Minka vanBeuzekom

Minka vanBeuzekom
2011 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
20 Essex Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-596-1547

website: www.MinkaforCambridge.org

e-mail: Minka@MinkaforCambridge.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MinkavB

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/MinkaForCambridge

Send contributions to:
The Committee to Elect Minka vanBeuzekom
20 Essex Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

OR Minka's ActBlue page

As a neighborhood advocate looking at city government from the outside, I understand how difficult it can be to make a difference in such a complex city, but I believe we can do better. We CAN have clean and safe streets, energy efficient buildings, good schools, flourishing gardens and open spaces. This is a city built by its people; we CAN keep our best and brightest in the community with competitive public education, job opportunities and affordable options for housing. Cambridge is a progressive city, leading the way in technology, medicine, education, energy and climate change initiatives. Doesn't it make sense to have all these reflected in our city government?

As a city councilor, I will keep things in perspective as I recommend improvements. I will be open minded and remain connected to the people, neighborhoods and communities of Cambridge. I have been bringing people together for decades to solve the old problems of our city in new ways. I am excited and prepared to use my passion, creativity and leadership to keep our neighborhoods vibrant, livable and affordable for decades to come.

I came to Cambridge in 1980 while still a student at Wellesley College. I have lived in Kendall, Inman and now Central Square for the past 21 years. My daughters went to the public schools and now two of my grandsons attend Fletcher Maynard Academy. My undergrad degree is in molecular biology and I have a Master's Degree in Public Health with concentration in epidemiology, biostats and environmental health. I worked in labs at Harvard and MIT and for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the Infectious Disease program. I ran a successful biotech startup company in the 1990s and most recently a non-profit medical research Foundation. I understand one of the key business sectors in this city and know we must plan for diversification of sectors. Where are Polaroid, Lotus and ADL today?

I got started in my civic life in Cambridge with Cambridge ECO (Environmental Citizen's Organization) in the late 1980's. I was also a driver in the start-up of the Cambridgeport School in 1990 when my oldest daughter entered kindergarten. My neighborhood activities have centered on crime reduction, rodent & litter control and community building. Through my involvement, I've met many fascinating people and I've learned more than I thought possible about city & government operations. I don't like to commiserate with people about their problems, I like to roll up my sleeves and solve them.

Top Three Priorities

  • keep our city vibrant and affordable for all families young and old by pro-actively planning for smart growth, increasing density strategically while improving shared spaces, public transportation and services
  • advance a plan to make Cambridge reliant on local, renewable energy sources by 2020 continuing our city's strong legacy of environmental and fiscal leadership
  • attract and keep the best and brightest in the community with increased job opportunities, local business emphasis, stellar public & adult education, more amenities and increased affordable options for housing

Quality of Life
I led my neighborhood in getting the litter and refuse ordinance changed and I was instrumental in having an interdepartmental Rodent Task Force formed in Cambridge. I am one of the three citizen appointees to this task force and we created the dumpster ordinance, updated the DPW rodent website & brochure for property owners and streamlined the rodent reporting systems. Still have work to do to starve the rats in Cambridge but we do see progress in many places.

I was also part of a neighborhood effort to force Idenix to comply with the residential noise ordinance and maintained a watchful ear on Prospect Hill Academy when their air handling systems violated the noise ordinance. As many people know noise is a complaint driven system and violations require diligence to force compliance.

Another issue which affects people in our fair city are dogs. We do have pooper scooper and leash ordinances and they need to be enforced much more rigorously. I've heard of too many dogs and people being attacked by off-leash dogs and we cannot tolerate that. In order to accommodate the activity and socializing needs of urban dogs, I would be in favor of having one more enclosed, off-leash dog park in the city and some shared off leash spaces but only in the early morning hours.

Each of the Squares of Cambridge must have recycling containers and fewer trash receptacles and I will insist that each restaurant and business have smoking receptacles.

A small but significant suggestion to reduce the alcohol problem in Central Square is to ban all 'nip' bottles, enforce the anti-intoxication ordinances already in place and not increase the number of package store licenses in the Square.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation
Public transit, shared cars and safe biking corridors are key to an urban environment that works well. We have more and more jobs each year in Cambridge and more people come into the city for work or leisure. Ideally those employees would find an affordable place to live in the city and be able to use public transit, walk or bike to work. For those that don't want to live here, we have to make it easy for them to come to work but not in a single occupancy vehicle. Building the green line extension is one solution; the Grand Junction Railroad proposal is not. The rail currently designated for the Grand Junction was planned for use as a shared bike and pedestrian corridor and it should remain as such.

I think we may need to start following the lead of other cities by substituting a few single, on-street car parking spaces for many bike parking spaces. The Hubway system in Cambridge will also help to normalize bike travel in the city.

