Traveling on a Runaway Bus
By Paul Steven Stone
- Jan 31 "Who Decides?" Forum
I’ve been asked to speak about the need to elect a progressive city council. Which—to do that—requires us to replace at least three of the folks shown in the photo, ideally from the back row. (I’ll speak later about the criteria that leads me to say that)
Three years ago, like most of you, I was totally ignorant of what was happening in our city. Totally ignorant of the city’s addiction to development, or the wheels that had been set in motion to virtually rubber-stamp any project that came before the Planning Board or our City Council.
But then I discovered a staggering fact. In the last few years, more than HALF the development projected for the next 20 years in Cambridge had either been built or permitted. Most of it without the guidance of anything I would consider real planning.
Well, that woke me up and once it did I saw we were all traveling on a runaway bus with no one at the wheel. A bus that was throwing off passengers—my neighbors and yours—as we merrily careened on our way.
Ever since I’ve been struggling, along with others, to grab the steering wheel and slow down the bus. I guess that’s why I’m here today.
If I can paraphrase from a far greater orator than myself…
Friends, neighbors, Cantabrigians, lend me your votes!
I come to shake up the city council, not to praise them.
For the deeds these councilors do will live long after they’re gone.
As will their unfortunate zoning decisions—and lack of foresight—chip away at the foundations of our beloved city.
Make no mistake, we are now drawn to an epic battle to preserve all that is most precious to us in Cambridge—our quality of life, our economic and racial diversity, our sense of community identity.
The next city council election may well decide the future of our city; and whether there’s a place for any of us in that future.
Many of us rail against the city council for their kneejerk reactions to complex issues. For the speed with which they approve almost any proposal that hides behind claims of protecting our most vulnerable citizens.
No matter that their political war chests are brimming with donations from developers…
No matter that they vote for zoning changes that award millions to developers while potentially displacing the very people they profess to care about…
No matter that they have failed to insist on thoughtful planning for our city’s growth…
Most of these councilors voted down the Carlone Petition, the one tool they could have used to protect our city from misguided mega-developments like the Sullivan courthouse.
And though they agreed to a Master planning process, they cynically placed it under the control of the very agency whose lax planning and arrogant behavior led to the outcry for a master plan in the first place.
That’s like sending a mugger out to protect his latest victim.
Over and over, they trumpet their concern for the families and poor people flushed out of Cambridge on a tsunami of development, but they never insist on an analysis of the real impacts of all this unbridled development.
And so I’m here today with two missions: first to call for right-thinking individuals to run for city council. We need candidates who will stand up to the pro-development cabal that threatens the fabric of our community. It only takes four votes to stop up-zoning and spot-zoning in its tracks. Just four votes to send proposed 19-story luxury towers back to the drawing board.
We believe we currently have three such enlightened councilors who’ve shown they can see beyond the false arguments, who won’t trade away our city’s future for a fast buck. (This time I direct your attention to councilors in the front row of the photo.)
Secondly, the Cambridge Residents Alliance will be endorsing a slate of candidates in the next election, and I humbly ask you to vote for that slate. Or at least not to vote for anyone in that photo who voted against the Carlone Petition, or who supports the status quo, takes money from developers, or naively claims the city is doing a good job planning for its future.
Your vote in the next City Council election may help decide who gets forced out of Cambridge, and who gets to stay.
That’s all I have to say…except I‘ll see you at the polls!