Henrietta Davis

Henrietta Davis
2009 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)
Twitter page: DavisCambridge
Facebook page

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


  • City Councillor, 1996 to present
  • Chair, Health and Environment Committee
  • Chair, Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee
  • Past Chair, Traffic and Transportation Committee and Public Safety Committee
  • Co-Chair, Healthy Children Task Force 1990-present
  • Vice Chair, 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

Endorsements (to date):

  • MA-PACE/NASW- the political action committee of the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts chapter.
  • Sierra Club, Massachusetts Chapter

Top Priorities:

  • Smarter Energy Use
  • Local Food and Gardening
  • Better Aging
  • Transportation Choices
  • Children's Health
  • Keeping you informed

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.

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. I can't help noticing fewer leaf blowers in Cambridge. Two years ago after banning leaf blowers failed, I led an effort to regulate and minimize the use of leaf blowers in the city. I'm proud to say that we now have a quieter city, with markedly few leaf blowers roaring.

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 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:
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.

My goals for next term also include creating a community forum to improve understanding between people of differing backgrounds. I want to examine and improve policing practices to eliminate racial profiling and collaborate with police to find a new way to address non-arrestable conflicts.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
For ten years, I was the Council's Transportation Committee Chair and pressed for dozens of measures to make the city friendlier and safer for walkers and bikers.

This year I pressed the State to make the soon-to-be-repaired BU Bridge safer and nicer for walking and biking. The Charles River roads and paths form a major thoroughfare for non-auto travelers.

Working with city staff and residents, I contributed to Cambridge being recognized last year as the #1 Walking City in America, with better pedestrian safeguards, such as countdown lights and traffic enforcement, especially for stopping at crosswalks.

I have supported and continue to support visionary bike activists who see a future that includes more bikers of all ages commuting, shopping, and getting around town.

This year I will press for systematic funding for bicycle parking. We need to put bike parking on the same priority level as car parking.

I was an early supporter and endorser of car sharing, especially Zipcar when it first started up in the city.

In terms of 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 cross-town 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.

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.

It is likely that we as a community will set goals for hiring a new city manager in the coming term. It will be important to envision a city future with continued fiscal success, excellent services and the further participation of citizens in achieving those goals.

Land Use, Planning, Zoning, Density:
One example of recent zoning matters: Alexandria Properties, a national real estate company that specializes in biotech properties, proposed zoning changes for 1.8 million sq. ft. of property near Binney St. in East Cambridge in order to build biotech more densely. The City Council adopted an amended version of Alexandria's proposal. It has many community benefits, chief among them urban design elements to enliven that area on nights and weekends. Though an earlier version had more housing, there will be a new community building, a park, requirements for additional ground floor retail, plus clear pathways to the Kendall T station, elements I strongly backed.

Human Services Programs:
I'm especially working to focus attention on aging in our community, to build and expand on our rich resources and to assure an excellent quality of life as people get older.

Working with government and local leaders, I led the city to establish a coordinating council on aging.

I'm proud to offer my newly published guide, Henrietta's Savings for Seniors, a listing of 30 great bargains for older people.

I'm working with city officials and others to publish a practical plan for aging in Cambridge which commits to a range of housing options from independence to serious assistance.
Transportation choices are critical to seniors who may need alternatives to driving. I will be advocating for more and better transportation options: cabs, buses, walking, and the T.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation:
As a result of a presentation at the Healthy Children Task Force, 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. The new Cambridge Common playground is an example of this research, with more diverse and physically engaging play equipment. Most of our city children don't have large backyards and depend on public parks to grow strong and healthy.

The recently completed Cambridge War Memorial Recreation Center is one of our newest Green Buildings with beautifully refurbished pool, gym and locker room. The new West Cambridge Youth and Community Center will open September 25th and provide activities for pre-teens, teens, families and adults.

