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The Cambridge City Council listened in silence while an audience of approximately 30 Cantabridgians voiced their post-election priorities at a special meeting last night.
All council members, the city manager and most of the city department heads were on hand at the Cambridge Senior Center on Mass. Ave. while the group discussed rising housing costs, education and communication between the city's government and its citizens.
"The Council is not going to talk, we're going to listen," Councillor Mike Sullivan said to open the meeting that lasted for an hour and one half. "This is an opportunity for us to hear from you as we approach the 21st century."
Roberta Miller, a professional consultant to city governments, facilitated the meeting. Miller walked among the audience with a microphone, asking citizens to rank their concerns for the council.
"I thought they did a fabulous job. The people were very thoughtful in their suggestions," Miller said. "They made contributions that didn't just deal with the short term problems but looked at the overall perspective."
The decline of housing for low-and middle-income families was a frequent topic of discussion, and several citizens laid blame on the expansion of hotels and affluent housing surrounding Harvard Square.
"Because of Harvard's synosurity, developers are pushing people out their homes," said George Despotis. "They are constructively evicting them with noise, traffic, and other things that contribute to the unattractiveness of living here."
John Pitkin said the loss of housing in Cambridge has caused an increasing rate of turnover among residents, which he said hampers the city's ability to solve its problems as a unified community.
"We need to be finding ways to stabilize the population and keep Cambridge from becoming a student ghetto," Pitkin said.
Throughout the meeting, the councillors and city manager silently scribbled notes.
"Prioritizing allowed us to see a result that coincides with what we are already doing," Sullivan said. "What came out tonight is what's going in the mix in tomorrow's council meeting."
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