Candidates Discuss City’s Relations With Local Colleges

† Answered by e-mail ‡ Did not return phone calls and e-mail requests for an interview. Answers were taken from

Elections for Cambridge City Council will be held next Tuesday, Nov. 3. The above table contains the candidates’ answers to some questions particularly relevant to the MIT community. For more information, see story on page 1.

PILOT stands for Payment in Lieu of Taxes, an agreement in which Cambridge receives payments for non-taxable land being used by universities for educational purposes. In 2006, MIT’s PILOT payment was $1,541,000, according to the 2006 Cambridge Town Gown Annual Report Data.

Compiled by Marie Y. Thibault.

Candidate Top Three Priorities MIT/Cambridge Relations PILOT Agreement Students want...
Henrietta Davis ¶ Energy and environment

¶ Children’s health

¶ Quality of life

There’s always more to be done. In some cases, there is a clear need for partnership.

Always need to be looking at what universities can do to help community. I think MIT needs to continue to be an ongoing partner with us. Transportation around town. Want to know that their city is doing the right thing in terms of human rights, energy, and the environment. Care that MIT continues to be a place where innovation happens.
Marjorie Decker ¶ Affordable housing

¶ Youth leadership/development

¶ Create civic space for dialogue and debate

MIT tends to hire individuals who can relate to community. Always room for improvement – need to watch closely how MIT develops property/amount of land it owns. It just doesn’t make sense – needs to be a better formula. Perhaps MIT could help pay for part of $100 million renovation of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School instead of PILOT payments for a couple years. Aren’t thinking about Cambridge. Concerned about their quality of life and what their next step should be.
Jonathan Janik ¶ Synchronized traffic signals to allow drivers to get from one side of Cambridge to the other more quickly.

¶ Promoting local businesses

¶ Late-night dining options

Relationship with MIT is fairly good. High school students should be allowed to intern and take classes at MIT and community should be able to use MIT’s athletic fields when the teams are not in season. When universities expand, they drive up the cost of renting. Universities should increase the amount of payments – “they do get off scot-free when it comes to taxes.” Low rent, being able to eat at three or four in the morning. Expanded biking and bike parking, safety, and more local and small businesses in MIT area.
Craig Kelley ¶ More citizens actively involved in what their city council is doing

¶ Better working relationship between the school committee and the city council

¶ Better way to grow – alternative transportation, less car-centric development

We need to clarify what we want universities to do. Perhaps could open university athletic facilities to the community or encourage volunteer work. When the time comes to renegotiate, I’d like to see the payment amounts go up.

Want to feel safe going out and walking home.

David Maher ¶ Schools

¶ Safety

¶ Keeping Cambridge affordable

I was the councilor who brought forward the idea for the university subcommittee. We can do a better job of narrowing our requests to the universities. MIT students can help tutor science and math in the public schools. Also need to make sure campus changes are the best for both the university and the city. The universities have vast wealth, so I think the residents expect more. I think we [councilors] wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t advocate for more.

Want to feel safe and enjoy an active social life in the city. Affordability is a concern, as is open space. Students with young families care about good public schools.
Kevin Moore ¶ Affordable housing

¶ Education and youth

¶ Elderly

All the universities need to have more outreach in the community. MIT, Harvard, and Lesley will be involved as tutors for my Cambridge Educational Youth League, which will also include a basketball league sponsored by Patrick Ewing. MIT also deserves a “whole lot of credit” for its Upward Bound program. MIT pays more than Harvard, but both institutes should be paying a lot more to the city. Perhaps the universities could donate land or funds toward making more affordable housing. It seems that MIT students keep to themselves, so I don’t really know.

Gregg Moree † ¶ Youth apprenticeship programs.

¶ Residency Requirements for building and city jobs.

¶ More resources available to Senior citizens.

There is a 15% poverty level in Cambridge. If we are truly working together that means MIT must address this problem as well. MIT is one of the largest land owners and employers in Cambridge, the University needs to take a greater interest in the community and the people where it resides. We need to attack the issue of poverty together, because the level it is at now is unacceptable. I think more can be done. As I am sure most students know, Universities are acting more like corporations and less like schools. So why shouldn’t they be taxed accordingly?

