Craig Kelley

Craig Kelley
2009 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
6 St. Gerard Terrace
Cambridge MA 02140

Contact information:
Tel: 354-8353

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Craig Kelley
6 Saint Gerard Terrace
Cambridge, MA 02140

Now forty-six years old, Craig has seen enough of the world to know that Cambridge is the place he and his wife, Hope, want to live and where they want to raise their two boys, Robbie (12) and Cooper (9). The quiet, friendly neighborhoods, dynamic schools, bustling shopping areas, wonderful parks, super libraries and great people have earned Cambridge a special place in Craig's heart. Born in Wellesley, Craig went to the University of Rochester on a NROTC scholarship, where he made Dean's list, received a BA in History and won the NROTC leadership award. After college, Craig served in the Marine Corps for four and a half years, seeing such faraway places as the Southern California desert, the Philippines and Malaysia. It was during these travels, that Craig first became interested in environmental issues, realizing that reducing abject poverty would decrease the likelihood of military conflict in developing nations. Less than four weeks after resigning his Marine Corps commission, Craig was knocking on doors for Greenpeace.

From Greenpeace, Craig moved on to Boston College Law School, where he served as Chair of the Environmental Law Society. Craig graduated cum laude in 1993 and earned the Susan B. Desmaris award for Public Service Achievement and Leadership for his work on environmental issues at school.

Following law school, Craig became an environmental consultant, married Hope (whom he met while she was biking with a cast on her leg) and, eventually, moved from a Porter Square apartment to a small house in North Cambridge. He served as the Chair or Vice-chair of the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee from 1996 to 2005, wrote the environmental grant that resulted in the founding of Alewife Neighbors, Inc. and played a major part in revitalizing the Sierra Club's Boston Inner City Outings program. Prior to getting elected to the City Council in 2005, Craig helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve the Alewife floodplain, promote environmental issues and develop affordable housing throughout Cambridge. He also testified repeatedly on neighborhood concerns before the Board of Zoning Appeals, the License Commission, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, the City Council and the School Committee.

Craig won a seat on City Council in 2005 and has spent his first two terms promoting openness in local government, a more effective relationship between our City agencies and our public schools, safer streets and sidewalks, new ways of thinking about development and developing more cohesive neighborhoods. He puts a particular amount of effort in using topic-specific email lists to keep people informed about issues in and around Cambridge.

Craig currently serves on the Maria L. Baldwin School Advisory Council. Besides playing with his wife and children, Craig enjoys canoeing, entertaining, cycling, hiking, reading and writing.

Top Priorities:
1st Priority: City Government, from the Councilors down, must do a better job of listening to area residents. On virtually any issue, the people who live in an area will know more about what works, or doesn't work, there than anyone at City Hall.

2nd Priority: Cambridge Public Schools must be improved to the point where everyone is willing to send their kids to our public schools. Far too many families are selling their Cambridge homes and moving to Belmont, Arlington, Brookline and Newton. As a result, our both our City and our public schools are becoming less economically diverse. This is not an issue that rests solely with the School Department, though. CPS only has our children six hours a day, 180 days a year. The rest of us- to include the public libraries, the Department of Human Services Programs, large landlords, the Police Department and the regular public- must also learn to work together to create an environment where all of our children learn to value and benefit from a public education.

3rd Priority: Limiting growth of the City budget is key to keeping tax payments as low as possible. In the past six years, Cambridge's budget has grown by much more than the rate of inflation with a resulting residential tax increase that has been very difficult for many people to meet. Despite this increase in Cambridge's budget, our schools remain problematic, our traffic and parking problems are still horrendous and many of our neighborhoods are feeling squeezed by over-development. The Council, the City Manager and the School Committee cannot continue to spend money (in some cases, like the new Police Station and the new Main Library, vast amounts of money) without a clearer understanding and explanation of how those expenditures will make Cambridge a better place to live, work and visit. If we need to increase funding for programs, such as our arborists programs or our sidewalk maintenance programs, it should be done in a thoughtful manner that furthers a better understanding of what we are getting for our money.

