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Incumbent candidate Marc C. McGovern, pictured at a September Council meeting, is staging a reelection bid for Cambridge City Council.
Incumbent candidate Marc C. McGovern, pictured at a September Council meeting, is staging a reelection bid for Cambridge City Council. By Frank S. Zhou
By Jina H. Choe, Crimson Staff Writer

Former mayor and incumbent candidate Marc C. McGovern is running for reelection to the Cambridge City Council on his “positive track record” and desire to improve affordable housing in the city.

McGovern previously served as Cambridge vice mayor from 2016 to 2017 and as mayor from 2018 to 2019. Before being elected to the Council in 2013, McGovern was elected to the School Committee in 2003, where he served for four terms. Prior to holding elected office, he worked as a social worker for more than 25 years.

After a decade on the Council, McGovern said he is running for another term to continue contributing to the city that he grew up in, which his family has been a part of for over a century.

“I’m not looking to run for governor, you know. I’m not looking to run for Senate. I like making my city a better place,” he said.

McGovern is prioritizing social justice, education, and the environment. He called for the creation of the Cambridge Early Childhood Task Force in 2015 and created the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund with the Cambridge Community Foundation as mayor in 2018, which later expanded to include Somerville and became the United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants.

McGovern also champions animal welfare and was behind the ban on the sale of most animals in pet shops unless the pets come from a rescue organization or animal shelter, which was implemented in 2017.

“Some people will say, well, why are you spending time thinking about that when you’ve got so many of these other issues,” he said. “And, you know, there’s a lot of things that we need to think about and do right, and a lot of things express our values as a community.”

One of McGovern’s top priorities throughout his time on the Council has been affordable housing and homelessness, and he said he plans to continue to address these topics in Cambridge.

McGovern strongly supports passing amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay, which would raise the height maximums of affordable housing developments.

“It’s really funny, you hear people say, well, we don’t want taller buildings because we don’t want to be Manhattan,” McGovern said. “You know how we’re like Manhattan? We’re second to them in rents.”

“They’re talking about aesthetics. I’m talking about the people, and that’s the difference,” he added.

McGovern — who is endorsed by A Better Cambridge, a local affordable housing advocacy group — said Cambridge has an affordable housing crisis.

“Nibbling around the edges or saying, ‘I support affordable housing and this five year plan or saying I support affordable housing, but here are twelve things that have to happen in order for me to agree with it,’ — that’s not supporting affordable housing,” he said. “We have to get real about that.”

Passing amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay remains a divisive topic. Council candidates split on the issue at a candidate forum held on Sept. 13.

McGovern said he believes it is the responsibility of the city to ensure residents have affordable housing for years to come.

“Thirty years from now, somebody’s going to move into an AHO apartment, and they’re not going to know who the hell I am,” he said. “They’re not going to know what was the controversy, who voted which way. All they’re going to know is that the city has a program that is helping them have stable housing.”

“That’s what I tried to remind myself of,” he added. “I still believe in all the craziness and all the dysfunction in government. I still believe government can do good.”

McGovern said his experience as a social worker “carries over into the political side” and helps him “understand how to get stuff done.”

“I have that sort of professional experience and those values of being a social worker, of believing that things can change for the positive and believing in the dignity of everybody, and that we have an obligation to help support people and lift people up,” he said.

McGovern also criticized some of his opponents, who he said “want to keep Cambridge as it was years ago.”

“You have people who are running who want to roll it back — they want to undo the overlay. They want to undo the bike lanes,” he said. “That’s not what vibrant cities do. They grow when they change, and we have to grow and change with that.”

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at

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