Ethridge King

Ethridge King
2003 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
34 River Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-497-7588
website: http://www.ethridgeking.com 
e-mail: ethridge@ethridgeking.com 

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Ethridge King
P.O. Box 390042
Cambridge, MA 02139

Background:
Ethridge King was born in Barbados and raised in Cambridge, he is married to Astrid (a native of The Netherlands) and they have a 14-month old son Jasper. Ethridge is a product of the Cambridge Public Schools and he attended Boston University. He currently holds the position of Assistant Director for Development and Alumni Relations at B.U.

Housing:
I do not support any Rent-Control measures, however, I do strongly support Affordable-Housing and here is how I differ from the others: I believe that the City Council should use a portion of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund money to help supplement rents to immediately relief the short term suffering of many residents. The amounts can be debated and voted upon but here are my general principles: We should look to augment rents by giving monthly supplements ranging from $500 to $1,000 depending on need. Student Loan Payments, Childcare, Elderly Care, or significant Healthcare cost are all expenditures that should be factored into the eligibility criteria. If we use roughly $2,000,000 per year (this year we funded the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with $9,000,000) at an average of $750 per rental unit we can right away help out roughly 2,600 renters. We must however, still maintain the current goal of long-term homeownership.

This proposal does many things: it slows down the density of housing, because my plan aims to utilize existing housing, it prevents the stigma of housing upwards of 2,000 densely housed low income residents in one location, it speaks to preserving more open-space, and it can only work if we make a conscious decision to work with our Universities and allow them to build more housing for their students. Ultimately my plan will reduce the demand for rental units, thereby increasing supply and thus reduce the cost. This is not pie-in-the-sky; we can get this done the first month of the new term and get immediate relief to families on verge of losing their homes.

Finally, if you are against Rent Control Iím your candidate and if you are in favor of Rent Control Iím still your candidate. I have a realistic plan to relief the rental crunch without shifting the burden onto the backs of Property Owners and at the same time we can put this issue to bed once and for all. This can all be done with out one penny of an increase in spending the money is already there and it has been for the past years.

Quality of Life:
We cannot discuss quality of life without discussing the aforementioned housing crunch; we shouldnít blindly pursue housing stock at the detriment of open-space and over grown neighborhoods. This is why my plan for housing deals realistically with all of the related challenges to our quality of life. Additionally, we are besieged with wall-to-wall traffic as a result of simultaneous construction jobs.

Lets use commonsense, if you build a 100 unit housing unit or a 100,000 square foot commercial building or both, you will have an increase in traffic commensurate with the number of people utilizing these buildings, traffic studies notwithstanding.

Municipal Finance & Government:
In my role as Assistant Director at BU I have to account for $110,000,000 in cash and over $40,000,000 in pledges annually, I have 10 people reporting to me (some union and some non-union) and I have to keep the trains running on time with hiring freezes and budget cuts.

It is worth stating that in the current Council zeal to be all things to all people controlling cost is never mentioned. I have participated in four forums thus far in this campaign and programs are put forward from giving free MBTA passes, to retrofitting old municipal buildings to comply with rigorous energy efficient standards. Though this is a course of action that should be followed to improve the quality of our environment, we must proceed within our financial limitations.

Much is said about our AAA Bond Rating, money in the bank and our per-pupil spending being the highest in the state. It is curious that we lead every other municipality in spending and yet lag embarrassingly in results. If our results are not inline with our expenditures then someone should be held accountable, itís that simple.

Environment and Public Health:
Our Environment is the single most important thing we can discuss. To me good health is to the body, what a clean environment is to the earth. Again, none of these topics can be dealt with in a vacuum. Environmental concerns must be on the table when we discuss housing, University expansion, public transportation, budgets, et al.

Cambridge has a great public transit infrastructure, but there is always room for improvement. Conservation is the right way to go. More efficient vehicles -- namely city trucks and buses, energy efficient building and homes -- are a good start.

Land Use, Planning, Development, and Transportation:
I touched on all of these in my early statements, but it is worth reiterating that the current Council's willingness to spend directly contradicts their empty rhetoric. I often hear in the Council meetings many Councilors bemoaning Big Developerís for crowding out our neighborhoods, a charge which is partially true. If we want to slow the pace of commercial development in Cambridge, we must first curtail our spending. We now tax Commercial Real-estate at twice the rate of residential real-estate; and to keep on spending as we do, the City Manager in his fiscal wisdom has little choice but to allow the Commercial Development to continue to fund our spendthrift proclivities. At some point we will have to make a conscious decision to restrain spending extravagances and then we can honestly deal with the burgeoning development that clearly impedes on the quality of life in Cambridge.