Quality of Life and Public Safety:
Cambridge must revisit the models of development and service provision that it has used in the past. We need to do a better job ensuring that future development is more organic to existing neighborhoods and does not overwhelm the infrastructure of our streets and sewer systems. Police officers should become a more integral and frequently seen neighborhood presence. City agencies need to look at problems, such as rodents and noise, not as individual complaints but as systemic problems that we need to tackle in a new way, with extra emphasis on education and enforcement. As I have in my first two terms, in my third term, I will continue to work to:

Implement community policing and develop strong community/CPD relations Propose and support zoning changes to mitigate development pressures
Encourage the Council's subcommittees to be more proactive in organizing City efforts to address issues involving homelessness, bedbugs nad public intoxication.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
Residents increasingly find it difficult to park near their homes, while the lack of effective traffic enforcement makes walking or cycling around Cambridge far too dangerous. As I did in my first two terms, in my third term, I will continue to push hard for the Cambridge Police Department to view traffic enforcement as one of its prime responsibilities and to develop and implement a comprehensive traffic management plan. I will continue to urge my fellow Councilors to lead by example, by biking or taking public transit to City Hall instead of parking in the reserved spaces behind the building. And perhaps most importantly, I will continue to urge, as I have before, that the City develop accurate parking/car registration data for residential units to help future development minimize impacts on limited on-street parking.

Municipal Finance:
Limiting growth of the City budget is key to keeping tax payments as low as possible. In the past six years, Cambridge's budget has grown by much more than the rate of inflation, with a resulting residential tax increase that has been very difficult for many people to meet. Despite this increase in Cambridge's budget, our schools remain problematic, our traffic and parking problems are still horrendous and many of our neighborhoods are feeling squeezed by over-development. The Council, the City Manager and the School Committee cannot continue to spend money (in some case, like the new Police Station and the new Main Library, vast amounts of money) without a clearer understanding and explanation of how those expenditures will make Cambridge a better place to live, work and visit.

We should also review how we use Free Cash to underwrite the tax rate. At a 2:1 ratio, the money that we pull from Free Cash to lower tax rates benefits commercial interests, especially our larger commercial property owners like MIT and Boston Properties. Coming mostly from commercial interests vast amounts of money could be redirected to local programs, from supporting low-income residents to better road maintenance, if we changed this use of Free Cash.

Finally, we should rethink how we use Community Preservation Act funds to underwrite our affordable housing programs and our water department. The water department should pay its own way, and CPA funds should be more aggressively used to provide for open space in the Eastern part of the City and the increased preservation of our City's historic legacy.

Government and Elections:
Cambridge as a City and we as Councilors need to value input from and interaction with our residents and citizens, even if we don't always get feedback with which we agree. We should not have personal aides, as that money could be far better spent on other things from social workers to maintaining library programs and hours. Far more information, from tree plantings to traffic enforcement statistics to crime information should be comprehensively posted on the City's website to allow residents to do their own analysis of how their government is doing.
The Plan E charter would work better if the Council and the Manager had a more interactive relationship and the Council should be more willing to say 'no' to appropriations of funds when their use (such as the appeal of the Monteiro case) is of dubious value to the City.

Land Use, Planning, Zoning Density:
As the Chair of my local neighborhood group, I saw firsthand how neighborhoods get squeezed by a variety of development forces. All too often, these forces, whether they are municipal or commercial, are in the position of having professional engineers, consultants and other hired "experts" push their agendas while the local residents simply have their personal experiences and common sense. Unfortunately, the City pays far too little attention to the valuable information these local residents bring to the table.

The City must listen to its residents. The people who live in our neighborhoods know more about traffic patterns parking problems, density issues and how important the local Laundromat is than any panel of City-hired experts.

Cambridge residents know that people will bike around town when it really is safe to do so, not simply because the City painted some lines on a few roads. Locals know that large housing developments with only one parking space per unit will make it tougher to find parking on nearby streets unless we find creative ways to have density without bringing in new cars (greenzoning).

The City should also explore other types of housing and transportation options than what is currently pushed on our zoning codes. Allowing denser development if a project's residents are not allowed on-street parking stickers is a possible option, one followed by Harvard in one of its recent student dormitory projects. Requiring two parking spaces per residential unit might lower the pressure on limited on-street parking while also creating larger, more family-friendly units than the small condos so often built these days. Simply building large buildings by T stops isn't enough to qualify as smart growth- we need to rethink how much personal space an individual should reasonably expect and how common and public space can be used to allow more residents without building new structures that dwarf our existing neighborhoods.

Most of all, I will try, as hard as I can, to make my peers understand that our neighborhoods are fragile and the City must support them in every way it possibly can, whether it rezoning an area to avoid excessive infill or minimizing auto-dependent development throughout our City.

