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Software engineer Ilan Levy said he developed an interest in politics when he moved to Cambridge 18 years ago. Now, he is one of 22 candidates running for Cambridge City Council in an election Nov. 5.
Levy said that he got involved in the city soon after moving to Cambridge from Belgium nearly two decades ago.
“We purchased a house, I got involved in a neighborhood organization and the first few years we did a lot of positive things,” Levy said.
He pointed to contract zoning policies and police brutality as issues that contributed to his passion for public service.
“I got involved with Mass. Action Against Police Brutality…and at one of the protests I got arrested,” Levy said. “There was quite a presence of police power and I figured that any system that requires that much violence in order to maintain itself must be wrong and…that’s why I’m doing politics and being involved.”
Levy said his main concern with Cambridge politics is the way the local government is run. Specifically, he said he disapproves of Cambridge’s Plan E Charter. Levy contends that the Plan E system structures the city government much like a business, which he said impedes progress on social issues.
“It’s a very biased system to a certain outcome and that outcome is financial and financial only because we’re a corporation making money,” Levy said.
Levy cited a Kendall Square electrical substation as an example of a product of the Plan E system.
“Ten years after an aggressive pursuit of contract zoning, we’re in a situation now that we can’t provide the electricity to Kendall Square and...we have to create a huge, massive, electric substation,” Levy said. “It is going to be supplying only the density of Kendall Square and the health effects and hazard because it can be a building that can be as high as 150 feet tall.”
Levy unsuccessfully ran for Cambridge City Council in 2015 and 2017. Comparing his experience with the past two elections, he said he believes this upcoming election is particularly worrisome.
“What’s different in this election compared to the others and more worrisome actually than ever before is that we are very aware now of the crisis we are in and despite our awareness we still keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” Levy said. “We basically talk, talk, talk, talk and when it comes to action we do what we always have done.”
Levy closed with a call for Harvard students to get more involved with local politics. He called it “shameful” that more students aren’t involved in municipal government issues.
“I know there is a lot of activism at the University, but I find it very unfortunate that that activism doesn’t expand into the city and into the neighborhoods so that there is a better understanding of what exactly politics is about and how local politics in particular can be the one place where we can start making a real difference,” he said.
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