Twenty City Council Candidates Prepare for Campaign
Affordable Housing and Budget Issues Dominate Election Discussion as Local Politicians Formulate Their Strategies.
Competition in this f all's City Council election will be stiff as 20 Cambridge residents campaign completed nomination papers by the July 31 deadline for the nine available council seats.
A few candidates have their campaigns well under way, while others have not yet begun to lay down the groundwork for their bids.
"We've been meeting for five months [and] getting organized," said city Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio, who is running for a second term. "I like to get an early start."
Lester P. Lee Jr., on the other hand said, "I haven't even started my campaign yet and I don't really know who I'm facing yet."
Lee is making his first bid for Cambridge city office.
The 20 candidates will be campaigning for the votes of city residents in the months leading up to the November 9 election. Across the board, candidates have identified the budget, public safety and the improvement of the public school system as issues they will address in their campaigns.
"I think the chief issue before the city is finances," said candidate Henrietta Davis, who is completing a term on the school completing. "We've nearly reached the levy limit, and that's a problem for us...some of the supports that have been available to us as a city are threatened."
Councillor Michael A. Sullivan also identified the city budget, among other issues as an important topic of discussion.
"Right now there's a concern that it's [city expenditures] growing at too great a pace," he said.
"We need to insure that what we're doing with those resources is the best we can do," Sullivan added.
Another incumbent, katherine Triantafillou, said she intends to propose "mission driven budgeting" to her constituents. Triantafillou said her approach would help to redefine the process by which the budget is determined.
"I would like the [budget] process to begin earlier, be written in terms people understand and different departments should define their mission and what services they provide," she said.
Candidate Robert Winters, a math preceptor at Harvard, identified the budget as one of the only large issues in the election.
"There are very few big issues right now, other than the proximity of the city budget [to] the levy limit," Winters said. "The city budget has grown far faster than rates of inflation or anything else."
"Cambridge has spent money like a drunken sailor and right now, the concentration has to be on stabilizing the tax base," he said.
While fiscal issues are also important to Galluccio, he said he plans to focus his campaign on issues of education and public safety instead.
"Public safety is a continuous issue," Galluccio said. "The community policing efforts really have not been tat the level they should be--I think that the bottom line is that we need to have police officers outside of their cars for 5 [or] 6 hours at a time."
Galluccio said he intends to propose more interaction between law enforcers and Cambridge residents as a way to upgrade the safety of local neighborhoods.
"People in the neighborhoods know who's causing the trouble; now the officers need to know too," he said.
Galluccio also said he wants to focus on the Cambridge public school system. He said that despite the large amount of money the city spends per student, Cambridge students' standardized test scores are among the lowest in the county.
"I think that our expectations have really dropped and that's not fair to young people," Galluccio said. "We need to expect the most from our young people and give them the opportunities to excel."
Sullivan linked problems with the school system to the city budget.
"Schools are related to budgeting," he said. "Are they meeting the needs of the 21st century? Is new technology being made available to faculty and students?"
Lee said he will focus on tenant and civil rights groups in Cambridge during his campaign.
"I believe the overriding issue in the city is 'Where is Cambridge going?"' he said.
Lee described himself as "the most progressive candidate in the race," and said he believes rent control will be a key issue in the council race. Rent control, a politically divisive issue in Cambridge for decades, was abolished by state referendum last year.
One candidate, Marty D. Connor, said that he wants to address the housing needs of the middle class.
"Affordable housing doesn't mean places for poverty people to live," he said. "It means that if you can't afford to buy a house, you can afford an apartment."
"We've had this static rent control policy for so long that was keeping us from having to cope with the question," he added. "We'll figure out a way to make it fair. We've got help for the poorest and the elderly, but two people making 45 to 50 [thousand dollars per year] should still be able to rent a decent apartment."
Other candidates running for reelection to the council include Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72, Vice Mayor Sheila T. Russell and Councillors Kathleen L. Born, Timothy J. Toomey and Francis H. Duehay '55.
Jonathan S. Myers is the only incumbent who will not seek re-election.
Other candidates include Marty Connor, William C. Jones, Paul T. Kearns, Craig A. Kelley, Arthur F. Libitz, Ralph A. Lopez, James J. McSweeney, Barbara J. Pilgrim and Jonathan T. Spaminato.
Valerie J. MacMillan contributed to the reporting of this story.