Cambridge Residents Alliance, a local nonprofit housing advocacy group, endorsed eight candidates ahead of this year’s Cambridge City Council election.
The CRA endorsed two incumbent Council members — Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80 and Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui — as well as a former councilor seeking to return to his seat, Jivan G. Sobrinho-Wheeler. The group also announced support for five first-time candidates: Ayah Al-Zubi ’23, Doug Brown, Dan Totten, Vernon K. Walker, and Ayesha M. Wilson.
CRA President Lee Farris said in an interview earlier this month that the group chose to support candidates who align with their platform, which includes prioritizing affordable housing, upholding human rights and public safety, and championing environmentally friendly developments.
Endorsed candidates also pledge not to take any money from large developers or corporations.
During the interview, Farris explained why the CRA decided to endorse three of the six incumbent candidates in the race.
Farris said she believes that Nolan has “been phenomenal on various climate-related and environmental efforts,” highlighting the councilor’s work on the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance.
The ordinance requires large building owners to report their annual energy use and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions according to the size and type of the building. An amendment to the ordinance passed this summer requires large buildings to reduce their emissions to net zero by 2035 or face a compliance fee.
Sobrinho-Wheeler “has a great all-round range of issues that include affordable housing and include climate and environmental issues,” according to Farris. In particular, she praised Sobrinho-Wheeler for his efforts to raise “linkage” fees, an expense commercial developers pay per square foot of their building that goes to Cambridge’s Affordable Housing Trust.
In a change from last year’s slate of endorsements, the CRA decided to support Siddiqui for the first time since 2017.
Siddiqui — who has recently been accused of creating a toxic work environment — did not receive an endorsement from the CRA in 2019 due to “policy differences” and chose not to seek the group’s endorsement in 2021, according to Farris. The group announced its decision to endorse Siddiqui prior to the publication of reports that the Cambridge mayor allegedly fostered a toxic work environment for her staff.
“I’m glad to endorse her,” Farris said. “I think she’s done a great job in the last two terms, particularly as mayor getting us through Covid.”
“Obviously, it was very bumpy for the whole country, but I think Cambridge did better than a lot of places and I think she had a role in that — a big role,” Farris added.
Farris also pointed to Siddiqui’s efforts to establish the Rise Up Cambridge program, as an example of “another policy where Cambridge is ahead of pretty much the whole country.”
The program provides eligible residents with direct cash disbursements as part of an effort to combat family poverty and income inequality.
With just six incumbents in the race for nine council seats, Farris acknowledged that at least three members of the City Council next year will be first-time councilors. During the interview, she expressed hope that the newcomers “will be folks that will work along the lines of the Residents Alliance platform.”
In an emailed statement to The Crimson after the interview, Farris wrote that she hopes “the next council will support creating social housing where tenants and residents have more of a voice in housing that is outside of the for-profit market.”
“I hope the Council better addresses homelessness,” Farris added. “I’d like to see the Council continue the planned separated bike lanes, and work with the city to improve communication with residents about them.”