Supporters call on new Cambridge City Manager to prioritize lower housing costs | News

Local affordable housing advocates are calling on Cambridge to select a city manager who will prioritize reducing the city’s high cost of living as the search to replace Louis A. DePasquale begins.

The selection process for a new Cambridge city manager began last month and the city is expected to select its next senior official in May. Cambridge City Council is committed to seeking public input into the process through town hall meetings, an online discussion forum and various focus groups.

Cambridge follows a council-manager form of government in which the city manager – not the mayor – is the most powerful official. While the city council is responsible for setting city goals and policies, the city manager manages the day-to-day operations of government and controls its budget.

On February 13, A Better Cambridge – a local affordable housing organization – released a letter calling on the next city manager to prioritize transparency, data-driven feedback and affordable housing issues.

In the letter, the group said the city manager has a lot of influence on housing issues as overseer of the city budget.

“We’ve always been happy to see money spent on housing in a whole bunch of different buckets,” said Rebecca “Becca” M. Schofield, co-chair of A Better Cambridge, in an interview. “But I think we really hope that with the next city manager we can increase that spending and see some innovative solutions in the budget to current housing problems.”

In the letter, the group also called on the City Manager to “embrace the possibilities of a growing and evolving Cambridge”, instead of following the “status quo”.

“The next city manager must be prepared to take bold leadership in guiding medium- and long-term city plans that address our housing crisis and include real action to end it,” the letter reads. “Candidates should not see the job of city manager simply as an ‘administrative gatekeeper’ role, merely preserving and protecting the status quo.”

Just a Start – another local affordable housing organization – calls for a similar vision.

“I think you would want a manager who can continue to support and lead the very strong staff that currently exists in the city. At the same time, I think the city has come to a point and has the opportunity to do some bold things,” Just a Start executive director Carl Nagy-Koechlin said in an interview.

The organizations are also advocating for a city manager who will prioritize diversity in policy decisions.

Suzanne P. Blier, a Harvard professor who leads the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association, said the next top city official should prioritize integrating data-driven insights.

“We want a city manager who is going to hire highly skilled staff and consider data thoughtfully when making decisions,” Blier said.

Some advocates praised the city council’s efforts to incorporate a wide range of stakeholder input into the selection process.

“I was impressed with the process,” Blier said. “I think the deputy mayor, who runs it, did a really good job – and others who were in the mayor’s office – in reaching out to a lot of people.”

—Editor Julia J. Hynek can be reached at [email protected]

—Editor Kaleigh M. Kuddar can be reached at [email protected]

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