Henrietta Davis

Henrietta Davis
2007 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
120 Chestnut Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-547-0877 (home)
website: www.henriettadavis.org 
e-mail: henrietta@henriettadavis.org (campaign)
       hdavis@cambridgema.gov (for City Council business)

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Henrietta Davis
120 Chestnut St.
Cambridge, MA 02139


  • City Councillor 1996 to present, Vice Mayor 2002-2003
  • Chair, Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee
  • Past Chair, Traffic and Transportation Committee and Public Safety Committee
  • Past Chair, Health and Environment Committee
  • Co-Chair, Healthy Children's Task Force 1990-present
  • Member, National League of Cities Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee
  • Legislative Liaison ­ International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)
  • Cambridge School Committee 1988-1995
  • Administrator, Agassiz Preschool 1985-1994
  • Freelance journalist ­ Time, Life, Money and NPR, 1975-1985
  • Social worker and community planner, 1967-1974


  • Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Master of Public Administration 1997
  • Harvard Law School Intensive Negotiation Program January 1995
  • Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College, Master of Social Planning 1972
  • University of Rochester, B.A. English Literature 1967

Top Priorities:
The Environment, Children's Health, Family Housing, Safer Biking and Walking, and Seniors' Quality of Life

Quality of Life:
This one of the most important issues to city residents. People want to enjoy their homes and make their way around the city, feeling safe and comfortable.

Noise – While on the council I have worked on ways to make the city quieter. Early on I got an ordinance passed that allowed the police to tow vehicles whose alarms were going off for more than 10 minutes. More recently I am bringing in a proposal to ban commercial landscapers from operating leafblowers in residential neighborhoods.

Sidewalks – People in Cambridge love that our city is a great place to walk. But they want their sidewalks to be safer to walk upon. I have advocated for a variety of improvements to the walking environment and recently won support to ask the City Manager to boost the sidewalk improvement budget.

Rats – I haven’t found anyone who likes to see rats in the city. Unfortunately they seem more and more to be visible in our community. I support tight restrictions on storage and disposal of trash. I also want to give the city the tools to enforce keeping trash covered in dumpsters. I support a task force make sure that all are working in concern to eliminate rats.

Public safety:
Nothing is more important than keeping our streets safe. Thus far we have rarely endured the tragedies that Boston has faced with gun violence, but I would not sit back and expect that relative peace will continue without extraordinary vigilance.

I support the new police commissioner who has advanced community policing in his tenure here. He models behavior that shows that we can only keep our city safe if we work in partnership with one another – professionals with community members, schools with city leaders.

The City’s Neighborhood Safety Committee will be making a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Council and the City Manager. We should heed what they say. Overall, we have to be aggressive in preventing young people from choosing crime by offering them hope, education and community connections. Failing that we need to build roads back to productive lives for those who have strayed.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
For a decade I was the chair of the Traffic and Transporation Committee of the Council. During that tenure, I made the focus of that committee non-auto oriented modes of travel: walking, biking and transit.

Walking - As I said above about walking: People in Cambridge love that our city is a great place to walk. But they want their sidewalks to be safer to walk upon. I have advocated for a variety of improvements to the walking environment and recently won support to ask the City Manager to boost the sidewalk improvement budget. I’m alarmed at how many of our sidewalks have defects that make them unsafe.

Biking – Cambridge is not the easiest city to bicycle in. I wish it was but we can and are making it better. The installation of bike lanes makes a demonstrable difference in bike safety. We need to consider the best way to build bike lanes and move toward that. The more bikes we have on the road, the safer we will be when we bike. On another note, this week I’m asking for a comprehensive study of bike parking and bike racks with the aim that we will fill the need high quality bike parking.

Transit – I helped to get bus schedules posted at bus stops. I could never understand how anyone could wait for a bus without knowing if it would arrive in the next hour, the next day? Schedules at bus stops have made a difference. I support expansion of mass transit, including the Urban Ring. There’s no reason to go to crowded downtown for every crosstown trip. Furthermore, I think there should be an annual T riders’ meeting convened in Cambridge to get feedback on how services could be better here.

