IN THE 1960s, thousands of Harvard students took stands on local controversies, marching for fair housing policies in Cambridge and against highways that threatened neighborhoods far removed from the Square.
But today, most students ignore issues beyond Johnston Gate. This year, while reports emerged questioning the quality of the city's water, while negotiations continued on the University's impact on and responsibility to the city and while state officials threatened to put a 16-lane, 11-story highway interchange in East Cambridge, most Harvard students went about their routine without noticing.
Cambridge politics is important to all of us. Harvard students should make an effort to keep abreast of local issues. And those who are registered in Cambridge should vote.
THE CITY COUNCIL, with its first liberal majority in 20 years, has done an adequate job in the past two-year term. Some observers say that the fact that only 19 candidates--instead of the usual 30--are running for the nine council seats this year is a tribute to the effectiveness of the last council.
The council has helped the city manager deal effectively with the recession and the state's drastic cutbacks in local aid.
Most cities and towns in the commonwealth are broke or near-broke. Most municipalities have long depleted their cash resources and are taxing their property owners at the legal limit established by Proposition 2 1/2. Cambridge is one of a handful of cities that remains below its tax levy, retaining $18 million in free cash to keep its bond rating high and its borrowing costs low. While most cities are drastically reducing and cutting programs or are desperately trying to override Proposition 2 1/2, Cambridge has continued to offer, and in some cases improve, its extensive social service net.
During the last term the council voted to fund the position of police commissioner. Perry L. Anderson Jr., the former police chief of Miami, was hired to fill the job. Anderson has already begun to streamline the department and has made moves to diversify its leadership and make it more responsive to community concerns. His efforts are leading an increase in the number of officers patrolling Cambridge neighborhoods that have been under policed.
The council also approved a new in-lieu-of-tax agreement with Harvard, setting a new precedent for town-gown relations. As part of the agreement, Harvard will contribute to city coffers to compensate Cambridge for commercial properties the University buys and takes off the tax rolls. That agreement was an important acknowledgment of the University's impact upon the city.
The council has also shaken up the water department. In recent years Cambridge's water has been plagued with frequent violations of Environmental Protection Agency standards. The council has overseen new capital improvements and the hiring of a new water superintendent.
In the upcoming term, the council will vote on whether to renew City Manager Robert W. Healy's contract. Although Healy has been criticized for being overly development-minded, it is primarily his administration of the city which has kept Cambridge in the black. We urge that the new council renew the contract.
We also urge that the council take a more active role in addressing Cambridge's homelessness problem. The city must be prepared to take up some of the slack created by state cutbacks in the shelter system. They must strengthen the support of its shelters and must begin to think creatively about ways to allow ordinary citizens and the private sector to help the homeless. One such proposal might include the creation of food vouchers individuals could give to the homeless instead of change.
When Cantabrigians enter the voting booth today, they will be asked to rank their choices for the council. We believe there are several candidates who deserve your votes.
MORE THAN ANY other candidate, Francis H. Duehay '55 has emphasized Harvard students in his campaign. The longtime council veteran has visited nearly every registered student voter. Duehay has clearly shown that he believes Harvard students have an important role in the city and has helped spark interest among undergraduates in city issues.
Duehay has also been the most effective voice on the council this year. He designed and passed environmental ordinances dealing with ozone depletion and motor oil disposal. He has led the fight to ban unsightly billboards from Cambridge.
In addition, Duehay helped secure a fair and open-minded liberalization of regulations on street music. The reforms make it easier for musicians to play and earn money and easier for city residents to sleep at night.