Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy
2007 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
22 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Contact information:
Telephone (617) 492-7426
Website: www.Brianmurphy.org 
Email: Brian@BrianMurphy.org 

Send contributions to:
Friends of Brian Murphy
P.O. Box 380424
Cambridge, MA 02238

Background:
Brian Murphy has been providing persistent leadership for the people of Cambridge as a city councillor since 2002. Brian listens carefully, develops solutions thoughtfully and collaboratively, and works relentlessly to get solutions to everyday problems. He is determined to get results, passionate about progressive issues, and committed to bringing people together to implement positive solutions to city challenges.

Brian is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School. He is a long-time community activist, an attorney, and has been active in local, state, and national Democratic political organizing for over twenty-five years. Brian and his wife, Kate Champion Murphy have two children, Molly and Joseph.

Brian is a member of:
Cambridge Democratic City Committee, ACLU, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, MassPIRG, MassBike, and ACE- Alternatives for Community and Environment

Endorsements for 2007 (in progress):
The Cambridge Chronicle, The Alewife, Massachusetts Sierra Club, National Organization for Women - Greater Boston Chapter, Progressive Democrats of Cambridge, Ward 6 Democratic Committee, Laborers Local 151, Carpenters Local 40, Plumbers Local 12, Pile drivers Local 56, IBEW Local 103, Plumbers Local 12

Top Priorities:
Cambridge is a great city. Our challenge is to focus on why it is a great city, and work to keep and enhance those qualities. My approach is further outlined on my website at www.brianmurphy.org. Here are three priorities:

  1. Healthier, safer, more livable neighborhoods
  2. Responsible, progressive fiscal management
  3. Finding creative ways to provide more affordable housing

Quality of Life and Public Safety:
It is vitally important for all of us to preserve elements of our neighborhood life that make Cambridge livable and attractive for all of us. I believe we should be able to do much of our daily life on foot, which means neighborhoods need access to essential small businesses, as well as safe neighborhoods that offer a sense of community and development that fosters vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods. Strong, safe, accessible neighborhoods are one of my top priorities for Cambridge.

  • I was the only city councillor to walk the entire North Cambridge Safety Walk with Police Commissioner Haas and filed several council orders in response the concerns raised by residents. I'm committed to working with Commissioner Hass and his department to continue to seek ways to make community policing more effective.
  • As Chair of the Ordinance committee, I pushed through recent changes in the trash ordinance to allow for greater enforcement of trash regulations to help address the rodent problem. I also listened to residents concerns and provided for greater involvement in the task force on rodents.
  • I successfully worked with the Community Development Department on Harvard Square Visioning meetings. That work, coupled with continued lobbying, is leading to a new supermarket in Harvard Square at the former Sage's site.
  • I am committed to additional regulations on leaf blowers to reduce the impact of noise and air pollution on workers and neighbors.
  • Work with Cambridge Local First to promote fun independent local businesses which enhance the quality of life in our community.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
Ease of use, safety, and predictability are some of the factors that influence use of public transportation.

  • Respond to neighborhood concerns for effective traffic calming
  • Work with neighbors to ensure that proposed development does not overwhelm neighborhoods in a variety of ways, including excessive increased parking demands
  • Work with the MBTA to increase the number and distribution of bus shelters throughout the city.
  • Requested that the MBTA do a better job of marking bus numbers.
  • Promote increased covered bus stops and more comprehensive maps.
  • The erratic availability of the elevators for Harvard and Central Square stations is disgraceful. The City Council has and will continue to pressure the MBTA to expand handicapped accessibility in both T and bus stations.
  • I support and will push for 24 hour weekend MBTA service.
  • Member of ACE, Alternatives for Community and Environment which includes the T Riders Union. Working with them, have opposed MBTA policies which make public transportation less affordable and less accessible.
  • Proposed council order to make easier for residents to have covered bike sheds.

Municipal Finance, Budget, Assessments, Property Taxes:
I am passionate about progressive, responsible municipal finance. I have been the chair of the city Finance Committee, the Chair of the National League of Cities Panel on Municipal Finance, and I sit on the Finance Committee of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. If re-elected, I will be the National League of Cities representative on the Government Accounting Standards Board.