Economic Development and Commerce:
Cambridge must maximize its location as a "brain center" to encourage the creation of new, innovative industries. While many items can be manufactured cheaper elsewhere, the high level of education in the Cambridge area, the proximity of MIT and Harvard, and our reputation for new thinking all help make us more attractive to both large and small cutting edge industries. We need to keep telling everyone that our history of innovation is an impressive lineage that few other places can match, one that is more likely to lead to long-term success for start-ups and mid-sized companies than many other communities that offer little besides lower tax rates. Furthermore, seemingly mundane City services like a Class I Fire Department and a dependable supply of high quality water through our own water department, abundant mass transit and a host of interesting places to have lunch or an after work drink give Cambridge an edge over many of its neighbors. If our public education system were less of a worry for people, we would be in an even stronger position to compete for local, regional, national and international cutting edge businesses.

Human Services Programs:
Cambridge's youth programs are very segregated by race, class and age. I would like to see the various human service program, from library programs to youth programs to after-school programs to senior citizen programs designed and implemented in such a way that the diverse population of Cambridge actually funnels through these programs. The DHSP has done some reviews of how it provides services to youth, but as a whole, the City still needs to become much more aggressive in implementing strong mentoring programs, effective early literacy programs and successful job training programs.

And as people get older and desire to stay in Cambridge, the city should take available opportunities to rezone to allow for live-in help, work still harder on ensuring sidewalks are level as well as shoveled in the winter and, as much as our finances allow, offer programs and support to make aging in place more of an option to more people.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation:
Cambridge is a very small place. Our parks are used by a lot of people and we need to work harder to make our common spaces work for everyone, to include dog-owners, people who don't like dogs, organized team sports, pick-up team sports and a myriad of other different, often competing uses. Rules for using common space need to be clear and to make sense, and they also need to be enforced so that people can go to parks and playgrounds with a reasonable understanding of what to expect, and not expect, there. When designing parks, the City needs to make sure it does its best to incorporate neighborhood suggestions, and it needs to make sure it answers residents questions before any final decisions are made. Open space should not be used as a land bank to allow future development, as has happened both a Fresh Pond and the main library. And we should probably put more public toilets in our parks, as we've recently done with PortaPotties in parks on Avon Hill and in Area IV.

Energy, the Environment, and Public Health:
With only 6.2 square miles of land, Cambridge is a city where even the smallest things can have a huge impact on our immediate environment and our public health. Whether it's the City's viewing its open space as "free" when it comes to situating City projects, traffic spewing fumes into air that already fails EPA health levels or industrial and city property that is laden with hazardous pollutants, we need a City government that can competently address these concerns.

The City's open space is not "free." Whether it is a park or a community garden, our green space is precious and must be valued accordingly in any city decision. Once this land is built on- be it for housing, health care or educational uses- it will never be available as open space again. The City must give this open space the value it warrants.

When it comes to traffic, it is important that we minimize the exhaust from cars and trucks idling at our intersections and clogging our streets. We should develop our own air-monitoring program so that we can measure air quality to help provide data needed to support policy changes. And CPD should be more willing to give out citations for people who violate the state's anti-idling laws. First and foremost, we must get people out of their cars, making public transportation, biking and walking more attractive alternatives to the people who live and work in our town. The best way to do that is to limit the parking spaces at the millions of square feet of commercial development planned for many parts of Cambridge in the near future. The City Council could set a wonderful example by eliminating its own reserved parking spots behind City Hall. Once our elected officials start relying on mass transit, it seems very likely we'll see an improvement in transit service. The City should also encourage the use of Hybrid and other low-emission vehicles throughout the City by allowing new, non-transferable taxi medallions for such vehicles, by purchasing such vehicles for fleet use and by working with the state to give owners of such vehicles a break on their excise taxes.

We all must also remember that Cambridge is a City with a very industrial history. Working with others, I helped obtain tens of thousands of dollars to help monitor remediation work at the contaminated W.R. Grace site in North Cambridge. Alongside other neighborhood advocates, against the will of the City, I helped prove that not only was the Grace site contaminated with asbestos, but so was nearby City-owned playing fields. As a result of this discovery, and lots of hard work by the neighborhood and former Councilor Triantafillou, Cambridge now has an asbestos protection ordinance that will help minimize the public's exposure to this dangerous fiber.

Cambridge needs a comprehensive affordable-housing policy. In fact, it needs a Comprehensive Housing policy, period. Without a substantive housing policy, and a substantive affordable housing policy, it is impossible to determine if Cambridge is actually meeting its goals in these areas.

