How you can help build a better Cambridge

We don’t know what the results of today’s midterm elections will be (please vote if you haven’t!), and that makes us nervous for our country. But we know that no matter what happens at the federal or state level, local government in Cambridge has the power to make a profound difference in people’s lives through improvements in housing, transportation, and many other areas. And we hope that you know that by organizing and advocating for a vision of abundant, affordable, stable, and sustainable housing for all, you have the power to make Cambridge a better, more diverse, more vibrant, and more equitable city.

We wanted to take a moment to spell out four key ways that you can help. And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to discuss with us your particular situation so we can find out what the best fit for you might be!

4. Participate in our community. 

By organizing and discussing issues with us, by sharing your perspectives and insights, you make our community and our advocacy stronger. If you are an ABC member (join here!), you can discuss the weekly City Council agenda on our Active Members listserv, watch public hearings and share links on our Slack workspace, or come to our quarterly member meetings. Even if membership isn’t for you, you can come to our public events like socials and webinars.

We have a number of planning teams that would love additional participation. We plan events through monthly Events Committee meetings (contact Esther at [email protected]), and we plan outreach ideas through our zoning advocacy working group (fill out this form or contact Neil at [email protected]). If you are interested in helping with governance or operational logistics, we are also seeking Board members and IEPAC coordinators for 2023 - contact Allan at [email protected] or Becca at [email protected].

3. Engage with public meetings.

When there are high-priority meetings, we will send action alerts out asking you to email your thoughts or give public comment. Doing so is incredibly helpful - not only does it really impact the tenor of the discussion at the meeting in question, but even better, it also demonstrates to the Council and/or Planning Board that there are people watching them who care about housing, and it plants seeds in their minds for future meetings.

This is even more true of the many low-priority meetings that happen each month which we cannot send out action alerts for. Committee hearings, working group meetings, city planning listening sessions, etc. - these are where ideas get formed and where thoughtful suggestions stand a real chance of actually being listened to. It’s not an equitable system that those with the time and resources to hear about and call in to obscure hearings get to be heard so much more than those who do not; but regrettably it’s the system Cambridge has. (If you want to be a superstar, writing up and live blogging these hearings on Slack or social media to make them more accessible is a great public service!)

We do our best to keep track of some of these meetings through our Events Calendar, which you can add to your Google Calendar. (For instance, tomorrow night the Alewife Zoning Working Group is meeting to refine zoning principles for the Alewife Quad area; we have heard that NIMBY activity has ramped up at the last few meetings, so pro-housing voices would be much appreciated.) In addition, the City has its own calendar, many City Councillors have office hours that you can find out about by subscribing to their own newsletters, and city staff can be surprisingly responsive to emails if you have a specific topic you want to discuss with them.

2. Volunteer to do outreach with us.

Every month, we try to do some form of public outreach - whether that’s postcarding, canvassing, flyering, or tabling - to hear more people’s housing stories and make more people aware of the causes of our housing crisis and what they can do about it. It’s easier and much more satisfying than you’d think; people are usually very happy to talk about the rent being too high.

We put opportunities in our newsletter and on our Events Calendar, but if you want the inside track, select "Public Outreach" on this form or drop Neil a line at [email protected]. This will become extra important in 2023 as we practice for City Council election season!

1. Spread the word about our housing crisis.

This is the most general item on our list, but it’s possibly the most important one. You know better than we do what communities you are in. Perhaps you’re in a book club that might want to think about how homelessness, structural racism, or climate action intersects with local housing policy. Perhaps one of the articles on our resources page or in our newsletter archives speaks to you and you want to share it on social media. Perhaps you’re in another political group and you want to invite us to connect and discuss possible collaborations. Perhaps you have a personal story about housing and want to write a letter to the editor connecting your experience to the larger policy issues - or perhaps you went to a public meeting and simply want more people to know about some of the frustrating attitudes you encountered.

No matter what form it takes, the more people are engaged about the issues facing Cambridge, the sooner our leaders will feel the pressure and encouragement they need to act boldly. Political change is a slow process, but it is built one conversation, one volunteer shift, one public comment, and one organizing spreadsheet at a time. We hope you’ll reach out with any questions, and we hope you’ll continue to stay engaged in the year to come.