Henrietta Davis

Henrietta Davis
2011 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


  • 2010-2011 Vice Mayor, City Councillor, 1996 to present
  • Chair, Environment Committee and 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
  • Immediate Past Chair, National League of Cities Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee
  • Board Member, US Chapter of Local Governments for Sustainability
  • 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
Every day I work to move Cambridge forward. I intentionally devote my time to finding ways to make Cambridge a better place for people to live and work. While keeping the city fiscally sound, I work on projects that will have an impact. Sometimes these are small things, like adding a few seconds to a crosswalk so pedestrians, especially seniors and children, are safer crossing the street. But very often the projects I work on are on grander scale.

Working for Healthier Children who are more successful in school
I've been working to improve the health of all Cambridge children through better school food and more physical activity. This year Cambridge was recognized by the White House for these activities of the Healthy Children Task Force, a group, which I've co- chaired for twenty years. We've accomplished this work in cooperation with the public schools, Cambridge Healthy Alliance and many other partners.

Better aging for seniors whether they are aging in their own homes or desiring new housing options
For seniors, I'm now leading the Mayor's Silver Ribbon Commission to plan comprehensively for people who are aging in the community. The product of the commission will be to add a city priority for more senior housing options. I hope this work, too, will become a national model.

Making Cambridge a model green, progressive and healthy city
On environmental matters, Cambridge is a small city that leads the way for greener transportation such as safer walking and biking, in planning for climate change, and for healthy, local food. The Green Building policy that I introduced to the council nearly ten years ago was a turning point for Cambridge, not only changing the way that we build or refurbish our own city buildings so they are as green as possible, but also in leading other private and institutional owners to do the same. My goal now is to press for Net Zero Schools, new schools that create more energy, probably with solar panels, than they use for their own operations.

To sum it up, Cambridge is a special city that must and does offer outstanding services to its residents. It is also a leader amongst cities in the state and in the country, creating new ways to improve the lives of people of all ages in a healthy environment. I'm honored to serve our special city and the people of Cambridge.

Quality of Life and Public Safety

a. Enforcing bike safety – I've been pressing for more enforcement of bicycles that are running red lights and crosswalks. I'd also like more signage so bicyclists can know where they are not supposed to be riding on sidewalks.

b. Repairing sidewalks, adding trees – One of my key priorities for next term is sidewalk safety. Broken sidewalks, especially where tree roots have lifted them, need to be repaired. At the same time we need to plant more trees to make the city greener and more attractive, without compromising sidewalk safety.

c. Regulating noise – While on the council I've been an advocate for decreasing noise that disturbs resident's quiet enjoyment of their homes. Early on I got an ordinance passed that allowed the police to tow vehicles whose alarms were going off for more than 10 minutes. Four 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.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:

a. The Grand Junction Railroad – You may have been reading about this issue in the newspaper as Lt. Governor Murray presses for commuter rail service from Worcester to North Station. Currently trains run from Worcester and intervening communities like Newton, to South Station. Adding service to North Station would mean running trains across the rail bridge at BU and along that track, the Grand Junction line (through Cambridgeport, MIT and East Cambridge.) I object to this idea because of its impact on our city neighborhoods, safety issues, and because in the long run this track should be used for more important transportation purposes, not just for commuter rail. I want to see a really good bike trail here and if the Urban Ring, a major new transit line, is ever built, here's where it should go.

b. T Buses and Kids – I intend to start on this project in the fall to make it easier and more fun for kids to take buses. I think of these young people as future travelers. If more of them learn to love and use public transportation we'll have less traffic congestion, more public transportation customers, and a healthier life style, where people get around using cars less often or only for long trips. I'm looking for members for this committee and will be working together with the Healthy Children Task Force and Greenstreets Initiative starting in the fall.

c. Bike Share Program – The city will be rolling out the new bike share program – Hubway – very soon. Boston has already begun and if all the details are ironed out our 14 rental sites will be open this fall. Otherwise they will be available in the spring. All around the world, bike share has helped to decrease traffic congestion. It also encourages us to create safer streets for bikes. For pedestrians to be safe, we need more education and enforcement of biker behavior.

Municipal Finance
Financially Cambridge is the envy of all Massachusetts cities -- and of cities nationally. We have a tax rate that increases modestly such that 65% of homeowners will see no tax increase or an increase of less than $100. Our water rate has had no increase this year and our free cash is at a remarkable $102 million, the highest level ever. For decades we have had the highest bond rating, AAA, meaning we can borrow money for long-term projects at the lowest rate. We have upgraded or rebuilt many of our municipal buildings in the last ten years as models of energy efficiency. This includes the construction of our grand new public library and the entire high school campus. Now, the old police station is being refurbished to make a permanent home for the community learning center (our adult education center which teaches English, offers high school education to adults, and prepares student for college.) We are embarking now on a plan to renew outdated elementary schools. Finally, we are addressing our unfunded pension liability in a responsible manner. All this is achieved despite continued reduction in state aid.

Government and Elections
I'm a fan of our voting system because of its ability to create a diverse council. With the usual majority voting system, we would see fewer women, people of color, gay women and men on the council. I think we've benefited from this. I strongly believe we need a more robust education system for teaching voters how the system works and I advocate voting for sixteen and seventeen year olds so they can learn to vote while they are still at home in high school. I also advocate for voting for non-citizens in School Committee elections. A high proportion of our public school children are children of immigrants and their parents' voices need to be heard by the School Committee. The best way to accomplish this is by allowing immigrant voting for School Committee elections.

City Manager
The City Manager's contract is up at the end of September 2012. By the end of March, the City Council must notify the manager if it wishes to negotiate a new contract. An important part of this effort is to set up and complete a process to evaluate the manager. If there is no notification, the contract rolls over automatically for an additional year.

