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Candidates for next week’s Cambridge City Council election—incumbents and challengers alike—listed housing affordability, taxes, and education as top local issues at a candidates’ forum last night.
Challengers sharply criticized incumbents’ stances on these issues and others at the event, which was hosted by the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association (MCNA) at the Cambridge Senior Center in Central Square.
Eighteen candidates are vying for the council’s nine spots in the Nov. 8 election. This includes all nine current council members.
Critical challengers denounced the current council for failing to involve citizens in city government, calling for “fresh and new ideas.”
“Participation in city government is dying,” challenger Andre Green said to the audience of about 30. “It’s no longer responsive.”
But the format of last night’s forum offered little opportunity for head-to-head debate. Candidates took turns answering the six questions selected by a panel of Cambridge residents for last night’s event.
Candidates were asked whether they felt that a charter adopted in 1940 known as “Plan E”—which instituted City Council election by proportional representation and installed a city manager to run local government—limited citizens’ participation in municipal government.
They also fielded questions about property taxes in Cambridge’s increasingly tight housing market, government spending on social programs, and the potential closure of community centers.
Citing difficulties imposed by existing state law, incumbent candidates pointed to their efforts at easing the blow of property taxes—a main source of city revenue—such as reexamining property assessment methods or working with the state legislature. Councilor Timothy Toomey, Jr. and Mayor Michael A. Sullivan, who is one of the nine council members, each suggested that additional funds from Harvard could help ease the burden on overtaxed residents.estion of whether taxes should be cut at the expense of social services.
“There is no other community in the state that comes close to providing the level of services that we provide to our citizens,” said Councilor Toomey, praising Cambridge for services like education and public works. “We’re going to have to determine what kind of a city we want to live in.”
But challenger Bill Hees called taxes and overspending the two biggest problems facing Cambridge.
Another challenger, Robert L. Hall, Sr. concurred, saying, “We can make government more efficient and more effective...We can’t continue to just keep spending money.”
Cambridge resident Allen Davis said he found the forum very informative, but was not impressed with the challengers’ ideas. “I don’t think people made a real case for changing anything. They didn’t give concrete examples of what they would change,” Davis said.
—Staff writer Anna M. Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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