2013 Race for City Council

Photo by Tom Stohlman / flickr

Cambridge will hold its municipal elections on Tuesday, November 5. Along with School Committee elections, there’s a tight race for the Cambridge City Council this year and your vote makes a difference. Not sure who to vote for? We asked every candidate for City Council – all 25 challengers and incumbents vying for nine spots – to answer one direct question in 100 words or less – no easy feat for loquacious politicos. Check out how they responded and where their priorities lie. And don’t forget to vote!



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What will be your first priority or “first order of business” if you are elected (or re-elected) to the Cambridge City Council?

Dennis Benzan


“When I am elected to the Cambridge City Council, I will ensure that every one of our residents can share in the tremendous economic growth, innovation and cultural richness of our city. As our city continues to grow, we must prioritize connecting our corporate and our residential communities. I plan on leading the council on the following initiatives: STEM-based education and job training, affordable housing for all income levels and increased safety measures in our public spaces. I will also fight for our seniors and make sure the Council can provide them with the help and support they deserve.”

Dennis Carlone


“My campaign is ‘Planning for People’ because Cambridge is at a crossroads. More development¬ – more than the equivalent of 12 John Hancock towers – was started in the past 2 years than built in the previous 20. As an urban designer/architect who trained and taught at Harvard, and who did the award-winning East Cambridge Riverfront redevelopment, I see that we are losing our community to over-development that puts profits before people. I will first work to produce a city-wide Master Plan that puts people first. Socially just development can preserve our communities. And I’m not taking any developer money.”

Leland Cheung


“If elected to a third term on the City Council, my first priority is continuing my work with the new City Manager to ensure that Cambridge remains an affordable, safe, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing community for residents from all walks of life. This means ensuring that housing is attainable and affordable, improving public K-12 education, providing residents with 24/7 access to City Hall through programs such as my forthcoming 311 pilot, expanding the composting pilot that I introduced and extending zoning initiatives that I pioneered to make sure our streets are filled with local businesses, not big banks.”

Janneke House


“I want to work towards establishing a true ‘311’ (constituent services) number in Cambridge. Wherever you live in Cambridge, you deserve high quality and responsive city services. Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and even Somerville have this one-stop shop for city services. One call, you speak with a human operator, you are connected to the person you need, your problem is noted and you receive a call from a city councilor as follow-up when it is solved.”

Craig Kelley



“My first order of business would be to find a mayor, whether it’s me or someone else, who could bring together the City Council and School Committee as functioning teams and help those two bodies better collaborate with each other as we raise and educate our children in and out of school. An ideal Mayor would take the spirit of collaboration beyond elected officials and bring city and CPS staff together with our larger institutional and commercial neighbors to help mesh Cambridge’s strong business and educational presence with its richly diverse population of all ages and abilities.”

James Lee

“I will develop good working relationships with all my colleagues on the Council, the City Manager’s office and the School Committee, as this is essential to get things done for the people of Cambridge. We would not want a gridlock in the Council or the city government as we have with the US Congress and the federal government. I will earnestly study in great depth all Council rules/procedures and past Council history, as well as city government regulations/procedures, so that I will know how to improve accountability, efficiency and transparency in the City Council and the city government.”

Logan Leslie


“Cambridge is thriving economically due to our universities and unique character; but this has come at a price. It’s harder and harder for family-run business to succeed, and it has become too expensive for families to live here. The Council can build upon Cambridge’s prosperity by making sure it’s something that middle-class families and business owners can partake in. My first order of business will be to comprehensively evaluate and rationalize our hopelessly complicated zoning code. Doing so will eliminate waste and bureaucracy and maximize our city’s potential for progress, encouraging small businesses to stay in business.”

David Maher


“If re-elected to the Cambridge City Council my first priority will be to continue to focus on the important quality of life issues facing our city’s citizens. As I have throughout my time on the City Council, I will continue to advocate for improving our public schools, ensuring that our neighborhoods are safe, investing in roadway, sidewalk and park improvements, supporting smart economic growth initiatives and protecting the overall vitality of our community.”

Nadeem Mazen


“I’ve committed that one-third or more of my City Councilor salary will go towards organizing in our communities. Real representative democracy is a lost art in politics; my vision involves paid organizers working tirelessly in each community to proactively seek out opinions, needs and solutions. Too many residents feel there’s no lifeline connecting our knowledgeable and diverse communities to city hall. I want government that’s transparent and accessible, so that our neighborhood priorities like affordable and middle income housing, hands-on after-school and summer programs, arts and culture spaces and local business support can start taking priority at city hall.”

Marc McGovern


“The first order of business of the Council will be to elect a Mayor. As a four-term member of the School Committee I know how disruptive it is not to have a full-time Mayor in place to chair the School Committee. Given that the community does not directly elect a Mayor, the least the Council can do is to make that decision in a transparent and timely manner.”

Gary Mello

“I’ll immediately push for election of the new Mayor instead of the customary nonsense. As I’ve already indicated, I will vote for Leland Cheung. All candidates should be straightforward with their selections as well. Don’t accept ‘we have to wait till election’ as an excuse from candidates. If they can’t tell you who they want to work with they don’t deserve your vote!”

Mushtaque Mirza


“My top priority is increasing the availability of affordable housing in Cambridge for middle-income residents. The city should issue bonds and create a large revolving fund to be used to build affordable middle-income housing. Priority should be given to residents who have lived in Cambridge for at least ten years. Also, the percentage of units set aside as affordable housing should be raised to 20 percent. I am a professional engineer and construction supervisor and I have experience designing and building low and middle-income housing. I would bring this knowledge and experience to the city council.”

