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Cambridge City Council candidate Risa Mednick is the former executive director of a domestic violence prevention group and has never run for political office before — but she believes her experience working with city officials positions her uniquely among ths year’s field of challengers
For the past ten years, Mednick has been the executive director of Transition House, an organization that offered the first shelter for domestic violence victims on the East Coast. She said in an interview that her leadership experience qualifies her for the City Council race and has shaped her platform, which centers around bringing more equity to the city.
“As a non-incumbent, I am the only one who has demonstrated collaboration and effective policy work with the council, with the [City] Manager, and with the City of Cambridge,” Mednick said.
Mednick said she plans to center her campaign around issues of inequity, racism, homelessness, and the rising costs of rent and housing.
“I think we live in challenging times and that the current city council is not doing enough,” Mednick said. “I think that we are systematically not addressing racism, racial bias, and inequity throughout our city.”
If elected, Mednick said she plans to put forward an “anti-bias training mechanism” to address potential biases in city leadership.
Mednick’s platform also targets Cambridge’s rising costs of living by proposing a “gap voucher” initiative. In her plan, the City Council would make Cambridge homes more affordable by paying for the costs that the city’s current affordable housing voucher does not cover.
“If the voucher covers $1,000, and the cost of rent is $1,500, then the city would offset that with a ‘gap voucher’ of $500, which would mean a family stays stably housed,” Mednick said. “That’s the kind of intervention that is feasible here.”
In addition to implementing a gap voucher program, Mednick said she intends to address the relationship between Cambridge and its institutions — including Harvard — if she is elected to the City Council.
“I think that universities need to be much better institutional citizens in terms of their contributions of [Payment in Lieu of Taxes] coming from lower taxes,” Mednick said. “The council needs to be much more assertive in shifting the dynamic between the way the city accesses and requests those PILOT payments and community benefit payments from the corporate sector.”
Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement that the University does not comment on statements from individual candidates, but referred The Crimson to previous statements about the PILOT program.
“Harvard has a long tradition of paying taxes and making voluntary PILOT payments to its host communities,” O’Rourke has written previously. “During the last fiscal year, Harvard paid more than $4 million in a voluntary PILOT payment, as well as more than $6 million in taxes to the City of Cambridge.”
Mednick said companies in Cambridge should also contribute their fair share to the city.
“Cambridge is the zip code, or several zip codes, that the institutional and corporate sector want to be in and thrive in,” she said. “And I think that there is a responsibility that comes there to contribute at a level commensurate with the benefits that are reaped by the corporate sector and the institutions.”
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