Denise Simmons has long recognized that small businesses are the life-blood of the community, and she understands that they are vital to providing both jobs to area residents, and revenue for the community. As a small business owner herself, Denise is personally aware of the many challenges small business owners face. That is why she has consistently worked to strengthen the local business community, promoted networking opportunities for business owners, worked with the City’s Economic Development Department, and promoted projects that sought to revitalize local businesses.
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge to our local businesses in this past term has been the Covid-19 pandemic. Denise worked with her colleagues to provide a fiscal lifeline to our restaurants via the significant expansion of outdoor dining, which has allowed people to congregate and patronize these establishments in a safer manner, while allowing the businesses to generate enough revenue to avoid complete closure. The City has wisely worked to make it easier for restaurants to establish outside dining through a variety of measures, such as by allowing restaurants to utilize some spaces that had previously been reserved for sidewalk use and vehicular parking, by cutting some of the red tape required for such operations, and by allowing outdoor dining to last deeper into the autumn.
Denise has also continued working to strengthen our local job training and job placement programs, working to help establish links between our Office of Workforce Development and Boston's "Building Pathways" program, which is a fantastic entryway into the local building trades. She's also worked to call out the large, multi-billion dollar corporations in Cambridge who have sought to cut corners on the backs of their lowest-paid workers, and she has lobbied for these businesses to reconsider these cutbacks. Denise also continues to stand in staunch support of those who wish to bargain collectively for fairer contracts, and for easier, clearer guidelines to report and resolve issues around workplace harassment and discrimination.
During her second term as mayor, Denise used the power of the Mayor's Office to convene an advisory committee on Wage Equity. The concept of "equal pay for equal work" should not be a controversial one, and as the Governor signed into law a Wage Equity law that took effect across the Commonwealth in July 2018, Denise decided that there was no good reason why Cambridge businesses should wait for over a year to begin taking the steps needed to prepare for this law and ensure all their employees are being paid fairly. After months of working with her advisory committee and developing tools that businesses can use to assess how to best ensure they're paying their employees fairly, Denise has been holding a series of community discussions and adding "early adopters" to a growing list of local businesses that have decided to be proactive and implement these changes well ahead of the July 2018 deadline. This is ultimately a win for Cambridge businesses, their employees, and the entire community.
In prior terms, Denise was also an important voice in favor of allowing zoning changes that paved the way for the construction of a 1.5 million-square-foot biotech campus in Cambridge. Her reasoning was simple: she understood that this project would bring quality construction jobs to the area, thousands of quality permanent jobs once the project is complete, and the attractive new campus will ensure that Cambridge remains a prime destination in the international biotech sector.
In addition, she has aggressively advocated on behalf of workers wishing to bargain collectively for fairer treatment. She had marched on the picket lines with hospitality workers, and she has been actively pushing legislation to ensure that those who clean our city buildings are treated fairly and equitably. Denise continues urging private developers to use skilled labor on jobs in order to ensure quality work and respect for workers. Denise will continue standing in lockstep with the working men and women of Cambridge for decades.
As Mayor, Denise lent her support to Green Jobs development legislation that was pending in the State legislature, which was designed to promote the development and implementation of the “green-collar” jobs (such as producing technology-intensive products, and the retrofitting of homes and offices to be more environmentally-friendly and more energy-efficient). In 2010, she garnered $100,000 for job training and job placement in the burgeoning green economy, and in 2022, she is looking to build on that early effort to re-invest in and re-launch this program.
During her time on the City Council, Denise has helped hundreds of individuals get connected to the job-finding services and organizations that could help connect them with stable, sustaining employment. She worked closely with the Cambridge Office of Workforce Development, placed calls to her extensive network of friends and associates on behalf of her constituents, wrote letters of reference and recommendation for job seekers, and worked to help many families avert financial disaster. As a City Councillor, she continues to assist her constituents in this manner.