The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 37.0°F | Overcast

Public Safety Central to Peixoto

By Frank Dabek

While most candidates in this year’s Cambridge City Council election are focusing on the issues of development and affordable housing, Helder “Sonny” Peixoto stands apart by pushing a public safety platform.

A Cambridge native of Portugese descent, Peixoto is a newcomer to city politics.

The core of the Peixoto platform is an integrated public safety task force system coordinating Massachusetts, MBTA and Cambridge police officers as well as the Harvard and MIT campus police forces. Peixoto proposes task forces including a hate crime task force, a drug task force, and a youth crime task force.

The program would expand the use of plain-clothes officers, Peixoto said and improve communication between groups. A “little competition goes a long way,” he said.

Although the Second Quarter Crime Report for Cambridge indicates that crime rates are down slightly from the same time period last year, Peixoto pointed to several public safety issues. “Lewd and lascivious behavior” along the Charles river, bike larceny, and drinking in public are problems which would be addressed by the task force, he said. Drinking in public is a particular “pet peeve” he said.

Peixoto singled out bike larcenies as an important issue for students. The number of bicycle thefts rose during the first quarter this year as compared to the same period last year but remains at roughly half of its 1996 level. “When [a student] has their bicycle stolen... it’s devastating,” he said. Peixoto also proposed a city-funded bicycle insurance program.

He also pointed to the closing of the Kendall Square fire station as a major public safety issue for MIT. He said that the closing of the station created a “public safety void” and called its condition “disgusting.” MIT could “save five minutes [of response time] and save a life” by reopening the station, he said.

Peixoto campaign manager, Steve Ferrara, said that the proposed youth crime czar would address crimes both by and against youth. “Students are afraid of the police,” he said and the task force would create an “atmosphere of public safety” in which students are not afraid to report crimes.

The campaign has also proposed a “program to help [students] with drinking and drug problems outside the school atmosphere.”

Public improvements, development

Peixoto has also proposed a series of public improvements for Cambridge to match the public works that Boston provides. “Why should we have to cross the bridge,” he asked.

He would build a “hatch shell” in the Magazine Beach area with federal, MIT, and Harvard funding. The outdoor concert venue would provide a events similar to those held at the Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston. MIT and Harvard might hold their graduations at the proposed shell, he said. Peixoto has also suggested adding a dog path to the magazine beach area.

While public safety is the major plank of the Peixoto platform, he said that “MIT and Harvard are not doing their share to halt development” in Cambridge. He also said that the city “needs more student housing” built by MIT in order to lower rents in Cambridge.

He acknowledged the important role MIT plays in the city’s affairs -- “MIT has always played a role in our lives.”

Concentration on East Cambridge

Peixoto is concentrating much of his efforts in East Cambridge, a traditional stronghold of current councilman Timothy J. Toomey Jr. His intense campaigning in the area has created tension between the candidates. Ferrara, however, said that Peixoto is not running against Toomey but for one of two empty seats on the council and hopes that the two could represent East Cambridge together.

Peixoto, who speaks Portugese as well as Spanish, hopes to better represent the Spanish and Portugese communities of that area.

A four term limit on city councillors, the installation of metal detectors at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, insurance reform, and water cost reform round out the Peixoto platform.