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UA may back proposal on funding of activities

By Prabhat Mehta

Registered voters in Cambridge will decide today on the fate of the controversial referendum, Proposition 1-2-3, which would allow tenants who have lived in rent-controlled apartments for at least two years to purchase their units as condominiums.

Both sides of the issue have fought vigorously, with each side accusing the other of foul play; but most experts, including the referendum's original author, feel that 1-2-3 has little chance of obtaining the minimum requirement of one-third support among Cambridge's 47,461 registered voters.

Fred Meyer, the author of 1-2-3, told The Cambridge Chronicle that he felt it was unlikely that the referendum would get a majority of votes and that he was almost certain that it would fail to get the required one-third of registered voters.

Opponents of the referendum, including candidates endorsed by the pro-rent-control Cambridge Civic Association, argue that it would reduce the stock of rent-controlled housing by promoting the conversion of such units to condominiums. Supporters, including members of the Cambridge Home Ownership Association, claim that 1-2-3 would increase the stock of low and moderate-income housing available for ownership. They also point to a provision in the referendum which establishes a fund to provide money for affordable housing.

Meyer hopes that at least 40 percent of those who turn out for today's election will support the referendum. This, he believes, would show "a significant majority is concerned about these things."

Council race draws 28 candidates

Also on the Cambridge ballot this year are the nine City Council seats, which are being contested by 28 candidates, and the six school committee positions, for which there are eight candidates. This year's council elections are intimately related to the Proposition 1-2-3 battle and the broader issue of the city's rent control system.

Meyer noted that he is still hopeful that the outcome of the election for City Council will enable 1-2-3 to be directly approved by the council in a vote. Presently, supporters of the current rent control regime hold a fragile 5-4 majority in the council, and thus proposals such as 1-2-3 have no chance.

But with three current members -- all of whom support rent control -- not seeking reelection, home ownership advocates like Meyer and other rent control reformists are hopeful that this election will give them the swing votes necessary to overturn the previous council positions. Based on the rent control controversies alone, many experts feel this election is the most important one for Cambridge in 20 years.

Another important issue is that of black representation on the council. Currently the only black council member is Saundra Graham, who is one of the three not seeking reelection. Her departure leaves the future of black representation in the council in jeopardy. Five black candidates are in the running: Kenneth Reeves, Renae Scott, Denise Simmons, Regina Jones and Alan Bell. Many, including State Rep. Alvin Thompson, feel that a black will probably not be elected if the black vote is fragmented among the five. Reeves is generally considered to be the front-runner among the black candidates.

Wilder, Dinkins in

historic campaigns

Among the nationally prominent races today, two may prove to be ground-breaking for black politicians. In Virginia, a campaign which may result in the first election of a black governor is turning out to be based less on the issue of race than on abortion. L. Douglas Wilder, the Democratic candidate for governor, has managed to shift focus away from his color and on to his support for abortion rights. The strategy seems to be working; Wilder, who is currently lieutenant governor, maintains a lead of four to 11 percent over his pro-life, Republican adversary, Marshall Coleman. Coleman, a former attorney general of the state, clings to a strong support base consisting primarily of native Virginians and remains confident that he will win.

In the other potentially historic race, David M. Dinkins, the Democratic borough president of Manhattan, maintains a double-digit lead in the polls in his bid to become the first black mayor of New York City. Former US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, the Republican mayoral candidate, has in recent weeks made progress in the polls against Dinkins, who became the subject of various allegations concerning tax evasion. But Dinkins, who has maintained a relatively quiet and controlled attitude throughout the campaign, seems to have survived what some critics claim should have been a devastating scandal.