Progressive Labor Party Organizes Solidarity March With Harvard Yard Encampment


Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard


Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response


Harvard Yard To Remain Indefinitely Closed Amid Encampment


HUPD Chief Says Harvard Yard Encampment is Peaceful, Defends Students’ Right to Protest

Housing, Government Accountability Among Top Council Priorities for New Term

Cambridge City Hall is located at 795 Massachusetts Ave. The Cambridge City Council finalized term priorities with city officials in a Thursday meeting.
Cambridge City Hall is located at 795 Massachusetts Ave. The Cambridge City Council finalized term priorities with city officials in a Thursday meeting. By Margaret F. Ross
By Ayumi Nagatomi, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council finalized term priorities with city officials and discussed ways to improve the City’s transparency and accountability at a special meeting Thursday.

The city councilors reviewed specific wording of Cambridge’s priorities for the next two years, including housing, economic opportunity, transportation, sustainability, and government accountability. These priorities are expected to be ratified in the upcoming regular City Council meeting.

The priorities include commitments to “making it easier to build more housing of all types,” ensuring economic equity and increasing transparency and accountability in city governance.

The Council has already taken steps to address many of these priorities, including passing orders to clear a yearslong backlog of Council requests and implement a free-fare MBTA Route 1 Bus Pilot, as well as considering a proposal to end single-family zoning in Cambridge.

Thursday’s meeting was the latest in a series of special meetings since February to set goals for the new Council, which was elected in November. The meeting, attended by all nine councilors and City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05, was moderated by Gabriella D. Salvatore, an advisor from professional services accounting firm BDO.

The drafted value statement emphasizes the Council’s commitment to developing policies that reflect the needs of all residents.

“The Cambridge City Council is committed to developing policies that are reflective of the sharing values of community, recognizing the diversity of our city — including but not limited to race, sexual orientation, language, nationality, income, age, and ability,” the draft reads. “We will conduct our deliberations with transparency, community engagement, and consideration of the financial and social implications on our residents, visitors, nonprofits, and businesses.”

Thursday’s discussion mainly focused on crafting goals with more inclusive language.

During the discussion, Councilor Ayesha M. Wilson brought up the results of a report released in December revealing a significant racial disparity in businesses that receive city contracts.

“I just don’t feel like this statement speaks to the need to center or really be intentional around our efforts to specifically our Black minority women,” Wilson said during the discussion of the initial draft.

The Council voted in favor of a series of changes to the initial draft, including a sentence calling to improve economic equity for “marginalized communities.”

Similarly, the Council changed the wording for transportation goals from improving transportation for “all residents” to “all.”

Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern said broadening the language would avoid making any constituencies feel excluded — especially at a time when a proposal to delay bike lane construction has revived a fiery debate in the city.

“There is this larger conversation that’s happening in the community right now that we’re all sort of divided on and debating,” McGovern said.

“So I think something more general that is encompassing all those different groups is better,” he added.

The Council also discussed how they can better collaborate with Huang — Cambridge’s chief executive who oversees city staff and the city budget — to increase transparency and accountability. The relationship between the City Council and the city manager has historically been strained.

Huang asked the Council for more support as city staff work to translate the Council’s policy orders into actual ordinances and city initiatives.

“I think there is certainly a challenge where historically it has been very hard for city staff to say no to the council, and it has been very difficult for the council to accept that,” Huang said. “You end up with a pile of stuff that just doesn't actually get done.”

Some councilors responded by proposing making a priority list to track the different projects that the city is taking on.

But Huang said it can be difficult to prioritize between various Council requests.

“Where do you draw a line in terms of when an initiative is significant enough that we would put it on a list and track it?” Huang said.

Councilor Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80 said tracking the progress of various city projects can be frustrating.

“We need more accountability and more visibility into when we’re not meeting our goals, but also more transparency when we are meeting the goals,” Nolan said.

The Council, she added, ought to “be the mirror to say, ‘Gee, we need to do something different to get there or celebrate the goals when we meet them.’”

—Staff writer Ayumi Nagatomi can be reached at Follow her on X @ayumi_nagatomi.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

City PoliticsCambridge City CouncilGovernmentCambridgeMetroHousing

Related Articles

Cambridge City Hall