Wednesday, July 17, 2024

City Council candidate Larry Ward between two once and potential constituents at a community event last year. (Photo: Larry Aaronson)

Students in a summer Harvard journalism course interviewed some challengers for City Council as part of a class assignment, and their work — some as profiles and some in question-and-answer format — is running, one a week, on Cambridge Day. Previously were Charles MarquardtGary Mello, Matt NelsonJamake PascualTom Stohlman and Minka vanBeuzekom.

Larry Ward is unique among the City Council challengers seeking election Nov. 8: He’s already been a city councillor.

When Brian Murphy resigned from the council in February 2009 for a state job with the Executive Office of Transportation, it was Ward who won that month’s five-candidate vote recount to replace him. Seven months later, Ward was voted out in a regular election. Leland Cheung won his seat.

Ward, 53, wants back on, but he hasn’t stopped working for Cambridge residents in the meantime. Ward is an activist. He proposes solutions, he creates committees, and he’s committed to changing lives, he says, with assurances and examples that he understands problem-solving and people — what they want, what they need and how they can get it.

“I really love Cambridge,” he says. “I love what it’s about. I love helping people in the city, and making sure we stay a good place for people to live, work and play.”

He believes in balanced development — growing the city but keeping the people’s needs in mind. He wants to fill the huge need for more family-friendly housing, as opposed to smaller rentals, he says, and as a parent, he understands that safety and stability is a priority for families as well. He wants to create more employment opportunities for youth, vows to foster relationships between the elderly and youth and wants to see local world-class universities get more involved with the the youth of his world-class city. “It’s making connections so these things happen,” he says.

Residents have legitimate concerns about traffic and parking issues in the city, he says, citing longer hours at parking meters and a raise in parking fees as the sort of thing he wants to focus on. “It’s the little things that make people’s lives comfortable,” he says. “If you pay attention to the little things in people’s lives and fix those things, you don’t have to deal with the big problem — when all the little things pile up.”

He respects the way things are run. He wants councillors to be more proactive in appealing to the people, starting with a rotating schedule in which meetings rotate through neighborhoods to get more people involved. “When you’re helping other people,” he tells me wisely, “You want to go to them. You want to show them you care by going to them, and not telling them to come to you to propose their opinions.” But he likes that the city’s professionally run by a city manager — saying City Manager Robert W. Healy has done a fabulous job, and that the biggest challenge Cambridge faces will finding an eventual replacement — and believes the balance of power between the city councillors and the city manager is appropriate.

Citizens’ lack of complaints testify to it, he says. “Cambridge has the lowest residential tax rate in all of the commonwealth,” he says, “and if you want to maintain that, the election of the city manager is important. After all, he is an important factor for the maintenance of the city.”

Ward has his own example of problem-solving to offer: his ink cartridge-recycling program, in which he partners with local businesses to collect use ink cartridges and turn them in return for supplies for community centers and schools. In eight months running the program he raised more than $4,000 worth of school supplies, he says, and this year should have enough to give away 50 backpacks’ worth. It helps schools, the needy and the environment, Ward says, and could be expanded with his election.

“It’s important to remember that you can’t please all the people. You have to look at what’s best for the people in the city, and that should constitute the decision you make,” he says, describing his approach to being a city councillor. “It will be a full time job for me.”

Ward’s website is here; his profile on the Cambridge Civic Journal is here.

Marc Levy contributed to this report.