City Council Candidates Square Off for Upcoming Election

The stunning defeat of rent control last November ushered in a new political era in Cambridge.

Without the heated issue of fixed rents hovering over the process, voters will go to the polls one week from today to decide which issues and which candidates will shape the city's future.

Among the issues that will dominate the Cantabrigian landscape in the near future are: the city's housing policy, education, the search for a new police commissioner, the city's budget and crime.

The future of Harvard Square and the surrounding area will also be a big issue on the City Council agenda in the next few months.

Recent proposals regarding Harvard Square buildings have pitted historical preservationists and pro-development advocates against each other. In particular, two recent proposals have ignited debate.

The first is a proposal by Cambridge Savings Bank to demolish four buildings in the Square which contain 14 tenants including the Tasty and the Wursthaus restaurants. The bank hopes to construct a new four-story building and in the process create 60,000 square feet of retail space.

The second is a proposal by the owners of the Sheraton Commander to tear down three 19th-century houses near Cambridge Common in order to make room for a parking garage for the hotel.

In preparation for next Tuesday's election, the Crimson asked each of the candidates running for their opinions on the primary issues facing the city and about the two proposals to reshape Harvard Square.

Incumbent Kathleen L. Born, 47, says she ran for city council in 1993 because she "wanted to give something to the city that has given a lot to me."

While on the council, Born helped implement the City Home program, which allocates funds to construct and renovate middle-income housing projects. She has also worked to double the number of federally funded summer food program sites in the city.

Born also supports controlling truck traffic on neighborhood streets, protecting open space and limiting the size of commercial developments in Cambridge.

An architect, Born says she is committed to the preservation of historic buildings in Harvard Square and on Garden St.

"Cambridge should not be for sale to the highest bidders," Born says.

Marty Connor, a computer consultant living in Central Square, says housing is the most important issue currently facing Cambridge.

"If the housing situation is not addressed, then there will be a housing emergency and many of the electorate will simply be evicted," says Connor, 37.

Connor, who owns a small consulting business, says he is the only candidate whose background as an inventor and musician differentiates him from the other candidates.

"I am a well-rounded person. I'm not like some of the lawyers running, who were undergraduates, then law students," Connor says. "I have lived on the other side of the fence."

Connor is strongly opposed to the Sheraton parking lot saying "just because you need a parking lot, doesn't mean you get one."

"The proposal is to tear down historical houses for parking, and I don't think that is necessarily a good idea," Connor says. "We've got to value our residents more than we do."

Henrietta A. Davis, an eight-year member of the Cambridge School Committee, is making her first run for the city council.

"I'd like to continue in public service, and this seems like the most obvious place to make a difference," Davis says.

The Cambridgeport resident is pushing a 10-point plan which calls for an improved economic development plan, the expansion of affordable housing, renewed commitment to affirmative action, the establishment of a large supermarket in Cambridge and a nationwide search for a new police commissioner.

Davis, 50, says she is proud to have helped implement the Healthy Children Task Force, which provides health care and immunizations for Cambridge youth.

If historic buildings are to be demolished; Davis says, she would like the architects to protect the building's original facade whenever possible.

She also opposes Harvard's proposed removal of 700 apartments from the city's housing market.

"I'm hoping Harvard will act like a model landlord rather than a for-profit business," Davis says.

Francis H. Duehay '55, says he hopes voters will return him to a thirteenth term on the council.

Duchay says that ensuring environmental protection, accessible health care and affordable housing will be the main issues in the city's immediate future.

"Cambridge will have fewer federal resources, but we must not abandon the needy, and we must try to reduce costs," he says.

Duehay, 62, also supports a nationwide search for a new police commissioner and opposes residency requirements for city employees.

He has proposed legislation which would designate nearly all of Harvard Square as a historic preservation district and is critical of Harvard's proposal to convert 700 apartment units into University affiliated housing.

"I see myself as a person who is able to work on the problems with Harvard, sometimes adding confrontation and sometimes adding compromise," Duehay says.

Anthony D. Galluccio, 28, is seeking retention to the council seat to which he was appointed in April, 1994, following the removal of Councillor William H. Walsh because of a felony conviction.

Galluccio is the only council candidate who has graduate from Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cambridge's public high school, and he says improving the public schools is his chief concern.

"I love public schools," Galluccio says. "They have to be the backbone of our city."

Galluccio wants the school district to enhance its honors curriculum, address the problem of white flight and create an alternative high school for students with severe discipline problems. He would also like to improve Cambridge's youth centers.

