Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harvard Square Wasted Expenditures

Sent from Marilyn to Cambridge Chronicle, 10/28/05, printed in Chronicle's 11-3-05 Edition:

To the Editor:

Regarding the $3.5 million redo of Harvard Square reported in the October 27 Chronicle, I remember a meeting of the Harvard Square Design Committe I attended several years ago. It was held by the Cambridge Development Department in Harvard Square at my dinnertime, but I made a point to eat early and attend.

The artist chosen to provide "world-class" public art on Palmer Street spoke, as did Susan Clippinger, Assistant City Manager for Traffic and Parking. The upshot was that Harvard Square needed a New York artist with an international reputation for Class, and that all traffic needed to be rethought because of safety reasons.

When I asked Ms. Clippinger about statistics on accidents in Harvard Square she said they were available but she didn't trust them. Since she immediately backpedaled, and since the Harvard Square intersections don't show up on the Chronicle's annual "most dangerous intersections" list, I assume the safety statistics are inconvenient for the city's purposes here: the glossy redo is to boost further the Square's ascent to Very Upscale. With the loss of establishments like Brine's and the Brattle Theater because of rent increases, it's hard to sympathize with property owners who will benefit from $3.5 million of our tax dollars.

What most struck me about the meeting, though, was the groaning board of sandwiches of all sorts, cookies, drinks supplied by the Development Department, possibly part of that $3.5 million budget, possibly part of the Department's regular operating expenses. Accustomed as I was to dinnertime meetings at the high school, where parents supplied bags of chips and bottles of soda, I completely missed the cue to wait and get my free dinner while listening to the best way to subsidize the Harvard Square property owners.

Yours sincerely,

Marilyn Wellons