In the wake of the property revaluation three years ago, and the spike in property taxes for many residents, I have worked to make city policies more open and transparent, and to hold the line on budget expansion. As a result on my work on the Special Commission on Property Taxes, the city now sends out three newsletters explaining the city budget, the property tax, and how to apply for abatements and exemptions. I also work with constituents who have concerns about their taxes, meeting with them and city staff to ensure that their concerns are heard.

This year, 79% of residents received a decrease in their property tax bill, and another 13% saw an increase of $100 or less. We need to be disciplined and sensible in setting our budget priorities, thinking about the city's long term fiscal and community well-being. We are very fortunate to have significant reserves and significant room under the Proposition 2 levy limit.

I hate the property tax: it's regressive, and hurts long-time residents who simply want to stay in their homes. Unfortunately, state law forbids Cambridge from using more equitable alternatives. I have been partnering with Governor Deval Patrick to pass the Municipal Partnership Act, but it will be a long, tough battle against entrenched interests at the state level.

Government and Elections:
I support the Plan E form of government and think that the City Manager form of government has worked well for Cambridge. We on the council will face a challenge in selecting the next city manager, and I am committed to having an open and deliberate process for the selection of the next manager.

I have used my staff assistant for research on a wide variety of issues and to support the implementation of my policy initiatives, such as the Poet Populist program. My own preference would be to have a professional research bureau that the entire council could draw upon. Failing that, I would prefer to see the council aides program under the city council office rather than in the Mayor's office.

Land Use, Planning, Economic Development:
Development, university expansion, and the skyrocketing costs of housing are destabilizing our neighborhoods and changing the character of the city. I work with neighbors to counter the destructive effects of these trends, and to create a regulatory and policy framework that allows expansion only when it benefits the city and protects the surrounding community. Development in Cambridge should always be approached within the context of the neighborhood it will join.

I worked successfully with the Tobin-Danehy neighborhood to downzone their neighborhood in response to potential overdevelopment. I work with members of the Porter Square community, Agassiz Neighborhood Council, and Neighborhood Nine to support their negotiations with Harvard and Lesley and to focus on ways to ensure that Mass. Ave. works for local businesses and the community.

Too often, neighborhoods find themselves on the defensive, reacting to institutional development proposals with too little time and information. I am committed to ensuring that Cambridge residents have the time and resources they need to help plan and shape development in their neighborhoods.

Along those lines, I have filed orders to improve Cambridge's approach through zoning for improving the environment, working to ensure that large building projects and built green and to remove conflicts in the zoning code with environmental protection. For example, I have filed orders to promote green roofs (penalized under the zoning code in certain cases) and bike sheds. I've also filed a council order requesting the Planning Board and city council to work together to increase side and rear lot setbacks. Too often, I have seen neighborhoods come before the council in response to infill development that harms their neighborhood. I'd like us to update the zoning code to more accurately reflect neighborhood expectations for reasonable growth.

Human Services Programs:
Cambridge takes seriously its commitment to provide resources and opportunities for our most vulnerable residents. This means we often pick up the financial slack when funding human service programs is cut by federal and state administrations. We need to work to improve our youth programs to engage more of the young people who are falling through the cracks. The programming improvements in the Teen Centers, and the expansion of the new West Cambridge Youth Center to a West Cambridge Community Center should help in our efforts to engage more people in those programs.

As the baby boom generation ages, we as a city need to thoughtfully approach the continuum of care needed as that large cohort of our population ages. Supporting programs like Cambridge at Home helps for many who want to age in place. We also need to build upon the successes of Neville Place and Neville Manor, facilities that provide wonderful care for seniors with a variety of health care needs. It's worked quite well for my family as my in-laws live there.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation:
One of our city's most important missions is to defend our precious open space. I am committed to protecting our existing open space, and as co-chair of the Ordinance Committee, I was successful in securing a new park in the Riverside neighborhood during downzoning negotiations.

