Ben Simon for City Council, 2019
Challenger running for City Council for the first time
Background: Teaching, musician | Focuses: Housing, gentrification, the arts
Edited and condensed from recent public forums.
Is Cambridge addicted to growth? Is the way Cambridge grows healthy?
The way our city runs right now is is messed up, and very predictably causing displacement and homelessness. The people most impacted by a failing system should be the ones leading its solution – because the people closest to the problem are the people closest to the solution. People who live that experience really need to be on the council.
What other ideas besides the Affordable Housing Overlay can be used to create affordable housing, and how can you create more housing while protecting existing tenants?
I’m a low-income renter, and looking at the overlay, I didn’t get the impression this was something designed to help people like me. Rather, this was something designed to help affordable housing developers, and it’s not the same. We need tenant protections – rent control, just-cause evictions – and to stop trusting the marketplace to build affordable housing. It’s never going to happen. We need to make massive investments in public housing. Vienna is a perfect model of what our city could look like: 62 percent of the population lives in what we call public housing, and they have the lowest rates of homelessness in the world and a high quality of living. Why can’t we do that here?
What is your approach to climate change policy?
We need to invest massively in our public transit and improve our bike infrastructure to get people out of their cars. To pay for a lot of this, we’re going to need to massively raise revenue by taxing our local, state and federal 1 percenters; the people who have been benefiting from and exploiting the system should be the ones paying for the solution.
Which City Council vote from the past do you wish you’d been present for to cast the deciding vote?
We had right of first refusal for buying the former Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse, and I wish I had been there, because I think we made the wrong call. Public land is such a scarce resource; that land was in the public domain for 200 years, and we just gave it away to a private developer who’s going to build this massive luxury tower and promote gentrification and displacement.