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Alice Wolf elected Cambridge mayor

By Reuven M. Lerner

Alice Wolf, a 19-year veteran of Cambridge politics, was elected mayor of Cambridge on Jan. 1 by a 6-3 vote of the city council.

Wolf is the 25th mayor, and the second woman, to be chosen under the city's Plan E charter. Under that charter, the mayor serves in a largely ceremonial capacity, while a hired city administrator wields most of the power. The mayor's job includes assigning committee posts and chairing city council meetings. The city council chooses a mayor and vice mayor from among its members.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Wolf said that she wants to "advance an agenda that will look at the issues people think are important," including "funding schools, public safety," and "dealing with affordable housing." Wolf also said that she would like to "make the government more responsive" to public wishes.

Wolf has been involved in Cambridge politics since 1971. She served four terms on the school board, including one as chairperson and another as vice chairperson. She also was vice mayor under former Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci.

One of the top issues on Wolf's agenda is rent control. She believes that it "is very important," and promised to "keep it a strong system." Wolf said that she hopes the city "won't have a decrease in affordable housing," and called attention to the opening of three affordable housing units in Cambridge.

Wolf noted, however, that MIT itself must look into the issue of low-cost housing for students. She said that she "met with MIT students at least four years ago, about concerns related to housing," which she called "an ongoing problem that MIT has to relate to."

"MIT has land to put housing on," she added. Wolf noted that she would not oppose the construction of new housing if it would not interfere with other Cambridge residents.

Another important issue to Wolf is that of the poor and homeless. She said that she "personally has done a lot of work in the area of children and families." Wolf pledged to "develop a city-wide policy" for prenatal and child care.

Wolf is backed by the Cambridge Civic Association, a liberal group which secured its first city council majority since 1972 in November's election. In her inaugural speech, Wolf stressed affordable housing, assistance for the homeless and the elderly, child care, and an end to racial bias.

The three votes against Wolf came from independent councilors Sheila Russell, Walter J. Sullivan, and Timothy Toomey, all of whom backed Sullivan for the position. Another councilor, William Walsh, had originally planned to vote for Sullivan, but changed his vote when Wolf's election seemed likely.