Municipal Finance:
We are very fortunate in Cambridge that we have the second lowest tax rate in the state. Those who own homes in surrounding communities like Arlington and Belmont pay twice as much as we do for homes of comparable prices. We also offer every tax break permitted to residential tax payers. This low tax burden is accomplished while give city residents high quality services of all kinds. Many of our parks are standouts, our children attend school and all can participate in afterschool sports and activities without user fees. We’ll soon have a new library and police station. This is accomplished because we have an excellent enviable commercial tax base and prudent management by the city manager. This combination leaves us planning for more services, or more projects always considering what impact they will have on the budget in the short and long-term.

Government and Elections:
I would like to see more people participate in elections, especially municipal elections. My simple idea to accomplish that: expand the voting hours by allowing absentee ballots to be used by anyone who might prefer to vote before election day, either in person at 51 Inman St. or by mail-in absentee ballot. Why do people have to go to their own precinct to vote? Why not vote where and when it is convenient once the ballots are available. I support lowering the voter age to 16 when high school students can learn to vote and get in the habit of voting before they go away to school, work , the military. Sixteen year olds are more invested in their community than 18-year olds who are looking forward to the next step. I support residents being able to vote in municipal elections whether citizens or not. Citizenship processes take so long. Many immigrants contribute taxes and their commitment to this community. I’d like to permit them to vote in municipal elections.

Land Use, Planning and Economic Development:
After years of major planning and zoning for development which would take place at the edge of university campuses or at the edges of our city, we are in a less busy time. Still an issue is the development and future vision for Massachusetts Avenue which forms the spine of the city. It’s extremely important to preserve the pedestrian liveliness on Massachusetts Avenue; that has to be a given. In addition as the universities continue to grow we need their cooperation in keeping Mass Ave and the squares it connects lively and economically successful.

An important issue now before the Planning Board and the City Council is requiring that all new buildings over 25,000 sq.ft. would be LEED certified green buildings. While the US Green Building Council’s LEED standards are very useful to have, I would accept an equally stringent other standard that assure that as many new or renovated buildings as possible are built to be highly energy efficient. For example, the high school renovation could be certified by the state’s green school program.

Health/Human Services:
Three of my top priorities at this time are in this category.

a. Children's Health - For over a decade, I have been the co-chair of the Healthy Children Task Force, a collaboration of the Cambridge Hospital, the School Dept., social service agencies and parents. The goal of this group is to promote prevention efforts that lead to healthy children. For the past few years our goals have been around healthy eating and healthy weights. The group is responsible for promoting City Sprouts, Mad Hot Ballroom dance program, improving school food( so now students eat fresh squash and broccoli at school lunch), the federal physical education grant, called MassPEP. All together these and other efforts have shown a reduction in average weight of Cambridge children, an unheard of result across the country. We have learned that we have won a national prize and I will be accepting the award with the School Superintendent in Washington DC in November.

b. Bridging the Digital Divide - Working with the Human Services Dept, I have led an effort that has the goal of making computers and Internet service available to every Cambridge resident. We have learned that approximately half of low income students do not have access at home to computers and internet and this effects how classes are taught, how students can do their homework, not to mention what this means about their entire family's ability to be informed in this age when everything you need is on the internet, including help wanted information. The committee has developed a pilot proposal to see if instead of recycling old city and school computers we can offer them to Cambridge residents along with minimal training and tech support. The pilot, if funded by the Council, will start this program with 50 households at Newtowne Court where the city has already installed wireless Internet.

c. Aging in Place - Another effort I've been supporting is one that bolsters services and information to aging residents so that they can continue to live in their homes if they choose. Yet another Human Services committee is facilitating planning and information sharing around this effort. The Agassiz neighborhood is helping older residents find help to do chores such as snow shoveling. Another effort is called time banking and through it people of all ages will be able to trade their time doing something like fixing a computer for someone else's time doing carpentry, for example. Contact me for more information.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation:
As a result of a presentation at the Healthy Children Task Force (see above), I learned that our playgrounds could be better for kids, more appropriate to their developmental needs and I wanted to get the City to include those kinds of criteria in the planning that it does for new and re-furbished playgrounds. The City Manager has appointed a group to develop such criteria so that future playground effort are even better than the one we have now. Most of our city children don't have large backyards and depend on public parks to grow strong and healthy.

