City Council: Election 2003

Twenty candidates are on the ballot for today’s Cambridge City Council election—all nine incumbent councillors plus 11 challengers. The Crimson posed 11 questions to them on the eve of the election.

Courtesy OF Robert winters

Aimee Smith

Questions:

1. One of the key issues that came before the current city council was the vote on the Riverside zoning.

Incumbents: Why did you vote for the compromise with Harvard?

Challengers: Would you have voted for the compromise with Harvard that the city council passed? Why/why not?

2. Now that the Riverside zoning issue has come to an end, what do you see as the key issues for the city to work on with Harvard during the current term, and how would you work with Harvard officials to address these issues?

3. As Harvard and the City Manager discuss a new Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, what do you think would be a reasonable PILOT payment for Harvard to pay the city?

4. What is your opinion on the ballot question that, if approved, would ask the state legislature for a home rule petition reinstating rent control in Cambridge?

5. Regardless of whether the rent control petition is passed, what should the city do to provide affordable housing for low and middle income residents in Cambridge?

6.  This summer there was a series of shootings in the city, and this month there have been several indecent assaults reported in the area. What should be done to improve public safety in the city?

7. What steps do you think the city council should take to help improve Cambridge’s schools?

8. On the citywide smoking ban in restaurants and bars instituted this October:

Incumbents: Why did you vote the way you did on the smoking ban in Cambridge? Looking back, do you stand by your decision?

Challengers: Would you have voted for the smoking ban in Cambridge?

9. Cambridge is a city with a large student population. How involved do you think students are in local politics? Is there anything you’d like to do to get them more involved? One issue that comes up with students a lot is the absence of late-night eateries in the city. What, if anything, would you do to address this concern?

10. What is your favorite place to eat in Cambridge?

11. What is favorite thing to do in the city?

Notes To Readers:

Council candidates Marjorie Decker, Vincent Dixon, Daniel Greenwood, Robert Hall, Sr., E. Denise Simmons and Laurie Taymorberry did not respond to inquiries from The Crimson.

Candidates were contacted via phone, e-mail, fax and post.

Responses were edited for length.

Anthony D. Galluccio

1. The reason I worked so hard on the Riverside re-zoning is because it presented an opportunity for a win-win situation for all involved. 

2. I believe both Harvard and the City are looking for a more stable and predictable relationship. The Riverside zoning is a good model, but the negotiations were adversarial and very hard line. The goal should be to move away from the “we will give only if we get” mentality and in the past the City has had to fight for every community benefit we have received.  Harvard must realize this as a deeply respected and very powerful institution, it being a community partner in our affordable housing efforts, public education, and public health initiatives without having to beg, pressure or negotiate for an ongoing relationship in these areas.

3. The PILOT program should be tied to the value of real estate as it is for Cambridge taxpayers...To be honest the current payment, about 3 percent of our annual budget is not worth our City Manager’s time and agony to negotiate. It is unfortunately incidental to our current financial position.

4. I am opposed to rent control and will be voting no on Question One. 

5. The City should continue its current efforts to provide affordable housing for low and moderate-income residents... I have never supported rent control of privately owned housing and do not believe it has been effective or fair in assisting low-income residents. 

6. Cambridge has a very low crime rate and well-staffed and funded police and fire services.  Universities benefit greatly from both.  I would like to see more New York, Giuliani-style accountability in our police department, and a more proactive approach to trends in higher crime areas.

7. The Cambridge Public Schools in general, are lacking general management principals...The School Committee must act like a board, and not as individual politicians, and set priorities for its CEO (the Superintendent)...I do believe standardized testing, while certainly not perfect, must play a more prominent role than it has in the past, and the lack of focus upon basic skills is reflected in our low-test scores.

8. I believe strongly the laws should be same city to city and think a statewide ban puts business on an equal playing field...At the end of the day, I supported the ban and believe it’s the right public health direction to be going in, but my “is government gong a bit far” antenna was at a full mast during the debate.

9. I support all-night transit and late-night licensing, as well as sidewalk eating and drinking. Let’s make Cambridge a fun world-class city.  How about ice-skating on the Cambridge Common?  I love the student population of this city, it adds a youthful vibrancy and international diversity to Cambridge.  We should support it and allow it to thrive.

10. My favorite place to eat in Cambridge is the Midwest Grill, a Brazilian steakhouse in Inman Square.

11.  I love to run the Charles River and Fresh Pond, and attend CRLS football games. 

Michael Sullivan

1. I voted for a proposal that accomplished three goals. One, decreasing density in terms of height, scope, and size. Two, providing affordable housing. Three, providing open space and giving the community back some of the river front.

