Sunday, June 16, 2024

City council candidate Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler – seen above the “n” in his campaign poster – released this image Thursday. (Photo: Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler for Cambridge via Facebook)

Cambridge’s City Council elections got their first official challenger on Thursday, and it’s a former incumbent: Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, who served on the body 2020-2021.

While three other residents have expressed interest in running for a seat on the nine-member council, Sobrinho-Wheeler is the first to make his intentions public in a slow-moving pre-election season. Vice mayor Alanna Mallon said June 1 that she wouldn’t run for a fourth term, guaranteeing at least one new in January.

If elected, Sobrinho-Wheeler said in an evening press release, he plans to “focus on making Cambridge a leader on issues including housing and child care affordability, sustainability, safe streets and transportation.”

In his 2020-2021 term, Sobrinho-Wheeler was key in passing Affordable Housing Overlay zoning, intended to make it easier to build 100 percent affordable-housing buildings anywhere in the city. Amendments to the overlay and several related zoning petitions have been discussed by the council in the years since.

Sobrinho-Wheeler advocated for bicycling infrastructure “and more accountable government – in addition to assisting Cambridge residents with all the challenges of the pandemic,” the Thursday press release said. “He looks to build on that experience and hit the ground running.”

“Jivan was a great ally on the council, and we worked closely together on many important issues including climate change, policing, housing, bike safety and more,” councillor Quinton Zondervan said in the release, offering a formal endorsement.

State Rep. Mike Connolly was another endorser, noting that he’s been working with Sobrinho-Wheeler in his role since leaving the council: as New England progressive governance director for the Working Families Party, crafting and lobbying for legislation around issues such as affordable housing, child care and climate resiliency. Before starting on the council, Sobrinho-Wheeler worked on environmental programs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank in Cambridge.

“I’m incredibly excited for us to have another opportunity to elect Jivan,” Connolly said.

In November 2021, Sobrinho-Wheeler left the council with the retiring Timothy Toomey. Their seats went to challengers Burhan Azeem and Paul Toner. As Election Commission teams began counting ballots, Sobrinho-Wheeler had five more No. 1 votes than Mallon, but the advantage disappeared in successive counts under Cambridge’s proportional representation form of elections.

Sobrinho-Wheeler noted in his press release that, “like two-thirds of Cambridge residents, he is a renter,” living in Cambridgeport in a triple-decker with his partner and a cat.