I have also been chairing community meetings designed to explore locations and facilities for off-leash dog runs. I am committed to finding safe places for dogs to run free in Cambridge, because I believe dog runs will help make our communities both safer and more cohesive. I am pleased that thanks to my efforts, we have a new dedicated dog run at Pacific Street and will have an improved facility at Danehy Park.

I have also led the council efforts to preserve the open space at Shady Hill Square, filing the order requesting the Cambridge Historical Commission to begin the process to landmark Shady Hill Square. I have also worked with the neighbors in their efforts to understand the city's administrative process and have advocated on their behalf to prevent imminent development from destroying this historic open space parcel.

Opportunities for both active and passive recreation are precious in Cambridge. I am committed to working with groups and other governmental agencies to find ways to improve existing recreational opportunities and to expand new ones. I was proud to have worked with Vice Mayor Toomey and former Councillor Sullivan to secure city funding that will help build the new skate park near the Zakim Bridge, a world class facility that will benefit generations of Cambridge skateboarders. I also work with city officials to find ways to partner with the Massachusetts DCR to improve Cambridge facilities.

Energy, the Environment, and Public Health:
Health care costs are a personal, local, state, and federal issue. Double-digit increases in health care costs threaten our ability to provide quality services at a reasonable rate. I served on the National League of Cities Health Care Task Force, collaborating with local and national municipal leaders to seek out results-oriented public health and preventative medicine initiatives that can lower costs without sacrificing quality of care.

Cambridge is and should be a leader in efforts to raise environmental awareness and to reduce energy consumption. I am excited about the work of the Cambridge Energy Alliance, http://www.cambridgeenergyalliance.org, a new non-profit organization that will create and implement a groundbreaking program to significantly reduce energy use in Cambridge.

  • I support requiring and enforcing new city and university construction to comply with 'green building' LEED standards.
  • I introduced the order to have large private developments be built green, and as Chair of the Ordinance committee have been leading the effort working with the Planning Board to get these changes implemented.
  • I support statewide legislation that encourages healthier lunch choices for our public schools.
  • I introduced legislation to ensure that Cambridge did not knowingly purchase from vendors who will profit from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

I worked with Harvard, MIT and the city on ways to increase recycling rates and, in public testimony, I have challenged the state legislature to expand the bottle bill so that it includes bottled water and similar products. For my work on these and other issues, I am proud to have been endorsed by the Sierra Club of Massachusetts.

Housing:
The affordable housing problem in Cambridge is truly a housing emergency. The price of housing in Cambridge has skyrocketed in recent years. We need to be entrepreneurial in our efforts to find new ways to build and maintain affordable housing.

I worked with the Garment District owners, the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Cambridge Historical Commission and neighbors to prevent developers from tearing down the Garment District's historic building and overwhelming the neighborhood. My work helped save the building, the store and hundreds of jobs - and led to the addition of twenty-six units of affordable housing for Cambridge families.

As co-chair of the Ordinance Committee, I led the Riverside negotiations with Harvard, requiring Harvard to build and turn over to the city thirty three affordable housing units for Cambridge families.

  • I voted to allocate the maximum 80% of Community Preservation Funds - over $19 million - for affordable housing.
  • I work to strengthen the city's linkage and inclusionary zoning ordinances to build more affordable units.
  • As artists begin to get priced out of living, studio and gallery space, we are in danger of losing an important part of what makes Cambridge special. I support the reuse of vacant commercial buildings as live-in studios for artists. This type of creative reuse would not only provide additional affordable housing stock, but would also help us maintain the vibrancy of the Cambridge cultural community.
  • In order to pursue this idea and similar innovative approaches to the housing issue, we need to engage the participation of younger renters, including working professionals and students, in the political process surrounding this issue.