I advocate for our parks: I recently went to the State House to try to shake loose money that has been promised to the city for a number of years to refurbish Magazine Beach park, owned by the state (DCR). We had negotiated an arrangement that in exchange for a city contribution to the renovation, we would have a new soccer field, better baseball fields and new plantings. We would also then maintain the park. The state has thus far dragged its heels to make this happen and I went to press the case. This is one of a number of examples, including supporting the Charles River Conservancy efforts for a new skate park where I've pressed to make use of available state parks land for Cambridge.

Energy and the Environment:
In a recent interview, a journalist remarked that I was an environmentalist before it was fashionable. And that's true. I have led the City Council in adopting many significant green policies. I'm glad to say I've had very cooperative fellow councillors supporting me in these efforts. I've introduced the policies later adopted by the council that resulted in all municipal buildings being built or renovated as green buildings. We now have two green buildings built and three more are in the works. We were the first city in the state to adopt such a policy. We have goals for how much we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions that I introduced which led to the formation of the path breaking Cambridge Energy Alliance now under staffing up to achieve energy efficiency in 50% of the city's buildings. We have been constantly moving ahead with our efforts around renewable energy and compact fluorescent lighting and I'm proud to say that we have become a national environmental model. Please see my website www.henriettadavis.org for more on my environmental efforts.

I have learned that most of the housing built by developers in Cambridge is one and two bedrooms. What this means is that the supply of larger units, the size desired by many families, is not growing along with the demand. I believe we need families in Cambridge and I've been advocating for the building of more large-sized units and the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust has responded by putting their emphasis on the supply of family-sized units.

I'm proud to support the Community Preservation Act funding allocation which expends 80% of funds on housing. Through that source, funded by a match with state funds, $47 million has assisted in the development of about 550 units. Adding to that units created by developers in exchange for density bonuses, a program called inclusionary zoning, the city is far ahead of any other city in taking on the challenge of affordable housing. That being said, the demand is still greater and more needs to be done.

Arts and Public Celebrations:
I am the City Council representative to the Cambridge Science Festival, a wonderful public celebration that debuted last April with a weeklong celebration of all that Cambridge does as a science city. We're planning the second festival now for next spring when the focus will be on Cambridge students and their families learning about science. This harnesses the creativity of our universities, biotech and other science businesses. We had activities everyday which were fun and informative. No sneak previews yet but you won't be sorry if you set aside time to take advantage of the festival next spring.

University Relations:
I served as Vice Chair of the first ever University Relations Committee six years ago. The work of that committee resulted in the City Manager negotiating a landmark agreement with MIT that protects the taxpayers, MIT owns 10% of all Cambridge taxable property and they are our top taxpayer. They have promised to limit any sale of that property so that it doesn't create a dramatic blip in tax rates. We obviously need to continually monitor what the universities build here as they are our biggest developers. Right now Lesley University is contemplating major projects on Mass Ave. between Harvard Sq and Porter Sq, a very vital and sensitive part of the city. I support the community groups as they negotiate with Lesley about its future plans.

Civic Participation:
I'm all for more civic participation. I would like to see the City engage in citywide goal setting of a robust nature. What the council has done to date to include residents in goal setting I think has had a remarkably good result as far as the goals that have been articulated. It has also helped to align the city administration with the policy goals of the City Council. Yet, I feel we could do more to include the public in the process in a meaningful way.

Cambridge Public Schools:
I'm a huge booster of the public schools. My sons attended the King Open and the high school and I saw how effective this school system could be. I regret that the MCAS and high stakes testing have such a grip on the schools, but I can see there has been some benefit and pulling expectations up to a higher level for all students. I served for eight years on the School Committee and during that time I especially promoted science education. We have so much that our schools can do because of community and university resources. We're got to keep our eyes on kids at all levels. We adults and policy makers are responsible for seeing that opportunities are wide open to them. That is why I am working to bridge the digital divide as described above. That is why I am excited about the Cambridge Science Festival. It helps us to make all the riches that we have here in Cambridge open to every student, narrowing the achievement gap.

Candidate's 2005 responses 

Page last updated May 10, 2009 Cambridge Candidates