Thursday, June 20, 2024

Ayesha Wilson (from the candidate’s campaign)

Politicking for the Nov. 7 elections began in earnest Monday in Cambridge. After Quinton Zondervan became over the weekend the third city councillor to decide against running for reelection, three challengers for council seats issued statements giving a sense of their campaign focuses. 

Most prominent among the three is Ayesha Wilson, a two-term School Committee incumbent who announced officially her candidacy for City Council on Monday saying she hopes to make Cambridge more affordable “with a particular eye toward housing and child care.”

“Too often, living in Cambridge means seeing your friends and community get priced out year after year. I’ve had to work multiple jobs throughout my career in order to be able to stay in the city I love, and Cambridge can only work when our firefighters, teachers, small-business owners and union members like me can afford to live here,” Wilson said. “As a parent of a 1-year-old, I know how hard it is to make ends meet here even with a middle-class income, and it’s almost impossible for many people who grew up in a single-parent first-generation immigrant household like I did.”

Wilson noted that she grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in North Cambridge and is a 2000 graduate from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “I knew that I wanted to devote my life to serving Cambridge,” said Wilson, a social worker with the Cambridge Housing Authority who teaches life skills and career readiness to youth. She also has “a track record of getting it done” on the School Committee, she said, including work on implementing universal preschool for the 2024-2025 school year.

Her top named priorities include affordable housing, establishing universal after-school programs and increasing access to mental health services.

Adrienne Klein

Adrienne Klein (from the candidate’s campaign)

Adrienne Klein, a North Cambridge resident who is director of constituent services for Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, framed herself as a “local mom and dedicated public servant” with experience training government officials on public health, human rights and responses to violence in places including Sri Lanka, Nigeria, El Salvador and Sweden, as well as being a public health adviser for New York City Health and Hospitals during the Covid pandemic.

A Klein campaign website mentions housing, transportation and child care as top priorities, while a Wednesday press release touts endorsements from outgoing city councillor Dennis Carlone, former councillor Nadeem Mazen – who praised Klein’s “tireless dedication to the most vulnerable in our city” – and Somerville’s former mayoral candidate and city councilor-at-large Will Mbah, who met Klein when they were graduate student at Tufts University. “She was there when I started my family and launched my political career, and now I am so excited to be there as she does the same,” Mbah said.

Ayah Al-Zubi

Ayah Al-Zubi (from the candidate’s campaign)

Ayah Al-Zubi’s press release on Monday stressed her youth and immigrant background: She is a 21-year-old recent Harvard graduate in sociology and psychology who arrived in the United States at 5 from Jordan. “I can’t find the words to fully express how Cambridge has changed my life. The blend of different languages in our neighborhoods and the vibrant flavors of a variety of cuisines has made me feel at home in our community that values diversity,” Al-Zubi said. “I am passionate about giving back.” Her profession reflects that background: She teaches English as a second language to new immigrant youth.

Her primary named goals are in climate justice, educational equity and affordable housing, and as a renter, Al-Zubi calls the rising cost of living in Cambridge a crisis needing an emergency rental assistance program and more federal aid to build “diverse, generational prosperity.” She also calls for fare-free rides on the No. 1 bus and stipends to incentivize biking, as well as more youth sports.

Al-Zubi has also drawn an endorsement from Mazen, who calls her “an exemplary leader, sharp analyst and compassionate collaborator” who approaches housing, transit and equity critically. Another endorsement comes from Zondervan.

“I’m really excited about her candidacy. Ayah is very inspired to serve the residents of Cambridge and fight for justice. She’s an amazing learner and hard worker, and she’d be an excellent city councillor,” Zondervan said.

There are nine City Council seats, all at-large and on two-year terms, that will be decided at the polls Nov. 7. Along with Zondervan, vice mayor Alanna Mallon and councillor Dennis Carlone have also decided not to run again; fellow councillors Patty Nolan and E. Denise Simmons haven’t made their intentions clear.