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New progressive party tp vie for council seats

By Charles R. Jankowski

Coalition85, a new, self-described "progressive" political party, will be fighting for three of nine seats on the Cambridge City Council in Tuesday's elections.

The coalition's three candidates -- Hugh A. Russel, Geneva Malenfant and Karen Swaim -- will run against 19 other candidates for spots on the Council on such issues as housing in Cambridge, regulation of development in the city and long-range planning.

Coalition85 was formed last summer by a group of 200 Cambridge residents. "An emerging sense among Cambridge voters that new faces are need on the Cambridge City Council" prompted the creation of the coalition, according to its campaign literature.

Russell, a Cambridge architect, addressed low- and moderate-income housing and MIT's Simplex site, which is yet to be developed.

"MIT wants to develop Simplex to further its own mission in life," Russell said, "and that should be allowed. But they should develop a bit more housing than MIT currently plans."

The Institute should develop part of the Simplex land to provide student and faculty housing, he said. "If MIT gets the opportunity, they have an obligation to provide that kind of housing."

Russell commented on Cambridge City Councilman David Sullivan's "linkage" proposal, which would tie all new development in Cambridge to housing by forcing developers to include a certain amount of low- or moderate-income housing in their plans.

Linkage is a "good concept," Russell said, but it would "stifle development" in Cambridge. "David Sullivan doesn't understand development well enough.

"Linkage is essentially a tax on new construction," Russell said, "and that tax is too high." Being forced to build low- and moderate-income housing would raise the cost of development. "Developers will not choose to develop in Cambridge," if the linkage proposal is approved, he said.

Cambridge could increase its housing in three ways, according to Russell. Programs such as Sullivan's linkage proposal would generate "some housing."

Subsidized housing would allow housing developments on unoccupied Cambridge property. Russell noted that such programs exist "in some states" but "don't work in Cambridge." The city only allowed land located in East Cambridge to be developed for housing.

Russell also favors allowing tenants to buy their rent-controlled apartments, an option which currently does not exist. "Thirty-eight percent of rent-controlled tenants want to purchase their apartments but can't," he said.

"There was a significant problem around [the] clubs" in Central Square that the Cambridge License Commission recently ordered closed, Russell said. He cited "a very unfortunate spillover" of patrons onto the surrounding streets as justification for closing the clubs.

"The licensing commission proposals are awfully strict," Russell said, and he was concerned about an "appearance of discrimination" in the closings. "One of the bars closed was a gay bar, and the other was a Latino bar," Russell noted. The licensing commission consists of "three white male conservatives."

Russell has long been active in the gay and lesbian community and was one of the founders of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian caucus.

Malenfant, experienced in Cambridge politics, including serving in executive positions on the CCA, and Swaim, a local independent businesswoman and a member of the Cambridge Condominium Network's Steering Committee since 1976, could not be contacted for comment.

Coalition85's platform is based on doing a "better job" in six areas:

O+ Ensuring diversity in the housing market in Cambridge. Existing controls on rental units are endorsed, and calls for more university and subsidized housing are made.

O+ Protecting existing neighborhoods through regulating development is a priority for the coalition. "Appropriate development should be encouraged in non-residential neighborhoods," according to the coalition.

O+ Maintenance of the deficit on municipal employees' pensions is one of four issues of future planning the group highlights. The creation of an AIDS Task Force, a "workable and reasonable linkage policy" and a study of existing housing are also proposed.

O+ City services would be improved under the coalition through introducing "more efficient technology" into those services.

O+ The quality of water, purification techniques and the watershed are items on the coalition's agenda.

O+ Traffic and parking concerns also rank in Coalition85's platform.