has witnessed many of his coworkers, friends and family get pushed out of the city. Furthermore, he said he believes that the council has failed to do enough to mobilize its resources to address this issue.

With his partner working in health care, McGuirk said he is aware of the impact this pandemic has had on those working in the field.

“I don't mistrust our government, I'm inclined to follow the lead of the CDC, despite some very big mistakes made,” McGuirk said.

He also addressed the need to expand education opportunities for young adults outside of the four-year college path.

“We concentrate a lot on STEM education in Cambridge, and I think that's great,” McGuirk said. “But I think we also have to concentrate on options for children who are not looking at a four year college.”

While McGuirk recognized the connection between Cambridge and its universities, he said he believes that Harvard and Cambridge could be better partners, particularly when it comes to mitigating climate change.

“It's really important that young people demand that generations like mine recognize that this is not an issue we can kick down the road,” he said.

University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke declined to comment.

McGuirk also said he believes more needs to be done to protect cyclists, but he acknowledged that “the process is dividing” the people involved. He cited the Oct. 2020 amendment of the Cycling Safety ordinance, which sped up the construction of dozens of miles of cycling areas in Cambridge.

McGuirk said this amendment failed to take into account the perspectives of small business owners and car users. If elected, he pledged to address the issue in a “consensus building way.”

In regards to the Harvard graduate student union strike, McGuirk said he will “stand with the strikers.” As a child, McGuirk’s father brought him to union strikes, which he said led him to see the value of collective bargaining. Now, he hopes to be able to participate in the ongoing demonstrations.

McGuirk also explained he initially felt self-doubt about running, and never thought anyone would vote for him because he was a bartender. As the campaign has progressed, he said he has grown more confident.

“Whether I win and lose is less important than the fact that I'm excited to have met a lot of people who feel the same way I do,” McGuirk said.

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