2. The zoning piece is completed, but there’s still a lot of work to do in fostering a better sense of community with Harvard and the neighborhood. I think for these three goals we need to make sure what’s on paper is followed through on.

3. I think the difficulty with PILOT is that it’s all prospective. I think there’s need for some retroactivity in the formula.

4. I don’t support it. Rent control is never an affordable housing policy.

5. In addition to what we’ve already done for affordable housing units for low and moderate income families, we’re now focusing on initiatives that could provide housing for moderate and middle income families.

6. We need to make a better attempt at developing a community partnership that allows us to work together in providing a safe environment and addresses a number of issues that have existed in the community.

7. The city council has to keep the pressure on in making sure the school department addresses the issues of the achievement gap, community confidence, and the development of a solid education that allows all children to achieve.

8. I didn’t vote in support of the ban, particularly because of the number of establishments located in residential neighborhoods, and the smokers would instead conceivably cause a disturbance in smoking outside.

9. Students in terms of their participation in tutoring and mentoring programs help supplement the education of many kids... It’s an ongoing concern that we need to address and entice establishments to stay open and serve food.

10. It depends on what I feel like any given night.

11. I like to spend time with my kids.

Timothy Toomey

1. Although a strong supporter of the Carlson Petition, I voted for the compromise because it was in the best interest of the community and the City as a whole.

2. It is time for fundamental change in the City’s relationship with large not for profit institutions, including Harvard University.

3. It’s time for a paradigm shift. Throughout our history, these large institutions have been considered not-for-profit and tax exempt. By requiring these institution to set aside 1 percent of the earnings on these endowments to a fund for distribution to communities in which tax exempt property is located would, in Harvard’s case this year, have provided over $24-million to affected communities.  

4.  I will be voting against Question One.  

5. As a supporter of the original rent control law, I twice proposed a series of City Council actions to reform the worst aspects of rent control.  I said at the time that if we didn’t take action on reform, forces outside the City would do it for us.  And I was correct.

6. A return to community policing and increased street patrols.

7. I believe drastic changes are needed to improve the education of Cambridge school children....I believe one of the reasons for this has been the unequal distribution of resources so that students who need the most help are not getting it.

8.  I also serve as State Representative for the 26th Middlesex District (eastern Somerville/Cambridge).  I am a co-sponsor on the recently passed state-wide ban on smoking in public places.  As City Councillor, I voted against the local ban to be consistent with my belief that the smoking ban must be statewide.

9. I’m pleased to see students such as Matt DeBergalis run for the City Council. It would be a pleasure to serve with him on the Council and explore the new and vibrant ideas he has proposed.

10. I’ve never found a place in Cambridge to eat that I didn’t like.

11.  Spending time with my nieces and serving the people I represent.

Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87

1. I was very proud to have been...one of the main architects of that historic agreement with Harvard...I think it is truly ground-breaking, a landmark agreement, and something that the city can be proud of.

2. Plans for modifications to the Harvard law school campus, as well as to the expansion of the science complex.

3. The benchmark I would work from would be the equivalent of property taxes of all university property in the city.

4. It’s not going to happen.

5. Ask the city manager what options we can do to make the city commons safer.

6. Make the police department more open and accessible.

7. Make sure we don’t let politics intrude into the school committee. We need to let the school committee and superintendent do what they can do to lower the achievement gap.

8. I think it’s an important step forward for worker health.

9. When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, I was actually involved in politics, and that’s how I got my start...I’ve had a number of students help with my campaign.

11. Have a bite of dessert at Toscanini’s, drop into Harvard Bookstore, hear some street performers.

Kenneth E. Reeves ’72

1. I think the compromise was done by the citizens. We voted to accept what the citizens recommended.”

2. Harvard and the city should work on how Harvard could be an asset to the school system. It would be most helpful in particularly the math and sciences. The city and Harvard could organize a program to allow Harvard math and science professors to spend, literally, a year in our school system, with science and math teachers. The goal would be to enrich the teaching.

3. Between 8 and 12 million.

4. If the ballot question wins by overwhelming majority, the council should ask the legislature for home rule authority.

5. It should continue coming up with innovative programs, like those programs that will give up to $210,000 dollars toward the purchase of a home. I think we should continue with our inclusionary zoning efforts. We should encourage Harvard and MIT to involve themselves in the affordable housing shortage and crisis.

6.  We could do a better job of having better police controls and walking police controls...We have to hold the police more accountable to actually solve crimes. We have a number of unsolved murders.

7. We can do all that we can as councillors to confer with the school committee and try to be sure along with the school committee that we are getting the most educational benefit for the dollar spent.

