A New Kind of Legislator
He has been invited to the White House four times to discuss his unique approach to community-organizing, the future of makerspaces and hands-on STEAM programming, and successful ways for developing more young, progressive leaders at home.
Byte Sized Politics addresses the difficulty many residents experience when engaging with the city: long, inconveniently scheduled meetings, and onerous, seemingly one-sided follow-up documents. Simply put, the burden of participation is too great for the average Cantabridgian, and it is affecting the course of our city. In his second term, Nadeem seeks to use his decade-long love affair with digital storytelling to create recipe lists? for different types of civic engagement and community impact, as seen from an insider perspective.
Examples of Nadeem’s issue-based write-ups and summaries include: [links and topics]. Let’s make sure our council is producing information that is easy (and dare we hope, fun?) to interact with—with actionable opportunities for personal and community engagement.
Rethinking student success also involves tapping into the incredible resources in Cambridge: academic institutions, the thriving tech sector, and local business economy whose industry knowledge is invaluable to our students. Our tech community is willing to help develop students’ professional skills, portfolios, and hands-on experiences, all of which make them competitive in the job market. But we’ve got to create these connections—and this type of coordination is missing in afterschool. Nadeem has tapped into his personal networks in the local business community and at MIT to increase the breadth of participation in these community discussions.
In addition to Nadeem’s work coordinating city-wide stakeholders in this effort, Jake Crutchfield, Nadeem’s dedicated community organizer, worked overtime to ensure the success of the project.
The Out of School Time coordination effort includes steps to inventory and track internship opportunities. Nadeem brings experience in software and educational design and a common-sense approach to coordination. Cataloguing the city’s educational resources and making sure they are accessible to those in the greatest need may seem like an obvious move, but it took Nadeem’s leadership to get this issue to the foreground on council, after decades of missed opportunities.
Government Accountability and Accessibility
There’s a lot of talk about data these days—what it means, why cities collect it, and what to do with it. In Cambridge, we are just scraping the surface of what is possible with millions of data points about licenses, potholes, social services, you name it. Nadeem helped write and champion the Open Data Ordinance, which essentially opens the city’s books to the public. Nadeem is not satisfied with the City’s take on his work and wants to spend the next council term working with stakeholders like Code for Boston to give this ordinance even more teeth. Why is this issue so important? Cambridge needs to make data-driven decisions, in the same way you have to ‘show your math’ in elementary school. The more information we have about use and need of city services, the better we can support the programs working and those that need a boost. Sharing data about the city also empowers those in the community with analytical and creative skills to participate in the problem-solving. Consider the many mass transit apps available today. The Commonwealth recently made transit data and real-time tracking available, and most of the apps people use today popped up overnight, for free! What real-time data, services apps, and convenience are we missing in Cambridge by keeping our data closed? Nadeem is working hard with city administrators to bring government into the 21st century. The Open Data Ordinance also reflects Nadeem’s interest in making all city happenings transparent and trackable for residents. You should know things from, “How much longer will Cambridge Common be under construction?” and “In what stage is the superintendent search?” to “Who put in bids to run the citywide master plan?”—all in a way that’s easy for the average resident to search and understand.
By opening his door, he has fielded opinions and ideas from outside of Cambridge, too. Citizen concern about Boston’s 2024 Olympics is one example.
Municipal fiber is high speed internet service and infrastructure built and maintained by the city. “Fiber”, in this instance, refers to the fiber optic wiring necessary for high-speed, high capacity internet access, such as the “1 gigabit” service popularized by Google Fiber – up to 50-100 times faster than our Comcast connections in Cambridge today. Once installed, the fiber network would create a platform for internet services (also referred to as a community broadband network) that the city could then competitively lease to ISPs (internet service providers). Leasing in this way to bring in new ISPs actually nets a profit for the city, while eliminating a great deal of the unreasonable pricing, subpar infrastructure, and poor customer service associated with big telecom companies operating without competition today.
At this point, ensuring access to internet access is a matter of economic equity.
Environment and Sustainability
Arts and Culture
Nadeem owns two arts-focused businesses in Central Square. Nimblebot is a creative animation studio and danger!awesome is a community makerspace equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other high-tech tools aimed at serving and training everyone and not just the educational elite. Both businesses are dedicated to making creative services accessible and affordable to those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. He understands the ins and outs of owning and operating a business in Cambridge, and sees much room for improvement. Like a small business facilitator who can help new businesses navigate the mess of permits, regulations, and terms that keep all but the wealthiest and well-connected entrepreneurs out of our squares.
He has continued to keep interested parties up-to-date on the status of community planning meetings, tours, and the RFP timeline. Along the way, he has helped to maximize community benefit; amazingly, planners were set to earmark half or more of the building for more commercial space. Nadeem is committed to minimizing for-profit space in this special building, prioritizing the people and non-profits who make our city vibrant. In the years to come, Cambridge will build on this type of work to create affordable venues for residents to live and work in Cambridge.
Housing AND Development
Nadeem promises to make this an issue on the floor this coming term. It’s not appropriate for Council to come to the chamber with a yes vote lined up and the negotiations completed, even before the public can discuss the full range of community expectations and community benefits real estate developers may be able to bring.