Aimee Smith

Aimee Smith
2003 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
115 Auburn Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617 308 3412

Send contributions to:
The Committee to Elect Aimee Smith
115 Auburn St. #1
Cambridge, MA 02139

I'm active with my husband of four years, Anton Van Der Ven, in anti-war and immigrant rights organizing, and serve as state Membership Director of the Green-Rainbow Party. I hold a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, where I have researched improving the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells. I also worked on campaigns that won rape awareness programming in student orientation and extensions in availability and coverage of mental health services. I've instructed in women's full-contact self-defense classes. I was born in Buffalo, NY where my father worked in the steel industry and my mother focused on raising her five children. Despite my parents' desire to raise their children in one community, our family had to move to Maryland when the steel industry closed down in Buffalo. I moved to Southern California to attend college and arrived here in Cambridge in February of 1996 to attend MIT.

Rent control is the missing keystone in Cambridge housing policy. I support the innovative and responsible proposal of the Committee for Cambridge Rent Control and a yes vote on Question 1. I support most existing subsidy programs but subsidy without regulation only contributes to an upward price spiral. Taxpayers must not be asked to bear such a burden, and the results are not cost-effective.

Housing is tied to environmental issues. For example when the city rehabs or builds new housing it should be built with 5.5? insulation instead of the traditional 3.5?. This would mean that the tenants would need less heat, so they would save money and would use less fuel and pollute less. Currently one third of the jobs in Cambridge do not pay enough to afford living in Cambridge. Housing in a market that is controlled will be affordable, enabling many more workers in our city to walk, bike and take the T to work which will in turn reduce traffic, parking pressure, and pollution.

Quality of Life:
As long as corporations are allowed to keep increasing profits as the goal of government policies, they are selling off our future and the future of our children. Without systematic changes quality of life is a selfish, empty phrase. For me it is a question of perspective and balance. Though we may not be able to change the world we can and must change what we can here in Cambridge. I believe our lives will be qualitatively improved when working class and low income people, immigrants, women, racial minorities and all who are today excluded from full citizenship achieve reasonable security. I believe quality of life will be improved when less time is spent in traffic and 40 hours of work earns enough to cover housing, food, utilities, and health care for a family. Part of the goal of those who push corporate rule is to keep us all so tied up making ends meet that we have no time left to participate in the democratic process. Then the only voices left will be those representing corporate interests because those mouthpieces will be handsomely paid to attend.

Municipal Finance & Government:
Proportional representation (PR) voting should be retained, but the anti-democratic city manager system should be scrapped. A strong mayor, elected by the people, at least gives us some accountability. People who spend their whole lives as elected officials lose touch with reality. The Green-Rainbow party stands for term limits.

We must be careful when shifting property taxes from residences to commercial property. We must keep in mind the needs of the small businesses we desperately need for job diversity and community stability. We should think about scrapping the property tax as the base for municipal finance. A city income tax would get around the problem of tax-exempt institutions, tap folks who don't live here but use our infrastructure to earn good incomes, and would be much cheaper to administer.

Environment and Public Health:
We don't need to develop every square foot of our share of the earth. Leave the Alewife flood plains and the river's edge habitat of the white geese alone -- just leave them alone.

If our national government will not make systemic changes then we must make them at the local level. Public health is a regional and national issue. The Green-Rainbow Party supports the single-payer health insurance system: this is the only viable way to keep costs down while making coverage universal. The Green Rainbow Party also recognizes that clean air and water and safe food, workplaces, and homes are essential to public health.

Dedicating some streets to predominantly pedestrian and bicycle traffic will enable people to get out and exercise as they travel without having to take their life into their hands. There have been several deaths of cyclists and even one such death is already one too many. We need safe bike routes webbing out across our city. It will enable more community interaction and will reduce pollution through reducing the need for cars.

Land Use, Planning, Development, and Transportation:
We are serious about wanting a socially diverse city, in balance with our natural setting, and we need a development policy that reflects this. I believe that means strictly limiting biotech and university related development. We can't consider ourselves responsible if we promote too much dependence on a narrow set of industries whose future is uncertain and who largely draw employees from outside the city. We must encourage blue-collar employers who are interested in staying here. If we are serious about diversity and ecology we must seek out the kind of blue collar development that meets our needs for both. If we are to do this this we must work closely with neighboring cities toward a fair regional balance of uses. For example: we can't have the Riverside Committee negotiating with Harvard about a six story building on our side of the river while Harvard secretly negotiates with Boston to build a 21 story tower directly across from the six story site.

The North Point project in East Cambridge is a typical example of how the city does exactly the wrong thing. It evicts the low-density blue collar employers. It creates high-density, high-income, traffic-multiplying uses. The only real justification is expected property tax revenues. Thus the city employs dozens of full time city planners who mostly don't plan anything. Their real job seems to be helping developers get their plans implemented over public objections.

