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Minority seat could be lost in Cambridge

By Linda D'Angelo

Minority representation on the Cambridge City Council could be threatened if the black vote is split between the five black candidates in the Nov. 7 election, according to the Cambridge Chronicle. Saundra Graham, who at the close of this term will end her 18-year role as the only minority representative on the council, has joined other black activists in urging the city's black population to vote for black candidates.

Many pundits believe that in order to assure the victory of at least one of the black candidates, the group should run as a slate. A few, including State Rep. Alvin Thompson, have even stated that this is the only way that a black candidate will reach the council. Although there were rumors that the five would form a slate after a forum last Thursday, none have materialized and, even if one does, it may be too late to change voting patterns.

The black candidates for the Cambridge City Council are: Kenneth Reeves, a Harvard College graduate and lawyer who ran unsuccessfully in the 1985 council election; Renae Scott, a veteran community organizer and social worker who ran for a seat in 1985; Denise Simmons, director of the Civic Unity Committee and a businesswomen who ran in 1987; Regina Jones, a former homeless mother running for office for the first time; and Alan Bell, who heads a successful Cambridge consulting firm.

Reeves is generally considered the front-runner because of his support from Harvard students, blacks in the church community, tenants and white liberals. Surprising to some, Bell is gaining momentum as the election draws near. Scott and Simmons, both with natural bases in Cambridgeport, are deemed long-shots. And Jones, although displaying a great deal of political maturity for a rookie, is considered completely out of the running.

The black community in Cambridge comprises 10 percent of the city's 91,000 residents, cutting across social, religious and economic lines. It takes a compelling theme to mobilize the black vote, and race is a compelling issue. But without a possible threat to the black community or a rallying point around which to organize, many believe mobilization will be difficult.

The driving of the Commonwealth Day School (a primary school predominantly for minority children) from the affluent Brattle Street area this past September -- allegedly arising from bigotry -- could have served as such a rallying point. But this controversy has since fallen by the wayside; the main focus for black and white candidates is the future of rent control.