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.
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:
Implement community policing and develop strong community/CPD relations
Propose and support zoning changes to mitigate development pressures
Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
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:
Land Use, Planning, Zoning Density:
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:
Human Services 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:
Energy, the Environment, and Public Health:
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.
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:
Arts and Public Celebrations:
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.
As a Councilor, I will continue to:
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:
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,
AS CITY COUNCILLOR, I WILL CONTINUE TO
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.
|Page last updated October 27, 2009||Cambridge Candidates|