Despite evidence that this year's election in Cambridge has failed to arouse much interest among voters, there are crucial issues at stake on Tuesday.
If the current liberal majority on the city council (already shaky because of Henry Owen's irresponsible behavior) is broken and the Independents regain command, it is very unlikely that any form of rent control would survive. Similarly, hopes for controlling high-profit, high-rise development and preserving existing neighborhoods would be shattered. Another important question is whether the council and city manager will begin to exert some authority over a police department that is growing increasingly arrogant and unruly. The Independents have shown little sensitivity to the problems of Cambridge and even less capacity to deal with these problems.
There is also a vital need to retain the present liberal strength on the school committee. The central issue in that campaign is the retention of the progressive superintendent of schools, Alflorence Cheatham. With the support of the liberal majority, Cheatham has instituted several reforms in the city's school system. He has also demonstrated a refreshing willingness to involve teachers, students and parents in important policy decisions. If they gain the necessary seats, the Independents will almost certainly fire Cheatham and replace him with a more manageable but less skillful administrator.
The most qualified candidates for city council have been endorsed by the Grass Roots Organization or the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA). Among these eleven candidates, five seem worthy of special mention:
Fred Arsenault has been active in civic affairs since 1963. As chairman of Headstart and of the first Community Schools Commission, he has proved willing Nand able to work for progressive change in Cambridge.
Saundra Graham in her first term has shaken the city council from its normal stupor. Her impatient attitude toward bureaucratic red tape and her stubborn refusal to be satisfied with the status quo make her a very valuable councillor.
Francis H. Duehay '55 has been a real force for good in his first term on the council. Duehay has headed important subcommittees on transportation and economic development and has been a leader in the fight against the Kennedy Library.
John Brode '52 has demonstrated a unique concern for the problems confronting this city, especially those stemming from the greed of real estate developers. He feels strongly about the need for community control over development and the police.
Paul Chase has had extensive political experience in the long-unrepresented area of the housing projects in East Cambridge. He is clearly sensitive to the problems of those who are traditionally ignored in Cambridge politics--blacks, the poor, and the unemployed.
The CCA/Common Slate candidates for school committee are all excellent and need no elaboration. Timothy Callahan, Eric Davin, Orie Dudley, Peter Gesell, Charles Pierce, Mary Ellen Preusser and Alice Wolf would work with Superintendent Cheatham for better schools and better teachers in Cambridge.
The issues in this election are critical ones and deserve the full attention of the city's inhabitants. Whether Cambridge continues to move forward or reverts to past lethargy will depend on the outcome of Tuesday's voting.