8. Yes.

9. There are many grassroots campaigns, like the Howard Dean campaign that I’m involved with, that seem to reach out to students with success.

10. The Green Street Grill and the Central Kitchen.

11. Have a cup of coffee upstairs at the Algiers in Harvard Square.

Henrietta Davis

1. The preservation of the Kerry Corner neighborhood, the downzoning of other residential neighborhood streets, the additional parkland at Mahoney’s, the agreement to historically preserve the NSTAR site and the new units of affordable housing.

2. The two most important issues: creating a partnership to improve the public schools and agreeing on reasonable development of the area north of Porter Square.

3. I would be satisfied with a significant commitment toward the improvement of the public schools backed up with funds and cooperative agreements that included faculty and students—for tutoring.

4. I do not support the current rent control proposal...It raises false hopes and false fears. It will not pass at the state house, I am not convinced that it will increase the supply of housing, which is the best method to drive prices down...

5. We need to continue our level of support for low and moderate income tenants; now percent of all Cambridge housing is subsidized. In the next term I believe the City Council should focus on affordability for middle income residents by such things as promoting the building of middle income family housing.

6. The Police Department needs a close working relationship with the community to prevent and to solve crimes. Unfortunately the police union contract does not promote that practice—in fact it stands in the way of such community oriented policing.

7. The City Council together with the School Committee should speak with one voice to the universities about how university resources can be most helpful.

8. I am so proud for all I did to pass the smoking ban in all restaurants and bars.

9. Certainly students could bring issues like late night eateries to the attention of the City Council. Even without such issues there are important policy questions—about housing, about global warming, and the Patriot Act—to name a few, that the city would benefit from the energy and involvement of students.

10. Rotisserie House at 736 Mass. Ave. in Central Sq. for the best chicken and sides anywhere. Great taste—low fat—low prices—fast service!

11. Paddling my canoe in the Charles River.

Matt DeBergalis

1. Yes. I’ve argued throughout the campaign that new graduate student housing developments relieve pressure on the housing market and simultaneously add to the city’s affordable housing stock. I’m pleased that the final agreement does both.

2. My biggest concerns are the Cambridge public schools and the souring relationship between students and long-time neighborhood residents. These go hand in hand; Harvard and MIT students will only contribute to the schools if they like their city. Public opinion of students, in turn, will improve as students have a more active and beneficial role in our city.

3. I prefer to focus on non-financial compensation, such as attaching affordable housing to new university developments or assisting with the public schools, to a contentious debate over a number that is a tiny fraction of both Harvard’s and Cambridge’s budget.

4. I do not support rent control. It is a misguided policy that causes deep, long term damage to our housing stock, and distracts from effective affordable housing programs, such as our CPA allocation.

5. We must accept higher housing densities in parts of Cambridge to bring down demand on the existing housing stock. Graduate and faculty housing is an especially attractive option, since such housing can be built in a dense configuration and may include deeded affordable units. We must also continue to allocate CPA and other funds to build new affordable units.

6. My concern are the places frequented by students, such as the Cambridge Common and the east end of MIT’s campus, that have historically been problem areas. Encouraging more pedestrian traffic in evening hours will help, not harm, public safety.

7. Elect a mayor who can serve as a seventh School Committee member, continue to fund schools at high levels, and engage MIT and Harvard, not just as institutes, but as a vast pool of individual staff and students.

8. Yes.

9. Historically, students are not involved here. My campaign demonstrates that students will participate if they are shown the issues that affect them, such as nightlife, student safety, and public/bicycle transportation.

The roadblocks to extending restaurant hours are concerns of noise and public safety. We must work with neighbors to show them these concerns are misplaced, and damage our ability to engage students in local civics.

10. Breakfast: Mass. Ave. Restaurant. Lunch: Anna’s Tacqueria. Dinner: Miracle of Science Bar.

11. Bar hopping in Central Square.

Craig Kelley

1. I would have voted for the Carlson petition. I can’t say if I would have voted for the compromise—I would have had to been at the table to know that.

2. The biggest issue hasn’t changed: How will Harvard grow in Riverside and in the rest of Cambridge? It’s a big issue, and we will continue to dance around it.

3. I think that the whole PILOT program needs to be reinvestigated and reevaluated. People talk about $1.5 million, but that doesn’t seem like a lot of money. We need to investigate what it costs the city to have Harvard here, and what Harvard gives back to the city...I can’t throw out a number.

4. I’m going to vote against it. It’s a very problematic petition, and I have many issues with it. Affordable housing is a serious problem here in Cambridge, but this petition is not the solution.