I think we need to be more aggressive at enforcing the rules of the road for motorists, bikers and pedestrians. For too long we have tolerated sloppy driving and walking practices. The only way to effectively share the road is if people know the rules and obey them. When we pass out the local motor vehicle tax bill, there should be an insert about local initiatives such as TROMP and Green Streets Initiative who are trying to change the culture of transportation in the city. I'd be in favor of a segment of driver's education in the High School to include bike rules as well. I am not in favor of licenses for bikers/bikes.

Municipal Finance
Each year for the past decade, Cambridge has been able to set aside millions of dollars in our 'free cash' fund. At the end of the most recent fiscal year, we had $102 million in this fund, a feat that no other city in the Commonwealth and perhaps the country has been able to do. We do this by consistently over-budgeting for expenses & under-budgeting for revenue, aggressively assessing & collecting tax revenue but most critically: continuing to encourage and expand the commercial base of the city. However, there is a state- directed cap on the % of RE revenue that can be generated from the commercial sector and we are fast approaching that cap.

Because overall city revenues from state and federal sources have been declining over the past few years, the city has been using 'free cash' to balance the budget. Last fiscal year we used more than $10M to balance our municipal budget instead of significantly raising the commercial and/or residential tax rate. This was essentially a tax expenditure and it benefited the largest tax payers in the city – MIT, BioMed Realty Trust and Boston Property – the most. Instead of balancing the budget with the free cash, I propose we use this cash to designate a revolving loan fund for residential and small business energy conservation & renewable energy measures. This will create local jobs, save money otherwise spent on utilities and cut our carbon footprint. Another possibility is to implement PACE in Cambridge – a property assessed clean energy fund.

In these tough economic times, paying close attention to the city's revenue and expenses is critical to maintain the city's fiscal health and helping as many residents as possible. We can not continue to expand our expenses each year just because we have the revenue coming in. There are enormous financial and advisory resources in Cambridge, a hub of high-tech and biotech companies and world renown Universities. I believe encouraging those businesses to stay and provide good jobs is critical for the city to thrive. Encouraging residents to shop at local businesses keeps the city's economy stable and helps current businesses. Cambridge must continue to be an open and welcoming place for new students and businesses. I know that to balance the needs of businesses, residents and universities is tricky. It is a delicate and complex process which will require careful oversight and willingness to make tough decisions as the economy declines further.

Government and Elections
I think our PR form of voting is a fair and interesting system. It does require conscientious voters and more 'homework' on candidates than many voters are used to. But the results accurately reflect the will of voters who turn out. I believe we need to increase voter turnout in order for the council to reflect the will of the registered voters in Cambridge.

The Plan E form of government requires a strong city manager. The person in this position is in charge of running a city with almost 3000 employees and a budget of more than half a billion dollars. Someone who can handle tough negotiation with the likes of Harvard, MIT, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, Novartis and the City of Boston is absolutely required and we have had that in Mr Healy. However, over the past decade of his tenure in the city, he has allowed the businesses and universities to shape the city rather than the other way around. The residents of Cambridge have elected a body of city councilors who are the only guiding balance for the City Manager. It is my opinion that the current elected body has not performed the necessary oversight of the city manager and therefore significant issues are being raised about his treatment of employees, over sight of the personnel department and terms of his compensation package. As your city councilor I will remain diligent about the details of city management and guide the manager in a way that is best for all residents and city employees. If his contract is not renewed by the next term of councilors, I will be active in seeking a professional, experienced replacement who will serve the city for another three decades.

Human Services Programs
The Human Services programs in the city are very innovative and they have been recognized nationally. One problem I see is that many of them are undersubscribed; both senior and youth programs. I would endeavor to increase awareness of the programing and create more excitement in residents about what we spend more than a $70 million dollars on each year.

I strongly believe we need to support expanded adult education in the city. This is a proven way to increase skills of adults for better paying jobs and help parents assist their kids in school. We can help break the existing cycle of poverty (yes, even in Cambridge) with stellar public school education and job skill training for adults. Baby University is a good example of an exceptional program that may not be targeting the necessary parents.

The library is a shared resource which needs to be open for longer hours on the weekend and during the summer. The argument that overtime for librarians and custodial staff make expanded hours prohibitive is not acceptable one.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation
The open space along the Charles River belongs to DCR and it must be better maintained. If DCR doesn't have the resources, I will advocate that more of our Community Preservation Act money in the designated open space portion be used to build community garden, create designated bike path and rebuild the historic Magazine Beach Powder House. I will advocate for recreation in Alewife Brook which flows to Little River and the Mystic River. The Alewife Reservation is a stunning example of an "urban wild" and I will be prepared to maintain and expand it as such.

In general our parks and playgrounds are well used, maintained and updated. However, I will advocate that the evening curfew be enforced. All the parks must have recycling containers picked up by bike power if possible.

