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Dennis Carlone Declines to Run for Reelection, Reflects on Cambridge City Council Tenure

Councilor Dennis J. Carlone, pictured at a 2022 rally to expand Memorial Drive traffic closures in 2022, announced he will not seek reelection.
Councilor Dennis J. Carlone, pictured at a 2022 rally to expand Memorial Drive traffic closures in 2022, announced he will not seek reelection. By Julian J. Giordano
By Julian J. Giordano, Crimson Staff Writer

After 10 years in public office, Dennis J. Carlone has announced that he will not seek reelection to the Cambridge City Council this fall.

“I have been honored to serve Cambridge and all its residents for the past 10 years,” Carlone wrote in a June 14 letter published in Cambridge Day, adding that he has “mixed feelings” about not running for a sixth term.

“At the age of 76, the next phase of my life will focus more on family, writing and perhaps consulting,” Carlone wrote.

Since his election in 2014, Carlone has advocated for affordable housing, universal pre-K, and the launch of a new city-wide sustainable growth plan — issues that have become staples of the Council’s agenda: the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process began in 2016, a landmark affordable housing overlay ordinance passed in 2020, and universal pre-K for four-year-olds will start in fall 2024.

Carlone remembers joining the Council as one of the two more progressive councilors of the nine-member body.

“We were attacked sometimes in a very loud way in council meetings,” he recalled.

Today, Carlone said the Council is “pretty even,” with some councilors acting as swing votes on various issues.

Carlone came to the Council as an urban designer and architect. He completed his master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1976 and has worked as a consultant in Cambridge ever since.

His execution of the East Cambridge Riverfront Plan in 1978 is credited with transforming the decaying industrial landscape into an affordable neighborhood and earned him an award from the American Institute of Architects.

Carlone is a firm believer in comprehensive urban planning — the creation of a detailed plan for a city with input from professionals and residents — rather than relying on individual zoning ordinances.

“I was told that zoning was the answer — and zoning is not a master plan,” he said. “Zoning is a projection at a point in time.”

For Carlone, this debate is emblematic of a larger trend on the Council.

“The Council does not historically look at the big picture,” he said. “I tried to bring that. They didn’t want to hear from me, to be honest, and still don’t on some occasions.”

Still, Carlone said he is optimistic about the Council’s future, particularly because of its relationship with new City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05, who he said “looks at the whole picture on many issues.”

As a Council-appointed charter review committee considers transforming Cambridge’s government into a “strong mayor” system without a city manager, Carlone said he hopes the current system of government is maintained.

“I’d much rather have a professional run our city,” he said. “Having a city manager empowers the Council.”

Carlone is the second councilor to announce his departure from the body; Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon had previously shared she will not seek reelection come November. Meanwhile, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, who held a seat on the Council for one term, announced his candidacy earlier this month.

—Staff writer Julian J. Giordano can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jjgiordano1.

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