Though Affordable Housing is important, Conservation Land and Open-Space (what sparse amounts we have left) cannot be allowed to fall victim to it.

If you refer to my housing plan it is the most realistic plan to the following: increase affordable rental units, dispense with the bad economics of rent control, preserve and increase open-space and maintain our long-term goal of affordable homeownership. All the other candidates will start of by saying "We need to find a wayÖ." I have an actionable plan a VOTE for ETHRIDGE KING is a vote for effective LEADERSHIP.

University Relations:
University relations in this city are an ongoing challenge going way back when former City Councilor and State Representative Sandra Graham interrupted Harvardís Commencement in the early 70s over what we are dealing with today Ė University Expansion. Our relationship with our Universities and Businesses is not a one shot deal; itís a life-long process spanning different leaderships and different people.

I donít have answers to all our current challenges, but what I do know is that our City Councilors [some] cannot negotiate with our Universities and Business from their perch in City Hall using intemperate and divisive language. Clearly our Universities and Businesses have given us reason to be skeptical; our task is doable, however, if we begin with the following: mutual respect and leveraging the tremendous power of the City Government and the people in a constructive and realistic way in the understanding that we can have a win, win, win.

Civic participation:
Cambridge is always compared to Berkeley, California as the two most politically active cities in the U.S. The facts somewhat dispute this claim. Cambridge is tracking a national trend of low voter participation. I think the people that vote in Cambridge are passionate about their views and therefore their voices are loud but rather small numerically speaking.

A democracy can only thrive if we all have a say in our Government. Massachusettsís incumbents are often unopposed in their reelections; last number I read that 94% of incumbents were unchallenged in their races. Couple the 6% contested elections with less than 30% of registered voters voting is a disconcerting trend our nation must at some point grapple with.

What Iím about to say maybe interpreted as controversial, but it needs to be said. Our culture has reached a point that it is now asking too much for voters to educate themselves about a particular race and then take a few minutes and go and vote. I donít buy the conventional wisdom that politicians are turning voters off, and I certainly donít buy the argument that elected officials are deeply concerned with voter apathy (voter apathy is the motherís milk that keeps incumbents in power). If we buy into this then we are missing the larger point. Until or unless candidates begin to speak to people frankly and normally they will see no need to change the devil they know.

Civic Participation goes a lot farther than voting. I strongly believe in the voice of the people and that doing the right thing is not always easy and efficient. But the right thing is surely what feels good at the end of the day. Iím strongly supportive of neighborhoods voicing their concerns and having their voices give weight in the final decision.

Cambridge Public Schools:
What is going on in the Cambridge Public Schools reminds me of an old joke: A manager started a new job and his predecessor gave him three sealed envelopes labeled #1, #2 and #3 and told him every time you get in trouble open the envelopes in the order labeled. The first time he got in trouble he opened the envelope labeled #1 and it said "blame it on the previous administration"; the second time he got in trouble he opened the envelope labeled #2 and it said "call a meeting and say that you reorganizing the entire department"; and the third time he got in trouble he opened the envelope labeled #3 and it said "make out three envelopes". Meanwhile the students are being victimized by the lack of continuity and a clear vision.

Enough cannot be said about our schools and I think that here in Cambridge we have thought so far out-of-the-box that we can no longer see the proverbial box. Here is what I think. Yes, we have an elected School Board, yes we have a well paid Superintendent of the Schools, and yes we have Principals and Teachers. What we donít have is leadership.

Enough experimenting, enough cherry picking, enough trying to fix in our schools what we canít fix in our neighborhoods. It is time to simply get behind our new Superintendent and set goals, every year out for a five year plan, and then revisit these goals, measure results, analyze trends and make adjustments as needed.

Our parents, teachers, and students should have a clear idea of what our educational goals are in this City. Are we content with being a first rate City in terms of wealth, real-estate, and Bio research and having a third rate public educational school system? This is the fundamental question all voters should ask of all the City Council and School Committee candidates on November 4, 2003.

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