Students are an important part of Cambridge, and I think everyone needs fair representation on the council. But to be honest I am more focused on bringing jobs back to the working families of Cambridge. To giving kids who might not have a chance to go to college a chance at more than just a job but a career. If anything I think I may appeal to their social responsibility as part of our community.
Brian Murphy ¶ Improve affordable housing

¶ City zoning

¶ Support fun, independent businesses

Pretty good relationship, but always need to keep working on it. Should team up on projects that have mutual benefit for both groups.

Always going to be a charged topic, but the most important thing is that it provides the city with long-term protection in case MIT decides to take for-profit land off the tax rolls. Late-night dining, more entertainment venues, safety, keep businesses that attract students.

Kenneth E. Reeves ¶ Cambridge stays competitive with other bioscience centers

¶ Affordability for middle class - maintain

¶ Perfecting public education system

MIT has the best government relations team. Understand many of the needs of the city, in terms of the school system and other intersections that are volunteer opportunities. I don’t think much of it. The universities are not non-profits. If there was greater taxes paid by the universities, the tax burden of residents could be reduced. Generally concerned with quality of life issues. Probably want to know more about activities that they would enjoy on the fun and entertainment end. Also that city is prompting environmentally friendly decisions.
Kathy Podgers ¶ Bring Cambridge into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

¶ Bring attention to the confusion of natural space with open space – stop development of Magazine Beach

¶ Work on gap between rich and poor and the problems with housing and food that result

Universities need to make sure campus housing is available, in order to prevent driving housing prices up. Also seems that MIT students are basically shut off from what’s going on in the city. Universities are basically corporations now – “what is really the difference between Amgen and MIT?” PILOT no longer makes sense since universities have such large endowments. Parking issues, green issues, having venues open later in Cambridge. I feel students aren’t being heard from, so I don’t really know what they care about.
Sam Seidel ¶ Environment

¶ Early childhood education

¶ Changing economics and demographics in Cambridge

My perception is that MIT does a better job of interacting with the city than Harvard does. The innovation at MIT leads to positive repercussions for Cambridge. MIT should help community face challenges like housing for students and other residents, transportation, and the environment. “I don’t understand why it’s so low. I just don’t understand it … how did we come to that number … it just seems incredibly low to me.”

Want to go out with the friends late at night in Cambridge. Want recognition of their important role in making Cambridge unique. Want to hear that their political leaders are paying attention to their view of the future and want to hear some optimism.
Denise Simmons ¶ Safety

¶ Education

¶ Economic development/ jobs

Everyone can always do more. For example, I’ve contacted MIT about a parking lot they own at the intersection of School and Cherry. No one parks there, so I’ve suggested that it be the site of a collaborative project for affordable green housing. Of course, everything needs to be updated. How do you know if you’re meeting your goals and if you’re meeting the needs of the community? Safety, social life. The city council only gets to talk with university leadership, I would love to talk with students directly.
Edward J. Sullivan ¶ Crime

¶ Housing for low to middle-class income residents

¶ Housing and safety for senior citizens

High school students are looking for guidance, so colleges should get involved with this. Need to change community’s outlook to a positive one. Should get MIT and Harvard presidents involved in the community. This should be a debate between MIT attorneys and Cambridge attorneys. Would love to see more money – “but what would be here if colleges weren’t here?” Violence, crime, bikes, transportation. “I would think safety would be the number one concern.”

Tim Toomey ‡ ¶ Quality of life

¶ Public safety

¶ Traffic/parking/transportation

Answer not available “It’s time for Harvard and other large non profits to pay their fair share of taxes to pay for the services they receive. I will continue to advocate for my Council Order implementing a 1% surcharge on a portion of the earnings on their endowments to fund programs.” Answer not available
Larry Ward ¶ Transportation

¶ Housing

¶ Community relations

Sentiment of residents is that there are a lot of resources at MIT and Harvard. Need to promote what universities do so residents don’t hold such an adversarial view.

“I think it’s time to revisit that…sometimes what you do becomes a little outdated…part of your endowment comes from your ability not to pay your taxes.” Perhaps partner with Cambridge for some programs? Want a safe, vibrant city that is accessible to them.