In Upcoming Election, City Council Candidates Address College Issues
By Marie Y. Thibault
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The Oct. 25 version of this article gave an incorrect title for a member of Cambridge City Council candidate Jesse Gordon’s staff. Ofer Inbar is a campaign staffer for Gordon, not the campaign manager. Cambridge City Council elections will be held Nov. 8, with 18 candidates running for a spot on the nine-person council. All nine incumbents are running this year; in 2003, all of the current councillors were re-elected.
The candidates hold a variety of views on the responsibilities universities have to the city and vice versa.
Several of the candidates, such as Lawrence Adkins, said that they think, that the university is a Cambridge resident and needs to become a better neighbor. Henrietta Davis said that they could become better neighbors by improving public schools, while Marjorie Decker said that they should help provide more affordable housing. Kenneth E. Reeves said that he believed there had been a “paradigm shift” in university relations, while Tim Toomey wrote that a “paradigm shift” is still necessary. Candidate Jesse Gordon is hoping to provide students with city government internships, said his campaign manager Ofer Inbar, and Brian Murphy said he encourages students to explore Cambridge on their own.
Matthew S. DeBergalis ’00, who ran for City Council in 2003, is not running this year. He said he is focusing on a political action committee he and a friend started, called Act Blue that raises funds for Democrats in elections around the country. DeBergalis said that more candidates are raising the issues he ran on last year. Issues such as providing more late night food options have been advanced, he said, but others, such as the preservation of ManRay in Central Square, failed when the night club was torn down.
He said that other issues students care about are the safety of places close to campuses, such as Cambridge Common, and the near decade-long construction along Mass. Avenue, where many students live. The candidates are realizing that “everybody wins when students and young professionals vote,” he said.
According to the Web site of Cambridge political commentator Robert Winters, the median age of registered voters is 39 for the upcoming election. However, the median age of voters in the 2003 election was 52.
Though university students may not represent the largest voting population, here the candidates weigh in on their plans for university relations, their top priorities, and what issues they see as especially interesting to college students:
Lawrence Adkins: Adkins said in an e-mail that “the University should share the same burdens as all residents and should be responsive to the actions of the City Council.” According to his platform on http://vote.rwinters.com, his top priorities include affordable housing, a transparent city government, and accountability in Cambridge’s public schools. More information can be found at http://www.adkinsforcambridge.com.
James Condit: Condit did not respond to a request for information. His Web site, http://www.jimcondit.org, lists priorities of increasing traffic enforcement, as well as “eliminating useless or inappropriate programs” to return money to residents burdened by high property taxes.
Henrietta Davis: A council member since 1996, Davis said she plans to match universities and students with public schools to improve science education. She said she will also develop a more cooperative spirit between Cambridge and universities by working on housing development projects.
Davis said that she has made it her mission to make Cambridge wireless. This is in progress already, she said, with the development of wireless zones, including city hall and the Cambridge Public Library.
She plans to work to increase recycling and the number of energy efficient “green” buildings, she said. Davis said that she is a councillor who will work to make walking and biking safer. Since her top priorities are the environment and affordable housing, she said she will strive to make 20 percent of Cambridge energy renewable and make three and four bedroom housing affordable to families with children. More information is at http://www.henriettadavis.org.
Marjorie Decker: A council member since 1999, Decker is also the current co-chairperson of the University Relations Committee. She plans to focus on continuing the work she started with the universities, such as the negotiation with Harvard over the Riverside neighborhood. This led to more affordable housing and more open space, she said.
She has also hosted dinners that brought together university and public school leaders, since she is concerned about what universities do for Cambridge’s public schools. Cambridge has world-class universities, so there is no reason for its public schools not to be the best in the country, she said.
She has organized trips to the United Nations headquarters for high school students and helped allow high school representatives on city committees. Other issues she said she thought would interest college students are worker rights and affordable housing.
Decker said she has made herself known to college students through student groups at Harvard, where she is a student at the Kennedy School of Government, and by attending discussions at MIT. More information on is at http://www.marjoriedecker.com.
