City Council Still Unable To Elect Mayor

Though the Cambridge City Council was once again unable to select a new mayor—an issue which has remained unresolved since Jan. 2—the Council moved to aid a local dance center soon to be displaced.

At the meeting’s opening, Councillor Leland Cheung, a Harvard Kennedy School student, called for the Council to vote for the next mayor. But members decided to wait for the tardy councillor, Timothy J. Toomey Jr.

In the first round, votes split as they had in the past two meetings, with Cheung and Councillor Marjorie C. Decker each receiving three votes.

Cheung maintained three votes through the next two rounds of voting. But Decker lost a vote in the process, ending the night with only two votes. Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72, who received no votes at the beginning of the meeting, gained two votes by the end of the process.

Councillors must earn at least five out of nine votes to be elected mayor.

After the unsuccessful voting, councillors turned to the forced relocation of a non-profit dance school.

Councillors heard the impassioned testimony of Deborah Mason, who runs the Deborah Mason School of Dance.

“I have never asked for anything from this city,” said Mason, trying to hold back tears. “But I am now. These kids deserve a home. Something better than what we’re in now.”

The school—which also functions as a community center—is located in a dilapidated building in North Cambridge. Mason’s building and the buildings around it are slated to be torn down to make way for a condominium complex, Mason said. Mason appealed to the Council, hoping that the city might help her find a permanent location for the studio.

Dozens of concerned students, teachers, and parents came to the Council meeting to express their support for Mason’s dance school.

One student, a young boy, was too short to reach the microphone. A red-headed teenager picked him up for his testimony and held him there, grimacing playfully, until he finished.

“At DMSD, we are a family,” middle schooler Julia R. Bluestein-Goldfinger said. “Even though the building is literally crumbling, we’re still there. And even though we slip on the rain that’s dripping through the ceiling, we’re still there.”

This is not the first time Mason’s school has been displaced—Cottage Park Ave. is the school’s fifth location. “I’ve had to move because landlords want more rent, or other people buy the buildings and don’t think a dance studio belongs there,” said Mason, a lifelong Cambridge resident who founded the studio in 1975.

“It’s not like years ago, when local people owned the buildings and would help local people,” she added. “It’s now developers who are buying up the property and renting it for high costs that people like me can’t afford.”

Councillors resolved to forward Mason’s petition to the city manager, who will help put the studio in touch with property owners.

“You do have a lot of support here,” Decker assured Mason and her supporters. “You are going to be on the radar.”

—Staff Writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

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