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Future Looks ‘Bright’ for Cambridge Post-Election, Residents and Councilors Say

Tuesday's election saw two challenger candidates, Paul F. Toner and Burhan Azeem, secure their first terms, as well as councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler lose his seat.
Tuesday's election saw two challenger candidates, Paul F. Toner and Burhan Azeem, secure their first terms, as well as councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler lose his seat. By Thomas Maisonneuve
By Sarah Girma and Jennifer L. Powley, Crimson Staff Writers

Following the conclusion of a contentious campaign for Cambridge City Council, candidates and residents said they are optimistic about the future of the city’s leadership.

Tuesday’s results saw two challenger candidates, Paul F. Toner and Burhan Azeem, secure their first terms, as well as councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler lose his seat.

Cambridge residents were also asked to vote on three new ballot measures aimed at reforming the city charter. The passage of all three will give the council more oversight into the city manager’s office — which holds executive authority in the city government under the current charter.

In an interview, Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80 said she was “totally jazzed” about her re-election, as well as the ballot question results. Nolan, who had just completed her first term on the council, received the second-highest vote share this year, an increase from the 2019 election.

“I just can’t wait to see what the city does in terms of a charter review commission — to look at how it is that we govern ourselves and whether there are changes that we should consider in the future,” she said.

“I’m so thrilled as the lead on bringing those ballot questions to the voters,” Nolan added.

Loren Crowe, a Cambridge resident who served on the city manager’s public safety task force this year, said he is not surprised that all three ballot measures were passed.

“That’s a good check on the executive, and I think it’s going to make our boards and commissions more representative demographically, and also more representative of the electorate,” he said.

Sobrinho-Wheeler, who will exit the council at the end of 2021, wrote in a tweet Wednesday that he is proud of the work he has done in the last two years.

“The victories we’ve made on housing justice, safe streets + transit, & charter change aren’t going anywhere,” Sobrinho-Wheeler wrote in a tweet. “[T]he future looks bright.”

Councilor-elect Azeem — who graduated from MIT in 2019 and came close to winning in his first run for council that same year — tweeted Wednesday that he was “heartbroken” over Sobrinho-Wheeler’s defeat.

“Jivan was one of my favorite councilors and a wonderful friend,” he wrote. “The council is worse off without him.”

Housing was consistently a hot-button issue for incumbents and challengers this past election cycle. During their campaigns, each of the elected councilors proposed specific policies and initiatives to target the rising cost of living in Cambridge.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said in an interview last month she plans to reevaluate homeownership programs in Cambridge in the next term. She also argued that credit is a “huge barrier” when Cambridge citizens apply for apartments, and proposed establishing alternative credit.

Crowe said candidates who prioritized accessibility in housing more often won over those who did not.

“There was a supermajority of candidates who won who ran on a more open, more accessible, more inclusive Cambridge, and they were rewarded for it,” he said. “There’s another set of candidates who ran on a more conservative platform of keeping Cambridge restricted to the people who live here now and allowing housing prices to continue to increase to the benefit of owners who own now.”

“It’s a small minority and a shrinking minority, and I think that’s a good sign for the future of Cambridge,” Crowe added.

—Staff writer Sarah Girma can be reached at sarah.girma@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGirma_.

—Staff writer Jennifer L. Powley can be reached at jennifer.powley@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferlPowley.

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