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A Liberal City Council?

The City


Leonard J. Russell, the disposal engineer who ran for City Council, is at it again this year; for the second election in a row, he is demanding a recount, having lost the ninth spot on the Council to Frank Duehay by only 43 votes. But although the official result is still in doubt, there can be little question that the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) endorsed candidates will have a majority when the new council takes its seat.

And when they do, Cambridge will see the firing of the City Manager--who is ultimately responsible for about 90 per cent of the jobs in the City, the firing of the City Solicitor, and the election of Cambridge's favorite liberal politician--Barbara Ackermann--to the mayoralty post. Ackermann's being named mayor is doubly important in view of the fact that the School Board elections have given a 50-50 split to "liberals" and "independents," meaning that the furor over Superintendent of Schools E. Frank Frisoli '35 will finally be calmed, by Barbara Ackermann with her tie-breaking vote as Chairwoman of the School Committee. On other issues as well she will side with the CAA-endorsed members, Peter G. Gesell, Charles M. Pierce, and David A. Wylie.

But Ackermann's biggest job will not be keeping the liberal school Committee members together--they get along and are reasonably settled on issues--but rather trying to accomplish the same thing on the Council, where it will be her duty to keep such divergent types as Saundra Graham, on one hand, and Robert Moncreiff and Henry Owens, on the other, working and voting as a group.

Although many people feel that Saundra Graham's election to the City Council means that she will no longer be able to speak up with as loud a voice and to as great an audience as she has been doing in the past--that she will in effect be silenced by the hallowed Council Chambers--there is virtually no reason to expect that this will happen. If anything, she will be bombarded by radicals of every shape and variety to push their particular programs in the Council. She is the only member of the "radical" Five who won a seat, hence the only radical on the council, and it is certain that aside from tending to the day-to-day complaints and frustrations of her constituency, she will become the target of every change-oriented group in Cambridge--serious and kooky alike. Her time will not be her own and she may find it difficult listening to all her constituents equally. But there can be no question that she will not shut up. She is not awed by mean in Vaselined hair and Jordan Marsh suits and her presence will add the ingredient of excitement and confrontation of issues that it has so sorely lacked these past four years.

On the other side of the liberal fence sits Henry Owens. Robert Moncreiff, and Frank Dueahy. Owens will be the toughie and his carefully cultivated middle-of-the-road stance will be hard to keep up once atual voting on issues such as daycare takes place. A millionaire's son, Owens received a substantial portion of his campaign contributions from landlords and other such monied interests, and will have a hard time resisting the lure of voting the way the big boys want him to. He is incredibly ambitious and one can only speculate where this ambition will lead him. Most observes feel now that he has much bigger things than the Cambridge City Council in his sights, so that it's rather unlikely that he will line up with the older "independents" on the Council. But it is also felt that it will take a strong effort by Graham and Ackermann to keep him in the liberal camp.

Moncreiff, the Rhodes Scholar Republican, will be a different sort of problem for reformers Graham and Ackermann. His campaign ptich that the only thing that needed to get Cambridge back on the road to good government was the firing of the City Manager leaves one with the feeling that he's taking a little too simplistic an approach to the City's problems. At one point during the campaign he said. "Most of the talk about rent control and day care is a lot of baloney--the important thing is to get a new City Manager." But Moncreiff, whose constituency is composed almost totally of Brattle Steeters, should be open to a little friendly persuasion from fellow Brattle Streeter Ackerman on a lot of issues. They voted together a lot on last year's Council and if he feels that a proposal is practical enough or not a "pie in the sky" fantasy of some crazed liberal's mind, chances are he'll vote for it. The best thing about Mocreiff is that he listens--and that he has no connections with the corruption-tinged "independents."

The third, and in an many ways, most enigmatic of the three liberal "keys" is Frank Duehay '55, Dean of admissions at the Graduate School of Education and former vice-chariman of the School Committee. He takes a fairly strong stand on rent control but he shares Moncreiff's belief that one of the largest problems facing Cambridge is the firing of the City Manager. He does go a little farther than Moncreiff in feeling that the entire City Hall bureaucracy should be managerial-corporate view of the city government but he too should be open to strong pressure from Ackermann's Brattle Street crowd to keep a righteously liberal stance on issues.

The issue of daycare should offer some insight into how the new council will react toward reform and innovation. The daycare referendum passed with a 60 per cent yes vote in the election and it is certain that Ackermann, Graham, and Owens will support 24-hour daycare. Duehay and Moncreiff should be a little hesitant and what they say in Council and how they vote should give a strong key to the strength and cohensiveness of the supposed new liberal majority.

At any rate, the Council will certainly be much more exciting than in years past and the amount of input that members of the community have in deciding what goes on in their government should be greatly increased, although in no way can this new council be called a radical or populist council. Liberal it is, but Brattle Street liberal, and just how responsive it is to all the people of Cambridge will only be told in the coming months.

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