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Cambridge voters go to polls today

By Brian Rosenberg

MIT students will join thousands of other Cambridge residents in city elections today, during which voters will send nine of 19 candidates to the city council and six of 12 hopefuls to the school committee.

All nine incumbent council members hope to return to their seats, while only four school committee members are seeking reelection.

City council candidates have squared off over many of the usual local issues, including rent control, development and crime. This year's campaign has been more subdued than the 1989 race, when a controversial rent control referendum polarized candidates and brought many voters to the polls.

As a result, many expect a low voter turnout this year. The Cambridge Civic Association, a citizens' political action group, has been calling its supporters to remind them to vote, said CCA staff member Karen L. Corcoran.

CCA and other voters' groups, including Cambridge First and a gay and lesbian activist group called the Lavender Alliance, have taken stands by endorsing candidates.

Most pertinent to MIT, as a prominent Cambridge landowner and developer, are the issues creating tension between residents and prospective developers. MIT, along with several Cambridgeport businesses, recently clashed with area residents over zoning plans for a large parcel of land. A proposal written by residents went before the city council and fell one vote short of the seven necessary for its passage.

Sarah J. Eusden, assistant to the president for government and community relations, said she did not want to make any predictions about the election. "I've seen so many polls that say this person is going to be elected and this other person will not, but I don't know," she said. Eusden played a leading role in MIT's fight against the residents' proposal.

Incumbent candidates for the council are Ed Cyr, Frank Duehay, Jonathan Myers, Kenneth Reeves, Sheila Russell, Walter Sullivan, Timothy Toomey, William Walsh and Alice Wolf. Seeking to displace these councillors are Robert Hall, William Jones, Vivian Kurkjian, James McSweeney, Elaine Noble, Arnold Roquerre, George Spartichinio, Jane Sullivan, Alfred Vellucci and Thomas Watkins.

Two seats open

on school committee

This year's school committee race is marked by the departure of two incumbents, Albert Vellucci and Fran Cooper. Vellucci, who seeks a city council seat, and Cooper, who is retiring, leave their seats wide open for newcomers.

School committee incumbents seeking reelection are Henrietta Davis, Fred Fantini, James Rafferty and Larry Weinstein. Challengers are Bob Buckley, Peter Cignetti, Ronn Crichlow, Henry Lukas, Betty Luther, David Maher, Denise Simmons and Carolyn Tabor.

Prominent school committee issues include recruitment of minority faculty, the elimination of tracking, a system which accelerates children according to their ability, and the resolution of problems created when opening and closing times of several elementary schools were changed earlier this year.

Both the city council and the school committee are elected by a proportional representation scheme. Under this plan, voters indicate their preferences numerically. To be elected, a candidate must receive at least a certain quota of first priority, or number one, votes. Candidates who receive more than this quota are elected and their excess votes are redistributed according to second choice. In order to get enough candidates over the quota, it is usually necessary that candidates who received the fewest number one votes be eliminated and their votes redistributed.

The quota is determined by the number of votes cast divided by one more than the number of seats available, plus one. With this formula, it is impossible for more candidates to be elected than there are seats available.

Ballot question calls

for city food policy

Also on today's ballot is a non-binding question that asks voters whether the Cambridge city government should "develop and implement a Cambridge Food Policy which would recognize the right of every resident to accessible, safe, nutritious, culturally acceptable and affordable food, without barriers and without stigma."

The question grew out of "several years of feeding people and watching the situation get worse," said Gerald Bergman of the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, who coordinated the effort.

According to Bergman, 5000 people go to various food programs in Cambridge each month, and as many as 3000 children go hungry or are at risk of going hungry.

Bergman said a city council committee on hunger created in May had met only once and had done nothing. He also said that if this effort proves fruitless, the CEOC is "prepared to get the signatures we need to put a binding referendum" on the ballot in two years.

The MIT Homelessness Initiative "definitely supports the idea" of such a food policy, said Mary E. Herndon G, a member of the group. "I wonder, however, if they will put their money where their mouth is. The city has shown a lack of commitment on this issue before," she added.