An outspoken critic of rent control, Galluccio instead supports subsidies to help renters eventually purchase their own property.

The Councillor supports preservation of historic buildings but feels "we have to approach these things with some reasonableness."

He says he pressured Harvard to grant elderly and low-income tenants a 20-year exemption from rent increases resulting from the conversion of apartments into University affiliated housing.

Craig A. Kelley says his main goal is to increase alternative transportation sources within the city. The 32 year-old North Cambridge resident makes a 40-mile daily commute via subway, bus and bicycle to Hanscomb Air Force Base.

He says he feels public transportation is the best way to make Cambridge "a more livable city."

"Alternative transportation is a burden from which we will all benefit," Kelley says.

A former U.S. Marine, Kelley pledges to control growth and economic development. He opposes a proposed expansion of the Sheraton Commander Hotel and supports preservation of historic buildings in Harvard Square.

"Buildings that compose the historic fabric of Cambridge should be preserved if at all possible," Kelley says.

Kelley also opposes Harvard's plan to convert 600 apartments into affiliated University housing.

Lifelong Cambridge resident Lester P. Lee, Jr., a professor of black history at Wheelock College, says he is running as "the most progressive candidate on the ballot."

A staunch supporter of rent control, Lee pledges to combat skyrocketing rents and massive business developments which, he says, have destabilized the lives of thousands.

He also supports increased funding for neighborhood community centers, increased affirmative action efforts and the continued provision of quality city services.

Lee opposes the demolition of historic buildings in the Square and vows to fight Harvard's plan to convert apartments into University affiliated housing.

"The voter will have to choose between the corporate vision of the city, and the vision that I hold...the community vision of the city," Lee says.

Ralph Lopez, a health care administrator and fiction writer, also describes himself as being "the most progressive candidate in the race."

"There is a difference between talking and acting and the City Council has been only talking for some time," says Lopez, 37. "I am committed to going in there and making a splash."

Lopez is strongly against the razing of the Wursthaus building, saying such a move would he "the beginning of the total commercialization and yuppification of Harvard Square."

"If that building comes down then Harvard Square will be a different one than a generation of students have been enjoying," says Lopez, a Central Square resident. "I challenge the bank to prove that [the building] is unsalvageable."

Lopez is also strongly opposed to building a parking lot adjacent to Cambridge Common and the Sheraton Commander Hotel.

Lopez, who is of Hispanic origin, believes that the City Council needs more minority rep resentation.

James J. McSweeney, Jr., 28, is making his second attempt for a city council seat, after falling 47 votes short of election in 1993.

A self-employed insurance agent, McSweeney advocates consolidating city services and rolling back property taxes.

"The most important issue facing us is irresponsible spending," McSweeney says. "[High taxes] drive businesses away from Cambridge...thus increasing rents and reducing affordable housing."

McSweeney supports increasing police efforts within Harvard Square and fully implementing a policy of neighborhood community policing.

He has no objection to Harvard's proposed conversion of 700 apartment units into University affiliated housing and feels preservation efforts must be tempered with common sense.

"I like the idea of preservation, but I also like the idea of progress," he says.

Barbara J. Pilgrim, 53, says she will "speak for the unspoken" if elected to the council.

Pilgrim supports plans to subsidize rents for low-income residents and attract a large grocery store to the Cambridgeport neighborhood.

"I stand for a sound city government, strong and stable, to protect everyone," Pilgrim says.

Pilgrim says she has worked to save funding for Head Start during recent periods of federal cutbacks. She also feels the city must work to improve the moral and spiritual lives of Cambridge youngsters by funding neighborhood and community centers.

Pilgrim says she supports the preservation of historic buildings in Harvard Square and would oppose efforts by Harvard to establish more affiliated housing units in Cambridge.

Kenneth E. Reeves '72, 45, says affordable housing is the biggest issue looming before the council.

The current mayor, Reeves says he supports the city's $10 Million Plan, which would use increased property tax revenues from the abolition of rent control to subsidize low- and moderate-income housing.

Reeves, who as mayor was also ex-officio chair of the Cambridge School Committee, says he is proud of his efforts to enhance the schools' math and science curriculum and to establish a partnership between the school district and local businesses.

He says he would like to maintain adequate funding for the Cambridge Hospital, encourage "unifying cultural and ethnic celebrations" and revitalize Central Square.

Of the debate of Harvard Square, Reeves says he sees the need to "strike a balance" between preservation of historic buildings and new developments.

He opposes Harvard's plans to withdraw apartment units from the real estate market and feels Harvard "must recognize its role as a member of the community."