Few things are as important as providing housing for Cambridge residents who can't afford it. But there is a limit, financially, to what the City can do and without any sort of formal policy in this regard, it is not possible to decide whether the City is allocating its housing resources wisely. The City must do a better job of ensuring that government-subsidized housing is also decent, desirable housing-not simply housing of last resort. That means not putting affordable housing complexes on contaminated, inaccessible lots as seems to happen far too often. Affordable units, to include limited equity condos purchased with City assistance, should be scattered across the City in ones, twos and threes, not concentrated in economically segregated, undesirable areas.

Further, while the City can only do so much to provide affordable housing, it can, and should, do a much better job of making sure the inhabitants of our affordable housing units receive an education that will, in future years, allow them to compete successfully for high-paying jobs and market rate housing. Cambridge Public Schools, for a variety of reasons, have been disproportionately unable to give our lower-income neighbors a successful educational experience, and the result is that large numbers of affordable housing residents are not gaining the educational skills they need to move up economically. This is a goal that can only be met if all sectors of our City work together to help create the sort of environment that supports and values education at all levels.

As your Councilor, I will continue to work to:
Set specific, measurable affordable-housing goals and create policies that avoid economic and social segregation Develop a clear, balanced affordable-housing policy that promotes appropriate siting, respects neighborhood zoning, and restores growth policies, land-use planning, and public interest as considerations (rather than the current approach - "As much as possible, as dense as possible" - favored by the City).
Make Cambridge Public Schools a system that gives everyone, including inhabitants of low-income households, the educational skills to succeed and find market rate housing of their choice.

Arts and Public Celebrations:
Cambridge's 1% for public art program is a good idea, enhancing the public's general visual experience around town. Larger festivals help draw attention to Cambridge's many strengths, while the City also encourages local block parties to build neighborhood cohesiveness. What the City needs to get better at is turning these events into true community building events, where people get to know each other and then learn to knit each other into the fabric of their respective communities. Parties where people come, have a good time and then leave without some future step having been planned or future relationships created will do little to create sustainable communities.

University Relations:
Cambridge owes much of its current status to the abundance of fine colleges and universities within its borders. MIT and Harvard are two of the City's largest employers and both, along with Lesley and other schools, offer a variety of amenities to all Cambridge residents.

That being said, the power of these universities to change our City with their massive development plans is very intimidating. Whether it be Harvard wanting to build on the Charles River or Lesley planning to expand in Porter Square, far too many parts of Cambridge face university expansion threats that are extremely disquieting. While there is no perfect solution, the City should continue to work on getting universities to be taxed as the corporations they essentially are. When it comes to constructing dorms or research labs, local universities are more like well-funded developers than they are benign non-profits and they should be taxed as such. Similarly, the boarding room fees paid by these large universities, which operate thousands and thousands of rooming units in Cambridge, are absurdly low. Although it might require a home rule petitions, Cambridge could gain millions of dollars in revenue, and scrap the scrounging for the relatively small PILOT contributions, simply by altering the permit fee. Finally, land owned by, or coveted by, these universities should be zoned to protect local neighborhoods just as if any other developer were interesting in building there and variances and upzoning petitions should be granted over community opposition only with great care.

Interagency 'favors' should continue as is. For example, the universities provide assistant teachers for our schools. Cambridge allows street closures for university events. This arrangement is not exactly a quid pro quo, but simply a reflection of the belief that everyone, and everything, co-exists in Cambridge and we all should do our best to accommodate and help each other. These positive aspects of Cambridge's relationship with its universities should continue even as we explore ways to ensure that these institutions of higher learning are fulfilling their own civic responsibilities.

Civic Participation:
City Council Service is a Privilege. City Councilors must recognize that they serve the public. Councilors cannot, ever, take the public for granted. City Council meetings often start late, Councilors frequently chat or leave the chambers during public comment, and Councilors rarely seem to attend an entire public meeting where they can hear the general public explain their views.

As a Councilor, I will continue to:

  • Pay attention during the Council's Public Comment period
  • Work to create more representative Public Boards and Committees
  • Support Citizen efforts to get honest, prompt and complete responses from City Hall

For starters, participation on City Boards and Committees should be expanded beyond the current core group from which the City Manager picks his members. The long-term effect of the City Manager's close control over Board appointments is that the general public has begun to view these public forums as little more than local 'dog and pony' shows. Even if City Councilors are not able to appoint board members themselves, the Council should insist that the Manager alter his appointment practices to include a wider variety of neighborhood voices.

