Ilan Levy, candidate for City Council today, calls Plan E root of fundamental problems
From Ilan Levy, candidate for City Council, Oct. 31, 2015: I’ve been knocking on lots of doors in the neighborhood over the past three months and have met a lot of you. Today I’m again going to remind you why I’m running. Today’s election offers a very rare opportunity to make a change in the way we govern ourselves. The main issue of this campaign should have been what happens at the end of the city manager’s contract in June, but unfortunately during the past three months no candidate but me has asked the question and proposed a solution. I’m going to take the opportunity to remind you who I am, why I’m running and my proposal for the future of Cambridge. I very much hope that over the past three months I’ve made the strongest possible argument for bringing Democracy back to Cambridge. And that today you will cast your No. 1 vote for me so together we can make Cambridge a beacon of a 21st century Democracy.
Who am I?
My name is Ilan Levy. My parents are Clement and Loretta Levy. I’m Jewish. I come from Brussels, Belgium, and moved to Cambridge, on the East side, in August 2003. I’m white privilege. During the daytime I’m a software engineer, and when I’m not enjoying time with my family, friends and my dog, I’m an activist for justice and democracy.
Why am I running?
I have been an activist in Cambridge since 2006, when I became a member of the East Cambridge Planning Team. I was a member of the board of the team for four years, from 2007-11. During the early years, I participated in projects including a community garden, the Lopez park, and the Broadwalk canal bridge and walkway. From 2009 to 2011 I was heavily involved in the fight against the proposed Alexandria Real Estate upzoning (900,000 square feet to 1.8 million square feet), not only because of the development itself, but because of the dark city process underpinning it. During this fight I went around our neighborhood, informed my neighbors and collected more than 1,000 signatures against the upzoning. From 2013 to today, I have fought to have the Foundry building remain an asset of the city used to serve the arts, nonprofits serving the kids of Cambridge and the community. During the initial stages, I again started a petition and collected more than 750 signatures from all over Cambridge to make this happen. Last year, 75 New St. came up in the Fresh Pond area, the beginning of another long battle against the dark processes of the city. At the same time as New Street, I also fought, with my neighbors, the Sullivan Courthouse development and was, until I started my campaign, a member of the board of the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge, which I helped found.
The Plan E charter, a corporate form of government. Its setup:
A city manager (paid $330,000 a year) equivalent to a chief executive; a City Council, nine people we elect (paid $78,000 a year part time) equivalent to a board of directors that among themselves elect a chairman, the mayor (paid $116,000 a year part time); and finally the people, the taxpayers, or supposed “shareholders/consumers.”
The decision-maker is not elected and not accountable to the citizens of Cambridge. The city manager/CEO appoints the heads of departments and boards, and they are accountable only to him, not to the council and certainly not to the citizenry.
The city manager/CEO is accountable only to the City Council, not the citizenry. The last appointment of the city manager was done behind closed doors, and the state Attorney General’s Office found the city guilty of having broken Open Meeting Law; five candidates in this year’s election were a part of this.
Plan E is the root of fundamental problems, procedural and political, in our city. We need a charter change.
My proposal: I’m running for City Council with a no-donations, no-spending campaign to restore Democracy to Cambridge and move us to a directly elected mayor form of government. But not only do I want us to go back to a directly elected mayor form of government such as Boston and Somerville; I also want to strengthen our local Democracy by enhancing our home rule. The objective is to get us engage again in our local government, and for Cambridge to become a beacon for the ideal that is Democracy and not it’s dark, hidden secret.
The city manager’s contract expiration is the perfect opportunity to bring back our needed Democracy, the rule of and by the people of Cambridge. I propose we take the next two to three years to bring our community together around the rebuilding of our Democracy. I propose a basic framework on which to build. The five foundational pillars of this framework are:
Transparency and accountability
Terms limits for all elected public offices (maybe eight years)
A directly elected mayor
Publicly financed campaigns
Non-cumulation of mandates – only one public job at a time.
It is urgent that we redefine our local governance; it is urgent that we put the people back in charge. We all must take the time to get engaged and to engage others. We all need to be a part, and today, not tomorrow! Our voices need to be heard now.
A final thing to motivate you further: In Cambridge thee are 87,000 total eligible voters, but only 62,000 registered voters and 22,000 inactive voters. The past three local elections have seen an average voter turnout of 16,000 – a low of 13,500 and a high of 17,500. These are dismal numbers for what is suppose to be the people’s republic. The main reason for this disengagement: Plan E; a city manager; and an unaccountable decision-maker form of government.
Together we can bring back democracy to Cambridge.
Thank you in advance for your time, and consideration.