5. The city needs a comprehensive plan to deal with affordable housing.

6.  We need to get the police out of their police cars, and onto the street, out and talking with people. I’ve been here for a long time, walki

g around, and still wouldn’t recognize one police officer. They don’t interact with you. The only interaction you have with the police is by calling 911. That needs to change.

7. It needs to review the study that was done, that showed how terribly bloated school administrations are. The city council needs to send a unanimous message to the board based on the current budget. Cambridge is spending way too much on administration staff.

8. No. I think it was overkill. If you’re truly concerned about public safety, you would stop smoking in homes in front of kids. We’d start with the 4-year-old stuck in the front seat of the car while their mom or dad is chainsmoking in the driver’s seat—I see that all the time...But I won’t work to repeal the ban, and as a nonsmoker, I can say that I love being able to go places and not always be in smoke.”

9. I don’t think I’d do anything [about the late-night eateries]. I used to live near one, and what happens is that at 2:30 in the morning you go to get food, and even if you’re not drunk, things like slamming car doors are very noisy for a silent sleeping street.

10. Darwin’s after church with his boys.

11. Bike around Cambridge with wife and boys.

Ethridge King

1. Yes, if all parties agreed, which they did, I would have supported it. It’s the art of compromise and democracy.

2. Generally speaking, you need to get all relevant stateholders involved and move the process forward in a methodical, relevant way.

3. Any future real estate acquisitions that are currently taxable real estate to the city, the PILOT payment should be increased by that amount automatically. I can’t speculate on ballpark numbers.

4. I do not support rent control. It fails in the economic front, it fails on the fairness front, and it fails on the feasibility of implementation front.

5. I suggest we take $2 million this year from the $9 million affordable housing trust fund to supplement residents who are facing short-term rental crisis and it should be funded at a similar level in future years.

6. I think that what Cambridge needs to do is get the police on the bikes and one their feet and out of the vehicles.

7. The City Council with the leadership of the entire school committee should set some clear, academic goals for the school system and couple these goals with accountability if they’re not attained. Currently, students are the only ones held accountable.

8. Yes, but I would have allowed private clubs to continue with smoking.

9. I would have to factor the residential impact of any late night eateries. If the case can be made that the impact will be minimal, then I’ll support it. I think students are uninvolved and we have to make the case to students that if they’re for here for x amount of years, we make decisions that impact their lives.

10. The Green Street Grille.

John R. Pitkin

1. Yes. It meets many of the residents’ concerns, maintains public open space as a connector from the neighborhood to the river, and reduces heights and densities in the Banks-Athens street area to a much more appropriate scale than the current zoning.

2. The key issue is the fiscal relationship and the adequacy of Harvard (and MIT’s) payments for urban services ranging from police and fire protection to streets and public health.

3. An amount much closer to the actual cost of providing the many public services without which the University could not function.

4. It is a well-intentioned proposal...[but] I don’t support this petition for two reasons. First, the current petition is inequitable (because house prices are relatively higher than rents) and impractical (because this model of regulation has been shown by our past experience not to work for small properties).  

5. More. A lot more...Creative planning and zoning measures can significantly increase the supply of new housing units. More funds for means-tested subsidies could appropriately be funded by increased PILOT payments from the universities.

6. More foot patrols should be considered to increase the sense of public safety, especially for women and after dark.  It is very difficult for increased police activity to prevent specific crimes.

7.  Elect a new Mayor from among their members who will be the best leader for the School Committee, which the Mayor chairs... [and] keep the progress (or further decline) of the public school system at the top of the public agenda by having the next Mayor make formal biweekly reports to the Council about school issues as part of their regular meetings.

8. Yes.  It’s a matter of public health.

9. Not very involved.  Get them more information about the issues and ways they can get involved.  I am very proud to have a Harvard sophomore working as an intern in my campaign... I will not open an all-night diner, but would support an application for a license for someone else to run one in the middle of Harvard Square.

10. Atasca Restaurant.

11. Rollerblading by the river.

Robert LaTremouille

1. Absolutely not.

2. The biggest problems are the massive attacks on the Charles River including the destruction of 300 trees for the benefit of Harvard.

3. Full taxation.

4. It is not a rent control reinstatement.  It is a rent control reinstatement PLUS a subsidy program which renders the entire thing illegal.

5. Cambridge is the 5th densest city in the country and by far the most dense in the state.  Cambridge is 4th in subsidized housing.

6. Reverse the bad example provided by the city council.

7. Stop wasting money destroying the environment. End their attacks on the environment and its wild life and start giving responsible examples.