A second, and very easy, thing the City Council should do is to modify its rules to allow a certain number of people to, on occasion, petition to speak about subjects that are not on the Council's agenda. I also oppose the Council's reliance on late Orders because they circumvent the public notice required for transparency and, eventually, fo people to have faith that our government is an open and honest one. And while the public is speaking, the Councilors should be in their seats, paying attention, not in the room next door eating dinner. Few things discourage civic participation more than taking the time to go to City Hall to speak at a Council meeting only to find just one or two, if that many, of the Councilors are paying the slightest attention to what the public is saying.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the City Council and all City officials should avoid using harsh or hurtful language in public. Insulting or belittling citizens who are simply voicing their opinions is harmful to the public dialogue. Opinions can, and should, be expressed clearly, but there is no need to be offensive when doing so.

Cambridge Public Schools:
A Good School System is the Heart of a Healthy City
As anyone concerned about the Cambridge Public School system understands, we need to ensure that the much-touted "Excellent Education in Every Classroom" is a reality in every school. To that end, we need clearly defined, quantifiable, and well-designed goals, plus effective supervision and adequate funding, or CPS risks becoming a school system of last resort, used primarily by those who cannot afford private school and are unable to move elsewhere.

The plan for excellent education must be more than simply merging or closing schools, cutting teachers and support staff, and redesigning the high school. In particular, there must be an improvement in teaching kids education basics in the earlier grades (and even before they start school) or there can be little doubt that Cambridge's public schools will continue to shed lower-grade students at a rate that will cripple the entire system. While the CPS enrollment has recently risen, it is quite possible that much of that rise is due to people's financial constraints and that should people get more fiscal flexibility or start to feel less comfortable with CPS, our numbers will drop again.

My wife, Hope, and I have been happy with virtually every aspect of our children's public school education thus far, (both of our boys attend the Baldwin School), but it is clear that many students, especially those in the higher grades, need the Cambridge Public School system to challenge them more. It is equally clear that many other CPS students are not succeeding academically. This "performance gap" threatens to overwhelm our schools and needs immediate attention through a planning process that is based on sound educational policies. In particular,


  • Focus on classroom behavior/school climate/bullying with a system-wide program that trains teachers, parents, students and others on appropriate behavior in and out of school.
  • Develop better working partnerships between CPS and City agencies, to include landlords, non-profits and the City Council. Our schools only have our kids 6 hours a day for 180 days- it's up to the rest of us the rest of the time to help develop an environment and personal skills that will make their education a success.
  • Put more emphasis on literacy programs, especially early literacy programs. Too many children come to school far behind where they should be in terms of literacy.
  • Systematically Survey exiting parents and other families who 'opt-out' of the Public Schools or transfer with the District. The results of these surveys would allow CPS officials to better determine where staffing and budget changes must be met to keep more families in our schools. The recent Parent Attitude Study was a good start, but we should actually do something with the results.
  • Engage lower-performing students and their families in the academic environment. The importance of motivating students to excel in the classroom cannot be overstated, yet too many students, for a variety of reasons, fall by the academic wayside. CPS, and all of Cambridge, must develop and fund new ways to help these children achieve the academic success, which is such a crucial foundation for their success in later life.
  • Identify where the Cambridge Public School system is spending its money. At its heart, the recent K through 8 re-organization was driven by budget considerations. Yet, since virtually no one understands how our public school system spends its money now, it is impossible to figure out how to spend it more wisely in the future. And because we'll have tighter fiscal constraints and quite possibly even more students in the future, we need to be proactive in developing a detailed 'story' on the CPS budget or future decisions on how to reallocate scarce resources run the risk of being exceptionally disruptive.
  • Even when leveled for Special Education needs and students for whom English is not the primary language (two oft-cited reasons for Cambridge's massive expenditures), the Cambridge Public School system spends far more on overhead than similar municipalities. As a first step in effectively managing its finances, our public school system should justify every position and contract on which it spends money to a board of parents, teachers, staff and students.

Bring my first-hand knowledge of the Cambridge Public Schools, as a Public School parent and active member of the school community, to the Council. When the City Council gets involved in Public School issues, it needs a member who understands the impact of the Council's actions on the education of our children.

Work to ensure that the City Council passes a budget that provides our Public Schools with the funds they need to educate our children to reach their highest personal potentials, but also insists on a solid description of how those funds are being spent.

Promote healthy neighborhoods, through zoning reform, appropriate affordable housing creation and child-friendly streets--neighborhoods that will support a vibrant school system.

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Page last updated October 27, 2009 Cambridge Candidates