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Cambridge City Council candidate John Hanratty wants to “restore some trust” in the city government. For him, that starts with listening to residents and business owners.
“Right now, the community is sort of looking over their shoulders on what’s going to happen next and continues to be surprised by many of the actions of the City Council,” Hanratty said.
Hanratty, a resident of Cambridge for three decades whose son attended Cambridge Public Schools, is running on a platform that stresses increased resident outreach and neighborhood-specific policies related to bike lanes and affordable housing development.
Outside of his activism, he spends time as an entrepreneur, having launched several startups in the last 25 years that work “to take new ideas, bring them to market, and refine them till they're successful,” according to Hanratty.
This experience is something he hopes to bring to the Council, where he plans to focus on the importance of resident input and measuring success.
“How do you bring new ideas out, introduce them, socialize them with the community, and then refine them as you go to make them better?” Hanratty said. “We need to do more measurement and we need to do some checking that we’re actually succeeding on what we’ve planned to do.”
Hanratty is part of the board of Cambridge Streets For All, a transit advocacy group in the city that has advocated for alternative street design. The group has specifically questioned the expansion of protected bike lanes throughout the city.
Hanratty said he does not question the importance of bicycle safety, but he advocates for implementation to be curated to suit neighborhood needs.
"We’ve put a one-size-fits-all solution in, and it doesn’t fit all its sizes, and it really doesn’t fit all of the neighborhoods,” Hanratty said.
He pointed to the impact bike lane expansion has had on businesses and other Cambridge commuters.
“Businesses are cut off from customers; clients, patients, and visitors can't find parking spaces, and traffic on some streets is more congested!” his website reads.
Hanratty said the changes disproportionately impact workers who live outside the city and who often cannot afford housing within Cambridge.
“We have tens of thousands of people who can’t afford to live in the city, but are the backbone of our city,” Hanratty said. “When they get here, they can’t park.”
“We’ve been designing congestion into our city to discourage drivers in the city,” he added. “Unfortunately, our mass transit system isn’t up to snuff at this point, and there really aren't many alternatives to driving in many cases.”
Cambridge Streets For All has also been pursuing a lawsuit against the city to overturn the ordinance change expanding Cambridge bike lanes. Hanratty was not involved in the initial stages of the suit but said it was an important way “to get the attention of the city and maybe get some resolution to the problems that businesses were seeing.”
“We should have safe bike lanes, but we also need safe pedestrians, we need less congestion, we need parking for businesses,” Hanratty said.
Hanratty also discussed the contentious amendments to the city’s 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay that passed in October, increasing maximum height limits for affordable developments in the city. Hanratty said the city needs more affordable housing, particularly middle-income housing — but added he disagrees with the approach of the AHO amendments.
"I’m not advocating that we not have more height. I’m just saying that we should modulate it for the particular location," Hanratty said.
Hanratty said he believes Cantabrigians haven't had sufficient say in housing or in the AHO amendments. “We don’t need housing towering over homes wherever developers decide it's convenient,” his website states.
Other campaign priorities for Hanratty include addressing homelessness in the city and expanding Cambridge’s green spaces.
Hanratty said a throughline in his platform is an emphasis on rebuilding trust in the Council.
“I think that we really need to refocus the city government on the community and the problems that they care about and the issues they need,” Hanratty said.
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