Arts and Public Celebrations:
Cambridge wouldn't be Cambridge without its artists. But in times of tight budgets, governments often make their first and deepest cuts in funding for the arts. From an economic standpoint, this can be a misguided strategy. As Richard Florida noted in The Rise of the Creative Class, diversity, tolerance and a thriving arts community are all important elements in assuring that a community thrives and prospers. As artists begin to get priced out of living, studio and gallery space, we are in danger of losing an important part of what makes Cambridge special. To this end, I support creative reuse of public buildings as affordable live/work space for artists. I am chair of the Public Facilities, Arts, and Celebrations Committee and a sponsor of neighborhood and community-focused programs such as CAOS.

As chair of the Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations committee, I heard the concerns of dancers who were going to lose their dance facility. I held hearings, negotiated with administration officials, and convinced colleagues to expand the scope and mission of the West Cambridge Youth Center to provide dance and community space.

As Finance Chair, I used the city's budget process to resolve a conflict between two of the city's leading arts organizations. My understanding of the budget process and perseverance led to a successful resolution - the volunteer-based, artist run Dance Complex was able to gain clear title to their building, ensuring their success for years to come.

Cambridge will also have its first Poet Populist [http://www.cambridgeartscouncil.org/poet_populist.html] this year. I modeled the program after Seattle's program, and look forward to expanding the awareness and appreciation of poetry in Cambridge.

I am a longtime supporter of the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, and have assisted them in their fundraising efforts to keep the historic theatre open.

University Relations:
Harvard, MIT, Lesley, and Cambridge College help define Cambridge as a unique, sophisticated, and richly diverse community, but institutional expansion can undermine the character and livability of our neighborhoods. Our universities need to remember that the vitality and excitement of Cambridge contribute significantly to their ability to attract students and faculty. Cambridge's residents and workers share a common stake in assuring that university expansion does not overrun our community nor destroy the character of our neighborhoods.

I am working with colleges and universities to develop tangible, lasting community benefits whenever they expand their presence. These include meaningful public open space; affordable- and moderate- income housing for community members; restrictions on density, height and use of new buildings; and, of course, traffic and parking policies that are sensitive to neighborhood concerns. I also seek out ways where university and community interests align, and seek to maximize those areas of positive collaboration.

Civic Participation:
In his book "Bowling Alone," Robert Putnam noted the fraying of our social fabric as Americans belong to fewer organizations and are increasingly disconnected from their families, neighbors and communities. Cambridge is not immune from this phenomenon, but we must strive to resist and reverse this trend. Neighbors need to get to know neighbors, and neighborhood block parties help. I support continuation and expansion of mini grants for residents who are willing to organize these block parties. Community wide events like the Cambridge Dance Party in front of City Hall and Danehy Park Family Day also help to bring residents together.

In this era of ipods and instant messaging, we need to find new ways to bring people together to maintain their community.

Cambridge Public Schools:
Equity and Excellence need to be the twin goals of our school system. We have unique strengths in our diversity and civic participation and it is absolutely imperative that we defend and support our public school system. I support the school committee and Superintendent Fowler-Finn in their efforts to close the achievement gap. I'm encouraged by the recent increase in student enrollment and the excitement surrounding the new Montessori program.

I worked with the superintendent and School Committee to ensure our education spending focused resources in a results-driven and student-focused way. We increased spending directly on students and in the classroom by reducing administration and operations costs. I am currently working with Superintendent Fowler-Finn and the School Committee on a five-year finance plan that will expand resources where most needed.

In the coming months, the city council and school committee will work together to define the scope of renovations to CRLS, the city's high school. I'm committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that the renovations reflect the value our high school has to our community, and to have the renovations done with the least possible amount of disruption.

Cambridge also has an excellent City scholarship program. I will work with the high schools to encourage an increased number of applications we receive each year. I was recently successful at increasing the financial amount of each scholarship, as well as doubling their duration, from one year to two.

Other:
Please visit my website for more information: www.brianmurphy.org. I have a blog that highlights life on the campaign trail there, as well as additional information on me. Here's some additional information as well:

Response to Cambridge Chronicle Survey: www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/town_info/your_vote/x1302711216 

Response to Progressive Democrats: pdcambridge.org/PDC/PDC_questions.htm#Murphy 

Candidate's 2005 responses 

Page last updated November 02, 2007 Cambridge Candidates