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Cambridge voters uphold rent control

By Linda D'Angelo

Cambridge city election results show a decisive victory for rent control forces and those who favor neighborhood preservation over real estate development, according to reports released yesterday. Proposition 1-2-3 was defeated by an unofficial 2-1 margin and the city council gained an strong majority in support of rent control, marking a significant change in the city's power structure.

The nine Cambridge City Council members elected in last Tuesday's election include five incumbents -- Alice Wolf, Francis H. Duehay, Walter J. Sullivan, William Walsh, Sheila Russell. The remaining members, in order of number of votes received, are: Ed Cyr, Ken Reeves, Jonathon Myers, and Timothy Toomey.

One incumbent who was seeking reelection, Thomas W. Danehy, was defeated.

The newly elected city council contains a 6-3 majority in support of rent control (Walsh, Russell and Sullivan are the three members who have been critical of rent control policy). In recent years, the policy has survived by a 5-4 vote.

High voter turnout reflected a strong concern over affordable housing and development, centering on Proposition 1-2-3, which would have allowed tenants to buy their rent-controlled apartments in some cases. According to pundits, many voters went to the polls expressly to vote against Proposition 1-2-3. While there these "tenant" voters selected candidates who supported rent control.

This is believed by many to be the major factor in the Cambridge Civic Association's strong finish at the polls. The CCA, a liberal group that backs tenants and rent control, endorsed six of the elected city councilors including all but Sullivan, Walsh and Russell.

The progressive Cambridge Rainbow was also active in its first city election with three of its candidates -- Wolf, Cyr and Reeves -- elected to the council. Reeves is the only black representative on the new council.

Complete results (all nine council members) were not achieved until noon yesterday, six days after the election. This delay was due to the city's proportional representation system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. Once a candidate has received enough first place votes to be elected, his surplus votes are redistributed according to his supporters' second preference, and the process continues until nine members have been elected.

The large turnout of 27,605 voters and the high number of candidates combined with this complex voting system to further increase the amount of time needed to count ballots. In past elections distribution and recounting, in which each ballot is checked twice, was usually finished by midnight Saturday.