Sunday, November 1, 2009

A New Twist on Town/Gown Politics

The relationship between city and the world renowned institutions that call Cambridge home is constantly in tension. This is especially true in C-port, which is physically home to parts of both MIT and Harvard. No doubt, the schools have immense positive impact in terms of employment, cultural enrichment and the local economy. But there are other areas of friction, stemming from campus expansions, commercial development and property management, student housing issues, and other, more sensational controversies. In neighboring communities such as Allston, Harvard and BC's expansions are full of controversy. A common response for many residents is to seek Council members who can assert the community's desires against the expanding institutions.

Here in Cambridge, the City Council candidacy of Leland Cheung addresses the Town/Gown issue head on. Cheung is a graduate student at MIT, by his own claim the first active student to run for City Council. His candidacy is more than a grad school fling; he recently was one of two challengers to garner a Chronicle endorsement (along with architect Tom Stohlman). Given his status as both a student and a longtime resident, Cheung's claims about working with universities seem to ring truer than the average candidate, such as his promise that, "as the first current student (who was first and foremost a home-owning resident) I will use my unique status to open university resources to the community." [full disclosure: I'm an MIT alum, but I don't know Cheung, nor have I decided who to vote for just yet.]

Regardless of your choice, please get out and vote on Tuesday. For those still looking for a candidate to support or other election info, be sure to check out the Municipal Election post from last week that links to a bunch of resources, (including the comprehensive Cambridge Civic Journal).

Image of Cambridge City Hall from the city website.

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