Saturday, May 18, 2024

There will be no endorsements of candidates here. Cambridge Day is too new to be well enough informed on city topics and specific personalities to be a sound and credible guide to readers on whom to vote for in tomorrow’s elections.

Certainly there’s validity in the urgings of many to vote for challengers ahead of incumbents and bring change, even evolutionary change, to the City Council and School Committee. But Cambridge was wise to ignore the countrywide craze for term limits several years back, a tacit acknowledgment that experience and stability were at least as important as a fresh eye and new voice, and Cambridge has benefited from it — if imperfectly, and to the pain of some.

As in nature, the seemingly static nature of city government has done the most damage almost imperceptibly. Think erosion: What may have started out as a level playing field has been etched into trenches in which the people and government go about their businesses, suspicious and fatalistic about the intentions of the other.

There’s just enough friendly travel between trenches to disguise the essential nature of the conflict: Our government has done well enough that it may consider the most vocal citizens to be rabble-rousers and intruders into the efficient and successful running of the city. Its responses to citizens can seem paternalistic and dismissive, and that legitimately makes citizens angry — and even drives them crazy.

All credit to those who pursue an outsider’s agenda of change in Cambridge while keeping their cool, because angry and crazy is a poor state of mind with which to communicate with government, especially one that can be paternalistic or dismissive in the first place.

Unfortunately, replacing an incumbent or two with even the most inspired and energetic newcomer will not end these attitudes, nor this antagonism, and if previous elections are any guide, the incumbents haven’t much to worry about.

Except that they do, because all of Cambridge does. The worry is that a community’s most interested and involved citizens shouldn’t be treated as spitting-mad lunatics, no matter how successfully that community is run without them. The lunatics have something to worry about, too, which is that they will have little impact until they can calm down and tackle their problems methodically.

Out of the trenches, people, and let’s meet on common ground.