8. Would allow in bars.

9. There is nothing which keeps such businesses from opening now.

10. I used to love the Wursthaus.

11. Long-running pool game at the Cambridgeport Saloon which started at the Bow and Arrow in Harvard Square.

Carole Bellew

1. I definitely would have voted for the compromise. Cambridge desperately needs more housing that middle-income and working families and graduate students can afford. I am very sympathetic with the neighbors’ concerns and would have paid closer attention to zoning before Harvard considered building on the property than those on the current council did.

2. Harvard and MIT have a tremendous amount to offer Cambridge, especially as resources to improve our schools. I think the City needs to be more receptive to these opportunities and also more accommodating to the needs of Harvard faculty and students.

3. I think that the payment should be increased somewhat but that the universities should also support their students and faculty members becoming more involved in helping fill city needs.

4. I do not think that rent control is the best way forward at this point. Cambridge will not get an exemption from the statewide ban under the current state legislature leadership or governor and we need more immediate solutions to the housing crisis.

5. Cambridge should increase support for grants and loans to first-time homebuyers and those who are willing to create more middle-income housing. Programs like Section 8 should be created to help middle-income people who do not qualify for the current program but desperately need assistance.

6. Currently, there are too many openings on the police force that need to be filled. We need to carefully review the police department and make sure that we have a force that is competent and receptive to community policing efforts that work with local community organizations.

7. We need to allow the new superintendent the time to reform our system and get the outstanding public education that we’re paying for. Meanwhile, we need to have a more transparent budget so that we know that the funding is making it to teachers and classrooms, rather than the central administration. Cambridge also needs to take advantage of Harvard and MIT’s potential as a resource, both for their expertise and their students with interest in public service.

8. Yes, but I wouldn’t have hoped to accomplish a little more with two years on the council.

9. I have invited a 2003 Harvard College graduate to manage my campaign in part to help learn how to meet students’ needs. I know about the forced early closing of Tommy’s and want to make it easier for students to live according to their own late-night schedules at the places that cater to them.

10. Henrietta’s Table

11. Movies at Kendall Theater and playing golf at Fresh Pond Public Golf Course.

Aimee Smith

1. I would have supported the Carlson petition outright.

2. I think Harvard is one of the largest landowners in the city and it has non-profit status. I think that we need to have an adversarial relationship with Harvard to make sure that the city is protected.

3. I think the PILOT program is problematic because it ends up making a negotiable pact with organizations such as Harvard and MIT. I think a better way would be to restructure taxes to something based on income...

4. The home-rule petition for rent control is very important. The people in the city want rent control, and rent control is taken away by the state-wide initiative.

5. Affordable housing and subsidies are certainly part of a housing strategy...The main role we should be doing , but also making sure that the fabric of the community is preserved.

6. When people know their neighbors, and look out for each other....it is a lot easier to respond to things, and to keep the general climate more human and respectful.

7. Making sure that the fabric of the community is preserved, that is very crucial to the morale of the schools and the functioning of schools.

8. I would’ve supported the smoking ban, because it is an occupational hazard issue.

9. I think there should be a lot more promotion of interaction of students with the community. The university has tried to isolate students from the community.

10. The Brookline lunch.

11. There are protests, and we take the streets, and a whole bunch of the people are coming together and voicing a message of conscience.

David P. Maher

1. Yes. I actually helped draft it.

2. I chair the University Relations committee of the city council. I believe we began a great dialogue with the university with the zoning petition, taking a big jump forward in a very strained relationship between the city and the University.

3. I don’t necessarily think that there is a finite dollar amount. Rather, the University needs to step forward and help with our schools, and contribute like they did with their housing issues.

4. I think the ballot question is ill-advised...I absolutely support the city taking steps on affordable housing. I absolutely don’t support the city putting the burden for such initiatives on small property owners.

5. I think the way we’re doing it. Two years ago the voters of Cambridge passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) to allow us to leverage the money we’re spending on affordable housing...Quite frankly, we should be the example to other communities.

6.  The statistics show that crime is down, however we must take these recent crimes very seriously. We should look for ways to better coordinate our efforts.

7. The public schools, and the crisis in our public schools, is a priority...The lack of confidence in our public schools is alarming. We must work to regain this confidence... Superintendents and principles from all over the world come to the Ed school to learn best practice, how is it that we don’t have best practice here?

8. I voted for the smoking ban.

9. I don’t think they’re [students] really involved in local politics and that’s too bad...There is a tendency to look more at international and national issues rather than local issues, but there is definitely a place for students in local politics... I eat late all the time, and it is a struggle to find a place in Cambridge.

10. Daedalus.

11. I like to walk along the river, through the square.

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