Although some Harvard students from local areas are aware of the main issues in the upcoming Cambridge City Council election, most are not intimately acquainted with the candidates and their positions. Instead, they are more concerned with the Harvard-related issues they consider more relevant to their daily lives, they said.
“I’d say very few kids from Cambridge have any idea what's going on. I knew like two kids from my high school that followed local government,” said Benjamin F. S. Altshuler ’19, who is from Cambridge.
“As a student, I don’t really care [about the City Council],” said Conor R. Paterson ’16, who grew up in Cambridge and added that few of the issues decided by the City Council affect Harvard students. “The only reason I think about [the election] is because I live here.”
Cambridge residents in general are unsure of the relevance of the City Council elections, according to Paterson. They are scheduled for Nov. 3.
“The whole City Manager thing makes you wonder what the City Council really does,” Paterson said. “The real boss is the City Manager.” Cambridge citizens elect the nine members to the Council who then appoint the City Manager. The last City Manager served for 32 years.
Candidates have been campaigning heavily in recent months, and Harvard students from Cambridge have been inundated by campaign materials. “I've gotten mailings; mostly they go to recycling,” Altshuler said.
Still, some Harvard Cantabrigians said they have considered important campaign issues.
“Locally I would say traffic and congestion is a big issue,” Amy R. Zhao ’19 said.
Paterson emphasized other concerns. “The thing mostly on people’s radar is zoning,” he said. “With the tech business in Kendall Square, there’s a lot of building and development going on for the people who work there.”
But Harvard, he said, remains at the center of students’ lives. “Students live on Harvard property, go to school on Harvard property,” Paterson said.
According to Zhao, when students look beyond the gates of Harvard, they focus on issues of a national or global scale.
“We are either concerned with Harvard or concerned with bigger things—like presidential elections,” she said. “I guess kids aren’t that interested in local things.”
For his part, Altshuler will not be joining other Cantabrigians at the polls come November.
“I'm much more directly affected by the issues at Harvard,” he said. “Here, your voice is more easily heard.”
Those registered to vote in Cambridge can go to the polls for the City Council election on Nov. 3. This year, 23 candidates will vie for nine spots on the Council.
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