Minka vanBeuzekom for City Council, 2015
Minka vanBeuzekom won her first term on the City Council two years ago and before that worked as managing director at the Hereditary Disease Foundation, vice president of the NemaPharm startup and as an epidemiologist at the state Department of Public Health and researcher at the MIT Cancer Center and Harvard/McLean Hospital – natural roles for a graduate in molecular biology from Wellesley College and recipient of a master’s in public health from Boston University.
She was active in the community before winning election, including serving as a Cambridge Rodent Task Force member, Cambridge Community Garden coordinator, Home Energy Efficiency Team member and as co-leader of the Area IV Neighborhood Coalition and a board member of Green Decade Cambridge.
While serving on the council, she was also been a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s policy committee; the state Department of Transportation’s Ethanol Advisory Group, the Mystic River Watershed Association and as a member of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee and vice chairwoman of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee.
Compiled from the candidate’s words in publicly available sources
vanBeuzekom is running independently.
Top three priorities:
Education and families. Beyond providing our school-age students with a challenging 21st century curriculum and excellent staff, busy Cambridge families want our students to be productively engaged in out-of-school time experiences such as sports, art, theater, music and dance so the whole child and all his intelligences are developed.
Energy and the environment. During my first term in office and as chairwoman of the Environment Committee I improved the way the Cambridge uses energy, protects the natural environment and preserves open space. Even before I was elected to the Council, I helped organize a citywide staff and citizen Climate Emergency action group to look at how the city meets its emission reduction goals.
Housing and development. I understand what it takes to improve incrementally upon the city’s role in supporting positive development and housing that works for a vast variety of individuals, and I will work with stakeholders, city staff and other councillors to accelerate the creation of affordable, not just market-rate, units.
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.”
After rocky years on a dysfunctional council two terms ago, often seeming off balance and uncertain, vanBeuzekom seems reinvigorated and more focused as a candidate.
She sees a solution for the city’s affordable housing crisis in more direct application of building permit money – having the city be developer by putting all $20 million or so that comes in annually directly into land and construction, rather than banking it and budgeting about $3 million for those purposes, according to her testimony on the campaign trail. Waiting for an economic downturn to buy land won’t work and is unnecessary, because “we do have money,” she says. “I would like that money to be used.”
She’s also interested in direct election of a mayor by the voters, rather than by the City Council, but with four-year terms; a stronger council in general that would exert more power and oversight of the city manager; and in having a ombudsperson who would represent citizen interest before the city.