Energy, the Environment and Public Health
My endorsement by the Sierra Club of Massachusetts demonstrates that I am prepared to protect the environment and promote legislation which does that for our local climate. Under my leadership on the council, Cambridge will once again be at the vanguard of "Green Cities".

One of the most significant pro-environmental tasks we can accomplish in Cambridge is to bring back the Municipal Utility. We have successfully and efficiently run our own water utility for more than 140 years and I believe we can save the residents and businesses of Cambridge significant amounts of money each year in avoided energy costs. I'd advocate for creation of more energy locally via solar (hot water and PV) and geothermal but the main emphasis would be on conservation. As a municipal utility we could create demand for more wind-generated energy to enter the grid and I'd be in favor of only having renewable energy flowing into the Cambridge grid. I'd include a municipal sponsored wifi, ISP and perhaps cable services as possibilities worth exploring. These efforts would create local jobs, save money and reduce our carbon footprint significantly.

As an Epidemiologist, I understand the current health issues including infectious disease, obesity and environmental asthma. I will seek improvements in biosafety standards, air quality standards, emergency preparedness, food quality and walkability that will contribute to healthier communities for current and future generations. My education in Public Health and my experience as an epidemiologist gives me a valid voice and gets my issues addressed.

University Relations
For those who don't realize it – Cambridge is a University town and that fact drives our success. For anyone who hasn't seen the annual Town Gown presentations from MIT, Harvard, Lesley and Cambridge College to the Planning board, I highly recommend it as an evening very well spent. These non-profit institutions have created masterful plans of their increased presence in Cambridge over the next 10 years! Where is the visioning at the city level? It is no wonder that we are continually in a position of reacting to their development proposals instead of creating our own vision of the city.

Living in the Area Four Neighborhood, I am much more familiar with MIT-City relations. It is important to differentiate between MIT and MIT Investment Company (MITICo). The later has rapidly requested permitting for several massive office or R&D buildings in Cambridgeport, Area Four, Kendall and Central Squares. It is far more profitable for them to build non-residential; structures and this is creating local jobs (great news) but swinging the job-housing balance too far away from housing (bad news) . The commercial revenue is appreciated by the city – but we are increasing the revenue at the expense of residents who live nearby. I understand that commercial real estate tax revenue cannot exceed a certain percentage of total property tax revenues so does that mean the tax rates will decrease?

I will seek a requirement that all university garages be available for overnight parking during a snow emergency. We need to make it easier for the DPW to remove snow quickly and I believe the situation will only become more urgent as the climate continues to change.

I believe that MIT and Harvard should build additional dorms for on-campus housing. This will free up some of the rental housing stock for people who work in Cambridge. In theory it could help bring down rental prices, reduce traffic and perhaps even increase municipal voter participation!

Public Schools
Public schools are the single biggest budget item in our $472M annual operating budget. While there is a separation of city council and school committee roles, the city council is ultimately responsible for the judicious use of city resources. I think there should be more interaction between these two government bodies especially in light of the expense v. the outcomes from the public school system. The collaboration should include common topics like green building standards and budgetary decisions that affect everyone as well as out of school activities, extended school hours and parent skill building and support.

Selected Civic Activities
Mystic River Watershed Association, Board Member
Area Four Neighborhood Coalition, Co-Leader
Area Four for Peace – co-founder & frequent volunteer
Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) Team leader
Cambridge Climate Emergency Action Group (CCEAG) co-founder
Green Cambridge – board member Former Cambridge Environmental Citizens Organization (ECO), Treasurer
Cambridge Democratic City Committee Ward 3 Democratic Committee, vice-chair
Local and national campaign volunteer
TROMP – frequent volunteer
Green Streets Initiative – frequent volunteer
Cambridge Rodent Task Force
Cambridge Community Garden Coordinator
Master Urban Gardener (MUG)
Pick-a-pocket gardener
Room grandparent, Fletcher Maynard Academy, 2nd grade

INTERVIEWS published by local sources
Cambridge Day: http://www.cambridgeday.com/2011/10/15/council-challenger-vanbeuzekom-targets-schools-power-rail-in-run/
Cambridge Chronicle: http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/x1069115254/Cambridge-Election-2011-Meet-the-Candidates-Minka-vanBeuzekom#axzz1cTwBGTM6

As of Oct 15th I received endorsements from Sierra Club of Massachusetts, SEIU local 615, Ward 6 City Democratic Committee and Ward 3 City Democratic Committee.

Minka and grandsons
Ready? Set……… Go! I'm crossing the streets with my three grandsons, Judah (6), Bijan (5) and Elisha (2)

CCTV candidate video (2011)

Page last updated Tuesday, November 1, 2011 9:28 PM Cambridge Candidates