Why I am Running
I’m running because we need bold leadership to combat serious problems in Cambridge: a housing crisis, the dire threat of climate change, and the need to truly deliver on an equitable city for all residents regardless of race, gender, or class.
I won’t be accepting contributions from real estate developers, fossil fuel companies or corporate PACs.
I am a renter, an organizer, the son of an immigrant, and a democratic socialist.
I work with environmental programs at a nationally-recognized land policy think tank in Cambridge. My work supports land conservation projects around world, and I help land trusts, academic institutions, and community organizations find the tools they need to build sustainable communities.
Outside my day job, I'm also involved in community organizing to make Cambridge and our region more just, equitable, and resilient. I'm a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and have been involved in campaigns to support residents who face eviction, steep increases in rent, and poor living conditions like mold, lack of heat, and flooding. I've also worked with organizations like Our Revolution Cambridge, City Life/Vida Urbana, and Cambridge Bicycle Safety to create a city that works for everyone. You may have seen me testifying before the city council on issues related to tenant protections, bike safety, or efforts to create more affordable housing and stop displacement.
I’m the son of a woman who grew up on a farm in Iowa and a man who grew up in the Portuguese colony of Goa in India. As a result, I speak Portuguese, am conversational in Spanish, and have eaten a lot of sweet corn with butter.
Like 2/3 of Cambridge residents, I'm a renter. But we have hardly any tenants on the City Council. I live in Mid-Cambridge between Central and Harvard in a triple-decker with my three roommates.
My campaign is built on the idea that Cambridge doesn’t have to wait on the federal or state government to improve to start confronting the social and political crises of our time: housing justice, climate change, and racial, gender and economic equity. Instead, we should lead the way in tackling them and become a city that others look to as an example of what they can accomplish by acting boldly.
I'm running to bring the urgency our city government has too often been lacking to Cambridge's housing crisis. I volunteer as a tenant organizer and like 2/3 of Cambridge residents, I'm a renter. But we have almost no tenant representation on the Council.
Our city planning processes are guided by a simple principle: development in Cambridge should benefit our residents and communities—both longtime Cantabrigians and more recent arrivals—not replace them. Our planning, zoning, and development processes must serve our communities, especially working and middle-class neighborhoods that have been traditionally underrepresented in city planning processes, and not just be windfalls for real-estate developers.
Our campaign team, many of whom have experience with policy and as housing organizers, have released a Housing as a Human Right policy paper expanding on the causes of Cambridge's housing problems and what we'll push for if elected. I will be advancing a number of policies to address our housing crisis, including:
- Enact Just Cause eviction requirements & Right to Counsel
- Establish Rent Control for the 21st century to stop displacement caused by huge year-to-year rent increases
- Create a program for Rental Relocation Assistance for displaced residents
- Create a Tenant Right to Purchase & Real Estate Transfer Fee to curb speculation
Working with homeowners on affordability:
- Provide assistance programs and financing models for aging homeowners who want to keep their housing affordable for future generations of Cantabrigians in partnership with housing non-profits
Housing innovation and principles:
- Establish a Cambridge Community Land Trust to create permanently affordable housing for the community
- End red-lining era exclusionary zoning that prevents the creation of triple-deckers, duplexes and other apartments in large parts of Cambridge
- Stop selling & leasing public land to private developers and instead invest in our public spaces
- Require corporate developers to negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with residents on large projects to ensure community input and investment in public transit, affordable housing, and green spaces
- Create an Office of Housing Stability to serve as a one-stop shop for housing assistance and make public the neighborhood-level eviction and displacement data the city currently isn't tracking to help us effectively target our policies
A Green New Deal for Cambridge
While Congress is dragging its feet on passing the Green New Deal sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, we can implement a Cambridge Green New Deal that is just as ambitious in tackling climate change and economic inequality at the local level. This Cambridge Green New Deal will include:
- Make buses and subways fare-free for Cambridge residents by 2025
- Create bus-priority lanes to reduce commute times
- Commit to the full Cambridge Bicycle Plan with 20 miles of protected bike lanes, including on Mass Ave, Hampshire, and Mt Auburn Streets
- Develop a public local micro-transit service for elderly & disabled residents and work with the MBTA to fix The Ride
- Reverse the rapid decline of our tree canopy
- Develop an improved stormwater management system through the implementation of "green infrastructure" to supplement or replace our aging "gray infrastructure"
- Remediate and restore Jerry's Pond in North Cambridge
- Create a Cambridge Clean Energy Initiative to fund grants for energy efficiency projects, solar panel installation, local food production and green infrastructure
Economic Justice & Public Accountability
Like many cities, Cambridge is acutely experiencing the national trend of rapidly increasing economic inequality, and we also still have a ways to go in addressing racial and gender equity gaps in our city. Let's invest in programs that will make our community stronger and that cities around the country and the world will look to emulate:
I'll fight for:
- a Cambridge Promise for tuition-free public higher education for all CRLS graduates by 2025 (starting immediately with debt-free higher education) financed by increased PILOT contributions from Harvard & MIT
- free child-care & translation services at all city government meetings to make local government accessible to busy families
- city-wide municipal broadband
- universal Pre-Kindergarten at Cambridge Public Schools
Additionally, I want to see Cambridge lead the way in ensuring that government represents all our residents, through:
- Establishing publicly financed municipal elections and working to support efforts for public financing state-wide
- Offer expanded early-voting in municipal elections to ensure everyone has their voice heard
I won't be taking any money from corporate PACs, fossil fuel companies, or real-estate developers. These interests have too much power in our community and I want to represent the residents, not these corporate interests.
Contact me directly at: email@example.com
Mike Connolly Vatsady Sivongxay – 2017 Cambridge City Council Candidate
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