Anthony Galluccio: A council member since 1993, Galluccio said he was the only councillor to support MIT’s proposal to build Simmons Hall because he realized that schools need to do a better job of housing students since students increase pressure on the housing market. It is important for the city and the universities to have a good partnership, he said, and the city does not want to see any currently taxable material taken off the tax rolls.
He said he thinks college students are interested in improving public transportation and making housing more available. Galluccio says he will work on making sure streets are safe and striving to keeps buses and subways trains running later.
His top issue is the educational support of young people, he said, and this commitment is shown in the opening of a new athletic facility, the construction of a new youth center, and his involvement in rebuilding the technology education program at the Cambridge High School. He said he hopes MIT administrators and students will take a stronger role in this program. It is tough to market to university students, Galluccio said.He will reach out to students through e-mail closer to election day, he said.
Jesse Gordon: In his first run for an elected position, Gordon is pushing to allow 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections, said his campaign manager Ofer Inbar. This will allow new college and high school students to get involved as soon as possible. He is also proposing allowing legal but unnaturalized immigrants to vote in municipal elections, Inbar said. Another of Gordon’s proposals is to allow university students to gain internships in city government. Inbar said that Gordon gave Matthew S. DeBergalis ’00 his number one vote in 2003, because he supported DeBergalis’ efforts to involve college students in city government. DeBergalis has endorsed Gordon, and in a quote from his endorsement letter, wrote that he “thinks the city needs a kick in the pants and Jesse is the one to do the kicking.”
Gordon’s top priority is preserving affordable rental property, Inbar said, and the recent large increase in property tax for two and three person housing has made it hard for people to move into and live in Cambridge. He also plans to protect the Garment District and provide more late-night food options, Inbar said. Students may have heard Gordon in WMBR radio interviews and can hear him with DeBergalis on Sunday, Oct. 30. He was founding chair for the Progressive Democrats in Cambridge and co-founded Massachusetts for Dean, Inbar said. More information can be found at http://www.jessegordon.org.
Andre Green: Green said he thinks there is a need for a shift in tone in Cambridge-university relations, from one of competitive, to one of partnership. He calls for more MIT students working in Cambridge K-12 schools. Another partnership he proposes is allowing more university students to work in internships in the Cambridge city governments, similar to how Kennedy School of Government students at Harvard work with the Somerville city government.
Green said that his top issue is to have a city government that listens to its constituents. Students are interested in a city-wide wireless zone, he said, and this is an issue he supports. He also supports later last calls in bars near universities on weekends, and lower property taxes, which will make it easier for students to be residents. Green held a meet-and-greet at the Student Center on Saturday, Oct. 22 and at Harvard Square on Sunday, Oct. 23. More information can be found at http://www.andregreen.org.
Robert Hall, Sr.: Hall said that he does not think that relations between the universities and city government are well coordinated, and he will increase communication between the two groups.
He said students are interested in housing, transportation, and education within the entire community. This education may take the form of a work-study for students, he said.
Affordable housing is one of Hall’s top priorities, and he will focus on a new financial management plan that will include housing improvement opportunities for the downtrodden. Other top issues are public safety, teacher and student accountability, and excellence in education, he said.
Hall said many of the teenagers and students that live in his neighborhood are spreading the word about his campaign and what kind of person he is. These students have benefitted from picnics, holiday parties, and church activities Hall has been involved in, since he tries to guide them in positive activities, he said. More information can be found at http://www.common-perspective.net/programs_politcal_perspective.htm.
Bill Hees: Hees did not respond to repeated requests for information. According to his platform on http://vote.rwinters.com, his top priority is limiting spending on programs in order to lower taxes.
Craig Kelley: Kelley said in an e-mail that neighborhood needs should be taken into account when universities make proposals to reduce any negative effects on residents. His top priorities include listening closely to residents’ views on issues and improving the city’s public schools.
Robert LaTremouille: LaTremouille, who has run for the council twice before, said he has worked for 30 years on university relations, attempting to help the universities and Cambridge work together.
He said that the universities are causing a lot of harm to the environment. An example of this was in Oct. 1999, he said, when Boston University entered a Canadian goose nesting area and ruined their habitat.
