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Last Thursday, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler took to Twitter to announce his candidacy for one of nine Cambridge City Council seats, becoming the first to enter the race.
Elected to the council in 2019, Sobrinho-Wheeler served a single term before losing his re-election bid in 2021. Now Sobrinho-Wheeler seeks to reclaim his seat with a platform prioritizing affordable housing, climate policy, and economic justice.
Sobrinho-Wheeler has spent the past year and a half working to pass housing, childcare, and worker rights legislation with municipal and state legislators across New England as a director for the Working Families Party, a left-wing political party headquartered in New York.
During his term on the council, Sobrinho-Wheeler chaired the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee and co-chaired the Housing Committee. He cites the passing of the 100 Percent Affordable Housing Overlay Ordinance in 2020 as one of his proudest moments in office. The ordinance, which he co-sponsored, lowers costs for developers to build affordable housing in Cambridge.
Housing affordability remains a priority for Sobrinho-Wheeler, and his platform also calls for increases to tenant protections, including ending tenant-paid broker’s fees and establishing a rent control ordinance.
Sobrinho-Wheeler said he has experienced the difficulties of renting in Cambridge first-hand. After moving into a new apartment during the pandemic, he recalls having to pay a total of almost $10,000 between first month’s rent, a security deposit, and a broker’s fee.
“Not everybody has that kind of money, especially if you’re getting a rent increase, need to move out, have to find another place on short notice,” he said.
Sobrinho-Wheeler also hopes to build on the amendments to the Cycling Safety Ordinance he worked to pass while in office by implementing the full Cambridge Bicycle Plan, piloting fare-free bus routes, and resuming Saturday closures of Memorial Drive to vehicles.
In the wake of the police killing of Sayed Faisal in January, police accountability is also front-of-mind for Sobrinho-Wheeler.
When asked, Sobrinho-Wheeler said he supported calls by protesters to release the names of the officers involved in the fatal shooting and added that “there’s also a bigger conversation about structural responses to public safety.” Sobrinho-Wheeler backs increased support for mental and behavioral health care and further investment in the Cambridge Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team, known as HEART.
As he makes his re-election bid, Sobrinho-Wheeler also wants to make public financing available for candidates running in municipal elections, a program that he says “allows people to focus more on being a councilor and more on constituent service and less on fundraising.”
The Cambridge City Council’s nine seats are elected at-large every two years through the Proportional Representation voting system, where each voter ranks the candidates.
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