Saturday, April 20, 2024

Nicola Williams has declared a run for City Council. (Photo: Nicola Williams for Cambridge City Council via Facebook)

The upcoming City Council elections got their second announced challenger Tuesday in Nicola Williams, and the second coming from Cambridge’s small-business community.

Historically, Williams’ most prominent role in the city has been delivering the Cambridge Carnival, a popular annual celebration of Caribbean/African culture, to Central and Kendall squares, though her Williams Agency also produces events such as the Boston Local Food Festival, JerkFest and Local Crafts Spirits Festival. But she has also long been a community organizer, including on a homeownership drive with neighbors after the end of rent control in the 1990s. She has also become a vocal presence at City Council meetings during public comment – often on homeownership issues. Last summer, she became facilitator of the new Cambridge-Somerville Black Business Network.

The network is co-sponsored by the state’s Sustainable Business Network and Cambridge Local First. The executive director of that small-business group, Theodora Skeadas, preceded Williams by declaring a run for a council seat in February with a list of priorities topped by economic challenges.

In recent previous elections, it was the arrival of a racist, anti-immigrant and self-confessed sexual assaulter in the White House that inspired women to run, as well as candidates of color and with immigrant backgrounds. Now it’s the changing nature of retail and a challenging environment for local business worsened by a pandemic that has driven the first bids to drive policy from the City Council.

“Our current economic ecosystem is bleak for small, independent businesses. Covid has shown us the people most at risk have been women, people of color and workers in the service industries,” Williams said in an emailed announcement, promising to support the needs of those businesses.

More priorities

While listing priorities including climate change mitigation and universal preschool, Williams also noted “reports that show our Black residents are being pushed out of the city through a combination of underinvesting in Black students, ignoring housing affordability and the persistence of the growing wealth gap.”

“I will fight to combat the student achievement gap, and no Black family should be pushed out because our housing policy prioritizes developers over residents. We need to create more equitable pathways to financial security for families who are being left behind in Cambridge,” Willams said.

This will be a repeat run for the council; a bid in 2019 won 631 top votes in Cambridge’s ranked form of voting for Williams, ranking her 13th in a field of 22 candidates. She was eliminated in the 11th count.

Her run in 2019 was endorsed by the Cambridge Citizens Coalition, Cambridge Residents Alliance, Harvard College Democrats, Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, Our Revolution and The Sierra Club.

Developing field

Nomination papers for the Nov. 2 municipal elections don’t become available until July, and are usually due back at the end of that month; 50 confirmed signatures qualifies a resident to run. The past election saw 23 people run for council (including eight of nine incumbents), dropping to 22 by the time of balloting, and 11 for School Committee (including three of six incumbents).

Other candidates identified by the state as recent filers for a Cambridge City Council candidacy:

  • Dana Bullister, Fifth Street, East Cambridge
  • Santos Carrasquillo, Harvard Street, The Port
  • Tonia Hicks, Pearl Street, Cambridgeport
  • Joe McGuirk, Columbia Street, Wellington-Harrington
  • Frantz Pierre, Water Street, North Point
  • Roy Ribitzky, Webster Avenue, Wellington-Harrington