LaTremouille is a self-proclaimed fighter, and is good at fighting the fight people say cannot be won, he said. His top priority is the environment, and he will prevent the city government from continuing to “throw away taxes.” He said that Cambridge voters have voted to spend money on creating more open space within Cambridge, but instead, the money was spent to expand the waterworks in Lincoln, MA, where Cambridge’s reservoir is located. He said he is considering spreading his campaign by leafleting on campuses.
David Maher: Maher did not respond to requests for information.
Brian Murphy: A council member since 2002, Murphy said he will keep up the lines of communication between Cambridge and the universities. He spoke to a group of freshmen in the Freshman Urban Program this fall and encouraged them to become involved in and explore Cambridge. He said MIT has always tried to have positive involvement with Cambridge public school students through tutoring programs.
Murphy said he has been influential in preserving the Garment District, as well as Cambridge’s unique restaurants and nightlife. Because of Murphy’s instrumental role in saving the Garment District, DeBergalis has given him his endorsement.
Murphy’s top priorities include preventing the construction of huge high rises that would dominate neighborhoods and preserving locally owned businesses. He is also committed to issues he thinks impact students greatly, such as late night dining, walkable and bikeable streets, and a safer, more welcoming community. Murphy emphasized the marriage equality in Cambridge, an issue that is interesting to college students and the younger generations. He will continue to send regular mailings to registered student voters. More information is available at http://www.BrianMurphy.org.
Kenneth E. Reeves: A council member since 1989, Reeves said that Cambridge is at the highest point in university relations in the last decade. There has been a “paradigm shift,” he said, and the city government and universities have realized they are inextricably linked.
Cambridge is envied for its world-class biotechnology industry, he said, and the flavor of Cambridge, including residents, restaurants, and entertainment, make it an exciting place to be. This has been aided, he said, by the universities, who helped coordinate city events, such as a salsa concert held at the Stata Center, and a symposia series featuring Cambridge voices. However, Reeves said that both the universities and Cambridge need to make sure the quality of public schools improve.
His main issues are making tax increases more equitable, so that the burden is not on those unable to bear it, he said. Also, he will work to develop more youth programs and keep Cambridge at the forefront of competition with other cities around the world to attract and keep top scientists.
A wireless Cambridge is interesting to students, Reeves said, and he hopes they are interested in improving the quality of public math and science education. He is coordinating an outreach to MIT voters with the help of Claudia M. Gold ’07, through an e-campaign and much more visibility close to the election. More information on Reeves can be found at http://www.kenreeves.org.
Sam Seidel: Seidel said in an e-mail that universities attract talent and new businesses, but also take taxable land off the tax rolls, are “difficult neighbors, and set their own agenda without coordinating with the city on goals or objectives.” He will use universities’ resources to provide affordable housing. According to his platform on http://vote.rwinters.com, Seidel’s top priorities are evaluating housing opportunities, improving public schools, and creating a wireless city. More information can be found at http://ww.samseidel.org.
Denise Simmons: A council member since 2002, Simmons responded in an e-mail that she “would like to see them [universities] support city services at a level more commensurate with their resources.” Her top issues are providing neighborhood services, strengthening public schools, and making housing affordable and available. More information can be found at http://www.denise-simmons.org.
Michael A. Sullivan: A council member since 1994, Sullivan established the University Relations committee four years ago when he first became mayor. He said that he has been on the MIT campus several times to hear from students and has met with the Graduate Student Council president. He said that he will work to improve safety in Cambridge for students.
Sullivan said that education has to be the first priority, and that the achievement gap should not exist since the public schools are surrounded by world-class universities. He said that he is interested in quality of life issues for students, and other amenities. One thing that makes him unique, he said, is that he returns every phone call personally, a detail he thinks is appreciated by the students he speaks to.
Tim Toomey: A council member since 1989, Toomey responded in an e-mail that universities should no longer be regarded as non-profit organizations, but as profitable businesses instead.
In order to collect payment for the universities used of city services without damaging other non-profit services, Toomey has proposed a one percent endowment surcharge for universities, which will be used to relieve the burden of property taxes on renters and lower-income homeowners to “ensure that Cambridge remains a diverse city.”
He wrote that his top priority is ensuring safety and a higher quality of life for Cambridge residents. More information on Toomey can be found at http://www.timtoomey.org.