In addition to protecting the open spaces that we have, it is important to think of new, creative places to "green up" populated areas. Street trees are a great way to do this. The City Council has set a goal of planting 500 new street trees from July 2009 to July 2010. I held a hearing about the planting, care and maintenance of street trees, which about 25 people attended, many supporting this goal. In addition to planting, support was heard for City Arborist David Lefcourt's goal of mapping all our street trees, noting open spots for planting trees, and measuring the Cambridge tree canopy.

Energy & Environment:
As the Chair of the Heath and Environment committee, I have led the council on energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste reduction and local food.

Don't underestimate the power of energy efficiency to do what we need to do to reduce carbon. Energy efficiency has been shown by McKinsey and others to be the very least expensive method for carbon reduction, saving money rather than costing us. And there is a lot of energy wasted now in drafty buildings, for example. The benefit of insulation and weather sealing is great in both ho and cold weather. Unlike solar and wind, efficiency is not an intermittent source, requiring not just transmission but storage.

My council committee examined the prospects for wind in Cambridge and we just aren't windy enough for the current turbines to be efficient. Solar is dropping in price; that is hopeful.

Reducing waste can help also. If we had fewer trucks on the road carrying our waste, we would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cambridge has a green fleet policy that I pressed for that requires that before the purchase of any vehicle 3 estimates must be presented that show the carbon profile of the vehicle and the vehicle with the lowest carbon profile is that one that must be chosen. Many department heads now drive hybrid vehicles. In addition the city manager has clamped down on idling, and limited the use of vehicles to be taken home.

I'm championing local, sustainable food. I pressed for more community gardens. At least forty more gardens were added this year. More are needed. We are so fortunate to have CitySprouts, a non-profit school gardening program, in our city. As a councillor, I support all that organization is doing to give kids a "taste" of what it means to grow their own food and also to care for the natural environment.

Public Health:
As the co-chair of the Healthy Children Task Force for the past 20 years, I'm proud of how our group has made a difference in children's lives. We collaborate with the schools, the city, the public health department and the community to focus on kids.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Surgeon General recognized Cambridge two years ago for our successful efforts to increase physical activity and improve school food.

As a result of my initiative, the city will consider a parks and playground plan to make our already-great playgrounds better suited to children's developmental needs: children don't just play in playgrounds, they learn social skills, physical skills and engage with nature. The new Cambridge Common playground is a huge success.

The amount of housing in the city still falls far short of the number of jobs that are located here. For those who are concerned about congestion, it is important to co-locate housing with jobs.

From the standpoint of affordable housing, many families are in need of housing in order to stay in the school system. This type of housing should receive special attention. Also needed is more "granny" housing, units for older people who want to live near family.

As for where the housing goes, that's a more subtle question. Certainly affordable housing should be all around the city if possible.

The three or four projects that I know are on the drawing boards now need a careful look to assure that if they are built they do not overwhelm surrounding neighborhoods. Zoning should always be re- examined to assure that it matches the context and preserves neighborhoods.

Arts and Public Celebrations:
I am the City Council representative to the Cambridge Science Festival, a wonderful weeklong public celebration of all that Cambridge does as a science city. The festival includes Cambridge students and families and harnesses the creativity of our universities, biotech and other science businesses.

This year I am also very proud to have helped launch our first ever Urban Ag Fair in Harvard Square, Sunday, September 20th. The Ag Fair will celebrate local gardeners, cooks, bee-keepers and much more. I hope that this is something that can continue on and grow in the future. It was a great success.

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.

Civic Participation:
I'm 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:
As co-chair of the Healthy Children Task Force, we are turning our attention to behavioral and mental health issues that have an impact on school success. In particular, the group will learn more about ADHD. This widely diagnosed condition that inhibits the ability of children, often boys, to keep focused in class. We are applying for a research grant to determine if carefully monitored medication can make a difference.

It was my pleasure to attend the first greeting of the Cambridge Schools faculty by the new superintendent Dr. Jeffery Young. Now it is time for the School Committee and the community to wholeheartedly back him for excellence in education and in the service of the students.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, the city's one public high school was recently recognized in the top twenty of all high schools in the state.

Candidate's 2007 responses 

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Page last updated October 03, 2009 Cambridge Candidates