Land Use, Planning, Zoning, Density
The most important issue coming up in the next term is new development. New developments must not threaten our neighborhoods, must have local retail stores, and must meet the need for family housing and for Cambridge residents who are getting older.

With the economy re-bounding, the interest in building new commercial space and new housing is heating up. Magic Johnson came to town to promote the new development at North Point, across McGrath Highway from the Science Museum (and in Cambridge!) where it is expected that more than 20 new high rise buildings will be built. Shaping this and other development, particularly assuring that enough new housing is built to accommodate new jobholders, is a high priority for me. The same issues apply in Kendall Square where MIT is also proposing more commercial development.

In other sections of the city, such as North Cambridge, there are building sites for housing on the edges of neighborhoods. That housing must not overwhelm surrounding neighborhoods and should meet the needs of local residents. I see opportunities to build new types of housing that will fill unmet needs for family housing, for co-housing, for intergenerational housing, housing for older Cambridge residents. We need housing because Cambridge is such a desirable place to live and without new housing, costs for those of us who already live here will rise!

Economic Development and Commerce
For a next term, I think it's important to focus on two things

  1. Local retail and lively city squares -- The city's community development department needs to continue to focus its efforts on filling storefronts around the city and supporting new owners, especially non chain owners, to get a foot- hold in the city. So far the Community Development Dept. has set up helpful meetings and counseling sessions for these new local businesses. We see some great successes, such as the new art store, Blick in Central Square. Another success out of a loss is that Bob Slate is remaining in Harvard Square under a new owner who will continue that business.
  2. Green technology -- While we are already a hub for biotech and high tech, the green technology sector for jobs in new renewable energy and in energy efficiency is burgeoning around the world. We have the opportunity to be a destination for international companies wanting to locate in the U.S., as well as new local companies spinning off of MIT and Harvard. We need to keep our eyes open for these opportunities and of course, it is essential to assure these new companies can provide jobs to Cambridge residents.

Human Services Programs/Focusing on Aging
I'm especially proud to be 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. There will be many more new seniors in Cambridge as the baby-boom generation comes of age.

Working with government and local leaders, I led the city to establish a coordinating council on aging that will help to create a safety net for people to age in the community in their homes if they choose.

This term I'm chair of the Mayor's Silver Ribbon Commission on Aging which will make recommendations for housing options for seniors. For those who choose not to age in place, which means staying in their existing homes, there are not enough other options. In some cases those who wish to downsize or move to a home without stairs find those options are not affordable or readily available. In other cases people who are aging, particularly if they are single, wish to move to shared housing of some kind, such as co-housing, intergenerational housing or affordable living that is assisted in some way. Building these types of housing options for seniors needs to become a priority for the city.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
As a result of a presentation at the Healthy Children Task Force (which I co-chair), I learned that our playgrounds should 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. As a result of meetings I held, the city now has a Parks and Playgrounds Advisory Committee that is looking at citywide planning, making sure that all age kids have appropriate places to play.

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. My goal in the next term is to fix more sidewalks in a way that allows us to also plant more trees.

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

I've led the council to ask for plan to green up city owned rooftops, to use these for solar energy or if appropriate to paint them white to reflect off heat.

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 hot 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. 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.

Cambridge policy makers need to continue to press for more family housing to be built. Left to its own devices, the market will produce an endless supply of 2-bedroom units and these do not sustain families. As a result, families who need larger units when they have two children begin to look outside of Cambridge where they can get more space for less money. We see evidence of this in the census data which shows a drop off in families at about third grade.

I also feel building more housing for seniors that is affordable and accessible is a serious need for the community as the population is aging. Please see my response above under Human Services. Developing creative housing options needs to become a priority for the city of Cambridge.

Arts and Public Celebrations
During my time on the council I'm proud to say that I've had a hand in developing several important new city traditions that help us to bring residents together and to celebrate the special culture of Cambridge.

Danehy Park Family Day was my idea for a present to Cambridge families in celebration for the 150th birthday of Cambridge. Then Councillor Kathy Born then came up with the City Dance, another thriving tradition.

Cambridge Science Festival - I've been the lead councillor in working with the organizers at the MIT Science Museum to put on this festival which pulls back the curtains on all the great science that is happening in the community. The goal in large measure is to allow kids to get a taste of the science to enable them to become the scientists of the future. Adults also learn about science from the festival. Who can resist this topic: the Science of Beer, one of the fun events at a recent festival?

Urban Ag Fair - For three years now we've had an Urban Agricultural Fair. This idea was first presented at the Environment Committee which I chair and sounded outrageous. But yet, with the cooperation of the Harvard Sq Business Association, we've now had three Ag Fairs that both celebrate what is grown here in Cambridge and educate the public about growing in their own backyard.

Cambridgeport History Day - Our city's history is a great source of richness for us. This is demonstrated annually by Cambridgeport History Day, a celebration of that neighborhood's past that has galvanized the community. This is the third year for the If This House Could Talk event for which over a hundred signs were posted by residents and businesses calling out the echoes of past events and residents in Cambridgeport. This year professional actors played the part of historic figures and interpreted Cambridgeport's past history. Kudos to Cathie Zusy and the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association for their work on this event.

Cambridge Artist Open Studios - I can't claim credit for this event but I support it mightily as it brings the arts out to the public. It also allows artists to show and sell their wares. I very much support the Cambridge Arts Councils efforts in making this happen annually and now with unified publicity for all neighborhoods.

University Relations
I served as Vice Chair of the first ever University Relations Committee 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.

Candidate's 2009 responses     Candidate's 2007 responses 

CCTV candidate video (2011)

Page last updated Saturday, February 16, 2013 5:38 PM Cambridge Candidates