Thursday, June 13, 2024

My name is Dan Totten, and I am running for Cambridge City Council. I am a queer renter from Central Square who has served you as councillor Quinton Zondervan’s legislative aide for the past six years. At City Hall, I helped Quinton research and draft impactful legislation while running a robust constituent services operation that helped hundreds of residents navigate housing instability, eviction and homelessness. I’m very proud to have staffed the Ordinance Committee during what has been one of the most productive and collaborative councils in recent memory. After spending years behind the scenes working collaboratively to advance groundbreaking legislation such as the Green New Deal for Cambridge, the Cycling Safety Ordinance and the Affordable Housing Overlay 2.0, you can be confident that I will deliver meaningful results from day one.

As a Central Square resident who has worked closely with so many unhoused residents in our community, I am deeply motivated to get more people off the street. We need to spend more local resources intentionally on expanding wraparound care, case management and permanent supportive housing. We should set a goal of building 300 units of that housing within a few years. When Denver placed 365 people in this model, 77 percent of them remained stably housed after three years. My top priority is bringing that success to Cambridge through more intentional spending of local resources.

I’m also very passionate about achieving universal after-school care as quickly as possible. This past year, the city turned away 500 applicants (including 92 low-income applicants) who were left scrambling to find child-care during those critical hours between the end of school and the end of the workday. We need to support working families by ending the uncertainty so that every kid has appropriate and enriching after-school opportunities, including potentially through an ordinance if the city manager will not act. Getting this done is essential for addressing the persistent racial and economic achievement gaps that exist in our schools.

I am committed to eradicating systemic racism, classism, transphobia and ableism in the city. Here are some other important issues I will focus on if elected:

  • Confronting the mental health crisis in our schools by adding dedicated mental health professionals and having a deeper conversation about how to better support the needs of gender-nonconforming students.
  • Creating a municipal voucher program so that more low-income people can live comfortably in our city.
  • Raising the minimum wage for city employees to at least $25 an hour.
  • Investing in key environmental justice initiatives such as Jerry’s Pond and the Squirrel Brand Community Garden in North Cambridge and The Port, respectively.
  • Restricting new biotech (nonresidential) development, especially in the Central Square Cultural District.
  • Securing improvements to municipal buildings in the eastern part of the city, including at the Moses Youth Center, Windsor Street Health Clinic, Central Square Library, the vacant schoolhouse at 105 Windsor St., Fletcher Maynard Academy and Kennedy-Longfellow and Cambridgeport schools. Also, working with community partners to establish clear timelines for renovating the Inman Square Apartments, YMCA Central House and 240 Albany St.
  • Supporting establishment of the Cambridge American Freedman Commission.
  • Supporting Cambridge Heart, our city’s trusted alternative to the police.
  • Implementing the Green Jobs Ordinance to create more economic opportunity for our young people and working with members of the School Committee to expand RSTA, the technical arts program at the high school.
  • Constructing affordable and intentional LGBTQ+ senior housing following national models such as Brooklyn’s Stonewall House.
  • Requiring the city to provide safer options for unhoused trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming residents within in the shelter system, including units with doors that lock and a private bath/shower.
  • Investing in automated, accessible entryways at every municipal building.
  • Improving pedestrian safety by installing 100 additional flashing crosswalks at intersections throughout the city.
  • Filing a home rule petition that seeks permission from the state to expand nightlife hours in Central and Harvard, working with councillor Marc McGovern.

Cambridge has the resources to tackle these challenges, including hundreds of millions of dollars in unallocated revenue (known as free cash). We have a responsibility to spend more of the spoils of our biotech boom on addressing the cost of living for low-income people and working families. Certainly, we can be proud of Cambridge’s status as an innovation leader while demanding that more resources go toward those who have been most deeply affected by the city’s recent transformation and by broader systemic racism, classism and ableism.

I have the experience and the political courage needed to deliver on these priorities from my very first day in office. I humbly ask that you consider voting me No. 1 on or before Tuesday. Together we can build a Cambridge that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected!

Dan Totten is a candidate for Cambridge City Council.