Craig Kelley for City Council, 2015
Born in Wellesley, incumbent city councillor Craig Kelley went to the University of Rochester on an NROTC scholarship. He made dean’s list, got a bachelor’s degree 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 he became interested in environmental issues, realizing that reducing 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, he moved on to Boston College Law School, where he served as chairman of the Environmental Law Society. He 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.
After law school, he became an environmental consultant and married his wife, Hope. They live with their two sons in North Cambridge, where Kelley was a leader of the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve the Alewife floodplain, promote environmental issues and develop affordable housing throughout Cambridge. He was first elected to the City Council in 2005 and has since earned a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Compiled from the candidate’s words in publicly available sources
Kelley is running with the Unity Slate with fellow council incumbents Dennis Benzan, Leland Cheung, David Maher, Marc McGovern, E. Denise Simmons and Tim Toomey.
Some top priorities
Safe streets. I will continue to work to get the police to focus more on their traffic safety duties, to get the Department of Public Works to put more effort into fixing potholes and clearing sidewalks, to get the city to put traffic enforcement data on the city’s website and in general to get city management to take street safety issues more seriously. I have served as co-chairman of the Community Response Task Force, working with others to develop a roadmap to help neighbors and city agencies build and maintain safer communities.
City spending. The city must work harder to ensure we don’t spend money unnecessarily. I voted against the city budget seven of the past eight years because I did not think we were getting our money’s worth, primarily from our School Department but also from city agencies such as the Community Development and Traffic, Transportation and Planning departments. I continued to feel strongly this year that the council’s budget was excessive, especially regarding its personal assistants. In my next term, I will continue to push for reallocation of the council’s personal assistant funds to programs that directly serve Cambridge residents and a public discussion about how future construction projects, primarily for school programs, will affect our debt load and resulting tax rates.
Housing policy. Cambridge must do a better job of ensuring our affordable housing is also acceptable housing, and that it is matched with appropriate support programs to help its residents develop the skills and financial ability to move into market-rate housing if they wish. I will continue to push for measurable, affordable, specific housing goals that avoid economic segregation and a proactive approach to creating affordable housing, rather than an opportunistic “as much as possible, as dense as possible” philosophy.
Ward 6 Democrats endorsement?
The Ward 6 Democrats endorsed nine council candidates this year, choosing only from among registered Democrats and saying it “sought to recommend candidates who would bring the vision, skills and experience most needed to govern Cambridge at this time, regardless of slate affiliation.”
Score from ABC:
The residents group A Better Cambridge rated 19 out of 22 candidates for City Council (all who responded to a comprehensive questionnaire) measuring their level of agreement with the group’s “smart growth” platform of development- and transit-focused priorities and goals. In the words of the group, “higher-rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge [and] are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families.” There is a maximum score of 45 points.
The Cambridge Residents Alliance endorsed five council candidates this year. The residents group is focused on development and housing affordability issues and opposes projects it feels will gentrify neighborhoods or add to traffic and transit congestion. Its endorsed candidates were those it felt would “allow real planning”; refused campaign donations from “large developers”; and vowed to work for a citywide development master plan that prevented “overdevelopment and displacement.”
This page has long been a supporter and endorser of Craig Kelley, whose iconoclasm and willingness to stand alone (and look ahead) on certain issues meant advice two years ago that his fellow councillors should listen to him more and that “even voters in the most anti-incumbent of moods may well find Kelley a candidate to keep.” No more.
It’s not that Kelley is terrible on the issues. He tends to say the right things (many of which are similar to what other councillors and even challengers say) on development, affordable housing and the like. He is tireless on such issues as bike safety, getting police to gather and present real safety data and in promoting public education over charter schools.
The problem is that he has as much as said that his persona as “Councillor No,” in his own words, is a thing of the past. “I’m one of those people that have learned, sometimes with great difficulty, that butting heads with one’s fellow council members is appropriate at times, but we really need to learn to work better, which is one of the things Timmy [Toomey] and I have started to do,” Kelley told an Oct. 13 candidates forum held by the East Cambridge Planning Team.
It’s a brain-wrinkler for longtime supporters, as it suggests both that his past behavior on the council was wrong and that he won’t be standing up the same way in the future because “in many ways, the city has changed” – but without him, as his “Councillor No” votes on budgets and city managers and the like counted little toward the way Cambridge has evolved, right? So … vote for him because he was wrong, but won’t be anymore? Again, it’s a puzzler.
Another way in which he seems to be stipulating he erred over his past several terms is that after so many years of disparaging the presence of city councillors’ legislative aides, Kelley got one of his own, going from calling them “a frivolous allocation of public funds” to explaining that since grad school at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government he sees “much more potential for me to do good things in the city if I have someone I can work closely and consistently with on the city’s issues.” (Has his website actually been updated? It says he thought the recently voted council budget was “excessive, especially regarding its personal assistants” and that in his next term he would “continue to push for reallocation of the council’s personal assistant funds to programs that directly serve Cambridge residents.”)
His website argues for better council oversight of city boards, agencies and commissions, but when he called a hearing in June to examine License Commission procedures, there were no questions asking commissioners to reflect on whether approvals and rejections can be considered arbitrary or based on existing business’ wish to avoid competition – exactly what happened to the wine bar and charcuterie attempted by now City Council candidates Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich. Nor is it at all clear what Kelley has done in the past five terms to improve council oversight of city boards, agencies and commissions, aside from finally winning over the council to take more time approving a handful of appointments to agencies after recommendations by the city manager. (Maher and Toomey, for some reason, wanted to give up that council power, an attitude you don’t often see.)
As part of his full-on conversion to politician, Kelley has said that when it came to real estate developer “linkage” fees to help build affordable housing, he would have gone higher than the $12 per square foot where the fee wound up for the year – maybe up to $16 per square foot. Yet he never made a motion, and this is how he explains it:
“The $24 figure was just thrown out there with a fair amount of vitriol and killed the discussion of what we could have gotten to. Maybe we could have gotten more than $12, maybe we could have gotten to $15 or $16, I don’t know because the discussion was so broken by that point.”
That’s right: Kelley never made a motion to get more money to help build affordable housing because a couple of other councillors sought to go as high as $24 per square foot and that somehow “broke” the conversation.
It gets worse. The developers of the proposed Mass+Main complex in Central Square told councillors that if they didn’t get what the zoning they felt they needed, they would cancel their plans to build housing and instead put up office space. Here’s what Kelley said about this during at least two campaign forums on the campaign trail, referring to those same councillors – Dennis Carlone and Nadeem Mazen – being the two votes in opposition while the other seven members voted in favor:
“For Mass+Main, what was on the table was a housing project or an office complex. I supported the housing project; other people who didn’t support the housing project by definition wanted an office complex there … preferred to see the office complex. Those were the only two choices.”
Never mind that the lawyer for the developers didn’t make that clear until the night of the vote.
The point is that this is Craig Kelley – Councillor No, the loud and proud king of the protest vote and tolerated as such for the past decade – now utterly ignoring the context of two other councillors’ protest votes to paint them as being wrong for voting their conscience.