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Student Announces Council Candidacy

By Mike Hall

MIT student Erik C. Snowberg ’99 has announced his candidacy for Cambridge City Council. Snowberg, who would be the first current student elected to the council, vowed to give students a voice in government.

“This campaign is about getting students re-engaged in the political process,” Snowberg said in an address on Monday.

Campaign manager Eric J. Plosky ’99 said that the campaign will focus on “transforming Cambridge into a place where students and residents are neighbors.”

Snowberg’s primary campaign goal, however, is to increase student input on issues before local government. Currently, students make up 25 percent of Cambridge’s population but have no representation on the nine member city council, leading to a division between students and the community at large.

“There is a separation between students and residents, and it’s detrimental to both parties,” Snowberg said. As a councillor, Snowberg would work with local leaders and community groups to increase understanding and tolerance between students and residents.

His platform focuses on four specific issues: student representation in the Cambridge government; information technology awareness; access to public transportation; and environmental concerns of local residents.

Technology a campaign issue

As an MIT student, Snowberg believes he can integrate technology into the daily operations of government.

“I’ve grown up with [technology],” Snowberg said, “much as everyone at MIT has.” His technological plans for Cambridge include a new and expanded web site for the city government offering updated information about council actions, online voter registration, and electronic access to all members of local government.

Additionally, he advocates expanding public transportation to areas and times neglected by the MBTA. One goal is to create a weekend shuttle service, which would run throughout Cambridge from after the MBTA closes until the early morning. He also supports increased service to Cambridge’s needier communities, as well as new measures to protect local cyclists.

The expansion of Cambridge’s green areas is also an issue addressed by Snowberg. He suggests that improvements to recreational areas would improve the quality of life in Cambridge. Proposals offered by Snowberg include converting outdated office facilities in East Cambridge into parks and fields for local residents.

Campaign to mobilize students

The greatest challenge facing Snowberg’s campaign is getting students to the polls on November 2. Currently, only 12 percent of MIT students and five percent of Harvard students are registered to vote in Cambridge. To mobilize the student voting block, Snowberg has begun campaigning with information about the laws regarding voter registration.

Any student residing in Cambridge for over 180 days per year is eligible to register in Cambridge. Registering in Cambridge will not affect residency status in almost every U.S. state.

The campaign also plans to show students the impact of local government on their daily lives. city council impacts the lives of all students, from approving planned expansion at Harvard to rent control issues affecting MIT students living off-campus.

Snowberg also plans to campaign door-to-door throughout Cambridge to address issues of concern to permanent residents.

Students interested in campaign

Students at MIT expressed interest at the idea of one of their own running for City Council.

“Student interaction with the community is an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Andy D. Berkheimer ’01. “Having someone on our side... can help the council better understand the students’ views.”

Harvard students have also shown interest in supporting Snowberg’s campaign.

“He knows the students’ perspective,” said Dan Kaganovich, a Harvard junior. Kaganovich added that Snowberg’s experience on City Council could aid Harvard in future negotiations with Cambridge over the university’s land expansion.

David R. Karger, a Laboratory for Computer Science professor and a Cambridge resident, is also interested in the campaign. “The more perspectives you get,” Karger said, “the better.”

Snowberg is one of twenty-four candidates for the nine seats in the non-partisan, biannual election. Cambridge uses proportional representation (PR) voting in City Council elections. Under PR, voters rank candidates from first-choice through ninth-choice. Votes are then tabulated by ranking.