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Rent control. Jobs. Development. City services. Crime. Schools.
In this year's city council elections, there's no overriding issue, but there are lots of important ones, and a field of almost 30 candidates who will try to capitalize on each. More than just a personality contest, this election has already taken on the air of a Cambridge-wide conversation about the city's priorities, problems and potential.
Affordable housing is the top issue in voters' minds, says council candidate Michael Baldasaro. "That's the main cry," he says. Baldasaro should know: He has knocked on more than 3,000 Cambridge doors since he began campaigning in February.
But the best way to achieve affordable housing is an issue in itself, as citizens take sides in the longstanding and bitter debate over rent control. Both the pro-rent control Cambridge Tenants Union and the anti-rent control Small Property Owners' Association have endorsed candidates and will be active participants in the campaign.
Candidates know this is a hot button issue and are playing it for all it's worth. "This rent control system needs to be eliminated," says candidate Anthony D. Galluccio.
Jobs are another important issue, especially for those looking for manual labor, according to Baldasaro. "There are no jobs," he says.
Talking tough about crime is a staple of urban campaign rhetoric. The current council is rumbling about a contract extension for the police commissioner, and council candidate Jim McGrail is talking about "safe streets."
The Cambridge Civic Association is pushing a set of issues oriented toward the technical side of good government. According to Civic Association President R. Philip Dowds, candidates endorsed by the Association are concerned about continuing the cost-effective delivery of services as the city approaches its tax levy limit.
The Civic Association is also concerned about seeing last spring's performance review of the city manager to its conclusion. It wants to improve and define council-manager relations, and it wants to improve the underachieving departments identified in the review process.
Candidates endorsed by the Civic Association bring their own issues to the table, as well. Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 said he is pushing for a coordinated city growth policy, sensible implementation of the Clean Air Act, and passage of reservoir protection legislation.
Civic Association-endorsed council hopeful John R. Pitkin also fronts his own issues. In addition to "getting quality services," Pitkin emphasizes working with neighborhoods and neighborhood groups and setting "higher standards for the universities."
Pitkin is calling for local representation on Harvard's Board of Overseers, and he says he wants to establish a city council committee on relations with universities.
The Civic Association itself is an issue for candidates endorsed by the newly formed Alliance for Change. The Alliance for Change says partisan squabbles and power plays have hurt the city. "We have to end the divisiveness," McGrail says.
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