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Iskovitz, Green Party candidate for City Council Newcomer running as reformer, o
23 Oct 2001
Iskovitz, Green Party candidate for City Council Newcomer running as reformer, outsider
Steve Iskovitz doesn't mind if people compare his candidacy for Cambridge City Council to Ralph Nader's upstart run at the White House last year. Like Nader, Iskovitz is a member of the Green Party. And just as Nader did in the last presidential election, Iskovitz is running an outsider's campaign, painting himself in stark contrast to the city councilors who currently occupy City Hall.

" They're not being strong advocates for people, not effectively addressing issues that people care about in Cambridge: The high costs of housing, too much corporate development, bad air quality, insufficient public transportation, " said Iskovitz.

Iskovitz, 41, is a mental health councilor at a privately-run community residence for schizophrenic adults in Waltham. He is single and has no children. He grew up Pittsburgh, and moved to Cambridge in 1985 after graduating from Antioch College in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Today, he lives on Bishop Allen Drive in Central Square.

Iskovitz has never held elected office in Cambridge or anywhere else, and he is not currently a member of a civic group or neighborhood organization here. He returned to Cambridge in 1998 after living for a time in San Francisco. But he has been an active affordable-housing advocate here for many years. In the late 1980s Iskovitz worked with a coalition from the Cambridge Tenants Union. In 1999, he was a member of the Cambridge Citizens United for Rent Equity campaign, which tried to reinstate rent control in Cambridge through a ballot referendum. Ultimately, the group was not able to get the referendum onto the ballot. He has also contributed several articles to Spare Change newspaper, writing about housing issues.

As a Cambridge City Councilor, Iskovitz said he would:

ˇ Try to reinstate some form of rent control in Cambridge. While short on specifics, Iskovitz said he wants a rent control system that would take into account the individual situation of the landlord, creating separate rules for small property owners and corporate landlords.

ˇ Reorganize the city's Plan E government, in which the city is run by a manager appointed by the City Council. Iskovitz wants to weaken the powers of city manager and strengthen the powers of the City Council and the mayor. " I think the city manager system makes a mockery of the concept of democratic government, " said Iskovitz. " How many people even know the name of the city manager? He [City Manager Robert Healy] doesn't even live in Cambridge ... He's not held directly accountable to voters. We need a strong mayor, who can make decisions and has to face public scrutiny about those decisions. "
ˇ Attempt to stop or limit commercial development in Cambridge.

ˇ Stop further university expansion in Cambridge.

" Harvard and MIT are buying up land and building more research and development office buildings, and they don't even pay taxes to the city ... They're reducing the amount of housing in the city, and at the same time they're increasing the demand for housing. They're taking a bad situation and making it worse, " he said.

Iskovitz's platform also reflects national Green Party priorities. As a city councilor, he says he would push to create a more extensive public transportation system, using environmentally-friendly buses and trains. He wants to build more bike paths in Cambridge. And he likes what the Seattle City Council did recently when it passed a symbolic resolution to adhere to the Kioto Accord within city limits, after the United States backed out of the international pact to cut industrial gas emissions globally.

" The idea is that we should think locally about issues that concern us all globally, he said. " It's not enough to just laugh at George Bush for turning his back on the Kioto Accord. We can't wait for the Republicans and the Democrats to come around in Washington D.C. We need to act locally. "

Ultimately, Iskovitz said his decision to run for City Council is motivated by his love for Cambridge, and his belief that life here has taken a turn for the worse.

" When I first moved here in 1985, Cambridge was a nice place - friendly and humane. I've watched it become less friendly, more cutthroat and competitive. People smile less than they used to, they're colder than they used to be. At the same time, since they got rid of rent control in 1995, rents have commonly doubled and tripled. And it's not surprising that that's affected the makeup of the city, and the mood of the people who still live here, " he said.

Watch MetroWest Daily News managing editor Joe Dwinell's live report on WB-56 every Thursday and Friday at 7:45 a.m.

  Campaign Endorsed By Mystic River Greens & Cambridge Greens
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