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Cambridge City Council Candidate: Gary C. Mello

By Brian C. Zhang, Contributing Writer

While many Cambridge City Council candidates note that they have ties with Harvard, Gary W. Mello is likely the only one who has ever lived in the Harvard Sailing Center.

Having sailed since he was in high school, Mello worked at Harvard Sailing from 1968 to 1981 as manager of the newly opened Sailing Center. “I lived in the facility for most of the 1970s,” he says.

Mello, who is 58, currently works as a pharmacy clerk and lives near Central Square. As a daily swimmer, he has benefited from Harvard’s facilities for decades.

“I might be the all-time mileage record-holder in Harvard’s pools,” says Mello. “I was in Blodgett the day it opened [in 1978].”

Mello continues to refer to Malkin Athletic Center as the IAB, or Indoor Athletic Building, the name it went by until it was renovated in 1985.

Mello says he decided to run for City Council because of his alarm at the way the City is spending money. At the present rate of increase, Cambridge will be spending a half-billion dollars each year by 2013, Mello says in a campaign video.

“That’s billion with a B, and it’s way too much,” Mello says.

Mello proposes to cap the City’s annual budget at $450 million and decrease spending through a less costly health insurance policy for city employees. His plan focuses on Cambridge Health Alliance, one of the academic teaching hospitals of the Harvard Medical School which has three campuses at Cambridge Hospital, Somerville Hospital, and Whidden Hospital.

Mello plans to make CHA the baseline insurer for all city employees, thus cutting down on the $55 million that Mello says the city currently spends on private health insurance. Recently, CHA had to shut down clinics and reduce services, but according to Mello, his policy will provide the injection that is needed to stimulate the hospital’s growth. By supporting CHA, it would also create a more attractive health care plan for private employers to adopt, he says.

“Harvard and MIT, the City’s two largest employers, already deal with primary care in house. It’s time we do the same,” says Mello in a promotional video.

But the plan may involve a sacrifice for city employees, such as teachers and local government officials, most of whom currently receive private health insurance.

“I would rather have private insurance so I can have options,” says Regine Guirand, administrative coordinator of orthopedics at Cambridge Hospital. “With private insurance, I can choose who I want to see and don’t have to rely on a doctor’s referral to see other providers like Massachusetts General Hospital.”

As another spending cut, Mello plans to change the timetable of local elections so they coincide with national and state elections.

He anticipates that the 2011 election will be another year of low voter turnout, yet is also a source of extra spending for the City.

Instead, he proposes that 2013 be the last odd year for municipal elections, with ensuing elections held on even years starting 2016. Mello says this change will increase voter participation while saving money for the City.

Regarding the controversy over Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr. that has been highlighted in the City Council race, Mello says he is “one of most who wish to see a new City Manager.”

The position of City Manager, which is chosen by the City Council, has been filled by Healy for 30 years. But Mello added that it is “very important that [Healy] be a part of the transition.”

Mello, who is licensed as a real estate broker, also says he advocates more affordable housing in Cambridge. He notes that “the middle class is gone from Cambridge, and it’s not likely to return,” since rent control policies were abolished in the 1990s.

Mello emphasizes that affordable housing does not mean subsidized housing.

In his campaign video, he does not set a concrete proposal for creating more affordable housing, but says, “When the city adopts a plan—overall master plan, city-wide—that is cohesive and fair ... I’ll hop right on board.”

Born and raised in Cambridge, Mello attended Cambridge Latin High School, which has since been folded into Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. He received B.E. and M.E. degrees from Stevens Insitute of Technology, and is the father of two children, Andrew and Ian, who are third and eighth graders in the Cambridge public school system.

He still maintains an interest in the sailing team’s performance, and often stops by to talk with the staff. Bern Noack, assistant coach for Harvard sailing, says he has known Mello for at least five years.

“I think he cares about Cambridge a lot. He’s a long, long time Cambridge resident,” Noack says.

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