City Bitties

Responding to a media blitz by a local defense contractor, the Cambridge City Council is going to the polls next November to find out how Cantabrigians feel about nerve gas testing within city limits.

This after Arthur D. Little (ADL), a nationally recognized Cambridge research laboratory, launched a public relations drive to counter what it perceives as misleading press coverage about the firm's research on toxic nerve agents.

The lengthy package--mailed two weeks ago to the firm's 61,000 neighbors in parts of Belmont, Arlington and North Cambridge--includes some newspaper articles, explanations of a technical nature and a three-page letter from John Magee, the lab's president. ADL is currently contesting an attempt by city councilors to prohibit research on nerve agents.

ADL has scheduled a public meeting with local residents and members of North Cambridge Toxic Alert, a citizens environmental group, for March 9.

"A similar" referendum, calling for a nuclear free zone in Cambridge, was defeated by a 60-40 margin in 1983. City Councilor Alice Wolf recalls that defense industries nationwide contributed over $600,000 to defeat the measure.

Cambridge Mayor Leonard J. Russell will officially unveil a 200-volume collection of books and other materials on peace and non-violence this Thursday at the Central Square Branch Library. The sole criterion for including works, which were all donated by local citizens and bookstores, in the collection was that they deal in some way with the peaceful resolution of violent conflict, according to Jeb Brugmann, director of the Cambridge Commission on Nuclear Disarmament and Peace Education.

City councilers established what has come to be known as the Peace Commission in 1982, partly in response to Cambridge voters' overwhelming passage of a nuclear freeze referendum in 1981. The founding ordinance calls for the agency to "design and disseminate materials for disarmament education."

The collection, which includes books and projects such as a privately-compiled collection of articles on disarmament which have appeared in The Boston Globe since 1980, is a joint project of the Cambridge Public Libraries and the Commission.

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating charges that the Cantabrigians Nursing Home, located at 195 Prospect St., illegally refuses to recognize the Local 285 of the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO.

After the center changed ownership in early December, workers arranged to meet with the new owner, Joseph Pallotta. Although Pallotta requested that the union give him three months before beginning new contract negotiations in December, he has since refused to recognize the local's existence. Union representatives filed a complaint with the federal agency in January.

Mayor Leonard J. Russell gave an assessment of his first year in office last week, highlighting his role as moderator and peacekeeper on the oft-heated School Committee and City Council.

The mayor, who began his two-year term exactly one year ago, cited the passage of a controversial smoking ordinance--which requires restaurants to set aside non-smoking sections--and Cambridge's own Human Rights Ordinance as important events in the city council's past year.

On a lighter note, Russell patted himself on the back for walking "with kings--with Spanish King Juan Carlos, with Vice President George Bush at the Olympics and with presidential candidate the Rev Jesse Jackson--and still keeping touch with the common people."