Photo of HONK! parade passing through Porter Square in October 2019
The LA Times recently ran an article called “Wealth and struggle in a liberal bubble that Elizabeth Warren calls home.” The article captured the strengths and weaknesses of our city, which is experiencing stresses similar to San Francisco and other innovation cities. These complex issues of income inequality, housing and homelessness, and traffic gridlock are taxing urban innovation centers to the breaking point. We need national, regional, and local solutions.
And Cambridge isn’t sitting on its laurels waiting for the bubble to burst, nor is it losing its soul. Cambridge is a responsive, compassionate city, fiercely protective of its shared values of kindness, diversity, inclusion, and creativity. Yes, our economy is booming, and with that comes unintended consequences. Our rapidly rising real estate values and a shortage of low- and middle-income housing mean more than half of our residents struggle to find affordable homes. One in seven residents lives in poverty. One-third of our public school students of color are unprepared to pursue the jobs our city offers. One out of 10 Black and Latinx households has no internet yet every major tech company has a presence in Cambridge.
Our city’s manageable size, powerful economy, and tremendous social and intellectual capital set us up well to take on some of our more intractable urban problems. So, don’t call us a bubble. Cambridge could be a model that paves the way for the rest of the country.
At the Cambridge Community Foundation, we have a unique vantage point on what is working and what needs to be done. Cambridge is addressing its challenges where it can—and time and time again, we see our community’s engagement and collaboration leading the way. Our city government has hosted deep conversations on race and equity to grow a collective understanding of equity in Cambridge. Our police department is collaborating with social service organizations to support the homeless and keep young people out of the courts. Our nonprofit leaders delve deeply to tackle issues of social equity and provide safety nets for the most vulnerable among us. Business leaders in Kendall Square are tackling a transportation crisis that threatens economic growth and our climate. Our universities link their students and resources with our schools, and work with life sciences, tech, and business communities to find ways to enhance and advance life.
As a funder, convener, and civic partner, the Cambridge Community Foundation’s role is to not only augment the work of others but also to partner across sectors to create innovative solutions to the challenges our city faces. This includes tackling poverty by supporting low-income families through social networks and flexible capital, taking on soul-saving, humanitarian issues of fairness and justice for our undocumented neighbors, and ensuring the city’s rich legacy of arts and cultural richness is not only preserved but thrives and evolves. The Foundation convenes, connects, and acts as a catalyst for change and we will continue to take a stand on tough issues.
So, no, LA Times. These examples of community action tell a different story than the one presented in your article. Cambridge isn’t losing its soul; it is fiercely protective of its shared values. We have a community poised to protect our city and residents who are rising to the occasion to do their part.
Author: Geeta Pradhan, President of the Cambridge Community Foundation
The Cambridge Community Foundation is the local giving platform, supporting Cambridge’s shared prosperity, social equity, and cultural richness, with roots that go a century deep.