My goal for Our Cambridge is to include many voices and perspectives, and I’ll be reaching out to community leaders to describe the town or city they lead.
Cambridge, MA’s mayor, Marc McGovern, has lifelong Cambridge roots. He served four two-year terms on the School Committee (elected) before being elected to a seat on the City Council in 2013. Following a vote by the City Council, he assumed the position of mayor in January 2018. In this Q&A, he shares his perspective on the city.
How would you describe Cambridge?
Cambridge is a diverse community dedicated to ensuring that all of its residents live in a safe and thriving city. We are home to two of the world’s best universities and the greatest concentration of biotech companies in the world. But there is another story. Cambridge has a higher poverty rate than the state average. 50% of our public school children live in affordable housing, and we have over 500 homeless on our streets every night. So, although one story of our city is of increased prosperity, another story is that many in our community are not accessing that prosperity.
What is going right in Cambridge?
Cambridge has a strong commercial tax base that allows us to do things that other communities can’t. For example, due to our AAA bond rating, we are allowed to borrow money at very low interest. That is allowing us to build three new, net-zero public schools at a cost of half a billion dollars, without raising residential property taxes. We are also investing in climate resiliency, infrastructure, public safety and our public schools at very high amounts. Although we still have challenges to overcome, the quality of life in Cambridge is very good.
What are Cambridge’s current challenges?
Our biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing. With Cambridge being such a desirable place to live and having such a strong job market, people are moving to Cambridge in droves. Because those moving here are being paid higher salaries, they are able to pay more for rental housing and home ownership, driving up prices. The result has been that many moderate and middle income residents, those who earn too much to qualify for subsidies, but not enough to pay market rent, are being forced out of the city.
What concerns you about the Cambridge that our children will inherit?
As someone who has grown up in Cambridge and is raising my children here, I have seen our city go through many changes. Most of those changes have been positive, but some have not. The loss of middle income residents and the challenges of maintaining our diversity is a serious concern. In addition, on a wider scale, I am deeply concerned about climate change and resiliency and what the world will look like for the next generation.