Cambridge residents head for the polls today to elect a new city council and school board in one of the most hotly contested races in recent history.
Twenty-nine candidates are vying for nine spots on the council, and 11 are competing for six positions on the school board.
The city council race has centered on how to balance residents' needs against the desire for business growth and development. Rent control, public safety and increasing the efficiency of the city government are also at issue.
The less publicized school board election has focused on issues of educational reform including a proposal to eliminate most ability grouping in city schools.
Election Commissioner Sondra Scheir said the elections should run smoothly, despite concerns that the temporary leave of Election Commissioner Teresa S. Neighbor caused confusion for voters who were recently redistricted.
She said cards notifying residents of their polling places would help prevent confusion on voting day, despite the change in Cambridge polling stations.
But William Castro, campaign manager for City Council candidate John R. Pitkin, said he was still concerned that the notification cards were not adequate and that changes in polling places will affect voter turnout.
"Some people think they are voting at the wrong places," Castro said. He said the Pitkin campaign is contacting voters directly to ensure that they know where to vote.
Scheir said she expects an average voter turnout, with more than 50 percent of registered voters expected at the polls if the weather is good. Today's weather forecast calls for sun and a high of around 50.
Several city council candidates did some last minute stumping during the days before the election, with several angling for the votes of the approximately 1,000 Harvard students registered in Cambridge.
Volunteers for city council candidates Paul T. Kearns and incumbent Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves `72 held up signs in Harvard Square late yesterday afternoon.
Reeves also held several parades to recruit new voters late in his campaign.
Councillor Frank H. Duehay `55 appeared at Harvard's Canaday Hall to drum up student support last night and will call voters who promised to vote for him today, according to his election workers.
Outside the Harvard Square area,
Where to Vote