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Candidates Discuss Housing, Development at Forum

By Naveen Sunkavally

As the Nov. 2 election date approaches, some of the biggest issues getting play in Cambridge politics this year are affordable housing, overdevelopment, and open spaces. Wednesday night, candidates for Cambridge City Council aired their views on these issues at a citywide development forum at the Cambridge Senior Center.

Candidates fielded questions about several issues including their perspectives on the Interim Planning Overlay Petition -- a temporary measure that requires the City Planning Board to review large projects for impact on the community; an East Cambridge moratorium on all development in that region; and the balance of power between the City Manager, City Council, developers, and neighborhood coalitions.

MIT-Cambridge relations discussed

In his speech, council candidate and MIT student Erik Snowberg ’99 spoke about the need to bridge student-community relations in Cambridge.

“On one side of the fence, there’s students, and on other side is the community,” Snowberg said, and “they’re often pointing fingers at each other.”

He said that students generally support the community. He brought up the Residence System Steering Committee report, saying that if it were implemented students could be forced out of campus housing and into the community, adding further pressure to the housing market. According to Snowberg, Cambridge needs a councillor who will tell MIT that “you can’t do this.”

In East Cambridge, an area at the center of development pressures, Snowberg said the solution would be “downzoning, downzoning, downzoning.”

Zoning refers to the process of regulating the type of development and the density of development that can occur in different areas. Downzoning refers to the process of making re-zoning an area for residential development or open space rather than industrial and commercial development.

Councillors criticize universities

Many councillors at the forum expressed the idea that MIT and Harvard have several councillors in their back pockets, and that the council is unresponsive to the needs of voters.

David A. Hoicka ’77 said that current MIT planning provides for “zero units of affordable housing” but constructs “luxury apartments.” He spoke of “cultural and economic cleansing” and the need for rent control and downsizing.

Candidate Jim Braude said that Harvard makes $2.87 million a day from its endowment, and said that Harvard University President Neil H. Rudenstine and other universities in the area should give back to the community.

Incumbent Ken Reeves urged voters to send a majority of candidates to the council who would represent their interests rather than MIT’s or Harvard’s.

Senior lecturer at MIT Jordan Kirsch, who was among the audience at the forum, said, “The Cambridge I live in now is not the same Cambridge I moved into 30 years ago.” He said he supports control of development, and, while a loyal employee of MIT, feels that MIT has created some problems for the community.

Galluccio defends his actions

Anthony Galluccio, a fourth term councilor seeking re-election, defended his attempt to tack onto a recent bill an amendment for a 50,000 square foot superstore in Area 4, a region in Cambridge known for its predominantly minority population, high crime rates, and impoverishment. He said that this superstore would have given people in Area 4 without bicycles and cars easy access to a store, much like Star Market.

During Galluccio’s speech, members of the audience hissed, and one woman was told to be quiet by the panel.

Shortly after Galluccio’s speech, a woman from Area 4 rose up to voice her dissatisfaction with Cambridge politics in general.

“There are only five colored people in this room. Do you wonder why people of color never show up to vote?” the woman said. “Everybody needs to wake up and vote right.”