Tuesday the citizens of Cambridge will enter the polls to elect a new City Council and School Committee and to approve or reject an electoral system which they instituted twenty years ago and have endorsed by increasing majorities several times since. In a small city where government involves personalities more than issues, and neighborhood representation more than party obligations, the issue of the electoral system--of Proportional Representation--is by far the most important.
It is exactly the present system which replaced the corrupt machine of twenty years ago and brought to Cambridge a truly representative citizen government unique in any American city. Although its few but well organized opponents claim it to be "unfair," Proportional Representation (PR) ensures exactly what these persons do not want--a fair, non-party, non-primary electoral system where the individual voter can choose those candidates who most clearly embody the issues and traits which he desires in his government. Under this system, the city has made tangible progress, both socially and economically. Significant testimony to this progress is its urban renewal program, the planning of which has attracted nationwide attention from urban experts and city planners.
Elected under PR, the present Councilors and members of the School Committee are not professional politicians. For this reason, perhaps, Cambridge has remained apart from the entanglements and corruption synonymous with Massachusetts politics. Those people now organized to abolish PR are just those who seek to profit by the restoration of the machine to Cambridge. Significantly, the Cambridge Young Democrats, the most vigorous opponents of PR, are an ad hoc group formed recently only for the purpose of fighting the present system. In the ranks of these would-be revolutionaries are men such as John Briston Sullivan, whose chance of having his projects approved by a machine-dominated Council would undoubtedly be sterling.
The present system of Proportional Representation in Cambridge is both a democratic deterrent to machine corruption and a method of insuring a personal government highly receptive to individual criticism and suggestion. The CRIMSON strongly endorses this system and urges the people of Cambridge to vote NO on the referendum to abolish Proportional Representation.
One of the political facts guaranteed by Proportional Representation is just that--proportional representation. For this reason, Cambridge's only partisan civic group, the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) has never succeeded in electing more than four of its endorsees to the nine-member City Council. Thus, city government has maintained a balanced representation between the Harvard-M.I.T.-Brattle St. constituency and the rest of Cambridge. This has been a healthy balance.
Perhaps in acknowledgement of the antagonism which its triple orientation generates in other parts of the city, the CCA has attempted recently to expand and include progressive voices from south and east Cambridge. A continuation of this policy should help to dispel misunderstanding on the part of both the CCA in its ivory tower and its resentful opponents.
Because of this expansion in attitude and representation, the CRIMSON strongly endorses five of the CCA candidates: THOMAS COATES, whose background of active interest and participation in Cambridge affairs qualify him highly for election to the Council; and the incumbents Mayor EDWARD A. CRANE, JOSEPH A. DEGUGLIELMO, CORNELIA B. WHEELER, and PEARL K. WISE, all of whom have served the best interest of the city judiciously, competently, and for the most part, impartially, during the past two years.
The CRIMSON also endorses these independents: BERNARD GOLDBERG and the incumbent THOMAS M. McNAMARA.
On the basis of their past performance, however, the CRIMSON opposes the election of the following:
Alfred E. Vellucci, whose customary comic performances have ceased to be funny this year. During the campaign, Vellucci has attempted to make hasty, blatant political hay of almost all legislation and several times has displayed discourtesy in the Council chamber.
John D. Lynch, who has added almost nothing except his presence and his cigar to the workings of Cambridge city government.
The present system of Proportional Representation insures that the individual voter can make his voice heard. Hopefully, the people of Cambridge will exercise this prerogative strongly to continue the tradition of the past twenty years--the tradition of true citizen government.