Sheila T. Russell, 60, says her two main issues are fighting crime and increasing city services for senior citizens.

Russell, who has served on the council since 1985, says she played a major role in the construction of the city's senior citizen center in Central Square, which will open its doors this afternoon.

A long standing advocate for senior citizens, Russell also co-founded the North Cambridge Crime Task Force and supports community policing and maintenance of city parks, schools and streets.

"When feasible, we should protect, but we must be practical as well," Russell says, speaking on the preservation of historic buildings.

Of the controversy over Harvard housing, Russell says that current tenants living in University-owned housing should be granted exemptions from any large rent increases.

"I'm concerned about the displacement of residents and would like to see more protection extended to them," Russell says.

Jon Spampinato, 27, says he is the only candidate from Cambridgeport who supports the need for a grocery store in the area.

As a gay Republican, Spampinato says he is also "the only candidate in the race who is fiscally conservative, but socially liberal."

Although he says he is ardently "pro-development," Spampinato admits that developers have to be flexible in their plans, especially in historical and residential areas around Harvard Square.

"In a residential area, where businesses are located, it is important for the City Council to make sure that it listens to neighbors," says Spampinato, who works for the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment.

Spampinato says the three main issues currently facing Cambridge are the need for more job creation, more economic development and the need to cut the city budget.

Incumbent Councillor Michael A. Sullivan says that four main issues now face the council: crime, the city's budget, affordable housing and economic development.

"The city needs a real community policing program," Sullivan says. "We all have to work together."

Sullivan adds that he hopes Harvard Square developers will try to retain the area's vitality, even if they must tear down some of the old buildings.

"It is not the same place that it was, but it is still a vibrant place," Sullivan says.

And Sullivan says he sympathizes with the Sheraton Commander owners who wish to build the parking lot.

"There needs to be more parking in that neighborhood," Sullivan says.

"I even get complaints from people who live in the area and say there is not enough parking there," he adds.

Incumbent City Councilor Timothy J. Toomey calls crime the biggest issue facing Cambridge.

"Crime affects every part of the city. The two drive-by shootings over the weekend makes me concerned," says Toomey, who also represents Cambridge in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. "There are not enough police officers on the street."

Toomey warns that Cambridge will lose its tax base if the city does not go out and try to actively attract new businesses into the state.

Toomey says his major accomplishment as a Councillor was a resolution now pending which would adopt a residency requirement for city employees.

And although Toomey says that he has not taken a side on the razing of the Wursthaus building, he firmly believes that "there should be no more strip malls in Harvard Square."

"[Harvard Square] was a nice place to visit, but I don't go there anymore. It is so artificial, everything there has been replaced by the upscale and the trendy," Toomey says.

Katherine Triantifillou, an attorney and lesbian activist, is seeking a second term on the council. Triantifillou says her chief contribution to Cambridge was the creation of a Domestic Free Crime Zone within the city.

The program counsels victims of domestic violence and provides stiffer penalties for offenders.

"We are the first city in the nation to implement this plan," says Triantifillou, 45. "It's a model for cities and counties across America."

The incumbent Councillor says she shops to increase parental involvement in the schools, implement the city's affirmative action plan and seek more input from residents during the planning of the annual city budget.

"I want to transform the budget into a document that is accessible to the people," she says.

Triantifillou opposes demolition of historic buildings and is "apprehensive" about Harvard's proposed conversion of apartment buildings into University housing.

Harvard math preceptor Robert Winters is seeking to establish himself as the lone moderate in next Tuesday's race.

"The city is at a junction now," says Winters, who lost his race for a Council seat in 1993. "Are we going to have local politics based on moderation, compromise, concession or are we going to back to absurdity and create extreme factions on issues?"

Winters, 40, says the most important issues now facing the city are "housing policy," since rent control ended and some of the "major hires" which Cambridge will have to make in the near future, including a new police commissioner and a new school superintendent.

Winters says Cambridge residents must keep an "open mind" about proposals which might change the look of the area.

"Walking through the Square, there is a sense of character and you don't want to see that destroyed," Winters says. "But the Harvard Square of 15 years ago is not the Harvard Square of today. It can't be a 19th century rustic village--you have to be realistic."

Despite support for development, Winters adds that the decision to erect a parking garage near Cambridge Common was made in "poor taste."

"Putting up a parking garage in this area graced by certain types of buildings would be extraordinarily poor judgment by the Sheraton owners," Winters says.

--Jal Mehta contributed to the reporting of this article.