Richard Harding for City Council, 2017
Harding is a lifelong Cantabrigian and Cambridge Rindge & Latin School graduate with a degree from Fitchburg State College. In addition to his work on the School Committee, he runs the Men of Color Health Initiative, is a program consultant to the job training program CambridgeWorks and is president of the Port Life Foundation.
He began his public service as an intern at Joe Kennedy’s Citizen’s Energy, then served as director of constituent services for state Sen. Steven Tolman and as chairman of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. He has served on the board of the Young People’s Project and of the Community Arts Center. As a founder of the Port Action Group, a neighborhood group focused on violence prevention, he led the effort to secure funding and institute a street worker in Area IV to help connect felons with services and resources. He has co-chaired the Kids Council and brought his leadership to the Neighborhood Safety Task Force’s Employment Subcommittee.
He is a recipient of the NAACP Education Excellence Award and the Cambridge Peace and Justice Award. He is a member of the Cambridge Police Commissioner’s Community Advisory Board and has organized and facilitated two communitywide conversations in the area of justice: “Civil Rights: Policing, Discretion and Race” and “Not Guilty,” a forum that examined police conduct in the Eurie Stamps and D.J. Henry incidents. He has recently taken on leadership of Cambridge’s NAACP chapter with former city councillor and mayor Ken Reeves.
As a School Committee member, he has served as vice chairman and co-chaired the Budget and Contract Negotiations committees. This is first run for City Council.
Compiled from the candidate’s statements in publicly available sources.
Tackling income inequality with efforts such as universal pre-k and jobs training that give working families a chance to join in the greatness of our city.
Inclusive, responsible family and neighborhood-friendly housing that allows people to stay and move back to living in Cambridge
Addressing the opioid crisis that is quietly decimating a generation
Excerpted from Scout Cambridge. Read the complete profile here.
Greater Boston Labor Council
Teamsters Local 122 “was impressed with [Harding’s] understanding of the issues confronting working families today.”
International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union, Local 6
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers: “Thank you for your dedication to the labor movement.”
Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers
Cambridge Firefighters Local 30 IAFF
Cambridge Local 40 Carpenters Union
Cambridge Laborer’s Local 22
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Massachusetts Bricklayers Union
International Union of Electrical Workers Local 4
IBEW Local 222
Bridge and Structural Workers Local 7
IBEW Local 103
Ironworkers Local 7
Harding is a very smart man, with obvious good management instincts. He is often direct, clear and – refreshingly, for the School Committee – gets right to the point in his statements during meetings. But while he has handily brought giant school district budgets through long-term processes, his history through run-of-the-mill district business is that he doesn’t do his homework, often clearly not having read documents before arriving at meetings. That could change at the council, as School Committee pays a part-time salary and he has kept a full-time job; the council pays significantly more.
But that’s not the only approach to governing that should provoke concern if translated directly to the council from the committee. Harding has rebuked fellow committee members for bringing in “retail” issues that micromanage when be believes the committee should work at a “high altitude” level of setting broad policy, for instance, but has not been above doing this himself on issues as fine as the rerouting of a specific school bus. He has often based his positions on how much noise he was “hearing” from constituents, rather than considering the merits of the case, and his rhetoric about holding the administration’s “feet to the fire” often showed more heat that his actions. He had sharp criticisms of a major superintendent’s report in draft form but praise for its little-changed final version.
Most worrisome of all was his uncollegial treatment of committee member Emily Dexter and dismissiveness of her before she was elected, when she was merely a resident speaking three minutes at a time during public comment. The council has had enough tension and divisiveness in past terms – to the point of embarrassment – and no more is needed. Councillors should be civil to each other and to the public, and voters will have to decide if Harding will rise to the occasion or offer more of the regrettable same.
One interesting wrinkle in his campaign: Harding endorses more late-night entertainment, with the transportation infrastructure to support it. With thought given to prevent public drunkenness and keep people safe, this is a wonderful idea for a city that shuts down way too early.