I support the Carlson petition as absolutely essential to defend the beleaguered Riverside neighborhood.

I support increasing our subsidies to public transportation and encouraging walking and bicycling by making car-free streets that are for pedestrians, with exceptions for buses, loading vehicles, and vehicles for people with physical disabilities.

University Relations:
The city must state in clear and certain terms that it does not want any more university land encroachment. We should engage people within the university communities to strictly limit university expansion to achieve balance and stability for all communities. We should seek the help of progressive students and faculty to make Cambridge and our neighbor cities a model for ecologically sustainable industry, transportation, and energy production.

We need to recognize that large universities behave as corporate entities interested primarily in promoting the financial strength and reputation of their organization. These institutions are soulless corporations, not human beings and not ?neighbors.? We who treasure democracy and human rights must never let the interests of such ?stakeholders? outweigh the interests of the human community of citizens and residents. City Councilors should serve as the representatives of and advocates for the people of Cambridge. The struggle to have the Carlson Petition implemented is a case in point of too many of the Councilors putting the interests of Harvard, a 200 ton ?neighbor,? above the interests of the people they are supposed to represent.

Civic participation:
Civic participation is our duty as citizens. Without civic participation we become consumers of what the government feeds us--- well-fed slaves. The city sponsored neighborhood organizations should be just that - city-sponsored, without what seems to be their current aim of engaging us in long term development with no support for what we actually want. Witness the Carlson Petition. The aim of manipulating and controlling public opinion should not be the goal of a city that wants an engaged citizenship. The Election Commission should restore precincts and polling places which it has recently cut. Smaller precincts allows for more talk in the neighborhood and community building on a neighborhood scale. The City Council should restore the ability of citizens to comment at useful length in public hearings and also allow for citizen replies to councilor comments.

I was appalled at the recent hearing on the emergency housing situation. Any number of our elected officials spoke at length about rent control being a losing battle. To them I would say that without struggle and political battle there would be no eight hour day, no end to slavery and no women voting. Think about this, anything worth fighting for has to be fought for. City government should expect this as the response of an involved citizenry and be proud of the fact that people who live here care enough to engage in the struggle.

Cambridge Public Schools:
First, we must decide what kind of school system we want. I want economic and cultural diversity and smaller schools. To keep from shutting down more schools and programs we need to take steps that seem unconnected to education. One of these is rent control. Rent control allows our schools to be economically diverse. I for one want to live in a city vibrant with what other cultures bring to it. Since immigrants are traditionally on the lower end of the economic scale rent control allows them to live here, thus enlivening our educational system and teaching practices.

Within the schools I am concerned about teacher morale and class and racial bias that prevents teachers from effectively serving the working class and minority students. Further, as more and more long time residents are economically forced from the city, the fabric of our community is being torn up. We depend on the sense of community and relationships across generations to help students and teachers feel they are part of a community that supports them. As a Green-Rainbow party member, I oppose, as my party does, the dismantling of bilingual education and the MCAS requirement for high school diplomas. We must resist all corporate threats to public schools, of which MCAS is only one. And we must be very cautious about relying too much on world class research institutions, such as MIT and Harvard, in offering help on primary and secondary education. You can count on a nice PR project being offered here or there in order to facilitate a zoning easement deal, but university education is not even the primary focus in these institutions - why should they be looked to for expertise in primary and secondary education?

I am specially concerned with the implications for local law enforcement of national policies like the PATRIOT Act. The city council passed a resolution against its enforcement, but is not monitoring whether local police are in fact carrying out the spirit of this resolution. The city manager won't even staff or make appointments to the Police Review Advisory Board. I focus on this because I am serious about protecting our immigrant communities, and ourselves, from arbitrary state power in this time of crisis for democracy. I applaud the Cambridge Library for their commitment to user privacy and the action they take every day to insure this. I am deeply concerned over the fact that there is no community oversight for private police forces in Cambridge, such as the MIT and Harvard Police.

I was raised Catholic, and while I do deeply respect the spiritual grounding of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and many other religious traditions that I have had the opportunity to learn about, I have never converted to another faith. I wear the hijab, a head covering that some Muslim women wear, in solidarity with these women who have been facing increased intimidation and attacks since 9/11. I believe that faith and practice of faith should never be coerced. Religious tolerance and freedom of expression are prerequisites for a democracy and I am saddened that religious tolerance has been under attack by the mainstream media and our federal government since 9/11. I can tell you the experience of being perceived as a Muslim has been a very eye-opening one for me, particularly in contrast to that of being perceived as a white Christian person.

Cambridge Candidates