Gregg Moree


Candidate could not be reached for comment.

Ron Peden

“My first priority as a newly-elected City Councilor will be to develop, propose and implement initiatives aimed at reducing the city’s wealth and income gap, to provide opportunities for low and middle-income residents, including young people, seniors, women and minorities, to benefit proportionately in the growth and development boom currently underway in Cambridge. This means greater accountability across the board from Community Development, Human Resources, small business development and Affirmative Action, etc. to facilitate the full and complete participation of all segments of the community in all levels of city-wide growth, including management, consulting, planning, development, design, implementation and engagement.”

Lesley Phillips


“I would make my first priority a dual one: both to timely elect a mayor at the council’s inaugural meeting on January 6, and to take whatever steps are needed to ensure that our next mayor be chosen by a process agreed to by the new councilors – and hopefully by all of the council candidates prior to the November 5 election – that would in a fair and democratic way reflect the will of all the voters not just the personal agendas of a slim majority of the nine councilors.”

Kenneth Reeves


“My ‘first order of business’ if re-elected, will be the creation of a group to act immediately on the recommendations by the C2K2 for median income housing in Central Square. There are ample city owned lots in the square to begin this process. This is the first time since the days of rent control that housing for middle class families has been a priority in the city. I am proud to have been a leading force behind this. Continuing with my dedication to education, I hope to also lead an effort for universal pre-K for all Cambridge students.”

Sam Seidel


“My first priority for the next City Council would be addressing the housing crunch. The Cambridge housing market has again become unreachable for many people including our next generation. If we do not address this with substantive policy decisions, we will no longer be a diverse or interesting community. We will be a community of the very rich and the very poor. Creating housing opportunities for people in this city, so that our next generation can take root in Cambridge, will require some real leadership and creativity and experienced, thoughtful Councils need to lead this charge.”

Denise Simmons


“My first order of business for the coming term will be to begin laying the groundwork for a Local Business Owners Town Hall Meeting in City Hall. I’ve organized similar, successful meetings around LGBT issues, senior issues, and multicultural concerns, and I would like to do the same for the small local business owners, to get a better sense of what the City can do to improve the local economic atmosphere, to make doing business in Cambridge easier and to put more of our residents into good-paying jobs. This will hopefully help set some Council priorities for the coming term.”

Jefferson Smith


“Making Cambridge more affordable for people of all income levels is my top priority. The City Council must leverage ongoing economic development to create housing stock that is affordable for everyone. We must also look at reducing fixed costs for struggling families and I have called for investing in Universal Child Care in Cambridge to help ease the burden of skyrocketing prices. Proudly serving for the past 5 years in Gov. Patrick’s Administration, I sincerely believe that I have the experience and the expertise to help lead the way toward meaningful solutions to these problems.”

Tim Toomey


“It is an honor to be your city councilor. With your No. 1 vote on November 5, it is my top priority to serve our community’s needs. Cambridge is changing, but my commitment to level-headed, thoughtful leadership and quality constituent services endures. This term, I fought the transport of dangerous chemicals on city rail lines, worked to fund a multi-use pathway and continued to be accessible to you. Next term I will work to keep Cambridge’s finances sound and ensure that development-related mitigation benefits impacted neighborhoods. Together, we can make Cambridge an even more vibrant place in which to live.”

Minka vanBeuzekom


“Cambridge has all the necessary components to be a world-class city. We have vibrant neighborhoods, a large range of jobs, world-renowned universities, solid finances, and the resources to lift up our low-income families. Shaping the future of a 21st-century city and maintaining the residential character is my top priority. We must be proactive about growth in the city – not reactive. I will continue to focus on traffic, increased pressure on utility infrastructure, renewable energy and public open space. I will continue to advocate for improved pedestrian and biking infrastructure for the young, seniors and everyone in between.”

Luis Vasquez

“I am going to stop by each and every public school and non-profit organization to let them know that I am here to champion for their needs and future successes. I will also continue to advocate for affordable living in Cambridge to chip away at the trend of economic displacement of families, workers, and Cambridge Public Schools alumni that have recently graduated from college. Our city should welcome everybody with open arms just like it did while I was growing up here, and we must not continue to shut out the people that we nourish. This is personal to me.”

Kristen von Hoffmann


Candidate could not be reached for comment.

James Williamson

“Step one will be choosing a mayor who understands the needs and concerns of residents and is not just about the ‘prestige’ of a largely ‘ceremonial’ position, along with its enhanced salary and perks; as chair of the School Committee, we need a mayor who is committed to a superb education for all Cambridge children. Step two will be to focus immediately on the selection of a new city manager. Nothing the Council does – under our ‘Plan E’ form of government – is more important than this. The current council ‘promised an inclusive search;’ if elected, I’ll deliver it.”

Elie Yarden

“As soon as I’m elected to the Cambridge City Council, I will begin to put into effect my program for learning citizenship – how to conduct oneself as a person who develops the laws and customs appropriate to Cambridge. We must learn its people and the sharing of its space with other life-forms than our own. And also important, how we, as residents create public spaces, for young and old, where we may choose to interact politically – to exchange views about what is happening in our city, respect and resolve differences of opinion. This is living in a democracy.”