- 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
- Past Chair, Health and Environment Committee
- Co-Chair, Healthy Children's Task Force 1990-present
- Member, National League of Cities Energy, Environment and Natural
- Legislative Liaison International Council of Local Environmental
- 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
- Harvard Law School Intensive Negotiation Program January 1995
- Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College, Master of Social
- University of Rochester, B.A. English Literature 1967
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Three of my top priorities at this time are in this category.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Candidate's 2005 responses