Sunday, July 21, 2024

Joe McGuirk on the campaign trail for a Cambridge City Council seat in September 2021. (Photo: Joe McGuirk For Cambridge via Facebook)

Joe McGuirk, a renter, bartender and longtime Cambridge resident, is running a second time for City Council.

McGuirk has a different background from most council candidates. Over the past 40 years, he has worked in the restaurant industry, mostly as a bartender. 

“Forward-facing workers, hourly employees and people who have to be at their jobs physically are often underrepresented on the City Council,” he said. “Those voices need to be heard.”

McGuirk’s work has taught him lessons that could translate well to the council, he said. When he tends bar, he must balance the expectations of many customers. As a result, he has learned to be accessible and accountable, traits that could help him represent the residents of Cambridge.

“Listening with empathy and respect is really important,” he said.

McGuirk learned a lot about the city’s public discourse during a run for council in 2021, he said – noticing that, even though they usually value the same ideas, such as diversity and social justice, Cambridge residents often focus on what divides them. As a councillor, he would work to build consensus around issues on which many residents agree, McGuirk said. 

“There are 117,000 of us living here, and each of us has our own idea of what our city should look like, but we do share a lot of common values,” he said. “We should be working toward the spirit of compromise.”

There are nine council seats, all at-large and on two-year terms, that will be decided at the polls Nov. 7. Two incumbents have decided against reelection runs, meaning there will be at least two new faces on the council as of January.

Political priorities

McGuirk said his top priority if elected would be tackling the city’s housing crisis. As a renter, McGuirk has felt the pressure of rising housing costs that have nearly forced him to move from the city.

The 100 percent Affordable Housing Overlay, a zoning policy designed to help developers build more affordable housing, was an “awesome and groundbreaking tool,” McGuirk said. As a councillor, he hopes to build on the AHO to create a more comprehensive affordable-housing program. “To solve the housing crisis, we’re going to need a lot of different solutions.”

McGuirk is also passionate about bolstering the city’s restaurant industry. As real estate grows more expensive, locally owned restaurants struggle to compete with corporate, out-of-town chains. Losing these small businesses would damage Cambridge’s identity, he said. 

While helping small businesses, Cambridge also needs to support workers, many of whom can no longer afford to live in the city. 

“Restaurant workers, in particular, are a big part of our workforce, and they’re finding it harder and harder to live in the city they work in,” he said. 

McGuirk is also a proponent of climate resilience, but said Cambridge must remember climate justice when it implements environmental policies. If a policy displaces residents and does nothing to help them, it’s an unacceptable solution, he said.

“Any climate change policies are also climate justice policies,” he said.

A campaign kickoff is planned for 3 to 5 p.m. July 9 at Shine Square Pub, 2046 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge. In a few weeks, he plans to begin office hours during which residents can discuss their concerns with McGuirk. Information is expected to be posted on his campaign website.